Death Island

Death Island

By:  Pat Vergis

            As usual they were in hot pursuit of a rapidly fleeing Galactor when the unexpected happened.  It had been a stormy night to begin with.  The winds were up to 50 knots and the heavy downpour had made their battle with the mecha a challenge.  Still they overcame it.  G Force had only one thing left to do that night, and that was to capture Galactor himself.  A bolt of lightening struck the Phoenix at just the right angle and did what the mecha had failed to do.  The legendary ship was disabled and going down.  Fast.

            "Of all the....Hootie get her under control!"  "I'm trying to Ace, but she's not responding!"  "I don't feel like a cold swim in this weather!"  Together they looked at the ocean below as they continued to plummet toward it.  "Aggie, radio Dr. Brighthead for some assistance."   "I'm on it!"  Ace looked back toward Dirk, who was scowling at the fading blip on his radar screen that represented Galactor's escape craft.  There was no helping it.  They had lost their chance again!  "Dirk, scan for the nearest land mass."

            Agatha June turned in her seat looking anxiously at Ace.  "We've got some sort of electromagnetic interference.  My signal's not going through!"  "It's starting to play havoc with my scanners too."  Dirk added frowning, and then he continued.  "We'll have to do this in the dark.  Before that mecha went down I'm sure we passed an island."  Ace sighed.  "All I see is water."  Peewee bounced in his seat.  "Water, water everywhere!"  "Shut up squirt, and sit down!"  He looked over at an angry Dirk.  When things didn't go quite the way the teams second wanted it to, he had a habit of taking it out on everyone around him.  Having lost out on his chance for vengeance against Galactor, they'd all feel the sting  of it for days!  Peewee sat still in his seat, not wanting to be his target just now.

            Ace winced as a particularly strong wind buffeted the ship.   "Everyone strap in!  Hootie, try to turn her around and keep her up as best you can.  All eyes be on the lookout for that island!"  "Roger!  But in that rainy mess it'll be like looking for a needle in a haystack!  We may end up stranded at the bottom of the ocean after all."  "Let me try Brighthead over the transpower band.  If we don't alert him to our problem and present location, we could be stranded!"

            "Aw nuts, Ace!  We're going to miss the Indian's game!"  Ace laughed back at Peewee and Dirk teased.  "Don't worry, they'll lose!"  "Where's your loyalty?"  "Home in bed!  Besides who cares about that!  I've got a race tomorrow and I'd like to get some rest beforehand!"  Peewee shot back at him.  "Don't worry, you'll lose anyway!"  "Cute come back, kid.  But who could care about a stupid game.  We just lost Galactor!"  Peewee rolled his eyes and thought 'Here we go again!'  Ace shrugged also sensing Dirk's mood.  "There'll be another day."  "That's what you always say!  You should have let me fire the bird missile as I asked!"  "You know our orders."  Dirk started to say something else but rolled his eyes in resignation.  Ace and he would only go around and around again and get absolutely nowhere.  And as tense as the current situation was the last thing the team needed was it's leaders having an argument in the midst of things.

            Ace let it go as well.  It would crop up again at any rate.  It always did.  The debate of the bird missiles and when to go into action or not was a constant battle between them.  It was one that could have no resolution until the war was over.  Instead he kept his eyes on the water below.  The island would be hard to distinguish in the dark between colors, so he focussed his eyes of the shapes and their irregularities.  Beside him Hootie also kept vigil.  For their often sleepy-eyed navigator that was an accomplishment!  He was a good helmsman, but he distracted way too easily.

            Ace took that moment to try Brighthead on the wristband.  Nothing.  The interference effected even the transpower bands.  He leaned back in his chair alternately looking for the island and assessing the storm.  It was getting really bad out there, not quite hurricane material yet, but he wouldn't want to be in this ship on those choppy waves nonetheless.

            Lightening flashed giving them an occasional glimpse of the horizon.  Still no island.  If they didn't find it soon they could be spending a lot of time on the ocean floor.  And if the interference didn't let up soon there'd be no immediate rescue!  The time that they'd have to remain submerged would be dependent on how fast they could make repairs, which in turn depended on just how bad the damage was.  It could well be that the repairs could only be fixed by their techs at the secret base.  In the worst scenario they could be stranded in a sealed ship with a limited oxygen supply.

            Ace was an optimist, however.  Rather than dwelling on the extremes he preferred to remain positive.  They'll find the island, the repairs will be minimal meaning they could take off in two hours and could be tucked warm by midnight.  But even his usual half full glass felt almost empty just about now.

            It was Dirk's acute vision that found it first.  He wasn't their sharpshooter for nothing!  "There Ace.  Just below and to the right."  "Good work!  I almost missed that."  Hootie perked up.  "And just in time too, I can't hold this baby up in the air any longer.  Her wings are clipped until we do some major repairs!"

            They landed without grace but as the old saying went' 'anyone you could walk away from.'  With a small prayer of thanks, they eased back in their seats.  There was silence except for the sound of heavy rain pelting the hull.  Peewee was predictably the one who broke it.

            "So now what?"  "We sit tight and keep trying to reach Dr. Brighthead.  Then we make what repairs we can."  Hootie then put the pin in his balloon called optimism.  "Some of those repairs need to be done outside of the ship.  We can't do that until either the storm lets up or morning or whatever happens first."  Loud groans followed that announcement.  Hootie decided not to add that they may not be able to repair it at all.  Ace sighed.  "Then we can only hope this interference also lets up with the storm."

            Dirk was looking at a map.  "This island was one of the ones listed by ISO as having been a nuclear test site.  It was a long time ago, and the radiation has cleared up since, but there might be enough residual to be causing the disturbance in our scanners and communicators."  "And it's nothing we have to be worried about?"  "Not really.  As I said the radiation has long since faded past the danger levels.  The only worry we have is if we can't repair the Phoenix or radio in for help.  Then we might as well be prepared to do our own version of Gilligan's Island!"  Ace frowned.  "Everyone get comfortable, 'cause it looks as though we're having a pajama party on the Phoenix!"

            When they woke up the sun brightened the cockpit and promised to make for a pleasant day.  At least they'd be comfortable doing the repairs to the hull.  After raiding the ship's rations and having a cold but nutritious breakfast, they followed Hootie out of the ship.  While they all had training for minor repairs on the Phoenix,  Hootie and Aggie were there experts.  They'd be following their lead.

            Once started it was easy for them to see that they were looking at a two day job.  Back home the real techs could get it done in mere hours.  But that was back home.  This was the here and now.  While they worked they carried on light banter.  Peewee glanced up at his teammates.  "We could call this Peewee's Island."  Hootie sneered at him.  "Why your island?"  "Because I best fit the description of Gilligan.  I'm the shortest and skinniest.  You're the fattest and our helmsman, so you're the skipper.  Ace is real smart!  So of course he's the professor.  And Aggie is Maryanne."  "Well Dirk isn't rich, so where does that leave him?"  Dirk looked up from his work and glared at the two of them.  "Out of this conversation if you both know what's good for you!"  Ace burst out laughing and joined in unable to resist.  "There's only two names left then.  Quite frankly he's got Gingers legs!"  "Ace you are dead meat!"  "Ooh!  I'm scared!"

            A loud rumbling sound startled them all, until they realized that that was Hootie's stomach.  "I'm hungry already!" Ace gave him a bemused look.  "You're always hungry.  It's only been two hours, you'll live!"  "More rations!"  Peewee gagged in agreement.  "Yuck! No flavor and dry as a bone!"  Ace as ever was cheerful under the circumstances.  "So we can fish, and there's always fruit.  I haven't had a banana in ages!"  Dirk dripped with sarcasm.  "Sorry Ace.  I left my pole at home.  Silly me!"  "So improvise."  Hootie, having come from a fishing village suggested making their own spears to do a little spear fishing.  "You all know very well that I don't do fish!  I think I'll just take my cable gun and pistol and hunt some warm blooded food!"  This instantly had their own resident animal proactivist, Peewee, up in arms.  "You're mean!"  "No, I'm just hungry!  That's life kid.  How do you think you get steak or chicken?"

"Who are you calling a kid?"  "Only one on the island squirt!"  "Quit calling me that you animal hater, you!"  "Hey!  I saved the puppy didn't I?  And at the expense of a migraine I might add!"

            Ace broke it up then.  "There's plenty of food out there without having to either fish or hunt."  "Taking sides?  Or promoting your own eating habits?"  "Just earning myself a few minutes worth of peace."  He then left Aggie and Hootie with the chore of getting the old bird up and running, and led the way into the jungle in search of something more palatable than rations.

            Dirk asked curiously.  "What makes you think with this dysfunctional family that you can get anything remotely resembling peace?"  Ace was baffled.  "I wouldn't exactly use the term 'dysfunctional' with us.  How do you mean?"  "Shall I start with you?"  "Why not!"  "You have a father complex for one thing."  "Elaborate."  Dirk noted the dryness of his tone.  "Knowing full well he was dead you still chased after him."  "When I was eight he was suppose to be dead then and he wasn't, so can you blame me?  And don't think I didn't hear about your comment at the time, 'He's no baby to be crying daddy, daddy!'  You don't think I had a right to mourn?"  "Mourn yes.  Obsess, no."  "Go on."  "You're a perfectionist.  You kill yourself to please Nambu, to be just like your daddy in his eyes!  You even chose your father's colors for crying out loud!  Red, blue and white!"  "Those are good patriotic colors!"  "For an American, news flash Ken, you're Japanese!"  "News flash Sicilian Japans flag is red and white!"  "So why the blue?"  "Alright Mr. Innocent!"  "Oh I'm the most dysfunctional of all.  I'm consumed with vengeance, paranoid, moody..."  "Don't forget trigger happy!  I swear you're obsessed with them bird missiles!"  "See?"  "So Sigmund, what's everyone else's diagnosis?" 

            "Aggie is stuck on you, but instead of outright telling you, because frankly you're so naive, she plays coy games that go way over your head.  She's obsessed with making us a close knit family, and wants us to get along all the time, which doesn't happen in real world families, so why should it in ours?  No one is like Leave it to Beaver!  Peewee's got grown-up envy, and as a result he endangers us all playing the hero in an effort to make us see him as more than just a kid."  "I am more than just a kid!"  "He's also delusional as you see."  Peewee smacked him earning a smirk before Dirk continued.  "Hootie is so self-conscious that he overeats from depression.  He's so down on himself and his value to the team that he thinks everyone else thinks that.  And Dr. Brighthead?  He's trying so hard to play the role of father to us all without having clue one on what a father is."

            Ace considered his words for a moment. "Nah!  That's par for the world Dirk.  Father issues,  get married and have a family, self-worth concepts, desires to be more than what you are, and no father ever knows the job right off.  They all wing it!  And for what you went through as a child, if you want my opinion you're extremely well adjusted.  What's dysfunctional is what we all do for a living!  We kill people and then pretend we're normal teens.  That's sick!"  "But you know what Ace?  For all of it we are closer than real families are."  "That's because we are a real family."  "Brothers in a fox hole!"

            They entered the thickest part of the jungle, when Ace noted the banana trees, his mouth watering.  "Now that's food!  And one that shouldn't provoke an argument."  "Suit yourself brave hunter."  "Well I'm not a hunter!"  "Not in this reality at any rate!"  "Are you saying your not into fresh fruit?"  "I'm into meat. Red high protein meat!"  "Do what you want then.  I'm picking me some bananas."  "What are you, potassium deficient?  I'm hunting me some real food if it kills me!"  Peewee stuck out his tongue.  "I hope it does!  Then you'll see how they feel!"  "Admit it squirt, you'd be bored with me gone.  There'd be no one to make your life miserable!"  "Quit calling me that!  I'm going fishing!"  "Without a pole?"  "I'll improvise!"  "You know that they are also life forms don't you Mr. Animal rights guy."  "But that's different.  They're not Thumper!"  "Oh I see!  Spare the Bambis and Thumpers but the heck with moles or skunks or...."  "Anything mammal!"  "Cute furry food!"  "Dirk you are such a jerk!"  Ace interrupted them.  "Peewee, you know he's only trying to get a rise out of you.  He doesn't really feel that way."  "He's still a jerk!  I'm going fishing!"  He stomped off.

            Dirk shook his head grinning from ear to ear.  "See what I mean?  So eager to prove himself grown he's rushed headlong into the unknown and will probably get in to a situation that will get us all in trouble!"  "Like you're any different?  Besides you egged him on.  So go after him!"  "Fine.  So go tally me some bananas, 'cause daylights come and I wanna go home."  "Anyone ever tell you that you can't sing?"  "And now a music lecture from Ace Goodheart.  I'm out of here!"  Ace gave him the finger and started to climb the tree in search of bananas.

            Peewee was in a mood.  Why did Dirk always have to treat him like a kid?  Well, he was, but still he was entitled to a little respect now and then.  He risked his life just the same as they did everyday!  He was so intent on his angry thoughts that he didn't notice it until he walked right into it.

            He was stuck!  It was a giant spider web!  He tried moving, but only managed to get himself more stuck.  Then he looked up and saw it!  He screamed.

            Dirk followed some distance behind so the kid could salvage a little of his pride without realizing that he suddenly had a babysitter.  Then he heard the screams and ran.  When he reached Peewee he was well and truly stuck in a massive web and was freaking out.  "What on earth is wrong with you?"  Peewee looked at him like he was nuts.  "Do you have eyes?"  "It's a web."  "A spider web!  And that's a spider!"  "That??"  Dirk took his hands and clapped them over the arachnid making for one big mess!  "Really Peewee!  For a kid who wants to be a hero, you shouldn't let an itty-bitty spider scare you."  "I hate spiders!"  "Well I'm not exactly fond of them either, but I refuse to be intimidated!"  He then set about freeing Peewee.

            Shaking the last of the web free, Peewee ran from the location earning more of Dirk's amusement.  "It's not funny!"  "Yes it is, wait until I tell Ace!"  "Don't you dare!"  On cue, their bracelets rang in unison.  "Dirk?  I heard screams!"  "That was just Peewee.  He saw a spider."  "Is that all?  Gee thanks.  I finally made it to the top and was just about to pick me some bananas when I heard the scream.  Now I've got to climb back up again!"  Dirk snickered.  "Have fun monkey boy!"  Peewee glared at him.  "Payback's a bitch Dirk!"  "Such language!  Better hope I don't tell Aggie!  Anyway, you have me shaking in my boots!"  His sarcasm was dully noted.  He stomped off again with Dirk following smugly behind him.  He could tell he was successfully getting on the kids nerves.

            Peewee was so aggravated that he paid no attention again as to where he was going.  He tripped and unceremoniously landed face down in some big animal's dung.  Dirk burst out in a fit of hysterical laughter that had Peewee angrily flipping over to give him his best piece of mind.  Instead of a retort all he could manage was a scream.

            "Not again!"  Once more Ace had reached the top of the tree and was inches away from his golden treasure.  He was beginning to think that Dirk and Peewee had some sort of conspiracy going on.  He started to fly down, when a buzzing noise grabbed his attention.

            Dirk looked down at the hysterical boy exasperated.  "What is it this time?"  "Spider."  "Give me a break!"  He turned around fully prepared to crush that one too until he took in its full scope.  It was easily the size of a barn.  "Oh.... hell!"  "Do something!"  "Like what?  I don't think swatting at it is going to do very much good."  "Kill it!"  'It' looked about ready to pounce.  Luckily he had his cable gun out just in case he ran across a quick meal.  He aimed and fired into one of its eyes, then retracted the cable.  It went spastic!  "Uh, I think I just pissed it off!"  It was a ways away from him and doing a funny dance.  "!"  Peewee remained frozen in place however, so Dirk snatched him up and carried him under his arm like a football, and ran with it in hot pursuit.

            Just as they reached a clearing and was sure that it had them, a shadow flew overhead.  Instinctively Dirk ducked, his body protectively covering Peewee's.  He dared a glimpse and watched eight legs wriggling in protest as a humungus, building sized robin fly off with it.  Their mouths hung open.

            Up in the tree Ace was just as shocked to see a very, very large bumblebee hovering over the bananas.  He wasn't about to lose his prize though.  He worked too hard for it.  Quickly snatching a bunch he rapidly slid down the tree to the ground and ran for a dense cluster of trees.  He was hoping that thing was too big to maneuver through them to get at him.  They had all previously transformed to civilian attire for comfort, but now in a flash of light Ace was once again in birdstyle.  The light caught its attention and Ace knew he could only be safe for so long.  He had no intention of getting stung by a bee with a stinger the size of one of their bird missiles.

            Ace grabbed his boomerang and lifting his heel within reach, took out a cluster of the microbombs they all kept on hand.  He loaded them into the beak of his bird shaped boomerang and let it fly.  The explosion neatly took it out.  No, thought Ace, I amend that.  Not so neatly!  As guts flew everywhere.

            Dirk heard the explosion and worriedly checked in with Ace.  "Ace was that you?"  "No, I didn't blow up!"  "Don't wise-crack me!  That's my job!"  "You're right.  Being a smart-ass isn't in me.  I blew up, of all things, a giant bee!  So don't call me crazy!"  "I won't, because we just got chased by a giant spider that got carried off by an even bigger robin!"  "Great!  Make your way back to the Phoenix and be careful!"  "Come on Peewee."  "No way!  I'm not moving!"  "What?  You can't stay here!"  "That was a big spider and I'm scared!" 

            Dirk noticed that he was crying.  This really spooked him then.  "It's gone now.  Everything's ok."  "But what if there's another one!"  "We'll cross that road when we come to it.  If you think staying out in the wide open's going to save you, think again.  We're sitting ducks here, so move out!"  "No!"  Dirk wasn't one to have patience with kids, especially Peewee, but he could see a pep talk was in order.  As team second he told himself that he was kind of obliged to.  He'd never admit to just caring, that would be too....unmanly.  "Look, I'm scared too.  It's ok to feel that way but you can't let it get the best of you.  You're a ninja kid, and that means going when things get rough, you know the saying the tough get going....anyway if it helps, I'll carry you!"  So much for speeches.  That was Ace's forte.  He picked Peewee up and carried him piggyback.  In one hand he held his cable gun, and in the other his pistol.  His mouth was full of shuriken and he spoke sounding a little like Humphrey Bogart in the process.  "See?  Armed and dangerous!"  Between sobs Peewee couldn't help but giggle a little.

            Hootie and Aggie also heard the distant screams and the explosion.  Ace called them and they were surprised to hear what he had to say.  He ordered them to get to the ship for safety and to stay on board.  There was no telling what else was out there.  From the cockpit they stared out the forward screen and considered themselves lucky.  So far not one giant critter had shown itself!  For a few minutes they even contemplated the fact that Ace had just pulled one on them . Then a huge fish leaped out of the water and back in again.  Aggie turned to Hootie.  "Tell me that was a whale."  "I'd be lying, 'cause that was a marlin!"  "That big?"  "Apparently so Aggie."  "What have we gotten ourselves into this time?"

            Dirk kept a brisk pace but also kept vigilant.  He had no intention of blindly running into any more overgrown spiders , birds, bees, or any other moving thing.  He searched ahead of him high and low.  Mostly high because these island denizens seemed to reach that far.  He heard a snuffling sound and thought for a second that the kid had renewed his crying.  But the boy was fast asleep and snoring.  It came from the right of the jungle path.  'Please be normal sized!'  Just in case Dirk picked up the pace.

            A sleepy voice asked.  "Are we there yet?"  The sudden voice from his back startled him into jumping.  "Too much caffeine Dirk?"  "Lay off.  Some thing is following us."  He felt Peewee stiffen.  "Like what?"  He sounded as if he really couldn't take any more and the flood of tears threatened to break yet again.  "If I knew I wouldn't have said some thing!"  A pause.  "I hear it too!"  "Just be calm!  We're almost to the ship.  If we don't panic it may not attack."  "But what if it's another spider, or a big bird, or a ....."  "I don't deal in what ifs.  Besides it hasn't attacked yet."

            Then it did!  It wasn't a spider.  It was a....."I thought I smelled a rat!"  "Run Dirk!"  "Not an option.  Rats are fast!  We're going to have to stand our ground and fight!"  He put Peewee down.  "I'm scared!"  "Calm down!  That's an order squirt!"  "Please!  Lets go now!"  He really is frightened to death!  He didn't even object to being called a squirt again.  Before he could offer any kind of assurances Peewee took off running and the rat pounced!  Dirk quickly got between them and fired his cable gun at it.  Unable to let go in time he found himself drug a few feet before it turned madder than hell on him!  "Oh damn!"  Was his only comment as the huge smelling bundle of fur and teeth bore down on him. 

            Peewee broke through the clearing where the Phoenix was.  Ace was waiting for him.  It was obvious from looking at his youngest team member that he was very nearly in shock.  "Peewee?"  He picked up the ashy white kid who shivered in his arms and sobbed.  "It got Dirk!"  "What got Dirk?"  "A big rat!  And I was a coward and ran, and now he's probably dead and it's my fault because I acted like a baby, and I told him I hoped he'd get killed and now he probably is and...."  "Slow down!  You were just bickering with him, you didn't mean it.  And running from a big rat is a natural reaction when big means house-sized on this island!  Besides Dirk can handle himself!"  He took him to the hatch where Aggie stood now beside Hootie.  She cradled her little brother in her arms comforting him.

            In the distance came the sounds of gunfire and a scream of pain that sounded like Dirk.  They all looked in the direction from which it came.  Aggie gasped in horror at the sudden fear of what that meant.  Peewee cried even harder.  "Get him inside and under some blankets.  He looks a bit shocky!  I'm going after Dirk!"  Aggie yelled after his quickly disappearing form as he darted into the jungle.  "Be careful Ace!"

            Ace saw the blood first!  The rat was on top of something bloody and hidden by its form.  He assumed that something was Dirk.  "Dirk!"  There was a muffled curse.  "Get it off of me!"  "Are you ok?"  "Oh sure!  It tried to eat me, its currently crushing me, and I've got its guts all over me!  What do you think??"  "Can't be too bad if you're your usual pissy self!"  "Get it the...Get it off of me!"  "Hold your horses and let me think!"  "Hold your own horses and think on your own time!"  "Wait right here, I'm going to get something to use as a lever."  "And where would I be going at present?"  Ace smiled at the sarcasm.  It barely hid a voice heavy with pain, but he knew Dirk was all right now.

            It didn't take long to find the perfect limb of a fallen tree to use for his lever.  When he returned the rat was gone!  He briefly took in Dirk's badly gnawed leg before noticing that he was staring open mouthed and wide eyed at the sky.  Dirk mutely pointed upward and Ace looked.  He saw nothing but blue.  Then his lieutenant found his voice.  "Vulture!"  Ace raised an inquisitive eyebrow.  Dirk elaborated.  "Big effin vulture!"   "Let's get this bleeding stopped."

"Did you hear me?  Vultures go for the dead and wounded.  I'm not staying here for that thing to come back and get me!"  "But we really need to get the bleeding stopped first."  "What good is that going to do?  If it eats me I'll bleed even more!"  "Don't worry.  I'll tell it you're the Condor and a cousin and it would be cannibalism."  "They eat their own dead!  And why in the world did Brighthead go and name me after a vulture?  Those things are butt-ugly!"  "You do know that you left yourself wide open on that one, don't you?"  "Oh shut up and fix my leg!"

            Ace carried him fireman style to the Phoenix.  Once inside, Aggie, their paramedic, set about doing what immediate care she could.  To Dirks credit he only screamed once or twice.  A lot paler, and slightly high from painkillers Dirk later looked up to Ace and asked.  "So what's our game plan now boss?"  "Why is it the only time you acknowledge me as boss is when we're in it deep?"  "Hey!"  And a shrug was his only response.  "I'm going to have to take out my jet fighter and go for help!"  "And what if a giant rodan attacks?"  "I'll outfly it and let loose some missiles."  "I'm curious Ace.  We can't get Brighthead over our bands, right?"  "You saw me try."  "But we got each other out there just fine."  "You're right!  Maybe the interference has passed.  Let me try again."  And again, nothing.  "Ok, I really have no clue why."  "Well I do Ace and it's spelled Galactor."  "Not the radiation?"  "That was my first guess.  But the interference only seem to keep us from reaching the outside world, not each other.  There's a net over this island, so who else could it be?  Remember the Jigo Killers?"  "Like I'd really forget!"  "These aren't robots!  I'm wearing enough rodent guts to prove it.  They're tampering with the normal growth rate of the island's inhabitants!"  "You're more than likely right!  At least its not some radiation grown monster out of a Japanese flick!  They obviously haven't completed their tests or we'd have had to deal with them already.  Well we can't stop them by being stranded here, and Dr. Brighthead needs to know about this!  There's got to be a base here!"  Dirk agreed.  "That explains where Galactor's Devil Star disappeared off my screens.  I thought it was the interference."

            Ace frowned at their stupidity.  Of course he had a base nearby!  He looked at Dirk.  "You're in charge until I get back."  "Or until I die."  "My luck isn't so good!  In which case I'm sure Aggie will happily take over."   As Ace left he grabbed a bunch of bananas and Dirk burst out laughing.  "What are you going to do with those?"  "Eat them!  I went through a lot of trouble to get them and they are not going to waste."  Hootie rubbed his hands.  "I won't let them go to waste."  "And they're not all going to end up in your belly either!"  Dirk snorted.  "Be careful Ace."  "You too.  And if you can actually get the birdmissiles up and running you have my permission to use them."  "I don't believe it!  I finally get to remind you for a change that we need all five vehicles to use them!"  "Oh yeah.  To quote you, I forgot about that!  Improvise!"  "Well unless a big woodpecker comes knocking, I think we'll be safe enough inside.  The Phoenix isn't edible."  Ace wished them luck again and streaked off in his jet with a mouth crammed full of banana.

            Dirk turned after he left and noticed the still curled up bundle under a pile of blankets.  It was Peewee.  Kid must really have freaked out to have gone into shock.  And not the physical kind either, this was more mental.  "Hey Aggie!"  "No more pain meds, you've had enough!  Honestly for a psycho you're such a baby!"  "I wasn't asking forget it!  Bring Peewee over here next to me."  "What?"  "I can keep tabs on him better over here."  "He doesn't need...oh, ok."  If he wanted to call it keeping tabs that was ok with her.  He was worried about her little brother and that made her happy.  This would be his official way of unofficially being a softy.  She lay her brother on Dirk's side away from his bad leg.  "There you go Dr Dirk!"  "Hey, I'm just doing my duty as Lieutenant Commander.  It's easier to keep an eye on him this way!"  "Whatever you say Dirk, I won't tell."  "I will!"  "Not if you don't want me killing you Hootie!"

"Worried that your reputation might be blown to bits?"  "If it is, killing you will redeem it."  Hootie gulped at Dirk's tone of voice.  Aggie spoke up.  "Boys!  Let's not kill each other, it will disappoint our audience."  "Audience?"  "Out there, boss."  Outside the front screen, they could see three very large ant heads peering in at them.  "Aw shit!"

            "What??"  Dr. Brighthead couldn't believe what Ace was telling him.  "You were forced to land, on Iwa Island by the looks of it, that was inhabited by giant creatures?"  "That's the short of it, or tall of it if you'd like some humor."  "I don't"  "Of course not sir.  Anyway Dirk's leg is chewed up bad, Peewee's in shock, and who knows what all may have happened in my absence!"  "I'll scramble the Red Impulse to assist you."  "One more thing before I head back, the others will want to know.  Who won?"  "Who won what?"  "The game, duh!"  "Ah yes.  The Indians, 13 to zip."  "Wahoo!"  "Whatever!  While Red Impulse keeps the animal life busy, the techs that I'll send with you will get the Phoenix up and running.  Then I need you to infiltrate the Galactor base once you've located it, and shut their operations down!"  "Roger!"

            Brighthead watched him leave.  "Wahoo indeed!"  His young agents turned the switch on and off when it came to being either superheroes or normal teens.  And what was with that banana in Aces mouth?

            "Uh..Dirk?"  "Yes Aggie?"  "What do you intend on doing about them?"  "We sit tight and wait."  "Say that again?  For a minute there I thought I heard Ace speaking.  Talk about role reversal!"  "Right now we have no weapons, and besides so far all there doing is looking at us!"  "They're giving me the willies!"  "So don't look at them!  Look at me instead."  "Oh you're such an improvement!"  "Okay, so I'm not a girly man like Ken, but I'm not all that bad either!"  "Are you sure you want me to respond to that?"  "Now you've gone and hurt my feelings."  "I'm sorry, but you just poked fun at Ken who isn't here to defend himself."  "Oh like you didn't stab him just a minute ago?"  "How so?"  "For a minute there I thought I heard Ace speaking.  That wasn't a reference to his usual inactivity?"  "What I meant by that was that it isn't your style.  Ace is 99.9% of the time right to be cautious!"  "And he's the apple of your eye so lay off."   "Right!  Wrong! Oh you...It's bad enough that I get this from Hootie and Peewee, must you too?"  "If we do it enough, maybe the two of you will finally get together."  "I'd like for that, but Ace is so..." "Blind, naive and married to his job!"  "Precisely! So lay off on teasing me and work on him instead."  "We do!"  "Well....why are we having this conversation anyway?"  "It took your mind off of them for a minute."  "Oh, them."  "Hey funny you should mention that, there was a movie about ants once called 'Them'.  "I don't want to know!"

            Just then the ship began to rock and roll.  Dirk and Peewee went flying.  Dirk held the kid fast with one arm and the chair with the other.  Aggie fell against Hootie and together they slid to the wall.  "What's happening?"  "My best guess Aggie, is that they are rolling us to their ant hill.  We must look interesting enough to share with the colony.  Sort of like one of those hard to collect Gatchaman toys!"  Hootie gaped.  "Oh no!  We've got to get out of here!"  Dirk negated that.  "No we're safe on board.  If we leave they'll eat us."  "But if we stay here we'll be battered to death!"  "We stay put Hootie!"  Hootie yelped, Aggie screamed, Peewee whimpered, and Dirk did what he usually did in these circumstances, he cursed!

            Ace flew ahead of the mysterious leader of the Red Impulse.  Between their four ships was the carrier that held a full medical staff and the Phoenix' techs.  It didn't take long at their speed to reach the island.  What they saw beneath them was amazing.  The poor Phoenix was being log rolled by ants!  The Red Impulse leader broke their awestruck silence.  "Now that is a sight I thought I'd never see!"  "That's my ship!  Alright!  Let's fire up some ants!"

            On board the poor rocket ship Phoenix three ninjas grumbled.  "This is worse than the tornado formation!"  "No where near as fast Hootie!"  "But bumpier!"  Dirk looked through the screen. With the landscape rolling dizzyingly by it was hard to tell was!  "Red Impulse!"  Hootie was excited.  "And there's Ace!"  The sound of an exploding rocket deafened their ears as ants went flying everywhere.  Dirk wasn't happy.  That almost hit the ship's nose.  His communicator chimed in.  "Dirk?"  "Ace!  First off I really am glad to see you guys!  Second off you damn near his the ships nose and my G2!  Do it again and I'm going to kill the lot of you!"  "A little insubordinate isn't he?"  Dirk recognized that voice.  It was the Red Impulse leader.  He heard Ken's reply and was annoyed.  "A little?  Do you want him?  I'll trade him for one of your jets!"  "Are you kidding?  I'd have to kill him the first second we had in a room together just to keep my sanity!"  "Ha! Ha! Just get these ants away from us!  My arms are aching from holding on to the chair and Peewee at the same time on this roller coaster!"  Ken looked down to see that more ants had resumed their game of roll the Phoenix.

            Several volleys of fire later and the ants were no more.  The carrier landed, as did Ken, leaving the Red Impulse to locate anything bigger than a car and eliminate it.  Despite Dirk's protest, Ace had him loaded along with Peewee for medevac off the island.  "You just want all the glory!"  "Grow up!  You don't hear Peewee complaining!"  "That's because he's in shock you moron!"  Their two-way bickering continued until the hatch closed.

            "Well that's done with!"  Aggie looked at him.  "Now what?"  "We sit tight."  She rolled her eyes.  "Why'd I ask?"  Hootie guffawed in the background.  "What's his problem?"  "Inside joke.  What are we sitting tight for?"  "Until Red Impulse is done taking down the overgrown mutants and gives the all clear, and until these techs get the Phoenix up and running.  Then we locate and destroy one Galactor base."  "Just as long as we don't have to deal with any more of them ants!"  That came from Hootie.  "Where's your sense of adventure?  You always gripe about being left behind on missions, now's your chance to shine!"  "I'd rather be dull and safe."

            An hour later, and thankfully minus big towering life forms, the three entered the base.  It went unusually well.  They had literally caught the unprepared Galactors with their pants down.  Typically Galactor himself again got away.  They left the base leaving an impressive fireball behind them.  "Oh by the way the Indians won"  "Wahoo!"

            In the hospital they were happy to see Peewee more himself now.  And rather shocked to see Dirk spending some time with him in a game of gin rummy no less!  "So, who's winning?"  "Our malingerer!"  "I'm not a....what's a malingerer Ace?"  "A gold-bricker."  "Whats a....."

"You've been faking it kid!"  Peewee looked at Dirk.  "Nuh huh!  Am not!"  "Are too, and for the record I'm letting you win!"  "What a jerk!  I'm going back to my own bed!"  Under his breath Dirk said, "Works all the time!"  "Too late Dirk."  "For what Ace?"  "We saw your human side.  Your rep is ruined!"  "Go to hell, Ace!"  "After you."  Once again things ended on a happy note.

                                      Once again:  The End