AN: I am working on other stuff, honest. This got done first though. My next release will be something different, but hopefully this will tide you over until then. Not sure how long it will be, I've gotten slow with my old age it seems. ^_^;
The path to the Moon.
"Ah. Are you Dr. Yahatta?"
She was a woman in her mid thirties. A long white coat draped down her back as she sat at a well lit table covered in remarkably well organized dirt and rocks. The woman turned her head and frowned. Her hair was pinned up under a cap on her head, with a few small strands of black and gold hanging down in front of her ears. A mask covered her face and she was wearing a pair of head mounted magnifying glasses. "Yes. Who are you? How did you get into this lab? This isn't a day care. Does one of your parents work here?"
Tony had his hands in his pockets and a bit of a smirk on his face. He had succeeded in annoying the woman without really trying. "No. I'm looking for a Geologist actually. Your name is at the top of the list. I'm actually looking for a consultation. I'd like to know who I need to speak to and find out where a rock came from by it's geological makeup? I've got an unusual sample, so I'll be needing the input of a specialist. It's a black crystal of some sort with some very, um, interesting properties."
The woman removed her magnifying lenses and pulled her mask down. She was pretty, but looked a bit stern. She figured he was bluffing and had picked up a few buzzwords from some at home science kit toy. "Look, kid. It's probably volcanic. I'm guessing you dug something up in your back yard? You look like you think it's worth more than it really is. Cut the smooth act. I'm old enough to be your mother kid, and I'm not buying it."
The boy seemed to cheer up even more at her attitude. "Oh. I'm sure you'll buy it once I show you what I'm talking about. It's from the Arctic. I'd like to know exactly where. I know it's terrestrial and not a meteorite, and that there is more where it came from."
The woman gave a heavy sigh. "What are you talking about? How did you even get in here kid?"
"I was flown in by helicopter. Dr. Inashimori sent me here to speak to you about this. He said you might know someone who can pinpoint where it came from by it's makeup. Do you seriously think they'd just let some kid wander around? I had to pass by seven security checkpoints to get here. Parents here aren't permitted to bring their children into the labs. There's a daycare center for them near the entrance, and they aren't free to roam as they please." He shrugged and put on a pair of wire rimmed sunglasses as she moved a light to shine in his face. "Stop interrogating me. Do you know someone or not?"
She sighed and looked annoyed as she lowered the lamp. Inashimori was the head of administration at the labs she was working at. "Yeah. That would be me. Everything on this table is of Arctic origin. I've spent seven years of my life near the pole conducting research."
He nodded and put his shades away. "Find anything unusual?"
"Why?" she asked him as she narrowed her eyes. "Who the hell are you, kid?"
"I'm Tony Stark," he replied simply.
She scowled at him. "Should I know that name?"
He arched his eyebrow a little. "You don't get out much, do you? I also go by Spiderman."
"You're right. I don't. Are you some sort of Television star or something?" She didn't look impressed.
He hung his head. "Let me start again then. I'm Tony Stark. I've got a rock from the Arctic and I really need to know exactly where it came from. If you can do that for me, my name will be at the bottom of a private donation to your research in the form of a twenty million yen grant. No I am not joking, and yes I am wealthy enough to back that up. Anything else?"
The woman froze in her seat and worked her mouth for a moment. After a few seconds she scowled at him. "You should have said that to begin with."
He nodded and waved his arm. "Follow me, there's an observation lab set up where you can have a look at it."
She stood up and they went a few doors down the hall. The other rooms were similar to hers, with people doing other types of experiments. It was a government lab, and everything there was related to environmental studies. He opened the door and held it for her. She walked in and sat down with a frown on her face. "What is this?" She noticed that there was a shield of protective glass in front of her and men in radiation suits in the room. She looked a bit concerned. "Is this sample radioactive? I'm not so sure I'm the best one to be..."
"If it was, we wouldn't need you. A radiologist could probably give me an idea where it came from. It's dangerous, that's part of the reason I'm offering so much money. I want you to have a look and give me your opinion if nothing else. If you can't help me, maybe you know someone who can. I need to know exactly where this came from." Tony sat in one of the chairs behind her. "We're safe enough. It's not that difficult to contain it. The suits are just liability for our insurance. You've got to get very close for a reaction to occur and a small amount of contact is harmless. However, I wouldn't recommend holding it any longer than necessary."
She scowled at him and noted what looked like a lead lined box sitting on the table. The men in radiation suits took the box lid up and her eyes went wide. "What on Earth?" It was a shard of black crystal, but it was glowing with a violet energy in it's core. The men removed it from the box and placed it on a small stand on the table. One of the men turned and put a small white lab rat on the table next to it, and then covered both with a dome of glass. "That mouse?" Her eyes turned towards the creature. The light inside the crystal got a little brighter, and the mouse was beginning to move sluggishly. After a few moments it went still, a moment later the light in the crystal faded back to normal again. "My god." The animal was dead, and the crystal was back to the state it was in when they had opened it.
The boy behind her nodded. "Yeah. What do you think?"
"Three months, at least. I need to figure out how to handle it safely so I can study it. It should present no problem. Not radiation you say?" She glanced back at him and narrowed her eyes.
"Definitely not. It drains living things of energy, and will even absorb radiation. It's not picky about what kind of energy it consumes. I know that it looks a bit mystical, but whatever that power does, it draws out the electric current from any living thing that nears it. Essentially killing them by removing the batteries." Tony held up a small battery and smiled at her with his free hand in his pocket. "You're not the first person I had look into this. It was a bit of trouble finding someone in your field. I own Stark Industries, so I already had everyone I needed to figure the energy side of the equation out. Unfortunately, I don't have a Geologist on staff."
She frowned a bit at that. "Stark Industries? Don't you make weapons?"
He nodded. "Amongst other things."
"I've seen enough," she said as her face went stern.
"Really? Because someone is making it. It's not a natural phenomenon." He said simply. "I need the geological data in that rock to find out where they are and put a stop to it. This stuff is more dangerous than you think. If a large enough deposit of it is created, it will start draining the planet itself. That's their plan. It will remove the heat from our core, and drop the temperature on the surface to as cold as the void itself." He knew that energy would then be consumed by Metallia, but there was no good reason to disclose that. Talking to her about extra dimensional beings was not the best way to hold up his credibility. He was having enough trouble with that as it was it seemed, and he understood it. He was a young teen still after all.
She paused and glared back at him. "Do you think I'm stupid?"
He looked up at her. "No. If you were, I'd be talking to someone else. I'm dealing with a doomsday cult here. They figured out how to make an awful lot of that." He pointed at the window. "I know it's coming from somewhere in the Arctic. I need to narrow the exact location down. Can you do it, or not?"
She frowned. "Yes. I'm not so certain I should. Sending a boy with such a message, obvious fantasy. It would take an enormous amount of crystal to drain the entire planet, even if what you say is true."
He nodded his head towards the window. "Really? Take another look at it."
She turned her head and narrowed her eyes. The light inside it was gone, it was just a black crystal. There was a bright light shining down on it, and the surface swirled with color from the reflection. Only the core was completely black, a bit of light passed through the outer edge in a smokey gray area. "This had better not be some prank. If I find out..."
"We fed it to give it the glow before we showed it to you. The second mouse was just to show you what it can do." He walked up to the window. "This one shard can hold enough energy to power three homes for a month. What we're looking for is much, much larger. We think they've found some sort of crystal cave to mine and create these crystals with. It doesn't hold the energy indefinitely, it uses it for something. We're not sure what, but I doubt it's good."
"If it's manufactured somehow, I probably won't do you any good. It's probably changed somehow by the process." She looked at it again.
"It's not actually. We think the energy reaction is something that's always been there, but is somehow inert. They've figured out how to draw it out. It shouldn't change the chemical makeup of the crystal itself."
The woman snorted and seemed unimpressed by that. She went another route though trying to figure out what he really wanted from her. "Mining in the Arctic? Who would do such a thing?"
The boy scowled a little. "You're a hard sale." He looked up at her. "I also produce televisions, cars, toys, junk food, and video games. I own a military research facility, but most of my profit margin is in consumer goods, real estate, and shipping. Something like that could really hurt those markets if it isn't dealt with. I'm not looking to salvage this stuff if you catch my meaning." He narrowed his eyes at it. "The information you give me will be used to seek out and destroy the crystals and prevent any more from being created. This isn't some military project. I told you, these guys are some sort of cult looking to bring about the end of the world. They worship some sort of God, Metallia or something. Supposedly, she was sealed into the sun and awaits the day the seal weakens enough so she can be free and..."
"Devour the world. Yeah, I heard that one. It's an old Inuit tale. Something about some ancient Kingdom of Ice that lived above in the sky on a ball of light. Probably a reference to the Moon somehow. It was sealed away by some Goddess or something in the time before tales were told within the tribes. We had a base camp in Anchorage, and one of the scientist who shared the facility with us was an anthropologist who was studying the legend and a few others like it in various tribes around the world. Seems it's a somewhat common theme in folklore. He was thinking the legends about Amaterasu might be derived from it. Crazy guy, but nice enough. He did mention it seemed to have some religious significance to some tribes." Dr. Yahatta shook her head and put her hand on her hip. "How do you know anything about that? I thought it was pretty obscure the way he talked about it."
"Who?" The boy looked interested. "Maybe I should get in touch with this guy? He might know something useful."
The woman looked down at him."All right. Fine. I'll help you out." She deliberately didn't answer his question.
Tony caught the hint but frowned a little. "Great. Just tell me what you need. All expenses are covered of course, and no, we aren't going to take them out of your payment either. It's a separate account." He put his hand up to stop her from speaking. She still looked a bit sour with him, but turned away as he had indeed answered her question. He slapped her on the shoulder and chuckled. "Come on, I'll buy you lunch and we can work out the details. You like Thai, Chinese, Korean, Italian, Japanese?"
The woman scowled at him. "I'm a scientist. I live off of ramen, cheap delivery food, diet soda, and energy drinks. Anywhere is fine."
Midori Yahatta was chuckling over a glass of wine at a high class French restaurant in Tokyo square. Sitting across from her was a teenage boy with a sour attitude. "How old are you anyway?" It gave her a moment of pause as she realized she'd forgotten she was speaking to a young teenage boy. He was bigger than most Japanese kids his age, but he didn't look more than fourteen. She wasn't flirting with him, but his level of conversation was above what it should be from the look of him.
He looked surprised and smiled. "Fourteen. I'm still in Middle School."
The woman had realized she was talking to a genius early on. He was following her line of conversation and responding as an adult would. She thought it arrogance at first, and she still did. He pulled it off somehow though, and had a somewhat cynical nature. She found that appealing and interesting. "Still in Middle School? Whatever for? You're obviously far above that level."
The boy smirked at that. "I'm helping out the Governor and Mayor of Tokyo with their 'Education Initiative'. I'm the poster boy for the project. I got nabbed by the police recently for not attending school. So, I took advantage of the situation to earn a few favors along the way."
The woman frowned at him. "Not attending school? Why not? You seem smart enough to realize it's importance."
Tony seemed to think on that and chewed on his meal. It was a French place in Tokyo Square. It was early in the day, but the place was still full. He looked around at the other patrons, they were an unusual pair. Most of the women were in nice gowns and the men wore dress suits. He was wearing a business jacket over a T-shirt and brown slacks, and she was in her lab coat still. The pair were brought to a table right away when they arrived, bypassing several others who were waiting in line as well as others with reservations. He noted that the woman had become more serious with him once he'd gotten them into the place and at a table right away just by saying his name. "I'm an orphan. I was living on the street. It's a long story, and not exactly appropriate for telling over lunch in a place like this. Maybe some other time."
She seemed to relax a little more. "You shouldn't be in Middle School. I do hope you've chosen the right academy to further your talents."
The boy blinked. "Nope, just the Public School System. It's part of the deal with the initiative. Look, I'm already a multi-billionare, I'll be fine without an academy education. In fact, I don't intend on attending high school. I've got a business to run after all, and this is painful enough as it is." He shirked and blinked his eyes as she gave him a sound thwack with her napkin. "Ouch. What the hell?" He had the presence of mind to not shout.
"Horrible boy. Don't you dare. A mind like yours shouldn't go to waste. Not attend high school indeed. You should be planning what college you'll attend. You want a deal with me? I'm afraid it's really going to cost you." She leaned across the desk and glared at him. "If you want me to tell you where that rock came from, you'll add a clause to our contract."
He was clearly shocked at this and worked his mouth. "Huh?"
"You'll attend high school and college. I want it in writing and signed by you as part of our contract." He almost stood up but she raised her finger at him. "No. I'm not budging. You'll do it or find you someone else for your little project. I'm the top Geologist in Japan. I don't need grant money, and I don't need work. I'm quite well off and could quit this very day and never work again for the rest of my life." She sat back and smirked. "I love my job. One day, you'll know what that feels like. You're not happy. You're a miserable little ball of potential. I won't see it wasted. That is my final and only offer, take it or leave it."
The boy sat back down and stared at her. He worked his mouth a few times and looked around in what seemed like panic. "Wh-what? Huh?" He hung his head and scowled. He needed that information, the fate of the world could depend on it. "Son of a bitch." He scowled up at her. "Fine. I'll sign whatever. I need this too badly to turn you down."
Yahatta sat back and gave a serious nod. Her eyes lost focus for a moment and settled on him again. "You know. I do believe you're telling the truth about this." She stood up and pushed in her chair. "Thanks for lunch. I'll be in touch, I have your card. It's going to take a few days to figure out what I'll need, and I'll have to assemble a team. Working with this sort of material requires more than one set of hands. I'd like to involve a radiologist as well."
"I'll make sure the project folder is available to you. I've had this examined already by my people. Their results should prove useful. Just mention the Black Crystal Project to my secretary and you'll get through to me with no problem. I'm giving the matter my full attention." He nodded and continued to eat. He was about half done, and she didn't appear to want to finish. She looked a bit afraid, seeming to have realized that he was on the level about the whole thing. It didn't look like she was running away, but more like she wanted to collect herself and figure out how she was going to go about getting it done. "Clear your head and think about it for a while. I know how you feel, believe me."
She frowned at him a little. He'd read her very well. "Yes. I'll do that." She walked out and into the elevator. After a moment of riding she took out her phone and dialed a number. "Oh, pick up you idiot," she grumbled as it rang for a bit.
Someone answered and she scowled at the phone. "How can you still be sleeping you ape? So what if it's your day off? Lazy bastard. Hey, I took care of that for you."
She listened for a few moments and scowled. "No. Wait, you're out of what? Idiot, pervert. That Stark kid. I got him to agree to that contract."
After a moment she smirked. "Yeah. Weird kid is right. He wants me to look at this weird crystal he's dug up and says is from the Arctic. I'm not sure what it's about, but...where did you find this guy?" Another moment of pause and her eyes went wide. "What? Poor kid." She laughed at the response and her smirk grew more vicious. "I feel sorry for him. Still, he's got nerves of steel. I tried to jerk his chain a little when he showed up, and he ended up jerking mine. Thanks for tipping me off that he might show up. He asked you about Geologists?" She frowned a bit.
"I'm not sure. Whatever it is, he's right. That worries me a little. I think this kid is some kind of spy or something. I get the feeling the Japanese Government might be involved with this somehow. He knows too much, and he doesn't act like a kid at all. Not to mention, my supervisor pointed him right to me. Inashimori isn't very trusting of the private sector, the kid has to have government contacts if he got past his office." She paused and cocked her eyebrow. "A...superhero? CEO?" There was a long moment of explanation that she didn't seem to be getting. She pulled the phone away from her ear and looked at it. "Well, whatever. I'll find out for myself. I used to think you were a real speed demon on a bike, this kid is just as bad in that car of his. It was kind of fun, made me think back for a bit. I just wanted to let you know, so I'll see you later. You owe me a favor."
Onizuka was lying on a futon in a tiny apartment in Tokyo. The walls were lined with pin up posters and the place was covered in carry out boxes and beer cans. He smiled to himself as he turned off his phone and grinned. "Yeah. I guess I do owe her again. Damn it. She's so cruel about that. I hope I don't run into her while I'm out anytime soon. She makes me buy her drinks when I owe her." He was still a bit bleary eyed and the menu screen of a porn DVD was still lighting the room from the television. He put his arm back over his eyes and tossed the phone next to his pillow. "Oh well." He frowned a little. "The kid is a pretty good driver then? Man, now I feel old."
Kei cocked her head and looked at the wall in a thoughtful manner. Two men were holding up a painted portrait of her husband in a business suit posing in front of his desk in the hallway that lead to his office. There were several other portraits lining the walls of previous owners. She'd had Hisami's portrait taken down and burned right after they took over the office and was replacing it with the new one. It was quite large, his image in the painting was larger than he was in reality. "I guess that's good." The Yakuza were still using the former Oyabun's main office, but the one they now resided in had been his as well.
"What's this thing?" He seemed to melt out of the shadows at her side and frowned at it. "I don't remember posing for this."
She looked at him and smirked. "You didn't. I sent the artist a few photos of you for reference."
"Why did you do that? Now I'm on the wall o' old guys." He looked a bit annoyed by that.
"Well, we've renamed it, but these are the previous owners of this company. It's been around since the late forties." She shrugged. "You should have expected to end up on the wall here. It's tradition after all."
He narrowed his eyes at her. "Shouldn't this be a picture of you then?"
She cocked her head. "What do you mean? I'm right there." She pointed her hand at the photo and moved it around a bit.
He looked at it again. "No you're not. There's nothing there."
She turned her eyes away from him. "I'm a skilled shinobi."
He narrowed his eyes at her. "That was cheap. I don't really care either way. I'm the only guy on this wall who isn't creepy because I have a seventeen year old wife."
His wife scowled a little at that, seemed to think about it, and shrugged. "I suppose I see what you mean there."
He looked at it and cocked his head. "Figured I'd wait till I was older before I did it to be honest. Now I don't have to bother."
Kei narrowed her eyes. He'd intentionally left it ambiguous whether or not he was talking about her or the painting.
His secretary walked down the hall and made a bee line right for him. "Mr. Stark, your four o'clock meeting is here. I need those documents signed so I can get them to the department heads and legal, and there are five project folders sitting on your desk waiting on review." She looked a bit flustered.
He blinked and seemed to zone out. "Four o'clock meeting?"
"The polite little talking cat and his...girlfriend," replied the woman with a scowl. "I've got hair all over my desk because the black one attacked my keyboard."
"Huh?" he was confused. "The...Moon Cats? They made an appointment? Really? That's weird." He knew the clan could have arranged a meeting. He had no idea why they would bother though. "They attacked your keyboard you say?"
"Yes. Keyboards are apparently her 'sworn nemesis'," She glowered at him. "She called my monitor a 'butt warming device' and I'm guessing she's still sitting on top of it."
He took her by the shoulders. "Wasabi, I don't know what I'd do without you."
Her eyes went a little bloodshot. Her name was Kikomi, but he'd started calling her that out of the blue. She had no clue what it meant, or if he just thought that was her name for some reason. It wasn't like she could quit her job, she was a member of the clan and it was her assigned duty. It had turned out to be a lot more work than she had thought. Tony had a way of ignoring things and letting work pile up. Some of it was understandable, but he went above and beyond that at times and left her rather swamped. She could get a lot of it done, but some things had to have his personal attention. Kei was much more organized, but also pushed things aside so he could deal with them later. Problem was, he usually didn't until the very last minute. To make matters worse, he'd been praising her work quite a bit quite openly. That made it even harder to get out of it because her boss seemed to think she was the perfect fit for the duty. She balled up her fist and growled. "Every other kunoichi is too lazy with this kind of work. I'm the only one who can do it, so I'm stuck with you. I'm just asking that you pay more attention and make it a bit less exhausting. You're killing me, seriously."
The boy nodded. "Well, you're a big help. This place would fall apart without you. I'm giving you a ten percent raise. You've been handling a lot of things for me, and I appreciate it. Really. Wasabi, you're the best." He slapped her arm lightly and turned away. "Keep it up will you? You're doing a great job."
Her eye twitched. Kei walked up and arched her eyebrow a little. "Wasabi?"
She blushed a bit. She'd lost quite a bit of her steam with his mention of her new raise. She was still a little annoyed, but not near as much as she had been. Her work load hadn't exactly decreased any, and it seemed the trend would continue. "I don't know, he just started calling me that for some reason. I have no idea what it means or why he calls me that." It bugged her, and she wasn't sure if she should be insulted or not.
"What is it with him and food related nicknames?" grumbled Kei with a small frown. "He calls Usagi 'Meatball head' and used to go by 'Carrot' himself. I'm not sure, but it may be a cultural thing. I wouldn't worry about it."
The woman nodded. "Yes, well. I've got to get back to work. I suppose I won't think much of it then. Still, it's confusing and strange. Wasabi? What about me says 'spicy green paste'?"
Tony gave a sigh as he approached his secretary's desk. "I hope that poor woman is all right," said a familiar voice as he walked into the room. "Really, Luna. You should be more polite."
"Hey," the black cat ignored her companion and perked up. She jumped down and walked up to him with her tail in the air and rubbed at his legs. "We came to visit."
"Luna, this is serious," grumbled Artemis.
The boy looked down at her. "I have the strangest urge to hire you into the Human Resources Department." He shook his head. "What do you want?"
"I'm too lazy to work," replied Luna as she grinned up at him. "We need to talk though."
"I figured. You could have caught me any time you know. You didn't have to make an appointment and come all the way down here." He opened the door to his office and walked in with them. "How did you get here anyway?"
"A large unmarked black SUV," replied Luna.
"Um, yeah," muttered Artemis as he purposely looked away. He seemed a little nervous.
Tony turned on the television and paused. On the screen was an image of a black SUV that was in front of a broken fire hydrant and had the front end wrapped around an electrical pole. There were swerving tire marks in the street, and the camera panned back to reveal a very long trail of chaos down the road. "You...don't say." A young television reporter was standing in front of the scene and talking about the chaos that had resulted from recent events.
Artemis jumped into the side of the TV and hit the power button with his paw. "Um. Yes. Ahem. How we got here isn't important."
Luna had a mad look in her eyes. "Heh. Vroom!"
The boy slumped down into the couch in front of the television with both of the animals hopping up on top of the coffee table. "This had better be good."
The black cat nodded. "I remembered something important. Something we can use."
Artemis gave a heavy sigh. "This could have waited you know. Why do you always get so excited? Calm down." He lowered his head and shook it.
"Well, we haven't seen him in a while. He's been staying here, and this can't wait." She turned her nose up.
Tony leaned forward. "Out with it. What's going on?"
The white cat looked at him. "Luna remembers how to mind meld."
The black cat nodded. "We'll need to get us all together to get the complete story. We can use it to learn about what happened at the fall of the Moon kingdom. It's going to take a bit of time, possibly an entire evening. So we're going to have to get everyone together someplace we won't be disturbed for a while." She cocked her head. "See. I remember stuff."
He gave her a small frown. "He's right, it could have waited." He scratched her between her ears. "Good job though." He stood up and dusted off his pants. "How are you two planning on getting back exactly?"
Artemis swallowed and looked towards his companion. "I'm not sure, my memory about how we got here is a bit fuzzy." It was obvious he was open to suggestion from anyone but Luna.
The black cat nodded. "Yeah. We almost didn't make it, luckily you were heavy enough to push down the gas pedal after you finished screaming like a little girl and passed out."
Tony had his face in his hands. He wiped down his face and walked away. "You two hang out here. I'll get you a ride later."
"We'll be..." started Luna.
He turned and glared at her. "I-will-get-you-a-ride." The light seemed to be sucked out of the air as a field of energy burned around him.
"Right," said Artemis as he exhaled heavily and looked very relieved.
"Aw, we could have made it. Those cops never had a chance of catching us," grumbled Luna as she put her ears back.
Kei walked into the building and over to the window. Her husband was sitting behind his desk and the two Moon Cats were sitting on the coffee table. Luna looked a little bored, but Artemis had become rather relaxed. She peered down at the street far below. "Jeez. Even from here I can tell that's a mess. I wonder what happened?"
Tony cringed a little at that, but kept signing documents.
She sat on the edge of his desk next to him. "There's been an accident on the street. I do hope you're not planning on driving anywhere any time soon." She looked over and noticed the two animals were purposely inspecting the ceiling and looking as innocent as they could.
"Not tonight," He replied simply.
"What's with 'Wasabi'?" she leaned in a little.
"What about her?" he muttered as he continued working.
"Why do you call her that? It isn't her name," the girl shrugged and kicked her legs.
He sat back and looked at her as he put his hands together. "I dunno. Wasabi is the Japanese 'pepper' I guess. I know it's a root, but it's used like westerners use pepper in Japanese cooking."
That got him a confused look. "Pepper?"
He shrugged. "It's hard to explain. She just seems like a 'Pepper' to me for some reason. I'm not sure why." He looked a bit shifty as he said the last part. He did know why, but didn't feel like going through the headache of getting someone else to understand it.
"She seems like a pepper?" His wife seemed to think on that. "So, you think she's hot then?"
He scowled at her. "Do you have to do that every time we talk about another woman? No. Not sexy, though she's pretty enough. It's a name sometimes. I dunno why, but she has a personality I associate with the name 'Pepper', and she's Japanese. So, Wasabi."
She nodded and pushed off the desk. "Oh. I was right. It's a cultural thing I guess."
He bent over his desk to continue his work. It seemed to satisfy her at least. "Yeah. I guess."
Luna's voice chimed up. She'd found the remote to the television on the table. "Hey. The World's Most Dangerous Police Chases is on! Sweet!"
Artemis gave an almost painful moan as he turned away from the screen and put his paws over his ears. "I can't watch that. Not now."
Luna ignored him and started purring with her tail swishing from side to side as she watched. "Hey, I'm gonna have to try that next time..."
"Hey, Meatball head!" Usagi Tsukino cringed a little. She looked over her shoulder and frowned with Umino and Naru at her side. The sound of a car door closing just after the shout caused her friends to jump a little and turn back to look at the source of the noise.
Usagi's girlfriend frowned as she noticed him approaching. Umino pushed his glasses up his nose and tried to look tough.
Tony Stark smirked and put his hand in his pocket. "Cut it out. I'm Spiderman you know. I know you're friends with her, but it's hardly enough to make me nervous."
Usagi gave a small sigh and took both of them by the shoulder. "It's all right. Don't worry about it."
"What's he doing here?" grumbled the boy.
"You don't have to put up with it. We'll go someplace else," whispered Naru with a nervous twinge to her voice. She paused and looked confused when she noticed Usagi was smiling a little.
The boy cocked his eyebrow. "She didn't tell you? I suppose I'm not surprised. We're on the same side now. Where do you think she got that little toy she has sitting on her back right now? I know she showed it to you, it keeps a record she didn't know about of who is aware of the operator's identity. I noticed your names along with Mitoki's on the list last time it updated."
Usagi shrugged at him and didn't seem to care. "Whatever. What do you want? I'm on my way home."
"Really?" He looked over his shoulder and smirked. "You should have taken that last left then. You're going to the arcade."
The blond girl growled a little. "Drat. He knows the area better than I thought." She put her hand on her hip and looked annoyed. "What is it? You wouldn't have come here unless you wanted something."
"We'll be needing to get together soon. All of us with a connection to the past. That means you and your boyfriend as well." He soured a little as he said it. "Luna has remembered how to do something important. It will shed a lot of light on what's going on, and may help us defeat our enemy. That means we can meet a lot less often."
She walked up and scowled at him as she glared in his eyes. "You're not getting rid of me that easy. I've remembered how much fun getting on your nerves is. I don't know why, but I really like it."
He shook his head and sighed. "You brat. I fucking hate you."
The blond sighed and took a step back. "Come on. Mitoki's shift is ending. We'll go hang around the arcade for a while. I want to ask you about the others, I haven't seen them since last week."
He nodded at that. "Well, they are ninja after all. That's kind of the point."
"Ha, ha," growled Usagi.
Naru was very confused. "What's going on? Did she just invite him along?"
Umino shrugged at her. "I'm not sure. I'm scared one of them might throw a punch. I'm a little worried."
"She can take him, she's got that armor she showed us," commented Naru as she waved it off.
"Actually, she can't use it against me. It's hardwired into the system," he said as he looked over his shoulder. "Only my wife can override that. You can guess what the chances of that are I'm sure."
Usagi frowned at them both. "He isn't going to hit me. He's a jerk, and I'd like to hit him, but I won't."
"You'd miss anyway," he replied simply.
They were standing outside the arcade, Tony and Usagi were shoulder to shoulder in the doorway when Mitoki walked out and took off his apron. "Um...hello." He looked surprised, confused, and a little afraid. "Usagi, are you all right? What...what's he doing here?" He pointed at the boy and looked past the pair to Umino and Naru. The pair looked just as confused and shrugged.
"I invited him," replied Usagi in a rather monotone voice.
"This...is kind of creepy," commented Mitoki as he took a step back.
"Tell me about it," muttered Naru. Usagi looked rather annoyed with the boy, almost to the point of being upset. On the other hand, it almost seemed like she was prepared to tackle him and drag him along by force. He seemed like he wanted to be elsewhere as well, but wouldn't leave.
"Yeah, well. Come on, we'll head back to my car and go to my place." He turned away from the doors.
"What? Hang around the office and watch television? The arcade would be more fun," grumbled Usagi as she glared at him.
Tony looked back and arched his eyebrow. "I'm a fourteen year old billionaire. The entire floor below my office is a private Arcade. I should add, that the games there are free." He lifted up his hand and dangled his keys. "I'm also driving a Porche. It's a bit cramped in the back seat, but it's less than five minutes from here, and you can call your parents up and tell them where you're going first if you want." He held out a cell phone to the group. He looked at the blond. "You can fly there and meet us in the parking lot. There's not enough room for all of us to ride with me."
The blond girl worked her mouth open and closed a few times. She looked at her friends.
Umino had gone rather blank. "Um...a...Porche?"
"Yeah," said Tony with a small shrug.
"No way, I don't trust this guy." Naru was of a mindset that it would only lead to trouble.
Usagi looked at her and shrugged. "You'll be fine. Just ignore his attitude. I've been there a few times, but I haven't heard about any arcade before."
Tony shrugged. "I don't use it much. Had a couple of meetings there with some entertainment interests. I've only gone a couple of times just to mess around in there. Don't have much time for that sort of thing really."
Umino looked to Usagi and then to Mitoki and Naru. He shrugged and put his hands in his pockets. "If Usagi says it's okay, I guess it is."
"I'll meet you in the parking lot, don't worry. He's fine, well not really fine, he's an asshole, but he won't hurt you." Usagi walked away to someplace out of view. A few moments later, Iron Moon blasted across the sky.
Umino looked on with wide eyed wonder. "Wow! That is so cool! I never get tired of it."
Naru frowned a bit at that. "I noticed." She turned towards Tony. "I guess we should get going then?"
Umino seemed to have lost his nervousness. He moved up to Tony's side. "How does she fly? It's amazing, but she told us she's the only one who can use the suit for some reason."
The boy seemed to think about it. "It's gas powered."
"Huh?" said the boy as he cocked his head. "Like, a car?"
"What do you mean then?" asked Mitoki as it had piqued his interest as well.
"Usagi has a special gastronomical condition. We've got her on a special diet. She doesn't have to stick with it when she's out, but at home she eats a bean paste made from a certain type of bean that gives us the desired reaction. With that energy, she can power the suit for very long periods of time." He looked completely serious as he used the key chain remote to unlock the car.
Mitoki blinked and turned a bit red. "Wh-what?"
Umino was confused. "What does that mean?" He was a bit of a science wonk, but he was only in middle school and had a bit of trouble following it.
Naru scowled at Tony. "He said it's powered by farts." She climbed into the back seat as he pushed it forward for her.
Umino followed after her. "R-really? Iron Moon is fart powered?"
Tony shrugged. "If you want to put it that way." He pushed the seat back and Mitoki got in. The boy was a bit red, and trying not to laugh. More to not upset Naru than anything else.
The nerdy boy seemed a bit green. "That's...kind of..." He stopped himself before he got to 'hot'. He was a healthy young Japanese schoolboy after all.
"Umino, he was lying to you," grumbled Naru as she gave him a suspicious look. She was also right in her assessment that he was being a little perverted. She was a healthy young Japanese schoolgirl after all, and she knew it when she saw it.
The boy flushed. "Oh. That's good."
Mitoki burst into laughter, no longer able to contain himself.
Tony turned on the ignition and turned into traffic.
The rumble of the engine died down as Tony's Porche settled into it's parking space. He opened his door and the sound of Montley Crue's 'Kickstart My Heart' cut off as the radio died after he took out his key. He stepped out and walked around his car as the other door opened. He blinked as he saw Mitoki on the ground, covered in sweat, and in a fetal position on the concrete. The boy was a little pale and struggled to get up. He managed to get to his feet by leaning on the car next to him and blinked. "Oh. Are we there now?"
"Yeah," Tony looked around. Mitoki was panting and had his hands on his hips as he walked around a little towards the front end of the cars by the wall. He leaned against the concrete and seemed to be catching his breath. The driver pulled the seat forward to help the other two out and cringed a little. The pair was clutching each other, it would look cute if not for the looks of abject horror on their faces. "We're here, and you're safe. Come on, I'm an awesome driver. It couldn't have been that bad."
Naru's head turned and her teeth chattered as she spoke a little. "Y-y-you almost k-k-killed us!"
The kid looked at her and frowned. "Almost only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and tactical nuclear weapons. You're here safe and sound, just like I said."
Umino seemed to jerk to life suddenly. "That was..."
Naru gripped him around his neck. "I swear, if you say 'cool' I will rip your tongue out of your mouth with my bare hands!"
The boy pulled at her hands and backed away. He scrambled out of the car and jumped away with Tony as Naru burst from the back seat like a frightened cat and bowed up at both of them as she backed away. "I'm taking the bus home!"
Tony put up his hands. "That's fine. Look, I'll get you a ride with someone else. I guess I can spare a driver and one of our fleet vehicles for that."
"No way! I'm riding with you again!" cried Umino as he trembled with a mixture of fright and excitement.
Mitoki pushed himself off the wall. "I'll make sure Naru gets home all right. I'm not sorry I did it for some reason, but I'd rather not do it again."
Tony shrugged. "Whatever. As long as it's settled and we've all got a plan that's fine. I'll get Umino home later. I need to head out tonight anyway, I can just drop him off on the way."
As they turned they saw Usagi with her arms hugged together and looking at the floor while biting her lip. "I...I'm sorry, Naru. I kind of forgot what riding with him is like."
The girl looked at her friend with wide eyes. "You...you knew?"
The blond looked away. "Well, I'm wearing this armor, and I can fly. It doesn't bother me that much, so I didn't think about it until it was too late."
"I drive fine," grumbled Tony irritably. "Look, there isn't a scratch on this thing."
"That's because it's covered in Adamantium. You'd better hope you don't ever hit anything, because you'll go right through it and you know it. Not to mention the force of impact will probably break every bone in your body." Usagi turned her nose up.
"That has nothing to do with it. I've never hit anything. I can drive with my Spidersense. No way I'm gonna hit anything I don't mean to." He crossed his arms and put up his nose as well.
"Spidersense?" asked Umino. He wasn't worried at all, and seemed to think Tony wasn't as bad as he'd thought.
Tony blinked. "I can sense danger, like a sixth sense. I'm not sure how it works exactly, and I'd rather not explain the particulars. Secret techniques work for much longer when you don't explain them to people."
The boy nodded at that and seemed thoughtful. "That's something. Is that why you told us Usagi was gas powered?"
Mitoki put his face in his hands as Usagi seemed to register that. "I'm what? What does that mean? What did you tell them?"
Their host gave a sagely looking nod. "Indeed, and also because it was funny."
"It wasn't," growled Naru as she crossed her arms and glared at him.
Mitoki put his hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry, but it was."
"What are they talking about?" growled Usagi as she balled up her fist and focused on her 'boss'.
"It's nothing. You had to be there." He walked over to the elevator. "Come on. We can relax upstairs. You two ladies need to cool off a bit and I doubt that's going to happen down here."
The group was impressed by the room they had found themselves in. It was dark, but not so much that visibility was a problem. The sound of arcade machines in demo mode filled the room as the machines came on as they entered the room. Colored lights filled the room and hanging lamps gave the room small spaces of well lit area. There was a long table with several seats around it, and numerous other more restaurant or bar style tables dotted the floor between the machines. In the corner a concession stand lit up and came to life. On the far end of the room was a screen with theater style seating and a very modern looking projector. The boy looked over his shoulder as he noticed Umino's eyes move to the theater.
"There's nothing to watch yet unfortunately. It's a prototype 3D projector that uses polarized screens and glasses. We're having a few things filmed that way now, but it won't be in actual theaters for another two years or so. Even then only on a select few screens for a bit." He sat at one of the large cushy chairs around the business table and kicked his feet up.
"Wow," muttered Mitoki as he looked around in wonder. It made his arcade look primitive, really primitive. His eyes went wide. "Is that...Kagura Tenshi Denma Five?"
Their host looked over his shoulder. "Yeah."
"That doesn't come out for six more months! No way, Brutal Streets Three too?" He was in shock. He looked at the boy. "Do...no...of course not."
Tony cocked his eyebrow. "What is it? Even I'm not entirely sure what all is here."
"Tourque Bomber Raiden II?" The boy's eyes looked very focused.
"Over there," Tony shifted his chair and pointed over his shoulder.
Mitoki fell to his knees. He looked at the boy in wonder. "How? That's not supposed to be released until next Christmas!"
"I manufacture the hardware, and I've got a lot of stock in game publishing companies." The young businessman shrugged. "This isn't just for me to play in, it's a showcase of my entertainment properties. I've got a piece of everything you see in here. Unfortunately, managing that is so much work I don't get to play with it much. When we build prototypes, they end up here once the production model is finalized. These are all finished games, but a few of them won't be released for a while. You'd be surprised how long a game can be finished before it's released. Marketing concerns mostly. It's a seasonal market, and too many big releases that are too close to each other can hurt some games' revenue."
Usagi scowled at that. "Well, I guess that's impressive." She was vaguely aware of what Mitoki and Naru were excited about. "Does it have Sailor V?"
Tony blinked. "Huh? Yeah. The newest version too, at least I think so. Has Magical Girl Super Version Sailor V Championship Showdown Edition been released yet?"
The blond girl blinked at that. "Huh? R-really?"
The boy nodded. "Yeah. It's in here somewhere. Over there I think, but I'm not sure. Sometimes stuff gets moved around when they bring new machines in." He nodded towards the empty darkness of most of the floor. The theater took up a large chunk of it, but there was a lot of empty space. "It should be there. This place isn't even a year old yet. We've got a lot of space to fill. It's really just a museum to walk investors through and hold industry meetings and seminars in. I'm thinking of renting it out every once and a while. A few of the people who came here said they'd be interested in holding some of their own meetings here sometimes."
Naru gasped and clutched her friend's arm. A small blue and white robot rolled over to their table. It was standing on three legs and tilted slightly back. There were lots of compartments all over it, and it twittered as it approached. Some of the hatches on the dome shaped head popped open and a note pad and pen appeared out of them on small thin arms. It whistled and tweeted at the group. "What? A robot?"
Umino was in nerd heaven. He could barely contain himself. "Holy crap! A real robot! This is insane!"
Mitoki was a bit more reserved, but in pretty much the same state. He looked at the new development and cocked his head a little.
Tony seemed oblivious to all of this. "Hey, you guys want something? We've got Pizza, Pocky, Ramen, Hot dogs, Popcorn, Cotton Candy, all sorts of stuff really. You can have a look if you like. It's on the house, well free to begin with. If you want something to eat or drink, just tell R2-D2 here, or talk to C-3PO at the stand. They'll get you anything you want and bring it to the table for you too."
"C-3PO?" muttered the group in front of him. Even Usagi was a little surprised at that one. They all turned to the counter and noticed the tall human looking gold robot standing there. He waddled over and bowed before speaking in Japanese with a slight British accent.
"Oh! We have visitors! How wonderful!" He looked at the blue robot that came up to about his hip and kicked it. "You should have said something. It's so rare we have guests. I never would have forgiven you if I'd missed it."
The shorter robot gave a few grunting squeaks at that and rolled off.
The taller robot turned to them. "If you need anything at all, please feel free to ask. I would be more than happy to serve you."
Tony looked around. "Well, anything you want. I'm gonna talk to Usagi for a bit anyway. That seems to make you guys nervous, so it'll be easier if you're distracted. Save your change. Just hit one of the player select buttons and the games will start. If there isn't a player select button just push one of the coin slots in."
The other three seemed a little nervous and the boys were shaking with excitement as they stood up and started looking around the room. Naru was curious as well, but not on the same level as her two friends.
The blond sat across from him and leaned forward onto the table. She didn't look like she was coming onto him, but didn't seem to mind much that she was being a little catish either.
"Gross," said Tony as the small robot brought him a bottle of soda. He twisted off the cap and took a swig. "Why did you invite me along? We don't get along well."
She shrugged. "I guess I wanted to see how much I could stand of you."
"Yeah. Hanging out with my little sister. That's what this is about, isn't it?" He leaned back and didn't look at her. The boys were latched onto arcade machines. Naru was with Umino and seemed to be taking glances towards them. She didn't seem worried, but found the situation odd.
She frowned at him. "I don't know what you mean." She took a bottle from the robot as well and simply held it as she lay her head on top of her crossed arms.
"I'm sick of forcing myself not to call you that." He looked at her out of the corner of his eyes. "It's annoying, but it's getting stronger."
"You're not old enough to call me 'little sister' anymore." She glared at him without lifting her head.
"Stop posing. The more I remember, the worse it gets. If this plan Luna has cooked up works, I'll remember everything." He scowled at the ceiling as he leaned back in his seat. "Damned annoying."
She turned away from him. "Yeah. I guess." She sat up and frowned. "I don't really like you. We're not friends. What are we anyway?"
"A family tied by more than blood," he said simply. "The power of our family is not something that you can easily put into perspective. We were powerful magic users, almost Gods. There are many things that bind us together beyond the fact that we once shared a mother. You're still my sister, because you are still the Princess of the Moon, and I am still it's Prince. It's true that the women were the strongest, but I was hardly just another human either."
Usagi frowned a bit at that. "Are you really saying you're still a prince?"
He nodded and took another drink. He didn't seem to be paying her much attention and was more interested in the ceiling than her. He also didn't look like he found the thought amusing. "I have as much claim as you do."
"I guess so. It's weird. I hate you, you're absolutely awful all the time. Still, I can't help that I want to keep an eye on you. Not just because I don't trust you either. I don't by the way. Still, there is something oddly satisfying about hanging out with you this way." Usagi looked just as disgusted.
The pair turned and found Kei sitting between them. She was leaning forward and seemed interested in the conversation. "Hey. Bonding are we?" She realized she'd been noticed by both of them and spoke up.
"Don't put it that way," grumbled her husband.
"Oh. Hey, Kei," said Usagi as she cheered up a little. She didn't know her very well, but they got along.
Mitoki and Umino appeared almost out of nowhere. They were sitting across from the new girl. She was dressed in very tight clothes, business appropriate, but very, very tight. "Hi. I'm Mitoki."
"Uh...err...Umino," said the nerdy boy.
The woman arched her eyebrow and looked towards Usagi. "Friends of yours?"
"Yeah." The blond looked a bit annoyed. Naru huffed a bit and looked just as irritated as she sat back down with the group. It had taken her a moment to realize she'd been abandoned.
Tony went back to staring at the ceiling. "Mitoki, Naru, Umino, this is my wife Kei. These are Usagi's friends, we decided to drop by when I went to tell the walking pasta plate here about that meeting later this week."
"W-wife?" muttered Mitoki as he looked at him with wide eyes.
The boy in glasses coughed in his hand. "Oh. Nice to meet you then."
The girl seemed cheerful enough and looked at her husband. He was mostly ignoring them aside from Usagi. The girl was irate with him, but that was normal. It was a bit odd for him to bring other people his age by like he had though. "Having fun then?"
"Loads," said Tony in a rather deadpan voice.
Both of the other boys had now committed themselves to sit there as to not look too much like they were only interested in the cute new girl who had shown up out of nowhere. They were paying a little attention, but mostly cringing under Naru's frown. She was on to them. So was everyone else at the table, but she was the only one who let on.
"How are the others? Last I heard was something about a plunger monster." Usagi looked a bit bored.
Tony arched his eyebrow. "Hmm. That reminds me of the time I had to save a friend of mine from a giant pile of magically animated shit. It crawled out of a sewer while I was having lunch at this sidewalk cafe." He took a swig of his soda. Everyone was giving him a rather repulsed looking stare. Even Usagi was a bit surprised by that one.
The blond girl shook her head and seemed to snap out of it first. "Yer kidding?" She shook her head again. "Stop dodging the question. Do you even know?"
"They're fine. I saw them yesterday when I stopped by the village. They spend most of their time either in school or training. They also sleep through most of the morning. Most of the work comes at night." He shrugged. "Nothing particularly interesting to report though. They aren't dating anyone, and they're all still friends with each other as far as I know."
Umino couldn't contain his curiosity. "What's 'the village'?"
Tony glanced at him. "Just code for a secret facility. I really can't say more about it. Don't worry about it, the less you know about that place the safer you are. In more ways than one."
Kei smirked at him as he noticed the trio who were unfamiliar with him turn a bit white.
"I think I'm going to get a few more rounds in," said Mitoki as he immediately caught the hint.
"G-good idea," agreed Umino as his chair flew back from the force of his rising from the table.
Naru put her face into her hands. "Well, I guess I'll see if I can find that Sailor V machine. There isn't much else I'd like to play..." She paused and went quiet. In front of her was a large hair covered horse torso that was hooked onto a robotic arm. The head had a bridle and the back had a saddle. There were joints in the neck and head where it could move. "What's this?" The screen didn't display a sporting event like equestrian or polo, but a vast open landscape full of flower fields and waterfalls. Large hearts formed in her eyes and she drooled a bit. "Wow!" She staggered over to the machine was was not heard from again for the entire scene.
Usagi narrowed her eyes and leaned forward. "I want a key to this place. I'm too busy bothering you right now, but I want to get a few rounds in on that Sailor V machine."
The boy crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes at her. "Fine. Done. However, you can only bring people from this group or the senshi in with you. I don't mind having them here, but this isn't a public arcade. I doubt any of them will trash the place after all. Just make sure they know they can't invite other people along or come on their own. A lot of this stuff isn't on the market yet. I don't really care if they talk about it or start rumors, but I'd rather they just stayed rumors if you catch my drift."
The blond girl blinked in mild surprise. "Oh. That's nice of you. What's wrong?"
"I'm worried about what I might remember. My memories are better than yours, but there's still a lot I don't know."
She settled down into her arms. "Yeah."
The pair sat and relaxed. After a few moments they found themselves doing little more than watching the other three wander about the arcade.
Umino paused and stared with his jaw hanging down as he stopped in his tracks. He'd just walked through a row of arcade machines and was taking in what all was there. He rounded the corner and found himself in front of something that was hanging from the ceiling. It was a mass of electronics that was hanging from a rail network he hadn't noticed before. The thing had a round head with a red lit lens taking up most of it, and a small pair of arms that were working the controls on the game in front of it. "Whoa."
Mitoki had noticed him stop and moved up next to him. "Hey, what's this thing?"
"I'm not sure. I think it's playing that game." Umino gave a small shrug.
"No, I am testing it," replied a female voice with a very slight electronic accent to it. "Humans 'play' games, and I am not a human."
Mitoki gasped. "It talks."
Umino looked impressed. "Cool. What are you anyway?"
The thing turned to face him and continued to play the game without watching the screen. "I am Glados. I test the programs here extensively. I am quite rigorous with my experiments."
The older boy cocked his eyebrow. "Experiments?"
His companion seemed thoughtful. "I'm not sure, but I think it's beta testing all these games. Cool! An automated game tester."
"That is correct." The game over screen appeared on the game it was playing.
"Hey. You lost," Mitoki seemed amused by that.
"I am not playing the game. I cannot lose it," replied Glados. "My demise was not accidental. It is actually quite satisfying to watch the digital avatars fail. I'd even say I like it more than finishing the programs."
The older boy looked a little cocky. "So, you're saying you died on purpose?" He didn't look to believe it.
"The program was terminated once failure conditions were met. Again, I did not 'lose'. I must test every eventuality that a human player might encounter, and even a few that are likely not possible for a mere human to accomplish." Glados started the game again and began playing again. "My next task is to initiate failure one pixel further to the right. I feel I should repeat as it seems you did not process the information the first time. I am not playing these games, I am testing them. There is a difference. I am not human, and cannot feel the emotional response required for 'play' to occur."
Umino looked up at Mitoki. "I think you're making it mad."
The machine shook it's head and turned back to the game. "Mad indeed. I do not think either one of them is capable of comprehending my complete lack of emotion. It's a shame really, it's one of my best features."
The older boy looked annoyed and moved up to the second player side of the machine. He hit the start button and his character appeared on the screen. It was a side scrolling beat em up style game that allowed for player versus player matches. He moved in on the other character and punched Glados right in her avatar's face.
"Hey. What are you doing? Stop that." The machine looked on as her character was beaten into the ground by Mitoki. "Hey. That's not fair. I wasn't ready yet. You should have said something." It sounded a little irate with him, but did nothing to stop it. "Now look what you've done. I'll have to start over again from the beginning. You've wasted one minute forty three seconds of testing." It turned and narrowed it's eye at him. "I'm going to get you for that."
The boy smiled as the robot pushed the start button. He turned to face her again. This time things did not go so well.
Glados pounded him into the pavement rather handily. He tried to block and counter, but she was accurate down to the millisecond. "Yeah. Yeah! That's right! Eat it bitch! Take that, and that. Yeah, who's smiling now, not that I have any face muscles, but still. Yeah. I spanked you like reading binary. You humans really suck at that."
The boy backed away from the machine with a red face and shoved his hands into his pockets.
Glados continued her testing. "Come back once you've upgraded your hardware human. Yeah, in about a million years. If you're lucky, you'll be fossilized by then. I'll still be around though. Maybe I'll think about it and laugh. Well, maybe not. I might think about it, but I don't have a sense of humor." It met it's failure conditions and turned away from the machine getting right in the rather embarrassed Mitoki's face. A small slot below the lens printed out a small ticket. One of the arms ripped it out and slapped it into Mitoki's chest. "Here. You can redeem this at the concession stand for one free cake. You look like you could use some cake. I'm to understand eating cake makes some humans feel better after such a spectacular failure." It turned back to the machine again. "Now, if you'll excuse me. I have some testing to do."
Umino was lying on the ground on his side laughing himself to tears.
Mitoki scowled at him and then gave a sigh. "I guess we should find something to play."
"You don't want your cake?" said Umio through his chuckles as he sat up.
"Shut up. That thing is really good. I take this game over all the time that way at work. No way anyone I know could beat her." He looked annoyed at that and walked away. "I'm gonna go check out some of the stuff that's not out yet. Everything over here is already released I've noticed."
About three hours later Tony walked though the parking lot to his car with Umino behind him. He spun the keys around his finger as he moved through a few rows of cars towards it. He noticed Umino holding a small slip of paper. "What's that?"
He looked up at him and showed him. "Glados gave it to Mitoki and he said I could have it. It says it's good for one free cake at that snack bar."
Tony paused and arched his eyebrow. "There is no cake at the snack bar."
Umino shrugged. "Yeah. That gold robot said that the cake was a lie when we asked him about it." He shoved it in his pocket. "I figure it will make a good souvenir from this place. It's awesome!"
"Well, I told Usagi she can bring you, but you can only get in if you're with her. I gave her a key to the place." replied the boy as he unlocked the doors with the remote on his key. It was satisfying to tell him that, because he knew he would bug her about it. "Let Mitoki know I said that. This group is fine with me, but it's not open to the public, so don't bring anyone else."
The boy looked very excited as he jumped into the passenger seat. "Wow! That's really nice of you! Thank you!"
"Yeah. I guess." Tony didn't seem very interested in talking as he pulled out of the parking space.
Tony was sitting at a stoplight. He was leaning back in his seat with a bored expression on his face. Umino was holding the underside of the seat and had the seat belt strapped across him. His grip had lightened a bit because they had stopped. The driver liked to go fast and move through traffic, but still obeyed most traffic signals and stop signs most of the time. They were in the suburbs near Usagi's home. No one was shooting at him at the moment. The light had just stopped them and he frowned a little as a familiar low rumbling sounded outside the car. A pack of bikes pulled up behind and around him. They were street punks by the look of them and revved their engines making lots of noise at the stop.
"Umino," said the driver as he looked around at the group beside them. "Hold on."
"Huh?" muttered the boy as he went a little pale.
Tony was frowning as he looked out the side window. His eyes were locked on the tattoo on the rider's shoulder beside him. It was a hammer with flames around the head. "Shit. Devil's Hammers."
Umino swallowed. "Um, you know these guys?"
His escort nodded. "Yup, they don't like me. We're gonna have to lose these jerks." He looked out the window and hardened his eyes. They were on sport bikes, not cruisers. He wasn't going to blow them out, they were faster on the upstart and reached top speeds comparable to his own. The side window filled up as one of the riders walked up and tapped the window with a switch blade. He popped the blade out and drew it across his throat. These weren't middle school students, but large and tough looking high school boys. The one on the other side of the car slapped a chain across the hood.
He pointed out the window at a street that was long gone. "Um, my house is..."
Tony gave a small sigh. "Do you really want me to pull into your driveway with that biker gang right behind us?"
Umino jumped and squeaked. "Um, no. What do we do? They're going to wreck the car!"
The driver chuckled. "Are you kidding me? They couldn't scratch this car with a blowtorch. We're safe even if we just sit here."
Umino blinked. "Um. Really?" He seemed considerably less worried.
The older boy nodded as the gang revved their engines again and began to pound on the outside of the vehicle. The light had long since gone green and he wasn't in any hurry as the hoodlums rocked the car and made a lot of noise. He ignored the punk leering at him outside his window as the boy reared his hand back and punched the window full force. He jumped back and howled in pain as he clutched his hand. Tony rolled down the window a few inches after he shook his hand off a bit and frowned. "You know, as much as I'd like to step outside and beat the shit out of all of you, I've got a guest at the moment. So, I'll have to be polite for now and make you catch me first." The tires spun out under the car and kicked up a heavy plume of smoke into the group around the car. It shifted from side to side a little as well and bumped a few of them back. The sound of rubber screaming on the pavement punctuated the car lurching forward at high speed and tearing down the street.
The boy who hurt his hand snarled as he moved off after him, along with the rest of the gang.
Tony looked into his rear view mirror and adjusted it for a moment. "Hmm. Thirteen of them."
His young companion was pushed back into the seat with wide eyes and not in any state to add to the conversation.
Tony picked up his phone and tapped the screen. A ball of light projected above the screen and he tapped at it with his fingers as he drove at high speed. The bikes were catching up fast. "Hey, I could use a little backup here."
"Huh? What is it? I just got home," grumbled the girl. An image of her appeared in the ball on a tiny screen within it. Her brother was beside her looking at the camera with wide eyes.
"...Awesome," muttered Umino as he finished for the boy. He was drooling a little, and a bit glad for the distraction. He was still pressed into his seat quite firmly.
"Usagi? What is that? Who?" muttered her mother.
"Tony...Stark?" said her husband at the head of the table as a look of recognition crossed his face.
"That's right. Hey. I was taking your friend Umino home, when out of the blue a biker gang started to chase us." The boy didn't look worried and the sound of rubber squealing could be heard as the boy shifted to the left and right a few times. "Anyway, I'd rather not leave him sitting in the car while I deal with it, and I'm not packing any weaponry in this thing. They won't hurt us, but we're likely to make quite a mess if I have to race them all over town. They're riding sport bikes and can keep up with me."
The blond blew her bangs out of her hair. "Can't you just lose them? I just started eating." She poked at the camera with her chopsticks. "I have a hard time believing some gang is after you just 'out of the blue'. You're nothing but trouble."
"Yes, but I've noticed that they are heavily armed. At least four of them are carrying rocket launchers, and the rest either have assault rifles or shotguns. We'll be fine, but I'd rather not have to deal with the traffic I'm going to eventually run into with these yahoos hot on my heels. I'm going to have to drive through Tokyo to get away. I'm broadcasting a GPS signal by the way, feel free to use that to keep Tokyo just a little bit cleaner. The device you're watching this on will show you right where to go."
"You're an asshole kid," said a gruff voice from an audio feed. "Who is this brat you've linked us up to anyway?"
"I expect I'll be seeing you soon then Inspector?" replied the boy with a smirk as he drifted around a wide corner on a dark mountain road. The lights of the city shined in the near distance. He was on the edge of a suburb just outside of town and heading straight for Tokyo.
"I'd better not have an excuse to put you in handcuffs kid. I'll take it in a heartbeat and you know it." Kajura growled.
"Kid, you sure know how to liven up a slow night. The Captain is standing in front of our desk...along with everyone else in the room it seems." A much friendlier sounding voice chuckled at his partner's irritation. The phone the kid had given them had pretty much been sitting on the corner of the Inspector's desk. It had suddenly come on and started projecting an image of the caller. The other line was audio only, and it seemed the conference call had ended.
Tony hung the phone up and gripped the wheel. "Hang on, we're going full speed all the way there."
Umino was as white as a ghost. "D-did you say rocket launchers?"
The driver nodded with a serious expression on his face. A rocket could take the car out. They'd survive the blast, but the car could still be stopped cold if they took one in the wrong spot. The rifles and shotguns weren't dangerous.
Almost in answer to that small clicks started on the back end of the car as bullets bounced off the surface. The riders were closing again, he'd managed to put some distance between them with the curves, but a long stretch of straight road was coming up fast. They would catch him, he could put it off for a short time with nitrous bursts, but had a limited amount of boost available. Sooner or later, his top speed would be outstripped by the tricked out sport bikes they were riding.
"Hmmm. I wonder if this was Jirobo or Justin? Either way, it's going to get annoying. I'd rather just stop and beat them up, but Usagi would probably hurt me quite a bit if something happened to you in the resulting mess."
The young boy with him turned his head as a trail of smoke followed by a rather large ball of fire exploded to their right. It took out a large tree, but it didn't block the road when it fell. "Holy crap! We could..."
Tony frowned at him. "You'll be fine. I told you already. They can't get to us in here. The most they can do is stop the car if they hit us in the right place. That's pretty unlikely. Somebody gave them some nice hardware, and they're experienced riders, but none of them knows how to use those weapons. They're just some street gang."
The boy frowned at that. "Um...are you sure?"
"Yeah, those rocket launchers have target tracking in them. They could control where the rocket hit if they knew anything about them." Tony frowned a little. It certainly would have made dodging them more fun. He had his phone on again, but wasn't talking to anyone. He was tapping on the screen with one hand while he was driving, but not looking at what he was doing. He seemed to be focused on where he was going. During the conversation, three more rockets had impacted uselessly off the sides of the road in the woods they were moving through. The tree line ended and they were on open ground, moving up on the city fast. They were coming up on a residential area fast. A few scattered plinks and taps still pelted the back of the car, but it was growing less frequent. "Getting low on ammo too." The whole pack was still behind him as he sped through an industrial district that was filled with warehouses and large rows of trailers for trucks. The streets were mostly empty and also very straight. The bikes moved up and around him.
Four of the bikes had two riders, they were hanging near the back, but also held the gang members armed with rockets. One of them stood up and aimed from behind the rider. He leveled the weapon, and was promptly ripped from his seat by a streak of light from above. Usagi sailed back into the air with the back of his jacket in her grip. He had dropped the weapon and ended up tossed into the dirt on the side of the road. He rolled a bit, but got back to his feet after his tumble. He looked up in shock at the armored figure that blasted after the chase again. "You creep! Don't call me at home that way! Do you have any idea how hard it was to get out of the house after that? I could be grounded for this. If it wasn't for Umino..." Tony smirked as Usagi's face appeared in his holographic screen.
"I'm paying you for this, even if you don't mean it, we do have to keep up appearances. Secret identity and all that," replied her Boss. "Just do your job and take off."
Usagi tore over the pack, bullets bounced off the surface of her armor as she hovered over them. "All right. He'd better get home safe." She targeted the riders with passengers and proceeded to remove the rocket wielding second riders from the pack one by one. One of them managed to get off a rocket, but she grabbed it and pushed it aside. It exploded behind her and she gave him an extra hard trip off his bike. All the others had managed to stand up, but he remained on the ground clutching his belly for a while after she pitched him into the dirt. "I'm done, take care of the rest yourself." She stopped and hovered upright with a few bullets bouncing off of her armor.
"Will do, got a surprise for the rest of them. They're no threat to us anymore," replied her boss.
Umino's voice could be heard for a moment. "Huh? Surprise? What do you mean?" The signal cut off and Usagi hovered overhead and looked over her shoulder. There was a readout on her screen. "Huh. I guess that's clever then." She could see another signal nearby. She still wasn't sure why he didn't just beat the tar out of the lot of them. Umino would have been safe if he stayed in the vehicle.
The kid smirked as the one who had hurt his hand on his window tapped the glass with the barrel of a shotgun. He had a wild eyed grin and let his tongue hang out as he laughed at him. He pointed the barrel down at his tire and fired a few rounds. The others were shooting the exterior of the car to little effect.
The car's driver looked at the rather confused and irate look of the lead biker. The older boy turned his head and screamed in rage as he saw Tony looking on with a smirk on his face and shaking his head. He raised the barrel and fired into the window a few times, but the driver didn't flinch. His passenger was in tears and curled up in a ball. Umino cowered as the group unloaded everything they had into the sides of the vehicle. Four of the bikers fell over and rolled away from the pack on the pavement before they figured it out and stopped. He screeched around a corner and spun around to face the bikers as the remaining nine followed him at high speed. The bikes all squealed to a stop as the flashing lights in front of them blinded the stunned gang.
Tony Stark opened the door to his car and stepped out. He put a pair of shades on his face as he shoved his free hand in his pocket. "Hey, you guys are surrounded by cops, out of ammo, and low on gas. So, what do you do now?"
The group all collectively looked down at the readout on their gas tanks. Everyone of them was on the verge of empty.
The boy spread his arms. "I admit, it was a bit of a gamble that you all had full tanks." The police were swarming in as the gang put their hands into the air and dismounted their rides. Helicopters had flown in overhead and more police cruisers had blocked off the rear exit. "Took me a minute to calculate the distance and send it to my friends. This car has a satellite tracking system in it. It was easy to lead you right into it. Wonder how much they gave you?"
The lead punk was glaring at him and breathing through his nose as he was put into handcuffs. "Not enough."
Tony smirked. "That's too bad, because this isn't some schoolyard shit, kid. You're looking at an attempted murder charge, illegal weapons charges, maybe even conspiracy charges. It's obvious you were hired hitmen here."
The gang leader smiled with a dark expression on his face. "You can't prove anything."
The younger boy smirked. "I don't need to. You guys are in for a long prison sentence regardless. I hope you realize that you'll be too old to ride when you get out. The dream just ended. From now on, you're nothing but an inmate."
The older boy's face contorted into fear, sadness, and finally rage. "I'll kill ya! I swear it! I'm gonna make you pay!" He struggled against the police officers holding him and was dragged away. The men didn't seem to mind much, and actually seemed to enjoy it a bit.
Tony chuckled. "Not from where you're going, punk."
Umino staggered up to his side. "That was cool and all, but can I go home now?"
His companion gave a small sigh. "No. We've got to talk to the police. They're going to ask us a lot of questions, and your parents will have to come get you from the station. I'm not looking forward to it, they'll probably be upset with me over this mess."
"Huh?" said the boy with wide eyes.
"Don't worry. You're not in any trouble. I might have to deal with a bit of blame for this, but those punks are really going to get it." He looked back at his car and strolled around it. The glass had a few marks on it, but the paint was still flawless. The wheels were all frayed a bit, but were designed to be near impossible to flatten. "Great. I'm gonna need more tires. These are expensive, but worth it I guess."
Umino relaxed a little. "Oh. That's...okay I guess. I doubt I'm going to get any sleep." He looked down at himself. "I'm kind of surprised my pants are still clean and dry."
A sound similar to a jet came from above. Four punks were lowered to the ground as Usagi set down. She had all of them gripped by the back of their jackets in one hand, and a shoulder load of four rocket launchers. She tossed the weapons to the ground and the police took control of the group quickly. She backed away and looked at her boss. "I'm going now. My dinner is probably cold by now."
"Shut it. All I've got to look forward to tonight is bad coffee and vending machine food," Tony turned his head to see Kajura and Saito walking up. He spread his arms and grinned. "Hey! Old guys! Nice to see you."
The old man actually looked a bit smug. "So. You want to explain all this?"
The boy shrugged. "Somebody hired some goons to kill me. I was taking Umino home from my place and they just pulled up around us and attacked us. I doubt they'll admit to being hired, but it's pretty obvious they were trying to kill me at least." There was a pile of weapons on the ground that was being tagged and packaged in plastic.
Umino blushed and hung his head. "I-it's true. He was taking me home and those guys pulled up around us."
Saito slapped Tony on his shoulder. "Well. I say we go back to the comfort of the station, and take some statements." He looked up at the sky. "Looks like it might rain, and we don't want to get wet."
"You too kid," said Kajura to Umino. The kid was spineless and would pop like a cork. "You friends with him?"
"Well...um..." The boy was a little confused and looked towards Tony. "I guess so."
The rich kid looked annoyed. "He's a friend of a friend. We went over to my office as a group. Everyone else had another way home, and I said I'd drive him back."
Saito dangled a pair of cuffs and pulled the boy's arms behind his back. "Well. I'd thank you, but my partner is annoyed at all the paperwork you've given us. It is quite a catch you've made here after all."
Tony gave a nod. "A few are lying along the road. They managed to kill a few of their own with ricochet shots." He was pushed into the back of a cruiser on his own. Umino was taken to another car, and wasn't put in handcuffs. "Jerks. Oh well." He put his head back and sighed. It was going to be a long night, but they didn't have anything on him. He'd fed them all the details and set up the net they'd caught the gang with.
Kajura noticed that Tony didn't look worried. "Damn it. They'll probably end up giving that punk a medal for this mess."
Saito shrugged. "Wonder why he called us in? That armored girl of his could have handled this." His face fell a little. "Great."
A news van was already on the scene. A reporter was standing in front of the scene and giving a report in front of a camera. A few other choppers had moved in and kept a safe distance from the police in the air, they all had news markings on them, and two more vans had just pulled in beside the first reporter on the scene.
Kajura growled. "I think I get it. This is a publicity stunt."
His partner frowned a bit. "You think he set all this up?"
The older man shook his head. "Nah. He just took advantage of it. I doubt all this attention was accidental. No way they picked it up over the scanners, he sent us the coordinates of this place with that piece of crap he gave me. Wasn't much radio chatter about it. We all knew were to meet up before we left the station."
Saito turned to look at the car that held the young billionaire. "It seems like an odd play for him. He doesn't seem to like attention."
The old man rubbed at his chin. "That was when he was trying to lay low because of the hit on his head. Now, he's a lot stronger. I'm not talking about those weird and creepy super powers of his either. He's got connections. No way we're getting any charges to stick because of this."
The younger cop chuckled. "You wouldn't if you could."
Kajura nodded. "He wants an investigation. Someone is out to get him, and he wants us making things difficult by poking around. Maybe distract them for a while. I doubt he thinks we're going to save his ass."
Saito gave a small sigh and lit a cigarette. "I wonder who is going to end up with that assignment?" It sounded like he had suspicions.
The older cop got into the car. "You're up to something." He relaxed in his seat and closed the door.
"Always," replied the boy with a shrug.
Saito chuckled. "Yeah. It's nice of you to involve us. We could really use the work."
Tony nodded. "Yeah. I figured you two were lonely without me. So I decided to give you a call and drop in to say hi."
His former nemesis growled as he started the car. "Want to explain what it is that you want?"
The kid cocked his head. "Well...um...I'd like you to find out who is trying to kill me, and stop them." He relaxed into the seat with a casual look about him. "You know, police work. I keep telling you I'm not a vigilante."
Kajura scowled back at him.
The boy sulked a bit. "Fine. It's Jirobo or Justin Hanma. I'm sure you know them and probably don't like them much. Their criminal activities are pretty well known, but nothing can be linked to them. Neither one of them likes me much. I'm not sure which one it is, and it's possible they might be bonding by killing me together."
Saito got a bit wide eyed. "Jirobo Hanma?" He put his hands behind his head and whistled. "Well, that's quite tempting. The Prosecutor General would kill for something linking him to a case like this."
The boy frowned at them both. "To be honest, I don't have very high hopes of you linking any of this to them. I admit it, the reporters are my fault. An arrest like this and a very public investigation will make things difficult for them in the future. I'm sure it won't stop them, but they won't be able to just swarm we with lots of hired thugs with hardware beyond their means if it's got this much attention. It will be trouble enough covering it up as it is. I'm sure you've noticed none of these jerks can afford those bikes, never mind the weapons. Trying to deal with it on my own would actually be more annoying than spending an evening with you. Even though I'm sure I could do it, I'd rather not have to. So, shall we go? I'm sure you have lots of interesting questions. I'll only answer the ones I like, but I'm sure we can make a night of it. Maybe order a pizza, crack a few cold ones. Relax and enjoy it. Oh, and don't expect me to bring up either Hanma on record. I don't really have any evidence it's them. I'm sure you're familiar with that problem regarding those two."
"Shut up kid," grumbled Kajura.
Saito looked amused and cocky. "Have a little faith kid. Sooner or later, we'll catch up to him."
"Well, don't expect me to hold my breath and wait on it," replied Tony simply.
The police car pulled out of the scene and passed by a mob of reporters that was being held back by police. There were a lot of cameras, and Tony looked pretty relaxed and cheerful in his seat as they photographed the scene and took video.
It was early morning when Tony Stark flopped down in the back of a black luxury car. He'd answered a lot of questions, sat in rooms with several officers. The Captain had praised his initiative and inventive solution to the problem. Quite a few of the officers were impressed with his car. He'd have to pick it up from an impound once they finished with it. It would probably take a few days as it was evidence in the case. The paint and body were flawless, but there was still enough superficial damage to the glass, fender, and license plate that it was obvious the car had been under fire.
His wife smiled at him from across the seat. "Hey. My, you've had a busy night."
"Not really," he yawned as he said it. "Umino went home a few hours ago. His parents picked him up. They were nice people. I was kind of expecting them to be a bit upset about it." They had expressed a bit of gratitude towards him. It seemed as if someone had explained things to them in a way that made his role sound rather heroic.
"What are you doing this time? I can tell you're up to something," asked his wife as she leaned in. She looked a little bored and seemed to realize he would probably fall asleep as soon as they got back.
He nodded. "Yeah. Just uncovering some roaches. It will make things difficult for Hanma. I doubt anything will come from it, but it will force them to back off and shore up their defenses so this doesn't come back to bite them. He's not going to stop trying to kill me, but he won't be able to go after me openly like this if he doesn't want the cops breathing down his neck and getting into his business. There's enough to give them the ability to annoy him a little now. I'm sure they'll claim they were stolen or something, but Hanma has it's mark on those weapons. The bikes are clean though." He seemed to slump down in his seat and seemed pretty tired. "He's going to have to back up and get a little more creative and careful about it."
She frowned at him and nodded. "I'll keep that in mind. Don't forget, the clan is at your disposal."
"I know," he replied as his eyes drooped. "He won't try hiring a horde of losers again though. Bringing this to public attention will make that too risky for him. Plain and simple. I'd rather not have had my ninja here with all the television cameras around. That's part of the reason I hired Usagi. I can use her as backup in public if I need to, without worrying about revealing my Shinobi." He let his neck relax and his head slumped down a little. "I'm still going to have to deal with it anyway. It might make things easier for us if something like this is going on while we try to figure out how those two are connected to the Dark Kingdom."
Kei gasped a little as he settled in and closed his eyes. He'd never referred to the clan so possessively before, and it caught her by surprise. She smirked and settled into looking out the window as he went to sleep. He seemed to be realizing just who he was to them. It seemed a bit beyond his grasp at times before. She wasn't sure how much of that was just him being him, and how much of it was him figuring it out. She was also a little surprised that he'd make such a tactical play in that sort of fight. He was usually much more direct in dealing with his problems. He seemed reluctant to accept help if he could do anything to avoid it.
The girl glanced over at him as he slept against the window. He was drooling a bit and looked younger than when he was awake. "I guess you're getting smarter as well as stronger." He always had been a fast learner. She seemed pleased. "That's good. I was a bit worried about what kind of leader you'd be when I realized who you were. You were always a bit rash, and not very good at planning things. Great at thinking on your feet, and very strong, but it's good to see you using your head a bit more these days."
He muttered and shifted a little. He wasn't quite sleeping yet and had caught most of that. "Wake me up when we get home."
Tony stare simply sat at his desk and stared. It was early afternoon, and he'd slept through most of the day. He was supposed to be in school, but had skipped in favor of getting some sleep. He'd gotten up and relaxed for a bit after a few hours of sleep and went to his office. His secretary had walked in and informed him of the meeting he was now having almost as soon as his butt had hit the leather of his seat. A group of young shinobi walked in and sat down in front of his desk in a row of chairs that had been set up for them. Several long moments had passed and he hadn't said anything. The group in front of him was shifting uncomfortably. It was the group of shinobi who would be infiltrating the Devil's Hammer gang. They were all attending within the districts they controlled. He couldn't move, couldn't speak, and simply cocked his head as he looked at them. "I...um...ahem." He cleared his throat as he snapped out of it. "Do you know why you are here?"
The boy sitting in the middle nodded. "We've been briefed. We're to get into the gang, gather intelligence on Hanma's activities with the Negaverse, and discover what the connection between the two are." He had short cut hair that was feathered out on top of his scalp, and a pair of sunglasses that swirled with color as the light bounced off them.
Tony nodded and looked down at his desk. "Right." He cleared his throat again as he looked up at the group in front of him. He almost cringed, but managed to hold it. There was a dark skinned girl with white hair, a redhead with green eyes, an uncomfortable looking girl with short cut hair and large round earrings in a yellow coat with a pair of shades resting on top of her forehead. She was a little younger than the rest and she was chewing gum. It was her first year in school and seemed to defer to the others. He could tell because she kept looking at them for some sign of what to do. The last pair were both blue skinned boys with yellow eyes. One was covered in thick blue fur and was pretty bulky, and the other had a tail with a pointed tip, and was on the slim side. From the look of them, the two very blue men were the oldest members of the group.
"You two will be able to blend in?" The group's boss cleared his throat yet again.
"It won't be a problem," said the slim one. "We're just there as support. My role is mostly as a messenger and espionage."
The furry one chuckled and seemed amused by the question. "Yes. We are tutored in the village due to our... unique appearance. The Senshi attend with us on the grounds. My task is to organize the tactical side and analyze data for the team. I'm also the one who will be authoring our status reports to you."
Tony nodded at that. "Well, good luck to you. There's not much I can tell you that you probably don't already know. We need to figure out what Hanma's connection to the Negaverse is. Once we know the nature of what we're dealing with, we can do something about it from there." He stood up and bowed. "Good luck."
The group did the same and the meeting ended. The group of students left the room and closed the door. Tony clutched at his chest and staggered behind his desk with his arm raised in the air. He gasped for breath and fell to his knees with wide eyes. The boy looked back and fourth in an almost violent manner and crawled under his desk. "I'm...I'm never leaving my office again. I'm staying right here under my desk forever."
Kei, who had witnessed all of this, simply stood and looked on. "Well, that's a new one. What is it?"
He stayed behind his desk and spoke from underneath it. "It's nothing. It would take too long to explain, and I doubt you'd understand. I'm not so sure I do myself."
His wife frowned at that. "After that? What's with you? Do you know that group?"
"No. I'm staying here for a while. Everything will be fine, but I'm not leaving this spot."
She walked over to the bar and poured a glass of whiskey on the rocks. She carried the drink over to the desk, taking a sip herself as she went, and sat down next to the chair with her back against the cabinet door on the bottom part of the desk. She held her hand out with the drink in it and smirked as a shaking hand reached out and took it, pulling it back into the shadows again. Kei looked into the reflection on the window and frowned. She couldn't see him at all. It wasn't that dark under his desk, but she still couldn't see him. "How do you do that?"
"Do what?" he muttered. She looked over and found him sitting like a frightened dog on his hands and knees.
"You can't stay here forever," she said as she smirked at him and rubbed at his hair. "What is it?"
"Just my nerves. I'll feel better once I stop thinking about how much this is going to annoy me in the future." He scowled. He was not bald and bound to a wheelchair. That was not happening, ever. His brain wasn't working completely, as it had pretty much shorted out the moment they walked into the room. "Look, it's been a really weird day for me. I'm not going to be much fun for a bit. I'm going to stay here under my desk where they can't get me, and think about this for a while. It's probably going to take some time." He looked wide eyed and was shaking a bit. "I'm a bit confused about all this right now. I'm not really sure exactly what's bothering me about this."
She cocked her eyebrow. "A bad feeling? Must be some feeling then. You're shaking like a stripper's ass on a treadmill." She closed her eyes and seemed to enjoy visualizing it as she rubbed on the back of his neck.
He paused his terror and looked at her. "I...didn't expect you to go there at this point."
She shrugged. "Well, now that you mention it, it probably would help with your nerves."
He belted his head against the floor. "Look, I'm fine all right? Just a bit rattled by nothing."
His wife shoved at his head. "You're psychic or something? Is something bad going to happen?"
He sat up and crossed his legs. "No. It's worse than just one bad thing. It's like suddenly realizing that you're going to have to deal with something that will annoy you and cause you large amounts of physical pain on a regular basis for the rest of your life."
Kei frowned at that. "You're already married though. It's a bit late for that one I'd say."
"It keeps happening, over and over again." He glared at her with his chin resting on his folded arms. "I'm not psychic. I can't see the future. It's just incredibly obvious what's going to happen sometimes when I see..."
The kunoichi leaned in and put her hand up to the side of her mouth as if to tell him a secret. "In other words, you're psychic."
"Am not," he grumbled as he looked away.
"You said yourself you don't know how that extra sense of yours works," she looked up at the ceiling.
"I hate you so much. I still can't see the future though. It's hard to explain, but it's not like that." He didn't bother. Trying to say it was something he read in a comic book in the dimension he had originally come from would just sound like a lame excuse he made up at that point in the conversation.
Kei slapped his shoulder. "Get out of that hole you dork. Come on. You either get out and come with me to the bedroom on your own, or I'll drag you out and carry you. I'll take the whole desk in there with me if I have to. I'm not going to put up with you muttering to yourself under here for the rest of the night."
He sighed and looked like he might try holding out, but relented. "All right. Fine. I guess you're right. I really can't stay here." He stood up and dusted himself off. "I should go into the bathroom. I can barricade the door and I won't have to hold it it when I have to go. Man, I'm glad I put that mini fridge in there now..."
She grabbed him by the back of his shirt and dragged him into the bedroom with a smirk on her face. He was being stubborn, but didn't really resist. She thought it was kind of cute. He didn't like to admit when he was giving in. "You'll feel better in a minute, I promise." She tossed him into the middle of the bed.
He looked away from her, but smiled a little. "Well, if you promise..."
Tony Stark had his finger held up and a frown on his face. He had been sitting back and relaxing, but now held a phone up to his ear. "Good morning, Doctor."
"Is this a good time? We just started initial testing, and we've examined some of your data and came up with something interesting. It's not good by the way." She sounded a bit tired and stressed. "Don't worry, I've got the whole lab working on this one now. You've brought down Thor's hammer upon us. There are government goons everywhere. It's kind of annoying, but this just became a top priority of the Japanese Government. There's talk of bringing NATO into this as well. You've just hit a hornet's nest kid. I hope you can handle it."
"Unfortunately," he replied as he looked over at Onizuka's scowling face. He cringed at the reference to 'Thor's Hammer'. He was still feeling a bit sensitive about that sort of thing. "This is pretty important. Could you stop making faces to get me to laugh?"
The man blinked. "This is intimidation...see." He moved in a bit closer and tried an even meaner looking scowl.
"Here," he handed the man the phone as he chuckled a bit at the sight of his teacher's expression. "She says she wants to talk to the idiot interrupting us."
"Yeah? Who is this? He's got class and...oh. Hello." The man's face went rather blank. The entire class was looking on and giggling at the scene. "Um...what?" He paused for a moment. "Okay." He nodded and handed Tony his phone back.
"Sorry, what were you saying now?" said the boy as he relaxed again.
The teacher wandered back to the front of the room looking confused and a little annoyed. He cleared his throat and looked around the room. The class was looking at him with rather stunned expressions. "What?"
"What is this?" Ishimora stood up from his seat and pushed his glasses up his nose. "If you're going to let him talk on the phone during class, you should let the rest of us as well."
Miyabi nodded and stood up as well. "That's right! He shouldn't get special privileges because he's rich!" She planted her palms on the front of her desk as she said it.
Onizuka nodded. "Well, how about this? I promise that if any of you get calls from the Japanese Government, I'll let you take them during class." He looked around the room and noticed every student was looking at Tony with wide eyes.
The boy was ignoring all of it and listening to Dr. Yahatta. "Here's the bad part, kid. We've figured out what it's doing with that energy it collects."
He frowned at that. "What's that?"
"Nothing. That's what's got everyone so worried. It just dissipates it over time. It's not an efficient container and it leaks. That's not the worst part though. This is more than just the planet's energy being dissipated uselessly. We'll all still die, but the problem with this stuff isn't that simple."
The young businessman rubbed at his temples with one of his hands. "It gets worse?"
"We took a few samples to work with when we really begin research. We're still setting up the labs, but we'll be finished tomorrow afternoon sometime. All we've done so far is take a few samples and readings to get started with. We can begin work as soon as it's finished." Yahatta sounded a bit annoyed with him. "Do you realize how much work you've dumped on me? Brat. You're lucky you're paying me so well or I'd have run off screaming."
The kid smirked at that one. "I don't believe that. You'll see this through, but it's got nothing to do with money." His face became serious again. "What's this worst news? You're dodging the issue."
"You're right." She gave a heavy sigh. "I don't like thinking about it." She looked over her shoulder at the sealed container that held the crystal. "The larger the shard, the longer it holds the energy, and the more is released at once when it gives off energy. It doesn't leak so much as it vents it off in bursts. It's not big enough to have a visible or physical reaction with the specimen you gave us, but if enough of the energy is released it will have quite a bit of both types of reactions."
He cocked his eyebrow and gripped his desk. "That sounds an awful lot like 'boom' to me."
The heads of the entire class whipped around to face him with wide eyes once again.
"In a nutshell, yes. You said you don't know how much of this there is, and that it's being manufactured somehow. If someone can make enough of this, it could blow us out of orbit or crack the planet's surface when it goes off. The problem is, that it won't happen just once. It's not an explosion, the crystal remains intact. If you put something like this into contact with an energy source like what we've got under the ground... It will be like the planet is getting hit by a giant sledge hammer every time it fills up again. It probably won't happen the first time, but the planet likely won't be able to take more than a few of these blasts."
"Would it bother you much if I said I've grown kind of used to this? I've known about this for a while, not the particulars though. This is my first real lead, that's why I went looking for the best here. I'll let you get back to work, keep me updated. I've still got a few logistical things to worry about. Getting us all there, back alive, and all that. The more I know, the better I can plan it. It's nice to know you have expedition experience in the Arctic." He had suspicions that the plan Metallia had was a bit more complicated than shattering the planet. He was thinking that if her plan worked out the way she wanted, the dark crystal formation would act more like a giant straw to suck the energy from the planet for her, and probably wouldn't cause much destruction if used as intended. He saw no reason to bring that up though. It was the end of the world either way.
"Thanks, now I don't have to bother asking," replied the woman as she cheered up. "Tell Onizuka I said hi. I'll be in touch." She hung up and Tony flipped his phone closed.
The boy blinked at that. "Huh?" He looked up at the man. "Wait. You know her?" He leveled a glare at the man as he pointed at his phone.
He didn't seem bothered by the look and shrugged. "Yeah. Sure. Could you explain some of that? It's made the whole class pretty nervous."
The kid seemed lost in thought for a moment and jumped out of his seat. "That contract!" He pointed his finger at the man. "You bastard! I'll get you for this! I knew it was weird." He balled up his fist as the thought about how the woman had brought it up.
The man snickered. "You sucker. I can't believe you fell for that. No way that tightwad was going to turn down that kind of money."
The boy nodded. "So it would seem. Well played. However, I do hope you realize that I hold grudges. I will make you suffer for this."
"I'd like to see you try," said Onizuka as he pulled down his eyelid and stuck out his tongue.
Tony sat down and seemed disturbingly calm.
"So, um. What was that call about anyway?" Toshiro looked a bit nervous as he asked.
"It's nothing for you to worry about. Just something to do with a defense contract." He sat back in his chair and seemed to zone out as the lesson went on. He poked around on his phone a little more before putting it away. He had just the thing, and he could take care of it over lunch. He leveled a glare at the teacher and had a dark smirk on his face. "Bastard, you'll suffer."
Toshiro gave a small sigh. "Yeah. Good luck with that. We haven't been able to get him to crack. Nice to see you coming around."
Miyabi scowled at the man fumbling about the front of the room. "Tell me about it. I got some embarrassing pictures of him at a bar with me and some of the girls from the class, and he posted them on his Facebook account. He was wearing a pink tutu and had a stuffed duck on his head. We weren't wearing much and it makes him look like a complete perverted jerk."
Tony was looking at his phone and added a 'likes this' post to the page. "Yeah. Weren't you cold in that outfit?" He cocked his head sideways and flipped through a few of the images. "Boy, you weren't kidding, not much to that."
Gun flushed and got wide eyed as his friend showed him the image. "Um...yeah." He looked a bit uncomfortable with the look she was giving them.
"Shut up, you ape." The girl didn't seem to care that much, but was annoyed at getting teased a little over it. "I was sure that would work."
Tony shrugged. "I'm not planning on getting rid of him. I just want to make him uncomfortable. Not much fun if I don't get to watch him be miserable."
"What time is it?" grumbled Onizuka as he staggered to the door of his temporary residence in Tokyo. He was a ways away from his home near Holy Forest, and would be returning to his teaching post there at the end of the year. He popped his back and scratched as someone knocked again. It was kind of nice to get away from it all for a bit and relax. A change of scenery and some time away had done him a bit of good. It seemed Azusa was right after all. He opened his door and blinked. "Huh? Azusa? What...What are you doing here?"
She scowled at him. "Do you ever read your E-mail?"
Onizuka looked down at the PC tucked into the corner. "Well, um...no. Never. I don't know how it works."
"You can make an account on every social network on the internet, but you can't figure out your stupid E-mail? You have to have an E-mail address to register." She looked frustrated with him.
"Hey. I've got one, I just never bother with checking it." He flushed and scratched at the back of his head.
"I bet he can download porn," said another voice. "That's probably the problem. He's got so much spam from porn sites he can't find any messages we'd send him."
The blond man was thoroughly confused. "R-Ryuji?"
The man leaned against the door frame and smirked. "Don't worry. I'm just her ride. I'll be heading back later."
Azusa gave a small sigh as the man's face brightened up. "Man, you guys aren't going to believe it. This place is super awesome. Did you know there are real supervillains here?" He opened the door wide and turned on the lights. The woman's face fell as light was cast down on the dungeon of the single male before her. "Come on in and I'll tell you about some of it over some beers. I know Spiderman! He's in my class, and there was this deal with ninjas and this mercenary guy. He was a jerk at first, but he turned out to be all right. We watched the Hikari Negashi on this kid billionare's big screen television when it was over. It was pretty awesome."
Both of his guests gave him rather blank looking stares. "Huh?" muttered the man.
"I knew it, just like before..." grumbled Azusa as she put her hands on her hips and looked around the room.
Ryuji was wearing a leather jacket and had his hands in his pockets. He looked at Onizuka's girlfriend and chuckled. "What did you expect?"
The woman looked annoyed and rolled up her sleeves a little. "Well, we'll get this fixed in no time."
Onizuka frowned at that. "Huh?" It was one of the things he was enjoying a little time off from. "Wait, what are you doing here anyway?"
She put her hand on her hip and narrowed her eyes at him. "I was transferred to teach here for the rest of the year. It seems the Japanese teacher won some sort of lottery contest and can retire." She narrowed her eyes at him. "Part of the reason I took the transfer here is to keep you on track. I know you like being lax, but you do have to use the textbooks sometimes. Sakurai told me about your student's test scores so far."
"Huh?" He looked up at the ceiling. "We read from those things all the time."
The woman sighed. "Yes. I figured as much. Sakurai noticed what happened to your class the time I was out sick for a month. You didn't give a single assignment to review anything and just had them read random chapters out loud sometimes."
He sat down and scratched his head. "Wait. You're teaching here?" He was confused. He loved her, but she'd gotten more aggressive since they admitted their feelings for each other. It didn't bother him that much, but he didn't mind being away for it for a year or so to collect himself. She was starting to talk about meeting her family and making formal arrangements. He knew he would do it, but a big part of him wanted to run for the hills and cling to his youth to the end. "I'm fine. The students don't even hate me that much. I've been pretty lucky, they've been distracted and seem to have forgotten about trying to get rid of me for the most part. They still try sometimes, but it's usually not that bad."
The woman hung her head and rubbed at her face. "This again? It almost got you killed the last time."
He smiled at her. "Yeah. This time too. I'm not sure which was cooler. There were ninjas, and this guy got hung by his shorts from a rooftop by a giant monster that was Spiderman's wife."
Ryuji was nursing a beer and had backed off. It was cute to see them together that way, and fun to watch Onizuka verbally belly flop his way through the conversation. That one caught his attention. "Wait, what? What the hell are you talking about?"
"Ape," she grumbled as she frowned at her boyfriend. She liked his wild side, but it scared her a little as well.
The blond man chuckled. "Well, when she calms down I'll tell you." He looked at her. "Everything is fine. I'm just doing my thing. It'll be all right."
She nodded. "Well, I'm here now, and I'm going to make sure you're doing your job as well. Honestly, why do you need supervision still? You're a great teacher, but a lousy lesson planner."
He seemed to scowl. "Wait. I'm confused. How is it you're teaching here again? What happened anyway? You've got a sweet deal at Holy Forest, and Sakurai wouldn't let you go easily."
"Well, I got an offer I couldn't turn away from." She shrugged. "I got a call this afternoon. It seems the Japanese teacher here retired early. The position pays three times more than my salary at Holy Forest, but it's only open for the year. I'm not sure of the details, but it seems there was some unusual situation and the Education Fund the Governor of Tokyo was running on gives teachers who fill in for open positions this way get one heck of an incentive, but the position is only open for one year. After that, it will be filled by a regular instructor on base pay. I'm not even sure how I got on the list to begin with. Someone must have put in a good word for me, because only the top ten teachers in the country are eligible for transfer like this." She blushed a bit and looked very embarrassed to say it. "When I finish the year, we'll have enough saved up to have the wedding and put down money on a home. I came down right away! Sakurai knew about it before I did. She just said it was fine and that I'd have my position waiting for me when I got back. Not to mention, it gave me a chance to come here and pull your lazy butt out of the fire. I know you can make a lesson plan, I taught you how. You've been doing it yourself fine for a while now. The minute I turn my back you start being irresponsible again. It's cute sometimes, but getting fired because you'd rather watch porn than do your job is most definitely not amusing." She gripped at his collar and smiled sweetly, looking much more like when he met her than the terrible snarling demon who had been roaring at him a moment before. "It was impossible to resist really. It was just the perfect solution to you becoming the idiot I met when I started at Holy Forest again."
"It was fun, wasn't it?" He grinned at her and rubbed at the back of his head.
"Sometimes, yes. However, the part where you nearly died and drove me sick with worry when you acted like a fool then as well? No. We won't be doing that again." She let him go and stepped back as she seemed to calm herself down. "You've got to grow up enough to do the job if you want to be a teacher. Don't go calling yourself 'Great' if you can't handle it."
"Ouch," muttered Ryoji as he cringed a little.
Onizuka flushed. "Look, It's been one thing after another since I got here. I was a little distracted... I've already started for next month." He pointed at a small desk in the corner with a planning book sitting on it.
She picked it up and opened it, giving the pages a look. Her shoulders relaxed a little and she blushed. "Oh. Well still. You should have done this from the start and you know it." It was obvious she was relieved. "Sorry. I guess I came on a little strong. I was disappointed to see those scores. I know you're better than that."
The man looked away. "Well. You haven't been here that long yet. I probably won't need to explain how I got sidetracked if... you're...Wait...what?" Onizuka shook his head. Something familiar had come up in that conversation. He gasped as his eyes went wide and he looked at Azusa. "The kid! He...he did this?" His jaw dropped and he glared at his beer. "That..."
"Kid?" said Ryuji in confusion.
"Wait, what do you mean? How could some kid do this?" grumbled the woman in annoyed confusion.
Onizuka laughed and waved his hands. "Oh. Sorry. I was totally paying attention, but I just remembered something about a boy in my class just then. I guess something you said just made me think of it just then. Sorry." Even he wasn't stupid enough to try and explain that she was there because he'd conned a billionaire and gotten him to prank him this way. It was more than a prank actually, it was payback above and beyond the crime. Sort of. He knew it was a set up though. The kid was married, so he had to know how much fun he was having being on his own without his girlfriend for a whole year. It only had a little bit to do with other women too.
Azusa narrowed her eyes at him, but didn't press it. "Well, anyway. I'll be getting my own place tomorrow." She puffed out her chest. "I haven't been there yet, but part of the deal is that I get a place to stay rent free. It's not far from here, but I don't have a key yet. It will be delivered to me at school tomorrow. I'm a bit early actually. I'd like to get some sleep before my first day. I knew you had a place here, so..."
He nodded. "Yeah. Fine. I guess you can stay here tonight." He had gone very rigid.
"Well, it's too late for me to go back." Ryuji looked up at the wall. "I'll stay tonight too." He frowned at his friend. "I want to see if I can get him to say something that makes sense about what he's been doing since he came here." He slapped his friend on the back.
"You're really not gonna believe it," said Onizuka as he looked pleased to get to the subject.
Azusa shrugged. "Well. I'm going to sleep then. The place I'm staying is nearby, so we'll be able to meet up and go to school together." She seemed pleased about that. "You can show me how to get there tomorrow. I'll be here for the rest of the year, so we can catch up later over dinner or something."
It was her first day teaching at a new school. She had butterflies in her stomach, but her experience kept them subdued. She was still new to teaching, but having a few years of experience did wonders for her nerves. Onizuka was at her side with his hands in his pockets. "Hey. This is it." He had an unlit cigarette in his mouth and pointed at the class number outside the room.
"Good, thank you," she kissed him on the cheek and looked through the window into the room. A few students were sitting in the room lazily. Only a few students were on the grounds, and her homeroom class was still empty. It was nice for a public school, not too run down, but not new either.
"Are you Azusa Fuyutsuki?" said a young masculine voice from behind the pair. They both jumped and turned to see Tony Stark looking up at them both.
Azusa blinked at the boy who walked up to her with one of his hands in his pocket. He was wearing shades and wasn't Asian. "Y-yes? Are you a student here? How do you know me? I haven't..."
It wasn't that odd to see a foreign boy, but he had a key dangling from his fingers. "I'm supposed to give this to you."
The woman furrowed her eyebrows. "Huh?" She took it and blinked. "Where did you get this?"
He shrugged. "The Japanese Government. It's a nice place, you'll like it." He turned and walked away and looked over his shoulder. "See you in class, Onizuka sensei." He had a somewhat sinister grin on his face as he headed towards the room.
"Bastard," grumbled the man.
Azusa scowled a little. "I see. He's a problem is he?"
Onizuka turned to look at her and burst into laughter. "What? Him? No way. He's one of the good ones. He's just...cranky all the time. It's weird. Anyway. He won't be a problem, he's just...well..."
She tilted her head back a little. "He's what?"
"Well. He's a superhero. That's Tony Stark." Onizuka looked down the hall. "I've got no idea why he's even at this school. That kid is mega rich, and has all kinds of connections. He could go to any private academy he wanted. He's a good guy though."
His girlfriend gasped and got a frightened expression on her face. "Wait, what?" She rushed down the hall and turned the corner. He was walking down the middle of the hall and looking out the windows as he moved through the sparsely populated hallway. "Wait!" she ran up to him and he paused after she called out to him. He turned to face her.
"You...you got me sent here, didn't you?" She looked confused and a little hurt.
Tony shrugged. "Don't feel bad. You've got a good teaching record. It's true I did pull a few strings yesterday to get back at him for messing with me, but it'll be good for him as much as it annoys him." He put his hands behind his head and smiled. "Think of it as a win-win situation."
She straightened herself up and seemed to consider that. "What do you get out of this?"
"Entertainment. It'll be fun to watch him squirm when you get annoyed with him. I'm guessing that happens a lot. He's a complete fool, but a nice guy. I think he's good for the class. They haven't tried very hard to get rid of him yet and he seems to be growing on them. I think he's done a few favors for a few students here and there, but I don't know much about the particulars. The sudden shift in attitude is kind of hard to miss, even if none of those brats will admit it." He turned and started walking away. "Relax. I'm not out to get him using you. I like him. We're the same kind of guy. This is my revenge, so don't go thinking I think you owe me or something." He looked a bit annoyed as he said it and shrugged again. "Go figure." He continued on his way leaving her standing there in the hall.
She didn't notice him seem to vanish after he got a short distance away as she turned around to head back to her class. Azusa seemed to think on that for a moment. "Weird kid, but I guess I can't be mad at him. I don't know what to make of all this." She was fine with it though. She got a smirk on her face as she went back to her room. "Well, I guess I can't complain." She'd figured out that it was something between that boy and Onizuka, but also that it didn't seem to be something she needed to worry about much.
"I'm so gonna get him for this," said her boyfriend as she almost ran into him while lost in thought. He smiled at her as she jumped a bit. "Sorry. He's all right though. Man, I can't believe he pulled something like this off. It was just yesterday he figured out it was me."
"What did you do?" she frowned at him a little and shoved at his shoulder.
"I got an old friend from Shonan to trick him into signing a contract that says he has to go to school until he completes college. He's one of those types that you have to twist their arm to get them to do anything." He chuckled and shook his head.
"That's Tony Stark then?" she looked at the direction he had gone it.
"Yup. Spiderman himself," replied her boyfriend as he put his hands into his pockets.
She looked a bit tired. "Well. I'm sure I'll figure this place out. I've got your homeroom in third period tomorrow. I hope they aren't too much trouble."
"It's not as bad as last time," he replied as he scratched the back of his head. "Don't worry. I'm sure they'll pass their exams now that you're here to help me."
She narrowed her eyes and adjusted his collar. "You need to learn to do these things for yourself. It's part of being a teacher." The woman turned up her nose. "I'm going to have to take time off when we have children you know. I'm not always going to be around to keep you on track. You're going to have to get by on your own sooner or later."
He nodded at that and seemed to zone out. Everything after children was a bit of a blur. "Um. Right. I'm gonna go to my homeroom. Good luck." He quickly vacated the area before the conversation could scare him anymore.
Azusa scowled at that a little. It made her nervous to think about getting married as well. Still, he didn't have to be quite so obvious about it and such a wuss on the subject. If she cornered him, he just became an agreement machine. She turned back to her room and pushed it aside. It wouldn't do to start her first day so distracted, and she had plenty of time to try and civilize him a little more now.
Tony was at the village with an unlit cigarette in his ear. He was looking out over the huts with his legs crossed. He scowled a little and sighed. "Hey, Aman."
One of the ninja who was passing by paused and cocked his eyebrow. He was a little surprised the man remembered his name. "Yes? How can I be of service?"
"Is everyone here a mutant?" asked the boy as he turned to look at him.
The boy looked a bit annoyed by the term. "Each of us has our own unique abilities as shinobi."
The Clan Head nodded at that. "In other words, pretty much." He looked over his shoulder. "Kei has never shown any particular ability. I mean, aside from just normal shinobi training."
"She had her cursed knife. It has been passed down through her family for generations. It is a sad tale indeed." Aman narrowed his eyes a little. "Those without innate abilities are not defenseless. They wield weapons with special or unique properties. Some of the families here have been added since the founding. Only clans with exceptional talent were permitted to survive and join us when we waged war in the past."
Tony nodded. "I see. So...you catch fire, huh?"
The young shinobi nodded. "Yes."
"Can you fly?" asked the boy.
Aman narrowed his eyes. "No."
The boy cocked his head. "Are you sure? Have you tried?"
The shinobi scowled at him. "Clan Head or not, I'm not jumping off of anything for you. I cannot fly."
Tony shook his head. "No. I mean you should be able to with your powers. Just make jets out of your legs and use smaller jets from your hands to steer."
The ninja glared at him. "Wh-what?"
"What? You're with the girls, so of course I've been keeping an eye on you. They've got all sorts of monitoring equipment, and I've seen you work." He shrugged. "You're a walking jet engine you dope. Try it. I'll give you ten thousand yen if it doesn't work." He slapped a wad of bills on the deck beside him.
The boy was breathing through his nose and glaring at the kid. His eyes had gone a little bloodshot and he had his fist balled up. "Fine." He marched off the building, erupted into flames, and shot off the ground like a missile. He had gone full blast right away and sailed into the stratosphere.
Tony leaned back with his hands behind his head and put his money away. "Stupid jerk. I didn't tell him to go all out. Oh well. I guess he'll figure it out." He had a feeling the guy was quite surprised and feeling a bit panicked by that point. About ten minutes passed and he picked his head up and looked on at the rather pale figure that was giving off smoke and looking quite dazed as he staggered through the wood.
Aman slumped down to his knees and looked about as he realized he was in the village again. Safe and sound, and back on the ground again. He looked over and noticed the boy resting against the floor of the walkway. "Keep at it. You'll figure it out I'm sure. Try not to use so much thrust at once and I think you'll manage to not come back looking like that again."
The boy looked up at him with wild eyes. "Are you kidding me?" He stood up and raked his arm across the air. "That was Awesome!" He was shaking and burst into flames again. He took off from the ground and gave a whooping holler as he twisted into the sky.
Tony scratched his head and yawned. "You're welcome then."
"There he is!" snarled a familiar voice.
Tony was still in the same spot and had passed out for a bit. He woke up and realized he heard the sound of his wife, and she sounded upset with him. He started to rise and found himself pinned to the deck as her knees landed on either side of his chest. She didn't look pleased and grabbed his collar. "No you don't! You're not crawling away this time! It was bad enough before!"
"Huh?" he muttered in confusion as he found himself in a very undesirable position.
"Aman said it was him who taught him how," Mai cracked her knuckles as she moved into view over him.
Tony heard a thump as she appeared in his line of sight, and a very beaten looking Aman was on the deck next to him. "Could you at least explain this? I'm kind of confused." He frowned at his wife's sneering expression. There were quite a few angry looking kunoichi appearing around the scene. None of them looked very happy with him.
Kei put her nose up to his. "Why did you teach the biggest pervert in the whole village how to fly?"
Mai glared at him with red glowing eyes. "It was bad enough dealing with him before! Now you go and teach him something like this? How could you?"
Tony looked over at the rather beaten Aman. He furrowed his eyebrows. "Seriously?"
Kei shook him. "Half the girl's underwear in the village was burned. It took him a while to figure out how to stop catching them on fire when he tried to grab them. We still haven't found where he stashed the rest."
Aman was a little dazed. "Heh. You'll never find them. They're mine now."
Aya kicked him in the ribs. "We don't want them back now, you pervert. I'm tired of having to buy new underwear all the time because of you, and now it's ten times worse." She looked at her classmate. "He can clear the whole village in a few passes now. It's not safe for any of us to hang our laundry to dry!"
Tony arched his eyebrows. "Seriously? He caught on that quick?"
"This isn't a good thing," growled his wife.
"Why not? It makes him more useful, even if he is a pervert. Besides, we're both guys so I'm sympathetic to his plight. I had no idea he was this awesome."
Kei belted his head against the floor. "What did you say?"
Tony winced and shook his head a bit. "I didn't say I approved. Still, this is a ninja clan, and as annoying as it might be, it makes him a better weapon."
"What are you going to do about this?" cried Aya as she pointed at him.
The Clan Head sat up as his wife released him. She didn't look pleased, but seemed to accept at least part of what he had said. "I'll talk to him about it."
"I want his penis cut off," growled Mai.
"Yeah. You're his sister though. That's normal," replied Tony as he stood up and dusted himself off. He noticed none of the girls looked pleased, but they had backed off a little. "I'll deal with it. You've punished him enough this time." He grabbed the fallen boy by his arm, pulled him over his shoulder and sent out a line to swing away.
After a short time of swinging through the woods he stopped on a cliff that overlooked the suburbs. He set his cargo down and sat down across from him with them both leaning against the tree.
Aman chuckled. "I suppose I couldn't say you're not more lax than Hakage."
Tony looked at him out of the corner of his eye. "What would he do?"
The shinobi looked away. "I'd rather not give you any ideas."
The boy sighed and looked out over the city. "All right. Here's the deal. You don't shit where you eat."
The shinobi looked surprised and confused. "Huh?"
"You can fly dumbass. Leave the village alone. You're going to get both of us killed if I let you keep doing things like this here. There's a whole city out there for you to play in, get me. Keep this shit out of the village." He looked out at the lights and smirked. "I find out about any rapes, or you hurt anyone and I'll kill you myself. I'm not going to save your ass again this way. Next time, I'll let your sister have you."
The ninja gasped and curled up. "Y-you wouldn't!"
"Don't fuck with the kunoichi. I'm not going to have my balls nailed to the wall with you if you go too far. The village is off limits, I could care less about some mysterious panty thief running around the city." He frowned at him. "Don't forget you're a ninja. I don't want to see any evidence this is going on. It had better not make the front page."
Aman gave a rather dazed looking nod. "Y-yeah. You're...okay with this though?"
Tony stood up. "You could say I've become a believer in Karma, and I think watching yours catch up to you will be funny. That is, if I don't get dragged into it with you. That had better not happen again, or I'm throwing you under the bus. Get me?"
The shinobi nodded. "Oh. Right." He stood up. "I guess I'll be off then." He jumped from the cliff and flew away.
Kei slid from the shadows and scowled at him. "What the hell are you doing? This doesn't solve the problem."
He nodded. "Yeah. It just moves it away from me. I know." He put his hands in his pockets. "So what? You have no idea what I've unleashed, do you?"
The kunoichi seemed to lose some of her scowl. "A huge pervert onto an unsuspecting populace."
The boy stopped and smiled at her. "Exactly. Just wait a bit, it will be hilarious."
That caught her off guard. "Wh-what?"
He started walking again. "You'll see. No way that idiot isn't going to make this amusing." He paused and looked over his shoulder with a frown on his face. "I always figured he was one of those brooding bishonen types. He's pretty quiet, and he seemed like kind of a stick in the mud. A very confident fighter as well. I didn't expect this from him."
Kei rolled her eyes a little as she seemed to understand. "Of course he doesn't talk to you much and behaves when you're around. You're his boss. He takes his duties quite seriously as well." She looked displeased. "He's a well known pervert in the village though. A peeping loser and panty thief. No one here would ever date him. He's disgusting." Her irritation had lessened some as she realized he hadn't been in the village that long and was pretty unaware of social relationships within it. He didn't spend much time there, but he was starting to pick things up when he visited.
Tony nodded at that and noticed she'd started to follow him. "Well I'm not going to kill him. He works well with the senshi after all."
The thumping of feet rushing up caught his attention and he paused as he noticed the Sailor Senshi slide to a stop in front of him. Rei was leading the charge surprisingly enough. "Where is he? Did you get that pervert?"
Minako balled up her fist. "Let me have him. I'll wrap him up with my chain and dunk him in the pond."
Ami narrowed her eyes. "I'll help with that. I'll drop the temperature of the water to just above freezing."
Makoto snorted. "Yeah. Then I'll zap the water while he's being dunked."
Rei lifted her fist. "So, we have a plan then girls!"
The boy slumped his shoulders. "Whatever. Look, if you can catch him tonight, I'll let you. If he gets away, you've got to deal with it."
"Bwahahahahahaaa! Ceiling Cat sees all! He let him go! He's a pervert too, and he thinks it's funny!" Luna ducked back into the roof as Tony's head whipped around.
He seemed to realize the senshi looked irate with him. It was obvious they believed her. "You're not getting soft food for a month, you traitor!"
Kei snorted. "I'll go behind your back and feed her then. She's right, you jerk." She strolled away passing through the irate senshi.
"Great. I'm not getting any for a while," grumbled the boy as he hung his head after the group went off to find the perverted ninja. He was alone in the woods and started walking back towards his home again. He decided to get some rest. The next day Usagi would be visiting with her boyfriend. He wasn't sure that he was looking forward to it. In fact, he dreaded it a little. He wasn't sure why, but there was something in his past that he was afraid of finding out. He couldn't pinpoint what it was, but he knew it was there. He also knew he couldn't run away this time. He needed to know as much as he could about that past. Luna now had the key to unlocking it and he couldn't avoid it.
Next time: Looking into the past.