Author's Note: I wrote this in around 1991 or so. It's a parody of B-movie jungle films, and as such is totally politically incorrect. It's also making fun of the sexism in Gatchaman. None of the attitudes about men and women expressed by the characters in the story, and none of the representations of native peoples in the story, actually bear any resemblance to the author's beliefs. Also, given that I was around 20 or so when I wrote this and I am now 38, I think this isn't exactly my best fanfic ever, but for what it is I still think it's pretty funny.
Jungle Jun and the Island of the Machoberries
an extremely silly story written by Alara Rogers
based on a concept by Allen Rowe
The little motorboat made its way through the murky waters of the night, approaching the mysterious island. Jun leaned forward. "Look, Ken, there it is. Myonashima, up ahead!"
"Good." Ken choked off the engine slowly, bringing them drifting toward the dark beach. Both of them were dressed in civilian clothes; they were here to see if it was true that Galactor had established a base on Myonashima, and if so what for.
Myonashima was in a region of the Pacific that, like the Bermuda Triangle, was known for odd happenings. Once a three -- hour cruise had been shipwrecked on an island around here, and hadn't been found for twenty years, despite the fact that they were less than four hours from the coast of Hawaii. Monsters were said to dwell in this area, and history stated that weird creatures from around here somewhere had surfaced and devastated Tokyo at some unspecified point in the twentieth century. It sounded like a perfect place for Galactor -- in fact, it sounded like Galactor might have been around here for a long time, which might mean their headquarters was somewhere nearby.
In any case, Ken and Jun had gone in civilian clothes, so as not to alert the Galactors that ISO was onto them, and had taken a single motorboat. The technique had worked so well on the island where they built the mechamonsters, they'd decided to use it again. This time they had all sorts of equipment for pretending they were tourists, including cameras, shorts and loud Hawaiian shirts. They weren't wearing these at the moment, just in case they had to go to Bird Style in a hurry. Their orders were to arrive just before dawn, when the Galactors would be most likely to be active (neither Ken nor Jun had any idea why the Galactors would be most likely to be active just around dawn, but Dr. Nambu had said so, so it had to be true), scope out the place, and look for Galactors. There were supposedly natives on Myonashima, a backward tribe of savage cannibals who had eaten all the anthropologists who came to study them, and Ken and Jun were supposed to leave these people in piece, as much as possible.
Suddenly, the boat heaved. Jun screamed. "Ken, there's something in the water!"
"Watch out!" Ken shouted, as the boat started tipping over. A huge, snake-like creature was surfacing. "A sea monster!"
Jun fumbled for her yo-yo inside her pants, but couldn't reach it in time. The sea serpent was coming at her, all eyes and teeth. Shrieking, she dove overboard. Ken, deciding that a boomerang was not likely to be able to kill a giant reptile, and that even if he could kill it its death throes would trash the boat, wisely decided to join her, and the two swam the remaining few meters to shore with desperate speed as the sea monster began eating their motorboat.
They reached the shore, bedraggled and wet, and got far enough from the water that they would be safe from the monster. Ken watched the creature eat the boat dejectedly. "Well," he said, "we're lucky it preferred the boat to us."
"Do you think it's a mecha?"
"Either that, or a Galactor- bioengineered creature. I can't imagine something real looking like that, but on the other hand it looks too lifelike to be a mecha. Anyway, this proves Galactor is here, someplace."
"Well, we're going to need something to eat, since our rations have just gone down that sea monster's belly." Jun looked about in the moonlight. "Here's some berries."
"Careful. They might be Galactor traps."
"I'll be careful." Jun knocked some berries off a bush with a stick. When they didn't explode, she went near and examined them. They were big and fleshy, with no pits, like seedless grapes or pitless cherries. The smell was fruity and untainted, and they didn't have any of the signs she'd been trained to recognize in poisonous berries. "They seem all right. I'm going to try one." She bit into it, and her face lit with delight. With a mouth full of berry, she said, "Ken, dey're dewishoush! Twy shome!"
"Not a bit," Jun said, swallowing the berry. "I feel fine. And they taste wonderful. Here, take some!" She handed him half the berries she had already plucked, and stuffed the others into her mouth. Ken tentatively tried one. It was extremely good -- like all the best parts of cherries, blackberries, and grapes rolled into one. Or like something different. Maybe they were boysenberries. Ken had seen yogurt that was boysenberry-flavored, and had always wondered what the heck a boysenberry was.
They were also somewhat addictive -- neither Ken nor Jun wanted to stop at eating just one, or just two, or just sixteen for that matter. Between them, they picked the bush clean in about fifteen minutes. There were other bushes, so they took some berries from those and stuffed them in their pockets to eat on the way. And as they made their way inland, there were more bushes, and more berries, until they both felt quite stuffed.
When the time came they were supposed to call in, Jun lifted her bracelet to her mouth -- for some reason, it didn't occur to Ken to do it. "G-3 to Dr. Nambu. Come in, Dr. Nambu."
Nothing but static replied.
"What's wrong?" Ken asked nervously.
"Let me check." Jun opened the bracelet and examined it. Finally, she said with an authoritative air, "There's radiation on this island, and it's fouling up the bracelets. I don't think we can even go to Bird Style now."
"Well, we should try it, don't you think?" Ken asked anxiously.
"Yes, I think so." They both lifted their bracelets over their heads, and they both called, "Bird, Go!"
Several birds flew out from under a nearby bush, but otherwise nothing happened.
"It's going to be hot," Ken said worriedly. "Without the tropical shirts in our pack or the climate -- conditioning in our Bird Styles, we're both going to broil before we get anywhere."
"I know. Let's rest in the shade a while, while we figure out what to do. It's only dawn -- we still have some time."
They hadn't checked in. By itself, that might not mean anything -- they could have been forced to radio silence, they could be in the middle of something, the bracelets might be being jammed. On the other hand, it could mean they were in trouble. Without waiting for Dr. Nambu to give a go-ahead, Joe took the fastest boat they had and raced off in it.
On the other side of the island, a large submarine shaped like a sea serpent was attempting to pull into a harbor berth. Matters were made difficult by the fact that an actual sea serpent was attempting to develop an amorous relationship with the submarine. "Katse-sama!" one of the sub operators shouted in panic, as the sea serpent coiled lovingly around the mecha. "What do we do?"
"Blast the thing, damn it! Do I have to tell you everything?" Berg Katse was not in a very good mood. It was morning, and he was never in a very good mood in the morning. Add to that the fact that he had to come all the way out to this godforsaken base on Myonashima to find out why nobody there was answering the phone, and he was actually rather irritated. "If they're all cowering in some hole, I'll kill them," he muttered. "I told them not to eat the berries..."
"We can't fire the missiles, sir -- the creature is too close!"
"Oh, for gods' sake, electrify the hull, you idiot! Why do I surround myself with people who haven't got brains?"
Rather shocked at its lover's response, not to mention singed around the edges, the sea serpent jerked away from the object of its affections. Katse leaned forward and hit the button for the missiles, blowing the sea serpent into assorted sea serpent bits. "Now can we dock?" he asked, irritated. "I have things I want to get done today, you know."
"Yes, sir." They moved smoothly into the underwater cave, and up into the docking bay. "We're here."
"I can see that." He turned, with a flourish of his cape, and headed for the exit. "All of you, follow me. And be prepared to shoot anything that looks dangerous. If things like that sea serpent are common around here, you had all better be alert."
"Yes, sir," the Galactors chorused.
Katse sighed. There was no point in even warning them. He just hoped he didn't lose too many to the native life forms.
Myonashima was the result of nuclear testing, or chemical warfare, or an experiment of Sosai's, or something like that. Katse hadn't asked, because he hadn't cared. What he knew -- what Sosai had told him -- was that it had an unusually high mutation rate, and that many unique species lived there. Katse had sent a survey team, who had sent back an interesting report. The mutated reptiles they mentioned might be useful for exploitation, at some point in the future. What had really intrigued Katse, however, was the Machoberries.
So named because of their effect on the Amazon natives of the island, Machoberries had an entirely opposite effect on men -- they made women highly aggressive, while turning men into sniveling wimps. The fact was, due to the ridiculous human tendency to blow the difference between their sexes out of proportion, most of the world's leaders, not to mention four members of Gatchaman and nearly all of the ISO's top people, were male. Katse smiled to himself, thinking about the possibilities. He so loved plans that enabled him to turn human dual sexuality into a weapon against humanity. If Machoberries were introduced around the world, all the important men would become wimps, unable to fight back. The women would develop a powerful will to fight, but they would be for the most part totally untrained, and easy to pick off. The plan wasn't crystallized yet -- Katse didn't know enough yet -- but the possibilities... oh yes.
First, though, he had to find out what had happened to the base he'd established here on Myonashima. He left the submarine, followed by loyal but stupid goons with guns, and stepped out into the base. It seemed utterly deserted.
"Uh – Katse-sama? What'd you suppose happened to all them?" one of the goons asked fearfully, as they moved through several rooms, all as empty as the docking chamber.
"They ate too many berries and died of diarrhea, most likely," Katse snapped, and yanked open the door to one of the large storage chambers. It was currently storing some very large eggs.
Eggs? "Get to cover!" Katse shouted, following his own advice as he dove behind one of his men. Several very large lizards came charging out of the chamber. The men fired, but their bullets bounced off the lizards' tough, scaly skin. Reptilian mouths opened and chomped, and the air was filled with screams and blood and some really disgusting entrails and things. Katse and the survivors ran hell -- bent for the nearest exit. Unfortunately, the nearest exit -- the one they'd come through, in fact -- was being blocked by yet another scaly critter. One of the Galactors brought it down by a direct shot into the mouth, while it was gaping open to swallow him. The creature fell on the man, crushing him and completely blocking the exit. Katse was already hoofing it in a different direction, heading for one of the escape hatches. Escape hatches were built into all his bases. It was a law.
This one opened onto the surface, into a jungle. Katse and a few remaining men shot out of there, halfheartedly pursued by a lizard who decided there was better eating inside, and went back. The survivors huddled together, gasping for breath.
"I told them to stay alert," Katse gasped. "It looks like only you few paid any attention. We're going to try to circle around the base, get to the beach, and swim back to the sub. I don't think we need to stay here any longer."
"Katse-sama, there's sea monsters in the water! We can't swim back!" one of the men protested.
"I know that! The sea monsters are deep water creatures -- if we stay close to the shore, they won't harm us!" He hoped. "You, scout ahead that way. See if we can walk straight that way, or if we'd have to go through too much jungle."
"Yes, sir." The Galactor got to his feet and walked off into the brush. There was a scream. "He --help! It's got me!"
Katse looked at his remaining two men. Nobody moved. "We'll go the other way."
"Help! Katse-saaaaagh--" The man's anguished plea was cut short by a choked noise, and then a squish. Katse was certain he didn't want to know why. He got up, and headed in the opposite direction. His men followed.
"You, take point, go ahead of me. You, stay behind. If you see anything suspicious, shoot it. Got that?"
"Yes, sir!" At this point, the Galactors would probably have shot their own mother, if she turned up in this jungle.
They started heading for the beach, pushing their way through the jungle. Boa constrictors hissed at them from tree branches, causing their summary execution. A few parrots, monkeys and other small animals got shot, as did a bush. "It looked suspicious, Katse-sama," the man who shot it explained.
Katse was tempted to ask how a bush could look suspicious, but decided he didn't care. "All right. Good work, but don't waste ammunition. Which one of you has the compass?"
They looked at each other. "Uh, that was Number 67, back there."
"Well, why didn't someone tell me that?" Katse snarled. "We can't see the sun from in here, we have no idea what way we're going -- we should have reached the beach by now!"
"I think we have!" the point man said excitedly. "That's sand up ahead!" He ran forward, his feet sinking into the sand -- deeper and deeper into the sand.
"That's quicksand, you fool! Get back here!"
"I can't! I'm stuck! Help me, please!"
"Should we pull him out, Katse-sama?" the man in back asked.
Katse thought about it. "No, he's too far in. We couldn't reach him. We'll have to head back that way."
"Please! Help me!" the man in the quicksand shouted. Katse looked at him incredulously.
"What do you think this is, the Rescue Aid Society? You shouldn't have run ahead! Next time you'll know better," Katse advised him, then turned and headed in the opposite direction, prudently behind his one remaining Galactor.
Warily the two headed back the way they came, Katse uncomfortably aware of the fact that his purple outfit was considerably more visible than his subordinate's green one. Of course, all the other men had been wearing green outfits, too, and it hadn't helped them any... His musings were cut short by a creature rearing up to the side of him, snake-like but with far too many teeth for his comfort. Katse shrieked.
"Katse-sama!" The man in front of him turned around.
"Shoot at its mouth, shoot at its mouth!" Katse screamed, having fallen to the ground. He scrambled to his feet as the man complied. The man's aim being typical for a Galactor, he was not actually doing any good. Katse got behind him, shoved him into the monster's maw, and then ran off in the opposite direction as fast as he could possibly go, the last Galactor's screams cutting off behind him as chomping noises began. That ought to satisfy the snake-thing, or at least slow it down enough for Katse to get away.
When at last he felt safe enough to slow down -- and too winded to do anything else -- he leaned against a tree and tried to catch his breath. He was totally lost. On the other hand, by now the sun was high enough that he could see it through the trees. If memory served correctly, they had come in on the northwestern side of the island. His sub, and safety, lay that way -- fortunately not the direction he'd come in, or he would never take it. Now if he could only reach the beach without running into any more unpleasant surprises... he didn't have any more expendables to slow hungry creatures down, and he'd dropped his gun when the creature attacked.
Katse headed forward, warily, and soon came upon signs of a new kind of danger. There was a primitive pitfall ahead of him, covered with sticks and leaves. Scornfully he laughed at it, having breath to do so now. "Hah! Pathetic primitives, to think they could fool the great Berg Katse with such a simple trick!" Smiling to himself, he stepped around it.
Something yanked very hard at his foot then, and with a sproing, he lost his balance and was pulled into the air by something...
The heat of the sun was like a wave, washing over them as morning broke and sapping away their strength. "It's so hot," Ken whined, collapsing against a tree. "I don't think I can keep going."
Jun felt hot and exhausted herself, but someone had to continue the mission. She plucked some more berries off a nearby tree and munched them. They didn't make her any cooler, but they made her feel stronger. "You rest here. I'll go scouting for something cooler to wear. Maybe some of our pack washed up on shore." She headed back the way they'd come.
Ken ate some more of the berries. They did, sort of, make him feel better -- they produced a pleasant lethargy, making him feel like he didn't have to struggle, didn't have to be responsible, didn't have to think -- all the things he'd done for so long, and gotten so sick of, as Gatchaman commander. Probably he shouldn't give in to the temptation to eat them -- it was his duty to make himself miserable with responsibility all the time. But at the moment he couldn't summon the willpower to do so. It was all right to give in -- Jun was there, she would take care of things for him. He was just so tired...
In the meantime, Jun was headed back toward the shore when there was suddenly a loud growl behind her. She turned and ducked aside just in time as a giant leopard came flying at her. Instinctively Jun grabbed it in a judo hold as it came over her shoulder, wrapped her arms around its neck, and used its momentum to fling it into a tree, at such an angle that it broke its neck. She dropped the corpse, feeling hot but pleasantly invigorated by the action, and surveyed the pelt with interest. Hadn't she seen some movie or other where the natives wore leopard skins?
Lounging against a tree trunk, eating berries, Ken was startled by a noise approaching in the brush. He cried out in fear as he saw leopard skin approach him through the bushes, and backed around the tree trunk. A second later, Jun came into sight, dressed in a very scanty leopard bikini. "Don't be silly, Ken, it's only me."
"Jun! You startled me, coming out of the bushes like that! And where did you get that outfit?"
"I made it out of a leopard that attacked me," Jun said casually. She proffered a leopard-skin loincloth. "This one's for you. It's much cooler than our civilian styles."
Ken stared at the miniscule garment in horror. "I can't wear that! There's practically nothing there! It would be immodest!"
"Suit yourself," Jun said, shrugging. "You were the one who complained about the heat." Men can be such babies sometimes, she thought. "You'll have to wait in the shade then, while I scout for Galactor, or you'll get heatstroke."
"No -- I should come with you. It's my duty." He sounded rather more reluctant than usual.
"Ken, I don't want you collapsing on me. Much as I might enjoy carrying you, that's not our business here." Ken turned bright red. "Now, either you put on this loincloth, or you sit here in the shade and watch my clothes. Which is it?"
"Well-- " Ken attempted to recover some dignity from the situation, which was rather difficult, as he was rapidly forgetting what dignity meant -- "I suppose, someone should look after your clothes. Doctor Nambu wouldn't like it if you lost them. Are you sure it's a wise idea to take off your bracelet?"
"What good is it to me here? It doesn't work. Besides, this way, if Galactor sees me, they'll mistake me for a native." It had apparently not occurred to Jun that her pale coloring was unlikely to be found among the natives of a tropical island -- but then, considering typical Galactor intelligence it wasn't likely to occur to them either, and Ken just didn't feel up to arguing with her. "I'll be back in about two hours," she said, and leapt up into a nearby tree, disappearing out of sight.
Joe had found definite evidence that something had gone wrong. Ken and Jun's pack had washed ashore, and Hawaiian shirts spilled onto the beach. Nearby he found a bush, denuded of berries, and considerable berry juice on the ground. This indicated that someone had been through here, but whether it was Ken and Jun, or Galactors, or natives, Joe couldn't tell. As he followed the trail of missing berries deeper, he concluded it had to be either Ken and Jun, or the natives -- Galactors would have left more of a trail than eaten berries. Which reminded him of how hungry he was. The berries could hardly be a Galactor trap if somebody had eaten so many of them without harm, and the juice spilled on the ground had smelled exceedingly good. As soon as Joe found some actual berries, he tried one, and finding it very good polished off about forty more in the course of his search.
The moment Katse recovered from the shock of being caught by his foot and yanked into the air -- or rather, while he was trying to recover from the shock -- and opened his eyes, he saw a monstrous creature, consisting of two huge, furry and misshapen lumps in front of his eyes, stretching upward into a monstrous brown, bifurcated tentacle, almost like a tree, but horribly alive. He screamed.
The thing in front of him spoke, causing him to realize that what he had thought was some sort of bizarre monster was a very ugly, Neanderthaloid human woman, wearing an animal fur bikini, viewed upside down. "Looks skinny. No-good meat. Kill now, feed to lizards?"
Another spoke. He could tell from the voice, though just barely, that this one was also female. "No, make good stew." There was a sharp pinch on his thigh. "Skinny but soft. Good tender eating."
"Now wait a minute!" Katse protested, somewhat breathlessly due to the fact that he was upside down. He vainly tried to grab onto some support, flailing with his arms and with the leg that wasn't ensnared. The women stepped back from him, and he could see that there were four of them, all armed with spears, all dressed in fur bikinis, and all unbelievably ugly. He had thought ugliness had reached new heights with some of his Galactors, but the ugliness of these women made the ugliest of his men look like Mr. Universe in comparison.
"You think him like green men?" a third asked. "Green men good meat."
"Not like green men," the first protested. "Him purple man. Him different."
"Put him in stew," the second said peremptorily. "Me, Hunter-of-Mountain-Lizard, say."
"Can't we talk this over?" Katse asked desperately. "You know, I'm a very wealthy man. I can give you wealth -- power -- anything you want--"
"Him talk too much," a fourth said, and swung her spear at Katse's head.
There was a shower of brilliant sparks, a loud ringing, and, oddly, a hallucination of a huge, colorfully printed "BOP!" in front of Katse's vision. It took something on the order of a thermonuclear explosion to actually knock Katse out, however -- he was stunned, but conscious as they cut him down, tied his hands behind his back with a vine, and stuffed a furry gag into his mouth. Oh, yuck, I hate getting hair in my mouth, Katse thought, and then reflected that that had to be one of the stupidest things he'd thought in a great long while. He was about to become a meal for a bunch of savages, and he was worried about getting hair in his mouth?
They dragged him toward a clearing. As he began to regain his mental equilibrium, or at least his usual mental state (since equilibrium and Katse in the same sentence had to be a contradiction in terms), he proceeded from a vague unhappiness with the general situation and pain in his head to discomfort in his head and gibbering terror. Desperately he attempted to persuade the primitive women to take the gag off, or untie him, or something.
They weren't having any. In the center of the clearing, a six-foot-high cast-iron kettle, sitting on a collection of firewood, was being filled with water by some of the most gorgeous men it had ever been Katse's fortune to lay eyes on, dressed in scanty silk loincloths and numerous bangles. However, he was unfortunately in no condition to appreciate the sight, as he was too busy being terrifed out of his wits. He struggled frantically against the Amazons' grip, but he might as well have been Fay Wray in King Kong's hands for all the good it did him. Unceremoniously they dumped him into the pot.
It was as tall as he was, but the water only came up to the middle of his chest. Utilizing his famous skill at escaping bonds, Katse wormed out of his and removed the gag in ten seconds flat, then attempted to pull himself over the side and to safety. The butt of a spear caught him in the chest and poked him down into the water. He came up spluttering and gasping for breath.
"Sosai?" he whispered to himself. "Um, if you can hear me -- now might be a good time to get me out of here..."
Joe wandered through the jungle, plucking berries and feeling pleasantly mellow. Somehow it seemed less important to find Ken and Jun, or Galactor for that matter. Well, it was important, but it wasn't the be-all and end-all of his existence. There were other things to do, too. He looked around at the trees and beautiful flowers of the jungle. There was so much beauty in the world, really, and the way he lived his life most of the time, it was just passing him by. Or he was passing it by. Or something. Really a damned shame.
He smiled at some monkeys, chattering at him from a tree branch, and then noted a beautiful purple flower. It gave off a sweet, heady aroma. Joe bent his head to sniff it, and the petals closed tightly on his visor, trying to chew it. If not for his Bird Style, it would have been his nose the flower was now chomping on. Joe pulled his visor free with some difficulty and regarded the flower with a hurt expression. "Hey, that wasn't very nice, you know," he informed it.
There was a rustling in the bushes behind him. Joe turned, to face three women with spears. Three exceedingly ugly women with huge, broad shoulders, sagging breasts bound in fur, ape-like features, stringy, ratty black hair, rotting or missing teeth, and spears. Joe looked at them and their vicious expressions. "Hey, no need to be so hostile," he said. "It's not my fault what you look like. A diet and a good plastic surgeon could do wonders for you girls, you know."
"Bird-that-talks!" one of the women said, in a surprised guttural voice.
"Do bird-that-talks make good eating?" another asked.
"Look like plenty meat, plenty good. Use for stew," the third suggested.
They shoved their spears at them. Joe could easily have disarmed them and shoved their spears right back at them, or something equally unpleasant, but he didn't feel like it. It was too nice a day to hurt anybody, and besides, they couldn't help being ugly savages that smelled. "Like I said, dudes, take a chill," he said. "I'm not going to hurt you -- you can get those things out of my face any time now."
"Move," the first woman ordered him.
"Fine, already. I can go along, you know? We don't need all this hostility. Have you considered seeing a therapist?..."
Jun swung through the trees, limber and free. Her keen eyes caught sight of footprints, the tread of bare, very big and very heavy feet through the jungle paths. That looks like the mark of Galactor, she thought, without stopping to wonder why Galactors would have bare feet. Maybe Galactors liked to squeegee their toes in mud, who could say? She followed the footsteps, and when she caught sight of a small party of human beings moving through the brush, she leapt down in front of them.
Quickly she realized her mistake. These were obviously the natives -- big, heavy, brutal-looking women, dressed in much the same sort of clothing she was wearing herself. They surrounded her with spears. "Looks like woman!"
"Looks like girl. Too little for woman! Not of Real People Tribe! Spy from Tribe-Across-Lake?"
"Spy! Kill her! Put her in stew!"
"I don't want to hurt you," Jun warned. "Put down those spears now, before I get angry."
One of them made a war whoop and charged at Jun with her spear. Jun leapt, landing first on the spear, where she kicked the woman in the head and knocked her unconscious. She leapt off the spear before the woman could drop it, and to a tree branch. Two more women were charging her. She reversed herself on the tree branch, swung out, and kicked both of them in the head. One went down, one didn't. Jun leapt onto the head of the one who didn't go down, and in kicking off for her next leap successfully dropped the Amazon. The last two were charging at her from opposite directions, as she landed on the ground. Jun ducked under the spears. Since she didn't want to kill any natives, she didn't let them skewer each other -- instead, she grabbed the spears as they both came in range, and pulled them down, hard. These sent the two tribeswomen flying at each other. They cracked heads together and slumped to the ground.
For a second, Jun stood, admiring her handiwork. Then she lifted her head suddenly, as an expression of sudden realization crossed her beautiful, noble features. She'd left Ken unprotected! If these natives found him--! Decisively she leapt into the trees again, and swiftly swung her way back toward the helpless young man.
It was odd, of course, that Jun should immediately think of Ken as a helpless young man. What was even odder was that Ken thought so, too. As the Amazons clustered around him, leering and giggling, the only think he could think of to do was scream for help.
He had had a spurt of initiative, about half an hour back, like the last gasp of his consciousness of leadership. Perhaps it had been a bit of the old Ken, surfacing from under the Machoberries' effect. Perhaps it had been part of a resolute determination not to succumb to the insidious sapping of his courage and brainpower. Perhaps it had simply been because the plot required it, but for whatever reason, he had headed off to find Jun, though his strength had been sapped by the heat and the vast quantities of berries he'd consumed. Before long, the heat and the fact that the berries were shrinking his brain down to the size of a peanut had contributed to get him totally lost. He had sat down to wait for Jun to find him, and these monstrous Amazons had appeared out of the bush, pointing their spears at him and smiling cruelly.
So Ken had done what any good hero of a role-reversal B-movie jungle flick should do. He screamed his head off.
"Him look cute when him scared," one of them said, with an awful leer on her face. "Maybe us have fun with him, yes?"
"No," another said, rather disappointedly. "You know what High Priestess say. Us take him to her."
"Her get all fun," the first said, very disappointedly.
"JUN! JUN, HELP ME! SAVE ME, PLEASE!"
An Amazon shoved him against the nearest tree trunk and clamped her hand around his mouth. "You no talk or yell," she instructed. "You pretty man, so us not hurt you if you do good. You come along good like good boy, yes? You do bad, then us hit you some, us tie you up. You not like that. So you be good, yes?"
Terrified, Ken nodded, seeing nothing else to do. Jun would save him. She wouldn't leave him in the hands of these foul female creatures. All he had to do was play along with them for time, and Jun would rescue him.
Berg Katse had thought things could not possibly get any worse. Then Condor Joe was dumped into the stewpot, next to him.
"I was wrong..." he mumbled.
"Sure were, dude," Joe said, leaning back against the stewpot. "You never should've joined Galactor, y'know? Pretty bad karma if you ask me." His eyes fell on some of the seasonings that had been tossed in. "Hey, berries!"
Katse stared, wondering why the Condor wasn't making any attempt to kill Katse or escape, and why he was suddenly talking like a Californian teenager or a reject from the 1960's. He also wondered if he should warn the Condor of the effect of the berries he was cheerfully consuming -- they were most definitely Machoberries. On the one hand, a wimpy Condor might be fun to watch. On the other hand, if the Condor wimped out there was no chance Katse could use him to pull off an escape ploy. "You're rather reckless with what you eat," he finally said. "I'd've imagined a Science Ninja would be better trained than that."
"What're you talking about?" Joe asked, through a mouthful of berry.
Katse smiled, his usual sadistic I-know-something-you-don't smile, and then remembered he was in a stewpot about to be eaten, and lost it. "Those berries have an insidious effect on the male psyche. They drain men of their courage and intelligence. You never had much intelligence to begin with, Condor Joe-kun, but surely you would not wish to lose your much-vaunted courage?"
"You're as crazy as ever," Joe said flatly. "I've been eating these all morning, and they haven't done anything. But hey, we shouldn't argue. I mean, we're about to get eaten, right? In the grand scheme of things, I think our little arguments, they just don't mean a whole lot right now, you know?"
Katse stared. Well, that tells me something about the Machoberries, he thought. Apparently Joe was too much of a raging hormone case for even the Machoberries to make him a moronic, sniveling coward -- instead, they had made him an equally moronic New Ager, or something. He was mellow. Katse had never thought he would live to see a mellow Condor.
And the way things looked, he wouldn't live much beyond seeing a mellow Condor, either.
"You're just going to let them eat us? Why don't you call your teammates? Or use one of your famous ninja tricks? Or something? Don't tell me the great Condor Joe is content to lie back and be someone else's lunch!"
"Hey, in the great scheme of things, it's an eat or be eaten world, you know? It's not such a bad way to die, to return your obligation to all the animals you ate by getting eaten yourself. You know? Besides, I think they're not going to actually eat us till dinner. The water won't be hot enough to kill us until after noon, sometime."
"And you're just going to let it happen?" Katse's voice rose to a hysterical pitch. "You can just leap out of here! If you're not going to use your abilities to escape, at least get me out of here!"
"Well, you know, it's karma catching up with you, dude. I mean, if this is the way you're gonna go, well, it's just Fate, you know? I mean, the moving hand has written."
Katse contemplated strangling Joe, but it ran too much of a risk of waking him out of his Machoberry-stupor and remembering that he wanted Katse dead.
"Somebody! Anybody!" he began to shout, as he had been doing for the past hour since his capture. "Get me out of here!"
"Oh, chill out, dude," Joe said.
Jun swung through the jungle, searching desperately for Ken. He wasn't where she'd left him -- her clothes and bracelet were lying out and unprotected. She hid them in the crock of a tree and then continued her search. "I must find him!" she muttered to herself. "There's no telling what sort of horrors may befall him, alone and unprotected!"
One of the horrors that might befall him was having to listen to an Amazon war chant. Jun could hear one up ahead. It sounded something like, "Oog! Ooga-ooga-boog! Oh-ee-oh, oh-oh! Ooga-ooga-boog!" There was also a snarling, hissing sound of some kind in the background. Fearlessly Jun investigated, and discovered a number of the Amazons holding off a giant lizard of golden color, while others were lifting up eggs from a nest and carrying them off. The eggs were each as large as a human baby. The lizard was snarling, and trying desperately to get past the Amazons' spears, but only succeeded in impaling herself. (With Jun's keen feminine intuition and knowledge of jungle lizards, not to mention the law by which the hero of the story knows everything relevant to the plot, she discerned easily that the lizard was female.)
"They're stealing her eggs!" Jun cried. "What a heinous crime!" She climbed up a tree and swung down on a vine with a war-cry of her own, landing in the midst of the Amazons. They swung their spears at her, but with fists and feet and a good deal of special effects pyrotechnics, Jun defeated them all and sent them running off into the jungle, terrified.
The lizard was nudging her eggs back onto the nest. Jun turned to her. "There," she said. "I don't think they'll be back to bother you."
The lizard turned limpid eyes upon Jun, and communicated her gratitude in the silent fashion of lizards. Jun was given to understand that this was the Queen of the Lizards in this sector of the island, and that her gratitude to Jun was eternal. If Jun needed the assistance of the lizards, all she needed to do was whistle, and they would come to her side.
Jun thanked the lizard for her gracious offer, and described Ken to her. "If you see him, could you let me know where he is?" The lizard communicated that she certainly would, and Jun took her leave of the lizard queen, in order to continue her search.
Shaking and trembling, Ken was brought before a woman on a raised stone throne. While she matched the others in ugliness, hers was of a different sort. She was a tiny, wizened old woman who might even have been attractive once, say, back when she was 70. If Ken had been told that she was several hundred years old, he would not have been at all surprised. Of course, this wasn't saying much, since another side effect of the Machoberries was to make people extremely gullible, but still, she was old.
"Bow before High Priestess!" somebody said, and shoved Ken, so he fell against the steps of the throne.
"No -- no, let him stand up," the High Priestess said. "I want to see all of him." There was a note to her voice that made Ken uneasy. He got to his feet and found the old woman staring at him, as if she would burn holes in his chest. Her gaze dropped lower, and Ken blushed furiously when he realized what she was looking at. He was now glad of his long jeans, despite the heat.
"Turn around, boy," she said. "I want a good look at you."
Ken stood obstinately and wouldn't do it, at least until he got a light jab from a blunt spear tip. He turned around fearfully, not sure what the old woman's intentions were but fairly certain that he wouldn't like them if he knew them. His suspicions were confirmed upon her next order.
"Strip him," the High Priestess ordered.
Ken spun around. "What? No! No, I won't let you!" He began to back up, terrified, which turned out to be counterproductive, as he ended up backing directly into one of the Amazons, who grabbed him. Ken struggled, totally ineffectually, and began to scream hysterically for Jun as the Amazons none too gently removed his clothing. When it was done he was shoved in front of the High Priestess in the buff, mortified and trying desperately to free his hands from the Amazons that held them pinned so he could cover himself. His manhood cringed as the High Priestess stared at it lasciviously, and his whole flesh crawled.
"Have him bathed, dressed and prepared for the role of my concubine," the High Priestess intoned. "I will sample him tonight."
"NO!" Ken pleaded as they dragged him off. "You can't do this -- please! JUN!! COME SAVE MEEEE..."
As the Amazons were dragging him out, another tribeswoman came running. "Man who fly outside!" he heard her exclaiming breathlessly, and felt a surge of hope. Maybe other members of the team had come, and would get him out of here!
"I'm going insane," Katse moaned, terrified.
"Thought you already were," Joe said. He suddenly broke out into a big grin. "Hey! Maybe you're going sane! Ever thought of that?"
"Guards!" Katse screamed. "Please kill him and put him out of my misery!" The guards paid no attention.
"There has to be some way -- some way out of this! It's not my destiny to end up as cannibal food! Is this what Sosai made me for? Is this what I worked and suffered 30 years for?"
"I don't know, is it?" Joe asked.
"Shut up, it was a rhetorical question! I'm trying to psych myself into an escape attempt!"
"Well, okay, I mean, if you want to get skewered by a spear, that's your preference, I guess," Joe said. "I mean, it's your life, and I wouldn't presume to live it for you, but--"
"SHUT UP!!" Katse howled, at such volume that Joe was temporarily deafened.
"Wow, man, that was, like, multiple decibel!" Joe said, but because he couldn't hear his own voice, and was too stupid at the moment to realize this fact, he said it in a barely audible whisper. This suited Katse, who was desperately concocting an escape plan. He emptied his pockets underwater and withdrew a corkscrew, a Bic lighter, a packet of chewing gum, two marbles (purple cat's eyes), a great quantity of string, a Chinese fan, a broken transistor radio, several dead insects, a pickled human finger, a Matchbox toy car, 2 AA batteries, and a stopwatch. Using these materials, he constructed himself a small helicopter propeller, held it over his head, and began to fly upwards, out of the pot.
"Hey, that's a neat trick," Joe whispered.
The guards were all staring and pointing. Katse let loose with one of his "Ha-ha-I'm-getting-away-and-there's-nothing-you-can-do-about-it" laughs. Unfortunately, at this point, the batteries failed. He had risen about 6 feet off the ground, and had begun to drift northwest in the direction of the prevailing wind. Now he fell ignominiously on top of an Amazon.
"Him like bird!"
"Him like God-That-Brings-Storm!" the women chorused, in awe. Katse picked himself up off the Amazon and stared about himself in bewilderment.
Suddenly all the Amazons prostrated themselves in front of him. A tiny, aged and decrepit-looking crone was approaching, with robes, an elaborate headdress and a staff. "All bow before the Great God Amanolopeceia, He-Who-Brings-Storms!" she chanted, and they all lifted their heads up a bit and then bowed again. She then stood in front of a very bemused Katse and bowed deeply. "Welcome, my Lord. We have been waiting many long years for your return!"
Katse found himself breaking into a very wide smile. This was more like it.
He turned around. "Did you hear that, Condor Joe-kun?" he asked nastily. "They called me a god! You see, they've finally seen through to my true worth! Me, they honor as a god -- while you will become their dinner! Hahahahha! Farewell, Condor Joe! Tonight I will feast on your heart!"
"Does somebody write these lines for you?" Joe asked. "Because they're not very good, you know. Me, I'd change speechwriters if I was you."
Katse turned and ostentatiously ignored Joe. "What is your name, my servant?" he intoned pompously.
"I am the High Priestess Morg-Thon, and I live only to serve my lord Amanolopeceia." She raised herself from her bow. "Allow me to conduct you to the temple, my lord, where you shall receive honor fitting your station."
"I deign to accept my servant's humble offer," Katse said. "You may conduct me there."
As they left, Joe watched them and muttered, "You know, I'm sure impersonating a god must be really bad karma."
Several minutes after Katse had been conducted off, Jun arrived at the edge of the clearing with the stewpot. Numerous gorgeous men were tending the stewpot, but none of them were Ken. Then she recognized Joe, sitting in the stewpot. "Oh no! Joe in danger, too! I must rescue him!" she cried, and leapt down, easily dispatching the Amazon guards around the pot. The pretty boys tending it ran off in all directions, dismayed and terrified, as Jun helped Joe out of the pot.
"There wasn't any need to get so violent, you know," he said. "Have you considered solving problems through gentle persuasion?"
"There's no time for that!" Jun cried. "Ken is in terrible danger, and we must rescue him without delay! What're you doing here anyway?"
"Well, like, do you mean that in the existential sense? Because in a sense we're all children of God, you know--"
"Never mind. We must find Ken!"
"Sounds like a good idea," Joe said. "You know, there's these absolutely excellent berries here. You should try some..."
Stealthily the two crept around the encampment, reaching a structure set into a cliff that appeared to be a temple. At least, it would have been stealthily if Joe hadn't kept making inane comments about everything, but at least no one heard them. On one side of the temple, the side facing the brooding volcano, there was a flat slab table on stone legs. Inside was a throne, with many steps leading to it, and lower down, Jun found a large stone window opening into a narrow bathing chamber. Ken was in the chamber with a number of other attractive young men, all of them -- including Ken -- dressed in scanty silk loincloths and bangles. Ken was protesting in anguish that he didn't want the honor of becoming the High Priestess's concubine, he didn't want to be dressed like this, where were his clothes, he wanted to escape, Jun would save him, and other such protests. Jun nearly leapt into the room to rescue him then and there, but Joe held her back. "Hey, this isn't such a good idea, you know," he said.
Jun turned to face him, fury in her eyes. "Ken faces a fate worse than death! I must go to his aid!"
"Sure, sure, we gotta help him. But if we do it now, there's those ugly ladies with spears, guarding him, and there's all those fairy dudes. If we get into a fight, a lot of innocent people might get hurt. We won't have room to maneuver in there, you know."
Strangely enough, Joe was making sense. Jun thought about it. "You're right. We can't risk harm to innocents -- those natives are certainly not Galactors. We must wait until he is left alone, and then go to his rescue."
"Yeah, like that."
"In the meantime, we must set up a base of operations, and devise a plan of rescue. Ken is sure to be left alone later, in the afternoon. We will go to his aid then."
Berg Katse was enjoying himself thoroughly.
The temple was high and cool, located over a subterranean lake of some sort. The High Priestess had brought him to a rather comfortable throne, and had several gorgeous young men serving him various delightful fruit dishes. Among these were of course the ubiquituous Machoberries, and as Katse's unique biology made him totally immune to the effects of the berries he was able to fully enjoy the delightful taste.
"We will hold a ceremony to honor you and elevate you to your proper position at sundown," Morg-Thon told him. Katse smiled happily.
"See that you do. Also, if you have any insignificant trinkets, bits of jewelry, the like, I might deign to accept them as tribute to me."
"It will be done, my lord Amanolopeceia," the High Priestess said. Katse was getting a headache from that name. "Will you require women for your delight?"
Inwardly Katse winced. Not these women, not by a long shot. "The women of your tribe do not please my eye."
"Then perhaps a young man or two?"
Katse examined the specimens serving him dinner. Well, now. That sounded considerably more promising. "I might be interested, yes..."
"If you will condescend to accompany your humble servant, my lord, I will guide you to the harem. You may pick the boy that pleases you most for your pleasure before the ceremony."
Trying to act as regal as possible, Katse stood, sweeping his cape about him. "It pleases me to do as you suggest." It was so much fun being a god -- he got to be more pompous than even the Galactors would put up with.
Ken had been dragged into the harem by a large number of bishonen attendants, all dressed as scantily as he was himself. The fact that he was in a great deal of company didn't make him feel any better, however. He was the leader of the Science Ninja Team, not some dissolute harem boy, and the immodesty of his clothing, not to mention the hungry looks he got from the female guards, was keeping him in a perpetual state of blush. The other young men were lying back on sumptuous pillows or sitting together, braiding one another's hair or playing musical instruments, but Ken was too nervous to sit down. He paced about the room, desperately afraid. That High Priestess... His skin crawled just thinking about her. Jun had to come and save him before tonight. She had to!
Suddenly he heard a familiar voice approaching, and froze in a totally different kind of terror. Berg Katse was here? That meant this was all a Galactor trap! Fearfully he turned toward the door. He wasn't the only one -- every eye fell on the door as Berg Katse strode in with the High Priestess, flanked by a pair of guards.
"All ye concubines of the temple, hear my words!" the High Priestess chanted. "This is the great god Amanolopeceia, He Who Brings Storms, returned to us in the avatar of a man from across the Great Ocean! He has come to honor one of you by selecting you to please him this afternoon!"
Ken shrank back against the wall as the young men started clamoring for Katse to pick them, describing their own virtues in loud voices. It did no good. Katse silenced the clamor and pointed at Ken, pressed against the back wall. "Who is that one?"
"That one?" The High Priestess stepped forward until her ancient eyes recognized Ken. "My lord, that is a young man our warriors captured in the jungle just today."
"I want him." Katse's voice was smooth, sensuous, and terrified the wits out of Ken. The High Priestess was bad enough -- but Berg Katse!
"My lord, he is not yet trained in the ways of a harem boy," the High Priestess protested. "He won't be broken in until later tonight."
"I'll break him in. I have a talent for it."
"I'm sorry, my lord, but he's just not suitable for you now. After the ceremony tonight, perhaps."
"You're supposed to obey me in whatever I ask, aren't you?" Katse asked menacingly. The High Priestess wasn't menaced.
"Even the great god Amanolopeceia must obey the laws of heaven."
"All right," Katse said ungraciously. "But be sure he's brought to me tonight after the ceremony to honor me."
"Would you care to make another choice, before the ceremony?"
"No. I want him. If I can't have him, I'm not going to take a substitute, either." Katse stalked out, followed by the guards. The High Priestess remained, and approached the trembling, terrified Ken.
Ken was more afraid than he'd ever been in his life, not to mention thoroughly nauseated. The High Priestess was old, toothless and ugly, but at least she was a woman. Berg Katse was considerably cleaner and smelled better -- but he was a man! Not to mention, he was also Ken's worst enemy and had been responsible for the death of Ken's father. Completely abandoning any pretense at courage, Ken threw himself at the High Priestess's feet. "Oh, please don't let him have me!" he begged. "I'll do whatever you want -- but not him! Please!"
The High Priestess smiled at him in what might have been a tender fashion if she had had more than three teeth. "My poor little boy," she said, and ruffled his hair. "Don't worry -- you're all mine. No one is to have you but me."
"But -- you told him--"
"And so I did. But the avatar of Amanolopeceia will have no use for fleshly things after the ceremony tonight." She removed her hand from his hair and flung both arms wide. "It is always this way -- the avatar comes among us with no memory of his godhood. He shall perform miracles, and by this we shall know him. Then at the sunset of the night of the full moon, he shall give up his earthly life in terror and pain, and be raised once more to his godhead."
"You mean -- you're going to kill him?"
"Of course." The High Priestess looked down at him. "How else to raise him back to the heavens, from which he came? But this talk is too complex for the mind of a man. I shall see you tonight, after the ceremony, and we shall... talk of other things." She turned to a guard. "Lock him in a private room for tonight." Then she left.
Ken was at first conscious of overwhelming relief. He would not be given to Katse after all. He was safe. But when the High Priestess made her concluding remark, he remembered that he wasn't safe from her, and began to tremble again. Somehow he thought the human sacrifice Katse would suffer would be preferable to spending the night in the High Priestess's bed. As the guard led him off, he wondered if there was a way to trade places...
After finding an abandoned tree fort they could use as their base, and stashing Jun's clothes and the spare tropical gear that had washed up on the beach there, Jun and Joe returned to the primitives' camp. It was late afternoon by now. In the course of their search for Ken, they passed a vast chamber where someone was being fawned on. Jun did a doubletake and realized it was Berg Katse, reclining in an ornate silk chair and sipping a red drink, while men with fans stood over him and waved them. There was a large pile of jewelry and riches at his feet, and the primitive women were circled around him, kneeling on the floor and listening to him talk. Jun couldn't make out what he was saying, but the high -- pitched and whiny tenor of his voice was unmistakable.
"I knew Galactor was on this island!" she whispered. "Look, there's Berg Katse!"
"Oh, yeah, I knew he was here. He used to be in the stewpot with me, but then he graduated to being a god. Guy's got no sense of proportion."
"Why didn't you tell me Katse was here? Now Ken might be in worse danger!"
"Slipped my mind," Joe said, somewhat sheepishly. Jun glared at him.
Finally they found the room Ken was being held in. The window was far too small to get him out through, so Jun decided to sneak into the temple and rescue him. Unfortunately, on their way down the temple stairs, Joe caught sight of the setting sun outside the window and shouted, "Man, would you look at that beautiful sunset?" Jun tried to shut him up, but the damage was done. Amazons from all over came out of the walls and attacked them.
Jun fought furiously and effectively, taking out the Amazons as fast as they came. Joe didn't want to hurt them, however, and so was quickly overwhelmed. By the time Jun managed to pull the guards off him, they had ripped his bracelet off. He put it back on and tried to activate again, with no results. "Oh, well," Joe said, shrugged, and put the bracelet back in his pocket.
By now Jun was racing down the hall to Ken's rescue. "Make haste!" she called to Joe. "Speed is of the essence!"
"Shouldn't take that stuff," Joe informed her. "It fries out your brain."
Jun didn't even try to follow the logical leap. She charged into the holding area for harem boys, defeated the Amazons in a single mighty bound, and opened the door to the cell holding Ken. He threw himself at her. "Jun!" He was almost sobbing. "I knew you'd save me! Do you know what they wanted to do to me? It was horrible!"
"We need to get out of here," Jun said. "Ken, come on!" She extricated herself from his embrace, and began charging down the corridor toward the nearest large window. It opened out onto the tree -- filled jungle. As more Amazons came at them from the other end of the corridor, Jun threw Ken over her shoulder and leapt through the window, catching a vine and swinging out into the jungle. Joe followed shortly behind her.
Back at the base Jun and Joe had improvised, Jun let Ken down somewhat reluctantly. The outfit was very becoming on him, she thought, but they had to retrieve his uniform. "We must go back," she said. "They have your uniform and the bracelets. We cannot risk letting them fall into enemy hands, especially since Berg Katse is here."
"We don't need to worry about him, I think," Ken said. "The High Priestess said they were going to sacrifice him tonight, or something."
"Major bummer," Joe observed. He was changing into a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, since he could no longer get his bird style to work. He was also snacking on Machoberries. Jun took two from him and popped them into her mouth.
"We can't allow that," she said seriously. "We have orders from Dr. Nambu to take Berg Katse alive. If these savages sacrifice him, we may never learn the location of Galactor headquarters."
"Hey, you're right," Joe said. "That'd be bad."
Ken thought about it. "Yes, of course you're right," he said. "But how could we get him out of there, without him escaping? There'll be so many guards..."
Jun suddenly smiled. "I have a plan," she said. "Listen..."
"So what exactly does this ceremony entail?" Katse asked.
He was being led by the High Priestess out through an arched stone doorway. There were four or five burly Amazon guards behind him, as an honor guard, he assumed. "It is the ceremony of your elevation to your rightful position, my lord Amanolopeceia," she told him.
"You told me that already." They came out onto a wide stone terrace, with steps leading away from it in both directions. The jungle hung thick on one side, and the other faced the brooding volcano. On the terrace was a stone table, a slab supported by stone legs. "But what, exactly, happens in the ceremony?"
"You cast aside your mortal flesh, and through pain you are reborn into the heavens once more."
"What??" That sounded distinctly unpleasant.
"Hold him!" Morg-Thon suddenly shouted. Katse, belatedly realizing that being a god was not all it was cracked up to be, tried to run. The guards reacted faster than he did, however, being more used to these sort of situations. One grabbed his cape, and before he could get free of it tribeswomen had seized his arms and legs and were carrying him to the stone table.
"Wait a minute! What are you going to do? How dare you treat your god like this? Let me go!" Katse ranted, but it did him absolutely no good whatsoever. They took vines and bound his limbs to the legs of the table, so he was spread -- eagled across it. Katse pulled and twisted at the viney ropes, but they held firm. Morg-Thon approached and stood over him.
"As a baby experiences great pain when it enters this life from the netherworld of unborn souls, so you must suffer great pain in entering the heavenly world from this one. So it is written, avatar of He-Who-Brings-Storms," Morg-Thon said. She drew a long, savage-looking knife and laid the flat of it against Katse's belly, then raised it to the heavens. "Let the God Who Rules Over All Gods, Great Father Volcano Masshapussha, bless this sacrifice! Accept this, your son returned to the fold of your heavenly children, and grant him honor for his suffering and death in mortal form!"
"What are you going to DO to me?" Katse wailed.
Morg-Thon smiled down at him. "The ceremony will last until the rising of the full moon," she told him. She then proceeded to describe, in graphic detail, horrible things she would do to Katse with that wicked knife of hers, each sounding more awful than the last one. The ceremony would end with Katse's beating heart being cut out of his still-living body and being tossed into the fire, after which his corpse would be thrown into the volcano.
"You don't understand, you're making a terrible mistake, I don't want to be elevated to the heavens!" Katse babbled desperately. "I'm perfectly content to be worshiped here on Earth, really--"
"The avatar never wishes to be elevated. Just as the baby never wishes to be born, and wishes it could remain in the warm womb forever," the High Priestess said. "But like the baby who must be born, and enter the cold world, you must be sacrificed and achieve your elevation."
"I'm not really a god! I was only pretending to get out of the stewpot! I'm a very important man -- if you kill me, my people will rain fire on your island! DON'T DO THIS!"
"Let the chant begin!" Morg-Thon cried, and raised her arms to the heavens. "Almighty father Masshapussha, Master of Fires -- -- "
"SOSAIIII!! SAVE MEEEE!!"
"Gag him," Morg-Thon ordered, without breaking the rhythm. Something unpleasant-tasting and leathery was forced into Katse's mouth, lowering the decibel level of his screams by a good bit.
Berg Katse had a reputation as an escape artist, and a well-deserved one. Given about ten minutes, he could easily have untied the vines. He didn't have ten minutes, unfortunately. In the time he did have, he managed to make one of the vines slightly looser -- but then Morg-Thon ended her chant, and turned to face Katse. As she raised her knife high, he swallowed convulsively, biting down hard on the gag, and twisted his head to the side, closing his eyes tightly, waiting for the blow to come.
It never did.
Instead there was a feminine war cry, like something out of a Tarzan movie. When Katse risked opening his eyes again, a pale-skinned woman with black hair and a leopard-skin bikini was standing next to him, and the High Priestess was on the floor.
"This man is the property of the ISO!" she shouted.
Morg-Thon picked herself up off the ground. "Sacrilege!" she shouted. "The infidel must die!"
"But -- but -- her be Paleskin-Woman-Whose-Fists-Are-Lightning!" The savage women sounded positively terrified of the newcomer.
"I don't care who she is! She's blaspheming the sacrifice! Get her!"
But as the Amazons started toward the pale woman, she whistled, and giant lizards began to leap out of the forest. There were two men riding lizards. Katse recognized one of them as the harem boy he'd asked for. The Amazons had to deal with the lizards, a difficult task as Katse well remembered, and the pale woman began cutting Katse free with Morg-Thon's knife. "Those lizards... are yours?" Katse asked weakly.
"I did them a favor, and so they aid me," the woman said, matter-of-factly. She helped Katse up. "You're a prisoner of ISO, charged with terrorism, mass murder and conspiracy. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right--"
"Could we kindly skip the rights? I'm a prisoner, I'm a prisoner! Just get me out of here!"
"Get onto Amalthea's back," the ISO woman said, shoving Katse toward a gigantic golden lizard. Katse balked, whimpering. He remembered too well what happened to his men when they went too near lizards.
"Are you absolutely sure it's safe?"
"Of course! Amalthea is the Queen of the Lizards -- she will let no harm come to you. Now get on!"
Katse got, and the four of them charged back into the jungle. By now, the sun had set, and it was dark, the moon not having risen yet. The lizards carried them through the darkness and finally deposited them at a tree. The woman hauled Katse into the tree, and the two men followed. There proved to be a tree fort in the tree, filled with touristy clothing in a pile and Machoberries. Katse smiled to himself. Apparently ISO had sent a group of teenage observers of some sort, and the Machoberries had gotten them.
"Oh, Jun!" the harem boy said. "That was so masterful! I was so frightened!"
"Don't worry," the woman -- hardly more than a girl, really -- replied. "I'll always protect you." They looked deeply into one another's eyes. Katse gauged their chances of getting too involved to notice him escaping, and decided it was slim. He decided to wait until later.
The third young man, in the loud Hawaiian shirt, seemed as out of it as Condor Joe had been, in the stewpot. The three of them each took a night watch, but the third spent his staring at the moon and muttering about how beautiful the night sky was. Katse slipped away from him during the false dawn, and reached the coast and his escape craft with no further mishap. As he took off, he was mentally composing a report to Sosai. "Primitive natives and hostile lifeforms make it unsuitable for Galactor uses, despite the Machoberries. I say we nuke the place..."
Nambu had gotten worried. When Ken and Jun didn't check in for a whole day and Joe disappeared mysteriously without checking in either, it could indicate a fairly serious problem. Early the next morning, he sent Ryu and Jinpei out in the God Phoenix to try to pick up the errant team members, and accompanied them himself. He couldn't exactly leave an entire mission of this magnitude to Jinpei and Ryu, after all -- they had an annoying habit of getting into a great deal of trouble.
"Katse's gone? Why weren't you watching him?" Jun demanded.
"Well, like -- there were so many nicer things to look like. Like the moon. Did you ever really look at the moon?" Joe asked.
Suddenly Ken pointed overhead. "Look -- it's the God Phoenix!"
"We must signal it!" Jun scooped up her clothes and bracelet. "We shall go to the beach, build a fire, and make smoke signals. That will attract their attention."
"Yeah, but do you know what that'll do to the ozone layer?" Joe complained. Jun ignored him.
The three of them headed for the beach, built the fire and made the smoke signals, using Joe's shirt. They had retrieved Ken's clothes just before rescuing Katse, but he hadn't thought to put them on. Now, as the God Phoenix descended to pick them up, he belatedly remembered some shred of dignity and tried to dress quickly. He hadn't gotten beyond throwing the shirt on when the platform came down and they had to get on it.
Down in the hold, Dr. Nambu and Jinpei met them with expressions of a good bit of disbelief. "One-chan? Ani-ki? What're you wearing those outfits for?"
Ken looked down at the silk loincloth he was still wearing and blushed terribly. Jun said matter-of-factly, "We lost our gear. This was cooler."
"Ah," Nambu said, and they entered the lift to the bridge. A sinking feeling was forming in the pit of his stomach. "You didn't by any chance happen to eat any of the berries, did you?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, we ate quite a few of one particularly delicious berry. Why?" Jun was concerned at Nambu's expression. "Did we do something wrong?"
The lift opened. Ryu turned from his piloting station to welcome them aboard, and his mouth gaped open at Jun and Ken's attire. It gaped even farther when Joe said, "Hey, Ryu old pal! Long time no see!"
"Not something wrong -- you couldn't have known the danger," Nambu said, with his head in his hands. He lifted it. "You are all under the influence of a species of berry called the Machoberry. It acts to lower the intelligence and to cause aggression and assertiveness in women, while it causes lack of initiative and sapping of the will, as well as heightening the sensation of fear, in men."
"You mean ani-ki and Joe turned into wimps and one-chan turned really tough?" Jinpei asked.
"Well, like, exactly what's your definition of wimp?" Joe asked. "Because, I mean, like, that's not a very nice word to use about people..."
Nambu put his head in his hands again, and Jinpei and Ryu looked at each other. The three were going to be very embarrassed when those berries wore off...
Several hours later...
"I can't believe I acted so unfeminine!"
"I can't believe I turned into such a wimp!"
"I can't believe I was in a stewpot with Berg Katse, and I didn't kill him!"
Alara Rogers with Allen Rowe
This story is all Allen's fault, except that Alara wrote it. Well, I mean, we both plotted it, but... well, what I'm trying to say is... essentially I'm trying to shift all the blame off myself and onto Allen like a good Galactor should. Nyaah. The influences for this story include one too many B jungle movies and cartoons on a jungle theme watched as a child, as well as too many Blake's 7 stories about Avon being kidnapped by lustful women and too many of Rosenthal and Wortham's "Bizarro 7" stories, and it was written in far too short a time for the page count, or far too long a time considering the page count, depending on your point of view. Events in this story are not guaranteed to make sense. The author and illustrator deny any responsibility for fused brain cells.