Free Bird

(Gatchaman IV story #7)

Cross Karakoram Base.

For seven years, it had been the Galactor equivalent of haunted ruins. Among the more superstitious, it was bad luck even to mention the name. Once, it had been the center of all Galactor operations, the one base Gatchaman never touched. Then it had become the grave of over 2,000 Galactors, Berg Katse among them. People said that the site was haunted by the spirits of the dead, and avoided it.

Alatan Katse proposed to make the site her new base.

Swallowed in a foul depression, she stood on a hillock, surveying her domain. This was Galactor's most ambitious project to date: to build a mountain and hollow it into a city. The work had begun almost two years ago, the first project Alatan had conceived, and even now she was still modifying it. The shaft that Alatan's father had drilled to the core of the earth had still been there, though blocked by debris from explosions. Galactor had used that shaft to generate a volcano, carefully dropping explosives into the shaft under Selina Marriochio's direction, and the newborn volcano had built a mountain. Then with force fields they pushed the lava back into the Earth, while with digging mecha they hollowed out the mountain, building new mountains with the debris.

This was Alatan's pride and joy, her brainchild. She had stolen ideas from her father's journals and Gel Sadra's notebooks-- Gel Sadra had been a lousy leader, but she knew architecture-- and consolidated them into her project. When it was done, the entire interior of the base would be built like a transforming mecha, with all the walls and floors separable and mobile, so that Alatan could rearrange the floor plan at will. The base would be indestructible by anything short of a nuke. A river, together with a spectacular waterfall, had been dug to provide the base with water, and the heat gradient between the icy, snow-fed mountain water and the heat of the trapped lava would provide clean energy for the base. The new Cross Karakoram base would be called Galactor City. 30,000 men, women and children would be housed here, entire families dedicated to Galactor-- which would both humanize the organization somewhat and give Alatan some useful leverage against incompetents and would-be traitors. It was the most grandiose plan ever conceived by Galactor, it was hers, and it was almost done.

None of which made Alatan feel particularly better. She was a teenage girl as well as Galactor's leader, and the man who'd comforted her after she'd nearly died at Gatchaman's hands, who she'd given her virginity to, had told her twenty minutes ago that he thought it would be best for both of them if they broke it off.

People will accuse you of favoritism, Jasmine had said. You're getting dangerously dependent on me and you can't afford that, he'd said. You're powerful and you're very beautiful-- you should have no problem finding other lovers, he had said.

What it all boiled down to, Alatan had decided, was that Jasmine didn't want her any more. And who would? she thought, tears stinging her eyes behind her mask. She was a klutzy kid, a 14-year-old semi-virgin, and a freak. She was the Galactor leader and that had to be good for some kicks, but Jasmine was accustomed to sophisticated women who knew what to do in bed-- and didn't find themselves shapechanging involuntarily in the heat of passion. No doubt he'd find one of them tonight. Alatan wanted him dead.

But she couldn't just kill people because they wouldn't go to bed with her-- that was no way to win people's loyalties. Angrily Alatan decided on another form of revenge. She'd find another man, an expert like Jasmine, and order him to teach her what to do to be an excellent lover. Maybe she'd get an expert woman to teach her and a man to practice on. She would become so good in bed that men begged for nights with her, that every man in Galactor wanted her, and then Jasmine would be sorry he'd thrown her away. After all, she was an adult now, and she had to practice some adult vices-- her mutant body treated things such as alcohol and drugs as poison, and got rid of them, with rather disgustingly embarrassing results-- sex was all she had left.

Her resolution made her feel better, but not much better. Alatan stared at her base taking shape and tried very hard not to think about how much she was hurting.

Jun Minami had been many things in her 25 years of life. First and foremost was being a Science Ninja, of course, but there was also foster older sister, lover, best friend, computer expert, chemist, engineer, med student, restauranteur, and now entrepreneur and travel agent. The Snack J had made her a decent amount of cash, but it was never going to make her rich, and Jun very much wanted to be rich.

At the moment, however, she was not rich, and so she had to put up with this incredibly irritating man who wanted to go hiking with his wife and two sons and could simply not get it through his head that Jun was not the receptionist, she ran Free Bird Travel Agency.

First he wanted to talk to the manager. She was the manager, she informed him. Then he wanted to talk to her manager. She didn't have a manager, she was solely in charge. Then he wanted to talk to the owner.

"Free Bird is jointly owned by 6 travel agents," Jun said, getting slightly irritated with him. Well, all right-- more than slightly. "I have full authorization to make all decisions for the company."

He scrutinized her. "How old are you? 20? 22?"

"Older than that. Look, sir, if you aren't interested in dealing with me then please get out of Free Bird's office."

"Oh, I don't want to do anything hasty, dear," the man assured her, and Jun restrained the impulse to punch his teeth in. "It's just-- well, you know you're very young to be running this business all by yourself." He tried to smile winningly. She

wasn't won.

"I was running a restaurant 10 years ago, all by myself," Jun replied evenly. "Now, I'm busy, so if we can get down to business?" Jun was well-versed in the concept "the customer is always right", but she didn't think Free Bird really needed a customer this obnoxious.

Then a woman came into the office. "Brucie, what is taking you so long?"

"I wanted to make sure I was talking to someone in charge," Bruce said. "She was quoting me some pretty hefty prices."

"Free Bird prices are negotiable," Jun said. "We do, however, provide a service no one else does, and it's a service with a very high overhead."

The woman chuckled. "Oh, Brucie can just be obnoxious sometimes," she said. "Why don't we figure out the price, you and me."

The woman-- whose name turned out to be Muffy-- was much more receptive than her husband was to the prices Jun quoted. In fact, partially due to her irritation with the husband, the bargaining start point Jun quoted Muffy was much higher than usual, and Muffy didn't dicker hard enough to bring it down to Free Bird's usual commission, with the result that they would be netting about half again their usual fee this time. Jun became very polite, as visions of money danced in her head.

6,000 Worldmarks! That would make 1,000 for each of us! Their usual haul for a job was closer to 700 each, which for five days work wasn't bad, but it wasn't going to make them rich, either. If she persuaded the others to chip in part of their extra share, she might be able to scrounge together enough money to buy the nightclub across town-- that would be a risk, but if it worked-- she could parlay this one job into being owner of a real money-maker. And then, whether she was being a Science Ninja or a full-time med student, she'd have plenty of time to do that and still be able to run the nightclub. And it would give her a wonderful excuse to scout new musical talent--

Jun dragged herself back to the here and now with an effort. She had to tell the others about this job, and make sure that nothing short of a Galactor attack interfered.

"Jun," Jinpei objected, "I have an exam the first day."

"In August??"

"It's the final for my summer session classes!"

"Well, take it early!" Jun said. "Don't you realize, Jinpei? 6,000 Worldmarks!"

"It's not that important," Jinpei retorted. "I do okay on the normal haul. Besides, you'll probably cheat me out of it."


"Hey, if Jinpei doesn't want to come, I'll take his share," Dave suggested.

Ken looked at him. "You've got a job with ISO. You don't need the extra money." Even when Ken had worked for the postal service, he'd been chronically short of cash, and now that Free Bird was his only source of income, he was just as bad at managing his finances as ever.

"And since you do, you think you should get Jinpei's share, too?" Joe snorted.

Ken put on his noble manner. "Actually, if anyone Ryu should get it, what with Joni's baby ready to come anytime now."

"Will you knock it off?" Jinpei asked. "I'm getting my share. I think I put in enough years of slave labor at the J--"

"What slave labor? I paid you!"

"20% less than minimum wage, you paid me," Jinpei grumbled. "You owe me my share, onechan, even if I never do another stick of work around here again."

"Which I'm convinced you're planning to do, if past history is any guide."

"So I have a social life. So sue me."

"Okay," Joe said promptly, never one to miss a challenge. "You'll be hearing from my lawyer."

"I'll win. I dress better than you do."

"That's debatable."

"And I wash my hair sometimes."

"But only sometimes," Jun said.

"If you really can't make it, Jinpei, you'll get paid anyway," Ken said, looking at Jun as if he dared her to say differently. "The rule is that the six of us split funds on any job, no matter who actually goes on it. Ryu isn't coming this time, for instance-- Joni's too close to her time. But he's still getting paid."

"I never said anything about not paying Jinpei," Jun objected. "But without Ryu, we're shorthanded already. Anyway, Jinpei, the University has an understanding with Dr. Nambu about your schedule being variable. The Doctor's one of their biggest benefactors-- they will let you take your test ahead of schedule."

"I don't know if I'll be ready ahead of schedule," Jinpei said darkly.

"I'll tutor you," Dave volunteered. "Or if I can't find time, I'm sure Jun would be thrilled to."

Jun glared. "Thanks a whole hell of a lot."

Alatan was still in a foul mood when they brought the quivering Captain in front of her.

"He was embezzling funds," his second told her. "Your funds, Katse-sama. What are you going to do to him?" From his tone, it was evident he hoped death was in the offing. Snitch. Alatan hadn't yet figured out whether she preferred to be told everything or whether it would be better for her people to live in an environment without backstabbing, but she didn't like snitches and she didn't want to have to deal with this right now.

"Thank you," she said. "What's your rank? First-level Captain?"

"I'm a chief, Katse-sama," the man said, bowing.

She nodded. "We'll have to have you transferred. I believe there's an opening for a chief here at Cross Karakoram."

He was dismayed. "But-- what's wrong with me staying in my old department?"

"It wouldn't be fair to the person who's going to run your old department, now that your captain's fallen from grace," Alatan said."He'd know you were responsible for his predecessor's fate, and it would make him very nervous. Best to move you."

The man-- who'd obviously hoped he was going to get promoted to be head of the department himself-- bowed and left, upset. Alatan turned to the man who'd been caught embezzling. "Do you have an explanation?"

"Yes, Katse-sama!" His words tripped over themselves. "I--"

"I didn't say I wanted to hear your explanation," Alatan said brutally, "I just wanted to see if you were creative enough to come up with one at all. You needn't quake so, I'm not my father. I'm not going to have you killed."

"Thank you, thank you, Katse-sama--" He fell toward her with an expression of gratitude, obviously meaning to fall at her feet.

"Don't touch me!!" Alatan snapped.

The man looked up. "I haven't forgiven you your crime. But I believe in giving those who fail me one last chance. Take one of the mechas--" She quickly decided. "The digging mecha, A-98. You are to rename it Moruhoru-- Mole-digger-- and launch it against the city of Denver. Attack until the Science Ninja Team appear, then destroy them."

Under his garish mask, his face went white. "Ma'am?"

"Destroy the Science Ninja Team, and I shall not only forgive you, but promote you," she said. "And if you fail-- well, failure is its own reward, isn't it?"

She turned away from the anguish in the man's face. "Report to Vice-Commander Vincent Galliente. He will give you your crew." Galliente would know what kind of crew to give him-- men who were expendable. "I want the attack to be launched within three days' time."

If she killed her own men, she would ruin all her efforts, at making them willing to die for her. But if she let petty crime go unpunished, people would think her weak. So. Let the Science Ninja Team punish Galactor's criminals. Alatan headed for another part of the site. She had things to watch over.

6,000 Worldmarks, Jun reminded herself repeatedly. Don't kill these idiots for 5 days and we'll get 6,000 Worldmarks. It's a bargain.

At least, she told herself that it was a bargain, but when the argument between the two boys-- Heath and Cliff; they were twins, and their mother Muffy was obviously continuing a family tradition of stupid names-- broke out for the fifth time on the third day, she wasn't so sure the extra 2,000 or so was enough of a bonus to make it worth it.

"You got the good bedroll last time! I'm entitled--" It was hard to believe they were 15 years old.

"I'm going to kill them," Joe muttered. "I'm going to punch in their skulls and then they'll shut up."

"6,000 Worldmarks," Jun reminded him.

"I don't care anymore. Do you know what I'd give to find a Galactor tie tack in their luggage?"

Jinpei said, "Even if you found one, they probably would've bought it in some souvenir shop 'cause they thought it was designer."

"I wouldn't care. It'd be a good enough excuse to bash their skulls in. Possession is 9/10 of the law."

Jun was not seriously afraid Joe actually would kill the twins-- he was driving, and they were in the back seat. It would be a bit of a reach. But she was afraid the parents would hear, and call off the trip. "Joe, please don't jeopardize this. I'll take over if you want but don't scare these off."

"I could drive the supply buggy, and have Ken or Dave up here, I guess," Joe muttered. "They're willing to put up with shit like this."

"Please do that, then."

He looked at her. "Jun, you're too hung up on money. There's more to life than cash."

"But there's a lot more fun in life when one has cash," Jun pointed out.

"That reminds me," Jinpei said. "I need to borrow a 50 for next week...."

"Forget it. I'm saving to buy a nightclub."

"Rest stop!" Joe bellowed, bringing the car to a halt, as Jinpei said incredulously, "A nightclub?"

The twins were still bickering, their parents at last seeming to catch something of their hosts' mood and getting irritated. "Can't we just have a nice trip together, as a family?" Muffy asked. Jun doubted it.

"I never wanted to come in the first place," one of the twins-- Jun couldn't tell them apart-- said.

"This was a stupid idea, Mom," the other said. "We should go home."

"You sissies?" Bruce asked. "Afraid of a little hike up through the mountains? We'll be explorers! Blazing new trails! Why, when I was your age--"

"--you were probably about 30 kilos lighter," Jinpei ad-libbed into Jun's ear. A giggle squirted out of her before she could stop herself, but the family were oblivious.

Ken walked over. "Joe said I should take over driving for a while."

"Thank God," Jun said fervently. "He was ready to kill them."

"Mmm. Well, even if it weren't for the ethical issue, the money's more important to me than to Joe, so..."

"You still have an outstanding bill of 20 W from the J."

"The J doesn't exist. I don't owe you anything." Ken grinned-- this was a familiar game.

"Doesn't work that way, Ken. I'm the J and I still exist."

"Well, Ken Washio declared bankruptcy some time ago. Besides, there was a little matter of dying and coming back to life in the interim. I say that cancels all debts."

"And you're God, of course?"

"You only noticed now?"

Jinpei said, "If you got married, you wouldn't have to worry about it anymore." He grinned. They didn't.

Ken glared. "Jinpei, you're not 9 anymore. There's such a thing as 'tact'."

"Oh, yeah. That! I remember learning about that once."

"It's not funny, Jinpei!"

"Okay, okay, sorry. I just think it would be a good idea."

"Jinpei," Jun said, somewhat sadly, "what you think really has no bearing one way or another."

The twins suddenly broke into a fistfight over who got the last Coke. Jun saw Joe striding purposefully over to them. "Oh, no!" she shouted, and ran to intercept him.


"Thank God," Joe muttered. "Alatan Katse finally did something right for once."

Ken went around the side of the truck to answer it. He came back and said quietly, "We have to abort. Galactor's attacking the city of Denver."

"Oh, no!" Jun said.

Joe grinned. "Actually, I'd rather be doing that than this," he said. "For the first time in my life, Galactor actually attacked at the right time."

"No, it hasn't!" Jun snapped. "If you don't care about the money, why don't you go deal with Galactor, and I'll take the party?"

Ken was looking at her. "Actually, that idea has some merit," he said slowly. "We can't exactly tell these people we're the Science Ninja Team and we have to go save the planet. The last time this happened, we had Ryu to take care of the party while we went on the mission. We can't do that this time. And it wouldn't be the first time we went into battle shorthanded... All right. Jun, Jinpei, you stay here and nursemaid the party until we get back. If we need help, we'll call and then you abort. Until then, tell them we're scouting up ahead."

"Right," Jun said.

"Why me?" Jinpei asked. "I'd rather fight Galactor than fool around here."

The reason was that Ken thought Dave needed the battle experience, and he thought someone should be with Jun, but he wasn't going to say that. "Jinpei, don't question me. You're here."

He turned to Joe and Dave. "Let's go."

The mecha was the usual kind, an animal-shaped digging mecha with the name Moruhoru stenciled on the side. "Mole Hole?" David asked disbelievingly.

"It's probably a combination of English and Japanese," Ken said. "You know horu means to dig..."

"Oh, right. Mole digs. See-and-say. Galactor kindergarten."

"Let's see how the Bird Missiles work on this one," Joe said.

"Okay," Ken said, nodding. "Take her in, Dave."

"Got it."

"Firing the Bird Missiles!"

The missiles penetrated the mecha and blew it to bits before it had time to do more than spit dirt at them.

There was a silence. Then Joe said, slowly, "Wait a minute. It couldn't have been that easy."

Ken looked at him. "I think you're right. Let's fly around for a while, see what happens."

Nothing happened.

"Well," Dave suggested, "either Alatan had an off day when she had this thing built, or it was supposed to distract us from something else."

"Shimatta!" Ken shouted suddenly. "Full speed, back to Utoland! I want to check on Dr. Nambu!"

"You want to what?" Dave asked, obeying. "Why?"

Ken looked over at Joe. "Do you remember-- no, you weren't there. The day we unmasked Berg Katse, he'd kidnapped Dr. Nambu by distracting us with really pathetic remote control mecha. Alatan already tried to kidnap the Doctor once-- and we know she likes to do things her father did."

"I'll try to contact him!" Joe said, moving over to Jun's console. "Director Nambu, this is Phoenix Reborn. Please come in!"

"Right here." Nambu's face appeared on the screen. "What seems to be the problem?"

A cold feeling settled in the pit of Ken's stomach. "Doctor, can you just answer me a question?"

"Certainly," Nambu said, sounding puzzled.

"What did you get Jinpei for his sixteenth birthday?"

"A car, wasn't it?"

"No, I mean what did you get him, specifically? Before we all chipped in on the car?"

"Oh. Boxing gloves. Ken, why is that important?"

Ken breathed a sigh of relief. "I had to make sure you weren't Alatan, Doctor," he said. "We thought-- This mission was too easy. We were afraid it might be a cover for something else."

"Well, thank you for your concern. I'll keep my emergency beeper on just in case, and we'll watch to see if Galactor is trying anything anywhere else." His image vanished.

"Let's go back to the others," Ken said. It had been two hours since they'd left, and almost all of that had been travel time. "Call them, Joe."

"Phoenix Reborn to G-3, G-4. Come in."

No response.

"G-3! G-4! Respond! Can you answer? Jun! Jinpei!"

No response.

"They're in trouble."

Jun and Jinpei led the bickering twins, shouting father and bitchy mother along one of the side trails, and Jinpei spotted something odd. "Onechan, that looks like a secret entrance," he said.

He said it a bit too loudly. "What is this, a spy thriller?" one of the twins drawled.

"Where's your sense of adventure?" their father bellowed cheerfully. "A secret entrance, huh, son?" he asked Jinpei. "Let's check it out!"

If it was Galactor, the last thing Jun wanted was to have her 6,000-Worldmark-worth clients poking around. "I don't think it's a good idea," she said.

"Doesn't it say on your charter you'll guide us anywhere?" Muffy asked sweetly.


"We're paying enough money!" Bruce said. "You'd damn well better take us where we want to go!"

"Okay," Jinpei said, "follow me!" And he was off.

"Jinpei!" Jun ran after him, as Bruce yelled, "Slow down!"

"What do you think you're doing?" Jun asked, quietly but savagely. "If that's a Galactor base--"

"It isn't," Jinpei said with authority. "The camouflage job's too rotten. It might be an abandoned Galactor base, though."

"What if you're wrong? I won't allow you to jeopardize these innocent people's lives!"

"Not to mention their money."

Jun flushed, but said nothing-- Bruce and his sons had caught up with them.

They began exploring the cave, Muffy complaining of the damp and the smell of bat droppings everywhere. It became quickly apparent that Jinpei was right-- this had been a Galactor base, but it obviously wasn't anymore. The garish colors indicated a leftover from Gel Sadra's time. Bruce, not realizing it was a former Galactor installation, began spinning dreams of abandoned vaults and bomb shelters from WWIII. "Maybe we're in an old wing of NORAD!" he enthused, and Jun refrained from telling him that NORAD was nearly 200 miles south of here.

Suddenly doors slammed shut. "Shimatta!" Jinpei shouted, as Jun thought, panicked, Oh my God it is an active base!!

Then a man's voice boomed over a staticky intercom. "You're in the hands of the Black Death Pirate Band! Prepare to surrender your valuables or your lives!"

The Black Death Pirate Band? Jun nearly burst out laughing. Their clients were not so unimpressed. "Come out and show yourselves!" Bruce shouted, his voice shaking. "We're not afraid of you!"

"Bruce, no!" Muffy said, as the boys clung to her in terror.

The Black Death Pirate Band-- or at least a few sample representatives-- came in through another door. They were filthy, dressed in rags, all ugly and many deformed, and the machine guns they carried were dulled with rust.

"Please leave this to us," Jun whispered.

"Well?" one of the men demanded. "Give us what you have!"

"O-okay," Jun said, putting a tremble into her voice. Just let them come closer--

"Wait a minute," Bruce shouted. "We're not just going to knuckle under to these bullies!"

The Black Death Pirates raised guns. "Are you going to give us what we want, or do we shoot you?" their spokesman asked.

There could be no adequate battle plan with idiots like Bruce and family to protect, Jun realized. "Do as they say," she said. "Unless you want to get shot?"

"Just do it, Bruce!" Muffy moaned, peeling off her wristwatch and other accoutrements.

"Your watches, too!" the pirates ordered Jun and Jinpei.

Oh, damn. They couldn't call the others without their bracelets. Jun glared at Jinpei until he handed his over.

They were marched to a cell and locked in for "later disposition". Muffy was wailing. "You're our guides! How could you let this happen? We thought you were reliable!"

Jun ignored her for the moment. "All right, Jinpei. I'll break us out and get these idiots to safety," she said in rapid Japanese, which she was reasonably sure these people didn't speak fluently. "You find our stuff and retrieve it. Meet me outside."


Jun took explosive plastique out of her shoe, lined the door with it, and ordered everyone, "Back! And huddle!"

"What're you trying to do?" Bruce asked belligerently.

"Get us out of here. Do it!" She ended up having to shove them before she could blow up the door safely.

Once it was exploded, Jun said, "All right. We at Free Bird are also experts at getting out of situations like this. But you have to take my orders without questioning. Jinpei's going to go get our things, and I'm going to get you all out of here. I know what I'm doing. So just listen to me, and no one will get hurt."

"Do you run into a lot of pirate bands?" one of the twins asked.

"It happens. No more questions. Let's go!"

She led them through the mostly abandoned Galactor base and out into the sunlight again. There were no mishaps, mostly because Jun kicked anyone who tried to talk or question her. As they moved away from the base, Jinpei came out, running, with a grocery sack in his hands.

"Here's everything," he panted. "Get away!"

"Get away-- what??" Jun asked. "Jinpei, you didn't!"

"It's gonna blow! Everyone back!"

They cleared the nearest hillock and waited. The base exploded spectacularly.

"You didn't need to do that," Jun reproached Jinpei. He grinned.

"I know I didn't. But it made me feel better."

Jun would have replied to that-- Jinpei's attitude toward killing disturbed her-- but Muffy began to have hysterics. "I want to go home," she sobbed. "I hate this trip, I want to go home."

Not after all this! Jun thought. I won't lose that money! "Certainly we'll take you home, if that's what you want," she said. "But if you abort the trip, you pay in full to cover our expenses and time."

Bruce glared. "That's not what it says in your charter!" he shouted. "It says, if the trip is aborted, we get a full refund of our down payment and we don't have to pay anything!"

"That's if we abort the trip," Jun said. "The passage you're quoting says, 'If we are forced to abort the trip due to no fault of the client, we will pay a full refund of all monies.' I know-- I wrote it. But if you abort the trip, we get our time paid for."

"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in my life!" Bruce said.

"We take credit card," Jun offered helpfully. "I'll take your payment now if you like."

"Why the hell should I have to pay at all?"

"Because your dear wife wants to go home. And we won't take you unless you pay us the rest of the 6,000 W," Jun replied.

"Just pay her, Bruce," Muffy wept. "I just want this nightmare to be over."

Grumbling and swearing, Bruce handed over his credit card, and Jun took 6,000 off it with a stamping device.

Phoenix Reborn skimmed overhead suddenly. "Wow! They're back early!" Jinpei said to Jun.

"I hope nothing's wrong," Jun said. "Get our communicators out of that bag." To the family she said, "Okay, we're going home. Everyone can get packed."

Ken pulled up in a jeep. "Where were you?" he asked. "We thought something happened!"

"Something did, but we took care of it," Jun said. "They want to go home now."

"What happened?"

"We got attacked by the Black Death Pirate Band."

"So that's what Galactor was doing!"

"Galactor? No, these guys were really pathetic, Ken. They only gave us some minor inconvenience, but Muffy got really upset, so she wants to go home. Why did you get back so fast?"

"We blew up the mecha with one missile," Ken said, shaking his head. "I was sure Galactor must have been trying to distract us, but..."

"Jun! They're ready to go home now!" Jinpei shouted.

"Okay, let's go!"

Jun felt like cheering. The Galactor threat was defeated, the trip from hell was cut short, and she had the 6,000 Worldmarks in her hand! Nightclub, here I come, she thought, and began entertaining various possibilities for a name as they flew back to Utoland.

Alatan was with a man from Psych and Morale, getting her first lesson, when the report came in that Moruhoru had been destroyed. She acknowledged it and told the one reporting to tell Galliente. Then she had all her calls, except for emergencies, rerouted to Galliente. It would be a shame to interrupt her lessons, after all.