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SimGatchaman Part III

SimGatch

Taking up the story where we left off: DN-5 won't be making any records for a while. It doesn't seem to bother them, though. Princess has had the honour of being invited to their mansion and the team spend their days slacking off, since Spectra is being very quiet lately.

And into the first week of the last month before the next update: the meshes still aren't finished, which is good for a comic touch... The millionaire who bought the Galactor base to turn it into a party palace is offering the neighbourhood not only fun, but job opportunities.

Chapter 5: Home, but not happy

The team are fooling around a bit in the park when suddenly Jason's head snaps around. Could that be...



"Oh, my tired old bones. Donny, will you stop sulking?" a familiar (to Jason, anyway) voice says. Yes - it's the infamous disgraced G-Force member and defector to Spectra, Donald Wade! And his mother.



They've come to see about getting a pet. "But I don't want a dog," Donald protests in the shop. "They just eat my homework."



His mother throws up her arms in exasperation. "How about a goldfish, then?"



As she looks through the aquarium for a suitable candidate, she reflects that she didn't get this kind of choice when she was young. She would have been grateful with anything her parents allowed her to keep. Donald, with a cocky attitude that doesn't fit his age, scoops out a fish and takes it to the cash desk. "I'll have this one, please."



Feeling superfluous, Mrs Wade leaves the shop and runs into President Kane. "Oh! What a surprise!" she gasps, suddenly glad to have put on neat clothes for this trip. "And how are we doing?" Kane asks, clearly referring to that unfortunate time when Donald, desperate for income after having been dismissed from the team, accepted a job offer from Spectra. "Well," she says hesitantly, "Money's no longer a problem... but..."



"Have you seen the puppies?" she says, suddenly changing the subject. "They're so adorable. I've always wanted a puppy, it's so sad we never had the money." Kane is more of a cat person, but otherwise agrees.



When he gives the puppies a perfunctory pat, he sees, and pays his respects to, Mrs Host who runs a recreational party centre. While appearing to be a hangout for tourists of all ages, this centre is in fact very important in maintaining intergalactic peace, allowing people of all planets and races to mix and meet on neutral territory - as long as they're part of the Intergalactic Federation, of course. It's been closed for repairs. She uses the opportunity to remind him of the grand opening tomorrow.



As soon as he's home, Donald runs towards his hideout and up the stairs to the telescope on the roof, without so much as a word of thanks. "Young man," his mother says sternly at dinner, "have you been observing the Crab Nebula again?" He eats in surly silence.



Once he's off to bed, she worriedly leafs through "Dealing With Gifted Children". She thought all problems would be over once Donald came home, but he's proving increasingly unmanageable, and in her mind's eye she can see him leaving again - this time for good.



She jumps up, runs to the phone and starts dialing the number of Chief Anderson. Then she stops herself. "No.. no, that wouldn't solve anything. He needs time, that's all. Just time and the right company."



The Hosts' party centre is a big building with a hall downstairs and another one upstairs, and a small cosy restaurant in the back, which is usually crammed with customers from all walks of life, from racecar owners to computer programmers.



Today, munchies will be served in the downstairs hall. Tables and chairs have been brought in to what is usually a big empty dance floor to cater to the expected crowd.



"I'm not late, am I?" President Kane asks as he hurriedly enters. "Oh no, you're the first visitor to arrive." With a twinkle in his eye, Mr Host adds: "That means there's no one between you and the crab hors d'oeuvres - I'd say, profit from the occasion."



The other guests soon trickle in: rock stars from around the universe, wine connoisseurs, celebrities like a certain D. Carey and even good ol' Pete the pizza boy.



Since everyone is welcome here regardless of social status, Kane has brought along his secretary. My, isn't she pretty.



"It's really you - DN-5?" a visitor gasps. "Sure, as soon as we heard about the grand opening we flew here in our private jet" says the band member who never takes his sunglasses off. Possiby victims of lazy animators, two near-identical women hang around the entrance, watch the arrival of the famous rock band and talk excitedly to their friends. "So they didn't split up after all?"



The boys, of course, make a beeline for the waterpipe. The only woman in the band takes time to greet Mrs Host, who says: "So glad you could make it."



Here come two unexpected people, even if the party centre is open to all. "Oh mum, did you have to wear that dress?"



Donald, like the superior little twerp he is, tries to impress Mrs Host with his book-learning. She laughs. "Well, aren't you the infant prodigy."



Mrs Wade and the singer both have welcome gifts for their gracious hostess: flowers and chocolate. Donald turns his attention to Princess and starts bugging her about squid mechas.



Mrs Host thinks the time is ripe for a little entertainment and DJs to the lazily animated extras. She even manages to make President Kane swing.



Donald doesn't care about the music and just grabs himself a plate, one table away from the gift flowers.



Meanwhile, at the pipe, Captain Jack and the old gardener talk about agriculture and fishing - the latter is not going so well.



Princess would like to try the waterpipe too, but feels a bit shy. Noticing this, Mrs Host kindly invites her to blow some bubbles together.



This looks like a good idea to DN-5's lead singer, who responds to a similar offer from a hippie-ish woman she hasn't seen here before. Princess rubs her hands gleefully at seeing the charades box.



But she just stands and waits and waits while her idol only pays attention to the skinny dumb blonde in the short T-shirt.



Again sensing Princess's discomfort, Mrs Host starts the game by miming what might be a pussycat, a goldfish or someone skiing down an alarmingly steep slope. Donald ignores it all, blowing bubbles with the primitively dressed male companion of the tall hippie-ish woman.



Mrs Host mimes the presence of danger to help the guessing audience along. "Spectra!" they almost cry in unison. But Mrs Wade was the first to give the right answer, so now it's her turn.



The singer has gone downstairs for a piece of cake, but feels maybe she would rather go upstairs and join in the game of charades.



Mrs Wade mimes something of great beauty. "A crime-free universe?" Princess tries. "World domination?" the skinny hippie asks.



The guesses become wilder and wilder. Sunny weather? Toys (Princess's second attempt)? The singin' chick, who decided to join in after all, even tries "Spectra?" since that was the winning answer the last time. "Music," Donald says boredly. "There's nothing mum likes as much as music. Well, maybe puppies."



As it's now his turn, he mimes something that spins very quickly and demolishes Phoenixes.



"An atomic missile?" both the singin' chick and the male companion attempt, but only the hippie woman knows what mecha Donald means, and gives its name, fabrication date and specifications. "You're a smart kid," she adds. "Not everyone remembers Spectra's masterpiece."



Donald hopes to guess what she's miming, as she seems to be a cut above the company here, intellectually speaking. But her companion, who if anything is a cut below the company, guesses first.



Downstairs, Pete the pizza guy polishes off the singin' chick's abandoned piece of cake. What a change to onions, tomatoes and mozzarella.



It's late at night when the anonymous hippie woman returns home to Zoltar's "So, how'd it go?"



Chapter 6: Small world... and money makes it go round

Morning starts very early for Jinpei on his paper round; a round which, now that the Gatchaverse has been compressed into Simsville, no longer spans several countries. It's been a long time since he's been in this line of work, but the Snack J hasn't seen many customers lately. He drops a paper and heck, why not, a celebrity mag, although he doubts professor Nambu would be interested. Just then, he sees Masaki walk up. "Hello, it's Jinpei! Small world!"



And Nambu is up early, as well. "Good morning! Where's the captain of the team?" Likewise avoiding names, Masaki replies: "He's checking out a few things. He'll report to you later."



Once safely inside the house, they converse in hushed whispers. "So, should we inform the president?" "Not yet. It's too soon to draw any conclusions."



"Here it comes!" Seiyi is having a great time playing beach volleyball with the other tourists.



He's determined to enjoy his last day at the holiday resort as much as possible, although evening is already falling.



His father likewise is snatching a last bit of quality time in the hot tub with a nice old lady. "Children... They're so active. You don't have children, do you?" He leans back in the tub. "Ahhh... This is the life."



Joe, who is not a party type but still bored to death with no enemies to beat up, has gone to the party house to see what's happening there. What he sees makes him stare. "RYU?? What are you doing here, looking like a Galactor?" Ryu sighs; this is not going to be easy to explain. "I work here. I just went to Vacation Island with my family and these vacations, you know, they don't pay themselves."



"So, since the world doesn't need saving anymore, I got myself a job, and now I do housework, making beds, cleaning toilets, taking out the trash - that sort of stuff."



"You have to wear this Galactor get-up to take out the trash?" Joe storms. Ryu sighs again. "It's like a kind of maid uniform," he says apologetically. "This used to be a Galactor base, so now it's a Galactor-themed party place. Right now they're working on Devil Star suits." Joe makes a sound of disgust and turns to leave.



Going back to his work, Ryu gets support from an unexpected ally. "You don't like Gatchaman, but you're wearing their T-shirt? Lighten up, man. Have a drink."



"Drink" is language that Joe understands, so he tips one back to quiet his nerves. Surprise surprise, it's the rich kid who owns the place! And who doesn't seem so nervous any more. "It's pretty quiet here," Joe ventures. "The crowd only comes in the evening. Right now we're cleaning out the place and getting a bite while we still have time. Want some? It's on the house."



"Stick around, it's not often I get visitors before sundown. What do you like, pool? Football? I play a mean game of football." So does Joe. For the first time since the move to Simsville, he feels a teensy bit less bored.



"So tell me this," Joe says, in the heat of the game. "You're filthy rich and you'll never have to work, and still you're in the entertainment business. Why don't you just retire to the Bahamas?" His host grins. "The Bahamas get boring after a while. I want to do something with all this money, see? I want to make a difference. And I love these simple seventies anime shows, good versus evil, saving the world and all that. So I've started making and selling the stock outfits. They're a hit."



At their own, equally empty party place, Jun is watering the flowers when Jinpei brings in the final delivery: a big box for their own address.



While Jun washes the glasses, Jinpei plays on the pinball machine. As long as no one's coming over, no need for him to be in the kitchen.



At the end of the afternoon, they give up and close the place. "Open all day and not a single customer," Jun sighs. "There's only one thing left to do." "O-nee-chan!" Jinpei protests. "No buts," Jun says firmly. "I don't like this any more than you do. But how else are we going to pay the rent? And my clothes? And your toys and computer games?"



On his visit to the Snack J the next day, Ken finds it completely empty. He has a little think. Where could Jun be?



He even braves that unknown and restricted area: the ladies'. Nope, no one there.



"Too bad. And I was going to pay my tab today..."



"So, you're applying for the job... And you're even wearing helmets. Good show. I like my employees to get into the spirit of the place. Let's see, mechanical skills, cooking skills, used to working irregular hours - sounds like just the people we need, miss... Wait, I'll check the application... Doe? Jane Doe? And this is your little brother John? Welcome aboard."



"The uniform looks rather clunky on you - I'll see about getting some made in women's sizes. And, oh yes, children's sizes too. Not many people are prepared to wear the helmet, they're afraid it'll squash their hairdo. It's not as heavy as it looks, though - it's mostly polystyrene." "That explains much," Jun thinks, while Jinpei gapes at the expensive furniture.



"You can start immediately. You're on gardening and repair duty, and your little brother can man the food table. Excuse me, I think I'm wanted downstairs."



"That woman reminds me of Katze," Jinpei whispers to Jun. "Don't be silly. Katze is dead. We saw it happen."



The old Galactor base with its newly installed dancefloor feels oddly empty and depressing. Jun wonders whether she made a mistake coming here.



All Jinpei notices are the arcade machines. "Jinpei! Stop that at once, no slacking off on your first day of work!" "But oneechan, there's nothing to do yet!"



Coming in from a round of spraying the lawn, Jun sees the first guest of the day. "Mr Richman! And little Daisy Richman. Great to see you again." "Love the cosplay outfit!" the guest responds.



"Who are you?" Daisy asks the boy in the badly oversized Galactor goon uniform. "Jin- uh, John! I'm the cook. Wanna try my cookies?"



"Why hello little girl!" Jun says. "Aren't you bored with all the grownups here? No, liquor is not for little girls. Let's find something that's fun for children."



"Still bare, but great potential," Richman remarks to his business associate at the oxygen machine. "Can't wait until it gets a total makeover. Love the new rugs they've put in."



Jinpei gets ready to do what he does best: prepare snacks for the table.



As he goes about his business, he sees a very familiar face - who also sees him. "You too, huh?"



Ryu happens to see Jun as they both go downstairs at the same time. Having already seen Jinpei, he's not surprised.



"Have you seen Joe today?" Jun makes emphatic gestures of denial. "Joe? I don't know any Joe. Who are you?"



"Why did you have to act like that?" Jinpei scolds her. "Ryu is a friend. How can you pretend not to know him?"



To make amends, Jun doesn't ignore Ryu when he sits next to her. "Sorry, but I really don't want anyone to know about this. Especially Ken. Will you please keep it a secret? Oh, and my name here is Jane." Unfortunately for Jun, every word of their conversation has been overheard by someone unlikely to keep the information to himself.



"Well well," says the person in the cosplay outfit. "Aren't you looking snappy! May I have this dance?" For professional reasons, Kentaro Washio (the real article, accept no substitutes) lets himself be lured out on the dance floor.



"That's a very convincing Onna Taicho disguise you're wearing," Washio remarks. "You really did some research." "And I'm flattered to get a visit from the real thing," his partner returns. "It's not often I have a hero on the floor." Washio Sr would not have been as successful in spying on Galactor if he let such remarks faze him. "I'm surprised you recognized me with all the fakes drifting around."



His partner smiles devilishly. "What can I say... I did my research."



In Nambu's mansion, the phone rings. "There may be trouble," a familiar voice says. "Either Galactor isn't gone after all, or the neighbourhood is in the grip of an old anime sentai show junkie - I'm not sure what would be worse. I'll call you again when I have more information."



Meanwhile, the younger and larger half of the duo known as the Brokers of Darkness, specialists in murder, torture and all manner of unspeakable things, calls his companion. "Come on brother, we've got evil deeds to do."



A voice answers him from the doorstep: "In this outfit? No WAY!"



To be continued...





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