Chapter 5:

The Ninja and the External Hard Drive

I Work in the Anime Industry and Everybody Hates Me!

Liam walked himself through one final check of his belongings and equipment.Bookmark here

Black tights: check.Bookmark here

Black long-sleeved shirt: check.Bookmark here

Traditional Japanese tabi shoes: check.Bookmark here

Black fanny pack: check.Bookmark here

A T-shirt wrapped around the head like a ninja mask: check.Bookmark here

He had considered adding in his anime ninja headband, but headbands like those were for amateurs. Liam was a professional.Bookmark here

Satisfied he had everything he needed on his person, including what he had packed away in his fanny pack, he walked out of his room to begin his mission. He was certain no one had ever done anything so clever in the history of… ever. His plan couldn’t fail.Bookmark here

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Joy had spent the majority of her first two days of the work week going back over all the proper terminology used in the series Monster Elementary, a show that Toon Motion Studios had done the localization for a handful of years ago. Since the prequel series, Monster Nursery, was her upcoming project that would be due later this week, it was going to be important to ensure that the terminology remained consistent between both series. Obviously, it’s not that she didn’t trust the translator to do her job. Far from it. However, she had found that translation was much more of an art than a science. What many fans did not understand (especially those who did not speak any other languages aside from English) was that translation isn’t as simple as just taking a word in Japanese and making it English. It also involves taking care to pay attention to the intent of the writer or the speaker. And for that reason, several different translators could look at the same script and all come up with very similar yet different translations, and none of them would technically be considered to be “wrong”.Bookmark here

So by the time the translation for episode one of Monster Nursery finally reached Joy’s hands (which was expected by about Thursday), she would just need to make sure that whatever terminology the translator used ended up matching what Toon Motion had chosen to use before in the past. There was a short style guide that she had found on the servers in a folder specifically for Monster Elementary which listed a handful of proper terms. It included character names, a school name, and some specific types of monsters, though Joy figured it’d be in her best interest to ensure that nothing else was missing.

As she sat at her workstation and watched the old episodes, she opened up a separate notepad file and documented any other important proper terms that she thought might be necessary to refer back to later. Some characters seemed to have some kind of special abilities unique only to themselves. When those came up, she notated exactly how they were spelled and whether or not they were capitalized.Bookmark here

But she had to admit, this was a lot of anime to sit with for a long period of time, even for somebody who generally enjoyed watching anime. Just hours of the same thing over and over again. Joy wondered how much she was actually going to enjoy working on Monster Nursery. The characters in Monster Elementary were already really young kids! Now they’re going to be babies?! It was hard to imagine the content getting even more childish than it already was. In fact, this season’s target audience might be even younger than the first season’s was.Bookmark here

Thankfully, she was able to catch some breaks to do other types of work. The video files for Monster Nursery had already been digitally delivered from the Japanese animation studio. Now, one of Joy’s additional tasks included formatting it so that it could be used to help the audio team prepare to dub the show into English. In general they were little steps, but they were very important ones. Part of the details involved making sure there was a time code running at the top of the video, while the Japanese voices were isolated away from the music and sound effects to make it easier to hear what needed to be replaced in English. In the case of Monster Nursery, there were also some songs sung specifically by the characters in the show. Toon Motion decided that they would also be recreating the song in English, so Joy would have to wait for the studio to send them the raw materials for the song so that they could re-record the audio for the English dub.Bookmark here

But it only kept her so busy before she just ended up getting back to watching more Monster Elementary and taking notes. Honestly, she wished she could just get to work timing those English subtitles for the new show, but there was nothing she could do about it until the translation made it to her inbox.Bookmark here

But then, that was when she was given a new task.Bookmark here

An e-mail hit Joy’s inbox from Compass Productions. They were sending along some early materials from the upcoming show Justice Hero Knight Lancer. Included in the e-mail was a trailer to be translated into English, the official script for episode one, and an early animatic. The animatic was something like a really rough version of the final episode. The art was not necessarily complete or even fully colored in or animated fully, and not all of the music or sound effects were put in place yet. Aside from that, though, it’s something that could be very easy to get started working to translate. It would be very useful in giving Toon Motion an edge and would hopefully allow them to be done relatively early.Bookmark here

Joy grabbed an unused external hard drive off the hard drive library shelf and downloaded the files to the hard drive. Once she was done, she sent a return e-mail to the studio letting them know they had safely acquired the files. At this point, she figured they would probably need to be sent to different departments to begin working on them. Joy then looked across the room to see who she could ask for help.Bookmark here

“Hey, Lisa, you busy right now?”Bookmark here

Lisa looked up from her workstation. “I’m mostly ahead on my work. What’cha got?”

“We just had some files for Justice Hero Knight Lancer come in. You think you could make some work videos from these and send them off to audio and the translator?”Bookmark here

“Oh, wow, they’re really ahead of the game this time. Yeah, no prob. I’ll go ahead and get started.”Bookmark here

Joy walked the hard drive over to Lisa’s desk. “Thanks a ton, Lisa. What are you working on right now, anyway?”Bookmark here

“Oh, well, you know how Choose Me Instead of Him got approved for that television broadcast slot? I was just working on the TV edits of the opening and ending animations.”Bookmark here

These television edits were especially important and unique. American television had different regulations from broadcast television, on top of also spending more air time on commercial breaks. For Choose Me Instead of Him, there was little worry that there was anything wrong with the content of the show that wouldn’t get approved by network executives, but because of commercial breaks, Japanese shows by nature tended to run just slightly longer than American shows do. For that reason, Lisa had been busy carefully crafting shorter versions of the opening and ending themes of the show that could be aired on television without cutting into the actual content of the show. It was a pretty thankless job. Nobody really gets any pleasure trimming down the cool animation and exciting music of a great anime show, especially not the fans. Unfortunately, thanks to television broadcasting, there was nothing that could be done about these requirements.Bookmark here

Joy chuckled to herself. “You know, I think the TV edits are really fun to work on, but the fans sure don’t end up giving us any fair credit for the work we have to do on them.”Bookmark here

“Well, that doesn’t matter to me any!” Lisa smiled. “Those fans only wish they had a job as cool as ours.”Bookmark here

“That’s true!”Bookmark here

“Anyway, I’ll get started on these production videos and then go put the hard drive away.”Bookmark here

“Thanks, Lisa!”Bookmark here

On her way back to her desk, Joy was stopped by Tom, the other caption editor in the office.Bookmark here

“Yo, Joy! Did you hear the news?”Bookmark here

She thought for a second, but couldn’t think of anything especially remarkable that she’d heard about as of late.Bookmark here

“No, what’s going on?”Bookmark here

“C’mere and check this out!”Bookmark here

Joy circled around to Tom’s desk where he had an article from a pop culture news site on his screen. A header image featured impressively detailed manga art portraying a young martial artist surrounded by swirling waves of light and energy. The headline read, “Popular Manga The Legend of Kick Fist to Receive Anime Adaptation.” She barely got a chance to look any further into the article before Tom continued his enthusiastic excitement.Bookmark here

“This is huge! The Legend of Kick Fist is currently one of the most widely-read manga in the world! Have you been reading it?”Bookmark here

Joy shook her head. “No, I haven’t found the time to pick up anything new recently. Is it good?”Bookmark here

“Good? It’s only one of the coolest series coming out this generation! Yusuke Hamura’s writing and art are magnificent. It’s no wonder it’s become as popular as it is.”Bookmark here

Joy kept an eye on the screen and read over the article as quickly as she could manage. The story apparently featured a young man on a quest to help create a paradise on Earth, and the only way he knew how to create that paradise was to become the strongest warrior alive. Not only that, but he would need to learn all possible martial arts techniques in order to create one brand new style all his own to ensure he could not possibly be outmatched. Thus begins the legend of Kick Fist.Bookmark here

To Joy, it didn’t sound especially unlike any other shonen-style story she’d ever read before, but it also didn’t sound unentertaining. She was fairly disappointed that she hadn’t heard much about it before now, though. Perhaps she really had been focused so hard on working with anime as of late that she had been ignoring what was going on in the manga side of the Japanese entertainment world.Bookmark here

“Huh,” she pondered out loud. “Is it popular enough that it’s likely one of our American studios will get the chance to localize it?”
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“Oh, there’s no way we won’t be getting it. There’s entirely too much money to be made by whoever ends up with it. You can only hope it’s gonna be us! But it’s definitely gonna be a tough bidding war between our studios, that’s for sure. Man, I hope we get to work on this! I’ve been keeping up with it every week, and I can’t wait to see how they animate those fight sequences!”Bookmark here

Joy was glad that Toon Motion had a guy like Tom on the team. It was obvious how much he still loved anime, no matter how much working in the medium might burn some other team members out over time. In fact, his excitement was incredibly infectious. Joy told herself to keep a mental note about The Legend of Kick Fist and to seek out the manga at her next convenience. It had been quite some time since she had last sat down with a good manga just to enjoy it.

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Liam, fully clad in his all-black attire, peeked through the bushes at the front entrance of Toon Motion Studios. His careful timing and planning were going to pay off this time, he was sure of it.Bookmark here

He waited patiently, keeping his eyes on the front door, waiting for his opportunity.Bookmark here

After a few minutes, the on-site translator Minato walked out the entrance. After weeks of studying, Liam knew this was approximately the time Minato would take his lunch every day out of habit. The ninja watched as the translator took his security badge and placed it in his back pocket. He then rounded the corner around the bush in front of the building to walk to his favorite nearby restaurant. With Liam still silently hidden in the shrubbery, he quietly picked Minato’s pocket as he walked by, grabbing the coveted security badge. Success, Liam thought to himself. Stage one completed, totally undetected.Bookmark here

Having the badge to enter the building wasn’t going to be enough, however. Anyone inside the building would be able to tell that Liam was not, in fact, Minato. Thankfully, he already knew which routes he would be taking to avoid being seen by on-site employees, but there was still the tricky business of the door camera.Bookmark here

But the T-shirt ninja was well prepared for all obstacles. Even the simplest tools could be used to accomplish his task. From his fanny pack, he produced a simple slingshot toy and a paintball from a paintball gun. He had been practicing his aim for weeks on simple targets in his backyard. There was no way he could miss.Bookmark here

Liam closed one eye, carefully lined up his aim, and then released his slingshot, paintball flying through the air. Splat! A direct hit! A dark blue paint coated the lens of the door camera, giving him the freedom to approach the door.Bookmark here

The young man whispered to himself out loud as he tiptoed as quickly and quietly as he could up to the entrance. “Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky, sneaky, sneaky!” He never gave a second thought that perhaps speaking aloud might at any point actually end up giving himself away.Bookmark here

Liam took Minato’s security badge and scanned it over the door. Click! Success! He was inside Toon Motion headquarters. Now came a whole new set of challenges.Bookmark here

The front desk had a blind spot around a corner a short distance from the door. Liam would be able to use this to his advantage to keep moving forward undetected. In a move that quite frankly was in no way, shape, or form as sneaky as Liam believed himself to be, he barrel rolled himself in a zig-zag fashion back and forth across the hallway until he reached the corner with the receptionist manning the front desk. The woman behind the desk was busy filling out spreadsheets on her computer workstation and had just finished taking a call.Bookmark here

The young misguided ninja took note of a cup full of pens and pencils sitting on her desk, and once again pulled out his slingshot. This time, he also pulled a light marble from his fanny pack, then took aim for the cup. Again, after carefully lining up his shot, he let the marble fly.Bookmark here

Smack! The marble clacked into the cup, knocking it clean off the desk, writing utensils clattering all over the floor at the receptionist’s feet. The woman let out a short yelp of shock and surprise. “Oh my God, what on Earth?” She halted everything she was doing to get out of her chair and crawl on her hands and knees to collect everything scattered across the ground.Bookmark here

Liam took advantage of her confusion to tuck and roll several more times across the ground and past her desk. “Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky, sneaky!” He was lucky she was far too busy cleaning up the mess and asking herself how this could have happened to have ever been able to hear him whispering to himself as he tumbled past her.Bookmark here

His next obstacle was the break room. It was one of the few things he had been unable to account for in all of his planning. There was no way he could know the schedules of every odd person within the building as they went on their breaks. Sure enough, inside the small room were two men casually conversing with each other at a small round table, eating snacks purchased from the vending machine at the end of the room next to the refrigerator. Best case scenario, the coworkers would be too distracted talking to each other over their break to notice Liam moving past the door.Bookmark here

But just as he was about to sneaky-roll past the break room door, the two men stood up from the table and began walking toward the door. Oh, no! This was the worst scenario! Liam couldn’t go backward. Surely by this point, the receptionist would have been nearly sitting back up in her chair to continue her work, and if he moved forward the two men now leaving the break room would surely see him. And in his moment of terror, he found he could do absolutely nothing. He froze.Bookmark here

Liam pressed himself hard up against the wall, flattening himself as much as he could physically manage, too nervous to even breathe. A bead of sweat formed under the T-shirt wrapped around his forehead, as the two men stepped outside the room and rounded the corner.Bookmark here

“Well, back to the old grindstone.”

“Right? The work’s not gonna do itself, after all.”Bookmark here

...And they just breezed right past Liam without ever noticing he was there.Bookmark here

Once he realized the coworkers had rounded the corner and weren’t within view anymore, Liam finally took the chance to exhale all the air he’d unwittingly been holding in. Then, he became overly confident in his capabilities. Heh, looks like the blood of the shinobi runs through my veins after all! No such blood had ever been in his family’s bloodline at any point in history.Bookmark here

Liam continued his zig-zagged sneaky rolls down the hall and past a large room filled with desk manned by the video staff working away on their own individual projects. He deftly avoided being seen by anyone in this room as he, “Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky” whispered his way down to the next door⁠—his final destination.Bookmark here

Lisa had just finished transferring the materials she needed from the external hard drive that Joy had passed to her a little earlier in the day, so she arose from her desk and carried the drive into the next room, where the team stored used hard drives for specific projects. In the storage room, used a label maker to print a sticker saying “JUSTICE HERO KNIGHT LANCER” and carefully applied the sticker directly to the hard drive case. She then placed the drive onto a shelf amongst a number of other similar hard drives, then turned back and returned to the adjoining room to grab her hand bag at her desk and leave the building for her lunch break.Bookmark here

Liam had watched all of this from the hallway entrance to the storage room. Lisa had never seen his watchful eyes. For him, however, this was it. His moment of truth. He now had his eyes on the prize.Bookmark here

The absurd self-proclaimed shinobi barrel rolled his way into the storage room and approached the shelves full of external hard drives. He ran a finger across the spines of the hard drives and read their labels to himself. Some of these hard drives were storing extremely valuable anime titles, some of which were at least a decade old. As tempting a prize as these were, these were not his goal today. His eyes finally stopped right where Lisa had stored the most recent drive⁠—”JUSTICE HERO KNIGHT LANCER”.Bookmark here

“Drive Get,” Liam whispered confidently to himself. It didn’t matter to him that he’d just spoken poor English grammar out loud. He’d heard it spoken in an anime once, so it felt cool and correct for him to say it at this specific moment. Liam tucked the hard drive under his arm and slowly made his way out the door. He had already made it this far, and was confident that it would be just as easy to leave with the goods as it was for him to get inside.Bookmark here

Moments later, Ajeet from the tech team entered the storage room to grab the freshly-used hard drive with the Justice Hero Knight Lancer materials. He’d received an e-mail from Lisa saying the drive was ready for whoever might have needed it, but for the life of him, he just couldn’t locate it amongst the rest of the drives. In his frustration, he walked back into the adjoining video department room.Bookmark here

“Hey, guys, has anybody seen Lisa?”Bookmark here

Tim perked his head up from his desk. “Hmm? Oh, I think she just barely went to lunch.”

“Oh, yeah? Did she happen to mention anything about the Knight Lancer hard drive?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, actually. Didn’t the materials just come in for that show?”Bookmark here

“That’s right, and supposedly she left the hard drive with the materials on the shelf in the storage room, but I don’t see it anywhere.”Bookmark here

“Huh.” Tim pondered for a moment on what could have happened between Lisa receiving the hard drive and now. “Well, I can’t say I actually physically saw her myself. I’ve been focusing on my own projects.”Bookmark here

Ajeet crossed his arms over his chest. “Well, I’m not super concerned at the moment or anything, since we got the materials so early, but I just don’t like the idea of there being a hard drive unaccounted for even for a short amount of time.” He then looked across the room and noticed Joy’s desk was also empty. “Wasn’t Joy the one who put the raw materials from the Japanese studio on the hard drive in the first place?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I did see her give that hard drive to Lisa at least.”

“Where did she go? She’s not at lunch, too, is she?”

Tim shook his head. “No, she said she was gonna be right back. I’m pretty sure she just took a bathroom break, is all.”

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Joy had just finished washing her hands and had moved on to cleaning her glasses. The work of the day was a little monotonous, but she had to admit, she was still glad that this was her job. Even if the weekend had been a bit rough, her conversation with Ryan yesterday had reignited her enthusiasm to do what she loved.Bookmark here

“Well, back to it, then!”Bookmark here

She pulled the restroom door open, and just as she stepped outside—BAM! She found herself colliding with another person in the hall, someone who had been moving with great urgency. It was more than just bad timing. The person she walked into had been walking directly up against the wall, to the point where it seemed unnatural to be walking that near to it without choosing to do so deliberately. Bookmark here

The two of them yelped and simultaneously fell to the floor. Instinctively, Joy checked her glasses to be certain they were still on her face and weren’t scratched, smudged, or worse. She’d lost too many pairs of glasses from similar accidents. Once she was satisfied that her vision was safe (for now), she looked over to the person who’d crashed into her.Bookmark here

Who is this? she thought to herself. I know I work in anime, but why is there a dollar-store ninja walking through the building?Bookmark here

The man clad in a tacky combination of all-black clothes and accessories gasped. He had been spotted, and by the worst possible person he could have run into! He sensed his mission was in danger. In a panic, the young ninja looked left, then looked right, and realized the hard drive he had pilfered had gotten a few feet away from him.Bookmark here

Joy groaned as she got to her feet. She was irritated that the man had slammed into her, but decided it wasn’t worth getting too upset over. She even decided to check on the very person who she believed caused the accident, even if he was some weird bootleg ninja.Bookmark here

“Hey, sorry about that. Are you okay?” As she leaned in to help the man stand up, she then noticed the hard drive. That was when she noticed the label: “JUSTICE HERO KNIGHT LANCER”.Bookmark here

“Oh. Did you pick this up from Lisa?” To the ninja’s dismay, Joy reached down and picked the hard drive up before he could get to it. “Well, I guess somebody in the audio team is probably going to need this. If you’re hurt, I’ll take it down there for you—”Bookmark here

The shadowed man leaped up from the floor and put his hands on the hard drive. It was too late. He had been spotted. At the very least, Joy hadn’t yet realized who she was talking to. All he could do at this point was grab the hard drive from her and make haste back out the front door.Bookmark here

“No!” the man shouted in a panic. “I have it under control! I’ll take care of it!”Bookmark here

Joy sensed something was off. She kept her hands gripped tightly to the hard drive. “Well, maybe you should at least take a seat in the break room before you do anything else. I’ll walk you down there.”Bookmark here

“Nope! I’m all good! Right as rain!” The ninja shouted in response, now tugging slightly on the drive. Alarm bells went off in Joy’s head.
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“You know, I insist. I worked on the files on this hard drive earlier, and it should be me who delivers it to whoever needs it! Now, who exactly is in need of the drive right now?”Bookmark here

“Uh… Jeff!”Bookmark here

“Jeff…? Jeff who?”Bookmark here

“Jeff the… intern?”Bookmark here

“Our intern’s name is Rosemary!”Bookmark here

“Yeah! Exactly! Uh, Jeff Rosemary the intern!”Bookmark here

“There’s nobody here by that name! What are you talking about?”Bookmark here

That was the moment Ajeet rounded the corner. “Hey! What’s going on out here?”Bookmark here

Joy looked over her shoulder. “Ajeet! Do you know this guy? He keeps mentioning some intern named Jeff. We didn’t hire a Jeff, did we?”Bookmark here

Ajeet then looked down at what the two people in the hall were fighting over. His eyes widened when he realized it was the very same hard drive he had just been looking for.Bookmark here

“Joy! Get me that hard drive!”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“I was just looking for that! Who is this guy and why is he fighting you for it?”Bookmark here

The great shinobi sensed his plan was in grave danger, and with one hand he reached into his fanny pack and removed a small palm-sized smoke grenade he’d purchased at a fireworks stand several months ago.Bookmark here

“NINJA VANISH!” Yanking the hard drive violently out of Joy’s hands, he tugged the pull string on the smoke bomb and threw it to the floor. A thin veil of white smoke began pouring out of the tiny pyrotechnic and filling the hall. Though, to be fair, it wasn’t doing a very good job of concealing him. Despite this, it was just enough of a distraction for him to begin running back towards the entrance of the building.Bookmark here

Ajeet waved his hand in front of his face in an attempt to clear some of the irritating fog from his vision. “Joy, that’s sensitive material on that hard drive! We can’t let him get away!”Bookmark here

Joy responded with a hard affirming nod. “Right! Let’s go!”Bookmark here

This was not the day that either of these coworkers were expecting. Chasing a T-shirt ninja through the halls of the office to prevent him from removing a hard drive with sensitive client material from the building was not on their list of duties as employees, and yet here they were. They chased him past the break room, where a handful of employees looked up from their conversations to see the commotion in the hall. They barreled past the front desk, where the receptionist was only just now for the first time realizing there was a stranger in the building.Bookmark here

“Hey, call the cops! We have a robbery!” Joy shouted as she and Ajeet rounded the corner after the man dressed in all black.Bookmark here

“Oh, my! Yes, right away!” She dialed the emergency number while the three runners burst out the front door.Bookmark here

Minato was just coming back from the restaurant and was carrying a to-go bag and a drink in a disposable cup and lid. That’s when he finally saw the ninja racing past him. He still hadn’t yet noticed that this very same ninja had stolen his security badge. As the black-clad man whooshed by, Minato thought to himself, I don’t remember anything at the meeting about a visit from a ninja this week.Bookmark here

Ajeet was slightly ahead of Joy and hadn’t yet seen Minato outside the door. By that point it was too late, and with a sickening smack, the tech team member had collided with the translator at full speed, knocking them both to the sidewalk. Minato’s bag of take-out flew into the air, and his drink cup splattered on the ground.Bookmark here

“Minato, what are you doing here?! We’re gonna lose him!”Bookmark here

“Me? I’m coming back from lunch! You at least owe me a whole new drink! I was really looking forward to that!”Bookmark here

Joy was quickly coming up on the two of them. “Watch out!”Bookmark here

She couldn’t go around them quickly enough. Without any thought, she put all of her strength into jumping over the two men arguing on the pavement. They both gasped as they looked overhead, never having previously realized she could run or jump so well with such little response time.Bookmark here

Even Joy wasn’t sure where her burst of energy was coming from. If the hard drive was in the wrong hands, it could be leaked onto the internet long before it was ever meant to be, and trust between Toon Motion Studios and Compass Productions could be destroyed forever. It could even give them a reputation within the industry that they couldn't be trusted with the security of sensitive data. It could ruin the company entirely. Bookmark here

There was not a reality in which Joy was not going to get that hard drive back!Bookmark here

A sudden burst of energy surged through Joy’s muscles, and although the ninja was fairly far down the sidewalk, she could tell the distance between them was closing. Bookmark here

The man being pursued gripped the hard drive tight, looking briefly over his shoulder. Holy crap! Joy was way faster than he gave her credit for! In fact, he wasn’t sure he was going to be able to stay ahead of her for much longer.Bookmark here

That was when he approached an intersection. The pedestrian sign was blinking, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long. In fact, it was already counting down the seconds before he wouldn’t be able to cross anymore. The ninja pushed himself as hard as he could, desperately trying to make the light in hopes that he would put distance between himself and Joy when traffic started moving again.Bookmark here

He was too late.Bookmark here

But he went for it anyway.Bookmark here

The man leaped into the first lane, still hoping he could beat the oncoming cars. A van came hurtling through the intersection, just barely able to catch a glimpse of the man in dark clothes darting in front of him. He threw his fist into his steering wheel, laying heavily down on his horn, as he slammed as hard as he could onto his brakes.Bookmark here

The ninja found himself spooked by the blaring sound of the van’s horn and the squealing of tires. Like a deer in headlights (or, honestly, like just some idiot) he froze directly in the path of the van. He shut his eyes tight, bracing himself for impact.Bookmark here

When the impact came, it wasn’t what he expected. It came from behind, pushing him to the other side of the road, slamming him to the pavement as he clutched the prized hard drive to his chest.Bookmark here

His eyes shot wide open, and he realized he had not, in fact, been hit by a van and traveled to another dimension where he would be rewarded with hot young women and magical powers. Instead, he looked up to see Joy bracing herself above him, panting as hard as she could manage. Had she saved him from certain death…?Bookmark here

Even if that’s what she had done, saving him, to her, was simply a byproduct of trying to catch him and recover the hard drive. She was furious. She lifted herself up a few inches and then sat herself down on the ninja’s abdomen with all of her weight to prevent him from getting any further away. The young man gasped, eyes widening, and instinctually released the hard drive from his grasp, allowing Joy to rip it away from him.Bookmark here

He had failed his sacred mission.Bookmark here

Still gasping for breath, Joy managed to huff out a few words to the would-be thief.Bookmark here

“You really thought… we were gonna let you… get away with this, huh?”Bookmark here

With one hand she readjusted her glasses, pushing them up the bridge of her nose. The sunlight glinted across the glass, and for the first time, the ninja was truly afraid of Joy. Using the same hand, she then thrust her hand onto the young man’s head and gripped at the T-shirt wrapped around his face.Bookmark here

“Now… we’re gonna find out… exactly who you are!”Bookmark here

In one dramatic pull, the sleeves of the shirt untied themselves from behind the man’s head. He quickly tried to hide his face with his hands, but he knew it was already too late.Bookmark here

The recognition set in instantly. Joy gasped, then furrowed her brow and gritted her teeth.Bookmark here

“It’s you… Liam!”Bookmark here

For the first time since meeting her this weekend, Liam could not argue that he had been bested by Joy. His plan that he had worked so hard to conceive had been completely undone by this woman.Bookmark here

The two of them sat panting on the sidewalk, just taking in the series of events that had just happened, as a small crowd of pedestrians and motor vehicles alike had started forming around them. In the distance, police sirens could be heard approaching the intersection.Bookmark here

Joy was furious. She could not allow Liam to keep interrupting not only her life but her work as well—work that affected a viewing audience of untold numbers of people. She had already decided that, when the police came to pick him up yet again, she would be coming with them down to the station to get direct answers from Liam himself, rather than hoping the cops would be able to do their job to keep him where he belonged.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.