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Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/jgatchfa/public_html/forum/Sources/Load.php(225) : runtime-created function on line 3 Ghosts of the past. Part II- Code Name Cronus by Ebonyswanne
Joe has been captured by a mysterious new threat, can he escape and warn the new federation before war breaks out? He's seeking revenge for the what happened on the beach to his son Jason...
Note; Part 3 is currently being posted on AO3 archives and Fanfiction.net I
ve had trouble posting it here for now.
Part of the Rise of Spectra the third part in the full three parts series trilogy. I always finish series and stories... this one is lengthy. But combined universes take time to flesh out properly. I didn't want a rush job.
Categories:Gatchaman, Battle of the PlanetsCharacters: None Genre: Angst, Drama Story Warnings: Adult Situations Timeframe: Other Universe: Alternate Universe, Cross-Over Challenges: None Series: A Tangled Web. , Ghosts of the past Chapters: 9 Completed: Yes
Word count: 21453 Read: 1943
Published: 06/16/2017 Updated: 06/21/2017
He stared out the hospital window for the tenth time in the last half hour. Watching the birds and the open blue sky, longing for it. He pictured himself flying, bringing peace into a moment he had no clue on how to handle.
“Mark, is something bothering you?” His mother asked for the tenth time in the last half hour.
Plenty of things are bothering me mom. He thought shoving his hands into his pockets harder, so he wouldn’t share his burdens with her.
“Nothing mom…” From the expression on her face he wasn’t about to get away with dismissing his own melancholy behaviour.
“Jason’s been really down since he came home that’s all…you know with his foster parents being killed and his dad…just worried about him.” Shrugging his shoulders.
That part was at least true, he was worried about Jason and how he lashed out at training the other day when he was told his dad was dead. They wouldn’t tell him how.
It was the part about training that bothered him more. Jason had become moodier, and more aggressive in the sessions.
“Have you talked to Chief Anderson about it?” She asked.
“Yes, he said I have to learn to deal with Jason.”
“In what way?”
He didn’t answer, all the talk of leadership daily was giving him a headache. Jason was giving him a headache and they clashed constantly. It was like the guy had to be defiant every decision he was making of late.
She picked up the homemade book and began flicking through the pages, smiling softly to herself… “I love reading this to you…you loved it to when you were little.”
Yeah, when I was three. I’m eight now mom- and I don’t want to know about it.” He made it final. He thought, feeling guilty at the same time for his disinterest in his biological family. He never talked about his adoption with his friends, even Jason didn’t know he was adopted.
His mother and father always respected him if he chose not to tell people. In many ways, they never pressured him about his choice to not talk to Ken and Jun any more.
It hurt too much to know he had a brother and sister out there somewhere- he didn’t know them and wasn’t being raised with them.
His sudden decision to cut off all contact bothered his parents. He couldn’t explain all of his feelings himself let alone to anyone else. Going off on his own cleared his mind- He loved flying with his dad. In the skies, it was like he could leave the world behind him.
“Mark if you want to see your brother and sister we can always fly to Utoland…” His mother looked concerned.
“Ma…no!” Mark responded more, irate than he intended.” Just drop it please.” He regretted his tone the moment it came out, bowing her head, she laid back down on the pillows and stared at the wall across the room. The emotional energy of the conversation exhausting her.
“I’m sorry son…I…” Her voice broke, and he was by her side in an instant holding onto her pale weak hand.
“I can handle Jason.” He faked a smile.” I’m not ready to talk again with Ken and Jun. I’ll let you know when I am.”
Slowly she curled her fingers with his.
“Remember when I told you about the time your father and I served in military?”
“Yes.” He said. “I loved those stories.” Brightening a little, he enjoyed his dad telling him about meeting his mother. He was a pilot running secret missions, and she worked in radar. He was smitten and never looked back, she stood by him when he crashed and couldn’t fly fighters again.
“Leadership is something you grow into Mark. You’ll make lots of mistakes along the way. Find a way to be friends with Jason even if you two disagree a lot.”
“Next time I’ll ask him why he’s angry with me. Will that help?”
“It might.” She replied. “Have you tried?”
He climbed up onto the bed and cuddling up next to her like he used to at five o’clock in the morning when he was a little boy frightened by nightmares and the boogie man.
Safely snugged in her arms, the scent of lavender surrounded him, a comfort- he didn’t want to face life without her. Choking back tears- He’d grown more scared than anything that he might lose her soon. She wasn’t getting any better, and the doctors in the last couple of days had been preparing him and his father for the worst…
A light tap on his shoulder prevented him from falling asleep beside her. Looking up Mark saw his father standing next to the bed watching her. He wondered how long he’d been there.
“Time to go…she needs her rest.” He whispered in hushed tones. “Careful how you get down Mark no need to wake her.”
Carefully Mark lifted himself from under her arm, gently laying it down next her and he slid off the bed standing next to his father who watched her silently with glassy eyes that spoke of his pain.
Gradually he blinked back the unshed tears, as he leaned down and lightly kissed her brow. “Love you sweetheart…” Picking up the book, and placing it into a draw close. He stole a glance at his sleeping wife, and quietly led Mark out of the room.
“Want to go and work on our plane?” His dad placed an affectionate arm around his shoulders.
“I’d like that.” Mark managed an empty smile, he needed time out, and the skies had become the best place in the world to be for it.
A twinge of guilt dampened his mood, from not suggesting they invite Jase to come along too. But his moodiness tended to be unpredictable and he preferred racing cars to planes.
He had this gut feeling that there was something else going on with Jason too, after the way he behaved during a ‘training’ session at Dr. Anderson’s lavish home Mark was ready to punch him. He came close to losing it.
The only thing that stopped was his father’s voice in his head. “That’s not you Mark, you’re better than that…”
Jase came close to making Mark wonder if he was losing it completely. When he asked him, what was wrong Jason shoved him away. “It doesn’t matter now…” He turned he punched the wall hard with his closed fists, then picked up some feather darts and hurled them at the board across the room hitting his target with each one. Dr Anderson appeared impressed…
Mark tried to understand. “Does this have to do with the surprise you said you were bringing back from the Bahama’s…Jason…I know your foster parents--“
“--It’s not about them…it’s about him…I hate him Mark…he abandoned me again.” Jason had angry tears sliding down face, using his arm he wiped them away but it didn’t do him any good. Throwing his last dart Jason stormed from the room.
“Him?” Mark mused quietly- he figured this had to be about someone else who let him down.
His instincts screamed that Jason had more than the death of his foster family to deal with. Could it be that Uncle he spoke of once about a year ago, when Mark noted the photo and asked who the man in the picture was? The one who’s photo sat beside his bed. According to Jason his only living relative who has his eyes and demeanour only older.
Mark looked over at his father- they had been driving for about half an hour heading out of the city towards the airfield his father bought not long after they moved to New York in America from Utoland City.
He loved the time they spent together there…today they hadn’t spoken a word since leaving the hospital. He was grateful for the silence- it allowed him to sort through the mess in his mind about how he was currently feeling about his own life.
He turned off the freeway and after a few more turns they headed down the familiar dirt road that lead to the airfield and the old shack that stood close by. Some weekends they would stay there together just for father and son time- that was before his mother became very ill…
“What’s on your mind Mark.” His dad asked. Not taking his eyes off the road ahead of him for a minute.
“A lot of things…” Mark admitted as they pulled up outside of the shack.
A slow haunted smile spread across his fathers, face. “I know what you mean…how about we talk about it over an engine...something to distract us for a while from our thoughts.”
“Sounds like a plan dad.” Mark felt some of the pressure he’d been feeling over the last few days, ease just at thought of getting grease on his hands. He hoped his dad would suggest they take her up for a test run after they checked the engine of the small plane his dad bought recently.
The thought of soaring through clouds lifted his waning spirits if only a little bit. The thing is he had something he desperately needed to talk to his father about. And he wasn’t sure how to approach it.
“Can you pass me the screw driver?” Dad asked a once he opened the hood to look at the engine.
“Sure dad.” Mark passed him the tool and watched close by how his father tuned in the small plane engine. After a minute his dad looked up at him concerned. “Son, what’s bothering you?”
Mark stared out at airstrip, scuffed the dirt with his sneaker.” Jason’s bad temper!”
That happened to be part of it but not all of it, he could handle, Jason’s hot temper in normal circumstances.
“Mmmm…and?” His dad responded, waiting for Mark to elaborate, he knew him well.
“I know he’s been though, a rough time recently it’s just that he’s so hot headed and touchy about almost everything now.” Mark let it all tumble out.” How can he be…someone I might…who knows depend on one day if he can’t control it?”
“And right now, look whose, talking.” His dad stopped what he was doing and picked up a rag to wipe the slick grease off his hands with disapproval written all over his face.
Mark pursed his lips and he didn’t back down. “I can control my temper dad, just right now I’m mad, and showing how I feel just like you told me too, you told me not bottle it all up...”
His father became thoughtful for a minute. “I know I told you not do that Mark, hold it all in like a time bomb…It’s just that doesn’t sound like the Mark I know…The Mark I know is slow to anger and is a good friend to his best mate during times like this…I also talked to you about control remember son…” Words of wisdom Mark had heard since he was a little boy, it always diffused his anger.
“I…I…dad, he won’t tell me what else’s is upsetting him…I guess I can’t help a friend who won’t talk to me.” Mark confessed- his anger dissipating more into frustration.
“You’re a good friend, give him time to comprehend everything that’s happened in the past few weeks, when he’s ready he’ll talk to you about it. Until then have some patience with him…Jason will come around you’ll see. “His dad ruffled his hair affectionately and smiled. “Let’s, take her up for a flight…this bird is yearning to stretch her legs.”
Mark jumped into the plane before his father could utter another word…starting the engine, the propeller slowly turned with the hum of the engine.
Times like these Mark could almost forget his troubles with the world around him, and become one with the plane.
Sometimes he imagined he was able to fly like a bird, today it didn’t bring him the same joy, tainted with the sadness of his mother dying Mark fought back a tear …
“Want to take us up into air?” His dad taxied the plane to the runway and handed Mark the controls of the small two-man plane.
“Wow…really?” Mark gawked- his heart pounded from the excitement, usually his father did the take-off and landing and he flew for a while under close instruction.
“You can do it Mark, and I’ll be right here if you get into trouble.” He smiled and indicated for Mark to jump into the pilot’s seat as he vacated it.
“Do you mean that?” Mark knew it had a double meaning to it, but something inside of him wanted to be sure his father would always be there for him, he was already losing his mother to some unknown disease.
“Mark, I promise, I always keep my promises.” Mark felt his reassuring hand on his shoulder. Letting out a slightly nervous breath he didn’t dare broach on the other topic that was causing reservations at the moment two people he had a connection to, yet felt like strangers to him.
Ken and Jun…his feeling had become so mixed up about them of late after the last time he spoke to them on the phone he felt so angry that they would say they couldn’t raise him and then get married anyway… and have more kids. Mark pushed his anger about that to the back of his mind he needed to focus on getting the plane off the ground safely.
“Good work.” His dad said proudly after they levelled out over a nearby field, allowing his dad to take back the controls for a while Mark relaxed and enjoyed the wonderful sensation of floating above the Earth, he wondered what it would be like to do it without needing to be inside of a plane…
“Why don’t you want to talk to Ken and Jun anymore?” His dad broke into his thoughts. Mark shrugged to try and make it sound trivial. “Got a lot on at the moment dad, and well, who says I have too? Just because we have the same DNA…” He blurted out.
His father became silent again like he was picking his words carefully. “Mark, we made a promise-“
“-You made those promises not me.” Mark huffed, ungraciously folding his arms he glared at his dad to drive his point home. Now I’m acting like Jason, startled by that thought it forced him to calm down and take control of his emotions and unfold his arms.
His dad didn’t let it go like he hoped he would. “Okay, I get that bit. It’s just that up until now…did they say something to hurt you?”
“No…well…kinda…dad…” Mark drew in a deep breath. This was hard- he didn’t want to say anything that would hurt his parents. Why didn’t they try harder to keep me if they wanted to have a family together, is there any real excuse for giving me away? He thought.
What could have been so bad that they would do it, and have the hid to tell me it was for my protection and not be able to go into details.
I bet Ken beat her up, robbed a bank or something like that. Glancing over at his father Mark remained silent and quickly looked away like his could read his mind.
He felt guilty for thinking that way about his birth father, his dad would never approve. “I don’t know them…not really its, not like they live close.” He finally said.” We talk for an hour once every few months…they have their life and I have mine…with you and mom. I just need some space that’s all.” To sort it out in my own mind, Mark thought to himself.
His father seemed to accept his explanation for now. Knowing his father, he would likely ask if he wanted to visit them later on, Mark already knew his answer to that question too. No.
“Dad…when did you decide to become a fighter pilot?” Mark asked casually to quickly change the topic, and he needed a lead in for something that was important to him and he figured that would be the best way to start.
A warm smile spread across his face. “From time, I was little boy, I watched planes take off from an airport close to home…I just wanted to be on one just know what it was like to float through clouds.”
Mark licked his lips and waited for a second, this might be easier than he thought.
That was until his dad spoke again. “You know my dad hated flying, he never wanted me to be a pilot…them when I told him I wanted to be fighter pilot when I turned eighteen we had a huge argument about it, my mother cried and he told me I’d end up dead if I pursued that kind of career. I should be like him, go into finance- and make my fortune there…safer he said…”
“Then why did you do it? Why not just follow your dad’s advice?” Mark looked for the right angle to come in with his question.
“Because I was so passionate about it, I needed to do it Mark…” His dad sighed sadly. “And that burn to be a fighter pilot almost killed me… and almost made your mother a widow.”
“Oh,” Mark responded, he had a lead in and decided to go with it. “You did it right though, followed your dream and your heart just like you taught me to do.”
His dad’s eyes narrowed suspiciously and so did his tone. “You could say that Mark, depending on your point of view.”
“You wanted to make something of your life…just like me.” Mark blurted out. A heavy silence fell between them.
“Want to take over…do some more flying?” His dad offered. Mark took hold of the controls, his dad watching his every movement making Mark think he has taken the wrong tactic.
“Mark, you’re right I did become a pilot to make a difference…is that what you want to do one day? Become a pilot because you know I understand it’s in your blood so to speak, you know Ken-“
“Stop talking about him. This isn’t about Ken or who I’m supposed to be like dad, you raised me remember.” That was enough for Mark-- didn’t he say he didn’t want to know anything about Ken at the moment.
“Okay.” His dad called truce by holding up his hands and smiling lighting up the atmosphere inside the plane- Mark glided it over the bay and turned them back towards land a few minutes later.
He finally felt safe to ask his father the question that had been hanging over him for weeks. “I want to start training now…Dr Anderson’s recruiting for a special team and he wants me to be the leader…”
“No.” His father said flatly, it took all of Marks efforts to keep his focus on flying, he felt crushed by just that one word.
“What do you mean no dad…you haven’t even said…Son…I’ll think about it…nothing…” Mark couldn’t hide his disappointment.
His dad tried to explain. “Mark, programs for training pilots will always be around- you’re far too young to do anything intensive like I bet Dr Andersons proposing. He’s a good man Mark, but I wish he’d talked to me about it before he spoke to you.”
“Why? It’s my life…mom would let me.” Mark pursed his lips and turned the small plane towards the airfield, he knew the navigation to get them back there by heart.
“And at the moment you’re a minor, not even ten yet, way too young to be training for a special team, whatever Dr Anderson has in mind can wait a few years for you…you have school to finish, and them when you’re eighteen you can go and join the air-force.” He offered.
Eighteen! That’s old and its ages away. Mark thought wildly. Jason was part of the new team now along with a pretty girl they all called Princess, not that he liked girls, or girl germs.
But he had to admit she’s pretty with green eyes and dark hair framing her heart shaped face, Princess was girly and acted it even thought at times she looked incredibly sad. He sat down next her one day and asked her what was wrong and she mentioned her parents died in a car crash and she missed them.
No clue of what to say, he put an arm on her shoulder to comfort her- she smiled through her tears and asked him to be her friend. Mark naturally said yes, even if she is a girl.
Then there was another kid called Tiny who showed up a few days ago…Today they were going into hospital for check-ups Dr Anderson said they are getting implants in just like him and Jason!
“Dad.” Mark asked seriously. “Why do I have this implant in my brain, then if I wasn’t meant to do anything special?”
“Time will tell, I promise I’ll go and talk to Dr Anderson about what he’s proposing…for now son, land the plane…I’ll be here to help you.” The tension between them had dissipated to nothing.
Relaxing, he accepted control of the plane, excitement filled the space of where tension once existed, at least his dad was considering it- he had that much to cling to.
Together they started to go through the landing sequence so they could return to the hospital, and be with the woman they both loved.
Jun missed the feeling of blustering cold wind, tossing her hair around, as she rode on her motorbike along the freeway leading to the outskirts of Utoland.
The adrenaline rush, she felt every time the engine roared to life by her touch lingered in her memories before their team was, disbanded by Dr Anderson and the changing face of the ISO into the Federation of planets.
With one hand, firmly on the steering wheel, of her car the other hand rubbed her expanding belly.
Her body less forgiving this time round than it had been for the last three babies.
Sickness had consumed her days for the last three weeks, and with Ken working longer hours than ever before isolation and out of control kids taking advantage of her sickness had become her friends.
Unaccustomed to making other female friends- Playgroup was hard work with all the chit chat over things she wouldn’t complain about. None of them had taken down goons, set explosives, saved the world, and left a friend to die. What did she have in common with them? Fortunately, one of the lovely ladies turned up at her house an hour before and offered to look after the two terrors and give her break.
Seeing the opportunity, she waddled to her car curious to see what Ken was so excited about reading the morning paper. He was saying something about Joe’s grave before jumping on his motorbike and out the driveway.
Like he had received a birdscramble and was off on a mission without her. Leaving her once more to the messy house and screaming kids.
Instead she had become hormonal and grumpy, staying home with the kids and that was a good day. The baby kicked, and had a good aim.
“Hey, not while I’m driving.” She scolded her the foot connecting with her ribs.
A few times she threw pillows at him as he walked in the door and informed him that after this one he was sleeping in the spare room until she could take some kind of contraceptives.
Ken raised an eyebrow, made stupid comments like. “Did you have a hard day today sweetheart. I know it must be hard with the two kids, but I’m sure you can do it…after all remember all the times we were called out at all hours to fight goons, can’t be as hard as that to be at home with our little ones, and another one on the way.”
Jun groaned in frustration. “Then you have the babies, be sick all day and change dirty nappies, with the smell making you more sick, and throwing up, dog tired…Gimme some goons to take on right now! I’ll take on a hundred.”
“Sorry Jun, I didn’t mean to upset you…I was trying to get a prospective on things that’s all.” He replied sheepishly. He was a workaholic, and she tried not to complain about it. His perfectionist approach had excelled their business.
“Then stop talking okay.” Then she cried into her pillow-- She felt awful.
Then he’d go and check on the other two kids before coming to bed, snuggle up close and fall asleep. “I love you- we’ll get through this like we do everything else…”
“I know.” She whispered in the darkness. ”I love you too, just not right now.” Then eventually she’d drift off to sleep only to be woken again too soon by the crying of their baby daughter.
She’d feel a strong, yet firm hand on her shoulder, a tired whisper of her husband saying it was okay- he would tend to her needs, and the soft shuffle of his feet as he left the room still half asleep.
Listening to his soft words as he picked up their daughter out of her cot, cuddling her close, telling it all was well in the world.
In those moments, she loved him more than ever, more than any showy romantic thing he could do for her.
Daddy did literally save the world darling, she thought drifting back to sleep. One day, well tell you the story.
The sounds of the engine, and seeing her turn off brought her back to the present.
I might just get my tubes tied and be done with! She thought frustrated. That would prevent any future accidents, or Ken can go get his tied.
Pulling up the car beside the memorial graveyard, the place had an underlying depression about it, that had driven most of her foul moods for the last few weeks.
The loss of their beloved friend had taken its toll on all of them, as Ken tried to banish the idea for all their minds that this time he was truly gone.
Stopping the engine in the parking lot, something extremely odd in the scenery struck her instantly. The sunny day and cool breeze couldn’t distract her from the sight unfolding before her.
A bobcat digger, and Ken talking to a man who looked to be the driver beside Joe’s resting place sent alarm bells ringing in her mind. Panic set in, what was he doing?
Has he lost it completely! She thought wildly, her depressive thoughts fell from her mind and a new set of issues presented themselves in the form of Ken about dig up Joe’s grave.
She bolted from the car and jogged towards them before he started the man with an orange Fluro vest and hard hat, and his digger in motion.
Holding her swollen belly she bolted towards him.
“Jun…” Ken turned in surprise when he saw her running. “You shouldn’t run, need I remind you—“
“Ken, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” She puffed- exhausted after only a short run she cursed herself for being so weak. She had to make her husband see some sense before be began defiling Joe’s grave for a stab at false hope. “This…won’t resolve a thing…”
“Oh, yes it will.” Ken’s expression turned to determination, his blue eyes darkened as he held up a newspaper. Shoving it into Jun’s hands and began pacing impatiently. “Read it.”
Jun lowered her eyes to the article- it was in an obscure part of the paper, like the journalist thought it wasn’t really newsworthy.
PLEASE- HELP ME FIND MY SON.
The picture of a sad middle aged woman holding a photo caught her attention, and then she read the article…
“What…” Jun gasped. “This is why you’re digging up his grave.” Confusion filled her. According to the article her son worked at the same resort Joe’s body was found- only her son disappeared and nothing had been found of him. He was last seen working the desk on the day of the terrorist attack.
“You think it’s him.” Jun pointed at the picture of the young man in the next photo. “And not Joe.”
Ken grinned for the first time in weeks. “You bet Jun, I think someone is playing with us…and I’m getting testing done on this body by another lab…damn it Jun, he can’t just go and die like that again, and I’m going to prove it.”
Swallowing hard, she didn’t want to really believe Joe was lost to them forever. The thought was too much to bear, and yet she found herself being forced to accept it again.
Ken’s demeanour changed to a more serious stance as he studied her. “You have to trust me on this Jun.”
“Ken…I want to believe it…I…I…” Hot tears welled in her eyes, did she dare to believe?
Yes, she concluded, she always trusted Ken’s instincts, why start questioning them now.
Ken closed the gap between them, pulling her into his arms and holding her tightly. “I know it’s not him, my gut instinct tells me it’s not him…if he’s out there, captured by some new threat or someone who has a vendetta against him or us…then I can’t ignore it…and if this body isn’t his…then there’s a mother out there who has a right to bury her son and know the truth.”
“I know Ken, and wouldn’t ask you to deny her the right to bury him. Even a shred of hope is better than what we’ve all been through in the past and now.” She whispered hoarsely, weeks of tumbling emotions threatened to consume her once more.
Still the endless pain ripped through her soul. The loss of even one of them was enough to cause a void in their life that yearned to be filled, and could only be filled by the one who was lost. The dull engine of the bobcat started up and the first clump of soil removed from the grave. A mixed scent of fresh earth and grass floated on the breeze.
From the corner of Jun’s eye, as she watched a clump of soil with grass being removed from the top of the burial site, a small lantern of hope lit up inside of her.
Ken would pursue it to the end of his days of he was right and the man in the grave wasn’t his brother.
She vowed to support him in anyway, she could even it meant he broke his promise to her and their children. The void Joe left needed to be filled…and they all desperately needed Joe back to fill it.
Joe Asakura wondered why he still breathed. Drawing in a breath of stale air, he contemplated his current situation.
He couldn’t wipe the image of his son playing and, out of nowhere he was blasted by and explosion of sand, grit hitting his body, digging into his flesh, as he was thrown to the ground.
His bloodlust for revenge hadn’t sated inside of him for Jason and his crew. Tightening his biceps, he wanted to escape his cell. Focusing on his targets Zoltar, Mala and a Devilstar named Sari.
The thought of killing them slowly, for what they did burned in the Condor’s veins. He could control it until the time came, he had patience, he had learned it from years of seeking revenge during the Galactor wars on Earth.
Losing track of time in his Spectran prison cell, he had daily exercise in a small walled yard since he managed to calm down enough to realize being a roaring loin- uncooperative fool wasn’t helping his situation or enabling him to find ways of escape- To have his revenge he would pretend to toe the line for now.
Everyday his thoughts filled with images of his family. Ken, Jun, Jinpei, and Ryu. Jun had to be pregnant again by now, the pair of them popped out babies like rabbits. A boy or girl he pondered, and what they named the kid?
He had too much time to think.
How old would Jason be now if he lived? What day is it? With no sunlight to track it, it all blended. Time meant nothing- it passed him by like running water down a drain after a storm.
Much the same as it did for almost two years of being transformed into a human cyborg.
“Uncle Joe.” The sounds of small children’s voices echoed in his memories- Ken and Jun’s young kids.
The only thing now that could bring tears to his eyes was thinking of his family and wondering if they had become targets too.
Were they all safe? Or had they been forced out of their homes and running. Closing his eyes, sitting with his legs crossed, he hoped not. It was hard enough when they had to escape narrow situations in birdstyles and weapons drawn.
With small children, he couldn’t imagine. Ken would become one terrifying, protective Eagle of his nest. Jun her talons, would dig deep, ripping into anyone hurting their fledglings.
He had seen neither Zoltar or Mala in months, barely since their first visit. The Berge Katse impersonator haunted his dreams.
The sight of him in the flesh, sent shivers through to his core. Who would think to wear the same clothing as that insane psychopathic creature. Was he a fan of the former Galactor leader? Shuddering, he planned to kill him before he did any further harm.
His only visitor resided in his head, by the Luminous One.
Sosai Z’s relative. Each time he told the spindly being to take a hike. “Fuck off you spirit being bastard, told your other relatives to fuck off- so you can too. Now take a hike out of my head.” Joe mentally snarled like a wild cat mentally ready to go into battle.
Anything insulting he come up with when it entered his head to make it leave him alone. Some of the conversations became mentally violent others he growled the whole time.
He was surprised he was still alive. During his time, he began to wonder how much truth was in Zoltars words. Would he have taken Berg Katse’s word as truth? Maybe not- Joe figured.
He would have rammed the lying son-of-a-bitches, words down his scrawny throat with a feather shuriken to make sure he understood it.
Adjusting his orange and green prison attire, isolation had been his only friend, he talked to Ken to keep him company. His endless imaginary lectures had been enough to distracted him- for some people it would drive them insane.
Accustomed to tough situations and isolation it was refreshing not to have to share a cell with some lunatic that talked too much. He’d have to regularly deal with it, and he assaulting your cellmate wasn’t an ideal way to create calm and plan escapes.
He could hear them down the corridor babbling brooks and cries of frustration. This hell hole was just one more in his life. Being turned into a cyborg, was more painful and isolating than his rock walled cell.
Thinking back to Ken and Jun he hoped if Ken had worked it out- that he’s not dead he would stay with Jun and not run off into the galaxy searching for him.
She needed him home with their kids, it was hard enough for them when they gave up Dyami, all those years ago, during the war with Galactor. If they were alright.
He could take care of himself. Tugging at his beard- his unshaven features and growing hair would make him unrecognisable to anyone who didn’t know him well.
For now, he would wait for a time when could see an opening, he would try to think in the way Ken would. He was a commander, in the time he had his ship he learned to respect more of what Ken had on his shoulders during their days as the Science Ninja Team. To think more wisely, even if he was still trigger happy and gung-ho in battle, hold back a little, think.
He missed Asha, her touch and presence, touching the golden angel he prayed Zoltar lied about his ship the Endeavour. He should have tried harder, instead he left her without a word of how he felt about her.
Asha was smart, she might have escaped, if so he hoped she would find clues of any Spectran activity, get in touch with Ken.
She promised to contact him once she reached Earth, he had given her Ken’s details should she had trouble reaching him. Asha, please be alive… someone he loved had to live…
Damn it! Joe cursed his tumbling thoughts. He had way too much time to think in this place, he was starting to sound like Ken in his head.
Ken talking in his brain, or that Luminous thing, what was worse? Both poised for a hostile takeover. “Piss off.” Grunting, he unfolded his legs.
Taking his food from the slot he ate the basic prison meal, sloshed down the water and pushed it back under the door to the guard.
He had to find a way out and warn the Federation of Spectra’s growing army.
The sounds of voices caught his attention drawing Joe out of thoughts and back into the prison cell. The sound of his door sliding over and the two, people standing there with guns pointed at him ready to shoot. Mid bite, he side glanced the familiar uniforms.
“What? You guys going to a costume party?” Finishing his meal, the two stood there waiting. “Time for me exercise huh.”
Grimacing, as he started to rise to his feet, thoughts of fighting his way out and winging it flooded his overcrowded brain
“No, No, No.” Zoltars familiar oily voice could be heard from the other side. “Get him into chains. The animal is dangerous… We need to have a chat.”
Seizing his chance- and launching at the guards. He could take them down in a few swift moves. A bee sting hit his throat as he collapsed onto the floor in a groggy heap, his mechanics throw into an unco-ordinated mess before his world sank into the black void of space.
Ken arrived at the clinic, he had the body transported to the location of the grieving mother to find that it was the body of her son. The had samples, and took them to the lab near the resort to find they matched. The plot thickened, he was caught in a Sherlock Holms plot, and he wasn’t sure which role he played in it.
It stinks like a cover up, Ken thought after speaking to lab specialist who swore its Joes. Ken politely pretended to accept the diagnosis and left the place. He went to four other locations following his investigation into Joe being missing.
He had to careful in all of this, making sure the grave in Utoland was covered over. They even put flowers on the grave to make anyone watching think they believed Joe to be dead.
Whoever did this was clever, and they didn’t want a trail. His thoughts trailed back to his last conversation with Joe after dinner, transporting him back to the days of the war. Ghosts haunted him, and he hoped one of them wasn’t Joe.
Joe mentioned seeing a ship that looked like Devilstar. No one had seen anything that resembled one of those ships since the Galactor war ended. Could Joe have stumbled onto something someone wanted quiet?
If that’s the case, why would they let him live. Ken pondered. Or would they want him for sadistic purposes. The thought of his brother going through hell drove him to keep searching.
He had been away four months and their babies due date was yesterday. While Jun sounded okay on the phone he could tell she was exhausted, over it, wanting the baby out. She was faking it, trying not to put pressure on him and trying to keep things going with the kids crying in the background. She was worried about going into labour without him there, even with Keyop arriving to look after kids and help her out. He didn’t want to miss another birth of his child ever again.
He never had the right words to say to Jun to comfort her, but for some reason she saw his heart in it and loved him for it.
He had learned to be thankful over the years for the simple things like that from her. He felt no other woman would take half as much from him and love him the way she did.
So, he called a florist in Utoland and he sent Jun flowers with a note.
Coming home, will be there tomorrow. I love you- Ken.
It was the one romantic thing he figured she liked. He’d tried to put some effort into it.
Jumping into his twin-engine plane Ken started the motor, the humming noise gave him some peace.
Disappointed he had nothing to really tell Jun, Jinpei, and Ryu, at least he had confirmed one thing.
The ones who captured him missed one important detail when they sent that burnt unidentifiable body to Utoland for burial. Joes cyborg body parts, the body they sent was entirely organic-- He couldn’t be Joe.
Joe is alive somewhere, and Ken were going to find him.
Asha stood on the bridge of the Galaxy security-- Federation starship Endeavour. So far, the new commander Bolivar drove her insane as much as he did the ships former Commander Joe Asakura.
Clenching her teeth at the way Bolivar swindled his way into the command chair of the Endeavour within hours of her promotion, almost forced her to quit on the spot and find a posting back on Earth. Pride halted her, the crew were going to need her there, Joe wouldn’t want to abandon them. Bolivar and his high-ranking Uncle willing to do anything for prestige overturned the decision. She fought it, but it within the higher ranks it held.
Bolivar tried to be like Commander Joe, but he lacked his experience and natural self-confidence. When she presented problems to him, Bolivar found a way to have her make the decision.
Being his second in command he got away with it leaning on her, but not for much longer.
Second-in-command Asha kept a record of his actions for high command. Something she never had to do with Joe.
He exhausted her patience, and today was no exception. He lacked the straight forward manner of their former Commander, his faster actions saved the crew many times while in his command. Joe earned their respect, Bolivar demanded it.
With Joe, there was no smoke and mirrors in how he commanded the ship, his crew respected him. She could see a flinching in the ranks under Bolivar, he was too fast to demote a crew member over Federation law at every turn. He didn’t procure the same respect and deep down he knew it, so he worked harder to maintain control.
“Have you located a place to land.” Bolivar flatly commanded, adjusting his navy-blue collar. “Asha, I want you to be sure, no surprises.”
Daring to glare at the back of his head, she wondered what ship he thought he was on. Joe took on the challenge of surprises, expected to they would run into unexpected situation, not play it safe.
Damn it, she thought. I have to stop comparing. Asha chided herself. She missed how well she clicked with Commander Asakura, they worked well together, she hoped things were going well with his reunion with his son.
“We have had a location, but it also appears to have some activity,” Asha informed him, “Hopefully not too much of a surprise for you Commander. Hopefully a few pirates that we can flush out just for fun.” maintaining her professional attitude with a lacing of sarcasm.
What is he waiting for? She wondered. Commander Asakura would have been half way to the surface by now.
Joe, he trusted his crew more than Bolivar did. The thought of Pirates she could picture a roguish grin playing across Joe’s rugged features. Her heart fluttered at the thought of him.
Asha missed Joe in more than just his command. When they touched his final base before he departed he promised he’d be waiting for her on Earth, she tried not to cling to those kind of promises, made in a space port.
She served in exploration ships, how long would that be, another year even two. By then things could be different by the time she arrived home on Earth. He could meet someone else, it had happened to her before, arriving home to find her last boyfriend had moved in with a college girl much younger than himself.
“Should we ready a landing party Commander, to investigate the site we found from the drone viewing.” Asha suggested standing next to Bolivar, she had a way of making the suggestions so they would look like his ideas.
She never had to work this hard with Commander Joe, he would already have a crew waiting to go along with him usually no more than four, and usually she was part of the mission. “Yes Asha, I was in the process of making sure everything was all clear.” Bolivar gave his permission with a curt nod.
All Federation handbook checks ticked off no doubt. She frowned. ‘Yes Commander, the shuttle is ready.” She had selected three, the Commander would join them, along with herself and, Clarie, Hudson and Klipper.
Asha picked up a few extra weapons including the hand-held rocket launcher Joe used to bring with him. Bolivar frowned when saw the extra weapons, she waited for the lecture on Federation standards on how many weapons they were allowed to take on a mission.
She wondered if he made things up from time to time like the weapons. She didn’t recall a limit, only what suited the mission, so close to the Spectran empire warranted more weapons.
Klipper nodded in approval at the sight of the rocket launcher with a smile, an older member of the crew, he’d served on Earth in the Australian commando army forces, and later in the ISO, for twenty years, dark skin, shaved head with a black goatee beard, rough manner, and an accent so thick she barely understood him at times.
He joined the space exploration project as soon as it was launched, he proved to be valuable, he figured if he was going to killed, it might as well be an adventure and in a gunfight.
Klipper, held his own in a fight knew how to follow orders and use his own instincts, he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind if he felt a situation warranted it, Asha liked him.
Joe picked him as part of the ground crew every time. Someone needed to keep the two of them in check and it usually was Asha.
Clarie and Hudson were younger, able in their positions enough to do a ground crew run, Clarie, she was good with electronics, her third tour of duty, and Hudson a young trainee, so far, he had shown promise and needed ground crew experience.
Asha, while radar, and sonar were her speciality trained areas within the ISO on board Starships bringing her part of the bridge crew.
Her degrees in biology and biochemistry from Oxford university England made her a useful member of ground crews when they came across strange vegetation.
She collected samples on missions for the labs back on the newly established space stations for potential diseases that could affect new settlements.
The current planet the Federation had listed for them to check out was bordering on the Spectran empire. Not yet settled, the Federation were wanting them to explore around the surface, they were to claim it for the Federation before Spectra tried too.
The shuttle bounced as the pilot entered the planet’s atmosphere, burning through the initial ozone the levels of oxygen to carbon proved to viable. They would all wear protective clothing due to alien unknown bacteria on an unexplored planet.
The shuttle finally came to a landing site.
On the edge of a rocky mountainous terrain stood before them boarded by vast forests, Asha sighted a wide river indicating potential for life and made note to gather water samples. If the federation were looking at settlement locations, they’d need to know the quality of essentials such as water sources and soil.
The unnamed planet appeared to have potential, they just needed to see what the activity they’d picked up from the drones could be.
Stepping out of the shuttle with her mask on, Klipper had the rocket launcher over his shoulder following close behind her, his eyes darting around the broader landscape looking for hostilities.
Commander Bolivar addressed the landing party. “The activity was spotted over the ridge, we have to walk a fair way, but at least they wouldn’t have spotted the shuttle landing here.” Asha waited for his orders, as usual he gave her side glance, as long as she made it look like his idea he could be pleasant. A comment to her a few months ago, set her on edge. It related to Joe Asakura, and her relationship with him, Bolivar hinted at unauthorised relations between them.
That her recommendation was because of other feelings their former commander had for her. Asha didn’t take the insult, Joe hadn’t made a move on her the whole time, if he recommended a promotion she was confident it was her ability to lead, not just his feelings for her. They had been professional for two years, neither acting on what they felt-- only in those few hours before Joes last landing had they broken any Federation rules. She had no regrets when it came to that time.
She wondered is he used it debunk her promotion, even the suggestion in fleet command would be enough in its current environment of enforcing deep space boundaries on crews.
Drawing in a breath, she checked her oxygen tank, until they could sure of the atmosphere around them. She viewed the equipment, thinner than Earths, same level ratio of carbon to oxygen as recorded by the drone a few days before. Low sunlight from the star smaller than the one that provided light to Earth.
They’d only be needing the tanks if they became dizzy while adjusting on the walk to site. Informing the crew, she turned off the tank to preserve it and removed her breathing mask.
They headed on the rocky terrain for a few hours towards the site. Reaching the ridge line, they hide from sight to observe the activity below in the valley.
Taking the sonic binoculars Bolivar observed the site.
“Looks quiet, nothing there. I’m not sure what the drone really picked up now.” Bolivar handed Asha the binoculars.
Watching the ground, she wondered if something was behind a cluster of rocks down in the valley near a rocky wall.
“I could go in closer, see if we can find a cave entrance. Pirates are known to hide their operations well.” Asha turned to her commander and waited for confirmation. Bolivar considered her idea. “We can wait it out a few hours, see if they show up if they are there.” He indicated they take it in turns to watch the area.
“Yes commander.” She replied.
Sighing, Asha would rather be active in the investigations. Getting in closer would more ideal and save them time. Klipper and Hudson could cover from the ridge, Asha and the commander would move in to and look for an entrance, and Clarie not far behind them ready to remotely call in the shuttle should they run into trouble.
Joe would have been onto it, no sitting around waiting with Commander Asakura on a mission. Itching to keep moving Asha pulled in all her restraints to act. She moved along the ridgeline to get a better view, Bolivar followed her.
Bolivar started to lecture. “I know you want to go now, but regulat—“
“I know what the damn regulations.” Asha retaliated a little to quickly.
“Then you know who’s in command.” Bolivar finally highlighted the undelaying hostile tension between them for almost a year.
“You are of course Commander.” Asha Cautiously replied.
“Good, I know about you and Asakura, one false move and high command will know it too, then you won’t get a chance at your own ship, if you’re lucky, you’ll have a few years in a federation prison.” Bolivar hard-lined her.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Asha maintained an even tone.
Bolivar’s demeanour darkened. “Yes, you do. I wouldn’t put it past you to sleep with him just to get the command position, he was like that, not one to follow rules, only when it suited him. Leaving me out of decisions during his tour of duty. It’s, not happening now Second-in Command Asha. Note the word second-- Asha.”
Then you don’t know me or Joe at all. Asha thought taking in his threats. The kind man who sparked mutinies, and wondered why.
“If you intend to control your crew, maybe you could start with respecting them and their intelligence, experience and stop quoting regulations to maintain control.” Asha rebuked, adamantly, turning her attention to watching for activity.
Anger building for his insults towards Joe she turned on him. “If you had a shred of Commander Joe Asakura’s ability to command the ship, take risks, make a decision of your own…you might have a chance at respect, but you have none of it. You’re a jealous turd who cares only for his position, not the crew. I know what you did to get the Endeavour.”
Still growling inside at her outburst, over Bolivar’s threats and his words about Joe, she jumped over the ridgeline and began making her way down the valley before she was tempted to openly break regulations and punch him in the face.
She figured she would have discipline over it. Bolivar would make sure of it, she hoped she didn’t give him a lead to finish her. But at the things she was seeing when they report into base, the corruption in the ranks. She hoped Chief Anderson had the sense to get it into line and soon.
One of her reasons joining Federation exploration sector was to escape the life of her traditional Indian upbringing.
While she loved her family, her father held tightly to the traditions of a daughter marrying a man in her caste and of his choosing-- Asha had no intentions to marry at all, especially if she had no choice in it. Her stronger nature was rarely appreciated within her family, often referring to her more obedient younger sister with glowing praise. With no male sons in the family she was expected to marry well within their caste, he father wanted a grandson, and her dowry generous enough to attract suitors.
Her father had chosen a groom just as she graduated and returned home, it was all in the planning and she felt totally out of control of her life. She loved her family, and first thought she could learn to love the man she had been matched with, it conflicted her inner feelings, her arguments with her father over it a week before led her on a different path.
Instead she left two days before the planned wedding, for the fleet she announced her intentions-- disowned by her family she didn’t have much to go back to on Earth.
From the corner of her eye she sighted Klipper, he had her back if something hostile surfaced. Keeping closer to the rocky wall she edged her way around looking for clues. That’s when she spotted the green uniformed soldier.
Drawing her lazer gun Asha quietly followed him around the cluster, a door opened in the rocks moving faster she ran in behind him, stunning him, she dragged him behind a covered object.
Removed his uniform, throwing it on, she covered the unconscious man after tying and gagging him.
Walking into an enormous hanger she gasped at what stood before her, hundreds of men dressed like soldier scurried about doing work, the sounds of welders in white coats and orders being barked as they worked on the construction site before her eyes.
She had heard of these enormous weapons used in the first war, people talked about the Science Ninja Team being the only ones to successfully destroy them.
A huge metal creature was being constructed here. What was Spectra up too?
Drawing out a small camera device she found a position to take photos of it to send back to Federation command. She had to move fast before the soldier woke up, she get his uniform back on, they had to get out of there before anyone knew they had been there at all. No one was wanting to spark a war with Spectra, they were simply to observe any activity they came across.
Moving towards the entrance she hurried to put him back in his clothes, he would wake up with a headache.
Moving out of the base Asha made her way back to the ridge where her Commander and fellow crew mates had been waiting. Arriving there she discovered only Klipper to waiting.
“What’s going on?” She asked him as he revealed his location.
“Commander was pissed after you left. Serves him right to be smacked in the gob by you if you chose too, I would have said he fell over hit his friggin’ face on a rock.” Klipper spat in disgust, he had been close by when Bolivar chose to bring up Joe. “He’s decided the drone filmed a strange rock and is headed back to the shuttle. I told him I’d wait for you.”
Asha stifled a grin, silently she thanked Klipper for voicing her thoughts on it.
“We have to leave now, it’s a Spectran base and they’re building something big down there. Huge mechanical beasts. Like nothing we have seen since the war with Galactor.” Asha urgently filled him in.
“I got pictures of it, Federation command needs to know about it ASAP. I have a feeling Spectra are planning an attack.” Asha and Klipper moved silently down the other side of the ridge.
Picking up her communicator she tried to contact the Commander.
“Suspected Spectran military activity—I have photo’s to send to command.” Asha spoke into the small hand held device. The sounds of gunfire reached her as Bolivar tried to respond. “To late, they know we’re here.” Asha acted fast, she had to get the intel back to the federation, pulling out a signal transporter from her backpack she inserted the chip with the photos on it-- Sending a signal towards the shuttle on a Federation frequency.
“Shit.” Klipper cursed. Looking up and seeing the five-pointed star ship flying towards them he pointed the rocket launcher in its direction. Firing his aim proved true and the ship went down in a blazing fireball not far from them.
Asha pulled out the chip, hoping the signal made it, she cut a gash in her hairline and inserted it. The pain shot through her as she put the medical sealant for cuts over it, letting her hair fall around her shoulders as they stood up.
Running across the rocky terrain towards the forest Klipper loaded another shell. He only had two she hoped he made it count as he took down a second Starfighter.
They made a run for it, Asha tried to contact the Commander again, only to be re-directed by gunfire in their direction, dodging bullets Asha and Klipper jumped to find shelter only to find themselves surrounded by dozens of green clad masked soldiers, guns pointed in their faces. In the distance, she watched the shuttle with the rest of the crew taking to the sky.
Bolivar was leaving them behind.
Exchanging looks with Klipper, he cursed, she put her hands in the air to surrender. They had little choice being surrounded with loaded guns aimed at them.
Watching her commanders shuttle ascending into the mauve tinted sky she watched in horror as it was shot down. The Federation shuttle exploded mid-air. Praying for the crew of Endeavour she hoped they would make a run for it and escape knowing they would attacked. Roughly a soldier grabbed her arm and restrained her and Klipper.
“My commander wants a word with you.” The Soldier snarled. Dragging the two of them back to the base.
Klipper snarled and fought, Asha shot him a glare, appear to co-operate for now, she projected. We are outnumbered. Asha had basic fighting skills in Federation training, but nothing like she had seen Joe demonstrate when they encountered a group of aggressive pirates. She knew when to backdown.
The commanding officer of the arresting party spoke up. “You’re now prisoners of Spectra and likely to become slaves, you can forget that Federation ship you came from in space. We have it now, kiss Earth goodbye. You belong to Spectra-- No one will ever hear from you again.”
The Chief of Galaxy security waited in his office for an old friend to arrive.
He had something to ask of him, and figured he would receive some resistance at first, but eventually he would see reason. It was in his friends, nature to be curious, and had a knack for figuring out intel a sense of duty.
His experience in the Galactor war held value, and its why he chose for the mission over other pilots already working for the ISO.
While he waited he went over the final plans for the competition of Centre Neptune, due to be fully commissioned in a few months along with the new outer warning Zark systems programs. They had outer planets to watch over, all of them coming in under the umbrella of the federation. New settlements and discoveries.
He had to admit his bitterness over his Uncle Nambu’s death had subsided with time. He still held his commander Gatchaman accountable. He was trained to watch out for those things.
He let him slip from their grasp into Count Egobosslers hands. The tension between him and Ken Washio hadn’t subsided with time.
He had a purpose bringing Matt and Natasha along with their son to Ameris. Matt, he had known for many years, along with wife. Currently he was standing in the way of progress.
They needed the team, and Mark had the right temperament to G-Forces leader. After his conversation with Mark of his father’s decision to keep him off the team until he was older. He had to something about it-fast. Inviting them to come and live at mansion so Natasha had medical support was part of that move.
The empty mansion had sprouted to life, with the sounds of children running through the halls, kids TV and even misbehaviour, a few fights amongst them. Blows and sounds of boys in rough play. Until Princess came along, then she out smarted all of them.
Unlike the rowdy, undisciplined Science Ninja Team- His team would have a more professional approach being supported fully by the military. They would rise to their standards. The would be bound to follow the ISO regulations, setting an example within Galaxy security in years to come.
Hearing the knock on the door Chief Anderson opened it to find Matt standing in the doorway.
“I see your leg is much better now.” He commented to his long-time friend.
“The last operation seems to have fixed the problem at last. The advancements in medical technology as amazing over the last few years. But that’s not why you asked me to come to see you today is it?” Matt strolled over to the fine cabinet, pulling out two crystal glasses, and placing them onto the bench.
Pouring a shot of the amber liquid from the bottle into the glasses. He handed one to the him. Clasping his fingers around the engraved glass, a slight turn of his lips he raised it. The toast over, he got down to business. Adjusting his glasses, the warm liquid slid down his throat.
“Straight to the point Matt, like always.” Chief smiled, and accepted the drink. His son had picked up that trait.
“Mark has asked me about being an official member of the G-Force team you’re putting together.” Matt silently sat down on the sofa. “I have my reservations, mainly due to his mother being so ill and still in hospital. He’s feeling the pressure, and he’s so young to train like you want him too.”
He expected the topic to come up. Glad to get it out in the open at last. Keep his real emotions tight. His corporate face on and mannerisms, he couldn’t let on he had no real plan to respect Matts wishes when it came to Mark.
“I understand Matt- Marks worried and withdrawn at the moment. He’s a strong boy, he can pull through it. I’ve seen him rise up under pressure and lead the group. If he can do that now, he can do it when the time comes-- if it comes.” Chief Anderson directed the conversation.
“Natasha is very protective, if she knew I agreed to it now…” Matt hesitated and looked out a window. “The answer is no. He’s too young, we can move out-“
“Not necessary, you’re my friend and his father. Of course, I wouldn’t do anything against your wishes.” He lied.
“Who knows what Galactor did to her when they captured them. I’m wondering if this mysterious illness is a result of it. Count Egobossler could have injected her with an alien disease.” Matt’s misery written all over him, slumping in his seat, staring pensively out the window, as he sipped at the brandy.
“They’re doing tests Matt… “Chief understood his anguish. He’d known Natasha for almost as long as he’d known Matt, a softer natured woman lady like in nature, and a wonderful mother to Mark. It wrenched his gut seeing her in so much pain.
Chief Anderson allowed silence to fall between them for a few minutes.
“This isn’t about your family Matt.” Chief handed him a folder. Matt sceptically took it from the Chiefs hands.
“It says Top Secret- I’m not even an employee of the ISO, Galaxy security. I’ve only just quit my job in aviation design in the ISO to be closer to my family. So, what’s this about?” Matt held out the folder, Chief refused to take it back.
“Take a look, tell me what your thoughts are.” Chief invited him to open it.
Matt perused over the intel pacing the room. “A distress signal from the Endeavour before its cut short, Spectra, military, commander shuttle shot down. That’s it.”
Matt bluntly turned Chief Anderson. “You want me to run a mission, got this planet and investigate Spectra.”
“Then you’re perfect for it.” Chief Anderson indicated he open it. “I’m having trouble with some corruption in command units within the Federation exploration fleet at the moment. People getting promotions, not for skills, but because they have contacts it’s a mess I’m currently sorting out. Now we have at least two of our Ships missing along with the all the crews. The Endeavour, and the Shooting Star. We suspect Spectra to be involved, all off the record of course. We can’t invite hostilities.”
“John, I’ve not done a mission in years. Flown a fighter jet.” Shaking his head Matt closed the folder.
He had to convince him to take the mission.
“That’s a lie and we both know it. You were flying a fighter recently.” Chief rebuked him- Matts eyes widened a touch.
“How did you know about that?” He asked.
“I own those jets, you designed them-- and especially since your wife has worsened you’ve gotten yourself clearance to fly one posing as authorised pilot. I gave you clearance old friend-- even if you thought you were doing it under an alias.” Chief Anderson waited for Matt to respond. A smile twitched at the corners of his mouth.
“A pilot never forgets who he is. It’s in your blood just like it’s in Marks.” Chief Anderson reminded him. Thinking of Ken. “Mark will be fine, fly the mission for me, take a few pilots we both know and trust, check it out. Then come home be with Natasha. I won’t ask you do another mission again.”
“Sounds easy, until you’re on the mission.” Matt pointed out, his experience talking.
“Always does, but your instincts and flying skills. I know you’re the best for it. I trust you.” Chief Anderson reassured him.
“My old unit are all dead.” Matt quietly bowed his head in respect for them, after a while he put a thoughtful hand to his mouth. Anderson could see his temptation growing. Knowing Matts, background it was only a matter of time before he returned to flying missions.
“I know, that’s why I need you. You know how to run these kinds of operations.” Anderson spoke the truth.
Matt was youngest pilot in his original team of red clad pilots. Until he had the accident and couldn’t fly again, forcing him to leave his secretive unit, his mission commander wasn’t happy about it, but he had to let Matt go due to his injuries.
“We have a new base of operations almost finished on Riga.” Watching him- his mind was ticking over, he was tempted. He’d thrown out the bait, seeing the intel, he had to be curious about it.
The Endeavour had collected the intel under the command of Joe Asakura. Another reason Matt would consider it. Joe’s intel was always reliable. The image a mimic of the enemy fighters from the Galactor war.
Matt’s mobile phone rang, picking it up he answered it. From the sounds of it, it was the hospital.
Matt’s demeanour changed, he brightened a little. “Natasha is being released from the hospital today, thank you for the offer of us all moving into the mansion. It’s kind of you John, it will make it easier with a nurse coming around daily, and she likes the children. It may help her health improve.”
Marks mother was fighting to get well again. Anderson hoped she would, the kids needed a mother figure. Natasha had the right temperament love of children to be a good influence on them- Even Jason warmed to her.
Matt wheeled his wife in a wheelchair from the hospital to their waiting car, Chief Anderson had sent a driver, Mark didn’t know she would be home today.
Matt thought it would be a lovely surprise for him, and the news they would living for a while in the mansion until she improved enough to be able to do things more on her own.
“You’re quiet Matt, what’s on your mind.” Natasha asked as he helped her into the car.
“Sweetheart. I might be gone for a week, I have to check a few things out.” Matt confessed. The intel had sent shudders through him, sharp memories of going up against them during the Galactor war flood into his mind.
“Andersons asked you to do something for him.” She paled. “I know that face, the last time I saw it you went on a mission and came back barely alive.”
“I’m not committed to anything, but raising a son and being a husband.” His reassuring smile fell flat. She wasn’t a fool, and had spent enough time in the military to know the kind of missions he flew under a strict commander.
“Promise me you won’t do it. Isn’t the kind of work Ken and Jun did enough, for Mark to cope with when he grows old enough to fully understand his story. They barely made it back, Ken especially…no wonder the keep a low profile.” Natasha let out a rare exasperated breath.
“Why did I get involved with pilots.” She fumed. “You’re all the same.”
“Honey, because we’re exciting. You wouldn’t have it any other way.” He joked. She reluctantly smiled at his jest.
“I’ll be off this afternoon, only a few days.” He turned to his wife as he waited for the gate to open at Andersons mansion.
“Okay, like I can stop you.” She kissed him on the lips and he turned and headed up the driveway. He understood the meaning behind her words. She was asking him to be careful in whatever he had planned. Warming from the love that surrounded him, he’d married a good woman.
His son was playing with his friends on the front grassy lawn. The sight of his two greatest loves almost halted his plans.
In his excitement, Mark, almost bowled her over as she stepped out of the car-- Followed by the other three kids.
Watching them together his gut knotted, thinking about his trip to visit, a place he hadn’t stepped foot in since his jet crashed all those years ago.
The truth being he had never had the chance to say goodbye to his former squad. A wash of guilt hit him that he wasn’t with them on the final mission. Watching his family Matt wondered about the new threat on the horizon, how could he protect them?
The photo of the five pointed Starfighter sent shivers down his spine. He had seen them, been up against them as a younger pilot. If something was out there, if Galactor had reformed Matt needed to know about it.
The flight took him a day to get to his remote destination.
The place hidden deep in the Himalayan mountains, was only known to a few select people and they were all dead- except for him.
The second base, smaller than their main base of operations that was destroyed by Galactor.
Walking into the narrow cave entrance, the smell of dank water assaulted his senses. His heart racing like her was thrown back in time. Approaching a back door into the old base.
He once had spent a good portion of his youth learning how to become a better pilot attending High school and flying. An orphaned young boy befriended by some fighter pilots who saw his potential.
The old steel back entrance door stood before him as he punched in a code. Unsure if it would work Matt had to try. The code proved true even after all of these years.
The doors hydraulics hissed, as it opened into a huge cavernous aircraft hangar- walking in the lights automatically flickered on from the generator. Observing the dusty coating on the equipment from the years of human absence in the place.
The long, abandoned base haunted him as he walked through it, his footsteps echoed around him. The ghosts of his past still there in its silence- he saw them in their red uniforms, ready for action at moments notice. Memories of its life in its days of operation during the war with Galactor left him feeling empty. He had been a part of it, until his accident.
Soaking in the familiar surroundings, he opened a long locker with his alias on it and pulled out his red uniform, pulling on, feeling the stiff fabric against his skin, he was pleased to find it still fit his lean fit form, he continued his tour. Something inside of him changed with the uniform, he became the man he once was in his late teens.
Lowering his face, clenching his jaw. The old survivors guilt lingered with the ghosts of the place.
There was a time when thought he’d let all go. The day he became Marks father, the joy of a son in his world and the powerful love for him blinded him to his past. Watching him grow, and his wife’s happiness and joy.
He could forget for a while he was ever a pilot running dangerous secretive missions-- Now Andersons proposal brought it all back.
Reaching the hanger, he observed the one remaining fighter jet in the launch bay. Its fresh red paint and strips still vibrant even under the layers of dust. He ran his hand over the smooth titanium, leaving streaks to reveal the name on the side.
Red Impulse. F-5 the sleek fighter jet Kentaro had made especially for him. He hoped he would return to the squad if he recovered enough to do so. Kentaro’s commitment to his cause was unshakable. At one point, he would have followed his squadron leader to the ends of the Earth and his own death without question. He almost had many years ago during the early part of the Galactor war.
If it wasn’t for Natasha he would have found a way to fly again-- she put a hold on it, seeing more than he did, that it with his injuries, he wouldn’t be returning anytime soon if ever. Under than gentle demeanour, she could be stronger than a loin.
Eventually learning of the deaths of the remaining crew at a place called Cross Karakorum. Masaki and Onishi- They died helping the Science Ninja Team defeat Berg Katse-- bringing a temporary end to Galactor.
It stabbed him in the guts to know all of them were dead, but he lived on. He abandoned them by not recovering to return like Kentaro felt he would, leading a period of depression and guilt.
He began to piece it together, after they adopted Mark. Ken was in fact Kentaro’s only son. Ironic as it was, he didn’t know how to broch the topic with Ken. How do you say you’re the only survivor of the squad by default and now raising Kentaro’s grandson?
He opened the cockpit canape, and jumped inside it. Feeling the leather seat creaking from his movements. The technology for these fighters would still be the best, they were further advanced than any other even in their day.
Kentaro had already began the process of making the fighter jets space worthy, this was the first. Running his fingers over the controls, emotionally overwhelmed he closed his eyes leaning back. He longed to take it into the skies, test it to the limits. Push the outside of envelope and imagine four other red fighters alongside of him.
Reluctantly, he left the pilots seat, leaping out of the jet, landing on the ground with a light thud. Choosing to leave the fighter jet in the Hanger.
He signed heavily, he was about embark on the final mission, a member of Red Impulse. If Kentaro was here he would be reminding Matt it was inevitable. He had said had much when he visited him during his recovery- and Anderson reminded him of it recently.
If a form of Galactor was rising again in the form of Spectra than he had to investigate it, find the missing crews if possible. It was the only way to protect Mark and Natasha, what if they came after them again? Maybe the only way to protect Mark was let him become the leader of G-Force—follow in the footsteps his birth father had laid out before him, It was in his blood to fly.
Once he ran his mission he would have to make a stop in Utoland.
Ken would want to know, and he had a right to know the truth. He’d breach security protocol to fill him in. He saved the world once and deserved the respect.
The time to have the long talk about the past was nearing, he just hoped the alien creature that almost destroyed the earth last time hadn’t somehow come back to life in a new form. Time would tell…
Matt stood for a moment watching his son and wife in the gardens. The carefully manicured lawns and hedges made a perfect backdrop for his family. A light hearted day of laughter and closeness.
Mark was an attentive son, attention to details and would often sit quietly beside her when he wasn’t running around the place with his friends.
He’d been back from the base a few days, his jet delivered to a base to made ready for his mission. He hadn’t informed Natasha or Mark about it at this point.
He was still going over the final details, organising a squadron. Two other pilots to for a new team with a new name—they would be flying out of Riga from a new base set up for missions. No longer would they be Red Impulse, but the new Red Rangers a division of Galaxy Security running dangerous missions.
Matt figured he could find the locations, and galaxy security would take it from there.
Breaking his promise to Natasha was the hardest part. Never to fly on missions of this nature again. He would be gone in an hour, walking over to them he kissed his wife on the cheek, as Mark picked up a ball and started kicking it around the yard with Jason joining in. The two of them worked well together when they weren’t arguing.
Matt wandered over and joined in, for a while the three of them played a game of soccer enjoying the brief moment in time of feeling free from the foreboding threats beyond the stars.
Eventually it was time to go. Heavily burdened with a dangerous mission ahead of him, it broke his heart to say goodbye to them.
“Be back in a few weeks. Time will fly… you’ll see.” He promised his wife, drawing her in a tight embrace as Mark watched them from the sidelines. He couldn’t read his stoic young face.
Embracing his son, he asked him to look after his mother. Mark being a responsible child reassured him he would. Young Princess stood closer to Mark, she placed a hand on his shoulder.
“I know you will, I love you both.” He sadly studied both of their faces burning the moment into his memory-- one last family embrace and he was gone.
“What is he made of?” Zoltar impatiently turned to the scientist examining his patient. “Is he all robot, or something else?”
Dr Griskle gave his diagnosis to his leader. “His chest contains titanium alloy, but his internal organs are interesting, his heart is still human, but his lungs, I’ve not seen a material like it. There is still blood in his veins circulating to his brain, his stomach takes in foods as normal, his lower body is all organic except intestines made of synthetic fibres. It’s his chest framework, some organs that are cyborg mostly. What ever happened to him must have killed him.”
Zoltar listened intently, as Mala stepped into the room.
“Well, can we use him? Reprogram him? Have you worked out why he resists the Great Spirit?” Mala’s eyes briefly fell on the unconscious body of Joe Asakura.
“His brain appears normal to the scans, no damage.” Dr Griskle’s clinical analyst concluded as he produced the scans. “He has an implant of some kind in his brain…”
“Can we reprogram him?” Zoltar’s patience wearing thinner. He had uses for him if he could control him.
The Doctor couldn’t answer all of his questions, his main reply was, “further tests.”
“Then why is he the only one who can handle the strength of the Great Spirit. He connects with his brain why?” Zoltar let out an exasperated breath, with his unanswered questions. “Very well then, put him back in his cage.”
“Do you think he will come around, its, been a year, and he’s still resisting, even drugged he won’t allow the leader to rule his mind.” Mala sounded frustrated, but Zoltar didn’t miss the lust in her eyes when she looked her captive-- Mala and her fantasies of older men, especially ones that resisted her charms.
“If the Luminous one can take over his mind, he can move beyond his confides, Joe would be powerful indeed…” Zoltar put a thoughtful hand to his mask. As long as I have control, he would be a useful cyborg. Darkening at the thought of the great spirit replacing him as leader, he wanted his new toy under his thumb.
Powerful indeed. He thought, and a danger to my position as leader of Spectra. But I can’t kill him, the Luminous one would know.
“We can’t control him.” Zoltar said aloud. Mala shot him a questioning look.
“What do you intend to do about it.” She asked. “Hand him over to me-“
“No sister, that wouldn’t be wise.” He said smirking.
Pouting, Mala folder her arms still observing the former Condor.
“Put him into a coma, that way the Luminous one will be able to have full access to his brain, if he doesn’t kill him from the exposure of the telepathic connection, he may end up serving us after all.” Zoltars jealously of this man’s special ability to communicate with his Great Spirit vexed him.
Since the episode on the Poison Apple where the Science Ninja Team died except this one. The Condor made a connection with the species, Joe felt it, the others didn’t.
The Great Spirit told him only once of the telepathic pathways and their power. Joe would learn to obey, in the end, he will have no choice in it. He couldn’t be stronger than the Great Spirit.
Ken waited impatiently for the passengers of the economy class flight he boarded fifteen hours ago, to slowly file off out through the doors at Utoland airport. Bleary eyed from the long flight and sitting around- And so close to home and his family his impatience to be out of there went up several notches.
Unaccustomed to being on commercial airflights it was an agonising flight for the former Gatchaman. Used to being in control of the plane or Ryu’s flying style he found it boring, and was tempted to go to the pilots, cockpit several times just to see if they needed backup.
Renting planes since he had to give up the airfield had caused him some anguish over the years, but he figured his marriage was worth more than the subject of the costs of a new plane and hire for the hangar space at an airfield in Utoland.
In reality they couldn’t afford it at the moment, with two kids and another about to make a debut into the world. The costs of education since Jamie would be starting primary school in a few months, follow by his daughter a year later.
Finally Ken managed to get out of the plane and into Utoland airport exit point. Presenting his ticket and passport to the attendants at the various check points he finally emerged into the bright sunlight to the taxi pick up point.
He watched with amusement the car overtaking an incoming taxi, cutting it off with screeching tires, like the driver was flying a warship, into a docking bay around an obstacle course. The small car didn’t suit the driver, he was sure Ryu put the car on like a dinner suit, rather than squeeze into it.
Ryu pulled up into the taxi bay, indicating for him to jump, in with an angry taxi driver yelling abuse out the window. Ken levelled him a glare and the driver backed off.
He jumped into the passenger seat, glancing at his old friend.
“Thanks Ryu, I didn’t know if anyone got the message.” Ken said to the former helmsman of the God Pheonix.
“Not a problem Ken. Jun’s been cranky all day. Almost unbearable- cleaning the house, cursing, something about her lower back aching…Jinpei is currently trying to fed the kids, and they’re throwing food at Uncle Jin. Just warning you…” Ryu shot him a sympathetic look. “You have strong-willed kids.”
“Nothing we ninja’s can’t handle.” Ken smirked at his old friend. Jamie especially was a handful, high energy. His sister was smarter, and together they made a good team of pre-schoolers.
Family life, all the missions we ran, the stress of saving the Earth and this is what they had saved it for. Ken couldn’t be happier.
“You might want to drive a little faster, Jun complained of lower backaches, with each of the babies right before she went into labour. The cleaning… yes part of it too.” Ken reminded him. “Cranky, I was scared of her… Jinpei should be right now.”
Each time it reminded him of not being there for their first.
Marks birth- while he was angry with Jun for not making more of an effort to tell him, he eventually took his part of the blame. She was afraid and alone, and he could have made more of effort to contact her during that time.
He had opportunities to fly to Utoland even for a day and he didn’t do it. The outcome might not have changed, yet he finally admitted to his part for what he said to her.
He made it harder for her tell him the truth. What would have had said anyway if she told him she was going through with the pregnancy?
He couldn’t go back in time and change things. At least now he be there.
Hanging on tight as Ryu dangerous navigated the streets of Utoland Ken made a note to offer to drive next time. He didn’t have the skills that Joe had behind the wheel-- He was better in a warship.
They finally arrived at Ken and Jun’s home. A converted warehouse flat, enough room for their expanding family. Jumping out of the car ahead of Ryu he raced up the stairs excited to see them after a few months away.
He could hear Jamie and Syrah fighting, with Jinpei trying some form of discipline. It sounded like corners for time out.
Ken threw open the door to be greeted by his over excited children. Jamie did a running jump and Syrah squealing with delight. Her pretty auburn curls and soft blue eyes thrusted a doll in his face to show him.
“Hi Aniki.” Jinpei waved, he was covered in food.
“What happened, and who attacked you?” Ken laughed.
“Jamie did, the kid has a good aim.” Jinpei shot his nephew a growl. “Syrah backed him up, I think it was her strategy.”
Ken embraced his two kids tightly, he’d missed them terribly. He didn’t want his first words to be a reprimand.
“Ahh, where’s Jun.” Ken asked looking around.
“Glad you asked the question.” Jinpei’s eyes widened as he spoke. “Ten minutes ago, she headed out the door with a small bag saying something about me looking after the kids…and for you to go straight to the hospital cause baby won’t wait.”
Ken knew what that meant grinning. ” Thanks Jin… I’m going to be a dad again!”
“Ken, you want me to drive you there.” Ryu offered walking in the door.
“No Thanks Ryu, you help Jinpei he needs back up-- I’ve got this one. Taking the motorbike.” He sprinted to the garage, gunning the engine he raced off after Jun to the hospital.
Moving through the traffic he ran two red lights to get there, avoiding the sirens that followed him. He flew down a few alleyways to lose the cops, he’d known all his life the streets of Utoland. Emerging closer to his destination.
Racing into the hospital he knew his way to the maternity ward, having been there twice before. He almost bowled over one of the nurses in his rush. A young man with a midwife badge on halted him.
“Sir, can I help you?”
“Mrs Washio, my wife came here in a taxi--”
“Down the corridor, go right, then left, then right again, she’s in birthing suit G-103.” The young man indicated.
He nodded his thanks, and sprinted in the direction like he was racing to his plane to go on a mission. When Jun went into labour she only labours that lasted a few hours at the most.
Rounding the corner, and skidding to a halt- he ran into the room G103,to be stopped by two medical staff.
They indicated he needed to wash his hands, and put on a hospital gown to go any further. From the corner of his eye he saw Jun pacing the room as labour pains hit. Squeezing her eyes shut, her knees buckling.
Rushing to the sink he washed up at the sink in a nearby room, threw on the gown and walked back into the room Jun was pacing in.
The rooms in the local Utoland hospital no longer held the sterile appearance of years gone by. Colourful pictures graced the walls. A special birthing bed in the middle of the room along with a midwife checking on the progress.
He gently put his arms around her, being a smaller-build she tended to be huge full term.
“I’m here.” He said warmly. “Plane was delayed.”
She laced her fingers with his, a half smile played on her lips, her eyes spoke of her relief that he made it.
“I have to push… tried… to…. Wait…. for you.” Jun managed to say as another labour pain hit and the midwife indicated he hold her as Jun pushed.
“I’m here, hold my hand…” He said, helping her. Anticipation for their new child overwhelmed him, and everything she went through to bring a healthy baby into the world.
Within half an hour, a tiny newborn baby rested on her bare chest. his heart threatened to burst with love for the tiny bundle and his wife.
Watching the effort, it took for a baby to come into world awed him every time. Her brow and hair covered in sweat, Jun was exhausted for the birth, and still smiling at the new addition to the Washio family. A soft glow touched her cheeks, she looked beautiful. Their tiny baby squirmed, as he rested snuggled into his mother still covered in fluids from the womb.
“He’s a cutie.” He rested on the edge of the bed as they indicated it was time to crimp the cord. The nurse briefly picked him up to clean him. Handing him back a few minutes to his father. Jun’s eyes didn’t leave them, as Ken carried his son back to his mother.
“You know, we keep going like this, one more and we’ll have the team.” Ken grinned.
Jun slightly frowned. “Ken don’t spoil the moment… I’ve only just pushed this one out and feel like everything is on fire down there, stretched out of shape.”
It didn’t last long, the joy of their fourth child coming into world overrode everything. The intimacy between them and the love deeper than ever before.
“So, what do we call him?” Ken asked, they had a few names, but with Ken being away it didn’t leave time to really decide.
“Joe.” Jun waited for Ken’s response.
“Yeah, that fits him perfectly… we’ll call him Joe.” Ken agreed. Silence fell between as he handed him back to Jun. The thought of Joe was there, like a ghost waiting to be found. “Joe Washio.”
Enjoying the time together, Jun kissed her for the first-time months. “I love you Jun, we make cute babies.”
“I know… I love you too.” Jun whispered as little baby Joe Washio, started to suckle on her breast for his first feeding time in the world. With his loving parents watching him.
Chief Anderson wondered why it was so bright and sunny. It didn’t feel right as the coffin was lowered into the ground.
Observing the young boy with sapphire blue eyes and unruly chestnut hair. His stoic face appearing older than his ten years of age. He threw a rose onto the coffin and walked away by himself.
Mark refused comfort from anyone, his father hadn’t returned in time for his mother’s, last days and sudden passing- why would he want to speak to anyone. His glassy eyes and statue stance torn his heart watching his future commander mourn his mothers, passing.
The few words that spoke, held bitterness in them. He felt let down again by another parent abandoning him- This time in death. His mother adoptive Natasha was the only one who understood him and now she was gone, his only other biological parents gave him up at birth and lived far away with their own children-- He barely knew them if at all.
No one really knew his full story, and Mark felt no need to share it.
After the burial, he sat by himself in the graveyard. A young girl with long dark hair and pale skin, and a black dress walked over to him, young Princess.
She stood in front of him and Mark ignored her for ages, she stayed. She put a gentle hand on his shoulder, he touched her fingers briefly not looking up, and then she walked away to join Jason and Tiny.
Its his way, Chief Anderson concluded. He needed time to comprehend his world had changed. Mark’s response to emotional stress was it isolate himself, usually he would sit with his mother during times he was hurting, angry, needed to talk.
Like when Mark read the report… Chief Anderson left out the details such as the mission code name. Missing presumed deceased… was what Mark read.
When the Chief hadn’t heard a word from Matt or the mission squadron in weeks he began to worry, they had been gone a few months by this stage.
Eventually he received a cryptic message sent to him via a radio wave.
Spectran military active, be on alert. Cronus.
Cronus, the mission code for Matt’s squadron.
After that nothing, a few weeks ago, he received reports that they found wreckage of Federation fighter jets on an isolated planet still to be claimed by the federation. The identification verified it was Matt’s team. All five planes shot down, no apparent bodies.
He couldn’t keep it from Natasha, he had to tell her the truth so he handed her the report. She paled and before he knew it, she fainted.
Calling the medical team to come to the mansion with Mark rushing to his mothers, side, Jason, Princess and Tiny not far behind him. She spoke a few words to her son and left the world for the heavens.
Chief Anderson didn’t know what her last words were to Mark, they had all left the room by that point.
Matt would be heartbroken at her loss, they had been together from the time they were young recruits in the military. Matt a budding fighter pilot later an engineer in aviation design, and Natasha in communications on his base. Their marriage had stood the test of time, even after he joined the red squadron commanded by Kentaro Washio.
A hard line Japanese commander who demanded complete dedication from his secretly formed squadron. He had no room for wives and families, they had to cut ties- Kentaro almost drove a permanent wedge in Matt’s marriage.
Until Matt’s plane crashed dramatically during a battle with Galactor at the start of the war, on a dangerous mission leaving him severely wounded and unable to return to the elite squad.
Matt official records held he flew for the UN as a fighter pilot, with access to Top Secret document Anderson knew all the details.
Matt was perfect for the mission, he had no regrets sending him. It was part of his job as security for the new Federation to send qualified people into the unknown, take risks.
Looking into the clear blue horizon across the clifftop, three new fighter jets Anderson arranged to honour Marks parents appeared on the distant horizon, flying closer the three fighter jets slowed down to come in low, one of them left the group to mark the departed pilot.
For Matt and Natasha, Chief bowed his head for a moment.
Sighing heavily, he waited for Mark, but young kid didn’t appear to be leaving his spot anytime soon.
He watched as Mark finally lifted his head, staring into the skies as the fighter jets flew over in a formation- his young eyes watching their every graceful movement through the skies as the silver birds cut through the sky and their engines roared above him.
Mark stood up and ran after them as they continued their flight, like he could catch them if he ran fast enough. Finally, he stopped at the edge of the graveyard, motionless as he watched it fly to a tiny dot in the distance.
This seemed to break Mark out of his spell, he ran back to Chief Anderson, his young face and intense blue gaze deadly serious.
“I want to be your best pilot… I want to fly fast planes… I want to be a part of G-Force… I’ll accept your offer of Commander. I’ll be the most dedicated commander you’ll ever have. I’ll train hard I promise to be the best. I’ll make my mother and father proud of me…” Mark vowed openly. Delivering his promise with conviction, his every word sounded like a much older person speaking it.
Silently Chief accepted his words, he laid a hand on his shoulder, Mark needed this, he could see from every fibre of his being Mark would keep his word.
Four young orphans, stood behind Mark, the young children walked over and placed a hand on Marks shoulder surrounding him they all held the same stance stating their commitment. Jason, the best driver, marksman, kick arse fighter. Princess, electronics, and motorbike- fighter. Tiny- Helmsman, fighter. Little Keyop, he wanted to kick butt too…still a little boy, yet he still understood them.
G-Force at last had fully come together, they could begin….
“Then tomorrow, you start officially training.” Chief Anderson declared, and escorted the five of them to the waiting black limousine waiting on the edge of the graveyard.
A month had passed since the arrival of their new baby boy and Ken couldn’t be happier. There was a time in his life when he thought he wouldn’t live to see this, hold his kids and marry the woman he loved.
Finally, life held some meaning for Ken beyond the battle of staying alive, he had worked hard to make civilian life a place he belonged the day he decided to come back for Jun. He never wanted to abandon her again.
Then Chief Anderson walked into his restaurant near closing time, he sat at a table, ordered a meal and waited.
Ken saw him from the kitchen and figured the Chief of Galaxy security wouldn’t be in Utoland without a reason. He had made it clear their days as ninjas in birdstyles was over, so why was he here?
Swallowing hard Ken hoped it would be something to do with Joe’s disappearance. Ken had been extremely guarded with his information on Joe’s disappearance, only sharing it with the chief because of Jason.
The chief wouldn’t allow Jason to come to Utoland like Jun and Ken requested. His reasoning was Mark, being Marks best friend he felt it better he stayed in Ameris, and Natasha was there for him as a guardian, so the boys were growing up as brothers. Only for that reason did they relent and not continue to pursue it.
Ken personally brought out his order, politely asking Chief Anderson if he would like anything else. The Chief declined, only when Ken turned to walk away did he speak of something other than the quality of the meal.
“We need to talk, later, when your closed.” Chief Anderson casually opened his napkin, placing it carefully in his lap. Ken nodded, and continued his stroll out back.
A few hours later, the kitchen team had left and Ken pulled two beers out of the fridge as the Chief took a seat at a table away from the windows.
“Want to tell me why you’re here?” Ken didn’t waste time, he wanted to go home to his wife and kids. Sitting here with him brought him back to his days as Dr Nambu’s ward. This man wasn’t his old mentor and foster father. It took until Dr. Nambu died for Ken to see how much of a father the doctor had been to him.
“No small talk.” The Chief moustache turned into a smile.
“I have a family, so no…” Ken said evenly, taking a swig from his beer. Chief Anderson didn’t touch his.
“Water, please.” Chief Anderson asked. Ken handed him a bottle he already had on the table.
“We have had an incident and I couldn’t tell you about it through a letter.” Chief Anderson resided to getting to the point.
The sound of the door opening drew both of their attention, Ken naturally on guard being with the Chief in case he was followed took a few precautions with a small knife handy in his pocket. Walking through the door was Jun with baby Joe in a sling.
Jinpei must be there. Ken figured.
Ken indicated she lock the door when her eyes fell on the Chief. Without hesitation, she casually glanced through the window for anything suspicious outside. Seeing nothing she walked over as Ken pulled out a chair for her to join them.
“Chief Anderson.” Jun addressed him, casting a sidelong glance at Ken.
“Hello Jun… Congratulations to you both.” Chief Anderson bowed his head to the little baby huddled close to his mother.
“Thank you.” Jun smiled at her newborn son.
Ken waited for him to keep talking, he glanced at his sleeping son. “You were saying why you’re here.”
“What I’m about to say is Top Secret. It doesn’t leave this room.” Chief Anderson eyes watched the both of them. Ken didn’t flinch, Top Secret had been his life for many years, and some it still was top secret, like them living through the final hours of the Poison apple exploding in space as their ship transported in firebird mode.
Ken nodded and so did Jun to indicate they understood.
Anderson began his briefing. “A few months ago Matt Butler was sent on a top secret mission to locate a Federation exploration ship called the Endeavour. It went missing, along with its crew.”
Ken’s heart skipped a beat. The Endeavour had been Joe’s Command.
Listening closely Ken waited to for him to elaborate.
Anderson dropped his bombshell. “Matt is missing, presumed dead. His plane was found as a wreckage on one of the outer-planets. We couldn’t identify a body… Then a few weeks ago, Natasha passed away.”
Tears sprung in Jun’s eyes, Ken sat back in his seat in shock worried about Mark.
“Mark.” Jun gasped, concerned. “How is he?”
“Mark is okay, he’s grieving his loss… but he is living in my mansion with his friends. I’m now his legal guardian.” Chief Anderson informed them. He waited for the information to sink in.
“Do you want us to come to Ameris?” Ken asked, willing go to if it’s what Mark needed.
“No Ken and Jun. It’s, not what I’m asking of you, nor is Mark.” Anderson informed them. “I’m training him along with Jason, Princess, Tiny and Keyop to be a special team. Much like you were as the Science Ninja Team only better- Mark is a natural leader. He will be the Eagle. G-1.”
Ken’s gut churned inside of him. He wondered if Mark knew what he was getting himself into.
Probably not he, thought wildly.
Ken didn’t when he joined the team under Dr. Nambu’s instruction. He had no clue of what his future held at ten years old he was a kid. How’s a kid to see anything past a superficial glory and a chance to be a hero. If knew then what he knew now would he have still done it?
“What about Jason?” Jun asked quietly, Ken knew she was thinking of Joe.
“He will be G-2 the Condor. He’s shown promise to be a good driver and marksman. A talented young man, he’s Marks second-in-command.” Anderson watched their faces for their responses.
“So, why are you really here? You didn’t have to tell us really, since we have no say in it.” Ken choked on the words, it still stung.
“I have this for you.” Anderson pulled out an envelope. Sealed with Ken’s name on it.
Ken took the envelope in his fingers, Chief waited for Ken to open it. Ken hesitated, it was addressed to him, not to the Chief. The paper a special kind that couldn’t be read through any other means than opening it.
“It’s from Matt, in the event of his death.” Ken read. “For Ken Washio’s eyes only.”
Ken raised an eyebrow, and put it into his pocket. “I’d say he has a few private words for me, likely about Mark and saying he’s sorry. Things like that.” Ken casually put an arm around Jun’s shoulders.
Chief got the hint, and stood up to leave. “I’m sorry Ken, Jun. Its hard news to hear with Mark still being so young. I felt you shouldn’t receive it in a letter.”
You wanted to know what’s in the letter Chief. Ken thought, standing up to show him out of the restaurant. From the corner of his eye Ken could see Jun discreetly looking for bugging devices.
That’s my wife, Ken thought proudly. He didn’t even need to ask her to do it.
They waited a while after he left. Jun fed baby Joe as Ken walked out the back to take a few minutes to get his head together.
He picked up a chef’s knife and pelted it angrily at the wall, it hit its target.
“I see your knife skills are as good as your sword throwing skills.” Jun’s sweet voice drifted from the doorway of the kitchen.
“I… poor Mark.” Jun’s sadness echoed his. “We can’t fix it, we can’t turn back a clock…”
“Even if we could turn back a clock the outcome with be the same Jun. We couldn’t control his future even if we wanted too.” Ken had accepted it a long time ago.
Jun burst into tears, rocking her baby son to sleep. “We still put him in danger, we put Matt and Natasha in danger. What Galactor did to her… Ken it’s my fault. I should have…”
Ken rushed over to her, pulling her into his arms enclosing the both of them in his embrace.
“Stop blaming yourself, Matt chose to go in the mission. We did what we could… “ Ken reassured her.
“What… can we do.” Jun looked up at him. She always turned to him like this, waiting for him to lead the way.
“You tell me.” He whispered. Ken pulled out the letter and opened it. “Let’s see what Matt wanted to tell us.”
Dear Ken and Jun,
If you are receiving this letter my mission failed. I’m dead…
For a long-time there is something I have been wanting to share with you. I had planned to some to Utoland but an incident has happened and I feel I have to go as, intel of a Devilstar shaped ship has appeared at Galaxy security. The endeavour has disappeared.
Joe’s intel, Ken thought wildly.
Ken I’m not sure how to approach this topic. It was a part of my life a long-time ago, but I feel you should know. As you are aware I was once a UN fighter pilot. That part is true, its where I trained, and met my wife. I was also recruited by a Squadron commander Kentaro Washio as part of Red Impulse. His elite team to run secret missions against Galactor.[/I]
Ken stopped reading, gasping at this new knowledge.
How small the world is, he mentally gasped. Marks father, was one of the lost Red Impulse Squadron. Ken has learned his father had lost half of his pilots by the time he first helped the team on a mission against Galactor. Matt was one of them.
Jun’s eyes filled with alarm as she read it along with him.
There is more to it. Kentaro was a careful man, he had more than one base of operations. Recently I went to one I knew of. It’s still there. The base with a bit of work could still be operational. If we have a threat looming from Spectra find a way to make it work. There is one fighter jet there. It’s my design, Kentaro had it made for me in hope I could return to the squadron. It’s yours now. Take care of Mark and Natasha, since her father passed away she has no one.
I’m sorry Ken and Jun. I wanted to be there for Mark. I love my son deeply. He’s a good kid, you’ll be proud of him.
Ken read the coordinates for the base. Matt had been careful, he obviously hadn’t even disclosed it to Chief Anderson.
“Ken,” Jun touched his face, Ken’s eyes met hers.
“We need to do this.” She said softly, her heart pouring out as she spoke. “The Restaurant. You did it for me, it’s only ever been a temporary place in our lives…”
“How will we live Jun? We have bills, kids that need schools. Our life isn’t that simple.” Ken battled with his first instincts to run to duty. Here was Jun encouraging it.
“We have enough money saved. You might run things here, but I do the books. Buy another business… a motorbike shop for now. It will free up time for us. Find this base… we may find Joe with more resources…You’ve been clear medically for years… we can do this…” Jun poured out her thoughts.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” She questioned, his heart filled with love.
“You know me too well… I did do this for you, I did it for us.” Ken tilted her chin and kissed her.
“We can’t escape what we are Ken. We are ninja’s. We have a cover, we can do it as a family, we find a way. If that’s how we protect them.” Jun adjusted her sling. Ken instead pulled baby Joe out of it and held him in his arms. “I can home school the kids if we need too…”
“Then we sell this place…buy a motorbike shop and start resourcing for more equipment.” Ken agreed with her plan, she spoke his thoughts out loud.
“We can do this and be a family?” Ken wondered, holding his son close.
“You’re not disappearing on me like your father did… get that into your head Ken Washio.” Jun’s lips drew tight as she warned him, growing ridged in his arms. “Unlike your mother, I’ll hunt you down. I’m skilled and I’ll find you Ken… and you won’t like when I do.”
Ken drew back to gaze into her eyes. “I think I’m more scared of you than Galactor or Spectra.”
Jun’s body language softened, her eyes spoke of love. “ No… you’re not Gatchaman…. But you should be.”
“We teach our kids how to fight… we can’t leave them defenceless if Spectra proves to be a real threat.” Ken watched her response, he felt little Joe move, tugging on his heart stings with the raw need to protect them.
Jun nodded, she agreed with him. The Washio family were going into an unknown future once more…
Ken walked up the rocky passage way of the narrow cavern. Following the instructions, he had been given he punched in the code of the smooth steel door he discovered part way into the natural rock tunnel.
“Aniki, what do think is in there?” Jinpei quipped, the teenage kid insisted upon coming after their meeting with Ryu at Ken and Jun’s apartment a week before.
“I’m hoping a base.” Ken pulled open the door. The Code Matt had given him proved true. LED lights flickered on throughout the room they entered, after a few minutes the whole base lit up.
“Wow!” Jinpei wide eyed followed him. “This place has remained hidden.
The one thing that stood out like a beacon was the red painted fighter jet sitting in the landing bay. A huge cavernous room with enormous closed doors.
Ken’s heart raced at the sight of it. Images of Red Impulse flashed through his mind. For a moment, he was transported back in time, he saw his father’s face seconds before he jumped into the rocket to complete a suicide mission.
“Its Red Impulse.” Jinpei exclaimed taking it all in.
“It was…” Ken managed, a lump forming in his throat.
“Its ours now.” Ken turned to the Swallow.
Jinpei fell silent, as Ken walked slowly over to the fighter jet waiting for him. He opened the cockpit to find a note sitting on the seat.
If you’re here Ken… it means I’m gone… I’m sorry to have let you down in caring for Mark. I loved him, please… let him know that one day. Watch over him… Chief Anderson has good intentions, he was bitter about Dr Nambu’s death, but I know him well from days gone past he still has the Federation at heart. He will always put the Federations needs before the kids and it worries me with Mark and Jason especially…
We are men of duty, eventually it calls to us again… all the best for your family look after them.
“Yes, we are.” Ken sighed heavily. Jun saw it, and rather than fight she’s finding a way to come with him along with their children.
Protecting them wasn’t about abandoning, it was about rising up despite the dangers to be there in what form he could be. Ken chose his wife and children.
They chose to come with him- Jun always looked to his lead when they were younger. He discovered it was because of how much she believed in him as a leader. He wasn’t going to let her down.
“This is our new home.” Ken jumped out of the cockpit seat.
Jinpei nodded. “Ryu… “
“I know Jinpei and I don’t expect him to drop everything, I know his marriage is strained at the moment. I’m hoping they work it out too.” Ken reassured the Swallow. He wasn’t asking anything of either of them.
Ken and Jinpei went on a tour of the rest of the base. To his surprise, it was bigger than it initially appeared to be. There were accommodation wings, common room, war planning space, kitchen, dining. Enough for his family, the kids would have to share. Jinpei would have his own few rooms, Ryu if he chose to join them and a spare. Ken reserved it for the day they found Joe. Clinging to hope the Condor would find a way home or they would find him first.
In the months after Chief Andersons visit Jun and Ken sold the restaurant, they had a lot of buyers due to its success and made a good profit. Ken left it to Jun to workout, the settlement and investment of their money was Jun’s strength.
She had done well. She purchased a motorbike shop, appointed a manager and sales team. Other funds she invested into the stock market, Jun was making money fast!
“Where do we start Aniki?” Jinpei looked overwhelmed, and excited.
“Here… weapons, more planes.” Ken walked over to a folder on the bench with his name on it. Inside were fighter jet designs and contacts. Matt had planned this well, if he had come back from the mission he would doing the same thing. Maybe they would be doing it together.
Ken grinned. It had struck him how small the world can feel at times that the couple Jun chose to raise Mark had connections back to them.
“I’m going to see Mark.” Ken looked up at Jinpei’s surprised face. “He won’t know it’s me… I’ll use a name, disguise. Find a way to keep an eye on him. To be honest, he would recognise me anyway now.”
“Yes, he would, you could be twins you look that much alike. What will you call yourself?” Jinpei quizzed.
“Cronus…we are we’ll think of a name for our unit… that way if Matt by chance is alive, he will know… it was the mission call sign. I hope Matt is out there alive so I bring him back. I know what it’s like…Anderson will know…” Kens voice trailed away.
He knew the pain and void it left at a young age…
“Time to get started.” Ken got down to business. Time to bring Jun here to see what she can do with the computers in the place to get it up and running, they had work to do.
Time held no meaning for Joe Asakura. This place of endless mirrors, no reality could exist here. Joe had thought at one point he had escaped the clutches of Spectra only to find himself in an illusion of some kind. The gentle rocking of his small raft brought him little peace as he floated on the open seas on a dark night staring at the blackness above him with scattered stars like sprinkles of sliver glitter thrown across the darkness breaking up the blackness he stared into.
“Why my mind? Your predecessor favoured the likes of Berg Katse, Gel Sadra… they could be controlled by you. Not me.” Joe spoke to the alien.
“You sort me… don’t you remember?” It reminded him.
“How?” Joe confused.
“You connected with me…. Not my brother whose mission to destroy all who oppose us failed. I was the one you connected with…” The Alien waited for his response.
“I don’t get it beastie… you have the wrong guy. Zoltar is looking promising.” Joe shot back at it, at the moment he wondered if he conjured up a mental weapon could he kill it before harmed anyone.
“Zoltar is a tool… like Berg Katse was for my brother…. You are what we call…” The Alien hesitated. “We have known who you are since your birth. We have been waiting for you to grow… the a Dr Nambu stole you from Berg Katse…. He FAILED!” He screamed, piecing Joe’s ears.
Joe was onto something here.
Grinning Joe responded. “Failed…and I’m special.”
“Yes you are special… so why not allow me to be part of you.” It hissed.
“Whoa… you want to be…umm… me.” Joe felt panic rising inside of him. This is the stuff he expected to science fiction.
“Let me own you, then I will reveal your true power. Spectra is mightier than Galactor ever was.” The Great Spirit’s seductive tone irritated the Condor.
For a moment, the penny dropped. He remembered his first contact with an alien mind. It was when he faced the monster with Pandora’s machine. It strength shot painful arrows through his mind, he barely coped with the intensity of it-- it tried to consume him. Then on the Poison Apple he felt it, heard it when the others didn’t. Joe easily connected with the species.
Joe tried a new tactic as his raft moved with the currents. “So, power and glory is on offer. Sounds tempting to me… Whats in it for me?”
“You will be immortal… have whatever you desire… ruler of all the Earth. We will give it to you as your domain.” The Alien sounded hopeful.
“In exchange for what?” Joe asked making it sound like he was considering it.
“You serve us.” The Great spirit purred.
Joe smirked-- It was hiding its plan well.
The Great Spirits tone deepened. “You were meant to come to us as a boy. Your father knew your destiny Joe Asakura. He was honoured by it. Then he betrayed us! You are to become our finest leader, the one to seal the fate of the universe and empower us to rule. You can’t fight this, one day you will obey and be powerful beyond anything any species has ever seen.”
“This is where it all comes unstuck for you… I killed your brother… You killed my son…” Anger welled in Joe at the thought of Jason on the beach. The scene played like a record stuck on track over and over…
“Your son… he would be useful. If you’re not going to come to us. We will find him and serve in your place.” The Great spirit promised.
Joe bolted upright. His eyes wide, if even a hint of it was true Joe, Jason could be alive. He had to find a way back home, out of this place. The creature gave something away it didn’t intend too.
“Jason….Asha…” It hissed, sinister in its words spilled out of its mouth. “Ken…. Jun… Jinpei…Ryu… maybe finding them will convince you.”
“Joe… you are one of us… don’t you feel it?” The creature informed him.
Horror filled him, how could he be one of them?
Was it playing games with his mind, naming the people he loved, he growled. He had to fight, Joe had to escape at all costs to protect his family.
Jason… what if he lived… what if they lied about him. Joe drew in a deep ragged breath. He had come to this place to die, when he swam out the raft he had wanted to lay down and stop breathing. He has come so close to giving up on life altogether.
Forcing himself to his feet he cast his eyes around the back water surrounding him. The isolation of his mind, his thoughts so the creature could access him easily. Joe was in coma, he became certain of it.
Ken would be working it out, he had to think in the way he saw Ken did in solving problems.
Frantic he tried to tune in his thoughts, what did he possess outside of his body he could cling too. The image of the beach he last saw Jason on floated into his thoughts.
The creature tried to tap into his thoughts. Joe blocked it out, he had become so laxed it had found his friends and who he cared about the most. He wouldn’t let it happen again.
He pictured his son in as many details as he could muster. Opening his eyes, Joe dove off the raft and into the cold water, he swam into the depths until his lung felt like they were on fire, he kept diving until his mind registered that this wasn’t reality. He burst through the surface, drawing in deep painful breaths as waves flung onto the wet sand of the beach.
Jason was no longer on the beach, it was empty of all souls.
“If you’re alive son, I’ll find you.” Joe promised, he fought to regain his consciousness.
Joe’s eyes flung open, he drew in real air, he felt his own body. He was alive, whole and in control.
Taking a moment to adjust his eyes Joe starred at the white ceiling. He was in a room alone nothing holding him down. He had equipment measuring his heart rate, and vitals.
No doctors or guards present. Joe reached up to his neck and touched the golden angel Asha had given him. His reality, it wasn’t with him in the dream state he had been in. Joe felt his long hair and new rough beard.
How long have I been there, a sinking feeling it had been a while hit him-- He had no sense of time left.
Gradually Joe rose to his feet jumping off the bed, scoping the room he searched for anything he could use as a weapon. Smirking at his find he pocketed the medical scalpel from a tray and scissors.
They had become laxed, the guards figured he was in a coma, so they didn’t even bother being in the same room as him. Joe, soft on his feet made his way to the door. Shaking his head at the incompetence he opened a crack in the door to observe the outside world.
Two extremely bored looking guards sat at a table playing cards.
Without a second thought Joe aimed the scissors at the one facing him and closest to the alarm and the door. Taking him out swiftly with a dagger to the throat the man collapsed choking on his own blood.
His unprepared friend didn’t have time to move in from his seat as Joe grabbed his neck breaking it in seconds.
Aware they likely had security cameras in the place Joe shot pulled the bodies into the room he had been left in. Stealing a uniform, he quickly dressed. Throwing them onto the bed he covered them with a sheet. Taking the guards weapons Joe left the room and heading down the hall to make his escape.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.