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2012 - a year of Bradbury's Jar! by KT1972
2012 - a year of Bradbury's Jar! by KT1972
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I don't own the canon characters.... yadda yadda yadda!!
2012 - A year of Bradbury’s Jar prompts

#1 – The Game

Jun and Jinpei stared at their laptop, quietly sniggering to themselves,

"Shh," whispered Jun, noticing the odd looks Ken was throwing her way,

"Ok," Jinpei answered, "let's try this." He tapped a few keys, then clicked. Whatever he had done had Jun bursting with laughter. Ken's curiosity was well and truly aroused, and he couldn't resist coming over.

"What are you up to?" he asked.

"We're playing the Gatchamania silly game"



#2 - Potential

The two of them watched with varying degrees of interest, as the young ninjas jumped and flew around the specially constructed gym. Their movements co-ordinated, yet seemingly independent of one another. Every action flawless.

A signal from the commander, unseen by the observers, had the team gliding to the ground, lining up before the two-way mirror. In perfect synchronicity they saluted, their right arms across their chests.

Nambu turned to his companion,"So what do you think?"

The Red Impulse leader shrugged noncommittally,"I suppose they show potential." he said.



#3 – Dirty

Help me. I can’t do this any more. I know I shouldn’t be feeling this way, not after all this time, but I still get eaten up about it. It still burns, the rage inside, when I think about it all. So I try to avoid thinking about it.
But that doesn’t work. Not when the slightest, innocent trigger can set off the chain reaction which means another tormented sleepless night. Replaying the events over and over in my mind, unnecessarily torturing myself.

Yet I don’t have to do it. I know that. It should have been done with years ago, the matter settled, “put to bed” as I believe the saying goes. It’s over, forget it move on.

So why can’t I?

Why can it suddenly hit me like a bolt out of the blue, distressing myself further over event that cannot be changed. And a single word is enough to start the wheels turning. Not the word on it’s own you understand, but the chain reaction that word begins, snowballing from one post to the next, until the damage is done. The word has done it’s worst and set off the suppressed turmoil in my mind.

Then the tempo changes. The outside world goes back to being all sweetness and light, but what’s done cannot be undone. The anger and rage has been reignited, the fuse lit, the past relived in all it’s dirty sordid glory!

But I’ll get the better of it again, catch it, force it back into the darkest recess of my mind where it belongs. Sleep will return and I’ll face the world as if nothing was ever wrong.

Until next time.


#4 – The Birds and the Bees

“Why me though?”

“Because Ryu would get all silly about it, and I don’t want to think about what Joe will teach him.”

“But isn’t he still a little young for that?”

Jun had an answer for that already... “Maria”

“Ah.” Ken understood. “But Joe is more... um...”

“Experienced?”

“Open-minded about these things.”

“Joe would throw him a box of condoms and say ‘make sure you use these’” Jun decided a change of tactics was needed. She pressed up close to him and ran her finger down his chest, “If you’re not sure what you need to talk about, I’m sure I could give you a little demonstration!” she dropped her face slightly, but raised her eyes so she could still see the embarrassment across his face.

Compared to this, teaching Jinpei about the birds and the bees would be a breeze!


#5 – “Eat My Dust”

Joe growled at the incompetence of his pit crew, they had taken far too long, and he had slipped too far behind. Still, he refused to accept defeat, and at the start of the final lap, there was just one driver ahead. He accelerated, taking the bends rather more recklessly than he normally might in his anxiousness to get back in front, his exasperation spurring him on. He drew level with his rival as they hit the home straight.

He spurred the engine to kick out that little bit more power, edging ever so slightly out in front, a grin slowly replacing the scowl on his face.

‘Eat my dust’ he thought, crossing the line as the chequered flag came down.



#6 – The Dawn

The alarm roused him unwillingly from slumber and, against his will, he tumbled from the bed. His first thought upon hitting the floor was how dark it was, his second, how cold. He stared at the clock, still incessantly ringing, and convinced himself that someone had set it wrong. No one ever had to get up in the dark – not without being called up on a mission anyway.

He resisted the temptation to crawl back under the covers and, instead, prepared himself for the day ahead. He was just finishing breakfast as the dawn broke over a sparkling white landscape. He grinned suddenly as it caught his eye, and he was unable to dress quickly enough before rushing out to dive into a soft bed of snow.


#7 – Romance

She gazed at him over the table, emerald green eyes meeting startling blue. He was suddenly speechless; the waiter bringing the bill was a welcome distraction as he handed over his card.

Arm in arm they left the restaurant, she rested her head on his shoulder “I don’t want tonight ever to end,” she whispered softly.

He looked down to her, a smile creeping slowly across his face, “It doesn’t have to end just yet.” His smile widened at the questioning expression on her face. Taking her hand, he led her to the deserted beach, the moonlight sparkling on the receding tide.

He noticed her shiver and pulled her towards him, the sudden contact proved intoxicating and he stopped trying to resist her as he pressed his lips to hers. She willingly yielded to his embrace. No words were necessary as their kiss communicated more than either could have vocally expressed.

This was the beginning of a beautiful romance.



#8 - Bodies

Kissing, caressing, teasing,

Touching intimately, tenderness

Naked, skin on skin

Tasting, exploring, arousing

Limbs entwined, heart pumping, thumping

Bodies uniting, hips rocking

Rhythmic thrusting, panting, gasping

Hot, steamy, passionate

Clinging, grasping, wanting, writhing

Moaning, groaning, grunting, intensifying,

Culmination, conclusion,

Climax.


#9 – Picture Prompt (Joe with Gun)

Coming back to consciousness, Joe felt the feminine beauty his arm was draped over, a tantalising musk reaching his nose, encouraging him back to full awareness. He opened his eyes, slowly against the bright morning sun, but enough to note the unfamiliarity of his surroundings.

“Shit,” he cursed, moving off the bed, a more desperate call of nature making its presence felt...

He spotted the gun first; the colt automatic was a serious piece, not for the single girl needing a defence against possible intruders. Beginning to dress, he donned his gloves before handling the weapon. Loaded too, why wasn’t he surprised?

If further conformation were needed, the roses provided it. Now he had to act. Not only was she the enemy, she was an amateur and that made the situation even more dangerous. He had no idea if she knew his identity or not.
He took one of the bombs for the ISO to examine, holding it between his teeth, and as he continued to dress, he took aim....


#10 – Promise

As the first chords played, he took his place at the altar, turning to see the vision in white floating towards him, his heart fluttering in time to the melody.

He still had difficulty believing it, she was his! All these years of hoping and praying finally paid off.
She reached him at last, the veil lifted to reveal her sparkling emerald eyes. He couldn’t avoid shyly blushing as she gazed adoringly up at him while their mentor ‘handed’ her to him.

He knew, in his heart as they repeated their vows, exchanged rings and their lips joined, this was one promise he intended to keep – forever.


#11- Sick

“Everything ok, sis?”

“Yes, I’m fine.”

“You don’t sound fine, you sound sick to me.”

“There’s nothing wrong, ok, will you drop it?”

“Do you want me to call Aniki?”

“No, he’ll be here soon anyway.”

She raced into the bar the moment she heard the door open, and snatched the bag from his hands. Tipping the contents over the nearest table, she rushed off as soon as she found the box she was looking for.

Ten minutes later, she found the boys still packing the groceries away. They stopped as she entered the kitchen. Wordlessly, she approached her husband, and gazed up at him, communicating everything he wanted to know in a single glance. For a long moment they held each other tightly; until necessity made her rush off again.

“Told you she’s sick,” Jinpei moaned.

“She’s not sick, Jinpei,” He glanced at the stick she had palmed into his hand, “she’s pregnant!”



#12 - Dragon

“Ryu, can I ask you something?” The Swallow queried as he cast his line back into the water.

“What’s that then?”

“I thought mums-to-be were meant to be all happy and serene and stuff”

“Jeez Jinpei, I don’t know about that, why are you asking anyway?”

”Just that Jun’s been a real dragon since she got knocked up.”


#13 - Sunshine

They strolled along the beach, hand in hand, enjoying the sunshine on their skin and the waves lapping at their feet.

The last time they were here, they were on their first date, this time would probably be their last as a couple.
The next time they come, they will be a family.



#14 – Picture prompt (Ken and Joe – Civvies)

“Um, commander, can you see what I see?”

“What’s that?”

“Over there! Is that Ryu?”

“Hmm, could be,” Ken looked over to where Joe was pointing. Sure enough, there was the Owl, and he wasn’t alone.

“K’so,” Joe cursed, grabbing Ken’s shoulder with the shock, “How dare he find a girl before me!”


#15 - Safety

The team boarded the Godphoenix in their usual manner, stopping and staring in disbelief when they found their seats on the bridge.

“Harnesses?!”

“Yep,” Ken told them, “Hakase had them installed for our own safety!”


#16 – Eye

He watched closely as she stopped to take a breather, the second time in half an hour by his reckoning. For once he was grateful they were not on a mission, it seems like her pregnancy was starting to take its toll.

But what could he do about it? She didn’t think she needed to come off the team just yet, but then, they didn’t think her performance would be affected quite so quickly either.

He will have to keep a close eye on her from now on.


#17 – Speed Dating

He was nervous, more nervous than he had ever remembered being before. He just hoped the team didn’t get to hear about this, he would never live it down.

But, if Ken and Jun could make a relationship work, then there was no reason why he couldn’t. He had a lot to offer that special someone, assuming she was here of course.

He barely heard the instructions, he had a gist of what they had to do, Talk for 5 minutes, then move to the next table, and talk again, a list of possible questions were available as “ice breakers” for the tongue tied. They had thought of everything it seemed.

Taking a deep breath, he took his place at the first table, the woman there looked pleasant enough, and she smiled as he took a seat.

“Hello,” she spoke in a manner that suggested she was as anxious as he was, “I’m Rose.”


#18 – Picture Prompt (Jun sleeping at desk)

Ken watched her, as peaceful as she looked he knew he had to wake her, he had to explain that it was time for her to take maternity leave; that she couldn’t be expected to continue in her condition.

She would protest, of course, but as long as he could make her understand that he had her, and their unborn child’s, best interest at heart, he would convince her he was right. If he couldn’t, then maybe he would have to pull rank, as much as he would hate to.

Damn, he’ll let her sleep a little bit longer.


#19 - Tradition

The Condor slammed through the door of the snack J and took a seat at the bar; the scowl on his face would turn milk sour. His teammates watched him with some amusement.

“Don’t tell us, your date turned out to be another Devilstar!” Ryu laughed.

“How’d you guess?” Joe growled.

“Man, with your luck, it’s practically tradition.”



#20 – Mother

In her panic she hit the birdscramble on her bracelet, just as another contraction ripped through her.

He would know now, she thought, whatever he was doing, he’d know it’s time. The alarm had the double effect of alerting the med team, who were warned to act if it should be sounded from the Swan’s bracelet. They were by her side before she knew what was happening, and she gratefully put herself in their expert hands.

“Jun? Jun! Are you there? We’re on our way” Ken’s voice over the communicator sounded reassuring, she just hoped they weren’t abandoning their mission for this. They had promised Nambu Hakase faithfully that their relationship wouldn’t interfere with their duty to the team.

After what felt like hours, Ken was by her side. Holding her hands, talking her through the pain, not complaining at all the insults she threw at him as she proceeded to produce the miracle that was life.

Countless more hours, and the pain was over. As she sobbed in her husbands arms, a warm bundle was thrust into her arms, and cries of pain turned into tears of joy as she set eyes on her son for the first time.

“Hey little man,” she whispered to him, “Pleased to meet you at last, I’m your mother!”


#21 - Nightcrawlers

Joe waited with bated breath as his target lurched from the bar. Propped up by the goons either side of him, he staggered around the pavement leering at the women who had unfortunately caught his eye, and laughing raucously at their disgust of his condition.

Nightcrawler!

Joe thought the name particularly apt, nothing more than an oversized worm, about to become this bird’s next meal.


#22 – Surf and Turf

He pulled the speedboat alongside the harbour, securing it to the moorings before swiftly leaping out onto the jetty. He held out his hand to his companion, helping her to step off the craft in a dignified fashion, smoothly pulling her into his arms as she did so.

“Are we ok to be here?” she whispered nervously as they walked towards the quay.

“Sure, my father owns this stretch, I promise we won’t be disturbed.”

“And I thought ‘Sex On The Beach’ was just a cocktail,” she giggled, tucking herself under his muscular arm, pressing against a firm chest.

“Sure,” he grinned, glancing down at her, getting an appreciative eyeful of generous bosom. “Babe, we’ll give surf and turf a whole new meaning”


#23 – Feathers

Ryu woke feeling rested and refreshed. Seldom had he slept so well. He lay back on his bunk, dreamily remembering the girl on the boat, then later on the beach. Then back to his place.

He was sorry she had left before they had arranged another date. He rolled over, then startled, he jumped back as something soft, but simultaneously sharp scratched his hand. Propping himself up, he picked up the offending article, groaning in disbelief.

“Aww, damnit Joe, have you set me up for something?”

*****

Kosaboro Nambu yawned and stretched. He lay for a moment, trying to recall the previous night’s events.
Rose!

He hadn’t dreamt it then, he knew that since he was naked under the bedding, yet the right hand side of the bed was dishevelled, and the pillow dented where her head had been.

All that lay there now was a single white feather. Joe instantly sprang to mind, yet this wasn’t one of his shuriken....

*****

Joe was on his guard the instant she moved, he felt her shift off the bed. Keeping still and his breathing regular, he let her believe he was still sleeping, while he cautiously half opened one eye.

She had dressed, but instead of moving down the trailer as if to find food, or leave, she turned back to his cot and, removing something from her purse, leant over him.
In a flash he had hold of her wrist, the single white feather falling from her fingers.

“Start talking.” He growled.



#24 - Boundaries

Ever felt so strongly for someone that you could scream it from the rooftops? Then to know there’s nothing you can do about it, not only because the recipient of those feelings doesn’t reciprocate, but because the law actively prevents any acting on or even speaking of them!

If I were to admit these feelings existed, even to onechan, he would be at fault, but for what? Something he had no knowledge or control of? Yet should this secret see the light, the responsibility would be left squarely at his feet.

There’s a name for people like that, one that would be undeserved, for him at least, his punishment would be prison. Wouldn’t matter what I would say, there’s no defence. No readmittance to the society he was previously a valuable member of, tagged for life, the unfair label that would follow him everywhere.

He doesn’t deserve that, not him, the most kind and caring person that could ever walk this earth. So, until it’s acceptable to society I’ll remain silent, and he will remain ignorant, and safe. Those boundaries protect him, as well as me. I love him enough for that.


#25 – Father
Holding the infant in his arms, he found it difficult to comprehend how someone so tiny could have such a major impact in his life.

The baby, seemingly unconcerned with the disruption his arrival had caused, continued to sleep contentedly, cradled against his father’s chest, the regularity of his heartbeat lulled him into slumber.

Ken smiled as he laid baby Kenju into his crib.

He was determined to be a better father to his son, than his own father had been to him.



#26 - Food

A hush descended around the table, as the team stared at the plates an exhausted Jun placed before them. The men for once rendered speechless.

“Um, onechan,” Jinpei ventured, ignoring the glares both Ken and Joe threw across at him, “There’s no shame asking for help you know.”

“What makes you think I need any help?”

“Well, you’ve just made gravy with instant coffee.”



#27- Freedom

Carefully, he carried the sleeping child up the stairs, and crept into the nursery, before lowering him into the crib.

The boy barely murmured as he was covered and securely tucked in.

Joe looked down at him and smiled. He’d spent just 24 hours caring for him, to give his exhausted parents a much needed break, and now he understood how much a tiny little thing could be such hard work.

As much as he had enjoyed caring for Kenju, he was glad he could hand him back.

It certainly made him appreciate his freedom.



#28 - Gift

“Hi!” he welcomed her as she made her way towards the bar. “I’m so glad you could make it.”

“Nice to see you again, too,” she agreed, greeting him with a quick peck on his cheek, “now what’s the emergency?”

“Oh, no emergency,” he laughed, “I just wanted us to meet up, and to thank you for your little gift. I found it quite unique and rather charming.”

“Oh?” She looked puzzled, “what gift would that be then?”

“The feather,” he looked confused. “On my pillow. Are you saying you didn’t leave it there?”



#29 – Journey

He was getting more and more excited as he shoved his belongings into his case. A whole week, out there on his own. Well kind of.

Who would have thought that onechan would even allow him to go on this trip, but she was so busy and tired these days he didn’t think she knew what she had consented to.

Still she HAD consented, and he would be spending all this next week, on Ryu’s boat, taking the tourists out on the journey of their lives. He really couldn’t wait.


#30 – Heat

Nambu was turning up the heat, putting the pressure on them to find her. The ‘feather girl’ as she had been dubbed. All the members of the SNT were ordered to keep their eyes open.

She knew who they were and she had to be stopped.

First of all they needed to know who she was working for, but more importantly, how did she learn their civilian identities?


#31 - Foil

Jun opened her eyes, blinking against the brightness, her husband’s lips tickling her neck and sending warm shivers down her spine. Moaning her assent she half turned to him.

It had seemed so long since they had felt like this towards each other, she didn’t want the moment to end.

Ken found her mouth and ran his hands over softened curves as she melted under his touch, hardening in response to her budding excitement when he finds that special place that drives her wild.

The sudden crying of their small son in the adjoining room had them groaning in frustration as they separated to their own side of the bed.

“Shit,” Ken cursed. “Foiled again.”



#32- Seconds

Joe brought the car to a halt. He was quite happy with the performance so far, but he knew he could still do better.

“Hey, Joe.” his chief mechanic ran across, “You’ve made good time again.”

“You think?”

“Why, don’t you?”

“There’s always room for improvement.” He walked around the front and lifted the bonnet, bending inside to check the engine. As always it was perfect.

“Purrs like a kitten.” the mechanic looked at the motor with a combination of pride and envy.

“She wants to, I can’t afford to make any mistakes,” Joe didn’t need to explain to his crew. On the track, a split second decision could be the difference between victory and defeat, life and death.

Story of his life.



#33 – Picture prompt – Team chibis

The image crept closer and closer to him, the mysterious force that propelled him towards it not giving him any option but to follow.

In an instant, he knew his fate. The sixth box was his, he was going to end up in that last tiny square a caricature of the person he really was, and nothing could stop it.....

A blind panic caused him to scream, finally tearing himself away. He sat up in bed, panting, with sweat dripping from his face.

Thank whatever God was out there, it was only a nightmare!



#34 - Yearn

“Can we talk?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

“Just stuff.”

“Stuff, eh? Good stuff or bad stuff?” Jinpei shrugged, how was he to know, he was just a kid after all.

“Jeez kid, if you want any help or advice, you’re gonna have to be a bit more specific you know.”

“Yeah, I just don’t know how to say it, that’s all.”

“Is this something personal then?” Ryu scratched his head, a bemused expression crossing his face. “Maybe I’m not the right person to talk to?”

“Maybe, but you’re the only one I’m comfortable talking with.”

Ryu cursed under his breath, struck by a sudden yearning to be anywhere but here.




#35 - Nemesis

From the sidelines, he watched the car take its practice laps. It was state of the art; the driver could handle her well. Joe was impressed.

He looked with growing interest as the driver pulled into the pit lane, then exit the vehicle, pausing for a few words with her mechanic, a mane of blonde hair cascading down her back as she removed her helmet.

His mouth went dry as she came over, “Hi, it’s Joe right?” she held out her hand in greeting, “I’ve been looking forward to meeting my nemesis.”



#36- Expose

What the hell is he thinking of?

This should be the last thing he should do, but here he is doing it anyway. This isn’t like him at all.

He chuckled to himself, what would the team make of it?
What? Nambu has a secret? Who would have thought!

He adjusted the zoom, letting the shutter click at will while he had the button pressed. These would bring him a pretty penny or two, he was sure. All he needed was just the one to make it to the tabloids and he had got it made.
Until the feather flew past his nose, embedding itself into the PVC frame of the window he was looking through. He didn’t see the second, but felt it stabbing in his throat.

In the limited time remaining, he saw her take the camera, smashing it against the wall.

His dream, to expose Nambu, was over.



#37 - Unity

She’s been back again, The Feather Girl. She lurks around, teasing me with mere glimpses, just enough for me to be aware of her presence.

But not to see the whole being.

I wish she would open up and let me in, but why should she, when I can’t open myself up?

Maybe she knows already, she is testing me and my trust in her before she puts her trust in me. One day, one of us is going to take the plunge, to risk everything we have and hold dear, for something we don’t even know we want.

Well I know.

The next time I catch that glimpse, that little peek in the corner of my eye, I’m going to reach out and grab it, claim her for my own. To fill the void in my soul that only she knows exists. To risk everything, take the plunge. Become whole again.

Together - perfect unity.




#38 – Gesture

“Onechan? How ya feeling?”

She heard Jinpei tiptoeing into the room, the smell of something delicious hitting her nostrils making her already woozy stomach turn summersaults. There was a small clunk as a tray was carefully placed on her dressing table.

“Aniki told me you were sick, and he’s taken Kenju out for the day. I thought you might want to eat something, help keep your strength up.”

Jun muttered something incoherent from under her quilt, and listened for him to leave the room. She wished she could eat the wonderful smelling soup he had brought for her, but she could still appreciate the gesture.



#39 – Moonlight

He loved it out here. Nothing but solitude. The soft breeze made the small craft bob gracefully on the gentle waves. The conditions were perfect.

This had always been his own personal piece of heaven, but now there was something missing. He didn’t want to keep it to himself any more.

The last time he came out here, he’d brought her along, intensifying his pleasure a hundredfold. He grinned at the memory of their expedition.

He was quickly learning that the only thing better than coasting alone in the moonlight, was to have the girl of his dreams alongside him.


#40 – Treasure

Jun entered Nambu’s office with some trepidation. It had been a long time since she had been summoned in this fashion, and that was to be sent off on a mission. Surely that wasn’t going to be the case this time?

Nambu looked at her as she approached his desk, and indicated for her to sit. She sat, nervously returning his smile. “You wanted to see me, Hakase?”

“I have something here for you.” He slid a large packet towards her. “The orphanage passed it on to me when I took you in, I was waiting for the right time to give it to you. This is as good a time as any.”

Jun took the envelope, and carefully opened it, then gasped when she saw the contents. Inside she found pictures, and letters dated from the months before she was born, answering all the questions she had had about her parents while she was growing up.

“Thank you, Hakase,” she sobbed, “I’ll treasure these forever.”



#41 - Experiment

“What is she doing this time?”

“I dunno, but she’s been in there all day.”

“Shush, you two, she’s coming.”

“About time too, I’m starving.”

Four pairs of eyes watched Jun emerge from the kitchen, and place plates of what could loosely be called food, in front of them all. Four pairs of eyes looked at the plates, then back to her.

“So what is this then?”

“Just my little experiment.”



#42 - Rejection

Rushing into the store, Ken grabbed the first pack of nappies he found, and then hurried to the counter. The assistant was a rather sullen teenager, busy texting her boyfriend, he assumed. After being ignored for a full minute, Ken cleared his throat.

Tutting, the girl scanned his purchase, and he handed over his card, punching in his number when prompted.

The assistant looked at him suspiciously.

“It’s been rejected.”

“What?”

“Your card has been rejected ‘sir.’”

Ken didn’t like the implication she placed on that last word. He checked his wallet. He had some cash, but not enough. He persuaded her to try again, but it still wouldn’t accept his pin number.

“This has got to be a joke,” he grumbled to her, “Jinpei’s pulled another one of his pranks I shouldn’t wonder.” He called Jun, explaining his predicament once she answered.

“It’s ok, Ken.” Her voice was reassuring down the line.

“You’ve picked up my card by mistake...”



#43 - Party

“Sorry Jinpei, party’s over.”

“Party? What party? Is someone having a party and not invited me?”

“No squirt, that’s the point.”

“So how is it over then?”

Jun sighed exasperatedly, “It’s just a saying, that’s all. Now come on, we have work to do.”

“Awww, don’t wanna work, wanna party.....”




#44 - Pumpkin

“Hey Jinpei, how are the lanterns coming along?”

“Fine, they’re nearly done.”

“Can I see?”

“Not yet. I don’t want anyone to see until it’s time.”

“So what are you doing?”

“You’ll see...”

An hour later, as Jun served the pie to the team, Jinpei revealed his great piece of work. Ken had to hold Joe back as he reached for his gun when the perfect image of Katse glowed from the side of the pumpkin.



#45 – Fireworks

Joe watched Jinpei suspiciously, as the younger boy crawled around the floor of the J, peering under tables, and shifting the chairs.

“What are you up to?” the Condor asked with some amusement.

“Looking for Barney.”

“Dare I ask, who – or what – is Barney?”

“My pet, it’s chewed its way out of its transport box. It’s here somewhere.”

A crash and a scream from the kitchen solved the mystery.
“Looks like Jun’s just found Barney.” Joe grinned wickedly, “Now here come the fireworks.”



#46 - Service

Ken stood before the memorial, the image of his father’s supreme sacrifice flitting through his mind and he swallowed the emotion that threatened to engulf him. This was not the time for public displays of grief. He’ll have time for that later.

He didn’t need to look to know his team were right behind him, like they always were. They always had been, and probably always will be. He knew they would all be thinking of the various people they had lost to the war, each one paying the ultimate price for defending the earth.

Maybe there wouldn’t be any public service for these fallen heroes, but their forfeit would never be forgotten as long as he lived.




#47 - Treachery

“Were you followed?”

“No.”

“How can you be sure?”

“I know my team. They will only follow if they believe I’m in danger.”

His companion laughed, “So you feel perfectly safe then.”

“Oh, they’ll be here if I need them. I’m sure about that.” The tone of Nambu’s voice left her with no doubt. “So you have something for me?”

“Do you have what I want first?”

Nambu gulped nervously. “Yes.”

“Give it to me,” she insisted, more than a hint of menace in her voice.

“Then you’ll stop your....”

“No more negotiations, Give me the bracelet or my intel goes straight to Anderson.”

Nambu went into his inside pocket, finding the long, thin box that held the desired item, handing it over, as she snatched it with glee. She barely managed to open it before the feather darted from nowhere, embedding itself into her throat. Nambu ducked to avoid the second one that was heading for him, flinching as it struck his wrist instead.

“OK, Joe, you can come out now,” the doctor called, looking at the rapidly dying woman at his feet.

“I should kill you too,” the Condor snarled at him from the shadows, “You treacherous bast...”


#48 – The Mirror

Nambu sighed. “It’s easy to see how you can have that impression. I can explain though.”

“You have 30 seconds.”

“The bracelet’s fake. It’s little more than a high-tech two way radio, without a receiver. It’s on a totally different frequency to yours.”

“So what’s this intel she wants to give to Anderson?”

Nambu rooted through her pockets, then through her bag, finding nothing. “Whatever it is must have died with her.”
“So, you’re telling me you were being blackmailed but don’t know what with?”

“That’s just it, I was trying to get it myself, to see if it was something to be worried about. She told me she had information that would bring us down, and if I didn’t comply with what she wanted then she would send her information to Anderson and basically, have us shut down.”

“Bull.”

“I know how implausible it seems, but....”

The sound of gunshot made Joe push Nambu to the floor. In an instant he had drawn his gun and was seeking the source of the barrage of bullets. The only clue was the glint of light from the mirror mounted on the opposite wall. Joe found the light’s origin, and with it, the sniper.

“It’s a trap,” he fired once; the sound of a body slumping to the floor was music to his ears. He pulled the doctor back to his feet, and went to investigate. Joe pushed the body over with his foot, the woman’s wig falling off in the process.

“Oh no,” Nambu gasped, “Rose!”

#49 - Consequences

“You know her then?”

“I thought I did.”

“So who is she?”

“Her name is Rose, we...dated... a couple of times.”

“You?” Joe tried not to laugh. “I don’t know what’s more implausible, you’re being blackmailed or you’re actually going on a date. How many times have you lectured me on meeting strange women?

“And how many times have I been proved right.”

“So maybe it’s time to take your own advice.”

“I think I should,” The doctor reluctantly agreed. “Then the consequences wouldn’t be so severe.”




#50- Cake

Nambu got to his feet as director Anderson burst into his office, his hand out in greeting.

“Forget the pleasantries, Nambu, you’re under arrest.”

“What?” The doctor couldn’t believe his ears. “On what charge?”

“Treason.” Anderson signalled to the officers behind him, and placed him formally under arrest.

“What are you on about? I haven’t committed treason!”

“Save it for your interview.”

As Nambu was marched down the corridor, the team gathered to watch; only Joe wasn’t surprised with what they saw.

“Don’t worry Hakase,” he called after him, “we’ll have Jun bake a file into a cake for you.”


#51- Secrets

“Jun, you check out Rose, Jinpei, examine the bracelet, Ryu, see if you can get in to talk to Nambu, we need his side of the story. I’m going to talk to director Anderson. See what he has got on Nambu.”

“So what do I do?” Joe queried.

“You’ve done enough already... you’re on babysitting duties.”

******

Two hours later.....

“So what did we get then? Jinpei?”

“The bracelet’s a basic communicator, tuned into a different frequency to ours. There’s no transmuting capabilities.”

“Galactor knows how to knock us out of birdstyle though, I can’t see what they would get from it.”

“Retuning is straightforward enough, hit the right frequency and they can know what we’re doing before we do.”

“Ok, thank you Jinpei. How did you do Ryu?”

“Nambu is insisting he was only luring out the blackmailer to find out what she had on us. He said he was trying to stop her before she could do any real harm to the team’s reputation.”

“Well that fits with what Anderson told me. He had received a tip off that there was a traitor in our midst, and sent someone to check us out.”

So that was our blackmailer then?”

“No, the one he sent was the one who has been leaving feathers around wherever she went. The one we’ve dubbed ‘Feather Girl’.” Ken continued. “And she sent Anderson the CCTV footage of Nambu handing the bracelet over to the blackmailer.” He paused to let this piece of information sink in, before turning to Jun. “what did you find out then?”

“Nambu met Rose at a speed dating event some months ago. On the surface she sounds straight, I need more time to do a bit of digging though. This woman has secrets.”




#52 - Tinsel

“It’s not right, having Christmas without Hakase.” Jinpei grumbles, as he fixed more baubles to the branches.

“Hey, Jun’s doing everything she can, she’ll get to the bottom of it.”

“It would have been so much easier if you hadn’t killed the woman with all the answers,” the Swallow moaned. “This year should be extra special, its Kenju’s first.”

“Oh, I doubt he’ll understand what’s going on this year,” Ryu picked up the small boy, untangling the tinsel from his tiny fist. “The real fun starts once they discover Santa.”

“Well if they don’t get here soon, they’re all going to miss his first Christmas.” Joe finished testing the lights, fastening them securely around the tree. “There you go, at least it’ll look nice for their return.” He leant towards the switch, ready to turn the lights on, when the bell above the door jingled.

“Oh, is Santa here already?” Jinpei asked turning to look. “JUN!!! KEN!!”

“As if we’d miss our baby’s first Christmas.” Jun plucked Kenju from Ryu’s arms, planting a big kiss on the child’s brow, “that’s not all either.”

The door jingled again, this time Nambu stood there, larger than life, the biggest grin across his face.

“Hakase,” the three of them stared in amazement, “how did you get out so quickly?”

“Tell you later,” Nambu laughed at their astonished faces, “Let’s get Christmas underway.”



#53 - Slippery

“Come on then, tell us everything.”

Jun looked around the table, wondering where to begin.

“OK,” she said at last, glancing across at Nambu, who nodded almost imperceptibly at her. “It began at the speed dating event. Hakase had attended in good faith, but he was set up. All the women were widows of mecha captains we had killed during our missions. Whoever he had chosen, he would have been dating someone ‘involved’ with Galactor. It was a ruse to discredit his integrity, and bring us down.”

“So that explains who Rose was, but what about the blackmailer?” Ken wanted to know.

“She was Rose’s sister, another one from the speed dating event. She was the one to inform Anderson, and of course she knows just enough for him to take the allegation seriously.”

“So he sends out ‘The Feather Girl’, a slippery customer if ever I saw one.” Joe concluded. “I caught her trying to sneak out of my trailer after I’d been ‘investigated’, and discovered what she knew. If I hadn’t been at the exchange, what would Nambu have done?”

“I suppose they wanted the bracelet to try to track us down. The main thing is they didn’t get anything of any use to them, or to Galactor. And of course we’re still here and prepared to fight them over again.”

“So you’re completely in the clear then, Hakase?” Ryu asked, still not believing his ears.

“Not completely, but I won’t be penalised as badly as I would have been, if Joe hadn’t intercepted when he did.” The Doctor smiled. “As it is, I’ve been suspended for two weeks, so I’ve decided to take the opportunity to travel for pleasure, instead of business.”

Jinpei started to giggle, to the disapproval of the rest of the team. “What’s so funny then?” Joe demanded to know.

“I was wondering, what would the widows have done if they found us?”
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