Six months after Joe’s death.
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.