He sat there looking ahead but not really seeing anything. His hand was holding the cross he had wore since he was a child with a finger absentmindedly stroking it.
A sigh left his lips in a normal place it would not have been heard but here in this place it echoed. He rarely came here except in times where he wanted to think or needed answers. This was the last place they would look for him as he had made it clear he was no longer the person they knew.
Ever since Kross Kakorum he had been changed now he was machine more than man, his sense of vengeance had increased ten fold but these were not the only changes. There were others not as noticeable, he had always been fiercely protectively of them, willing to die, do anything to avenge his parents but now that focus had changed. The time away from his new family had shifted his focus from avenging his parents to protecting those he had grown up with.
He looked at the face on the effigy in front of him and in a barely audible whisper he asked the question that had flown through his mind since his return "Who am I?"
He looked down at the cross he was holding and sighed once more and then the peace of the church was interrupted as he was signaled. They had attacked again obviously and he was needed. It was time to push the doubts away and go. He stood and walked purposely towards the church door; glancing back briefly he opened the door and walked out the breeze caressing his face. A voice, his mothers whispered “You are Joe Asakura" He looked around, was that his imagination he wondered.
He shook his head and made his way to his car jumping in and turning on the engine, the familiar purr filled his ears as he sped to the rendezvous point to meet up with the rest of the KNT.
Random thoughts filled his mind and his foot pressed the accelerator down he was in a clear stretch of road and transformed into birdstyle. He knew he would be at the rendezvous point soon and he had to shake of these doubts he had been having lately. He had to focus if not for him for his new family, for his mission.
He smiles wryly for someone who was mostly machine he certainly had a lot of human insecurities. His eyes narrowed as he saw the godphoenix in his mirror time for pick up.
As always Ryu was as smooth at pick up as he had ever been. Joe made his way to the others and prepared to listen to what Galactor and Katse had done now. His face was a mask as he listened to the latest attack on Utoland.
A brief thought filled his mind. Would this be the mission this damn war ended? Would his family finally know peace?
His eyes showing a flickering of emotion for a brief time before taking his place. They headed over to site of the latest attack. Another of Katse's weird Insectoid machines. The carnage below showed they had arrived too late, the mecha had already departed with no trace of a route they could follow. So they would have to wait for the next attack.
He clenched his fists as he saw the scene below, Paramedics and various other people running around trying to help the injured while covering the bodies of the fallen in order to save at least some of the distressed their families would feel at the sight of them over the news that night.
He lowered his eyes briefly before acknowledging with the briefest nod his commanders order that they head down to see if the could get any useful information to aid in tracing the galactor base.
He, Ken and Jun went down. Jun was to help the paramedics with the wounded while he and Ken talked to the others. Maybe they could glean something, any useful bit of information to prevent the inevitable next attack.
He walked over nodding politely to the people who spoke to him but not really paying too much attention. He was looking for something, he was not sure what but he would know when he found it.
While going over the focus point of the attack he saw what he thought was a doll, mostly covered by debris, he leant down thinking about the child who had lost it wondering if she got to safety. He reached out touching the hand and closed his eyes. It was a child not a doll.
He stood up the anger growing inside him. He would make them pay not just for his family but for all those whose lives they had taken.
Galactor had to pay the price for what they had done and he was the one going to make sure they did.
He continued to look over the chaos around him trying to shake the child from his mind.
It was times like this he wondered why he had to survive; at least dead he had known peace. He mentally shook himself, berating himself for being so selfish.
If you had not come back who would finish this?
He looked up at the sky it was a sunny bright day with a faint breeze. Yet inside he felt like there was a constant storm a tide creeping ever higher to overwhelm him.
Was this all there was left?
He looked backed down and it was then he saw it a small rectangular disc it had some dirt on it and there was something else. He picked it up and put it in his pocket to give to Nambu so it could be analysed later.
His wristcom went, signalling the return to the godphoenix, so he headed back to meet up with Jun and Ken before getting back on board. He headed silently to the bridge as they took off. He felt Ken look at him but did not glance at him, there was too much to work out, too much to deal with.
Joe was silent all the way back; he was busy going over everything in his mind. He had given the disc he found to Ken and advised where he had found it. He remembered briefly the little girl, her still faintly warm body growing cold under his touch.
He felt a light touch on his arm and looked around to see Jun standing there, a look of concern on her face; he allowed himself to smile a little, to reassure her and nodded his head at her unspoken question on his welfare. Jun always had a way of reaching into his soul touching it like no one else had. He thought about her, seeing her strength and vulnerability. She had a calm serenity and thinking of her at times brought him a moment’s peace in the insanity that had become his life since his return.
There had been constant tests, tests to verify he was Joe, tests to see how much of a cyborg his was and tests to try to understand the technology used to make him what he was now.
I hate tests!
Through all of this the team had been there, Ken with his passion to duty, Ryu with his quiet gentle strength, Jinpei with his laughter and Jun with her compassion. Being around them made him happy, sad and angry. Angry at what he had lost, his humanity.
The godphoenix landed and they made their way to Nambu's office, it was the familiar drill going over what they knew, telling them to have their reports in before leaving and advising of the research currently being undertaken to try to identify Katse's latest lair.
He walked off and sat down in his room to start writing up his report. He entered closing the door behind him, he sat down and started to type, it was cold, clinical no emotional at all. A report written by a machine. It concealed the battle that was going on within. The fight between human and machine to see which would be dominant. Only time would tell which would win the war.
The report done he handed it in before heading out to his sweetheart. He sat in the driver’s seat inhaling the familiar smells that used to comfort him. It seemed strange that he used to drive for hours gaining comfort in the unity he shared with her.
He glanced in his drivers mirror trying to fathom out the answers to some of the questions and wondered if he like sweetheart was a machine that had just been treated and cared for as something a little more but at the end of the day he was nothing put a pile of metal.
He gripped the steering wheel tightly closing his eyes and then opening them before speeding out of ISO headquarters.
He drove like the devil possessed to his secret place, the cliff top. He watched as the waves slammed violently against the rocks below. He clenched his fists and let out a yell
"What the hell am I?"
He lowered his head, closing his eyes tightly and then in barely an audible whisper
"Why didn't you just let me die?"
He sat back on the bonnet of Sweetheart, taking a deep breath; he closed his eyes trying to remember his parent’s faces before they were killed. HE tried to focus on happy times as a young boy, tried hard to remember how his parents sounded when they laughed but the memories would not come. Whether it was because they were too long in the past or whether the memory of their death was just too strong and blocked any good memories out he did not know. All he did know is this increased his frustration.
His life seemed to be filled with dark thoughts, revenge, anger and then there was the hatred. Hatred against galactor for the killings, hatred against his parents for leaving him, hatred against Nambu for taking him and training him and even hatred against the team for leaving him at Kross Karakorum.
He gave a heavy sigh, he had finally admitted something he had denied to himself, that he hated them, particularly Ken for deserting him. He no longer felt that way but for a time, while he was recovering from the injuries and surgery he had cursed them for not taking him with them or at least finishing off the job. Maybe a part of him still blamed them, blamed Ken for what he had become now.
He pushed off the bonnet and got into the car driving back to his trailer. He had a feeling tonight was going to be a very long night.
He lay in his bed trying hard to sleep but it failed to come. At least the one thing about having cybernetics was that he was not as badly affected by sleep deprivation on nights like this.
He closed his eyes breathing deep and slow, while listening to the sound of the wind softly blowing through the trees.
It had been an eventful few days. He thought about hearing his mother’s voice earlier that day. Maybe it was just his hearing a glitch that he needed to get the doctor to look at.
He tried to forget, to just relax, he thought about the breathing exercises and katas that the sensei got them doing in training as children, tried to remember his words and regain his focus. Images started to fill his mind, Ken and he training, memories came back of the team as children, he remembered how hard they had worked and although there had been some downtime it struck him that they never really had been children each of them had had that taken at a young age.
Each had found their own ways to cope. Jinpei and Ryu still clowned around but even in that there was an edge of always being on their guard. They could never let their guard down, always on the alert, always having to be strong, to fight.
His mind filled with other images then faded and distant memories of him as a child laughing, being held by his family. He tried hard to hold onto those to gain comfort in them but they faded once more back into the dark corners of his mind.
He sighed heavily. It was definitely going to be a very long night