Reconciliation by Ebonyswanne
Summary:

 

Set in Gatchaman Fighter;

Jun pulled away slightly to as something caught her eye over in the far corner of the room hidden under the window curtain. Ken followed her gaze to an empty open box, and then she quickly scanned the room.

“Someone’s been in here…”Jun’s voice became cautious. She stood up and walked over and picked up the box and her face turned white as a sheet.

“What was in that box?” Ken asked joining her.

“Pictures of Dyami…and a letter from Natasha and Matt about his milestones.” Jun’s eyes widened with fear. “And this…” She held up a small symbol of Galactor. Ken pursed his lips and felt his hands becoming sweaty at the implications of what that symbol meant. At the same time they held up their hand to their face. ”Bird go…”

The sound of clanging pots jolted them out of their thoughts as they both dashed towards the stairs.


Categories: Gatchaman Characters: Dr. Kozaburou Nambu, Egobossler, Joe Asakura, Jun, Ken Washio, Original Character, Ryu Nakanishi
Genre: Action/Adventure, Angst, Romance
Story Warnings: Adult Situations, Death, Mature Content, Mild Violence, Sexual Situations
Timeframe: Mid-Series
Universe: Alternate Universe, Mostly Canon
Challenges: None
Series: A Tangled Web.
Chapters: 56 Completed: Yes Word count: 100988 Read: 155312 Published: 09/24/2008 Updated: 07/16/2009

1. Chapter 1 by Ebonyswanne

2. Chapter 2 by Ebonyswanne

3. Chapter 3 by Ebonyswanne

4. Chapter 4 by Ebonyswanne

5. Chapter 5 by Ebonyswanne

6. Chapter 6 by Ebonyswanne

7. Chapter 7 by Ebonyswanne

8. Chapter 8 by Ebonyswanne

9. Chapter 9 by Ebonyswanne

10. Chapter 10 by Ebonyswanne

11. Chapter 11 by Ebonyswanne

12. Chapter 12 by Ebonyswanne

13. Chapter 13 by Ebonyswanne

14. Chapter 14 by Ebonyswanne

15. Chapter 15 by Ebonyswanne

16. Chapter 16 by Ebonyswanne

17. Chapter 17 by Ebonyswanne

18. Chapter 18 by Ebonyswanne

19. Chapter 19 by Ebonyswanne

20. Chapter 20 by Ebonyswanne

21. Chapter 21 by Ebonyswanne

22. Chapter 22 by Ebonyswanne

23. Chapter 23 by Ebonyswanne

24. Chapter 24 by Ebonyswanne

25. Chapter 25 by Ebonyswanne

26. Chapter 26 by Ebonyswanne

27. Chapter 27 by Ebonyswanne

28. Chapter 28 by Ebonyswanne

29. Chapter 29 by Ebonyswanne

30. Chapter 30 by Ebonyswanne

31. Chapter 31 by Ebonyswanne

32. Chapter 32 by Ebonyswanne

33. Chapter 33 by Ebonyswanne

34. Chapter 34 by Ebonyswanne

35. Chapter 35 by Ebonyswanne

36. Chapter 36 by Ebonyswanne

37. Chapter 37 by Ebonyswanne

38. Chapter 38 by Ebonyswanne

39. Chapter 39 by Ebonyswanne

40. Chapter 40 by Ebonyswanne

41. Chapter 41 by Ebonyswanne

42. Chapter 42 by Ebonyswanne

43. Chapter 43 by Ebonyswanne

44. Chapter 44 by Ebonyswanne

45. Chapter 45 by Ebonyswanne

46. Chapter 46 by Ebonyswanne

47. Chapter 47 by Ebonyswanne

48. Chapter 48 by Ebonyswanne

49. Chapter 49 by Ebonyswanne

50. Chapter 50 by Ebonyswanne

51. Chapter 51 by Ebonyswanne

52. Chapter 52 by Ebonyswanne

53. Chapter 53 by Ebonyswanne

54. Chapter 54 by Ebonyswanne

55. Chapter 55 by Ebonyswanne

56. Epilogue. by Ebonyswanne

Chapter 1 by Ebonyswanne
Author's Notes:
Special thanks thanks to Transmute Jun who beta'd the story for me and helped keep it close to cannon and on track!

Starring out the window at the drizzling rain splattering on the glass did little to cheer Ken up or pull him out of the sober mood he had been in all day.

He knew he should be at peace, after all, the war had ended and Gelsadra was dead. But the few months since their victory had left him feeling hollow inside. He couldn't reconcile within himself that he had turned out just like his father- and now his life had begun to reflect the choices Red Impulse made when he was four years old.

"It's been raining for a week." Ken said flatly.

"Who cares?" Joe moaned from his hospital bed rolling onto his side to try and get comfortable.

"I wonder if it was raining the night he was born." Ken said softly and he turned to look at Joe.

Joe sighed. "Why don't you ask her?"

Ken shrugged. "Then morning Jun told me it was Dyami's 1st birthday...well I wanted to ask her about it then...but she has a birthday present to send to him and wanted to know if I would like to send something too." The image of the blue paper wrapped present and card she held in her hands came into his mind, being a weekend his parents would have been able to have a party for him.

Joe put his hands behind his head. "So why don't you."

"Because..." Deep down Ken didn't really know why, scratching his head he searched to think up a response. "I don't think Jun should be doing it... you know sending him presents... and I told her as much...and then she burst into angry tears and that ended any more discussion about him...she told me to go away because I obviously didn't understand how she felt...so I did."

Ken could see her struggle, but he just couldn't reach out for her in the way he felt she needed him to. They had become friends again, but just not close like they had once been. He missed her in that way- her close friendship and their long conversations meant more to him than a physical relationship no matter how amazing could ever fulfil him...

Joe didn't respond he just lay their staring at the ceiling, eventually he turned his head to look at Ken seriously. "I know nothing about this sort of thing, so I can't give you any advice."

"Should I go back there tonight...since she said she wasn't working?" Ken asked again feeling unsure on how to approach her about it.

Aggghhh... he thought in frustration. He had been wracking his brain for months over it. He had so many questions he wanted to ask her about the night he was born. He wanted to try and rebuild the relationship they had once, he just didn't know how or where to start. The days when he held her in his arms and told her loved her seemed liked a lifetime ago. Had to mush water passed under the bridge for there to be anything between them now. He wondered.

"I was a tough day for her Ken, but what about you?" Joe interrupted his thoughts and a look of concern crossed his hardened features.

"I'm not sure... I've tried to pin point where I was and what I would have been doing this time last year...I think it was around this time that I was helping Jafaru." Ken turned it over in his mind again- he had been doing it all day, thinking about what it must have been like for her, but she became distant if he asked her anything directly about her feelings towards giving him up or about the pregnancy.

Joe tried to sit up. Ken saw his face grimace as pain hit him forcing him to lie down again.

"I hate feeling this weak...and useless..." Joe grumbled as he weakly pulled up a blanket.

Ken didn't respond to that remark- Joe had been feeling sorry for himself since they found that bomb in his heart and them his body went into shut down. Ken decided not to let him indulge in it any more.

"Do you think they would have a birthday party for him? Jun would know since she got that letter from them a few weeks ago." Ken grimaced at that, Jun offered it to him but he refused to read it. He told he wasn't interested and a confused expression crossed her delicate features...

"I hope they did...and he had other babies his age to play with...and a big birthday cake." Ken pictured it in his mind...a clown and kids playing with him sitting on his mother's knee while they all blew out the candles...

"Kids parties would drive me nuts." Joe smirked and rolled over onto his side briefly.

"I dunno about that, I think they would be fun...seeing them playing and learning new things." Ken felt his heart lighten a little as he imagined it. He never had parties when he was little since his mother had been so ill and sad and over protective of him.

"Have you met Matt and Natasha yet?" Joe enquired. "Other than when we ran into them on that bridge, but they didn't know you're his biological father..."

"No, not yet, and to tell you the truth I'm not sure I should do that...after all if there is any remnants of Galactor still around..." Ken left his deepest fear hanging, and the mere thought ran a shiver up his spine.

"You mean since Galactor know what you look like an association could endanger them" Joe corrected him. "Smart thinking, is Jun still having that meeting?"

"Yes." Ken didn't hide his disapproval.

"Ken you have to let her deal with it in her own way...Galactor don't know her civilian identity." Joe pointed out.

"True..." Ken agreed. So why did he still want her to stay away from him and not have these twice a year meetings? Since he couldn't answer that question he pushed it out of his mind.

"It a pity about Dr.Pandora..." Joe said changing the topic. "She was one beautiful and smart lady..."

Ken nodded, "If she hadn't died who knows..."

He stood up and walked over to look out the window. The image of her being launched in the rocket that claimed her life still haunted him.

"I wish she was still here...I know she would have been able to help to me." Joe whispered and he closed his eyes, after a few minutes Ken could hear his steady breathing as he slept.

"Yes she would have...Talk to you later Joe..." Ken said softly-closing the door of the private hospital room behind him.

Briefly he stood looking at the closed door wondering what he would do next...should he go for a flight in his Cessna or go back to the snack J?

Contemplating his next move Ken decided to go for a few hours hour's flying to clear his head and then go back to the Snack J for dinner.

* * * *

Sitting down on the lounge in the small living room of the loft Jun picked up the book she had been reading for the past week and opened it to the marked page. Looking at the title of the next chapter she began to read.

"Sis..." Jinpei broke into her concentration.

"Jinpei." She said. "What is it?"

"Sorry sis..." Jinpei looked guilty.

Sighing she put down the book.

Jinpei eyes fell on the title. "Do those books really help you?"

Jun shrugged. "They might, only time will tell." She looked at the cover title. "Moving on." She figured she had to something deal with her depressed state of mind.

Jinpei sat down beside her- he looked like he had the weight of the world on his small shoulders.

"I know I've been mean to you at times over the past few months." He admitted slowly.

Jun put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I deserved it- I should have told all of you...I can't put words to why I felt the need to keep it to myself... The words I have found seem inadequate." She confessed.

Jinpei threw his arms around her and hugged her close. "You deserved to have us looking after you... we're a family and we look out for each other."

"Oh Jin...that's so true." Jun agreed. "We are one unconventional family...but it works doesn't it."

"You bet!" He said smiling as he pulled away from her. "Promise not to keep secrets like that from me again..."

Returning his smile Jun nodded. "I won't Jinpei...you're growing up so fast."

"Awe..." His face turned a light shade of pink."Has to happen sometime. I'd like to have a girlfriend one day..."

"I'm sure that will happen Jin when the time is right, your charming personality will attract the right girl." She winked and he blushed even deeper. An alarm went off inside of her- did that mean it was time for that "talk" with him about sex and girls already? He's only just turned thirteen she thought swallowing hard-she knew it had to happen soon, since she didn't want him to end up in the same situation that her and Ken ended up in and all the complications that went with it.

Nervously she looked back at the book, maybe Ken or Joe could help her out in this area.

"Are you going to see them tomorrow?" He asked. Jun knew who he meant and a soft smile touched her lips.

"Yes..." She answered.

"Is big bro going with you...? I think he should." Jinpei added looking at her seriously.

Sadly Jun shook her head. "No, he doesn't want to have any contact..."

"It doesn't make sense...I thought he would." Jinpei scratched his head. Jun felt confused by Ken's reactions anytime she brought it up he backed away from her and told her his thoughts on it. This caused a bone of contention between them. She felt since he had stopped the adoption order it would be good for him to meet them properly and let them see he's not a vindictive person or otherwise. She saw reservations in Matt's blue eyes, especially when she had a brief meeting in the office with Val to reassure them that neither Ken nor she would be trying to take him from them.

She saw relief wash over the both of them, and Natasha had unshed tears in her eyes, it was then that Jun saw the real grief that Ken caused by his actions. The delicate relationship that she had begun to form had been put in jeopardy.

"How about I come with you?" Jinpei offered. "That way you don't have to go alone."

She studied his face, Jinpei looked eager to go with her, and deep down she knew she didn't really want to go alone to the park that they had organised to meet at.

"Sure Jinpei...just remember that they are his mum and dad..." She said.

"I know you won't have to worry about me sis, just introduce me as your little brother." Jinpei grinned- she could see his excitement from the way he bounced off the couch he ran down stairs.

"Hi Ken." She heard him say.

"Hey Jinpei..." Ken returned his greeting, she imagined him sitting down in seat at the bar.

Reluctantly standing up she put the book back into her bedroom, she didn't feel comfortable with him seeing her reading books like that. The thought that he wouldn't understand made it all too much for her to handle.

Gathering her thoughts Jun decided to go downstairs and see if Ken had changed his mind about the meeting.

He looked up and smiled as she came off the bottom landing of the stairwell. He hadn't seated himself at the bar like he usually did. Ryu sat at the bar watching Jinpei playing cards at one of the empty tables.

"Hi Jun." Ken greeted her with a searching gaze.

"Ahhh, Hi Ken...so...how's Joe?" She asked trying to keep the mood light. Ken still silently studied her.

That searching gaze often bothered her these days, so she looked away trying to find something that would take her immediate attention, she saw his smile turn into a frown, she should have known he wouldn't miss a thing with his sharp observation skills.

"Joe's still not well...I think he needs to feel useful." Ken jammed his hands into his pockets and sat down at a table and picked up a newspaper.

Stepping behind the counter she picked up a clean glass and poured him a drink of cola and one for herself and then headed over to join him.

"How long do think this peace will last?" Jun said sitting the drink down in front of him.

Ken's frown deepened, and he let out a drawn breath slowly before answering, he looked longingly out the window. "Forever...I hope it lasts forever."  

"Me too..." Jun agreed looking out the same window at the sun coming through the dark clouds for the first time in a week. "Have you changed your mind about coming with me...to see Dyami tomorrow?"

Ken slowly shook his head and stood up. "I can't..." he said and walked out of the Snack J with his shoulders slumped and lost in thought. She saw Jinpei's worried glance as she tried to understand why he didn't want to have any connection with him.

 The street outside sparkled from the sudden rays of sunlight against the wet pavement. She hoped Ken was right, could peace be truly possible forever...

Chapter 2 by Ebonyswanne

The Count of Egobossler stood in front of the roaring fireplace of his favourite room in his vast elaborate castle. The radiating heat warmed him superficially, but inside he felt cold, cold because nothing could ever replace the mother he lost to a father he hated. She was murdered by him for simply standing up for her son Erun.

"Here's to us..."He smirked and held up his wine glass to toast the two paintings he commission to be placed there.

"This time it will be me who conquers the Earth...Sosai Z will wonder why he didn't approach me sooner." He said confidently toasting his predecessors.

"Sire." Kempler addressed him standing just inside of the doorway.

"Are my family assembled?" Egobossler turned to look at his loyal soldier.

"Yes my lord." Kempler said and he bowed respectfully.

Count Egobossler picked up the white mask off his side table before he followed Kempler out the door.

Walking down the rich carpeted hallway Count Egobossler couldn't help admire his inheritance and good fortune over the past few years. Hearing the muffled sounds of the party only pleased him more.

It's a good day to share my ambitions with the rest of family. He thought and smiled broadly walking into the room and up to the podium.

Gently placing the mask in front of him he made a toast to his guests, a few hundred from what he observed from the platform.

Holding his glass of red wine up high he began his speech.

"Esteemed members of the Egobossler family... "His natural charisma radiated out to the people in the room dressed in formal gowns and suits returned his toast.

"Today we turn a new page in the history of the Egobossler name."Pausing to see their reactions he continued. "Today we become a world power by forging an alliance that will bring us the power we deserve...and the throne of the world will emblaze our emblem and name forever..."

He heard a few excited murmurs and some that didn't please his ears. He took note of the family members who gave him stern looks of disapproval. He would deal with them later.

Finishing his toast he mingled long enough to ensure he had their support in his military campaign and then left them to talk amongst themselves. He would return when the banquet was ready to be served in the meantime he had some business to attend to in his private office.

"Mr Grearer... These plans are brilliant, who's the engineer?" Egobossler admired the blue print of the design of the sleek looking plane.

"Farlow Aeronautics Engineering has some good people working for them." Gearer said proudly curling his dark moustache ends around his finger.

"So, you stole them?" Count Egobossler raised a curious eyebrow and placed the blueprint on the table.

" Stole is such a distasteful word my lord, I prefer to think that I borrowed them... we have managed to employ at least two engineer's who work at the company to be part of our growing global organisation...." Mr Gearer sounded confident. He should, thought Egobossler, the latest mecha is proof of what having good engineers that are paid well can achieve.

"And the one that designed this plane..." Egobossler inquired.

Mr Gearer cleared his throat. "No, he's not come on board yet... we...ahhh didn't approach him.

"Why not? I said I wanted the best engineers in the industry to work on my mecha designs! How else can I make the changes needed to defeat my enemies and rule the world." Egobossler demanded. "Didn't you offer him enough money?"

"Money...?" Gearer frowned. "We don't offer money to get people to work for us." Mr Gearer shook his head in disgust at the notion. "Galactor just takes what it wants..."

"I like real loyalty Gearer..." Ego glared daggers at the man. "I don't run Galactor the same way Katse did or Gelsadra. Offer him money...if he refuses to work for us then take another tactic. I want this engineer to design my mecha do you understand...he's got what I want in an Aeronautical engineer."

"His name is Matt Butler... I'll see what I can do." Mr Gearer said rolling up the plans.

"Don't fail me Gearer...He'll have a price, even man has a price, find what will entice him to work for us... "Count Egobossler warned before he drew his cloak around his shoulders to ward of a sudden chill that entered the room.

As he reached the door he remembered the other task he had for Mr. Gearer, putting a thoughtful finger to his lips he turned and smirked at him. "We know what two members of the Science Ninja Team look like... but I want the other three exposed."

"My lord... "Mr Gearer waited for his orders.

"We know that they live in Utoland...and it's likely they would be keeping a low profile look for anything that stands out as different. Get as many men onto it as you need."

"Yes Count Egobossler right away. The Swan, Swallow and Owl with be as exposed as the Eagle and the Condor-"Mr. Gearer began to promise.

"Don't give me promises, give me results!" Egobossler demanded. Gearer bowed submissively. "I understand."

"My guests are waiting for me..." Count Egobossler swept his cape around as he walked out of the room to go back to his entertaining.

* * * *

The next day...

"We're late Jinpei hurry up!" Jun scolded him as she ran towards the door.

"Awe Sis... I lost track of the time that's all." Jinpei apologised. Pursing her lips she tried not to let herself become worked up over a few minutes.

"Let's just go." She hurriedly told him jumping onto her motorbike the Swallow jumped up behind her.

"Are you nervous sis?" He asked over her shoulder.

"Kinda." She admitted this was the first time they were meeting without a social worker present. 

Arriving at the park on the other side of Utoland Jun pulled up on the side of the road.

"They're here, and it looks like they have someone else with them." She said turning to look at Jinpei, butterflies become loose in her stomach.

"Sis, its Okay, we can go." Jinpei offered her an escape but Jun knew she didn't want to back out.

"I'll be fine Jinpei." She forced a smile and they walked towards the four people over near the playground equipment.

"Hi Jun." Natasha smiled as they approached.

Jun found a smile as she watched Dyami struggling to walk. "Dad...dad..." He said in baby language as he put out his little arms and stumbled over to his father. The older man chuckled and looked at Natasha.

"Oh...ahhh I hope you don't mind Jun, but I brought my father with us, he recently moved to the area." Natasha stood up along with her father.

"I'm Anthony," He introduced himself and extended his hand to Jun, she took it and appreciated his firm grip as he looked over at Jinpei.

"I brought someone too... this is Jinpei my brother." Jun introduced him.

"I'm happy to meet you..." Jinpei confidently went and shook each person's hand making Matt smile as he held out Dyami's little hand to Jinpei.

"Sis, he's getting cuter." Jinpei said. Jun felt her insides drop at that comment. Jun agreed with him silently, he had lost most of his babyishness and looked more like a little boy with messy dark hair that shot out in all directions.

"I showed him the pictures you sent." She quickly recovered, while Jinpei looked at her apologetically.

They talked for an hour about various things to with Dyami's mile stones and she watched him play with his father and grandfather. Jinpei seemed to be enjoying himself, playing walking games and clapping with Dyami causing him to giggle wildly with Matt standing close to them joining in on the games.

"So technically you're his Uncle." Anthony said causing Jun to stop in mid conversation with Natasha to hear his response.

"Yeah, you could say that...you see I'm adopted too." Jinpei grinned at Jun and looked back at Anthony and Matt.

"Sis adopted me when we lived at the orphanage..." Jinpei filled them in- Jun felt she could have strangled him. They didn't know she lived in an orphanage, and she wasn't prepared to give away that much about her past in a casual conversation.

"So you're a very lucky person then." Natasha eased the tension by returning Jinpei's smile.

"Well, the truth is I couldn't get rid of him." Jun resisted the urge to slap him.

"I'm lucky to have sis...we make a good family together." Jinpei glanced in her direction and then shut up quickly.

Dyami put out his arms and looked at Natasha. "Mum...mum..." and he waddled over to his mother. Those words stabbed at Jun's heart watching Natasha scoop him up and gave him a cuddle brought her back to the reality of the situation.

"Would you like a cuddle?" Natasha offered, Jun snapped out of her moment of self pity.

"Sure..." She said putting out her arms to take him. Looking into a face so much like Ken's with a shadow of her that soften his cute features, Jun tried not to allow the sad twinge in her heart to ruin the moment.

"I like the middle name you gave him." Jun said trying to smile. "It suits him."

She remember vaguely the request from his new parents. So much was happening at that point in time she forgot about it until recently.

"It was Matt's father's name." Natasha looked affectionately over at her husband. "Since his father is gone..." Natasha's eyes became distant and she didn't say any more and Jun didn't press for more information so the topic dropped.

Dyami grinned as she took hold of him. She watched him look back at his mother and then at her, he tried to squeeze her nose.

"He does that..."Natasha said warmly smiling at her son. "He's fast when he wants something, boy can he move like lightning..."

Jun looked at the bright blue eyed toddler. "I bet he can..." That comment made her think of Gatchaman, the white shadow.

"I have photos from his birthday... I thought you might like some copies." Matt handed Natasha her hand bag just as his cell phone began to ring.

"I have to take this." He said pulling it out of his pocket and he walked away to answer it.

Jun flicked through the photos with Jinpei hanging over shoulder.

"Wow, look at that." Jinpei exclaimed taking one of the photo's from Jun's hand.

"Who built that...it's amazing." He said admiring the replica. "That ship looks exactly like the first God Phoenix the Science Ninja Team had..."

"Matt built it...the ship sits in Dyami's bedroom on a stand." Natasha smiled proudly at her husband's handy work. "He's started to build the G-1 so he'll have a whole series of them- he figured he could give him one for each birthday."

Jinpei puffed up his chest with pride." The Swallow always has the coolest vehicle...and weapons."

Jun strategically elbowed him causing the Swallow to lose his grin and gulp in pain.

"Are you a fan of the Swallow I see." Natasha leaned forward looking at the floundering kid.

"Yeah...of course, you know everyone wants to be the Condor or the Eagle, but I reckon a kid that can kick butt is much cooler..." Jinpei blurted out.

"I think so too." Natasha winked causing Jinpei to blush wildly. "Matt's fascinated with the technology of the ships since he's an engineer and he designs planes..."

"That's understandable Natasha..." He leaned down and whispered in Jun's ear. "I like her sis, good choice." Jinpei blushed a light shade of pink and he began going all gooey.

From the corner of her eye Jun saw Matt's facial expression become worried as he walked back to them lost in thought.

"Honey, is something wrong?" Natasha asked him concern shadowing her pretty features.

"Ahh... no not really. Just a few complications at work that's all...usual business in designing new planes." Out of habit Jun watched him force a smile to cover his concerns. "We'll talk about it later..." He reassured Natasha. Jun  watched the silent communication between them as Dyami squirmed in her arms.

"It looks like he wants to go back to his mother..." Jun held Dyami out to Natasha, and she smiled at Jun taking him into her arms and he nuzzled his face into her shoulder.

"He's become clingy of late." Natasha said apologetically as if to explain Dyami's reaction.

"We should go." Jun said standing up.

"I understand." Natasha stood up too. "We'll meet up again in six months...we can contact you through the agency."

"Yes, that will be great, it's a lovely park." Jun commented as turned to leave.

"Pleased to meet you Jun." Anthony said shaking her hand again. "And you too Jinpei."

"Pleased to meet all of you too..." Jinpei nodded and smiled brightly and he followed hot on her heels as she walked away she looked down at her beeping bracelet, and swallowed the dread that began to rise up inside of her.

"Jinpei why did you have to open your big mouth like that?" Jun fumed shooting him murderous glances.

Jinpei's face became a picture of innocence. "What did I say wrong?"

"You know perfectly well what you said!" Jun crossly confronted the baffle Swallow. While she waited for his answer her bracelet began to beep.

"It's started again..." She told the Swallow, as Jinpei acknowledged the call. "Let's go and find out what's going on." She said racing towards her bike with Jinpei jumping on behind her they raced towards the base...

Chapter 3 by Ebonyswanne

Jun walked up to Ken, "What's going on?" She asked.

Ken's face became tense. "We have a new threat from a powerful family in Europe...it looks like they are taking over from Galactor...Dr.Nambu's looking into it-"

They both looked at the screen that came to life before their eyes, a man with white smiling mask stood before them all. Even through the mask Jun could feel his arrogance radiating before them.

"Well, well if it isn't the Science Ninja Team..." He mocked them confidently, Ken clenched his fist.

"He can't see us." Dr.Nambu reassured them.

"Who-are-you." Ken said through clenched teeth.

 "Some call me...world leader." His mocking voice rang throughout the room. "Others call me the Count of Egobossler... the new leader of our world. I'm being generous Gatchaman and I have decided to give you all a chance to surrender."

"Who ever you say you are... you underestimate us." Ken's growled.

Jun glanced sideways at him- something about the way he spoke and the tight muscles of his face sent a shiver of forewarning down her spine, she couldn't place the feeling but something had begun to slowly change in him over the past few months. She hoped it would settle down the pain he felt inside, she still felt it too and she hoped he realized he didn't have to do it alone.

Saying nothing she waited to see what this Count Egobossler really wanted from them.

"Ken calm down!" Dr Nambu said firmly. Then he turned to look back at Count Egobossler. "Why did you really call me?"

"I already told you... I'm going to rule the world ...now if you surrender immediately-"Count Egobossler purred.

"Are you insane?" Dr.Nambu slammed the desk." Like hell we'll surrender to the likes of you."

"I knew you would say that...convenient it means I get to destroy you instead of having you at my back." Egobossler laughed again. "I'll destroy you...don't say I didn't warn you."

Then the screen went blank. The silence echoed through the room as they all took in the new threat to the fragile peace they had had in the past few months.

"We can't let him hurt innocent people." Ken said impatiently. "Let us go and stop him!"

"No, you'll wait here to protect the base, the UN air force are already onto it." Dr.Nambu's firm voice didn't halt the Eagle.

"I'll take them on alone if I have too." Ken's anger at being held back became more apparent. Jun put a hand on his arm to calm him down, it had no effect.

"You fight as a team, not solo." Dr. Nambu's eyes narrowed to slits as he stared down Gatchaman. The tension in the room mounted, and the silent battle between them began to escalate. Eventually Dr Nambu's gaze softened and he gave the consent Ken had been looking for.

"Look after Joe." Ken said. Jun could only follow her commander out the door. Something about this rash behaviour seemed out of place with the normally cool headed Eagle.

* * * *

The ship lurched side ways, but still Ken ordered Ryu to advance.

"We can't Ken. It has us in its grasp!" Ryu cried out as he struggled with the controls.

"This beast will not defeat us- I just have to blast just a few more missiles into it..." Ken desperately ordered Ryu to get him a clear shot.

"Ken...watchout it's got another weapon." Jun shouted to get his attention but her warning came too late. The ship rocked like it had been hit with depth charges throwing Jun from her seat like a rag doll. Gasping for breath she could only watch in horror as Ryu lost control of the ship and it plummeted towards the Earth in a death spin. A wail left her lips as she tried to reach for Jinpei...

In a last desperate action to save them Ryu pulled the nose up. After the first explosion she blacked out. Nausea and the sound of something mechanical temporarily pulled her back. She saw Ken stumbling past her, but she felt too weak to call out to him. She wondered in a foggy haze if he saw her amongst the wreckage.

Are we dying? She thought. Is this it? We survived Galactor only to die at the hands of some Count and his new beast?

The world began to spin again... her life began to flash before her eyes, she saw Ken, the way he looked at her before things turned sour between them, then Dyami's first cry as he entered the world. The flash of pain through her body told her it must be the end. Ken calling her name... "I'm coming Ken..."She called, trying to find him in the fog. "Jinpei...Ryu where are you." She cried. Panic began to build. Then in the haze she saw Ken, laying on a white cloud, peace surrounded him, as she walked closer she saw his relaxed handsome features pale and calm like death had claimed him. His hands felt icy...then she knew death had claimed him and taken him from her...

Then something changed, the sounds around her became more real in her mind.

"Jun...please come back to us." Ken sounded desperate.

"What...happened...?" She croaked.

"We almost died...that mecha had us in its grasp, but then Kamo showed up and saved our butts in his digger...we lost the ship, but thankfully we're all alive." Ken informed her.

Who's Kamo? She thought drowsily.

Jun opened her eyes to see Ken sitting beside her holding her hand, his piercing eyes looked bluer than the sky from the redness around them. He looked tired, and older sitting there beside her hospital bed.

"I feel like a train wreck." She confessed. "My chest hurts and my lungs feel like they are on fire."

"You got hurt the worst, and then you stopped breathing..." Ken's voice cracked and he looked away. "But your okay now...I'll call in Ryu and Jinpei...Joes waiting outside too, though he's as weak as ever..."

"I'll live then...and back in action as soon as I see the doctor." Jun smiled weakly.

"You'll live...promise me you will." Ken said standing up.

"You too..." She suddenly tried to sit up, Ken stopped walking, and he turned to look at her and frowned.

"What makes you say that?" He asked.

"Just...promise me...you won't do anything stupid." Jun saw the dream flash before her eyes again, why did she feel she had just been given a prophecy of horrors to come?

Ken's lopsided smile made her relax a little." What could possibly make me do something stupid?"

"You got very worked up just before the mission." Jun lay back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. Ken didn't respond to that, instead he opened the door and the others walked in and she mildly heard their chatter as they expressed their delight at seeing her.

"Jun, what's wrong?" Joe asked quietly.

"Where do you want me to begin?" She said slowly turning her head to look at his face. She didn't like what she saw in his dull grey eyes, Joe looked defeated.

The world began to spin around her again- she could hear Dr.Nambu talking to someone in the distance.

"She needs a good nights rest..." she heard him say.

"I'll stay with her..." Ken said. "That chair in the corner looks cosy..."

Jun tried to say she'd be fine, he should go and rest in a real bed, but exhaustion and weakness took over before she could get the words out of her mouth.

This time in her dream she walked through a black world of darkness wearing only a white hospital gown... "This is what your life will be like when Ken's dead..." A gentle voice told her. "He's not dead..." She told it. Salty hot tears escaped her eyes at the thought of him leaving her like that.

"But Ken will die and so will the child you abandoned...nothing you love will stay with you... your worth nothing, so why should you have love... you had your chance, and you blew it. " It said in its gentle tones once more. Is it female? Jun mused trying to make sense of it.

"It doesn't have to be like this...he doesn't have to die...I'm not worthless..." She snarled at the voice.

"Your wrong! Dyami is alive and safe... "She cried Jun knew the emotion the voice spoke of, she felt it the day she left him in the hospital. Beneath all the numbness her heart ached for him.

"All things leave us eventually...all things die...don't be so naïve to think you can have happiness after you gave up your own flesh and blood and denied him his only child...That pain is yours to bear...and it will never leave." The gentle voice became harsher as it spoke, stroking her pain and twisting it until she couldn't bear it any longer.

"I didn't have a choice..." She rebuked it shouting at it and letting out the anger that still boiled deep inside of her..."I didn't have a choice...how dare you judge me!"

"Nothing stays as it is... "The voice became gentle again...

"Jun wake up, your having a bad dream..." Someone said, but she couldn't make out who the voice belonged to. Cold sweat dripped off her forehead. Then she gradually fell into a deeper sleep that dreams didn't exist in...

Chapter 4 by Ebonyswanne
 

Jun woke up form her deep sleep with a start. Sitting up so suddenly made her vision become blurry with bright iridescent stars dancing in front of her eyes and her mind still felt a little foggy from the day before, shifting her weight she began to roll onto one side. That's when she felt a strong hand steady her.

"Don't move so fast, you had a tough night." A masculine voice forced her to stop moving, for a split second she couldn't place it.

Then he spoke again. "How are you feeling at the moment?"

Her mind began to clear and her eyes refocused, gingerly she looked up into a pair of concerned blue eyes.

"Ken...I..." Jun stammered, she didn't know what she wanted to say, eventually she found the words. "Have you been here for long?"

Shifting her gaze past him, the blanket and pillow thrown hap hazardly over the chair in the corner spoke for him.

"Ahhh...not long." He lied.

"What happened to honesty between us?" Jun reprimanded him.

Ken glanced over at the mess and his concern turned to a sheepish smile. "You know me too well..." 

"Don't forget it Eagle, I can see through you..." She reminded him.

"But I can't see through you so well...I wish I could have." Ken let out a drawn in breath and turned his face away from her. Like he didn't want her to see his reaction to the remark he made, so she dropped the topic all together.

"I need to get out of this hospital gown." Jun said looking down at the shapeless bland coloured night dress.

"I'll be outside..." Ken said walking out the door.

She dressed quickly and joined him a few minutes later.

"Lucky you're so fit...or you might have been out of action longer." Ken's tone became more like the Eagle, and he began leading her down the hall way of the mountain base.

"Lucky me..." She responded matter-factly, looking at him sharply. Something about the expression on his face made her feel he wanted to ask her something but he didn't know how to approach the topic.

"The visit with Dyami went well." Jun baited knowing it must have been on his mind.

Ken didn't say a word, so for a while they walked in silence. When they reached a part of the corridor that was empty of personnel he stopped walking and looked at her with concerned eyes again.

"Really?" Ken's eyes darkened. "Is that why you woke up screaming?"

Jun's heart began to beat faster. "What are you indicating?"

"Jun don't lie to yourself..." He said firmly. "Seeing him happy with another family gives you nightmares...stop torturing yourself like that."

"I'm not in denial about his adoption any more... I like seeing him happy." Jun became more defensive.

Who does Ken think he is to demand things of her now in relation to the contact she has with biological son? She thought angrily.

The dreams became blurry in her mind, like they had been someone else's. Jun barely remember the nightmare in the cold light of day.

"I can't remember any bad dreams." Jun frowned and she folded her arms and glared at him. Well vaguely anyway.

"I think you should sever any contact you have with them." Ken returned her glare.

"When you are the commander of the team you order me around and even hit me if your heart or need to maintain control so much desires...in my private life you have no domain Eagle Ken. Our romantic relationship ended a long time age." Jun's tone became more determined as she spoke. Despite her strong stance Jun felt a lump form in her throat. This was the first time she had openly said those words to him. It felt final between them.

"Yes it did...It could have been-" Ken's broken voice became barely a whisper, pain filled his eyes.

"It was a fantasy..."Jun's bottom lip trembled at how short the time had been that they really had together as a couple. Jun felt a strong pull towards

him at this mutual acknowledgment.

Ken's face contorted with strong emotions. "Nothing sticks...everyone you love eventually dies or leaves you...so why be involved, love and life outside of the team and the ISO is a fantasy...we both have to face that truth." His pain became more evident in his voice. "Those nightmares you have is the reason you should stop all contact, you're just prolonging the pain of losing him..."

Those words brought a flash back in her mind from the dream she had the night before of him laying lifeless on a white cloud, a faint condemning voice began to say horrible words. Jun blocked it out, banishing it from her thoughts.

"No Ken...we have to have some hope, or we perish." Jun reached out for him, Ken pulled away.

"We have to go and see Kamo now- he's been waiting for us, we have a new ship and he wants to present it with us all there..."Ken sighed. "Joe's back in hospital, so he won't be joining us." Ken announced. Jun could tell he was covering up his pain by becoming Gatchaman in that instant. All about the mission, all about defeating Galactor to bring about the other fantasy "world peace."

"Lead the way." Jun said trying to compose herself.

Without hesitation Ken lead the way to the launch bay with Jun following him.

Chapter 5 by Ebonyswanne

They both hesitated when they saw the jolly older man with a twinkle in his eye looking in their general direction. Jinpei and Ryu looked at them and shrugged their shoulders when Jun cast them an inquiring glance.

"You're Kamo?" Jun asked.

He grinned broadly and he walked over to a dark window and flicked a few switches on the wall.

Jun gasped as she saw the enormous room light up below them and on a conveyer belt the brand new updated vehicles began to be presented to them.

"Hey...mine looks so cool!" Jinpei said his excitement building by the minute. Jun listened carefully to capacity and capabilities of each, making note of the fire power of her new G-3 hovercraft.

"Now let me explain to you how the Gatchasparten works." Kamo continued. "Like before it needs all five vehicles to make it operate at its full capacity. But it comes together like pieces of a jig saw."

"We need Joe then." Jun said catching Ken's concerned frown.

"I know." He replied softly. "We have to do it anyway, we can't..."Ken hesitated. "We can't allow Joe's illness to stop our mission to put Galactor back out of action."

Jun agreed silently- Joe would be pushing them back out into the battlefield. It was just his way.

"I have more to show you..." Kamo walked over to the wall and pushed a button that opened up a large lit panel to reveal an assortment of weapons.

"These are your new hand weapons." Kamo said. Kamo continued to go over the details of how the Gatchasparten formed into the ship by all five vehicles coming together and how they did it so that when it formed the walls would shift to form the bridge and other parts of the interior of the space worthy ship.

Ken picked up his weapon that looked like a sword with a gold decorative handle as Kamo spoke and examined it in his hand. Jun watched his face the whole time. His brows came together slightly in his usual slight grimace and his piercing blue eyes brightened for a split second like he held the ultimate power to destroy Galactor in his hands as Kamo explained him about the Hypershoot's power.

"I has up to 200,000 KW of power...It can cut trough steel at first blow, and it's an extraordinary defensive weapon rather than an offensive weapon. It could prove to be very useful in the heat of battle against a mecha." Kamo became more serious as spoke." But beware, Ken, use it cautiously- it can be dangerous and we're not totally sure if it can bring harm to the user over a long period of use."

"200,000 KW of power." Jun gasped and she recoiled- starring at Ken with wide worried eyes. 

That expression diminished when his eyes met hers. From that moment she became silently wary of the new weapon he held in his hands. Kamo said Ken had to be careful with it- the Hypershoot weapon could be dangerous. And Ken didn't even flinch when Kamo mentioned the danger of over use.

"We what are we waiting for!" Ken ordered running towards the door. "There maybe only four of us but we can still take them on!"

"Yeah let's go!" Jinpei cried out full of enthusiasm. Jun followed behind him along with Ryu with the image of Ken's facial expression as he looked at the hypershoot weapon still imprinted in her mind.

Why did this new weapon bother her so much? She thought as she raced towards her new vehicle now in full birdstyle. Jumping in the hovercraft she had to push it to the back of her mind. Later, I'll think about it later. She promised herself as she felt the power of the engine beneath her propel her out of the launch bay of the mountain base into the bright golden sunlight outside to meet the next foe Galactor had in store for them.  

* * * *

Jun starred at the monster that had come close to bringing about their deaths the day before. She fired more missiles at the massive metal creature but they just bounced off it like darts and the explosions had no effect.

"Nothings working! Our missiles are having no impact on it." She could Ken frustration through her bracelet.

"Then let's take it down together." She suggested.

Focusing on the task at hand she waited for Ken's order for them all to strike it once- but it didn't come.

"Ken I'm ready to-"Stopping midsentence she watched him flying dangerously close to the mecha.

"What are you doing?" She asked in the calmest voice possible, still he ignored her.

"Ken answer me..." Jun said through clenched teeth as she turned her hovercraft to get a better angle and she renewed her attack on the beast.

Then she heard panic in Ryu and Jinpei's voice, and she watched Ken's small fighter do a remarkable turn around and head directly for the monster.

"Ken what's your plan?" Ryu asked.

"No way...big bro stop!! Sis he's going to crash into the mecha!" Jinpei cried, Jun's heart began to pound in her chest as the truth of his intentions began become clear.

"Ken. Stop...please." She pleaded. She knew once he had his mind set on doing something he kept his focus on the task. Frantically she looked for a way to stop him, and she didn't have much time to come up with a plan.

In horror she watch him close in on his target. "Ken, NO!!! " She cried out in desperation, the words seemed futile and useless as she watched his jet dive in toward the mecha for its final assault.

In a split second before impact a missile came out of no where and made a direct hit that forced Ken to pull up. Jun breathed a deep sigh of relief.

"What the hell." Ken said in confusion.

"Impossible!" She stated looking around for the hero that saved Ken from suicidal kamikaze.

"Well whata ya know!" Ryu cheerful said into his bracelet.

"Joe..." Jun breathed softly. It couldn't be he could barely sit in a chair just hours before they decided to take on the mecha once more.

She smile broadly as his race car joined them.

"Assemble the Gatchasparten!" Ken ordered.

And without hesitation the five of them began to sequence of joining the individual vehicle to become one ship.

"All done." Ryu declared taking his seat at the helm of the ship.

"Delta energy on." Ken said from his position on top of the ship.

Jun saw a flash of light in the view screen as the sword came to life and the deadly length of pure energy began slicing through the mecha like it was made of butter rather than thick steel that could resist missiles. The mecha fell apart before their eyes.

It didn't take long for them to defeat the latest weapon of the newly reformed Galactor. Ken returned to the bridge once they were clear of the wreckage. His blue eyes shone brightly and he smiled as he stood by her side. She frowned slightly at his apparent enthusiasm- she decided she would deal with Ken's rash actions later.

Jun cast a glance at the Condor. Slumped in his seat she began to worry that he pushed himself too far this time.

"Joe," Jun didn't even try to hide her concern as she crouched down beside him.

"Welcome back buddy." Ken rested a hand on his shoulder. "Let's get him back to base."

Ryu didn't need the queue from his commander- he had already begun to turn the ship in the direction of their new mountain home.

Joe looked weak- sitting by his side she waited for Dr.Nambu to respond to their call. Ken stood by the wall on the far side of the room watching them along with Ryu and Jinpei.

"What I missed is the real purpose of the black box I found close to his heart." Dr.Nambu started to explain.

"Then what's it used for?" Jun quizzed.

"Renewable energy, I can bring him back straight away. So I need you get back as soon as you can." Dr.Nambu answered.

"You bet! We're on our way doc." Ken assured him.

Jun put her hand on Joe's arm. "We'll have you back to normal soon Joe."

She felt the thrusters of the ship ignite as Ryu sped up their flight back home to get Joe the medical help he needed.

* * * *

Jun took a different tactic than normal. The image of Ken's jet coming close to hitting the mecha burned in her mind and so did his behaviour on the mission.

"What are you doing here?" Ken's eyes held surprise in them as he walked into the room.

Good. She thought smugly. You not the only one who's taking a different approach to things these days.

"I decided we needed to have a chat." Jun sat down on his bed and lay back so she half leaned against the wall and put her hands behind her head.

She saw his confused facial expression and she worked hard to suppress a grin.

"What are you doing?" He said in a guarded manner.

"Guess?" She asked and raised a brow and then proceeded to make herself comfortable.

"We're not going there..." Ken's serious voice made her pick up a magazine off his side table and she began to flick through it.

"Going where?" Jun through the question back at him and continued to stare at the magazine, and then she started reading about some new wiz bang plane that would be coming out soon and it will be every fighter pilots dream to fly it through the blue skies.

Ken walked around the room pretending to clean up a none existent mess keeping an eye on her the whole time.

"Okay what gives?" He threw up his hands and Jun ignored him, this seemed to annoy him a little. Jun furrowed her brows like she was concentrating in the article.

She heard him let out a long breath. "Is this about me again?"

Still she ignored him- two can play this game she thought.

"I want some privacy-"He began, she cut him off with a glare.

"You want to kill yourself, go down in glory like your father did? My hero." She said sarcastically and flashed her angry eyes in his direction and gently put the magazine down. Gracefully she moved off the bed.

"I will do what is required for the mission." He hissed.

"Damn straight you will, and since we need you doing a kamikaze into a mecha won't defeat Galactor." Jun moved in close to him her eyes locked with his. "Dyami doesn't need to know his biological father and grandfather committed suicide-"

"It all comes down to that does it?" Ken's tense face dropped and he shoved his hands into his pockets. "You don't understand me and you never did...what makes you think it matters if I live or die to Dyami."

"How can you say that? After all we have been through together..." Jun didn't hide her disbelief and hurt as her jaw dropped at the insult.

"You think its all about you!" She rebuked him harsher than she wanted to.

"We-will-win-this-war!" He whispered- callously turning away from her so she couldn't see his face. "Even if I have to do it alone."

"We work as a team remember...We can't defeat them on our own." Jun reminded him. Ken didn't respond.

"I need a shower, see yourself out." Ken briskly walked towards the bathroom.

"This isn't the last time we're going to have this discussion is it?" She asked watching his back as it stiffened up.

He relaxed a little and the continued to stride into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.

Time to talk to Joe she concluded, walking out of Ken's personal quarters. He would be recharged by now she figured as she made her way to the medical bay.

Chapter 6 by Ebonyswanne

"Joe I don't understand him any more." Jun let out an exasperated breath and paced the room once more.

"Chill out Jun, for once he's acting instead of thinking." Joe leaned against the wall of his new quarters crossing his arms in usual customary stance.

"This is different...and you're siding with him." She stopped and placed her hands on her hips and studied the Condor's guarded face. Joe could look menacing even when was relaxed she thought in passing.

"I'm not ‘siding' with either of you." Joe tried to explain to her. "I just think your making more out of his actions than what was really there."

"Ken was going to fly straight into that mecha..." Jun looked away from Joe frustrated. "It's not like him to act so...so...irrational."

"He does when he's wound up." Joe pointed out to her moving away from the wall he walked over to small fried in the corner of the room. "Want a soda?" he offered.

"Cola..." She replied while sitting down on the small couch, she leaned on her elbow as she ran through her mind the conversation she had with Ken and his reaction to her confrontation.

"You have to admit that he would have done it if you hadn't have shown up when you did." Jun pressed him as she sat forward resting her elbows on her knees.

Joe didn't reply at first, but she did see the worry flash across his hardened features. If she didn't know him as well as she did she would have thought he was the most dangerous man alive from the way his dark brow's furrowed together and his stormy grey eyes darkened.

"Okay Ken did act a bit impulsive." Joe finally admitted handing her the can of cola and sitting down beside her.

"You're not really over him are you." Joe said quietly taking Jun completely off guard by the statement.

"Why do you say that?" She asked glancing at his face.

"No real reason...just an observation." Joe said in a matter-of-fact tone.

"What has that to do with my concern about him acting irrationally?" She prodded.

"I said for no real reason, forget I asked." Joe enforced.

Jun sat back and studied his face for a moment.

"Stop studying me Jun... but have you admitted to yourself your not over him?" Joe returned her stare.

"I'm over him...of course I am, it's been a long time since we were involved in a relationship...My concern is out of friendship...and his command-"She began to conclude.

"Its bullshit and you know it." Joe rebuked.

Jun jumped out of her seat. "Between you and Ken it's amazing I haven't lost it myself by now." She fumed. Joe's accusations make her angry, why did he think she still wanted Ken. She didn't want him did she? No she chided herself- they were long over in anything romantic in their friendship.

"You go from one denial to the next. You and Ken are good at this game." The Condor accused her with his eyes and shook his head, raising a quizzical brow.

"I came to you for help...and that's all I get." She huffed, put her drink on the small table beside the couch and began to walk away.

Joe strided ahead of her and blocked her path, Jun tried to get passed him but he wouldn't move.

"I'll keep an eye on him too if it makes you happy." Joe said firmly.

"Yes...it would." A flood of relief went through her. Joe encircled her in his arms and pulled her in close to his body.

Jun trembled, but not from Joe's warm embrace but the though of her nightmare coming true and Ken dying during a battle. A tear slid down her cheek followed by more, soaking Joe's shirt with her grief for almost witnessing Ken die.

"I know it's been hard for you...and for Ken. Giving up your son..." Joe whispered hoarsely.

"I promise I won't let him become like me, one of me is enough for the team." Joe joked lightly. Jun smiled, he sadness easing as she looked up at his smirk.

"You bet- with two of you running off and acting on impulse and I'll go insane." She chided playfully punching his chest she pulled away from him.

"Thanks Joe," she said sincerely.

"Anytime Jun," Joe reassured her. Jun left his quarters feeling at least a bit better than what she had when left Ken. Jun couldn't truly explain her feelings any more when it can to Ken, she knew she cared about him in a special kind of way, but not in a needy kind of way. She was worried about him constantly, Ken being out of her life completely would shatter her world and she knew it deep down. A world without Ken would be a void she could never fill.

* * * *

His desk looked like most men who spent many hours in the office earning an income to support his family. A framed snapshot of happy family moment caught in time, and a few more of his small son learning to crawl and walk....

"Evan I'll be going home soon, I just have a few more adjustments to do." Matt Butler looked away from his computer screen and the latest wing design he had been working on for months.

"Matt, you still work too hard..." Evan grinned at his best engineer as Matts cell phone began to ring.

"Dadda..." Dyami's young voice came through the phone. "Hom." He said in toddler language.

"I'll be leaving soon..." He smiled warmly at the sound of his son's voice.

"You better be I've had dad, dad, daddy all afternoon. He began to cry when you didn't show up at 5 o'clock." Natasha Butler said in mock annoyance.

Matt looked at the clock. 5.30pm "Honey hang in there...and Dyami be good to mum..." Matt laughed softly. "I'm on my way." He waved to his boss walking out the door.

Glancing around the empty office he talked to his wife for a few more minutes. The past year had been the best year of their life. Natasha had a few difficulties in the beginning because she had to adjust to motherhood so fast. But it didn't hinder her love for Dyami or the joy she felt inside at him becoming part of their lives.

Matt had never felt more alive since he become a father, he'd do anything to protect his family, that commitment had already been tested and he knew he would do the same if it ever happened again.

Some of the lights went out as his boss left the building. Sighing heavily he took the hint and he began to shut down his computer.

Matt checked to security codes and then the safe the blue prints were stored. A theft of one of his projects had made Evan and a few others edgy. He had to admit it had made him edgy too.

Walking through the abandoned corridors he made his way to the underground parking lot and headed towards his car. The only one left in the building from his observations.

His bad leg had begun to hurt again, so she slowed down his pace. Damn what I'd give to be twenty again. He thought. But I was a cocky young fighter pilot back then...Matt grinned at the memory. He met his future wife Natasha during the days of his training and flying missions.

He put down his laptop to get out his car keys and pressed the button to unlock his car...

"Mr Butler." An unfamiliar voice from the other side of his car made him look up sharply at a man dressed him a black suit that barely covered his ample frame wearing very dark sunglasses with a bald shiny head. Matt put his hand on the drivers door handle.

"Mr. Butler I have a proposition for you that could prove to be very lucrative." The man said in a mysterious tone.

Matt's remained calm, he knew whoever this man was he didn't have good intentions and he had to be on full alert.

"I'm not interested." Matt said firmly and he began to open his car door.

"You haven't heard my proposition Mr. Butler." The man said smoothly and smiled.

"I don't need to..." Matt informed him. "I'm happy with my job and that's all there is to it."

"My employer is willing to double your salary...along with bonuses and other lucrative amounts of cash once our project is completed." The man said in a way that made Matt cringe.

"I love what I do...it's not about the money." Matt said scanning the car park discreetly for any ‘friends' this stranger might have.

"I advise you to listen carefully Mr. Butler as my employer doesn't take no for answer..." The stranger grinned broadly. "He is impressed with your work, and he needs expertise like yours to complete his project."

"Well there are plenty of people with my expertise out there." Matts said as he jumped into the driver's seat. The man in black held open his door.

"My employer wants your expertise... This won't be the last time we meet Mr. Butler." The man's tone held an underlying threat that sent a shiver down his spine.

Matt took hold of the car door and slammed it shut, and then started the engine and got away from the man as fast as he could.

"Who was that?" He mused out loud while he went back over the conversation in his mind. "The person who stole those blue prints I bet!"

Whoever that mans employer is there's something shady going on that's for sure. Matt would have no part of it- he fought at one time in his life against people like that. Matt though as he turned onto the main highway to head home. He thought about his wife and son again. Dyami made his heart sour when he ran to him and called out daddy. The pain they had suffered in the last ten years or more lifted from their life when they got the call from Utoland social services. It all seemed worth it just to have him with them.

Jun seemed to be a very intelligent young woman. He thought. You can see it in her eyes and the way she holds herself. Mature for her age...

Thinking of his son's biological mother he thought of their last meeting. Something about her struck him as odd. She had adopted a brother but she couldn't look after her own child? He knew he shouldn't ask these questions. But being a logical person, it just didn't add up to his logic.

When he mentioned it to Natasha later on the way home she dismissed it.

"She's hasn't really told us her reasons...lets just leave it at that...time will tell." Tash smiled warmly and looked back at her energetic bright blue eyed son with his mop of very dark brown hair.

And then they was Ken, the birth father. All Matt knew about him is that he tried to stop Dyami's adoption and then suddenly agreed to it. That confused Matt, since he refused to meet them when Matt and Natasha offered too to talk about it, and then he vanished after signing the adoption agreement.

Well Jun never talks about him so I guess he's out of the picture. Matt thought. He didn't know if he should be happy or sad about it.

Turning into his street he pushed the meeting with the stranger and thoughts of Jun and Ken out of his mind, and thoughts of his wife and son took over. Pulling up in his driveway he smiled joyfully at the sight of a mop of dark hair and two small hands on the window sill, a small child waited to greet him as he always did, and Matt wasn't going to let his worries cloud the highlight of his day, coming home to wife and son.

Chapter 7 by Ebonyswanne


"We have been back in action for weeks and still they cut our mecha in two like they are carved out of butter..." Count Egobossler fumed as he threw the latest Mecha plans he had been presented against the far wall of his castle, then he walked over and picked them and threw them into the open fireplace. The paper began to grow black as the red and blue tingled flames licked hungrily at paper.

He stared into the flames that burned as brightly as his desire to kill the Science Ninja Team and take total control of the Earth.

He turned to level a glare at his chief engineer. "I want something that can stand up to that lazer Gatchaman uses."

"My Lord..." He fumbled, not knowing what to do since his latest plans had been reduced to blackened embers before his very eyes.

"Why are you not following my orders?" Count Egobossler sized him up- he needed a replacement for this fumbling idiot and fast.

"Get out." Ego spat eventually." And send in Mr Grearer."

The Engineer bolted from the room. Egobossler smirked at his reaction. But he had asked for something that had thicker steel, better aerodynamics. All he presented was designs that could have been sitting in archive from the Katse era.

"Mr Grearer..." Egobossler greeted him like they were having a casual afternoon drink together.

Mr Grearer accepted Count Egobossler's invitation to join him in a drink of Scotch from his liquor cabinet. He handed him the crystal tumbler and sat down in his plush red velvet seat. He indicated for Mr Grearer to sit down opposite him.

"I gave you a task sometime back." Count Egobossler began sipping at his Scotch whisky. "How are we progressing?"

Mr Grearer flinched but he maintained his confident demeanour even if as he ran a hand over his bald scalp. "He is...reluctant."

"Reluctant?" Egobossler freighted surprise at this response.

"Sire, he ahhh didn't accept my offer-"Mr Grearer said putting his glass onto the side table.

Count Egobossler pulled a sour face. "Well, we need him more desperately now. Sosai Z is demanding we step up the campaign and I need fresh ideas."

"My Lord, you said I couldn't just kidnap and force him to work for us like Galactor has done in the past-"Mr Grearer defended his lack of results.

"I know." Egobossler agreed. "You may just have to be more..." He grinned slyly." Convincing... Matt Butler will come readily if he loses something he values..."

Mr Grearer nodded in complete understanding. "I see...He will make a fine Chief Engineer..."

Egobossler liked this man; he could see quickly what he wanted and did everything in his power to make it happen.

"Matt Butler will still come willingly...he just needs more convincing." Count Egobossler said in a blasé manner. "And of course...we will know the identities soon of all of the Science Ninja Team..."

"I will get onto it straight away...and yes sire, I have reliable men combing the streets for clues of who the rest of them could be." Mr Grearer promised and he promptly left the room.

Count Egobossler smiled into his glass as tipped it drink the last swig of his scotch. "Watch out Gatchaman... I'll get you soon and expose your entire team, just you wait and see." He laughed evilly... and looked at the stolen plans again from Matt Butler's office. "And I have just the man for the job designing Mecha's that will bring about your down fall."

Egobossler picked up his cloak and headed towards the door, he hoped his Chief Engineer managed to build him a decent Mecha this time since the schedule for the next attack would begin at midday and he had to get results this time, or Sosai might use that mind torture device on him again.

...From his post close to the door Kempeler observed his leader and the way he delegated tasks to his subordinates. Being the Captain his personal guard Kempeler was rarely away from Count Egobossler's side, except to go in spy missions and assinations for his leader.

His eyes followed Count Egobossler as he left the room and he prepared to follow him so they could discuss some important issues relating to the campaign and his network of spy's. Little did Egobossler know that Mr Gearer's loyalty was really to his Captain. Kempeler trained him to find the best recruits to develop his own loyal network of men.

"Kempeler, I need you to look over these mecha plans again and see if there's any improvements that you can recommend before we launch it against our enemy." Looking over at Egobossler's desk Kempeler knew he always kept a copy of his mecha plans, despite having torched the last lot.

"My lord... I'll see what I can come up with salvage our reputation...after all we have the best Army in all of Europe." His serious tone brought a frown to Egobossler's face but he said nothing and left the room.

The best that is until we joined Galactor which is full of self serving fools that make the army that we spent years building look bad. He thought disdainfully.

Sighing heavily Kempeler walked over to Count Egobossler's desk and he began the task of looking for the Mecha's weaknesses. From what he could see it would a long haul and they didn't have time to make many improvements.

He studied the plans for an hour before deciding to pour himself a glass of Count Egobossler's twelve year old scotch, the rich warm amber liquid sliding down his throat relaxed him and he allowed his thoughts to wander for a while. Of late he had been clouded with doubts- uncertainties that made him work even harder to appear unconditionally loyal to his Lord and master.

He'd served Count Egobossler for years with unquestioning loyalty. Joining Galactor change Egobossler, he had become a servant instead of the driving force he had been when he alone called the shots in his army. Sosai Z had reduced him to it...

Kempeler thought back to the day his life turned into a nightmare....Of late her face had come back to haunt him, he had once cared about human life, his childhood sweetheart had made him feel loved and with he had planned a life and a family content to spend his days coming home to his beloved Helia...

The day he came home early from work to find her making love to another man in their bed his heart was shattered beyond repair, the pain so intense he quickly pulled out his gun and murdered her in her lover's arms, killing them both in an instant of madness.

He crumbled to floor after he did it, crying like a baby as he looked upon her naked bloodied lifeless body with her wavy strawberry blond flowing loosely over the side of the blood stained bed. He'd loved her so intensely in a way that was unconditional and she betrayed him. The loving husband he had been vanished, and from that day on he began shutting down his emotions. He joined the Egobossler private army and every time he drew his gun to kill he saw them together and he pulled the trigger as if to kill them all over again, in his mind she saw her eyes widen in fear each time before the bullet ended her life...He missed what they had together, the pain of her absence in his life drove him insane.

 The light flutter of paper brought him out of his thoughts, ignoring the warm useless tears on his cheeks he picked up a crumpled torn piece of  paper that had fallen under the table catching his eye, picking it up he began reading it before he realized the full extent of its content.

 "Kaseru is refusing to eat...he demands that you set him free...he has already attempted to escape from Ain River Castle..."

"How careless of you Count Egobossler..." He swore reading it over again. Then he smirked, secrets was the life he had led since he was twenty three years old, he knew another persons secrets could buy him leverage if he ever needed it. The spy in him had to know who Kaseru is and why he was hidden away secretly at a Castle, being a master of disguise he knew he'd find a way to get there without his lord knowing. The sound of footsteps alerted him to Count Egobossler's return so he quickly shoved the piece of useful information into his pocket, he'd find a way to break Count Egobossler's alliance with Galactor. His secret at Ain Castle could just be the key to his future ambitions- Take over leadership from a lord that had become a puppet to an Alien creature that cared nothing humans.

Chapter 8 by Ebonyswanne

Jun ran down the corridor of the latest mecha she had boarded with Joe and Ken. In the short time she had been on the ship she had separated from them and had set up explosive charges.

"The charges are set, you have five minutes." She said into her bracelet. Ken didn't respond. Joe acknowledged her call.

"Where are you?" She said looking around the Mecha devoid of any life. Something feels wrong. She thought. Horribly wrong...

The muffled sounds of a fight somewhere on the ship reached her ears.

I overreacted. Jun thought. With her lips curling gently into a smile, they're getting all of the action with me.

She started running down the hallway again towards the noise. Joe's voice reached her ears.

"Ken, pull back." The Condor ordered. Then she heard Ken's frenzied yelling at Count Egobossler.

"Let go of me Joe!" Ken shouted at his second. Jun drew in a deep breath to settle her nerves; this had been a standard occurrence during the last few missions.

"Jun said we had five minutes...four minutes ago, we have to get out of here or we go down with the mecha." Came Joe's heated response.

No wonder the ship was vacant- Egobossler must have given the order to abandon ship the moment they boarded.

"Let's get out of here." She yelled at the both of them as she rounded the corner and kept running towards the opening. Joe still had Ken's mantle clutched in his hand and Ken's eyes were still on fire.

From the corner of her eye she could see Joe and Ken following her. The Mecha rocked violently as the first of her charges went off. Ryu steadied the Gatchasparten as the three of them leapt from the ship and joined hands as they dropped rapidly towards the hovering ship.

They all landed gracefully on top of the smooth surface of the ship. Without hesitation Ken drew out the Hypershoot and took his customary position on top of the mecha.

"Get inside." He ordered without even looking at them.

"Ken it's not necessary, I put enough-"Jun pleaded anxiously with him and Joe took her arm and began to draw her away from Ken and towards the opening that lead them down to the bridge.

"Do as I order you to do Jun." His eyes flashed violently like he struggled within himself not to lash out at her. "I'm finishing this so get below."

With her heart pumping wildly Jun followed Joe below, she heard the next lot of charges explode and them the sweeping sound of the hypershoot as Ken finished of the mecha.

Jun adjusted her visor and looked at Joe tight lipped and ready to blast him for not stopping Ken.

"Jun he would have done it anyway-"Joe said folding his arms and he stared out at the mecha falling apart and the bright laser of the Hypershoot weapon as Ken did his last sweep.

"That's so weak." She hissed. "You could have stopped him. It's unnecessary and you know it."

Ryu and Jinpei stole nervous glances at them but stayed silent as Ken walked down into the ship.

He looked wild- his eyes gleamed from the adrenaline rush he received every time he used the powerful weapon he carried at his side.

"It necessary Jun." He said harshly and then he turned his wrath onto Joe.

"I had him and you pulled me away again, this would be over if you just stayed out of it." Ken's dead calm voice held an underlying threat that antagonised the Condor.

"Ken we would be going down with that Mecha if I hadn't pulled you back." Joe returned his glare and before Jun could move Ken laid a punch into Joe's jaw. Joe moved fast and returned his blow sending the Eagle flying across the bridge and landing with a thump against the back wall. He didn't move.

"Stop it the both of you." She demanded.

"I didn't hit him hard enough to kill him...or really even injure him." Joe said frowning.

"Listen to sis, your acting like ten year olds!" Jinpei smirked, Jun's glare made him look back at his console and he pretended to do something.

She walked calmly over to Ken and looking into his unconscious pale face.

"Ryu, get us back to base fast." She said looking over her shoulder. Joe began to lift him and without a struggle sat Ken into his seat.

"This isn't the first time this has happened." Jun fretted taking off his helmet, Ken murmured something and then his head flopped again.

"We'll get him back to Kamo and Dr.Nambu." Joe looked worried too and put a hand on her shoulder. "Stay with him."

"I will..." She looked up into the Swallows worried eyes.

"Sis, what's going on with big bro?" He asked.

"I don't know for sure Jinpei, but I'm sure he'll be okay." Jun tried to smile reassuringly but found she couldn't.

"We're coming into land." Ryu glanced over his shoulder at them. Jun nodded and then looked back at Ken's paled features. A sinking feeling in her stomach told her this couldn't be good.

* * * *

Fiddler had worked for a man he only knew as Mr Gearer for years, he only received his jobs through email and reported back to him the same way.

Recently he received the job of looking for members of the Science Ninja Team's true identities. He had been at this task for a few months and Mr Gearer had begun pressuring him for results.

Fiddler didn't ask questions, he just stepped up his search. He wasn't blind to his employer and his reasons- he figured Mr Gearer had links with Galactor a long time ago. He didn't care. He got paid well and on time and that's all that mattered to him. He didn't need to know the rest.

He had pictures of the Condor and the Eagle. So he figured if he could locate them then it's likely the Swan. Swallow and Owl wouldn't be far from them.

They'd hang out together right? He mused as he walked along the busy streets of Utoland. It's the most logical thing to do since they all work together.

His stomach began to rumble again, sending him signals that he had to stop and eat before he began to get cramps from the lack of food.

"Hey you there..." He called out to an old man waiting to cross the street. The man squinted his eyes and huffed. "Whata ya want?"

Fiddler ignored his gruff manner. "Is there any places to eat around here?" He asked.

The old man pointed towards a place with a crude hand painted sign with "Snack Jun" in faded red paint across the front guttering.

"Old man that place looks closed to me anywhere else?" He asked a pain shot through his empty belly, making him grimace slightly.

"Yeah tell me about it, that chick keeps the oddest opening hours." The old man sounded put out by it and something what he said seemed odd to Fiddler.

"What do you mean by odd hours?" Fiddler inquired as he turned his eyes to look at the small quaint restaurant that looked like it could use a refurbishment from the faded walls and old fashioned door sigh, and then he looked back at the old man.

The more the man talked the more Fiddler knew he had struck gold.  

"Been a regular there fa years...and ya know, the foods alright when the kids on, but when the teenage girl cooks it gets a bit iffy." He grunted. "Then they just shut the doors at the oddest hours...I think I only come here ‘cause its close to home."

Fiddler smiled broadly as he looked at the "Snack Jun." He added up the clues. Odd hours- run by a kid and a young girl...

"Thank you...is there ahhh anywhere else?" He inquired looking back at the jackpot. It had to be the cover for the Swallow and the Swan. He mused.

"No, just that place." Then the old man crossed the road without another word.

Fiddler stared at the isolated restaurant. Well, he thought there's only one way I'm going to find out if is them. And he began to form his plan as he walked up to the front door with a "closed" sigh casually hanging in front of it.

Chapter 9 by Ebonyswanne

Ken felt another wave of dizziness sweep over him- he still managed to stumble down the hallway and into his small bedroom. Unsuccessfully he tried to steady himself instead he just flopped ungracefully onto his unmade bed. This had become normal for him the months since they war had begun in earnest again. Using the hypershoot, and then he felt sick for hours afterwards. He could generally fake being tired to rest of the team, that lie was shattered by his recent collapse on board the Gatchasparten.

The lecture Joe gave him only added to headache that had started to come to life in his brain shortly after he woke up at the base medical centre.

Using the hypershoot always left him feeling depressed and weak. Normally he could hide it from the rest of them and he chided himself for being so transparent on the last mission, but this time he just couldn't function and passing out didn't help matters. The thought of Galactor and their existence that stole his dreams and his hopes for a future outside of the Science Ninja Team spurred him on and forced him to push boundaries that he would never had done years ago. Then when he looked into Jun's anguished face while he stood on top of the Gatchasparten he just had to finish off the mecha himself to release the pain and longing he felt towards her. He wanted it to be over- he wanted the eternal pain he felt with every beat of his heart to be over. Looking into Jun's desperate eyes even for that split second sent home that because his carelessness he lost his chance at having a family of his own... Then Joe torn her away and forced her into the Gatchasparten so he could get on with doing his job.

He thought Joe of all people would understand his hatred and need for revenge- from the Condor's actions he began to doubt it. Why was Joe pulling him back? His thoughts flicked back to the moment he woke up.

"Give it a rest Joe, who's in command of this team?" Ken glowered before he looked over at Jun's sad green eyes, he watched as she carefully masked them to just being mildly concerned.

She deserves a better man than me... A man who wouldn't leave her for months at a time to pursue his own interests... A man who hadn't become just like his father when he promised her silently he wouldn't... Ken thought as tried to open his eyes only to see white flashes of light dancing before his eyes. He thought more about the questioning look in her beautiful eyes he caught glimpse of in passing. A look he saw often in the first war, but he didn't realize the significance of it for a long time.

What did she want from him? He mused as mixed emotions torn at his heart and he tried to compress them, and put them back in their place. Why couldn't he truly let her go in his heart and stop what he felt each time he looked at her?

The endless questions flowing through his mind only added to his headache and fired his passion when he held the powerful sword in his grasp and struck out at the mecha before him. Throwing his pain into the melting steel and watching it twist and fall apart only fuel his rage- Ken could feel the intense heat radiating and at times it threatened to burn him up with its radiation. Ken could feel it wanting to consume him. He resisted the temptation to cave into it's desires. He had a job to do, a final mission to complete before he could ever think of a life for himself ...

Ken sat up as the dizziness began to subside. Time held no relevance to him, night or day, Ken didn't care, and he could have been sleeping again for hours for all he knew.

Ken no longer wanted to be alone and indulge in his thoughts as he gingerly stood up and made his way out of his bedroom and down the hall again, he found his feet walking towards to Jun's private quarters without having given it any thought.

He knocked on the door but there was no answer. Assuming she was likely to be in the shower he pressed in the code to open the door.

Silence blanketed the small tidy lounge room of her quarters and he could tell she wasn't there. Ken looked around at the personal touches that spoke of a young woman that liked to make a home from the familiar worn bronze coloured cushions that had been on her couch in the loft above the Snack J. A cup with her name on it sat on a side table, a small picture of her and Jinpei beside it. He could see her sitting there quietly reading a magazine. Her soft rose bud lips turning up at something that amused her, a strand of black hair caressing her flawless ivory skin. She wouldn't be the kind of woman a person would pick as the Swan of the Science Ninja Team. For many she would appear too delicate, to feminine and soft natured to be a fighter. Ken knew it was that deception that made Dr. Nambu chose her to be part of the team, along with her spirited nature and intelligence. They were the very things that attracted him to her, even if he was in denial of it for a long time of how he truly felt about Jun. Then it all fell apart because of a lie, one he later began to see had been partly his fault.

From the corner of his eye he spotted a few books strewn across a small side table, something about the titles made his heart sink as he walked over and picked one up.

"Moving on." A guide to dealing with a work place romance that is over, how to keep the friendship between you and be professional ...

Huh!! Ken put the book down, and then he looked at another title. "She's reading books about getting over me?" He gasped in shock. "Do I need that much getting over...?"

She's not totally over us either? He thought. She's holding back... That explains the questioning glances despite the way she responded to him when the subject of their brief relationship came up. But can a couple give up a baby like they did and still workout in a relationship together. Ken asked himself.

He never thought she would do that. It had never occurred to Ken to pick up a self help book to try and deal with his internal emotions. I had become much easier just to switch them off and deal with them at a later date. That time never came. Ken realized.

Slowly Ken put the book down and he blinked back tears that had to nerve to spring into his eyes, emotions that didn't have his permission to surface defied his inner commands.

He wanted her love... but was there to much pain there for them to work even of the war was over for good?

I'm fighting for you too Jun...so you can have a chance of the life you want to have, and to have someone who'll treat you in the way you deserve. Ken closed his eyes as a tear escaped because of the grief he felt at loss he suffered in his heart. "I love you Jun...but I can't tell you that because it can't be...we can't be together...its so unfair."

Turning around he reluctantly left the her quarters to return to his own, the only choice Ken felt he had now was to fight with every ouch of strength to win this war knowing he wouldn't survive to see peace. But at least Jun would be free to live the life she deserved. And Dyami would grow up knowing what it's like to have a family in a way he didn't.

Rounding the corner he Ken decided to change course and go for a walk outside of the base. The first thing he saw was the bright morning sun followed by a cool breeze leaving the base through a back entrance he walked for a while through the forest, he was about to turn back and find some breakfast when the sound of familiar voices drifted to his ears.

"...I don't know Joe...there's more to it than that." The sound of Jun's low worried tone met his ears.

"Well I do, he's losing it." Joe said in his usual manner. "He's never been that impulsive on missions..."

"I agree with the both of you something about Ken isn't right..." Jun mused the tone of her voice made him stop in his tracks.

" Have you asked him why he's decided being impulsive is the new strategy?" Joe said.

Ken snuck up closer through the undergrowth towards their voices anger flare up inside of him at this meeting taking place behind his back.

"Kinda, but you know Ken..." Jun sounded lost.

And Joe's the one she turns too, Ken began to feel envious of this conversation, still he kept silent as he approached them.

"He withdraws often after missions and retreats to his private quarters...sometimes I don't recognise him...he's becoming a stranger even to himself." Jun's wounded voice stung him.

"I know, he's determined to win, no matter the cost." Joe agreed.

"I know the reason deep down....he's just not open to talking..." Jun's voice broke, Ken saw Joe move in to comfort her.

 "I'm here now Jun, why don't we have that talk." Ken stood up and glared at the two of them.

Jun paled and Joe coolly folded his arms and leaned against a tree close by.

"Glad you could join us Ken." He said glancing at Jun like they had been waiting for his arrival.

"Ken," Jun blinked in shock.

Silence blanketed the three of them as Ken waited for the ‘meeting' to continue.

"Why didn't you just tell me your concerns?" Ken's voice went dangerously low. "I have my reasons for fighting...so do you, so lets just leave it at that."

"Ken- this isn't what you think..." Jun moved forward, his glare halted her only for a second, he knew if looked into her eyes then he'd have to admit some of what he had overheard could very well be true. He could be losing his sanity in a desperate bid to win an endless war.

Jun firmly grasped his arm and began to walk away from Joe- he couldn't see her face as she turned around and mouthed silently something to the Condor. Ken could feel Joe's eyes burning into the back of his head as they walked a fair distance away.

"Forget it Jun, I heard enough of your conversation, I'm okay really, just exhausted from months of going on missions back to back." Ken tried to keep his voice steady, practising regaining total control of his emotions.

"We're all tired Ken, but something is happening to you and I couldn't say what I think it is in front of Joe..." she said sternly.

Ken wondered why. He raised a quizzical brow and waited for her continue.

Jun drew in a deep breath like she was gathering strength to say what was on her mind.

"It's about Dyami...that's why you're pushing so hard...Using the hypershoot when it's not necessary to do so..." Jun's looked relieved to have said it.

"Could it be that I'm just over this war...That I can't even fly my plane for the simple pleasure of flying any more." Ken folded his arms and looked out at blue skies. A silent longing filled his heart for days when he could just jump in his Cessna and cut through the clouds, do daring drops towards the ground just for the sake of it. Freedom...

"Why do you want to keep seeing him Jun? I has to hurt like hell each time..." Ken asked after a long period of silence passed between them, Jun had been gazing out at cloudless blue sky along with him.

"Let's go into Utoland to the snack J and I'll show you why..." She whispered hoarsely.

"Alright...lets hope Galactor hold off for a while." Ken indicated curling his fingers through her delicate long fingers. She didn't pull away and for Ken it felt like a natural thing to do.

Jun smiled gratefully, "I'll drive..." She said walking in the direction of the entrance Ken had come out of.

Chapter 10 by Ebonyswanne


Matt sat in his car staring nervously at the white stone building before him with ISO printed in large red writing across the top of it.

He thought he could handle the man called Mr Gearer trying to bribe him into quitting his job, but then the man started to take a different tactic, and then to top it off he discovered that Mr. Gearer worked for Galactor. When he told him this piece of information during one of his ‘visits' to Matt's office he knew he was in deeper than he expected, and he had to think about the welfare of his wife and son.

He slammed his hand on the steering wheel to let out some of frustration of finding out Galactor wanted him to work for them. Galactor is dangerous and Matt had experienced it first hand on a bridge that came close claiming the life of the only family he had left in the world- Natasha and Dyami.

His senses went on high alert as he stepped out of the car. He felt that every person that walked past him could be an agent of Galactor.

He had made several calls to the ISO to try and make an appointment to see him, but all he got was a run around and help desks.

Are they spying on me? He thought looking at a man wearing sunglasses that smiled in his direction as he walked up to the large glass front doors.

Shaking his head he tried to push the paranoid thoughts from his mind. He had to focus on what he needed to say to the only man he felt that could help him get out of this situation.

Trying to walk normally with his bad leg and appear he didn't have a care in the world was harder than it used to be for Matt. Having a family changed his priories forever. When he flew fighter jets he could be selfish in his own needs and wants. The accident during a skirmish changed him, and then getting married soon after and recently becoming a father completed his turnaround from being a man who took risks to being a man who didn't.

Seeking out this man was a risk, but not seeking his help could amount much worse.

The middle aged woman at the reception desk smiled in a professional as he approached her.

Matt cleared his throat as she waited for him to address her.

"I'd...I'd like to see Dr.Nambu." Matt politely requested.

"Do you have an appointment?" She asked.

"No, but it's important..." Matt said trying not to reveal too much of his reasons for needing to see Dr Nambu, the new director to a receptionist. "Its...I have some information that he'd find important to his work."

"Can you give me any more details?" She asked looking away from him.

"I can't talk about my reasons here." Matt tried not to appear impatient, he was already late for work, but his family came first

She paused for a minute and looked at something on a computer screen, and then she picked up a clip board and pen and handed it to him.

"What's this?" He asked as he began to skim over it.

"Fill it out and when the doctor gets a chance he'll call you." She said flatly.

Matt drew his lips into a tight line. "This won't wait- my family is at risk..."

"He's a busy man- he has about fifty people a day call him with urgent business..." She sat down behind her computer and then indicated to lounge seat close by for him to get comfortable and start filling out the form.

"This is ridiculous...can't you call him...it has to do with Galactor." Matt hoped the mention of the organisation would give her the idea of how urgent it was for him to see Dr Nambu.

She merely looked up like the word Galactor didn't phase her one bit. "We have many people who come in and proclaim to have information about that organisation...often it's the media trying to get in and look at our facilities...and hopefully spot the famous Science Ninja Team."

"Fill out the form, if its genuine then I'm sure he'll be in touch with you as soon as possible." She said in a neutral tone.

"You're not serious..." Matt felt his anger brewing- he had been threatened only this morning by Galactor. Two black cars forced him off the road, men in green told him he had one last chance to come willingly or he would lose his family. Matt knew he had to act and fast.

Mat put the clip board down, and in a last attempt at controlling his frustrations he looked at her and said. "My family is in a lot of danger- I need to see him urgently..."

She didn't react- casually she pointed a pen at the form. "Fill it out and then we'll see."

Matt eyed off the security barrier...if he could get through there then maybe...just maybe he could bolt up the fire stairs and loom for his office. How many floors are there he wondered, from the high of the building there'd be at least 100 floors. He continued to entertain the idea when she interrupted his thought pattern.

"While your standing there thinking your wasting time that could be spent filling out the form." She said glancing in his direction and then she went back to typing something on her keyboard.

Matt leaned over the counter deliberately picked up the clip board hoping to spot a registry of personnel. They're good he thought- nothing that could be a security breach in sight. He casually moved around the desk to sit on the plush neutral coloured leather lounge keeping an eye on the desk.

The receptionist didn't move, Matt kept a keen eye on her security pass and waited for someone to walk up to the desk. If he could just get into the main building he could find Dr Nambu and enlist his help.

She leaned over to pick up a pen, Matt moved as fast as his bad leg would allow him to and in desperation he grabbed her security tag successfully, and walked very fast towards the security guards. He picked a group and joined them flashing the pass in hope they wouldn't look to closely.

As he walked past and headed towards the lifts alarms went off sending people into a panic. Matt looked around to see several burly security guards bearing down on him. He hit the floor hard sending sharp pains shooting through his body- one of them picked him up by the scruff of his shirt collar.

"Nice try...scum bag." The man snarled and looked over at the receptionist. "Thanks for tip off Rita..."

"Damn bloody reporters...That's the second one to try that trick today to get to the director for an exclusive." Someone said in disgust.

Feeling dizzy from the fall and out of kilter Matt tried to walk, except the man wouldn't allow it, dragging him out of the building and he threw him clumsily on the pavement outside.

Embarrassed by his attempt at getting past security he gingerly pushed himself into a seated position.

"Hey buddy...you okay?" A kindly young male voice made him look up. The kind voice belonged to a youth with an ample frame and unruly brown hair wearing a T-shirt with a large number five printed on it.

"I'm fine...I ahhh...." Matt fumbled, not really knowing what to say to this kind young man.

"Here, let me help you up, whata you to make those guys angry?...I'm Ryu by the way." Ryu extended his hand to assist Matt to his feet.

"Ryu...well I just went in to meet someone and it looks like that's not gonna happen." Matt sighed heavily. The young man studied his face.

"Have we met? Something about you looks familiar." Ryu scratched his head in thought, Matt just shook his head.

"I don't believe so...have a good day Ryu." Matt said in a kinder tone to only person who had offered him any help at all that day. He straightened up his suit. With no one left to turn to it meant taking matters into his own hands. He needed to go home and have his family pack up their bags. They would be on the run from Galactor, and he had to get started before they tried to threaten him again.

"Oh...my mistake, have a good day." Ryu said in a friendly voice with a smile before walking into the building.

Matt vaguely heard him, red tape and security... he thought angrily. They're not even interested in information about Galactor. The ISO isn't going to help us. Matt thought sourly as he got behind the wheel of his car. Turning on the engine he set the course for home.

Chapter 11 by Ebonyswanne


Jun turned on the engine of the black V8 muscle car with red leather interior and a shadow of a gangster girl holding a gun air brushed onto the driver's side in his Condor birdstyle colours. Joe kept the old car at the base for the odd run into Utoland. Ken didn't question her choice to take the Condor's baby- he figured Joe would have words with her over it later anyway.

Another change in Jun Ken thought stealing a side glance at the Swan. At one point in time there was no way she'd touch Joes car for fear any retribution Joe would likely do when he found out.

The drove down the winding mountain road in a comfortable silence- the growl of the V8 reaching his ears as Jun went into the lower gears to maintain control of the beast, once Jun turned onto the open stretch of road Jun broke the ice.

"You haven't asked me why I'm driving Joe's hot revamped car." Jun kept her eyes on the road but Ken didn't miss her cheeky grin.

"I figured you fill me...so, why are you driving Joe's car?" Ken rested his hand on the dash board and stared out the passenger window at the rocky landscape.

"He said I should test out the engine..."With that statement Jun picked up speed, the engine roared and Ken fell back into his seat with a rush of adrenaline pumping through his veins as she over took slower cars on the single lane highway. Normally he would have told her to slow down, today he felt different- today he needed to rush of adrenaline and speed to remind him he was still alive.

Eventually she slowed down as the approach the outskirts of Utoland.

"You enjoyed that as much as I did." Jun's feral grin became infectious and he found his lips turning up to match hers.

"You never cease to amaze me Jun." Ken said relaxing into his seat. "For a moment I thought you were about to take off and we'd fly into Utoland."

"You wish fly boy." Jun drove in the direction of the Snack J.

"Do want to tell more of what this is all about?" He enquired watching her face it dawn on him that her looks had changed over the past year. She was still beautiful in everyway. But her face had lost the innocence he once knew, she had an air of maturity about the way she held herself. Jun had grown into a woman- the teenage girl who giggled at the smallest thing was gone. Ken felt some disappointment at the loss of innocence that she once had, and another part of him rejoiced because Jun had become more independent and confident in herself.

"Something wrong?" Jun broke into his thoughts causing him to stammer.

"Ahhh...no...just noticing a few changes." Ken felt the turn of his as his pride in her began to surface.

"Huh..."Jun brows knitted together in thought. "What changes- who...where?"

You...you've changed Jun...and I like what I see. Ken thought as she stared into her green eyes. Breaking eye contact Jun's became baffled as she pulled up in front of the Snack J, Ken left her sitting there and jumped out of the passenger side window.

She caught up with in a few steps and pulled out her keys for the front door of snack J.

Opening it she flicked on the lights and he drank in the musty smell of a place that hadn't been opened in a few months.

"I'm barely paying the rent...I'm behind by two months....if I don't open again soon my landlord will shut the Snack down for good." Jun sighed heavily at the burden she carried. Ken knew how much this place meant to her and began to mentally calculate how much money he had at the shack to try and help her. A few dollars in coins in a money box, shamefully he ducked his head and walked to the room off to the side that led to the stairs to loft.

Jun bolted up ahead of him towards her bedroom, Ken followed her in.

Looking around at her private sanctuary he felt a pang at the memories that flooded into his mind as he looked around, his eyes washed over her bed and he quickly looked away to divert his attention to the task at hand.

She pulled out a stash of boxes from her cupboard all the while a serious expression stayed on her face.

"It here I know it." Jun mumbled. "Oh here..."

Jun pulled out a small piece of crinkled note paper and handed it to him. Ken starred at the brief hand writing. "Jun" scrawled in large letters.

His eyes questioned her. Jun's bottom lip trembled. "My nightmares reflect my inner truths."

"I've never shown anyone that bit of paper..." She began. "It's all my mother left for me when she abandoned me as a little baby at the orphanage."

Ken crouched down beside her and put a comforting arm around her shoulder. She looked so lost in that moment. The young innocent girl had returned as her memories took her back in time.

"I starred at the piece of paper for years...thinking one day she's come back for me, she didn't..." Jun cried into his shoulder. " I would try to imagine what part of me looked like her...why she didn't want me..."

"Until one day I stopped caring...and I promised myself I'd never do what she did to my own child." Jun sobbed harder, Ken tightened his grip around her delicate shoulders. "And look what happened Ken... I became just like her... I walked out on my son leaving him a note..."

He felt Jun stiffen in his arms- he could sense her gathering internal strength just to cope with the rush of painful memories that threatened to undo her.

"I understand Jun...I really do." Ken whispered into her hair. He had the same fears about doing what his father did when he walked out on him and his mother all those years ago. He felt the same stab of pain at becoming what he promised he wouldn't become.

"You're not like her Jun...Dyami will know who you are, what you look like..." Ken reassured her. "You didn't abandon him."

Jun's sobs became softer- Ken pushed back her tangled ebony hair to look into her haunted exquisite face.

"We're not perfect Jun and neither were our parents..." Ken kissed her forehead and he felt the sting of his own tears. Encircling her into his arms he held onto her tightly for a long time. Finally he accepted the truth of his heritage. His father messed up in some ways, and in other ways he was willing to die for his family. In trying to be the perfect soldier Ken had managed to mess up in the one thing he should have put first, his lover and best friend- Jun.

Jun pulled away slightly to as something caught her eye over in the far corner of the room hidden under the window curtain. Ken followed her gaze to an empty open box, and then she quickly scanned the room.

"Someone's been in here..."Jun's voice became cautious. She stood up and walked over and picked up the box and her face turned white as a sheet.

"What was in that box?" Ken asked joining her.

"Pictures of Dyami...and a letter from Natasha and Matt about his milestones." Jun's eyes widened with fear. "And this..." She held up a small symbol of Galactor. Ken pursed his lips and felt his hands becoming sweaty at the implications of what that symbol meant. At the same time they held up their hand to their face. "Bird go..."

The sound of clanging pots jolted them out of their thoughts as they both dashed towards the stairs.

"...Stop." Ken held out his arm to prevent Jun from running down the staircase. "Back up, I smell gas..."

Jun silently followed his order and they ran down the hallway, Ken pulled picked a vase and threw at the window smashing the glass out into the alley way below. The two of them leaped out of the building just as the first explosion blew apart the front section of the restaurant. Ken pulled Jun around the corner of the building next door and covered with his wings as the Snack J exploded once more sending debris and hot flames in all directions.

"Can you see anyone..." She asked him looking into his infuriated face.

"No...let's go and see if we can catch the culprit..." Ken's enraged voice left no room for arguments and Jun wasn't about to protest.

"I'm with you Ken...let's go get em..." Jun agreed taking a last look at the burning restaurant spread out across the street with people standing around starring at the drama that had just unfolded before them...

Jun stopped and stared at Joe's car.

Ken let out a long whistle breath. "Boy is he going to be pissed."

The car had been thrown across the street during the explosion. All of the visible windows had been shattered and it was pitted with huge dents. Thick black smoke from the engine indicated the car wouldn't be around for much longer from the external damage.

"He'll learn to live with it." Jun smirked briefly visualizing the Condor's grimace. "We'll blame it on Galactor and then he'll be sweet about it and be more infuriated on the next mission...Now lets go, we have to go to the ISO building in town to see if we can some how find their address."

Ken didn't need any prompting as they ignored the crowd gathering and starring in excitement at the two famous members of the Science Ninja Team.

 

Chapter 12 by Ebonyswanne

Matt left the engine of his car running as he bolted through the front door of his house. Natasha hadn't picked up the phone, it happened occasionally and she had this bad habit of leaving her cell phone at home. So in his mind she could be anywhere.

"Tash." He called out as he caught his breath and tried to calm his voice. All the way he pictured in his mind Galactor green clad goons turning up on his door step and kidnapping them.

He spotted her cell phone sitting on the kitchen bench as he ran up towards the stairs leading up to the bedrooms. The silence told him they we're in that part of the house.

They had given him one day to change his mind or he would never see his wife and son again.

"Honey...Dyami..."Matt walked out into the back yard to see if they were playing on his swing set.

The yard looked to be deserted. Pursing his lips he walked back into the house, impatience taking over from his frustrations of earlier that morning. He could wait around he figured, pack some bags...

A note on the blackboard caught his attention, striding over quickly he read it again.

Luncheon- Tiny feet prints day care 12am today. Pick grandpa up along the way...Don't forget.

Of course! Matt kick himself for forgetting something so simple, she had briefly mentioned the luncheon at her old work place. The centre had been closed for the day especially for some celebration she mentioned. He was too busy playing games with Dyami to hear all the details.

He picked up the cordless phone and dialled the number-it went straight to a messaging service.

"Hi Brenda... If you get this message can you tell Tash to call me on my cell, it's urgent." Then he hung up, quickly he ran up the stairs and into Dyami's bedroom and threw a few clothes into his travel bag and some nappies. The he raced into the main bedroom and packed some practical clothes and general items for the both of them. If his instinct rang true, they need to run as fast as they could from Galactor. He hoped Tash's clothes matched-he could see the glares of he picked the wrong shirts to jeans and shoes...let alone what he packed for his son in his rush. Money he thought quickly...he needed money- they could track a credit card.

"I'll withdraw some before we leave town...he thought running out the front door he threw the bags into the back of the waiting car and dove behind the steering wheel his wheels squealed as he raced out of his driveway to find his family before Galactor did.

* * * *

Natasha Butler rounded the corner of the "Monkey play room" to look for her wayward son. She knew the game he liked to play, and she also knew he would see her before she saw him.

"Dyami...come on...where are you?" She said in a hushed tone. "They're serving out lunch soon..."

A rascally giggle gave him away- quietly she headed towards the table with a cloth thrown over it on the other side of the room. Dyami it seemed had his own strategy at play. He waited until she was close enough and he dashed out from under the table almost knocking her off balance as she tried to catch him instead he flew across room giggling the whole way and out the door. She could hear his little shoes squeaking up the hallway towards the room where the tables had been set up for the centres tenth birthday celebration.

Hide and seek is a game the little boy who would be turning two in just a few months loved to play.

"Dyami... I should nick name you the white shadow after Gatchaman..." Shaking her head she knew his stomach must have been winning out when she mentioned lunch.

Heading out the door she saw his grandfather scoop him up playfully into his arms and take him into the other room.

"So I hear...little Dyami's adopted...so sad for his real mother don't you think, to lose her son like that." An unfamiliar female voice drifted to her ears as she approached the kitchen to see if they needed some help with serving out the lunch.

"... that little boy is so lucky Natasha and Matt saved him..." She heard one of the ladies she used to work with Kelly-Anne say. "Well, any woman who'd give up a child has to be bad news... she must have been on drugs or in gaol."

The other woman grunted an agreement- Natasha felt the hairs rise up on her arms in defence of the woman they spoke so naively about.

"Natasha would never say of course why his real mother didn't want him, only that she has a meeting with her, why she would keep contact with his mother I don't know, I couldn't it would be too hard to know your child isn't really yours-" Kelly-Ann whispered in a quieter tone.

Natasha hastened her pace and stood in the doorway as the two women abruptly stopped their conversation. Kelly-Anne recovered fast and turned a smile towards a furious Natasha. Her smile dropped as she looked into Natasha's eyes.

"I came to see if you needed any help." Natasha's flat tone wasn't lost on them.

Kelly-Anne battered her ‘innocent' her eye as she lightly tried to explain her conversation that Natasha had obviously overheard.  "Marie was just asking about Dyami-"

"So I heard as I walked up to the door..." Natasha turned her eyes towards Marie. "I don't believe we've met."

Quickly Marie introduced herself. Natasha didn't trust herself to say any more, feeling sick on the stomach for the way her former workmate talked about her family behind her back left a sour taste in her mouth.

"Did I upset you?" Kelly-Anne put her hand in Natasha's arm.

"Please don't talk about my family that way. You have no right to judge his birth mother in any way shape or form. Dyami's my son...I'm his mother so lets just leave it at that."

Taking the salad bowl Natasha left the room and headed towards the rest of party fury still rallied inside of her.

She put the bowl down on the serving table and walked over to her father and crossing her arms protectively she looked over towards her son, with her heart on her sleeve. "Lets go...I don't feel I can stay here any more."

Concern for his daughter washed over his weathered strong features. Pulling her away from the crowd he waited for her tell him why she wanted to suddenly leave.

Natasha repeated the conversation she overheard with her father listening the whole time. He didn't respond straight away.

"Natasha, you can't run or become angry every time someone makes a stupid assumption about Dyami or Jun. Yes they were rude, but it's not good for Dyami if he grows up seeing you becoming over sensitive to comments made in ignorance."

Deep inside she agreed with her father. She had to find other ways of dealing with the emotions that rose up when people spoke of him as being second best because she couldn't have ‘her own real children' as some people liked to say. Drawing in a deep breath to quell her anger she felt Dyami wrap his arms around her legs. "Mumma...hungry..."

She ruffled his hair and forced a bright smile across her face. "Anything for you Dyami...do you want a sandwich?"

He returned her smile and nodded like she had uttered the most exciting words of his day. "Wove you mumma..."

"I love you too my son." She raised her voice slightly as Kelly-Anne and Marie walked out. The guilty expressions on their faces satisfied her a little.

"Feel better now?" Her father asked winking at his grandson like the two of them shared a secret and he ruffled his thick dark hair until it stuck out all over the place. Dyami winked back and pulled a funny face lifting her spirits in way only he knew how.

"Lets find you a sandwich." Then she picked him up into her arms and walked over to the end of the table where the bread rolls had just been laid out...

* * * *

Jun and Ken casually walked into the large foyer of the security building of the ISO.

"We can make our way to the office opposite Dr.Nambu's, the computers there have more access to the high security networks, I should be able to break into the agencies computer easier." Jun confidently told Ken. The turning of the corners of his lips told her he believed she could do it without any trouble.

"I can't believe the commotion we had this morning you'd think that people would give p trying to break into the building." The disgruntled voice of the receptionist near by caught their attention.

Jun and Ken exchanged sharp glances as they listened to more of the conversation between the receptionist and the security guard.

"Judy it's just a normal day at the office...a few loony reporters after an inside scoop on Dr.Nambu's promotion." The guard cast a nonchalant glance in their direction, seeing their security tags he went back to his conversation.

"Well that rude man this morning really made my day...fancy pretending your family is in danger of Galactor when there are so many people out there truly needing our help." Rolling her eyes she picked up her hand bag to leave.

Ken strode over in to them just as Jun spotted Ryu walking through the security gates.

"Good afternoon." She heard Ken say to them as she turned to walk over to the surprised Owl.

"Jun, I thought you and Joe had some things to do today...so whata you doin here with Ken?" Ryu's confusion made her smile.

"Change of plans Ryu- do you know anything about a commotion this morning, a guy being kicked out of here?" Jun quizzed him.

Ryu's face lightened up a little."Yeah, some poor reporter I think..." Ryu's brows knitted together as he recalled the incident. "A tall guy dark hair about late thirties...clean cut good looking fella with blue eyes... I felt sorry for him you know because he looked like a decent person to me. Mmm... something about him was familiar I just couldn't put my finger on it... you know those guards can be rough."

Jun felt the blood drain from her face as he spoke, the man he described fitted Matt very well.

"Did he say why he was really here?" Jun looked closer at Ryu, she didn't know how intently until he began to look unsure of himself and he began to back away.

"What's goin on Jun?" He said looking around suspiciously.

"Ryu... I can't talk about it here..." She glanced over at Ken to see his face beginning to tense up as he walked away from the receptionist and the security guard.

"By tomorrow those two will former employee's of the ISO." Ken's low growl confirmed her suspicions. "Let's get upstairs we have work to do and not much time to do it in..."The Eagle delivered his next order."Ryu, get back to the base, we'll need back up, talk to Joe and Jinpei as soon as you get out of the building."

"Gonna tell me what this is all about?" Ryu backed away only slightly.

"Dyami's in danger...that's all we can say here." Jun's tone became hushed as she spoke. Ryu's eyes widened but he understood they could be under Galactor surveillance as they spoke in this part of the building.

"I'll get back there right away...stay in touch guys." Ryu turned and casually strode out of the building like he had just taken their take away coffee order. Jun knew he sensed the urgency- he just wasn't out to draw unnecessary attention to himself.

Jun followed Ken through security and into a waiting lift. They didn't speak until they reached Doctor Nambu's office suite.

"He's not here." Jun noted looking around at the plush new leather lounges. His office took up the whole floor.

"Ryu described him to me Ken, it had to be Matt." Jun stressed trusting her instincts and what she knew of him.

Ken nodded. "I remember his features when we rescued him from the bridge, he came here for our help Jun, and they turned him away like he was making up stories..." Ken fumed. "The ISO turn him away...If they those pen pushers had listened to him we could have been onto this hours ago...That damn receptionist put our son and his family in danger..."

"I know...I'm angry too Ken..." Jun quickly looked for Dr.Nambu's personal computer. "You know he does spend a lot of time in his office these days, I forgot he chose to make it his new home as well." Jun as she sat down at the computer in an office close by the main living room.

Ken didn't say anything as he waited for her to log into the security search engine. She knew the silence meant get on with it.

"I found him in old UN pilot records, but the address looks wrong, since it's in Ameris..." Jun mused.

"If he flew fighter jets then he would have moved around a lot, the records for a pilot who's been out of service for a while may not be up to date information...hack into the agency, with Dr.Nambu's clearance it shouldn't be too hard." Ken's voice held and edge to it that made her work faster.

"I've managed to hack into the codes for the agency... "Jun informed him, Ken had pulled up a chair beside her in the meantime.

"Good..." He said.

"Ahhh..." Jun felt the anticipation building up inside of her. "I have it... they live at 25 Curling Road Clydesdale...It's an estate not far outside of Utoland... "

"Let's move..." Ken jumped out of his chair and began running for the door with Jun hot on his heels.

Chapter 13 by Ebonyswanne

Natasha eventually managed to buckle Dyami into his car seat, all the food and excitement had worn him out but she could still see the spark of eternal energy that he carried inside of him.

"Dadda..." He mumbled as he rubbed his tired eyes that became bluer when he became exhausted from playing.

"He'll be home from work tonight sweetheart, get some sleep so you have more energy to play when he comes home..." She gently kissed his forehead and winked at her father as he opened the front passenger door of the family sedan.

Dyami smiled lazily as she tightened the safety clips and she handed him his pacifier, he began sucking on it hard and she quickly kissed his cheek before closing the door and running around to the driver's side of the car.

"He'll be asleep before we're on the road." She said starting up the car and she pulled out from the curb and drove towards home.

"Take the highway, at this time of day it's quicker." Grandpa insisted.

"How do you know dad, since you don't drive any more?" Natasha rolled her eyes, he father always liked to give directions when she drove him anywhere- Even if he wasn't that familiar with the territory.

"The last time we came this way... they freeway was choka block and it was around this time... Tash I know what I'm doing." Dad let out an exasperated breath to get his point across.

Knowing her life would be made a misery if they got onto the freeway and it was blocked she looked for the signs that led to the old highway instead.

"Satisfied dad, it would have been quicker on the freeway..." She waited for the lights to change to green and she turned onto the Highway that would take them home.

The thing she didn't notice was the car following her, and the three motor bikes that sped up to catch up with them...

* * * *

Matt came to a screaming halt just outside of the Day care centre and turned off the engine, before he even jumped out of the car he saw in the distance Natasha's car turning right at the traffic lights.

 Good he thought I'll be able to catch up with her... Thinking fast he turned over the engine, It stalled, cursing he turned the key again, ever second it stalled meant the further away from him they became. After what seemed an eternity it kicked over and drove off after them, turning right at the intersection he realized the delay of the car starting had been enough time for her to be out of sight on the main road heading towards home.

Which way would they have gone...he mused knowing the old highway and the freeway would lead them home.

The new Freeway... Matt decided, it would be the quickest route to home and at this time of day Dyami would be getting irritable.

Following the signs Matt turned onto the freeway and sped up so he could catch up with her. Dodging slower cars he weaving through traffic Matt became more and more impatient and more worried as to why he couldn't see them even though he had been breaking the speed limit all the way along the freeway.

Crossing the overbridge that the old highway passed under he began to doubt he had taken the right course of action and something happening on the old highway caught his eye. A black polished car and three motor cycles descended on a car that looked like Natasha's.

"Shit," Matt cursed loudly, the car had to be hers and watched helplessly as she swerved from the motor bikes trying to force her off the road. From his vantage point on the freeway he could do nothing about what the events unfolding before his eyes, he had to get to the exit looming before him. Speeding up he drove down the break down lane to get past cars slowing down to exit towards the exit. He had to do something, he couldn't sit back and watch Galactor steal his only family from him. If his car could change and become a jet Matt would have done it in an instant if it meant saving them from the fate he had been warned of that morning.

* * * *

Ken went to knock down the front door with a swift kick that was before Jun stopped him.

"We should try knocking first...its polite...and this is Dyami's home." She said putting a firm hand on his arm and pulling back before he could do any damage to suburban house.

Ken grunted but followed her lead, Jun knocked on the door only to be met with silence.

"They're not here, we should go inside and have a look around..." Ken said walking around the back of the house.

"No cars," Jun noted following him, she watched his shaggy dark hair nod from behind, his shoulder squared like he had begun to prepare himself for something bad.

"We'll have to pick the back door lock." Jun began to fiddle with it, for some reason she didn't want their house left open to potential thieves after they left. The thought of Galactor was enough for her bear for now.

"We're in." Jun indicated and she opened the door slowly out of habit. You just never know who could waiting for you on the other side.

"Stay frosty Jun..." Ken whispered.

"I know..."She replied.

Silently they slipped into the laundry keeping frosty while they began to search the house for any Galactor goons that could be waiting for the family to return home. Using sign language and eye contact Ken and Jun walked past the kitchen towards the staircase.

She tried not to look at the personal items that made the house a home. The way a shawl that obviously belonged to Natasha was flung casually over a chair at the dining room table, and the toddler bike sitting close to the table on the tile floor.  Those things stood out to her. A normal unpredictable life, just like she had always dreamed about. Day to day activities a family with a young child might participate in. A glimpse into the life the son she gave up to someone else.

Ken stopped in the hallway to stare at family photo hanging on the wall. The little boy with a big beaming smile and shinning blue eyes stared back at him. She watched his struggle as he stared at Dyami...Then she watched him suppressing his feelings once more.

Gently she placed her hand on his broad shoulders. "We should check upstairs."

Those words were enough to distract him and Ken walked quickly ahead of her, and took the stair two at time. When she reached the top stairs she found him again standing in the door way of one of the bedrooms. This time he had unshed tears standing in his blue eyes threatening to undo him.

"I could never have given him this." Ken said hoarsely.

"Don't do this to yourself Ken... " She didn't look into the bedroom knowing it was Dyami's. She knew it would be too personal to see things like his bed and other personal items.

"We shouldn't be here..." Ken abruptly pushed past her she could feel his anguish radiating from him as he pushed past her. Jun closed the door to the bedroom before she could see anything.

She ran after him, and bolted down the stairs.

"Jun, we gotta run..." Ken sounded like he had discovered something.

"Were too, we have no idea where they'd be." She exclaimed joining him in the kitchen, Ken pointed at a board. "We know at least where Natasha and Dyami are..."

She followed his finger to a black board...Luncheon- Tiny foot prints day care 12am today. Pick grandpa up along the way...Don't forget.

"Lucky we ‘borrowed' that sports car from the Dr.Nambu..."Jun felt some relief at seeing a small card with address of the day care centre on it near by on the bench.

"Joe," Ken spoke urgently into his bracelet. "We need you buddy and the rest of the team."

"I'm hearing you Ken, Ryu told me you'd be calling..." She heard Joe faintly reply, and then Ken filled him in...

"We'll take the old highway..." Ken said running out the back door. "It'll be quicker."

"No it won't." Jun said coming along side of him. "The new freeway is much better you should let Joe know that we'll be-"

Ken's raised finger cut her off." I'm driving, and when I'm driving we go in direction I say."

"Whatever, just get moving Gatchaman." She said jumping into the passenger seat she felt the power of the Ferrari as it raced out of the driveway...

* * * *

Dr Nambu had been in meetings all day trying to find a way to end the constant conflict against Galactor.  

Tired and frustrated over nothing but more problems cropping up instead of solutions be had begun to doubt his reasoning for taking on the top job in the ISO after director Anderson's death. He thought by taking on the promotion he could change things, and make it better for the conservation of the world. All he found so far was more politics and he less time to work with his team.

Dr.Nambu sat his brief case on the coffee table of his ‘office' in the ISO building. He rarely stepped foot in his mansion by the sea any more, so the office had to accommodate his busy working lifestyle. Wanting to just drop into the comfortable bed in the room adjacent to where he stood and instead opted to for a glass of cold water to try and bring him back to his usual alert state.

Then he had another matter that had come to light in the past few weeks. Some of the doctors and scientists working on the team's equipment had begun to question the radiation levels of the hypershoot, and its effects on the Eagle. One doctor had been insisting they run tests on him, just to be sure. He knew they cared deeply for the team, but why were they so determined to do these tests? It didn't add up and Dr.Nambu had decided to get to the bottom of the issue before alarming the rest of the team over something that could result in an over zealous doctor wanting to cover his bases.

Exhausted...he felt so exhausted these days...Closing his tired eyes he threw some of the icy water over them. Better he thought, taking out some high caffeine pills to enable him to stay sharp for the many hours still left in the day.

The light of the computer screen in the next room made him slowly put down his glass and he walked into the office. This office was his private sanctuary, no one but Gatchaman had access to it.

He hit a button on the keyboard to bring up the screen.

"Strange," He said out loud pulling his moustache in deep thought. Ken hadn't indicated a need to use his private computer.

So he began running a trace on searches conducted using the access codes. One place the trace led to made sit down and he began to look further into the searches Ken had run.

"Jun...what did you do..." He gasped. He thought he knew everything about his team. How could he not know this secret.

"They had a son..." Dr.Nambu found the idea so remote. Ken and Jun had always been responsible in their actions within the team, how could Ken not say anything to his mentor about a child being born before the beginning of the second war?

Astounded by this new discovery he began working quickly to compile information about this child from the Utoland adoption and social services agency.

Should he confront them? He thought. He loves Ken as if he had been his own son, and Jun as a daughter. He could only imagine Ken's reaction at walking away from his son. He knew how devastating it had been for him when he discovered Red Impulse was his long lost father. He figured Ken of all people would quit the team before losing his own child. Dr. Nambu now knew he had been wrong. Ken was more like Kentaro Washio than he realized.

After an hour he sat back slowly in his chair, he had some decisions to make regarding the both of them. His first move would be to protect the adoptive family, like he did for Ken and his mother when Kentaro disappeared. Should he tell Ken he knows the truth? Dr. Nambu felt a sudden wave of tiredness sweep over him as his memories turned back the clock to hours he spend trying to find a way tell Ken about his father...

I'll just keep an eye on things. Dr.Nambu decided. I know of Captain Matt Butler, in his day as a UN fighter  pilot he was amazing. At least Ken chose the right man to raise a Washio...he figured. That made him smile. But this boy could also be a danger to the Science Ninja Team...he could be their undoing if Galactor discovered he exists. With that thought in mind Dr.Nambu picked up the phone and began to dial the secret service so he could have unseen eyes watching over the Butler family.

Chapter 14 by Ebonyswanne

"No...please don't hurt them." Matt yelled as he stepped out of his car. He felt the desperation to act fast building up inside of him. Men with guns surrounded his wife and son on the side of the road. To his horror he could only as the car swived of the tared road onto the gravel and barely missed crashing into a tree head on, eventually Natasha's car stopped in a ditch, with the green clad goons pulling her out of the drivers side screaming for her father and son to left alone.

The last thing he saw before pulling was Natasha pulling Dyami out of the arms of a Galactor goon. Her father wasn't anywhere to be seen.

"Matt...what's going on? Do you have a plan?" Natasha looked both relieved to see him and scared at the same time.

"Honey...working on it...just sit tight with Dyami." Matt went through several plans of escape in his mind. The problem being all would end in bloodshed.

"Just do what Mr Gearer wants and nobody gets hurt." A goon with a gravelly voice and stinking breath moved in closer to him.

"This is ya last chance, surrender and cooperate they'll live, if not, they die, very simple to undera stand don't ya think?" He smirked arrogantly at Matt.

"Where's the old man?" Matt's drew his lips into a straight taunt line, and rained in his emotions that threatened to unleash his built up anger at anyone forcing him to betray all the things he believed in and almost died for many years ago.

"Don't need im, so he's in the car...unconscious...happened when they crashed it looks like." The goon's contempt enraged Matt, still he maintained his control.

"Dadda..." Dyami cried and tried to break free of his mother tight grasped on him. "Want dadda."

The sound of Dyami's distress made him put his hands in the air. "I'll do what Mr Gearer wants- just leave my family out of this."

One of the goons walked over to car and pulled out the bag Natasha kept with Dyami's basic needs in it."I think the kid'll need this...my woman has one of theses she carries around for my kid."

Three goons stepped forward and brought Matt down to his knee's and tied his hands, two small transport crafts landed close by.

"Well... well...I finally have my engineer." Matt looked up to see a man with a long flowing cape and wearing a white mask to cover his features.

Matt grimaced but didn't say anything- he knew this man had to be Galactors new leader.

"I expect great things from Matt Butler...and for insurance I'm going to keep your lovely wife and son in a safe place. You can have them back once I'm world leader and the Science Ninja Team are dead."

"Let me introduce myself...I'm Count Egobossler, future leader of planet Earth."

"Matt struggled with his bonds, being separated from Natasha and Dyami was that last thing he wanted in all of this.

"I work better with them close by..." Matt tried to bargain with the masked man before him.

He sniffed in contempt." I believe you'll work better knowing that the only way to see them again alive is if you produce results. I'm a cautious man Matt- you'll soon learn that I do treat people who are loyal to me very well..."

Turning to address his men, Matt watched with a heavy heart as Natasha and Dyami were dragged into one of the waiting aircraft.

"I hope I don't regret hiring you Mr Butler. Put him on board my aircraft." Count Egobossler abruptly ordered.

* * * *

"Joe do you see them, those helicopters have to be Galactor." Ken yelled frantically into his bracelet.

"What the hell are those cops doing...didn't they get message the first time they tried to block us in?" Jun didn't try to keep the irritation out of her voice- Ken deflected the police car moving in front of him and moved past it. He stayed focused on the task and waited for Joe's response.

"Sure do, I'm going into hover mode it might just cut them off." The Condor confidently said through his bracelet.

"Shit!" Ken swore and slammed the steering wheel hard as he crunched through the gears to speed up- police cars in meantime had begun to chase after the speeding red sports car.

"Its time to change into birdstyle to tell those cops to back off, and let them know who we are." Jun grimaced looking over her shoulder. She didn't bother to even suggest he drive more calmly, or less dangerous than break neck speed they had picked up as soon as they saw the helicopters coming into land further up the road.

Internally she cursed the slow moving cars in the way and the oncoming traffic that had prevented Ken from overtaking even cars in the right hand lane on the two lane old tar highway.

Her desperation had become as great as his.

"Joe what the hell are you doing, your closer than us and there getting away." Ken screamed into the bracelet releasing the full extent of his fury.

Jun saw his face and for the first time in her life she felt afraid of her commander, afraid of what he might become if something happened bad to them.

"Ken..." She gathered her strength to stay calm, one of them had to remain in control of their emotions and the way things looked it wouldn't be Ken.

Joe spoke to Ken again, his voice became deadly calm. " Jinpei's closing in but they're flying faster than he came move in a hovercraft...get a grip on yourself Ken we don't have all five Mecha's to form the Gatchasparten and you know it's the only we can catch them mid flight."

"Bullshit Joe, keep on the course, tell Jinpei too move or get out of the way...and get your butt into gear you're slowing down Condor..." Ken's hardened insulting tone caused Joe to accelerate past the Swallow bringing him in a direct line moving towards them at a ninety degree angle to close the space between them and the escaping Galactor helicopters. The helicopters moved towards Ken and Jun, giving them the advantage. Suddenly the large transport choppers angled upwards.

Jun watched Ken tighten his grip in the steering wheel and then they both transmuted into birdstyle.

"Jun take the wheel." Ken ordered leaving no room in his tone for disobedience. "Go off road, its mostly flat from what I can see and get in as close as you can."

"Got it." She responded gripping the wheel, and taking over the driver's seat while Ken stood up and held onto the windscreen of the roofless sports car in the passenger's seat.

They hit the gravel a loud thud and dust went flying up around them- the dim sound of the sirens could be heard still coming up behind them. Ignoring them she kept the fast speed up.

Morons, she thought frantically, can't they see its Gatchaman hanging off the windscreen, how obvious could it be we really don't need hindrance right now.. In another time and another place Jun would have thought those thoughts would have been unlike her.

Ken poised himself to launch into the air...

She watched him take flight in a heart beat spreading his wings wide to gain momentum-The Condor positioned himself on the top of speeding G-2 racing mecha followed the flight path of the Eagle.

Jun didn't have time to see if they made it, she had her own problems to deal with. Joe's G-2 was seconds from slamming into her car.

She jumped from it just in time to see the two vehicles collide, followed by a dramatic fire ball explosion below her of brilliant orange flames and black smoke. Spreading her mantle the Swan landed close to wreckage... with the Eagle and the Condor gliding down to join her.

Ken's graceful landing was marred by the heated fist thudding into the raw dirt sending bellows of dust to mark his anger.

"Missed them by inches..." Ken said furiously.

Joe didn't say anything- he just starred closely at his commander's anguished face.

"It's not over yet..." Joe met his eyes with a steely Condor grimace.

"They'll hold him for ransom." Jun forced the words she had feared from the moment Dyami had been born. "If we don't comply with any demands they make they'll-"

"Don't say it Jun..." Ken put his hand over her mouth- she fought back her terror as her worst nightmare began unfolding before her eyes. Gingerly he removed his hand from her mouth- the helicopter had long disappeared into the distance.

The police cars pulled up and a young Utoland enthusiastic office stepped out of the marked car.

"Would you like assistance?" He offered innocently. His partner opened the side car door and put one boot out onto the dirt road.

The look Gatchaman shot him made the smile run from his face to be replaced with a scared one.

"Guess not." He whimpered. "Larry get back into the car... Gatchaman looks like he's in control of the situation, let's go and check out that abandoned car someone radioed in further up the road."

Ken's anguished face changed as he looked sharply at Jun and then Joe.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Joe stood up fast, without a word Ken, Jun and Joe ran past the Owl and the Swallow to get the car the police officer mentioned.

"It's their cars." Jun exclaimed.

"Move fast, try and find anything that could lead us to them." Ken instructed running over to Matt's car he opened the door and began to rummage through it. Joe opened the boot to begin his search.

Jun walked around to the passenger side of Natasha's car. The sight of the empty toddler car seat stabbed at her heart. A moan tore her eyes away from the evidence of their capture.

Gently she opened the passenger side door...

"Anthony." She gasped. Gently she cupped the old man's face as he fought to regain consciousness.

"Over here..." Jun called out the Ken and Joe.

"Tash...Dyami." He mumbled.

"Where are they...did you hear anything that could lead us to them." She asked a glimmer of hope sparked inside of her.

Anthony's disoriented old eyes searched her tinted face from her visor.

"There's something familiar about you young girl." He said softly.

"I'm G-3 the Swan... that's why I look familiar to you." Jun offered hoping he wouldn't see through her.

"Ninja...oh that's why..." He muttered- he closed his eyes again. "They took em... a man with a white mask and mocking voice."

His eyes opened wide, like the realization of what had just happened slapped him across the face.

"They took my daughter and my grandson...and her husband...why would they want them, what did they do to anyone?" He questioned with trembling lips and tears forming in his pale blue eyes. His words confirmed Ken's hunch had been right when he said the helicopters had to be Galactor and they had attacked the Butlers before they could reach them on the highway.

"I don't know." She lied. "But we'll find them I promise."

Ken stood behind as Anthony hung his head and fell back into his unconscious state once more. Gently Jun let his head rest against the car seat.

"He needs medical- he's got a bad concussion." Jun said seeing the police car pulling up.

"Sheesh you ninjas move fast!" The young office said out the open driver's side window.

Ken ignored the comment. "We have a man here who needs and ambulance, see to that you get one here fast or I'll find you...got it."

The young office trembled. "Sure thing Gatchaman...onto it now...." He picked up his radio..."Can we get an ambulance to location15 on the main highway....."

Ken ran his eyes over their faces with a steady semi controlled glance. "I failed...we failed to protect them...let's get back to the base, and tell Kamo we need new equipment since the G-2 is written off. Move it." The burden weighed heavily on the Eagles shoulders.

Ken turned his back on the team and headed towards Jinpei's mecha for a ride back to the base.

Joe put a steady hand on Jun's trembling shoulders. "We'll go with Ryu..."

She nodded grimly- it was all she could manage considering the circumstances and she allowed the Condor to guide her silently towards the Owl's Mecha to return to the base.

Chapter 15 by Ebonyswanne

Ken marched down the hallway towards Kamo's office- he needed to get the team back into the air as soon as possible and without Joe's G-2.

"Ken," Kamo's jolly smile seemed out of place with how he felt inside.

"We need to get the Gatchasparten up and running now Kamo, how long will it take to put together another G-2?"

Kamo chuckled to himself and his forever smiling eyes turned on the Condor standing behind the Eagle. "He wrote it off again did he?"

"You can say that." Joe said slowly.

"Don't need to say any more Joe- I can have a new G-2 up and running in an hour." Kamo promised.

Ken gritted his teeth- an hour felt like a lifetime, every minute that passed meant the trail grew colder...He could see Jun from the corner of his eye, he wanted to pull her into his arms and tell it was going to be alright, they'll find them before Egobossler could harm them in anyway- but he couldn't look into her eyes and say things like that when in his heart he couldn't certain of anything any more.

So he worked to maintain his composure which had begun to ebb away from the moment his fingers missed the landing rail of the helicopter by mere inches. He could feel the weakness that prevented him from reaching it wrack his body at the last vital second, Joe saw his struggle and his momentary black out, the next thing he knew Joe had a hold of him mid air, he forced him to let go of him and managed to glide the rest of the way to the ground on his own. He knew he had to speak to him before he breathed a word of it to Jun. He couldn't have her worrying about his health and well being at a time like this.

"Get some rest team, I'll let you know as soon are you able to be up and running with a new G-2 machine." Kamo's jolly nature for the first time grated on Ken, how could he be so happy and positive when Dyami could be hurting from being in the clutches of Galactor.

It took Ken a few seconds to realize Kamo knew nothing about Dyami his son and his adoptive family. As far as Kamo was concerned it was just another mission the team completed and they needed repairs done to their equipment, a normal day at the office.

I would useless to leave without a new G-2, the only thing they could was to wait until Kamo's team constructed a new one.

"What do we do now big bro.?" Jinpei spoke to him for the first time since the left the highway.

"We...wait." Ken said. He felt Jun's hand on his shoulder. He needed her right now, but the pain of being with her and knowing he'd blacked out during a critical moment could unglue him.

"I need..." Ken struggled to say what he needed to say." We...I have to get some rest before we move out again."

He saw the hurt in her green eyes, did she feel brushed off by him. Ken wondered tearing his eyes from her least his own eyes betray him.

No, Jun he thought. It's not like that at all...I want to be with you right now and support you...Can't you see we need to focus right now?

He moved away from the heartbroken Swan and stood in front of the Swallow. "Jinpei please take care of her."

Ken silently strolled he could feel Joe's steely grey eyes boring into the back of his helmet as he followed him down the hallway

"We needed to talk." Joe bluntly said.

"It's about that blackout I had...Then you don't need to go telling Jun about it, she's got enough to worry about without you adding to it." Ken stopped when they were a long distance from the rest of team.

"I was wondering when you were thinking of talking about that." Joe folded his arms and waited with his usual unreadable expression.

 Ken's eyes burned into the Condors. "Is there a problem?"

"I think something really going on with you Ken, your sick and I think you know it." Joe confronted him.

"Sick to death of this war maybe...other than that I'm fine." Ken spat and transmuted out of birdstyle. He could feel his temper rising and when it did he could no longer control it like he used too.

"Lying bastard!" Joe transmuted back to civilian and swang at him hard knocking Ken across the jaw hard. "You passed out after using the Hypershoot on a mission not so long back, and then today?"

"I call the shots on this team not you Joe." Ken struck back at Joe with a hard punch to abdomen. Joe flinched only a little at his strike.

"You're so selfish Ken, you couldn't even give Jun five minutes of your time or show her some compassion when she's obviously hurting as badly as you are, and now you want me to keep secrets for you from her?" Joe spat the words and the fight intensified between them.

"Hypocrite!" Ken ripped into him. "You who had a week to live and couldn't admit you were sick! Where did that leave the rest of us?"

"At least my problems didn't bring anyone else down with me. You're our leader Ken, we need you- don't you get it?" Joe's last words hit him harder than any of the blows they exchanged during their discussion.

What did he mean by that? Ken thought starring at his second in Command. I'm Gatchaman...if I die...Ken looked down at his beeping bracelet.

"Yes Doctor." He addressed his mentor.

"I need you to come to ISO building at New Jork-bring the team and I'll explain my reasons when you get here." Dr. Nambu ordered.

"We have to go." He told Joe running down the hallway towards the launch bay. I hope they have the Gatchasparten ready for take off.

Chapter 16 by Ebonyswanne

"Anyone know why we're going to New Jork?" Jinpei asked stealing glances at his sister.

Ken could see her trying to act normal, but Jun was never good at faking it when it came to openly showing her feelings. Her body language betrayed her.

Jun licked her lips before answering- Ken knew she did this when something else weighed heavily on her mind.

"Jinpei I'm sure Dr.Nambu will fill us in when we get there." She said evenly.

Ken stayed silent- Joe had been right he should have taken her aside from the others when he had the chance and offer her some kind of comfort. He'd acted like a self centred jerk walking away from her like that. He promised her silently he'd make up for it.

Jun stood up from her console and walked out of the main doors of the bridge. Taking a deep breath Ken knew this to be his ideal opportunity to talk with her about the events earlier that day.

Jun slumped against a wall with her head hanging and arms folded tightly ton her breast. Ken saw his opportunity and walked over to stand in front of her, letting her know of his presence by the way he lightly grasped her shoulders, and he gently put a finger under her chin and lifted her face so she he could see her eyes. The evident pain in her eyes- fuelled his own inner pain.

 Her bottom lip trembled. "It's all my fault..." She said hoarsely, and then she began to ramble. "I should have kept him with me...found a way to raise him...the ISO has security inside its walls-"

Ken put a blue gloved finger over her lips to silence her and he slowly shook his head. "You did the right thing Jun in the end Jun, what kind of life would it have been for him locked behind walls in an ISO building with secretaries being his nanny every time we were called into action because of Galactor. We have no idea how long this war could go on for."

"I know..." Ken could see the conflict in her as she tried to look away from him. He felt total hatred towards Galactor and all it stood for in that moment. Not even the death of his father had fuelled these emotions so strongly.

"Ken, Jun get up here we go company." Joe called them through the ships intercom.

Ken pressed the communications button to the bridge."Whats happening up there Joe?"

"We have a mecha bearing down on us fast..." Joe informed him.

Ken quickly looked at Jun to convey his commands. "Go to the bridge; tell Joe I'm using the hypershoot to get rid of that mecha."

Jun's jaw dropped in surprise. "You haven't even seen what we're up against yet, that may not be necessary."

Ken pursed his lips he felt like he was about to explode from the amount of hate he felt flowing through his veins, he needed to release it and the hypershoot weapon was the only way that happen. "Do as I say...get to the bridge Jun."

Ken ran up to the top of the ship, the blast of the roaring wind hit him first causing his mantle to flap wildly. He didn't even hesitate at the massive metal mecha looming in front of him.

The sound of the hypershoot powering up made his heart pound even faster. "Do you want me Galactor...then come and get me you bunch of assholes. This is for Dyami..."

Ken drew back the powerful laser- controlling it at full power took all of his strength he could feel Ryu steadying the ship to give him a better aim.

The familiar sound of melting metal only sated his appetite for Galactor blood by only a fraction. The sound of death heighted his need to keep slicing through the mecha as hundreds of goons fell to their death. Trembling Ken could feel the hot tears streaming down his cheeks, the image of Dyami one day as a young man questioning his birth fathers actions in a time of war haunted him during that battle. A face that mirrored his turned to look of disgust. Ken knew he had just crossed a line within himself, his love of life had began to fade with years of being surrounded by death and losing the people he valued the most along the way.

An anguished cry left his lips as he powered down the laser...his muscles turned to jelly as struggled to keep his balance on top of the ship. He began to tumble from his once secure place at the tail end of the rectangular shaped ship.

"Ken... no..." He heard Jun's cry but it was too late, the strong wind caught his mantle and began to glide listlessly towards the earth below then once again he felt darkness grip him.

"Dr. Nambu we'll be landing in five minutes, so ya want him brought to the lab...gotcha." Ryu's voice drifted past him.

"...Joe...he just lost it. It's like when this happens I'm looking at a stranger not Ken." He focused in on Jun's hushed whisper.

"He's had a rough twenty four hours and so have you, unlike me you guys need rest...this new battery gives me so much more energy." Joe said.

Ken could feel a hard cold metal surface beneath him, the familiar sounds of chairs moving and tapping on a keyboard, and the sound of the engine told Ken he was on board the Gatchasparten.

He didn't move as he worked to recall why he was feeling so weak and why they were flying to a destination he couldn't recall. His mind drew a total blank.

He must have moved because he could feel a hand on his shoulder.

 "Ken..." Jun sounded concerned.

He sat up with a start and stared at her blankly while he collected his thoughts. "What happened?"

Her concerned pretty face turned to stone. "Do that again and I'll kill you myself I sware...or I'll just let you-"Her quivering lips betrayed her real feelings.

Joe crouched down next to him. "It looks like we have to get you checked out. Orders from the top. You last display of ‘control' has raised a few eyebrows." Joe hinted. Ken knew he meant Jun above anyone else from her reaction.

Ken scanned the faces of his team- they all held a mixture of anger and concern. Jinpei cocked an eyebrow to send home the message.

"We did it right, we finished the mission." Ken drew his lips into a straight line; his memory of the last twenty four hours had become hazy. Something happened, something that drove him to the brink...

Jun interrupted his thoughts by tightening her grip on his arm. "Ryu, are coming into land?"

"Sure thing Jun..."Ryu responded cheerfully.

"Get up Ken...if you can." Jun looked angry with him, she rarely looked this angry with any of them.

Gradually he found his feet- standing upright helped clear the fogginess from his mind- the missing information hit him like a cannon ball. The images of Dyami and his missing family flashed through his mind. So did Jun gripping his weak body as they both plummeted towards the ground. The Gatchasparten caught them both just in time.

"Jun," Ken turned to face her.

"Later Ken, right now I could hurt you badly for what you did back there... acting like a head strong cadet after all these years..." Jun's words cut him, for a fighter pilot of his experience being called a rookie was the biggest insult she could deliver to him. He pursed his lips to contain the anger that remark drew out in him, folding his arms under his mantle Ken sat in his commander's seat to watch Ryu gracefully land the large ship at the airfield close to the ISO building. Jun's reaction left him with a sinking feeling that whatever had been going on with was more serious that he thought and she'd soon know. What then? He thought pushing it away he focused on why Dr. Nambu needed to see him.

* * * *

Natasha closed her eyes momentarily as she tried to ignore the dank smell of the cell they had ungraciously shoved her and her young son into. Dyami's soft cries brought her out of her misery. Gently she cradled the frightened child into her arms.

"Shhhh, Dyami, we're only going to he here a little while." She knew it was potentially a lie because she had no idea of where they were or how long Galactor intended to keep them in this isolated place. Anger rose up inside of as she looked at the old stone walls surrounding them with a small bared window high up to let in a few rays of moonlight. How could they put a small child in such a cold place, heartless bastards. She thought wildly. Will we ever see Matt alive again...

"Daddy...want daddy." Dyami broke into her thoughts, sobbing fearfully he threw his arms around her and he buried his frightened face into her shoulder. She pulled him close to her body to try and warm his cold limbs.

The sound of a door creaking made her look up sharply. Guarded she waited to see who was approaching. Her cell door creaked open and a young man stepped inside followed by two guards holding guns pointed towards her.

"What harm do you think a boy just under two and his mother could bring you...don't you think the guns are overkill." Natasha maintained a steady gaze at her visitors.

The man's lips twigged at the corners into a smile. "I have brought you some blankets food and water. My master wanted you secure, not ill treated." With a wave of his hand another two goons carried in the items. Despite her hunger she picked up a piece of bread and offered it to her son. He forgot his fear long enough to sit up and take from her and he began eating it fast.

"I'll be back tomorrow with some more supplies, is there anything you require?" He asked politely, then he frowned and breathed in. "What's that disgusting smell?"

"Pooh..." Natasha raised an eyebrow and worked to squash the nervous butterflies that threatened to undo her. "It's what happens when your men don't give me his nappy bag so I can change him."

"Oh, I'll rectify that immediately..." He turned his commanding gaze onto one of the men who acted without him uttering another word.

Whoever this man is he has an influence, or holds some kind of commanding position in this Galactor. She thought taking in their reactions to him. Interesting...

The young man turned to leave, swallowing her nerves Natasha found her voice again." What's your name...?"

He hesitated and smiled warmly. "Kempeler...Second in command to my Lord Count Egobossler." Then he left before she could respond or ask for extra nappies.

Kempeler, she thought fusing the name into her memory. Something told her he would someone worth getting to know.

She had to find a way out of this hell hole and find her husband. Unfolding a blanket she picked up Dyami and placed him on the little bed covered in straw and curled up beside him. "I'll find a way out of here I promise..." She whispered into his ear while he slept peacefully.

Chapter 17 by Ebonyswanne

Walking into the ISO building back in civilian uniform Jun kept stealing side long glances at Ken. She was worried about him- and for a fleeting moment when he fell from the Gatchasparten she thought she'd lost him forever. Without a thought she jumped off the top of the ship after him...something happened to him his usual composure of maintain control in all situations.

"Ken, its good to see you could make it." Dr Nambu addressed him with his usual sober expression.

"We had a little detour compliments of Galactor." Ken said shaking his old mentor's hand.

"So I heard," The good doctor made brief eye contact with her. A shiver went down her spine from the guilty expression in his eyes for the brief moment they met. Why would he look at me like he wanted to apologise for something. She mused.

"Follow me," Dr Nambu indicated, walking beside Ken he continued his conversation so all of them could hear him. "We have some concerns about the hypershoot and its effects on the user."

"What effects are you talking about?" Ken said evenly.

Nambu raised a quizzical brow. "From the report I received from Joe on your way in I thought maybe you could shed some more light on it yourself..."

"It was one incident doctor- I was just tired since we haven't had a proper rest in the last twenty four hours." Ken said defensively.

Dr Nambu disagreed from the way he shook his head as they reached a lab door. "No Ken, something showed up in a medical, and I have to know if the two are related..."

A loud bang caused them all to turn around. A red alert sounded.

Before Ken could move doctor Nambu grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the lab. "We're doing this test now Ken, you're not going into action until I'm satisfied you're up to it."

 "Alright, be quick because you're wasting time doctor, this test is a waste of time really. Joe team go check out why we have a read alert." Ken said curtly.

"Roger," They responded in unison.

"Jun..." Dr Nambu's gentle tone stopped her in her tracks. "Take care."

Again he looked like he wanted to say more to her- instead he escorted the Eagle into the lab.

Jun ran after Joe and the rest of the team to be met a few minutes later with a battle taking place between them and hoard of Galactor goons. Quickly she changed into birdstyle deflecting a poorly aimed punch without any effort- the she began to make her way towards Joe along the wide corridor.

Feather shurkien stuck out from several goons who had already fallen under the Condors wrath. 

Ryu had just bunched a group of them together and one mighty heave threw them across the hallway.

Jinpei had taken several down using his laser gun.

"Ken where are you the building is under attack." Joe grimaced as spoke into his bracelet began killing more goons.

"He's still in lab?" Jun questioned.

"Dr Nambu's insisting he stays so they can finish the tests they're running on him. Ken's itching to get out of there and I don't blame him." Joe said fighting along side of her.

"How did they get in?" Jun asked baffled that a high security building had been breached so easily.

In one swift move she kicked another goon in the face sending his mask flying the goon shuddered and folded over in pain. Gritting her teeth she looked at the Condor. "I know where the security breech came from."

He followed her gaze to the man whimpering on the floor. The same security guard that threw Matt out of the ISO building in Utoland. Jun strode over to him and gripped a handful of his green uniform in her gloved hand and snarled. "I know who you are traitor... you worked for the ISO up until yesterday."

"H...hh...how do da do you...know me?" He drew away from her terrified." So that's the bastard..." Joe flared his teeth and wreathed him out of Jun's grip and threw him against the far wall knocking the man dizzy. Joe deliberate took his time walking over to the snivelling former ISO security guard.

"I...I'll tell you what you want to know just stop hurting me." He whimpered.

Joe's face filled with disappointment and he snorted in disgust. "How weak is that, he's not even going to try to be loyal to his new boss."

"I bet you will." Jun smiled slyly at her captive. "Or there's a worse fate than the Condor's wrath, you haven't met the Eagle yet and he might take your betray far more personally."

That comment brought a feral grin to Joe's face. "May be I should just hand you over to him for questioning... "

"Didn't I just say I'd co-operate?" The goon began to panic.

"You're no fun. I was looking forward to beating it out of you." Joe confessed.

"Hey Joe...Jun what gives... your just going to leave us to finish up here?" Ryu called out to them as the Swallow and the Owl continued to fight the remaining goons.

Joe casually glanced at the two of them. "It looks like you're doing fine from here..."

"And where are you going?" Jun smirked and grabbed a hold of the traitor and dragged him up the corridor towards the lab.

"Stop, stop." He cowered. "I saw the man assigned to destroying that lab go in our mission was to distract you...and I'm way too young to die..."

"Ken Dr Nambu get outta there!" Jun called urgently into her bracelet.

Jun's eyes went wide in horror. "No," she cried as the metal door of the lab flew off followed by a blast of searing hot flames Ken and Dr Nambu entered moments before.

"Stay here," Joe ran towards the lab before Jun could say anything else, she watched him disappear into the destroyed part of the building.

She felt a hand on her shoulder. "I'm right here...Dr Nambu is helping evacuate some of the office workers from this level." Ken said.

Relief washed over her Ken and Dr Nambu weren't in there, and before she could stop herself she threw her arms around him and cried. Ken tried to lighten the moment by saying. "I said I'm okay, I managed to get Dr Nambu to stop running those tests, it's not likely they'll have any results since the lab was just destroyed." He returned her embrace warmly. "Besides it was likely a waste of time, I feel fine."

Catching a glimpse of Joe emerging from the lab she was surprised that he'd changed back into civilian. His face looked solemn, and was holding a charred piece of paper.

Silently he walked over to them and thrusted the charred paper into the Eagles blue gloved hand.

Ken's face turned to stone- she pulled on the corner so she could see what had shocked them into silence.

"That can't be right." Jun gasped. "No...it can't be."

"I believe it is Jun," Ken admitted in a broken voice and he glared daggers at the Condor. "I didn't want to break it to you like this."

"I had to find out sometime...I'm going to see Dr Nambu, there has to be cure." She declared fighting back her tears she walked ahead of them down the hallway, stopping long enough to cuff the former security guard to a drink machine. "I haven't finished with you yet, so stay right here got it."

Shaking in his boots and it looked like he had wet himself she turned her back on him. She had more to deal with now than she bargained for. Ken was dying... Dyami and his family captured by Galactor.

What more can happen today? She thought miserably.

Chapter 18 by Ebonyswanne

"I like the look of this mecha. The progress and design is far superior to any I have seen in months." Count Egobossler's pleased tone echoed over the sounds of clanging hammers and men shouting instructions to one another as they transformed the blue prints of his design into reality- in any other situation would have felt Matt a sense of achievement, instead of the desperation he had felt for weeks since Galactor finally caught up with him and his family. He needed to see them- he needed to know they were okay.

Matt stole a side glance at the blue skinned stark white haired leader of Galactor, since the man is in a good mood he might just be open to his one request. "Since the project is ahead of schedule...could I spend a day with my family?"

Count Egobossler's expression soured. "We need you here to see that it stays ahead of schedule. I'll let you see them once I'm satisfied you won't try and run away." He turned his washed out cold grey eyes onto Matt.

He hadn't tried to do anything like ‘runaway' as Egobossler implied.

"What makes you think I'll do that?" He asked.

"You have yet to prove your loyalty to me, until then my friend you are on shaky ground." Egobossler's sly smile dashed his hopes of seeing his family until the project was finished.

"And how will you decide on if I'm loyal enough or not?" Matt kept his tone in check least Egobossler caught onto his real feelings towards him and he looked over at the group of men and Count Egobossler's most trusted second in command Kempeler who didn't wear the green uniform of Galactor. Egobossler's personal guard and completely loyal men, watching him

I'll know...until then build me a mecha that will defeat my enemy and when it is done we'll celebrate the victory with you lovely wife and son." Egobossler said smoothly.

Matt knew the enemy he referred to, the white shadow, Gatchaman and his team. He turned to observe the monstrosity before him- his design and his creation for the sole purpose of fulfilling the dreams of a power driven manic.

I could set it up so I could destroy it remotely...he thought solemnly. He wants to use it against the Science Ninja Team, how could I destroy them when they saved the lives of Natasha and Dyami, the people I love most in the world. He had no idea what had become of his father in law.

Matt closed his eyes momentarily as he turned the conflict over in his mind. Could he find a way to warn them? He thought. There had to be a way to stop Galactors greed for power from within and save his family from them. If it was obvious, Egobossler would order their execution in a heartbeat.

Another engineer called out to him, the man wanted confirmation in a few areas, signing he walked towards the stressed looking man. He'd find a way to get them all out of this and make a deal to save his family and have Egobossler think he was ‘loyal' to him, he had too, time was running out.

* * * *

"There's been some improvement." Kens tone turned defensive as he watched Jun's serious face scan the latest test results.

"In your imagination there has been..." She remarked without looking up from the page.

"What...no way!" He tried to snatch the paper from her hands but she moved away from him and continued to read over the results of the tests being run on him.

"Ken now's not the time to act dense." Jun let out an exasperated breath.

"I never act dense..." Ken took a step back from her in his own defence.

"Yes you do...how long did it take for you to work out that I was interested in you as more than a friend?" She looked up over the report with stormy green eyes.

"I...I..." He fumbled trying to find the right response so he wouldn't look like a compete fool. "I had a job to do romance was at the bottom of my list-"

"Pfffttt..." She said, and turned her back on him. "You're such a liar!"

"You know me better than anyone else... you know how dedicated to duty I am." Ken moved in closer.

"That's my biggest problem...I know you far to well Washio, for a while your heart went another girl called Rum, it took you a long time to get over her." Jun's soft voice changed in an instant to a haunted tone at the mention of Rumi.

She'd hit the real reason it took him so long to come round to her, he had fallen in love with Rumi and it blinded him for some time.

"She..." He started to say something that would reassure her Rumi meant nothing to him, but that would be a lie, and he couldn't do that to Jun. "It took me some time to see the light."

"Well, it's in the past now," Jun said dismissively. "We have to find a cure for you, so tomorrow I leave with Dr Nambu-"

"What do you mean its all in the past, it still hurts you doesn't it." Ken stopped her idol chatter, he knew she was avoiding a sensitive topic, something they never discussed when they were a couple.

"A lot of things still ‘hurt' me Ken, we haven't been able to locate Dyami on any of our missions its like they vanished into thin air...besides what did you see in Rumi anyway." Tears of frustration welled up in Jun's eyes.

"She was beautiful... but you know she wanted Gatchaman, a mysterious guy... not a poor pilot who flew mail runs for a few dollars a week." Ken remembered the only date he managed to take Rumi out on, he couldn't afford anything fancy, and so he took her to a local steakhouse on the outskirts of Utoland. It was the first week after the war ended. It left him wanting by the end of the night, wanting something other than her and her obsession with meeting Gatchaman, her blue eyes became dreamy when she spoke of how mysterious he was when he rescued her...then she prattled on about how romantic it would be to have been a girl he pursued like Superman and Lois Lane, her eyes changed to a hint of disappointment when she looked at him sitting across the table...if only she knew... He thought. Is that all he meant to her a hero of the hour, a fantasy...like Superman and Lois Lane, she can keep on fantasying then he figured, since I'm not superman, poor Clarke Kent never stood a chance.

That night he ended up on Jun's doorstep confused and wanting someone who he knew cared about him for himself and not who others thought he should be. That night he saw her in the light he should have seen all along...

"Jun I know how you feel about Dyami, I'm frustrated too that we've found no trace of him." Ken sat down in a chair near by. "We'll just keep searching...looking for clues, what I can't understand is that Count Egobossler hasn't sent a ransom note or demands to us."

"I've thought about that too, I wonder what game he's playing." She said thoughtfully.

"I don't know, but I hope we find out soon..." Ken stood up at snatched the report out of her hands and looked the results. If anything his condition had become worse.

"I won't let you die Ken," She promised before walking out of the room.

"You may not have a choice." He told the door as it closed behind her as he faced reality.

 

Chapter 19 by Ebonyswanne


The smell of the salty air carried a hint of bitterness that had become familiar to Natasha over the past few weeks. She was lonely and afraid for her husband and what had become of him. A light breeze brushed past her face, catching wisps of hair and tossing it into her face. It was only a reminder of how Matt loved to run his fingers through it right before he'd lean in and kiss her. Still, she enjoyed the gentle touch of the refreshing early morning breeze since she only got to enjoy it every few days since her imprisonment by Galactor.

Looking around the small area just outside of the prison surrounded by Galactor guards she watched another prisoner taking in the fresh morning air. He looked to be in his early twenties and held himself with a sense of pride. A handsome tall man with a square jaw line and dark eyes and his shoulder length chestnut brown hair moved with the breeze and his loose shirt filled with air as he walked slowly to his usual spot closer to the water. He kept to himself often staring out to sea for an hour at a time.

She didn't have time to think about him any more or the reasons he was a prisoner, from the corner of her eye Dyami made his move again towards the rocks.

"Dyami, stay close to me..." She called out to the overeager little boy running headlong towards the rocks with foaming white tipped waves splashing over the top of them sending cool sprays in her direction. He halted for a second and looked back at her, smiled merrily and continued on his current path towards danger. She began to run after him when a familiar man scooped him up playfully into his arms with Dyami giggling as Kempeler tickled him.

"He's fast..." Kempeler warmly smiled at his prisoner. "Dyami, stay with your mother those rocks are dangerous."

"Yes he is.... being cooped up in a cell for days on end aren't good for toddlers." Natasha returned his smile bearing caution. She needed to stay on the good side of Kempeler, besides he had been treating her well, bringing her essential supplies for Dyami and even a few clothes and toys once a week.

But there had been no real news of her husband- he remained tight lipped when she casually asked about him on his last visit. The only comment he made was that he was doing his ‘duty' for Galactor. Matt hated Galactor why would be doing his ‘duty for them, it had to be a lie, he had to be working on a way of finding them and escaping from their clutches.

Inside she felt her heart hit the floor, Kempeler gave her no indication she would be seeing him anytime soon or escaping from this old damp prison. Dyami had already been sick once with a high fever and nightmares that had her worried for days without a doctor to even look at him...

Glancing at her gaoler Natasha drew in a deep breath. Dare she ask about her husband again she wondered.

Kempeler broke into her thoughts. "I hear Dyami was ill last week."

"Yes, he had a fever, fortunately he recovered from it." She responded in a strained tone, Kempeler picked up on her displeasure.

"I was supposed to be informed if something like that happened, so I could send in a doctor. Small children can be fragile." He said in a subservient manner- that only angered her.

"A damp old cell with no room to move for days on end and you think a toddler full of energy won't get sick?" She said curtly.

"It's for your own safety that you remain here, I'll see about moving you to a bigger cell on the other side of the prison." Kempeler stopped walking and firmly grasped her arm forcing her to look directly into his piercing dark grey eyes.

"You have no idea of the danger you're in, be grateful for what I have done for you so far." He warned her in a strained voice.

Natasha's heart pounded. She knew she was in danger since she was abducted by Galactor, but Kempeler knew something she didn't from the way looked into her eyes.

"What kind of danger?" She asked quietly as she took hold of Dyami's arm to prevent him from running away again.

"If Count Egobossler finds out what I know..." Kempeler pointed at Dyami. "Then I don't know if I can protect you...especially Dyami. You have no idea on how Egobossler despises his enemies and anyone connected to them. And in a fit of anger what he is capable of doing to them."

Alarm bells rang in her mind, and her eyes questioned his silently.

Kempeler smirked after a few moments at her reaction. "Of course, you may not know what I know about your son, then again some things a better left that way." Before she could ask him anything else Kempeler turned away from her and indicated to the guard to take her back to her cell. He folded his hands behind his back and appeared lost in his thoughts like something weighted heavily on his mind. Then he proceeded to walk over towards the mysterious prisoner.

Her eyes fell on Dyami who had begun to pull in earnest to force her to release his arm. Protectively she scooped him up into his arms.

"No mahmee...wanna play more." He protested, staring out at the rocks struggling to escape from her arms.

"Another time my son....we'll come and play again another time." She promised following the guards back into the old walled prison. Her response only made him cry louder and he tried to kick her to make her let go.

She heard a guard tell one of them to get their ‘things' and moved them to the larger cell. Hopefully it's not as damp as the last one she thought following them. If Dyami's life was in danger, than she had to find a way out of this hell hole fast, before Count Egobossler remembered them and found out the secret Kempeler had been keeping to himself and wasn't willing to share with her.

Chapter 20 by Ebonyswanne


Jun stood back from the brewing argument unfolding before her eyes. They had been in Dr.Nambu's lab for the past hour while he laid out just how serious Ken's illness had become over the few weeks since they first discovered it.

"No way are you going on missions without me!" Ken fumed, jerking his arm out of Joes grasp.

"You saw the results from those tests; there is no way you're fit-"Joe's voice deepened as he prepared to fight his commander.

"I'm fit to command this team- just who do you think you are Joe." Ken cut him off. Joes temper stepped up a notch and the Condor ceased to use words and just levelled a punch into Ken stomach.

Ken flinched from the blow but he was quick to retaliate.

That's when Jun decided it was time for her to step in. "Will you two hot heads stop and think for just a minute."

Ken's eyes had become brighter from the mounting tension with Joe- his chest heaved from the anger swelling up and spilling out of him. The tension of his jaw line didn't ease when he looked into her eyes.

"This is why no one else but Ken could operate the hypershoot." Dr. Nambu said walking into the room with Kamo.

"His passion was what we needed for it to work..." Kamo completed Dr.Nambu's sentence.

Jun's eyes locked with Ken's, she watched him begin to calm down while Joe eased off his stance against his commander.[i] I did it for you... [/i] his eyes said to her. No she had to be wrong. She thought. Staring deeper into clear blue depths of his gaze.

Eventually she broke eye contact but not before she saw something in his eyes that she hadn't seen for a long time. She knew the source of his passion from the way he looked at her.

"You have to find a way to fight this illness Ken, until then I support Joe and Dr.Nambu's decision to keep you away from duty,"

"So do we Ken." Jinpei jumped in, along with Ryu.

It broke Jun's heart in two when she saw the look of betrayal in his eyes directed at her. His shoulders slumped and he walked solemnly over to stare out the window.

"If that's what you want Jun..." Ken's voice became heavy with emotion. "I'll sit tis one out."

"Yes...I want to stay here and find a way to get better." Jun said softy to the back of his shaggy dark hair. She watched him clench his fists and slam his tight fists down on the window sill. "Useless...I've become so useless..."

"Common team lets go, we have a mission to run." Joe said abruptly, ignoring Kens aguish he strolled towards the door- they all turned to follow him.

"Wait!" Ken yelled stopping them all abruptly in their tracks his voice filled with passion. "I'm Gatchaman, and I'm the only one who can operate the hypershoot. You're not going without me damn it!"

"Yes we are Ken..." Joe's voice went dead calm. "If you try what I think you're going to do forget it..."

"Since when have you been able to stop me Joe?" Ken's tone became deadly.

"Like this..." With a quick flick of hands Joe pulled out his gun set on stun and directed it at a surprised Eagle who fell to floor within seconds. Mutiny against Gatchaman was something none of ever thought it would come too.

"You've been watching way too much Indiana Jones." Jinpei's face become serious as the joke fell flat on rest of them. Deep inside it they all felt a little lost without him leading the way.

"Team, we'll look after him." Kamo reassured them.

"I have no doubts about that." Jun fought back her tears as she looked at the still form of Ken before her laid out on the floor. She knew why he insisted on going, every mission was also a search for Dyami. Secretly after every competed mission she'd find a place on the Gatchasparten to cry in frustration, only to look up into his haunted eyes when he came looking for her to share their grief at losing him all over again. And the longer they were going to slimmer the chances would be of every finding them again.

Running along side Joe she glanced at the Condor taunt features. Joe had been someone she had been drawn to at one time but found him to be in some ways more closed off then Ken. She could never really tell what he was thinking, even though he expressed how he felt often in anger openly.

"Why did you let him do it... you could have insisted that he give you the job of operating the hypershoot..." She scolded him over the intercom as they prepared to leave the base in their individual mecha's. During the time they were in the office it came out who the hypershoot was really designed for.

"Now not the time Jun we have Galactor to defeat-" Joe said tensely.

"-Now is better than never." Jun retorted. "Just answer my question Condor Joe."

"Ken's Gatchaman remember the man in charge, he calls the shots... why don't you two try talking to each other rather than going through me all the time." He answered. "You're like a pair of kids running to daddy to sort out your problems."

"You're not my daddy, so quit the insults." She flung back, then silence fell between them as they left the base.

For a moment and though about it, from the time Joe entered their lives again he had become kind of a middle man. The one both of them had turned to talk about the real issues in their life.

"We sometimes talk..." Jun became defensive. "We used to talk, for a short while...before everything changed..."

"Maybe you did, but that's not really the way it is now Swannie, things did change...it changed for all of us." Joe's voice became a dead calm. She could tell he was worried about Ken.

"At least they might find a solution, that's why he couldn't come on the mission." Jun lost her anger- she was worried sick about him too.

"Yeah, and soon I hope, be damned if you want me to command too many missions." Joe smirked through the intercom.

"It's not the same without the five of us." She agreed staring at the road in front of her, and flicked the switch in her mind that forced her to stay on the mission and leave her problems with the smoking ashes of what was once the Snack J.

* * * *

The commotion taking place down hall was enough for Matt to stick his head out of the door in curiosity.

"No...No... My dearest Count Egobossler, one more chance and I'll produce a mecha like you have never seen before that will bring victory-" The Engineer and mecha designer of the last one the few up against the Science Ninja Team pleaded  profusely.

"Shut up!" Count Egobossler snarled." Whimpering fool... that's what you promised me for the last six months...well Sosai Z is demanding I get rid of liabilities. I should have done this long ago when your first few failed against them, but you see I'm a generous man."

The man crumbled to the floor in terror. "Just one more chance..." He blubbered.

"What happened?" Matt hissed at the assistant who scurried through the door least Count Egobossler would see him and diver some of his rage towards him.

"He...his, mecha was destroyed by the Science Ninja Team." His wiry assistant Gerald licked his lips nervously. "It was goin well for him, you know the mecha was his best one yet, and the Eagle was no where in sight... they really thought it had em in the bag."

Gerald paled, and began to tremble. "But he turned up...I think , mmm then again someone said the condor was in charge, " He shook his bald head thoughtfully..."Whatever...well its predictable anyway, I don't have all the details but it was destroyed...and then Count Egobossler went insane when came back from reporting to Sosai Z."

Matt heard the sound of Count Egobossler's cold voice again and stuck his head out the door.

"Execute him in front of the firing squad! I want him to pay for it and to remind everyone what happens when Sosai Z is unhappy with Galactor." Egobossler shouted so anyone near by could hear the doomed engineers sentence for failure. The terrified whimpering man tried to grab the hem of Count Egobossler's long flowing cape.

"You can't so this I have a family." He pleaded.

Egobossler's second in Command Kempeler kept his face cold and still while his lord dealt out his second blow to the condemned man.

Egobossler's lips turned up into a half cold smile as he looked down upon the man. "Not any more you don't... it looks like you'll be meeting them in the after life, that should satisfy Sosai Z's need for blood for the failure of this organisation."

Kempeler's face flickered for an instant with appeared to be conflict to Matt- that puzzled him, from what he had come to know of Kempeler he was the most evil man in Galactor aside from Mekandor his battalion commander.

Kempeler resumed his cold expression as soon as he met Matt's eyes. It sent shivers down his spine, and so did the order for the former engineer's family meeting the same fate because of his failure. He couldn't stop the image of Natasha and Dyami being dragged before a firing squad if he failed from flashing through his mind. Kempeler again studied his face. Matt prayed his fears wouldn't betray him and make him vulnerable to this man. He thought for a moment Kempeler looked like he was going to walk down the hallway instead he turned abruptly followed Count Egobossler.

Matt quickly closed the door and slumped against it in a cold sweat.

"Lucky the equipment we needed to finish Iron Beast Bantegron was delayed, or it could have been us going before the firing squad." Gerald sighed heavily and went back to his work. Matt watched him with some curiosity as he picked a small electronic device, about the size of his finger nail. Matt knew it was a side project Gerald was working on for Count Egobossler. Aside from telling him it was an implant of some sort that was meant for a human being and it was found in an old lab of some crazy scientist called Raphael he wouldn't talk about it any further.

"It still could be us." Matt said hoarsely turning his eyes back to the blue print covering the wall. "Do you have a family Gerald?"

Gerald shook his head sadly. "Nope, just me...If you do, then I'd get em as far away from here as possible, things are really looking dismal of late around here."

"Yeah, might take you up on that..." Matt said thinking of the irony in  what he just said since he didn't have clue where they could be. Gerald didn't respond, so Matt walked over to his desk and sat down. He thought about the remote control detonator he'd made for when it went up against Science Ninja Team. Could he do it, knowing it could spell the death of his wife and son when the mecha failed. Again he felt the conflict rising within him. The death of his family would destroy him, but it could save millions if the Science Ninja Team and the ISO won this war. He thought about them and wondered if these kinds of sacrifices had been asked of them had they lost what the treasured most in the world to this war? He hoped not.

Best get on with it. He thought. Picking up his pen he began going over the recent changes in the internal mechanisms. Focus he told himself stay focused on the job before you just like the days you were a squadron commander. Turning in his seat he heard the sound of the door opening and  Gerald being dismissed from the room. The sound of boots on the smooth metal floor made him draw in a sharp breath. He had to produce results or his family were doomed...or he sacrifice the world for them. Matt knew in heart what he had to do, but could he? Only when Bantegron was launched would he have his answer.

Chapter 21 by Ebonyswanne

Flopping onto her bed exhausted Jun tried to blot the last mission from her mind. She needed sleep, not her usual mental wonderings. A dreamless sleep would serve her well.

"Sis," Jinpei knocked quietly on her door.

Jun buried her face into her pillow and didn't respond.

"Sis..." Jinpei opened the door and peered intently through the narrow crack.

Sighing she forced herself to move and sat up on her bed her hair fall haphazardly over her face and around her shoulders.

"What is it Jinpei?" She said flatly.

He swallowed hard before saying what appeared to have been bothering him for sometime.

"Is big bro gonna die... just like Joe did but even worse because-"he blurted out and the words caught in his throat.

"-because Dr.Raphael is no longer around to change him into a cyborg so at least he'll be still with us." She finished for him.

"Kinda...I...I...just don't think I could handle big bro being dead." He whimpered he began rubbing his thin shoulders like the room temperature suddenly dropped.

Swiftly she leaped off the bed and wrapped her arms around like she did when he was little. He looked so much like a frightened child in that moment instead of the young he was becoming. Every now and them she could hear his voice deepening as he spoke, Joe made fun of one day about it a few months ago. Ken came to the Swallows defence forcing Joe to apologise. Joe did and he ruffled the young teenager's hair playfully. "I was just mucking around Jinpei, there's no need to get all sensitive about it."

Jinpei's eyes brimmed with tears. "We lost em too haven't we...Dyami and his mother and father. Everyone's dying and...I...don't wanna be alone sis..."

"Oh Jinpei don't be so silly, everyone's not dying Jin." Jun lightly scolded the crying Swallow.

"Sis, maybe if you and big bro get back together than he won't die cause he has you to live for." Jinpei brightened at his idea.

Jun felt a hot blush rise to her cheeks at Swallows simple solution to all their problems. 

"Jin it's not that simple, it's far more complicated than that-"She began to explain.

"No its not," He declared his voice going up an octave to make his point clearer."  You love him and he loves you what's so complicated about that, the only ones not seeing it is you and big bro... I just think you're both stubborn and that's why you broke up in the first place. Just about different things."

Jun didn't know what to say, instead she let go of her brother and walked away from him then she became angry with him and turned to face him with a glowering expression. "Is that why you came here? Just to make me go and beg Ken to take me back?"

"Yes... well I didn't mean beg, just tell him how you feel about him and-"Jinpei stood taller, like he always did when they squabbled.

"I doesn't happen like that Jinpei, we have work to do and now's not the time for any of that." Jun snorted in disgust. Except the nagging tug at her heart when thought about Ken and the way he once touched her...

"Agghhh, why did you have to drag all that up Jinpei? Why." She shouted." I was perfectly fine with how things are...besides he doesn't feel that way about me, he can't feel that way... we just have a strong bond because everything that's happened in the past..."

"Liar..." He said softly." You always have had a thing for big bro..."

"That ‘thing' belongs to a sixteen year old girl I used to be Jinpei. I've changed and so has he, we're just not the same people any more. I do still care about Ken a lot I'll always be fond of him. Just..." She couldn't put words to hoe she felt, and why did it feel like a lame excuse for keeping a comfortable distance between them.

"Fond of him? "Jinpei rebuked. "Listen to yourself sis, you're fighting it. It's like the day you discovered he wanted to go off and do things other than stay in Utoland... You got angry with him can called him selfish one day when he was gone, I remember it very well...and then you found out you were pregnant and it was like...like...you became terrified he'd want to marry you or something so you ran away from the only real happiness you've ever had. I thought you wanted to get married and have a family? You know sis you can be just as selfish sometimes."

Jun felt hot tears rolling down her cheeks as he spoke. His words cutting her like a knife.

She didn't want to be the one who held Ken back from doing what he needed to do. She knew his sense of duty drove him and it was part of her attraction to him. If she stopped him, tied him down when he needed to be out saving the world. He'd eventually resent her for it instead of being in love with her and then it would have all fallen apart between them anyway.

"We don't always get what we want Jinpei, one day you'll learn that lesson too." Jun said between ragged breaths, and buried her face into her hands.

"I'm sorry sis." Jinpei let it go. "Sis, I'm so sorry- I didn't want to hurt you." For the first time in his life he was being serious with her, she stared at the boy maturing into a man before her eyes.

"I suppose it's really none of my business, it's only because I love the both of you." He confessed.

 

"Thanks Jinpei." She said sincerely wiping away her tears and reaching for a tissue. "I can be there for him- you know I won't abandon him. I don't have to be in a romantic relationship to have a bond with him."

"I know." He said softly, the tension running from his voice, the Swallow went into deep thought like he was digesting what she had just said.

"Jun, get down to the medical bay now." Joe's voice came loudly through her communicator.

"What's happening Joe." She said glancing at Jinpei's pale face.

"Its Ken...he collapsed and they're working to try and revive him. The last treatment they just tried could have killed him. They have to find some other way..." Joe sounded livid.

The colour drained from her face and her heart began to race." On our way." Jun replied.

Jinpei didn't wait for her to tell him to move as they both sprinted down the corridor towards the medical bay.

Chapter 22 by Ebonyswanne

Natasha tried to glimpse the prison again the cell just down the corridor from her. Something about him felt familiar but she just couldn't put her finger on it.

"Get me some wine you sack of swine." He shouted angrily at the goon further down from her again for the tenth time. He kicked the door and walked away in a huff when the man didn't move an inch.

"Do you know who I am idiot?" He hissed through the bars on the wooden door again after a few minutes.

"I don't care who ya are idiot." The goon mocked him." Iz told yer a liar and thief, and ya a con man who tried to steal from Count Egobossler. Dats all I need ter know."

"Freak I'm the real Count Egobossler, do you really think they'd let a blue freak like that imposter rule my castle and my people." His tone became more regal as he spoke- Like a young man schooled to look down upon people who didn't measure up to him.

"Damn it! I'm Kaseru Count of Egobossler its mine by right of legitimate inheritance, that bastard stole it from me." He shouted more in frustration this time. "He stole it from me..." Kaseru began to sob banging his fists on the wall. "Let me out of this place, I don't want to die staring at these drab grey stone walls."

Natasha moved away from the bars and looked over at her son taking his afternoon nap on a pile of fresh straw in the corner of their more spacious cell. The noise didn't even cause him to stir.

Could what this young man be saying is true? She thought. She heard him talking down on people who brought him food. Could the current Count Egobossler be an imposter? She didn't really like the arrogant desperate man down the hall from her. Something in the way he spoke to people grated on her. But he could be useful, she figured in getting her and Dyami out of this prison.

She drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. How could she be thinking like that? She thought. Walking over to Dyami and laying a tender hand on his cheek. She'd been a pre-school teacher not a strategist that used people to meet her own needs. But this was a desperate situation- she had to get them out of this dangerous prison.

"I'm sorry you had to hear all of that." A familiar voice made her jump. She looked up to see the cell door opening and Kempler walked through it.

"Just the ranting of madman from what the guards say around here." She said trying not to sound alarmed from the tone of Kempeler's voice.

Dyami began to stir. "Mumee..." He said still half asleep.

"I'm here sweetheart." Gently she picked him up in her arms to cuddle him while sleep began to fall away from him and his sharp blue eyes began take in his surroundings again.

"Come with me." Kempler indicated, Quickly she picked up a banana from her small food supply for Dyami knowing he'd be hungry as soon as he was fully awake.

A short while later they were outside of the walled grey stone prison again staring out at sea.

Natasha lost count of how long they were there- she let Dyami run on the rocky sandy beach keeping a close eye on his movements. The whole time Kempeler watched them with a haunted expression on his beared staunch face.

"This is how it should be." He eventually said walking over to her.

"What should be?" She asked trying to sound casual. She always kept het guard up around anyone from Galactor.

"A man should be able to watch his wife...and child...be together, and not worry about her loyalty." His voice cracked with emotion, for a moment Kempeler appeared vulnerable before her eyes.

Dare she ask? She thought while helping her son build a sand castle, licking her lips she took the plunge. "Did you...have a wife?"

"Once... in another lifetime. She died, I changed into what I am now." His eyes became more distant.

How did she die? Played on Natasha's mind. Without her asking he answered her unspoken question.

"I killed her when she betrayed me... I loved her, beyond anything you could imagine and yet she betrayed me. We planned only a month before to begin a family...she told she was pregnant and when I saw her in his arms I knew the child wasn't mine. How could it be mine when I'd been away from her for weeks before on a business trip. So I killed them both in cold blood...I watched he die and something of me died with her that day."

Natasha paled, she knew him to be dangerous but she couldn't figure out why he was telling his past, especially something as personal as this.

"Mumee, shells." Dyami said picking some up in wonder and throwing them on top of the Castle.

"Yes darling, they look great." She said with a fake cheerfulness, as she tried to hide her fear of the man telling her his deepest secrets.

"She had strawberry blond hair just like yours..." He continued. "What I have become, a cold blooded killer... nothing more than an assassin for my lord and a tool for Galactor. I could have been so much more, I told her I give her anything she wanted...she said she wanted me...but she lied oh she lied...."

"Then why stay his assassin? You could leave Galactor and find a new life-" The flick of his hand haltered her little speech.

"I can't just leave- Egobossler would still be in charge, and he'd never let me go... nothing in the world would change...I...would still have to live the life of a murderer." He stopped and his face hardened, she could see he was fighting with something inside of himself.

"Then overthrow him. You could do it I know you could." She blurted out. In shock she went back to the sand castles she was forming. What made her say something so stupid. She scolded herself, watching Dyami trying to dig his way to China with his bare hands.

"How?" Kempeler asked sounding interested in the proposal.

Her mind went into overdrive. How? Was a good question.

She felt his large hand touch her hair, freezing she felt him run his fingers through it.

"Take-your-hands-off-me," Natasha said through clenched teeth. "I have a husband, and I'm very loyal to him."

"I can see that...but women can be fickle." He whispered into her ear. "Women have needs just like men and I believe for you it has been a long time....for me it has, I've had no other woman since my wife died."

"I'm not like that, so leave me alone." She pushed away from him and picked up Dyami and ran a short distance away from him.

The clicking sound of gun halted her and she skidded in the sand.

"I wouldn't go any further if I was you Mrs Butler." His tone sent a chill down her spine.

"He's scary." Dyami whimpered and buried his face into her shoulder.

Slowly she turned to face Kempeler, the man had unpredictability about him. Yet he held that haunted look in his eyes once more when she finally faced him.

"I...can't...do...it..." He said the gun began to shake in his hand. "I can kill you again my love I can't."

Slowly Natasha walked back toward him. Gently she forced him to lower the gun while still holding onto a frightened Dyami.

"Then why keep going down this path..." She said softly. "Why keep punishing yourself and hurting others because of your own pain."

A saying she heard somewhere flicked into her memory. Hurting people...hurt people. And Kempeler's pain ran so deep he could inflict the worst kind of pain upon humanity. From what she could see its likely he already had.

"Then what do you suggest I do..." Kempeler's face began to soften- his rugged features began to take on a defeated look.

"Do something other than kill people." It was the only thing she could think of.

He looked back towards the prison. And she knew she had his solution.

"That man.... Kaseru, if he's the real Count Egobossler maybe he could give you some weight in turning his men against him when the truth gets out." She could feel the plot forming and she began to smile. Matt would be proud of her, she thought. He was always the one who was good at this kind of thing.

"You could use him to gain control of enough loyal men to take over Galactor." Natasha contained some of her excitement. If Kempeler did what she suggested them Galactor would be thrown into chaos. This would allow the science ninja team a chance to gain more ground on them and Matt a chance to find her and Dyami. After all why would they worry about one engineer when Galactor was in a leadership crisis. And Dyami would be safe from whatever secret Egobossler had about him.

Kempeler didn't answer but she saw the plan ticking over in his mind. He cocked an eyebrow and smirked. "If you we're so loyal to you husband...I'd have you for myself my dear."

She didn't know to be glad he said it or afraid, so instead she looked into her son's face to find him glaring with defiance at Kempeler.

"Gutsy kid even at his age, then what else could I expect from him." Kempeler began to laugh loudly.

"I'll have you taken back to your cell..." He said turning away from her he walked ahead of them. Cautiously she followed hoping he wouldn't be inclined to renew his advances. If he tried to force she didn't know if she fight him off. The mere thought sickened her to her core.

"I'll get word to you're husband. His project will launch soon and if it fails I'm not sure what Egobossler will do to you, but it won't be pleasant I assure you." He said before disappearing down a corridor.

Matt please don't fail us. She prayed letting Dyami hold her hand as he talked no stop in gibberish and real words pointing at everything as went past it. She could only hope now Kempeler liked the plan enough to act on it. At least it gave her some hope of escape.

* * * *

"Gerald, come in." Count Egobossler smiled warmly at the older scientist and engineer he had assigned to assist his newest engineer in creating a mecha that would soon defeat the Science Ninja Team.

"My Lord." He addressed him formally.

Egobossler waited for him to continue, knowing he had to return to the project as soon as he had finished giving his report on his side project. Gerald detected this and departed with the usual niceties.

Gerald produced a small silver disk about the size of his thumb nail and placed it gently onto the desk in front of it.

"It's amazing!" He said in awe." The most amazing device I have ever seen. Dr.Raphael was truly a genius."

Egobossler raised a curious brow and indicated for him to continue.

"It's an implant from what I can tell. There are tiny connectors that when it's placed against soft tissue automatically take hold. From my tests it sends out signals and smaller devices into the blood stream. They are designed to locate specific muscle tissue. It then enhances everything about the human body and mind like a cybernetic effect to the tissue. To what degree it will go to I have no idea." His excitement grew by the minute. "It has something alien about it don't you think, something you'd find in a science fiction movie..." Gerald rambled on about it for a few more seconds before Egobossler interrupted him.

"So the translations you did from his work hold some truth about it, this is the device they referred too?" Egobossler needed confirmation. The folder of information, they found along with the small box of the devices was written in Danish. Gerald spoke it and read it fluently.

"Yes, but he never used it on a human being or an animal. It appears that he was looking for a subject around the time of his death. Preferably a very young child for some reason." Gerald became thoughtful on this, and it looked to Egobossler like he had been pondering on it since he began to translate the information and study the devices.

"Do you think these devices will be of use to us?" Count Egobossler watched his face, he wanted to know if he had something valuable left behind a burnt out lab from a Doctor who created the most intelligent cyborgs ever seen. And he knew the Condor had been one of his finest creations ever. An army of cyborgs like him and he'd win this war in no time.

"So, you want to test out this device? But you need a suitable subject." A slow crooked smirk snaked its way across Count Egobossler's pale lips.

"That would be the best way to find out how he really meant to it work." Gerald's face broke into an instant radiant smile.

"Why a child I wonder?" Egobossler mused picking up a picture that had recently come into his possession.

"I figure it was because a younger mind is more open with learning and growing, and so is a younger body...it would be ideal when you think about it. I figure he just hadn't found the right child to experiment with. So say Dr.Raphael had a reputation for being a grave robber..." Gerald said picking up the small sophisticated implant.

"You won't need to that to test out your device." Count Egobossler felt his day becoming even better. He had the perfect subject for the experiment. A piece of information came into hands earlier that morning, making him wonder what else his closest friend and spy Kempeler was keeping from him. He should have known about this, instead he had to find out from finding it stashed in a secret draw in Kempeler's desk.

"I'll send you a young boy in the few days to our base in Almeron along with a surgeon to perform the operation. I'm sure the results will be interesting." He smirked.

Gerald was given his leave and Egobossler sat down at his desk starring at the picture of the young boy before him and he read the letters once more.

"The son of the Swan and the Eagle, and how much he looks like you Gatchaman. Well, I'm taking my revenge on him, if the boy dies it will no consequence to me...but to you I know it will hurt...I'll leave his body in place that I know you'll find it when I'm done experimenting on him that is." Egobossler threw the picture down on the desk. They'll have three bodies to find once he was through. When Matt Butler finishes the project he would no longer need him if they won. He laughed at the irony, the man raising Gatchaman's as his own builds the mecha that spells his death. It couldn't be more perfect if had planned it right from the beginning.

Count Egobossler figure it was time to keep a closer watch on Kempeler, he'd learned to be a cautious man from the time he discovered the truth of his heritage. He needed to find out why he kept that piece of information from him.

"What are you up to?" He snarled aloud in deep thought while stroking his chin unconsciously. "Don't betray me Kempeler, if you do, I'll kill you myself."

* * * *

Natasha woke to sound of someone opening the door. Quickly she looked up at the small bared window high above them, moonlight streaming in told her it was late and still night time outside. Before any words could escape her lips the four men walked into the room and roughly pulled Dyami out of his deep sleep. The small boy began to protest loudly.

"Who are you? Why ado you think-"Her own protests cut short from a sharp slap across her face.

"Followin orders that's what we're doing." A gruff male voice responded.

"No, leave him alone." Instinctively she leaped on top of the man throwing a screaming Dyami over his shoulder and cried. "He's my son and I won't let you take him."

"Lady, you're only going to make this harder on yourself." One of the men said without any compassion for them.

A hard fist knocked her off the man's back throwing her onto the hard stone floor. Then men roughly pushed past her.

Natasha couldn't give so easily, no matter how much her body hurt she pulled herself to her feet and grabbed Dyami's arm. "You can't take him without me." She cried." I won't let you."

"Mumeeee.....daddeeee" Dyami cried clutching her arm with all of his strength.

"Damn bitch," The man scolded. Natasha felt something sharp pick her side. In a foggy haze she knew it must have been a needle. Her world began to spin rapidly- the last thing she saw before she blacked out was Dyami's terrified wide blue eyes as the goon walked away with him into the darkness of the corridor.

Chapter 23 by Ebonyswanne

"Ahh..."Bantegron finally ready all fully operational." Count Egobossler didn't hold back his glee and slapped Matt whole heartedly on the back as they both looked upon the huge beast. "You have no idea how happy I am to see your work of engineering go up against the Science Ninja Team. It has a bittersweet flavour to it don't you think?"

Bittersweet... Matt thought why would it be bittersweet for him? Thinking a little more on it he supposed on close personal level it was since they had once saved his family from a doomed bridge being destroyed by Galactor and he had created a magnificent iron beast. Something he should be proud of it, but to look at it only welled up deep dread inside of him. And now Egobossler wants him onboard it to top it all off.

"I'll have you issued a proper uniform of course, no sense sending you along with the men in plain clothes is there. It's much better to feel part of the team." Count Egobossler's broad grin returned to his icy blue features. "This will be a victory for all of us Matt Butler, in more ways than you can imagine..."

"I can imagine it will be a joyful reunion with my wife once you have your victory." Matt hinted. Matt smiled enough to hide his true feelings- he longed to know if his family were safe.

"You'll see them soon enough my friend, then you'll all be together in a way that no one can every tear you apart. Won't that be wonderful." Egobossler smirked. Matt felt a cold shiver run down his spine at his words.

"Does  this mean I'll be able to see my wife and son tomorrow?" He asked hoping to be out of the base as soon as he could get leave from Count Egobossler to visit them sooner rather than later.

"Not yet..."Count Egobossler's smile ran from his face momentarily." I need you onboard Bantegron to ensure first hand that everything goes according to plan before we launch it in a few days." Egobossler's face hardened and his voice lowered into a hateful whisper. "I want to destroy Gatchaman in every way possible, I want him to know what I do to those who get in the way of my ambitions. We'll shatter him in such a way he'll die knowing he caused the death of those he tried to protect... you'll see, our victory will be complete. "

Matt tried to hide his terror in that suggestion and the tone of voice Egobossler had just taken on. No way did he want to on board Bantegron when it came up against Gatchaman. Especially if he was protecting someone close to him.

"Is that necessary? I won't be needed here until the mission is ready to go-"He tried to say, Egobossler cut him by holding up a gloved hand.

"Of course you're needed on Bantegron over the next few days. I feel the reason the others failed was because my engineers didn't play enough of an active part in the missions." His smile returned broader than ever. Matt could see the man was enjoying some kind of private joke with himself.

Damn please with yourself over something aren't you Matt thought trying not to look at him He gazed up at the monster before him.

"You made a promise Count Egobossler." Matt said looking at the feared yet respected leader of Galactor.

"I'm a man of my word Matt...we have a deal and I'll keep my end of the bargain as long as you keep yours." Egobossler said in a matter-of-fact tone.

Matt didn't need to say any more, it looked like his fate had just been dealt out to him whether he liked it or not.

* * * *

The call to battle once more jolted Jun out of her deep slumber. Rubbing her eyes she'd be grateful for the exhaustion that forced her into a dreamless sleep after what felt like hours of tossing and turning from worrying about Ken's illness and the lack of solutions the medical team had been coming up with to reverse the effects of the hypershoot.

"Jun." Ken's weak voice came through her communicator.

"Ken, what's wrong?" She asked frowning at her wrist.

"Just needed to hear your voice that's all." He said hoarsely.

"You need to rest Ken, doctors orders-"Jun heard him cough.

"Leave the lectures to me, it's my speciality, ask Joe he'll tell you." She could see him trying to smile through the communicator. Making her smile back.

"That's true Ken...I'll leave them to you. Good night." Silence fell for a second before he responded.

"Come down here...please...I hate medical wards...I..." Ken's voice held an undertone of something else- Desperation hung at the edges.

"I'll be there soon Ken- do they have a comfy chair?" She queried.

"Yeah...think so, if not I can move over. See ya soon." He joked.

"You bet." She said pulling back her warm bed sheets she picked up her pillow and headed down to the medical bay. Ken would be having more tests run on him the morning this time by Dr. Nambu and another specialist. He needed his rest and if her company help him to that then she was more than happy to sacrifice some of hers to do so.

Chapter 24 by Ebonyswanne


Jun looked on as they prepared Ken for the next lot of treatment. This time by another specialist brought in by Dr. Nambu.

"Don't worry Jun, he's tough as nails." Joe said confidently.

"Do I look worried?" She said in alarm, she tried to look supportive and confident this treatment would give him some better results.

"Yep, you do, when you're worried you always chew you're bottom lip." Joe said keeping his eyes on Ken with the doctor attaching all sorts of tubes and monitoring equipment to his near naked body.

"Team we need you out of the room for a while." Dr.Nambu instructed. Reluctantly they left to wait outside of the door while the two doctors conducted their testing on him.

"What do they think he is a lab rat?" Jinpei scoffed kicking the closest wall.

"Don't worry I know he feels like one, I know I did when Dr. Raphael..." Joe let the rest fall away and a troubled expression crossed his grey eyes. "Doesn't matter."

"Joe." Jun put a comforting hand on his arm. "It does matter."

He crossed his arms and leaned against the wall with a faraway look crossing his guarded features. "I had some good memories to pull me through- thanks Jun."

"Why are you thanking me?" She said as a small private smile flinted across his lips.

"For just being you...." He coughed and then resumed his nonchalance way of talking." I....I just thought about the good old days of us as a team, fighting Galactor....and you know I had to live to get my revenge-"

"Is that all you think about Joe-Revenge." This obsession of Joe's always annoyed her. He could be very single minded when it came to his need for total revenge on anything that hurt him.

"No.... well in a way yes, what more is there to life than getting rid of vermin like Katse, Gel sadra and now Count Egobossler from the planet." His body language stiffened and his eyes dared her to disagree with him.

"Love...family." Jun looked at Ryu and Jinpei and then her eyes returned to Joe. "We're a family, we love each other..."

"Love..." Joe eyes filled with intense pain his voice became barely a harsh whisper." Love is for poets...any woman I dare to love dies or....well who tha hell cares anyway... anyone I call family dies....look what's happening to Ken. Stay away from me Jun, you might have a chance."

"Joe we can't give up on him we just can't. And you're not a bad luck charm- please don't say things like that. " Jun pleaded and turned to solemn Jinpei and Ryu.

"I dunno Jun, we'll stick by him you know that." Ryu shrugged his shoulders trying to avoid any confrontation as usual.

She knew, her heart began to pound at Joe's response to it all. His bitterness hung like a lead weight around her, try as might she couldn't shrug it off. Jun wondered if Joe would ever find peace anywhere in his life.

Before she could put any more thought into it the sliding door opened to the medical bay and Kamo indicated they all come inside.

Jun's first impression of Ken was that he looked defeated for the first time in his life by an unseen enemy. His face had become drawn and pale and his shoulders slumped when he turned slightly to face them as they walked through the door with Dr. Nambu's hands on his shoulders comforting him the best way he could.

"We have bad news team- Ken won't be leading you, until we can reverse the effects of the hypershoot." Dr. Nambu announced.

"No, it can't be true." The all gasped at once.

"It is true...I'm just not able to..." Ken choked on his words looked away, to hide his anguish. "I've let you all down...I'm sorry."

 "We need to go and bring Dr. Furness back to complete the treatment. His ideas are revolutionary in cell deterioration therapy. I need one of you-"

"I'll go." She blurted out before any of the others could respond. She ignored Joe who tried to grab her arm as if to hold her back.

 Ken's eyes went wide but he didn't say anything. In a way he looked even more afraid than he did a few minutes ago when they all walked into the room.

"It'll be dangerous, there's a very good chance Galactor is very active in the area he's located in." Dr. Nambu's serious face only made her more determined to go on the mission.

Stepping forward to ensure her commitment Jun changed into birdstyle. "I'll go with you Dr. Nambu- we need to get Ken back on the team. As fast as we can."

Dr. Nambu nodded briefly. "Alright Jun, lets get moving."

"Roger!" She said and they briskly followed him out the door towards a waiting jet Dr. Nambu had ordered moments before.

* * * *

Matt  walked onto the bridge of Bantegron to greet the Captain chose by Count Egobossler to lead the attack when he gave the order for launch.

"Captain." Matt greeted him, all of the old military training in greeting a peer.

"Yo the engineer." The mans greasy smile made Matt thankful he chose to wear the standard issue Galactor goon helmet to disguise his disgust in the man before him.

"Well, let's hope this beastie hold up." He continued to grin like an idiot.

"Yeah, Go Galactor." Matt worked hard on sounding sincere.

"Ahhh...I was told ta give this to ya. Kempeler said it was important to ya." The Captain pulled out a small disk and he handed it to Matt.

Curiously Matt accepted the disk from the Captain. He knew better than to ask anything more about it from a man he barely knew.

"Well, I best go and check it out, probably Count Egobossler wanting to wish us success on the mission. I'll be down the hall if you need me." Matt said lightly.

"But...I hear he might be joining us?" The Captain said looking confused even through his strange mask. 

"You never know." Matt watched his face become even more confused. He tried not to laugh as he turned and walked casually off the bridge. One he was away from potential prying eyes he upped the pace to his work room onboard. Whatever was on the disk he had to find out its contents and fast, why would Kempeler an man he'd had very little to do with during the project send him an information disk. Reaching his office he'd soon find out its contents.

Chapter 25 by Ebonyswanne

Jun took the controls of the antique fighter jet and tilted the jet in the direction of the lab Dr.Nambu indicated before they left their mountain base. She loved flying even if she never admitted it to Ken. The marshmallow clouds against the blue sky relaxed her- she could spend hours starring into nothing while Ken directed his Cessna towards their destination. She could never imagine him grounded for good. Something about that idea didn't fit- it was like Ken was born to fly through the blue skies for the rest of his life.

"If I'm right this doctor will be able to reverse the effects of the Hypershoot." Dr Nambu informed her through the intercom.

"I hope so..." She said.

"Jun...I know Ken means a lot to you, and I'm glad you're on this mission I was about to tell you to meet me at the jet before you volunteered." He said quietly.

"I appreciate it Dr. Nambu...you know Ken and I haven't been involved with each other for a long time now." Jun couldn't keep the sadness she felt from saying those words out of her voice.

"I know Jun..." Dr. Nambu hesitated and she heard him draw in a deep breath. In the way he often did when he was about to say something important.

"Know what Dr.Nambu?" She asked her heart began to race.

"That you loved each other and my rules tore you apart. I'm sorry Jun...I'm so sorry for what happened between you and I wish I could make it all right but I can't." He confessed.

"Dr. Nambu, it wasn't in your control, we knew the team as whole was more important than our relationship." She said.

"Some things should be more important." Dr. Nambu's voice became distant." I'm a man so driven to save the world that I tore apart and hurt the ones who mattered most to me, yet I still put duty first above all else in my heart. I still drove Ken to put his duty above all else...he was never really like Kentaro- Ken when he was a boy...said he'd never die and leave his family like his dad did...but I wanted him to be more like Kentaro because he was so loyal to the ISO...I drove Ken to be like him."

Jun looked at her navigation equipment. "We're almost there." She informed him.

"Good. Keep frosty Jun, Galactor is likely to be looking for anything out of the ordinary." Dr. Nambu's deep voice returned to his usual commanding tone ending their conversation.

Jun turned the old fighter jet into land on the runway. Jun stopped the rolling momentum of the plane as fast as she could because it was a short runway using a trick Ken taught her many years ago during a training exercise. The jet came to a screaming halt and the two of them jumped out.

"Let's go Jun- we have to see if this sample proves this doctor's equipment is worth it." Dr. Nambu said walking ahead of her. Jun shared the same sentiment.

It wasn't long before they were in his lab and Dr. Nambu had the tissue sample under the ray machine. Jun could only wait...

Never before had he been taken off the team due to an illness. Jun remembered a mission that he was very sick with the flu on. He coughed and spluttered the whole time but he still lead them like he was fit and healthy. She remembered him collapsing in his bed at the shack afterwards while she tried to make him chicken soup in an effort to impress him with her cooking skills. In the end she resorted to a canned version of the same thing she found in his small pantry since she managed to burn the home made soup and smoke up his small kitchen. By the time she'd managed to bring to him, he was in bed snoring away fast asleep splayed out on his still made bed fully dressed in his uniform and shoes.

Ken never backed out on a mission ever. Lost in her memories a vision of a time when he came to her aid during a battle flashed through her mind the way they worked together like could read each others minds and the way he gazed into her eyes afterwards made her feel warm and fuzzy inside as the night sky's stars sparkled like diamonds...

Dr. Nambu wreathed her out of her memories with his excitement.

"It works! The dramatic change in the cells is amazing, come and have a look at this Jun." He indicated for her to come over and look into the microscope, before she could something familiar caught her eye.

"Dr. Nambu, Galactor knows we're here." She cursed. "How did they know?"

"Doesn't matter Jun, we just need to get the doctor out of here and fast." Dr. Nambu said urgently picking up a machine he ran towards the front entrance.

"What! Galactor...here?" He said in panic his dark brown eyes widened.

Dr.Nambu opened fire on the stunned goons about to walk through the doors ahead of them.

 "Go and find the doctor Jun, I'll hold off these goons," He ordered.

"Roger," Jun acknowledged running into the lab while Dr. Nambu covered her. Running at full speed she found him before the goons did.

"Doctor!" she yelled out to the short plump man with a receding hairline holding a very large metal case. He fitted the picture Dr. Nambu showed her before they departed.

"Ahhh" He said fearfully." I didn't know they were watching my lab."

"Neither did we." She informed him taking hold of the heavy case to make him move faster.  "That's right all the more reason to get out of here." She insisted as they ran towards the waiting jet that Dr.Nambu was protecting with more machinegun fire directed towards the advancing goons.

"Jun you must get him back to the base, you can't fit all of us into the jet, and we need the equipment to save Ken." Dr. Nambu shot down more goons and used his fighting skills to take on even more. She hesitated to leave him behind. One glare from her mentor left her no other choice but to hurry to the doctor into the fighter jet and leave Dr.Nambu to fight of the goons to allow them to escape.

 

Chapter 26 by Ebonyswanne

Ken lay on the bed trying to rest after he had been ordered off the team he had led through three wars against Galactor.

Then he began to think about Jun... she was out there in danger and he knew it. That thought didn't allow him to rest, between them they had lost so much already and to lose her now would make his life meaningless. Watching her sleeping on the floor beside his bed after she insisted it was comfortable warmed him. Her tenderness made him whole, why had he taken so long to see why she was the only woman he could truly trust and love with his whole heart. Folding his arms behind his head he stared at the bland metal ceiling awaiting news of the mission. His restlessness only served to make him more anxious and wanting to something, anything other than lay around helpless in a war not yet won.

Joe's voice caught his attention.

"Under attack, do you need us?" Joe said into his bracelet.

Ken jumped up knowing he had to be talking to Jun, she was in danger, and he couldn't just lay around any more if she needed him.

"Okay, we'll sit tight." Joe said looking over at him.

"Common Joe, let go." Ken said sternly.

"What." Joe said in disbelief grabbing a firm grip on his arm. "You can't go Ken- you'll probably pass out before you even take off from the base."

"Try and stop me." Ken snarled wreathing his arm free he ran towards the roof top landing bay.

Joe's only option was to follow him. "Jinpei, Ryu get yourselves to the roof we have a situation involving our fearless leader."

"Roger Joe we're coming." Ryu said.

* * * *

Ken felt the first gust of fresh air hit his face as he ran onto the landing strip to reach his G-1 that sat ready and waiting for him to take it into the clear blue skies above.

The grew stronger as the jet Jun had taken earlier almost landed on top of him, Ken held his arms over his face to stop the wind from drying out his eyes.

Before he knew it she was walking to wards him, anger etched on her soft feminine features beneath her helmet.

With a scientist following behind her that could only be the one with the equipment to treat his hypershoot illness.

It was like she read his mind, and knew he was about to put himself back into action.

The harsh sting of the slap across the face that followed stunned him into instant shame of his lack of trust in her ability to complete the mission without him.

"How dare you." Jun ridiculed him. "Weren't you the one who lectured me once many years ago that it was wrong to so casually throw away my life? ...and look at what you're about to do."

Ken hung his head in shame, not knowing what to say, with the force of the blow still stinging his cheek. He remembered the lecture she was referring to it was the night after they defeated the Jigokillers and that's when he told her to never run off on her own like that again. Inside he wanted to tell the devastating effect the thought of her dying had on him. But at that time his focus was his duty, and he worked hard to create some kind of emotional distance between after that.

 She's never lashed out like that before, and inside of him he felt a new kind of respect growing for the strong beautiful woman standing before him showing her pain in his actions only by the trickling tear that escaped from her eye and the slump of her shoulders after she hit him.

"I had to leave Dr. Nambu behind to bring back a doctor with the equipment to save you Ken, and you'd just throw it in his face for any sacrifices he made to save your life." Her voice became heavy with the burdens she bore for him. "I'm going back, I have to bring him home- I hope he's still alive when I get there."

Jun turned away from him and straightened her shoulders and walked briskly back towards the jet while Ken stood frozen with Joe saying something to him but Ken wasn't listening his focus was on the woman walking away from him with each step she drew him into her tangled web entrapping his heart and soul once more into it.

"Jun..." He howled to the skies as the jet lifted off taking her away from him and back into danger. Closing his eyes he tried to blot out the pain of watching her leave him and being unable to tell her because his commitment to his duty stood between them like a thick wall.

Joe, Ryu and Jinpei headed towards their vehicles to follow her.

Balling his fists until they indented the palms of his hands with his nails, Ken couldn't let her do it alone- if she died in battle then he was going down with her.

* * * *

Jun didn't have time to think any more about her emotional outburst with Ken, he had it coming and she was still fuming with him for being so careless when the rest of the team had been trying so hard to save his life. Did he care about it that little? She thought during the flight back to the base to save Dr.Nambu.

Ahead of her she could make out something in the shape of very large panther sitting just below the short landing runway of the cliff based lab up ahead of her.

Her heart began to race, the panther had to be a mecha owned by Galactor, and its presence could mean that Dr.Nambu was already lost.

Jinpei's G-a hovered just below her and kicked it into gear to speed ahead of her to begin his attack.

"Got it Sis, just watch it go belly up when I fire a few of my missile into it." He gloated.

Jun cringed internally, how many times had she heard that before from her brother...

Instead Joe dove in front of the giant panther allowing them to shoot anything they at it to try and direct it away from the lab. The panther only stopped long enough to swat the G-2 mecha like a fly before it resumed its attack.

Joe's reckless nature grated on her at times, and he often fobbed her off when she tried to talk to him about it after a mission, Ken had always had more caution until recent times in his approach and she longed for it to be with them now.

Drawing in a deep breath she kept up her end of the attack on the beast to try and draw it away. If they didn't find a way to defeat it soon they were all in serious trouble.

 

Chapter 27 by Ebonyswanne

 

"It's looking good Ken." The doctor smiled like he was conducting a test on a patient who was going back to the office to finish a day's work afterwards. Not on one that needed to be in battle with the rest of his team at moments notice.

"It's working, that's great let's get on with it." Ken said through clenched teeth. Every minute it took to make this work felt like an eternity to him.

"It's an exact science Ken- if I'm out by just a little bit it could be fatal for you." He explained forcing Ken to keep his impatience to himself.

"Fine, just do it." Ken ordered closing his eyes he saw Jun's jet take a fatal dive in his imagination.

I'm coming Jun...he mentally cried out to her.

* * * *

Joe took the initiative again as the battle reached a stalemate, this time he dove for its underbelly region. He'd already established that Mekandor was in charge of this attack when he spotted him on the deck just before he saved Dr.Nambu from his impending attack on the ground.

"Ahhh haaaa" Joe cheered confidently." I got it in the bag...." His joy lasted seconds when it repaired itself automatically. "Shit." He breathed becoming more agitated as they all watched it become whole again.

"Whoever designed this mecha knew what he was doing." Jun said impressed by it, yet at the same time a feeling of dread washed over her. How in the world will they be able to defeat it she thought wildly.

"This is a problem." Ryu said in his usual casual tone.

"No joke Owl." Jinpei's sarcasm was met with silence from the Owl.

In horror they all watched as the Panther demolished a near by office block and then it turned to resume its attack on the four members of the Science Ninja Team. Each time they damaged it, it repaired itself. If it wasn't an invention from Galactor meant to bring about death and destruction Jun would have admired the genius in its engineering.

"That damn thing isn't going to get the best of me!" Joe growled. "I'm going in again and the rest of you give it everything you have left."

She began to wonder what in the world he had in mind.

"Joe, what's going on...exactly?" She asked concerned.

"I'm going to ram this plane into its mouth, hang tight Jun." Joe's determination to commit suicide sent her anxiety levels up higher.

"Joe..." She yelled angrily, then she stopped talking, knowing no matter what she said he'd do it anyway.

"If I don't make it Jun...I just want you to know...." His voice dropped off. "Just finish the mission." He finally said.

Jun watched him close in on his final target, at the last possible second he swerved. Looking up she saw the reason why- G-1 was approaching the battle at high speed.

"Let's form up the Gatchasparten team," He said through the intercom.

Jun followed the order without hesitation along with the rest of the team.

She felt her heart drop to the floor when Ken didn't even come to bridge as he took his placed on top of the ship to fire up the hypershoot.

Ryu automatically set the course towards the Panther with Ken slicing off its arm.

"We already tried something like that." Jon informed him." See it just repairs itself."

"Then we go in head first." Ken ordered. And again Ryu headed straight for the monsters giant opened mouth.

The Hypershoot sliced the Panther in half, making it unable to repair itself.

"We did it!" Jinpei jumped with glee as the wreckage feel from the sky into the canyon below.

They all saw the escape pod that headed off into the blue sky faster than they could respond to it.

"Mekandor got away." Jinpei said- voicing the disappointment they all shared.

Ryu did a by pass of the Lab landing bay to see if Dr.Nambu was okay. He stood their waving to them to land.

It was then that Jun saw the other pod leaving at the very last minute before the wreckage came crashing to the ground in one final explosion. The pod appeared to be damaged and it crash landed not far from it deep in the canyon.

"Ryu get down there." She said standing up from her station. "Another escape pod is down there."

"So what..." Joe said smiling still chuffed at their recent victory." It's likely to be just a lucky goon- we'll deal with him soon. Dr.Nambu has just ordered us to land and so has Ken."

Jun couldn't take her eyes off the other escape pod. The mecha continued to explode in places as it's settled in its last throw's of death on the canyon floor.

Pressing the button that began the sequence of the ship separating into their individual vehicles she ignored the surprised expressions on the rest of the team's faces.

"What are you doing?" Joe asked suspiciously.

"I'm going down there to check out that pod that's what I'm doing, the rest of you can go and meet up with Dr. Nambu." She said as the ship started to come apart. Ken was still standing on the G-1 and from what she saw in an instant before she headed towards the canyon was Ken jumping back into the cockpit.

She flew over the wreckage surveying the area for the pod. In the distance she saw the hatch open and a goon jump out and he began trying to run as fast as he could in the opposite direction. He appeared to be injured because he was limping.

Jun landed her vehicle and jumped out and ran after him. "Wait, I'm here to help you." She called out, but he kept running.

She picked up a discarded Galactor mask as he disappeared around a rock, really he didn't have any place to go, and she knew she's easily catch up to him.

"Stay away from me I can look after myself." The goon shouted back, she knew that voice.

"Wait!" Jun picked up her pace and but when she rounded the rock she was met with a gun pointed in her direction with Matt wild eyed and panting heavily from the efforts of his narrow escape.

"Matt." She gasped. "Matt put down the gun its me..."

"Who, ahhh I know G-3 the Swan, but you're not taking me back to some base where I can't leave because I'm under arrest...so I'm getting up and you're going to leave." He said steadying his hand on the gun. 

"It's me Jun...You're not going to be arrested, please you can trust me." She took a slow step forward.
Matts face turned into confusion- like it hadn't registered that she knew his name. Without any further hesitation she pulled off her helmet allowing her long black to fall loosely around her shoulders.
Matt's jaw dropped- along with the gun from his fingers, she could see the surprise registering on his face. "Jun?" He said trying to take in this new piece of information.
"Long story, but yeah it's me alright, this is what I do for a living." She smiled trying to lighten it up a bit.
Ken walked up behind her cocking an eyebrow. "This is Matt Butler? Galactor green isn't really his colour."
"I don't think it suits him either," Jun agreed with a slight twinging of her lips into a half smile. "Matt this is Ken Washio..." Ken did the same as Jun and removed his helmet.

"Pleasure to meet you..." Ken said studying Matt intently.
"I know those eyes and that expression." Matt said smiling as he came slowly to his feet at the irony of it all.

"Well I'll be damned...You're Dyami's parents, this is why..." Matt's soft blue eyes became distant, and then he turned away from them his voice cracked from the pain he in his heart and the truth behind his son's heritage. "And we failed to keep him away from Galactor- after all you tried to do."
"We're not really his parents any more in the way you Matt and Natasha are. And how could you have known the burden we placed on you." Jun walked over and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"She's right Matt- do you have any idea where Natasha and Dyami are?" Ken asked exchanging concerned looks with Jun. Matt turned around to face Jun- he looked drawn and older in that moment.
"I got some information just before we launched. Only a location nothing more....and they're okay...alive at least." He confessed hope flinting into his eyes he held up a small disk.
Jun looked over her shoulder to be see the rest of the team standing behind them unmasked. Matt's eyes went wide once more.
"That's right, you've met each of us at different times, but you know that's why they call us Ninja's" Jinpei grinned.
"Well, what are we standing around for, don't we have a rescue mission to go on." Ken said urgently putting his helmet back on, he snatched the disk out of Matt's hand and he turned to run towards his Eagle sharp.
Matt halted him." I'm going with you."
"That's out of the question, you're staying here with Dr.Nambu, and you can wait for us back at our base." Ken said in his don't-argue-with-me tone.
"No way, this is my wife and son Gatchaman and I say I'm going." Matt insisted.
Ken's facial features instantly tensed up." We don't have time for this- you'll only hinder us Matt... You'll only get in the way and that's the last thing we need right now."
Matt's grimace and body language matched the one forming on Ken's features. "No I won't be staying behind, I saw some fighter jets up there on the landing bay, I'll take one and follow you if I have too, I'm not taking a no for an answer-"
Jun watched as Ken's closed fist closed and opened like he wanted to strike him.

Instead Ken's tone became more enraged.  "Listen to me Matt, I won't let you go with us, don't you see, we chose Dyami to be with you because our lives are constantly on the line, he need a father, he needs you to be here waiting..."

"He needs me to be out there looking for him, not sitting in a room being safe." Matt moved in closer, the tension between them intensified to an alarming degree.

"If I have to knock you out and drag you back there then I will Matt." Ken's voiced lowered to a dangerously calm level. "Do you know what its like to live without a father? I want to know what happened to him for most of your life because one day he disappeared...I won't have you do that Dyami."

They engaged in a silent war of attrition for what felt like eternity.

"I'm not staying behind, nor do I plan to die soon, so let's get going Ken the Eagle, we have a job to do." Matt pushed passed him and began walking towards Jun's G-3 machine.

"Stubborn bastard..." Joe's smile became a sly grin. "It looks like you lose Ken."

Ken gave Joe a murderous glare before he walked quickly after Matt and halted him in his tracks with a firm grasp on his shoulder.

Matt spun around anticipating a blow from Ken that never came. "Is that how you lead your team Gatchaman?" Matt's face h. "Pushing them around when you don't get your own way... I have right to find my son." Matt fumed. Jun could see this was about to get messy if the argument continued so she decided to take matters into her own hands.
"Matt, you're coming with me." She piped up walking over fast and taking his arm and pulling the two of them further apart least they end up in a real fight from the growing amount of tension.
Joe rolled his eyes and the edges of his lips curled up into a lopsided smirk. "A good punch once in a while doesn't hurt, relieves tension and gets things out in the open..."
However his eyes gave away his real feelings about what just happened. Ken was losing it bit by bit.
"Joe, shut up your not helping." She said placing her hands on her hips and shot him a murderous gaze to match the one she gave Ken.
"Get to you vehicles when we're in the air we'll form up the Gatchasparten....got it." Ken ordered through clenched teeth and his fiery blue eyes he turned on Matt but he spoke to her with a disapproving finger pointed at eye level. "Don't make me regret this Jun."

Chapter 28 by Ebonyswanne

Without any further hesitation Matt followed her to the G-3 mecha, just as she began to lift off he asked. "Is that how he treats you?"

"There's more to it than what you just saw Matt, Ken wasn't always that hot tempered and out of control." Jun defended him.


Matt spoke more carefully, "I suppose there is an explanation."

"We'll talk about it later and I'll fill you in." She said softly, she was worried, Ken would need some rest badly after using the hypershoot, instead they were going on a another mission with him leading them and then he lost it totally at Matt when could have been more compassionate. Why? She thought. It angered and saddened her at the same time to see him lose control to that degree.

 

When they finally formed up the Gatchasparten Jun noticed Ken had gone very quiet, he didn't even look at Matt or her and stayed seated at his station on board the ship. Occasionally on the way to the location on the disk Ain River Castle he spoke only to deliver a few orders in a flat tone. From staring at the back of his helmet she couldn't read his face, and she needed to know why he lashed out like he did.

Matt spent part of the flight starring at the interior of the famous bridge of the Gatchasparten- every now and then she caught a haunted look cross his face. She figured he was trying not to worry too much and was focusing on staying positive.
"Its insight, shall we scoot around it and check for any resistance?" Joe asked turning in his seat to wait for the approval from Ken. Ken only nodded and looked over at Ryu.

"Got it boss." Ryu's lighter tone didn't hide the discomfort they were all feeling at the change in Ken and his attack on Dyami's adoptive father.

"What are they playing at, where are they hiding." Joe's distrust of Galactor was founded. Not a guard in sight at the prison.

"That's very odd." Ken agreed the mystery of it brought him out of his sombre mood for a few minutes.

"We'll land a short distance away, and then approach it in our usual stealth manner. Keep frosty team they might have known we were coming." He said evenly as Ryu began to land the ship in an area protected by high cliff faces. Ryu set the ship to land with autopilot so they could all make the jump.

"Joe, you and I will take Matt between us when we jump." Ken said looking at Matt for the first time since he punched him unprovoked.
Matt acknowledged him silently and the six of them ran up to the top of the Gatchasparten to leap from the top onto the top of the cliff face.

Landing softly on the grass they all began to head towards the walled castle prison looking for an entrance inside.

Ryu indicated he found an old servants door on the far wall. Joe used his gun to blast the latch and Jinpei dashed in to check out the area.

"Wow, someone got here before us, and it looks like it was a few days ago at least." He said as they all walked in to join him.

A few dead goons that had begun to smell of dead bodies confirmed his conclusion of a few days at least.

"We'll work better if we split up, Jinpei, Ryu- check the lower levels for anything you can find.
"Joe, take care of the middle section and Jun and Matt, you're coming with me, we'll have a look at the top level and see what we can find." Ken's said in his usual commander's voice.

They took their time going from cell to cell with the same results. "None of these look like they've been occupied for centuries." Matt said glancing into another across the hall not even trying to hide his frustration.

"Wait, did you hear that." Ken said his sharp eyes turned to further down the hall. "I thought I heard someone...weeping."

"I don't hear anything." Jun confessed stretching her ears to try and pick up the sound.
Matt looked to concentrating on hearing it too.

Ken began to run up the hall, Jun and Matt exchanged glances." He's usually right in these sorts of things." She said hurrying behind him she heard the grating sound of door opening.

Ken stood looking back at them he walked slowly into the cell.

The smell of damp hay and human waste greeted her when she joined Ken, then her eyes fell on the woman hunched in the corner. Her long hair dull and lifeless with bits of straw hanging from it she looked weary and ill.

"Natasha." Matt a wave of relief washed over him. He crouched down next to her and gently pushed back her hair so he could see her face.

Natasha stared at him blankly and for an instant she didn't' appear to recognise him. When it dawned on her he was real and looking into her eyes expectantly she threw her arms around his neck, burying her face into his shoulder sobbing uncontrollably.
Matt did his best to try and calm her down, and make sense of the words that came tumbling out of mouth.

"Dyami's gone." Matt murmured- his alarmed eyes met Ken and Jun's. "Dyami's not here."

"Are you sure?" Ken asked walking towards her." They might have taken him to another part of the castle-"

Natasha shook her head wildly her haunted eyes looked into her husbands as she explained the events of the past few days. "After they left I went looking for him everywhere...I searched...and found nothing. Some goons came one night and woke us, they drugged me and stole him...then Kempeler came back her with his men and they took the other prisoner, I think his name was Kaseru. Kempeler told me rushing past I was stay here because you were coming for me...I...thought he lied to me and...you were really dead along with Dyami."

Her eyes became desperate. "We have to find him Matt...we have to...he must be scared and alone where ever he is, what if..." She put a fearful hand over her mouth, when the worst kind of thoughts must have entered her mind about the fate of her son and she looked like she was about to be sick. "People like those who work for Galactor would probably sell children...oh my god, what could they be doing to him."

"We have to get you back to safety." Ken said looking at Jun seriously. "We need to see what intelligence has on new bases, its likely they would have taken him to one of them, and Natasha needs medical help."

He sounded more like the Ken she knew in that last statement, the one who cared about the people around him and wouldn't harm them no matter how he felt.

"I'm fine, just a little....dirty, makes me look worse. What can we do to help?" She asked trying to stand up only to have her husband lay a gentle hand on her slim shoulders to prevent her from moving. Then she proceeded to fill them in on what she thought Kempeler was likely to be up to.

"Stay alive and be here for Dyami, he needs his parents....he needs you." Ken's voice went low when he repeated what he had said to Matt earlier on. Jun didn't miss the underlying pain there, his face darkened in deep thought. "No, we can't take them there- we need somewhere where Galactor won't find them this time and someone we can trust...They won't be able to find them at the base."

"Joe, Ryu and Jinpei, what have you found anything yet?" Ken said into his bracelet urgently. Then he filled them in on what they had just discovered.

"Nothing but more dead goons, he really didn't want to leave anyone behind who wasn't going with him, if Natasha's right, then it could work to our advantage if Galactor falls into turmoil right now." Condor Joe sounded very pleased with that idea.

"Same with us big bro, nothing that indicates we'd find a secret base here," Ryu replied.

"Yeah, I like that idea as well- the problem face is what have they done with Dyami?" Ken's tone became very controlled echoing Jun's thoughts.

Matt's lips drew a tight straight line. "I can fly a fighter jet- we'll get Natasha to safety and then-"

"Matt you haven't flown one in years! It's not like it was when we were twenty years old." Natasha's voice became fearful like the idea of him flying dragged up painful memories.

"Didn't you hear what I said?" Ken stepped forward and Matt stood up to his full height.

"Are you going to punch me again, to make me do as I'm told?" Matt's voice challenged Ken.
"I...No...I was wrong to do that Matt, and you have every right to think poorly of me for it, It won't happen again." Ken's said apologetically.

Matt didn't respond, his eyes said he didn't completely trust Ken. Natasha looked on with a raised eyebrow. "What's going on?"

Ken and Jun exchanged glances, "We have something to tell you. Matt just found a short while ago." Then Jun lifted her helmet along with Ken.

Natasha gasped in surprise when her eyes fell on Jun putting her fingers over her lips. "I don't know what to say." Then her eyes fell on Ken and went wider. "Why do I feel like I'm look at my son in many years to come- Like someone just gave me a premonition of his future."

"I hope not, this war will be all over by then-I hope." Jun said- Ken nodded agreeing with her.
"We'll have time to talk about all this later, let's get moving." Ken ordered. Matt picked up Natasha into his arms.

She snuggled her face into his shoulder and wrapped her arms around his neck as he crossed the threshold of the doorway. "You haven't carried my like this since we were newly weds."

"I'm not that old you know a bad leg won't stop me from showing how much I love you." His voice full of emotion he kissed her hair. "I thought I'd never see you again....and..."His voice catching in his throat. " "He's alive Tash let's hold onto that..."
"We have to hurry, I'll have Ryu bring the Gatchasparten up to the roof top, its closer so we won't have to walk as far." Ken looked back at Jun who watched him with a raised eyebrow.

"So, what your plan, do have a safe house in mind?" Jun queried.

"Yes I do- one that Galactor won't give a second thought to and his wife is even a trained doctor, he's an old friend, and a man I'd trust with my life." Ken didn't say any more as he ran ahead of them to find a door that lead to the rooftop.

Chapter 29 by Ebonyswanne

They pulled up in front of a neat white rendered house on the outskirts of the city of Robat had a modest but spacious appearance about it. Native plants lined the driveway and filled the neat gardens around the front of the house and long driveway.

Now in civilian uniform Jun, Ken and Joe approached the house and casually walked up to the front door and knocked.

"I hope he's home, sometimes they go for short trips to villages that needs a doctor." Ken sounded hopeful. The sound of footsteps confirmed someone was home.

A young boy who looked to be around twelve with rich dark skin wiry curly hair short cropped hair and deep brown eyes answered the door, his eyes widened with excitement when he saw his visitor." Ken! Its been almost a year since you last visited us...slacko, we have a game of chess to finish remember its all there waiting for us in the games room."

Ken smiled warmly at the young boy, "Cheikh, its been to long, I just got busy that's all. I'm looking forward to finishing the game, but I can't do it today."

Cheikh waved a disapproving finger at Ken. "Excuses, excuses....I'll go and get dad he's in his lab as usual...come in." For the first time he noticed Ken had company, for a second his eyes narrowed to distrust. Ken knew why the time he spent with the rebel army had left its scars. "Since they're with you I'll let them through the door."

"Do want to explain who these people are?" Jun said, Ken hadn't said really anything about them to her. Before he could answer a tall confident dark African man stepped through door with a welcoming smile when he laid eyes on Ken.

"Well look what the cat dragged in." He laughed his sharp black eyes washed over all of their faces, when his eyes fell on her they softened and he slightly smiled. "And I see you brought some friends wit ya..."

"This isn't a social call Jafaru." Ken's face stayed serious even though he greeted his friend with a friendly handshake.

"Figured dat from the way you're standing around in the foyer, next time we'll have a beer and go over old times." Jafaru nodded. "Ya know he helps himself to ma fridge when he walks through mah door, you'd think he hadn't eaten in weeks! So, what can I do for you?" He asked.

"I need a safe house...for some friends who are very special to me, and they need to be protected by you here." Ken said.

Jafaru's smile dropped." They in some kinda trouble?"


"You could say that, what's important is that they keep a low profile. Especially from Galactor" Ken said and waited. "They're son is missing...We're going to find him, and then bring him here too. If you say no I'll understand, after all you have to look out for your own family first."

Jafaru's face became even more understanding. "I see...if they're that important to ya, then I'm your man Ken after what you did for my own son...I owe you till the day I die." Jafaru said passionately then he caught Jun's confused expression and smiled at her again like he knew her, even though they'd never met before.

"You owe me nothing Jafaru, except a beer on arrival as always...and a meal." Ken's smile lit up.

 

They made light conversation for a few more minutes, Jafaru referred to some memory from times when she would have been alone and pregnant in Utoland.

"A few years back I needed someone to help me find my son Cheikh, he was stolen by rebels to be a soldier in their army...What they did him," Jafaru frowned and his eyes darkened at the painful memory. "I'll never forget....thought I'd never see my boy again. And that's he'd never recover from the abuse. But Ken, he helped me when he didn't have to, he could have gone home months before but he stayed with me. He's a good man." Jafaru clasped his hand on Ken's shoulder, and stole a glance in her direction.


Ken's cheeks reddened with embarrassment. "Jafaru, I did what I had to do, how could I just leave you like that, you'd have gotten yourself killed and then Aziza would have had to find another husband. I just saved her the trouble." Ken grinned trying to hide it with humour.

"Natasha needs a doctor, is Aziza here?" Ken asked looking down the hall and avoiding anything personally to do with him.


"Yep, she's taking a nap, our baby's kept her up all night again, but its okay, I'm sure she'll want to help her." Jafaru reassured him.

"I know she's a beautiful woman Jafaru, you're a lucky man to have such a great family." Ken said sincerely.

"I know, and I'm thankful for it everyday, now go and get your friends and I'll make sure the guest room is ready...oh better tell my wife we have company." He grinned. "I like throwing the odd surprise on her...keeps her on her toes."

"I'm sure she hates it too, we'll be back within the hour." Ken said.

Once they'd stepped outside Joe walked alongside both Ken and Jun and looked back over his shoulder. "So that's the guy you were with when I chased you across Africa."

"Yeah that's Jafaru." Ken said smiling warmly again. "He's a great guy, and we became good friends afterwards."

"That's why you stayed away so long..." She gasped looking at him with new eyes. How angry she was during that time with him, and yet all that time she forgave him for not being there, and all that time he was helping a desperate man find his son, she had been so determined to bear the burden alone thinking Ken only cared about duty and what the ISO called him to do.

"Yes, I couldn't leave him alone Jun, he needed me to help him find his son, how could just walk away from him and send him off alone...but if I'd known." Ken left it hanging.

Joe was the one who answered. "Lets face it Ken, if you knew about Jun being pregnant you still would have helped Jafaru, it's in your nature."

Ken went silent into deep thought about it once more. "You're right Joe, I'm bound by duty, it's all my life has ever really been about...Its not that I regret it, I love to help people and make the world a safer place to live...just how it is." He sighed heavily. "Lets get back to the ship and let them know its all clear for them to stay here."

"Thank god Natasha talked some sense into Matt." Joe added. "Though I can understand his need for revenge. After all they made him build that mecha in exchange for their lives. "

"Fighting about it didn't work that's for sure." Jun didn't keep the disapproval from her voice and in that instant Ken flinched like she slapped him again. She knew that thought must have gone through his mind during that argument. Lucky he didn't follow through with it.

Joe started up the hire car and they drove back to the waiting Gatchasparten in silence.


Chapter 30 by Ebonyswanne

Jun knew she was still angry with Ken over his recent behaviour, even at the cafeteria a few hours earlier while they all sat down and ate she still couldn't shake it entirely. Even with Jinpei's mopping over leaving his latest girlfriend and he sat miserably playing with his food didn't distract her from stealing glances in Ken's direction to sent subconscious resounding vibes about not being happy with him.

Joe leaned in closer and in a low voice said. "You can stop the glares now Jun I think he's got the message."

"No he hasn't, you wait until the next mission." She whispered back harshly. "Then he'll be back up there trying to kill himself again."

Wordlessly Ken's deliberate actions spoke for him. He bolted up right out of his seat, picked up his plate and tray and moved over to another table away from all of them.

"I don't think he likes the whispering you two...he's getting it I think Jun." Ryu said in is usual nonchalant tone.

"I don't care if he hates us whispering- I hope he gets the message." Jun said a little louder.

After she said that Ken stood up, his back straight and his lips drawn in a tight line, slowly he turned his head to look at her with piercing blue eyes. This time he walked over to the return's table and left his half finished meal and strolled out of the cafeteria.

"Happy now?" Ryu said standing up to go and get more food.

Jinpei didn't even look like he was paying any attention to the scene that just unfolded before him.

"I think he got the message Jun, loud and clear." Joe relaxed back into his chair.

They'd only run one mission since they left Matt and Natasha with Jafaru. And they didn't get any closer to finding Dyami, at the last base Ken commented on how the bases all looked the same these days, making it harder to tell from recent surveillance footage which base was the one an agent who sent quickly through some information before he was caught about some experiments being conducted on some small children from.

When Jun read the hazy report she felt her stomach tighten and she became queasy from it, could Dyami be one of the little kids? If so was he still alive.

"It's been a long day Joe ...and a long war." Jun let out a long breath. "I'm so scared of what we'll find if we ever find Dyami, and then Ken keeps using the hypershoot despite being told the new treatment isn't working as well as we thought it would. Why won't he listen?"

"You know why Jun, you always have known. To some degree we are driven by the same thing-the desire to end the war forever against Galactor. My own problem is that when its done....there'll be no use for me a cyborg." Joe stood up with a distant look on his rugged features.

"You have us Joe, don't forget that." Jun reassured him.

Joe acknowledged her, and then left the cafeteria.

For the first time a sad dismal swallow looked up from his plate. "I'll be fine here Sis, I'll wait for Ryu and keep him company."

Taking her leave Jun decided to head back to her quarters for some time out to relax and try and tune out for at least until the next morning.

Opening her door she was surprised to see Ken sitting on her couch in the small living room. Looking at some of the self help books she had hidden under the coffee table.

"Does this stuff work?" He asked softly starring at the opened book in front of him with unshed tears in his eyes...his voice heavy with emotion. "Does it make you forget about me? Forget there was ever anything between us ever? How to make it not hurt so much to be close to you but I can't touch you or just be with you in the way I long to be with you."

Jun didn't comment she simply walked towards her bedroom, stopping in the doorway, she knew how he felt she just couldn't bring herself to go there.

Steadying her voice she said. "You're welcome to borrow the book if it interests you."

Ken pursed his lips hard and began to shake his head in slowly as he came to his feet. The evident pain in voice pulled at her heart and echoed her own.

"I doubt there is anything in this book that would do it...I've tried hard Jun to put it all in the past..." Ken pleaded.

"What do you want Ken..." She leaned against the opened door frame letting out a deep sigh to cover the build of emotions she felt but wanted to deny.

"What I've wanted all along and dared not to because so much has stood in the way...even in peace time...something lay in wake to pull us apart...I know you're still angry with me Jun, why don't we talk about it." Ken's inner emotions tethered on the edge of spilling over like he wanted to reign them in yet he couldn't any longer.

Jun felt her heart begin to beat faster from the conflicting emotions stirring up inside of her. He had an effect on her like no other man making her want to lash out at him for just being here. "Yes I'm angry with you, how could I not be, sure you say you wanted me back then but you had a lousy way of showing it...and yet how could I be angry with you for helping Jafaru save his son...I...would have sent you off myself if I knew about it...I can't but I want to hate you for it, and yet I feel so selfish because deep down I wanted you to choose me every time over a mission. Can you see the conflict here..."

Ken drew in a deep breath before he began to speak again. "I know why...because deep down we're alike, we care more about the world we live in than we do about our own dreams and personal needs. We're both willing to give it all, sacrifice it to make it better for the average person who can't defend themselves. Jun you gave up Dyami because deep in your heart you knew we'd be called up again for action and you didn't want to be left behind...Our dream is to save the world and make it safer for people like Jafaru and the Butlers, its one we share together, live it together..." His voice softened to barely a whisper..."We'll die for it together...do you remember the promise from our very first mission together?"

"It sounds so noble to put it like that so why have I been screaming inside of me for something else to live for...To have a normal life." Jun couldn't contain it any longer. "Explain that to me Gatchaman."

His eyes became confused for a second. "Ken...you never call me Gatchaman even when we're on duty." He corrected her.

"I just did so live with it." Jun blurted out. "You want to talk as a commander to me or as my..." she hesitated when the word ‘lover' came close to following. Her frustration and anger towards him threatened to overflow at that near slip up.

Ken came in close to her. "Do it then." He ordered his chest heaving from the rising heat between them.

"Do what?" Jun said looking at him in confusion.

"Slap me again and get it out of your system. Why not, I've done it you." His tone stepped up an octave. His passionate darkened blue eyes sent waves of longing through her.

"Yes in the line of duty, over disobedience. But you wouldn't just to control me Ken." Jun's anger turned to astonishment, stumped by this request continued to stare at him wide eyed. "I'm not like you- I don't slap other team members because I'm angry with them."

"You did a few days ago." He pointed out to her challenging her with his eyes and his stance, the tension between them hadn't eased at all.

"That was an exception- you're the only person in the world who can make me that angry..." Jun rebuked loudly, still ignoring his request. Yet not moving away from him, wanting his touch wanting to smack him for it yet denying her yearning for it at the same time.

"Didn't-you-hear-me." He said in a dangerously low irate voice.

"If it'll make you happy," she said pursing her lips hard together and drawing up her hand to strike him even harder this time, as her hand came down he caught her arm his strong grip mid air.

She felt the static between them as his chest rose up and down from the heated growing tension between became magnetic. In slow motion his lips touched hers tenderly. The touch of his warm moist lips on hers melting her inside and she gave into their gentle yet yearning touch without any further resistance. His kiss deepened with his desire and she fell more under his spell and anything outside of this moment faded away. When he finally released her, he cradled her limp body snugly into his arms starring longingly into her eyes. Jun slowly snaked her arms around his neck and wove her fingers through his thick dark hair and kissed him again, beckoning him to follow through with his obvious intentions.

What happened next felt as natural as breathing when they stumbled backwards into her bedroom and began stripping off clothes without a second thought to anything but the need to be with each other and feel the warm of bare skin in the most intimate way possible? She giggled and so did he when his belt became stuck and his jeans became tighter because of his desire for her adding lightness to the moment bringing them closer together just like in days gone by. She ached to feel the warmth of his taught toned body against hers, she needed him to be inside of her, and she told him so in subtle whispers and caresses.  It had been a long time since Jun had felt his touch yet he knew how to please her and make her call out for more, and he did what she asked of him, beads of sweat dripping of their bodies from the energy of their desires, igniting the passionate love that lay unspoken for long between them.

Later on it felt like a dream, yet she knew it had been real and stored in her memory for times later when she needed something to cling to.

When they finally exhausted themselves from making love for the first time in years Jun rolled of the top of him to snuggle under his arm and casually she laid a leg over his.

Ken lay still for a few moments with his eyes closed and his face had become pale. Drawing ragged shallow breaths. Starring into his face she felt like she'd been here before, then a vision of the dreams she had a beginning of the war flooded back. Ken lying on a white bed looking like death...just like he did in that moment.

"I can feel your eyes boring into me." Ken's facial muscles flinched as he opened his eyes. In the soft light of the room they looked like glittering sapphires.

She pushed herself up enough to reach his lips for a soft kiss. "I just wanted to know what's on your mind."

"It's racing at hundred miles an hour, I'm not impulsive type of guy...but you're so hot when you're angry like that." He smirked lightly.

"I'm glad you think so, then again I'd hate to have to be cranky all the time to get your attention and want to make love to me." She said letting out a small approving laugh.

"Too true," He said, his eyes became more serious after a few minutes." Jun, I can't promise you a tomorrow or a future...I don't know if I have a tomorrow or a future."

She looked down to his her anguish in the truth of his words and ran her nails along his chest." I know you can't, so don't promise me anything beyond now...we can be lovers with no commitment to each other..."

"I know you want more than that, you deserve it Jun, you deserve someone more than I am...I shouldn't have-" Jun pressed her finger against his lips to stop the words of regret she knew would follow.

"I could have stopped you, yet I wanted you to make love to me Ken, badly...so no noble words like "I shouldn't have taken advantage of you. I'm not good enough for you.' You wanted me too...enough to put your noble pride and dedication to duty aside for one day."

He didn't disagree with that, and for a while they just talked about trivial things, touching each other like they were exploring for the first time. The lingering sweet smell in the air reminded her of what had taken place a short while ago between them.

The thought of the illness and the cause that threatened to take him away from her forever played on her mind while they talked. "What's it like to slice through a mecha Ken...holding the hypershoot in your hands." She asked while he ran his fingers through her long hair and drew her closer to him wrapping a leg around her as if to claim her again for himself.

"Powerful..." He answered smiling broadly. Then he looked into her eyes and the smile fell from his lips his voice became. "Sometimes for hours afterwards I can still feel the weight of it in my hands, my finger still wrapped around it gripping it tightly....and the burning sensation of the heat radiating from the laser and the fire ignites inside of me...I have dreams when I'm burning up in the heat...all I want is to see your face one last and say goodbye...I see you, when I'm using the hypershoot I pour all the passion I have for you into making it work..."

Jun felt hot tears begin to fall down onto her cheeks while he spoke with such haunting words. Ken cupped her face with his large hands and wiped away her tears, drawing her closer he kissed her closed eyes as if he could stop the flow of more falling from her eyes.

One day at time, one moment at time its all we have she thought.

Ken pleaded with her. "Don't cry Jun...please not now, I want this to be a happy moment for us...we've had far to many painful ones."

"I love you..." Ken's said softly. "Just in case I don't get to tell you tomorrow."

"I love you too...No more tears today..." She promised. Ken weakened by the energy of their earlier exertions Jun lead the way this time to making the short time they had together memorable as they began to once more be lost in the pleasure of each others touch as they made love again slower but no less passionate than earlier.

* * *  *

Ken woke to sound of his bracelet beeping- the weight of Jun's arm over his brought a smile to his lips. It was real, not a sweet pleasant dream. He thought. Casually he ran he stroked her long messy hair, his smile widened when he realized he played a part in messing it up- A small glimpse of happiness in a depressing war.

"Ken here," He said trying to shake the sleep from his brain. Jun began to stir shifting her body so she could listen.

"I need you to report to new space Observatory located at the North Pole immediately, I'm notifying the rest of the team and you'll get your instructions in flight." Kamo ordered.

Jun's bracelet began to beep, bringing it to her lips Ken moved his hands lower making her giggle. "Stop that Ken, I have to be serious." She playfully scolded him.

"Yeah, I know...this is our secret." He reluctantly moved his hand.

"On my way Kamo." She responded to him.

"We have to keep this to ourselves Jun...for now." Ken pulled on his clothes fast and so did Jun.

"I figured that would be the case, Ken..." Jun's tone halted him she had to get it while she had the chance. "If...if something happens again....like a baby, I promise you'll know the moment I do."

Ken's face became sober, and he placed a hand affectionately onto her shoulder." I know you will, I trust you."

They both ran out of her quarters unaware of the Condor further down the hall and the anguish that crossed his face when he realized Ken could have only been there that long for one reason alone. The affectionate embrace they shared just outside of the door indicated that things had changed between them and it was likely their rocky relationship was finally on the mend. Accepting he would never be with Jun at last he followed silently behind them, resolving to move on and find a way to forget he ever had deep feelings for her that had turned into love a few years ago.

 

Chapter 31 by Ebonyswanne

"Kempeler, surrender now and hand over your false Count Egobossler to me, and I'll make it a quick death for you." Mekandor's booming voice echoed throughout the icy plain of the North Pole towards the rebel army.

Kempeler brought a curled hand to his mouth as he shouted back to his rival. "You're a piece of work Mekandor- do you think anyone believes Erun's lies and deception any more? Except it disrupted your own plans to have him demoted by My Lord Kaseru. My lord, the real Count Egobossler Kaseru has only taken back what truly belongs to him, nothing less and nothing more. It's you who should be afraid. Why should we give you back a traitor?"

"Stop this medieval bantering it's getting on my nerves." Kaseru scoffed standing next to him hugging his arms to his body shivering. "He's nothing more than a bag of defeated wind and knows it, my orders are to get rid of and then inform Galactor of its new leadership."

Kempler worked to have patience with this spoilt Count, he learned early after rescuing he liked to have it all his way even when he had his brother gagged and bound and out of the way in a safe place. Kaseru didn't want to listen to advice from his years of experience so he went over his spiel carefully. "My Lord, that bag of defeat wind still has a large portion of Galactor loyal to your brother we have to defeat him but also convince the goons-"

"I think they'll change their minds fast when they see how good I am at leading an army, get on with it Kempeler... they don't look all that intelligent so I don't know what you're worried about. We go back to Egobossler estate tonight Kempeler, I have so much to do." Kaseru frowned and stomped off through the snow to his makeshift war tent.

Damn spoilt brat will get us all killed. Kempeler thought. He didn't even give him the grace to help Natasha at least get to safety. "She's no use to us, why bother with a nobody? And the kids a brat, I don't like small children hanging around. He screamed so loudly one night I didn't get a wink of sleep." Kaseru said in a condescending tone.

Pulling out a cigar and lighting it he thought about her and his long dead wife. For the first time in twenty years it dawned on him he could have handled it differently with his beloved wife. Deep in his hardened heart he knew with her he tried to make amends for his sins. A fleeting thought raced through his mind, the man he once was would have wanted to see an end to an organisation like Galactor. Closing his eyes he asked her for forgiveness, he would use Kaseru to bring about the end of it all.

Could a man like him full of hate and pain change and become better and begin to heal? Kempeler knew inside of him it was the truth he longed for. The truth he ran from only to find it standing in an icy cold barren place in the middle of an impending battle outnumbered following a young man demanding to be a leader when he no skills for it. He hated to admit it- the bastard son Erun Egobossler was more qualified for the job than his legitimate born brother.

 * * * *

Mekandor's grin spread from ear to ear, hidden by his thick bushy black beard when a goon handed him a piece of paper telling him Erun's location. "That outta keep him occupied, there is no way in the world I'll follow that little brat and Kempeler. I'm going to me self a real leader...Men, lets go and free him so he can take care of these pests himself. I wouldn't want to deny him the pleasure of killing both of them."

The goon grinned stupidly, agreeing with his every word.

"Then move it, we don't have a minute waste get me to my transport..." Mekandor bellowed turning to run to make haste so he could come back and squash his rival with Erun Egobossler's iron fist.

* * * *

Arriving at the space observatory the head scientist Dr. Balentine offered them a tour.

"I know you're here because we reported strange activity and suspected it to be Galactor, we could have been wrong, there appears to be nothing since we called the ISO."

"Stay frosty team." Ken's voice held its usual caution.

Jun agreed immediately to his offer with Ken giving them the all clear to go on the tour. Joe solemnly starred straight ahead with his arms folded under his mantel with his usual unreadable expression.

"First of all I'll take you to see the main telescope, the discoveries we have made in the past couple of weeks are mind blowing." The little man couldn't contain his excitement. "I have permission to share this secret discovery with all of you."

Ken and Jun exchanged curious looks and followed the man into the huge auditorium with ceilings higher than a twelve story building with an enormous telescope planted in the middle of the floor.

"Wow!" Jinpei gasped. "This place is amazing..." Ryu followed his sentiments. Joe reminded quiet and uninterested.

Another man with wispy sliver hair and large black rimmed glasses greeted them with a smile. He spent a few minutes explaining the power of the telescope and the advanced technology they were using to operate it.

"But! This is why we're so excited." He said pointing to a star map up on the wall, his finger landed in a little dot closer to a star. " It's my discovery that came to light after the destruction of the planet Selectoru in the Andromeda Galaxy... I got to name the new planet, we're sending a probe to see if it contains any life...or if it just might sustain Earths first colony of humans...how incredible would that be, a dream come true."

"So what did you call it?" Jinpei piped up wide eyed at the discovery.

"Riga, after my cat." The scientist said proudly grinning from ear to ear. "He's been a loyal cat and deserves a planet named after him."

"Riga, mmm...after the cat." Joe acknowledge with a raised quizzical brow. "I can live with that, what else have you found?"

"We're not sure, its further out than Riga, but it appears to have some potential to have life already on it but its further from a star that could act as a sun. We have already sent a greeting probe, to see if the inhabitants want to make contact with Earth. For now we refer to the planet as Spectra....and we're exploring the other surrounding planets for liveable environments."

Joe, frowned deeply before he spoke again. "Going into the unknown and you want to send a message to say ‘Hi, we're all good down here, wanna be friends.' How stupid is that you don't know what's up there. Its not like we're in a Star Trek movie!"

"Joe, that's no way to speak to him about it." Jun reprimanded him. What has gotten into him? She thought.

"Condor Joe might be right, but its risk we take to move forward." Dr Balentine said.

They all turned at the sound of a guns firing in the distance.

"Team it sounds like that's our call to take some risks lets move, "Ken said anxious to find out what's happening outside.

"Roger..." They all responded running back towards the main doors.

 * * * *

"What the hell is going on here?" Joe's angry yet confused tone matched Jun's own feelings about what was taking place before them.

The battle that they had been thrown into didn't reflect the usual way Galactor operated when the attacked a target.

"Its like we're in the middle of something else, a civil war perhaps." Jun replied. Ken shared her sentiments along with Jinpei and Ryu.

"Then our mission is to protect the base while they fight this out between them, for all we know this might just be the end of Galactor." Ken sounded hopeful.

"So we sacrifice everything for them to implode!" Ryu scoffed in his laid back tone. "Whatta you know...we coulda saved ourselves the trouble."

" Typical of the inconsiderate bastards isn't it." Joe scolded while he basted some more of the goons that stood in his way, powering the G-2 through masses of snow to come flying out the other side with ease.

"I figured it had to come about eventually since Natasha told us he rescued Kaseru...is it the lesser of two evils..."Jinpei levelled a tank that came to close to the Observatory for his liking.

"Are we helping Kempeler or just hindering him?" Ryu asked.

"Who gives a rats rah zoo...its Galactor and they're our enemy and that's all I care about." Joe informed the Owl.

"Stay focused on the mission all of you, if we lose the observatory then our mission is a failure regardless of who's in charge of Galactor at the moment." Ken's steady voice brought the focus back to where it had to be on the mission.

"Roger Ken." Jun replied with a hint of smile coming to her lips. Hearing him taking command in his usual way made her feel safer even in the heat of battle. She missed his cooler composure when they came face to face with the enemy, and for a short moment she had the old Ken back in the pilot's seat once more. For how long she didn't know.

* * *  *

"At last brother, we meet on equal ground." Count Kaseru Egobossler levelled his sword to Erun's heart.

Erun mocked him with his pale grey eyes and he met Kaseru's blade with a clang." We have never been on equal ground...brother."

After that they began their battle for the seat of power with the sounds of clashing steel speaking the hatred that lay between two brothers. Kempeler stood to the side of the battle waiting patiently for the outcome.

Kaseru felt fatigue begin to drain him. Years of being locked up in a cell had worn away at his youth more than he thought. He struggled to maintain his strength to hold off his opponent. A brother he never felt a bond with, yet a worthy opponent even if he wouldn't admit it openly.

The sudden excruciating pain of a steel blade sliding into his body brought Kaseru to his knees. He tried to cry out but the pain stole his voice when Egobossler pulled his sword roughly from his dying body.

"Who's sorry now brother." Erun snarled. Kaseru didn't respond the pain of his wound sapped him of his strength to fight back. The flow of slick blood weakened him.

Kaseru had once led an opulent existence, the memories of his days of glory flashed before his eyes as his body gave way from the fast flow of blood causing him crash ungraciously onto the floor of the Castle he came to claim as his own...

Standing over him holding his bloodied sword in his left black gloved hand Erun stood over him waiting for Kaseru to take his final breath. Kaseru stared into the face of his enemy chilling him to the bone he began to shiver violently- it was like Erun wore a mask to look exactly like him then like in a nightmare it was like his face became distorted by Erun's blue colouring and shock of white hair. Erun's face his face...reflecting his eyes with no remorse to pain he'd caused his brother Erun by his own arrogance. He didn't even have moisture left to spit in his face. Erun's satisfied smile placed the last nail into his coffin as he shrank away from his brother in horror and fear of his own approaching death and drew his last shallow breath left his body.

The world whirled  before him and when the devil came to claim his soul, the last thing he saw was his Erun's cold blue face with his shock of white hair still looming over him... then he fled into eternal darkness towards the flames of his sins to escape him forever.

Egobossler turned his malicious grin onto Kempeler.

"I'm no fool Erun- I'll find a way to kill you just not today." Kempeler spat on the floor as Egobossler took long deliberate strides towards him casually holding his red blood sword slightly ahead of him.

"Coward." Erun hissed. "You came here to take my army and be their leader and steal my title now prove yourself worthy of it."

Kempeler's cocky grin intensified. "I'll fight you to the death Erun, just not today." Then he turned and fled from the room with Count Egobossler running out the door to find he'd already vanished into the dark hallway.

Knowing Kempeler he would have gone back to his traitors to try and find a way to kill him. He let him go so he could enjoy the hunt and make his victory over Kempeler and Kaseru even sweeter. Confident that he could defeat him on any battle field Erun Egobossler walked through the slick blood flowing from his dead brother leaving dark red footprints on the plush white carpet all the way to the mantle containing his brandy. Its time to redecorate the castle anyway... Egobossler thought absently. Pouring a glass he then sat down in a chair and put his boots up to rest his tired feet after a long day he held up the expensive crystal glass to propose a toast.

"To you my brother, at long last...there is only one Count Egobossler inside these walls..." Drawing in the warm amber liquid down his throat he began to laugh loudly...letting it echo through the halls in the direction of the fleeing Kempeler...

* * * *

"I don't get it, where did they all go!" Jinpei's exasperated voice came through the speaker.

"I don't know, but it can't be good, team form up the Gatchasparten we're going to check it out." Ken ordered.

The fight they had ended up the middle of suddenly ceased and the troops withdrew faster than they could imagine. It meant the Observatory was safe but the sudden departure of Galactor mystified them all.

For the next few hours they circled the area only to come up with nothing to explain the sudden withdrawal.

"Dr.Nambu's calling us in...it looks like we have to make tracks to New Jork. Galactor is attacking the city, and there are some orphaned kids in danger." Ken informed them. He looked more exhausted than the rest of them, yet he prevailed, Jun noted. Stubborn as always when it came to duty.

"Lets get moving..." Ryu said turning the ship around, and heading in the direction of New Jork at full speed.

 

Chapter 32 by Ebonyswanne

 

Jun began to wonder when was the last time the team had any time to rest in the last week. She figured they had been on constant high alert for months on end now. They managed to overcome Galactor's attempts to overthrow the city, but the damage Galactor left in its path was immense.

Figuring that was the reason she felt out of breath along with the humid hot day Jun halted in her search for more orphans that had refused to leave the city in the huge abandoned building.

"They aren't in here." She reported to Ken, as the words left her lips Jun caught sight of a small boy with thick dark who could only be about two years old run and trip falling down a few short stairs to another level, and then he bolted upright and kept running towards the door that lead out onto the street.

 Her heart began race, from the way he ran and the dark thick hair he reminded her of Dyami... Could he be him? Forcing her legs to move Jun ran towards the open ignoring Ken's order to return to her G-3 vehicle.

"Jun, respond...where are you?" She could feel his annoyance through her bracelet. "Egobossler's turning his attack back onto the city again-"

"Ken...it's a small boy...he looks like Dyami. I have to find him." She quickly informed him as she raced out the door to see if she could spot him again.  

Ken became silent...Then in a calm voice he began to try and talk to her. "Why would he be here...if Count Egobossler knows about us Jun....no way would he let him go so easily."

"I don't know...he could have done it out of revenge...a little toddler lost in a big city anything could happen  to him...or Dyami escaped." She desperately told him running up the deserted street to try and find the lost little boy again.

How could he have vanished so quickly...Jun you allowed fatigue to make you slow... She scolded herself.

Then she spotted him again, running up an alleyway...she quickly began to pursue him.

"Thomas..." A young girl shouted at the end of the alley.

Jun halted watching a girl of about ten years old scoop him up into her arms and frowning. "Running away isn't fun for either of us silly."

"Sissy." Thomas screamed. "Let go...wanna run...I'm hungry..."

 

Jun's heart sank to floor- tears flooded into her eyes a she struggle regain her composure.

"Wow...it's the Swan from the Science Ninja Team!" The young girl shouted gleefully dragging her brother back down the alley eagerly towards her.

"You have to leave...its not safe here." Jun managed crouching down to his level. "If you go with your sister there will be someone who can give you food with the other kids we evacuated earlier."

"Pretty girl..." He smiled touching her tinted visor and his dark brown eyes widened in delight. "Just like mommy...pretty."

His sister's face fell in deep sadness. "He still doesn't believe they're gone forever... He just thinks they're away for a while but they'll be coming back anytime soon for us...they won't cause they're dead...it's only been two months....feels like forever." Jun knew the heartache she spoke about, she had to deal with Jinpei not long after his own mother died. He didn't believe for a long time that she wasn't coming back. He used to say to Jun that she's on holidays. When they finally came that he realized the truth it shattered him...and he turned to her for comfort. "We're a family now...you and me...you can be my little brother..." She told him. Jinpei smiled briefly through his tears and hugged her even tighter and said. "You bet sis..."

The sound of roaring jet engine compelled her to look up into the sky, Ken hovered over her.

"Ken...it's not him...but these two kids need our help to get out of here." Jun said looking back at little Thomas.

"We'll clear a path Jun, just bring them a few blocks and the military has some transports waiting for more people...its mainly a few strays causing trouble, it looks like it's the last we'll see of Count Egobossler today after all." Ken's flat tone echoed his weakness after using the hypershoot to destroy the water sprout mecha a few hours earlier. He had refused to go back to base since there were so many people needing direction until the authorities arrived in the city to help with the clean up operation. Some buildings had caught fire creating more havoc after the battle had long ended.

"Going there now Ken." Jun said walking the kids as fast as she could in the direction of the transports. Eventually she hoped they would be able to leave so Ken could get a few hours rest before Galactor stuck again.

"We'll leave as soon as you have gotten those kids to safety." Ken's heavily fatigued voice made her worry about him more.

"Okay Ken." She responded and gently directed the two kids down the safe path the team had prepared for them.

* * * *

The journey back to base seemed to take forever, the ship moved to slow for Jun. Gently she laid a hand on Ken's shoulder- he sat in at his console with his head resting in his arms. Chocolate brown hair falling softly around the nap of his neck.

"I think you should go and stay with him when we get back to base." Joe said softly in her ear. "He needs you...close."

Gob smacked she turned slightly to look into the Condor's intense tinted eyes through his visor, his facial expression unreadable. "Some things Jun you can't hide from no matter how much you try...even this...I know you very well."

"I won't say anything to Jin or Ryu...about you and Ken being together again." He promised her.

"Joe...it happened so fast...I...I will Joe...I will stay with him tonight..." She promised.

With this reassurance Joe walked slowly back to his console and began doing something at his controls...muttering about checking weather patterns.

How did he know...she thought glancing back at Ken watching for any changes in his breathing and colour.

It didn't really matter, Joe was someone she trusted totally, and it felt good that he knew. She had someone to share the painful burden of watching Ken slowly deteriorate before her eyes...and know her heart in the midst of it all.

* * * *

 Ken felt a little better once he had a good nights sleep after the mission, the best part was waking up with Jun snuggled up next to him. Fully clothed and in a deep slumber with warm soft breathing soft into his neck sending pleasant shivers down his spine.

Running his fingers through her long glossy ebony locks he paused to admire her soft creamy skin with high cheekbones and long black lashes that lay neatly on the top of her pale crimson cheeks. And he ran his hand lightly over her graceful curves. She made him think of snow white...and he was the Prince who's heart was captivated by her beauty leaning into kiss her tenderly wake her from her slumber. It made a sweet fairytale...but he knew true love went much deeper than visual beauty and stolen kisses. Anything that lasted a lifetime did.

He didn't want to disturb her rest so he tenderly lifted her arm draped across him and slid off the bed. She stirred a little making him stop too watch her roll over black hair falling messily around her...muttering his name and then she continued to sleep soundly.

 A slight warm smile curled his lips. She muttered his name sending warm pleasant sensations through his body and into his soul.

He had word when they arrived back to the Gatchaman base that he had to report to the ISO building first thing in the morning for tests. Looking at the bedside clock he began to move fast out the door. He'd slept longer than he anticipated and he was running late, with his stomach rumbling, as usual he had to miss breakfast to make it on time.

* * * *

Count Egobossler stood in a traditional military stance with his hands clasped behind his back as he waited for the update on his new spy in his war room. This pretty young woman with honey blond hair and deep big blue eyes was amazing from what had seen of her and experienced on a more intimate level in just the last few days, which made it even more intriguing to have her working for him. He just hoped she didn't flirt too much with her special patient at the ISO medical clinic so she could get in close with his special present. A few jealous hairs raised on the back of his neck at thought of her getting to comfortable with Gatchaman.

"Is everything in place for the diversion?" Count Egobossler began going through his mental check list.

"Yes my lord, we just have to wait now for the signal" A Goon responded from his post.

"Good..." Egobossler nodded his approval.

"Have you heard anything from our spy?" He asked walking slowly towards the huge map of central Europe that took up most of the wall on the far corner of the room.

"Nothing yet my Lord, I'm sure she'll give us the signal when it's done...a clever invention that tracking dust." Mekandor commented stroking his long course black beard.

"Very clever..." Count Egobossler's lips curled into a grin. "Today we'll have a victory over Gatchaman...all we need if for him to return to his base, how simple is it...and why didn't we have this magic dust sooner."

Mekandor's eyes intensified wildly. "Because that traitor Kempeler is good at keeping secrets- and that's just one more he hide from us. Wait until I get my hands on him I'll break his scrawny neck" Mekandor made the hand actions of breaking Kempeler's neck with a tight grimace on his bearded face.

"I have something more fitting in store for him, you'll just have to wait until I have in my grasp again- the hunt will be over soon." Egobossler reassured his second in command.

"While we're waiting I want an up date from Dr. Eville on his experiment with the implants. He was operating on the boys this week...I want to know if they survived, unlike the last two kids who were severely brain damaged afterwards to the extent we had to end their lives. I hope he managed to get it right this time. I want to know if those implants do what that manual said they would do." Count Egobossler ordered.

"I'm calling him now for you..." Mekandor said.

Another point for me Gatchaman, my last revenge against you...you'll never see that boy again. Egobossler thought. Today was going to be a good day in the history of Galactor.

Chapter 33 by Ebonyswanne

Ken looked at his shoulder again as he approached the base, the water had soaked through his shirt and down his back had been uncomfortable during the drive back to his base. The nurse at the ISO medical Clinic had apologised for spilling the water from the full vase of bright yellow flowers on him during his examination. What was she thinking having a vase of water standing over him? Usually he could handle a slight discomfort like water on his shirt it's just this had a slightly gritty feel to it, he only began to feel it as he entered the base.

Entering the base he made his way to the control centre to meet up with the rest of the team and Kamo who would be briefing them on the latest developments in the war against Galactor.

Joe was sitting quietly with his arms folded and Jinpei and Ryu jumped up as he entered. Jun reached him first, he noted the joy in her eyes and the sweet smile she across her just for him.

"What's that on your sleeve?" She asked frowning.

"The clumsy nurse at the clinic spilt water on me. She was fidgeting with a vase full of water close by while my examination was happening. It feels a bit gritty for some reason as it's begun to dry." Ken said trying to brush the sleeve off. Something sparkly fell onto the table near by. Curious about it he ran his fingers over the powdery substance.

"Odd, why would that be on me?" Ken mused. Kamo had come over in the meantime and he heard the last part of their conversation.

Frowning he picked up some of the shiny dust and examined it closely. "It looks suspicious Ken- she might not have been an ISO worker. I'll send it off to the lab and see what they can tell me about it...and give the ISO headquarters a call to keep an eye on that nurse."

"Good idea Kamo." Ken agreed.

It was about the same time as the emergency lights went on in the base. Kamo ran over to the communications terminal.

"Damn Galactor," Ken scolded. "Looks like they decided we've had to mush rest time."

"Typical, these days they attack on regular basis..." Joe said joining them at the terminal while Kamo brought up details of what exactly was happening.

"We won't let them get the best of us Kamo." Ken promised.

"It looks like its time for you to move out...Ken- I'll have the results for you by the time you get back." Kamo promised." Kamo stood up straight and a smile of approval crossed his lips. "I know you won't Ken."

"Well what are we waiting for?" Jun said urgently running towards the door. Ken couldn't agree more and the five of them changing into birdstyle while they bolted towards their transport elevators to meet the enemy head on.

* * * *

Dr Nambu slowly opened his eyes and gazed out at the striking Mountain View from his office window.

Starring out at the rugged slops of  varied shades dull brown rock face descending into what felt like an abyss, didn't relax his mind the same way their deep ocean bases with schools of passing fish and rarer species that never ceased to amaze him by their bright colours in the dark depths of the ocean. He missed the tranquilly it brought to him on days like today, today he held the recent discovery of what happened to Dyami. Alarmed by the report his hands began to shake again and it fell from his feather light grasped onto the desk. For all he knew the boy might be dead before they reached him. Knowing the location of the Galactor base for the first time the experiment was taking place at- with this new information he had begun entertaining the idea of going himself to rescue the boy rather than send in the team.

He knew he had to tell Ken and Jun yet he dreaded doing it at the same time. What they had done to him would shatter the both of them, and he couldn't afford to have that happen now, not when the war was at its peak and the need for Gatchaman to keep his head straight and focused so critical.

It had be over twenty years since he had run a solo mission, and he wasn't in shape like he had been in the days of his youth, yet this was something close to his heart. For Ken had become his only son over the years. It tore at his soul when Kentaro tried to lay claims on him not long before he died. After all, he'd raised him, not Kentaro Washio to be the man he is today. Dr. Nambu had once tried to adopt Ken not long after his mother died but Kentaro became wild when he found out. Claiming Ken could only ever have one father and Dr.Nambu had no right to try and fill those shoes he had entrusted him only to raise him not be a father to him. Yet he did for many years become a father to Ken...Ken asked if he could even call him dad when he was twelve years old on a day when he looked so lonely Dr Nambu almost backed out of using him for the Science Ninja Team fearing he was softer than he wanted him to be for team leader. Ken later proved he was up to the task. He was tempted to say yes, but Kentaro's anger held him back from allowing him to do so and his need to create a leader out of Ken. So many regrets, and he had little time to rectify any of them with the state of Ken's health deteriorating so fast... 

Kentaro's stubbornness about it had been a bone of contention between them causing him to keep his secret about Red Impulse until he was forced to tell Ken the truth. He knew it was wrong, yet he kept his promise to Kentaro, even though it broke Ken's heart in the end. He owed Ken so much for all the sacrifices he demanded of him over the years. He owed the Ken and Jun for the life he denied them by keeping the team active, if he could find Dyami alive and return him to his family he knew it Ken would have some peace in his life time of war knowing he was safe.

The sound of an explosion made him bolt out of his chair and pick up his phone to call Kamo.

"What's going on?" He asked quickly.

"We're under attack, it looks like Galactor have found us, Ken has some dust on his sleeve, and I only just discovered from the lab tests that it's tracking dust." Kamo replied.

"Get someone in a fighter jet and tell them they have a passenger...me...Get the rest of the pilots in the air we haven't a moment to waste...and notify the Science Ninja Team and get them back here...it was a set up! " Dr Nambu's tone left no room for debate over it.

"Got it..." Kamo said hanging up.

Without a second to lose Dr. Nambu ran up towards the launch bay before any more missiles hit the base.

* * * *

"What's going on here it's like they're just letting us walk all over them..." Joe crossed his arms and slowly shook his head in pure disgust like he wanted the fleeing goons to try harder.

"It has to be a decoy of some kind- those bastards are up to something...They're stupid, but not that stupid..." Ken partly agreed with him. "We'll continue to follow them for all you know it might lead back to a base."

"...Or to that Mecha waiting for us on the crest of that hill." Jinpei jumped in pointing a blotch on the screen much to the surprise of the rest of the team.

"The mighty Swallow does it again," Jinpei proudly puffed out his chest and smugly strutted forward towards the front of the Gatchasparten.

"Does what short fry? We saw it just before you did." Joe's tone turned the Swallows moment of triumph sour.

"Why do you always have to undermine me and take the wind outta my sails Joe?" He huffed, his thin shoulders slumped and in a dejected manner, he strutted back to his seat.

"Oh Jinpei, Joes just teasing..." Jun said smiling at her little brother as Ken told them all to stop fooling around and get to battle stations.

"What's that?" Jun mused..." It's a signal from base." She said looking over at Ken. The light flashed twice and then it was gone.

"Ryu notify them that we're taking on a Mecha..." Ken ordered.

"Sure Ken...that's strange all I'm getting is static..."Ryu frowned deeply while he tried again.

Ken drew in a deep breath. "We have to finish the mission...we'll deal with the communications problem once the mission is over."

"Roger..." Ryu acknowledged and they turned the Gatchasparten to face the mecha head on.

* * * *

"Bring the jet lower." Dr. Nambu ordered the pilot as the fighting had taken on a whole new level. Nothing could stop the flow of missiles hitting the base head on. From his vantage point he could see a lone fighter still miraculously sitting a runway it looked to be his one chance of taking full control of his flight instead of the pilot keeping on the fringes of the attacking mecha and out of direct fire.

"Take me down," He ordered the pilot.

"Dr Nambu my orders are to keep you safe sir. " The young pilot protested.

"I'm you're boss lad, and my orders are for you to land closer to that jet. Now land!" Dr Nambu's tone held a forceful edge to it. The pilot without further argument landed his fighter jet.

Jumping out the jet a few minutes later he could feel the heat of the dirty orange black flames leaping out of Gatchaman base brushing his taught skin as he jumped into the pilot's seat and fired up the engines of the fighter jet. He watched the pilot take off the rejoin the fight only to be shot down as he left the tarmac to become a fireball in an already smoke filled sky. Clenching his teeth released the jets breaks to enable it to roll forward to being his risky take off to join the battle to save the dying base. He didn't have time to dwell on the odds of them winning- his need to fight and win no matter the cost to himself was far greater.

Easing off the runway before another volley of missiles he began to engage the mecha directing pilots as he surveyed the massive metal structure before him. He felt like a bee attacking a mammoth a he released a missile into its armoured hide and only stinging the surface.

The world around him had begun to fall apart. In the midst of battle Dr Nambu for the first time his life felt frozen by the devastation taking place before his eyes and a sense of hopelessness began to emerge from deep inside of him. After all he trained a team to stop a war, yet even they couldn't hold back the tide of Galactor flowing across the Earth.

Looking back at the base he watched his old friend wounded and dying pulling himself from the wreckage. Kamo's usual jolly expression replaced with one of determination. Dr Nambu drew strength from his old friends spirit and he knew in his heart he had the power to end this.

Steeling his emotions he changed his course and headed directly for the mecha in what would appear to other pilots as a Kamikaze suicide run. Ignoring the pleas through his intercom he directed the small fighter jet towards his target- The landing bay of the Galactor mecha.

"Stop your attack and I'll surrender." He said through the communications line he'd opened up with the attacking mecha.

"Well, well, well...if it isn't Dr.Nambu himself." Count Egobossler's shrewd voice came through the intercom.

"Who else would it be, you heard my offer Egobossler..." Dr Nambu's authoritative tone only made Egobossler mock him more.

"Used to running the showing aren't you Dr Nambu...mmm....how can I take a trick like this seriously, you'll need to be a more up front than that."

Dr Nambu didn't have time for this banter, directing his plane he boldly flew straight into the base. "Is that serious enough for you?" He yelled.

"I believe it is...Call of the attack, we have what we came for." Count Egobossler smirked through the intercom.

His initial motivation had been to save what was left of the base and the lives of the people in it. He underlying motive was the information burned to a cinder on his desk. The location of the base, if he managed to escape then he would disguise himself as a goon and go and save Dyami.

Slowly he released the canopy and allowed the rough hands of the goons to drag him out of the cockpit to the fate awaiting him now that he had fallen into the hands of his mortal enemy-Galactor.

 

Chapter 34 by Ebonyswanne

"What the heck?" Ryu swore turning the ship around for another shot at the mecha only to find it vanished when they came around for another shot with Ken positioned on top of the ship ready to slice it up with the hypershoot.

Ken shifted his feet further apart into his fighter's stance to maintain his balance while he ran through the scenario of the past hour in his mind. It was like a game of cat and mouse with this mecha.

"Ryu I'm going ahead of you to see what's going on." Ken said detaching the G-1 he stayed ready to use the hypershoot should the mecha rear its ugly head once more. But it didn't reappear.

"Odd... why would it do that?" Jun mused through the intercom. "It's like it was..."

"...Toying with us so it could distract us from Galactor's real mission. So what is their real mission?" Ken finished her sentenced. "We've been duped team, contact base Ryu, inform them..." He stopped for a second, as a revelation slapped him across the face. "No...." He breathed and then the urgency to confirm his suspicions took over. "Ryu get me Dr Nambu...Kamo anyone at the base now!"

"Static, that's all I'm getting Ken." Ryu reported.

"I'm coming back in, Ryu we have to get back there now...I bet this whole thing was a set up to get us out of there...but how did they know?" He questioned running to the shoot that enabled him to reach the bridge quicker.

"The white fine dust!" Jun sprang from her seat as he entered the bridge and ran over to him with wild green eyes. "That strange powder that feel off you...could it have been a tracking device of some kind?"

They didn't need any other prompting- Ryu powered the Gatchasparten to full speed as they headed back towards their base.

The sight that met his eyes less than an hour later sent a sharp pain straight through Ken.

The black smoke confirming the death of the base built especially for him and his team had been reduced to a pile of rubble. A heavy blanket of silence fell over team as they all stared at the viewing screen.

Ryu didn't ask Ken if he wanted to land, the ships pilot already knew the thoughts of his commander having worked together for so long.

Ken didn't feel his feet touch the ground, but he knew his legs moved as he walked along the cliff top to get a better view and piece together in his mind how the base met its final end. Drawing in a deep breath he refused to close his eyes forcing them to focus on the destruction and draw strength from it to continue his fight against the evil that caused it.

The rest of the team stayed a respectful distance away from him, he silently thanked for it knowing it was hardest for Jun to not run over and throw her arms around him to try and bring him some comfort. She knew him well.

Eventually he turned to look at his team- their drawn faces reflected his inner pain. Looking back he saw a body not far from the entrance. What if that man's still alive he thought snapping out of his melancholy moment, a sense of urgency to search for anyone alive sent his heart racing as he prepared for the next mission.

"We have to go and look for survivors...there was hundreds of personnel on that base, they deserve a chance and we're wasting precious minutes standing here. We start with the person whose collapsed outside the base...he could still be alive" His quiet choked up words echoed loudly through his ears like he was shouting.

A ray of hope flickered in their eyes.

"Let's move out." Joe said running to a vantage point he glided off the top of the cliff face to the land in the midst of the still burning base below. Looking at Jun Ken grasped her hand discreetly into his for a split second. With Jinpei and Ryu standing on the other side of her, they followed the Condor in the search for anyone who could still be alive in the wreckage of their former base.

* * * *

Dr Nambu tried to clear his foggy mind and separate the pain into a place where he could control it. He had been taught how do it when was a only eighteen years old when he had been selected to be a part of special forces unit along with his brother who died when being interrogated by his captures, leaving his pregnant new wife a window. Anna was only few months along when she received the news of her husbands death, from that time on Dr Nambu had very little to do with his nephew living in Ameris with his mother, he made sure she had enough money to raise him without a struggle and put through the best schools in Ameris but other than that he didn't have any contact with them. He had only been in touch with him recently to discover he had also become a doctor of science like his uncle. A sudden jolt of intense pain temporarily brought him back to where he was hanging from a rope with his feet only painfully inches from the floor. The pain stopped, Egobossler's Barron tone voice began again to throw questions into his foggy fried brain again, instead he chose to tune out...Flashbacks plagued his thoughts once more...his wandering into days gone by of his youth when he was a small boy fascinated by what he saw looking through a microscope for the first time igniting forever his passion for science and looking for ways to make the world a better place...It became his way of coping with the torture Count Egobossler insisted upon doing to his aged wretched body. He felt old...like a very old worn out man clinging to life and wondering why. Another sharper jolt of pain caused him to cry out and curse Egobossler and the whole of Galactor for the torment of the world before the aching became too much to bear and the world faded into darkness....

* * * *

The news of Dr Nambu's surrender had hit Ken like a bucket of icy water sending shivers down his spine. How could the doctor be so irrational, it just wasn't like him- He was always logical in his actions and thought things through...He thought wildly. Scolding his mentor silently he tried to focus on the ground below him as he flew the G-1 in yet another circle over the ancient town below to ensure he covered the ground. Joe and Jinpei reported into him, they'd found nothing that resembled a Galactor base so he waited on Jun and Ryu.

* * * *

Groggy from whatever drug Mekandor injected into him Dr. Nambu painfully dragged his tired body to a seated position against a wall in the chamber they had thrown him it. Gingerly reaching into his secret pocket inside of his trousers he quickly produced a tracing devise and opened his watch face to place it inside. Not knowing if he was being watched Dr Nambu took the chance anyway and began to send out the signal to lead his team to the location of the base, something extremely bright caught his attention forcing him to look up. The world filled with luminous blurring rays of colour, prolonged pain could so that a person. Dr. Nambu knew since he had once done a major study on the effects of torture to prepare Gatchaman for his coming role in case he was captured...In eth midst of the bright rainbow rays came the ghostly face of Count Egbossler's blue hued face and nasty smirk.

"Ready to talk yet Nambu?" He asked his smirk intensified.

Dr Nambu didn't respond, he knew he could outsmart the leader of Galactor he just need time to form a plan to escape. Another blast of pain hit him, this time it felt different from the electric shocks used previously. And then he saw a glimpse of his true enemy Sosai Z for a slit second before being brought back to reality and passing out before he could digest the horror of what he had just seen.

 

Chapter 35 by Ebonyswanne

"Ken." Jun's voice came through his bracelet.

"Yes Jun." He responded- glad to hear her finally checking in.

"I just received a birdscramble it has to Dr Nambu..." Her voice held contained excitement at the break though after hours of searching.

"Good work Jun, let's stay close together in case we need to form up the Gatchasparten." Ken commanded turning his fighter jet around and rejoined his team.

* * * *

Dr Nambu didn't know how long he had remained unconscious for. The harsh yanking on his arms and grunts of goons brought him out of it. He felt like someone has hit him with a sledge hanger all over his body. Each tug on his arms felt like fire raging through his joints. He blinked back the tears of pain- he needed to keep his thoughts clear and his mind sharp.

"Good of you to join me Dr Nambu." Count Egobossler's politeness and warm smile grated in his nerves, choosing to hide his real emotions Dr Nambu gathered his remaining strength to sit in the waiting chair at the table before him. The man was up to something devious Dr Nambu thought.

Dr Nambu waited patiently while Count Egobossler poured him a glass of red wine...now the game begins Dr Nambu thought. He had to outwit the man from whatever he had planned.

"Sire..." A goon interrupted there silent mind game, Egobossler rose from his chair

Secretly he held something else he had stashed into his pocket and quickly dropped the fine white powder into Count Egobossler's wine glass.

A few seconds later Count Egobossler returned to his seat and picked up his glass, his smile became like a cat satisfied with its latest catch.

"Shall I propose a toast?" He said his Cheshire cat grin broadened.

"Why not..." Dr Nambu lifted his glass.

"To the down fall of you...Dr Nambu..." His tone reflected the underlying hatred he had for the man sitting opposite him.

"We'll see...I'm not done yet." Dr Nambu's said smoothly clinking his fine glass with his enemy and he pretended to sip from it...

He watched as Egobossler's eyes widened in surprise at the sensations he began to feel the effects from the truth serum Dr Nambu had just given him.

"Now tell me Egobossler what are you up to?" Dr Nambu asked leaning in closer.

He knew there had to something bigger than Galactor just wanting to take over the Earth. From the reports he had from missions they bases all looked the same in every way and then there was the recent attacks from sun rays killing thousands of innocent people, what he needed to know was why and what the bigger picture of his plans.

"You heard me Count Egobossler, what is Galactor's big plan..." To his amazement Count Egobossler caved in without much of a fight.

"The poison apple...It's floating in space...we intend to force you to surrender..." He said falling from his chair his eyes became unfocused as he held his head in hands to try fight the effects of the truth serum.

This news weighed heavily on Dr Nambu's mind. His one priority had always been to save the Earth from disaster. How could he go after one child when millions of lives were at stake...he had to choose and it tore at him knowing the choice he had just been forced into making? Do the needs of the one out weigh the needs of the many...or is it the other way around...in this I have to decide which is more important...where the sacrifices have to be made...He thought about the age old wisdom of making choices in leadership. A debate he had often with his father when he was a boy.

The sound of approaching footsteps forced him to act fast and he pushed over a cabinet to block off the doorway from the approaching goons. He needed more time to discover the Sosai Z's full plan.

"Keep talking..." Dr Nambu demanded abruptly turning to face the struggling dictator.

"It's the end of the ISO...once it is in place it will give me unlimited power to force the world leaders into submission... Sosai Z my leader will be in full control of it from space...He has an asteroid under his control and it's coming our way..." He said glaring at Dr Nambu the serum began to wear off and he could see the dictator gain more control over his tongue.

"You're too late to stop us Dr Nambu..." He sneered confidently from across the room.

Dr Nambu didn't respond to him instead he focused on the goon running towards with his gun drawn. Swiftly he took him down with a few simple fighting moves grabbing the gun he moved into a strategic position behind a wall close by, keeping an eye on Egobossler he surveyed the area to find another way to escape from the base that had begun to move...

We're moving...? He mulled, he had to be still on the mecha then, not in a base. That revelation didn't change the dynamics of his current situation but it did mean Gatchaman would have a harder time tracking him if they were mobile.

Make a productive decision he began to move out of his safe haven towards another exist only have Mekandor push open the door blocking him off, slowly he turned to see Count Egobossler standing behind him holding a gun pointed directly at his heart. The menacing look in his cold grey eyes cornered him like a cat that had just caught the canary.

* * * *

"Ken...it's the mecha that Kamo described to us..." Jun's alarmed voice came through his bracelet.

"I see it Jun..." Ken replied looking through his tinted visor at the enormous creature looming before them sending shivers down his spine. He reasoned within himself that logically he should be used to sight of a mecha by now, he didn't understand the instant reactions to the sight of one after all of this time.

Forming the Gatchasparten Ken didn't even make it to the bridge- instead he stepped out of the cockpit into his fighter's stance on the top of the massive ship. Drawing his hypershoot weapon he prepared to take down the beast challenging them to a fight. Decisively he planned his attack, since Dr Nambu life was held in their hands he decided to maim the metallic creature to bring it to the ground so they could board it over ripping it to pieces like he usually did.

Slicing through its underbelly he then order Ryu to move out of the way as the beast began its decent to the barren ground below...

"All of you get up here! It's time to go and rescue DR Nambu." He said with some enthusiasm. It had been easy to down the beast and in protecting Dr Nambu they had never failed him and Ken wasn't about to begin now...

Joining him in less than a minute Joe his second in command stood close to him and said." It's about time Ken, all of this waiting around....was driving me nuts!' He confessed.

Ken smirked at Joe's eagerness for a fight for a split second he felt they had been transported back to early days when they were younger and full of light hearted enthusiasm. "You got it Joe, let's go..."

Without another word the five members of the Science Ninja Team flew off the top of the ship in a graceful arc landing in the section Ken had sliced open only moments before to create their grand entrance that gave surviving goons nightmares for years afterwards.

The fight began in their normal aggressive manner when entering a base. Ryu sat on a few Joe had beaten to pulp in seconds and then he proceeded to use his body weight to bring down more of them. Ken momentarily admired the Owl and his unique way of fighting. The man might have been big, but he was solid and all muscle and despite his gentle outward nature he could transform into a deadly weapon not to be reasoned with by his enemies.

From the corner of his eye he watched Jun and Jinpei fighting together to clear a path down the long corridor. A break though came about from their efforts and Ken ran ahead of them down the corridor.

 Seeing Dr Nambu made him pick his pace...the momentum causing him fall to the ground when hit the glass shield that came down seconds before he could get any closer to his mentor. Dr Nambu stood only metres away from him, yet he could have been on the other side of the mecha because of the glass shield before him and his world as he had known it to smithereens.

"Ken they've boxed us in!" Jun cried. Automatically the five of them formed a defensive circle and drew out their guns ready for anything Count Egobossler had in mind.

"You know you can't keep us in here Count Egobossler..." Ken shouted hoping he'd hear him through the thickness of the clear shield.

"I've been waiting for just this moment Gatchaman..." Count Egobossler's scornful cold eyes pierced him like a knife and his voice echoed in the small prison he had set up just for them.

Clenching his fist tightly before him Ken didn't try to hide his frustration.

"We have to find a way out of here into that chamber...there's gotta be Ken." Joe's level tone sent his thoughts into a whirlwind. Joe's right he thought. There has to be a way out of this...we've never failed him before and we're not gonna start now...I know I'll use the hypershoot sword. Ken knew it could pose a danger to his team mates using it this close to them but he felt he no choice in it.

"Ken..." Jun's horrified whisper made him look back Count Egobossler and it all began to unfold before his eyes in slow motion. Count Egobossler held his gun level at Dr Nambu's chest and in a quick point blank motion be fired his gun several times making Dr Nambu's body shudder and fall limply to the ground.

"Noooo..." Ken heard the agony in his own voice and echoed in his team mates around him. Drawing the hypershoot sword he held it level with the thick glass shield and cut through it like a diamond tipped saw causing it to shatter into a million pieces from the sudden changes in temperature. Throwing his arm over his eyes to shield them from the blast from the corner of his eye he could see Joe covering Jun and Jinpei with his wings and Ryu on the floor for protection.

Ken ran over to Dr Nambu, sinking the laser sword into the metal ground close by he knelt down beside him and gently folded his hand in his for reassurance he had made it to his side.

Dr Nambu turned his fading eyes onto him- Ken watched his struggle as a tried to lift himself up. Ken cradled him his arms and tried to listen to his last words carefully.

"Asteroid...heading to Earth..." He mumbled and then coughed.

"Save your strength doctor...we'll get you back to Kamo and the medical team-"Ken tried to cling to some hope he would survive.

"Listen Ken...not much time...get...to...Kamo...find...poison...apple..." Dr Nambu struggled and his body began to go limp in Ken's arms. Dr Nambu closed his eye and drew in a jagged last breath and Ken had to strain hard to hear his words. "Almeron...Dyami..." Life left his body and his lifeless hand slipped from Ken's grasp...

Slowly Ken let his mentor, friend and foster father's body sink to the ground, he would have time later to digest and think about the good doctor's last words, now he had a mission to complete. With murderous eyes he looked up at Count Egobossler and retrieved his sword.

Snarling at his enemy Ken's raging anger knew no bounds. Ignoring the plea's of his team mates Ken rushed forward and clashed swords with Count Egobossler.

The frenzied battle continued with Ken almost getting the upper hand when he managed to lightly slice his blade across Egobossler's scar on his cheek and it began to ooze bright red blood. Egobossler flared his white teeth and renewed his grip on his sword Egobossler looked fearful for the first time during the battle when he realized his opponents strength, to counter his fear he tried to mock him. Ken didn't respond to his bait, even in rage Ken could keep his wits about him and plan a battle strategy. The battle between them continued...Eventually Count Egobossler began to be beaten down by Ken's wild rampage, the Count fought back with everything he had but it became obvious who was the better fighter Ken the Eagle had only a few swift moves to make and would Count Egobossler begging for mercy.

 Then the pain of his illness hit him hard causing Ken to double over and drop to the ground. Seeing his weakness the sinister Egobossler laughed loudly and began to taunt him before he ran to escape his reach, looking over his shoulder with contempt for Gatchaman looked proud of his ‘victory' over Gatchaman.

"Is that all you can manage? Lame at best...it's a wonder you've survived this long." He scoffed. "Another time Gatchaman...I'll make it a quick death I promise you." He said jumping into the waiting escape pod made of a single platform with a clear glass dome closing around them.

Ken felt like he had the wind kicked out of him, his strength gave way to weight of the loss he felt when glanced back over his shoulder at Dr Nambu. He'd failed him...and Ken's failure cost him his life. Closing his eyes for a single moment Ken felt he had already failed Dyami, the chances of finding him alive had been fading everyday he remained missing Ken released his anguish with an almighty scream.

"Ken, get up...we have to get out of this place, knowing Egobossler he has a bomb on board." Joe's level tone cut into his thoughts.

Silently Ken came to his feet and he looked into Jun anguished eyes, he silently acknowledged her pain and looked over at Ryu tears streaming down his face and Jinpei collapsed on the ground from weight of his emotions sat close by Dr Nambu waiting for Ken's order.

"Let's take him home team." He solemnly ordered. Ryu, Joe and Ken picked up his body and carried it between them back to the Gatchasparten.

Jun cried uncontrollably when they reached the ship and Jinpei wrapped his thin arms around her, Joe held in his grief, holding back a single tear that threatened to undo him. Ryu set the ship in motion for take off. All of this was lost on Ken caught up in his own sorrow he sought the solitude of the open air. The cold wind ran past him chilling him to the bone. Slowly he looked out across the sky at the pale orange sunset to see Dr Nambu's spirit saying his final farewell to him.

"Goodbye..." Ken breathed softly. And his mentor's image faded into with the setting sun forever.

 

Chapter 36 by Ebonyswanne


The days that followed Dr Nambu's had been a blur for Joe. For the first day afterwards they spent it together quietly waiting to see the outcome from Ken's latest lot of tests at an ISO base. Ken hardly responded to the news that he was getting worse. It was like he'd become numb to everything that was happening to him except for Jun. At least when she spoke to him Ken responded when she suggested he needed rest he allowed her to guide him to his new private quarters on the base...

The soft murmurs around him began to grate on his nerves, half of these people wouldn't have known him personally, not in the way he did. Dr Nambu saved when he was a boy when everyone else around him had abandoned him and gave him a way to be able to seek his vengeance for the death of his parents. Adjusting his new suit and tie he surveyed the room for the rest of his team mates.

Ryu and Jinpei had found a corner to hide away, both holding the same drink in their hands they'd had for the past hour.

Jun and Ken still hadn't arrived.

Looking around the huge function room of Dr Nambu's mansion Joe found himself wondering if this would be the last time he'd ever be able to come back here. So much of his youth since Dr Nambu found him had been spent training in the gym beneath his feet to become Condor Joe G-2 and second in command of the Science Ninja Team.

A side door opened across room and Jun walked through it. He didn't need to signal her- from habit she found him in seconds and walked through the crowd of mourners to stand by his side. Her ivory skin had become ghostly white from lack of sleep- the simple black dress only made her cheeks look paler and her pretty face more drawn and pasty than it had been over the past few days he noted.

"He won't come..." She said in despair tears welling in her huge green eyes. "He says he has no need to attend a viewing of his body..."

Joe understood it- he didn't like the idea of being here either with the ‘official' morning and formalities relating to death of a man he loved and respected, and said as much to Jun discreetly. He caught the odd mention of the Science Ninja Team in hushed tones. Some of the comments made his skin crawl...those moron's weren't there how would they know what did or didn't happen...

Shaking her head like she disagreed with him she began to speak again. "Its more than that Joe, I know it is...he...he wonders if it won't be long and we'll be attending the viewing of his body...he told me..." She choked up and put a hand over her mouth to hold back her tears. Joe gently placed a comforting hand on her shoulder and drew her in closer.

Jun found the strength to finish what she wanted to say. "He told me to go away he was bad luck to be around, and he didn't want to be the cause of my death too... since his mother died and he couldn't help her and then his father may as well have committed suicide with him watching...and he didn't stop him...or try hard enough to stop him...Then you Joe, he left you die and blames himself for it all...then Dr Nambu...he feels responsible for everyone he loves dying around him like he killed them all with his own hand..." She finished with a sob into his shoulder.

"Where is he Jun?" Joe asked knowing the answer yet had to be sure.

"He's still in his shack at the airfield, he hasn't moved from there since two days ago when we arrive back here with Dr Nambu's body." She informed him wiping away her tears.

With pleading eyes she looked up into his. "Can you go and talk to him..." Her eyes became more serious." No punch ups understand I don't think he could handle it physically right now..."

She knew them well when it came to their man to man discussions, especially when Ken was in one of his moods.

"I promise not to damage him if that's any reassurance." Joe said.

"No, but he needs your subtle way of bringing back to us Joe...he's hurting so badly..." Her voice drifted off and she began to knot her hands together nervously.

"I don't want to see him so lifeless in a coffin Joe..." Her face became haunted and he couldn't tell if she was talking about Ken or Dr Nambu.

"Then don't go in there, no ones saying you have to do it." Joe said.

Looking down at her hands she didn't respond. Jinpei by this time was by her side. "Stay with me a Ryu Sis..." He said taking her hand in his Joe knew she would be in good hands. "We don't need to see his body either...I wanna remember how he looked when he was alive not dead."

With that reassurance Joe turned and quickly left the room to leave the mansion. Jumping into one of Dr Nambu's old sports cars collection from his extensive garage Joe drove off in the direction of the airfield. At any other time he would have loved driving this old 1960's Aston Martin with its creamy soft leather interior and dark British racing green exterior and soft top and an engine so fine tuned it purred and responded quickly to his every command.  

Today he had other things on his mind.

One the way to Ken's airfield he drove down the street that the Snack J once stood in. Slowing down to almost a stop he looked out the window at the black scorched ruins of his once favourite hang out. The destruction of the Snack J resembled for him the darkness that had entered his life for sometime, and the ending of their youthful days at the beginning of the war. They had no choice now but to either become ruins themselves or move forward to and accept the changes and turning point in their lives. From this day on there would no looking back, the old days and the kids they had once been were gone forever.

The rest of drive out to Ken's beloved shack at the airfield allowed Joe time to relax. He loved to drive fast when something weighed heavily on his mind- it enabled him to sort it out.

Today however was different- nothing could break his depressive mood, his thoughts wondered to how it would have been for them when they thought he was dead. He knew Ken had gone into a state of depression from what Jun had told him. Her love for him brought him out of it from what he knew of that time in conversations since his return.

Pulling up at the Shack he turned of the engine and jumped out of the car and walked briskly over to the door.

Joe never knocked when came to visit Ken, so he tried to turn the door handle only to find it locked. Joe assessed the situation- Ken never locked the door of his shack since he didn't have time when running out on missions fiddling with keys so he just didn't do it. Soft strands of a melancholy song filtered through from inside the shack Joe didn't think he could have picked a more depressing song to listen to.

Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow...No tomorrow, no tomorrow...

"Go away Jun...please just leave me be..." Ken's distant glum voice filtered through the door. "I just want to be alone."

Typical Ken on a self pity trip, Joe thought. And that song...argh it's so dismal.

And I find it kind of funny...I find it kind of sad...The dreams in which I'm dying
Are the best I've ever had...
It's a Mad World...

"It's me Ken and if you don't open it, then I'll break it down." Joe threatened.

Ken went silent and Joe waited, the door didn't open. So he followed through with his threat and with one swift front kick he sent the door flying inward. With splinters still flying around him he took one step into the small usually immaculate shack and gasped.

Ken when it came to keeping his space tidy was anal about it. Joe couldn't remember ever seeing a speck of dust in the place let alone the sight that met his eyes in the dim light. Broken furniture littered the small living room and into the kitchenette, his desk overturned and paperwork and small person objects were strewed from one side of the place to the other...Quietly he walked over to the small CD player and pressed the stop button took the CD by Gary Jules out and broke into pieces and threw it over his shoulder.

"Ken, where are you?" He called out scanning the room again. Without waiting for a response he walked into his bedroom...The room was in much the same state as the rest of the shack.

Ken sat in the middle of the floor holding his knees close to his body staring into nothing. His penetrating blue eyes looked up at him. "I'll have you know that's my favourite Gary Jules album you broke just then, and I expect it to be replaced."

"What happened here?" Joe asked ignoring his glare and comment- he didn't really need to ask, since he figured it out in seconds. Ken in his grief had lashed out in his personal space making the world around to reflect the inner pain and broken spirit inside of him. Pushing Jun away only gave him more of an excuse to wallow in his depression. Joe knew the signs after all he'd felt that way himself only his way was to sit in a sleazy bar, with an untouched scotch in one hand. For one night he didn't care about himself and anything else in the world. He felt short changed in life and basically ripped off. So close to defeating Galactor and he'd been given a week to live. Even Jun didn't want him so he's discovered earlier that night over dinner.

Joe picked up a well loved teddy bear off the ground and sat in a safer place along with a picture of Ken's parents now with a cracked glass that had been on the wall of his room for as long as Joe could remember.

"I'm not going to tell you it's all going to be okay and you'll live and we'll win the war...you know me better than that." Joe said being direct to the point.

"I figured Jun would send you out to see me...you've seen me so go away." Ken stood up, and walked over to wall putting a dent into it with his fist.

"She's worried Ken and can you blame her?" He said stepping forward.

"She knows I'm dying Joe...I have nothing to offer her...nothing to give her but this lousy shack and an airfield that's worth nothing..." Ken's gloomy tone only made Joe angry.

 "Start thinking of someone else other than yourself." He reprimanded him."I died remember, so you're not alone in this, I know the self pity...the wanting a future but all you can see is you're coming death...at least you have someone who cares about you enough to stay even when you're not able to offer her a future only a funeral at the other end of it even if we win...it's a rare thing to have in life Ken." His voice became quieter as he spoke.

"I'm jinxed Joe just looked at-"Ken started to say but the wind had been taken out of his sails.

"-Get over it Ken, you have too we still have a planet to save and Gatchaman doesn't have the luxury of feeling sorry for himself...you just don't Ken..." Joe knew his words were blunt, but Ken didn't need him to be gentle just now. He needed Joe to bring his focus back to where it belonged.

Ken's defiant stare didn't make Joe back down on bit. Ken needed him to stay strong and knock some sense into him mentally. He remembered his promise to Jun and kept his temper in check.

"Besides you're not the only one here who lost a friend and mentor, we all did." He reminded him.

He watched Ken's internal battle from the way his face distorted, he punched the wall again. "I don't have the strength any more Joe... We can't see that asteroid, the only one who believes it is Kamo. I don't know where the hell this place called Almeron is...it's not on any of our data at the ISO. How can I tell Jun that Dr Nambu left us a clue and I can't solve the riddle...how can I face Matt and Natasha knowing I've failed again...I die and it will be all for nothing..."

"Build a bridge Washio, you're not dead yet so we have time to stop Count Egobossler and Galactor, if it comes down to it we'll all die together doing just that." Joe said reminding of the pact they all made together before their first battle against Galactor.

"We know who Count Blue was...it was him Joe buying arms in Africa, we could have killed him before he became a menace." Ken said, straightening his shoulders.

"I can't look at his dead body again, but I'll be at the funeral tomorrow, I won't let him down and not show up at his funeral...I promise." Ken turned to look at him with melancholy eyes.

"I know- I'm not the one you need to say it too." Joe acknowledged with a short nod.

"How is she?" Ken asked concern crossing his frail features. He really did look frail in this light Joe thought.

"She's hurting too, after all Jun's never known what its like to have parents, for her he was the closest she ever had to a father." Joe said looking away. Was she the one who lost most out of all of them in Dr Nambu's death? He realized for the first time. All this time they had focused on Ken's grief, yet maybe some it was miss placed. Ken appeared to come to the same realization.

"I've been so selfish." He murmured miserably.

"We're all inflicted from that from time to time." Joe agreed.

"Jun..." Ken said into his bracelet snapping out of his sombre mood. "You there?"

"Yes Ken...how are you?" She asked trying to mask her concern.

"Better when I'm with you..." He said sincerely. "I'll be there for you if you need me...I'm coming back with Joe."

"Okay, we're upstairs in our old bedrooms, I'm tired and I thought I'd take a nap." Jun said.

"I need some sleep to...be there soon to keep you company." He promised.

Joe still felt a tinge of jealously at Ken's response to Jun, choosing to ignore his feelings he walked with Ken out to the car and began preparing himself emotionally for the funeral the nest day.

Chapter 37 by Ebonyswanne

In a Galactor base courtyard the same day...

"I'm on a roll now Mekandor- first I defeat Nambu and expose Gatchaman's weakness..." Count Egobossler grinned at his new second in command.

"All we have to do is get rid of this piece of vermin...and victory will be ours in no time at all." Mekandor agreed looking down on the condemned prisoner kneeing before them.

"I have funeral to go to tomorrow in Utoland so best get on with it." Count Egobossler said casually a sinister grin spread across his blue lips. "I really should pay my respects to the late Dr Nambu after all I did for him...maybe not in person...but I will be there." His devilish grin broadened.... Kempler...just so you know I can't spend funds on burying traitors...but I figure you'll make good shark bait..." He hinted.

Kempler didn't even bother to respond to their taunts.

 "What do I have here...a coward who deserves no mercy..." The snarling sound of the man he had followed so loyally for years pushed its way into Kempeler's thoughts.

Slowly Kempeler looked up at him from his position on his knees before him.

"I'll tell you what you have here...a walking corpse...I was dead long ago...the devil is waiting for me...and he's getting impatient." Kempeler spoke the truth, the man he longed to be once more died the night he murdered his wife. The satisfaction of Kempeler's approaching death fell from Egobossler's cold blue face.

"Drag him to wall...line up ten of our finest marks men...NOW." Count Egobossler shouted at the top of his voice. Mekandor stood sneering at him from his corner post.

The pain of the hard grip on his arms didn't register as he his thoughts went to the happier days of his youth with his sweetheart and bride. Death had become his only release from the ghosts that haunted him daily and drove him insane.

The sounds of the guns clicking faded into the background as he waited for the final call...the sounds of the guns and the initial pain of death lasted seconds as his wasted life finally came to a wretched end.

* * * *

 Midmorning the next day...

The weight of losing Dr Nambu lingered inside of Ken from the moment he watched him being gunned down before his eyes.

"Are you ready?" Jun's hushed voice brought him back to reality as she fixed his tie.

"No...I can't believe he's gone...even though I saw his body it doesn't feel real." Ken admitted.

"I know how you feel, I keep expecting him to walk through the door and tell us it was a hoax or something like that." She gently smiled and looked at the door, the smile didn't last and the sadness in her green eyes returned.

"How did he know?" She asked seriously." How did he know about Dyami, I never mentioned anything to him fearing I would be off the team if he knew."

"I'm not sure Jun, but he found out somehow and it looks like he's been searching for him too from the last words he said." Ken picked up her hand and began examining her long fine boned fingers, and neatly trimmed nails. "Almeron....Dyami...." Rang through his mind, a clue but hardly a lead to when this place is.

Ryu ducked his head through the door. His grief stricken face made him look older, "Time to go guys...Joes waiting in the car to drive us to his memorial."

Silently Ken steeled himself for the procession to the memorial grave site. He was also still trying to comprehend why Dr Nambu had requested in his will a simple burial later in the evening after the viewing with only a few witnesses. He only found out when he and Joe arrived at the mansion from Kamo what the real proceedings would be.

The five of them would attend along with Kamo and another man called Dr Anderson from Ameris. He discovered quickly that Dr Anderson was Dr Nambu's nephew and he would inherit most of the estate and family assets being the next of kin. Ken quietly observed him during the short service at the grave site. Even in the moonlight he could have been his uncle's younger twin...He even wore the same heavy framed glasses that Dr Nambu had.

Afterwards when his coffin had been lowered and the moist dirt began to be pilled on top they began to walk towards their waiting car to go back to the mansion.  Dr Anderson didn't speak to any of them instead he walked away on his own in the opposite direction lost in his thoughts towards a waiting black limousine.

The anguish deep pain of his loss would take a long time to heal for all of them. Ken concluded walking with Jun out the front door his Dr Nambu's enormous lavish home and down the long driveway towards the main gates where Joe, Jinpei and Ryu waited from them in a black four wheel drive.

* * * *

 Ken and Jun a few picked of the colourful bunches of flowers that had been delivered for mourners from the buckets beside the main gates of the graveyard.

It didn't feel right to have TV camera's recording the procession to honour Dr Nambu. Even if he was the head of the ISO, it felt like the world would focused on seeing the famous Science Ninja Team, and his habit of wanting to stay anonymous hadn't faded with their identities being exposed.

They all walked together down the wide concrete strip to pay their last respects to their mentor and foster father, each carrying a small bunch of flowers to lay at his grave.

Ken stared at the huge framed photo of Dr Nambu resting against the headstone. He missed him, yet why even after seeing his body lowered into a grave he still couldn't comprehend he was gone forever. Walking alongside his teammates he laid the bunch of flowers down and turned to walk away.

"Haaahhhhaaaaaaa" A familiar chuckle made him turn around slowly to see the white mocking masked face of Count Egobossler standing next to headstone. Ken felt his temper rising at sight of him and ran back towards the memorial with Joe hot on his heels. "This is just the beginning of the end for you Gatchaman and the Science Ninja Team..."

Joe ran ahead of him and walked around the back of the memorial to investigate why he then suddenly vanished. He hesitated and ran back towards them shouting." Hit the deck..."

Ken threw himself to ground along with Jun, Jinpei and Ryu.

The explosion sent rock and debris and the smell of smouldering flowers floated over him. Gingerly he put his hands underneath him so he could stand up faster. Joe came to his feet first and ran back towards what was left of the memorial. The only thing left was a scattering of flowers and rubble.

"It had to be hologram Ken." Joe said angrily, "If he was here we'd know."

Ken picked one of the flowers that miraculously escaped the flames and held up with his heart racing from the anger building up inside of him.

From the corner of his eye he saw Jun purse her lips in anger at the destruction of Dr Nambu's last resting place. This final insult cut to the core of all of them.

"Get me Kamo...we're going to show Galactor the Science Ninja Team aren't taking this lying down, we can still operate without Dr Nambu..." He ordered.

Ken knew this is what the doctor wanted, the team to stick together and stay strong and bring an end to this war forever.

* * * *

"Sis, what's Aniki up to?" Jinpei quizzed as they ran through the base.

"I'm not sure, but he needs us back at the Gatchasparten, change of plans since I was supposed to set the charges." Jun didn't keep the irritation out of her voice. Did he decide she couldn't do it because she almost lost her grip under train she thought wildly- Or was he just being over protective.

She stopped in her tracks when she looked around the room they'd just entered. Wall to wall computers...

"Jinpei wait a second I need to check something out." She walking over to a terminal she began typing in codes she knew Galactor used as passwords to gain access.

"Sis, we don't have time for whatever you're doin...this place is gonna blow." Jinpei said pulling at her mantle.

"Jin, we could find him, after what better place to look for another base...than on a Galactor base." She said smiling, from the corner of her eye she watched the light turn on in his brain.

"Of course the clue Dr Nambu left Ken about Dyami." Jinpei said standing in close to her.

"Almeron..." She muttered as she typed it into a search.

"It's a Science Research Centre...hidden in the Himalayan Mountains...look it even gives me a map!" She declared.

"What exactly do they do there...?"Jinpei inquired peeping over her shoulder.

 "That's strange it gives me a map but no other details...only that its top secret and I need higher access..." Jun mused She began typing in other codes she knew, but all were denied.

Frustrated she hit the print button. "Jin I'm printing this information out can you go and get it off the printer for me."

"Sure Sis..." Quickly he walked over quickly and retrieved the information, and then they raced out of the room to meet up with Ryu.

 

Chapter 38 by Ebonyswanne

Slowly Ken tip toed around the corner and waited as Count Egobossler was reaching the climax of his victory speech over his defeat of Dr Nambu and soon the Science Ninja Team. He'd discovered this secret passage by accident, the lack of guards proved Count Egobossler's arrogance and over confidence in the effectiveness of his attack on Dr Nambu's grave.

We can rebuild headstones...we can never bring back Dr Nambu. Ken thought angrily.

Drawing out his gun Ken didn't want to mess up his one opportunity to take the Count by surprise and kill him the same way he killed his beloved mentor, taking his cue from the roar of the crowd in the courtyard below he stepped out of his hiding place.

This is way to easy...he thought, sticking his gun into Count Egobossler's soft velvet coat just below the red symbol of Galactor Ken knew too well, he felt Egobossler stiffen from its subtle touch before any words were spoken.

"I'm impressed Gatchaman...after our last encounter I didn't think you were man enough to come after me again." He sneered tilting his head side ways enough to see him.

"Stay where you are Mekandor...any closer and he's corpse." Ken threatened secretly hoping Mekandor would try to stop so he would just get on with it. Ken wasn't a cold blooded killer, yet he deeply yearned to pull the trigger and put an end to Egobossler forever. The internal torment tore at his soul.

Ken snickered and dug the point of the gun in harder to steel his resolve, and Egobossler drew in a sharp breath knowing Ken's intentions... Ken was preparing to pull the trigger when the sight of the Gatchasparten distracted him. And the explosion that followed told him he'd taken to long...

The ground began to shake and Ken knew he had to get out of there or die. Egobossler had already managed to slip from his grasp and run for cover with Mekandor.

Running down a set of stairs towards the court yard Ken ducked for cover when a laser beam coming through the wall next time threatened to slice him two.

What the hell was that? Ken thought stopping just in time.

"Quick Ken...get down here I only have a second before they get here." Ryu said urgently.

"Who gets here?" Ken quizzed while watching the Owl do a daring landing in the middle of hundreds fleeing goons.

"The giant robots...they look like something out one of those old silver screen science fiction movies..." Ryu informed him. Looking up at the sky line Ken secretly agreed with him.

Ken ran faster down the staircase, he figured he still had time to catch Count Egobossler as he noted the direction the Count fled in, and at first he ignored Ryu's pleas for him to come to the ship when he reached the bottom of the stair case. Torn between wanting to finish him off for good or destroying the robots Ken had to fight the urge to ignore the threat and leave to the team to take care of it.

"Ken we need you." Jun's voice sounded desperate." Ken I've found Dyami...if we finish this we can go to the Almeron its located deep in the Himalayan Mountains."

Those words snapped him out of it, and he knew what he needed to do and that was rejoin his team and them catch up with Count Egobossler.

Running onto the top he told Ryu to start take off while he made his way to the bridge. Ryu sounded relieved when informed him he was joining them.

"Ryu, we need to create a diversion." Ken said when he reached the bridge, "Bring the ship around starboard and go straight between them."

"Okay boss." Ryu said casually, obeying Ken's command.

"I see what you're up to." Joe smiled knowingly, the smile dropped when Ken leapt from his seat and began heading back towards the doors of the bridge.

"Ken, what are you doing?" He asked suspiciously.

Avoiding Jun's worried eyes he looked back at his second in command. "There is only one way we'll finish those robots off, and its with the hypershoot."

Jun stood up instantly from her seat. "Ken, can separate and do a dodge attack, force them to blow each other up-"

"We don't have time for that Jun...Egobossler is getting away and this time I'm not letting him go." Ken's determination only worried her more, pretending he didn't see it he ran up to the top of the Gatchasparten ad Ryu turned around to and dove in sharply to give him the best attack position.

Raising his sword he swooped down on his prey and beheaded the first robot in a fiery rain of explosions crippling it and causing its partner to look on as he swopped down again to end its rampage with the same swift manoeuvre.

Looking up he watched a Satellite descend from the sky and a transporter of some kind lifted Count Egobossler and Mekandor from their still position on the ground from an explosion then sent them flying earlier.

He's escaping again damn it. Ken cursed, gritting his teeth he spoke into his bracelet.

"Ryu keep up with it...that has to be Sosai Z..." Ken ordered as the ship lifted off the ground to return to outer space.

"Us...go into space with you on top of the ship? That's crazy..." Ryu said in disbelief.

"Yes now do it." Ken ordered. Ryu began a slow upward assent moving in closer to the huge ship Ken readied himself again to break through thick steel to access the Satellite.

The something very strange happened... The hypershoot didn't even leave a mark on the ships outer skin. Instead when he touched he felt an incredible amount of torturous pain shoot through his body... For a split second Ken felt truly afraid of the image that appeared before him. The idol with glowing eyes seared into soul like it wanted to control everything about him. Ken resisted screaming in pain he lost his grip on his sword and fell from the ship landing ungracefully on the bare ground below.

The pain still throbbed through his body, and the image wouldn't go away. Every part of his body ached when he tried to stand up. By this time the Gatchasparten had landed and the team raced to his side.

"I failed." He said, hanging his head in shame.

"We'll get him Ken- I won't stop until we have avenged Dr Nambu's death." Joe declared.

"In the mean time we go to the Himalayan Mountains." Jun said walking over to stand beside him. "Rest on the ship Ken..." she whispered. "I know nothing could stop you from coming with us...and I wouldn't want to leave you behind anyway."

Ken nodded, knowing how weak he felt yet he still had to go, it could be their last chance to save Dyami.

 

Chapter 39 by Ebonyswanne

Jun held in the impatience she felt to get inside of the underground mountain base they had located a few hours before. She paced the ship waiting for Ken to wake up from his deep slumber. Wanting to shake him and tell him they had no time to waste yet she knew he needed to rest just to function after using the hypershoot to level he had on the last mission.

"Let's go Jun." Ken said flatly as he walked out the door of the medical bay still in full birdstyle. He looked awful even the tinted visor couldn't hide his illness- his normally flawless handsome features looked gaunt and aged his blue eyes had become dull and puffy from the desperate need of more sleep.

"If you need more time to rest I understand." Jun said quietly. Ken shook his head slowly and began walking past her, "We have already wasted too much time, and you should have woken me up the minute we landed Jun."

She didn't respond to his comment, she simply picked up her pace so she could walk beside him and began filling him in on Joe's observations of the base.

"We didn't just sit around while you caught up on your sleep Ken, Joe and Jinpei have been out looking for a more discreet way of entering the base than through the front door..." She said giving him a sidelong glance to watch his reaction.

"Joe's come up with a plan." Jun finally said, watching him raise an eyebrow with interest.

"What kinda plan is that Jun? Send in a few bird missiles... then race on in..."Ken sounding slightly cynical of Joe planning out an attack on a base.

"No," Jun frowned." There is only one way in and that's through the front gates...Sooo he located and has taken over a delivery van scheduled to take in food supplies. He spotted it about twenty minutes ago..."

Ken's stopped walking and looked at her with distant eyes." He has changed a lot over the years Joe's growing into a real leader..." Snapping out his sudden realization he began to smile. "I bet I know what he's up to...come on Jun we don't have any time to waste!"

Exiting the Gatchasparten Ken and Jun joined Ryu just outside on the grassy valley floor.

"The sun will be down in about an hour." Ken observed looking towards the sun.

Jun kept her eyes on the approaching vehicle with Jinpei in the passenger seat. Yes she thought. Ken's right Joe has changed even if he'll never see it in himself.

Joe jumped out and threw the rest of them white lab coats and a hat and moustache to Ken for an additional disguise.

"You'll need to hide in the back- Jinpei can ride with me upfront. We're transporting some grocery items and a few lab items like test tubes into the base. It's not heavily guarded, but a grand entrance might just hinder any chances we have of locating Dyami if they decide to do a shut down of higher security sections. We need to get into those...so you'll need these..."  

Joe looked over at Ryu who pulled out a code breaking device. "Gotta give it to Dr Nambu, he figured this would come in handy one day I suppose that's why it was in the supply depot of the ship."

"This is how it works guys, all we do is scan our left eye it makes an imprint for identification...However we need Jun to get to a computer to ‘update' it so we have easy access to rest of the base...I'm hoping we can get it accept eye scans from all us in the base computers, it's a vital part of making this work easily for us...then onto the next part of the plan. How we're going to get nosy scientists to leave us alone..." Joe grinned and looked directly at Ken.

"I figure you have something in mind? Keep talking Condor." Ken seemed to be listening intently to Joe's plan as he explained the rest of his plan. He even looked impressed at the finer details Joe had considered.

"Lets get moving..." Ken ordered, transmuting out of his birdstyle into civilian and throwing on his white coat like Jun had already done while Joe filled them in on his plan.

Surprised at how Ken had just let Joe basically take over the mission she crouched down close to him in amongst the supplies trying to find her balance when the truck hit a rock causing the vehicle to jolt.

"How are you?" She asked softly knowing it was a dumb question but she wanted had to ask.

"I feel like crap but I'm alright for the mission Jun...don't worry about me I can stay focused." He tried to smile, but it barely hinted at the corners of his lips.

"Emotionally...how do you feel emotionally...I know I'm terrified of what we might find..." Jun confessed.

"I'm blotting out any emotions I know I have about this Jun...I have to so I can function...Right now I feel emotionally numb...ask me again later after we...find him." Ken's voice dropped at the last few words to barely a whisper. "Joe knows what he's doing...we follow his instructions on this one..."

"We're approaching the front gates...sit tight." Joe said to the three in the back. She could see Jinpei puffing up his chest like he normally did when he was role playing on a mission.

"State your business." The bored goon said to Joe, as he approached the open window. "And who are you?" He indicated to Joe and Jinpei. Joe flashed a fake ID, which the goon looked at and then handed it back to him sporting his fake moustache he kept for disguises.

"Good afternoon..." Joe greeted him with a friendly smile." This is Professor Johnson from the Oxford University...he hitched a ride with the supply truck to the base."

Jinpei looked disdainfully at the goon. "I'm late." He huffed.

"He's a bit young to be a professor." The goon said suspiciously.

"What?" Jinpei's eyes flared with the insult the man just delivered. "I'll have you know my IQ is 240 on a bad day...I've been part of Oxford Universities child genius program since I was three years old...my services have been called upon to observe and resolve issues in a secret project at the base that an underling like you-"

He gulped when stuck a shuriken in his side to shut him up before he went too far.

"Ahh...ummm...it's just your name isn't on the list..." The goon faltered.

"Look on the other list..." Joe said calmly. "It was a last minute deployment from the order I received when I picked him up."

Joe looked confident when the man came back confirming it.

"I'm sorry about the delay..." He said opening the huge wire gate to allow them in.

"How did he get the name on the list?" Jun frowned.

"Easy..."Jinpei looked over his shoulder and grinned." The real professor is tied up in a toilet at a service station about an hours drive from here. I just stole his ID, changed the picture. The man said he was being called in at the last minute before Joe knocked him out."

The van stopped inside a loading dock and Joe gave the signal for them to move out into the main hallway of the base.

The base looked like an old bunker from the way the corridors ran in a circular route with elevators to take them to different levels. Jun ran into an empty computer room followed by Ken and Ryu while Jinpei and Joe stood watch outside.

"It'll take me a few minutes to do this." She said logging in and she began to look for the security links. After that she had to use her code breaker to enable to her access the data base to up load the new information. "Damn it...its not accepting the code..."

"Now what Sis..." Jinpei said looking towards the door.

"Bear with me, I'll try something else." She mused punching in another code and then twigging it to see if there had been a change in the last few minutes. Then the code came up for a scan to be done for new personnel. "Good, Guys get in here I only a few minutes to do this before it asks me for another code. I might not be able to access it again after this."

Quickly the five of them did an eye scan, Jun managed hers and set up the file just before it asked for a clearance code to continue.

"I'll see if there's anything in the computer on where he is..." She said before Ken could ask her. Again she looked in a different file for higher security access.

"I need to do an eye scan to access any information about projects being conducted in labs...If it denies my eye scan we'll know about since it set off all sorts of security alarms."

She did the scan and waited, a flood of relief went through her when it worked.

"Cybernetic and brain implant research ...one scientist on duty." She Read out loud. "Patient list...Dyami Butler, and another boy called Jason." 

"What in the world is that about..." Ken said leaning over her shoulder. "What's the location?"

"Its in high security...you need eye scans to get into the area." Jun said.

"I think its time to get the rest of Joe's plan into action." Ken said walking towards the door.

"One more thing Joe and Ken, we need to make this authentic...like we're really in a panic." She said grinning. Then a red alert went off in the base.

Ken stumbled wildly towards the front entrance on his own when he began to deliberately falter in his steps like he was drunk. One of the scientists near by started to approach him when Joe and Jun ran towards them in alarm.

"Don't go near him or you'll be exposed to it too." Jun screamed.

 

The men recoiled from his and stared questioningly at Joe and Jun.

"Its loose...the virus. Get out of here! NOW." Joe yelled. "You have five minutes before it becomes infectious...When starts coughing up green slim and chokes on it...that's when it'll become deadly...sent off the evacuation alarms damn it I said NOW."

"Virus what virus?" One of the men said to his friend. "We only research robotics and genetics history and manipulation and other related areas on this base..."

"Secret weapons research in sector H, don't ask questions that I might have to kill you over." Jun threatened him, conveying her threat with her eyes and body language.

 Ken began to act like he was choking and collapsed to his knees. He forced himself to stand up so he could stumble closer to the guards.

 "Don't come near us...we might be infected by now too from exposure." The older man began to fret. "I'm getting outta here...Can't you hear the alarm, these guys are serious if I knew viral technology was being conducted here I would have never taken up a job!" The older man shouted at the front door security guards.

"Shouldn't we stay here...I mean if it's a deadly virus... we could kill everyone if it gets out." His friend began to question.

"Are you stupid, she gave us five minutes and he's not coughing up green slim yet...we can get outta here in time..."His older friend bellowed over his shoulder and without any more delay he also ran towards the main doors run after him.

Joe and Jun picked up Ken and dragged him further down the corridor.

In the confusion that followed the evacuation alarm with goons and scientists fleeing the invisible threat the five of them ran further into the base towards sector C. The normal security guards had left their posts making it easy to get through lower level security to the higher level elevators. The eye scanner worked successfully and they all gained access to the level Dyami was listed to be held on.

"He has to still be here...I deliberately cut off the alarm to this section when I accessed the data base...unfortunately the eye scanner was cryptic..." Jun said looking around they began their search of the level.

Some of the things Jun saw in the labs make her sick, Ken became angrier the longer they search. It didn't take them long to find the lab, looking through the glass door window she saw a little boy laying on a bare steel table wearing a simple white robe to cover his body.

She opened the door without hesitation and ran into the room followed by Ken.

"Dyami what have they done to you." She gasped. Checking his pulse, he had a steady heart beat and his breathing was normal bringing her only marginal comfort. He was unconscious, pale thin and his head shaved with stitches down one side. An indication of recent surgery.

"Don't move him yet." Ken said walking around the other side." We have to make sure he can be moved..."

That's when they spotted the older wiry man walking through the door. "What are you doing my lab...?" He demanded. "Who are you? Show me some ID or get out of my lab."

"So this your handiwork?" Ken said in a dangerously low voice. His eyes glowered at the man standing before him.

"He's mine to do as I please with...I'm a brain surgeon as well as a scientist." The arrogant scientist stated. "What we do here will help people in the future what's one boy's life over saving thousands through my research."

Before the scientist could utter another word Ken changed into his birdstyle and he flew across the room gasped him by the throat and threw him against the wall. Jun also transmuted to add to him impact but stayed with Dyami.

"Here's my ID asshole...Now you know who I am...now start talking...what-did-you-do-to-him?" Ken growled.

"I...I...can't talk...its...top...secret...Count Egbossler's personal project...he'll...kill...me...if...I...tell...you..." The scientist protested and began crying when he looked over at her for help only to met with a cold green gaze through her visor.

Ken tightened his grip on the man's throat ignoring his questions. "Cybernetics...brain surgery...I want details and I want them now or you'll die a slow painful kind of death...And then I bet you'd rather it was Egobossler doing the job of ending your measly life."

The man looked into Ken's livid eyes and began to shake and the babbled. "He made it through the surgery healthy, no brain damage at all, we confirmed only today the implant is functioning like it should according to prior notes we found about it...remarkable actually...but that's why he's unconscious at the moment...see no real harm done..."He tried to cover, but Ken didn't change his imitating stance so he kept babbling." Remarkable how it works in a small child over an adult...he's just right for it genetically we decided when seeing why it failed on other subjects. It's like...it was made for him...and the other boy has good genetics..."

"Ken get in here." Joe called from across the hall. "We found the other boy Jun mentioned..."

"Dyami's in here..." Jun called back to him. "Is it safe to pick him up?" She turned her gaze on the terrified scientist. "Will I hurt him if I pick him up?" She said more firmly to get him to respond.

The man simply nodded and then wet himself when he looked back at Ken.

Jun waited for some indication Dyami was okay.

"He...he's alright to be picked up I was coming into carry him back to his bed when you arrived." The man tried to look at Jun, but Ken blocked his view.

Taking the cue Jun gently picked him up into her arms and walked out of the room leaving Ken to finish questioning the scientist and walked into the next lab. She frowned when she saw the expression on Joes face.

"Joe, what's wrong?" She asked looking at his stunned face with Jinpei and Ryu standing near by all of them now in birdstyle.

"Its not possible...it just isn't." The Condor kept saying starring at the little boy who looked to be about a year older than Dyami lying on a metal lab table in the middle of the room.

 Silently Jinpei and Ryu walked over to her and looked at Dyami, she gave them a small smile and indicated he was still alive, just unconscious.

When Jun looked into the little boys face she could see why Joe looked so stunned. The boy looked just like him, even with his eyes closed- tuffs of fine hair growth indicated the same burnt caramel colour as Joes...the growing shape of his face and even the small cleft in his chin.

"The patient list said his name is Jason." Jun said trying to get Joe's attention.

"Jason." Joe repeated the boy's name and he picked up his small hand in his. Then he gently cradled the toddler in his arms. "I...he...I can't have a kid...no way...it's just a coincidence...he looks like me...has to be...I...no way..." Joe reasoned to no one in particular. "He can't be mine..."

"We can find out Joe through a DNA test...later we have to get them out of here. With everyone evacuated it should be easy to leave with the boys without anyone to stop us." Ken said in the doorway holding a disk in his hand and something that looked like small coins in the other. "The scientist gave me the information I needed about the implants and this is what they put into their brains...did you know others they tried this on died...including older kids..." Ken said horrified of what had taken place in this lab.

"You should see what's down the hall..." Jinpei shuddered and so did Ryu, tears forming in both of their eyes at memory of what they witnessed. He didn't elaborate and Jun really didn't want to know what else lay in the labs further down. She's seen enough to give her nightmares for weeks.

A glimpse in the doorway of the lab they found Dyami in gave her indication of the fate of scientist at Ken's hands that did the surgery on Dyami. She didn't question Ken about it, he deserved his fate. From the way he acted when they walked in he had no regard for human life what so ever.

The base was devoid of people as the walked towards the front entrance. Dyami began to stir in her arms, muttering something in toddler language then he began to whimper in fear.

"Mummee...scared...food." He whispered desperately. Jun choked up and stifled her real response. "Soon...we'll be taking you home soon to her." Her soothing voice calmed him instantly.

On the way back to Gatchasparten in an abandoned van little Jason began to stir. With Ryu driving this time the little boy still lay in Joe's arms. He stared up at the Condor with big wide grey eyes. He didn't talk or move he stared.

"I found some food...just bread." Jinpei said picking up a loaf from a box of unpacked supplies.

"It'll do." Jun said taking a slice and breaking off a piece and she offered it Dyami. He wolfed it down and waited anxiously for more like a sparrow in a park.

"Any water?" Jun asked the Swallow.

"No, there's some orange juice...looks like its fresh in the small ice box whoever had this last kept back here." He smiled and pulled it out of the box and offered it to her, she looked over at Ken sleeping heavily in the corner.

She tried to get Joe's attention by waving in his face. "Joe...Ken mentioned about going to Jafaru straight away. It's not a bad idea considering his wife is a doctor and he's a scientist...They can protect the boys and Dyami will be back with Matt and Natasha...Just like we promised."

"Ahhh...yeah sounds like a plan Jun." Joe's tone had become distant like his thoughts had gone into la la land.

"Joe snap out of it!" She said lightly punching him in the arm. The Condor looked like she'd jolted him out of a deep slumber by his reaction.

"Hey kid do want to eat something?" He offered taking some of the bread from the Swallow. Jason nodded and accepted to whole slice Joe handed him and bit a chunk out of the middle of it then threw the rest into the corner with Ken and waited for the next slice to come his way.

Joe's brows knitted together in annoyance and he addressed the toddler's actions. "Why do you think you'll get more if you didn't finish the first piece of bread I gave you?"

Jason just glared angrily back and folded his arms in defiance. "Want more." He stated.

"That kid has to have your gene's bro...he's got your glare and temper." Jinpei smirked and laughed.

Joe levelled a threatening finger in the Swallow's face. "You'll keep Jinpei..."

Jinpei handed Jason another piece of bread. "So will you daddy."

"Cut it out Jinpei or I'll sware you won't make it to your fifteenth birthday." Joe said pulling out a feather shuriken to add weight to his threat. The van can to a halt close to the Gatchasparten.

"Do as he say's Jin...stop teasing." Jun scolded her brother. "It's been a long day for all of us."

"Lets all get some sleep before we go to Jafaru's house. We'll all be in a better state, and the kids look like they need more sleep anyway." Jun said stealing a look at the exhausted Eagle.

"Okay, sounds like a plan...we'll sink a missile into the entrance of that base, that's should be enough to put it out of further use to Galactor. Any more than that we could cause an avalanche of dirt and rubble on the village on the other side of the mountain. No use putting innocent lives at risk." Joe ordered.

Jun couldn't agree more. "Then we'll find a spot to camp for the night in the Gatchasparten..."

 

Chapter 40 by Ebonyswanne

 

 

The bright sunlight streamed in through the window's on board the ship. They rarely opened the portals for the windows and Jun was glad Ryu suggested they do it before they went to sleep. The natural warmth of the sun left her feeling refreshed and ready to start the day anew.

A childish giggle over the other side of the room caught her attention.

Joe was sitting next to Jason throwing shuriken at the back of Jinpei's leather chair which Joe had drawn a target circles on it including a bullseye.  So far three were sticking out of the bullseye. Those had to be Joe's throws.

"Now this is how you do it..." Joe said picking up his little hand he placed the feather dart into his palm, he leaned in closer and helped him throw it. The dart missed and fell close to Jinpei's feet.

Jason squealed with delight and clapped his hands and ran over to pick it up causing the Swallow to stir.

"Joe that's dangerous, you can't let him play with Shuriken..." Jun's disapproving tone made Joe sigh heavily.

"I had to entertain him somehow, he's been awake since the crack of dawn, and I was the one he woke up to play with." Joe said in his defence as he carefully pried the feather Shuriken out of Jason's hand. This caused the small boy to tear up and he began to cry loudly. Enough to wake up a sleeping Dyami who'd been curled up next to Ken in the far corner of the ship wrapped in his mantle. Ken sat up too, picking up his helmet he rose to his feet and began to straighten up his birdstyle, and place his mantle back around his shoulders.

Jason stomped his foot again and tried to reach for the Shuriken in Joe's hand.

"No Jason, you can't have it, not now anyway..." Joe said putting back inside his mantle away from sight. "Later I promise...we'll play some more with it."

"I want it...I want to play...hate you..." He yelled angrily and stomped his foot again and ran away to sit in the corner and sulk. Dyami quietly walked over to him and sat down next to him and put a hand on his shoulder. He didn't do much he just kept Jason company- with a sad haunted expression on his little face.

"You got attitude kid...give ya that much." Joe crossed his arms and looked away from him shaking his head. "We'll find you're parents...don't worry someone must own you."

"It looks like we need to get moving Kamo's just sent a message wanting us back at the base not far from Utoland pronto." A sleepy Ryu said looking at the transmission.

"I have an idea." Ken said making eye contact with Joe and a bright smile spread across his face. "Let's give them both a treat. We split up into our vehicles, Dyami can come with me in the G-1 and Jason can go with you Joe."

"Why not..." Joe agreed grinning at the two traumatised children sitting in the corner.

"Before we do that they need to eat." Jun pointed out leaving the bridge she ran down the hall to their food supply and picked out some cereal and milk and quickly put it into the disposable bowls kept on board for emergencies. 

A few minutes later the boys had eaten and they were ready to launch the Gatchasparten.

Mark and Jason watched in awe as the ships engines fired up for take off.

"Kids make a mess when they eat." Joe observed, watching Jun clean up the floor with a cloth. She threw it at him, he ducked and it hit the wall behind him instead.

"That's for standing there watching instead of helping clean it up." She said when gave her a questioning look over her actions.

"Come on Dyami...you and I are going flying." Ken sounded excited for the first time in ages. Jun thought as they all took their places and separation sequence began with the ship.

"Hey Jas, we can out run them in the G-2 what do you say boy...I feel the need for speed!" Joe said wildly picking him up playfully and perching him in his lap as the walls went up around him to form the G-2.

The next few hours brought the greatest joy the five of then hadn't known in what felt like years. She felt like she was transported back to the days before the war began when they first started training together. The carefree days of their youth that she knew would never come again, too much had happened over the years for them to regain the innocence of those days.

She listened to the joyful laughter from Dyami as Ken swooped dangerously low over Joe and Jason in the G-2 as they drove along the vast stretches of the African continent on their way to Jafaru's house.

They all stopped to show them tigers and lions and elephants. Ken would hover low enough for Dyami to see them closer and then he would chase them just above the ground and then fly back higher into the open skies. Joe drove alongside wild running elephants and with a herd of Giraffes. She listened and he told Jason about the mission where they turned into Galactor mecha like it was just a story rather than something that really happened.

She listened to Joe and Ken talking to the boys as they flew. It was like they were trying to teach them their years of experience and skills in only a few hours to two toddlers who barely talk. It warmed her see what kind of fathers they would be one day...She felt so proud of Ken and how he was handling his feelings, knowing it would be his only chance to do this in Dyami's lifetime.

Jason didn't cry or become bored the whole time he was with Joe, and the more reckless Joe became the more he enjoyed it. Dyami was the same in the G-1 with Ken.

Eventually they arrived at their destination. By this time they parked the vehicles in a secret location and hired a car to drive to Jafaru's house. Back in their civilian uniforms both boy's had a nap in the car, exhausted from all of the excitement.

Chapter 41 by Ebonyswanne

Pulling up in front the house they didn't have to wait to be greeted as the five of them stepped out of the car leaving the sleeping boys in the back. Natasha and Matt stood in the doorway. Jun's heart instantly went out to them. Natasha looked paler and thinner than she remembered- Matt's face had become draw and troubled and aged since the last time she saw him.

Jun indicated for them to come over to the car.

"He's here..." She said quietly holding back her tears as reality hit her. Dyami was going home and it wasn't with her or Ken. They ran over and looked through the window. Natasha burst into uncontrollable tears- Matt pulled her tightly into his arms fighting back his own to be strong for his distraught wife.

"What did they do to him...damn it Matt I hate Galactor..." She wept and clung to his shirt.

"We do...Shhhh...sweetheart he's back with us now..." Matt whispered into her hair. "Let's get him into the house...then we'll ask what happened."

Matt's eyes met both Ken and Jun's like he was asking their permission to open the car door.

"Go ahead," Ken indicated stepping back, keeping his own feelings in check. Matt gently pried his wife from his arms and opened the door. Gingerly he picked up his sleeping son into his arms. Dyami stirred, opened his eyes and stared at Matt...

"Daddy..." He cried and wrapped his arms around his neck, and then looked at Natasha. "Mummee..." He wept.

"We're here..." She said gently touching his bald head and wiped away a few tears from his ruddy red cheeks.

Matt had noticed Jason sleeping beside him. "Do you want to bring the other boy inside too- Jafaru is in his lab, we were in the front room when we heard the car pull up..."

Joe was already picking up Jason before Matt spoke.

"That sounds like a plan to me." He said looking at Ken. Taking his cue Ken walked into the house followed by the rest of them.

Dyami was wide awake by then and had put his arms out to his mother and he clung to het like glue. "Fly in a plane...with him." He told her pointing at Ken. "Saw tigers...and birds."

Ken cleared his throat. "We just thought it would cheer them up on the way here."

"No need to explain Ken. I'm glad he had a good time flying with you." Matt said hiding a slight envious expression that crossed his face when Dyami mentioned it. Matt's injuries had kept him out of fighter planes since his mid twenties. Jun could see the longing there in him to fly again. She figured it never really left a pilot- even years after they gave it up.

"Are you hungry Dyami?" His eyes lit up and he began nodding wildly."...Lets go get you some food." Natasha said smiling while walking towards the kitchen to feed her ravenous son.

In the meantime Joe laid a still sleeping Jason onto the couch when Jafaru and his wife walked into the room, relief washed over his face.

"We didn't know what was going on...it's been weeks Ken." Jafaru said looking at Matt.

"Natasha hasn't been sleeping very well...barely eating at all...and we found out her father died in hospital just after he was admitted. "Matt looked out the window, an underlying grief still evident in his voice. "I called the number you gave me for the hospital he went to when I had a chance from a public phone..." Matt filled them in.

"I'm so sorry," Jun's said sincerely, "Anthony was a lovely man and wonderful grandfather."

Matt acknowledged her gesture. "There is not much we can do for him now. They're holding the body in a morgue...I made up some plausible reason a burial couldn't happen until we returned to Utoland." Matt's eyes fell on Ken questioning him as the when that would be possible.

"You can't go back yet Matt, we have work to do and it's going to get messy...and you're still in danger." Ken answered him. Satisfied Matt changed the topic.

"I think its time you told us why Dyami has a surgical scar down his scalp." Matt said softly as Natasha returned to the room with Dyami. For the next hour after Jason woke up Jafaru's son kept the boys entertained while Ken and Jun filled them in on what had taken place after they left.

"An implant..." Jafaru looked thoughtful. "Did you know the ISO was looking into genetic technology similar to it a few years ago but Dr Nambu had the unit shut down. He thought the ideas they were presenting him were unethical. I only found out about the project because I was being considered for the science team. I wasn't privy to details since it was top secret and you had to be part of the team to know what they were actually doing."

"Then you're the right person to see what this is all about." Ken handed him the disk. "Take care with that information Jafaru. I want it back when you've looked at it."

"You bet I will..." He turned his eyes on the Condor. "Now Joe about that DNA test- Those blood samples I took from you and Jason should be ready with the results in the lab by now." Jafaru stood up and left with the disk.

Joe looked nervous...

"I'm going with him- just make sure he didn't blotch anything." He said standing up quickly he followed the scientist from the room.

A few minutes later Joe walked back in and stood in the doorway starring at Jason. He looked like someone had just shot him yet he remained standing.

"He is mine...Jason's my son...how I don't know but he is." Joe fumbled with his words while he walked over and crouched down next to the little kid sitting on his own playing with a toy.

"Hi son." Joe's voice broke with emotion. "It looks like I'm your dad..."

"What about his mother?" Jinpei blurted out. "Who is she Joe? You must know? Common bro, no secrets between all of us remember."

Joe's face became troubled." I...I...don't know honestly...but I have to find her so she take him back I suppose."

"What do you mean you don't know?" Ryu didn't look convinced.

"Just like I said Ryu, you know despite what the women's magazines and a few nosy newspapers might say about me- I don't sleep around with beautiful women just because I can. I'm not like that." Joe became defensive and he stood up clenching his fists and began walking out of the room again. "I need a minute alone to process all of this."

Before he reached the door Jason ran after him and grabbed his hand forcing Joe to stop and look into his pleading grey eyes. "Are you...my daddy?" He spoke the words very clearly.

"It looks that way kid." Joe said softly.

Jason's eyes became blurry with tears. Then the little boy threw his arms around Joe's legs. "I want a daddy...got one now."

Joe sighed heavily and picked him up and carried him out of the room. "We need to get to know each other just for a little while, and then I have to go and fight bad guys in my racing car."

"We have to be leaving soon." Ken stood up his eyes still on the door that Joe had just walked out of. Jun knew Ken and Joe would most likely talk about it later- they always did when it was something that affected their life.

"Matt, Natasha, you need to start calling Dyami something else...Galactor know his name and the one Jun gave isn't very common." Ken said leaning against the window sill. He'd discussed it with her before they arrived and she agreed it was in Dyami's best interests to have at least his first name changed.

"I see what you're getting at." Natasha looked at her husband and then at Ken. "We could call him by his middle name- at least he's familiar with it...so we can make a gradual transition for him."

"Mark's more common too...so it won't stand out." Matt agreed.

"Then Mark is his new name." Jun said standing up. She needed to get used to it that's why she deliberately said it out loud.

"Jason can stay with us until Joe can find way to support him or find his mother." Natasha offered. "I suppose since we need to stay here a while longer."

"Yes, we have some big things going down against Galactor at the moment...enough that we might be able to bring about an end to the war very soon." Ken informed them Matt didn't pry he knew Ken wouldn't divulge information that was top secret in the ISO about the war with Galactor.

A short while later after they had said their farewells they finally stood together in a circle in the place where they had left their G machines. Once they had transmuted back into their birdstyles. Ken extended his hand...Jun laid hers on top of his, followed by Joe, Jinpei and Ryu.

Ken finally spoke their commitment out loud his voice filled with the burning passion that they all felt inside...he voiced their vow of revenge for the losses they had all suffered at the hands of Galactor. "We fight until the end...we'll get revenge for what they did to Dr Nambu, Mark and Jason and we won't stop until we finish this war once and for all.Even if it means we all die together, this time no one gets left behind."

Chapter 42 by Ebonyswanne

 

The weeks that followed they worked on less sleep and at times without Ken...

Jun woke up from her light slumber, she'd been dreaming of weeks of mission after mission with hardly any time to even put her head on a pillow for a good nights sleep.

In that time Ken had been given a mysterious golden amulet left to him by Dr Nambu that none of them knew how to use or what its real purpose is, all marvelled at its detailed carvings that still gave nothing away about its purpose.

The asteroid keep coming towards the Earth and they had to find a way to stop it before all was lost...they had 16 hours...yet they chose to take a nap? All she could see was Dyami and his family watching in terror as it came towards them...and little Jason sat on the ground close by them watching the end coming towards him. A dream, it all had to be dream, just one long nightmare. She reasoned.

Ryu's excitement broke into her dream..."Its Ken, I think he's found a way in." Ryu said in a hopeful voice.

What was he doing out there on his own? He was suppose to be taking a rest break before we tried to go in enter the Satellite, she thought rubbing the sleep out of her eyes with her gloved fists. But then nothing Ken did these days surprised her, he'd become totally consumed by his duty to end the war since they left Africa. She understood his reasons, but it didn't stop it from hurting her knowing he was making his illness worse by his own actions, and shortening his life to a whisper. Even after he was told if he used the hypershoot one more time it would kill him he persisted, ignoring any of their protests.

"The stench in this place is horrible." Jun said to Jinpei who adamantly agreed with her when they finally managed to get inside of the ‘Poison apple', the name given to the satellite by Kamo.

Where is that sound coming from? She mused becoming annoyed by its persistence...like a tap of water that's been left running somewhere. Dismissing it from her mind she focused on the tunnel ahead of them, it blurred before her like it had become a distant memory... She felt herself being pulled in two different directions...

"Its like we're inside of a living organism." Ken's tone held a sense of awe as his eyes roamed around the living red flesh that surrounded them. Yet he remained focused on the task ahead of them and began running ahead of them down the corridor- Stopping abruptly in front of Count Egobossler pinned up against a wall.

"It looks he's not going to hurt anyone ever again." Joe said satisfied with what he saw before him. Jun agreed with him, but still found the sight gruesome. He'd been run through with his own sword, his pale eyes still wide open from the shock of the death he didn't see coming.

Ken strolled over and looked at the picture and lock hair still grasped in the dead dictators hands. "His mother..."Ken said- pity evident in his tone. "He really did have a mixed up life didn't he...I wonder if this is why he turned on Sosai Z."

"I'm not that surprised he's dead Ken, Sosai Z killed Berg Katse and Gel Sadra his own creations when he was finished with them. It looks like he was done with Count Egobossler too- Which means we're in big trouble and don't have much time left." Joe concluded.

"We have to keep moving..." Ken agreed- Urgently looking down a corridor that led towards the centre of the ship.

Who's running water and why...she kept thinking, hearing the sound grow louder with each step forcing her to work harder to keep her focus, her legs began to feel heavy and cold...

Then an extremely bright light struck Ryu and he fell crashing to the floor forcing her to come to an abrupt halt.

"Ryu," her mind screamed...the Jinpei followed him...Ken ran closer to the source..."No Ken..." She screamed just before the beam struck her she saw the most horrifying creature appear before them...She screamed in pain and the world shattered around her and she felt nothing...

* * * *

A splash of icy cold water on her face woke her up again...

"Jun." Ryu's anxious voice jolted her out of her slumber. No she realized- she'd been knocked unconscious...it wasn't a dream it had all happened just before she was knocked out. She felt his hands on her shoulders shaking her break her out of her trance.

"Wake up, I saw you stirring but the others haven't moved yet." He said frantically. She bolted upright to see the source of the running water jerking her back into reality. They were back on board the Gatchasparten, with water rapidly pouring in through cracks in the ship.

"Where are we?" She asked, to many questions of what happened after she collapsed on the Poison Apple flooded into her brain. She had to push them all back for another time to get a grip on the situation they had currently found themselves in.

"In the ocean, and sinking fast towards the bottom, we have to get outta here." Joe responded, he'd become conscious and was quickly looking at equipment. Jinpei sat up fast, but Ken didn't move.

For instant she felt her heart almost stop beating. He's dead...she thought.

Jumping out of her seat she ran over to him and gently rocked his shoulder to bring him back to a conscious state. He didn't respond to her, his pulse felt like a fluttering butterfly and his breathing so shallow his chest didn't even rise. Temporary relief washed over her, it was short lived when she saw the level of the cold ocean water reach her knees and it kept rising.

"Ryu, get Jinpei out the evacuation shoot." Joe ordered quickly and then joining Jun he to see to Ken.

"Bro we ain't leaving without you...remember if we die, we all die together." Jinpei reminded him frowning at being forced out of the ship first. "Besides...it outside of the bridge...gotta open the doors to get to it."

"I know Jinpei... but we're not dying here...we're going to live, but to do that we need to get off this sinking ship." Joe hollered sharply. "Now do as you're told for once without an argument. Get out of here." He turned his steely eyes onto Jun. "And you're going with them."

"You don't scare me Joe...I'm going with Ken." She said turning her attention back to Ken she tried to pick him up. He felt like a lead weight in her arms and the two of them collapsed into the waist deep icy cold water flowing into the bridge.

Grabbing her mantle to stop her from going under the water, he picked the still unconscious Ken up and threw him over his shoulder, allowing Jun to regain her balance.

"Hold onto something." Joe warned as Jinpei opened the main door of the bridge and a wall of water came flooding in throwing them all off balance.

From that time onward she lost touch with Ryu and Jinpei in the flooding ship as she was thrown against a wall by the force of the rushing water the bridge filled up quickly to the roof forcing her rely on her small oxygen breathing device she kept inside of her mantle . Fighting against the tide she swam towards the opening to leave the bridge.

She felt a mantle swish past her and she grabbed it, only to find it was Ken floating peacefully in the depths of water surrounding them. Her heart racing she pulled off his helmet and her own, closing her lips over his she began breathing the air she had held onto into his lungs in hope of keeping him alive. Her long hair swirling around her kept getting in the way as she fumbled inside of his mantle for his breathing device they used for underwater missions.

She drew in a breath from her device and then another, holding the air in her mouth she placed her mouth over his to breath the oxygen into his lungs. Taking him into her arms Jun began swimming through the ship to find a way out taking turns with Ken to take in the oxygen.

The lights began to flicker, and for a few seconds they were plunged into pitch blackness. Fearing the worst she clung to him with all of her remaining strength. To have him slip from her grip now would mean certain death for him as she feared she never find him again the black water. The ship did a sudden dive throwing them into a wall she realized the breathing device had slipped her fingers, and panic began to set in, without they would both die in a matter of minutes.

Chapter 43 by Ebonyswanne

 

Then a familiar arm around her waist told her Joe had found them in the blackness. She let him take control as he led them out of an escape hatch into the open ocean.

During the journey to the surface with Joe pushing them along with all of his remaining strength. Jun breathed her own air back into Ken's lungs until they burned and she began to feel dizzy from the lack of oxygen. The world began to swirl around her just as they burst through the surface into the cool night air above them with Joe. Taking the salty night air into her lungs in big painful gulps she looked around for Ryu and Jinpei across the black waters of the ocean.

"Sis, Joe...Ken." Jinpei yelled from somewhere close by. "We're coming...hold on."

By the light of the moon she saw Jinpei in a life raft rowing over to them. Ryu leaned down to pull her up into the small inflated boat.

"No, Ryu...Ken first." She insisted. "He's still out of it."

"Ryu, get her into the boat will ya, I've got Ken, he's not going anywhere." Joe said taking hold of him- Ryu ignored her protests and pulled her up into the raft. Not knowing how weak she'd become, her whole body began to shake like Jelly and she collapsed into the bottom of the raft and crawled into a corner, curling her legs up underneath her for warmth, while Ryu assisted Joe and Ken safely into the raft.

 Jun didn't know how long they float in the cold waters of the ocean they crashed into.

"H...how...d...did...we...end... up...here?" She stuttered while rubbing her gloved hands over her legs trying to warm up.

"I'm not sure." Joe said checking Ken's pulse again for the hundredth time to make sure he was still alive. "The last thing I remember was being hit by a laser beam and then everything went totally black."

"Same here." Jinpei and Ryu nodded in unison.

"Did we win?" Jinpei asked the three of them and then his eyes fell onto Ken. He must have been the last one standing, he was last one any of them saw approaching Sosai Z.

"I dunno we're back on Earth...I think...and it looks like its all still here, a good sign." Joe sat up taller and looked around for a sign of anything that resembled land, a ship...anything. "I did set off a birdscramble just before I left the bridge."

"Who's to say anyone is lookin for it..." Ryu said dismally crouching down beside Jinpei.

"How can you even be sure we're on Earth...we might be on some weird planet that's covered only in water...just like in Star Wars!" Jinpei's eyes widened with fear.

Jun sank back down next to Ken, his face looking deathly shade of white.

He won't last much longer in these conditions. She thought. Still feeling numb she began to rub his arms to try and bring warmth back into his body and blood flow into her arms.

The first rays of sunlight across the open expanse brought with it the sounds of a twin engine plane soaring through the skies above them...

Jun sat up full of hope. Finally someone had found them- they had a chance at life after all. Joe was right- they were not destined to die on mission after all.

Chapter 44 by Ebonyswanne

Aprox 2 days later; Location G-Town underwater base just outside of Utoland.

"I thought you were told to get some rest." Joe scolded her as Jun picked up some clean clothes laid out for her on the table next to her hospital bed and headed towards her private bathroom to change out of the uncomfortable gown she'd just been sleeping in.

"So were you Condor Joe..."She scolded him back. "But I see you're up and about...what about Jinpei and Ryu?" She asked.

"Waiting for you...Even though I told them you needed more rest." He called out from behind the door. She didn't waste any more time, her only thought was to get to the intensive care unit to see Ken. From the time they arrived at the base none of them had been allowed to see him.

"You know I can still feel that muck on my skin from that strange interior of the satellite. Scary place...I'm glad we made it out of there." Jun called from behind the door.

"I know what you mean, slimy, and smelly- I'm still having nightmares." Joe agreed, and then brought the topic back to the present. "After yesterday's brief meeting I'm not sure what will happen to all of now." Joe sounded lost. "All the Galactor bases that we know of have been destroyed...and they're sending the army to take care of the rest of the few militia that have sprung up since the idiots are still wearing their green goon uniforms...You know its like Galactor just fell apart overnight...along with their need for us..."

"They didn't waste any time disbanding us for good did they." Jun didn't keep the disappointment out of her voice, and didn't know if Joe heard her. They'd been de-commissioned before, but this felt different. This had a permanent feeling to it, without Dr Nambu, the people in power could do anything they wanted regarding their status.

Jun eventually walked out of the bathroom ready for anything.

"We left an impression with the firebird...I didn't even know the ship was capable of going into Firebird mode!" Joe's voice lightened up a little as she pushed away the depressing feelings that had begun to rise inside of her.

"Yeah, it apparently was amazing," She said smiling." It's a shame Ken's medallion was lost, do you think its still on the Gatchasparten?" She asked.

"I'm not sure- Come to think of it I don't recall seeing it on him when we woke up." Joe mused and his face became distant. Another unsolved mystery Jun thought.

"Kamo's waiting there for us." Joe said softly looking back at the door. "We'll know more of what's happening with him, Kamo won't lie to us."

Jun's heart skipped a beat, they knew nothing at this point, only that's he's still alive beyond that no one was talking to any of the members of the Science Ninja Team about the condition of their Commander.

Following Joe she walked quietly with Jinpei and Ryu beside her towards the higher security medical section of G-Towns hospital bay.

To her surprise Jafaru was standing next to Kamo. His dark features looked drawn and sad, and he looked liked like he hadn't slept in days. She knew why, Ken is his friend too, and the man who rescued his son a few years ago.

"I know you all want to see him..." Kamo said gravely putting his hand on the door to open it.

The room was dimly lit with a single bed in the middle of it. Ken lay there with his face covered in a mask with a tube going down his throat to help him with breathing and so they could feed him fluids- dressed only in a white clinic gown his thick dark brown hair looked black and dull against the white sheets.

Gently she picked up his limp hand in hers weaving her fingers through his. "We're here Ken." She leaned down and whispered into his ear.

"Get to it, and don't try to pretty it up for Kamo and Jafaru, what's happening with Ken." Joe burst out impatiently. Taking in the sight of best friend and brother he pulled a shuriken out of his pocket and began to chew on it hard like he was praying for a Galactor goon to show up so he could take out his anger and worry on someone.

Kamo slowly nodded and began to pace like he was struggling to find the right words.

"Just give us the truth Kamo...we can handle it." Jun promised, drawing her breath she waited for him to speak.

"Ken's barely alive, the only thing keeping him with us is the life support unit...the cell disruption is bad...so bad his body has gone into a state of shock sending him into a deep coma. Its not likely he'll ever come out of it." Kamo stopped pacing and looked directly at Jun.

The tears she'd been holding back flow like a river down her cheeks at this news blurring her vision she didn't take her eyes off him.

You have to live Ken...you have to, how dare you die and leave me here. She mentally shouted.

"There's something you have to know about the implants in Mark and Jason's brains." Jafaru jammed his hands into his white lab coat. The four of them stood and waited for him to continue.

"It's done amazing things with the cells in the two boys. Dyami or Mark...Sorry I get it mixed up sometimes... fell over the other day and badly cut open his leg. It was totally healed the next day, not even a scar. The same goes for those surgical scars on their scalps. There's nothing left of them now. I have an idea that might just save Ken...if we put one of the implants into his brain them it might just reverse the cell disruption." Jafaru looked hopeful. "We have to try-"

Joe stopped chewing his shuriken and glared intensely at Jafaru."--Or kill him or leave him with permanent brain damage a vegetable with no life...causing his organs to shut down. I saw the reports we brought back from the lab on what it did to older patients yesterday when you put this to me the first time..." Joe folded his arms and glared at Kamo and Jafaru.

"He's a genetic match to Mark, that's in his favour." Kamo pointed out.

So Joe has already been talking to them about this, She though angrily. Why not wait for all of us to talk about something this important?

"It won't make it worse than dying which is what will happen eventually...one day very soon you'll all be asked to switch off his life support forever...he has only a small amount of brain activity registering...Ken's time is running out fast we don't have time to debate over this." Kamo's face became deadly serious. Nothing of his usual jolly manner remained in that moment.

After that a loud heated debate between the others started about what should be done about Ken and the implant. Jun listens silently to the way they were all trying to decide Ken's future. Closing her eyes she remembered all the times Ken was the one making the choices regarding their lives. He was the one who made the hardest choices when it came to the team and following their duty. For once she felt thrusted into his shoes and she hated it with a passion. Would Ken want then not to take the risk, opening her eyes and looking into his face she knew the answer...

"We do it...put the implant into his brain." Jun's voice silenced the rest of them." Ken was a fighter, and if there's a way to save a life Ken would do it...if there's a way to save his then we try it."

"Well the whole world thinks we died when you gave that news conference the day before you found us floating in the Atlantic Ocean." Jinpei shrugged his shoulders looking at Kamo. "I'm for doing whatever it takes to save big bro."

"Me too Jinpei, this implant is a gamble I know, but what other options does he have?" Ryu agreed.

"He has to live with this Jun and may well hate you for it." Joe warned.

"He can if he wants to Joe, I don't own his life, he does and it'll be up to him to keep fighting the odds once this is done." Jun held her ground with the Condor.

"I'm with you Jun, I just wanted to be sure you understood that's all." Joe gave her his backing. That's all he'd been waiting for was Jun's go ahead with the operation.

"It will take about eight hours of surgery, and then he'll be in intensive care for possibly weeks afterwards- Depending on Ken really." Jafaru said. "There a few brilliant surgeons on this base that I knew a few years ago when I was working at the ISO main building in Utoland, I'll make sure the right ones do the operation."

Jun drew in a regard breath. "Okay, we'll be here if you need us."

"I suggest you go out of this base for a while, you can't do anything for him exhausted and sapped of life." Jafaru walked over to Jun and said "I know what its like to worry about a loved one...My wife- she worried about our son so much it made her sick. I know Mark is Ken's son, how could I mistake it. Matt and Natasha told me about his adoption...Ya know Ken has a lotta of things in his life worth living for. Let him wake to seeing you looking beautiful...not drawn and thin and a train wreck like I see you becoming if sitting around here waiting for news about the surgery and from here on in afterwards. This isn't going to be a quick fix to his health problems Jun"

Jun went to protest, but the look in his eyes told her not to. "I'll contact you straight away I promise."

Kamo's face became graver and he glanced at the personnel standing on the other side of the viewing glass. "Thank you...I know the people of Earth thank you for your service..."

"Our service?" Jinpei looked at him suspiciously and he looked a Ryu. "Is that all we did...so they got rid of us and that's their way of thanking us..."

"We feel you've sacrificed enough. And it's time to give you back your privacy." Kamo looked into each of their faces.

Jun felt her world begin to spin wildly at the news, what will they do now? She thought. Looking up she saw at the glass viewing window military officers observing them. They were discussing something out there and she knew it had to do with them. They had outlived their usefulness now that Ken was dying...

 

Chapter 45 by Ebonyswanne

Jun's daily trek into Utoland began that day, only for a few hours and back again to be with Ken sitting his room starring at him willing him to wake up. The serene marine life outside the window's only brought back memories of their early enthusiastic days together at the Crescent Coral base when they were once the Science Ninja Team led by Gatchaman.

 Joe, Jinpei and Ryu all took turns being with him so Ken was never alone for a minute.  He remained in a coma for months after the operation in a delicate balance between life and death.

It was on one of those days where she felt down and depressed that Joe showed up with Jason.

Jafaru had brought the little boy with him when came to Utoland when he heard that news that they'd been found through a source working in the ISO. Joe spent as much time with his young son as possible.

"Jun!" Jason ran into the room and bounded into her lap like a jack rabbit." Daddy and I went and had pancakes." He announced smiling.

"Really." Jun smiled back.

Joe didn't look that happy. "What's wrong Joe?" She asked setting Jason back down onto the ground.

"You're not gonna believe this buddy." He walked over to Ken and addressed him like he often did when he came to visit.  "The bank damn well foreclosed on the Airfield due to lack of payments for the past few months. Why didn't you tell us there was a debt against it? "He scolded Ken. "We would have taken care of it for you, now they won't budge and have already begun to sell it off."

Jun jumped to her feet." They can't do that! After all he's done for the world..."

"The bank can and they have. Apparently he put every cent he earned towards paying it off from his mail run. Kentaro had taken out a loan against it before he vanished the first time- his mother only paid back the interest since she couldn't work from a pension. Ken kept this all to himself thinking he would do on his own."

That explains why he never had any money to pay off his tab." Jun thought wildly.

"We have to fight it Joe." She declared.

"I tried, but I found out too late, I managed to save some of his personal things just before they went to board up the shack." Joe grinned for a moment. "Jason was wonderful, he bit the man hard on his leg who was trying to kick us out and then he tripped him over."

"Joe!" Jun scolded him. "That's not what you teach children to do."

The smile ran from Joe's face. "I know, he's got my temper that's for sure." He said softly." He's strong willed Jun, more than I ever was I bet, sometimes out of the blue he's just cries and punches and kicks walls and he creates dents in them too...I don't know what to do when he's like that...then he'll run to me and cuddle me, and cry more...He talks so well for his age, they say its part of the implant's influence...and the cybernetics are growing with his muscles making him stronger than a kid normally would be for his age..."

They still didn't know anything about his mother since he found him. Jason was a mystery yet to be solved by Joe.

"We'll buy it back from whoever bought it." Jun decided. She had enough money to do it from her inheritance from Dr Nambu, her new restaurant could wait she decided. She'd only put a deposit down on the site, she could afford to lose it if she had to help out Ken.

"No," Joe shook his head. "I tried to stop it from happening, I spent the last two days talking to bankers and trying not to lose my temper....A developer brought it, and it looks like the old airfield is about to become exclusive apartments...we were too late...damn it Ken we could have helped you if we knew." Joe looked like he wanted to punch him...like he hoped Ken would jump up out of his coma in anger at hearing the news his beloved airfield was lost forever, another change in their lives and a further separation from the old days.

"Jun, can you come out of the room for a minute, there's something I wish to discuss with you, Jason will be right in here for a few minutes, besides Ken there's nothing eh can break in here." Joe's face looked haunted by something. Reluctantly she left Ken and walked outside with Joe leaving the door open so they could keep an eye on the three year old boy.

"What is it?" She asked.

Joe sat down on the lounge close by and Jun joined him.

"Remember how I just told you Jason can be out of control sometimes...well, I've done some thinking about his future." Joe clasped his hands together tightly.

"What about it..." She waited for him to continue.

"Jun, there are something's I want to tell you, but I feel you'll think poorly of me afterwards..." He looked nervous, the great Condor was nervous about something she thought.

"Its about Jason's mother...I have feeling I kinda know who she is...but I don't." He struggled with his words, and Jun waited for him to keep talking.

"One night, when I was so depressed about dying I went down to a bar in the worst part of Utoland. I sat with a scotch wondering why me...why was I dying when I had to live to fight Galactor...I...I ahhh met this girl- She was gorgeous with long dark hair, pretty eyes. Well all she did was indicate she was interested in me and I...went to a hotel room with her and ahhh you know we..." He stopped talking and sat back and looked at Jun. "I had sex with her..."

Jun didn't respond at first. "Why are you embarrassed about that?"

"Its not my usual form to sleep with a girl I don't even know, I never knew her name, I didn't ask, she didn't know mine, we just had a few hours together and that was it. Before that I'd never made love to a woman..."

Now that shocked Jun, Joe had a reputation as a ladies man, she couldn't imagine him a virgin. Ken confessed to her just before the first time they made love that's she was his first, that didn't surprise her like Joe's confession just did.

"Don't look so shocked." He said standing up he began pacing. "Just because a guy has a reputation doesn't mean its true, in my case I just got it because I look tough and act it."

"Its just that Joe...you always had a girlfriend of some kind I just assumed that you...well had slept with a few of them along the way." Jun stood up and walked over to him, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "I don't think badly of you at all Joe- you had a lot going on at that time..."

"She might have died, according to a report from the labs he's an orphan, that's why I've decided to stop searching for her. For all we know Galactor killed her because of his good DNA. There was nothing else, not even a name- he may never know who his mother is."  Joe placed his head into his hands and ran his fingers through his unruly caramel hair.

Jun put a comforting arm around his shoulders as Joe worked to keep his dignity.

"Its okay, I won't tell anyone, it's between you and me." She reassured him.

"Daddy." Jason stood in the doorway pointing back inside the room excitement bursting from his little body. "Ken woke up from his sleep...he's looking at the ceiling..."

Joe and Jun looked at each other and they ran into the room to see Ken finally awake and indeed staring at nothing.

Jun didn't know how she'd feel when he finally woke up. Relief maybe, but it wasn't. She worried more when he didn't focus on her or Joe- he just stared at the white ceiling.

"Ken." She spoke softly. "His head turned at the sound of her voice but he didn't say anything. Joe ran to the nurse's quarters to find a doctor.

Jason climbed up onto the bed and began poking him. Ken didn't respond to him.

"Jason, stop that." Jun frowned at the cheeky three year old boy.

The doctors assigned to looking after Ken and a nurse hurried through the door with monitoring equipment.

"Check his monitor's." One said picking Jason up off the bed and handed him to Joe.

"We need space, its time for you leave- we have to check the implant to see if it's waking him up. Or it was just a random response, coma patients are known to open their eyes and then go back into a deep sleep for a period of time afterwards." He said looking over the top of his glasses at the monitor.

"I want to stay." Jun began to protest at being fobbed off by the busy doctors.

"Come with me Jun, we'll wait outside, let them do their job. We need to contact Ryu and Jinpei, they'll want to know about this." Joe said gently taking hold of her arm- he guided her out the door carrying Jason on his hip with the little boy starring at Ken over his shoulder.

 

Chapter 46 by Ebonyswanne

"Jun, we got here as fast as we could." Jinpei shout from down the corridor as he raced towards her, followed by Ryu who was noticeably short of breath while trying to keep up with Jinpei.

"What's happening? Joe mentioned something about Ken waking up. Where is Joe?" Ryu puffed coming to halt next to Jinpei.

"He's gone to take Jason to a toilet and then he needs a nap and food- he'll be back as soon as he can." Jun informed them. She'd been pacing the hall for an hour waiting for them to show up.

"He woke up, but I don't know any more yet none has emerged from the room." Jun signed heavily in frustration, that's all she had to tell them so far.

Jinpei slumped his shoulders and accidently dropped his opened backpack to the floor, only to have some of the contents fall out of it. Jun leaned down to pick up some of the paper that had scattered around her feet something caught her eye as she was about to hand it back to him.

"What's this Jinpei." She looked up sharply at her brother, quickly taking in the picture and interesting notes at the bottom of the page.

Jinpei's face became sheepish. "It's nothing Sis..."

"Yeah." Ryu jumped in a little to quickly." Its mine, he was just carrying the picture for me in his backpack."

She turned her steady gaze back onto Jinpei, he was covering something up. "What do you mean ‘it's nothing'? This says that you plan to buy a trawler together...what about our restaurant? And it has your name on the quote Jinpei so you can't lie to me." Jun shoved it into his face. The Swallow looked torn  between them and he turned away from her. "We'll talk about it later sis, right now we need to focus on Big bro he needs us."

"Since we have nothing else better to do right now I think you need to tell me Jin what this is all about?" Jun glared angrily at Ryu and then back at Jinpei, the pair of them had been hiding something from her and she wanted to know the truth.

"Ryu and I..." He began, pausing to lick his lips nervously." Well before the war ended we talked about maybe going into business together...this was after the Snack J burned down. But in a way we kinda talked about it in passing years ago too just not seriously."

This was all new to Jun- Jinpei never mentioned it when she showed him the restaurant site she happened to be interesting in buying and asked what he thought about it only a week ago. He told her it would make a wonderful sea side restaurant with the huge windows overlooking Utoland Bay beach. Come to think of it he didn't really say ‘us'... Just that he liked the location.

"This is what you really want?" Jun felt crushed by this, struggling to keep her pain out of her voice by staring at the picture of the fishing trawler, inside her heart was breaking." And...where do you plan to start the business."

Jinpei swallowed hard before he spoke again in a small voice." Back on the Island Ryu came from- his father said he'd show us the ropes to help us get started..."

Jinpei's eyes swelled up with tears and he walked over and put a hand on her arm. "The truth is Sis I hate working in a restaurant I always have that's why I tried to get out all the time...it's not my dream it's yours..."

That confession undid her totally and she burst into tears and sank into the chair close by. "I'm so sorry Jinpei...I never asked you what you really wanted...its so selfish of me to have assumed all these years that we'd be business partners forever."

She felt herself being pulled into a warm bear hug and Ryu began to talk. "Awe Jun...don't cry we shoulda discussed this with ya ages ago, its just we both felt you had enough to deal with...besides there's no way we would leave Utoland with Ken like he is...We're a team...we made a promise."

It wasn't just Jinpei and Ryu leaving, she felt like they were all going to leave her alone in Utoland again. Jinpei had grown up over night and he was getting taller by the day too, he had his own path to follow now his own life to carve. She felt like she couldn't hold onto any of them, Joe, Jinpei, Ryu or Ken.

"It's been a shocking day...I'm just a bit over emotional...But I'll be alright." Jun looked up at them forcing a weak smile that Jinpei saw straight through.

"You're crying and your saying your okay." Ryu looked totally confused. "Sometimes I just don't understand women."

"You're not supposed to Ryu, I'm younger than you and I've worked it out already." Jinpei rolled his eyes dramatically and looked back at Jun.

"I didn't mean to drop it onto you like a bird missile out of control sis..." Jinpei's shoulders slumped with guilt. She knew she had to do something or he might quit on his dream to try and make her happy and running a restaurant he has no heart for. She could see him staring out the windows at the ocean longing to else where.

"Jinpei...I'm so proud of you for having a dream of your own, I want you to do this...you and Ryu make great partners." She meant every word, how many missions did the pair of them team up and make things happen- she could recall a few.

"I love marine animals...I figure I could study Marine biology by correspondence and work on our trawler too. Ryu thinks it s great plan...I might be able to find new ways to fish in waters and preserve it at the same time, just like Dr Nambu wanted." Jinpei brightened up, his eyes widened with the excitement of her approval.

"Don't forget to write..." She said hugging them both. "And he'd be so proud of your idea Jinpei, he'd be right behind you in it." That made Jinpei smile even brighter at the thought of his old mentor's approval.

"We won't go until we're sure Ken is okay." Ryu reassured her.

Before she could respond the door opened and one of the doctors emerged. The serious man with steel grey hair and thick rimmed glassed walked towards her, she knew it was about Ken.

"I'm going to get straight to point." He said looking at the three of them. Jun sighed internally with relief. She wanted him to get to point, not spend his time skirting any issues. "He's healed...amazing, for months it looked like nothing was going change... its like we put the implant in and his body just shut down. But I think now for him that's what it needed to do to repair the damage. The thing that's go us stumped is that it literally happened in less than a week, like it needed to kick start his cells...or work on something else in his body first."

Jun found that odd too, since she was there when they ran a scan to see if any of the damaged cells in his body had changed at all. The result came up the same as it did a month before.

"Something must have just kicked into gear." Jinpei shrugged looking towards the door. "Big bros awake and well, that's all I care about."

"Can we go in?" Jun asked following his eyes to the door, desperately needing to be by his side.

"Yes," The doctor smiled. "He's asking for you Jun..."

Without hesitation Jun walked into the large white room with huge windows around it to see Ken propped by a few pillows looking weak from months of laying in coma staring directly at her. His looked clearer than Ceylon sapphires against his paled skin and dark hair. How has it been since I looking into them she thought. Too long.

"Jun." His voice sound hoarse and dry.

"Ken...we thought..." Shaking her head she didn't need to tell him her fears." I'm so relieved you decided to join us again."

"I'm tired..." He croaked. "Need to sleep...just wanted to see all of you."

"About time you decided to wake up!" Joe said walking into the room holding Jason's hand. Ken tried to smile, and he closed his eyes again to rest.

"He needs to rest to regain his strength- we'll wait a few hours and feed him some liquid food to start the process." Dr Hamilton said. From the corner of her eye Jun saw a marine commander standing in the doorway listening to the conversation.

"What kind of recovery do you expect?" He asked the doctor ignoring the rest of them- Jun had seen this man from time to time over the past few months. He rarely even acknowledged her most of the time.

"We expect a full recover from his responses...he needs time to build up his body and strength again. Rehabilitation will start as soon as he's ready." The doctor told him. The military man looked satisfied with his answer, nodded curtly and left the room.

"What's that all about?" Jun turned and looked at the doctor.

"You tell me and we'll both know." He responded and turned his attention back to Ken. "He needs time to rest...come back in a few hours and you can spend time with him then."

Jun glanced back at Ken, but could see he was sleeping again, this time his breathing was deeper. Ignoring the doctor's orders she walked over and picked up his hand in hers, and then she leaned over the bed and lightly kissed his lips. "Welcome back Ken..."

Then she turned and left the room to allow the doctors to monitor his progress.
Chapter 47 by Ebonyswanne

In the months that followed Ken began to recover slowly. A bit at a time each day he began to work at functioning normally. For a while Jun had to feed him mushy food that Ken said he now knew why babies liked to throw it, he felt the inclination to do it himself. That made her laugh and she pretended to play aeroplanes and choo choo trains with him. His smile would brighten up her day.

 The implant had a big influence in the speed of his recovery, once it had started working on his cell disruption his muscle tissue began to strengthen with his daily exercises with each passing day. His walking needed work with his balance of centre and weak muscle tissue from lack of use, and he practiced everyday for hours at a time to help regain what he had lost from being in a coma.

The months flew past, and Jun found his time being taken up more and more by new people brought on board since the defeat of Galactor to redefine the ISO's role in Earth defences. She began to hear rumours of massive changes about to occur inside of the environment friendly organisation. It was a rebound effect from having been struck so hard by Galactor and the knowledge that a super intelligent being had run the whole organisation from the beginning. The question that had begun to surface around G-Town is that could happen again and be worse the next time round. They needed a change and fast in handle Earths future defences.

Jun knew it was also people adjusting to a new age of peace, something she found troubled her at times. She could have raised Mark in this new age. But something's she knew in her heart no matter how good her life would become that door was forever closed. The sting of it remained, and it's a topic she didn't broach with Ken in trying to avoid opening old wounds.

 Jun observed him from afar some days as he struggled to bring himself to his feet during his rehabilitation. He would catch her eye and smile and work harder to walk properly. On those days she wondered what their future together would be, were they still deluding themselves she wondered. One day at time...she told herself.

"Jun..." He called out to her and smiled warmly breaking into her thoughts. She'd wave and return his smile. The fear of him dying still lingered in her heart, as much as she tried to shake it. Some nights she woke up from dreams of seeing him still floating in the depths of the ocean, His face pale and lifeless, his dark hair lazily whirling around him as he floated in front of dressed in his birdstyle, the red emblem of Gatchaman on his belt blazed brightly before her. This time she was yanked out of the Gatchasparten and Ken's body disappeared within the ship going into the depths of the ocean towards an abyss, she wanted to scream, but couldn't because she was slowing drowning...Jun would wake up soaked in sweat, her heart pounding.

In the end Jun had to receive counselling about it. Something she'd never done before or needed. She made a decision not to tell Ken about her dreams- he had enough to deal with.

Some days she managed to spend some time with him, one night during a game of scrabble in his quarters he leaned back in his chair and sighed heavily after a friendly debate about the spelling of an exotic word.

"I know it's been hard for you." He said quietly. "I'm not going to die Jun- this implant has repaired my cells in only 6 months."

"I know..." She faltered hoping she sounded convinced.

"No, you don't, why are you so afraid even now when the war is over for good, Galactor aren't coming back...its not like I'm not leaving to go off to war." Ken reached over the table knocking the letter chips off the board and lovingly taking her hand in his. "Stay with me tonight...it's been a long time since..."

He left it hanging there unspoken between them, yet she knew what he was talking about. It had been a long time since they made love that night at the Mountain base. The doctors kept her at arms distance when it came to her spending a night with him alone since. And these days there were military personnel hanging around watching Ken's progress like Hawks, they all liked to cut into any spare time he had to discuss and study the implants effects.

She squeezed his hand suggestively, she wanted him, she wanted be held in his arms, his hands all over her naked curves and the feeling of him inside her... to feel his warm bare body entwined with hers. Just the thought caused her to yearn badly for him.

Looking directly into his eyes Jun stood up, lacing her fingers through his she lead him around the edge of the table and snaked her arms around his neck, his eyes darkened with lust, her lips parted and Ken kissed her deeply the moist warm of lips sent her body into overdrive, but she held back from tearing off his clothes, wanting to savour the moment. Slowly she moaned loudly from his touch and lifted his white T-shirt over his head and run her hands over his warm flesh. Jun knew what would follow and she didn't want him to hold back.

A knock at the door interrupted their first real romantic moment in months.

Ken hesitated to answer it, instead he chose to continue kissing her, unbuttoning her blouse and lovingly cupping his hand tenderly over her lacy bra lazily stroking her nipple beneath the thin material. "Nice, I want to know what the matching knickers look like." He whispered mischievously leaning down to push the delicate fabric away enough to capture her nipple in his lips. Jun began trembling uncontrollably from his tenderness...You'll find out soon enough, she thought eagerly. Nothing like the plain boring white I used to wear...

The knock came again, sharper and more urgent this time.

"What bad timing..." He cursed, slowly he let go of her bosom. "I wish who ever it is will go away."

"Mr Washio, I know you're in there." A woman's voice came from the other side of the door. "I can hear you... at least the vocal woman who's you're with."

"She's rude...annoying and obnoxious." Jun pursed her lips and glared at door.

Jun pulled her blouse over to cover up blushing at thought of someone hearing her appreciation of his caresses, while Ken was trying to rearrange himself in his pants to hide his obvious reaction to touching Jun.

  Quickly pulling his T-shirt back on, Ken- reluctantly went and answered the door. An older woman, one of the bases many scientists stood in the doorway. "Mr Washio...Doctor Anderson is on the base and he'd like to have a word with you." She said with a crisp English accent.

"Tell him I need some rest and will see him in a few hours." Ken glanced over his shoulder back at Jun.

"And the woman I'm with is my girlfriend, her name is Jun, everyone here knows that. So why the rudeness?" Ken asked her curtly.

She stiffened up at his words. "Who you date isn't of importance to me...Your medical condition is- not just to me but to all of us. Dr Anderson will only be here for a few hours and he says it's extremely important. He has some questions about your implant that could be critical to Mark and Jason in the way its working in your brain. He also wants to run a brain scan-"

Ken put up a hand to halt her rambling. "I get it." His eyes became apologetic when he looked back at Jun again. A sobering blast of cold air washed over her as the moment between was lost.

She knew the mention of something that could affect the boys was enough for Ken to obey even a rude obnoxious woman like her. The call of duty resounded between them just like it had in the old days, someone needed him and Ken would always go, putting his personal needs last.

"Go," She said trying to keep the disappoint out of her voice." It sounds important, I'll wait here for you...and we can finish what we started when you get back."

"You bet we will." He promised and winked, and then he walked out of the room closing the door behind him.

Jun slowly sank down on his small couch and waited, thinking about the way his body had deteriorated. He still had a long way to go for a full recovery, touching his bare skin she could feel the lack of muscle structure beneath his skin. It wouldn't worry her if never built up his body to the extent he had once been, his inner health and well being concerned her more than looks.

He didn't come back, and the next morning Jun left him a note telling she'd gone into Utoland. It was then that Jun knew no matter how much she loved Ken- she would have to make a life for herself because as his health improved...Ken would likely return to duty within the ISO and that would mean months at a time away from her again. And without his airfield what was there to keep him in Utoland and they was no way Jun wouldn't try to fall pregnant just to guilt him into staying. The last time was an accident, and even then she couldn't use it to share him no matter how much it tore her to pieces to lose them both.

 

Chapter 48 by Ebonyswanne

 

During the time she was in Utoland Jun had begun to plan her restaurant, over the months she hired a lady experienced in the industry to assist her with ideas on how to set up the sea side restaurant. And since Ryu and Jinpei would be leaving soon she had to show Jinpei she'd be okay once he left.

 The two stooges didn't have a lot of choice on the timing of their departure, and Ken basically told them to get on with their business if that's what they wanted to do, he looked sad at first, but he showed them he supported their new venture by congratulating them with slaps on the back. The yearly storms that came into the Islands would be upon the two new business partners soon and they need a few months to get settled into the Island and fit out the Trawler for the coming fishing season.

Ryu's impatience to leave was escalated by a letter from his little brother telling him Sianetta, the girl he fell in love with a few years ago had returned to the Island, and she never married the man she left the village for after all. Seeing his chance at winning her heart he was eager to be gone from Utoland.

 "Jun," Ken buzzed her later through her bracelet, a token of their service left to them by Dr Nambu, she still had her uniform if she ever needed it. She figured it was unlikely they'd every use their birdstyles again, so it was moth balled at the base. Sometimes she admitted to missing the wonderful feeling of floating as she jumped of the ship to glide over to a mecha...Maybe once in a while for old times sake she'll change into birdstyle and jump out of plane, she thought smiling at the image that came into her mind.

"Yes Ken." She answered.

"I'm escaping from the base tonight, are you willing to be my accomplice and come out to dinner with me?" His voice sounded lighter, almost boyish with his enthusiasm.

"I sure am, I think I bust you outta there...where do you want to go?" She asked waiting for his response.

"I figured you could...I have something in mind...it means you wearing a dress." Ken said cryptically, Jun smiled. She liked to dress girly, and of late she had been thinking of wearing more dresses than jeans for a change. She even brought herself a few casual dresses just a few days ago, she figured she had time to go and shop for a special one for her date tonight.

"That can be arranged as long as you wear something other than a T-shirt and Jeans." She negotiated.

"You're on, see you here at 6.30pm, we don't want to be late, I'll have my disguise sorted out by them" He Joked switching off.

Jun grinned finally they would have some time together, and left to quickly do some shopping so she could get back to the base and then change into a dress for her date with Ken.

* * * *

"You look beautiful." He said in awe when she met him in the dock to leave the base.

Jun felt like a girl going out on her first date from the way he admired her. The dress was different from the one she wore the last time he took her out to dinner.

The pretty pink dress was ashes these days, since it went up with the Snack J and in a way she was glad to never see it again, it was too much of a reminder of beginning of those painful days. The dress she chose was more a 1950's style soft jade green silk satin sleeveless gown that shimmered in the light with a tight belt at the waist and full knee length skirt that had a tulle petticoat underneath, it swirled when she walked, and on her feet she wore silver strappy shoes. In Utoland the retro look was latest fashion. She pulled the pale grey fur wrap around her shoulders hoping she wouldn't freeze since the winter cold was hanging around even though they had just entered spring.

"You look great too." She smiled running her eyes over Ken's neat white shirt with the neck open and dark neutral coloured dress pants and matching jacket, and brown shoes.

Ken looked relieved at her approval. "Thanks, Joe picked them up for me- he's got far better taste in clothing than I do...remember that blue suit I wore to my friend's engagement party?"

She remembered the suit, how could she forget! It had a seventies look to it from the pale blue shirt and bow tie to the wide lapels and two toned darker blues. She raised an eyebrow that day when he emerged from his quarters wearing it. Her facial expressions told him she hated it.

An hour later they arrived in Utoland and walked down a street Jun knew well. She paled at the memory as she took it all in. The sign hadn't changed, and when they walked through the doors neither had the small restaurant. It was the same one they came to all those years ago when she'd intended to tell him about her pregnancy, and instead they ended up in an argument with Ken storming out and Jun in tears...

"Are you sure?" She questioned faltering at the door.

"Yeah, I am." He said opening it, walking inside she has no choice but to follow him in.

The same old Italian man greeted them with a warm friendly smile and he guided them to an empty table in the far corner of the busy restaurant. He asked politely as he seated them at the table if they would like any drinks. Ken skimmed the wine menu and ordered a bottle of wine recommended by the waiter and some water for the table. A single candle with a flower in a small vase sat in the middle of the table for two with it pristine white table cloth.

"Was it this busy last time?" Jun said picking up her napkin and laying it across her lap and she picked up the menu.

"I can't remember." Ken said glancing at her and then he picked up his menu and began to scan the entrée's and the main meals. Jun's mind was on other things at the last she was there to notice anything about the restaurant other than its warmth and the friendly nature of the people who own it. Other than that, she'd blotted out the disastrous night from her memory as best she could.

"I like that atmosphere of this place- it's so warm and welcoming." Jun commented and she sat back and observed the busy dining area with new eyes. It was very clean, with neat small round tables and burgundy plush carpet, dark timber walls finished at the top in a soft mushroom coloured wallpaper. The lights looked very retro adding to the antiqued look of the restaurant.

"What are you thinking?" Ken asked softly placing his menu onto the table he relaxed back into his chair while they waited for service. 

"About my new restaurant...the kind of place I want it to be." Jun's voice became distant. "It won't be like the Snack J... at first I wanted this really classy kind of place, very modern and sleek with a flashy menu...yet in a way I want people to feel relaxed when they walk into it. Like they don't need to put on show or spend big money to have a good time together. I want a dance floor with soft lazy music playing so couples can dance...a bar for a waiting area and place for people to come and wind down...in winter I want an open fire to be burning...it sounds too much doesn't it."

Ken's expression became thoughtful. "No, I like the idea of comfortable atmosphere over a modern classy place that people think they have to spend a fortune just to walk in the front door...I still think the place could still have some class, yet be welcoming. It sounds like you want more than just a restaurant."

"Yes I do." She replied. Ken nodded attentively, she could see he understood the idea she was trying to put into words.

"So, "Jun pretended to arrange her napkin in her lap as she spoke." What are you're plans?"

"I'm not sure yet." Ken's tone implied caution, before he could say any more the waiter came over to take their order.

Jun ordered her favourite Italian food Gnocchi for her main, while Ken ordered a pasta dish and an entrée for them to share. He tasted the wine that the waiter offered them and then he turned his attention back onto Jun.

"There have been a lot of changes happening in the ISO and I'm interesting in finding out exactly what's going on." Ken leaned forward and rested his chin on his fingers, his blue eyes lit up as he talked about what he heard the day before while talking to Dr Anderson.

"I know that they're not in a hurry to replace Dr Nambu. One of the other experts is filling in the position, but other than that people have been very tight lipped around the rest of us." Jun said watching his reactions.

"I'm not sure why that's the case Jun. After all we're a team, at least in our hearts." Ken picked up his glass of wine and sipped from it. Jun did the same realizing she didn't touch her glass the last time, and seeing his smile she wondered about that gesture. Did he still doubt her, how could he think that, they hadn't made love in ages.

"We were a team Ken- they don't need us any more, remember the conversation we had not long after you woke up." Jun reminded him.

Ken flinched. "How can I forget with four of you standing around telling me I'm no longer Gatchaman and we're no use to anyone...I hate feeling useless like that. Like a discarded piece of furniture..."

Jun thanked the waiter as he placed the entrée's in front of them. A selection of antipasto deli food and crisp Italian bread to soak up the sweet balsamic vinegar dip looked appetising. 

"We all do, its time now for us to find a life and do the things we always dreamed of...the one you always talked about." Jun hinted.

Ken remained silent, deep in his thoughts while they ate the delicious spread in front of them. I'll have to have this kind of thing on my menu, Jun thought.

"I might have talked about it Jun, but I never really planned for it...to be honest I didn't really think I'd survive the war...that's why we all vowed to die together...and I could give up Mark to be raised by someone else. Now that its all over I'm having a hard time coming to terms with the thought that I could have been in his life and his father, the one he turned too." He confessed sadly.

By this time their mains were being placed in front of them.

She knew how he felt, the tugging at her heart when she thought about it. "Me too, but we can't be parents to him, even thought times have changed. We couldn't predict what our future in that unstable way of life we led and we can't change what's already done."

Silence fell between them as they ate their main meals.

Ken polished off his plate of pasta in no time, Jun smiled internally Ken always loved his food and it felt good to see his appetite returning.

"That's a great sauce...I bet the chef has a secret ingredient...I wonder if he'll tell what it is." Ken grinned wiping his mouth with a napkin. "I've been reading about chefs of late and their ‘secrets' to turning out a sensational meal every time. Jamie Oliver released a book recently on running an effective kitchen.

"He could...but then he'd have to kill you..." Jun said playfully. "I didn't know you were so interested in cooking."

"What else is there to do but read when you're not around, and I was confined to a bed all day for weeks. The only books one of the nurses had happened to be on cooking and working in kitchens." Ken admitted.

Jun warmed to the change in topic. "Did you learn much? I've been looking up how to manage a larger restaurant. But other than that I have had very little time for reading."

Ken's eyes lit up again when he began to speak about something she knew nothing about until now. "Neither will I from now on- I've been invited to attend the meeting in Geneva outlining the new changes that will be happening soon in the ISO...you're invited to, along with Joe, Ryu and Jinpei."

"What...when...what kind of changes?" Jun gushed trying to get a grip on what he was hinting at. Something big was happening right under her nose.

Ken's voice lowered and he leaned over the table. "They wouldn't say...but I think the ISO and our governments are meeting to form some kind of alliance. Other than that I'm not sure."

Jun's mind reeled, what if they had a role for Ken in this. He may not be Gatchaman, but he was recovering now and why would they want to let him go, all they had to was use his dedication to duty to pull him in for good.

"What does this mean to us?" She finally asked. A feeling of de'ja vous flooded over her. Same restaurant, same turn in conversation.

"Have they offered you anything yet?" Jun quizzed.

"There's been talk...I'm not fit to fly yet so it's nothing really concrete." He starred into her eyes intently. "I asked you a long time ago to come with me if I went on mission that lasted a few months..."

"I turned you down." Jun felt tears sting her eyes at the memories." I had good reasons back then."

"Yes you did." He agreed softly. "And now?"

"I'll go with you to Geneva- I want to see for myself what's going on. When do we leave?" Jun compromised knowing she didn't really give him an answer. In her heart she loved Utoland, if she had to leave she would, but what role would they have for the former Swan in if they sent Ken off on a mission somewhere? And would she really be able to go with him since it wasn't Dr Nambu sending him this time.

"In two days- we'll only be gone for a few days at the most, so Jinpei and Ryu will still be on track for their departure. Joe can bring Jason- he just has to keep him entertained." Ken answered smiling.

Jun didn't know what to say, she could feel him being slowly pulled away from her even in peace time. Was it her own fault this was happening? Was she being selfish wanting a life outside of the ISO when staying inside the ISO could mean a life with Ken. No she thought it was never the case, for how long did he avoid relationships because of his duty and need to stay focused.

"Let's get going." Ken said standing up breaking off the conversation that was leading to an argument.

"Dessert is back in my quarters...uninterrupted time for us to be totally alone...and no clothing required...I hope you're wearing that lacy bra, so we can pick up where we left off last night." He grinned wickedly.

"I like the sound of that." She smiled warmly relieved that they would be leaving together this time. "And as for what's underneath...you'll have to wait and see." She teased. This time she had something even more seductive for him to take off, she couldn't wait to see the expression on his face...

Ken paid the bill and they left for G-town to catch up on lost time.

Chapter 49 by Ebonyswanne

 

She always loved these kinds of flights, sitting back and relaxing in first class comfy chair that invited her fall soundly asleep, and that's exactly what she did, dosing for most of the flight.

First class all the way, just how Dr Nambu used to send the team occasionally except it was cattle class as she liked to call it. She knew it was because of sponsors that helped them get around on regular services, and Dr Nambu felt it was better for their cover. But this time it was on the ISO, and no one knew they were coming. Apparently the world thought they all died, giving them a chance to slip back into society anonymous once again. She read in a few magazines how the world mourned them. It touched her heart how much people had loved and missed their ‘Mysterious birds of prey,' as one article had labelled them.

She felt a light pressure against her lips not long before they were due to land. "Wake up Jun." Ken whispered. "Almost there, we'll be coming into land in five minutes."

"Ahhh..."She whispered seductively." My own special bird of prey..."

Quickly she laced her fingers around his neck and pulled him in closer, almost out of his seat next to her to finish what he started.

"You bet." He whispered. His warm moist lips lightly tickling her neck with his soft kisses.

The hosted went passed them carrying a tray of chocolate dipped strawberries for first class passengers, sound made them both stop and look up.

"I don't think I'll look at chocolate dipped strawberries again after the other night." Jun murmured in his ear, and slowly smiled fondly at the memory of the way they chose to eat them...

"Me either." Ken whispered back grinning playfully." But I'd sure like to try it again..."

"Will you two cut it out!" Jinpei scolded from behind them. "Some things about my sister I just don't wanna know."

Ken's a slow blush rose to Ken's face, he moved away looking embarrassed at Jinpei overhearing the conversation.

After a moment she could hear Jason's small feet running down the aisle toward them. Joe had swapped seats with Ken when they boarded the flight, for some reason Ken had been seated further back, with Joe beside Jun.

"Jason for the last time get back here!" Joe's voice boomed. "Or I'll tan your hide boy...it won't be pretty I sware." Jason giggled and stopped next to Ken's seat- he looked back at his father and then turned to run away towards the Air hosts lounge. He had a liking for hanging out with them. (The ladies found Jason to be very charming.) Like lightning Ken jumped out of his seat and grabbed the back of his shirt forcing Jason to stay put until Joe reached him.

"Thanks." Joe said sighing heavily he picked Jason up and threw him over his shoulder and then he marched back to their seat. By this time the seat belt light had come on and the plane had just turned to make its decent into the main airport runway.

A few hours later they all piled out of the international terminal to hail a taxi for the trip to the hotel. And at last the six of them exhausted from the long flight stumbled into the hotel.

"Wow, this some classy place." Jinpei exclaimed his eyes roaming over the plush lobby.

"The best...would we want anything less?" Joe smirked, carrying Jason and his travel bag to the front desk.

"We'd like to check in." He said casually to the petite Swedish blond with a short bob hair cut standing behind the counter.

He has a natural charm with women, Jun noted watching the way she flirted with him as he accepted the room door card. Jason had his fathers gift even at three from the way he copied his smiles, making the girl pinch his cheek and she handed him a lolly pop for it.

"I'll catch up with you at breakfast, this kid is overtired." Joe indicated to Jason whose cloud grey eyes had become brighter as he scanned the lobby looking for more mischief.

"I'm Ken Washio and this is Jun Nambu. We would like to book in together." Ken introduced himself to the lady behind the counter.

"Yes Mr Washio we have you're room...it's in the west wing of the building over looking the gardens 20th floor "Miss Nambu, your room is over on the north side of the building 10th floor." The blond girl smiled and handed them their door in cards.

Ken caught her questioning glance.

"That can't be right- we should at least have a joining rooms?" Ken asked her.

"Sir, I'll check again." She said looking at her computer. "No, that's how it was requested. She's sharing with Jinpei Nambu and Ryu Nagasaki. You room is a single Mr Washio."

"Can we have it changed then, it's a mistake I'm telling you." Ken insisted. Still the young woman politely informed him she couldn't change it due to the place being over booked.

"We're fully booked out for the next few days due to a conference here being hosted by the ISO. I'm sorry sir, I can't change it." She repeated very apologetic.

"Can we work something out with my room? Replace the bed with a bigger one or something like that." Ken glanced at Jun and then back at the lady behind the counter.

"We can bring in a portable fold out bed sir." She offered. "You'll be sharing with Sergeant Eddington from Ameris. Unfortunately we can't-"

"Sharing?" Ken's looked at her in disbelief." I thought this is a five star hotel-"

Jun sighed in disappointment cutting the both off with a wave of her hand. "Its okay, we'll see if we can sort it out in the morning. I'll be fine with Jinpei and Ryu."

* * * *

After a sleepless night listening to Ryu and Jinpei loudly whispering about the great adventure they were about embark on together Jun was finally out of bed and into the bathroom.

"Sis, hurry up! This room has only one bathroom not three...and one toilet and guess what it's inside the bathroom." Jinpei complained loudly.

"I won't be long." She smiled at the door-something's I won't miss is his teasing and complaining about me using the bathroom. But not seeing him everyday just so they could bicker...that is something that made her blink back tears and left a small hollow place in her heart where he belonged. Oh stop it! She chided herself. He's not dying, just getting on with his life and dreams, besides he's with Ryu...We'll see each other again, it'll just be different that's all. Jun thought trying to counter the rush of sad emotions. He's grown up so fast-- these days he spends more time preening than I do, hoping some teenage girl will notice him.

She opened the door and began to head out of the room to meet Ken for breakfast when Ryu stopped her. "Jun, Ken left you a message while you were in the shower. He said to meet him at the conference hall- he was called into a meeting and so was Joe." Ryu looked over at the other side of his bed- Jason popped up and looked at her grinning wildly and held up a pen.

"What...you just scribbled all over my paperwork." Ryu threw his hands into the air and grabbed the pen off him.

"We go and play Jun..." He said cheerfully. "This place is boring..."

"It looks like you're travelling with us then." Jun returned his smile. Jason nodded his shaggy dark caramel hair madly.

Joe needs to get that hair trimmed. She thought. It's falling in his eyes and it's getting way past his shoulders.

"Common lets go then." She said briskly taking Jason's hand into hers she turned to leave the room.

"I'll meet ya there sis, I need a shower and it's not like we're going on a mission and need to bolt out the door." Jinpei flashed a cheeky grin and then he bolted into the spacious bathroom.

"I'll wait for Jinpei." Ryu said apologetically.

"Okay, we'll see you there." Jun said getting a firm grip on the three year old boy's hand they two of them left the room and headed out of the Hotel to catch a cab to the conference. Jun managed to pick up a fruit smoothie from a sandwich bar just after they arrived at the ISO headquarters there.

Jason had a banana milkshake and the two of the two of them headed in through the security gates to go the huge auditorium that the first of three meetings would be held in.

"The kid can't come in." One of the guards put a hand out to stop her from entering.

"He has a pass, he's with me." Jun pointed out showing him Jason's high level security pass.

The man frowned looking at Jason and them looking back at the pass.

"What does he do here?" He asked still not buying it.

"Child genius! He's amazing." She said her eyes widened and looked down at him. "He's here to do some complicated mathematics calculations..."

The guards face changed as Jason began talking.

"We need to find daddy." He tugged at Jun's hand and managed to get his small out of hers and bolted down the hall.

"Now you've done it." She scolded the guard. "His father is a scientist who's currently in a top secret meeting."

Joe had warned her he was fast, and he was out of sight before she reached the end of the hall, an office door was open so she quietly walked in.

"Jason, get back here now." She said in her best mothering voice.

All she heard was a giggle and a muffled. "Catch me if ya can."

"It sounds like they have been planning this for sometime." Ken's muffled voice drifted towards her.

He must be walking up the hall she thought. While she continued her search of the room for Jason playing hide‘n'seek.

"Yeah but it sounds very inviting doesn't it." Joe agreed.

Ken fell silent for a second before responding, his voice held a sense of awe. "A good opportunity...one that will be hard to say no to. Especially after the impact Dr Anderson said it will have on improving the way of life on Earth. And I thought it would be all over all once we got rid of Galactor but it sounds like it's just the beginning of something greater. Worthwhile being a part of."

Jun's heart began to shiver from the tone of his voice. The way he talked sounded like the old Ken, the one that kept her at a distance because of his devotion to duty.

"Gotcha." Jason said loudly pushing her hard and he ran out of the room. Joe must have spotted him since he called his name and Jason ran to his father.

"Who are you with?" Joe asked him.

"Jun." He replied.

Jun steadied her quivering body, Ken appeared in the doorway.

"Hey Jun, what's up?" He asked.

"Ahhh...nothing I was just looking for him, he must have heard Joe, I was just coming out." She forced a smile and turned to leave the room. Ken gently placed his hands on her shoulders stopping her from leaving.

"Something wrong?" He asked his eyes becoming concerned.

You're too damn observant for your own good. Jun silently reproached him. Yet she knew she couldn't lie to him, she made a pact not to ever again with herself.

"I heard you're conversation, just the tail end of it...wars end, but the world still keeps turning doesn't it...and while it does there will always be a need for you." Jun didn't hide how disillusioned she had become of what peace time really meant for them. Just a lull until the next mission came along. She though sadly. It's ended for at least four of us, but not for Ken...

"Come into the conference, you'll learn more about over the next few days, I was only given a glimpse Jun...that's all...common lets go." Ken held her close, but Jun couldn't shake the sinking feeling she had in the pit of her stomach.

Chapter 50 by Ebonyswanne

 

When they arrived inside the auditorium she was ushered to seat on the other side of the room from Ken and Joe. Sitting down next Ryu and Jinpei she watched Dr Anderson sit down next to them along with Commander Reed. A man she had seen at G-Town but never spoken to.

"What's going on?" She asked the two of them.

Ryu just blinked and Jinpei shrugged his shoulders. "I was about to ask you the same question, I know they got a nanny for Joe so he could be in here without Jason interrupting everything, but that's about the extent of my data."

She didn't have a chance to say any more as the meeting began with the introductions of world leaders attending.

She could have caught on some sleep in the morning session as they went through mundane things on the agenda that had more to do with ongoing science projects and research being conducted by the ISO.

It was after lunch that it became more interesting...

Dr Anderson stood in the middle of the room for his presentation. He flicked a few buttons on a terminal in front of his podium and an impressive star chart that appeared three dimensional in the middle of the massive auditorium.  

A sun was shown to have several planets orbiting around it...

"We have found life!" Dr Anderson smiled- he adjusted his glasses and waited for the excited murmur in the crowd to die down. Jun sat there spellbound with others around her talked and stood up from their chairs to get a closer look at the planet. So this is what Ken was talking about in the hallway with Joe...We knew about Riga on a mission a year ago, but not that it had actual life on it.

He pointed to a planet with two moons, second from the sun, but smaller.

"This is Riga, our prize... there are oceans, land masses, fresh water rivers and mountain ranges." He said bringing up pictures taken by probes. "There's more, so much I'm not sure if we can fit it into two days. But I'll try." He promised.

He had Dr Nambu's serious nature, yet he in some ways he was very different in his approach. Jun observed. She straightened in her chair so she could see Ken's reaction to the information Dr Anderson began pouring out.

"...We'll be installing an early alert system to protect out planet from any potential invaders in Pluto...It will be called affectionately "Susan" for now after its creator Susan Hollingsworth. We will rename it in time to a more suitable name eventually...and of course there's the ‘Zark' robotic program- we feel the removal of humans from this role will make it less likely to fail.

She watched Joe lean over and whispered something to Ken-- Ken pulled a face and looked back at Dr Nambu. Joe had very little trust in anything that replaced humans when it came to protection. She felt it ironic since he was a cyborg, but maybe it was just his human side coming out and not wanting to be squashed she thought, knowing how hard it was for him to accept his new body when he first came back to them.

He talked for the next few hours on other planets they had found in the galaxy. And the promise it held for the future of Earth. And then he dropped the next bombshell.

"Tomorrow I will be talking about the forming of a new Federation of planets!" He stalled and waited for the response he knew was coming at those words. The buzz in the room became unbearable for about five minutes before everyone stopped to listen to him once more.

"...That means dissolving the ISO as we know it today and remoulding it with agreements from all of the world leaders to work together in a new age of peace and prosperity..." Dr Anderson looked around the room, satisfied with the continued responses he was receiving he continued his speech.

"The new Federation headquarters will be based both here in Geneva due to neutral territories.  And there will be another main headquarters in Ameris because of their extensive space program. We are in the process of planning teams to go and start settlements on the four planets I have shown you. We have found some life of small animals and other creatures yet there isn't any intelligent life on these planets like humans...for Earth it's the most amazing opportunity to ever grace us...and we can't hold back from taking advantage of it...If we move now we can secure Earth's presence in the Universe and make our planet safer from future attacks like Galactor's leader Z that we just defeated...there could be more of this Alien species out there.  This time we have to be able to strike first, before an enemy gets a foothold here on Earth like Sosai Z did and form a group like Galactor."

He drew in a breath, sipped some water and kept talking to give as much information in this sitting as he could." The teams are mainly military for now with a few scientist, we hope to be bringing families to the settlements within two years...those who volunteer to go first will be well rewarded...and have the first dibs on land being offered in the settlements."

The noise in the room became deafening from the questions that the hundreds of guests present began throwing at Dr Anderson.

"Will our bacteria be compatible what about diseases the settlers could bring back to Earth?" A few shouted, and then more followed..."Who is funding this project? Why not keep the ISO as it is...it's worked well for years on science advancement...greening the planet...why not do the same on another planet..."

Dr Anderson held up his hands to try and silence the room so he could continue speaking. "I know you all have lots of questions and tomorrow, I'll be going over details like funding and how the Federation will operate...thank you all for attending and I'll see you bright and early for a fresh start to this exciting turn in world events..."

With that he dismissed everyone, some leaped from their seats too excited to sit any longer with this new information.

Jun waited watching from a distance, Ken hadn't moved he looked lost in deep thought, and exhausted, the long day in the conference and the flight the night before had taken it out of him.

Her eyes fell on Joe strolling out of the room, leaving him there alone to go and see Jason.

"Sis, we're going to find some food..." Jinpei tapped her on the shoulder distracting her only a little, and then he looked over at Ken.

"Awe Sis...he's just taking it all in...you know Ken." He stated with a smile, Yes she knew Ken, Jun thought cheerlessly. All they had to do was tell him the planet needed him to go...and Ken would out of the call of duty.

Jun thought about it for a minute. Could she go if he asked her to...closing her eyes she tried to think of leaving Earth, and Utoland and her new restaurant plans behind. She drew in a deep breath...Maybe I should become more adventurous...okay she thought rationally, if he asks me to go with him I will, even though I'm still not totally sure about it.

Jun fought her way through the crowd still standing around the auditorium talking about the possibilities of the new age they were entering into. As she pushed passed she heard a continual echo of questions being asked by leaders and scientist...How was settlement going to work...transport of goods and materials to set up colonies...how long before the first teams  leave...?

The energized buzz rolled around the room as some people deep in conversation began leaving together to talk about it in private and form their own plans.

"Ken..." Jun sank down in the chair next to him- quietly she picked up his hand in hers. Slowly he turned his head to look at her.

"Hi Jun..." He said weakly. "That was mind blowing wasn't it...is that we set in motion for Earth...defeat Galactor and we head for the stars."

"Yeah, it was mind blowing." She agreed.

"I'm so tired, I need sleep." His voice dropped an octave. "Yet at the same time I'm wide awake from the adrenaline rush I've had from all of this."

This whole trip was too soon, she thought. He wasn't ready for something this taxing trip on his health.

"Do you want to go out to dinner?" Jun asked. "We both need to eat, and talk about this."

"I'm way to tired Jun...maybe room service at the hotel would be enough...and we could hopefully have some alone time before the Sergeant gets back." Ken smiled tenderly.

"Sounds good to me." She said taking his hand in hers they rose from the seats together to leave-- it was then that they were interrupted by a man standing behind them.

Clearing his throat the Commander she had come to dislike immensely stood behind them.

"Mr Washio, You're required in a meeting straight away." He ordered. Jun pursed her lips tightly. Who is this man to order Ken around like a sub-ordinate she thought madly.

"He's tired can't you see that." Jun's anger flared at his lack of consideration to the man who gave everything he had to bring about peace so this new Federation could happen.

"Why now? Could we meet in the morning?" Ken said directly to the commander, taking Jun's hand firmly in his.

The Commander squared his broad shoulders and said in an official manner. "Sir, it's a matter of national security."

Ken drew in a breath and turned to face Jun. "Looks like we have a meeting to go to."

"No, Mr Washio, only your presence in required." He said politely.

"Jun's input in this nation security issue would be very valuable- she's had as much experience in this area as I have... Dr Nambu trusted her insight and so should you." Ken's displeasure at Jun being fobbed off became evident in the mounting tension in his voice.

 "I didn't mean to offend you Mr Washio, it's just that it was requested I only bring you...and I follow orders." The Commander held his ground. "Kamo has requested a meeting with you Miss Nambu."

"Oh..." She looked at Ken and knew she had to go and see Kamo, it had been a long time and he wouldn't be asking for a meeting unless it was something important.

"I'll catch up with you afterwards." She said letting go of his hand.

"Okay, I won't too long, wait for me in foyer." Ken said walking away with Commander to find out why Ken was needed for National security.

She looked over towards the doors to see Kamo staring at her, his usual jolly expression had become serious. Something is weighing on his mind. She thought walking towards him.

"Jun, can we go for a walk?" Kamo indicated to elevators. She nodded and followed him out silently out of the building.

Chapter 51 by Ebonyswanne

 

Kamo clasped his hands behind his back as they walked, she could tell he was looking for the right word to say from his deep concentration- After a short while of strolling down the path without any conversation through the immaculate softly lit gardens of the conference venue Kamo finally broke his silence looking straight ahead at the monument in the centre of the gardens. "What did you think of the announcement today?"

"In some ways I'm surprise, yet I'm not...things are bound to change eventually Kamo. Nothing ever stays the same." She responded, her thoughts turning more to her relationship with Ken and how different is now compared to the first time they were together. They needed the time she realized to mature as people, and to become more worthy of each other, than it being one sided like she felt it was before. Before she never truly felt worthy of him, and now she felt like his equal. Pushing her thoughts aside she focused on her conversation with Kamo.

Kamo shook his head solemnly, "I know, but this is different... this is radical. I doubt Dr Nambu would have allowed them to move this fast if he was still here. The risks they're about to take..." His response to all of this surprised her- usually he was very supportive of anything the ISO did. "They planned this for years- there are ships ready to go now. That's why they can launch soon, but the thing is...they'll want Ken to be a leader, even if it's not as Gatchaman...he's a valuable commodity to the military." He looked at her sharply. "And I doubt they'll include you, I heard talk from high up that they see his relationship with the former Swan as an inconvenience to their ideals and plans...I just want to warn you about that Jun...They do plan to make you an offer, but it's to keep you away from him. I know they see you as a distraction."

Jun drew in a deep infuriated breath- something's never change. "Why? Because we love each other? How is that any of their business?"

"He's still considered an asset because of devoted he's been to duty in the past, the new crowd aren't worried he almost died, they're concern is what he can still do for them." Kamo warned. "I know, Jun, you don't have to take it out on me, I see you being just as valuable. But they don't care about my opinion."

"I see...I have to talk to Ken about this Kamo..." Jun felt stumped by that idea, she didn't know how it would come out if she did. Would it just sound like a whisper from the past, Jun trying to keep him from fore filling his duty like he felt she would have if they got involved during the first war?

"Tell me about the offer they plan to present to me." Jun stopped walking and folded her arms and listened. Kamo sighed and began talking.

They plan to offer her a five year contract on another planet. She wouldn't see him in that time due to Ken being based on Riga. Their contracts would include them staying put in their bases...or outer missions that wouldn't enable them to cross paths in that time. Kamo cut to the truth of what the official contracts would put into the fine print.

Jun knew it would mean the end of their relationship, how could it survive that kind of absence, they'd grow apart..."They've given this some thought...but Kamo I don't get it why am I such a threat?" Jun asked, hurt that they thought so little of her.

Kamo pulled a face. "Because any relationship for Ken outside of duty has always been considered a threat...Dr Nambu, had an old fashioned view of it that's why he for bayed any of you to have romantic relationships while on the team. The military just see it as something that will get in the way- Ken might not take his usual risks with you in his life. Or heaven forbid you fall pregnant."

Jun flinched, how much did Kamo know she thought. "That would be an inconvience wouldn't it. What would they expect me to do if that did happen?"

Kamo's face had never been more serious when he answered her. "Jun...let me put it this way...they'd never let you keep a baby on a base...you'd be forced to give it up...or leave...how knows but it wouldn't be good for either of you."

Her bottom lip trembled from the painful memories of what her duty had asked of her do. They had been down that path before, and she couldn't go through that pain again.

"So, you're not agreeing with them then." She said studying his face, trying to block the images of being on some faraway planet with her child being taken by force out of her arms and no one to stop it from happening in a place under tight military rule.

Kamo didn't look happy either- it was like he was reading her mind. "No, I'm not, but either way Jun, they plan for you to be out of his life, they have no real use for the Swan, Swallow or the Owl."

"But the Condor and the Eagle?" She quizzed, and she thought about Jason and what they would offer Joe? Surely he'd turn it down rather than take risks with his young son. Especially since the military had this idea about family being an inconvenience.

"Joe's a cyborg, that's useful, Ken has an implant that will improve the longer it's in his brain- his muscles will tone over time to be stronger than before. The research and tests that have been conducted are showing his current lapse is only temporary while it's helping his body repair tissue."

Jun knew about the results of the tests they'd been conducting. What Kamo said was true.

"So what you're saying either way we lose." Her voice went quiet and she turned away from him to hide her sorrow. "We both know Ken will go if they tell it's for the safety of the people of Earth and no one else can do the job like he can."

"I'm sorry Jun, I know that too. The thing is what are you going to do?" Tears stung her eyes- she felt his hand on her shoulder.

"I'm not his keeper Kamo- I won't go to another planet if my heart isn't in it just to satisfy the military. I can't do it...I wanted this peace to create a life on Earth...and a family." She confessed her earlier thinking of being more adventurous dissolved away, with the truth slapping her hard in the face. She thought being part of the Science Ninja Team held them at bay for a long time when it came to them forming a relationship, but this felt much worse. This felt far more controlled.

"They don't have the same invested interest in us do they...this new federation." Jun said softly. "To them...we're not even looked at as a family like we were during the last three wars."

Kamo's tone saddened as he spoke. "No, I don't have the same feelings as I did when we were all fighting a war together, and Dr Nambu was in charge of things. He loved all of you like his own children. That's the difference as I see it. Together you were all a family...apart, you're still a family, and that from what I have seen in the last year is as strong as ever."

"We still are Kamo, and you became part of it too...right at the end." She smiled warmly at the jolly old man with a balding hair line and thick black moustache- she likened him to a Grandfather figure.

"I know...and I miss all of you...That is why I'm resigning from the ISO." He said calmly. "But I figured I'd let you have a read of this contract even though I'm not suppose to let you in on it until after Ken's signed his. That way they'd be able to tell him that you're being offered a contract too...but they intended to leave out details until you both signed your contracts. Besides, my wife wants to see me more often."

Jun gasped at the craftiness of it all. The new Federation leaders were going to great lengths to break up her relationship with Ken forever. But how could she tell him about it without sounding like she was trying to keep him on Earth and away from duty like she once wanted badly so long ago during peace time. She'd find a way...

"You're a real friend Kamo." She said hugging him. Kamo blushed wildly.

"Just doing the right thing I hope." He said breaking away from her and his moustache twitched at the corners and his smile became warm and jolly once more.

"I have go- but keep frosty Jun." He winked and walked back towards the main building.

She knew what he meant by that old saying- and she had a few serious decisions to make herself about her future.

Chapter 52 by Ebonyswanne

 

Walking towards the covered monument that was to unveiled on the last day of the conference she stole a peak underneath the heavy cloth. The tribute to "Gatchaman and the Science Ninja Team." Was a simple oblique stone sculpture with their logo emblazed down the length of it carved out of the stone and filled with bronze to make it glitter in the sunlight- A bronze version of the God Phoenix sat on the tip. Apparently when the sun hits it, the ship would blaze like it had turned into firebird. Effective she thought when she thought. One day she hoped to come back and see it when there wouldn't crowds around gawking.

Dropping the cloth she didn't feel a need to be here any more, she'd heard enough about the direction and potential leadership of the Federation. Looking at the emblem of her past she knew to have a future she too would have to resign from the ISO, up until now it hadn't been necessary. Jun needed to have a fresh start, follow her dream even if Ken did decide to head for the stars, it was a place she knew she couldn't follow him.

"Lucky they didn't make it a sculpture of all of us! How embarrassing would that be." Joe chuckled from behind her, Jun sprung up in surprise.

"Joe you scared me half to death!" She gasped. "But I agree with you, they'd probably do something like a panty flash for me...forever in bronze, and you think the rest of you would have problems with being cast into bronze. At least you wouldn't have that to make you cringe for the rest of your life.

He shook his head and pretended to reprimand her, his rugged features becoming sharper in the silvery moonlight." You're getting rusty Jun. At one time you would have had me in a head lock by now." His face softened into a rare glimpse of something Joe kept hidden inside of him and it left just as quickly. "The world will be forever depraved of your beauty cast in bronze...I was talking about your face by the way...not...well you know..."

She felt her cheeks becoming warmer from a rising blush at his compliment. "Where's Jason?" She observed.

"He's back sleeping in the hotel room, Jinpei and Ryu are looking after him until I get back." The playfulness ran from his face, and his usual shadowing grimace returned.

"Got a minute." He said quietly.

"Yeah," Jun nodded and he guided her over to a park bench near by.

They sat in silence for a long time,  starring at the full moon above them.

"Jun... Did you ever really dream about peace and what your life would be like when it finally did happen?" He asked at last leaning forward and clasping his hands in front of him.

"Yes and no...the truth is sometimes...well...its was always just me and Ken, being able to do what we wanted to do without this wall of duty coming between us."

"I didn't have any plans beyond defeating Galactor." He admitted.

"But now you do, you're a father and a good one." Jun said watching his face.

Joe's rugged features hardened slightly. "A father with no prospects that are useful in the real world, deep down I'm a soldier Jun. I always have been since I was a boy."

"A soldier has to have something to fight for, and Jason's worth it isn't he, be his Hero, surely there's something for you out there." Jun said.

"I need money for schooling him, and a place for us to live other than a trailer." She saw pain filling  his grey eyes. "I'm going into space..." Joe's voice cracked. "I'm taking him to Ameris to live with a foster family for a while, it won't be forever I promise...Dr Anderson said he can help me...he said he can arrange for him to live with a foster family until I get back in two years time."

"No Joe! He needs you, he loves you can't you see that?" Jun forced him to look at her. "It is hard now but it'll improve with time, I see the way he looks at you Joe...he loves his daddy so much... There must be something on Earth that can pay you just as good." She pleaded with him to think harder about his decision.

"I know he loves me Jun...and I love my son with all of my heart. He's a great kid...but Dr Anderson can help him with the implant and his cybernetics while I'm away, he promised me that Jason will be okay." Joe let a tear roll down his cheek and a small sob escaped to show the pain he was feeling inside. "He's a good kid even though he can be a rat bag at times...and I'll miss him. But it's what I have to do and its for him Jun...and its not forever..."

Jun could see his anguish over this. "I know...its doesn't make it any easier does it. Take your time and make sure its what you want to do, don't make any rash decisions based on lack of money."

 "You can't make me change my mind on this Jun...I've accepted a position as Commander of a new military team leaving for one of the planets they plan to begin settling in a few months since they found a few that have similar atmospheres to Earth. I'll be on the first flight from Earth to the new frontier." Joe's eyes filled with tears as he spoke. "We don't know what's up there, its far to dangerous to take him with me...I want to but I can't risk his life like that with no one but me to take care of him. What will a three year old boy do when I'm off on a mission...? Gosh I wish I could bring him with me. But they won't let a child go- even if I hire a nanny that I can't afford...I've gone over the options in my mind a thousand times already..."

"What about me, why didn't you ask me to take care of him, don't you trust me Joe?" She questioned, bombshell just landed on her didn't register yet. Joe was leaving Earth for at least two years. Would Ken be signing his contact as they spoke she wondered.

Joe's stubborn nature had set in she could tell from the way he spoke nothing would sway him. "I do trust you Jun, but you have a life here...I can't ask you to raise my kid for me..."

"Oh Joe..." She said pulling him into her arms to comfort him and it finally it hit her, what he'd said only a few minutes before. Joe was leaving another nail went into the coffin of the old days. "Why are you leaving...I'm missing you already."

"Me too Jun...but I have to go...I'm so nervous at taking on my first command, I've always followed Ken's command...well you know sometimes...and now the pressure will be on my shoulders. What if I stuff it up? You know my impulsive nature and hot temper..."

Jun knew what it was like to have to do what was best for a child even if it torn her apart doing it, she refused to judge him for what he was about to do Joe's pain become more evident from the way he fought back tears. "Its heart wrenching to make these choices isn't it when it comes to our children...what's best for them in the long run."

She tilted his face and stared into his storm cloud grey eyes. "You won't mess up Joe, Ken would be so proud of you."

"So he said when I told him. He thought it was fantastic." Joe looked deflated, yet determined. "Two years and I'll be back for him...I promise...I just hope he forgives me for it. We leave as soon as I go back to Utoland so he can settle in with me around for a as long as I can be."

Joe stood up to go, but Jun grabbed his arm and forced him to turn and face her, without thinking she pulled him into a tight embrace, pressing her face into his shoulder and let her tears flow. "Don't cry Jun, please don't." Joe begged. She could hear the lump forming his throat as he fought back his own tears. "I want to remember you're beautiful smile not your tears."

"I..." She started to say, she felt his warmth against her as they held each other tight, and for a second as they pulled apart he leaned in as if to kiss her on her lips, pulling away at the last second and landing a light kiss on her cheek instead.

"You're an amazing woman Jun, don't ever forget that. He's lucky to have you." He whispered and then he walked away in the direction of a taxi bay.

Watching him walk away she wondered about what she felt in those few seconds in his arms. "You're a wonderful man Joe, with an affectionate side you love to hide for the world...I hope there's a special girl who'll break through that barrier you put up... and I know she's out there and will be very happy to have you hold her like that..." Jun whispered softly...

Chapter 53 by Ebonyswanne

 

Walking back to the lobby she waited for over an hour for him, to be told by a guard that he'd left her message saying he had returned to the hotel.

About half an hour later she finally made it and headed up to his room. She was taken aback by a familiar man dressed in a Marine uniform and another officer leaving Ken's hotel room.

The conversation caught her attention. Quickly Jun pretended to be going into a near by room turning her back to them, using the training Dr Nambu drilled into them for years to overhear what they were talking about without them noticing her.

"He's coming along very well...it won't be long before he's back to normal..." The other male officer said, smiling.

"Not long, then he'll be very useful to us again...He looks good already and I hear he's working hard on his fitness. Gatchaman was always meant to serve the Earth and beyond it...He knows his duty as I outlined it to him...He won't let us down." The Marine Commander kept his eyes straight ahead as he walked passed her. Jun was glad she didn't wear her uniform any more- her long black winter coat disguised her as she leaned in closer to the doorway and pretended to fiddle with her room card.

"He'll agree to it...that's what I'm telling the head of command of outer planet missions. Ken Washio won't let us down." The officer's confidence grated on Jun.

"It's a minimum of five years service, but we can count on him extending it if we want him too."

Ken was nothing but a tool to them to be used where ever it suited them, she thought, feeling livid by this new piece of information and the casual way the Marine commander spoke about him. And being Ken...closing her eyes she fought back the painful tears of reality. Being Ken he couldn't refuse them, the call of duty would take him away from her like had once before this time it would likely be forever.

When would he break the news to her she wondered. That he was leaving again soon this time for five years.

Closing her eyes she prepared herself like she did years ago to play second best to his calling to protect the Earth. Jun had accepted that fate a long time ago, yet it still hurt her knowing the man she loved would always be just out of reach.

Steeling herself as she walked into the room her eyes fell on Ken sitting at a small desk in the corner of the room looking over a contract- he smiled warmly in her direction. He looked happy, she thought. Maybe he had more purpose in life to serve in the military than the offer she wanted to make to him. They become partners in her new business, she remembered the way they talked about it together, and how in sync about it they are in the way it should be...

"Hi," She said pulling up a chair so could sit facing him.

"Hi," He replied warmly. "I missed you in lobby, but I ran into Kamo and he said you would likely head back here, lets order some room service." His eyes searched hers like he was looking for something.

"Sounds good, what do you want?" She asked scanning the menu.

"Your choice." He said handing her the phone. Quickly she ordered fries and hamburgers for the two of them.

She tried to smile, but she felt awkward when she saw the piece of paper sitting near by. "Terms of service," it read, she knew what that meant. It was an official document outlining Ken's future missions on a planet called Riga.

Ken sat the piece of paper he held in his hand down on top of the other one and reached over and placed his hands on her knee's.

"Is there something wrong...something you wish to tell me?" His face became concerned as he spoke.

 Yes, she screamed internally. Don't go...stay here with me, I love you, I need you...she knew she couldn't, she'd never know why he really stayed and eventually he would resent her for holding onto him so tightly.  

"Joe's signed up to go." She said frankly as she stood up and began to pacing the room. "I'm just a little on edge about it. Joe's leaving for Ameris with Jason and he won't be back after that since the ship leaves in a few days to take him to his new post. Its feels so..." She stopped, not wanting to voice the emptiness she felt in saying goodbye to them all one by one with in weeks. It was enough hard to be soon seeing Jinpei and Ryu off at his mariner the as soon as they arrived home from the conference. "Well we've all be together so long it's not easy with us going our separate ways. But we have to follow our own paths in life." She confessed sadly. Ken sat back in his chair staring at her the whole time she spoke, studying her face.

"Do you know about my offer...to train new recruits on Riga?" His eyes narrowed and he waited for her response.

"I heard on the grapevine...it sounds like an offer too good to refuse." Jun squared her shoulders, readying herself for him to say he's accepted it.

"I've had an offer to for a command post...well second in command." Jun baited.

"Oh, and who is the commanding officer?" Ken's eyes narrowed.

"Not you...its on another planet. Far away, and it was for five years." She stopped pacing to go and answer the door to take the room service tray.

She returned and sat it on the corner of the small table.

"So, what are you going to do?" He asked, and waited.

Jun felt a sharp pang when the contract caught her eye again. "I can't go Ken. They don't really want me, its just a way to keep me from you. And you must do what you're your heart tells you..."She looked directly into his ocean blue eyes. " I know its to defend Earth and help the settlers. Even in peace time there's a need for Gatchaman."

Ken's looked away from her and picked up his burger and began eating it. Jun did the same and for a while they ate in silence.

"You say there's a need for me..." Ken adjusted his seating position and became thoughtful. "Are you prepared to let me do this, even if it mean's I'll be gone for years." He picked up a chip and began chomping on it.

"I don't own you Ken...I'll always be waiting in Utoland running a restaurant..."She smiled warmly knowing she spoke the truth, she'd spend a lifetime waiting for him if she had too, because she loved him with all her heart and no other man could ever fill his shoes in her life.

"Ken I'm resigning from the ISO." She announced.

"I knew you would eventually." Ken sat up straighter and picked up the contact and read it over again. "I just knew..."He breathed the words.

"It's a good offer- but I value your opinion on it." He said quietly, handing her the contract to read.

"If it's what you want Ken, take it up..." Jun said insisted reading over the contract and part about the massive pay pack and good working conditions. They had his life planned out for the next five years with a review of the conditions at the end of it for an extended ten years if he chose to accept it. Ken would financially set for life after just a few years of service.

Ken remained silent. Jun changed the topic- she couldn't face talking about Ken's new career move anymore, accepting their offer would mean he'd be leaving sooner than Joe.

"I'm meeting Matt, Natasha and Mark in the same park as before when I go home. I know it's been hard for you since you came out of the coma. Not being allowed to leave G-Town...but when you return, come if you can, they'd love to see you." Jun said, Ken gently picked up her hands into his and began massaging her fingers, listening to her talk.

"It's been a rocky road for us...all the way...will it always be like this? Is this what you want Jun." His voice became a whisper and he let go of her hands. She could tell he wanted to say something, but he was holding back.

"No...its not, but I don't really have a say in it." She said hoarsely. "Are you coming to the meeting with them?" Jun asked trying not to focus on the last three years of turmoil in their lives by changing the topic. "It's the same day Joe's leaving for Ameris."

"Yes, I'll be there, I have a few things to do after Joe leaves and then I'll meet you at the park." He promised. "And stop changing the topic."

"I'm flying back tonight to Utoland Ken...there's no point in staying here...I have to go and see Hannah my assistant tomorrow mid morning. She's organised a workman to give me some quotes..." Jun lied, but she did intend to have her organise it when she landed. "I have to see a few more this afternoon and tonight I need to go over my budget...and then later tomorrow afternoon I'll have interviews for potential staff..." Jun updated him on her coming days ahead.

"Sounds like you have it all planned out." Ken picked up the contracts and walked briskly towards the door just as his room mate entered. "I've made up my mind already about this...I have a meeting with Kamo and Commander Regan in half an hour...I have go I have lot to do in a short period of time."

"So do you it seems." She sighed closing her eyes she remembered the teddy bear sitting in the corner of his bedroom in his quarters at G-Town mentally she looked over at the small battered but well loved ginger teddy bear called Cecil staring at her with innocent black eyes. She walked over and picked him up remembering a time when had given her comfort when she first found out she was pregnant with their son. "Take good care of him won't you..."

"Huh?" The young officer said staring at her.

Quickly Jun rose from her chair and bolted out of the room to go and pack her bags.

"Hey sis..." Jinpei said grinning as she ran into the room and over to her suit case.

"We're going too! We figured we have to finish fitting out the boat and since we're not going into space...well we're wasting time." Ryu said eagerly packing his bag.

"Well, its looks like we can all fly back together." She said picking up her small bag they all left the room to check out and return to Utoland.

 * * * *

Ken slowed his pace on his way to the Commands suite. His heart felt heavy from the thoughts running through his mind. He felt torn between his love for Jun, his soul mate and call for duty that would tear him away from her again. Has it become a habit? He questioned. To run at the sound of trumpets and the need to serve others without hardly a second thought to why I'm doing it?

A crisp knock at the door of the suite was answered by a guard who ushered him into the room.

"Mr Washio." Commander Saban greeted him and indicated he sit in the chair opposite him. "I've been expecting you..."

"Sir." Ken greeted him respectfully and sat down.

He extended his hand for the contract. Ken didn't move.

"I have a few questions that I needed answered before I give you this." Ken cut to the chase, he had no time for chit chat and he stood up again and leaned against the closest window. He always felt more in control standing than he did sitting down.

The Commander raised an eyebrow, the only indication he was surprised Ken wasn't bouncing into the room ready to do as he wanted and follow his commands.

"Why is Jun being posted on another planet? I was promised she'd be my second in command." Ken glared at the man- they lied to him and hoped he wouldn't find out until after he'd signed up. Knowing he wouldn't back out of a done deal.

"I know nothing about it Ken, It could be that she requested her own command, you can hardly blame her since she was a member of your team." Commander Saban's cool tone grated on Ken, he was a man used to getting his own way. The man knew full well what the deal is they had in mind for her- did they think he was stupid? Maintaining control of his anger Ken looked at the contract.

"You expect me to sign this? With these kinds of lies-"Ken said in a hardened tone.

"We know you won't have much of a choice anyway Ken Washio. What if she fell pregnant to you in that time? From what I know she's quite fertile and I doubt you'll turn her out of your bed. We don't like fraternizing amongst a tight knit group of soldiers...and the risks are too great in outer space on a planet we know nothing about for pregnant women." Saban's contempt made Ken sigh in disgust.

"Is that all you care about? What happened to equal standing for all members of team. That's how we worked so well, Jun is one smart woman and a brilliant fighter...Is that how you view women under your command? There to service the men...Besides what makes you think-"Ken's angry rant was cut off by General Saban's smooth reply.

"We know about your affair with her a few years ago...and your little mistake, it was a casual fling between you, how could anything serious come of it since you're both bound by your duty...she's a pretty girl I can see why you want her in you're bed...fortunately it came to nothing since the abortion clinic had her name registered so we assume she did the right thing. We were able to have it erased from records. But if she didn't do something about it then the Science Ninja Team would have lost a member of its team. That's something I can't afford to happen a million miles from Earth... If you know what I mean. "His tone hinted of something that made Ken's stomach churn, the more the commander spoke the more Ken came to dislike the Commander. " Dr Nambu couldn't keep all of his secrets from us...after he died a few came out that I found that very interesting...The Earth still needs you more than ever in this coming new age. I know Gatchaman that you'll do what's right." Finishing his speech the Commander poured himself a cup of coffee from his urn, and offered Ken one. Ken shook his head. The conversation was leaving a sour taste in his mouth, and coffee would only make it worse.

"You're so very right..." Ken said, hinting at his real feeling through his subconscious fighter's stance. "I have no choice..." Ken said, he couldn't believe what he was about to do, but he knew he would have no peace in his life unless he did it.

"I need a pen..." He said. "And a piece of paper..."

A satisfied smirk crossed the Commanders features. "I knew you'd see the light Ken Washio...it's in your blood to be loyal to those who need you...and we need you."

"In that...you're so right." Ken said sadly he took the pen, picked up the contract...from this moment on his life would be changing forever and there would be no going back.

Chapter 54 by Ebonyswanne

 

Walking towards the park Jun reflected on her farewell with Joe in her mind. She could still feel his tight embrace and his misty eyes as he said goodbye. "After I say goodbye to Jason I'll hire a race car at the local track and get it out of my system before I report for duty... Nothing like flogging a high powered engine to release the pain and guilt I'm feeling about leaving him behind."

"Sounds like a good idea Joe," She said letting go of him, she stepped back as Ken clasped his hand and gave him a light punch in the shoulder. "That's for old times Joe...you'll make a great commander...just think before you push any red buttons okay."

"Yeah, I'll hear your voice in my head every time..." Joe snickered. Little Jason touched her hand and she leaned down and embraced him. "I want to go with daddy..."

"I know..." She said looking into his eyes. "He'll come back one day soon and you can live with him forever then..."

Jason looked down at his shoes and didn't say anything else as Joe ushered him onto the train for the first part of their journey to Ameris...As it pulled out they waved goodbye and Joe disappeared into the horizon.

"I'll see you soon." Ken put his arm around her shoulders and kissed her lightly on the lips...

Her thoughts then turned to Jinpei out on the ocean somewhere or almost to their destination by now.... Jinpei cried and asked her to keep in touch. She cried too...and worked to stay strong for him like she used to do when he was a little boy.

She saw the look of new found freedom on his face when he boarded his Fishing Trawler with Ryu. It left her with mixed feelings of being happy for him, and feeling like he'd grown up overnight and forgot to tell her...

Sighing heavily Jun prepared herself for the next farewell in her life. Mark and his family were moving to Ameris too...

"Hi Jun..." Natasha's bright smile lifting her spirits and wore away at her gloomy mood she returned her smile and picked up her pace and headed towards the playground. Marks laughter and high spirits was infectious.

Matt and Mark were kicking a ball around together. Matt's limp prevented him from running after it. But he was trying to keep up with his son.

They talked for a while and she played with Mark on the equipment. He scared her half to death when he jumped down from the highest platform and landed gracefully onto the ground.

"I know, he scared me half to death too the first time he did it...He so active." Natasha smiled at her knowingly. "It's the cybernetics, he's a little to game sometimes from his own good, it's like Mark has no fear of anything..."

"Come on Jun...lets go through the tunnel!" He yelled gleefully, his bright blue eyes sparkled and he ran ahead of her into the maze of tunnels.

"In a minute Mark." She called back to the over eager child.

Where's Ken? She thought looking around to see if he was walking towards them from any direction. Yet he remained unseen.

"So, when is the move happening?" Jun asked watching Matt pick up the ball and walk over to the tunnel to listen to something Mark was trying to say.

"Next week, we bought a house in a suburb not far from the ISO headquarters. Matt found an old abandoned airfield on the outskirts of the city we're moving to it has a small shack and a tower, so he decided to buy it along with a Cessna he plans to do up for Mark, a father son project he calls it. The good thing is from what I know Jason's new home isn't to far away...we figured the boys might like to play together. It'll be good for them." Natasha said watching Mark from the corner of her eye. "Dr Anderson will know more about the cybernetics and what the implant is doing in his brain. We hope to move back to Utoland one day when we know for sure it's not going to cause any long term damage to him..."

Jun held that hope too of them returning to Utoland, but she had learned in recent times not to cling to people too much. She kept a place in her heart for them and she knew no matter what the five team mates had a special bond together that will last a lifetime, and that was the same for Mark and his family.

"I don't know what's happened to Ken...he had a few things to do..."Jun looked over her shoulder again to see if he was close by."Tash I have to get going, I've got a lot of work to do." Jun said walking with her towards Mark and Matt to say her farewells once more.

Natasha put her hand on her arm to get her attention. "Don't be a stranger to us Jun...you're welcome in our home anytime." With that she handed Jun a set of keys and piece of paper with an address on it. "They're for our new house...please say you'll come and visit us sometime."

Overwhelmed with emotion Jun embraced her and said." Thank you..."

"No...it's us who should be thanking you...for everything." Natasha said through her own tears. Jun understood what she meant by that, so many things to say- and yet none of the words needed to be spoken.

As Jun reached the edge of the park she caught a glimpse of Ken approaching them. A small smile came to her face when she saw he had Cecil the teddy bear with him. He crouched down and handed him to Mark...

He clasped hands with Matt and the three off them began kicking a ball around together. Who'd know by looking at the scene that Mark had two fathers who played different roles in life, something Mark would have to work out for himself as he grew into a man how he felt about his life and the choices made for him as a baby. To anyone else it was a normal family time in the park with no special attachment to layers beneath the surface and the relationships being form.

Hurrying back to her new motor bike Jun had to get back to the restaurant, her interviews started in under an hour and she wanted to look through some of the resume's before the first person arrived.

 

Chapter 55 by Ebonyswanne

 

"Hi Hannah!" Jun called out to the young petite blond girl who was busy looking at paperwork. She looked up sharply at the sound of her name.

"Jun..." She said in a hurried tone and scurried across the huge open space to stand next to her new boss.

"A lady dropped by an hour ago and she wants to know if your going to see the rights to name "Snack J"?" Hannah asked. "She says her name is Casey, she was with her young daughter Jill...she wanted to name her Diner in Ameris after her and when she looked up the name she discovered the rights to it belong to you."

Jun thought about it for a minute. She figured the name "Snack J" didn't really suit the style of her new restaurant. And she had begun to think up new ones in the past few weeks. A new beginning means a new name, she had decided.

"Tell her I'm willing to negotiate a price for it..." Jun said enabling Hannah to tick the task off her long list.

Hannah kept talking, filling Jun in on the day's events." Okay...onto the next...the builder you selected called back and he able to start work this Friday...and the bar area design will have to be looked at again. The cream coloured granite bench top has come back over budget...so you might have to review it...Oh and the flooring too...The soft tiles and carpet are pricey...and are you sure you want a real wood fire in the bar area?"

Jun bit her bottom lip, she really loved the look of the black granite against the white counter...

"And here is the resume of your first interview...it was a last minute application." Hannah said handing her the file.

"Thanks." Jun said and she walked over to her ‘office' a small desk set up close to the windows with a full view of the bay.

She did a double take when she began reading the resume...

Name; Ken Washio

 

Address; For now, G-Town, moving out soon.

 

Education; Secret Ninja business, and flying school.

 

Work experience and employment; saving the world working for the ISO as Fighter pilot Leader of the Science Ninja Team.

 

I also help out with cooking at the Snack J volunteer work to pay off a tab.

 

Last position; Gatchaman, retired.

 

I have had lots of leadership experience and would love to become a chief. I've signed up for classes at the local college and I'm eager to take on an apprenticeship...

 

The sound of the front door on the other side of the room made her look up sharply. Standing in the door was Ken. Dressed in casual clothing he walked towards her. Hannah caught her eye but Jun indicated she wanted time alone.

"Ken...what are you doing here?" She asked still trying comprehend he had sent in his resume. "I thought you signed up to go into space?"

"What made you think I'd go? Just because I would have without a thought a few years ago. I've changed Jun ,and so have my priories..."He grinned." I'm your first interview." He said smiling and then his face became apologetic. "I'm not that good at things like resumes...My hand writing is shocking and so is my grammar."

"What about the offer...the income alone would have set you up for life." Jun heart began to race. He turned them down! Her mind began to race...

Ken picked up her hands in his...and looked deeply into her eyes. "I want to be set up for life with you... no amount of money could ever compensate for not being by your side." Ken moved in closer to her. "I never knew what unconditional love was until I met you and it took me a long time to see what was right before me...all this time you loved me even when I let you down...hurt you...you never forced me to chose between my duty and being with you... instead you chose to give me your heart and let me make my own decisions in life and do what I had to do even if you cost you what was most precious to you...this time I want to get it right..."

"What about your duty to the world?" She quizzed a half smile came to her lips. "I'm sure they didn't let you go easily."

"No they didn't, I had to write three resignations and a back up one...cause they kept tearing them up." He signed heavily. "I knew it had to do something to convince you that I wouldn't be going...so if you look on the next page you'll see the fifth copy of my resignation to the ISO."

She flicked over the page, and warmth filled her soul at the words on the page before her...

 

To anyone who cares in the ISO and new Federation.

 

"I'm officially resigning from the ISO to be with my Swan and spend the rest of my life with her, get married we'll have some babies soon I hope. I love her to much to be taken away from her again by duty- Jun is my purpose and reason for fighting Galactor all those years. Did you know she's my hero, she saved my life when all was lost with the Gatchasparten, never left my side and I won't let you force me to leave her again... without her near me, I'm useless to you...

 

Yours truly,

Ken Washio

Former Gatchaman.

 

"I love you Jun...from now on you're my world...wherever you are I'm there with you...I'll fight for you and die for you...give everything I have to you..." Ken circled her in his arms. "Does that sound cheesy...if so I'll try and say it again? I'm not all that good with romantic words." Jun could see his devotion and deep love for her depths of his eyes.

"I like your version of cheesy..." she grinned." I love you too Ken...it's been a long journey hasn't it." Jun knew her voice was heavy with emotion, but she didn't care, and his moist lips found hers.

"You got the job Washio." She said when the kiss finally ended.

"When do I start?" He asked raising a playful eyebrow.

"Yesterday," Jun grinned kissing him again more wildly than she ever had before.

He pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket it was a cheque. "I think you can have your new bench top...and anything else you need. How about we start looking at places to live maybe an apartment close by with water views, you know I did get a fantastic payout when they finally accepted my resignation...since I'm homeless...I have however a bag of a few items just outside the door that I brought from G-Town..."

"You bet!" She agreed. "How about I show you around our new restaurant...I think we can put some sleeping bags in the corner until we find a home together...that's what I planned to do since I lost my security pass when I resigned." Taking his hand in hers she began to tell him about a dream that once belonged only to her had now become theirs.

"A mattress with you beside me and a view of the ocean at night...I could handle that for a few weeks...years...forever." Ken's talk of a future warmed her heart.

In that moment a weight lifted of her shoulders and his warm lips covered hers in a tender yet deeper kiss. In that moment she knew they were starting a new beginning together. Stronger and deeper and more meaningful than anything they had ever had before.

For the first time in years Jun looked confidently into her future and embraced it as she walked confidently beside the man she knew she would be spending the rest of her life with...

Epilogue. by Ebonyswanne

The light sound of his boots hitting hard floor echoed down the long corridor of the hidden base he had been left directions to go to.

He'd heard rumours about this place during his work with the ISO in Ameris yet nothing ever confirmed it existed. That was until the day he learned of Uncle's death at the hands of his enemies.

He didn't know how to feel when he heard the news delivered to him by his secretary.

"I'm sorry to tell you this, your Uncle Nambu was assassinated by Galactor...the Science Ninja Team failed to reach him in time..." She said.

Anguish...Anger, sadness, neutral...all of these varying emotions went through him until he stood there on a dark night watching the uncle he barely knew being lowered into the ground surrounded by his own team. The same ones who failed him when he needed them the most. Tears stung his eyes yet he refused to allow the tears to flow and lose the moment he had before him in wallowing anguish.

The sweetness of finally being in the presence of the ship he spent years yearning to see in real life, not just in glimpses on the TV news, was enough to overwhelm him on its own.

Failed...they failed his Uncle... that's all he could think about as he silently watched each of their faces at his funeral. That's when he decided when he got the chance he'd disband the current team, even after their success of destroying the satellite he didn't feel he could totally trust them to protect him if it was needed. And he would one day need protecting since his ambition to become the overall Chief of security of the new federation looked promising at the conference in Geneva.

Rounding the corner he stopped to turn on the lights of the auditorium.

The soft humming sound of the rarely used florescent lights broke the silence that had fallen once he stopped walking. The ceiling of the launch bay rose up so high the light didn't even reach the heights of the cave. Closing his eyes he allowed the anticipation of the moment to take hold of him, opening them he wasn't disappointed with what he saw. His eyes fell on the most famous ship in the world. The blue ships with its red high lighted thermal paint, warn from extensive use, yet it still held its magnificence. The sleek slightly bent nose of the ship and its side pods fascinated him from the minute he saw the blue prints of the God Phoenix in his uncle's lab.

He wondered why they didn't keep with the vehicles that transmuted after all it made more sense to him to have the team ready at a seconds notice. And the absence of the firebird mode on the Gatchasparten could have been the end of them if he hadn't talked his Uncle into adding it a few weeks before his death.

Uncle Nambu was a genius but it was his amulet... not his Uncle that saved them in the end. Then he came up with the idea of the teleportation device linked in with their bracelets and the automatic firebird mode... And then the incompetents lost it the amulet! Letting fall to the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean in the world. And with the blueprints for it destroyed at the former Mountain Base he had little hope of working out how his uncle implemented its connection into the ships systems to execute it.

It worked and that's all he ended up knowing about it since the team couldn't recall any other details after they landed in middle of the ocean.

Slowly he walked up to the ship, reaching up to run his hand down her side. He felt the ripples of thick paint under his hand of ship that knew combat well- each ripple told its story of war, defeat and victory over incredible odds.

Closing his eyes he imagined her in flight... The deadly swiftness and she struck out against a mecha of superior intelligence, and yet in Firebird mode she became a graceful yet toxic force against any who dared get in her way...

"I'll create my own team...one worthy of flying you..." He said opening his eyes he looked up at the clear glass dome and imagined it opening up- there they stood in full birdstyle waiting for action. Then he pictured them sitting in their seats waiting to launch out of this cliff top cavern, out across the ocean turning upward into the open blue skies above...them his dream changed to the new better and more superior underwater base he intended to build for the new federation.

Centre Neptune has a good ring to it he thought. He had the funding for the project through his late Uncles will, and he intended to make good use of it.

He already started forming the dream when he saw the team for the first time in full birdstyle. He didn't like Gatchaman despite his lofty principles. He had too many rough edges for his liking with his other team mates, and the infighting he heard about amongst them didn't fit his ideals of an obedient successful force against evil. He thought about their last victory, and it felt hollow to him since Dr Nambu wasn't here to rejoice in it.

 His new team would be more submissive than the previous, and have better grounding. He knew war would come again one day...after all they were combing a new frontier and who knows what would be waiting out there for them...

He knew what the skills his future team would posses, and he saw it in two little boys with cybernetic implants. Mark and Jason...All he had to do was get the parents out of the way. Not in a sadistic way like killing them he'd never stoop to that level...Murder belonged to organisations like Galactor. It would be a gradual process of influence, and getting Joe Asakura to take up a Command position was a good start.

He still had to deal with the Butlers, since Jun and Ken were easy to get rid of since they had very little influence in direction of his life anyway. When Gatchaman's resignation finally landed on his desk he accepted it knowing he would stay in Utoland and worked out far better than he could have planned sending them all off into out space. It wasn't really his idea to separate him and Jun- that was the military's way of thinking eh couldn't care less if they were together on missions.

In all he cared about the Earth and the human race and felt the needs of the many out weighed the needs of the one.

 He would find a way over the years to minimise Marks adoptive families influence in his life. All he had to do was win their trust, and being Dr Nambu's nephew, and he knew how to do that. He loved his planet, and his deepest desire was to serve the people, to do that he knew sacrifices had to be made. Nothing ever worthwhile ever happened without personal sacrifices.

"Dr Anderson." His secretary addressed him from the doorway of the launch room holding up a mobile phone. "I have an urgent call for you..."

"It can wait a minute." He told her looking back at his prize. "I'll simply call you the Phoenix...in honour of your past...By the time I'm finished with you...you'll be as good as new...and feel loved again with a new commander at the helm."

Walking away from the Ship Dr Anderson left the base with a clear vision of the Earths Future and he liked what he saw...

* * * *

At the same moment on a remote planet...

The lights in the empty room switched on...Gellator knew his victory over the people of the planet of Spectra was complete...they were at his mercury and he found delight in taunting them on a daily basis. They wore the uniforms of the slaves from his home planet of Selector. Sighing heavily his victory became hollow when it was destroyed by an asteroid. The resources he faith sent back to his home planet had all been for nothing and now he was left on this depleted rock! And to make matters worse his brother failed to secure Earth, and was defeated himself at the last minute.

Not that he liked his brother much- the moron was to bent on destruction of a valuable resource for his own planet, when  he pointed this out to him in a communication line, he simply snubbed him over it. Telling him all he cared about was revenge and that meant killing all of them. Gellator didn't care about the humans...he cared about the minerals, the gold, the natural occurring gasses on the planet...he wanted to raid it for his own conquest.

"Aluminous one... you call for me?" His current young teenage servant bowed before him. Why the insisted on calling him that name he couldn't recall, but then it had been 2 thousand years since he became their divine leader.

"Zoltar...it appears the Earthlings have decided to expand their boundaries..." He said evenly.

"Sire...that is what our satellites say from our eavesdropping on their communications." He responded politely.

"Watch them...observe them...and when the time is right...we strike! After that Spectra will be saved from disaster... your people will no longer be starving." Gellator promised. He knew how to motivate these weaklings into doing his bidding. Zoltar held some promise, the first a thousand years to be his best obedient puppet. Most of his chose underlings rebelled and tried to outsmart him, wasted talent, he thought absently.

"In honour of my late brother's sacrifices... you will wear this." His light indicated to a purple outfit with a pointy mask sitting in the corner. Zoltar's face held a distained look, but he didn't protest. The boy knew not to from the untimely deaths of countless others in his position before him.

"Anything for you my lord." He bowed again, and then picked up his new uniform and left the room after Gellator dismissed him.

A storm is coming planet Earth...Gellator sent his thoughts out into the universe. In a split second he saw a man with stormy grey eyes staring back at him...challenging him to battle. Soon...he promised- you'll all know who I am soon. And you appear to be a challenge. He lusted to control the mind of this man- he would make a powerful servant. Gellator could feel his power radiating from him. I'm a storm...a subtle wind in your face for now...you'll know me when I chose for you to know me. And with that he switched off and began to rest and plan and to wait and prepare for when the time to strike and add to his conquest of planets...

Two illuminating eye's set their focus on the resourcefully rich planet Earth...Watching...waiting...watching....waiting...

End Notes:
You finally made it to the end of the story! Thanks for reading it, I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I did.
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