Swallowing the lump in his throat, he opened the door and stepped into the tiny space that Joe had called home since he turned 18.
Clean, neat, with only a few personal items in view. Racing trophies and photographs, as one would expect, a couple of pictures of him with fellow ISO personnel, one with the SNT in civilian mode. Nothing to tell that the Condor, the most feared member of the Science Ninja Team, lived here. But then, Joe had never been one to accumulate possessions.
He sat on the bed, not wanting to be here, doing this. Not collecting and boxing his son’s things. Not deciding what to do with them.
The rest of the team would arrive soon to help. They could not see him like this. For their sakes, he had to be strong, to not show how much he hurt.
There was a bedside table, with drawer. Alarm clock, small lamp. The clock ticked over to the next minute.
To fill the time, he opened the drawer. Atop the racing magazines was an envelope bearing the few ideograms Joe had mastered: Nambu Hakushi.
Taking a breath, he picked it up, opened it. Two sheets, handwritten. The writing was labored, with numerous stops and starts. Evidence of the condition that was slowly destroying Joe Asakura, Giorgio Accurso.
You’re reading this, which means I died.
And you have a pretty good idea why I didn’t come to you for help, but I’ll write it out anyway. Because the others don’t know.
I didn’t want to be taken off the team.
God, that looks so inadequate written down. That’s the sort of thing one of our classmates would have said when Ken and I were in school. Petty and selfish.
For a long time, I was content to be Joe Asakura, your ‘nephew’ and ward. Galactor was a memory, and I wanted it to stay there.
At the same time, I wanted to avenge my parents. I didn’t get along with my father, but when he died, so did any chance that he could ever be proud of me, or that he would ever tell me so. My mother never asserted herself, and now she never would. I would never get to know them. Galactor took those chances away from them and from me.
Does that make any sense? It only makes sense to me at certain times of the night.
What do you think happened when I found out that you had been studying Galactor all along?
Okay, that didn’t come out right. You were on that beach by chance. I know that. You rescued me before you knew I had any connection to Galactor. I don’t know how much I told you (you know how to ask questions, don’t you?), but you could have dumped me with anyone after you had everything I knew. Instead, you took me in.
I may not have your Sherlock Holmes powers, but I know you loved me as a son, just as you loved Ken as a son. It was in your every word, look, and action. And I loved you as a father.
So it has to hurt you that I didn’t come to you.
And for that, I’m sorry.
I wanted revenge that much, Papa. I wanted it for me, for Ken, for all those people who suffered and died because some maniac wants to rule the world. For my parents, who couldn’t leave Galactor alive. For Ken’s father, who had to go away and pretend to be dead, who couldn’t be there for his dying wife and his living son.
My head hurt, my vision blurred, and my right hand went numb at odd moments, and I fell out of the Tornado Fighter twice in about 10 minutes.
If I’d come to you, you would have taken me off the team, and been right to do so.
And that’s another point against Galactor.
They kept you, and us, so busy that you didn’t have a chance of seeing my condition. I’ll bet you would have seen it before even I knew something was wrong, in time to do something about it. I would be here now, fighting alongside you, or helping clean up the mess after we defeated Galactor.
I’ve read this again, and I want to tear it up, to write something else, something better, but I don’t know how.
So I guess I better sign off. But before I do, I want to add one more thing.
I love you, Otōsan.
Slowly, Nambu folded the letter and put it back in the envelope. Then he tucked it into his coat pocket.
Outside, he heard Jun’s motorcycle, then other vehicles, arrive.
He closed his eyes and composed himself.