Nambu stood still. He watched everyone disappear around the corner. He needed a moment.
"Hakase. Are you ok?" Jinpei asked.
Nambu turned around and tried to put on a good face for his youngest.
" Yes Jinpei. I'll be fine." He lied to both Jinpei and the bloodily puppy he held.
" Jinpei can you please take care of the puppy?"
" Yes, Hakase. I'll clean her up and feed her. She will be all pretty for Joe ani."
" Jinpei, thank-you. Why don't you and the puppy go to sleep afterward. I did get you up in the middle of the night. "
" But Hakase, I need to be there for Joe ani."
Nambu kneeled down to get on Jinpei's level.
" Jinpei, none of you will get to see Joe for many hours. I'm going to try to send all of you to bed. Especially, Ken. He hasn't had any sleep. Do you trust that I will wake you if something happens?"
Jinpei could tell that Nambu was being honest with him. Jinpei could always tell when he was being sent away. Nambu was not doing that.
"Hakase, hai." Jinpei said.
"Good." Nambu stood up and turned to go.
"Dr. Nambu we are all waiting for you." It was Barbara, the head nurse. She had come back to the God Phoenix's bay looking for someone who was supposed to be right behind her.
" Sorry. I'm coming." Nambu said.
Nambu turned back around to Jinpei.
"Ken ani and Ryu ani said that Joe ani saved this puppy because he saw himself in her. And that Joe ani would have done it even if you said not to. I don't understand."
Nambu could tell that Jinpei was truly trying to understand it but couldn't get the concept.
" What made you save that whale a few weeks ago?"
Nambu put a finger to Jinpei's lips.
" When Joe gets better, why don't you ask him? Each person has their own reasons but something tells me that you two will understand each other."
"Thanks Hakase!" Jinpei said with a one armed hug around his waist. Jinpei then took off for his quarters. Secure in the knowledge that Hakase would fix everything.
Nambu watched Jinpei leave.
"Joe, rescued that puppy?" the shock was evident in Barbara's voice. The zoo collector was Jinpei.
"Yes he did. Now let's make sure that he doesn't regret that decision"
Nambu and Barbara ran towards the medical wing.
Ken and Ryu had made it to OR #1. They carefully brought Joe inside and laid him and the board on the exam table. Jun and Dr. Snee, the team's main physician, came in right behind them. Ken kneeled down to look at Joe's face. His eyes were closed.
"Joe,wake up." Ken said as gently as he could. He got no response from Joe.
"It's ok. We have him now." Dr. Snee tried to sound confident and comforting.
The whole world immortalized the KNT. That is how it should be, their lives were not their own. Dr. Snee looked around the room and didn't see what gave Katse nightmares. He saw three terrified teenagers scared to death for their brother.
" Why don't you guys go and relax in the room with the couches across the hall."
" But, we..." Ken started.
" We need this room sterile. Which you guys are not." Dr.Snee knew they couldn't argue with logic.
Ryu, Ken and Jun turned to go just as Nambu and Barbara reached the doorway.
"Where is Jinpei?" Jun asked convinced that he was with Hakase.
" He is giving the puppy a bath and then going to sleep. I asked him to do that and he didn't argue."
Before any of the team could speak, Nambu continued.
" I'm ordering all of you to rest. You can't do anything here. No one has had much sleep. Remember, that mecha will be back. I want you all to get a fresh start before it resurfaces."
They all knew just to follow orders. Mostly because Hakase was right. They all told Joe's sleeping form that they would be close and then left the room. Two more doctors, three nurses and a portable cat scan machine took their place.
" I'm going to take a shower and then come back here." Jun said indicating her blood stained birdstyle. " Hakase said we have to rest. He didn't say where." Jun said with a smirk.
Ken and Ryu had to smile at that.
"Sleep-over here in half an hour." Jun said as she headed towards her quarters.
It only took five minutes to realize that they couldn't tell where exactly the fragment was. It was somewhere between Joe's left ear and left cheek bone. The fragment had torn his helmet up enough that the CAT scan was hard to read. They had to get him out of birdstyle.
"Ok. This is what we are going to do." Nambu laid out the best option. They all started prepping for surgery.
Back at the Galactor base:
Katse wanted to hug the Commander. The mole tank had destroyed downtown Utoland and seemingly killed the Condor. The Commander was smiling. Let him. He has actually done good. Better not let him get a swelled head though. Sosai always frowned upon such behavior. Back to business.
"When can the Mole Tank attack again?"
"The repairs will be done just before sunset. Then the Mole Tank will be able to do your bidding sire."
"Rest and prepare for this evening. Then Galactor will show the world what fear is."
Katse got a cheer for that.
"Dismissed." Katse said with a wave of his hand.
Katse went to his quarters to watch the battle tape again. Before he truly celebrated Condor's death, he wanted to make sure he was really dead. A vision of Gatchaman flopped across a bed screaming and crying into a pillow over the death of his teammate kept a smile on Katse face for the moment.
Back at Crescent Coral:
"Ok, Let's begin." Nambu stated.
The OR room cleared out except for Nambu,Joe and Barbara.
"Do you have his head Dr?"
"Yes, Barbara. You can cut the tape now."
As Barbara cut the tape Joe's head settled into Nambu's hands. Nambu could feel Joe's thready pulse against his fingers. He was scared for Joe. No brain injury is good. What would happen if he couldn't be the Condor? Nambu knew that would be the end of Joe.
"Kozaburou, we will fix him. Don't worry."
Nambu opened his eyes and saw Barbara smiling at him.
"Don't ever apologize for your feelings Kozaburou, these are your kids. Especially, this little handful. He will be turning you gray again soon." Barbara said with a smile.
Nambu put his head down and laughed.
Joe's head moved at that point. Barbara rubbed between Joe's shoulders as Nambu talked.
"Joe open your eyes."
Joe did and saw Hakase fully scrubbed and dressed for surgery.
"We are going to remove that fragment but we have to get you out of birdstyle first. I'll be here to keep your head still. Then we are going to have to go into your head and clean it out."
Joe's eyes went wide and Barbara started laughing before Nambu realized what he said.
"Very funny you two. I meant clean out the wound. Barbara get out of here."
Nambu was the only one who could handle being there for the transformation sequence. Joe was giggling again. The laughter on the other side of the door said that Barbara had told everyone.
"Joe are you ready?"
Joe sobered up very quickly. Nambu could see honest fear in his eyes.
"Scared" It took everything Joe had to admit that.
"Don't be. If I saved you before this will be easy. I mean that. " Nambu kissed the end of his beak.
Before Nambu could react Joe swung his left arm.
Nambu kept looking at Joe's head. He could see the fragment through all the swirling colors. As soon as Nambu could, he reached out and supported the fragment sticking out of his son's head. Joe was out again. Nambu wanted to scream but kept his cool.
Everyone was in the hall waiting for Dr. Nambu's signal. The first words out of the OR sent chills down everyone's spine.
" The fragment is buried in his left temple."
They all ran into the room. Nambu was holding the fragment looking furious.
"Katse will pay for this. If it's the last thing I do."
Then they started the surgery.