Ken walked up the rocky passage way of the narrow cavern. Following the instructions, he had been given he punched in the code of the smooth steel door he discovered part way into the natural rock tunnel.
“Aniki, what do think is in there?” Jinpei quipped, the teenage kid insisted upon coming after their meeting with Ryu at Ken and Jun’s apartment a week before.
“I’m hoping a base.” Ken pulled open the door. The Code Matt had given him proved true. LED lights flickered on throughout the room they entered, after a few minutes the whole base lit up.
“Wow!” Jinpei wide eyed followed him. “This place has remained hidden.
The one thing that stood out like a beacon was the red painted fighter jet sitting in the landing bay. A huge cavernous room with enormous closed doors.
Ken’s heart raced at the sight of it. Images of Red Impulse flashed through his mind. For a moment, he was transported back in time, he saw his father’s face seconds before he jumped into the rocket to complete a suicide mission.
“Its Red Impulse.” Jinpei exclaimed taking it all in.
“It was…” Ken managed, a lump forming in his throat.
“Its ours now.” Ken turned to the Swallow.
Jinpei fell silent, as Ken walked slowly over to the fighter jet waiting for him. He opened the cockpit to find a note sitting on the seat.
If you’re here Ken… it means I’m gone… I’m sorry to have let you down in caring for Mark. I loved him, please… let him know that one day. Watch over him… Chief Anderson has good intentions, he was bitter about Dr Nambu’s death, but I know him well from days gone past he still has the Federation at heart. He will always put the Federations needs before the kids and it worries me with Mark and Jason especially…
We are men of duty, eventually it calls to us again… all the best for your family look after them.
“Yes, we are.” Ken sighed heavily. Jun saw it, and rather than fight she’s finding a way to come with him along with their children.
Protecting them wasn’t about abandoning, it was about rising up despite the dangers to be there in what form he could be. Ken chose his wife and children.
They chose to come with him- Jun always looked to his lead when they were younger. He discovered it was because of how much she believed in him as a leader. He wasn’t going to let her down.
“This is our new home.” Ken jumped out of the cockpit seat.
Jinpei nodded. “Ryu… “
“I know Jinpei and I don’t expect him to drop everything, I know his marriage is strained at the moment. I’m hoping they work it out too.” Ken reassured the Swallow. He wasn’t asking anything of either of them.
Ken and Jinpei went on a tour of the rest of the base. To his surprise, it was bigger than it initially appeared to be. There were accommodation wings, common room, war planning space, kitchen, dining. Enough for his family, the kids would have to share. Jinpei would have his own few rooms, Ryu if he chose to join them and a spare. Ken reserved it for the day they found Joe. Clinging to hope the Condor would find a way home or they would find him first.
In the months after Chief Andersons visit Jun and Ken sold the restaurant, they had a lot of buyers due to its success and made a good profit. Ken left it to Jun to workout, the settlement and investment of their money was Jun’s strength.
She had done well. She purchased a motorbike shop, appointed a manager and sales team. Other funds she invested into the stock market, Jun was making money fast!
“Where do we start Aniki?” Jinpei looked overwhelmed, and excited.
“Here… weapons, more planes.” Ken walked over to a folder on the bench with his name on it. Inside were fighter jet designs and contacts. Matt had planned this well, if he had come back from the mission he would doing the same thing. Maybe they would be doing it together.
Ken grinned. It had struck him how small the world can feel at times that the couple Jun chose to raise Mark had connections back to them.
“I’m going to see Mark.” Ken looked up at Jinpei’s surprised face. “He won’t know it’s me… I’ll use a name, disguise. Find a way to keep an eye on him. To be honest, he would recognise me anyway now.”
“Yes, he would, you could be twins you look that much alike. What will you call yourself?” Jinpei quizzed.
“Cronus…we are we’ll think of a name for our unit… that way if Matt by chance is alive, he will know… it was the mission call sign. I hope Matt is out there alive so I bring him back. I know what it’s like…Anderson will know…” Kens voice trailed away.
He knew the pain and void it left at a young age…
“Time to get started.” Ken got down to business. Time to bring Jun here to see what she can do with the computers in the place to get it up and running, they had work to do.
Time held no meaning for Joe Asakura. This place of endless mirrors, no reality could exist here. Joe had thought at one point he had escaped the clutches of Spectra only to find himself in an illusion of some kind. The gentle rocking of his small raft brought him little peace as he floated on the open seas on a dark night staring at the blackness above him with scattered stars like sprinkles of sliver glitter thrown across the darkness breaking up the blackness he stared into.
“Why my mind? Your predecessor favoured the likes of Berg Katse, Gel Sadra… they could be controlled by you. Not me.” Joe spoke to the alien.
“You sort me… don’t you remember?” It reminded him.
“How?” Joe confused.
“You connected with me…. Not my brother whose mission to destroy all who oppose us failed. I was the one you connected with…” The Alien waited for his response.
“I don’t get it beastie… you have the wrong guy. Zoltar is looking promising.” Joe shot back at it, at the moment he wondered if he conjured up a mental weapon could he kill it before harmed anyone.
“Zoltar is a tool… like Berg Katse was for my brother…. You are what we call…” The Alien hesitated. “We have known who you are since your birth. We have been waiting for you to grow… the a Dr Nambu stole you from Berg Katse…. He FAILED!” He screamed, piecing Joe’s ears.
Joe was onto something here.
Grinning Joe responded. “Failed…and I’m special.”
“Yes you are special… so why not allow me to be part of you.” It hissed.
“Whoa… you want to be…umm… me.” Joe felt panic rising inside of him. This is the stuff he expected to science fiction.
“Let me own you, then I will reveal your true power. Spectra is mightier than Galactor ever was.” The Great Spirit’s seductive tone irritated the Condor.
For a moment, the penny dropped. He remembered his first contact with an alien mind. It was when he faced the monster with Pandora’s machine. It strength shot painful arrows through his mind, he barely coped with the intensity of it-- it tried to consume him. Then on the Poison Apple he felt it, heard it when the others didn’t. Joe easily connected with the species.
Joe tried a new tactic as his raft moved with the currents. “So, power and glory is on offer. Sounds tempting to me… Whats in it for me?”
“You will be immortal… have whatever you desire… ruler of all the Earth. We will give it to you as your domain.” The Alien sounded hopeful.
“In exchange for what?” Joe asked making it sound like he was considering it.
“You serve us.” The Great spirit purred.
Joe smirked-- It was hiding its plan well.
The Great Spirits tone deepened. “You were meant to come to us as a boy. Your father knew your destiny Joe Asakura. He was honoured by it. Then he betrayed us! You are to become our finest leader, the one to seal the fate of the universe and empower us to rule. You can’t fight this, one day you will obey and be powerful beyond anything any species has ever seen.”
“This is where it all comes unstuck for you… I killed your brother… You killed my son…” Anger welled in Joe at the thought of Jason on the beach. The scene played like a record stuck on track over and over…
“Your son… he would be useful. If you’re not going to come to us. We will find him and serve in your place.” The Great spirit promised.
Joe bolted upright. His eyes wide, if even a hint of it was true Joe, Jason could be alive. He had to find a way back home, out of this place. The creature gave something away it didn’t intend too.
“Jason….Asha…” It hissed, sinister in its words spilled out of its mouth. “Ken…. Jun… Jinpei…Ryu… maybe finding them will convince you.”
“Joe… you are one of us… don’t you feel it?” The creature informed him.
Horror filled him, how could he be one of them?
Was it playing games with his mind, naming the people he loved, he growled. He had to fight, Joe had to escape at all costs to protect his family.
Jason… what if he lived… what if they lied about him. Joe drew in a deep ragged breath. He had come to this place to die, when he swam out the raft he had wanted to lay down and stop breathing. He has come so close to giving up on life altogether.
Forcing himself to his feet he cast his eyes around the back water surrounding him. The isolation of his mind, his thoughts so the creature could access him easily. Joe was in coma, he became certain of it.
Ken would be working it out, he had to think in the way he saw Ken did in solving problems.
Frantic he tried to tune in his thoughts, what did he possess outside of his body he could cling too. The image of the beach he last saw Jason on floated into his thoughts.
The creature tried to tap into his thoughts. Joe blocked it out, he had become so laxed it had found his friends and who he cared about the most. He wouldn’t let it happen again.
He pictured his son in as many details as he could muster. Opening his eyes, Joe dove off the raft and into the cold water, he swam into the depths until his lung felt like they were on fire, he kept diving until his mind registered that this wasn’t reality. He burst through the surface, drawing in deep painful breaths as waves flung onto the wet sand of the beach.
Jason was no longer on the beach, it was empty of all souls.
“If you’re alive son, I’ll find you.” Joe promised, he fought to regain his consciousness.
Joe’s eyes flung open, he drew in real air, he felt his own body. He was alive, whole and in control.
Taking a moment to adjust his eyes Joe starred at the white ceiling. He was in a room alone nothing holding him down. He had equipment measuring his heart rate, and vitals.
No doctors or guards present. Joe reached up to his neck and touched the golden angel Asha had given him. His reality, it wasn’t with him in the dream state he had been in. Joe felt his long hair and new rough beard.
How long have I been there, a sinking feeling it had been a while hit him-- He had no sense of time left.
Gradually Joe rose to his feet jumping off the bed, scoping the room he searched for anything he could use as a weapon. Smirking at his find he pocketed the medical scalpel from a tray and scissors.
They had become laxed, the guards figured he was in a coma, so they didn’t even bother being in the same room as him. Joe, soft on his feet made his way to the door. Shaking his head at the incompetence he opened a crack in the door to observe the outside world.
Two extremely bored looking guards sat at a table playing cards.
Without a second thought Joe aimed the scissors at the one facing him and closest to the alarm and the door. Taking him out swiftly with a dagger to the throat the man collapsed choking on his own blood.
His unprepared friend didn’t have time to move in from his seat as Joe grabbed his neck breaking it in seconds.
Aware they likely had security cameras in the place Joe shot pulled the bodies into the room he had been left in. Stealing a uniform, he quickly dressed. Throwing them onto the bed he covered them with a sheet. Taking the guards weapons Joe left the room and heading down the hall to make his escape.