Standard disclaimer: Tatsunoko owns Gatchaman and anything else belonging to it. WEM is not one of them.
Part 3: Jun
Despite my attempts at optimism, I could tell from the outset that this was going to be anything but a pleasant trip. Ken looked as though he hadn't gotten a wink of sleep, Joe was grouchy, Jinpei was restless as only little boys could be, and Ryu seemed completely indifferent, preferring to sleep instead. I felt a twist of guilt in my stomach as we left Utoland behind us in the crowded 767; I'd seen the expression on Ken's face beneath his visor as the junebug mecha twisted out of the Phoenix's way just as the Bird Missile impacted in the middle of the city beneath it, and wanted desperately to say something to take his mind off the recollection. The bleary gaze he turned blankly out the window as the plane made its way across the ocean was less than conducive to conversation, so I decided not to try just yet.
However, the prospect of having a zombie as my flight companion for the next 22 hours was somewhat less than appealing, so perhaps some kind of effort on my part was in order. I leaned over and gently touched his arm. "Ken?"
He started and blinked at me. "Huh? What?"
I smiled gently. "To be frank, you look like hell. Maybe you should try to get some sleep. This is going to be a long flight, you know."
He looked away, the rising sun catching faint red highlights in his hair. "I can't just now."
"I understand, but you should try anyway. We're going to be in a completely different country soon, and who knows what we'll actually find there, despite everyone saying it's peaceful?" Seeing his slight frown, I continued. "Peaceful time or not, you're going to be in no shape to handle anything if you're too fried from lack of sleep."
Ken blinked again, then rubbed at his slightly bloodshot eyes. "I don't know -- I mean, you're right, but -- "
"Care for some breakfast?"
I looked over to see a pretty, well-coiffed flight attendant smiling pleasantly at us. I opened my mouth to refuse politely, at which point my stomach chose to make its discontent loudly known. Blushing and ducking my head, I murmured, "Yes, please. For two," I added, looking at Ken through my hair.
"But -- " he began protesting as the attendant smiled and moved away to the food cart making its way up the aisle by my elbow.
"If you don't eat, you'll be weak and sick when we get there, and combined with your lack of sleep, definitely in no shape to lead," I said firmly, pulling down his eating tray and mine. "Who knows, a full stomach might help you sleep some."
Luckily, Ken was too tired to protest any further as the attendant returned with two breakfast trays. "I suppose," he mumbled, looking at the steaming fish, rice and fruit in front of him. Behind us, Joe and Jinpei bickered over who was getting which tray. I could hear Ryu eating noisily over their arguing.
We ate in silence, Ken's movements seeming almost mechanical. He'd still said nothing when the trays were cleared away, keeping his eyes on the faintly sparkling carpet of cloud on the horizon. Less than 10 minutes after eating, however, he was sound asleep.
I leaned back in my chair and breathed a soft sigh of relief, just as Jinpei's foot connected solidly with my seat. "Oneechan, Aniki Joe stole my custard," he whined.
Fortunately for us, Ken didn't wake up through my attempts to shush Jinpei, Joe's increasingly loud noises of "Did not, you didn't want it," or the minor custard and tapioca food fight that took place in the aisles. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time cleaning and taking IOUs for dry-cleaning bills from irate passengers.
On the bright side, it seemed to help make the flight pass more quickly. Mostly.