The Sky Force Far East Base was not overpopulated at this time. Only a few employee cars sat in the wide, parking lot. Inside one room filled with computers were only two men. One was a tall, white-coated scientist with bright, laughing eyes that sparkled as he worked. The other was a bit younger and wore glasses. He read the printouts with a satisfied smile and called to the other man over his shoulder, "Chief Tendo, we're finished totaling."
Chapter 1: Resurrection
The taller man glanced up from his clipboard. "Good. Let's try to run through them right away."
"Yessir." As his superior handed him the clipboard, he couldn't help but remark on the light expression on his face. "Chief, you look very happy today."
An immediate chuckle and a rather silly smile crossed Chief Tendo's face. Blushing and rubbing the back of his head sheepishly, he explained, "Oh, yeah, well the truth is today is my daughter Aya's birthday!" The man was practically bursting with pride.
"Oh," the younger man said aloud. But inside he was chagrined. His boss' daughter's birthday and he had done nothing, not sent a card or anything. Shoot, I didn't hear that, he thought.
But now his chief was holding out a wallet, grinning in silly ecstasy. "Look at the picture of my lovely daughter, she's one years old!"
"Um, er, she's cute, sir." He back-pedaled from the wallet, holding the clipboard up in defense. Save us from proud fathers everywhere, he'll have me looking at pictures for hours. Hopefully he could put this off for another time by reminding Chief Tendo there was work to do right now.
But Ryu Tendo never really noticed. He was content to look at the picture he had, for there was only one and he often stared at it and marveled at how lucky he was. Here was his team-mate, partner, wife, lover. Kaori cuddled their fluffy haired little girl, Aya, who was sucking on her fingers and eyeing the camera dubiously. Deep in thoughts he left the Skybase to return home. Outside he stopped, to stare up at the brilliant late afternoon sky strewn with vaporous clouds. His heart held a pain and joy that was as much a part of his existence as his family. And it was only five years ago we saved the peace of Earth from the Vyram. With our own hands we won back peace. Five of them, in their Jetman armor. Himself, Kaori, Ako, Lyta... and Gai.
Part 1: Time Gallops By
It was dark by the time he returned home. The lights on the various floors of the apartment building they lived in were welcoming in the evening. Carrying the box he had carefully brought with him, he paused in the entry hall to balance on one foot as he pushed his shoe off the other with his free hand and called, "I'm home! Kaori! Aya! Look what I brought, it's a cake!"
"Welcome home!" came the bell of Kaori's voice. Cuddling Aya in her arms, she ran to greet him.
Little Aya reached out to him. "Ah! Ah ah!"
Both of them with equally silly smiles, Ryu in the voice father's reserve for their baby girls held out his arms for Kaori to put their daughter in. "Oh, c'mere." With another happy ah, Aya snuggled into his arms and rubbed her face against his. "Ah, Aya's such a good girl!" he told her sweetly. And if anything was wrong anywhere in the world, it did not matter.
After Ryu changed from his office suit into a sweater and jeans, he sat on the couch and played with Aya, holding her on his lap and holding her arms to wave them at the food and cake laid out on the glass-top coffee table in front of them. "Totally Papa's toy," he told her affectionately. She ugyaa'd back at him.
Kaori came from the kitchen with a bottle of wine and two glasses in her hands. "Dinner's almost ready," she told them warmly.
Ryu grinned down at the top of his daughter's head. "Oh, what a great dinner, Aya!"
The wineglasses down and settled, Kaori bent down to her daughter. "Happy Birthday, Aya-chan."
The excited little girl was trying to tilt her head to see her father's face, for his voice was all the warmth and laughter in the world as he supported her little form and said, "Aya, do you know you are one year old today?"
"Da!" she protested, not being able to turn and look at him. And then the doorbell rang. "Ugyaa!" exclaimed Aya.
Her startled parents blinked, staring at the door, and Ryu wondered aloud, "Who's come?" Much to Aya's satisfaction, he turned her around in his arms as he headed for the door and opened it saying, "Yes, who -- Ah!" For there were four very familiar and beloved people at their door. "Chokan! Ako!"
"Yaho," replied Ako with a cheerful grin over the bouquet of flowers wrapped in one arm and the gift-box in her free hand.
And the other two were a round-faced man with glasses and a very pregnant young woman. "Lyta and Satsuki! Eh, why..?"
Ako answered him with all the brashness the years had never driven out of her. "Hey, for the birthday of the fruit of Kaori and Ryu's love, ya know. We've all come to congratulate you. And we brought food!" In an aside to the curious Aya, who was reaching for her and grabbing at her fingers, she added, "Oh, you've grown so big!"
Their voices mixing together, the four announced, "Congratulations, Aya-chan. Congratulations, Ryu, Kaori!"
Still stunned by this unexpected visit, Ryu managed to utter a happy, "Thank you...." Behind him, Kaori was so touched she had tears in her eyes as she drank in the sight of their dear friends.
After they were all settled, the food the unexpected, welcome guests had brought set out nicely on the tables, they settled down to business. Kaori and Ryu sat (with Aya on her father's lap) on the couch against the wall and nearest the cake on their coffee table. Ako and Chokan were on the couch across from them, and Lyta and Satsuki were in the loveseat closest to the balcony, opposite from the kitchen.
Aya, quite bewildered, looked up at her father. The cake in front of her had one candle lit in the middle of it, and she had no idea what was going on. Ryu pursed his lips and told her, "Fu, like this. Fu..." he made the sound wih a force of air. She leaned over and blew on the candle and the flame flickered out. Kaori hid her laughter behind her hand as their four guests applauded.
Ako sang cheerfully, "Happy birthday to you!" She picked up her drink to take a sip, then asked, "But, you know with a name like 'Aya' she's gonna grow up to be one scary woman. She might never get married."
Chokan, for whom Aya had been named, bared her teeth and growled, holding up a tea fork threateningly. "You're really pushing it, young lady."
Ryu barely contained a grin, twinkling at her over Aya's head. "Oh, our girl will be beautiful and intelligent. She'll be a scholar and soldier lady."
"Oh!" interjected Aya, waving a chubby fist in the air.
Ryu reached out his arm and pulled Kaori close to him. "Because she's our daughter," he chuckled softly.
Kaori turned bright red and covered her flushing cheeks with her hands. "Don't say things like that," she murmured, her heart bursting with her husband's audacity.
Chokan was still steaming, but muttered graciously, "Yes, whatever you like."
Kaori leaned forward to their other two guests. She glanced at Lyta's arm, protectively around his wife's shoulders. Satsuki's hands were cupped on the swell of her belly. Kaori could remember being that huge, the feeling that at any moment... he must be so proud and she said, "Ly-chan, it's coming really soon."
They both blushed furiously, their heads tipping together. Sachiko laughed and said, "It's a boy."
Lyta smiled proudly. "We've already decided on a name." He let it hang a moment, staring at them from behind his glasses with calm assurance. "Gai."
There was an instant of raw pain. Gai, lost to them the day of their marriage. Gai who had been so completely a part of them. That is so. The happy days, when Ryu, Kaori and Gai had been good friends and laughed together.
Ako broke the painful silence in a calm, clear voice. "But then he'll be a lady-killer."
Chokan blinked. "Oh, yes."
Ryu nodded seriously, even as his shoulders began to shake with suppressed laughter, and Kaori muttered, "Probably."
Lyta glared at Ako. "It'll be okay, we'll bring him up as a feminist."
That was just too much, and they all burst into laughter.
Ryu gazed at his chattering, giggling friends and felt very grateful to see them here. Once we took each other by the hand and fought as a team. And now we live our lives for each other. Now we can tell our stories. How wonderful it is. And though Gai was dead, Ryu thought he could still feel his spirit, watching over them.
The Joutou Cerebral Nerve Surgical Hospital was a forbidding building made of concrete. There were bars on the windows, the gates were heavily barred. Bars between wards kept the more violent patients under control. And yet it was a comfortable hospital. The rooms were airy and the beds clean. The staff at that hospital knew every patient and every ailment they were treating, but there was one man who remained a mystery.
As the orderly unlocked the gate for this wing, the doctor with him asked, "And how is that patient?"
They walked along the corridor as the orderly answered calmly, "The same as ever. His nerves remain destroyed. There's been no recovery of function."
"Oh," the doctor responded. He stopped at the door of room 202 and looked in the peephole, curious. He knew what the patient looked like, though through the peephole he could only see the back of the silvered head, and the twisted right hand where it lay limp on the covers. A wide-face man, who might have been handsome but for the hollow, empty eyes. Despite the care they gave him, his skin was sallow and shadowed like it was bruised. He was probably drooling.
The orderly mused softly, "All day he stares, stupified, out the window. He's been this way for five years with no change." After a moment and a restless sigh he added, "Time to turn off the lights." A click of the switch, and the silvered-haired man was left in darkness, save for a trickle of light through the peephole. They headed back to the gate, and the orderly continued musing about their mystery patient. "I wonder what he thinks about."
Absently writing a note on the patient's file, the doctor said, "I doubt he thinks about anything."
"Poor guy," muttered the orderly.
Bemused by this, the doctor pointed out, "He hasn't the faculties to know he's a poor guy."
The orderly grinned, girding for battle. "On the contrary, maybe he's happy."
An old question. How much is the patient aware of? Is he aware of their distant footsteps? The sound becoming more distant? Is he aware of the change in his room? The shimmer of power, is it visible? Does he sense it? Something like a sudden whisper, the skittering. And a distant, faint voice.... "...ay..."
At the first, ghostly syllable, his hands clenched in the bedsheets. "Uh," he grunted out, without ability to focus more. Fear. Fear all-consuming.
The faint voice came again. "...say it." Another sound, louder this time. The voice became louder, too, though no less ghostly. "Say my name."
A face appeared in front of him, ghastly with brilliant cat's eyes, a hooked nose and a wide mouth full of fangs. He screamed, forgotten reflexes jerking him backward but there was nowhere to go. The face flowed, became more human-looking except for the armor like a shell rising from the head. Its fanged grin was victorious. "At last, I found you! Toranza!"
The fear did what years of gentle, firm treatment had not been able to. It forged a link in his brain and he cried, "Ra -- Radeige!"
Atrophied muscles gave him no defense as Radiguet reached for him, a hand as hard as murder clenched in his hair, pulling his head back. Another closed on his wrist and his hospital gown was gone, leaving his naked body completely vulnerable. "I let your body live. Surrender it to me." They were face to face for a moment, and then Radiguet vanished into him, and everything that remained to him was taken and crushed. The power radiating through his body was changing him and it was agony. He screamed as his nerves sprang to life. He kept on screaming and screaming.
And in the corridor were pounding footsteps. The patient had been quiet for years and this wild, agonized screaming brought both doctor and orderly as fast as they could run. "What's the matter, is he having another fit?" The orderly hit the door first, slamming it open. He and the doctor staggered to a halt. "What the HELL?!" he gasped out.
For a man stood in a swirl of light. Tall, with long, silver hair that danced and flowed in the wind. Terrible spikes punched out from his left shoulder and the side of his head. A bony, spiked plate covered his left cheek, and he wore skin-tight black clothing, though the armor on his forearms, lower legs and shoulders shone silver and white.
He held a ball of fire in his right hand, which he looked at with quiet satisfaction. Then the mad, red eyes shifted to look at the two men, a tiny smile on his face. He said, "You took good care of this body up to now." And there was a fall of power. The doctor and orderly barely had time to scream as their bodies burned. Amused, Radiguet said, "Thank you."