The Last Story: Blue Skies

In the operations room, the man watching the landing bay called, "Great Icarus is back!"

When the Jetmen arrived, there were still men rushing around checking off points on their boards, one of the doctors urging, "Do the final checks before the operation!"

Fingers racing over keyboards, a technician answered quickly, "The radiation equipment checks all green!"

His companion added, "Preliminary tests are all perfect! The Program Run-through is okay!"

A man called into his headset, "Everything's checked out fine. Now we just have to wait."

Up above them, Ryu and Kaori stood watching. Chokan was with them and she turned to them with steady calm. "I said at once. It's going to be hard. We don't know if this operation can succeed. We can't expect the same efficiency of cellular repair because Jeff was alive when he was bathed in the Birdnic Wave." She was herself as always, implacable, and allowing them to decide on their own.

Ryu lowered his gaze. "I understand. There's almost no possibility. I'm not ready to resign myself to nothing." As he spoke, he turned to Kaori. She was as unhappy as he, and just as determined to use this only chance. The process could not hurt Aya any more, after all.

Seeing their determination, Chokan turned to the slim, young man waiting. "And now, Jeff."

"Yes," he said immediately.

"You could die in this operation, you understand?" She pulled no punches, did Chokan.

However, this was the first time the others had known of it. The shock reverberated through them and they all gasped. Ako stared numbly at the tall man's back. "Jeff...."

"Yes! I know I could go out just like a portable radio when its batteries are empty. I know what I'm doing. I'm going to give my life back to Aya. There is a chance it will return to her body. Please, let's do it." He was shining and clear, smiling at them.

Ako whispered his name again, "Jeff."

Staggered, Ryu turned away from him and leaned against the observation window. Weakly, he said, "I'm sorry, Jeff, I -- "

Jeff cut him off gently. "Oh, don't say anything, Mr. Tendo! Because this is what I want to do."

"You idiot." The voice was behind him. It was Ako. She was staring at the floor so he could not see her eyes and he stared at her in surprise. When she lifted her head, she was crying. But that did not stop her from snapping angrily at him. "What the hell is a heavy-metal guy doing so damned old-fashioned?! That's really idiotic! Don't smile when you're philosophizing like that!" She thumped his clothed chest, above the lump of Miina's face.

"Ako?" he asked in surprise.

And now she was shouting at him, a defiant spitfire of strength . "Damn it, I want a happy ending! Where both of you live and come back!! I'll never forgive you if you don't! Get it?!" and she flipped him off for good measure.

It took Jeff a moment to register what was going on. Ako was concerned for his life. Concerned for him as though he mattered to her, more than as a mere teammate. And so he steadied himself, and his smile was more sincere just for her. "Yes. I'll surely come back."

They laid out Aya naked on the main table, covering her lower body with a sheet until they actually would begin, when her body would need as much exposure as possible, for any chance. Electrodes attached to her chest would tell them if she lived again. Jeff they laid out on a cot beside her. He wore jeans to protect his modesty. He looked normal, until one saw the delicate face in the middle of his chest. They were as ready as they were going to be. "Start the operation," called one scientist.

Power began to flow. They waited for some time. Readings did not fluctuate. Nothing happened. A worried scientist said, "Aya Tendo's condition is unchanged. Continue the radiation."

Jeff sat up and stared at the tiny body across from him. It was not working. It could not work. The Birdnic Wave alone could not be enough. "Aya," he whispered. He lifted his gaze and pleaded, "Chokan, give my energy to her!"

"No. Your life will be at risk."

"I'm ready, darnit. Do it please!" he begged her. Miina's face in his chest looked sad.

Odagiri stared into his eyes, and finally she said, "I understand." She turned and raised her voice firmly. "Start irradiating. Begin Jeff Kensaki's treatment."

Jeff curled his neck to address the sweet face there. "Miina, I'm asking this of you."

Whether or not she was capable of understanding him was debatable, but she responded to his voice. "Chan."

Jeff lay back down and closed his eyes. In his chest, Miina began to cry without sound. Distantly, he heard someone say, "Begin the energy extraction."

And then he could hear nothing. He did not hear the frantic, alarmed voices of the technicians. "Body temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate, suddenly dropping. EEG is in chaos!"

Chokan whirled and snapped, "Jeff's energy is going to Aya. Irradiate him with the Birdnic Wave, too!"

A familiar, high pitched whistle filled the air and a doctor shouted, "Jeff Kensaki's heart has stopped! There's been no change in Aya Tendo's condition! Shall we continue?!"

Sweat trickled down Chokan's face. "Continue!" she barked.

Above them, Ako pounded on the observation window. She could barely see for the tears in her eyes. "Jeff you idiot! You promised! So you return to life!!" She threw her head back and screamed, "Jeff!"

Distance. Deep darkness and cold. But this time he knew where he was from the moment he became aware. "Oh, this isn't good. I'm dead. Ako's going to be furious." His body still seemed to be wearing jeans, but that was only memory providing an illusion of clothing. And there was still the lovely face in his chest. He bent his head and asked it softly, "Well, Miina, what're we going to do now?" And suddenly the face opened its mouth, and a faint glow slowly coalesced and then floated out of it. The glow hovered in front of him, and at its center formed a being. The tiny fairy it had been, before Ruma had made it go large. "Miina!" Jeff exclaimed. She smirked at him, then flew away. "Ah! Hey, where are you going?!" he shouted and hurried after it, not really noticing that his chest was smooth again.

Miina was heading up to a huge, glowing orb. Jeff hesitated, and then he saw... "A -- Aya-chan...."

Miina came to her mistress' outstretched hand with happy, innocent joy. Aya was the slender, fluffy-haired, red-eyed being she was before, with a tunic covering her modesty. She greeted Miina with a smile, but she would not look at Jeff even when she began speaking to him, her eyes sad. "So stupid. Why did you come here? I thought I'd saved you."

That was frightening, but he took his courage in both hands and told her urgently, "Aya-chan, you have to go back. Everyone's waiting."

She still would no look at him. Miina was melting into the back of her hand, returning itself. "It's too much," she answered him quietly. "Returning takes too much power. I don't have the energy. I can't send us both back."

"Don't say that! Don't give up when you haven't tried everything possible! If you give up, things you really can do you won't be able to!"

"Stop it! Just stop it!" she cried, clenching her arms around herself. And then she began to weep, heartbreaking sobs, into her cupped palms. "Returning has no meaning! There's no way I can undo what I've done. It was my fault so many people died. If only I could make up for what I've done!"

He reached for her shaking shoulders, tears of sympathy streaming down his cheeks. "It isn't your fault! You're not bad! Moreover, it's good that you want to atone for your sins!"

Confused, she lifted her gaze and met his eyes. He held her shoulders, saying urgently, "There's nothing you can do if you're dead. Only if you live can you do anything!"

She dropped her gaze unhappily. "But... but it's already -- "

"Surely there's a way -- whu?" In between the darkness and the light there had come a strange swirl of light and color. It tingled into and through them, all around. Jeff groped for understanding. "This flow of energy?" And then realization hit. "Ah! Everyone's sending us their power!"

The strength was tumbling and singing to them. Two of the voices reached into Aya insistently. "Papa... Mama..!" she whispered in amazement.

In a solid, defined world, there were four people praying with all their strength. Though they were not in their armor, on the mental plane it shimmered around them, the Birdnic Wave that charged their bodies shedding excess energy at their untrained souls' commands.

Jeff could feel life flowing and calling him. "Yes! Now we can certainly return! Come back with me!" and he reached out his hand to her.

"But... but...." She stared dumbfounded at him.

"C'mon!" he called her.

"Yes. You have to return, Aya-chan."

The speaker was a woman who appeared behind Aya. She was the most beautiful woman Jeff had ever seen. Short bangs, long, black-hair that floated around her shoulders. She wore a white dress with tiny, red roses on the lapels, and a fine, golden chain around her neck. Her expression was serene and calm, in sharp contrast to the amazement on Aya's face.

Suddenly there was a man beside her, as strikingly handsome as she was beautiful. He did not look serene but instead seemed quite amused and friendly. "Return to your Papa and Mama. Live... and be happy. Until our time."

The woman reached out and gathered Aya close. "We love you. We'll always watch over you."

And Aya, tears streaming down her cheeks, suddenly became the one year old she truly was, sniffling softly and pressed warm against the woman's chest. The man grinned down at her and said affectionately, "You've stopped crying. Now it's time to return to the people waiting for you."

The woman released Aya to Jeff's arms. "Please take her. Hurry and return."

He wrapped Aya tight against him and gawped at them. "Ah, ah, but you guys...?"

The man was sheer, laughing mischief. "We're friends."

The woman also smiled at him. "Yes. You have to wake up, now."

"Later," the man called.

And they were hurtling away, he and Aya, before he suddenly realized who those people were. "Mr. Yuuki! Rie...." But then they were gone. And light leaped into his eyes. Oddly familiar, lights hanging above his head. A beautiful girl grinning at him.

"Jeff!" she called. His cheeks were damp, his body felt so very strange. Just as he began to sit up, Ako leapt onto him. "I was so worried about you, stupid!"

Behind them, Lyta chuckled. "The young."

Words barely registered as Jeff's entire world tilted. "Am I in heaven?" For this was more than he could ever dream of having happened to him.

"Fool!" she suddenly said, and pinched his cheek.

"Ouch!" he protested, too astonished to move.

"If you can feel pain, you're alive! You are alive, Jeff!"

She was all bright, shining eyes, all warm against his legs. It took a moment for his brain to kick back into action. "A... Aya-chan is..?"

Aya was wrapped in her mother's arms. Kaori was crying with relief, Ryu behind her with a proud, relieved hand on her shoulder. Aya gave a happy cry and reached for him. Instinctively, he reached out, crying. He would have taken the lovely, live girl into his arms, but just as he touched her arms, his eyes opened. Ako, who had moved out of the way, was waiting and watching with a small smile on her face. She held out her hand to him and when he took it automatically, dragged him with her towards the doors.

"Let's go look at the blue sky!" she told him happily. "Let's look at the blue sky everyone protected!" Grinning with delight, they all raced, Lyta with them and the Neo-Jetman fast on their heels. Kaori and Ryu, laughing, followed along with Aya in their arms, Chokan chuckling behind them.

And so... and so those powers gathered to protect the peace of the skies... as they always would from now on....

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