Chapter 3: Father's Girl

Ruma waited for them on a rocky knoll in a park in the middle of the city. She was a study in perfection, all curves and blazing red eyes. The only soft thing about her was her fluff of pink-tinged hair. Above her shoulder hovered something that looked like a fairy. It was a tiny, female creature with red hair and suit, light purple wings and wide-spread, pointed ears.

The Jetman were a rainbow of color. There were small changes in their armor from old. Their visors left their faces open, and the women no longer had skirts on theirs. Ryu Tendo was Red Hawk again, the armor as familiar as his skin. Kaori was White Swan. Ako was Blue Swallow. Lyta was Yellow Owl... and Jeff could not be Black, for that would have hurt too much. He was Green Eagle, half-named for his rock group. Together they rushed to the knoll to meet Ruma.

She watched them approach with confident amusement, a cocky girl who only smiled faintly. When they were close enough to hear her, she said, "The time has come. You've come to the Envoy of Death. Are you prepared, Jetman?!" She held out her right hand, fingers spread wide. There was a dull throb in the air. A ball of light formed within her palm and then she pushed it out towards them. It hit with a force they were nowhere near prepared for. They fell in black flames and crackling electric fire. She gazed down at them and sneered. "Your power has no effect on me!"

They lay for almost a full moment, a rainbow smashed to the ground. Lyta had been at the far end of the group, so he lay farthest away on his back. Ryu and Jeff were strewn at his feet. Kaori and Ako were closest to Ruma, all limp. Jeff was actually the first to try to get his feet back under him, but it was Ryu, rolling to his knees, who gasped out, "Are you all right, Kaori... everyone?!"

Lyta was just shaking off the effects himself and answered, with an awed glance towards the girl far above, "Yes, but... she's strong."

They looked up at her in dread. That's Aya's -- no, Ruma's power.

She snickered smugly. "What's the matter, finished already? Aren't you going to try a counterattack?"

"Fuck ass!" snarled Jeff, moving with such speed he had fired before he even finished speaking.

Ruma did not move as the bolt sped towards her chest. "Look ou -- " Ryu started to scream.

But the tiny fairy slipped as fast as thought to intercept the laserbolt. A bright aura flared around her, and the bolt was gone. "Shit!" gasped Jeff. Behind him, Ryu trembled and Kaori held her hand to her face in confused relief.

Ruma ignored them and held up her hand for the fairy to settle on. She laughed softly and said to her tiny companion, "They can't fight me that way, eh Miina?"

And in her uniform, Kaori was beset by yet another horrifying shock. So few days ago and she and her daughter had been together, at home. "Let's go shopping, Aya!"

Aya was sitting happily in the chair, her stuffed cat in her arms. "Mama, Miina!"

"Yes, we'll take Miina with us."

And after Aya had been taken, Kaori huddled weeping, cuddling the toy that was all that remained of her daughter. And now she screamed her name in despair and hope. "Aya! That was the name of the stuffed toy that was her treasure! She's still Aya at heart!"

Ryu was thrown into the same stunned, hopeful horror. He grasped at it in the same way. Maybe we can easily get it back, Aya's memory. If she still remembers that name....

And a desperate voice cut through their hope. Jeff asked urgently, his fists clenched at his chest, "Could it be just a coincidence?! It could be an enemy trap! He's trying to shake us up -- "

"Shut up!" Ryu snarled, spinning and decking the young man with a powerful right cross.

"Mr. Tendo!" Jeff gasped as he hit the ground.

Standing over him, body coiled as if to strike again, Ryu's voice was a hiss of desperate rage. "It's not a coincidence or a trap! She remembers!" He spun away from the fallen man to gaze up at the beautiful girl watching them. He called her with all his heart, "Open your eyes, you're my daughter! Radiguet's using you!" When she did not answer him at once, he cried with even more desperation, "Aya!"

This was a tactic she would never have dreamed they would try. She snickered and patted her chest, "Huh. Are you trying to confuse me? It's no use. I am Radiguet's daughter, Ruma, not this 'Aya' you're on about. Could a human girl do this?!" She raised her arms and power roared between her whip in her right hand and her left palm. She brought them together in front of her and the blast whipped out at the Jetman. They had only barely gotten back to their feet, and once again she cut them down. The power that came into her hands felt so good, her blood sang in her body and it seemed so hard to contain. She laughed wildly. "This is easy! You're all such cowards!" They were beginning to move again. She could probably finish them with an easy sweep of her power. However, she was beginning to understand why her father did not just kill them. The fighting was itself great fun. And besides, if she did kill them off so quickly.... She turned to her tiny, hovering companion, holding up her finger for the little creature to dance upon. "Well, if this is all and there's no climax, Miina will be sad."

Ryu was on his knees, gazing up at the powerful, shimmering vision far above. Aya! I don't want to fight you. Please remember us. You're our daughter!

"Mr. Tendo..." Jeff whispered. Behind him, Lyta helped Kaori up and Ako was pulling herself to her feet. Ryu was shuddering visibly. It was strange, as if Jeff could feel the intensity of emotion pouring from him. He chewed his lip unhappily, thinking, feeling, This is wrong. Even Mr. Tendo's love cannot reach her now.

Aya smiled and opened her hands wide, sending power flowing into her lovely present. "Miina! You will deliver the final blow!"

And the tiny creature glowed, then became light and fire and blowing size until what they stared up at filled their vision. Even taller than Jet Garuda, it was a sweet beauty, with a tiny, dreamy smile. Colors were all roses and pale. If only they could have appreciated the beauty they would have been happy. But there was no room in their minds for appreciation, for they knew that they would have to fight this creation. Aya stood in its palm, looking like the flaring flame of a candle.

"That thing's HUGE!" and it mattered not who said it, for they all thought the same thing. If there had been a time when they would have fled the battle, this would have been it.

"Now we'll kill you!" sang Ruma from above. The giant she had created brought its hand to the great gem centered in its chest, and Ruma stepped off and into the gem. Only then could they see inside. There were tentacles that twined all around Ruma's arms and legs, a dozen or so ending in huge, round eyes. Ruma smiled wickedly down at them.

A strangled sound broke from Ryu's throat. Jeff was the only one not staring up at the giant, but watching Jet Hawk alertly instead. And then Ryu called, "Jet Icarus, launch!" Back at the Sky Base, powerful engines roared as the great machine obeyed the call once again. It arrived quickly and settled in front of the floating being. The Jetman boarded, and Ryu called, "Birdnic Saber!" The powerful, giant blade appeared in their hands the instant he called and they struck swiftly. But at the last moment she slipped easily aside. The expression on that giant face never changed. It maintained that serene little smile, like a Mona Lisa. Stunned, Ryu gasped, "She dodged! She's fast!"

Yes, she was. Faster than them. Her lips parted and she raised her right arm, the joint of her elbow aimed at them. A brilliant, flaring glow, and power streamed from it out at them. The bolt impacted, tearing into their upper shoulder, sending a painful backlash of power into the pilots. She flew up above them, laughing. The laughter was Ruma's from inside the gem. "Yes, we struck them!" she crowed.

Hearing her laughter, Ryu was frozen in dismayed horror. He was screaming inside. And then another voice broke through his shock. Jeff, behind him, struck the signal at his console and shouted, "Jet Garuda, launch!"

The response time for the other machine was fast. Almost before the echo of his cry died out, Jet Garuda came to them. Its arrival had not been anticipated, and it knocked the giant Miina away from them as it arrived. And Jeff teleported out to reappear between them, the wings of his armor helping him glide easily to Jet Garuda's cockpit. Startled and confused, Ryu shouted into their communicators, "Jeff!? What are you doing?"

Landing on Garuda's shoulder, Jeff shouted back, "Icarus can't do it by itself. I'll fight in the other one!" And he moved on inside. The short time they had been given, along with his own undervalued intelligence, had been enough to give him some familiarity with the controls. He settled anxiously into the command chair. It was a bit tight for him, but he ignored that. I can see this match from the beginning. Mr. Tendo won't be able to fight. No one will be able to beat this girl but me! Strange, this was never how he had dreamed of making his mark on the world.

"I'll go with you."

She was already settling into the seat next to him before he could unlock his stunned vocal chords. "Ako-san?!"

She smiled over at him, her eyes somehow both troubled and warm. "I don't want to let the new guy get beaten. I'm with you." Together they moved their hands to launch Jet Garuda into the sky, to face Ruma's creation from its opposite side. And then Ako murmured softly, "Neither of us think Ryu and Kaori will fight her, isn't that right, Jeff?"

She had come with him. She had known what he was thinking, and why he was acting. And it was him she had chosen to support. "Ako-saaaaaan..." he sniffled, tears welling in his eyes.

"Don't cry! Let's go!" she told him firmly.

Heartened, he shouted, "Okay!"

And Ruma smirked as the two simple machines rose towards her. She would lead them a merry chase before destroying them. In Jet Icarus were the sharply pained Kaori and Ryu, forcing themselves to every action they had to take. Forcing themselves to every chance of hurting their daughter. With them was Lyta, making certain to move when they were not fast enough. In Jet Garuda were the determined Ako Hayasaka and Jeff Kensaki.

Chapter 4