Chapter 4: Lament

The three giants left white trails in the sky as they hurtled upwards into space. Ruma smirked, looking down at her pursuers through Miina's eyes. She curled her leg up and fired on the bird-headed one through the blast-gem on her left knee. As a nimbus of light and smoke surrounded Jet Garuda, the three in Icarus cried out their friends' names. "Jeff, Ako!" but in the next instant it was clear they had suffered no major damage.

Jeff shouted urgently, "Again, again! We'll have to tear off her arms and legs to stop her!"

Ako, her eyes blazing, agreed firmly. "That'll be terrible for Ryu, but we have to be tough!"

Jeff was having a bit of trouble keeping in order the commands he had to give, but eventually he got through, "Fire! We've power-upped. Garuda BURST!" The great V in the robot's chest glowed golden-white. The powerful laser-bolt hurtled out and struck Miina's arm before she could evade it. "YES!" Jeff crowed in delight.

Miina's arm was torn away, just below the shoulder. Inside the gem, there was a brief instant of realization, then the feedback struck. Ruma had only ever felt the pain of her headache before. This was thousands of times worse. It was as though her own arm had been torn off. At last she was able to scream.

And in the two giant robots, in their hearts and souls where there was no armor to protect them, the Jetman heard and felt her agony. Inside the gem, Ruma clenched her upper arm and screamed until her throat was raw. Miina could not scream, but she was in the same position as her pilot, lithe body the picture of agony. When the screams finally fell silent, Ryu gasped out, "This... Are the robot and Aya SYNCHRONIZED?!!!"

A shimmer of light. Radiguet appeared on Miina's shoulder. Even in space, the inhuman monster could breathe and speak to them, amused. "What do you think, Red Hawk? Any damage you do is done to Ruma. Knowing this, can you attack Miina?" He waited, silently laughing, for a brief moment before he added, "Ruma can't control Miina anymore, so I'll take over that job." And he stepped back, laughing, his body rippling into the giant fairy's.

They could see Ruma, unconscious in the gem. Ryu reached for her with all his soul, helpless. What can I do to save you?

Jeff's voice screamed through the speakers in his helmet, "Mr. Tendo, look ou -- !" But it was no good. Miina's expression had returned to its previous, serene smile. The gem in its chest had been absorbed into the body. What had previously seemed gems on either side, now glowed red and were more like evil eyes. And now she raised her right elbow and fired. The blast enveloped Jet Icarus. Ryu and his fellow pilots were still too stunned to react. The impact sent them back. Jet Garuda caught them by the shoulders, preventing their fall into the atmosphere. Jeff clutched his helmet in furious dismay. "FUCK! I never imagined that thing could pull of such a trick! I can't think of any way to attack her!"

But Ako snapped firmly, "We'll find a way! Yes, we will." They maintained a position between Miina and Jet Icarus, helping stand against a blast that, this time, came from the giant fairy's right breast. Ako ignored that though they automatically compensated for the impact. She told Jeff urgently, "Aya's life force permeates Miina. I don't know if it's just like when we fought Veronica!"

Jeff knew that story. A great many of the Jetman's battles were remembered and remarked upon, and probably in scientific journals, too. Ako and Lyta had been captured and taken inside the giant bio-robot Veronica. There, along with several helpless civilians, they had been used to provide power for it. But they had been torn loose and escaped to destroy the thing. Of course! Aloud Jeff responded, "It's the only way! We have to stop that guy!" He called into his microphone with urgent command, "Mr. Tendo! It'll take both of us to pin her!" and he and Ako directed Jet Garuda around so that they and Icarus were on opposite sides of Miina.

Ryu's voice, dull with confusion and shock, came back. "Un -- understood."

Radiguet twisted Miina's head around and hissed. Deciding which to target, he grinned viciously as the torn arm became at his will a fanged cannon, blasting at Jet Garuda.

"Fuckin'!!" Jeff snarled, but he did not avoid the shot. Instead, he launched Garuda into it and with a twist, they had caught Miina's ankles between their claws. And thank goodness, Ryu was actually on the ball. Jet Icarus clamped the jaws of Miina's left shoulder-cannon shut, and held her right wrist tight. "Gotcha."

Ryu lept from his console and raced out of the cockpit crying, "Aya!"

Lyta was just fast enough to catch Kaori's hand and stop her racing after him. "Ryu will defeat him, Kaori!" And though she called her husband's name, she heeded her friend's voice and stayed behind to help hold Miina.

Jeff also sprang from his seat. "I'm going, too! It's all yours, Ako-san!"

"Leave it to me!" she answered confidently, holding her thumb up in a cocky gesture.

They found a way in and raced through hollow, organic tunnels. Ryu sped in the lead, crying his daughter's name. "Aya! We have to hurry. Aya'll..." he could not talk and run at the same time and fell silent, strides eating up the surface beneath their feet.

Icarus, Garuda, hold on please! Jeff thought urgently. For they could hear the groaning sounds through the organic hull. There probably was very little time.

Miina was writhing and twisting, trying to break free of their twin grips. She kicked Garuda's shoulder, but was unable to get free. As they were up in space, they did not have to worry about hitting anything. All they did was hold on.

"Just until they return," cried Kaori in Jet Icarus. Beside her, Lyta clenched his teeth and growled agreement.

Ako answered, "I'm not letting go!"

At last they reached the heart, and there was Ruma. She seemed unconscious, her cheeks flushed and sweat dripping down her face. Tentacles twined about her ankles and wrists, plugging her in to the gigantic Miina. Round octopus eyes stared at them as they stopped. "Aya! I'm here to help you now!" Ryu cried. The tentacle binding her left wrist came apart at his hard yank with a wet, squishing noise. And Aya screamed. "A -- " Ryu gasped in strangled horror. He stumbled back, and Jeff caught his shoulder, keeping him upright. Before Ryu knew what was happening, the boy shoved past him and began tearing the other tentacles away from Aya. Her shrieks filled the air and Ryu broke from his paralysis to leap forward. "Jeff, stop! You're killing her!"

"She's not going to die from this!" Jeff snarled back at him over his shoulder. "She's loose!" And she was, her limp body slowly falling down into Jeff's hold. He began pulling her from the mass of tentacles. "Look, it's okay. She's alive." She was, she was, breathing, alive.

Ryu was so relieved he could not think, could only wait for Jeff to hand his daughter to him. And then there was that terrible sound of steel piercing flesh. Before he knew what was happening, stray globs of blood hit his visor.

A shining metal crescent had sprung from amongst the tentacles and speared through Aya's back, into Jeff's chest and all the way through. The pain was sheer and there for a moment so brief he might have thought he had imagined it, his spinal cord severed. He knew there was a blade through their bodies, but he could no longer feel it. All that was left was Aya's dead weight on his chest, and blackness closing around him and the taste of blood in his mouth. He managed to say weakly, "Oh, damn. I didn't expect that. I'm sorry Aya, Mr. Tendo."

"Aya!" Ryu screamed. He could only stand there, too horrified to move. Aya's body was a delicate, butterfly curve over the powerful body of the tall Jeff. Blood was splattered and pooling on the floor underneath them. There were tears leaking from Aya's closed eyes, blood trickling from her partly-open lips.

Radiguet lifted his blade and stared at the red liquid dripping from its tip. He touched the wetness and snorted with disappointment. "I thought I was skewering daughter and father. I misread who was getting her loose." He glanced up at Ryu, who did not see anything but Aya. And at the pain he saw, he smiled in joy. "But, this isn't a bad scene." He laughed low in his throat.

"Aya! Aya, don't die!" The armor fell from her shoulders when he gathered her into his arms. She was so light, as though her life had already fled. His falling tears splashed on her face.

And her body, numb below, felt nothing. But the strange splash of water on her face woke her. There was a voice calling, one familiar in its care and need. "Who? Who's calling me?" There was a face in the fog around her, tears sleek on cheeks stricken under black hair. She had seen it before and now she knew where. "Oh, yes of course. You called me in my dreams." She reached up to touch that face so yearned for, beginning to cry. "It was you. You're my real... Pa..." but the darkness called, swallowing her.

Her hand fell limp to the floor, and this time there was no doubt she did not hear Ryu calling her. "A -- Aya!" His legs were in the red blood that spread beneath them.

Radiguet's laugh started low and soon howled in the air. When he caught control of himself, he saw Red Hawk had set Ruma down and twisted around to stare at him in feral rage. "How does it feel, Red Hawk? I'm really enjoying myself!"

"Radi... guet! I'm going to kill you myself!" Ryu hurtled across the room, his blade out and slashing. Radiguet met him with a grin of pure joy. And the air was filled with their violent strikes. Ringing, screaming of metal the only voice for Ryu's pain.

Chapter 5