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Old June 4th, 2019, 01:42 PM #21
scikaiju's Avatar
> scikaiju
Power Ranger
 
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 359
scikaiju
Power Ranger
scikaiju's Avatar
 
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 359



Episode 20


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OP - Mercy Drive - Burn in My Light
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There was a small crowd in the Alpha One hanger after it was able to get back. Something that was made a little simpler after they rushed them a line to replace the one Ken had to fix on the fly. Right now nearly everyone there was huddled around making Ken a little self-conscious as he and the damaged line was in the middle of it. Commander Reid used a screw driver to trace the size of the hole that had melted through the duct tape wrapped around it. "I still don't believe it," Reid said handing the screwdriver back to the mechanic he borrowed it from.

The Chief looked amused beside him, "Dr. Williams is still saying it shouldn't have gotten off the ground."

"And yet it did." Reid looked at him, "Duct tape is a standard tool in the Scan Track's toolbox?"

"And the Razor Wings," he informed him. "I'm going to have to make sure a couple of rolls are stocked on the Alpha One from now on. If nobody takes it off the blasted things." Ken and Reid both nodded knowing why with the length Ken had to go through once they found out the supply cabinets on board were surprisingly empty.

Still Reid said, "I know they say it fixes everything for years but still..."

"It won't fix everything," The Chief told him, "but it's good for a quick fix in the field when you need it."

"I'll take your word for it Chief," Reid said. "Scott, I don't know if this fix of yours was genius or insane, but you officially have my respect for pulling off this stunt."

"Thank you sir," Ken said and meant it. Reid smiled a bit and clapped him on the shoulder before making his way through the crowd.

At seeing this the Chief said, "All right, breaks over. All of you get back to work." As the crowd dispersed he said a little softer, "Ken."

"Yeah Chief," he said as the last ones walked away.

The Chief didn't say anything right away. He just had a hand on the line as he inspected the damage a few moments longer. Finally he looked at him and went, "Four and you might have still been in the air."

Grinning a bit Ken said, "I was estimating five minimum and I was in a rush."

Shaking his head the Chief told him, "Get back to work."

***
Walking into the Control Room Hawk studied the usual chaos until he found Bridge. Instead of being at his usual station he was in a small station on the side of the room. Walking up behind him he saw he was still going over the footage the various security cameras in the Alpha One hanger. Putting a hand on the back of the chair he said, "Anything?"

Bridge looked back at him before returning his attention to the small screen, "Maybe sir, I'm not sure yet,.”

Holding back a sigh he said, "I have the Chief, Ken and a few others swearing up and down those supply lockers were full the night before. I need a little more than that Bridge."

"I may have a little more than that... there it is," he said suddenly.

Hawk leaned in trying to see whatever the other man was seeing, "There what is?"

"Let me show you," Bridge rewound the footage then said, "Watch the time stamp in the corner." He did so and Bridge still had to show him one more time before he realize the time stamp jumped forward twenty minutes.

"I'm hoping that's something important."

"It could be," he said. "I noticed it on one of the other feed by accident. At time I thought it was a glitch in the camera itself. But when I started watching the next one I just happened to see it again."

Now Hawk's curiosity was piqued, "How many of the cameras had this jump?"

"With this one? All of the ones in the Alpha One hanger," he answered. "I have other checking the security feeds around Castle around the same time. Just to make sure it wasn't a system wide glitch."

"Part of me is hoping it's a security blip," Hawk said. "Because if it isn't..."

"I don't see how that's possible," Bridge told him. "I designed the security protocols myself and test them regularly. There's no way somebody could have hacked into our systems."

"I understand Bridge but it's something we have to keep in mind." Much like him Hawk didn't want to give this next order. "I want the whereabouts of the people who worked on the Alpha One and this time period. And I mean everyone. And pull the guard roster for that night as well. Whoever did this didn't just appear out of thin air."

"I'll get right on it sir," Bridge replied.

"Make it fast Bridge. If we do have a snake in our midst I want him routed out immediately." The big question going through his mind was if there was why did they wait until now to do something?

***
Peter stalked through the woods toward the lake. While he briefly wondered how close he was to the spot he killed Joseph Richardson he didn't have time to reminisce. His masters had said that Jamira had escaped somehow and opened a portal to this area. Peter was curious about how Jamira was able to create a portal to this location. The man was always pull the trigger first then figure out what was going on type. And his masters didn't exactly elaborate on how he did it. Was it possible that the all mighty Zettons were embarrassed one of the "lessor species" was able to escape their grasp? The idea was delicious on it's own.

The lake coming into view he slowed down when he saw a light ahead of him. There were four or five in front of body on the ground. It was too much to hope for that it was Jamira. He quickly noted that one of the group was a forest ranger. A couple of them and moved and Peter got a better look at the body, like he thought it was too much to hope for. But he could tell he died from dark energy. and the amount he was still feeling in the air it was fairly recent too. "Damn it," Peter muttered.

"The UNDF is on the way," he overheard the ranger say. Great. "I'll make sure nobody touches the body. Folks I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask to hang around a little while longer. The UNDF is going to want to ask you all some questions."

"But we told you everything we know," one of the protested.

The ranger held up his hands to quiet them and replied calmly, "I know it's an inconvenience but it's standard protocol in this unfortunate situation. If you would all just wait over there..."

Cursing under his breath Peter went deeper into the brush in an effort not to be seen. he was tempted to kill the lot of them just because they were in the way of his investigation. But the UNDF was already on their way. And since this as the third incident at this particular lake it would be given top priority and Hawk would probably personally to oversee it. And more skeletons would only increase the UNDF presence in the area.

So he had to do the next best thing as he concentrated on the dark energy still lingering in the air. Essentially "seeing it" as he could pick up the epicenter of a dark energy wave that the dead man had to be near. And it was massive in size too as he mentally traced the wave, it was almost like something exploded. It almost masked the presence of the trace remains of the vortex opening Jamira had used to escape back here. Looking past the edge he saw something a little more interesting. Quietly making his way over he found the trial Jamira must have used. He must be radiating dark energy just based on the signature still remaining in these footprints. That would make him easier to track down. Unfortunately that meant Scott and the giant inside him could pick it up just as easily. And given the location Scott was just as likely to show up as well. And the UNDF was on their way.

As much as he wanted to follow the trail and take care of Jamira personally he couldn't risk being discovered doing so. He was in no position to be discovered now. The best outcome for the situation for him was Scott running into Jamira and letting him and the giant finish him off before he told any of the UNDF about him. And he couldn't bet on that.

***
"All right," Ryo said as he banged the side of the Scan rack after the back hatch was closed, "Move it out. They want you back at Castle ASAP."

Commander Reid walked over as the track sped away taking the body that was discovered with it. "Tell me something Ryo, does anything about this job surprise you anymore?"

"Hardly Commander, as soon as I start thinking I've seen everything something new pops up. So I try not to think like that anymore."

"How is that working out for you?"

"I'll let you know if it ever works," Ryo joked. He looked out over the lake. This was the third time that had been called out here. "Why this place?", he asked out loud and to nobody in particular.

Reid looked at him, "What do you mean Ryo?"

"I mean everywhere a giant monster and shown up this is the only place that had more than one confirmed sighting. What's so special about this place?"

"I'm sure several scientist back at Castle started working on that very question as soon as we got the call," Reid told him. “I'll let the people with more brain power than I do figure out the why. I'm more worried about the what at the moment. Come on let's rejoin the search for whatever did this." Ryo nodded in the affirmative as the went back to the others.

Closer to the woods Ken searched for some sort of trail while he asked Daxium a similar question as Ryo's. His answer was, "I am not sure. Perhaps the dimensional wall between our three universes is weaker here. This was the same area that was chosen for me to cross over."

"Maybe," he muttered so the others wouldn't hear him talk to himself, but he had no real clue either. He knew machines not inter dimensional physics. Looking back to where the body was found they could both feel the dark energy in the air, truth be told it was making Ken a little nauseous there was so much of it around. "Do you think whoever did this is the same guy we've been looking for?"

"I don't think so," Daxium responded. Whomever killed Harold Richardson's son exhibited more control than what I am sensing. The dark energy that was released here was unfocused, random."

"Maybe he lost control for a moment."

"Commander!", one of the others called out. "I found a trail leading onto the woods. It looks fresh too." Reid, Ryo as well as Ken and a couple of others that was close jogged over to look at the trail. The moment Daxium sensed the energy emitting from the prints that were barely visible Ken knew this was the way it went.

While he looked in the direction it went Reid was looking in the opposite direction at the lake. "They could be form that area. If only those hikers didn't trample over everything we could have done a better scan of the area. Are the hikers and the ranger still here? Somebody get their shoe sizes before the leave. Maybe we can eliminate them from this mess somehow."

"No offense Commander," Ryo spoke up, "but that sounds like a longshot."

"I know," he conceded, "but we have a dead body by a spot that's been known to produce multiple creatures. I'll let the people smarter than I am tell me if I'm wrong or not." Both of them looked at Ken.

He told them, "I know engines not computers."

"Be nice if you knew both," Reid told him. "Ryo, you two head back to Castle and get some rest. We got it from here."

Ken glanced at the trail with the fading energy footprints, "I don't mind being an extra set of eyes Commander."

"I appreciate the offer but Hawk only let me borrow the two of you for a little while. I'll call for backup if we need it. Which we'll probably will given how these things usually go so rest up while you can."

"Come on Ken," Ryo told him. "I'll buy you a coffee back at base. Ken gave in and followed him back the Scan Track they came in. He looked back over his shoulder at the trail wioshing there was a way he could lose all of them and follow it.

***
Back at Castle in the Alpha team war room Hawk was looking over the results Reid had sent in. earlier. Bridge had made a mock up hologram of the info that was displayed on the table between them. Bridge did something and some of the footprints disappeared. "Commander Reid’s theory about the shoes was really helpful," Bridge had said. "I was able to get enough of them out of the way in order to find this."

Hawk silently watched the other find in the sand, one shaped like a man. "How accurate is this Bridge?"

Sighing slightly he said, "Not very, but it's the first one the program identified."

"We're going to need more than this," hawk told him, not taking his eyes off the image.

"I know, it's why I debated with myself on if I should show you this or not. Although it does line up with the trail they found. I already did the work and based on the distance of the steps the person who made them would match this guy’s height. If you straightened him out. Which I did... digitally of course."

"I'm not questioning your work Bridge, it's just a pretty flimsy angle to go," Hawk told him. "But right now it's the closest thing we have to a lead at the moment. I'll contact Reid and tell him to put a couple of more men on it. We need to find whoever did this as soon as possible. Is there a preliminary report on the body found yet?"

He pulled up the file but read it for him anyway, "To paraphrase the medical units the insides were smashed around like crazy. How that happened without any outside sign of battery is baffling them."

"Tell them to join the club after everything I've seen." Bridge shut off the image and started to leave when hawks topped him. "When you gave the report of everybody locations that dealt with the Alpha One I noticed Ken wasn't listed anywhere."

He looked more than a bit confused, "You don't really think Ken had anything to do with that?"

"Trust me, I don't want too," Hawk told him. "But somebody was able to circumvent the hanger's security and cameras long enough to pull this off. And everything we got makes it looks like it was somebody on the inside, one of us. I have to suspect everybody involved Bridge. Even if I'm still praying they haven't been playing us as a fool."

Bridge, while understanding, still didn't like the idea about checking on Ken, "I'll look into it and report back to you."

"Thank you Bridge. And believe me when I'm praying he's not the culprit."

***
He was hungry, he spent the entire night walking with no real direction in mind what so ever. He shielded his eyes as the sun seemed unusually bright to him. Having spent God knows how long in that dark hell hole he was grateful it didn't totally blind him. Still he kept going he had to reach... had to reach... what did he have to get to again? He panic for a moment as he tried to remember. Castle... that was it, he had to get to Castle and find... Damn it who was he trying to find again?

One thing at a time he kept walking until he found a gas station. And praise the lord it had an honest to god payphone right in front of it. Now please still work.

Practically running over to it and ignoring the looks the other people were giving him he picked up the receiver. Despite not having any money there was a code he could punch in that would connect him directly to Castle. He pressed exactly two of the numbers when the pain came back. "No... not now..."

"Hey," the attendant shouted at him. He ran over as he dropped to his knees. Trying to keep the other customers at bay to give him some room he asked, "Hey buddy are you all right?"

Jamira looked at him with pleading eyes as the pain raced through his body, "Run."

***
Fingers tapping on the holo table as his team came in Hawk gestured for them to take their usual places. Even now he could see the curiosity in their faces as they waited for him to begin. "I know this alert seemed rather sudden but it really wasn't," he told him. "Me, Reid and the other squad leaders studied this footage for a good hour before we called for an alarm."

"Why did you wait an hour?", Ryo asked. He knew that question would be coming sooner or later.

"Yeah,' Bill added, "we never give anything that much of a head start. Not even civilian here."

"Not now Ken," Jess quickly cut off his response.

Without saying a word he activated the table and let them see for themselves. Bill squinted at the bearded man that seemed to be the focus of the footage. "Why does that guy look familiar?"

Ryo pulled up a solid still shot of the man's face than activated the facial recognition software. Hawk paused the footage momentarily to give him the time to look it up. A few minutes later a picture ID of the individual popped up, a more clean shaven that they were more used too.

"It's Jamira," Jess said for the group. Ken moved up a bit to get a better look at the paused figure.

"What the hell happened to him?", Bill asked.

"Did he come out of hiding?", Ryo said to Hawk.

"Keep watching," was all he said as he restarted the video. They saw him head closer to a phone then act like he was in pain. None of them took their eyes off the footage as someone came up to him. jamira looked at him in fear right before he exploded in a ball of light.

"Holy shit," Ken muttered.

"Amen to that," Ryo commented as the light faded away revealing Jamira folded over in pain. He looked up to see how far he knocked those around him away, especially the guy who looked like he was trying to help him. Clutching at his hair he stumbled a bit as he started running away. Hawk stopped the footage there.

"That's why we waited an hour," he told him. "We wanted to be exactly sure we were seeing what we were seeing. I had Bridge run it through every filter he has, twice. It's real."

"So we're going to be hunting Jamira now?", Ryo asked.

"He's to be brought in alive, if possible," Hawk told them. "We want to know where in the hell he's been. And how he can do that all of a sudden."

"I'm sure Beta Team loving that option," Ryo said sarcastically.

"Good thing Commander Reid purged the Jamira loyalist out of Beta then," Jess commented.

"Do you really think they jump ship and join him?", Ryo asked her.

"Probably not," she admitted. "But I wouldn't have been surprised if they 'forgot' they saw him once or twice."

"Civillian being pretty quiet," Bill said as they looked at ken. "What's going through that noggin of yours?"

"I'm just wondering how he can do that," he told them. Not adding the, "And for how long?", that was racing through his head.

"Right now, based on this, we're thinking he's responsible for the latest incident at the lake,' Hawk went on. "We don't know how stable this new ability of his is. Just because we haven't had any casualty reports between these incidents doesn't mean he hasn't lost control with nobody around. It goes without saying we're considering him to be highly dangerous. And he looks scared which only multiples that.

"We gave Reid’s men in the field the location of this gas station this was taken from," he continued. "Bridge was able to get the general direction he went in. He'll get a more accurate direction as soon as they report in and confirm the location of the various things seen in the feed. Once that happens we will cordon off the area as best we can."

“That's if he keeps going in that direction," Ryo pointed out.

"We already have a still of his face from the security video circulating in the media as we speak," Hawk said. "With a warning to stay away from him if they spot him and to report in immediately. Right now we want all units in the field on the ground to try and find him before a civilian does. Dismissed, I'll meet you in the Scan Track hanger shortly."

"Rodger," they replied and started to leave the room.

"Ken", he spoke up to get his attention, "a word." Jess looked back at him before glancing at Hawk and leaving. "I know you two had your problems in the past son..."

"I won't go all gung ho on him if that's what you're worried about." He wouldn't make that promise for Dax though. And Daxium, still seeing and feeling the situation, silently chided him for the thought.

"Just promise me you won't take him on alone," Hawk told, some concern in his eyes.

"If he becomes dangerous and there's no other UNDF guys around I'm not sure I can promise that."

"Do what you think you have to Ken," he said. "But if it is you, considering how the last time you two were together went, there will be an investigation into the matter. And I'm not sure how much I'll be able to help you once the legal claws come out."

"I understand," Ken told him. Hawk let him go after the others.

Alone he pulled up the face still they sent to the media outlets. "Don't put up a fight when we find you."

***
In the office level of Castle was pacing back and forth in his office. He had viewed the footage along with Hawk and the others team leaders. HIs assistant Patricia knew enough to stay out of his way when he was in this mood. She as secretly glad the good Doctor wasn't here, he would have found a way to make the situation worse somehow. It was a "talent" she wouldn't have wished on anybody at this particular moment. "That bastard!", Richardson exploded. "That bastard killed my son! And he was under my nose the entire time!"

And this part was going to be dangerous in his current mood, "I don’t think he was sir."

He whipped around and got in her face, breathing heavily with anger. "What do you mean? You were there! That bastard Jamira did it!"

"I personally checked the records and audio logs of that day after we saw the footage," she explained. "Jamira was here when the monster appeared."

"He could have falsified the records!"

"Except we have him on security video getting into a Scan Track when the deploy order was given. We can account for his whereabouts the entire time before and after Joseph death. And he was nowhere near us when it happened."

"It had to have been him," Richardson said not wanting to hear this but looking defeated as he dropped in a chair. "There's no one else it can be."

Elsewhere in the complex in a quiet corridor Ken was having a similar conversation with Daxium. "Are you sure it couldn't be him? You said he started hiding himself once he detected you."

"I am very certain it couldn't be this Jamira," he replied. "As I told you before this outburst of energy was too unfocused. The person we are after has far more control over his ability."

"Well maybe he lost control," Ken argued, going back to a point they didn’t have a chance to discuss earlier. "Maybe his power became unstable or something."

"I would have noticed this instability long before now."

"He did disappear for a couple of months. It might be why he went off the grid."

"While I will admit that is a possibility I do wonder if your personal experiences with this person if clouding your judgment."

"No it's...", he began, "alright maybe. It might explain why he had it in for you. Why he always seemed angry when I was around."

"And I do believe you once told me the others said he acted like that well before you joined this organization." Not having an immediate to that he was quiet long enough that Daxium ended the communication.

Walking out of the hallway he nearly ran into Jess. "There you are," she said. "Come on we're about to head out." Walking down the hall she looked at him out of the corner of her eye, "You going to be okay with this? No side issues we're going to have to worry about?"

"Why does everybody keep asking me that?", he moaned as they continued toward the hanger.

***
"We have angry everyday civilians who don't exactly understand the situation," Bill told Hawk. He was standing by a table looking over a touch screen like map that had the area highlighted that Jamira could have conceivably traveled on foot in the time it took them to mobilize. The temporary HQ tent that was set up gave them a pretty good view of the sky line and the ground. "Can I just point out we didn't go this all out when we were sent to pick up civilian."

"There was no real prof at the time Ken was actually dangerous," he replied. "And Richardson wanted to check him out personally before asking him to join."

"Right," he said remembering. "It's got to be great to be the boss to get away with a stunt like that. I wondered what he offered civilian to ease over that stunt."

"I've been wondering that since day one," he muttered. "Hawk to Bridge how's the facial recognition scans going."

"Slow," he responded. "I got cameras tapped all over the city. So far I have nothing. I'm slowly getting access into building security feeds in case he headed indoors. Unfortunately a good chunk of the buildings inside the search area are off the public grid system. So if he went into one of them we're out of luck."

"Understood, send those building coordinates to the ground teams and we'll see if we can get access to it from the street levels."

"Better make sure the medics have plenty of aspirin on hand," BIll half joked.

"Captain one more thing," Bridge went on. "They're done examining of the attendant and the others." Both Hawk and Bill braced for the news. "The damage done to them was the same as the victim at the lake. They're positive Jamira in the cause for both."

Leaning against the table with his head hanging Hawk pounded the table with a fist, "Damn it." Bill remained quiet as the Captain composed himself. "Anything else Bridge?"

"I was able to estimate the size of the field Jamira emitted. If the men stay outside of fifteen feet of jamira they should be fine."

"Acknowledged Bridge, I'll let the field teams know."

"Understood, Castle out."

"I got it Captain," Bill said. He walked away saying, "Waters to all units..." Hawk asked grateful Bill had done that. As much as Jamira was a pain in his ass over the years but he was still a comrade in arms. This was not an order he was looking forward to giving if Jamira got out of hand. No matter what he had done.

***
"This is Miller and Jones, no sign. Moving on to the next section." Old instincts and training kept Jamira hidden enough that the two UNDF officers didn't see him. Which confused him on some level, he wanted to get to them. Why was he hiding from them. But they scanned the area with their wrist scanners and still didn't pick him up. Why didn't they pick up his life signs? It was what those devils did to him, that had to be it. That had to be the reason why he wasn't going to them. He was turned into a freak.

Waiting a moment he got out of hiding and went in the other direction. They were hunting him, for what he'd done. He was sure of it. He was turned into a freak and they were hunting him down like an animal. That's what he would be doing in their position. The pain came up on him faster this time, catching him off guard and dropping him to his knees. He glowed slightly, his eyes widening in horror as the flesh on his arm started to go grey. "No, no, no," he whimpered as he clutched at his arm after what seemed like the glowing and pain stopped as his arm went back to normal.

But he sensed something this time... no more like felt it. But how... no he knew how... no who it was. And that scared him more on a primal level than anything else going on right now did.

***
Ken's head whipped around as Daxium sensed it. That flare up was either really close or Jamira had gotten better at controlling the intensity, it it gotten away from him. And if Dax was right he it was becoming more unfocused by the second. Truth be told all three options didn’t sound all that appealing at the moment. "Ken?", Jess called out as she and Reid noticed he stopped walking.

"Did you see something?", Reid asked.

"I thought I saw something," he said as he looked at his wrist scanner. Hoping they wouldn't notice him trying to increase the range of the scan. Although the fact he was getting better at covering up those "Daxium" moments bothered him a little. "I'm not picking up anything but the three of us though."

"I'm getting a little jumpy too kid," Reid assured him. "I thought I saw him in the shadows a couple of times myself."

"Is that why we're a group of three when everybody else is a duo?", Ken asked, letting them know that bit didn't go over his head.

"It's just how it worked out," Jess said.

"And I'm sure how this has nothing to do with pretty much half the base thinking I'm going to do something after he forced me to quit before he disappeared." At least Jess and Reid respected him enough to at least look a little guilty after getting caught. "Can I just add that most of the guys on base wanted to shoot him at one point or another before this happened."

"Most of the base wasn't put in your spot," Reid countered. "Not that anybody really thinks you'd go that far but you know how rumors go. Besides Hawk asked me to be a extra set of eyes in case you did run into him."

"And I'm here to do the actual shooting if it came down to it," jess spoke up. "Becasue you are a horrible shot even with the target assist."

"I've been practicing," Ken argued.

"With your eyes closed according to your last range score," she smirked.

"Tell me something Ken," Reid spoke up to save him from any further ribbing, "How would you locate Jamira?"

"Why are you asking me?"

"Because I've been thinking this entire time if Jamira is hiding from us he knows how we operate. So in that case we're going to have a long search ahead of us. And since you're not totally ingrained with the system yet you might have a better perspective about it."

"If you're trying to test this genius brain I'm supposed to have you're pushing the wrong area Commander."

"I'm just looking for an outside perspective is all."

Jess spoke up, "If you're looking for any ol' opinion you might not want to tell him you took his place for one."

Grumbling a bit Reid said, "That thought already crossed my mind several times. How about it Ken, any thoughts?"

"Well," he said trying to think, "Only thing coming to mind is he might head underground. I don't think we have any units down there at least."

"Hmm," Reid went considering it for the moment. "The initial searcher didn't find a loose manhole cover. Of course that doesn't mean the he couldn't have found another way down. I'll contact Hawk and see if he thought of that already."

As he contacted him Jess looked thoughtful about something, "I don't think we're taking something into account here."

"What would that be?", Ken asked.

“something me and Ryo were talking about right before we scrambled. He was scared in the video. He may not be thinking as straight like everybody seems to be thinking." And there was another thought that didn't sound all that great.

"And that makes him even more dangerous," Reid said after reporting in. "Hawk is redirecting a couple of units underground just in case. If he did go down there it'll make him easier to catch at least."

"Hopefully," Jess commented. Still Reid nodded in agreement.

"This is Rogers," their comms came to life, "we found him..."

"Argh!", the scream was audible even without it playing over their comms. Ken led the charge feeling the dark energy at the same time.

They came to an intersection between the buildings and Reid swore, "Damn it!. Split up and take a route each. Bridge this is Reid, scan for the location of all units in the area and highlight Rogers location to all of them."

"On it Commander," Bridge replied.

Ken went in the direction that flare up felt strongest. Taking a few turns ended up in a wide area between buildings. He saw the two UNDF agents splayed like ragdolls against the wall. Then he saw Jamira curled up on the ground. His eyes or the glowing field around his body must have been playing tricks on him as it looked like his body was changing for a moment. Ken's hand started to move, not for his weapon but for the Spark Magnifier in his jacket. He stopped it since this quivering mass wasn't the SOB he remembered and cautiously went toward him trying to stay outside that fifteen foot range Bridge was warning them about. "Jamira," he called out. Ken flinched back when he moved back a little. "Keep calm, we're here to help you." That what's you were supposed to saw in this situation right?

Jamira looked up in fear then in relief when something in his head clicked together. "You!" He rushed toward Ken, catching him off guard. Grabbing him by the shoulders he pushed him until his back was against the wall. Right then Ken was so scared he couldn't move. "You," he looked distracted, almost revolted by something. With that much dark energy coming off oh him this close to Daxium he could understand because it was making him a more than a little nauseous too. "You got to help me! You got to save me!"

"Stay calm," his voice even sounded shaky to him.

"He told me...," he went on, breathing heavy. "He told you were Ultraman."

Oh hell. "Who told you?"

Jamira struggled for a bit, "Brooks. He told me you were Ultraman. Had this done to me." Ken stopped listening at Brooks. He was the one behind all of this?

"Ken, concentrate on what he is saying," Daxium told him.

"Right," he muttered. "How did Brooks do this to you?"

"Sent me somewhere. Monsters were everywhere. They did this to me. They turned me into this!" Behind Jamira Ken saw Reid come into view and looking right at them. He motioned with a hand for him to stop coming closer. Reid did the same when Jess entered the area.

"Okay," Ken told Jamira, "just... just calm down, we'll help you any way we can. We’re a team right? We got to help each other." And he prayed to whoever was listening that playing that card wouldn't blow up in his face.

"Help each other, right." He looked like he was starting to calm down. Still Ken didn't relax, just in case he had another flare up right then. Then jamira started looking at him in this way that was making him even more nervous, if that was even possible. "You knew."

Glancing at where Jess and Reid where he went, "I knew what?"

"You knew!" Grabbing him tighter he threw Ken off the wall. Landing near Reid he looked back at Jamira who started glowing again. "You knew who it was! You let this happen to me!" Jamira's body started changing, skin going grey his head seemed to melt into his body. Reid grabbed Ken off the ground as Jamira yelled in agony as his body started expanding, growing.

"Let's get out of here!," Reid yelled as he dragged him out of there with Jess right behind them.

"Captain!", somebody ran up to where he was standing with a pad in hand. "We have a situation!"

"Now what?", he grumbled as he took the pad from the soldier. He was greeted by the image of a giant, grey humanoid monster whose head seemed to be part of his chest. "Where in the hell did that thing come from?"

"Reid to Hawk!", came over the line. "Jamira turned into a monster!. Repeat Jamira turned into a monster!"

Hawk looked back at the image on the pad, "Oh my god."

On the ground Reid and the others were running for their livesz as what used to be Jamira tried to free himself from the enclosed space. "Move! Move! Move!" a section of a wall came crashing down behind them knocking Ken to the ground. "Scott!", Reid called out as he started back toward him.

Ken rolled to his back, drew his weapon and started firing. "Go on!", he yelled. Getting to his feet he kept firing as he went into a side alley.

"Ken!", Jess started to go after him until Reid grabbed her by the arm. Amazingly Jamira seemed to turn to follow him.

"We're going to be no use to him like this," he said. "Reid to all scan Track units, mobilize on my location ASAP. The monster is headed east so try and draw it's attention. All foot units be on the look out and be prepared to aid Ken Scott as much as you can. The monster is after him for some reason."

"Reid," Hawk cut in, "repeat that last statement."

"I can't explain it but he's after Ken for some reason."

Ken took a few more shots at Jamira before switching the gun to the other hand. On the run he pulled the Spark Magnifier and activated it.

***
Daxium appeared and turned to face Jamira who was still freeing himself, eventually breaking through to the street. Jumping up he landed a flying kick that knocked the former human back. Taking a defensive stance he uttered his usual, "Shiah!", as Jamira came at him. Unlike the previous creatures he had faced monster Jamira was a capable fighter. In fact it seemed like he retained his fighting instincts and training as he blocked every punch and kick Daxium threw at him. Not the he was taking that many hits himself as he countered everything that was thrown at him.

At the temporary HQ Hawk could just make out the giants from where he was. As everybody else stayed glued to the confrontation on the monitors he kept his attention on the two in the distance. "Ultraman just this one time. Don't do it." Deep down he knew the giant couldn't hear him, still he had to say it out loud.

Jamira threw Daxium over his shoulder and the buildings around them shook from the impact of his landing. Daxium got his legs up and kicked him away as he leaned over him. Getting up he rolled forward a couple of times to create some space. Twisting on a knee he faced the former human, hands to his side as he prepared to fire a flashbolt. As the energy swirled between his hands he hesitated. Right before him there was a creature of dark energy, there was no way he could miss at this range. But it was also a human. If this was done to him perhaps it could be undone. The light between his hands dissipating he stood and held them out hoping Jamira would understand the gesture and calm down. The human stood there breathing heavily but he did not advance. Taking that as a good sign Daxium slowly approached him trying not to do anything to that could look like an attack.

Jamira didn't move as he got closer. Through the darkness the giant of light could feel the human's fear and confusion. Hoping most of the human was still in control he held out a hand, palm open to show he had no malice in his intent. For a moment it looked like he was right as Jamira started to reach for his hand.

"Come on," Hawk begged from where he was, "let him help you."

Hands almost touching, either from Jamira's hatred for the giant or anger over the situation, a rage flared up as he wrapped his hands around Daxium's neck. The giant struggled in his grasp as he tried to free himself. In the safe area Daxium had created Ken broke his general rule and watched the whole thing and shouted, "Jamira stop it!" If he heard him Jamira didn't respond outside of through repeatedly at a building until he crashed through. Picking him up from the rubble he threw him against another building and started thrashing him. Daxium was able to trap an arm under his and tripped him to the ground. Jamira kicked his leg out from under him, reached up as he fell forward and trapped his head under his arm. His body started to glow again could feel the dark energy within Jamira start to eat at the light in his as the crystal started flashing.

Survival instinct kicking in he started punching away at the former human's body until he let him go. Picking him up when the glowing stopped he continued to pound on him. With a grunt he picked up Jamira and threw him down the road. As he got up Daxium set up the Dimensional Storm Ray. Hawk went cold as he turned toward a monitor as the giant's right hand went up and his left went down. Again he hesitated in that position not wanting to take the human's life if he could be cured.

Jamira looked at him, held his arms open a bit and stood there. Not taking his eyes off the screen Bill went, "What is Jamira doing?"

Leaning against the table like it was the only thing able to hold him up Hawk knew immediately, "He wants him to finish it."

Daxium lowered his had a bit, understanding his meaning as well. Picking it up he crossed his arms at the wrist and fired the multi-colored energy stream. Jamira recoiled from the impact and exploded soon after. Lowering his head once more Daxium stood there for a moment before silently launching himself into the sky.

Leaning hard against the table Hawk had his head lowered as well. Taking a moment to remember his former comrade before he was turned into that.

"I didn't think Ultraman would to do it," Bill stated. "Even after Jamira wanted him to."

"He wanted his suffering to end," Hawk said after a moment. "Jamira must have felt that it was the only way to fix him. To give himself some peace."

"How can you be sure?"

"Ultraman didn't want to do it. He hesitated, twice. He has never hesitated to destroy a creature before now."

***
Emerging from a ball of light Ken stood there and took off his helmet. Daxium took that moment to say, "I am sorry Ken. I didn't want to kill him but..."

"It's alright Dax," he told him. "Jamira was a pain in the ass but he gave us something we didn't have before. Now we can end this and pay back the bastard who did that to him."

"Ken," he looked over his shoulder to see Jess running toward him. "Are you all right. Reid has everybody looking for you."

"Yeah," he told her, "I'm fine."

"Well you might not be," she informed him. "Despite having everyone looking for you Reid's wants a word about you running away and drawing Jamira's attention like you did."

"It worked didn't it?"

"It's your funeral," she said as they walked off. Although she did start looking at him in a way that confused him a little. "Are you sure you're all right?"

Remembering what he just told Daxium. Remembering who was responsible for this mess he was currently in he answered, "If I'm not I will be soon."


-----
ED - Shinedown - Fly from the Inside
-----
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Old June 8th, 2019, 06:04 PM #22
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Joined: Dec 2012
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scikaiju
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 359



Episode 21


‑‑‑‑‑
OP – Mercy Drive – Burn in My Light
‑‑‑‑‑


The mood was sullen as everyone returned to Castle. Well after the fact Jamira, who had been missing for months, returned with some sort of strange power had taken everyone by surprise. Then he transformed into a giant creature and let Ultraman kill him. No one was talking one the way back outside of basic information to make sure nobody crashed into anything or each other. Not that Jamira was that well liked, most that knew him couldn't stand him. But he was one of their own and everyone wondered how did this happen to him.

All but one person that is. Not only did he have an idea about the how, thanks to Jamira being leveled headed enough before he changed he now had an idea on who was responsible. But like everything else Ken kept that thought to himself. In order to explain that he would have to explain Daxium. And that was a can of something he wasn't ready to open just yet. Although if he got his way tonight then everyone would be dealing the repercussions.

And right now he didn't give a damn. After all this time he finally found the person Daxium sensed his first time at Castle. Brooks, the man aligned with the beings Daxium's people had been fighting against. The one helping those creatures come into this universe. The reason, through an act of murder, he and Daxium bonded. And now the end was in sight, Ken could just feel it.

The Scan Track he was in entered Castle's garage level and it pulled into it's assigned spot. Pulling off his helmet he got out and stood there. Mind already made up as soon as the battle with Jamira was over he looked around at the others around him, hopefully some of them would understand why he hid this for so long. Lowering his head a bit he barley whispered, “You ready Dax?”

“Yes I am,” came the reply in his head. Part of Ken wondered if he was really as ready as he sounded. While not the first time he had to let his giant friend out soon soon after his last battle Jamira had used the dark energy he was radiating to practically eat away the light energy Daxium was pretty much made of. There was no way he could have replenished this quickly. But this might be their only chance to get at Brooks so they had to risk it.

Glancing around at the rest of them Ken made his way toward an exit. One hope was dashed when he heard Jess call out, “Ken where are you going?”

All he told her was, “I got something to do real quick.”

“Hawk wants to talk to everybody,” she reminded him of the order they received right after the battle was over. “Like right now.”

Unfortunately that was going to cut into Dax kicking Brook's ass time. “It's kinda important,' he told her. Like stopping the enemy's main supply line kind of important. But that was something else he couldn't mention, no matter how much he wanted to.

She grabbed his arm, “Hawk will flip his lid if you're not there.

“Then he can chew me out later,” he said freeing himself and using the garage crowd to lose her. He hated doing that to her but he'd take the heat. Then he wondered if he would get the chance to make it up to her, or any of them, if he could just finish this tonight. Getting into the hallway that lead to an elevator he saw Richardson's assistant Patricia Stanberry stand there. Pushing her aside she simply said, “Brooks has already left the compound.” That made Ken stop in his tracks and stare at her. “As I'm pretty sure that was were you were going I thought I'd save you the effort.”

Looking around to see if anyone else was in the hallway Ken was more than a bit confused. “How do you know about Brooks?”

“It doesn't matter how,” she stated to say.

“Yes it does matter,” Ken snapped. “How long have you known about Brooks?”

She calmly informed him, “We just found out ourselves” It just infuriated him. “We need to go after him with a plan.”

“I have a plan,” he informed her. “And it involves Dax blasting him into atoms.”

“He will make you look like the aggressor,” she told him. Way to calmly for his taste at the moment. “He will use that to force Richardson to sic the entirety of the UNDF forces against you.”

“As long as I get him,” Ken told her plainly.

“Listen to me,” she said finally showing some annoyance. “I spent a good hour calming Richardson down and he agrees. So much so he's ordering you to leave Brooks alone while he's here.”

“He might not come back” Ken snapped again.

“Either way we need to build a case against Brooks. We have to make sure everyone knows he's the target. When that happens you and the giant can let loose to your hearts content. But until then you need to back off him for the time being.”

Ken really wanted to tell her where to stick that order. But surprisingly, well maybe not that surprising considering who it was, in his head Daxium was agreeing with her. Traitor. “Fine,” he said, I'll let it go for now,” and he walked off, back toward the hanger. Pounding te wall in frustration at this twist to the situation.

Jess caught up with him as he came around the corner, “Where were you?”

Trying to hid what he was feeling at the moment he told her, “That thing wasn't as important as I thought.”

***
Hawk was waiting as Ken entered his office. To the side Reid gave him a friendly greeting but Hawk just stared at him. While part of him was glad he remained standing, realizing this time it was an official meeting. Another part hoped he was wrong about the reason why they were having the meeting to begin with. Yet another part prayed he wasn't so blinded that he let the proverbial fox into his hen house. Eventually the he said, “Ken.”

“Sir,” the younger man replied, not giving anything away from whet he could tell.

“So,” he began, “Jamira.”

“I wish I knew what to tell you Captain,” he said. “I know he was a pain but nobody deserved what happened to him.

“You know,” Reid spoke up, “most people would have thought you would have been overjoyed at that,”

Ken had the decency to look confused, “A man died, who would be happy about that.?”

“You and Jamira did have a history,” Hawk told him sharply, taking him by surprise. Even Reid look like his tone caught him off guard. “Both Commander Reid and Wade said they heard Jamira shout 'you knew'? What was it that he thought that you knew exactly?”

After a bit Ken answered, “I don't know.”

“Then think of something,” Hawk demanded.

“Umm, Gabe,...,” Reid started to say.

“Not now,” he snapped. “Well Scott, give me something.”

Ken looked like he didn't know what was going on, even casting a glance at Reid, but eventually said, “Unless he somehow made his dislike for me as part of the reason why this happened to him I have no idea.”

“It does seen a logical conclusion,” Reid spoke up. “And remember we both told you Ken was just as confused at what was going on.” Hawk shot him a look out of the corner of his eye. Reid didn't look pleased but he backed down, Ken still looked confused.

“And after Jamira turned into whatever the hell that was I expect you have an answer to why he seemed to be specifically targeting you?”, he demanded.

“Why are you..?”, Ken started to say.

“Just answer me Scott.”

“I was pretty high on his shit list sir,” he replied getting a bit of an attitude.

Reid stepped in again, “Before Jamira got reagitated I pretty sure Ken about had him talked down. You would have been proud of him Captain.”

He shot him another look, but this time Reid didn't shy away and stood his ground. Fine, he'd take a slightly different route. “Scott, where were you the night before the Alpha One test flight, around 21:50 and 22:10?”

“What does that...?”, he asked caught off guard by the change of subject.

“Just answer the question civilian.”

Reid shot him a warning look. Ken had the audacity to look hurt, “I was by myself.”

“Where by yourself?!”, he demanded. “We couldn't locate you anywhere on base turning that time frame.”

“Why were you...,” then things seemed to click together for Ken as he started looking angry. “You think I had something to do with what happened?”

“Answer the question!”

“I was on the god damned roof!”, he nearly shouted.

“Why were you up there?”

“It's the only place I found where I can get some peace and quiet around here.”

“A likely story,” Hawk spat.

“What have I ever done to make you think I was behind sabotaging the Alpha One?”

“Why are you on this team?”

“I told you why.”

“Tell me again!”, Hawk said standing up.

Reid quickly jumped between then and pushed Ken out the door saying, “Go somewhere and cool off Scott, that's an order.' And he quickly closed the door before Ken could say anything.

Hawk exploded, “That was my man!'

Again Reid didn't look pleased, “I know, which is why I separated the two of you before either of you said or did something you'd regret. But seriously Gabe, what has he ever done to make you think he'd be behind any of this?”

“He lied about why Richardson put him on this team,” Hawk told him. “I'm sure of it.”

Reid sat in a chair by the desk, “I seem to recall you saying Wade backed up the reason he gave you.”

“Then he told me a story he knew Wade would agree with.”

Reid smirked a bit, “I was halfway expecting you to say she's in on it too.”

“This isn't funny,” Hawk snapped. “Somebody around here had something to do with what happened with the Alpha One. And I would bet anything that same person had something to do with what happened to Jamira. He is the only one who stands out.”

Saying nothing Reid unzipped his jacket and pulled out an envelope and placed it on the desk. “Before you finish this particular witch hunt and throw away something you've been very proud of you might want to read that. It got delivered to my office by mistake.”

Hawk ripped it open and read the contents. Any anger he had built up slowly evaporated as he went, “Damn it.”

Looking him right in the eyes Reid went, “I'll ask you again, has Ken done anything to make you think he would be behind any of this?”

***
On the roof Ken looked out as the sky darkened around him. Despite Reid telling him to cool down he was still all sorts of pissed off. Granted he wasn't the perfect soldier, like he was even a soldier at all, but he thought he had earned a little more respect than that after all this time. He heard the door open and looked back to see Hawk step out onto the roof. Ken looked back at the ground in front of Castle and set himself. If he wanted a fight than Ken was more than ready to give him one.

Not even acknowledging the Captain as he joined him at the railing as well. After a long bit of silence Hawk held out a opened envelope, “Here.”

Ken just looked at it and said, “You firing me by mail?”

Uttering a very tired sounding sigh he said, “Just read it.”

Practically snatching it out of his hand he read the letter inside. His anger turned to confusion as he read it again. Finally saying, “I've been here a year. Holy shit.”

“That sort of slipped by everybody with all the buzz about the Alpha One and Jamira,” He said. “Reid kept asking if you ever done anything to make me suspect you. And I couldn't think of anything except my early suspicions about you joining. I'm sorry son.”

“Forget it,” Ken said putting the letter back into the envelope.

“No. Ken it wasn't right. You've done everything I've asked of you and done everything possible to fit in.”

“Then why suspect me at all?”, Ken demanded.

“Because there's a snake in this particular garden son,” he said. “and I was desperate to find anybody who might be responsible. You were my first real lead.”

“Captain, if I was going to do anything to the Alpha One I would have made sure it wouldn't have launched at all just so I wouldn't be on it.”

“That accord to me after I cooled down a bit. But there is somebody here working against us. I just wish I knew who it was.”

“Trust me Captain I'd be kicking his ass right now if I could.” Hawk smirked but he had no idea how true that statement almost was. Still there one thing he had to get out in the open. “You called me 'civilian'.”

Looking ashamed of himself Hawk said, “I know. I'm not going to try and make any excuse for it, it just came out. You worked so hard to be seen as more than that. And I have been proud as hell of you too. I hope you'll forgive me about that unfortunate slip of the tongue I had.”

“Already forgotten,” he said with a small smirk. Hawk nodded and clapped him on the shoulder.

“But I am sorry for treating you like that son,” he told him. “ You haven't done anything to betray my trust in you yet.” Patting him on the shoulder one more time he headed back toward the door.

Suddenly Ken was real tired of his situation. “Captain,” he started to say as the older man turned toward him. All the the things he wanted to say right there and then. I'm Ultraman. Richardson knows and blackmailed me to be here. I know how Joe really died and I'm pretty sure Brooks was the one who did it. He wanted to say all of those things. But he didn't. All because he didn't know what Richardson would do if anybody else found out. So instead he said, “Sorry about giving you some attitude back there.”

“Don't be son” Hawk said walking back to him. “I pushed you into a corner, it's only natural that you'd push back. But don't go making a habit of it,” he said pointing a finger at him. “I'm only letting it go this time because I was in the wrong here.”

“Completely understood sir.”

Putting an arm around his shoulder Hawk guided him back toward the door. “Come on Ken, the next cup of joe is on me. Halfway to the door Hawk took the envelope from him. “Just so you know this bit of information will be leaked to the others. And a party will be planned to celebrate this particular occasion.”

He attempted a joke, “As long as there isn't a dunk tank and I'm the one in it.”

The Captain smiled, “I make no promises.”

***
The next day Richardson was still on the warpath. Although Patricia and Dr. Williams were doing their best to keep it confined to his office. “Where is that bastard?”, he demanded.

“He's apparently on his way in,” Patricia told him.

“I'll strangle him myself!”, Richardson exclaimed.

“We need proof,” she said firmly as she was getting tired of having this conversation. At least when she saw Scott earlier this morning he still understood the need for the most part. He didn't like it but he still understood. But with Richardson she had to start all over, again.

“To hell with proof!” he bellowed. “We heard Jamira say it was him.”

“And Jamira was out of his mind,” she told him. “He will turn that into a very believable defense. Then Scott would be wondering how we knew Jamira said that. He still isn't aware that we are monitoring him through his communicator while he is in the field. And I'm sure he's still wondering how we knew about Brooks as it is.”

“I don't care about that nobody!”, Richardson bellowed. “If he wants to cause problems then I'll reveal his secret to the others and watch him deal with the consequences.”

“If he doesn't tell the others his secret first,” Dr. Williams said. A sharp look from Richardson made him back up and sat down into a chair, that he just missed the edge of and hit hard on the floor.

“The good Doctor does have a point,” Patriicia said as she watched Williams scramble into the chair. She was unfazed as Richardson turned that same gaze toward her. “You can only push him so far until he starts pushing back. And considering who he's bonded with...”

“The giant wouldn't dare,” he protested. “Fine, I'll get rid of Alpha Team entirely and replace them with new people just to remind him who's in control.”

Finally getting into a comfortable position in the chair Williams said, “Then he would blow his secret then.”

“Captain Hawk and the others have been an effective buffer between him and you for some time now,” Patricia argued. “Not to mention the uproar from the entire base if you did that. But Scott isn't, and shouldn't, be our main concern right now.”

“Right,” Richardson muttered as he finally calmed down and sat behind his desk. “Brooks, he looked me right in the eyes and didn't betray a goddamned thing. Shake down his entire family tree if you have too but find that proof.”

“At once Mr. Richardson,” Patricia said, pulling Williams up by the coat as they left the office.

Alone Richardson finally looked at a picture of Joseph that had been on his desk. “He didn't reveal a thing. What kind of cold, hearted bastard are you Peter?”

***
Elsewhere in the complex Ken was studying one of the datapads that he still had in his possession. Mainly to try and keep his mind off of Brooks. But also because according to Hawk he was pretty close to “graduating” the course, so to speak. Not officially of course since he would never be able to pass the simulator. But academic wise he was almost there. The end was so close he could practically see the finish line in his head.

“Hey man,” Ryo said as he and Bill sat with him, each with a mug in their hand. “How are you doing?”

“I'm doing pretty good,” he told them. He looked up from the pad to see the looks they were giving him. “What?”

“Bridge let it slip,” Bill started, “that the Captain thought you were the one behind the mess that's been going on lately.”

“Oh my God,” Ken groaned. “It's fine guys, me and Captain Hawk worked it out.”

“Commander Reid,” Ryo went on, “said that he had to separate the two you when it started to get a tad heated.”

“It wasn't as bad as it sounds,” Ken told them. “He had us calm down before it got out of hand.”

“Still the three of us already had a little talk with the Captain,” Ryo informed him.

“I can fight my own battles guys... Wait,” he looked around. “Where's Jess? Oh God he threw her in a cell didn't he,” he started to get up.

“She's fine Ken,” he assured him.

“Me and Ryo made sure we did most of the talking,” Bill joked. “Although I have to admit it was strange that Captain Hawk seemed proud that we were standing up for you.”

Ryo told him, “Because as far as he's concerned we finally gelled as a team.”

“He still told us not to get into the habit of questioning him like that again. As far as Jess goes,” Bill said as he started to grin, “he just happen to slip us an envelope with some interesting information about you.”

“Oh no,” Ken groaned. Hawk told him that would get out. He didn't think it would be this quick.

“Oh yes,” Bill continued. “Her and the Captain are going over the basics of the party right now. I do believe Jess was talking about some giant pink bunny ears for you to wear as the guest of honor.”

“Don't tease him like that,” Ryo cut in. “They were purple.”

“Right,” Bill said with a nod, “with bright yellow polka dots.”

Ken looked at them, “You two ain't funny.”

“You'll find out if we're telling the truth soon enough,” Ryo told him, betraying nothing.

After a little more, what he hoped was, ribbing Bill suddenly got this look on his face. Neither he or Ryo could figure out what was going on because he never looked this serious about anything. Suddenly he went, “Ken can I ask you a question?” Motioning him to go ahead he surprised him again. “Do you have a problem when I call you civilian?”

Having an idea where this was coming from he went, “You always call me civilian.”

“Captain Hawk mentioned something about it,” Ryo said as he took a sip of his coffee.

“Kinda guessed.”

“He did have a point though,” Bill went on. “I mean, yeah, you're the civilian operative and all. But you are one of us.”

“Bill it's fine,” Ken told him. “At this point if you start calling me something other than civilian I going to think I'm dying or something.”

“I guess you have a point.” He got up and put a hand on his shoulder. “I'll see you around,' he went all somber and serious, “Ken.”

“You're not funny,” Ken shot back as he left.

“Please I'm hilarious.”

After he was gone Ryo went, “Since we're asking questions, why did you think Jess got thrown in a cell?”

Kent went, “Let's put it this way, have you ever seen her angry?”

“A couple of times,” he answered.

“Trust me, you really haven't.”

It took Ryo a couple of moments to understand what he was talking about. “Ah well, I suppose you would know that better than anybody. Of course you're assuming she would went that hard for you to begin with.”

“Seeing how we 'gelled' as a team and all I'd like to think she got got a little angry.”

“Then it's a good thing Bill and I did most of the talking,” he said with a smile. A couple of UNDF soldiers walked by and greeted them before heading toward a different table. Although Ryo lost the smile a bit as he watched them walk away. “The Captain tell you why he suspected you?'

“Yeah he did.”

“I can't believe it's been somebody on the inside this entire time. I hate feeling like I don't know who I can trust and who I can't.”

“I know man, I know.” Unfortunately ken did know who he could, and more important exactly who he couldn't trust. But again he had to play along because he couldn't explain how he knew.

***
So far it had been a week since the incident with Jamira happened, and Peter still hadn't let his guard down. He hadn't been acting any differently, he learned a long time ago that you had to keep up appearances. Especially after Scott became a regular fixture in the organization. But he was a little more aware of his surroundings and of the people around him.

So far no one was acting like they knew something nor were they treating him any differently. Richardson seemed to be avoiding him of course. But he'd been through these stages of melancholy ever since Joseph died so he really didn't think anything of it. Particularly since his assiasstant slash bodyguard was as cordial as ever. He was starting to think that he might have caught a break and Jamira didn't say anything to anyone.

Then he locked eyes with Scott as they passed each other in the hallway.

His face betrayed nothing, But his eyes, they stayed locked on him a little too long. Then he felt the giant that had bonded with him, no longer trying to hide his presence like he had been. Again Peter betrayed nothing, although he did try and get a reaction out of him by smiling and nodding his head in greeting. He just walked by him without any type of acknowledgment. But Scott and the giant knew, in that there was no question. Even if he hadn't felt the giant broadcasting himself Scott's eyes were those of a man ready to fight.

Yet he did nothing. He wanted too Peter had no doubts about that. But Scott didn't do anything, he didn't even look back over his shoulder. Which possibly meant he didn't think he could at the moment. For the time being that was good for him but eventually that was going to change.

“Good morning my dear,” he said cheerfully as he greeted his secretary, stationed outside of of office as usual.

She greeted him with her usual smile, “Good morning Mr. Brooks. “You have a few hours before your first meeting this morning.”

“Right,” he said remembering, “for the next public relations event. I wouldn't mind them so much if someone came up with something different for a change. Thank you for reminding about it,.”

“Maybe you can ask Ken Scott to get involved,” she offered. “Being a civilian operative might give P.R. A boost.”

He grinned, “That's going to depend on Captain Hawk I'm afraid. He is rather protective of his men. But I'll bring it up and see what the others think of it. I'll be in my office.”

“I'll be out here if you need me.”

Closing the door behind him peter tried to think. Oh he would be bringing the idea up alright., but prayed it would get shot down. Mainly because it would mean he and Scott would be in close proximity to each other for the entire event. And until Scott finally decided to act he couldn't risk being that near him for long.

Speaking of, he was taking a huge one right now not knowing how close Scott was at the moment. Sending a small pulse through the room he temporarily disabled the security cameras to his office. Then he formed a swirling vortex in the middle of the room. Waiting for the shape of one of his Zetton masters to appear he said, “The worst case scenario we discussed is closer to happening than I originally thought.”

***
Looking through the folder in front of him Richardson looked at his assistant and asked, “Are you sure this information is accurate?”

“As sure as I can be,' she admitted. “I had to do some digging just to find that,” she pointed to a one page in the file in particular. “After I found that the rest was relatively easy.”

“Then we got the bastard,” he said jumping out of his chair. “I want an armed response unit, and I want to be there when we bring him in.”

“That may not be the wisest course of action ir,” she told him.

“We have him dead to rights!. We need to...”

“We shouldn't do anything.”

“Now listen here...”

“No one is going to risk your health and well being in a potential conflict,” she said calmly. He sat back down, he was fuming, but he sat down. “If we confront him with an entire squad it'll expose our hand before we're ready.”

“Then what do we do then? We have what we need right here.”

“We give what he have to Captain Hawk.”

Richard thought it over. “He's still looking for whomever it was that sabotage the Alpha One.” He looked up at her, “He won't confront Brooks directly.”

“No,” she agreed. “Not without some concrete proof. However he might be convinced to have Bridge look into the matter a little further. There's also the added benefit that Bridge could locate something I missed.”

“Do it,” he said leaning back into his chair. “Don't tell him why we're suspecting Brooks but tell him something.”

***
I still can't believe you thought I would get so mad that Captain Hawk threw me into a cell,” Jess said they sat together in one of the break rooms.

“That was a week ago,” he reminded her.

“It still blows my mind you'd think that. Why would you think I would ever get that angry?”

“I never thought you'd get that angry either until it was directed at me.”

“Yeah well...”, she trailed off.

“Jess, Ken,” Hawk called out as he walked up to them. They stood at attention pretty quickly as something about him said this was official. He stood close, enough that he could speak low enough so no one could over hear them. People were looking at them any way but they were just going to have to wonder what was going on. “ I can't give any specifics right now. Just be ready to go if I call for the team.”

“Yes sir,” Jess answered for them, a little confused but remaining professional. Ken, on the other hand, wasn't hiding his.

“What was that about?”, he wondered out loud after Hawk left.

“I'm not sure,” she answered. “Come on, we better find Ryo and Bill if he wants the whole team ready.”

Before they could move Ken's communicator went off. Wonder what as going on now he answered it. “Scott here.”

“Ah Ken,” Dr. Williams replied as Ken and Jess looked at each other. “I need you down here in the Alpha One hanger right away.”

Why now of all times, “I'd love too Doc but I was just put on stand by.”

“I'm afraid I must insist,” he said with an authority that startled both of them. Well mainly it shocked the hell out of Ken if he had to be honest. The guy didn't seem to have it in him when he was working on the Alpha One. “I will make that an order if I have to.”

“You know what,” Ken shot back. “The moment you out rank Captain Hawk is the moment I'll start taking that threat seriously.”

“Ken”, Jess spoke up. “Go ahead and see what he wants. Just be sure to run if Hawk calls us.”

“You sure?” She nodded and went off to find the others. Ken started off to the hanger going, “What the hell Doc? This better be a good one.”

***
Walking into Brook's outer office Hawk nodded at his secretary. She looked at him and Reid a bit unsure what was going on exactly as they didn't have an appointment. Not that Hawk felt like giving him some advanced warning, just in case. “Is Mr. Brooks in his office?”

“Uh, yes he is. Is there something I can do,” she started to say as she rose out of her chair.

He motioned for her to sit back down, “Would you please tell him the Commander Reid and myself would like to see him.”

“Yes sir.” Still unsure she hit button connecting to the inner office intercom, “Mr. Brooks, Captain Hawk and Commander Reid want to talk to you.”

“Really?”, came the reply. After a couple of beats, Hawk could picture him trying to figure out what was going on, he spoke up again, “Please send them in.”

Smiling at the secretary he nodded and said, “Thank you,” before he and Reid entered Brook's personal office.

Standing up to greet then he extended a hand to as he walked around his desk. Each of them took it and Brook gestured to a couple chairs in front of his desk. Hawk noted that his eyes occasionally flickered toward the folders he carried in. Only Hawk took one of the offered chairs as Reid took a couple of steps back. Brooks watched him for a moment before turning his full attention to Hawk as he put the folders down on the desk. “So what to I owe the pleasure of this very unexpected visit?”

“I do apologize for the unexpected nature if all of this but I have a couple of informal questions for you. If you don't mind.”

“Of course Captain, I'll be happy to oblige.” He glanced back at Reid who remained silent, perhaps noting that he positioned himself between them and the door. “However do we really need a third person for a couple of 'informal' questions?”

“I'm just hear as an impartial third party,” Reid said.

“Yes,” Hawk stated, “for both of our protection. You know how the rumor mill around here works. A couple of people saw us enter the room then half the base starts thinking we started shouting at each other and throwing punches.”

“How considerate of you Captain,” Brooks said with a slight smirk. For some reason that sent a chil down Hawk's spin, but he didn't show it. “While my appointment calendar is full I'm sure I can spare a few moments for you Captain. Please ask away.”

“Well, as you know Mr. Brooks”, he began, “we ares till looking into the matter of who tampered with the Alpha One. During his initial investigation into the matter Bridge discovered a short anomaly
in the security feed. It cut out for about twenty minutes.”

“Really,” Brooks said, looking a bit shocked by that announcement. Not in a bad way, like he was surprised that was possible.

“Yes sir,” Hawk continued. “He almost missed it but by his estimation the time it was out was long enough for someone to sabotage the Alpha One. To make sure it wasn't a system wide glitch he checked other security feeds around the same time. And all he found was the cameras shutting off in the hanger. But he also found,” he opened one of the files on the desk between them, “a couple of reports of the cameras going out in this very office. The last one was a few days ago according to the report.”

“Well Captain,” Brooks slid the report back toward him after glancing at for a bit, “as evidence of wrong doing that is rather flimsy.”

“And normally I would agree with you sir but given what happened with the Alpha One I hope you understand the need to check on it anyway.”

“Of course Captain,” Brooks agreed, leaning back. “But I can't tell you any more than what I've told the repair teams when they call or come to check on them after they go out.”

“Maybe there was something you didn't tell them,” Hawk purposely looked back at the door to the outer office.

Brooks; eyes narrowed a bit, “If you are suggesting what I think you are Captain I'd suggest you put a stop to that line of thinking right now. She is a happily married woman and even if I did something, not that I am admit that I did, I wouldn't ruin her reputation to cover it up.”

“Very well sir,” he said taking the folder back, “we'll put it down to a system glitch. Then he slid the other one over but didn't open it right away. He kept a hand on so Brooks couldn't open it either. That made the other man even more curious. “I'm not sure if you heard, after hearing that someone on the inside might have been responsible for what happened with the Alpha One Richardson started his own investigation into the matter.”

“Really,” Brooks said evenly. Putting on one hell of a poker face from Hawk's perspective, and time spent around a poker table or two. “In fact I have not heard that.”

“I just found out about it recently myself. I'm assuming it came from on of his infamous hunches. I also assume one of those lead him to look into peoples background information.”

“Captain, are we really here now because of a hunch? Because I would lose some respect for you if that was the case.”

“I would never do this on simply a hunch sir,” Hawk told him, “No matter who had it. Especially when it about one of the Board of Directors.”

“Yet here we are Captain.”

“As I said never on a hunch. However,” finally he opened the file and pushed it toward Brooks, “he did give us a lead that had Bridge check out thoroughly.”

Brooks read this file a little more closely, “Captain, do believe this says were I went to school growing up.”

“Yes it does sir, it also has your records there as well. In fact those are the ones you supplied when you became one of the Board.” Reaching over and pulling away the top page of the document Hawk fanned out the rest that was underneath. “However a recheck of those very school and we can't find a trace of you any where. No academic reports, no extracurricular activities, no address forms. Nothing any where.” Brooks looked like he was trying to find a way to explain the discrepancy. Hawk didn't give him a chance. “Going back even further we couldn't find any sign of a birth certificate at the hospital you were born in, a social security number or a drivers permit. In fact it looks like Peter Brooks didn't even exists a few years ago.”

Brooks, or whomever this was, picked up the papers and studied them for a long time. Then he started smiling and chuckling a bit, catching Hawk off guard.

“It's true what they say,” he said finally putting the papers down, “the Devil is truly in the details. I sincerely believed that no one would recheck these particular records after so long.

“Then who are you,” Hawk demanded.

“Oh I am a Brooks Captain,” he said. “My name may not be Peter but I am a Brooks through and through. Well since the secret's out what else to you want to know, hmm? Please don't act so shocked I plan to be completely and totally honest with you. So gentlemen, what shall it be? Perhaps you want to know the master plan. Or maybe you want to know exactly how many giant creatures we have at our disposal. Just to prepare yourself of course. “Or maybe,” he looked at Hawk with a slight sneer, “maybe you would like to know who Ultraman really is.” Hawk just eyed him. “Not that you would believe me. That is why I fought for you over Jamira for command.”

“You fought to get Hawk this command?”, Reid said incredulous.

“Part of the delicate balancing act I have to perform on a daily basis,” he said as easily as he would about the weather. “for every negative there had to be a positive to counter it a bit. Can you see the potential chaos and low moral if Jamira was put in command? Not to speak ill of the dead but the man was a moron at times. As such he would have been replaced by someone more competent eventually, so we avoid the rush and put in some one who could get the men to put up a decent fight. Life is nothing without the occasional challenges after all.”

“Why the lake?”, Hawk asked suddenly.

Brooks wasn't following, “I beg you pardon?”

“The lake,” he repeated. “At lest two monsters have been confirmed coming from that lake in the park. The earliest we can trace Jamira after he popped back up was at the bank of that same lake. What is so special about it?”

“Well this is awkward,” Brooks shifted in his seat. “While I would love to feed whatever conspiracy theory that's grown in your mind, truth be told nothing is particularly special about that lake. The second monster just happened to to come along with Bemular, that's the name of the first one just so you know. Much better than the designation we gave him. Giant creature one ugh... no imagination. I'm still shocked they came up with Ultraman. Back to the second one, well that was a little experiment on my part. The results were rather spectacular if I may be so bold. As for Jamira well they're not even sure how he got out of his cell much less been able to operate an interdimensional transporter. He's lucky he didn't appear a thousand feet in the air. Although that would have save me a lot of hassle if he did. No offense to the dead of course,” he quickly added.

“Who are they?”, Hawk demanded. “You're partners in all of this?”

Chuckling a bit, Hawk wasn't sure if he was purposely trying to piss him off or not but it was working, Brooks said, “From my point of view? Early on perhaps I believed that, when I could delude myself. But now I'm a servant in their eyes. A useful tool to help them bring their creatures over.”

“You seem pretty happy for a 'servant',”Hawk commented.

“I like to see it as getting in on the ground floor after it's all over,” he answered. Brooks quieted down and studied Hawk for a bit. Almost looking sad for some reason.”It is a pity really. I truly did like you Captain, I was hoping to put this off off a bit longer.” Brook's right hand started glowing with this deep, dark purple energy. Combat instinct made both Hawk and Reid jump out of the way as he pointed it at them and unleashed a blast that took out part of the wall behind them.

As his secretary screamed at the explosion as a fully armored squad of UNDF soldiers burst in and took aim on Brooks and fired. Almost instantaneously the energy expanded and formed a barrier between him and them. “Cease fire!”, Reid shouted as the bullets started ricocheting.

“You had an armed guard with you,” Brooks said, not lowering his guard.. Chuckling again he changed his tome to a more disapproving one, “Now that's just dirty pool Captain. But I should be honored you did so. You realized how potentially dangerous your target is.” Suddenly the field expanded knocking them and the furniture back into the wall. “Fortunately for you I'm in a generous mood today and in quite the rush.” Pointing his hand at the floor he blasted a hole and dropped down to the next level.

Struggling to his feet he took a cautious look down the hole and hit his communicator, “Captain Hawk to all troops, this is a Level Five Alert. We have an hostile in the building. The hostile is Peter Brooks, repeat the hostile is Peter Brooks. Consider him armed and extremely dangerous. Do not try and detain, shoot on sight. Shoot to kill if absolutely necessary.”

***
“Son of a bitch,” Ken muttered, almost completely feed up with the run around he was getting from Williams on why he was down here. “Look Doc you have five seconds to give me a damn good reason on why I'm down here or I'm out that door.” Williams didn't give him a reason, he didn't have time as Hawk announcement came from his communicator He looked at Williams accusingly. He still wasn't sure how Richardson and them knew about Brooks to begin with. But right now he was positive that the Doctor knew this was going to go down. So why in the hell did they separate him from the others?

To his credit Williams look apologetic and more than a bit uncomfortable under his gaze. “This is it,” he said. “We can end this now if you and your friend can get to him.”

“You're damn right I'm going to end this.” Ken said as he ran for the door.

“Ken!”, Williams shouted to get him to stop. “Richardson doesn't want Hawk and the others involved in this. His orders.”

“You tell Richardson to stick those orders up his ass,” Ken told him as he headed back down the hall. “I'm tired of hiding this.” Hitting his communicator he went, “Scott to Hawk. Dr. Williams had me in the hanger levels. I'm going to try and cut off Brooks if he tries to come this way or the garage level.”

“I already have a team headed that way Ken,” came the reply. “But the extra fire power couldn't hurt. If he gets there before they do do not engage him by yourself. You have no idea what he's capable of.”

“Understood, Scott out.” Cutting the link he muttered, “And I have a pretty good exactly what he's capable of.”

***
Perhaps it was a bit overkill on his part, blasting through several levels of floor, but he had to make sure he met a little resistance as possible. For one, mainly, he wanted to avoid a prolonged, drawn out fight if possible. That would just slow him down and increase the chances of the UNDF troops taking him down. And secondly, if he was forced into the prolong fight more than likely he'd leave a skeletal corpse or two behind. He could only picture the fury in Captain Hawk when he discovered that he was the one who killed Joseph.

No this was the proper play for this situation, put as much distance between himself and the majority of the forces after him as soon as possible. Which was quite a feat in these confined spaces. Not that he expected the entire force to be above him, Hawk wasn't that stupid. There would be heftier resistance further down. The question was how much resistance was he going to come across? And where Scott and the giant were in all of this? He probably should have started blasting his way up toward the roof, but there were a few surprises he wanted to keep to himself at the moment.

Finding an empty level he ran down a few random corridors and started blasting his way down again another few levels. And practically on top of a small armed squad of troop, about four at a fast count. , Smiling warmly, Brooks reacted faster than the one directly in front of him, grabbing his rifle in one hand and his throat by the other. The kid grabbed at the one clutching his neck, crackling with dark energy. Then Brooks snapped it as easily as he would a twig. Dropping the body and he weapon he sent out a pulse of energy that sent the others flying back hard. While they were dazed he changed his mind and picked the rifle back up. Almost casually he walked up to each one and shot them in their exposed faces before dropping the weapon and moving on. The smile never left his face as he did each deed.

There were a few small patches of resistance here and there as he made his way down, At this point they had to figure he only had one real escape route at the moment , getting to the garage level, and started planning accordingly. Hopefully he wouldn't run into the Chief and his crew along the way. But he shouldn't have that much of a problem with whomever put up a fight down there.
\
Then Brooks felt it before he saw him. He slowed his gaunt as he stopped a few yards away from Ken Scott. Behind him was one of the ways out of here, and he probably could have made it to one of the others before Scott got to him. But this particular showdown was going to happen sooner or later, now was just a good as time as any, even if it wasn't the best of conditions. “Ken,” he said in greeting. “Am I still allowed to call you Ken? Or did that get rescinded when you discovered it was me this entire time?

“Ask me if I give a damn,” he told him.

“So,” he said evenly, taking a chance to glance around to see if there was anybody waiting in the wings, “is this where you demand why I betrayed humanity and and join forced with evil overlords form another dimension?”

“Still don't give a damn,” Ken said. Brooks noted his right hand was going for something inside his jacket. “A buddy of mine might though.”

“Yes,” Brooks grunted, “why waste time when we can get right to it.” Scott's hand was already in his jacket when he fired a blast. Ken jumped out of the way, rolling to a knee with a strange decvice in his hand.

“Brook!” he looked back to see Watanabe and Wade lead a squad of soldiers down the ramp behind them and hold position as they covered him.

“Figures,” he mumbled, “just when it's getting good.” Looking back at Scott he was still holding the device in his hand, although he glanced back at the others a couple of times. Having a idea what the device was he said, just loud enough so Scott could hear, “Are you really going to blow your secret in front of them?”

Very plainly, and keeping his eyes locked on him, Ken said, “Yes.”

“Hmm, I do believe you might,” Brooks mused. Without warning he blasted the ceiling above Watanabe and Wade's group causing part of it to collapse on them.

“No!” Ken shouted in horror. Using the distraction Brooks ran past him. He look back just long enough to see Scott look undecided and start to help the others.

“Go,” a woman's voice, probably Wade's, told him. “Get him, we'll be fine.”

Ken ran after him as fast as he could. Brooks launched a few blast back behind him to try and slow his pursuer down. Finally he made it outside, he was almost there. Then he went down after a blast hit him in the back. Gripping his shoulder he looked back to see Ken come out holding his weapon out, and the cylinder in his other hand at the moment.”

“You shot me in the back,” Brooks grunted as he got to his feet. “Not exactly a fair play from the hero.”

“You murdered people,” Ken shot back. “It's over Brooks, or whoever the hell you are.”

“Ask Captain hawk what I told him,” Brooks said. Ken said nothing as he holstered his weapon and returned the device to his right hand. “Just like that? You're not going to arrest me, lock me up for the others. Although I do think they would believe you if you told them I resisted. Granted security cameras are everywhere out here.”

“I don't care,” he said.

“And it never accord to you that I would have a plan just this situation?” Ken stopped, now looking confused instead of determined. Not realizing Brook never once stopped emitting the dark energy around his hand.

Backing up and looking up as he felt it and his senses were nearly overwhelmed. A huge pool of dark energy started to form. Ken's communicator started making a electronic squeal as Brooks shot a wide beam at it. Before long something stared to come through and quickly took shape. A giant reptile creature, it had heavier armor looking hide around it's upper torso, tuft's of hair coming from spaces between those segments and a curved horn on top of it's head. It seemed to to orient itself for a moment before zeroing in on Castle and started heading toward it.

“Have fun with Gomess,” Brooks said with a smile and a wave. Suddenly he was covered in dark energy and shot into the air.

“The fuck?”, Ken muttered stun as he watched fly away. The ground shaking hard brought back to the immediate threat as the creature continued toward the base., Very aware of the cameras behind him he didn't have any other choice. Holding the Spark Magnifier over his head he activated it.

***
Daxium barely appeared from the column of light when Gomess charged forward. Caught off guard he barely stopped himself from hitting the base behind him. With a grunt he was able to push the creature back. The monster roared a bit as he stopped pushing then quickly fell to the side while twisting, using Gomess' own power to fling him to the ground. Both giant quickly scrambled to their feet, with Daxium being slight faster geting off a kick to it's head. With the creature stunned, he grabbed it, struggled slightly to get it over his head, then tossed it further away from the base.

Slapping it's head in frustration Gomess got up and charged Daxium again. Bracing for it better this time he barely budged as the creature rammed into him. Felling it position itself to do the same flip move he waited for it to fall and twist. Jumping with the throw Daxium flipped in the air and landed on his feet he was caught by a tail swipe that him him around the knees. Stumbling to hold his footing it was long enough of a distraction that Gomess launched his attack. Grabbing around the lower torso in a bear hug it stared to squeeze with all it had. Daxium grunted in pain from the increasing pressure as he tried to free himself.

Inside Castle's control room Hawk made his way through the chaos to Bridge. While he was clearly busy shouting out orders and working his station Hawk was more worried about what was happening outside. “What's the hell is going on?”

“We're trying a reboot now Captain,' he said, never taking his eyes of the screens in front of him. “Whatever Brooks did to summon that monster somehow fried a majority of our systems. Communications, security, repair systems are either offline of freezing up.”

“Can we launch the Scan Tracks and Razor Wings?”

He checked something, “Hangers are off line too,” Bridge told him.

Swearing under his breath Hawk snapped, “Can we get people on the roof to launch paper airplanes at it?”

Back outside Daxium had finally loosen it's arms enough to get one of his own through. Grabbing one of Gomess' arms he turned and flipped the monster over his head, the ground shaking from the impact. Daxium went to grab it again. But he was surprised when Gomess whipped it's head up and caught him under the chin. Stumbling back Gomess came at him again. Falling backwards he got a foot between them and flipped the monster over. Rolling forward he turned, set up and fired the Dimensional Storm Ray.

After the creature exploded from the multicolored energy stream Daxium looked in the general direction Brooks had went off in. Whatever happened when Brooks and hia allies brought that creature over saturated the area with dark energy. Enough to completely cover Brooks' trail. He also realized right then the true purpose of the creature he just fought. Just to delay him long enough for the human to get away. Relaying this information he received the expected human swear word in response. Feeling anything but victorious Daxium flew into the sky with a , “Shiah.”

Jess and Hawk found Ken still outside the compound looking real disappointed about something. And a bit ashamed too as he kept looking at the ground after he spotted them. Well the secret was out now, time to deal with the consequences. He flinched a bit before looking at Hawk when he put a hand on his shoulder. “You all right son?”

“He got away,” was all he could say.

“The bastard thought of everything,” Jess told him. “Don't beat yourself up over it.”

“Yes he did,” Hawk agreed. “Still I'm glad you didn't get stepped on when Ultraman and that creature started going at it.” Now Ken was confused again. Didn't anybody tell him the cameras caught him turning into Ultraman yet? Somebody had to have seen it. The ones by the entrances had the best view in the house of his confrontation with Brooks. Or did Richardson come down hard with a black out order or something?

Still he had to tell Hawk something, “Just lucky I guess.”

Jess smiled, “I guess your GLC is still working then.”

“I wished it worked that well with the electronics,” Hawk commented.

“What about the electronics?”, Ken asked.

“When Brooks summoned that monster,” he continued, “it did something to fry most of the systems.”

“We can't even launch the vehicles at this point,” Jess added. “If Brooks let's another monster loose anytime soon we're officially screwed.

“All the systems?”, Ken went, still not believing it.

“A good size chunk of them,” she answered.

Ken looked up at the cameras above the entrance. Nobody saw him change. That means nobody else knows his secret. That meant he still had that hanging over his head. That he had to keep lying to just about everybody. The ones who trusted him completely. The one thing that made him sick to his stomach every time he thought about that.

Unless he just let all go and told the two of them everything right now.

He looked back to see Dr. Williams and Richardson's assistant had made their way outside and stare at him. But Patricia wasn't exactly staring at him. He glanced over at Jess. What would Richardson do?

Damn it all to hell.

Eventually he forced out, “How are Ryo and the others?”

“Banged up,” she answered. “But they're going to be all right. Unlike some unlucky bastards that crossed Brook's path.” She gripped his chin and made him look at her. “Never do anything that stupid again, do you hear me?”

Freeing himself he went, “You're the one who told me to go after him.”

“I mean coming down here by yourself,” she corrected him. “You wait for back up first.”

“You heard the lady,' Hawk said as he guided both of them back inside. “We have a ton of repair work to get started on. And more than a few things could probably use a mechanic's touch.”

“Yes sir,' he said, trying not to look like he was faking the smile.

***
“He was going go blow everything!” Richardson snarled. It was hours later and repair work had been in full swing. Still Scott's almost decision from hers and William's point of view still ate at him. “This is totally unacceptable.”

“It was bound to happen sooner or later,” Patricia told him. “I told you as much before. I'm surprised it took him this long to start pushing back at the situation.”

“Well he better remember what we'll do if he does reveal it.” Knuckles rapping the desk as he walked around it to his chair, a little more subdued he asked, “Is there anything on Charles Brooks yet?”

“Our teams are still looking into it. So far they can't find a sign of him any where.”

“He has to be some where,” he said staring out into space. “I've talked to him several times since Peter came on board.”

“Yes sir,” she said before leaving him alone.

***
A couple of weeks later, after they had the major repairs and bugs fixed for the most part, Ken was summoned to one of the break rooms. Since nobody had seen hide nor hair of Brooks since his escape he hope this didn't have anything to do with him, despite the location. The fact they were still repairing the holes in the floor Brooks had made made him wonder what this was about with work still needing to be done. He found out as soon as the door opened up.

“Surprise!”, the entire monster squad shouted as he entered. And ken jumped so hard a couple of them thought he was going to make another hole in the ceiling.

“What the hell?”, he got out as Ryo and Jess dragged him into the room.

“We told you a party was being planned,” Ryo told him.

“It's a little late to be celebrating the one year thing ain't it.”

“It's not just that son,” Hawk said as he herded him toward the cake on the table.

“Happy one year anniversary,” he said reading the gel written letters out loud, getting confused at what else it said, “and graduation?” Hawk nodded at Bridge who walked forward and handed him a brown envelope.

“It's been a long time coming civilian,” Bill said. Jess quickly stomped on his foot. “He said it was okay.”

Opening it Ken studied the graduation certificate that was inside. “That's the same one we all received,” Jess said getting closer to him, “when we graduated from the academy.”

He was hearing the words she was saying but they weren't making sense in his head. “This can't be real.”

“It's about ninety-fave percent real,” Hawk told him. “As you instructor I determined you worked and did enough to pass the course I set up for you.”

“But I can't pass the simulator.”

Hawk smiled, a proud one if any of them saw it, “Son, on one your first missions with us you didn't bail out on your wingman and brought down a Razor Wing in a crash landing. As far as I and the rest of us are concerned, you passed.”

“And since I'm still alive,” Ryo added, “I'd say with flying colors.”

Finally tearing his eyes from the document he said, “I seriously don't know what to say.”

“Just keep doing your job,” Hawk told him.

“Does this mean I'm officially one of you guys now?”, he asked as the thought occurred to him.

Hawk lost a bit of the smile as they all looked at him. “Not yet officially. I'm working on finalizing that last five percent.”

“Well as far as the rest of us are concerned, “Ryo spoke up, “you are one of us through and through.”

“Damn straight he is,” Bill agreed. “Even if we didn't want him to begin with.”

“Bill”, Ryo quickly chided him.

“I know what he means,” Ken told him.

“Congratulations Ken,” Jess said giving a quick kiss on the cheek. “Of course when it does become official you're going to have to cut that thing off the back of your head.”

“He hasn't finalized anything yet,” Ken said, mainly realizing he would have to lose the ponytail.

“I'm sure he's going to push hard for it,” Jess teased.

“Just to remind the two of you,” Hawk spoke up, “we have a perfectly good cake wasting away here. I think it's time we started eating some of it.”

“Yes sir,” Ken grinned.

“Congratulations Ken,” Bridge said as he handed him the knife. Inside of him somewhere Daxium offered his congratulations as well. Ken looked at all of them before cutting into the cake. He still hated the fact he was lying to all of them. But for right now, he knew why he still had too. Because he didn't want to lose any if this. Not if he could help it.


‑‑‑‑‑
ED – Shinedown – Fly From the Inside
‑‑‑‑‑
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Old June 12th, 2019, 03:02 PM #23
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scikaiju
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 359



A/N- Just a bit of warning, there's a heavy subject matter in this one.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Episode 22


***
OP – Mercy Drive – Burn in my Light
***

Walking down the hall to the war room Ken wasn't sure if he should relax or not. After Brooks initially high tailed it out of Castle he hadn't been seen since. Most of the people around here thought he was regrouping and biding his time. A couple of the guys were overheard saying how they would kick his ass if he ever showed his face again. Knowing exactly what he was capable was Ken seriously doubted the latter. And since of couple of them were formerly Jamira's men part of him wanted to find a seat and some popcorn to watch them try.

Walking into the war room he found Hawk studying some footage. He nodded to acknowledged that he entered the room but kept his eyes on what he was watching for the most part. Ken paused briefly when he realized Daxium was a main part of the footage. Maybe they were able to get to the camera back up and salvaged the footage. And if he was trying to figure out which way Brooks went. Ken got nervous all over again. If they were able to get where Brooks flew off to then maybe they caught something else. And he better get prepared to the chewing out of a lifetime for keeping this secret for so long. If he was lucky.

“I have the reports of the Brooks investigation so far Captain,” he said, trying to sound normal.

He didn't attack him right away, so Ken was taking that as a good sign. “What did they find?”, Hawk asked.

“Well for one nobody is sure what happened to Charles Brooks,” he began. “Or at least where he is now. He's made the occasional public appearance since Peter Brooks had been on the scene and that's the last time anybody has seen him. But they did find something of interest,” he trailed off as he got a better look at what Hawk was watching. Daxium wasn't fighting that Gomess creature as Brooks called it. No this was from a few monsters back.

“That bit of interest?”, Hawk asked after Ken was silent for a bit.

“Um,” Ken stalled as he tried to hid how afraid he was getting. If he was looking for further proof about him and Daxium he was probably screwed. “Charles Brooks apparently let go of his entire staff a few years ago.”

Hawk finally looked at him, “Let me guess, right around the time Peter Brooks appeared.”

“That would be correct,” he remembered to say, “sir,” a little faster than he usually did in these informal situations.

“You gotten better at that,” he said with a smirk before returning to the footage he was watching. Ken calmed down a bit, maybe the big secret was still safe for the moment.

Still he had a report to finish, “After interviewing the current staff it turns out they were all hired by Peter Brooks personally and rarely saw Charles.. eh the elder Brooks. The investigators did say that after interviewing the original staff that they seemed surprised that Charles Brooks had a son, much less a full grown one.”

“That's not surprising,” Hawk told him. “I know Richardson and the board never questioned it that much because Charles Brooks was apparently very secretive about his personal life. According to a couple of board members I've talked to nobody knew his wife died until a couple of years after the fact.”

Ken couldn't believe that bit of information, “That's like government black ops level of secret keeping.”

“No argument here son,” Hawk told him. “Is there anything else Ken?”

“Nothing major, they're still monitoring Brooks' house and the spots he's known to hang out at. Bridge is checking to see if there are any system disruptions similar to the ones Brooks caused here when he brought that monster over anywhere else.” That made him look at the fight footage one more time. “Um... Captain?

“Was there something else Ken?”

“Not to question what you're doing or anything...”

“But you're going to any way,” he said with a slightly bigger smile.

“But what are you doing exactly?”

“Studying previous footage of Ultraman,” he said as matter of factly as you could get and not be joking.

“Okay,” he said softly. “As I heard it we started doing this because Brooks suggested it”

“That he did.”

He quickly tried to figure a way to say this that didn't make it sound like he was insulting or questioning the first guy that really had his back here. “Considering who Brooks turned out to be maybe he had an ulterior motive for suggesting it.”

“I'm sure he did,” Hawk agreed. “But it doesn't mean it's not a sound strategy. Just in case of course.”

“Of course,” he said more than a little dismayed.

Hawk glanced at him briefly. “If it makes you feel any better Ryo, Jessica and Bill all had the same objection that's probably going around in your head right now. But as the leader of this team I have to be prepared for any situation, even ones featuring a currently friendly ally.”

“If you say so sir,” Ken sighed. Damn it, he thought him and Dax would be past this nonsense by now.

“I don't like it either Ken,” Hawk told him, “but it's all part of the job. If there's nothing else take some down time and try to relax. Everybody's stressing out on when Brooks is going to attack again. And I don't want everyone burnt out from worrying about it too much when it does happen.”

“Yes sir,' Ken said and left the room.

“It is a viable strategy Ken,” Daxium said in his head after they were in the hallway.

“Doesn't mean I got to like it,” he shot back. After a bit his communicator beeped, “Scott here.”

“Ken,' Bridge said. “You have a person trying to get in contact with you. It sounds pretty important if they're going through official channels to get to you. So I put them on hold and said I page you.”

“Thanks Bridge,” he said. “I'll take the call in my quarters.” If it was that important then there were probably several missed messages on his phone. Now what was going on.

***
Given the situation as he understood it Captain Hawk quickly gave him leave. Still Ken still found it hard to believe as he sat in the waiting room, trying not to look at the other people talking to each other with various armed police men watching them. His UNDF credentials helped get him as private a table as you could get in this situation, which helped a little but still. He didn't know what to say as a couple of more guards brought his brother Jeff into the room. The handcuffs he was wearing around his wrists helped him believe the situation a little more, again but still... Jeff sat across form him and they just stared at each other for a bit as the guard backed away to give them some “privacy”. Jeff started by snapping at him, “It took you long to get here. I've been stuck in here for hours.”

“I just found out,” he snapped back. “Not to mention I had a hard time processing the fact you're in jail.”

His brother snorted, “They're blowing this all out of proportions.”

“You hit Janet,” he said. Jeff didn't even looked embarrassed, he just angry like his time was being apparently wasted. “And not for the first time according to Mom.”

“She doesn't know what she's talking about,” he snapped again. “Believing that lying piece of shit over her own son.”

“She's also the mother of you child,” Ken reminded him. As it was it took all he had not to reach over the table and try to shake some sense into him. And seeing how he was wondering exactly how far his credentials would go into getting him out of that mess, he kept his hands clasp under the table.

“That don't mean anything,” he grumbled. Then the anger went away, not entirely but just enough for somebody who knew him to notice, “Is... Nicole still there?”

Ken hesitated to answer, not sure if they wanted him to know or not. Eventually he said, “They're both still at Mom's the last I heard.”

“Good,” he said, “she won't let that bitch keep me from my kid.”

“Mom the one who called the police on you to begin with.” Here Jeff finally reacted, like he wasn't expecting that. Right now Ken didn't care one way or another. “Jeff what exactly happened?”

“She started another fight that's what happened,” his brother said. “The same ol' crap too. I'm drinking too much. I'm not doing enough to help around the house. I'm not putting enough effort in at work. Nag, nag, nag.”

At this point Ken didn't know what to think. Yeah he stopped Jeff from slapping Nicole after what was supposed to be her birthday party. But he never thought of it much after that, hell he didn't even think it would get to this extent. Hell if this was going on why didn't Janet say anything about it sooner?

“You got to get me out of here,” Jeff said breaking him out of his thoughts.

“What?”, he went.

“You got to get me out of here,” he repeated, Ken just now realized how quiet he was speaking now, so much so he actually leaned in to hear him better. “You got the government connections. Use them to get me out of here before they trump up the charges.”

“They're not going to trump up anything,” Ken began.

He was quickly cut off, “The hell they ain't. They love sticking it to guys like me.”

Pinching the bridge of nose Ken wasn't exactly surprised thing would be going this way. Still damn annoying though, “They're not sticking it to anybody.”

“The hell they won't!”

“Look if Janet is lying about being hit before they'll find out.”

“Like anybody is going to believe me over her. The courts eats up stories like hers like a god damned buffet. I am screwed no matter what. That's why you got to get me out of here.”

“Then what?”, Ken asked him. Jeff looked confused, almost as if he never thought thing past that particular point. Knowing Jeff that was a pretty big possibility. “Say I do get you out of here, then what. You still got to go to court.”

Checking to see where the guards were Jeff leaned in a little closer and spoke a little softer, “They got to find me first.”

“What?!”, he said through his teeth.

“I go to court and I'm screwed. I leave town and it never happens.”

“Yeah and when they find you it'll be even worse for you when they drag you in front of a judge.”

“Not going to happen I know where to hide. I just need to get out of here.”

“Jeff I can't do that.”

“I'm family little bro,” he said, in a tone Ken was all to familiar with. “And you always got to help family. Dad always said so.” And there it was, his go to ace in the hole. Ken knew he was going there as soon as he started talking. He always brought up there dad when Ken wasn't immediately bending to his will. It still pissed him off royally when Jeff did that. But mainly at himself, because like now he started to listen. That button was way too fucking obvious.

***
“How soon before the next creature comes through?”, Brooks said to the figure in the vortex. “If I may ask that is.” he stood in a dark cavern, his only refuge since he “retired” from the Castle Board of Directors. So far the UNDF hadn't located any of these site yet. Although now they knew how the monsters were appearing, and possibly from where since they saw him bring one over. Hopefully it'll take them a while to realize their main points of access to this dimension are primarily located underground.

“Soon,” the figure replied. “We are making some modifications to Golza. There is some... debate on where the improved destructive beam should emit from.”

“Ah, making him a 'fire' Golza as it were,” Brooks quipped. Realizing the figure wasn't reacting he sighed, “Right, no sense of humor. I forgot.”

“We will tell you when he is ready Avatar,” and with that the portal vanished.

Brooks grunted as the annoyance he was feeling made his right fist crackle. “How are you doing? I'm perfectly fine for not being able to go anywhere public since my face is posted just about everywhere. Just a minor inconvenience is all. Not that it matter to any of you, you one eyed...” Letting that annoyance build up and quickly get to him he blasted the wall.

As the dust hanged in the air he started at the creator he just made. “That's going to be happening a lot now, I can just feel it”

***
The next morning Ken was in the Castle practice range firing his gun at the target in front of him. His head wasn't really in it as his shots went a little wilder than usual. Jess, who was at the station next to his, had placed her shots in the “heart” of the target as usual. He put his gun down and lowered his head, leaning against the station. She always made some sort of comment about his shooting ability, right now he really wasn't in the mood for it. Hell he almost turned around and walked out of there earlier when he saw she was in there already. But this was a scheduled practice session, and Hawk usually gave you an ear full when you missed one. So he tried ot keep his tongue in check and remind himself she usually meant it as a jab between friends and not something mean spirited.

She did say some say something, just not what he was expecting at this particular moment, “Rough night huh?” He looked at her not really understanding. “Captain Hawk mentioned you got a call Jeff was in jail last night.”

Groaning, because he really didn't want that to get out any time soon, he asked, “How many of you did he tell?”

“Me and Ryo,” she answered. Okay at least Bill was still in the dark at the moment. “He just wanted to make sure you were alright since you really didn't say anything after you got back. Do you know what happened? I mean you don't have to say anything if don't want to, or if you can't depending on legal matter. But we're here for you if you need us.”

“I know,” he said, just looking ahead. Knowing he had to get at least one of the things weighing him down off his chest he told her, “He hit Janet.” Jessica sucked in some air but said nothing, just letting him continue at his own pace. “According to Mom not for the first time either. He's want;s me to use my 'connections' to get him out of this.”

“Are you?” even though it a perfectly legitimate question, the look she was giving him pretty much said she thought it was already a done deal.

Granted he gave in to Jeff before, a lot. Pretty much every time Jeff wanted something so it was a perfectly reasonable for her to expect him to do it again. Still that look was annoying the hell out of him, “I don't know.”

“Did he bring up your dad?” He looked at the next target down the line because it looked really interesting at the moment. She walked away in disgust, “Oh my god you're doing it.”

“I don't know what I'm doing yet,” he snapped. “I've been trying to get a hold of Janet all morning to get her side of things. She hasn't been answering her phone. She's even staying at my Mom's and I still can't talk to her for some reason.”

Jess wouldn't let it go, “But you're considering it. Don't lie to me I can tell.”

“I'll be the first to admit Jeff can be a ass. To a level only he's capable of reaching. But I don't think...” He stopped and amended himself. “I don't want to believe he's capable of doing something like this.”

Her expression softened a little, mot much but a enough to notice. “I understand that. But Ken, if this is something he's been doing...”

“I know,” he said. “I just want to get all the facts before I decide one way or another. Is that really that bad?”

“For you, after bring up your father, that would be an improvement,” she said smiling softly. “Just don't rush into anything no matter how hard Jeff pushes the 'dad button' alright. Just promise me that much.”

Seeing how Jeff's repeated pushing of that particular button was one of the, okay the major reason why she broke up him Ken said, “I'll try.”

“Good,” she replied looking satisfied with his answer, “because the court martial would be worth it to beat some sense into you if I thought you did otherwise.”

***
“Hey Jackson!,” a burly man sitting by a campfire shouted out. “Can you take that downwind. Yer stinking up the campsite.”

“Fuck you man,” he said coming out from behind a bush. “That's your cooking you're smelling.”

“Ain't nothing I've cooked made anything that smelled like that,” he protested. “You got something wrong with you. Been telling you that fer years.”

“The only time I hear anybody complain is when I'm camping with you,” he said sitting back down by the fire. “So the problem is your cooking.”

“Keep telling yerself that.” This particular argument had been a running joke between them for as long as they been camping in this particular location. Not that it still didn't get annoying but it did magically get cleared up after a couple of cold ones. Before that could happen a grumbling like sound filled the air. “I told you something wrong with you.”

“What are you blabbing about now”, Jackson demanded.

“Yer stomach making that noise. I know you can't be hungry already.”

“You're hearing things,' he said with a dismissive wave of his hand.

“There it goes again,” he winced as the sound hit his ears.

That's when Jackson started to look around in the darkness surrounding them, “That wasn't me.”

“Who else could it be?” He heard the sound for a third time, much louder than the previous two. And the grumbling sounded more like a growl. “Wolves,” he as he took one of the larger sticks from the pile and next to him and stuck an end into the fire.

Looking into the darkness Jackson went, “There's never been any around here this time of year before.”

“Fuck it better not be a bear,” the burly one said keeping his makeshift torch in front of him.”

“Don't fuckin' aggravate it if it is.” They heard the growl again, it was definitely getting louder. And coming from above them. They both looked up to see a huge set of glowing eyes starting right at them. Dropping the torch they ran for the hills. Almost right after a foot came down on top of the fire leaving the area in total darkness.

***
The very next morning Commander Reid lead a team, including Bill and some other members of Alpha team on loan from Hawk, to investigate the claims the local forest rangers filed. Seeing the size and shape of the footprint in the middle of the campsite Reid was more inclined to believe them. Not that he personally doubted any information from a government source being a federal park and all, but there had been a few crank calls recently that wasted time and resources so his current investigation team wasn't as large as it usually would have been. Looking at the footprint for who know how many times he looked at the forest around them. “Now where in the hell did you go?”

“Hey!”, Bill called out. “Trust me you don't want to go behind that bush.” This was directed at one of his Beta Team officers.

Who promptly ignored his warning and walked around said shrubbery. Before long there was a “Good lord!”

“Warned ya,” Bill muttered.

“Welcome to my first couple of days in command,” Reid told him.

“Not that I don't mind the company Commander,” Bill said after a bit of silence. “But why am I and a couple of other Alphas tagging along again?”

“Captain Hawk and myself was starting to think that the 'friendly rivalry” between Alpha and Beta team was starting to negatively impact both units.”

“Wait,” Bill cut in. “It was supposed to be a friendly rivalry? I don't think nobody passed that memo around.”

“In theory it's supposed to be,” Reid admitted. “But Jamira's attitude did cause way more friction when he was in charge and that never went away after I took over.” Seeing that he could see exactly who was in which unit right just by how they paired up he let out a sigh of frustration. “We're hoping that by making both teams work together on investigations like this it'll lessen the tension between them a bit.

Just them on of Reid's men bumped into Bill, “Out of the way Winger.”

Bill shot back, “Watch were your going Tracker.”

Reid sighed again, “Of course it doesn't help that one unit primarily air based and the other ground. Never did understand the reasoning behind that decision.” After a bit a thought occurred to him. “Waters, if you were in the air how would you track this thing? If you couldn't see it that is.”

Bill thought it over for a moment. “Well if I couldn't see it I don't know how. Wait we had a situation like this before. The monster turned invisible but we were able to follow the tracks it was making. And we knew it was making tracks before because Jess and Civilian found one while on look out.” Reid started giving him a funny look.

And it took him a little too long to realize why as Bill told him, “He said it was okay to call him that.”

Letting it drop for the moment Reid asked, “Did they go looking for any more tracks to get a general direction of where it's going or been.”

“I think they looked but I can't remember if they found any or not, sorry.”

“Then hopefully we'll have better luck. Reid to Castle.”

Promptly as ever Bridge replied, “Castle her Commander.”

“Mark my location and send out a small squadron of Razor Wings to survey the area from the air.” A couple of his men looked slightly betrayed but he ignored the, Finding this thing was more important than catering to their egos.”We have a giant footprint at this location and I'm sure there has to be more. We're going to split up into two groups and try and locate some more. Have the Wings give the location of any they find from the air and give it to the closest unit. If anything can get a rough estimate of it's size and figure out where tit could possibly hide. Better yet find out where the damn thing came from.”

“Understood Commander, we'll be launching shortly. Castle out.”

“You know this one is going to be fun if it can turn invisible too,” One of his men, one who actually respected his command from the start, commented.

“This job been more 'fun' then I can handle at times,” Reid told him. “Waters, it'll probably be better if you stuck with me.”

Considering some of the looks he been getting Bill stepped a little closer to Reid and said, “If you say so sir.”

“Gerald,” Reid called out. “Take half the guys and head that way,” he pointed in the general direction that that the footprint seemed be going. “The rest of us are going in the opposite direction. If you find anything that looks like that creature could hide in contact Castle and mark it's location.”

“Yes sir,” his man saluted and quickly picked some men to go with him, including a couple from Alpha Team much to Reid's hidden delight, and headed off to follow the minuscule trail they had.

“Alright Waters,” he said. “Let's see if we can a nest.”

“Maybe we can find a giant egg for the mess,” he joked. Greeted with silence he moved along mumbling, “Nobody has a sense of humor in this entire outfit.”

***
Walking up behind Bridge, Hawk watched him multitaask, going over several of the screens in front of him. One had the current monster search. A quick look around and he could see others in the control room were helping there. As it was Hawk was looking over his shoulder at the various other screens given the assignment he gave him previously. “Anythings in the records yet?”

“Not yet sir,” Bridge said as he continued outlook at the screens. “Geological surveys haven't revealed any monster size cave in this particular area as of yet.”

“They rarely do,” Hawk commented. “I know you're pretty thorough Bridge, but given the Brooks situation I'm not sure we can trust the surveys all that much.”

“I've considered that Captain,” Bridge said. “I've checked the files myself to see if they have been tampered with in any way.” Gesturing to one of the screens Hawk could see he was still checking them even now, in a different area than the one they were currently in if he was reading them correctly. “I have people now going over any older surveys record to see if they can find any discrepancies”

“Good man Bridge,” Hawk told him while patting him on the shoulder. “Although I think it might be a good idea to get some new surveys done just to be on the safe side.”

“Good luck getting that through the Board's next budget meeting,” Bridge joked.

“I'm going to need as much as I can get,” he grunted. But hopefully it wouldn't be as much of a fight, especially if Bridge can prove the surveys on file were tampered with in some way or another. Then again with the Brooks situation they may agree any way just so he didn't have any sort of advantage over them. He had it for far too long as it was.

The familiar incoming communication beep got both of their attentions. Bridge replied first, “Castle here Razor Wing seven. What do you have?”

“We're not sure,” came the reply from the female pilot. “Sally picked up a weird signal on her sensors. We swung by the area twice and picked it up both times. I had Nancy and Justin in Razor Wing eleven fly over the area and they got the same reading.”

“Send it,” Hawk said as Bridge picked up the incoming signal and brought it up on the big screen.

“We're receiving it now seven,” Bridge said. On the screen they could see the signal they were picking up. It seemed to be becoming from the mountain range in the area the creature was initially spotted. Hawk went to another screen and pulled up where Reid and his units was. And currently they were on the opposite side of the range the signal currently was.

“It's never easy is it?”, Hawk said to no one in particular. “Hawk to Reid.”

“Reid here, what is it Captain?”

“The Razor Wings have picked up a reading on the other side of the mountain range. Get you team together and get into position as fast as you can. Bridge will give you the exact coordinates in a moment.”

“Understood Captain, I'm recalling my men now.”

“It could be nothing,” Bridge said as the link ended. “The readings we're seeing doesn't indicate anything in the monster size category so far.”

“And this creature has to be somewhere,” Hawk reminded him. “Based on some of the things we've seen it makes sense that it would create a place to hide if there wasn't one there already.”

“That could also be how Brooks was able to hide them all the time once he got them all this time.”

That thought occurred to Hawk as well, more than once actually. And it literally depended on the time and his mood on if he believed it or not. Today and right now, “It would take time to create a large enough space to hold a giant creature. And that kind of work would be noticed some where no matter how he did it. Right now I want to concentrate on a possible creature sighting instead of what ifs.”

“Yes sir,” Bridge said with a nod. “I'll get the internal units on stand by and ready to launch.”

“Good man,” Hawk said one more time as he left the room.

***
In one of the lower level Ken tried Janet's number one more time. If it went to voice mail one more time he was going to say screw it and head over to his Mom's place. And maybe get the Captain's permission to leave base first, he was semi official now after all. Hearing it ring again he finally got a voice, a cautious one, “Hello?”

“Janet?”, he said more out of amazement that she actually picked up. He had to remind himself that he wasn't going to get the whole story if he only had one side of it now that he finally gotten a hold of her. Still what was he going to say now? “Okay, dumb ass question of the year here but are you alright?”

“I'm, I'm fine,” said said. “Wait, I'll call you right back.”

“Janet wait,” he said but she already ended the call. But like she said she would Janet called right back, wanting to talk over a video call. Almost not wanting too he accepted the call and held the phone out a bit. Her face filled the small screen and his eyes went to the huge bruise on her cheek. Leaning back against the wall behind him for support his free hand went to his mouth, the realization of what his brother did slamming into him full force, “Oh God.”

“I,” she looked almost ashamed that he could see her, “I wanted you to see for yourself. It's not as bad as it was but it still .. yeah.”

“I see,” he said, part of him still not to wanting to believe the evidence in front of him. “How long has this been going on?”

“A few months,” she answered.

Each word felt like a physical blow. A few months? “Why didn't you say anything?”

“What was I supposed to say?”, she demanded. “He kept apologizing and and I kept forgiving him. Then he'd do it again.”

“Why now?”, he asked. “If he's been hitting you for months why wait until now to say anything?”

“He did this,” she pointed to the bruised side of her face, “in front of Nicole. That was the last straw. I only wish I did it sooner.”

God, he didn't even think about his niece. “What are you and Nicole going to do now?”

“I don't know,” she admitted. “The house is in Jeff's name and I'm not going back there. You're mom said we can stay there for as long as we want. But I don't want to impose on her good will any longer than I have too.”

“I'm sure she'll tell you you're not imposing, you're family.”

“Right now we are,” she said suddenly. And it took Ken a little too long to understand what she was getting at.

“You're thinking about getting a divorce?”

“I'm,” again she seemed hesitant to answer, “I'm not sure.”

Before he could respond Bridge's voice came over the intercom, “All teams prepare to launch. A potential monster signal has been detected. All teams prepare to launch.”

“Damn it,” Ken muttered as he looked at the ceiling. Looking back at his phone he said, “Janet I have to go. I'll call back the first chance I get.”

“Right,” she said, but she still didn't look happy about it. “I'll talk to you then.” Still she soften a bit as she said, “Ken be careful.”

“Tell it to the creature,” he said attempting a joke. Both of them knew his heart wasn't in it though.

***
An hour after they mobilized and arrived they were still waiting. The area was cordoned off and all civilian withing a mile of the location were evacuated, some more than a bit angry about according to some of the others. Nothing like the gratitude of having your life potentially saved. A few ground units not currently aiming their cannons at the potential underground target estimated location were patrolling that mile area for any stragglers or people trying to sneak back in to watch, generally the orders were about any reporters but any one with a recording device was to be detained and quickly escorted from the area. Currently Ken was in the group keeping any eye on the target. Leaning against a Scan Track he had his arms crossed and was deep in thought. And not about the current situation.

“Hey Civilian,” Bill said as he joined him against the vehicle. “Family trouble getting you down?”

Snorting in disgust Ken muttered a, “Is everybody talking about this?”

“You ain't that special Civilian,” Bill shot back. “Besides Hawk and Jess ask me to keep an eye on you and see how you're doing.” Ken snorted again. “Hey man, you got your real family and you got this one too.” This time he snorted a bit, “Hell for some of us this is the only family we got.”

Right about then Ken remembered Bill was raised in an orphanage and never adopted. Not that it meant anything in the current situation but at least he was trying to show that he cared. Ken also immediately felt like a bit of an ass, “Sorry Bill.”

“Forget about it Civilian.” After a moment Bill started looking at him, in a way that almost made him uncomfortable.” “Is this you trying to figure out a way to shoulder everything going on in the private life? Because Jess said you would and this is looking like it to me.”

“I'm still trying to wrap my head around things,” Ken admitted. “My brother's been arrested, my sister-in-law has a bruise on her face the size of his fist. And I even had a chance to ask about my niece yet but I know she has to be scared and confused as hell after it happened.” His gaze went to the mountain range, “And I'm here stuck waiting for whatever the fuck that's supposed to be to come out of hiding.”

Bill just nodded seeing how he didn't know what to say to that. Ken was kind of glad he say anything, he just needed to vent for a second. Both of them looked up to see the Alpha One fly into the area. “Just a hunch but I'm guessing they really think that something there if they brought out the big guns.”

Being this close Daxium was already sensing the creature so there was no doubt in Ken's mind. He told Bill, “Better them up there than me.”

“I betcha anything Ryo in my chair right now. Pretending he's the Alpha's main pilot.”

“That's why they invented rock-paper-scissors,” Ken joked, but still not feeling it at the moment.

“Ryo cheats,” Bill said joking along. “Hey man just remember, even the rock needs help every so often, so if you need anybody to lean on we're there for you,” he patted him on the shoulder and headed back to his Scan Track. Seeing how that was something similar to what Jess used to tell him Ken had a pretty good idea on where he got that line. Still he appreciated the gesture.

“Hawk to all units,” he said from the bridge of the Alpha One. “Target has been confirmed. We have the green light to try and force it out of the side of the mountain range. I want a man from each unit to join in the patrols on for for the time being. Report as soon as you see anybody who's not supposed to be here.”

“Understood,” The Scan Track driver said as he joined a chorus of other who confirmed the order. “Ken,” he shouted out the window, “since you;re already outside the vehicle why don't you join the patrols in this section.”

“On it,” Ken said as he headed for the woods. He looked back at the Alpha one hovering n the air. That order just saved him a ton of hassle for when the creature decided to pop up.

On the Alpha One Hawk looked back at Jess who was at the weapons station. “Wade, do you want to tell me again why that order was a good idea. Because I'm still not buying it.”

“With an area this big the patrols can't see everything, especially when there's a lot of places a person can hid,” she said. “The more eyes on the ground looking for them the less chance of any civilian getting got in the crossfire.”

“Outside of Scott that is,” the man next to Ryo said. And like Bill was worried about, Ryo was in the pilot seat.

“No one asked you opinion Phillips,” Ryo snapped at him. Phillips looked back at Hawk, realized he wasn't going to get any support on the matter and quietly turned back to his station.

Consider that situation handled Hawk glanced back at Jess. While he was open to any suggestion, especially ones that could save lives, he still wasn't fully buying it. Consider the Scan Tracks sensor package any stray non combatant could be detected easily. Still, for now at least, he'll consider it an experiment. A few more men patrolling on foot would cut down any chase time by a few seconds as soon as they were located.

***
After an half hour several all clears came from those currently on patrol. Before giving the order Hawk thought, and not for the first time today, that Jamira would be extremely happy that they were about to do what he thought they should have been doing all along. “Wade, lock on to the signal and send a round of missiles to wake it up.”

“Rodger,” she replied, already having a target lock on her screen before he said anything. “Firing missiles.” Around of missiles flew out struck the mountain full force. Everyone watching a cloud of smoke and debris flew up from the impact on the mountain and waited. The fingers on Ken's right hand started twitching slight as he still felt the dark energy. Suddenly a crimson beam of energy fired out from the cloud and started tearing out a path in the ground. Realizing he was in the path of this wave of destruction Ken jumped out of the way but was still caught in it's wake and ended up flying further than he intended. Stunned for the moment he tried to regain his bearings as the other units started firing.

Through the smoke other parts of the creature started to emerge. With parts of it's skin looking like a hard, gray leather hood as it roared in defiance. As more of it's body became visible more of the gray area became apparent, looking like sections of armor covering the blue flesh underneath. It's gigantic neck started to glow a bit as arcs of electricity flew up it's head and collected themselves in a point right above it's forehead. A moment later that same crimson beam attacked it's assailants one more time. Scan Tracks in it's path that didn't react fast enough were sent flying or were destroyed altogether.

“All units move,” Reid ordered. “Try to fire at it on the fly and not give that thing any stationary targets.”

“God I wish I was in the air right now,” Bill whined from the sensor station.

“Get it's attention,” Hawk ordered as he saw what Reid's troops were trying to do.

Ryo already had the Alpha One moving into position as Jess called out, “Lock acquired. Firing missiles.” A new set of missiles hit the creature on the gray part of it's hide. It didn't seem to do much but the creature started looking at them. Seeing the energy build up in it's neck and travel up once more Ryo quickly maneuvered the super jet out of the way of the destructive beam. Jess glanced over at the engineering section now occupied by some one else. Where ever Ken was at this moment he was probably glad he wasn't aboard for this particular ride.

Loose dirt fell off him as he was finally able to get off the ground. Ken looked over at the freshly dug, gigantic rut that was next to him. Yeah that was too fucking close for comfort. Look back at the mountain he saw the troops try to engage the creature. Although seemingly making it angrier would have been a better assessment. Spotting the Alpha one, he started getting a bit queasy just watching the moves it was pulling off. Time to lend a hand he thought as he subconsciously shook his left arm a bit. Making sure no one else was around as he reached into his jacket Ken raised the Spark Magnifier over his head and activated it.

Attracted by the column of light Golza roared a challenge as Daxium appeared, “Shiah!” Both giants charged at one another. At the last moment Daxium jumped and twisted in the air as he landed so he faced the back of the monster. As it turned he fired off a flash bolt that hit it. But it didn't seem affected it much as it hit one of the gray panels. But he was confident enough that it did affect it and ran at the creature. This time connecting with a right to the blue flesh of it's face. Hat seemed to get the reaction of pain he was looking for and he tried it again with the same results. Trying it a third time he was surprised by the creatures quickness as it grabbed his arm and threw him to the ground face first.

Golza started stomping on his back with apparent maniacal glee. Grunting with each stomp he rolled out of the way as he felt it's foot lift off his back. Not going far he tried to surprise the creature by tackling it at the waist to try and catch it off balance and silently celebrated as he did so. The two giants his the ground in a earth shaking crash. “Really wish I was in the air,” Bill mumbled as they watched the ongoing conflict. On top of it Daxium started landing several blows to the monster's face before Golza started building up energy again. Rolling off the creature as it fired straight up he wasn't prepared for how fast the creature could get to it's feet. It came at him hard trying to knock him off his feet. It took all he had but Daxium kept his footing but he was still a bit wobbly. Changing it's tactics a bit Golza came in and after a bit of a struggle got it's arms around him and started squeezing. Daxium cried out in pain as the pressure increased. Then he saw the monster's neck start to glow. Despite the pain he got his hands under it' chin and started pushing up. He just barely pushed it up enough that the beam went over his head.

Letting him go the creature battered Daxium around a bit as he tried to defend himself but they quickly crumbled. With ease it picked Daxium up and off his feet and threw him into the side of the mountain. Dazed for a bit too long as the creature had time to charge up it's beam and fired it and kept firing it. The pressure against him increased the longer it hit him, even feeling the mountain behind him start to crumble as he was pushed into it. He tried not to panic as the jewel on his chest started flashing.

“All units open fire!”, Reid ordered as Scan Tracks and Razors Wings unleashed a load of missiles at the creature to try and get it to stop it's beam.

“Main cannon primed,” Jess called out at her station on the Alpha One as a handle and trigger lowered into position. Underneath the ship a cannon lowered into position. She impatiently watched her read out as it quickly hit full charge. “Main cannon ready.”

Hawk didn't even hesitate, “Fire!”

“Firing!”, and she pulled the trigger.

A stream of energy fired out of the cannon barrel and hit Golza between the gray plates and hit the softer blue flesh. The beam stopped and the beast spun around to locate it's new attacker. Seeing his opportunity Daxium slammed his forearms together and mode shifted into Power Mode.

“All Scan Tracks back away now!”, Reid called out although a few drivers were already doing just that just in anticipation of of him unleashing his main move.

A new sense of energy flowing though him Daxium ran toward the creature and grabbed it from behind and forced it to turn around and punched it again. This time the monster reacted in pain. He kept up the attack and Golza stumbled back. Daxium was able to grab it around the head and with a grunt he was able to pick it it up and over as he fell back slamming it to the ground. Golza seemed to panic and quickly pushed him away. Turning over it started to claw at the ground trying to dig it's way out of there. Daxium ran in quickly and grabbed it around the waist and with another strained grunt was able to remove Golza from the hole it was creating. Holding the monster over his head he faced the mountain and threw the monster into it's side.

Holding his fist to his chest he drew in energy. Then punched the ground unleashing the Giga Wave. Then energy wave hit, tearing up the ground as it hit the creature and through it into the mountain. A moment later Golza exploded in a massive fireball. Turning around Daxium looked at the UNDF forces in the sky and on the ground and gave them a nod in thank before flying off into the sky, “Shiah!”

Ken's Scan Track found stopping on the other side of the gigantic rut that was still smoking a little. The gunner jumped out to get a closer look at it, whistling at the sight. He looked over at him, “How close were you to that?”

“Really trying not to think about it,” Ken told him. Trying to find the best way to cross the rut, thinking it wasn't the best of ideas to jump into it considering the readings his wrist scanner was picking up, he didn't see anything in the immediate area. “I'm going to head that way, it had to stop ripping up the ground at some point.”

“We'll meet you down there,” the driver called out as the gunner jumped back in. “You better hurry.” As the drove off Ken actually smiled. That would have been a totally different conversation after he first joined up.

***
“The park services are still giving us hell,” Reid told Hawk hours later. They had both debriefed their respective teams and was currently sitting in Hawks office. “Even after we helped put the fires out.”

“I'm sure it's coming from a bureaucratic level,” Hawk said taking a sip from his cup. “I've notice in my time in this organization that the ones behind the desk are usually the ones making the most noise. I'm sure if you asked the rangers in the park they be giving you a different story.”.

“You seem so sure of that particular theory.”

“Deal with the board as often as I have,” Hawk answered with a small grin.

“I'll let you keep that particular honor,” Reid grinned back. “Although one park ranger did ask me if there was a way to warn people when Ultraman was going to go into his Red Form.”

Hawk stared at him for a moment, “Red Form?”

“His Red Form,” Reid explained, “that's what we call it in Beta.” Still Hawked looked confused. “Multi, Blue and Red?” Still not getting any reaction of recognition Reid asked, “What does Alpha call them?”

“Normal, Hyper and Power.”

Frowning Reid went, “That was in no report by Jamira that I've read.”

“Honestly we never really talked about it,” Hawk told him.”I suppose that's what I get for assuming he read my reports that I sent him. Then again I wasn't much better considering I just skimmed his only concentrating on the parts were he was complaining out something in the operation.” A chime went off signaling somebody was at his door. “I really need to get an assistant. It's open.”

Ken walked and looked like he was starting to say something when he spotted Reid. “Sorry Captain I didn't think you'd still be busy.”

“It's alright Ken,” Reid said getting up, “I got to go over some old reports anyway.” When Hawk gave him a confused look he said, “I have to figure out where Alpha and Beta started to see things differently now to avoid any future confusion. Captain, Ken.”

“Sir,” Ken said as he stepped aside to let him out. Reid gave the young man a quick, friendly pat on shoulder as he passed. Hawk hid his smile, finally he was acting like he belonged. Now if he could just convince him to zip up that blasted jacket.

“So what can I do for you son?”, he gestured toward the now empty chair.

Taking the offered seat he looked unsure of himself all of the sudden. Naturally this pique Hawk's curiosity because even when he first joined up he never looked this uncertain about anything. Maybe about getting into Razor Wing but he was usually a pale shade of green in those moments. “I... ah.... I have a pretty strange request. And I'm probably stepping way outta line too.”

“I'll be the judge of that.” Knowing what happened with his brother he tried not to think the worst. “Would I be correct in assuming this 'request' is family related?”

Fidgeting a little he replied, “Pretty much.”

Again he tried no to think the worst. It could be he just wanted an ear to vent too. Or perhaps he wanted some advice from someone not personally involved in the situation. It was even in the realm of possibilities that he wanted an extended leave of absence to help sort things out at home. Or Jessica could be correct about her fears about the situation when she talked it over with him earlier. “So let's hear it.”

***
“It's about time you showed up,” Jeff spat as he sat down across him at the same table they had earlier. He had already been arraigned but so far nobody they knew had stepped up to supply the bail money to get him out of jail. “I'm rotting away in this joint. You talked to whoever you had to yet?”

Looking at him with the straightest of looks he said, “Yeah I talked to my Captain.”

“Went straight to the top. Smartest thing your grease jockey ass ever did. When am I getting out of here?”

His expression didn't change, “You're not.”

Jeff sputtered, “He turned you down.”

“No he accepted my request,” Ken told. He was trying not to show that he was enjoying this but based on how angry Jeff was getting he probably was. “He arranged for Janet to get an work interview at Castle in a couple of days.”

“Janet?! She's the reason why I'm in here!”

“No,” Ken said sharply, “you got yourself into this. Don't go blaming her because you can't control yourself any more.”

“I'm your family!”, he growled and started to get up. Holding up his UNDF badge Ken waved the guards off and they complied by stepping back. But they were keeping a closer eye on their table now. “Did you forget what Dad always said? That you have to take care of your family?”

“I remember,” Ken calmly told him. “Dad said a lot of things. You have to take care of family. If you fuck up act like a man and face the consequences.” Jeff snorted and looked away. “And this one has been running through my head a lot lately. Sometimes you have to forget about the past and start worrying about the future.”

“And what the fuck does that mean?”

“It means I'm thinking about Nicole's future,” Ken told him. “Because I;ve been wondering what kind of future is she going to have, who she's going to end up with, if you're acting like the jackass you have been.”

“She's just fine!” Jeff shouted. Another hand up by Ken kept the guards in place again. The apparent power play in Jeff's mind was making him even crazier. “I don't need you or anybody telling me how to raise my kid.”

“Because the example you've been setting has been so fucking great hasn't it?”, Ken shot back. “Jeff for once in your life listen to reason. Pay for what you did At least admit you did something wrong.” His older brother sat there fuming and said nothing. Sighing Ken said, “I wanted to tell you what was going on face to face.” Not sure what else to say since Jeff clammed up Ken got up and left.

“Don't you walk away from me you son of a bitch!” Jeff yelled, getting partially up. “You are nothing without me!” He started struggling with the guards who tried to calm him down.. “You owe me! I made you the man you are now!”

That made Ken stop in his tracks. Standing there fuming himself he suddenly turned around and headed back tot he table. With one last wave he sent the guards back and leaned against the table staring his brother right in the eyes. Eventually Jeff sat back down, confused by his sudden change of visual attitude but still angry as hell. Ken quite literally didnt give a fuck at how angry he was right then. “You know what?”, he said evenly. “You're right. You are absolutely right. You are responsible for me being the man I was. But you know what? I got away from you, I got away of your put downs and your guilt trips and everything else you threw at me and I quickly became somebody better. Somebody everybody else saw in me.”

“There is nothing to you,” Jeff spat.

“Yeah, you keep saying that. For as long as I can remember. Everybody else I knew said I had a gift, I had a future and you kept saying that. And you were the one I kept listening to.”

“That's because there's nothing special about you.”

Any other time time Ken might have enjoyed telling Jeff this, just to see the expression on his face. But right now, after years of this crap, he just wanted to shut him up. “Too bad I saw my file from the academy, before I got medically disqualified. I'll be honest I'm still not sure if I believe it or not myself. But according to their experts, I am quite literally a mechanical genius.”

“You are not,” his brother began.

Ken didn't even give him a chance to start with the spiel again. “It would explain why I was always able to figure out those newer engines they keep coming up with. Barely even had to crack open a manual. I just knew how it worked just by looking at it.” He stopped and waited a bit to see if Jeff had anything to say to that. His brother just sat there seething. He went on, “You're my brother and I love you. But I can't help but get a little pissed off thinking about where I'd be right now if I didn't keep letting you drag me down. Now I'm not blaming you entirely, I was the one listening to you and that's fully on me. But you kept trying to drag me down for whatever reason. And right now I really don't give a damn anymore what that reason was. Because right now, I'm pretty sure I'm who I'm supposed to have been all along. After I got away from you. And I'm praying to God or whoever listening that's something Nicole will never have to through with you acting like you have been.”

Again he gave Jeff an opportunity to say something, anything. But again he just sat there, not even looking ashamed of himself or anything. Feeling strangely lighter after finally getting that off his chest he turned around and left the room and didn't look back after the door closed.

***
Wandering around the office level of Castle Ken finally found the office dealing with outside civilian employment. It occurred to him that there would be a joke there for some people on base, at his expense of course. Which was why he didn't ask anyone of directions. He didn't go in, he wasn't needed in there of course. But he did walk by the reception desk and sat next to Nicole who was playing with her visitor badge and looking like the loneliest person on the planet. The way he heard things was the interview was scheduled pretty much after Janet had to pick her up from school and Mom wasn't available since it was a busy time at the store and was low on help. And there was no other openings in the schedule for her to come in earlier. Fortunately they let her bring Nicole, Ken just wished he could have gotten away from Dr. Williams sooner. “Hey kiddo, how are you doing?” He realized a little too late that was probably one of the stupidest things he could have asked. “I was able to talk my Captain into letting me give you guys a tour of the base after you Mom's done. That'll be pretty cool right?” She nodded but still said nothing as she kept looking at the floor. Seeing this usually happy little girl in this state was breaking his heart. More to break the silence than anything he said, “I hear you're staying in my old room. Now I don't care what Grandma says you tell her I said you can decorate it any way you want.”

“Uncle Ken,”she finally spoke up.

“Yeah kiddo?”

She looked at him, “Is my Daddy a bad man?”

“Um...,” alright, how in the hell was he supposed to answer that one? “No honey, he's not a bad man. He... just forgot how to be a good one.” He happened to look over to see Jess standing there listening to them. Ignoring the look she was giving him he said, “Your Daddy just need time to remember how to be a good man. And he needs a long time to think about the things he's done that got him to where he is now.”

On the other side of the room the door opened and Janet, the person she was talking to, and Captain Hawk for some, came out of the other room. Nicole ran over to her before Ken could stop her. Fortunately Hawk knelt down smiling at her and started up a quick conversation with Nicole before straightening back up.

Alone with Jess all he could say was, “Don't give that look. Jeff doing a good enough job on his own but I don't want her to think her father is a monster. Self-centered, an idiot and maybe even a jackass,” he glanced back at Nicle who was now hugging Janet's leg while still talking to Captain Hawk, “but not a monster.”

“Fair enough,” she ended up saying. “But forgot how to be a good man?”

“Janet had to see something in him,” he told her. “God knows I never seen it but it had to have been there at some point.”

Janet, Nicole and Hawk came up to them. Hawk said, “There's been a slight change of plans, I need to show my new secretary the office while the final paperwork goes through. Just to get her familiar with the set up.”

“Secretary?”, Ken asked, more than a little caught off guard. “I thought she was signing up to be part of the janitorial staff.” Janet just shrugged her shoulders.

“Not after seeing those college transcripts,” he said. “I'm lucky nobody else snapped her up yet. As I said there still a little more paperwork, just the usual background stuff. But that can wait a bit why don't you take your daughter and get something to eat n the cafeteria. I'm sure both of you are hungry.”

“I will in a bit,” Janet told him. “Thank you sir.”

“She started calling me that faster than you did,”Hawk said taking a friendly shot at Ken. He faked a laugh, fortunately Hawk was more than familiar with his sense of humor by now. To Janet he said, “I'll see you in a bit.”

“Yes sir.” Hawk and the other person reentered the office leaving the alone for the most part. Janet looked down at Nicole then at Jess. “I know I don't really know you and shouldn't be asking you this, but can I talk to Ken alone for a few moments.?”

Jess was a little surprised but she said, “Sure.” Kneeling down she looked at Nicole and gave her a soft smile, “Hey there sweetie. I don't suppose you remember me. When that monster spoiled your birthday?” Nicole looked at Jess then nodded that she did. “Cool. How about you and me go down to the cafeteria?”

“It's okay kiddo,” Ken told his niece. “You can trust her.”

“'Kay” Nicole said. Without any prompting she took Jess' offered hand and they headed off.

“Me and Uncle Ken will join you soon honey,” Janet told her.

Ken added, “Charge whatever she gets to my account.”

“I was planing to,” Jess shot back.

Out of the blue Nicole looked up at Jess and asked, “Are you Uncle Ken's girlfriend?”

“Ah,” caught off guard Jess looked back at Ken who was looking embarrassed at the moment, “I'm a friend who's a girl.”

After they turned the corner Janet looked at him. “Thank you for doing this. But why? If you expect me to get back with Jeff...”

“There's no hidden strings here,” Ken assured her. “I don't know what going to happen in the future. But if you do go through with the,” he paused, looked around then just said it, “ the divorce I know you'll probably going to need a better paying job than the one you have now to support you and Nicole. And since I used to live with Mom I also understand the need to get out of her house as soon as possible.” He said that last bit mainly to lighten the current mood. Luckily it worked for the moment.

“But why?”, Janet pressed the issue. “After the divorce we won't be family any more.”

“Divorce or not I'm always going to consider you family. So you're stuck with me because I'm not going to just drop out of your life. And Mom would hunt you down if you tried to do the same. And,” he couldn't believe he was saying this after everything that went down,” Dad always said you helped family. Besides you have my favorite niece.”

Janet chuckled at that last bit then hugged him, “Thank you. Thank you for helping us like this.” She broke off and said. “I guess we better hurry up and catch up with Nicole and your friend.” As they walked down the hall Janet looked at him, “Why did you're captain ask me if I make my coffee as strong as you do?”

Ken sighed, “He's the one who said he wanted it strong enough to strip the paint off the walls.”


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ED - Shinedown - Fly From the Inside
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Old June 16th, 2019, 11:33 AM #24
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> scikaiju
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Joined: Dec 2012
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scikaiju
Power Ranger
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 359



A/N - Again some potentially heavy subject mattter, just to let you know. Didn't plan to have two of these back to back, it just how it worked out.
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Episode-23
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OP – Mercy Drive – Burn In My Light


Somebody had to be attacking him with a boulder, a tree or something equally heavy. That was the only reason he could currently think of that explained why his head was killing him as much as it did. So much so that he couldn't even feel Daxium telling him where or who it was. Then he tried opening his eyes to see where the attack was coming from. Huge ass mistake as he quickly closed them again when the pain seemed to increase. Holding his head it took Ken another couple of seconds to realize he was in a bed. What the hell?

Then it slowly started to come back to him. There was a party last night. Some sort of anniversary, or special event. Something that required the massive celebration. Probably something on a bureaucratic level that he didn't care about one way or another. Everybody just went, or had to go... that part was still a little fuzzy. He was leaning more toward the had to go as he seemed to recall Hawk insisting that he show up. And he didn't have to dress it up, he just had to come in in his uniform jacket since Hawk and the rest had to show up in uniform. Vaguely remembering that he tried to avoid Richardson and Williams for most of the night Ken suddenly remembered one of the lab boys handing him something in a glass. Rising slowly to minimize the agony he was still feeling Ken clutch at his head mumbling, well more like grunting, “Ugh. New rule, never trust a guy in a lab coat holding a beaker at a party.” Carefully opening his eyes again he tried to force them to focus.

That's when he noticed the door was on the wrong side of the room.

Ken just stared at it for a few moments trying to process what the hell he was seeing. He had these quarters for over a year now and the door was never on that particular wall. And the bed was practically bolted to the wall so nobody could have moved it with him in it while he was out. So again, what the hell? Turning his head, slowly enough that a new wave of pain didn't hit him like a Mack truck, he tried to figure out what was going on. That's when he noticed a couple of items in the room that wasn't his, like that hair dryer on the dresser. And he was pretty sure that was a dress that he was seeing in the open closest. Oh shit these weren't his quarters. And he was suddenly very aware of the person sleeping next to him under the sheets. Looking at the mound next to him Ken did nothing at first. Then poking at what he hoped was a shoulder Ken went, “Please tell me I know you.”

After a moment a familiar sounding voice answered back, “Please tell me you're not who I think you are,” right before a even more familiar head of red hair appeared from underneath the sheets. Ken and Jess just looked at each in total confusion before she asked, “Did we....?”

Ken picked up the sheet, just enough to look at himself. And outside of the sock on his right foot that was dangling off the bed he wasn't wearing much. “I think we did.”

“Oh God,” Jess groaned as Ken quickly located his pants and put them on even faster. Standing up that fast was a mistake but he had to get out of that bed. She sat up and hid her face in her hand for a bit, “How the fuck did this happen?”

“Don't look my way for answers”, Ken told her as he looked for the rest of his clothes, both of their jackets was by the door for some reason, the apparent starting point for a loose trail of clothes he was now seeing, “most of last night is a blur. I don't remember even coming in here.”

She looked at him with an almost accusing glare, “You planned this didn't you?”

He looked back, “Excuse me?”

“You planned this,” she repeated. “You had this planned out all along.”

Any other day he would realize, eventually, that accusation came from the fact she was freaking out about this as much as he was. And at least thought he'd be a tad more understanding. But right now he was too hungover to give a crap. “Okay you got me. This was my plan all along. I talked Richardson into putting me on this team. Waited until the moment I could drag you away to have my way with you. Congratu-fucking-lations you figured me fuck out!”

“Do not yell at me!”, she shot back.

“I'm not...!” He winced and held his head, and a little more softly, “I'm not yelling my head hurts too damn much.”

“Alright, alright,” Jess said as she covered her face again, “you didn't plan this.” Ken found a shirt, quickly realized it wasn't his and handed it back to her. She grabbed it and quickly put it on, “Okay, obviously we drank way too much last night. Lost some inhibitions.”

“Of course,” Ken quickly agreed as he found a shoe, “happens all the time.”

“Right,” she said as he tossed her uniform pants to her. “We obviously acted on an impulse we wouldn't act on in normal circumstances.”

“Probably some old feelings that were buried over the years,” he said as he located the shirt he was wearing the night before.

“Exactly,” Jess said. “Being too drunk causes that. So we... hold it.” Ken looked back at her, she was still in the bed and looked around, almost as confused as he was earlier. “This isn't my room.”

***
After both of them successfully snuck out of whomever room that was, meaning nobody was in the hallway to see them stumble out over themselves trying to be sneaky, they split up and headed to their respective quarters. Ken quickly showered and put on a new set of clothes. One of the drawbacks of not having a regular uniform like everybody else is people tended to notice if you wore the same thing two days in a row. And that hangover was still there, and passing by the medical wing there was a pretty big line, apparently somebody in there had a halfway decent hangover cure according to a couple of people he talked to. Based on that line it must have been some party, too bad whatever was in that glass the lab coat gave him blacked out most of it.

As it was he was sitting in the main cafeteria holding a cup of coffee in one hand while clinging to his head with the other, waiting for the aspirin to kick in. He should have waited in line. Wincing as somebody loudly scraped on the chairs against the floor, he risked opening an eye to see the offender, of course it was Bill, and Ryo, who was a little more considerate as he picked up a chair and pulled it out. Ignoring the other in the room nursing a hangover giving him a dirty look Bill just looked at him. “Dude Civilian you look like hell.”

Ignoring him Ken just pointed at the kitchen. “Coffee pot. Here please. Ryo you got pull. Make them put it here.”

At least he looked apologetic when he said, “Sorry man, I don't have that much pull.” Ken just groaned in disappointment. “Besides I don't want to piss off the other guys looking for relief in the coffee.”

“Screw them my head's about to split open,” Ken said.

“Well you're speaking in more complete sentences now,” Ryo joked. Ken responded with a particular finger. “Now that's just rude.”

Snorting Bill told Ryo, “Told ya he got beakered.”

Opening a eye to look at him Ken went, “I got what now?”

“The unofficial term generally used is 'beakered',” Ryo began. “Some of the scientist around here have a, shall we say, not so legal apparatus that makes some pretty potent alcohol. They always bring it to the type of parties like we had last night. And they always wait for the chance to give it to one of the new guys.”

“They have a still?”, Ken asked. Ryo nodded in response. “And how can I be one of the new guys? I've been here over a year.”

“First time we had that large a party since you've been here,” was his only explanation. “They only break it out during those larger parties. Less chance of security catching them or something. Still drive the security guys nuts that they can't find it anywhere.”

“And you know those lab boys aren't going to give it up or rat out their own,” Bill added.

“Why didn't you warn me?”, Ken demanded.

“Because it's funnier this way,” Bill told him.

“I hate you so much.”

“Oh you love me,” Bill told him.

“A good chunk of us have gotten beakered man,” Ryo told him. “Some of us,” he shot a look toward Bill, “remember going through this and are willing to help a teammate out.” He put a small vile on the table. “I was able to get a dose before the line formed, and Bill did figure they might get you.”

“They didn't have a “hangover be gone' formula when it happened to you,” Bill said to defend himself. Turning toward Ken he said with a smirk, “You should have seen it Civilian, Ryo was the head of the party leading the charge to the lab boys. They stumbled around so much you would have thought it was the zombie apocalypse.”

With a look shutting Bill up Ryo turned back toward Ken, “Despite what Bill called it it won't get rid of the hangover right away. It'll just make it go away a little faster. And make it a little more bearable when it kicks in.”

Taking it Ken just looked at it for a moment. “It's not more of what they gave me last night is it?”

“They say it's not,” Ryo told him. “They're as secretive about that as they are as to the location of the their still. Besides what do you got to lose, the worst thing that happened to you this morning was waking up with the worst hangover you ever had, right?”

“Right,” Ken mumbled. That and finding out he slept with his ex in his drunken stupor when he woke up. What the hell, what did he have to lose at the moment? Unscrewing the top he quickly downed the content. Then he quickly wished he hadn't. “God that tastes like shit.”

“That's how you know it's good for you,” Bill quipped.

“Let me get you out of here before he kills you,” Ryo told bill as he got up. Bill did the same, again loudly scrapping the chair against the floor. Again drawing some dirty looks from Ken and the others. “You are lucky I don't want to do the paperwork Hawk would make me do for letting the have you,” he said as he pushed Bill out of there.'

“Come on man I thought you liked me,” Bill said as they left.

“I hate doing paperwork more,” was the last Ken heard of them. Then he realized his coffee was cold. Slowly getting up he grabbed his cup and headed back for the coffee machine. He panic a bit when he realized there was no line. Please tell him they didn't run out. He nearly ran into Jess on the way to find out.

And it was as super awkward as both of them thought it was going to be. “Jessica,” he said after a bit.

“Ken,” she said in return. Then nothing for what seemed like the longest time. She broke the silence, “We keep acting like this people are going to start guessing we did something.”

“Right,” he said. “We don't need to give the rumor mill any ammunition.”

“And the mill around here is brutal,” she added. “I mean we just made a simple mistake.”

“We drank a little too much,” he quickly agreed. “Well I got beakered apparently.”

She winced a bit in understanding, but if he got beakered how much did she drink? “Either way we both lost control.”

“Happens all the time.”

About then a couple of female team members walked past behind them. “I swear if I ever find out who had sex in my room last...”

“Relax Jennifer,” her companion told her. “It was nothing. In fact a couple of people on base found out their quarters were turned into party rooms during the night. Beside you just wish you were in on it.”

“It's an invasion of privacy Beth.”

“Then learn to lock your door.” By the time they past Ken and Jess were both gone, again headed in opposite directions.

***
Brooks stood just outside one of the many caverns he used. Despite the manhunt that was still on his trail it would have been more dangerous for him to stay in one location. And with the general size of the “packages” his masters delivered it would have been noticed eventually. Besides staying cooped up in one location for too long would have drove him insane. Not that most people wouldn't have questioned his sanity if they ever discovered his little deal. He was sure there was more than a few discussions on the subject back at Castle once he “resigned “his position.

Enough of the fresh air and the wonder. Ducking his head as he reentered the cavern he turned into the shadow and onto a path that was practically invisible if you weren't looking for it. That lead him to a larger cavern with a deep pit. A monstrous shape paced inside it. From the edge he watched it for a bit. “Not quite ready yet,” he said to no one in particular. Turning away he walked toward a small makeshift camp he had set up, it was the best he could do considering how hastily he had to get things ready. Picking up a small mirror he examined his feature, still debating on if he should let the beard grow out. A small bit of vanity made him keep his clean shaven appearance. However a beard would give him a couple of extra moments of anonymity if he ever had to refresh his supplies. Well, in a slightly more legal way then he had been. But given how fast the experts back at Castle were able to identify Jamira in his disheveled state the risk wouldn't have been diminished by much. Perhaps he grew the beard out then walked into the closest town as Charles Brooks... No chances were they were looking for him as well.

A slight sensation in his mind caused him to look at the vortex as it was starting to form. Before long the shape of one of his Zetton masters was in the center of. “I'm afraid Pandon is taking longer to mature than anticipated.”

Usually with news like that his master would lash out. The vortex didn't look any angrier than usual which piqued his curiosity just a bit. “It was something we were aware might happen Avatar,” the voice said. “The the duel nature of it's make up is making it hard to adjust for reasons we can not currently explain.” Well that would have been nice to know from the start.

“Should I give it another treatment?', he offered. “Give it more of a kick to adjust quicker?”

“No,” came the reply. “We choose this particular location because it is close to what you call a volcanic vein.” He looked at the rocky wall, funny it didn't seem any warmer in here than in any of the other locations. “Pandon is feeding off of that energy to adjust and mature at a proper rate. But it should be soon.”

“Of course,” he said with a slight bow. The vortex disappeared as quickly as it acme. Brooks sneered, and turned away from the spot. Right fist crackling with the dark energy he was gifyed with as he tried to kept his temper in check this time around. If they bothered to look around him eventually they would start to notice the slight redecorating he had done in those instances. If they cared at all that is, which he highly doubted at this particular point. This is what he gets for “selling his soul” as it were, just to make sure he was on the winning side of this conflict. His parents didn't raise a fool after all.

Going back to the edge of the pit he looked down at Pandon, if he couldn't zap it to give it a boost what else could he do to hasten the process. He had been here far too long as it was to be comfortable with Scott, the giant and the UNDF looking for him. And when this creature was ready it was going to bust out of here in what he assume would be a rather spectacular fashion and only a fool with a death wish would want to be this close when that happened. And he wasn't raised to have that sort of wish either.

“Feeding off the energy of the magma hidden inside huh,” he muttered to himself as he went of the brief conversation he just had. “Maybe I can do something to hasten this after all.” He closed his eyes and reached out with the energy given to him to the monster's mind. But not like before with a couple of the others where he gave it a simple command. Here he was trying something different, trying to see if Pandon was attracted to any particular section down there at all. Because if he was right about this.... there. “Back”, was all he said as he was still connected to it's mind. It did so and he formed a field around himself and walked off the edge, slowly floating to where that attraction seemed the strongest as Pandon slowly backed up. Holding out a hand he fired a beam of dark energy at the wall, drilling into it.

After several moments magma started pouring in the pit and he stopped. It fell just enough to cool off before it hit the ground. Behind him Pandon practically jumped up and down in excitement. “Enjoy,” he told the creature as he flew back to the edge . Once back on solid ground he walked to his camp and started to pack everything up. His master may not be happy with this turn of events but somebody had to look out for his hide in all of this.

***
“Bridge said he was getting a weird sensor reading,” Ryo said as Ken walked beside him down the hall. After becoming more or less official Ken tried to take the job a little more seriously. Not that he was half assing it before, but a lot of people didn't seem t expect much out of the civilian operative. Now, well, some of those same people seemed to expect a little more out of him now. Not guys like Ryo and the rest of their team of course, he gained their respect a long time ago, even if they did keep suggesting that he zip up his jacket to look slightly more professional. But talks like these did seem to happen more frequently now too. “Hawk wants us on stand by in the mean time, just in case.”

“In case this is Brooks doing whatever it is he's doing again,” Ken said. Not that it's never not Brooks. And he still had to hide that he knew what was going on and how Brooks was doing this. To reinforce that particular point Richardson's assistant walked passed them. One of three people on this base that knew about him and Daxium. She didn't acknowledge them as he passed. Although considering he was pretty much blackmailed to join he was paranoid enough to think she glanced at him with a warning look for a brief second.

Oblivious to that probably imaginary exchange Ryo kept talking,”Brooks is pretty much the first thought that pops up whenever they get a strange reading, no matter how small. Not that you can blame them. The man can summon monsters from where ever they're coming from. Not to mention those strange powers that he has. How come nobody noticed before now?” he asked. “Exactly how blind where we to what was right in front of us?”

Personally wondering how he did it so successfully for as long as he did Ken said, “Don't know man. Guess we never thought to look in our own direction.”

“You'd still think we'd notice before,” they passed a obviously new section of wall compared to the rest of the hallway, part of the section damaged when Brooks fought his way out of here, “well before that happened. How did he fool us so easily?” Ken didn't really have an answer, not that Ryo was looking for one. Still he rubbed the back of his neck and tried not to look he was wincing since he was basically doing the same thing.

Blanking on anything that would get them off this particular subject a group of people going in the opposite direction caught his eye. Ryo kept on going before he realized that he had stopped and stared at them. “Um... Ken.”

“Just a second,” he said. Somebody in that group look familiar for some reason, and it wasn't just because they were all wearing lab coats. “Hey,' he called out to them. They stopped and turned around. One's eyes seemed to get a little bigger, almost if he recognized him. But Ken suddenly remembered him as clear as day, particularly from that party the other night. “You were the one who gave me the beaker.”

“Oh shit,” he muttered as he bolted.

“Get back here!”, Ken ordered as he gave chase.

“Ken wait,” Ryo called out before he could stop him. A couple of the lab coat's comrades tried to get in his way. Surprisingly a couple of troopers who were in the area blocked them off and made an opening for him..

“He beakered me too man!”, one of them called out. “Get 'em!”

“If they just find that still before things like this happen,” Ryo muttered. Being the good soldier he started to tap his communicator to alert security and Captain Hawk. The part of him that remembered getting hit with it himself, well maybe after a moment or so.

The lab guy ran past several groups of people in the hallway with Ken right on his heels. At least he was until somebody grabbed him and dragged him down an adjoining hall. Nearly falling from the sudden change of direction he tried to get his footing, which wasn't easy since he was still being dragged down the hall. To his surprise it wasn't the big, burly security guy he was expecting. No it was Jessica and she did not look happy about something. Freeing himself from her grip he said, “I don't know what's going on but I got an ass kicking to....”

“Shut up,” she snapped. Being more than familiar with that look on her face he did just that. Then felt like an idiot because they weren't seeing each other any more. Jess looked around to see if anybody else was around before hissing at him, “I'm late.”

What the hell was this about? “Then maybe you should get to where you're supposed to be going instead of dragging me down here.”

She grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him closer. “No you moron. I. Am. Late!” He still didn't know what she was talking about. “By about a week.”

Confusion gave away as it dawned on him exactly what she meant. “Oh shit. How'd this happen?”

“How the fuck you'd think this happened?”, she snapped again. “That damn party.”

“I mean are you sure?”, Ken asked. Right now in his panicked state he was creating a growing list of people who just might kill him over this. Jess, Hawk, Jess' father, Jess. Most of it was Jessica at this particular moment, just because she was the closest in proximity.

“Like I said it's been a week.” she looked like she was trying to calm herself down, which was good for his survival. Mostly, he hoped. “I've already talked to one of the nurses about doing a pregnancy test. They're pretty discreet about it, unless it comes back positive. Then they have to inform Hawk and then my career is over.”

“It doesn't mean it's over,” Ken started to say. Not that he knew what he was talking about but he felt like he should say something.

“You don't get it,” she told him. “because of some stupid regulations if it was just me, I'd be taken out of the field and stuck behind a desk somewhere. But because we're both part of the UNDF I'm going to get discharged just so they don't have to risk the child losing both parents. And the fact this base has been attacked twice is going to be enough for them to justify it.”

“I... I'm sorry,” was all Ken could say.

“Don't,” she told him. “I know you didn't plan this but don't, okay.” She walked away rubbing her forehead a bit. “I got that degree my dad convinced me to get before I joined up so I should be able to land some sort of job. But I wasn't ready to give this up yet.”

“We'll get through this, okay.,” he assured her. “I... I'll do right by this, don't worry.”

She didn't look reassured. Jess actually looked annoyed and a little angry. She told him, “No.”

He was taken a bit off guard by that statement, “What do you mean no?”

“We are not doing that.” She walked off leaving him there. “That's not going to happen!”

“What do you mean we're not doing...? That's my kid too!” She kept walking leaving him dumb founded at this turn of events.

***
In the field two UNDF members were searching the area that Castle was getting that strange reading from. As part of a larger group it was decided that they could cover more ground if they split up in teams of two. One held a larger scanner array while the other kept an eye on his wrist scanner. Both of them were more heavily armed then they were currently used to. The one looking at his wrist scanner readjusted the rifle on his shoulder. “If Brooks is out here what good are these things going to do?”

“We're not supposed to engage remember,” his compatriot told him. “We spot him, we call for back up and wait.”

“That's if he doesn't spot us first.”

“You can't be thinking like that. Look we're all still a little jumpy after what Brooks did.”

“He ripped through Castle!” he snapped at his current partner. “He killed our team mates, our friends, like they were nothing. We are nothing compared to him. The bastard called a fucking monster!”

“It takes one to call one,” the other man said. “Look Bart, you think this doesn't freak me out too? I lost friends too. I saw what he did to them. I know these peashooters aren't going to do shit to him. But we still have a job. And part of that job is to find him and try to make sure he can't do it to somebody else. And we can't rely on that giant freak to do it for us.”

“Ultraman is the best weapon we have against him,” Bart shot back.

“Then why isn't he a UNDF member?”, came the comeback. Bart didn't bother to respond, not with anything that hadn't been said before. This had been just a small part of the argument ever since Ultraman had shown up. Neither side had a good explanation. For every “But how do you contact him”, there was something like “he's not even human why would he care about us” Both sides kept circling each other. As it was the argument was usually pushed aside when the monster alert came but it started right backup after the giant disappeared. It had been going on for over a year and didn't look like it was going to end any time soon.

Bart walked away, mainly to get some space between them for the moment. He looked down and saw something out of place among the rocks. He picked an used canteen, it looked relatively new. “Jordan,” he called out as he held it up. “You think somebody had been here recently?”

“Probably,” he said as he took a closer look at it. “Looks bone dry from what I can tell. Maybe a couple of days tops. Chances are some kids were camping and left it behind.” He looked at it a little closer, “This is a pretty expensive name brand if my cousin's right about these things.”

“Are canteens really that expensive now?”, Bart asked more than a little dubious about that particular idea.

“You'd be surprised,” came the reply. “This one basically a tiny little refrigerator so the contents always stay cold.”

“Geez what they won't make these days.”

“Tell me about it,” Jordan said. “Probably belonged to some kid with too much money to know what to do with and can just get a new one. Still we better call it in just in case. Because that description fits Brooks too.”

“If only he was just that,” Bart muttered as he walked away to see if he could locate anything else while Jordan contacted their superior. He didn't get far, just to the top of a ridge right above them, before he stopped. “Jordan!” He raced over and stopped as well as he saw it too. A massive hole in the ground that wasn't on any survey they were given. The edges were still loose and crumbling as Bart got his voice back as he looked around, the weapon on his back suddenly feeling more like a toy gun than before. “Oh God I hope we just missed it.”

***
Hawk walked into the control room and immediately went to Bridge. He hated moments like this just for the uncertainty of the situation. A good chunk of the men were out there at this location while the rest of them were on stand by. God he wished somebody around here could figure out how these building sized creature could just walk around unnoticed most of the time. Bridge looked away from his screens just long enough to acknowledge him before going back to what he was doing. In turn Hawk gave the briefest of nods acknowledging Richardson right before he left the room. Ever since Brooks turned out to be who he was he spent less and less time in here during situations like this one or during any actual conflict. As it was Hawk was glad he wasn't breathing down his neck anymore when he gave orders to the troops from here..

Without any prompting from him Bridge started talking, “Latest surveys on record doesn't mention that hole at all. I've already accessed various satellites pass over scans over the last few months to confirm the surveys. That wasn't there about a day ago.”

“You starting to think faster than me Bridge,” Hawk told him. Actually going to any aerial pictures of the area never even occurred to him. And that was slightly embarrassing considering he was in command of the primary aerial squadron.

“Like you said Captain Brooks had a bit of an advantage while he was here. I'm just trying to close the gaps where I can. I've also been using this in conjunction with the few location we've know a monster has emerged from to try and get an idea of where he might have gone or might be headed.”

“Is it too much for me to ask if you located a pattern yet?”

“At this point I'm afraid not sir. We had a couple for them that could burrow into and travel under the ground, at least one giant version of the smaller creatures we used to engage on a regular basis. Not to mention the one that could turn invisible.” He sighed heavily as he leaned back in his chair. “I'm going to need more data to even begin narrowing down the search parameters.”

“No offense Bridge but I hope we get him before you get that data.” Because more data meant more monster sightings. And that meant more destruction, especially if one appeared in the city. As sad as it sounded Hawk was starting to miss those smaller creature. Bridge nodded in understanding. “Have we gotten a report from Reid yet?”

“Should be coming in pretty soon.” Almost on cue the console in front of him beeped as Reid called in. “Castle here Commander.”

“Is the Captain there Bridge?”, Reid asked over the line. His voice sounded muffled a bit, a little more than he expected over the comm line.

Bridge replied with, “He's right here Commander.” Then he moved aside a bit so Hawk could lean in a little. Not that it was really necessary given the modern communication equipment at their disposal . But he was older than the rest of the people under him and set in his way.

“What's going on Commander?”

“We were getting some sort of gas reading once we entered the gave,” he answered. “It was well within non toxic levels but I had us go back for the proper breathing equipment first just in case.”

“Good call,” Hawk told him, “I would have done the same.” And he would have, facing as many giant creatures abilities that they had gave them all, what he considered at least, a healthy case of paranoia in these situations. “Where are you now?”

“On a hunch I ordered a scan to see if the gases was coming form any where in particular. We found a pretty well hidden trail that leads deeper into the mountain.”

“Does it look man made?”

Reid was quiet for a bit before answering, “By my admittedly untrained eye I would have to say no. This seems like a pretty natural formation. And I know Brooks can do a lot of things I'm hoping altering solid rock isn't one of them.”

“That makes two of us.” Hawks muttered.

“Okay,”Reid spoke up, “we found a larger cavern.” Hawk was silent as he heard Reid issue commands to the men with him. All he could do at the moment was sit tight as Reid and his men softly spoke to each other. Outside of an audible “clear” from a couple of them it was nerve wrackenly silent. Reid started talking again. “So far it looks like a large cave to us. Simmons spotted a pit not far from the entrance. I know you don't like guesstimates Captain but it looks large enough to hold a giant creature, that opening spotted above ground seems to be further back from where we're standing.”

“I'll live with it this time,” Hawk replied. “Do you see anything else?”

“Nothing that seems out of the ordinary so far Captain.”

“Commander Reid,” somebody called out.

“What is it Jones.”

“I think I located some foot prints in the dirt over here.”

“Commander can I get a visual of that.”

“Jones,” he called out. “Take a scan and send it to Castle.” There was a confirmation from Jones right after.

A few seconds later bridge said, “We're receiving the scan now Captain. Putting it on this screen.' he pointed to one in front of Hawk. The image popped up and yes those did look like foot prints.”

“If it was Brooks,” Hawk said after a bit, “I guess we know where he's been hiding out. Commander do you see any other signs of life down there?”

“Outside of that canteen that was found, not at the moment,” came the reply. “That pit takes up most of this cave that I can tell, and not a whole lot of place to hide away that I can see. And honestly if he was here, knowing whatever was in here was going to burst out, I wouldn't have stayed either. He could have at least a couple of days head start on us.”

“And I don't think that lead has gotten any smaller since he left,” Hawk said, mainly to himself, “Anything on the search top side?”

“The last report I received indicated that nothing was spotted on the ground or in the air. Not even a monster size foot print this time around.”

Hawk glanced at Bridge, hoping for a different answer. He was equally disappointed, “I have nothing so far either. No report from local authorities and no UFO sightings in the area. I've alerted near by seismic research institutes to keep an eye out for any anomalous reading and to let us know as soon as possible.”

“If I didn't know any better Bridge I'd start thinking you're after my position,” Hawk said with a bit of a grin.

“I'm better at handling computers than I am people Captain,” Bridge said with a grin of his own. “I'll leave the inmates to you sir.”

“Just keep me up to date on where they are,” Hawk said. Then he went back to business, “Reid, leave a couple of men to explore that cavern fully. Have them log anything that look out of place. I don't think he getting sloppy but I can hope. Take the rest and join the search up top and try to find that creature. I've haven't seen one that can vanish into thin air yet. Turn invisible yes but not vanish completely.” And God help them if whomever Brooks was getting these monsters from, he refused to believed that one man was behind all of this, never figured out how to do that.

“We'll get on it Captain,” Reid said, “Reid out.”

“Bridge,” he said turning to him, “tell the troop to get off stand by and on half alert. I'm calling a meeting in a half hour. If whatever this creature is doesn't decide to show itself before hand.”

“Yes sir,” Bridge said while he turned back to his console. Hawk left him to do his job. And he really wished he had that half hour to get things ready. But as he learned time was one of the few luxuries they had.

***
In his quarters Ken sat on the bed stewing, going over his conversation with Jess over and over again. Why would she say no? If she was pregnant didn't she want him in the kid's life? Maybe he wasn't the greatest example of a potential father but that didn't mean he couldn't be one. And damn straight he wanted a chance to get to know his child.

Thoughts about this potential child took his mind some where else. To a place he was almost afraid to think about. But he had to know if the kid's future was going to be affected or not. Taking a couple of deep breaths to calm himself down a bit more than anything Ken closed his eyes and looked inward as he said, “Dax I got a question.” Slowing opening his eyes he was in the safe space Daxium created when they first bonded. His usually giant friend was a more normal height here as always.

“What do you wish to know?”, he asked.

Oh where the hell to begin? “Dax I... uh... I know you pretty good about respecting my privacy when you're in here and I'm,” he made a half hearted gesture to the barrier surrounding them, “out there. But you kinda know what's going on right?”

“I am aware of an issue between you and Jessica,” he replied. “I felt your turmoil over it in here. I apologize for looking to see what was the cause.'

“I'm not worried about that right now Dax.”

He nodded, “While I am not fully aware of all the details I did gather it involved a potential offspring between the two of you.” Ken just nodded, hearing somebody else say it out loud just made all the more real to him. “But I am confused about why this is causing trouble between the two of you. Even in my universe a new offspring is a cause of celebration.”

“The situation is way more complicated then that,” Ken told. “But that's not why I'm here either.” Ken looked at Daxium in silence, trying to figure out the best way to ask this. “Dax, with what we got going. Is this going to affect anything? I mean is it going to affect the baby?”

Daxium lowered his head as he thought his answer over. “I do not know.” Ken said a silent cure as he turned away from him. That was no where close to the answer he wanted to hear. “As I told you before when we realized my injuries would transfer to you, I was unfamiliar with human biology to make us completely separate when we first bonded.” Seeing the apparent pain his answer was causing Ken he stepped forward, “I wish I had a better response for you. If you're afraid Jessica would reject the child...”

Ken faced him, “That is quite literally the last of my worries Dax. My main concern right now is that if Jess is pregnant what is Richardson going to do once he finds out I'm the father. And trust me he is going to find out.”

While his facial expression was usually at the bare minimum Ken knew him well enough by now to see that he was taken aback by his body language. “You don't really think Richardson would do something to the child?”

“The bastard blackmailed me to get you here,” Ken told him, not even hiding the anger he was feeling the more he thought about it., “because that is all he cared about. You're damn straight I'd think he'd do something. I don't know what. I don't even want to think about what that 'what' could be. But he'd do something. And I don't know who would be on our side if we tried to stop him.”

“Ken,” Daxium said in a calm voice, trying to get through the panic settling into his friend's mind, “you would have allies in this fight. I have fought along side them myself. And in the brief glimpses I've allowed myself to take I know your team would aid you and Jessica any way they possibly can.”

“If she even wants my help,” Ken told him, a bitterness edging his voice as he remembered his talk with Jess earlier.

Putting a hand on his shoulder Daxium told him, “A warrior, no matter how skilled, can not fight multiple battles at once. And it is even more foolish to prepare for one fight while in the middle of another. Especially if you're not sure the second battle is even going to happen. Settle things between you and Jessica first. Then you can concentrate on the second together if it happens. Because in that battle a united front is better than a divided one.”

“Guess that makes sense,” Ken admitted after a bit. “Sorry Dax. I'm just.... It's bad enough I may have put Jess in a situation where she might lose what she loves doing because we got too drunk. Now I might have put her in the middle of a shit storm that she doesn't know is coming.”

“One battle at a time my friend,” Daxium repeated. In almost an instant Ken was back in his quarters, mentally physically he never left. Still without the answers he was looking for. One battle at a time he reminded himself.

His comm went off and Bridge spoke through the link, “All teams, yellow alert. Prepare to move out in a moments notice. Alpha team, meeting in a half hour.”

Ken replied with, “I'll be there Bridge.” Not the most professional response given his new status. But his mind was in a million different place right now. Opening his door he saw Jess on the other side. She didn't look angry, which was hopefully a good thing, but things still felt pretty chilly between them. An old defense mechanism made him try to lighten the mood a bit, “I'd offer to let you come inside, but considering the last time we were in bedroom...” And this was definitely one of those time when that sounded way better in his head than said out loud.

Fortunately she smiled a little, just enough to be noticed. And he was also grateful she hadn't stopped by the armory for her own weapon. That was a plus in his book. She looked around to make sure they were still alone in the hallway. “I took the test.”

Ken prepared himself for the news, “Okay.”

“I haven't gotten the results yet,” she said. And that was way more frustrating an answer than he was expecting “Apparently discreet pregnancy tests are low on the importance meter. Especially since we're on alert now.”

“You'd think they realize that we would want to know sooner rather than later.”

“I don't know why I'm glad you said 'we' there.” Before he could say anything she went on, “But Ken, if it does come back positive, we're going to have to talk. About things that might affect the baby.”

“Talk,” he repeated with a slow nod, “talking is good. We're definitely going to have to talk about... stuff.” And boy did he have the mother load of stuff to bring to that conversation. But despite his best efforts that part of him that was still bitter as hell got him to say, “And while we're at it maybe you can tell me why you told me no.”

And tension between them rose right back up as soon as he said that. “You know exactly why I told you no.”

“No I don't,' he shot. “I deserve an answer.”

Jess opened her mouth to say something. But closed and looked frustrated as she said, “I leaving before I say something I'd regret.”

“You sure as hell don't regret saying no.” She looked like she wanted to hit him. Instead she stormed down the hall and away from him. God he was getting flash backs to their break up on top of the headache this was giving him.

“Dude.” Ken looked to his left and saw Bill standing there. Great, this was the last thing he needed. “What the hell did you say to her?”

“It's a personal matter,” was all he told him as he walked past him.

Bill followed him, “I have never seen her that angry so you had to have said or did something.”

Ken stopped and snapped at him, “Why is it automatically my fault? Do I look in all of that good of mood to you? How do you know she didn't say something to piss me off?”

“Okay man chill,” Bill said with his hand held up and backing away a bit. “Personal matter I got it. I'll be here if you want any help when you're done PMSing.”

Alone in the hall way Ken just stood pinching the bridge of his nose, “Damn it.”

***
In the city close to Castle most people went on with there day. Thanks to the newest mobile alert they were aware of a potential creature attack. Some were already taking action to get out. Some argued it was pointless as the alert stated they were unsure exactly when or where the suspected creature was going to show up as it concerned several near by cities and towns as well. Then there was those who didn't really care and went about things as if it was business as usual. Two in particular just looked on as they watched a couple of Razor Wings fly over head. “Guess it might be serious after all,” one of them said as she took a drink of her iced coffee.”

“They're always over reacting if you ask me,” her friend said. “You think they would take care and not waste our tax dollars like that.”

“My dad say it's so they can get in a quick attack run until the other troops show up.”

“The guys at the dorm say the same thing. But it's like the weather they can't even get that right. I mean look over there.” He pointed to a what looked like a tornado in the background. “Did any weather person predict that for today?”

Despite other around them noticing and starting to panic a bit she was still as nonplussed as her friend. “Shouldn't we, like, start running now or something?”

“Eh,” came the reply. “We're here and it's all the way over there.” He took out a phone and tried to line up a shot to post online as some of the rest around them started to run away. “We got time.” He took the picture and doubled checked to make sure if it was a good one before posting it. He missed the tornado suddenly stopping revealing a red two headed creature that started to shoot fireballs out of both it's mouths. Looking up to see the commotion he saw the creature, in fact on of the heads looked like it was staring right at him. “Okay maybe now we should run.” But she was already long gone.

At roughly that same instant back at Castle Hawk was going over what they knew with the others in the war room, while at the same time trying to figure out why Jessica and Ken were shooting each other some rather nasty looks. Something Ryo and Bill were noticing as well. Before he could say something about it Bridge called out. “We have a monster alert in the city. Reports said it came out of a tornado.” Apparently they had to remember to add any meteorology networks in the area to their look out positions in the future.

But that was for then, as for right now, “Give me a visual Bridge.”

“We've dealt with a tornado based one before,” Bill said as they waited. “Hairy, shot laser lightning out of it's fingers. Uglier than hell.” Then Bridge piped in the image as it hung over the table. “Is it too much to ask for a little consistency?”

“The monster appeared at the edge of the city and is making it's way inside,” Bridge told them. “Initial scout teams are engaging but their going to need more help.”

“You heard the man,” Hawk told the rest of them. “I want Razor Wings in the air ASAP. I don't think we're going to be able to prep the Alpha One in time. Ken help with the evacuation as soon as we get there.”

“Yes sir,” he replied. He shot a glance toward Jessica who gave him a warning look in return. To Hawk it looked like he wanted to say something but held his tongue, and he did not look happy about it.

Something to worry about for later time. Right now they had a job to do. “All of you move out now.”

***
Within the half hour, given the proximity of the city being attacked to Castle, the full force of the UNDF was attacking the creature from the sky and on the ground. So far they were able to contain the monster to a generalized area to try and minimize the damage, But those fire balls quickly reminded them that it could go outside their combat zone fairly easily. On the ground Ken and a few other were trying to direct the panicked crowd as best as they could. “Come on!”, Ken shouted as he waved people on. “Move it! Past the safety barriers and into the trucks!”

“Help me!”, he and a couple of others heard some one call out. One of the UNDF personnel spotted were it was coming from and pointed the source out. Somebody tripped and was currently covering up as best as he could as the crowd ran over him. Ken and a few others went against the tide to get to him eventually making a human barrier to give the guy a little breathing room as Ken and another UNDF member sat him up. “Bad enough you got to worry about a monster stepping on ya.,” Ken grunted as they helped the poor bastard to his feet.

“I got him,” his teammate said as he got under the guy's arm and took his weight as he helped him to the truck. Ken and the rest tried to get out of the way as best as they cold so the didn't get trampled on themselves. Making his way to the front of a building he and a couple of others pressed themselves up against it to get a breather. “God this day sucks more and more as it goes on.”

“Only going to get better until that thing goes away,” his partner said gesturing at the creature. “Come, I think the crowd has thinned out enough that we can make our way inward and start looking for people staying behind.” While he communicated that idea to the woman in charge of this part of the operation Ken just looked up at the Razor Wings attacking the creature, wondering which one Jess was in. And hoping Ryo wasn't off his game for this one. His partner got his attention and indicated that they got the go ahead and ran deeper into the city, taking separate routes to cover more ground.

“Going in,” Bill called in the middle of the battle.

“Right behind you,” Ryo replied as the two Razor Wings turned and took up parallel paths toward the creature, trying to take it by surprise from the rear. So far neither head noticed their approach.

“I got a lock,” Jess announced. Hawk made the same call from behind Bill in Razor Wing One. Both of them called out, “Firing missiles.” Four round flew out from underneath the wings of the jets. Two aimed at each head. All four sets made contact as the creature cried out and tried to get at whatever it was attacking iy with his arms. It saw the Razor Wings fly past and opened it's mouths again. But instead of the fire ball two streams of fire, one red and the other a blueish purple came out.

“Shit,” Bill said under his breath as both pilots did whatever they could to avoid the deadly stream. trying to get them. “I hate it when they bust out a surprise like that.”

“Less bitching and more maneuvering,” Hawk told him.

Once clear Ryo took a chance to look back at the creature as the beams stopped. “That was a little too close.”

“Yeah,” Jess muttered behind him as a hand went to her stomach. Partly because that scared her as well it was so unexpected. Anther reason was, well she had another potential reason that she wasn't sure was a thing yet. Still just the idea...

“Hey Jess,” Ryo called out. “You still with me back there? You went quiet on me.”

“I'm still here,” she said as she shook herself out of it. She went with an easy half lie, “Think I just saw my life pass in front of my eye.”

“Same here partner,” Ryo told her. “But we're not done yet.”

“Not by a long shot,” she agreed. But she looked out the canopy for the briefest of moments, at the streets below.

Haven't found any one still dumb enough to stick around Ken looked up to see the new attack the creature just deployed. As more jets tried to avoid it at least a couple of weren't so lucky as the blew up on contact. The shouts over his communicator were saying that Jess wasn't in any of the jets they just lost. But just the idea made up his mind for him. Taking one last look around to make sure Ken went for the Spark Magnifier in his jacket, “Ok Dax we're up,” and held it over his head.

***
Pandon duel heads roared a challenge as the column of light faded revealing Daxium who quickly took his fighting stance, “Shiah!” Knowing what the creature could do he tried to keep an eye on both heads as the monster came at him. Following suit Daxium charged him as well getting under those heads and tried to attack the body with kicks and punches. Pandon was failing it's arms as well trying to give as good as it got s it pounded on his back. It kicked as well attacking his legs. Backing up a bit he saw the creature swing a arm down at him and back flipped several times to avoid the attack and get some space between them.

It's head reared back a bit and shot a series of fireballs at the giant. Daxium bashed the fireball away with his fists waiting for an opening. Once the barrage stopped he quickly put both hands to the side and fired off a Flash Bolt that struck Pandon is it's chest. Crying out in pain and grabbing at it's chest the creature opened its mouth again and fired the duel streams one more. Daxium tried to roll and dodge those beams as best as he could. But he wasn't fast enough as the blueish one clipped him in the side. Grunting in pain as he grabbed his side he realized too late as Pandon came at him. Before Daxium could stop him he was grabbed and thrown into a building as it caved in a bit under his weight.

Pandon, sensing an opening started pounding on the giant as the building gave away even more under the struggle before giving away completely. On the ground he tried to protect himself as best as he could as the creature started to stomp on him. Grunting with each stomp Daxium tried to get into a position to get himself up. On Hawk's order several Razor Wings and Scan Tracks attacked in unison to distract the monster long enough for Daxium to get up and push Pandon away. Thinking he had an opening to finish this quick he started to set up for the Dimensional Storm Ray. Pandon was quicker as it fired the fireballs at him again. The speed of the attack caught him off guard as he was struck over and over. Then the monster switched over to the duel streams again. Daxium put up the barrier to block it. Sparks flew as the beams hit the barrier but neither side would let up. Then some how the beams started to twist and spiral together into a single beam. Feeling the increased strength of the attack drilled into it Daxium tried to pour more energy into the barrier, even as he felt himself being pushed back from the force. But the beams won out shattering the barrier as it slammed into Daxium's chest, hurling him back from the impact.

“All units open fire!”, Hawk called out. “Get Ultraman some time to recover!”

As Pandon return it's attention to it's new attackers Daxium was slowly getting to a knee as the crystal on his chest blinked. The creature was strong and he briefly considered switching over to his Power Mode. But it was fast with it's attacks as well so maybe he would have to sacrifice some power to increase his speed and hope it was right call at the moment. Staggering to his feet Daxium held up his arms to his chest and threw them down as he shifted into Hyper Mode. Running in he quickly jumped up, flipping forward in the air as Pandon turned toward him as his heel came crashing down onto one of it's head. Quickly back flipping out of the way he ran in again with a jumping kick that landed on it's chest. Once again using his superior speed he got out of the way, formed the Hyper Saw and spun out of the way of another fireball barrage as he hurled it. The jagged circle of energy crashed into the monster ceasing the barrage. Holding out his right hand he extended the Light Flash whip from his fingers. With the extra reach he struck the creature more or less at will as sparks flew off of it. Backing up a bit he started to draw in energy as he set up for a run. Pandon fired off the duel beams again at the same time he made the barest of flinches. In less than an instant he was on the other side of the monster as Pandon stood there with a glowing like going across it's body. Light Flash retracting back into his hand the monster exploded.

Clutching at his chest as he feel to a knee Daxium looked around at the UNDF forces before standing up and flying off into the sky, “Shiah!”

Back on the ground Ken returned from the glowing ball as a hand immediately clutched at his chest. As best as he could he looked down his shirt and saw the red marking were Daxium got hit on his body. Trying to rub the pain away he walked off saying, “God I hope nobody decides to slap me in the chest anytime soon.”

Back up in the air, in Razor Wing Two Ryo let out a long breath. Turning his head a bit he said, “Looks like we got some time as we head back to Castle. Do you want to tell me what's going on between you and Ken while we fly back?”

She thought about denying it, but her wing man knew the both of them pretty well. “Private matter Ryo,” she told him. “Let me try to work on it first.”

“Your call,' he said. “Let me know if you want me to kick his ass for you though.”

“Tempting,” she said. “But honestly it's not entirely his fault either.” If she had to be honest that is.

***
“Hey Janet,” Ken greeted his as of right now sister-in-law as he entered Hawks outer office. He was trying not to be nervous because he couldn't think of anything he done to be called to Hawk's office. But then again being called to any higher up's office was rarely a good thing.

“Hi Ken,” she greeted him warmly. “They're waiting for you inside.”

“They're?”, he asked as he headed for the door. No answer was forth coming as he hit the call button on the door and was soon given permission by Hawk to come inside. Who the other person was became apparent as Jess was already sitting in one of the chair. More or less ignoring him as he took the other chair.

“I'm glad both of you came,” Hawk began. He looked at both of them before continuing, “Now normally I try not to get involved in any private matter between my men. I'm not a nosy person after all. Unless I start believing that private matter is starting to affect my team's dynamic.” Both of them started to speak up but Hawk held up a hand to keep them silent. “Based on what I've personally seen and heard from others, I think this matter between the two of you is getting close to that point. But I'm not getting involved just yet. No, you see I'm going to step out of this office for roughly forty to forty-five minutes, just to give the two of you some time to and try to work it in some relative privacy.”

“Captain that really isn't,' Jess started to say. Again he held up a hand.

“I sincerely suggest you take this offer. Because when I come back and if it isn't settled between the two of you, or at least gotten to good enough start of settling it, I will get involved. And I will get to the bottom of it PDQ.” Feeling satisfied that his point had gotten adequately across he pressed the intercom button on his desk. “Janet since my scheduled is cleared up why don't you take your hour lunch.”

“Yes sir,” she replied, “thank you.” Giving a friendly nod to both of them he rose from his desk and left the two alone in the office.

Both of them sat there in silence for several moments not looking at each other. Before long Jess spoke up, “I got the test results back.” One more time he braced himself for the news. “They came back negative, I'm not pregnant.”

Feeling a bit of a load come off his shoulders, only able to say, “Okay.”

Then she dropped another bombshell that he wasn't expecting, “So you can stop worrying about trying to get me to marry you.”

His head snapped toward her, “Whoa! Wait... what? Where in the hell did that come from? Who was talking about marriage?”

She gave him the strangest look, “You said you'd 'do right' by this when I told you I might be pregnant. What else could you have meant?”

Now it was Ken turn to give her a strange look. “Why would you think...? Right, I forgot your mom's a traditionalist. I was trying to tell you that I'd help you with the kid any way I could. That I wasn't going to deny it was mine. At no point did marriage cross my mind.”

“Then why didn't you just say that to begin with?”, she demanded. “Instead of letting me think you were trying to marry because I was pregnant?”

“Because who does that any more?”, he asked. Looking around the room in disbelief he leaned back in his chair, “I was thinking you didn't wanted me in the kids life?”

She was going to ask him why he thought that but considering what he meant she could sort of see where he would think that. “No, if we were having a baby I'd want you involved.” She looked over at him, “I've seen you with your niece. I know you'd be a great father.” She studied him for a bit trying to figure out that downtrodden look on his face, “You weren't looking forward to being a father were you?”

“I got used to the idea,” he said., a little too defensively. After a couple of more moments of silence he started chuckling a bit.

“What?”, Jess asked him.

“It just hit me, if we were having a kid I mean. I know engines you know guns. Can you imagine our kid?””

Thinking about it Jess snorted a bit as well, “Probably find a way to put the guns in the engine.”

“Most dangerous mechanic ever.” They shared a small laugh. Okay thing were a little better between them now, hopefully they could get past this particular bump in the road and get back to where they were with the friendship. Still Ken looked back at the door before saying to Jess, “I know he said he wouldn't pry if we got this fixed, but he's going to pry isn't he?”

“It might be better to tell him any way,” Jess offered. “Just so he knows there isn't going to be a repeat performance of this particular issue.”

“I was afraid you were going to say that,” Ken said. “And to think my biggest concern before all of this was Jennifer demanding a DNA test on those sheets. God I hope Hawk doesn't give us the talk. That was awkward enough when Mom tried to explain it.”

“I don't think it'll go that far,” she assured him. “At least I hope not. Besides we'll be honest that it happened at that party.”

“We got a little too drunk,” Ken said in agreement.

“Lost control of our inhibitions.”

“Acted on some long buried feeling that were still there.” It was a familiar statement that they said repeatedly since it happened that night. Generally neither of them saw it as more than an unfortunate event that happened and said anything more about it.

But what Ken just said, although both of them had said it before on a couple of occasion, struck an uncomfortable nerve in Jess just then as she twitched a bit in her seat. Finally she just said it, “Ken maybe it's time we talked about our break up since those old feelings are still there.”

He started to look really uncomfortable real quick, “We've talked about it.”

“No,” she said, “we haven't. We talked about things leading up to it. Barely said anything about what happened after it happened. But we have never talked about it, at all. Ken I'm glad I got you back as a friend but we got this huge thing weighing us down a bit. I think it's time we cleared the air so we can move on.”

“There's nothing to talk about,” he insisted. “I kept letting Jeff manipulate me to break dates with you to get what he wanted and you got tired of it. Simple as that. There's no big misunderstanding.”

Getting a bit uncomfortable and shifting in her seat Jess told him, “That wasn't the only reason why I broke up with you.”

Ken just stared at her, making Jess a little more uncomfortable than what she was. “What other reason?”, he finally asked. When an answer wasn't forthcoming he reached out and tried to pull her chair so she faced him catching her off guard. “What other reason? Because I'm wracking my brain right now trying to think how else I screwed up. And the only thing that makes any sort of sense is somebody told you I was cheating on you. Okay, it's over a decade too late but they're a Goddamned liar.”

“No, nobody was telling me that you were cheating on me,” she said. “Not that I would've believed them to begin with if they did.”

“Then what was it?”

She looked in the other direction as she told him, “I didn't think you really wanted to be with me.”

“Okay now I'm fucking lost,” he mumbled as he covered his face with his hands.

She tried to explain herself, “Back then I believed that if you truly loved some one you would fight to be with them no matter what. And you weren't really fighting. It's teenage girl logic, don't try and understand it.” When Ken didn't respond she kept on talking. “As I got older I started to realize how immature that was, especially when I realized I wasn't exactly fighting to try and keep you either.” Still Ken didn't say anything right away. “I'm sorry.”

Finally he said, “What do you have to be sorry for?”

“For letting you think it was you this whole time when I was just as much to blame for our break up.”

“It was mostly my fault,” he said.

“My God,” she snapped, “Why can't you let me own up to my part in all of it?

“Because it's true,” he shot back. “If I just stood up to Jeff maybe we'd still be....” Realizing what he was about to say he stopped himself. Slumping down in the chair a bit he said, “Well maybe we would have been together for longer than what we were.”

“The break up was hard on me too,” she assured him. “Your phone calls begging me to take you back didn't help either.” After a bit she did admit to him, “And I've wondered if we would still be together now too. From time to time.”

“So where do we go from here then?”, Ken asked. “Because people are going to ask and I want to keep our stories straight.”

“We'll take like we have been,” she told him. “One day at a time. And we don't let one drunken night ruin what we've been able to rebuild.”

“I am totally down with that,” Ken said. “I just wish I could remember that night at all.” He flinched, realizing he said that out loud and how it probably sounded, expecting her to start yelling at him all over again.

Instead she had this wistful look on her face that caught him off guard. “So do I. ” Then she looked at him. “We do not tell the Captain that part.” He didn't disagree.


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ED – Shinedown – Fly From the Inside
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