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Old June 4th, 2019, 01:42 PM #21
scikaiju's Avatar
> scikaiju
Power Ranger
 
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 382
scikaiju
Power Ranger
scikaiju's Avatar
 
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 382



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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scikaiju
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 382



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: 382



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: 382



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.


-----
ED – Shinedown – Fly From the Inside
-----
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Old June 19th, 2019, 12:20 PM #25
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Joined: Dec 2012
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scikaiju
Power Ranger
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 382



Episode 24

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


Things had finally gotten, more or less, back to normal around Castle ever since Brooks true colors were revealed. Well maybe a new normal as some around base had taken to calling it. Especially since one the people who is on the most wanted list knew how they worked. Which meant something had to change, hence the new normal tag. Of course as with most things change wasn't easy, nor did it happen over night. There were hiccups, people having a hard time adapting to some new rules and regulations, but eventually things started to to settle down. Much tot he relief to the higher ups in the UNDF, which went without saying.

But one thing didn't change, the need to bond with one team mates. In one of the cafeteria's Jess, Ken Ryo and Bill sat around one of the tables. Considering the red tint to Ryo's cheeks and the round of laughter from the other three one could correctly assume he was the butt of a joke, or in this case a particular story. “Did you have to say that one,' he shot at Ken.

“As many stories you told on me about my academy days?”, Ken shot back. “Did you really think I wouldn't fight back eventually. And that wasn't even the worst one that came to mind.”

Looking suddenly panicked Ryo shot a finger toward his former academy mate, “Do not tell that one.”

“You don't even know which story I had in mind,” Ken shot back. “It could be anything.”

“Maybe you should tell it anyway,” Jess said as she took a drink of her coffee, “just to see if the two of you are thinking of the same incident.”

Ryo looked betrayed, “You're my wing man, who's side are you on?”

She didn't miss a beat, “The side that gets me an entertaining story, it doesn't matter if involves my partner or not.”

“I'm sure Ken knows a few embarrassing ones about Jess,” Bill popped in. “And vice a versa.”

“Yeah that ain't happening,” Ken told him.

Ryo and Bill both gave each other a look of confusion before Bill spoke back up, “And why not? If we're getting razed by some old stories she needs to get razzed too. It's only fair.”

“For one simple reason,” Ken explained. “I'm more afraid of her than I am the two of you.”

“Smart man,” Jess said, looking a bit smug.

“You know,” Bill kept at it, “I'm sure she'd be more than willing to tell a few things she knew about you back in the day.” Ken just shrugged. Still determined he leaned a bit and muttered, “You can always tell me something when she's not around.”

“We can still hear you,” Ryo informed him. Jess just wagged a finger at him.

In response Ken replied, “Even if I was dumb enough to do that she would find out what I told you. Because you would tell her.”

“Because I would make you tell me,” Jess said before Bill could protest. Ken just gave Bill a look that basically said “see” while he pointed toward her.

“And you would crack pretty fast,” Ryo chimed in.

“Wait we were laughing at Ryo,” Bill complained. “Why are you ganging up on me now?”

“Because it's your turn,” Jess told him.

“I hate to break up the ganging up on,” they all turned to see Hawk come toward them. He motioned for them to stay seated when it looked like they started to rise. “This is nothing official, sort of. I just came down here to inform Ken he had a guest.”

The three of them looked at each other before focusing in Ken. He looked at Hawk more confused than any of them. “I have a guest? I don't know of anybody who'd want to see me.” Maybe his mother or his niece, maybe a couple of people from the garage wanting to say hi. But none of them would have caused Hawk to see him personally, or not tell him in advance one of them was coming. Because the paperwork for that alone was the size of a small hill.

“My boy I hoped I was a little more memorable than that,” someone said. Hawk moved aside so they could get a look at the speaker as he came forward. It was an older gentleman, grey hair and all, that rolled forward a bit in a motorized wheelchair. He looked at Ken with a patient look.

Ken immediately broke out in a huge grin, “Professor Kyrie. I don't believe it... I mean I'm happy to see you.”

“As am I my boy, as am I,” Ken took the offered hand. Doing so the older man looked him over, “So you finally got in I see, even after that idiotic rule that let them remove you from the academy. That was a damn shame, you didn't need to be in the field with that brain of yours. But could those warmongering blowhards see that?”

“So you're the one who identified Ken's particular gift,” Hawk spoke up, trying to ignore the last thing he said as that could technically apply to him. “When Ken was put on the team it didn't say who discovered that.”

“Well not to brag,” Kyrie said, “but as they used to say, it takes one to know one. And I realized where Ken here should have belonged when I realized that we see blueprints in the same way?”

Confused by this bit of news, especially since she known him longer than any of them, Jess looked at Ken, “What does he mean? How do you see a blueprint?”

Looking really uncomfortable all of the sudden Ken rubbed the back of his neck and tried to blow it off, “It's nothing.”

“Nothing he says”, Kyrie snorted.

Seeing his mans discomfort Haw quickly stepped in, “Ken why don't you and Professor Kyrie pick a direction to go in and catch up. And maybe later, Professor, we can have a little chat ourselves. Help me find ways to help Ken to cultivate his gift better than we have been.”

At that the Professor seemed genuinely surprised, “You are actually trying to help him along? Sir, I find that hard to believe”

“I fully believe that a person should live up to his potential,” Hawk explained. “Like I told Ken on his first day, if he wasn't medically disqualified back then more than likely he'd be running a department by now.” The others started to look at Ken again as that bit of news never made the rounds, which caused Ken to squirm a bit more. So Hawk decided to add, “Or at least help me convince him that engineering test program can't be beat.”

“Oh my God, you're still at that?”, Kyrie said with a smirk as he started to roll toward one of the doors.

Ken followed saying, “I almost have it.”

***
Walking down the hallway they talked and caught up. Manly the modifications Kyrie made to the motor on his wheelchair. An interest in engines is what gotten them to bond early on in Ken's academy days, before the Professor started to show him the more interesting ones he generally worked on. Seeing how fast Ken had caught on to how they worked, some times with him just blurting out what it did before Kyrie could tell him. After a bit Kyrie would just let him suss it out by himself, only giving the cadet a nod if he was on the right track.. It wasn't long after that Kyrie basically took Ken under his wing, then the letter came that seemingly ended the younger man's career in the UNDF.

“I'm a good mechanic,” Ken protested when the Professor asked what he was doing before getting in on the 'Civilian Operative” deal he was under. Granted he might have taken Kyrie's apparent dismissal of the profession, which he basically scoffed as he said the word, more than a little personal.

“And I'm sure you are,” Kyrie told him s they continued on, “I'm sure you were the best in your little garage as well.” Ken didn't mention that his former boss basically told everyone he was the reason the place was still open. Granted he was sure it was more to shut his brother up at the time, especially since he kept pushing Ken to try and get back into the UNDF again, he still remembered some of the looks a couple of the other gave him when he told them he was leaving. “But it's like having the skill of a race car driver and settling to drive a cab fore the rest of your life.”

“I didn't settle,” Ken mumbled.

“I'm sorry my boy,” Kyrie said after a bit. “It still annoys me to think of all that potential that was wasted when the told you to leave the academy. They wouldn't even let me have you contact information so we could keep in touch. I know of several institutions I could have directed you toward. Places that would have helped you fully understand and realize exactly what you are capable of. But they said there was too great of risk of a confidentiality breach or some such nonsense. Personally I think they didn't want two of me running around,” he added with a smirk.

Ken smiled as well, “I'm sure I would have been my own personal flavor of annoyance.” The smirk grew bigger on Kyrie as he nodded in agreement.

Going down the halls Kyrie seemed to try and get a measure of the area they were currently in. “But all things considered you did end up here after all. And I may have to reconsider my opinion of your Captain if it's true what he said about helping you.”

“He's trying,” Ken said. “He's been patient as hell too, considering I'm not exactly regulations as far as personal is concerned. But I still think he's barking up the wrong tree.”

“And there is your brother speaking again,” Kyrie stopped him, looking a bit exasperated. At this point Ken knew it as well, but even with everything he'd done over the past year he still thought that genius label was a mistake. Kyrie stopped and turned the chair so he could face him, “Ken, you're special...”

“Which several people have told me for as long as I can remember,” Ken cut in.

Kyrie looked at him, like he did back at the academy, waiting for him to come to the correct conclusion of the situation placed before him. And he wasn't going to let him off the hook until he did. “Then what is it going to take for you to finally believe what everybody else knows is true?”

“You mean outside of finally beating that fuc...”, he quickly corrected himself , mostly because of who was with him, mainly because Hawk strongly suggested he clean it up a bit because of his current , semi official status, “that freakin' simulator?” He meant it as a joke, partially. If he was supposed to be this genius he should have seen a solution long before now. But Kyrie kept on giving him that look. Unlike the academy he got a reprieve when his communicator went off. “Sorry Professor,” Ken said before he tapped it, “Scott here.”

“Apologies in advanced but we're going to have to cut the visit short son,” Hawk told him. “Bridge and Doctor Williams just relayed some information that going to require our immediate attention.”

“Understood sir,” Ken replied. “I'll be there as soon as I escort Professor Kyrie back toward the visitor center.”

“There's no need for that my boy,” Kyrie spoke up. “I still part of the UNDF myself, I just made a call and asked if it would be alright to stop by. I'll be perfectly fine to escort myself back to my driver in your garage down below. Now go on, that sounds important.”

“He;s right about the visitor part Ken. Professor Kyrie has enough pull to travel the whole base unescorted if he wanted to. But I'd still would like to have that conversation later, about helping Ken Professor.”

“And I would be more than happy to have that conversation as well,” Kyrie said, probably a little louder than was necessary. When Ken still looked unsure about just leaving the man Kyrie made a shooing motion, “Go. I'll be fine.”

Still unsure about it Ken went, “Alright I'll be there soon. Scott out.” The call ended as he told the Professor, “I'll guess I'll see you sooner or later. I better go.”

“I'm sure we will my boy,” Kyrie called out as Ken went down the hall. Making sure nobody was watching him Kyrie pulled out some sort of device from his pocket. The reading he recorded made him smile a bit, “I'm sure we will.”

***
Entering the war room Hawk gave him a small nod as he took his spot at the holotable. Making sure he had all of their attention he started, “I'll tell all of you upfront, what the Bridge and the good Doctor found was something Brooks decided to help fund and I don't know how this went unnoticed for as long as it did.” Pressing a few keys on the controls in front of him a simple title came up.

Ryo did the speaking for the other three, “King Joe? Does that stand for something?”

“Not that Bridge could figure out or discover,” Hawk answered. “The only information he could discover was that he helped get this particular project going around the time Jamira disappeared.”

“I don't get it,” Jess spoke up. “We went over everything with Brooks' name on it in the system with a fine tooth comb. Anything with Brooks' name period. Why did it take this long to find this project.”

“As I said,'”Hawk replied, “I'm not sure. My best guess, because it's not one of ours. Well it is and it isn't.”

“And I'm confused now,” Bill put in.

“To clarify things a little better,” Hawk said, “it's an official UNDF project, fully backed and funded by the organization. But it's not one of ours, as in here.”

Jess seemed to get it, “Another UNDF base.”

“Or an outside organization we have ties with,” Ryo added.

“No offense buddy,” Ken decided to join in, “I may be newish but even I know that would leave a ton of red tape to follow.” Then he smirked, “I shot down somebody idea for a change.” That look quickly withered under the stares from the others. “Sorry.”

Hawk reminded himself that there would be the occasional backslide with him given his new status. Still a quick word to make sure those moments were kept to a minimum in the future might be in order. “Ken is right about the red tape though,” he said after a bit. “This would too but he could, and did ,cover it up a little better. I'm sure it goes without saying that we've been ordered to check it out.” A few more button presses and a image of the globe appeared above the table, a country in particular being highlighted. “The base in question is located in Tokyo, Japan.” Three sets of eyes shot at Ken at that bit of news. Hawk kept going, “They know we are coming and why, so no toes will be stepped on. Bridge and Dr. Williams will be joining us to help figure out what, if anything, Brooks did after he green lighted this particular project. Any questions?

“No,” Ken said, surprising them a bit. Then he kept on talking, “But have fun in Japan. Don't worry I'll hold down the fort while you're gone. Send me a post card when you get there.”

Lowering his head and sighing Hawk went, “Ken...”

“You're going to bring me something nice?”, the younger man quickly said. “Please say you're going to bring me something nice. I would really love it if those words came out of your mouth.”

“Ken,” Hawk, said sternly. Just enough to get him to be quiet for a moment. “Dr. Williams has personally requested your presence for this. He feels with the potential mechanical nature of this King Joe project you particular gift may come in handy. And I agree with him.”

Still Ken was determined, “My passport is not up to date. I don't even have a passport.”

Of course Bill had to say something, “Your UNDF ID covers as a passport in these situations.”

“You're not helping,” Ken hissed at him. Looking back at Haw he said, “Is there anything I can say that will keep me off that plane?”

“No there is not,” he told him plainly. The younger man dropped his head as Jess reached over and rubbed his shoulder a bit. Hawk gave her a quizzical look and she quickly stopped. After what they told him what happened after that party he wondered if he should speak to them again about things. Then he decided against it just as quickly. Like he told them he'd only get involved if it became a problem, and that didn't look like a problem to him. “I want everybody to pack their duffle bag for a couple of days. We don't know how long this is going to take so prepare to get comfy.” Ken looked up, like he just saw an potential out, as weak as it was. Hawk quickly shot that hope down, “You will have a duffle bag in about five minutes after you hit up supplies.”

Looking defeated as he dropped his head again Ken asked, “Can I at least request two crates of barf bags for the trip?”

“Why do you need two?”, Bill asked.

“One there one back,” he answered without raising his head.

And there was a cheery thought to end the briefing with. “Dismissed, we leave in two hours. And we will wait for any stragglers.”

***
Standing at the doorway Ken wasn't exactly sure if he wanted his feet to keep moving or not. And knowing Hawk he would probably stay true to his word about waiting for anybody. Letting out a little whimper he walked toward the super jet. And fighting to make sure his stomach didn't go rogue on him before they even took off. He tried to find anything that would take his mind off of being on the Alpha One, for hours. Okay ,hat thought didn't help at all. “Why do we have so many people with bags in the hanger?”, he ended up asking, because there where at least twice as many duffle bags then his team needed.

Jess answered him, “We're bringing an extra crew along. Given the length of the flight we're going to be taking shifts.” Yeah that didn't help either. “Captain Hawk wanted me to tell you that's not an excuse for not going either. Just try not to think about it too much.”

Something in his stomach felt like it was trying to get that revolt started, “Too late for that.”

“I am really sorry about this son,” Hawk told him as he, Bill and Ryo walked over to them. “If we had another way of getting there I'd jump on it for you in a heart beat. But the Alpha One is the only way we have unfortunately. At least for this short of notice”

Ken just sighed, “In the future can somebody please remind the Doc, again, that I'm ground and pound and not zoom and boom when stuff like this comes up.”

“Zoom and boom?”, Ryo asked, totally confused.

“You try coming up with a catchy, rhyming phrase for you fly guys,” Ken shot back. Then he felt something pressed against his neck. He registered the rest of them looking surprised and a small hissing sound before he could react, right before he felt a massive shot of pain in that very spot. Ken jerked away and grabbed at his neck, “Fuck! Ow!” He caught a glimpse of Dr. Williams before Hawk came into his line of sight again. “I know language, sorry. But fuck...!”

“I'll let this one slide,” he said as he kept his eyes on Dr. Williams, who was holding some sort of hypodermic gun looking thing. Something he seen only medical professionals use. Who also seemed confused at the reaction from Ken. “Doctor?”

“The latest medicine for Ken's condition,” he said. “He should have no ill effects during the trip. You're welcome by the way.” He seemed equally confused by the angry look Ken was currently giving him.

Hawk leaned in and quietly told Jessica, “Get him on the Alpha One while he's not thinking about it.” She nodded and dragged Ken toward the ramp. “Doctor,” Hawk addressed him, “perhaps you should have told Ken you were going to inject him with something before you did it.”

“I didn't think I needed to remind him he had a problem,” was the reply. Williams headed for the Alpha One leaving Hawk a little dumbstruck that went over his head.

Bill crossed his arms as he watched the doctor, “Did you ever want to spend, like, five minutes in his head? Just to see how he see things.”

“We'll try and make sure Dr. Williams stays away from Ken until he cools down,” Ryo told him.

“And how long do you think that's going to take?”, Bill asked as they grabbed their bags to board themselves.

By himself for the moment Hawk muttered, “That ship is not big enough for this,” before grabbing his bag and headed for the Alpha One.

***
A few hours into the flight Hawk called for a partial shift change, meaning Jess, Ken and Ryo got a small break while some of the others that came along took their position for the time being. Unfortunately for Bill he got roped into “Williame detail”, as it was quickly came to be called behind his back, for the moment. She was just glad for the opportunity to stand and walk for a bit. Everyone had sort of picked out a section of the Alpha One to temporarily call their own on the assignment, seeing how the ship wasn't exactly built with long distances in mind, therefore nothing that even resembled crew quarters were put into the design. Although both Dr. William and Ken both said the trip shouldn't be an issue. Jess had thought about hitting up her spot for a quick nap, instead she walked over to the supplies in the lower hanger and grabbed two ration bars and bottles of water.

Substance in hand she crossed over to the small bay that housed the Alpha Three motorcycle, and the spot Ken decided to hang proverbial hat. More than likely because Williams decided to take up residence in the engine room. She looked down at him, waiting for him to look up from the pad in his hand. “Want some company?”, she asked when he finally did. He smiled a bit and patted the section of floor grating next to him. She did so and gave him a good look over, like she had been doing since the trip started. Whatever was in the shot Williams gave him seemed to be working, he wasn't as green as he usually gets or throwing up at the slightest jolt. But Ken wasn't his usual color either. She wouldn't describe him as pale, actually she wasn't sure how to described how he currently looked since the trip started. “How are you holding up?”

“Have you ever wanted to throw up and not throw up at the same time?”, he asked.

“Can't say that I have,” Jess answered. “How is that working out for you?”

“All things considered I'd rather be puking my guts out,” he told her. “At least then I'd know it be over sooner or later.”

“Then I guess you don't want to try your luck with this then,” she said holding up one of the ration bars. Ken made a face, but took it and a water.

“I'm going to have to try my luck sooner or later,” he said with a grimace. While he opened the wrapper and took a small experimental bit she took a look at the pad he was studying. “Ugh,” he grunted, “I'm not sure if it's the medicine or that's the actual taste of this thing.”

“These weren't made with taste in mind,” she reminded him as she took the pad and studied the plans that were on them. “Is this what we were assigned to check out?”

He nodded, “Part of it. According to what Bridge was able to pull up it's actually for different machines and they combine into a larger one.”

“Can it really do that?”, she asked as she handed the pad back. It was a small miracle, according to Ken and a couple of others, that the Alpha Twos could launch and rejoin the Alpha One without a hitch.

“I was able to figure out where the connector points are on at least two of them so far,” he said as he took a swig of water. “Based on what I'm seeing it might be able to.” Jess smiled as she took a drink from her bottle. This was Ken in his element, that brain of his was figuring things out as fast as he could see it. So why couldn't the lunkhead see he was doing it without realizing it?

Which brought her back to his resent visitor and something he said at the time. “So are you seeing those plans like you usually see them?” Like she was afraid of he turned a bit red, ironically making look more like his normal self, and looked uncomfortable. “I'm sure it's nothing to be embarrassed over. Ken I've seen you figure out how a machine worked just by looking at it. The more complex the faster you got. And that was back when we were dating in high school .Whatever it is you're seeing it's a part of who you are. You don't have to keep it a secret, especially not from me. You can tell me anything, anything, and it'll just be between us.”

He looked unsure if he should or not. Jess sat there and let him decide on his own. Seeing how back in high school trying to make him talk just made him dig deeper into that hole he created for himself. Personal experience from when she started to crack through that shell of his. “It goes 3D on me,” he finally admitted. She didn't ask any questions, just waited for him to continue. “Everybody else looks at these plans or another set of blueprints and they just see them as a flat 2D picture full of lines. I look at them and I get an exact three dimensional image of it in my head. Every wire, every bolt, everything.” Quiet for a bit he admitted something else, “I was ten when I realized nobody else saw it the same way I did. I figured there was something wrong with me and kept quiet about it.”

“Until Professor Kyrie figured it,” she added. He nodded in response. “I think that's pretty cool actually. Why did you think something was wrong with you though?”

“Most people in school already thought I was a freak as it was,” he told her. “This just confirmed it to me.”

“Nobody thought,” then she caught herself, “okay that would have been a lie. But that because they didn't try to get to know the real you.” She gave his hand a quick reassuring squeeze. “I'll keep my promise and not tell the others what you told me. But I'll bet you anything their not going to think it makes you a freak either.” He gave her a look. “All right Bill,” she conceded. “But he'll stop with the jokes as soon as the rest of us talk to him. And that offer to listen to anything you may want to tell me is still on the table, just so you know.”

Before the conversation could go on Ryo poked his head through the opening and spotted the, “Ken,” he said, “Captain Hawk wanted me to give you a heads up. He's going to take control of the Alpha One for a bit since we still have some clear skies. And that he still hasn't gotten a feel for her yet so things may get a bit bumpy.”

Ken made another grimace and held his stomach. “Guess that's one way to see if that shot will actually work,” Jess said, mainly as a joke. Ken did not look amused.

***
“Oh thank you God, solid ground”, Ken said as he stepped off the ramp as the team exited the Alpha One. Just standing there on the pavement he just enjoyed the feeling of nothing moving for the moment, or for as long as the rest would let him. He didn't care who thought what about him doing it either.

“You're not going to drop to your knees?”, Bill asked all of the sudden. “Maybe kiss the ground? No?” Ken, not to mention a few others just gave him the strangest looks. Grunting he moved on mumbling, “I just lost twenty bucks.”

Ryo walked by, just stopping long enough to softly say, “I'll split it with you,” and held out a fist that Ken gave a quick bump to before he kept going.

Hawk walked forward a bit as a man in a similar uniform to theirs, except the red was blue over here, came toward them. A very blond hair, blue eye man if anybody had seen one, with a Japanese woman right beside him holding a data pad in her arm. “Welcome,” the man said and offered Hawk a salute before offering a hand. As Hawk took it he continued, “I'm Doctor Franklin Greenberg, the head of the labs here at Tower.” I assume you lot would be the members of Alpha Team that we were told to expect.”

“Thank you Doctor,” Hawk said and made some quick introductions. Although Ken gave him a bit of the side eye when he was introduced as the “junior member” of the unit.”

Greenberg on the other hand, “Ah the civilian operative we heard about. He doesn't look quite as disappointing as we were told.” Both Jess and Ryo put a hand on Ken's shoulder to keep him from saying anything. “Rumors as it were. Oh, this is Emiko Sakurai, our main computer expert. She'll be assisting you man going over the records and programs for King Joe.”

Hawk gave a quick in nod in greeting and turned to call back, “Bridge.” As usual when outside of Castle he meekly walked forward and turned in a bit, until he got sight of the person he would be working with. Then he just sort of stared. Which cause Emiko to blush a bit. “Miss. Sakurai this is...” then he got look at Bridge's current state, “Nathan Bridge? Bridge,” he quickly barked to snap the other man out of it. “Nathan Bridge our computer expert.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you Mr. Bridge,” she said offering hand.

Bridge took it, surprising all of them who knew him, “Likewise. And call me Nathan.” Ken and Bill looked at each other, both of them mouthing his first name. This cause a couple of immediate elbows from Ryo and Jess, but they were a bit taken aback as well.

Oblivious to all of that Emiko gestured to what had to be the main building, “We do have a lot to look over, perhaps we should get started right away.”

“Of course,” Bridge quickly agreed. They went off, with a new skip in Bridge's step.

“Come on love connection,” Ken muttered after a bit. This time Hawk looked back at him. “I want that to work out so bad for him,” was his only explanation for the lack of decorum.

“I would be surprised,” Greenberg spoke up. “She is a rather solitary woman. If you will follow me I'll take you to the main lab where we're housing King Joe and a couple of other experiments then my office. Then I'll have someone show you to the quarters you'll be using during you're hopefully short stay. No disrespect of course.”

“None taken,” Hawk answered for the group as they followed his lead. “I'm fully aware our visit is disrupting you're usual routine. We want our stay to be as short as possible as well.”

“Pardon me,” Dr. Williams spoke up, “but just out of curiosity why did you settle on the name King Joe for this particular project? Is it some sort of acronym?”

“It wasn't meant to be a permanent name,” Greenberg answered freely. “It was a pet code name for the project that just sort of stuck.”

“Well that's disappointing,” Williams muttered. Hawk shot him a look trying to get across that might not have been an appropriate response. Oblivious as ever Williams asked, “Is something wrong Captain.”

After a bit Bill started tapping Ken on the arm, “Hey Civilian, I think I know how they know about you now.” He pointed to a group of guards. One of them looked very familiar. “Isn't that one of the guys Reid told to shape up or ship out?”

“It can't be,” Ryo, who overheard the conversation, said. Then the man in question got a look at them. And then an all too familiar scowl crossed his face as he stormed away from the others he was with. “Holy...”, Ryo muttered.

“How far did Reid send those guys?” Ken asked as they kept moving.

“Not far enough,” Jess mumbled.

***
“As you may know,” Greenberg said as he lead them into one of the larger buildings, “Tower is the UNDF largest laboratory facility, hosting some of the best and brightest from across the globe. While we do have a small defense presence here we are mainly the research wing. Studying everything from improving the weapons and vehicles as well as studying the monsters you've been facing over in the states and that giant fellow of yours. I believe you call him Ultraman.” Raising an eyebrow Ken held his tongue. “We also work on good things as well,” he continued, “new ways to bring cheep and efficient power to the places that need it. Things like that.”

“Maybe you would have been station here Civilian,” Bill said, low enough for only Ken and a couple of others could hear. “Being a mechanical genius and all.”

Apparently Greenberg did over hear it as he stopped. Before Hawk could apologize he walked past him and up to Ken. Studying him a bit he went, “By any chance were you a student of Professor Kyrie?”

Looking at the others first he answered, “Back when I was at the academy, yeah. For the brief time I was there.”

Greenberg seemed to light up a bit, “You're the Ken Scott he was talking about. Who am I kidding, he still talks about. He hated the fact he lost you back then. Called me demanding if I had any pull in getting you a transfer over here despite the fact they disqualified you.”

“So we noticed, “Hawk spoke up. “The professor visited Ken recently.”

“Then it's a good place that I picked this particular building to start with,” Greenberg told them. “Ken you may personally enjoy the tour given to what I understand are you particular talents. Come, come.” He change the direction the group was going in and lead to to a set of double doors. “This is our experimental robotic display room.” He opened the doors and let the rest of them through, Hawk making sure Ken went in first.

While, to his credit, he didn't say the “Holy shit” that sprung to mind as soon as he got a good look at the room, you could read his lips. He just started wandering around on his own as the Doctor let him. Soon a couple of the others started to do the same. They were all in awe of the various robots on display, which varied in looks from modern to retro.

“They're all working models,” Greenberg said from his place next to Hawk.“Deactivated of course and power source disconnected. Not all of these models were actually meant for field use, that's the term you military types us right?” Hawk nodded that it was. “No, a lot of these were created in a spot of creativity.” Turning to Hawk he added, “It may not be the best use of money and resources, but I found that it helps boost moral and work rate if I allow for the occasional burst, to let the creative juices flow. Sometime we get a idea for to expand upon. The generator for your Alpha One for example came about when we were figured out how to power these things right here internally without any sort of external port. And wasn't nuclear in origin.”

“So nobody starts glowing in the dark when there's a breach?”, Bill asked.

“Bill,” Jess snapped at him.

“My good man,” Greenberg said, “I believe that joke is older than my grandfather.” He looked for Ken, who had stopped in front of one display in particular. “Ah Imperalizer, that one is one of my personal favorites. As I'm the one that came up with him.” Walking over to join him while Ken studied it intently. “My first inspiration was the three lenses on what you would call it's face. The idea was...”

“To give it a greater field of depth perception,” Ken said suddenly. “So instead of a single camera with a two dimensional view the three different angles of a single...” He trailed off suddenly as he looked over to the Doctor. “Sorry,” he went backing up a bit, “I'm probably totally wrong there any way.”

“Do not be sorry,” Greenberg told him, “especially when you're right. That was the idea behind the three cameras in his head. Not a lot of people think of the depth perception part when they talk about the set up. You would have fit right in here, thinking of ideas like that.”

“No no,” Ken quickly said, “I don't really do 'thinking of ideas'. I'm more of a building it when I see the plans type of guy.” He looked back at Imperializer. Softly he added, “And I would have loved helping to build this one.”

“Our loss,” he said giving him a friendly smile before waling back to where Hawk was. “Seriously Captain, that is our loss. I don't suppose a talent trade would be possible.”

“Sorry Doctor,” Hawk told him, “even if I was agreeable to the idea his situation would make it a bit difficult.”

“Grand King,” Jess muttered as she read the name plate on the display as she and the others continued to walk around. “Galacitron, Jean-Bot. Jean-Nine. Deathfacer?”

“That's a dinosaur on a tank,” Bill suddenly spoke up, pointing at one of the bigger cases. Said case contained what looked like the top part of a T-Rex and the bottom part of a tank.

“As I said,” Greenberg told him, “Not all of them were meant to actually work in the field. Actually I'm still not sure why we created that one. But there it is. I do realize you would want to get on with why you're here but it is rather late in the day. I'm also sure you and your men would like the opportunity to rest and adjust a bit to the time difference.”

“Actually Captain,” Ryo said, “I wouldn't mind resting up a bit. Especially since I'm pretty sure this is going to be Ken and Dr. Williams show from now on.”

“And if I'm to be honest,” Dr. Williams said as he put a hand on one of the cases to lean against it. It seemed to move slight, causing Kem. Ryo and a couple of others to get ready to catch it if it fell. Oblivious to that he went on, “I'm feeling a bit pooped myself from the trip.”

“Yes,” Greenberg went, eyeing the case, and more than a little relieved when Hawk gently pulled him away from the case. His attention turned to a set of opening doors as a big, stocky looking man came through. “Ah, perfect timing. Boris would you mind showing our guest where they'll be staying. Captain Hawk there are a few details I'd like to iron out first if that's alright with you.”

“Not a problem at all Doctor. Ryo,” he said turning to him, “Take the men and follow Boris here. Jessica stay with me until the meetings done. The Doctor has some weapon upgrades he'd like us to go over. I'd like your opinion of them.”

“Yes sir,” she answered, although she was looking forward to a little, not so cramped down time herself.

“Come my new friends,” Boris said as he gestured toward the other door, “follow me. After you rest we drink, da? But I must warn you, we have stronger drinks than what you must be used too.”

“Somebody who's obviously never been beakered,” Bill said to one of the others.

“Ken, you coming?”, Ryo asked when he noticed he was still looking over the displays.

“Yeah,” he said while holding up a finger, “in a minute. Or twelve. Or twenty.” Sad part was everybody in Alpha Team was sure he was telling the truth with that last statement.”

Hawk looked over at Jessica who nodded. Going over to him she pulled, more like dragged, him away from something that looked like a mechanical dragon. “Come on Ken, toy store's closing.”

“But...”, he started to protest.

“It'll be here tomorrow,” she told him. Figuring it would be for the best she made sure Ken was in their group, just so she could keep an eye on him. “If your good I'll bring you back down here myself to wonder around drool.”

***
Any complaint he might have had quickly disappeared when he realized the walk to Greenberg's office went through the hanger they were keeping the components for this King Joe. As it was he looked at something that might have registered as a giant, robotic looking head. Then he looked around at the other, even bigger golden coloered components in the hanger. He looked over at Jessica who stayed with him. “A bit bigger than I thought it was going to be.” Then they hurried up to catch up with Hawk and Greenberg.

Exiting the giant hanger Greenberg started saying, “This is were most of the real work is done. We have wings for design and construction in this building. Generally on a small scale, but as you just saw we are capable of creating something much larger. In fact if Joe works out like expected we have plans on enlarging some of the display models to fight the creatures you're been up against.” He looked back at the group, “Some of my people are even fiddling around with the idea of making a robotic version of your Ultraman.”

Again Ken cocked an eyebrow, that Jess tried to act like she didn't notice. “You might get the size,” he said, “but some of the abilities might be impossible to pull off.”

“I'm sure we can come up with some equivalents,” Greenberg replied. “It's one of the weapon upgrades your Captain mention,” he said to Jessica. “We were thinking about using them to upgrade the big cannon in your Alpha One.”

“Doc gonna put up a fight,” Ken mumbled. This time Jess did look at him, just to give a warning glare. As they continued talking Ken looked up to see that they were entering the lab construction areas. Apparently several based on the number of doors he was seeing. Glancing though the windows by the door nothing seemed all that interesting. Until they past one and his head tried to stay in place while his body kept moving.

“I see something had piqued your interest,” he heard Greenberg say. Before Ken could apologize he smiled and came closer tot he door. “I must be honest and I hoped that something would, it's why I went the long way to my office. My apologies Captain, I just wanted to see his reaction.” Hitting a button by the door he said, “Dr. O'Hara a moment if you'd please.”

After a few moments a woman came out, and spoke with the accent her name would imply,” And what can I do for you today Dr. Greenberg?”

“I wanted you to meet Ken Scott here,” Greenberg told her. “He's a disciple of Professor Kyrie as it were.”

“I wouldn't go that far,” Ken said a little defensively. “I was barely with him.”

“Were you now?”, she said looking him over, not really looking all that off put on his apperance. “We're working on a project right now nobody can seem to get to work. You wanna come in and take a look?”

“Yes,” he quickly answered. “Yes I would like that very much.” Then he looked over at Hawk for the okay. Hawk stood there a bit, wondering just how long it would take for him to start bouncing up and down and going “Please, please, please.”

Enough time had based that he decided to end the younger man's torment. “Behave yourself.”

“Yes sir,” he quickly said. “After you,” he said to the Doctor and they went into the lab. The first thing that struck Ken was based on how some of the “experts” looked he would have fit right in if this was were he was supposed to call home. One of them had multicolored streaks in her hair while another had various piercings on his face. Then he turned his attention to the project they were working on, a humaniod robot of some sort. Except the face looked a bit bird like and there was a fin on top of it's head.

“Say hello to the THX-U7,” she said. “One of our latest goes at a battle bot as we're calling them.” Leading him closer to it one of her people started opening a back panel giving Ken a good look at the inside, at least from this angle. “Unfortunately this one refuses to budge when we tell him to.”

“He can hear you?”, Ken asked. Then started thinking that he over thought what she said.

Then O'Hara went, “The audible commands are working just fine. None of us can figure out where the message is getting lost in the rest of him. Maybe you can help there. I will never turn down the offer of a fresh set of eyes if asked.” Ken eye's wandered from the robot to a wall full of technical blueprints, he assumed for the thing in the room. He walked closer to the wall as O'Hara asked, “So do you want to give it a go?”

Ken looked at the wall. As Kyrie suspected so long ago, like he told Jess on the trip here, the plans went 3D in his head, everything becoming more and more clear the longer he studied them. Maybe, after hearing it for years, just maybe they were all... Turning toward the THX-U7, a small smile started to form, “If you don't care.”

***
“As you can see,” Greenbergs was saying while the three of them sat in his office, “we feel this upgrade will greatly improve the efficiency of damage of the Alpha One's main cannon. Actually I sent this report over e-mail several times. It keeps getting reject with a note that nothing's wrong with it to begin with.” Jess, who was going over the specs on a datapad, stopped just long enough to trade looks with Hawk. Dr. Williams had already started that fight Ken mentioned from the look of things.

“I'm sure it's a misunderstanding,” Hawk said.

“And partially territorial as well,” Greenberg said with a slight smirk. “I am a scientist myself after all. I felt the occasional heckle rise when thought somebody was trying to tamper with a project of mine.” A light on his desk lit up. Before pressing it it, he turned toward the two of them and said, “Excuse me please. “Yes Dr. O'Hara?”, Again Hawk and Jess exchanged looks, this time slightly worried ones. And for two completely different reasons, Hawk because he was worried he'd get hurt. Jess because she knew how he could get around a new bit of machinery at times.

“Can you do something about this America you left with us?” came the reply. Jess pinched the bridge of her nose. She unfortunately won. “He's taking over things down here.”

“Damn it Ken,” Hawk muttered. “I'm sorry Dr. Greenberg,” he said as the two of them started to rise, “I'll handle the situation.” Both of them left the office and hurried back to the lab they left him at. Once they got there. It wasn't as big a commotion as they feared, but still seemed a bit heated from the look of things.

“The 3D model,” one of them started to say as Ken worked on the robot in the middle of the room.

He stopped just long enough to look at him and say, “The model is wrong.” Then Ken went back to whatever he was doing that angered a few of them to begin with. “All these brains in the room and nobody thought to check if all the connections were in the right spots.”

“You looked at those plans for a couple of minutes at most,” he tried to argue. “Completely ignoring the computer model we had set up. And you're claiming you saw something we all missed? In minutes?”

“I'm a quick study,” came Ken's reply as he continued working. “The more advanced the machine the better I get it. That was a direct quote by the way. More or less.”

This was not going to end well for somebody, more than likely him, so Hawk stepped forward, “Ken...” As commander of the troops back at Castle he wasn't used to being stopped for any reason. Which was why he was confused as he looked down at the arm suddenly blocking his path. Even more so when he realized who that arm belonged to. “Wade?”

She didn't look at him right away, but staring intently at Ken. “He hasn't had that look since...” Finally turning toward. Him she said, “Captain, I highly suggest you let him finish what he's trying to do. I will take full responsibility if this goes wrong, but let him finish. Please.” Hawk wasn't sure what to make of that, looking back at the commotion in the middle of the room, trying to see what Jess was obviously seeing, he looked back at her.”

“I will hold you to that full responsibility part,” he finally told her. Then stepped back and watched Ken do whatever he was doing. Before long he was putting panels back in place, apparently finished.

“Okay let's see if this works,” Ken said. After a bit he looked over to O'Hara, “How do we find out if it works again?”

The one he was arguing with previously answered for her. “It's a verbal command. Just say THX-U7 and what ever you want him to do...”

“No,” Ken said said suddenly, “we're not calling him that. He needs a name. Something with less syllables than THX-U7. This things supposed to be battle field ready, you know how long that's going to take to say? Seconds count, a quote from him by the way,” he added pointing at Hawk.

O'Hara seemed to take a bit of offense with that part, “The machine doesn't need a name, it's a machine.”

Ken wasn't deterred, “You have for things that combine into a bigger thing you guys are calling King Joe. He can get a name.” Looking around at everybody else in the room he went, “Come on people let's brainstorm here. Who does he look like?'

There was silence in the room until Jess called out, “How about Windam?”

Looking over at her Hawk, and anyone who could see his face, seemed a bit surprised at his blank expression, especially compared to all the enthusiasm he was expressing just a second earlier. Then a sort of sad smile crossed his lips as he lowered his head a bit. Then that previous enthusiasm was back in full force, “Windam it is.” Going over to a person behind a lap top he said, “If you'd change that THX-U7 to Windam that be great. W-I-N-D-A-M.”

This person looked over to O'Hara. She pretty much gave up at controlling things from the look of it, “Just do it.” He shook his head but apparently complied.

“Awesome,” Ken said with a clap as he walked away. Taking up position in front of the newly christened Windam he waited. Putting his hands together and putting them to his mouth he studied the machine intently, almost like he was praying this would work. Finally, “Windam... come forward.” Nothing happened at first, causing the one he was arguing with at first to look a bit smug. Then there was a whirring sound as the machine started to walk toward him. The stunned disbelief of the scientists in the room was only matched by the sheer joy on Ken's face. “Windam stop,” and the robot did so immediately. “Windam forward,” and it did so again. “Turn left,” Windam went to the right. Ken was not going to let that miscue dampen his mood, “You know what? I'll take it.”

Still trying to figure out what the hell was going on he pulled Jessica closer to the door. “Wade, I want to know what's happening. Right now.”

Her answer, “He's finally believing that he the genius we been saying he was. I mean really believing it. It just took getting a robot to move to do it.” Hawk studied Ken for a few more moments, he would still talk to him later about hijacking another station's project. But maybe not as harshly as he originally had in mind.

***
After all of the commotions Hawk was back in Greenberg's office. It occurred to him after awhile that his counterpart over here at Tower didn't seem as upset as Dr, O'Hara and her staff at his man over reach over the THX-U7 project. In fact he almost seemed giddy about it. Still his man did cross a line. “I must apologize again for Ken actions in the lab.”

“Do not say anything to that young man,” Greenberg told him flatly. “Again this was me manipulating things a bit to get that kind of result. Just to see if he was up to all the praise I'd been hearing from Kyrie for the past few years, and he did not disappoint. Besides Dr. O'Hara did admit she invited him to take a go at it. I'm sure she got a bit too territorial when it looked like he caught something they didn't, in record time from my understanding.”

“Still the naming thing was a bit much,” Hawk went on.. “I'm actually a little more disappointed that another one of mine went along with it.”

“Even if he's right and we have pet names for all our little projects,” he said with a smirk.”Ah well do what you think you must, they are your men after all. Although I do think your other person, Wade was her name? Well I think she just got caught up in Ken's excitement. I was watching a video replay,” he held up a tablet to show him,” while you were on the back here, I was getting excited for him and I knew what was coming. His enthusiasm was rather catching. Are you sure you don't want to transfer him over here?”

“No,” Hawk said with a bit if a grin, “I think I'll be stuck with him for awhile.”

“Pity,” Greenberg uttered while leaning back into his chair. “We could always use new blood who don't like to be in the box. As I'm sure you noticed by some of the scientist that were in this particular lab. I have never cared about how they looked, just what inside their head.” Touching the tablet screen with a finger he added, “At least Ken apologized to Dr. O'Hara and her crew without any prompting, so you have to give him that at least. Now back to the boring stuff before the excitement happened. I believe we were talking about some weapon upgrade that keep getting reject from you end.”

And Hawk wondered if he could force the potential headache that was going to be Dr. Williams over to Richardson to handle.

Elsewhere in the complex O'Hara was in her office going over the feed from when Ken got the THX-U7, she refused to call it Windam, to move. “A bunch of blasted misplaced connections? How in the hell did that bastard catch that so fast and we didn't?” She started chuckling to herself, “He is on of Kyrie's all right if Greenberg telling the truth about both of them.”

Here phone went off signaling she received a text message. It wasn't a number she knew. Frowning he looked at it any way. It was one line of text. “Call now.” Knowing she shouldn't call it, that she should just confess to Greenberg that she sold some data and equipment through some unsavory channels to get extra funding for here battle bot project and get it over with. She dialed the number any way. Damn this man for finding out what she did. “Hello Doctor,” came the voice of Peter Brooks, “just thought I'd check in and see how things are progressing.”

***
“Don't lock him up,” Ken pleaded as a couple of Tower's personal began to add Windam to the display he toured earlier. “I just got him to work. Let him move around a little first.” Which Ken knew was impossible at moment as his power supply was already unhooked from the major systems inside. “Can you at least change the name to Windam?”, he said gesturing to the plate that said THX-U7. Being completely ignored he could do nothing but watch the two men completed their task and walked away. “Well this fucking sucks,” he said as he looked at Windam behind the case. Sighing in defeat he said, “Who am I kidding. I wasn't a genius for doing this. It was just a couple of stupid connectors.” Then he was hit in the back of the head. He stood there in shock for a moment before going, “Ow,” and seeing who did that.

That person ended up being Jess who was looking as stern as he'd ever seen. “You finally started to believe it and I am not going to let you backslide now. You are a genius. I know it, the Captain knows it and you know it. So you better get that through your head right now.” But her expression did soften a bit as she looked past his shoulder, “But it does suck they put him in there.” Then she handed him one of the bottles of the local beer she was holding.

He took it but looked at it with dubious expression, “After the last time booze was involved?”

“I'm sure it's not that potent and one won't hurt,” she told him. “Come on I want to show you something.” She lead him through the complex until they were on an upper level. Then she walked through a door in particular to a balcony looking over the ocean.

Walking forward Ken leaned on the railing and opened the bottle in his hand. “The view definitely better than the big pile of dust we got at Castle.” Especially with Sun almost gone from the horizon.

Opening her bottle Jess joined him at the railing, “Yes it is. And I figured you could use some cheering up after I heard what they were doing with Windam.”

“You do know me,” he said before taking swig. They stood there in comfortable silence for a few moments just drinking their beer. Without looking at her Ken started to smile a bit, “So, you went with Windam.”

She started to smile too, “It just seemed right. It was what you called that beat up and rusty as hell motorcycle you got from that junkyard. Your first impossible project.”

Ken snorted, “Everybody said I could never get it to work again and I wasted my money.”

“That didn't stop you from trying,” she shot back. “You know, I used to love to see how happy working on that made you. It's why I never complained about it when you were working on her.”

Taking another drink he said, “God I haven't thought about that bike in years. Do you remember how I kept saying how I was going to take you all across the country on it?”

“I remember,” Jess told him. “I never really thought about how we were going to pay for food or where we were going to sleep. But I didn't care at the time, I was just looking forward to you, me and the road.. Whatever happened to that motorcycle any way? Even after our break up I kept expecting to see you go down the street on it.”

Suddenly he lost the smile. Staring out at sea he told her, “I sold it for scrape a couple of months afterwards.”

“What?”, she looked at him. “Why? You put a ton of work on it even before then.”

“Honestly,” he eventually answered, “my heart wasn't in it any more.” Well that brought down the mood a bit. Which was not her intention. While still a comfortable one, they just stood in silence for a bit.

“Ken,” Jess went after a few moments, “if I ask you a question, will you be honest with me?”

“Sure,” he answered.

Here she hesitated. After they finally talked about their break up things seemed much better between them. That weight she said that was between them being lifted. So she didn't want to put another one there if she could help it. Still she had to know, “When you first joined up, did you think we'd get back together?”

He looked a little bewildered, not that she could blame him, “Okay what brought that on?”

“Something that sort of stuck with me,” she told him, “after that mess with the happy flower as you called it.” He tensed up a bit having a good idea he knew where she was going. “After you finally admitted to what you saw the first thing you said was you got me back. Did you just think we pick up right were we left off?”

“If we picked up where we left off you'd be pissed at me on a weekly basis after Jeff kept talking me into breaking dates with you,” he shot back at her. Not in a mean way based on the smile.

Laughing a bit Jess conceded his point, “All right you got me there. But Ken, seriously, did you think we get back together?”

He didn't answer right away, just looked out at sea. “Honestly?”, he eventually said. “Honestly back then, it crossed my mind a couple of times. Especially after I saw you for the first time in years. But I realized that ship sailed a long time ago. I'm just happy I got back what we got now.”

“I'll drink to that,” Jess told him. Clinking bottles together they finished off what was left of their beer.

“I better call it a night,” Ken told her. “If I know Williams he going to want to start cracking Joe open as soon as the sun starts to rise.”

“Good luck getting some sleep,” Jess told him. She was going to need it herself with the time differences. Ken walked away from the railing, dropping his bottle in a nearby trash chute. Then he stopped and headed back, leaned on the railing and stared at her. “What?”

“How about you?”, he asked. “Did you think we get back together?”

“Honestly,” Jess replied while looking at the ocean, “back then the thought never crossed my mind.” Looking at him she added, “I'm glad we got back to where we are now too.”

“Then we're on the same page then,” he said with a smile. “Night Jess.”

“Night Ken.” She stayed on the balcony for a while longer, just taking in the scenery. Then, too herself, she said, “I wonder what's going to happen first. That he's going to noticed how I phrased that. Or if he's finally going to tell me.”

***
Ryo comments from the day before turned out to be true for the most part. After breakfast Ken and Dr. Williams headed straight for the hanger the King Joe components were being housed. And Bridge was still going over computer records with Tower's Emiko. And while Ryo didn't say anything out loud like Ken did, he was hoping something would spark between the two of them well. And he and the rest that came from Castle pretty much had nothing to do. Captain Hawk and Dr. Greenberg agreed to let those who wanted it have a free pass into the city. And a few of them took him up on it. Those who declined for the moment, Greenberg had said they would be available for as long as they were here, had to find other way to entertain themselves.

In some cases that was easier than others. Such as when Ryo and Bill discovered that Boris, their guide from the night before, also happened to be on the pilots on bases. It goes without saying that the three of them felt a connection real quick. Which was why Boris was showcasing one of their Razor Wings to the two of them. These were black like theirs but had the blue highlights of Tower's staff uniform. And the wings were sloped forward. Still didn't stop Bill from drooling a bit as he leaned over the cockpit staring at the controls. “I think I'm in love,” Bill said as he wiped his mouth a bit.

“How does she handle?” Ryo asked their guide.

“Like dream,” he replied with a big ol' grin. “You feel safer than in your mothers arms. And much faster.” He move so Ryo could get closer to the controls. “Unlike your Razor Wings pilot can both fly and shoot. No problem at all.”

“Good thing Jess isn't here to hear that,” Bill commented. He looked down at the helmet as something caught his eye. Picking it up he noticed a secondary visor that could be pulled down. The fact you couldn't see through this one made the two of them confused as he showed it two Ryo. “Um, be kinda hard doing either with this in place wouldn't it?”, he asked Boris.

“Da, it would,” he readily agreed. “That is a prototype for a VR display. Big thinkers around here want to do away with control panel all together. Make it harder to steal they say.”

“Flying a jet without a physical control?”, Ryo said in disbelief. “”How is that even supposed to work? I mean just starting the engine alone you'd need something to press.”

Boris just shrugged his shoulders, “I don't understand either. But I'm not a big thinker. I do my thing, they do theirs and somewhere in the middle we meet.”

Bill on the other hand, “You think Civilian can build us one of these?” Word of Ken's feat the night before spread pretty fast. Ryo didn't answer him as he lowered himself down the ladder. “Come on it be cool.”

“Well my friends since I showed you our toys,” Boris said. “maybe you can show me yours?” He looked over to the Alpha One with a bit of anticipation. They were on the same side after all and Tower personal were helping maintain the Alpha One while they were here. And they already had the plans for the ship so there was no secret to be worried about.

“Come on,” Ryo told him as they headed over, we'll give you the grand tour.”

They didn't get far as a motorized cart got away from one of the ground crew. Boris saw it and grabbed them by the collar to pull them out of the way as it sped past. It crashed into a wall with a ear ringing metal thud. Boris started yelling at the man in Russian as Bill stared at the impact zone. “That was a little too close.” Then that section of wall fell with another ear ringing clang. “That shouldn't have happened right?”

“No it should not,” Ryo answered him as he, Bill and a few of the ground crew rushed over to inspect the damage. They all stopped at the sight of a couple of black and silver humaniod robots standing against an inner wall. “What the hell are these things?”

“Another project of Dr. O'Hara,” Boris told him as he came closer. “More of her battleroids. She call these Chiburoids, mass produced metal soldiers. Very cheep, very fast to make. But strange though, very strange,” he muttered to himself as he started to stroke his chin.

“You didn't know these were here?”, Ryo asked him.

“Nyet,” was the answered, “I am as surprised as you.” Bill and Ryo looked at each other. Both nodded in silent agreement as Boris ordered the ground crew to check the other walls.

***
“Alright,” Ken said as he stood inside one of the longer pieces of King Joe, “next section.” Datapad in hand he called up the schematics of the area he was in. Finding them he looked them over for a minute or so then looked at the part in real life. Since he finally decided to embrace the whole genius thing fully, Jess' words, he didn't feel the need to hide what he could do any more and was going through the process faster then Dr. Williams thought was necessary. And yet surprisingly accurate to everybody else looking at his results. Getting tired at staring what he would swear looked like a giant knee oint, he lowered the pad blew out a breath. “This is fucking ridiculous,” he muttered to himself. Then he turned and made his way back toward the port he originally came in at.

Heading toward what the plans said was one of the middle sections he banged on the opening, “Yo Doc!” he waited a few moments. Only hearing him curse something about a bunch of wires once. Ken thought that was a record given his usual standard.

Coming into view he gave out an exasperated, “Yes,” while still fighting with a wire that was looped around his wrist. It took Ken and one of the tower people working with them a second to free him. Then only got a mumbled, “Thank you,” in return. Ken figured he was still a bit sore at the fact Hawk seemed to like the weapon upgrades Greenberg was suggesting for the Alpha One.

“Doc, I hate to add to your troubles but I'm still saying we're barking up the wrong tree here,” Ken told him. He grunted and stated his way back inside the machine. He stopped him, “Everything is coming out clean so far.”

“Brooks could have done something,” Dr. Williams insited.

“We checked all the major things first,” Ken argued. “Stating with the connectors that supposed to hold this stupid thing together once they joined up. They're clean. Electrical pathways, coolant system, all good. We are about five steps away from checking every nut, bolt and rivet in these things.”

“Do I have to remind you what Brooks did to the Alpha One,” he shot back.

Ken snapped back at him, “He also had physical access to the Alpha One. And nobody had seen Brooks here since this project was green lighted. Hell he's never even set foot on this base. And Bridge has determined that the security feeds around here haven't been tampered with once. He was never here.”

“He could have showed up where the parts were manufactured,” Williams told him, not wanting to let this go.

“Everything was manufactured here” ,Ken reminded him. “And since he flew away from Castle I'm pretty sure he can't teleport.”

The good Doctor suddenly looked very smug, which was not a good look for him, like he had the winning point for the argument. “Then how do you explain those giant creatures, hmm?”

“Doc,” Ken uttered while pinching the bridge of his nose, “you know why there are giant creatures and who's sending them.” Williams sputtered for a moment as Ken looked over at one of the people helping them. Did he say that loud enough for him to over here because that was not a conversation he wanted to have with Captain Hawk at this particular moment. Or any time soon. Or ever for that matter. Seeing how he didn't seem to react Ken turned his focus back to Williams, “We'll keep looking, but so far mechanically, these birds are coming out green. If anything he hired somebody to do something to the computer system which means it's in the hands of Bridge and Emiko.”

“Humph,” he grunted, “you probably think those weapon upgrades will work as well.” Ken hesitated in answering, especially since Hawk let him have a look over those plans before Williams joined them for breakfast. He had to admit they looked good. Which Dr. Williams apparently saw on his face. “Dod gamn it,” he mumbled as he went back into the machine.

“Doc,” Ken called after him. Shaking his head he noticed their assistant look at the Doctor's retreating form, then at him with the strangest look on his face. “Yeah he does that sometimes.” Walking back to the machine he was checking out his communicator went off, “Scott here.”

“Ken,” came Hawk reply, “I need you to check out something for me.”

***
“I don't understand how this was possible,” Emiko said as she sat behind her computer. Beside her Bridge had set up shop with his own rig, both going over anything to figure out how these Chiburoids got where they were. “I am seeing nothing suggesting security was messed with anywhere in the hanger.”

“I know how frustrating that can be,” Bridge said not taking hs eyes off the screen in front of him. They had a similar situation back at Castle not that long ago and he only found it then by sheer luck. “We have no idea how long those robots have been in place so who knows when it happened.”

“But I am finding no records of those machines being built either,” she said “There is a record of of what it takes to build everything here and I am not seeing any sort of requisition request for those material use in the Chiburoid construction.” Stopping what she was doing she held her head down a bit and slowed her breathing, “Think. If there are no records then we weren't supposed to know about them until... whatever the plan was. But she still needed the materials and revenue to get said materials.” She opened her eyes as she snapped her head back up, “There was an outside source.”

“On it,” Bridge told her as he changed his search parameters.

A few seconds later Hawk and Greenberg came into the computer room. “Please tell me you two found something,” Hawk said as he took a familiar spot behind Bridge.

“We're still looking Captain,” Bridge answered. “Emiko figures Dr. O'Hara had an outside source to build the Chiburoids that were discovered. I'm checking various situations know.”

“Even if she had outside resources,” Greenberg spoke up, “she would still need help in building them on that scale. Which would mean people directly under her are involved in this... whatever this is... as well.”

“A bit of advice Doctor,” Hawk told him, “don;t make any accusations yet until you have absolute proof. I did that recently and it almost cost me one of my best people. Let's concentrate on O'Hara first then branch out from there.”

The rig Bridge was sitting in front of started to beep, “Looks like I found something,” he said. “Looks like Dr. O'Hara received some large packages from a weapons manufacture.” He tilted his head a bit as he kept reading, “Said company is owned by Charles Brooks.”

“Damn it,” Hawk said under his breath. “An nobody seen him since Peter Brooks went rogue,” he mainly said to Greenberg. “I think it's time we talked to the good Doctor about this.” Before the other man could respond his communicator beeped, “Hawk here.”

It was one he had been eagerly awaiting as Ken responded, “Captain we have successfully hardwired a data transmitter into the head of one of these thing. You should be getting it now.”

“Reviving transmission,” Emiko said. “The data is heavily encrypted. Nathan do you have that can speed this up cracking this code?”

“Just a moment,” he said as he reached for a separate lap top and turned it on. Staring to connect it with her help he said, “Got a couple of home brew code breakers I've been keeping on the back burner.”

“I would love to see the programming,” she said with a slight smile.

Bridge smiled right back, “I would love to show you it.” Hawk coughed behind him causing Bridge to flinch a bit. The message was clear, work now show off programming later. After a few key strokes, “Program is activated. It still going to take a couple of minutes to break it though. Wait, the first layer of the encryption is already broken.”

“I think I already have something,” Emiko announced. “It's a map of Tower, the entire complex.” She pulled up what she was seeing on a larger screen. “From what everyone was looking at most of the building had a series of dots going around the perimeter, even in the wall surrounding the complex. Highlighting an area on one of the building she announced, “This is the hanger and were they discovered the Chiburoids.” If those dots corresponded to just the ones they found.” All of them tried to count how many dots there were on screen.

“We need to talk to O'Hara now,” Hawk said.

“I completely agree,” Greenberg said.

“That won't be necessary,” O'Hara said from the doorway. “Don't worry I fully intend to cooperate in this situation so there no need for any violence.”

“Just what is going on Dr. O'Hara,” Greenberg demanded., “Julie. What are you trying to do?'

“I just made some wrong choices Franklin,” she said. “Contacted the wrong people when things got too slow around here. I never was a patient woman you know. Then a worse person found out about it.”

“Peter Brooks,” Hawk said figuring that's where she was going. She nodded.

“He was nice at first,” she explained. “He saw great potential in my battle bots. Even after he helped get King Joe started he would send various emails about my design, completely amazed at how quickly we could build some of them. Then he showed his true colors.” She began circling the room, “All of our correspondence were turned over when he showed his true colors. I had no problem in doing so as I didn't tell him anything that wasn't public knowledge, or available to the Board. But Brooks was a better snooper than I thought as I started getting emails form a private source after the fact, detailing every black market connection me and some members of my staff have made to get projects going faster. He threatened to expose it all and end my and their careers. I don't give a wit about about what happens to me, but I wasn't going put a premature end to my staff because of my folly.”

“I'm getting an activation signal,” Emiko announced getting it from the connection she had through the transmitter. Around the hanger and all over Tower hidden Chiburoids started to stir and break out of hiding.

“Some of my staff on the other hand,” O'Hara went as they looked at her, “don't have that problem.”

“Hawk to all units,” he barked into his communicator, “prepare for an internal assault.”

“Aware of that Captain,” Ken had said as shots could be heard, over the line and through the building.

“We broke another layer of the encryption,” Emiko announced. “We have a primary objective. They're after the robots in the display room.” Again they looked at O'Hara who just shrugged a little bit. None of them was actually sure if she was sorry or not at this point. Right now Hawk didn't give a damn.

“Hawk to Scott,” he started to say.

“We heard over the open line Captain,” he said. “Ryo and Boris have the hanger covered. Me and Bill and a few others are heading for the display room now.” Despite all of this Hawk celebrated, just a bit, internally. Not only was he finally believing the genius label he finally started to think like a UNDF member at the same time. It could have been under better circumstances but like the young man said the the night before, he'll take it.

“Understood, Hawk to Wade. Meet up with Ken's group in the display room and try to fortify a defense.” He glanced back at the display Emiko had put up earlier trying to figure out where the display room was. The he glanced over at Greenberg, having forgotten he was there until just now. “My apologizes for taking over sir.”

“I am fully aware this is your area of expertise Captain,” was his response “I'm just trying to stay out of your way. And the display is right here,” he said highlighting it on the screen for him. Emiko I know your busy but I need you to go over who on Dr.. O'Hara staff is capable of helping her pull something like this off.. And I highly doubt she'll be forth coming on who those people will be despite her claims.”

“Yes Doctor,” she said as she immediately pulled up the staff records and started cross referencing.

“Bridge, do what you can to lock down the King Joe hanger,” Hawk said to his man. “I'm not seeing any Chiburoids stationed there, but if Brooks is involved I positive it's still a main objective.”

“Hanger is already locked down,” Bridge told him. He looked back at O'Hara who simply took a seat in an empty chair in the room. Greenberg motioned for one of the security to guard her. But something about this still bothered Hawk on a certain level. Why would a bunch of display robots be a primary objective when there were other, more easily activated things they could grab. Like weapons and data plans.

***
The two groups of UNDF officers hit the display room, so far not an active bot in sight. While Bill and Jess started accessing how defensible the area was, and out side a few of the larger floor displays there wasn't a whole lot, Tower personal started to set up something the size of small folding table in various parts of the room. With a press of a button they expanded to three times there length. Getting a closer look at the new barrier Bill let out a low whistle, “We need to get some of these.”

“Wish list later,” Jess told him. Emiko and Bridge had sent the Chiburoids location to all the troops and she pulled up the information. “Looks like the main force is coming from that door.” Tower personal repositioned the barriers to face the door she pointed out. There was a small hiss as somebody one of them announced they were locked in place.

“Seriously,” Bill started again, “can we get Civilian the plans for these?”

“Lock down all the doors,”one of the tower guard ordered. Men were already on the move as each was set with something that looked like two black disk attached to a metal bar. Then those disk expanded to cover more of the door securing it further.

“Those be nice too,” a more than a few told Bill to shut up at that point as they took position behind the barriers. Bill spoke up again, “Okay serious question here are we going to have to worry about the displays in here? Because shooting up this room looks like it'll get expensive.”

“It'll give the scientist something to do by fixing them,” somebody barked.

“Just asking,” Bill said as the first pound came from the door. He like the rest of them aimed his gun at the door. That pounding went on for several minutes before the door started to crack.

“Here they come,” Jess said from her position. Still they all waited until the door broke away completely, “Fire!” The first few Chiburoids took the initial hit and went down fast. But more walked in over their fallen comrades and moved forward. Trying to look over those coming into the room Jess tried to gage how bad this particular wave was. “I'm not seeing an end of this particular line!”

“Worry about running out of ammo first,” Bill told her.

“Don't wait and start picking your shots now!” Jess ordered. The door opening was pretty much a choke point, if they shot down enough Chiburoids then they would become a makeshift barrier in their own right for a few moments. Jess and a few others were able to get some clean head shots. Ken was not one of those people even with the targeting assist, and his helmet was currently on the Alpha One with the rest of theirs at that particular moment. Still he did the best he could, until some of the Chiburoids started to fire back.

“Fuck they got into the armory!”, one of Tower personal said. Ken ducked as a few more shots flew over his head. This just went from bad to hell way too fast. And he was a mechanic with a gun. No he was also a UNDF officer, maybe not a full one, but one just the same. So he had to think like one. Then, as another volley went over their heads, he looked over at the display. The one containing Windam to be precise. Thinking as fast as he ever thought he raised his gun at the case and fired. Jess saw him, and figuring he had a plan altered her aim and shot at the case too until the glass shattered.

Ken started for the now open case as Jess got Bill's attention. “Cover him!”

“On it!” he called back as he and a few others made sure none of the Chiburoids couldn't get a clear shot at him. Once Ken made the case Bill hurried over and got behind the case to give him a little extra coverage. “What's the plan Civilian?”, he asked as Ken already had a panel removed.

Already working on untangling some of the wires the scientist tied up when they deactivated Windam he replied, “I'm going to hook up the power source and reactivate the battle computer from memory.”

Bill took his eyes off the Chiburoids just long enough to ask, “You can do that?”

Ken stopped just long enough to answer, “I'm about to find out.”

The fire fight kept going as more Chiburoids kept pouring through the door. A Tower personal got hit and went down. Another went down permanently as he took his eyes off the battle to check on his friend. Jess took out the the robot responsible but didn't get a reprieve as she had to duck a series shot that came in their direction. This was not going to end well at this rate. “Any help would be appreciated,” she said to nobody in particular.

Then she saw movement out of the corner of her eye and took a chance in case they started to flank them. But it was Ken. He positioned himself just by the front of the case and pointed at the Chiburoids, “Windam go!” The robot eye lit up and looked at the Chiburoids. Stepping out of the case it hurried toward the barrier and leapt over it onto a group. “Come on!” Ken shouted as Windam started battling the others.

“Don't shoot the silver one!”, Jess ordered. The tactic seemed to be working as the Chiburoids seemed to be unsure of what was going one and they were able to whittle down the numbers a bit more in that moment. But that moment didn't last long enough as the Chiburoid readjusted they formation a bit and started to swarm Windam, dragging him the the ground. “Damn it,” she went under her breath as she shoot a couple of them off of him.

Then the Chiburoids in the back started to go down as Ryo, Boris and more Tower personal made their way to the display room. Caught in a cross fire the Chiburoids went down in a hurry. Bill stepped out from behind Windam's display case as Ken ran for the pile, “I've have never been so glad to see anybody.”

“Sorry to make you wait,” Ryo told Bill giving Ken a confused look as he started going through the pile of robots. Looking over at Jess she pretty much told him to let it go for the moment. “We would have been here sooner but there were a ton of these things.”

Boris added,” Literally coming out of the wood works.”

“Oh no,” Ken suddenly said. He had found what he was looking for. “Windam, buddy, what did they do to you?” The silver robot had various holes ripped into it, and an arm completely torn loose. Jess came over and put a comforting arm around his shoulders. Then the room started to shake.

“Now what?”, Ryo asked out loud.

“We have activity in the King Joe hanger,” Bridge announced. “But I'm not getting any signal that the Chiburoids made their way inside.”

“Captain Hawk!”, a panicked Dr. Williams shouted over the comm line. “The machines are trying to crash through the ceiling!” Hawk stole a glance at O'Hara, she didn't seem shocked at this bit of news. Then things seemed to click into place.

“Dr. Greenberg,” he said to his counterpart, “did any of her staff work on King Joe?”

“Everybody worked on King Joe because of the sheer size.” Then it dawned on him about where Hawk was going. “It wasn't about the display.”

“The Chiburoids were a distraction,” he said. “They needed time to get Joe up and running.” There was a louder crash and they turned to the two monitoring the situation.

Emiko spoke for both of them, “Hanger breach. One of the components broke through the ceiling.”She switch the image on the main screen to an outside shot. All the King Joe components started to slowly fly out of the hanger. “They are headed for the city.”

“Those things have any weapons?”, Hawk said to Greenberg.

“Not originally planned but,” he turned to look at O'Hara who still said nothing.

“Get an evacuation order going,” Hawk told the two computer experts. Hitting his comm he ordered, “All Alpha Team members get ready to scramble. We're going to shoot that thing out of the sky.”

“Greenberg to defensive units,” he said into his communicator, “Prepare to launch and aid Alpha Team.”

Boris looked at his men, “You heard order, go.” He then patted Ryo and Bill hard on the back, “Come my new friends. It's time to show our skill.”

“Ken come on,” Ryo said as they started to run out of the room.

“I'll be back to fix you,' he said to the robot lying on the floor, “I promise,” as he made his way out of the room.

***
The pieces didn't do much, even as the combined assault forces of Alpha Team and Tower bombarded it with everything that had. Ryo and Bill separated the Alpha Twos and quickly formed up with several other of the Tower Wings in a loose formation. On Hawk's command each group picked a section to attack. Hopefully one of them would go down first before. According to what Ken and Williams were able to tell him during the flight, these thing didn't need a pilot as they were completely controlled by an AI system. Hopefully taking out one would mess whatever programming they had up enough to let them win this day.

On the ground Ken had joined with the evacuation forces to help with that effort. He pretty much let the Tower personal do the instruction part as he waved people through. “Come on!”, he said after a bit, “What he said! This way!.” Ken tried to see if there was an end to this particular crowd and he didn't see one from his spot. In all honestly this was a scale he wasn't used to. Still he hadn't been trampled yet, generally that was a plus. But better not press his luck, especially with a crowd this size. “What Japanese for 'move your butts faster'?”

“I've been saying it!”, the guy with went as they kept waving people through.

“Alrighty then,” Ken mumbled. He tried to keep an eye on the flying machines at the same time. More people did so as they started coming together and the \defensive teams increased their attack. They took a formation as the larger section split apart to form legs, a smaller section landed on top of that, a bigger section on top of that. As a pair of arm extended out as the thing that looked like a head earlier connected at the top taking a very rough humaniod shape. “Holy fuck,” Ken said standing there a long with the rest of them on the ground. “It did turn into giant robot.”

“Son of a bitch,” Hawk muttered. This is what he wanted to avoid. “All units concentrate fire on King Joe. Greenberg now that 's combined is there a weak point?”

“We've already pulled up the plans,” Greenberg said. “Emiko, Bridge and Williams are going over it now. Also anybody who doesn't have a close connection to O'Hara and her group. It's a risk I know, but considering the situation I thought it was worth it.'

“I'll leave you to it then,” Hawk said. “Hawk to all units keep on the attack.”

“All right guys,” Ryo said from one of the Alpha Twos, “Get in formation. Keep the attack constant, once one wave attacka the next group in line set of a run.”

“You got it,” Bill replied.

“We will follow your lead,” Boris replied as other chimed in as well. They followed up on the plan as King Joe started to attack the building around, smashing the buildings with the fist, or what was supposed to be fist. Their attack seemed to go unnoticed as the damage from King Joe increased. So far it didn't seem to have any long range weapons. Which was a small blessing so far. On the ground the crowd seemed to get running again with a new furor as the giant robot rampaged.

“Where's the American?”, one of the Tower people asked as they barely got out of the way of the stampeding crowd.

“Avoiding this mess if he was smart,” came the reply. “Damn it check the ground to make sure they're not stepping on him.”

On the other side of the street Ken started moving before the robot or the crowd did. Going down an alley nobody else was in he hugged a wall and pulled out the Spark Magnifier. It was Dax's size after all, as per their reworked arrangement from a while ago. Still he hesitated as bit. “Well, this is going to cause a lot of questions.” Then he held it over his head and activated it.”

***
“I'm surprised and not surprised Ultraman showed up,” Bill commented as the column of light faded away revealing the being inside.

Boris snorted a bit from his Wing, “He's smaller than I expected. Tales made him sound much bigger.”

“Truth is better than fiction,” Ryo told him. “All units take up a holding pattern around the area. Do not engage unless ordered to.”

Already uttering his standard battle cry Daxium charged toward King Joe. The robot did nothing as he unleashed a series of punches and kicks. Then when he stopped a vicious backhand from the robot sent him flying into a nearby building, causing it to cave a bit. King Joe came at him and Daxium rolled out of the way as it tried to grab him. A flash bolt made the machine stop momentarily. Daxium ran in with a flying kick that barely made it budge. He had to back flip out of the way as the golden machine tried to grab him again. Realizing what he had to do the giant banged his forearms together and held them out in a strong pose as he shifted into his power mode. Going in again Daxium started striking the robot. Joe was recoiling now but it was standing.

Then it moved faster than he was expecting as it broke through his attacks and grabbed him around the neck. The giant pounded on it's arms as he was slowly being pressed down to his knees. Grabbing it's wrist and grunting he forced himself back up with all he had and started to remove those hands from his neck. Then the robot kicked him I the stomach bending him over from the blow. Grabbing him around the head and neck King Joe lifted him up and slammed him against another building. As it crumbled from the impact Bridge and Emiko had made a discover on their own. “King Joe is accessing the UNDF database,” Emiko told them. “With a priority on everything we have on Ultraman.”

“The AI,” Greenberg said in understanding, “it trying to learn how Ultraman fights.”

“I've already blocked it access,” Bridge announced. “It's trying a different attack route. Emiko I'm going to need your help in stopping it.” She nodded and they both started hitting the keys in front of them as fast as humanly possible.

While that was going on King Joe picked up and threw Daxium into another set of building. Several rounds of rockets exploded off it's metallic hide it reached up and ripped a radio tower off a near by building. As Daxium struggled to get off the ground King Joe started swing the tower down against his back over and over. The Alpha One aimed it's missiles at the tower in it's hand before Daxium was hit again. With it's weapon gone King Joe then reached down and grabbed the giant around the neck and hauled him up, using him as a shield. Daxium cried out in pain as a series of missiles struck him before the Wings knew what was happening. “Shit,” Jess from her station. Letting go of his neck King Joe spun him around and punched him down again. On his back Daxium cried out again as a foot came stomping down his chest over and over. Then the robot held it there and leaned forward bit so a good chunk of it's weight was in one spot as it started grinding it's foot into his chest. Before long the jewel started to blink red on Daxium's chest.

“Main laser fire!” Jess called out. A massive beam hit King Joe causing it to stop. It was enough of a reprieve that Daxium grabbed the foot keeping him down and pushed the robot off of him. Scrambling to his feet as the robot quickly regained it's balance he took up a fighting position again and tried to figure a new angle of attack in the time he had left.

“We have something!” Williams cried out. “There's a less armored area right under King Joe's chest. “It's going to be a million and one shot though but the Alpha One's main laser should pierce it.”

“Wade?”, Hawk called vack to her from his chair.

“Just get me in position,” she said as the information came up on one of her screens. The Alpha One tried to giver her a shot but King Joe kept moving. “Come on,” she muttered as she waited for the shot, “figure out what we're doing.”

Daxium saw the human's jet not sure what they were trying to hit. But Ken was watching at that moment to at the giant's request. Ken lowered his head and closed his eyes as he tried to recall what he could remember of the King Joe plans. They had to have found something but what? Not what, he realized, but where. They were trying to get in front of it. “Grab it from behind and hold 'im!” Daxium rushed toward King Joe and was able to get behind it. Grabbing both it's arms he struggled to turn the massive machine toward the Alpha One.

On board Jess quickly locked down her target, “Main laser fire!” The beam hit the designated spot. An small explosion seemed to happen inside King Joe as it's movements started to get more jerky. Daxium let go and held his fist to the flashing jewel on his chest and drew in energy. Rearing back with that fist he launched it forward as King Joe turned around and faced, unleashing the full force of Giga Wave on it's chest. The energy from the wave obliterated most of the machine and the rest exploded as it fell. Breathing heavily for a moment as he held his own chest he looked up at the sky.

With a “Shiah!” he flew off into the heavens.

From his wing Boris asked, “Where does he go?”

Ryo smiled to himself, “We stop asking that a long time ago.”

On the ground Ken reappeared from a ball of light. Immediate;y his free hand went to his chest, as he was now feeling any damage Daxium took during the fight. Then, without warning, “Ulturaman!” Looking around in a panic he found the source. It was a group of kids, and all of them seemed really excited. Ken put a finger to his lips and hoped they got the message. They apparently did as the put their hands to their mouths and nodded their heads. Then the ran off giggling and Ken just smiled to himself.

***
“Da, it's a beauty of a ship,” Boris had commented as he Ryo and Bill walked around the Alpha One the next day. “Pity I never had a chance to pilot her myself. But city needed help first.” For most of the Tower personal and the Castle crew that volunteered to do what the could with the clean up. And that stay of an extra day was at Greenberg's insistence, as a bit if a thank you for helping with the King Joe situation. To relax a bit before the trip and make sure the Alpha One was well supplied.

“Maybe if we stayed an extra day,” Ryo told him. “But Captain Hawk, and the rest of us too, are anxious to get back home. We don't know when Brooks is going to send out his next creature.”

“Maybe next time I visit Castle,” Boris said. “But hopefully that time will not be as entertaining.”

“We can't make any promises there.”

Bill started tapping Ryo on the arm, “I don't think all of us are in that much of a hurry to get back buddy.” They looked over to see Bridge talking to Emiko.

“Lucky man,” Boris told them. “She is very much in her shell when not behind computer. It's good to see her interested in somebody.” Bill and Ryo just exchanged knowing looks.

“I think I have everything,” Bridge said as he just sort of glimpsed at the cases by him. “I can't really think of anything I've forgotten.” He wanted to ask for something but wasn't sure how to.

“Perhaps,” Emiko held a piece of paper, looking almost as unsure as he was, “Nathan, you were forgetting this?” Bridge took it and looked it over as he started smiling. It was her personal contact information.

“Yes I definitely almost forgot that. And this too.” He found a piece of paper and quickly wrote down his contact information and handed it to her. “”We'll work out the time difference as we go.” Figuring out what was going on Ryo and Bill slapped hand in celebration for him. There was a slightly awkward moment where they couldn't decided what to do next so they settled on a quick hand shake and went their separate ways.

Once he was close enough Bill wrapped a arm around him, “Bridge you sly dog.”

“Cut it out will you,” he said looking super embarrassed as they entered the Alpha One.

“Are I sure I can't get you and your crew to stay an extra day Captain?”, Greenberg asked as the two of them approached the super jet. “It's very relaxing here. Most days that is.”

“We're needed back at Castle,” Hawk told him. “Commander Reid says the coast is clear for the moment, but that can change anytime. Besides, you probably have to start replacing O'Hara and the members of her staff that was in with her for this mess.”

“Yes and the mess in general,” Greenberg agreed. “”It's going to take months to rebuild things here and in the city. Just based on the estimates on the work being done in the states after such an attack. Honestly I'm not sure how you deal with it on a regular basis.”

“You be surprised what you can get used to,' Hawk told him.

“As for replacing O'Hara's department.” he sighed, “I already have applications to look at. After we question her entire staff that is. I hope it's not the case but I may have to replace every single one of them depending on what they knew. However,” a smile returned to his face, “are you sure I can't borrow Ken for a bit? Say a year or five?”

Hawk chuckled, “That's still a no Doctor.”

“I was afraid you were going to say that,” he looked a bit chagrined. “Ah well have a good trip home Captain, it might be a slightly interesting one.

As he walked off leaving Hawk to ponder what that meant he suddenly heard something new. Something like metal feet touching the ground. The he heard Ken voice coming from one of the hanger. “That's good. Right step,' he walked out backwards leading the robot O'Hara and her crew were working on when they arrived. It was still missing an arm but it was staggering after Ken. “Good, good. Left step, Right. Left,” the robot started to lift up it's right foot again. “Left. No left. I said left. Your other left.” Then the robot complied with what it was being told. “Good, now right.”

“Scott!”, Hawk barked.

He jumped and quickly stood at attention. But the robot kept going forward and ran into him. “Whoa, Windam stop.” When the robot complied he went back at attention, but with a nervous smile on his face.

Walking toward him Hawk just stared him down. “Scott,” he said evenly, “what exactly do you think you're doing?”

“Well.. they.. uh...,” he began, “Dr. Greenberg said if I could fix him I could keep him. I technically already fixed him...” and he was quickly losing any confidence in his reasoning the more Hawk stared at him.

Jess spoke up in Ken's defense, “Dr. Greenberg did say that sir. Even sighed off on it.”

“Even if that was true,' Hawk said as he took a datapad off of one of the supply crates being loaded onto the Alpha One. “I am not seeing a listing for THX-U7 on the supply manifest.”

“Um Captain,” Jess went as she scrolled the inventory list up and highlighted one item under W. Windam. He shot her a cool glance. She tried to give him her most innocent looking smile. It wasn't working.

Giving a once over to the beaten up robot he looked back at her. “If that thing blows up and takes out half of Castle it's on you.” Then he left to supervise the supply loading for the Alpha One. He looked back at Ken and the robot. “Whatever it takes I suppose. I just hate being left out of the loop in my own command.”

In the mean time Jess was giving a worried look at Windam. “He's not going to explode and take out the base, is he?”

Ken gave her a long drawn out, “Noooo,” before stopping and giving the robot a more critical eye. “I don't think.” Jess hand reached out toward him suddenly. He flinched a bit thinking she was going to hit him. Then he realized her hand went past his head. Then he saw it clinching Dr,William's wrist. More importantly the hypo gun in his hand.

She took it from him saying, “Doctor, what did we say about injecting people without their knowledge?” He mumbled something and quickly walked away. She handed it to Ken, “Here.”

He took it with a bit of apprehension remembering what it felt like last time. “Better get this over with. Maybe it won't hurt as bad since I know it's coming.” Holding against his neck Ken took a couple of breaths before pulling the trigger. “Mother...!” he pulled it away and grabbed his neck with his free hand. “No still hurts as bad.” Looking at the gun for a bit he handed it back to her, “Just for the record that's not going to get me in the air on a regular basis.”

“Didn't think it was,” she said. “Come on let's find a place to secure Windam.”

“Already got a couple spot in mind if they haven't already been taken,” Ken told her. “Windam, follow us.” After a bit of a staggering start the three headed for the Alpha One. Ken sort of glanced over at Jessica out of the corner of his eye, thinking about that offer to listen to anything he had to say. He briefly wondered if maybe it was time to tell somebody his secret. But then again he wondered what would Richardson do if he ever found out somebody else knew. And he didn't want to ruin her career because he got tired about lying to all of them.

Something in this situation was going to break sooner or latter. It was just going to be a question on how bad the fall out was going to be when it did.


-----
ED – Shinedown – Fly From the Inside
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Old June 23rd, 2019, 09:25 AM #26
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Power Ranger
 
Joined: Dec 2012
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scikaiju
Power Ranger
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 382



Episode 25

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OP – Mercy Drive – Burn in My Light
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Walking into one of Castle's labs Jess looked around until she saw it. And she still didn't believe it. Several people had told her that Ken and Bridge were working on Windam, the robot they brought back from Japan. But there they were huddled around a computer hooked up to the silver machine, A few of the scientist and Ryo and Bill, for some reason, behind them. Bill saw her first and called her over with a wave. Alright she'll believe that they were working together, but the idea that Ken initiaited this particular partnership? No, just no. That was too much to take in at once. Once part of the group she did ask, “So what are we doing exactly?”

Ryo answered her, “Ken thinks something's wrong with Windam's programming.”

“Yeah, the genius couldn't figure it out,” Bill chimed in. Which caused Ken to hold up a particular finger. “Showing everybody your I.Q.?”

Ken shot back with, “Showing them my opinion of what your's is.” He stood straighter to stretch his back a bit and grunted while doing so. To her he said, “Windam's still confusing his left for his right every so often.” Jess nodded, remembering the robot doing that in Japan a couple of times. “I've gone over the wiring and plans more times than I can count. Whatever the problem is it's not mechanical.”

“Which is why Ken asked me to take a look at him when I had some free time,” Bridge chimed in. Upon hearing this Jess immediatley reached out and put a hand to Ken's forehead, who pulled back in in surprised looking at her.

“You ask for help from no one,” she told him. “You have to be sick or something.”

“Why do you think there's a crowd?”, Ryo said. Which got a chuckle or two out of the group.

Ken responded with a very annoyed sounding, “Or,” he paused to make sure everybody stopped finding the situation funny, “I deal with hardware and realize software is so out of my ballpark it's not even funny.”

“I hate it when he has a point,” Bill ended up saying.

“I still think he has a fever,” Jess said.

Waiting as the new round of giggling died down Ken bent back down to see the computer screen. “Anything?”

“Nothing yet,” Bridge told. The most of the crowd started to disperse seeing how the make fun of Ken segment of the evening seemed to be over leaving only her, Ken and Bridge. “There's a ton of code here. It's going to take me a little longer than the free time I have right now to figure it out.”

“No rush buddy,” Ken told him. “I didn't expect that this was going to be done by lunch. And let's be honest here, Windam's just a side project that Hawk's only tolerating at the moment.” While Jess was sure Hawk was more than just tolerating it since Ken was finally starting to believe he was a genius at these matters the whole side project bit was still true.

“Maybe you can contact Emiko and see if she has any ideas on where to look,” Jess offered.

Ken apparently tried to sweeten the idea by adding, “And you can talk to her again.”

“She helped with the programming, I don't want to accidentally insult her,” Bridge quickly said as he readjusted himself in his seat. Obviously a bit uncomfortable that his budding relationship was brought into this.

“Come on man,” Ken said sitting on a crate next to him. “There's gotta be a way to ask her without insulting her.” Her looked over at her for a little help.

“Of course there is,” Jess told him. “Maybe you could explain the problem and ask if she had any ideas what might be wrong

“Just don't mention you been studying her UNDF profile in your spare time,” it was obvious to Jess at least that Ken meant it as a joke. A bad one, but a joke none the less. However Bridge's reaction, in how embarrassed he started looking made the two of them look at each other in surprise. Slowly Ken looked back at Bridge for a bit before saying, “You didn't.”

”Bridge,” Jess muttered as she buried her face in her hands and sat on a nearby chair.

“I was just making sure she wasn't already in a relationship,” he tried to defend himself. Then added while looking away, “And make sure it wasn't changed recently, And checked for any traps to show her that anybody was looking at it.”

“I was almost with you until that last bit,” Jess told him.

“Yeah man,” Ken joined in. “Ask her, I was like you back in the day, and even I never went that far.”

Jess looked unconvinced, “You didn't?”

“No I didn't,” he insisted. “Even if I wanted to I would have asked one of your friends and you were the only one out of your group who'd give me the time of day. And if Emiko was already seeing somebody somebody would have said something before we left,” he told Bridge.

“So you thought about,” Jess kept it up,” in your pursuit of me.”

“You came after me,” he reminded her. Both of them started grinning at each other despite Bridge's still obvious discomfort over the situation. “Look Bridge what we're trying to say is you're going a little too far,” she nodded in agreement.

“If you have too tell her it was Ken's idea”, she added. He shot her a look, then he just shrugged his shoulders a bit

“If anything maybe Greenberg will stop bothering me to transfer over for a little while,” Ken said. “Hopefully.”

“Not after how hard he was trying to get Hawk to agree to it,” Jess told him.

A second after she said that Hawk walked over, looking around, “I thought there would be a bigger crowd for this.” Ken couldn't hide how annoyed that made him fast enough.

“You missed it by a few minutes,” Jess informed him.”

“They got tired of making fun of Ken,”Bridge added. Her and Hawk both enjoyed the joke.

Ken on the other hand,”A. She was the only one making fun of me, And B,” he slapped Bridge in the shoulder with the back of his hand,”What the hell man I thought we were buds.”

“Why do you think I didn't join in,” he answered. Here Jess started laughing a bit, at Ken's expression more than anything else. Hawk just walked away shaking his head,

***
Elsewhere in Castle a different meeting was taking place. One where Richardson was positive was designed to waste his time. Something he was believing more and more by the second. “So,” he said in hopes of speeding things up, “we actually wasted resources on this so called fortune teller....”

“Telepath,” one of the others quickly interjected. One who quickly started to shrink down in his chair, or at least tried to, under Richardson's glare.

He conceded the but but still spat out the word, “Telepath. Why exactly?”

Someone further down the table spoke up, “From your tone, I see you don't quite believe our claim. In a world where Giant creatures and Ultraman are a thing, why is this so unbelievable?”

Patricia, who was standing behind him, leaned down and whispered in in ear. This person was Albert Lunden, the head of this particular project. And the idea he was challenging him this way in front of the other board members present. Still better to answer him in the same forum, for appearances more than anything else.

“Because I can see Ultraman and these creatures,” he told Lunden. “They're something tangable. Not some overblown parlor trick to entertain the masses.”

If Lunden was insulted in anyway he was good enough to not show a hint of it. But he did smile, like a parent would when their child said something so stupid it was cute. “I assure you Mr. Richardson what Timothy is capable of is more than a mere parlor trick. He is the first real example of extra-sensory ability the world has ever seen.”

“We've heard that claim before,” one of the others said, followed by a round of the usual murmurs of agreement from the others gathered.

“Granted,” Lunden responded, finally showing a hint of annoyance, “There have been those who have been extremely well trained at reading others and appear as if they're reading someone's mind. Those particular charlatan are worthy of this skepticism. But Timothy is capable of reading a person's thoughts. I have supplied documentation to prove this.”

“Yes,” Richardson drolled as he flipped through the file in front of him. “Seeing how you and your sector has provided proof of this before hopefully you can understand some of the doubt that we may harbor.”

“Of course,” Lunden said, suddenly looking very pleased with himself. “I'm sure you'll be quite satisfied with the results I provided the board.” Richardson sat there and gave a dismissive snort to that particular claim. Everyone else just read on silently. Trying to look like they at least understood the information in front of them. Then Richardson stopped flipping through when something in particular caught his attention. “Something wrong Mr. Richardson?”, Lunden asked innocently enough.

He didn't respond out loud. He felt everyyone at the table looking at him and a vein pulsating on the side of his temple. On the page in front of him was a rather crude looking drawing of a group of people in some sort of wooded area. A creature of some sort, although it vaguely looked like the first one that appeared, was in the background. But the one thing that caught his attention, and ire, was some sort of beam coming from the wooded area and enveloping one of the figures there. A line connected the drawing to a single name, Joseph. Below it was a single line of text that said 'How it really happened.' Richardson tore his eyes off it long enough to glare at Lunden who sat there waiting. Looking back at Patricia who seemed taken a back as well, he forced himself to calm down enough to close the file and set it down and say, “No, nothing wrong at all. Let's cut to the chase here Mr. Lunden, why are you here exactly?”

“I just want to prove Timothy can do what I claim he can do.”

“Let's say that he does prove that he can read other people's mind,” Richardson said, not taking his eyes off of the man, “then what?”

“Believe it or not, he wants to help,” Lunden told him and the other, “He's positive he can locate Brooks.”

“That's it?”, Richardson said in disbelief.

“Why hasn't he done it already?”, another person asked.

“While I wasn't here when it happened,” he began, “word did get down to us that Brooks had some spectacular abilities of his own that he used in his escape. Nobody is quite sure of the extent of these abilities Timothy is afraid Brooks might be able to track him down if he did so. He wants me to ask you for protection in case that happens.”

Richardson leaned back in his chair and said, “If word about the incident reached you, I'm sure you also heard he pretty much wiped the floor with us on the way out. I'm not sure how much protection we would be able to provide.”

“He's not asking for a fire fight,” Lunden said sounding a bit desperate. Taking a moment to regain control he continued, “ But if he's here when it happen maybe Brooks would think twice about attacking.”

“Or,” yet another person spoke up, “he could summon another giant creature to attack this base.” Richardson nodded in agreement along with a few other. They were still repairing parts of Castle from that incident.

Still he said, “Seeing how we've been paying for this project we might as well see if it's been a waste of money and time or not. If this Timothy can do as Lunden claim then we'll go from there. Would that be satisfactory to you Mr. Lunden?”

“Perfectly,” he said, although to Richardson and a couple of others he looked relieved to have gotten the answer.

“We'll hash out the details later,”Richardson told the rest of the room, “schedules, ground rules for the telepath, but for now let's adjourn this meeting for now and get back to some actual work.” The group started to rise when he added,”Mr. Lunden if I could have a moment of your time before you go?”

“Of course Mr, Richardson,” he said and sat back down. Both of them waited until the others left the room. Patricia kept her position behind Richardson, although she positioned her arms so she would have an easier time going for her weapon if the need arose.A notion that wasn't lost on Lunden as he put his hands on the table and kept as still as possible. “Is there an issue?”

Before answering he reopened the file in front of him and located the crude artwork that he slapped on the table between then. Barely keeping his rage under control he almost snarled, “Yes there is. You can tell me what this is suppose to be exactly.”

“Admittedly it's not the best rendition,” Lunden said as he leaned in to get a better look at it. “After seeing so much media of people doing something similar seeing someone do it in real life is almost disappointing. I mean it's borderline masterpieces in those movies.” Richardson slapped his hand on the table, which made Lunden jump a little. He tried to recover by adding, “Movie magic I suppose.”

Barely able to keep himself from exploding in rage Richardson said, “I mean what is the meaning of this? Is this some sort of sick joke? Using my son's death...”

“So it didn't happen that way?”, Lunden said in that obviously fake way. “Timothy was rather insistent that was how it actually happened. Usually he not wrong about what he sees, able to tell the difference between what actually happened and what was a made up lie and all.”

“He invaded my mind?!”, Richardson shouted at him.

Lunden responded calmly, “No he didn't. This image didn't even come from you. It was from her,” he gestured toward Patricia who looked surprised. “I believe the topic of his death came up and you thought about it. I fear I may have given you the wrong idea of Timothy abilities. While he can actively read someone's mind he has an easier time of things if the other person is willing. Mostly he hears random thoughts, it's similar to walking into a crowded room with everyone talking at once. He can get get snippets of a 'conversation' her and there, but if you concentrate you can pick up exactly what's being said by a certain party. He's the same way with his abilities.”

Reaching over he pushed the image back toward Richardson. “Think of it as a show of good faith,” he said sitting back in the chair. “As for that image itself, well I did need something to get your attention. He could have grabbed something from someone else present, but it needed to be convincing. Not something somebody could claim I hired a detective to uncover. Now, while I'm curious about the actual going ons in that image I won't press for information, again as a show of good faith.”

“How magnanimous of you,” Richardson without sounding impressed. “How do I know you or he won't release what happened to the public after he's done here?”

“Because that would expose Timothy and his abilities to the general public,” Lunden explained. “And he's rather gun shy about revealing them. Particularly to an audience, he had a rather bad experience with a group of kids when he was younger when he showed off what he could do, as children tend to do. No, after that he rather reluctant to display them in any capacity. If his parents didn't bring him to our attention I doubt we would have known of his abilities to begin with. But since we're here I suppose now is a good as time as any to hash out some of those restrictions.”

Taking the picture Richardson handed it back to Patricia who quickly folded it up and placed it into an interior pocket of her jacket. Finally taking his eyes off Lunden he agreed with the previous statement, “Yes it would be.” Especially since he didn't need anyone else to know that he knew who Ultraman was and that he's been here at Castle all along.

***
Hours later Lunden had returned to the building they were using to conduct his department's test on extra sensory abilities. On the outside it looked like a regular office building, and for all intents and purposes it was. Several different UNDF departments had offices here instead of a base like Castle. Particularly those who didn't want the board hovering over their shoulders. Considering what they did Lunden was surprised they decided to take root here as well.

Going up to to the main desk in the lobby he was greeted by the security guard manning it. “Good afternoon Mr. Lunden, did the meeting at Castle go well?”

“Yes it did Frank,” he responded. Pulling out an ID card he swiped it in the card reader on the desk. Getting the green light he placed his briefcase on the conveyor belt and walk through the detector. Adding, “I was able to get them to agree to see Timothy.”

“A small miracle there,” the guard commented as he opened and did a quick scan of the briefcase and moved it through. “Everything looks clean sir.”

“Good,” Lunden commented as he retrieved the case, “I would hate to think I was trying to spy on my own company.” Frank gave a courtrsy laugh to the joke and waved him on. Maybe a bit much but again considering what they were doing, a necesssary security step. To rest the mind of the others who inhabit the building if nothing else.

Greeting a few others as he made his way to a row of elevators on the back wall. The one he was headed toward didn't have the usual call buttons. Instead it had a sensor the he held his ID to it. After a moment the door opened revealing a standard looking elevator, but with no floor buttons. This particular elevator only went to one floor and was the only one in the building that did so. And only he and a select few others in the building had access to it.

A short ride later Lunden reached the floor and exited to a regular looking hallway. Greeting a few more people he passed he made his way to the only occupied room, well on a semi permanent basis. Sitting in a chair was a young man in his late teens staring out into space. Lunden gave him a warm smile as he entered the room, which looked like part bedroom and part lab. “I'm back Timothy.”

“I see,” was all he said in a bored way. “Richardson agreed to the deal,” it obviously wasn't a question.

“I guess it was on my mind when I came in,” he said.

“It was blasting on loud,” he replied. “You're usually better at shielding your thoughts.”

“Just means I'm esctatic in the outcome,” was his response.

“And that picture I drew that's suddenly missing from my collection had nothing to do with it,” he pointed to several drawings covering the desk. “You said nobody would see them.”

“I know,” he responded as he pulled another chair closer to the desk, “and I'm sorry. But someone like Richardson is going to need hard proof before he agrees to anything.”

“I'm not getting it back am I?', he looked despondent at the thought.

“No, I'm afraid not.” He put a careful hand on his shoulder. Timothy was wary of any sort of physical contact, considering it hieghtened the strength of any signal or stray thought he could pick up. Lunden tended to do it to enforce the trust the boy had in him. Knowingly opening himself up to his abilities. “As you could imagine he doesn't want the truth of that particular matter known publicly.”

“And the restriction we guessed he would demand on?”, he asked, both knowing he could look for them personally if he wanted to.

“Pretty much what we expected, he was rather insistent that you don'tread any of the minds there.”

“How are they going to stop me if I decide to do that?”, he asked with a wicked grin.

“Timothy,” Lunden admonished him.

“Joking, only joking,” he quickly backed off. “I learned my lesson a long time ago.”

“I know you have Timothy,” Lunden told him. “It was a horrible way to learn anything. I'm just happy you trusted me enough to show me what you can do. And I don't want anything to happen to break that trust. But I can't stress enough how important this is. It's not about me, but proving that you actually have these abilities, and that there could be more people out there like you. People we can help learn how to use those abilities.”

“I know,” the younger man said while looking away, “I'm sure they be worried about being turned into living weapons.” And it was a fear he had as well, as Lunden knew as well.

All he could tell him was, “I won't let that happen Timothy, not as long as I'm in charge of the project.“

“I know, “ was all he said in return. “When do I head over?”

“In a couple of days,” Lunden said. “It's going to take that long for them to get things set up, even with our help. So try to relax until then.” Rising from the chair he asked, “Do you want me to have anything up here? Some more art supplies?”

“No, I'm good for now, Thank you.” Lunden patted him on the shoulder as he left the room. Once he was gone Timothy looked back at the door before going through all the papers on the desk, uncovering one he was trying to keep hidden, even from Lunden. Which he felt guilty about as Lunden was genuinely trying to be kind and understanding. But he felt he couldn't show this to anyone, because it would be bad for someone he just wasn't sure who as he lost this particular thought almost as soon as he tuned into it when Lunden asked him to look over the base to find something Richardson couldn't ignore. “Well he didn't say I couldn't try and contact him.” He looked at a drawing of somebody with Ultraman's head wearing a UNDF uniform.

***
After a few days of excitement as the higher ups were getting the base prepared for some sort of test, a small group hovered around one of the parking lots that was under the base itself.On one of the upper levers members of Alpha and Beta teams hovered around in groups looking over the railing, not a whole lot to make this an official show. But just enough for someone to be comfortable,maybe. On one particular side Ken, Ryo, Jess and Bill stood around, in fact most of the groupings were members of the same team, just looking around at each. Ken leaned on the railing and asked, “Anybody have any idea who this is suppose to be for.”

“No clue man,” Ryo answered him. “All I heard was the higher up is considering this a very special V.I.P., with an emphasis on the V.!.”

“So where are Hawk and Reid then?”,Bill asked, as he looked over the small crowd standing around. “Somebody this important usually has all the big wigs out in force. At least someone making sure the rest of us is following protocol. But I'm not seeing anybody.”

Jess added while looking around herself, “I'm not seeing anyone higher in rank than us at the moment.” She looked over at her usual wingman, “You hear anything Ryo?”

“Nothing official,” he answered, while crossing his arms. “But the grapevine has it that nobody in a command position isn't allowed to be here when the guest arrives, so no Hawk, no Reid and nobody from the board is supposed to be here. I'm surprised they're letting us hand around waiting.”

“It might have something to do with these apparent test that's suppose to happen,” Jess speculated. “Ken,” she said looking at him, “You got pulled into the building of whatever it is. You have any idea what these tests are suppose to be for?”

“You're suppose to be able to figure out how something works by looking at it,” Ryo added. One of his talents due to his genious nature apparently ran the grapevine pretty fast since Japan. “”You had to be able to take a guess at some point.”

“You holding out on us civilian?”, Bill chimed in. “For shame.”

“You want me to shot him?”, Jess asked.

“I'm considering it,” Ken answered. Bill didn't start looking worried until Ryo took a couple of steps away from him. “But outside of a power converter or a transformer that went on the fritz I didn't get a good look at anything.” He sighed, “Would it sound paranoid if I said it was like they were trying to keep me away from getting a look at it?”

“Yes,” Jess told him almost immediately. “But the way things have been going since this started,” she shook her head slightly, “I wouldn't be surprised. The level of secrecy going on is insane.”

“No kidding,” Bill quickly agreed, “Things weren't this tight when Brooks showed his true colors.”

“Or when Jamira originally went missing,” Ryo added. Ken remained quiet. Mostly due to some guilt popping up at the mention of Jamira. On one hand it was a bit weird seeing how much of an ass he was to Ken when he was part of the organization, however if he figured out that Brooks was the one behind this maybe he could have stopped him from becoming that giant creature that Dax had to destroy. Maybe, possibly, although more than likely he still would have been an ass though.

He broke out of his thoughts when he caught Jess looking at him, “What?”

“I was about to ask you the same thing,” she told him.

“Nothing, just.... just lost in thought,” he ended up saying.

She got a little closer and said just loud enough for him to hear her, “That offer to listen to anything on you mind is still open.”

“I know, you'll be the first to know if I do,” he attempted a smile but it didn't last long. She looked at him, before turning to to say something to Bill and Ryo. He looked at her, oh there was something he wanted to share with her, in fact she might be the only one here who wouldn't freak out that much hearing that he was part of Ultraman, possibly, maybe, he hoped. Damn it he needed somebody in this organization to know that wasn't Richardson, his bodyguard and the doc. Just for his own sanity if nothing else. And he might have then and there if Ryo and Bill, a few others weren't within earshot. While he was pretty sure Ryo and Bill wouldn't run off and tell Richardson he wasn't as sure about the others.

“Car's coming in!”, somebody announced. Everyone got into a better position to greet this V.I.P. While it wasn't a limo like most of those present expected, but it was on the expensive looking side. The driver side door opened and a guy who looked like he should have been part of the board got out. He looked around and the group before leaning down and saying something to somebody that was still inside.The the passenger side door open and some kid slowly got out. He looked nervous even from where they were standing. He looked around the looked at the upper level, almost right in their direction. In fact Ken had a weird feeling he was looking directly at him. A feeling the intensified as he waved at him.

Not knowing what else to do Ken glanced at the others before slowly raising his hand to return the wave, Although he stopped when he noticed that he was the only one doing so. “Just being friendly,” he said to everybody staring at him. Ken wasn't sure about anybody else but he was going to put that down to his civilian lack of proper protocol.

Fortunately his communicator went off, and he hit it eagerly, “Scott here.”

Bridge started talking over the line, “Ken I thought you should know that you're late for your latest session with the engineering test.” The infamous test that couldn't be beat although he'd been swearing almost since he arrived that he was close to figuring it out. But something wasn't right here.

“I had a session?”, he asked. “Since when?”

“Since about five minutes ago from the look of things,” Bridge told him. The Chief said it just popped up on his schedule.”

“Not that I'm complaining about another chance at beating the thing,” Jess, Ryo and Bill exchanged smirks that he promptly ignored, “but could you find out who authorized this at the last minute.”

“Sure thing Ken,” Bridge told. “I'll look into it and let you know once the test beats you again.”

Bridge signed off before he could respond. “Try to help a guy get out of his shell and he takes pot shots at you when you're not looking,” he ended up saying. Turning to the rest of them he said, “Well I'm not looking at a gift horse in the mouth so I better head down there.”

“We'll see you in a couple of minutes then, “Billl told him. Ken just shot him a dirty look before heading to the door. If today ended up being the day he'd shut everybody up for a while/ Once in the hallway he looked up the engineering section schedule and then at his messages. There it was, his scheduled time for the test program, but no notification that he was scheduled the time. It wasn't like the chief to not let him know it was there. Again he couldn't shake the feeling somebody was trying to distract him from getting too close to whatever was going on.

***
“Is civilian okay?”, Bill asked after Ken had exited the room. “I mean I can't be the only one to think he seems down about something.”

Ryo just nodded,” No, I've seen it too. The only thing I can figure what's causing it is that his brother's trail is coming up soon. After what happened that's got to be weighing down on him.”

“Makes sense,” Jess said while her mind was elsewhere at that moment.

“Is he going to be there?”, Bill asked. Jess just shook her head in response. “Not even supporting his own brother,” Bill said in disbelief. “Granted I've only met him that one time and he seemed a like a bit of a jerk. But still.”

Ryo spoke up, “No offence Bill but if I found out my brother was hitting his wife I'd distant myself from him too. Either way I think at least Janet's happy he's not picking a side, at least not publicly. What do you think Jess?”

She was still lost in her own thoughts so Ryo asking her opinion took her off guard a bit, but she quickly recovered. “I think he's still trying to wrap his head around what happened. Admittedly his brother is a jerk, but even I was surprised when Ken told me what happened.”

Bill nodded,” Guess we just have to be there for him if he wants a shoulder or something.”

Yeah,” she said, not mentioning that was something she told herself for the longest time. And didn't mention that it didn't happen, like it wasn't happening now. Maybe she should tell him instead, let him know he had at least her watching his back. Despite the offer to listen to anything he wanted to say, personal experience told her to not hold her breath.

***
Ken walked the hallway with his head down. Mainly to avoid any eye contact in case some one crossed his path.While things were much better than when he first joined up right now he wasn't in a talking mood, and hoping this particular stance would inform anybody who came down this particular path. That was the plan anyway.

<Hello.>

Ken looked up when he heard the voice, it wasn't one he immediately recognized, but then again he hasn't had an extensive conversation with everyone who was stationed here to recognize more than a select few. But there was nobody that he could see. “Who...?”, he asked to himself. There were no doorways in the immediate area that he could see, or any intersections or corners somebody could hide behind. Ken went so far to make sure nobody was trying to play a joke through his communicator.

<How are you?>, came another question from thin air apparently.

“How are you doing that?” Ken asked out loud after checking a wall for a hidden speaker, being completely stumped on how this was being done.

Then he heard another voice, one he was more than familiar with respond, “I am fine, how are you?”

“Dax?”, Ken asked slowly as he stopped looking for this mystery person. “What's going on?”

His usually giant friend replied with, “Some one is communicating with me.”

<Whoa, I didn't know there'd be two of you,>

“Okay how is that possible?”, he asked making sure no one was coming. Just talking to Daxium he was well aware that it looked like he was talking to himself. He didn't need those rumors to fly around base. “And how does this guy even know you're in here?”, he rapped his own head.

<Sorry,> the voice said. <My names's Timothy. You waved back to me in the garage a few minutes ago.> Okay he had a name and face to go with the voice. Still doesn't explain what the hell is going on.

Dax responded first, “It's nice to meet you Timothy, my name is Daxium.”

“If we're done with the pleasntries,” Ken cut in, losing his patience with the situation, “But could one of you tell me what the hell is going on.”

<Looks like nobody told you why I'm here,> Timothy said. <I should have been ready for that. I mean Richardson had a ton of restriction put in place before I even came here.>

“Richardson,” Ken groaned. “Why am I not that surprised? Alright Timothy, would you please tell me what's going on, because I'm freaking the fuck out a little here.”

<Yeah this has that effect if you're not expecting it.> Not even sure if Timothy could see him Ken started moving his hands in a circular hurry up and tell me motion. <I'm projecting my thoughts into your head. I'm what you would call a telepath.>

He could sense Daxium's slight confusion, “I am not familiar with that term.”

“It means he can read minds Dax,” Ken answered him. Then he fully realized what they were talking about, “Wait a sec, you're in my mind?” Now he doing more than freaking the fuck out a little, it was borderline full pledge panic at this point.

“Actually,” Dax spoke up, “I think he's more in my mind than yours Ken. Otherwise I doubt I'd be able to hear him otherwise.”

“But he could hear you through our connection? Then how am I hearing him?”, Ken asked trying to figure this out. Daxium agreed with his theory although he didn't have an answer for his second question. And if he had to be honest, all of this was starting to make his head hurt, and he still had to do the simulator. Shit, he nearly forgot about and hurried on his way, still there were questions, “Timothy, how did you know about Dax?”

<I'm a little embarrassed about this,> he answered, <I was asked to scan Castle to find something Richardson couldn't ignore. I felt some sort of Alien mind, but didn't get a lock on it. I just got enough to realize it was Ultraman, and that he was part of the UNDF. Don't worry, I haven't told anyone about either of you so your secret is safe.> Ken snorted, if only that was true. <So is it okay if I talk with you for a bit? I always wanted to talk with somebody not from this planet.>

“Whoa, wait a moment,” Ken butted in, “Do I get a say in this because I have something to do and I don't need the distraction.” While he had no idea about this Timothy character he could feel the disappointment coming from Daxium. Enough that Ken paused in his step and looked around, Yes he talked to Daxium when he could and was alone, but even his giant buddy was probably starving for some sort of communication from somebody else. “Look if you two can keep it quiet then go ahead.”

<I think I can manage that,> Timothy eagerly agreed.

“As can I,” Dax said. “Perhaps we can figure out how you can hear our conversation in the meantime.”

“Just as long as it's quiet,” Ken empathized the quiet part as he reached the simulator room. Going in he saw the chief waiting impatiently. “Sorry, this was sprung on me too. I didn't even know I was scheduled until Bridge said I was late.”

***
Back at the building Timothy had been calling home Lunden had called in and was talking to somebody in upper management who was currently writing down what he was saying. “So the test are proceeding on schedule then, good, good. Everyone will be glad to hear that. So when will be Timothy be given the okay to start looking for Brooks?” He listened for a beat or two, still taking notes. “Makes sense that they want to verify the results by retesting him. So you think sometime in the next couple of days? Okay I'll tell them. I have to be honest, it's going feel a little empty around here once Timothy gets sheltered over there. Oh, he's going to want some stuff room his room? Maybe he better come back here to pick them out himself. I have a boy around his age and he hates it when either June or I mess with his things in his room.” He laughed a bit, “You too? Okay let me know when you're on your way back. We'll see the two of you then.” Being an older style phone he put it back on the stand to hang up the call.

Leaning back in his chair he pulled out his phone, mainly because he didn't want this particular call he was about to make logged in the system, for the main reason why he had been limiting his contact with Timothy. Brooks had things on him even before the kid became part of the program. And Brooks was revealed to have freakish abilities of his own. He thought he was in the clear once that happened. But no, he showed up right before he was supposed to meet with his mistress just to prove he was still under his thumb and remind him how much he would actually lose if the affair was exposed, among other things Brooks found out about somehow.

However he did promise he would let him off the hook if he gave him something that was worth more than the information the man had on him. And he was intrigued behind the idea of Timothy abilities, but not enough to keep his promise, at least not yet. But maybe now this bit of news would be enough. Dailing the newest number Brooks had given him, which he changed at least once a month. It went to voice mail, at least he could put off talking to the man for a bit, “I think I may have something that will interest you.

***
The test had went rather smoothly, or at least that's what Timothy told Daxium during those times they could talk in relative peace. They even figured out that the kid somehow tapped into their connection somehow, and his mind like Daxium originally thought. Ken was sure it was all rather interesting if he understood what they were talking about. It was a bit out of his league, but he tried to at least sound interested when Dax told him.

Which was becoming a bigger problem then he wanted to admit. Even working on Windam wasn't exactly bringing him the joy Ken thought it should have, it did at first back in Japan but once they got back to Castle it just wasn't the same some how and it wasn't just not being able to figure out when Windam occasionlly mixed up his left with his right wasn't helping. No it was still this entire damn situation he was under, god there were day he just want to scream his secret out and let the chips fall where they did, fuck Richardson, his bodyguard and the doc to a lesser degree. But then again some of the fall out would be worse on someone like Janet and Nicole than on him. Even coming up here to the relative quiet of the roof of Castle didn't too that much to lift the weight he was feeling.

Those thoughts were interrupted when he heard the door behind him open. Looking back he saw Hawk walk out and offer a friendly wave. He returned half heartedly before returning his gaze to the dessert. Without any preamble Hawk stood next to him and gazes out at the distance along with him while leaning against the railing. After a bit he said, “Not much to see, is there?” Ken just shrugged and kept on looking at the horizon. “I have to be honest son, I was a little surprised when I found out you spent time up here.” He looked down at the ground, “Considering your problem and all.”

“I never had an issue with heights,” Ken informed him. They both looked up as a pair of Razor Wings passed over head. “It's the moving in said height that makes my stomach want to revolt.”

“My mistake then,” Hawk told him. “Look son, you don't have to say anything, but we can all tell something is bothering you.” Ken started to protest but Hawk quickly put a stop to it. “Jess, Ryo and Bill have all come to me and said something. Even the chief, and we both know he doesn't say anything about personal unless he think it's really important. You do know any one of us would listen if you had something to get off your chest. At least I hope you do.”

“I know you guys would,”Ken told him. “It's just...,” it would be so easy just to say he was Ultraman and get it over with. But again Richardson would find out eventually. So he stopped talking.

Luckily Hawk didn't press the issue. After another moment or so he said, “Granted I'm no expert on the subject, but looks like you're suffering from a case of burn out to me. I took the liberty to check before I went searching for you, but outside of you're niece's birthday you haven't taken any personal time to get away from here.”

This time he did protest, “I've had time off. You made me take it after I broke my arm.”

Funny,” he smirked, “you have the same expression that you did when you told me you still have a good arm in order to get out of it,” Ken looked away, embarrassed. “And seeing how you kept showing up when a monster started attacking I wouldn't really call it an effective vacation in the long run.” He looked at the horizon and sighed, “Maybe you think you have to work twice as hard because of your situation, and I've been more than impressed in your dedication to the job. Most people may have seen it as a free ride, thinking the board would protect you from any repercussion. If I had to be honest I more than half way expected you to take that route when I found out they approved the civilian operative position and that they picked you. And I have never been happier to be proven wrong in my life. But listen to me son I don't want you to kill yourself thinking you have to prove yourself. You've more than proved that you belong. Otherwise I wouldn't be going to bat for you to make an actual member of this unit.”

“That final five percent a little harder to crack than you thought?”, he offered Hawk a smile that the older man returned.

“I didn't think it was going to be a cake walk,” he admitted. “But I'm still fighting. I'm not going to lose you on a whim of the board. We put in too much work at this point for them to throw it all the way.” Reaching into a pocket he pulled out a slip of paper and handed it to him, “Here, it's a three day pass.”

“Captain,” Ken began.

“We're not going to throw all that work away because you're stubborn either,” Hawk told him. “Take the time off, relax, unwind. Do whatever you do for fun, just come back recharged and ready for anything that drops. And I better not hear you showed up if there's a monster attack either.”

“Then one better not show up where I am then,” he joked as he took the pass. Maybe that was what he needed, a small chance to get away from underneath Richardson for a couple of day. Hopefully Brooks will play along without knowing it. And maybe he'd be elected President before the week was over. If a creature did show up he'd just have to be better at not being seen by the others this time around.

***
The tests completed Lunden was driving them back to the building. Timothy was all for getting some of his thing personally. In fact he looked more excited now than he did a couple of days ago. “You don't feel any after effects do you?” he asked the teen.

“I'm fine,” he answered. Trying to hide his annoyance but Lunden knew it was there. “I'm just happy the testing part is over.”

“And you made fools of their experts too,” he said, beaming like a proud parent. He look at his rear view mirror at the Scan Track escort driving behind them. “At least Richardson proving to be true to his word so far.”

“So far,” he repeated. But there was something in the way he said it that caught Lunden's attention.

“You didn't read him did you?”

“No, Timothy told him, almost insulted that he'd ask that knowing he wasn't supposed to. “I did pick up he occasional thought here and there though,” he continued. Suddenly he loooked defensive, “I can't turn it off you know.”

“I know Timothy, I know,” he tried to assure him. “So what did you pick up?”

“Outside that's he's not really well like among most of the troops and personel.”

“Well that's only natural I suppose, being in charge and all,” Lunden commented.

“And when I got that image from his secretary she seemed upset that he didn't even react when his son died. Or at least not for long anyway.”

“I can understand that she feel that way,” Lunden told him, “But there are certain things going on..”

“He didn't even mourn for his son!”, Timothy said in a rare outburst. “Even she was disgusted that he went back to work like it was a regular day.”

“We all mourn in our own way,”he said. “I'm sure that was just his way of coping with what happened. Timothy you can't really judge a person by one singular act.”

“But,” he began. Then he got a weird look on his face, something Lunden has never seen before. It was almost fear as he looked up at the roof of the car. “We have to turn back.”

“Timothy?”, Lunden asked looking concerned at this change of behavior. The the road in front of him exploded. He barely reacted in time to avoid the gaping hole in the road and stop the car. Behind them the Scan Track driver behind them reacted faster and came to a complete stop before reaching the same spot. Two of the UNDF troops jumped out of the vehicle and ran toward them. The third stayed in the Scan Track but he sat at the gunner station getting the weapons warmed up and into play.

While one of them had his gun out looking all around for whomever just attack the other headed for Lunden's side of the car, “Are both of you all right?”

“I'm fine,” he answered. “Timothy? Timothy?,” he started to panic when there wasn't a response. He started shaking him trying to get him to respond, “Timothy!”” His head wobbled around as he did so making Lunden even more afraid for him.

“Sir,” the trooper said trying to pull him back and try to get a reading on his wrist scanner at the same time. “I'm getting vitals, they're steady. It looks like he's just unconscious.” He relaxed a bit upon hearing that, but not by much. “Let's get you out of here then we can get him out next.”

Before he could answer the Scan Track exploded behind them. “Shit!”, the other Trooper cursed as they all ducked in response. Both troopers looked around with there weapon's drawn, “Where the hell did that come from?” Then he remembered, before it happened, timothy looked up. He tried to position himself to see what he sensed. Glowing with some sort of energy Brooks hovered in the air, looking like some sort of angry god or a devil. The trooper beside him saw where he was looking and did the same and saw Brooks. Immediately he pointed his weapon at him, Brooks shot a beam that turned the man into a charred skeleton on impact. It happened so fast Lunden didn't have the chance to scream at the sight next to him.

“Castle Brooks is here!”, the other one called out while his teammate died. He got his weapon pointed at Brooks and got off a few shots that bounced off the energy field surrounding the man before he suffered the same fate.

Lowering to the ground Brooks never took his eyes of of the car. Once he set foot on the ground he finally looked away at the remains of the two troopers. “I have to figure out why I stop at the skeletons one of these days,” he said. “It's so unsightly.” He blasted the skeleton again, causing it to disintigrate in seconds. Looking strangely satisfied he commented, “That's better.” Lunden put an arm across Timothy as he came closer, and then passed them to do the same thing to the other one. The he stood where the first one then looked at the fiery remains of the Scan Track, “Guess I won't have to do anything extra there now will I?”, he asked with a pleasant smile, in a way it made the gesture look even sicker. Leaning over a bit to get a better look at the occupants he went, “I'm guess the sleeping young man is the Timothy I heard about?”

“No!”, Lunden tried to undo his buckle and cover Timothy at the same time. Brook looked amused at his struggled. Then Brooks opened the passenger side door then reached in to undo Timothy's seat belt. “Leave him alone!” Brooks responded by raising a hand that started glowing like he did before. Then he held up a single finger, “Shh, you might wake him.” He removed Timothy and held him in his arms, “Don't worry he's in good hands. And I took care of your little leak for you. You should really do better background checks than you have been from the look of things. Or at least keep a better eye on those under you. You never know who's been watching,” He gave him a wink then took a few steps back.. “The cavalry should be here shortly to assist you since they already know I was here.” He started glowing again and shot off into the sky.

“Bring him back!, Lunden shouted after him. Timothy!”

***
Hawk and Reid stood by Lunden who sat in the open door of a Scan Track One word of Brooks' involvement caused an immediate scramble to get here as soon as possible. The man seemed oblivious to all the activity around him “Why did he take him? Why?”, he asked over and over. Hawk and Reid glanced at each other hoping the other man had an answer fort him, but knowing that answer wasn't coming.

“Don't worry Mr. Lunden,” Reid told him. “We're going to do everything in our power to locate him and bring him back.” Right now Hawk wished he was as opptimistic as his Beta Team counterpart appeared to be. Nobody had forgotten what Brooks was able to do when he went on the run, and if they did a glance of the carnage around here would quickly remind you.

“Why did he take him?”, Lunden started again. Although he felt for the man this was getting them no where. Hawk motioned for Reid to stay where he was, The Commander nodded as Hawk walked away far enough that Lunden couldn't overhear him.

Tapping his communicator he went, “Hawk to Castle,” and waited.

That wait wasn't long as Bridge answered almost immediately, “Castle here Captain.”

“Please tell me you got something on from the satellites,” he went.

“I got something,” came Bridge's reply. He perked up a bit at the news. “It looks like we were able to get a hit of the initial attack and the direct aftermath.” Bridge paused as someone else spoke to him, “Are you sure? You are. Captain it looks like we have Brooks flying off from the location as well.” A slight fist pump caught Reid's and Lunden attention.

“Do you know where he went?”, he asked praying he hear the right answer.

“We got a direction and that's about it,” Bridge told him. Hawk deflated a bit. “Sorry Captain, I wished it was something a little more solid.”

“We have a direction we can extrapolate on and learned we can detect him with the orbital satellites,” Hawk said. “It's a small victory that'll take.” Now he wished he felt as confident as he sounded. “Get to work on that Bridge, find me any possible location he might be using.”

I'll get right on it,” Bridge said, “Castle out.”

“That might be a long list,” Reid commented as he came closer, behind them, still in the Scan Track, Lunden looked more hopeful than he did a moment ago.

“I wasn't expecting it to be easy,” Hawk told him. “Brooks been able to avoid us for this long. Hopefully that's going to change.” Reid just nodded. “Were you able to get of him why Brooks might have taken the kid?”

“Yes, although if it wasn't for everything I've seen I might not have believed it. Apparently the kid is telepathic.” Reid stared at him for a moment or two. “Okay, I have to be honest I thought you have more of a reaction to that bit of news.”

“Like you said, after everything we've seen so far,” Hawk answered. Although he was thinking giant monsters, Ultraman and now a telepath ,what was going to show up next? “But it does explain whty we were told to not interact with the kid. The big question is what does Brooks want with a telepath? And how did he find out about him to begin with?”

“Anybody's guess is as good as the next,” commented Reid. Hawk nodded. The commander took another look at the carnage left after Brook's apperance this time around. “After last time Gabe It might be a good idea to go at him with as big a task force as possible. We might want to think about calling back those on leave, just for the extra muscle.”

It was a good suggestion, no matter what kind of power Brooks had there had to be a limit. But how many would have to be sacrificed in order to reach that limit. He wasn't prepared to make that call just yet, not to mention he still had the kid as a hostage. And until he was secured a full assualt was off the table. “Not just yet, let see if we can find Brooks first and figure out the situation there.”

“Castle to Hawk,” his communicator chirped.

“That was faster than usual,” Reid quipped.

He activated the communicator and replied, “What do you got Bridge?”

“We have some more bad news for Mr. Lunden,” he said. “we just got a call from his building, one of his managers was discovered dead in his office.” Both men looked at each other before looking back at Lunden. The report continued, “Based on the provided information it sounds a lot like Brooks got to him. We won't know for sure until our people get a look at the body. We're going to need Lunden's permission for that according to them.”

Damn bureaucratic B.S., bad enough he had to deal with it back at Castle. “I'll talk to Lunden. Get the appropiate personnel on stand by.” Bridge confirmed the order and ended the tranmission. “Am I the only one thinking that's how he knew about the kid?”, he asked.

“No you're not,” Reid told him. “Looks like he tying off anything he sees as a loose end. Someone better get in contact with Greenberg over in Japan and tell him to keep an eye on O'Brian.”

“Right after this conversation,” he said heading toward Lunden.

***
While that was going on Ken had been sitting in the local diner he used to frequent, laughing as his friend Rose and a few others arranged a quick gathering once she found out he was free for a couple of days. And he felt lighter than he had in a while. Maybe Hawk was right, a few days away was just what he needed to get out of this rut.He guessed he'd find out how well it worked once he got back to Castle, A thought better off once he got to that particular bridge.

“Only you would bring home a pet robot,” Rose said shaking her head.

“Windam was a gift,” he told her. “It be rude not to bring him back.”

“You're calling the robot a 'he',” she pointed out. “Then again we call every car a 'she' for the most part. Still weird though.”

“You're just jealous I'm working on a robot,” he told her.

“You're damn right,” she shot back. “So how did a grease jockey end working on an, I'm assuming, highly advanced robot to begin with?”

“Just lucky I guess,” he said shrugging it off. While he liked all of these guys here, he still didn't feel comfortable revealing the idea he was a genius at these matters. While most of them would understand, Rose would probably tell him she knew it all the time considering how fast he understood the newer engines and tech that had been coming out. Still he felt like it was cause a separation between them and him.

“That robot can't be that advanced,” one of the other said.

“It was made in UNDF base in Japan,” Rose argued,“. “It's not going to be made out of cans and strings.”

“There's some rubber bands in there too,” Ken added. Rose punched him in the arm in response. The conversation about how advanced Windam actually was went on for a few more minutes. Then Ken's phone went off. When he checked it he recognized the number as coming from Castle. His expression soured a bit, “Damn it.”

“Getting called back early?”, Rose asked as a couple of the other started checking their phones for any emergency alerts.

“I'm sure they're just checking up on me.” He answered the call saying, “Give me a moment to get somewhere a bit more quiet.” He stood up from the table, “This won't take long, I'll be right back.” Making his way through the crowd he stepped outside and into the parking lot. Putting the phone back up to his ear, “What's going down Bridge?”

A voice he wasn't expecting answered,“I'm not exactly Bridge son.”

Despite the fact Hawk couldn't see him Ken stood a little straighter, “Captain?”

“At ease Ken,” he said almost sensing the effect he just caused. “First thing first, you're still on leave.”

Ken blinked, “I was was joking that you were just checking in.” He said that without thinking. Fortunately Hawk found it a little funny as he chuckled a bit. Still he went, “Sorry sir.”

“I'll let that one go,” he informed him, “Mainly because I needed the laugh at the moment. We contacted everyone on leave,” Ken brced himself for what was coming, “Brooks had been sighted,” And there it was. “He attacked Lunden, his associate and their escort.”

Son of a bitch, the bastard went after Timothy? “Are they all right?”

Lunden shaken up, and he killed the escort,” Hawk informed him. “But he took the kid for some reason.” Ken felt sick to his stomach after hearing that. “Bridge was able to get a direction on where he went after the fact. So we're trying to narrow down where he headed to.”

“Understood,” Ken told him. “I'm on my way back.”

“Belay that Ken,” he said suddenly. “We don't even know where he went yet. Just stay on standby for now and try to relax.”

“Relax?”, Ken said in disbelief. “It sounds like Brooks is actively attacking us now and you're telling me to relax.”

“We all know what Brooks is capable of Ken.” No, Ken thought to himself, we really don't. Even Daxium didn't know what he was capable of at this point. “But we can't do anything until we know where he took the kid. If we just go out in force without a direction we;re just going to cause a panic and make things worse. We'll call you if we need you son.”

“Okay, don't take this the wrong way but I hope you don't.”

“I hope we don't either Ken.” and the call was ended without any preamble.

Standing there he wiped his mouth and looked around a bit, “Dax did you get anything? Has Tim tried to contact you yet?”

Feeling his giant friend's concern and frustration he heard Daxium say, “Nothing as of yet, But if Timothy was in trouble wouldn't he have tried to reach out to us?”

“Maybe he couldn't,” Ken offered. “It depends on how fast Brooks' attack was. If he took him it means he's still alive.”

“And maybe unconscious,” Daxium finished for him. “We need to find him.”

“I agree buddy,” Ken told him. “But Captain Hawk is right, we need to know where he took him first.” He could tell Daxium didn't like the idea but he accepted it. Going back into the diner he rejoined the others, “Not an emergency, just like I said.” Rose and a couple of others didn't look convinced but they let the matter rest. The conversation took a while to get back to normal but this time around but Ken's head wasn't exactly in it.

***
Timothy woke up with his head ringing like it never had before. The last thing he remembered was... His eyes went wide as he remembered Brooks, feeling him more than seeing him. It felt like a perverted version of when he felt Daxium. Like it was almost the same but different in some way he couldn't explain. He realized he was feeling it now and started to panic. Then he felty a hand clamp down on his shoulder. He looked almost expecting to see Mr. Lunden but it wasn't him. It was Brooks. Looking around he didn't recognize anything, in the room he was being kept in. “Where am I?”, he demanded.

Brooks removed the hand and walked in front of him. “You're the special one,” he said as he put his hands behind his back, “you tell me.” Timothy didn't know if he actually knew what he could do or not but he tried anyway. He reached out with his mind, wishing the bastard was still touching him since it would have made this easier, Brooks didn't try and fight in the way most people did when he read them and they knew what he could do, not that they knew what they were doing to begin with. He was able to 'tune' in as Lunden described it to the other man's mind easily enough and was immediately forced out. Timothy looked at him in surprise, no one had been able to do that to him before

Brooks just smiled at him slightly, “You can look into other people's mind. Honestly I didn't think that particular trick I was taught would actually work, but it did.” Walking away Timothy tried yo run but found himself tied to the chair he was sitting in.”I must report this.” Confused at the statement Timothy watched as he raised an hand and a vortex formed in mid air in front of him. Before long a shape appeared inside, the energy of the vortex kept him from seeing the figure clearly, Timothy had the feeling he really didn't want a good look at the person.

A disembodied voice spoke, “Is this the individual you spoke of Avatar?”

“It is,” he replied while looking back at him. “Go ahead, I know you're curious.” Despite his better judgement Timothy reached out with his mind and found a new thought pattern and tried to latch on to it, learn what he could to tell the people at Castle if he ever got out of here. Then something else unexpected happen those thoughts latched on to him. He started seeing images, dark, disturbing images. Images of war, of death death to being of lights like Ultraman. The mental assault continued and he screamed out in pain. Past the point of not being able to take it anymore the alien thoughts finally pulled back. Timothy stopped screaming and slumped down in the chair as best as he could exhausted and breathing heavy.

Ignoring his plight Brooks turned back to the vortex and went, “Well?”

“It is as you say,” the voice said. In the haze that was now his brain the name Zetton popped up. He realized that what these demons were called. “This is the first time we seen such an ability in a lower species.”

Here Brooks looked slightly agitated, “Well it does happen from time to time. I suppose you'll be wanting to experiment on him, hopefully he'll be a better subject than Jamira was. At least more controllable anyway.”

Timothy thought that was it for him, his thoughts so scrambled he could hardly put two coherent thoughts together. Then the voice said, “No.”

“No?”, Brooks said slowly, not understanding the answer he was give. He looked back at him then at the vortex. “I'm not saying he was any trouble to obtain but why not?”

“Because we are still aware of you experimention with the power we gave you and some of the results of those tests.” Here Brooks backed up from the vortex, showing a bit of fear for the first time. “While we initially discourage you in these test we are now curious at exactly what you can do with them. So we charge you to experiment with the boy.”

He looked genuinely surprised at this, “Really? I thank you my masters, I will try not to disappoint you in any way.” He bowed slightly as the vortex vanished. Turning back to Timothy he went, “Well that was unexpected now, wasn't it.” Timothy couldn't say anything as Brooks came closer, “Now how should we start the experiments, hmmm?” He came closer and started circling him, apparently thinking it over to himself. “Maybe, we could haunt Richardson with vision of his dear son Joseph, show him his death from my perspective. No I wouldn't want you to feel dirty after entering his mind. I've known him for decades and never realized how much of a hard ass he could be after he lost Joesph I swear he showed more emotion after his wife died.”

“Oh, I know,” he said as he stopped right behind him. “Something not quite so specific. A little more wide spread, that should cause enough confusion to keep them off our backs for a bit, particularly Scott and the giant. I don't think either of us are ready for that confrontation just yet. Now if he's caught up in the wave, all the better.” He placed a hand on top of Timothy's head and sent his power into his mind.

Again under a mental assualt he fought back, but in his exhausted state it wasn't much as his mental defenses gave away. He screamed out anew as the agony inside him grew. Then his mind felt like it exploded.

***
After the diner Ken and the others headed for a nearby park, another old routine they had when Jeff didn't tag along. Hell it was before he even hired in. But it was weird how fast everyone fell back into the swing of things, even years after the fact. It felt good to Ken. To just feel normal even if it was just for one night. It was doing him wonders at the moment.

Before long the group started to get smaller as the others had to get back home. Soon it was just him and Rose walking down a well kept path. “I have got to do this more often,” he said while stretching.

“You looked like you needed it,” Rose told him. “I've never seen you that stressed out before. Not even when Jeff was giving you hell.

Feeling a little defensive he went, “I wasn't stressed.

“Then you were doing a damned good imitation of looking stressed then,” she shot back. “Then again with what you do I'd be a ball of stress myself. Honestly I'm not sure how you do it.” And she didn't even know the half of it.

“Sometimes I'm not sure either,” he told her honestly. “Having some friends going through it with you helps I suppose.” Even if he was a giant made of light. “Then again you're a mom of a newborn and a couple of other kids. You're stronger than I'll ever be.”

“And I told you, flattery will get you every where,” she poked him in the side. “But these friends, are any of them of the romantic nature? Your ex perhaps.”

“I am never going to let them let you on base,” he told her.

“Come on Ken I just want you to be happy,” she told him. “I mean I am advent believer in the saying that there's someone for everybody. Even an idiot like you.” She looked at her watch, “Speaking of significant others, mine probably almost driven mad by the little ones by now. I better get home and take the workload off of him . You going to stop by while your off? The kids would love to see you again.”

“I sure I can make the time, but I promid Nicole the same thing.”

“You'll work it out. Night Ken,” she gave him a sisterly kiss on the check and a quick hug before going off and leaving him alone.

With nothing else to do he kept on the path enjoying the early night air. Then he dropped to his knees clutching his head. It felt like forever but the pain eventually subsided. He looked around seeing a few other in the park seemingly recovering from what ever just hit him.

“Ken!” Daxium said in his head. “What's going on? You were in pain for a moment.”

“You didn't feel that Dax?”

“No,” was the answer, a very confused answer at that. “Things were normal then you reacted to something.” Right then Ken and others grabbed their heads again. Ken tried to reach for a bench to hold himself up but missed and feel to the ground. The pain subsided again. “Ken! Are you still there?”

“What the hell is going on?”, he asked as he stumbled to his feet, and reached for his phone to call in. Another attack made him seize up and stumble off, trying to stay on his feet. In the confusion he didn't see that the Spark Magnifier fell out of his jacket.

***
“We're getting calls from all over the city,” Bridge announced as the control Room descended into chaos from all the call ins. “People all over the city are getting attacked some how.” He looked at a different screen in front of him as he watched the information on it double. “We're getting another wave of calls., looks like whatever is going on happened again.”

Behind him trying to decipher the information was Hawk, “How often is this happening?”

“Based on the the waves of calls,” Bridge looked over the information before him. “Looks like every five minutes or so.” He looked around Hawk who moved out of the way, “Get some more servers on this. We're going to get overloaded at this point.”

“On it,” someone called out.

“Every five minutes,” Hawk repeated to himself. “This has to be Brooks, there's no way this is natural. Show the affected area on the big screen.” Bridge did so, and in moments a map of the city appeared with the effected area in red. Four different shades of red to be exact that he asked about it.

“The center circle represents the initial wave of calls,” Bridge said. “What ever is going on is expanding with each atttack.”

“Bridge tell me what people are describing again,”: Hawk requested.

“They're saying it feels like their head is going to explode during that time,” he told him.

“Is that why he took the telepath,” Hawk wondered to himself. An idea came to him, “Bridge, Brooks' flight path, does it intersect with the epicenter of whatever this is?”

“Give me a moment Captain,” he said as he started typing in commands. Back on the big screen said flight path almost hit the center of the mass. “That's the best I can do. The screen he was looking at previously started reacting again, “Another wave just hit!” Hawk looked at the screen as the affected area grew a bit. “There's a lot of places he could be using at this point, He said getting back to the previous task. “I'll try to narrow it down but with the rate of these call our men would be hit with it too.”

“One thing at a time,” Hawk said taking his eyes off the big screen. “Are people at least evacuating the city at least?”

“”Based on the police and emergency bands the roads are a mess,” he answered..”Based on the calls we're getting some of those affected were driving, cars, truck, buses,” he trailed off. “Most of the roads going in or out of the city are clogged by multiple accidents, emergency services can't handle the load so far as they been hit as well.”

“Let's see if we can help lighten the load,” Hawk said. “Scramble crews in the Scan Tracks, send most of them to major accident sights. But if you can send a few into the city itself to help with the panic there.”

“If another wave happens,” Bridge began.

“I know,” he said. “But we have to do something. Keep Razor Wings on stand by for now, we don't need our people crashing into buildings or each other in this situation. And call those on leave and see if they can help out in any way because this is an emergency.” Looking back at the screen he said to himself, “And hope most of them aren't in the affected area.”

***
“Well that was exhausting,” Brooks said as he let go of Timothy's head and walked away and stretched his arms over his head. Timothy, who was almost drenched in sweat and breathing heavy, only had the energy to glare at him. Brooks noticed, “Now don't look like that, be happy. We're exploring how far you can take your abilities. I mean I wasn't even born with mine and I'm still figuring out what I can do.” He looked back to where the vortex was, “Although I assumed I was doing it in private. But they warned me they knew I was doing it before. So I should have guessed then that they would be monitoring me some how, even from a different dimension.” He held out a hand that started glowing, then a image of the city appeared in mid air. “This for example, I doubt even my masters knew this was even possible.

He stepped closer to give Timothy a better look, not that he apparently wanted one. “It is a pretty good likeness, if I do say myself..” He tried to poke a building and a finger went through it, making him a bit dismayed, “Still working on making it solid though, I thought it would be easier to figure out.” He tried it again. This time it didn't pass through,”Although I am getting there,” he added with a smile. “But you see this area here?”, he waved that figure over a general area of the map he created, “I think that's how far we spread the panic. Isn'y it amazing? I don't think you ever thought you could affect this big of an area. Oh what's this?” He pointed out a single glowing dot on the map, “I wonder what that could be. Or should I say 'who' that could be.” Timothy looked worried now but was still too tired to protest anything.

“I felt who it was through you,” he told the boy. “Somebody been a naughty little telepath. You know who Ultraman is and tried to look for him. But all you did was help me pin point his location.” The map disappeared as he closed his hind. “I can't believe how fortunate we are that happen to be in the area we caused the chaos in.” Brooks placed that hand on his trembling head, “Now we get to have some real fun.”Using his power to manipulate the boy's power again. Now the boy screamed as the assault pushed his abilities again. But through all his pain Brooks located Scott, shining like a beacon of light in the madness, and grinned.

***
Things seemed to be over for the most part as Ken ended up going deeper into the park instead of out like everybody else. While he was feeling whatever the hell that was Dax was able ro sense a hint of dark energy and get a general reaction. So the plan was let him lose and let him deal with Brooks since he wasn't being affected so far. He just needed to get somewhere he wouldn't be seen. Finding a secluded place he glanced around for any set of eyes and reached for the Spark Magnifier. And found nothing, “Fuck, not again,” he started patting himself down knowing full well he didn't put it anywhere else. He looked back at the direction he came from, “It's gotta be that way, somewhere. Dax we really to think about putting some sort of tag on that thing for these situations.”

If Daxium had an answer he didn't hear it as he was bombarded by a series of voices in his head.

<What's happening?!>

<Mommy! Daddy!>

<Fuckin' aliens I'm telling you.>

Ken dropped to his knees as he clutched at his head. This wasn't like the other times, no it was like he was hearing everybody in the city now. He tried to get to his feet but the foreign thoughts increased in response. Still he fought to rise and did so. Getting the Spark Magnifier was the only thought that was his own as he took a couple of steps in the direction he came.

Then he heard Brooks <I don't think so Scott.> The thoughts increased again. Ken screamed in pain as he dropped to the ground.

***
It took a while but they were able to get into the city to help out as it seemed to be worse as reports indicated. Jess took in the scene quickly before she lined up with the rest of the crew. Reid stood in front of them, “Alright from the look of things we have a window here,” he told them. “But we don't know how big of a window we have. So split up and help where you can, is that understood?”

“Yes sir!”, the all replied.

“Then let's do it,” he told them. They all picked a direction, by either picking one at random or checking their wrist scanners first. A few like Reid and Jess did both before running off. She found A few people struggling with others who were still on the ground. “Head that way,” she told them while pointing the way she came and helped with an older lady who was having a hard time standing. “They'll be people there to help you.” They thanked her and hurried off as fast as they could. “This is going to be a long night,”: she muttered to herself,

Going a few more blocks and helping a few more groups she came across somethging that made her stop in her tracks, Down on particular street was a very high end store and a group standing in front of the display window. Seeing the objects in their hand she had a feeling what the intent was going to be. Not seeing any police or another group on UNDF troopers around she drew her weapon and waited. One of the raised a bat and she took aim. He started to swing and she pulled the trigger. The bat sparked once the shot hit it. The wielder looked around until somebody pointed her out. A few in this particular mob riled up the others and they satarted toward her. A slight reaim and she fired again. This shot barely went over the crowds head. Many ducked as the mob came to a stop. “Disperse and leave the area now,” she told them.

The one who had the bat started forward again, saying some particularly nasty things about her. Readjusting her aim one more time she fired again. The shot exploded against his leg and he went down in a heap clutching the wound. She looked at the rest of them without lowering her weapon. A tense stare down later a couple of them helped the down man off the ground and they got out of there. Jess didn't take her eyes off of them until they turned a corner and disappeared. Even then she kept looking in that direction, not moving just to be sure. Once she felt it was safe Jess finally lowered her gun and holstered it. “I'm going to catch hell for that one,” she muttered.

<Hey>, a voice said. She looked around trying to find the source. Whomever it was sounded like he was pain. <He needs your help.> For some reason she felt drawn to go in a certain direction. Not sure what else to do she started in that direction.

That feeling lead her to a park of some sort, with nobody around that she could see. Still she felt drawn to a certain spot. Reaching it she saw something on the ground. It was Ken's good luck charm. Hurrying over she knelled down and picked it up. Now where was he she wondered. That feeling came back so she ran in that direction.

***
<I betcha anything those giant freaks are involved.>

<Babe we gotta move away from here.>

<Come on, we might die tonight, don't you love me?>

The stream of voices didn't end. Ken lay curled up in a fetal position as he was positive his brain was going to start leaking out of his ears. Nothing could shut them out, not even Daxium could help through their connection. And he could barely hear him as it is. He could have imagined he heard him say. “Ken stay with me. Concentrate on my voice only.” He tried, he really did but the onslaught just seemed to grow with each passing second.

It was too much. He couldn't fight it any more, “I can't.”

“Ken. Ken. Ken!”

“I'm sorry Dax.” He thought he felt somebody touching him, but it had to be whatever this was trying to trick him. Even with the repeating of his name he couldn't focus. It wasn't until something patted his face that he realized it was an actual person there with him. Against the pain he opened his eyes and fought to focus on the person there. Eventually a familiar face came into view. “Jess?”

“It's about damn time,” she told him and looking very relieved. The sight of her and the contact broke the attack for the moent. For a brief moment he felt Brooks' anger before it finally died down and he could think again, although his head still hurt like hell though. “Sit there for a moment, I'll call for some help.”

“I can't,” he moaned and tried to stand up. “Gotta do something first.”

“Damn it,” she muttered and got under an arm to help support him. “You can be a pain in the ass sometimes you know that?” They stood there for a bit before hew felt like he could trust his legs to move again. She stayed by his side the entire time as he headed on the path, he wasn't even sure if he was going in the same direction.

She didn't ask what it was that was so important and he was glad at that. His brain was still in too much of a mess to think straight. After a bit she did go,”Dax,” he nearly stumbled after she said that but he kept going. “is that Ultraman's name?”

He did stop here, wanting to look at her and ask how she knew that. But he couldn't, even with Daxium urging him on in the back of his mind. Forcing himself forward he managed a weak ,”I don't know what you're talking about.”

“Of all the pig headed,” he heard Jess say under her breath, He got a look at her face out of the side of his eye. He was more than familiar with it, he saw it a lot before she broke up with him. Part of him was afraid she was going to let him drop right then and there. “I figured it out, okay. Even without Richardson putting you on the team. I saw you react when Hawk was messing with whatever your good luck charm is. I've seen you seem to know where the monster is before anybody else detects it. You favored parts of your body I know Ultraman was injured in. Don't treat me like an idiot. Didn't you ever notice it was me giving yuou a way to get away most of the time.”

“Daxium,” he said suddenly. She stopped her rant and looked at him. He turned his head to look at her, “His name is Daxium.”

“Okay then,” she said as she readjusted her position under to help him out a bit more. “If I got to be honest here I'm more surprised you actually admitted it than anything.” Despite everything Ken started to laugh. The pain in his head made him redret it immediately. “Does anybody else know? I can't be the only one who two put two and two together. I figured Richardson does because it's the only way the whole civilian operative business makes any sense.”

“He's the reason why Dax is here to begin with,” he told her. He had his secretary and the doc try to find me after I bonded with Dax. He got footage of me and.”

Jess quickly figured out where he was going with this, “He forced you to take the position on the team?” He could only nod his head. “That son of a bitch. Okay is there anyone else that you know of?”

“Brooks knew the entire time,” he continued. The look on her face maed him say, “We sensed each other when you and the others brought me in the first time. I didn't know who it was at the time. Trust me, I spent a lot of time trying to see who it was.”

“When you were going up to random people those first couple of weeks,” she recalled, again he nodded.

“I only found out it was him from Jamira. Who Brooks told. The kid they brought in and Brooks took, he's a telepath so he stumbled on it. My niece saw me set Dax loose. A bunch of kids in Japan saw me come back.” He stopped and felt bewildered for a second, “Wow, I suck at the secret identity thing.” If Jess had a remark she kept it to herself as they continued on.

***
Brooks raged after the connection to Scott was lost. He started blasting anything in the room, even going through the wall, uncaring if the people at Castle saw it or not. How did seeing that woman close off the connection? HOW? He looked at Timothy, “You did this! I don't know how but you did this!” Timothy didn't help matters by smiling a bit. Brooks seethed as he stared at the youth. Then he regained his composure and calmed down a bit looking at the destruction he caused. “quite a mess we caused isn't it? Hopefully you can can understand my anger, I had Scott at the cusp of defeat. He was ready to give up. Then she appeared.” The rage built up again at the thought at how close he was to victory.

“Obviously I was being too nice,” he told the youth as he got back in position. “I wasn't pushing you hard enough. Let's see what I can do with something from this dimension,” Placing a hand on his head he sent even more of his energy through the youth's brain. Timothy's eyes started to glow the same color as the dark energy flowing through him and unleashed a scream that would have curdled any normal's person's blood.

***
Back at Castle Bridge was going over reports from their own people and going over sattellites images of the area of the reports of the weird energy like blasts. “Looks like the building in question lines up with the predicted area Brooks's flight path crossed over and the center of the event,” he told Hawk.

“Contact Reid and,” he began,

“A giant monster just appeared!”, someone called out. And the energy in the room changed immediately.

“Putting it on the screen,” Bridge announced. He, Hawk and the rest of the room looked up at it. It was humanoid in shape, with black leathery skin, But it's head was mostly a purpleish glowing brain.

“Well that's some nightmare fuel,” somebody commented. Hawk glanced in the person's general direction, it was enough of a reprimand to quiet the individual. He remembered when seeing a monster caused a little fear, now even he, like everyone else, was just staring at the thing trying to guess what it could do. When did this become common enough that people just stopped reacting like they used to?

Something to wonder about later, right now. “Contact Reid to get the Scan Track in position to attack that thing. Ready the Razor Wings to launch and join in. I'm going to get a team together to get the kid.”

***
Jess continued to help Ken to wherever he had to go, assuming it was Ultraman related in some way. She didn't want to admit it but letting him know she knew changed something between them. She just wasn't sure what. “Does Richardson at least take care of you after Ultraman's battles at least?”

He grunted, his usual tell that he was going to attempt to make a joke to alleviate the tension a bit, “If you count the Doc poking at the spot until I get irritated,” he told her. Yup, she was right.

She didn't find it funny at all, “That's horrible. Why did you take it so long?”

“Didn't really have a choice in the matter, Ken told her. “Richardson didn't want any one else to know what was going on.”

“You should have told us, told me at least,” she said, a bit angrier over the situation than she should have been considering. “We could have helped you.”

He looked down at the ground as they kept walking. “I couldn't risk it,” he ended up saying.

“Couldn't risk what?”,” she demanded.

“That Richardson would have found out,” he told her. “he'd do something if he ever found out. I don't know what, but he'd done something to whoever else knew.” The sad part was that sounded just like the Ken she knew. Always worried about other people than himself. Right now she didn't know who she was angrier at, him for trying to handle this mind boggling burden for this long by himself or Richardson for putting him in this spot to begin with. Suddenly he looked up, she did so as well and saw a creature more or less blink intro existence.

Over her communicator she heard Reid giving orders to the troops to rally at his position if they could. Ken looked desperate. She saw his hand start to go inside his jacket but stop, the look on his face told her why. Unzipping her uniform jacket a bit she reached in and pulled out his good luck charm. It took a moment but she handed it to him, “You dropped this.”

Ken hesitated before taking it. “Thank you,” he told her before he removed his arm from her shoulder and walked, more like stumbled if she was being honest, forward. He stood there and raised his arm up holding the device over his head. Then his legs gave out and he dropped to his knees.

“Ken,” she cried out and ran to him, “I got you.” Getting under his other arm she helped him back to his feet. He looked at her for a moment. She mouthed the words “Be careful” to him. He nodded, and without taking his eyes off of her raised his arm up again. He was engulfed in a ball of light. It was bright, bright enough to hurt but she didn't look away. Soon she felt his weight against her fade away then the ball was gone. She looked back up at the creature, Ultraman stood between it and her. He stepped forward until he was out of the park before taking up a battle stance and shouting, “Shiah!”

***
The creature roared at Daxium and charged at him. Daxium ran at him in kind. Grappling for a bit both giants backed up from each other. Daxium sized the creature up not exactly sure what he was dealing with. He could sense the dark energy just coming off it, but it seemed off in a way as well. Yet it was still a threat, a fact that was proven when it grabbed him and threw him into a building. The structure held surprisinly leting him come back with a kick to knock it back. He dropped to a knee an fired off a flashbolt. The creature gave out a cry of pain. Seeing an opportunity Daxium rushed in punched it in the head. Recoiling it's brain like head started to glow again briefly before firing an energy blast. The giant couldn't dodge fast enough and took the full force of the blast.

Falling to the ground, Jess could feel the ground shake from where she was. As Daxium got to a knee it fired another blast. Quickly getting his shield up to block the attack He made enough time to get to his feet. And dropped the barrier. The creature fired one more time, but Daxium moved just enough to dodge it and come at the creature. It was ready for him this time as used his own momentum to throw Daxium to the ground. Blasted again as he tried to get up the giant went flying backwards and smashed into the ground. He halfway expected an immediate follow up but the creature just stood there swaying slightly. Confused by this new situation Daxium didn't let his guard down for a moment.

It's head started glowing again ane he was ready for another attack. But it didn't come like he expected. Then a slight glow appeared around Daxium's head, then others around the city. Almost as one Daxium, Jess and other people reacted, grabbing their heads but for different reasons. Jess and the others because they could fell their thoughts being invaded, Daxium much like Ken before him was assaulted with those thoughts. Sensing it's attack was working it kept it up while blasting him again. Inside the safe zone Ken felt the mental assault as well, dropping to his knees from in it no matter how hard he tried to block it out.

<I don't want to die!>

<Should just nuke the freaks>

<Get to the hospital.>

<Ken.>

His eyes opened up as he recognized one voice in the madness, Jessica's. Not sure what else to do he concentrated with all he had on her voice in the chaos and found it. Holding on to it like his life depended on ithe felt her courage, her strength, her... love? For him. Holding on to that last bit he tried to send Daxium the rest of it through their connection as he stood.

With the diamond on his chest stating to blink, Daxium slowly stood to his feet, fighting against the onslaught on his mind. With a shout he fired off another flashbolt. The creature reacted to the pain breaking the connection it created between him and the humans in the area. Not wasting any time he quickly fired off the dimensional storm ray and destroyed the creature.

Holding his head he stumbled a bit after it was over. Daxium shook his head a bit before flying off into the sky, “Shiah!”

***
Jess looked around after Ultraman disappeared from view. Suddenly the ball of light reappeared before shrinking down into something man shaped. The light broke away revealing Ken, looking a bit worse than he did a few minutes ago. He offered a small, weak smile before collapsing to the ground. “Ken!” She raced over to him and flipped him over. “Come on Ken, wake up.” she slapped his face lightly again but wasn't getting any sort of reaction. Trying not to think the worst she checked for a pulse and found one.

“Ken?”, someone called out. Jess looked up to see some guy run toward them. “Is that Ken?”

“Who are you?”, she asked the newcomer.

“Name's John. I worked with Ken back at the garage, he told her as he knelt down next to them. “Is he okay?”

“He,” how was she going to explain this. Hell how did he do this the entire time? Going with the obvious thing she said, “He was hit by whatever happened pretty bad.”

“I should have guessed,” he said. “I've seen a few people so far on the ground, not like this though. He must have gotten it pretty good. We should probably get him to a doctor or something.”

“Or something, she muttered. After what he told her of the care Richardson was providing hin, Ken deserved better than getting poked at by Dr. Williams. So she asked, ”Is your car close, we can drive him to the nearest emergency room.”

“Roads are still a mess,” he told her, “and those places are going to be a mess too for who knows how long.”She cursed to herself, he was right of course. Given Ken's condition they probably see him right away. But would they discover Daxium? And what would Richardson do then? And she wasn't sure Ken was wrong that he would do something. There had to be someplace they could take him.

Getting an idea she looked at John, “How close is his apartment?”

“A few block that way,” he answered. He pointed in a direction that was away from most of the mess. That should mean the roads would be clearer for the most part.

“It's better than nothing,” she said, mainly to herself. “Help me get him up.”

“Are you sure that's a good idea?”, he asked but he was trying to get in position to get him off the ground.

“No,” she told him. “But it's better than letting him lie on the ground like this.” Together they got him up and headed to his car.

***
Reaching the top floor of the building Hawk held up a hand to halt Ryo and the rest behind him. Some of them were still feeling the affects of that brain blast or whatever it was but they were able to shake it off, except for one man who felt like he couldn't move just yet. So Hawk told him to rest there and watch the flank while they did this.

He and Ryo took both sides of the door and on his command a third kicked it open. The three of them burst in weapons drawn and ready. “Clear,” Ryo announced as they walked further into the room. “Captain,” he pointed to another room. The kid was slumped in a chair. They all ran over to him while keeping an eye out for an am,bush of any sort. Ryo checked his vitals , “He's alive.”

“Ryo untie him from the chair.” As he started to do just that Hawk looked at the rest of the men. “Lucas, Grant take some of the others and secure the room.” acknowledging the order they grabed a couple of others and started exploring the rest of the room. Once it seemed clear he hit his communicator, “Bridge, Tell Lunden that we have Timothy and that he's alive.”

“He'll be glad to hear that Captain,” Bridge told him. “Anything on Brooks?”

He looked over at Grant who was shaking his head, “Looks like he got away.”

***
The door to Ken's apartment opened as Jess and John carried him in. His landlord, who used a spare key to let them in pointed out a particular room, “The bedroom is over there.”

“Thank you,” Jess told him as she and John carried him to it.

The landlord hurried past him to open the door for them. Once in they maneuvered themselves so they could get him on the bed. John picked up his feet and swung them over so he was laying on the bed fully,and at least have Ken looking more comfortable than he was a moment ago. “Are you sure he shouldn't be in a hospital?”, he asked.

“I'm not sure of anything right now,” she answered. “But I didn't want to leave him where I found him and this was the most accessible place either of us could think of. The landlord seemed to accept this and left. John was right behind him leaving her alone with an unconscious Ken. walking into the living room there was still one more thing she had to do, and Reid was bound to have noticed she disappeared by now. “Wade to Hawk.”

“Hawk here. Where are you?”

Here it goes. “I found Ken lying on the ground. A friend of his helped me get him to his apartment. The hospitals are going to be loaded is there anyway we can transport him back to Castle?”

“That's a negative Wade. Reid informed me the streets are still a nightmare, even more so after that last... whatever it was. Is Ken alright?”, she heard the concern in his voice. She felt bad using Ken's condition like this but it couldn't be helped. Besides it was just enough of the truth without revealing his secret.

“He's unconscious but his vitals are stable for the most part, I'm asking for permission to stay here and watch over him for the night to make sure that doesn't change.”

“Granted,” Hawk said and Jess let out the breath she was holding. “Let us know if anything changes.”

“Will do sir. Wade out.” That went better than she expected. Unzipping and removing her jacket she tossed it on the couch. Going back to check on Ken one more time she checked his closest. Finding another blanket she put it over him. “Where to we go from here?” she sasked knowing there wasn't going to be an answer.

During the fight, when Daxium was in trouble she felt Ken in her mind. She tried to give him some of her strength and hoped it worked. She also felt something from him. His love for her, that d surprised her a little. She knew there were still feelings there, but love?. She knew her feelings for him, but didn't realize they were reciprocated. Thet could be more than friends now if they wamted to go that route. If he wanted to go down that route. If she dared go down that route with him again. So where do they go from here?

----
ED - Shinedown – Fly From the Inside
-----
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Old June 30th, 2019, 03:14 PM #27
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Power Ranger
 
Joined: Dec 2012
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scikaiju
Power Ranger
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 382



Episode 26


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


His head hurt, his head hurt so bad he was almost convinced he got beakered again. So much so a hand reached over to the other side of the bed. No, nobody was there this time so no apparent drunken one night stand this time around, so that was a positive. Slowly he opened an eye and almost immediately regretted it as the pain increased. Hell even Dax seemed to have a hangover from the way things were feeling. But how was that possible? Dax didn't even react the last time this happened. So he didn't get beakered, another positive not that it currently felt like one. So what the hell happened?

Again he tried opening his eyes, with a little more success this time and carefully he looked around. Right off the bat he knew he wasn't in his quarters back at Castle, in another positive he wasn't in somebody else's room either. No this was his apartment in the city, so how did he get here? The last thing he remembered, well was his brains feeling like they were going to leak out of his ears. And his eyes popped wide open as he remembered.... Jessica. Shit, she knew his secret. Ken looked over at his dresser and saw her in her uniforms pants and the standard issue black UNDF tank top looking at him. But what drew his attention was her hand lifting up a photo he had taped to the mirror, the one of them back in high school. “I can explain,” he immediately said as he quickly rose up. But that was a mistake as he grabbed his head, “Right after my head stops trying to explode.”

She looked back at the picture before letting go of it. Backing a away a bit she kept her eyes on the photo. She said, “Remind me to show you my scrapbook one of these days and this one page I keep going to,” before turning around and facing him. “How do you feel? Outside of your head trying to explode?”

“That pretty much covers it,” he risked sitting up again. That didn't feel too bad this time around so he swung his legs over and sat there. She came over and sat next to him. When she wouldn't look at him he just talked, “I don't even know why I keep it up,” he told her gesturing toward the picture. “I keep taking it down when I get serious with someone, but it goes right back up after it ends, Half the time I don't even remember putting it back up.” Then he realized what he just said. Rubbing his eyes he added, “And that didn't sound creepy at all.”

“Like I said,” Jess spoke up, “remind me to show you that scrapbook later. I'm just as guilty.” Both of them went silent for a moment. “Hawk knows I'm here by the way,” she told him. “I told him I found you lying on the ground after what happened and asked if I could stay to make sure you're all right. Luckily he agreed. I should probably report in soon, at least tell him you're awake.”

Feeling nervous he went, “You told him what exactly?”

“Just that I found you lying on the ground, nothing else,” Ken let out a breath, feeling more relieved than he probably should at the moment. His one fear over this whole situation just came to fruition, somebody else found out. Not only that it was Jess, and he just dragged her into this entire mess. What else was going to happen? Especially if Richardson found out. Then she started shaking her head, “I can't believe you're Ultraman.”

Looking at her Ken went, “You said you figured it out.”

“I did,” she insisted. “But figuring it out and actually seeing you change into Ultraman are two completely different things. I spent most of the night on that couch of yours trying to reconcile this whole idea in my head.”

“Well I don't exactly change,” he told her. “It's more like I change places with him.”

“Yeah you mentioned something about setting him loose,” she said. “So where do you go? When you set him loose I mean.”

Ken sighed, how was he going to explain this, “After we bonded together, he set up this, I guess you could call it a safe zone, somewhere in here,” he gestured at his head. “At least thrat's where I think he is. He's usually in there until he's needed then that's where I go until he's finished.”

“Can he hear us, like right now?”

Ken kept quiet for a few moments, concentrating. Then he shook his head, “I can usually tell when he's looking out of my eyes. He's not doing it now.”

“How can you tell?”, Jess asked.

“It's hard to explain,” he said. “It's a feeling, like somebody watching you but from the inside. Like I said it's hard to explain. But it is noticable and a bit distracting when he does it. It's the main reason why I don't do it when he's fighting, I don't want to distract him at the wrong time.”

“And you been living like this since that first giant monster?”

“Pretty much,” Ken answered her. “It didn't get complicated until you guys brought me in,” he tried to joke. She didn't find it funny. Lowering his head he told her, “I'm sorry I dragged you into this.”

“You didn't drag me anywhere,” she assured him. “I got here all by myself. One night of this made me a nervous wreck, trying to figure out how to cover for you, how in the hell have you been handling it all this time?”

“I honestly don't know. I wanted to tell you,” he blurted out. “You, Hawk, somebody. There were so many fucking times I just wanted to shout it at somebody. I came close once,” he finally admitted. “To telling you and Hawk, right after Brooks got away from Castle. But the Doc and Richardson's assistant where right there, almost like they knew I was going to do it.”

“Why didn't you tell us then?”, she demanded. He recognized that look in her eyes, she was getting angrier by the second.

Reluctantly he answered, “Because she wasn't looking at me, she was looking at you. And I knew right then that was a warning. Every time I've come close the thought that Richardson would do something would stop me. I didn't want him firing you or whatever on my head. I couldn't live with that.”

“That fucking bastard,” she mumbled. “Does he even care about the hell he's been putting through? What am I saying? Of course he doesn't.” She quieted down, after a moment, looking unsure. Ken guessed she was worried about what was going to happen to her now too and felt like an absolute ass for putting her in this position. Then she said, “I felt you, in my head when Daxium was fighting that monster. I felt that you loved me.”

This was not what he was expecting where this conversation was going to go, not by a long shot. Jess apparently saw it, “I had to get the conversation off of Richardson or I was going to break something.” Then looking at him she added, “Are you going to deny it?”

He wanted to, God only knew how much he wanted too. But he said, “I never stopped. A week after we broke up I saw you with another guy and my heart sank, just knowing right then and there I lost you for good.”

“A week after?”, she said to herself. Then she sort of chuckled. “Oh yeah, that guy, one of my friends set me up with him, saying he'd be better fit for me than you. Then I broke up with him like a day later because he was so, God I wanted to shoot him he was so old school. I completely forgot about him, I don't even remember his name.”

“Walter,” Ken said suddenly.

“I never dated a Walter,” she insisted.

“I spent the next two days trying to figure out how to drop an engine block on his head,” he informed her. “If I'm thinking of ways to end a guy I'm going to know his name.” Both of them laughed, just over the absurdity of that statement. “I felt you in my head too,” he told her. “I felt how you fell about me. I didn't think you'd love me in that way again. As a friend yeah, but like you did?”

“Guess that answers that question,” she said with a small chuckle. When asked about this question she responded with, “Back in Japan I asked myself what was going to happen first, if you were going to tell me that you're Ultraman or if you'd realize how I worded my answer when you asked me if I thought we get back together after you joined. Looks like the answer was neither.” She chuckled again while tried to remember exactly what she said. Before it came to him Jess said, “So where we go from here?”

“I don't know,” he told her honestly.

She stood up and walked away going to one of the windows, “I mean it's not like we can pick up were we left off.”

This part of that conversation he did remember, “Like I said before, we picked up where we left off I'd be letting Jeff talk me into breaking dates with you and you'd be getting pissed at me weekly.” Standing up himself he walked over and joined her, “And it's not like we can start over either. I don't suppose you have an idea on what we should do?”

“Not about this,” she admitted. She looked at him briefly than back at the window. “But I think we should tell Hawk about you being Ultraman.”

“Hold it a second,” he said taking a step back, “I've been trying for over a year not to do that. I know I said I wanted to tell him but..”

“Listen to me,” she said grabbing his hand and pulling him closer, “you're right about one thing. Richardson would do something if he found out somebody else knew your secret. I have no doubt about that that.” Ken started to say something but she cut him off. “The way I see it , it getting out was inevitable. I wouldn't be surprised if other people were starting to put two and two together, if they haven't already. And you can't let Richardson keep lording this over you, especially now that you know I know it. We're going to need some sort of ally in all of this.”

Ken stood there and thought it over. Finally he said, “When was the last time I said I hate it when you're right?”

“I don't think you ever have,” Jess told. “Probably because you knew I'd kick you ass if you did.”

“Well yeah there's that,” he said with a bit of a smile. “I guess we should get it over with. But I don't want to admit the truth to him in his office. I'm just paranoid enough to think Richardson has the place bugged.”

“Yes you are ,” she told him. “But we'll figure something out since asking him to come here would make other people curious about what was going on. You still have a day or so left on your pass right? Give me that time to figure something out.” When he nodded his agreement she said, “Well I better contact Castle and give Hawk that update on your condition. And arrange a way to get back there. Give me a minute.” With that she left the room. Once she was gone he headed for the dresser and stared at his reflection.

“This going to be a mistake,” he told his reflection. “But she's right, it's got to be done. Now if it didn't feel like the other shoe was going to drop.”

***
Hawk looked over the reports on his desk on his desk but he had to keep going over them because his mind kept going elsewhere. Ken was due back today, looking at the clock on his desk he'd probably be reporting in soon. Hopefully the few days to himself helped him out a bit. Outside of getting hit hard bt whatever Brooks did to the kid. Nobody could have predicted that happening. Still he worried about his well being. As much as he didn't want to admit it he saw Ken like a son in a way, especially after he took him under his wing a bit and tried to help him reach that potential he didn't know he had when he first joined. The last thing he wanted was to see him, or any member of the unit for that matter, get hurt in any way. At least he might be able to give some insight on why Jess seemed a little off since she came back from watching him for the night after the event. The light on his intercom lit up getting his attention. “Yes Janet,” he said hitting the button.

“Sorry to disturb you sir,” came her reply, “But Jessica wanted a word if you had the time.”

He didn't even hesitate, “Send her in.” Everyone knew he pretty much had a open door policy if they wanted to talk to him. But even with Janet out there, something about this request seemed off. Mostly because anyone else would have just asked her if he was busy before knocking on the door. So he prepared himself for whatever she wanted to say.

Slowly the door opened and she made her way in, “Captain Hawk,” she said in greeting.

“Jessica,” he said in return. “Have a seat.”

“If I was here for me I would,” she said. Which caused him to arch an eyebrow, and feeling confused. Fortunately she didn't need any prodding to continue. “Ken has to tell you something,” now he was feeling confused and concerned. “But not here, He wants to see you on the roof.”

Slowly he asked, “Why the roof? Why not my office? And more importantly why did he send you instead of contacting me himself?”

“That part's complicated,” she answered, fully aware that's not the answer he wanted to hear at that particular moment. “But it would be best to tell you what he wants to tell you there. We'll explain why after he talks to you.” He just sat there and stared at her, trying to figure out if this was a joke or not. “You're going to have to trust us on this one.”

In any other situation he would trust them. Still his cuiriosity was piqued. “This better be important,” he finally said raising out of his chair. He followed her out of his office, although he gave Janet instructions to let anybody else know that was busy until his returned. They walked to the closest stairwell in relative silence. Although she kept insisting that Ken was fine and that he just needed to talk to him when he inquired about what was going on.

Finally they reached the door to the roof and she opened it to let him through. It took a second for his eyes to adjust to the brightness but there he was, practically in the same place the last time he saw him, leaning on the railing and looking out. Jess motioned for him to keep going, so he did joining the young man at the railing and looking out, much like they did last time. Finally he said, “Ken.”

Hawk watched glance over at him out of the corner of his eye before saying, “Captain.”

Studying him for a moment he tried to figure out why he looked so nervous. Looking back at Jess he saw that while she moved away from the door she still kept back from the two of them. “I hear you have something you want to tell me.”

“I do,” he answered. Then he swallowed and said it again, “I do.”

“Take your time,” Hawk told him trying to alleviate some of those nerves. “I have all day.” Ken started to say something but stopped himself several times. Then he reached into his jacket and placed a familiar looking cylinder on the railing between them. Hawk picked it up saying, “You're good luck charm, what about it?”

He took in a deep breath before speaking, “It's called the Spark Magnifier. It's..., It's what I use... It's what...”

“It's what you use to turn into Ultraman,” Hawk finished for him as a he handed it back to him.

Ken's head whipped around to look at him. He looked at him in disbelief, “You knew?”

“I suspected,” Hawk admitted as he took the device back. “I don't always follow it but I try not to confront anybody over anything without proof.” He looked over at Jess who looked just as stunned as Ken was. “He told you?”

It took her a second to snap out of it, saying, “I figured it out.”

Hawk simply nodded before returning his attention back toward Ken, who looked like he wanted to slink away somewhere right then. “I asked you point blank,” he began, “when you were first assigned to us if there was a reason why you were part of this outfit.”

Looking so ashamed that he couldn't even look at him Ken went, “I know, I'm sorry. But I couldn't risk Richardson finding out that someone else knew.”

“Why would you worry about Richardson?”, Hawk asked, although not too surprised he was involved in this somehow.

Jess spoke up for him, “Richardson blackmailed him to join.” The way Ken reacted to her saying that told him that it was the truth.

Still Ken added, “And I was sure he do something to the person who found out.”

“So you carried this by yourself this entire time. Hell son I'm surprised you haven't cracked from the pressure by now. You should have told me sooner, I thought you trusted me after all of this time.”

“I do,” Ken quickly said. “Like I told Jess there were times I came close to telling you. I'm sorry, I really am.”

“Don't be sorry son, “Hawk told him. “I'm sorry you had to go through this practically alone.”

“I was worried I'd disappoint you if you found out the truth,” he suddenly said. Even Jess looked a bit caught off guard by this particular statement. Finally Ken looked at him, “You always reminded me of my dad. I never wanted to disappoint him either.”

Behind them Jess whistled softly, “That's pretty high praise coming from him.”

“I though as much,” Hawk told them, suddenly honored that Ken apparently held him in such high regard. “Look Ken the only way I'd be disappointed right now was if I found out from someone else. Speaking of which,” he looked right at Jess.,

She held her ground telling him, “It wasn't my secret to tell.”

“Fair enough,” Hawk said, trying not to get too amused at how relieved Ken was looking at the moment. “You know we have to tell the others right?”

Ken buried his face into his hands, “I should have figured you were going to say that.” Picking his head up he said, “This is exactly what I've been trying to avoid, now it's fucking show and tell time”

“You need allies you can trust right now,” Hawk informed him. “At least more people having your back then just me and Jess.. Let me worry about the moment Richardson finds out, you carried that burden for way too long as it is. I'll call Ryo and Bill to the conference room, maybe see if Bridge can disrupt the video feed since all of us meeting up here is going to cause questions.” Ken still didn't look convinced about the situation in general. “Deep down you know it's for the best.” It took several minutes but he finally agreed to it. “I know it's going to be hard son but it's for the best. Now if there isn't anything else you need to tell me we better head back inside and get started.”

Hawk started walking to the door when Ken said, “Ah, actually there was something else.” Jess looked just as surprised by this as he was. Looking apprehensive again, Ken rubbed the back of his neck before saying, “I know how Joe really died.”

Sucking in a breath Hawk took that in. Another look at Jess said she was caught guard as well. Finally Hawk said, “All right. But tell me after I gathered the others. This... this is something you should probably only tell once.”

***
Ken hoped this would end better than he expected. First Ryo, Bill and Bridge were confused about why they were gathered in their usual conference room as he, Hawk and Jess stood in front of them. Ryo and Bill were even more confused when Bridge confirmed that the feed for the room was temporarily interrupted so nobody should discover what they were discussing, although he was as much in the dark for why as they were. Then Hawk told them what was about to be discussed wasn't to leave this room and for now was to just stay between them. Once they agreed then he dropped the real bombshell without any preamble. “Ken is Ultraman.”

Ken watched the three of them, anxious for a moment, then Bill started laughing. “Okay Captain that's a good one.”

“He's not joking,” Ken told him. Ryo looked over at Jess for confirmation.

When he got it he just exploded, “What?! You been Ultraman this whole time! What the hell!” Ken just stood there as the rest of them talked over each other. Ryo's reaction surprised him the most though as he just seemed angry at the reveal. In fact Ken was worried he might attack him at any moment. The others thought so as well as Jess and Hawk quickly got between the two of them. Still Bill tried to hold him back. Ryo looked at him and demanded, “This doesn't bother you at all?”

Bill looked at him, “Oh it bothers me all right, but it's Civilian. I'm sure he had a good reason to keep it quiet.”

“He was worried about us,' Hawk told him.

“Richardson blackmailed me to be part of this,” Ken told him,hoping it would be easier to believe if it came from him. “I couldn't risk telling anyone out of fear of what he might do to the person who found out.”

“How did he blackmail you?”, Ryo asked, obviously still angry.

“After you guys brought me in,” Ken started, “He said he was sorry for the 'inconvenience' and offered me a lift home since you guys were called away to face a monster. Instead of going where I told him to take me he had us go by the battle and had me watch. When I couldn't take it any more he got footage of me letting Da... Ultraman loose. He used that saying if I didn't agree he'd released the footage. I told him I'd reveal that secret before he got a chance. Then he said that one of the eggheads around here would start saying I was a biohazzard to those around me.”

“Are you?”, Bill asked.

“No,” Ken barked before he went on with his story, “I couldn't think of a way to counter that and I didn't want them to be put under a microscope because of me so I agreed.”

Hawk took over saying, “And that's most of that particular situation. Now you said you knew the truth about what happened to Joe.”

Again all eyes locked on him. Ken looked at Ryo and the rest of them hoping they would understand why he kept quiet about it. Taking a deep breath he started with, “You have to understand one thing first. This wasn't supposed to be me, it was supposed to be him. Richardson's been in contact with the place Ultraman comes from, arranging for one of their warriors to come over and help out, they just needed a host to house him while he was here.”

“That's why,” Jess said in understanding. “he and his father went out there that night. So Joe could bond with him”

Ken nodded, “Now I'm telling you what he told me. Things were going as planned but when Joe stepped forward to start the bonding process a beam shot out of the woods, killing him.”

Hawk grunted, “Brooks.”

“Yeah,” Ken said, “ Ultraman didn't get a look at who did it but that's who I figured it was.”

“You known this the entire time too?!”, Ryo demanded.

“No, I didn't know at first,” Ken told him. “I just knew that he died and what you guys told me.”

Jess took a step closer to him, “When.... when did you find out the truth?”

Now everyone was really staring at him. “When we found those other bodies underground.”

Ryo shot forward before anyone could stop him and grabbed him by the jacket, “You son of a bitch, you knew for months and didn't tell us?!”

“How was I supposed to tell you how I knew?”, Ken asked. His eyes went wide when he realized both Jess and Bill had grabbed Ryo's arm to keep him from punching him.

“Ryo stand down now!”, Hawk barked as Jess and Bill got him to release his jacket. “We're all angry about being kept in the dark about Joe. And I'll agree that Ken should have told us before now. But he was in a situation none of us can fully understand. But we know the truth now, all of it.” Hawk looked right at him, “Correct?”

“That's all I know,” Ken answered.

“Right,” Ryo snorted as he walked away from the group before Jess could stop him.

“You might not like it,” Hawk began

Ryo turned on him suddenly, “How long have you two known that he's Ultraman? When did he tell you?”

“I suspected for a while now,” Hawk told him. “I didn't know for sure until he told me earlier today.”

“I figured it out a long time ago,” Jess answered. “I told him that I knew.” Looking disgusted Ryo walked away again.

Hawk told the group, “As I was saying, you might not like it but at least the truth is out in the open now, and we have to figure out where we go from here. Ken is still one on of us,” he paused to see how the others would react. Bill and Bridge nodded their agreement right away, it took a bit but Ryo eventually agreed as well. Satisfied Hawk went on, “The way I see it our first priority is to get this video out of Richardson's hands just so he doesn't have it to hold over Ken any more.”

“I assumed that was a given,” Bill spoke up. Turning to Bridge he went, “Any ideas?”

Bridge thought it over for a bit, “How did he let you know about the video?”

Ken said, “Over that briefcase his assistant is usually carrying.”

Bridge thought that over as Ryo walked back to the group, “That's case is connected to his private server isn't it?”

“It is,” he answered, “he's the only one with access to it. It's not even connected to our system.”

Jess asked him, “Can you still get the video?”

“It's going to depend if he has the briefcase connected to it or not,” he told her. “It's how he wanted it designed. And the case has it's own power source. So it'll be on the case's hard drive if anywhere.” Ken started feeling defeated when Bridge continued, “However I did create the security protocol for the case and his servers. He does occasionally hook that case up to our servers whenever he has to upload or download documents. I can set up something that can alert me when either of them does connect it to our servers. And I can have a little searcher program ready to send in to look for any video he has on the case and copy it.”

Hawk got his attention, “Why not erase it outright? Seems like the simplest option even if he does notice it's gone. Assuming he comes to you, you could always claim it's a glitch in the case's system couldn't you?”

“It's not that simple Captain, Bridge answered. “The case backs up everything at least once a day. And I mean everything, There would be several hundred copies of that video in that harddrive by now. I can easily claim the original and maybe a few of the copies got corrupted, but not all of them.”

“We're assuming,” Jess said, “That his assistant hasn't already made a copy of it herself or downloaded it to that server of his in case somebody tried what we're talking about.”

“This just gets better and better,” Ken mumbled.

Putting a hand on his shoulder Hawk told him, “One thing at a time son. Let's see if that video is still in the case first then worry about any other problems.” Ken looked at him before nodding. “All right people we have a plan for now let's...”

Ken tilted his head slightly before saying, “You sure?” Hawk stopped talking as he and everyone else looked at him. Okay how was he going to explain this one.

“Are we sure about what?”, Bill asked.

Jess studied him for a bit then it hit her, “I don't think he's talking to us.” Now everyone was really looking at him now as they realized what she meant, he was talking to Ultraman.

Rubbing the back of his head he said, “Ah...he wants to say hello.” Not sure what else to do Ken reached into his jacket and retrieved the Spark Magnifier. He held it in his hand looking back between it and the group. “Never did this with this many people watching before,” he said, more out of nervousness than anything else. Deciding it's probably better to just get it over with he held it close and squeezed the handle causing the prongs to flip up and create a small spark.

That spark quickly grew to engulf him as Hawk and the others, outside of Jess, took a step back. Eventually the glow faded away revealing the being they knew as Ultraman, but at a more human size. He looked at them before saying,”Greetings, I am Daxium.”

Bill went, “Holy shit he talks.”

“Indeed,” Daxium said. “I wanted to give my appreciation for your assistance since I've been in your universe.” Turning toward Hawk he extended a open hand. Hawk just looked at him, “I think this is the proper gesture.”

It took Hawk a second, he was still getting over what he just witnessed, but he grinned and took the offered hand in his own and shook it, “Yes it is. It's good to finally meet you face to face.” Daxium nodded as the rest joined them.

***
Jess walked into the Razor Wing hanger, giving a small greeting to any one who said hello. But she was looking for one person in particular. And there he was, inspecting their usual Wing. Ryo looked over and saw her then immediately returned his attention the the jet. Yup, he was still upset over the reveal alright, and it apparently carried over to her now since she informed them that she knew Ken's secret for a while now. Time to mend this particular bridge. She walked over to him but stopped a few feet away to give him some space. “Need a hand?”, she asked.

“Knock yourself out,” was his answer. Hopefully he didn't mean literally. Then he pointed at one of the wing mounts that usually carried the missiles they used on missions. Taking it as her cue she headed for it and started her inspection. “Ryo, look.”

“Not in the open,” he told her. That had to be a good sign at least, or she hoped it was. That he didn't want any one else overhearing them talk about Ken and Ultraman. After a bit he started looking around to see how close the others were. “Just tell me one thing,” he said looking at her. “Exactly how stupid am I?”

Caught off guard she asked, “What do you mean?”

“I mean you and the Captain apparently put it all together,” he explained. “Why didn't I see it. I mean it's so obvious now that I should have seen it.”

“Is that why you were so upset earlier?”, she asked. “That you didn't figure it out?”

“Not completely,” Ryo answered. “I mean I understand why, now at least. But I was upset Ken didn't think he could trust us after all this time.”

“I understand, believe me I really do. I've been trying to get Ken to open up at least to me about it since Japan.”

“You still figured it out though.”

“Ryo, I've known him longer than any of you,” she told him, getting a little closer in an attempt to make this public conversation a little more private. “Hell I slept with him back then too, if anybody around here is going to put the pieces together it's going to be me.”

“Hold on,” Ryo said looking confused, “You two slept together? I thought you guys told me you didn't.”

“We did?”, she went trying to remember that particular conversation. Nothing was ringing any bells at the moment, because you'd think that would stick out like a sore thumb in her memory. “And you believed us? My god Ryo that's adorable,” she just said with how red faced he was getting. “But Ryo look on the bright side, at least Bill didn't figure it out either.”

“And that's supposed to make me fell better how?”, he asked.

“Imagine how you'd feel if he did and you didn't.”

The thought dawned on him, “Point taken.”

“After I put it together I could see how hard Ken was trying to hide it,” she told him. “Now I can't speak for Captain Hawk but I could see how much keeping this a secret was weighing down on him, particularly lately. Even you and Bill could see it.One way or another it had to come out now. And I'm not sure what caused Hawk to suspect the truth. But really Ryo never question yourself like that again. You're his unofficial second in command.” Ryo scoffed at this idea. “It's true, comr on, who does he leave in charge when he's not around? It's sure as hell not Bill. Just remember, just because you didn't see this coming doesn't mean you're not good enough to get to keep that trust he has in you.”

“I suppose,” he conceded., “I'm just annoyed I didn't see it as well as you and Hawk did.” Then he started to smile, “So why hasn't Hawk left you in charge then?”

She thought about that, “I should probably be a little insulted shouldn't I?” Both of them shared a laugh. At least things seemed to be good between the two of them now. Now they just had to worry about him and Ken.

***
In the war room Hawk stood around with Ryo and Jess while they waited for the others. Ryo seemed much calmer than the last time they gathered as a group a couple of hours ago, so that was a good sign. But even though he said he was good now Hawk decided to keep an eye on the situation once Ken entered the room. They looked at the door as it opened to let Bridge in, carrying a folder that he was keeping a little too close to his person, at least to Hawk. Then again he might just be getting paranoid himself. They were looking into stealing something from the head of their organization, charges of treason for all of them was a distinct possibility if they were found out. Fortunately these war rooms didn't have the usual security measures that the conference rooms had, so there was a smaller chance of them being discovered, or Bridge getting caught messing with the feed. “Let's wait until Ken and Bill get here,” he announced when the others looked at him expectantly.

The wait wasn't long as they came in a moment later, with Ken looking slightly annoyed about something. The reason why became evident real quick when Bill suddenly said, “So you're like a condo then.”

Letting out an exasperated breath Ken went, “A condo?”

“You're housing him,” Bill said.

“I'm just a host,” Ken shot back, “not an apartment complex.”

“So he's like an exchange student?”, Bill asked him.

He looked like he was about to blow but Ken kept it in check. Still he sounded very aggravated when he said, “Yeah let's go with that.”

Wisely Bill got the hint and quickly backed off a bit, “Hey I'm just trying to understand the whole situation here.”

“He's been like this for the last twenty minutes,” Ken told him.

Bill quickly tried to defend himself, “There was no one around, and I shut up when I saw somebody else. Come on the rest of you have to be curious about how this works too.”

“Let's just remember,” Hawk quickly said, “we have to be careful about what we say around other people in the organization now. The wrong person doesn't need to overhear what we know about Ken now. Or hear that we know now in some cases.”

Bill looked at Ken, “Civilian, seriously, how did you do this for so long? I'm a walking bundle of nerves and I've only known for a few hours.”

“You make it sound like it was easy,” Ken told him.

Ryo choose then to speak up, “Funny, you didn't seem to have that hard a time.” Jess quickly slapped his arm with the back of her hand as Ken hung his head a bit. “I'm just stating what I seen.”

“If we can get back to the business at hand,” Hawk said a little louder than usual. He'd worry about Ryo and Ken later, right now, “Bridge you said you found something?” Everyone laid eyes on their resident computer expert, Ken in particular was looking hopeful. Truth be told Hawk was hoping for the best too.

“Yes,” Bridge said as he finally put the folder down and opened it up, “But it wasn't the video.” Ken visibly deflated at that. Jess started rubbing his shoulder as Bill tried to reassure him. Ryo even looked disappointed at the news as he joined in with words of encouragement. Bridge looked disappointed in himself as he said, “Sorry Ken.”

“So what did you find?”, Hawk asked for the group. “You had all of us gather for a reason.”

“All of you have to see this. Just to make sure I checked our servers,” he explained,, “in case they did try to hide the video in there. Like I said I didn't find the video but I did find these.” Putting the disk into the appropriate slot he started pressing the proper keys to make what he discovered appear above the holotable. The rest of them were confused by the various boxes that appeared. “All of these are sound files,” he told them. “And all of them corresponds to an assignment you guys were on.”

“So what does it mean?”, Ryo asked. “ Has Richardson's been monitoring us?”

“Not all of you,” Bridge told them. “The first file is dated shortly after Hawk gave Ken his uniform jacket.

To highlight this Bridge picked the appropriate file and played a snippet for them. Ken's voice came out clear as a bell in it, “Who wants to see a dead monster and poke it with a stick?”

It dawned on all of them but Ken was who said it out loud, “He was monitoring me.” Then his hand quickly went to cover up his communicator. Although it was a little too late at this point. And it eventually dawned on him as well seeing how apologetic he seemed to look.

“I already checked before I called Hawk to arrange this meeting,” Bridge told him. “You're communicator isn't active right now. In fact,” typing in another command a new sound file box came up, one that wasn't showing any kind of activity at the moment. “Some how he set up a permanent link to Ken's communicator.,”he gestured toward the new file “I'm assuming the link goes active once we get a hit on sensors. Or at least when you deploy to the field”

“Then we got him then right?”, Bill asked. “We got proof now if he tries to do anything to us or Ken.”

“At most it's a buffer,” Hawk informed the group. “I want the video, then we got him.”

“Can we copy these files and erase the originals?”, Ryo asked “It would be better if we had them and not Richardson.”

“Bridge, how often does Richardson or his assistant look at these files?”, Jess asked him.

“Pretty much every time they upload a new file from Ken,” he answered. “The only mission not on here was the one from Japan.”

“We were out of range for our standard communicators,” Ryo put in. “It makes sense. Is there any way to deactivate that link with out them realizing it.”

“Possibly,” Bridge went. “I'm pretty sure they're listening in to Ken's communicator every time. At most I can make it so it doesn't record what he's saying. That why there would still be a file present but nothing would be on it. It's going to take some doing though, not to mention time. But I'm going to try and study the code for the link they used. No one in that inner circle of his has the computer skills to pull this off without getting noticed. He had someone do it, and since he didn't come to me he went to somebody in my department.I need to make sure that person doesn't find out the link was messed with.”

“Better than nothing I guess,” Ryo said

Ken had a look on his face like he just realized something, “That's how they knew about Brooks.” He quickly realized they were looking at him now. “Remember when I told you Jamira told me about Brooks earlier?” When they nodded he went on, “Well after we got back I was making a beeline straight to his office. Stanberry stopped me and said Brooks had already left.”

“So he knew about him since then too,” Hawk said, mainly to himself. “I wondered why his double checking things while I was trying to find out who sabotaged the Alpha One felt off. And no Bill we don't have him yet,” he said reading the question on his face.

“Not unless that conversation in on that file,” Jess offered. One look at Bridge after he looked up from the screen he was staring at apparently gave her the answer. “It's not, is it?”

“Going over the mission logs, the file stopped recording the moment you all started back toward base.”

“Damn it!”, Ken exploded and walked away.

“Richardson is a lot of things,” Hawk spoke up, “A fool is not one of them. He's very good at covering his bases. We just have to have patience.” He looked over at Ken, “Or have a little more in some cases. In the meantime I want to make a proposition to Daxium, I think I'm saying it right.”

Ken was silent for a bit, with a far away look in his eyes and his head tilted a bit, “He's listening.”

“Okay then,” admittedly Hawk was just a bit uneasy saying this out loud, “I want to make one thing perfectly clear, I don't want to use him as a weapon. But maybe we can help the both of you a bit. Now I'm not sure how you've been deciding to let him loose as you say,” he shifted his eyes over at Jess, “although the reasoning behind some suggestions are becoming a little more clear now. But I was thinking we could do something to help you out on that matter, like giving you the all clear to let him loose . At least put you in a position to get away easier to do so.

It took a moment for Ken to respond, “Dax is willing to go along with what you're suggesting but I have a issue. Richardson is listening in on my communicator. How do we do that and not have him find out we're doing it?”

“We'll think of something,” Hawk. “Hopefully before Brooks sets another monster on the attack. And I doubt we have the luxury of time there, so if anybody thinks of anything let me know as soon as you get it. Well Ken?”, he said looking at the younger man.

“I said Dax was agreeable to it.” he waited a few beats before going, “I guess I am too.” He held out a hand to Hawk who quickly shook it confirming their new arrangement. “I'm not going to lie, this is going to be weird.”

“For all of us son,” he told him, “for all of us.”

***
Near a railroad, in a small cavern Brooks stood around and waited. It was bad enough he felt his masters draw him to this ,unfortunately pretty populated construction area this time of day. He still hadn't been able to get them to understand that him being spotted was a bad thing. But he was still smarting over the fact that he almost had Scott If that woman didn't show up when she did, and he was still convinced the brat was involved somehow, then both he and the giant would have been finished. He was sure of it,

While he was stewing he almost missed the vortex start to form. Quickly trying to calm his growing rage he faced it. Now was not the time to lose his temper, because the punishment would be swift and violent. He got a taste of it once and was in no rush to repeat the experience. Before long the outline of one of his master appeared in the vortex. “Avatar,” the voice seemed to echo a little more than usual. He put it down to the space they were in more than any anger on their part. Or at least he hoped that was the reason.

He bowed slightly, “My masters. What is the plan now? I assume it has something to do with the site I'm next to.”

“Indeed Avatar,” the image said. “The previous experiment you conducted gave us time to finalize our latest creation.” Brooks felt an eye start to twitch after hearing this information. It meant they used him to buy themselves some more time. They never expected him to succeed. If that damn woman never showed up he be gloating right about now.

Forcing his voice to stay even he said, “And what are we sending over now that's sure to conquer the giant.” He quickly flinched away when the edges of the vortex started flaring up. Sarcasm was not the way to go there.

“Be watchful of your tone Avatar,” the voice said with a force that was only used on those occasions they lashed out at him. So far they haven't but there was no guarantee that they wouldn't. “We will not abide any of your insolence.”

“Yes my masters,” he quickly backed off. “I was not thinking clearly when I said that. You have been very gracious with your leniency with my experimentation with the power you have given me.”

“That leniency is limited Avatar, we suggest you remember that in the future.” The edges of the vortex started to calm down, but he still didn't relax. They were apparently on edge as well. Brooks would have to remember to not poke this particular alien bear. “We are nearly ready to send a new creature over. So soon after his last battle the giant will be caught unprepared.”

Brooks stood there thinking, after I soften him up for you, but wisely kept this thought to himself. “An excellent strategy my masters, The giant should be unprepared for a new fight so soon after the previous one.” Although Brooks seemed to recall a time Scott and the giant did just that. But they said he gave them time to finalize things with this latest one. “If I may ask, what needed finalizing on this newest creation of your?”

“Our scientist were able to create Kodalar's skin so it will be reflective of any energy attack fired at it,” the voice explained, “In most cases directly back toward the point of origin of the attack among his other abilities.”

“And most of the giants's major attacks are energy based,” he said to himself. “Yes that may actually work. An excellent idea my masters.” Again to himself he thought took your scientists long enough to figure that one out. “When are you sending it over?”

“Soon,” came the reply. “There should be another tunnel nearby.” Brooks glanced over to the only other tunnel there was in this particular cavern. “It should lead to a larger one that can accommodate Kodalar easily enough. Wait there until then.”

“Of course my masters,” he replied while bowing again. Once the vortex disappeared the disgust returned to his face. “Wait there,” he spat. “What else am I supposed to do walk to the center of the city and lead Scott and the giant on a merry chase. God there are times I wish I never accepted that deal, just so I wouldn't have to deal with how insufferable they can be.” He headed down that particular tunnel trying to ignore blasting something in frustration like he had done in the past. Mainly because these wall didn't look particularly stable and he wasn't in the mood to get buried alive today. Still he had a few moments to muse to himself about various things such as “Kodalar, interesting name. More than likely still better than anything those unimaginative morons at the UNDF would end up calling it.”

***
Jess nearly jumped when the door alert went off indicating someone was on the other side. She was still expecting him but damn was she nervous. And she shouldn't be, it was just Ken,more than likely, she already talked with Ryo, Bill, Captain Hawk even Bridge and she couldn't think of any one else who would be knocking at her door this time of day, so it had to be Ken. She invited him here, mainly because she said she show him that particular page in her scrapbook, that was it, maybe discuss ways to give him the signal that it was his and Daxium's time to fight, but that was it. So why did the thought of opening that door make it seem like those butterflies were having a street fight in her stomach?

“Damn it Jessica,” she told herself, “You're a fucking adult, start acting like one and not a scared school girl.” Taking she walk a deep breath she walked toward the door. Ken was on the other side, and he looked almost as nervous as she felt. “Ken, do you want to come in?”

“Come in?”, he looked like that question caught him off guard. He looked around to see if anyone else was around, and so did she so she couldn't make fun of him there, she might any way just for the hell of it. Depending on her mood, and if he did something stupid. Not seeing anybody he finally said. “Uh, sure. Why not.”

“It beats talking out in public,” she said and immediately winced at what she said. She was blaming that line on the nerves. She moved aside to let him in. Once he crossed the threshold she did one more check for any witnesses. There was no way in hell she was going to give the local grape vine any ammunition. “So what new?”, oh yeah she was blaming that one on the nerves too.

“I heard about Timothy,” he told her. This got her attention since she was sure the kid was one who lead her to Ken's location the other night. So Jess was worried about him as well. “He's still in the infirmary, he confirmed Hawk's suspicion that Brooks used him to cause that event I was caught up in.”

“Who told you about Timothy?”, she asked. Both of them had been trying since they got back to Castle. Up until now they, Ken in particular, kept running into a wall. They most she was able to get was from Ryo when he told her that the medical staff pretty much ripped him away from their hands almost as soon as they drove in. “Is he going to be okay?”

“I was finally able to get some info out of Hawk,” he explained. “After I explained that he knew about Dax and how. Man it's still weird talking about him out loud now.” He shook his head a bit “But he's okay, physically at least.”

Confused Jess asked, “What do you mean?”

“Apparently whatever Brooks did to the kid sort of fried whatever it was in his head that let him read minds,” he told her, getting visibly angrier by the second just talking about it. “Fucking bastard,” he muttered, while in full agreement with that statement she did reach out and start rubbing his shoulder to try and calm him down. It apparently worked be cause he looked at her with a bit of a smirk. “That was literally the first time I heard Dax cuss too,” she smiled a bit too, “I think I might have rubbed off on him a little.”

“Only you could corrupt a being from somewhere else,” she told him. “How did Timothy take this particular revelation?”

“Not well according to Hawk,” he said. “They had to sedate him he was freaking out so much.”

Jess nodded a bit as she took that bit of info in. “It only makes sense, I'm just guessing that he's been able to do that all his life. It would be like one of us waking up and being unable to see. Do they think his abilities will come back?”

Ken suddenly looked a little sad, “They're not sure. Nobody around here even understood how he did it to begin with. And the guy that came in with him, Lunden, he's been a complete mess and has been no help at all. He hasn't left his side since they brought him in. Hawk had to contact Lunden's company in order to get the people who worked with him over here.”

“Lunden's that bad?”, Jess went. “I'm surprised he was that close to Timothy.”

“Took me by surprise too. But Hawk said he hasn't left his side since they brought him in.” He suddenly looked past her and at her bed, more importantly at the book on it.

She looked at it as well and felt the nerves grow again. “I did say I'd show you that one page.” He followed her over to the bed and said nothing as she picked it up. Stepping a little closer to give him a better look her fingers found the right page without her even looking. She opened it then looked at him to gauge his reaction. Ken looked on in wonder as he focused on the picture of the two of them.

He looked at her, “That was your seventeenth birthday party.”

“You remembered,” she said with a smile. She glanced back at the picture. “It wasn't until I saw that photo on your dresser and you trying to explain it that made me realize that of all the scrapbooks I own this is the one I always keep with me. And this is the page I'm usually on.” she looked back at him and found Ken looking at her. And suddenly this felt very wrong.

“What are we doing?”, she said closing the scrapbook and walking away, leaving him a little dumbfounded on what just happened. “We can't go down this road again.”

“Why not?, he asked. “Is it because we're team mates now? Are you afraid it'll end the same way?”

“No, it's not that,” she told him. Then what was the reason she was having doubts now? “I'm not the same person I was back then,” she eventually ended up saying. It felt close enough to the truth, at least because that was the only thing that came to her mind.

“Neither am I,” he shot back. “You pointed it out to me enough times. I know we can't pick up were we left off.”

“We can't really start over either,” she told him. “How could we, after all this time? Ken I like the spot we're in now. I don't want to ruin that.”

“I don't want to lose what we have now either,” he said taking a cautious step closer. “But you know I love you, and I know how you feel about me. I wouldn't risk anything to ruin what we have now.”

“I don't either, So what do we do then? It's not like we can just forget all of this and go on like we have been.”

“I have no idea.”

“Well you're a lot of help,” she told him. Despite the turmoil both of them started to smile. “This sounds like one of those one step at a time thing doesn't it?” He agreed. “Can I have a little time to try and sort this out in my head a bit?”

“Yeah, of course,” he answered. He headed for the door. Then he stopped and turned around. He didn't look mad so there wasn't going to be as fight. So what did he want to say to her? “I was wondering ah...after you sorted it out of course, and if we can arrange it, did you want to go grab some dinner some time? Off base I mean.”

Jess just looked at him for a short moment. Her mind sorted everything out pretty quickly right then and there. She didn't let it on though, or tried not to. “I do believe you're trying to ask me out on a date.”

Looking a little embarrassed he said, “Granted my last few dates were because Rose set me up. But I'm pretty sure this is how it's done.”

“I'd love too,” she blurted out. Looks like she caught him off guard again with her response. While he looked confused she told him, “I figured things out pretty fast. I'm willing to give us another chance if you are.”

She never seen him smile so big. She wouldn't have been surprised if the top of his head was going to fall off his grin was so huge. “Great. I mean good. Hell I mean great. God that was harder than the first time I asked you out. You pick where you want to go. Anyplace will be fine with me.”

“Let's see if we can arrange it first,” she reminded him.

“Right, gotta arrange it first. Oh god there's going to be paper work isn't there?” he said. “ How do we classify this any way?”

She grabbed his hands, “Ken relax, breath. We just need to ask for a pass from Captain Hawk, and pray he doesn't ask too many question.”

“Ask for a pass, right,” he said calming down a bit. “He's so going to give me a look when we do, I just know it. We're going to do it together, right?”

“There'd be less questions that way,” she told him. “Now go the the garage or something and work off that nervous energy. “ he gave her a quick salute before leaving her room. Jess turned around and leaned against the door after it closed, just waiting for what ever it was earlier to tell her this was wrong. Now she started to smile as that voice remained quiet.

***
He should have taken a deck of cards or something. Monster sitting was tedious even before Brooks was forced to go on the run. Of course he was wishing for some cards then as well, since he didn't want to risk having his phone tracked. He always was a bit hard headed like that, thinking he didn't need something when he really did. Granted he had an excuse this time, fleeing Castle didn't give him a lot of time to gather things as trivial as personal entertainment and the like.Nor did planning a proper escape plan. But that was in the past, and this was now. And right now it was boring as hell at the moment. So he got up to walk around and stretch his legs a bit, all while ignoring the monstrous gaze following him.

Those giant black beady eyes of course belonging to Kodalar, a massive blue, almost turtle looking creature that his masters had sent over. Outside of it's skin coloring the first thing he noticed was the off white tusks and spikes protroding on various spots on it's body. Those were the first thing he noticed, it took a bit but he eventually realized that this thing was watching him. Granted there were a couple in the past that gave off the impression that they were watching him, but Kodalar was just out right staring at him. Almost unnervingly so. And the fact that his masters were observing him some how only made the feeling worse. “Granted, you more impressive than some creatures they have sent over,” he said, knowing the intelligence of these things was relatively low and therefore it wouldn't understand what he was saying. “But I was expecting something less... generic looking. Now don't get me wrong some of your brethren had been down right bizarre looking, that one rock creature comes to mind.”

Like he expected Kodalar didn't react, it just kept staring at him. Even if it looked at him in hunger it would be better than this dead expression he was getting now. “How about a little experiment, hmm? I'm sure they tested the properties of your hide, but I just need to know that they're actually right.” Again Kodalar didn't react as his hand started glowing, “Just a low level blast I think, nothing too impressive.” Brooks fired an energy blast that hit the creature in the thigh. Then like expected the beam shot back in his direction, extremely fast. So much so he almost didn't react in time as he jumped out of the way. The reflected blast hit the wall with way more force than he originally fired it.

He stared at the spot for a long moment in shock. He looked back at the creature who was still the same. Brooks looked back and forth between it and the smoking spot several times before realization and anger finally set in. “Not only does it reflex back it increases in strength,” he said as he stood up running his hand over his head. “They never mentioned that. More than likely they expected me to try just that and get blasted by my own beam. The nerve of some people.” He started dusting himself off when he looked back up at Kodalar with a sinister grin, “Well, if I didn't see that coming neither should the giant.”

***
Bill and Ryo sat at a table in one of the smaller cafeterias on base, one that they generally used when they just wanted to sit around and shoot the bull or whatever, as she approached the table. Both of them looked up and greeted her friendly enough. “I thought I find the two of you here,” she said as she joined them. “This seat taken?”

“Not at the moment,” Ryo said as she pulled it out and sat down. Bill started looking at the door, like he was expecting something. Eventually Ryo asked, “What are you looking for?”

“Ken,” he admitted. “It seems wrong that we're here and he's not.” Ryo didn't say anything, but he did have a look cross his face but she caught. And it wasn't a happy one. Apparently he was still a bit salty about Ken keeping everyone in the dark about certain things, despite what he said. Missing all of that completely Bill stood up saying, “I'm going to go find him.”

“Yeah,” Ryo said with fake enthusiasm, “you go do that.” Bill did catch that one and stared at him. When he looked at her, Jess motioned that she had this one. Bill nodded and left the room.

Ryo pointed at her and said “Don't.”

“I'm going to anyway,” she informed him. “Are you ever going to forgive him about keeping what happened to Joe from us?” The way he looked at her made her think her hunch was on the mark. Most of his anger wasn't from Ken keeping the fact he was Ultraman from them. It was what happening to their fallen team mate. Hopefully having this discussion here rather in a properly staffed hanger would help him opening up

“I understand where that anger is coming from,” she told him. “I really do, it caught me by surprise too. But Ken was in a tough spot.”

“I know that,” he snapped at her. “I know that, but he knew how Joe's death affected us. Just the idea he kept the truth from us for this long.”

“None of us are happy with it Ryo. I'm not, Captain Hawk's not. And I'm positive Bill's not either.”

“Then why are none of you angry with him then?”, he demanded.

“Because we're trying to understand the spot he was in,” she shot at him, anger almost getting the best of her. “If you're claiming to know the spot he was in, you should try understanding it as well.” Without thinking she said, “If your this upset now, I can't wait to see how you react when we go on that date.”

“Date?”, Ryo went. “You two are going on a date?”

Mentally kicking herself for letting that bit of information out Jess said. “Yes we're going on a date, Ken asked me out to dinner earlier. We decided to give it another try.” She braced herself for another outburst.

Instead of shouting he started smiling, “That's great. I was wondering if you guys would give it another go.”

“I thought you'd be angrier at the news all things considered,” she told him.

“I'm still upset about being kept in the dark about Joe,” he told her, “but I'm happy for the two of you Jess, I really am. Just give me time to get over the whole Joe and Ultraman mess. So when's the date happening?”

Before she could answer Bridge's voice came from their communicators and the over head speakers, “All units get ready to deploy. A monster signal has been detected.”

Both of them shot up from their chairs. She quickly said, “Not tonight,” as they raced out of the room.

***
Breaking through the ground Kodalar roared as workers ran at the sight of him. As he freed himself while the crater he created grew larger with the attempt. Brooks always thought of them as male for some reason, it was possible at least one or two of them could have been female. But that was neither her or there. At a safe enough distance, one where he could see the initial onslaught but not be immediately noticed,Brooks watched the scene unfold in front of him. Well unnoticed was a relative term, especially if Scott and the giant showed up. Not that he couldn't hide himself from them, he'd done it for a year. But it was better safe than sorry.

Finally breaking through Kodalar fully emerged and surveyed the fleeing ants before him. Getting bored of that he locked his gaze on one of the buildings in the area and headed for it. Brooks pretended that there was a maniacal little gleam in it's other wise dead eyes as he smashed the building into rubble, At least from this distance it looked liked he was finally enjoying himself, or Brooks like to have thought as much while he watched..

The ever increasing sounds of jet engines slowly filled the air causing him to look up. The Razor Wings arrived faster than he anticipated. Hawk must have the troops ready to launch at a moments notice ever since he left. He chuckled a bit as he realized he probably part of that reason, Pulling a set of micro binoculars out of a pocket he scanned the area, and there were the Scan Tracks. Although he was more than a little disappointed the Alpha One wasn't here. That big cannon it carried was the only thing they had to an energy weapon. He would loved to witness the expression on Hawk and Scott's face as that beam was reflected back at them. Then again that would tip off Scott and the giant to this particular ability, and where was the fun in that?

Studying the Scan Tracks a little closer as the Wings made a strafing run at Kodalar he spotted Hawk as the troops quick set up a temporary field HQ. More importantly he spotted Scott on the ground. And he seemed to be partnered with some one as they went into the chaos, more than likely to help with evacuation based on UNDF regulations that he help write. Now how was he going to get away and let the giant out this time?

***
“Come on people, move it this way!”, Bill shouted as he waved a bunch of workers away from the carnage. On the other side of the street Ken was doing the same. Although he kept glancing up at the creature, trying to judge exactly how far away it was. If it got too close he was going to have to risk getting away to set Dax after it. Well not risk exactly, Bill was fully aware of things now, so he'd understand why if he suddenly bolted. Just another thing he would have to get used too on the fly now everything was out in the open, Everyone looked back at the creature as the Wings made another pass at the monster, with Scan Tracks joining in on the ground. As usual the barrage barely seemed to have an effect. “Civilian!”, he heard Bill call out. “I got things here. You wanna head to another area to see if it's clear?”

It took a moment For Ken to figure out what he was doing, He was giving him the chance to get away. Getting used to things on the fly. Ken looked at the crowd and checked if any other UNDF officers were around. Things looked clear to him. “Yeah,” he said, “I'll do that.” Ken looked around to locate a free area. Before he could locate one the monster roared again, holding some sort of tank it tossed it at the direction of the Scan Tracks. It fortunately missed the target it was aiming for. But it did explode on contact. Right by the field HQ.

Both Ken and Bill looked on in stunned silence before both of them shouted, “Captain!”, and ran for the blaze as the vehicles increased their attack.

“Are you okay?”, Ken asked as they came across someone stumble away from the wreckage coughing up a lung. When he nodded he went,“Where's Hawk?”

“Still in there,” he got out between coughs as he pointed back toward the mess. “He's making sure the others got out first.” He was still alive for the moment, a small weight seemed to lift off of his shoulders. Bill visibly relaxed a bit at the news as well.

“Come on,” Bill said as he ran toward what was left of the field HQ. Ken didn't need to be told twice.

Running past various workers and troopers they finally reached it. It wasn't as bad as either of them feared, but it was still pretty bad. Things were turned over and various objects were either broken or on fire or both. People were still stumbling away from it as Ken spotted one last person coming out of the smoke, a battered and bloody Hawk. “There!”, he shouted at Bill as he ran toward him.

Ken caught him as he started to fall forward. “I got ya Captain,” he grunted as he got under his arm and supported him. Bill started moving what debris he could out of the way to give them a clearer path.

“What are you doing here?” Hawk demanded as he started clawing at Ken's chest for some reason before a coughing fit made him stop.

Waiting a moment it to stop Ken told him, “Getting the injured to safety first. I did read all those pads filled with regulations you gave me you know.” Hawk started grinning. After a few more yards he looked back at the monster then started poking Ken in the chest. He looked down and saw that his communicator was missing. He looked back going, “How?” Then he remembered Hawk clawed at his chest, he removed it without him realizing it. “I'm not paying for that if it's broken.”

Grinning again Hawk told him, “I'll get a collection going. Now I believe you have a job to do.” Ken was speechless, and torn. On one hand he wanted to just that, on the other hand he had to make sure Hawk got to safety first. Even Dax was agreeing with that.

“I got him Civilian,” Bill told him as he he got under Hawk's other arm and took most of the weight. “Do what you gotta do.” Ken was still to stunned to move. Hawk had to push him away to get him moving. Still Ken looked at Hawk, worried about his condition. Hawk waved him on, the order plain on his bloody face. Biting a lip Ken replied with a quick nod and ran toward the monster. “Kick it's ass man,” Bill called after him.

Stopping in a big enough area, and fully aware that both Hawk and Bill were watching him, Ken reached for the Spark Magnifier, “Let's do it Dax,” and held it over his head as he activated it.

***
The column of light appeared as Brooks lowered his binoculars after almost losing his grip on them. Scott just let the giant free, in front of Hawk and the other one. And it didn't look like he thought twice about it from where he was. “He did it, Scott actually did it,” he muttered in disbelief, “he just revealed who he was.”

Brooks walked away from the scene as the giant was revealed as the column faded away and he got into a position to take on Kodalar, “Shiah!”

***
Kodalar roared a challenge at Daxium before charging him. Running at the creature in kind he grappled with the monster before it's brute strength pushed him back. Daxium went in again with a kick that barely budged it. Kodalar slowly spun around trying to get him with it's tail. Daxium easily jumped over it and punched and chopped at the creature creature repeatedly. With a grunt the monster charged forward suddenly, bashing Daxium with it's shoulder. The surprising suddenness of the move combined with the force behind it put the giant flat on his back with a ground shaking thud. Kodalar quickly took advantage by coming up to Daxium and started stomping on his chest. Reacting in pain with each blow Daxium grabbed the foot as it was coming down and with some effort was able to push it back. The monster fought to keep it's balance, giving Daxium enough time to get back to his feet. He grabbed an arm and tried to use it being off balances to throw the creature to the ground.

Kodalar was able to shrug it's arm out of Daxium's grasp and knock him back with a backhand. Then quicker than the light giant expected the monster grabbed him and threw him to the ground. Picking him back up, despite the increased barrage from the UNDF forces, lifted him off the ground then threw him into a building that collapsed on impact. Getting out of the rubble Daxium looked to see the creature jump at him. Rolling out of the way Kodalar crashed on the ground. Acting fast Daxium humped on it's back and started pounding away with his fist. Kodalar slowly was able to get up carrying Daxium on it's back. While hanging on for all he's worth one quick heave flipped him over it's shoulder to the ground.

Seeing the monster come to stomp on him again Daxiom quickly rolled out of the way, got to a knee then jumped up and landed a flying kick. Kodalar stumbled back but it still tried to grab at him. Back flipping out of the way Daxium continued to flip backwards to get some space between the two of them. Bringing his hands to his sides, Daxium lined up the shot and fired off a Flashbolt. The beam struck the creature but less than a second later it came back at him. Daxium tried to move but got hit in the stomach as it exploded on contact. Crying out in pain he held his gut as he bent over slightly, eventually dropping to a knee..

“Ken!” Ryo and Jess both cried out as they witnessed what happened from their Razor Wing. On the ground Bill looked stunned about what just happened while Hawk ignored the medics trying to treat his injuries. Making eye contact both knew the other was worried about their friend and team mate. Kodalar stomped toward Daxium while he was still on the ground in pain.With a sudden grunt that surprised the monster with how intense it was Daxium stood up and banged his forearms together mode shifting into Power Mode. With renewed determination Daxium went at the blue monster, his increased strength adding a little extra oomph to his punches and kicks,Kodalar tried to cover up and lash out blindly at the same time. But it did get in a lucky shot at the spot Daxium was hit with the rebounded Flashbolt. Grunting in pain again he took a step back.

The monster tried to grab him in the moment but the giant quickly broke free. Daxium grabbed the tusk by it's mouth and tugged down, ramming it's head into his knee. The monster stunned he spun around with a kick that almost knocked it down. While it didn't go down the monster did turn his back to him. Seeing his chance he grabbed it's tail and with another pain laced grunt he started turning in a circle, creating enough momentum that Kodalar left his feet. While that did make spinning him in circles easier it still put a strain on his wound. So much so, not to mention that the jewel startrted blinking, that he had to let go and held his side one more time as Kodalar went flying for a bit before crashing on the ground with a huge thud. He started to bring his fist to his chest but hesitated. If this creature's hide could somehow reflect the Flashbolt could it do the same with the Giga Wave? He looked behind him and saw the UNDF forces still presant. He lowered his fist he couldn't risk them getting caught up in the backlash if it did. So that left him with one option in this form, the Storm Globe. Deciding he needed a better angle than this he flew straight up in the air, Holding his arms out Energy formed between them that he quickly condensed by swinging his arms around. Once in a ball shape he held his arms out and firing the ball of energy,at the monster. It watched the attack come at him but did nothing to avoid it. Apparently catching the energy orb by holding it's arms open the attack was rebounded back at Daxium.

Figuring there was a chance that it was going to come back at him Daxium dropped from the sky almost as soon as he fired the attack. The globe sailed overhead and into space as he landed on the ground. He studied this particular monster trying to figure out what to do.All his energy based attacks so far had been reflected back at him. And the only thing that seemed to have any affect was his physical strikes. Even if the jewel on his chest wasn't blinking it's warning he knew he didn't have enough time to try and beat it to death. So what was he going to do? Running out of options and time he crossed his arms in front of him and brought them down going into Hyper Mode. Holding out his right arm the Light Flash whip extended from his fingers. Getting in close he took a test swing at the monster. The whip hit the creature with no difficulty but there seemed to be very little contact made from the effort.

Kodalar shook a bit, like it was laughing at him. Swinging the whip over his head Daxium snapped it back at the monster. It wrapped itself around where it's neck should have been. He didn't relax just yet, waiting to see if the creature would some how repeal the light whip from it's body. While it struggled to get free the whip stayed in place. Drawing in energy again as he held his other arm back he brought that hand down on his other wrist and unleashed the Light Stream as a pule of energy traveled at the creature. When it came into contact it rebounded back at him. Daxiun concentrated and sent more energy into the pulse of energy in the whip. It traveled back and forth several times before finally enter Kodalar's body, making it explode. Dropping to a knee and holding his side while the jewel flashed faster and faster Daxium slowly stood up, looked at the sky and flew away, “Shiah!”

Bill ran around the area looking around for any sign of him. Then he spotted Ken down on a knee still holding the spot Ultraman took that major hit. “Ken!” he called out as he ran toward him. Seeing him Ken tried to hide the pain he was feeling and stand up. It still took a bit, Bill had enough time to reach him and help him to his feet. “Easy Civilian,” he said. “I got you.”

“I'm fine,” Ken said through his teeth, “just a little winded. Dax mode shifting more than once during a battle takes a bit out of both of us. He hasn't done it enough for either of us to get used to it.”

Bill didn't look convinced, “Uh huh. You're the one who has to explain it to Hawk and the others.” Just then a Scan Track pulled up and Commander Reid jumped out. Bill glanced over at Ken and muttered, “Well this just got complicated.”

Muttering back Ken told him, “Not yet it hasn't.”

Looking at them Reid went, “You okay Ken?”

“I will be,” he told him. “I got a little too close to that fight,” he looked over at the still burning remain of the creature. “Got caught in the concussion wave when that monster blew up,” Bill stared at him but Ken ignored him as he continued, “It sent me flying and I landed hard. Just got the wind knocked out of me, I'll be fine in a bit.”

“I'm sure you think so,” Reid told him. “But I want a second opinion from one of the medics. Hop in We'll give the two of you a lift to them.” Ken started to protest but Reid went into full Commander mode, “That's an order Ken.”

“Yes sir,,” he said with a sigh after giving in. Mainly because he didn't think he could get to the medics under his own power at the moment. He barely made it to the Scan Track without making it look like a mistake when he jumped right in like nothing was wrong.But only because he was watching him Bill saw his eyes crinkle in pain a little.

***
From across the tent Hawk watched as the Medics give Ken the once over while Bill stood by the tent's opening. They pressed on his stomach looking for signs that anything was broken or felt wrong. Ken took it in silence the entire time. Although from where he was Hawk could see his hand clench up into a fist while they were doing so. When they finally stopped that hand unclenched and he asked sounding perfectly normal, “So everything's good right?”

The medics stood a bit straighter as one of them stated, “Looks like nothing broken. I'd still like you to stop by the med center later for a more comprehensive test to make sure everything okay.”

“I'll try to fit that into my schedule,” Ken said sitting up. The medic shook his head and left the tent with the others. As soon as they was gone Ken's hands immediately went to his side as he bent forward slightly. “That didn't help things at all,” he grunted.

“How are you really?”, Hawk asked him, hating the idea that he'd done this so many times in the past.

Gingerly getting off the table before Hawk could stop him and start moving around. Eventually he admitted, “I've felt better, but I'm pretty sure I'll live. Dax never took a hit from one of his own weapons before. He's feeling it at the moment too.”

Keeping an eye out for anyone coming into the tent Bill went, “At least you can skip Williams giving you a,” he made quote marks in the air. “'exam' now.”

Shaking his head Ken told them, “Tried that already. Richardson's still going to want him to look me over when we get back.”

Giving out a low whistle Bill went, “All of that for a 'concussion wave'? How did you think of that one so fast?”

“It sounded good didn't it?”, Ken shot back. “And I have had some practice at covering for any injuries I might get through Dax. You just have to go with something that sounds plausible.”

“Show me the wound,” Hawk said suddenly. Ken was reluctant to do so. “Don't make me make it an order Ken, because you know I will in a heartbeat.” Seeing he didn't have a choice in the matter, but still hesitating, Ken slowly lifted up his shirt. Hawk and Bill both stared at the angry looking red splotch adorning his side.

“Sweet Jesus,” a new voice said. Ken quickly lowered the shirt as they spotted Ryo and Jess entering the tent. Bill quickly closed the flap before any one else saw the condition Ken was in. Jess held her hand to her mouth as she seemed to be staring at the wound through the shirt. “We came to check on Captain Hawk,” Ryo told them, the he started shaking his head, “But damn man are you all right?”

“It'll be gone by tomorrow,” Ken told them, getting uncomfortable at all the attention.

Picking up on it Jess forced herself to look at Hawk, “How are you doing Captain. We heard the explosion was close to where you set up.”

“I'm not dead yet,” he told her. Touching the bandage on his forehead he added, “A little banged up but I'll be giving out orders before any of you realize it. Speaking of, I want the three of you to make Ken sit in this chair right here,” he patted the seat next to him. “I don't think he should be on his feet just yet.” Jess and the others grabbed him before Ken could react and guided him to the appointed chair. After a small struggle they got Ken seated in the chair. Hawk put a firm hand on his shoulder. “Now the three of you go help with the clean up I'll make sure Ken doesn't leave this seat until we're ready to leave. Oh, and Ken lost his communicator at some point. Keep an eye out for it.”

“Yes sir,” Jess and the rest saluted, although with a bit of a smile at Ken's unhappiness with the situation, then did as ordered.

***
Hours later, back at Castle Ryo found Ken in one of the hanger's diagnostic rooms. Unsurprisingly sitting in a chair hovering over his toy from Japan, Windam. A set of plans was pinned to a board next to him, he kept going back between them and the robot's now open cranium. Actually he looked more alive now than he's been recently, Ryo guessed finally getting it all off his chest did Ken a world of good. “You find the problem yet?”

“No, not yet,”he said leaning back a bit. “I'm still convinced it's a programming issue because if it was mechanical he'd keep mixing up his left with his right. Not sporadically like he has been.” Ken looked at him before pushing off the table and rolling backwards to the wall behind him. He gave one particular panel a small tap with a fist and it sprung open slightly. Opening it all the way revealed a series of grates acting like shelves and several bottles of beer. Ken grabbed one and offered it to Ryo. “A peace offering,” he said. “It's not actually refrigerator cold but the AC vent here does a good enough job of keeping them chilled.”

Taking the offered bottle and opening it as Ken took one for himself and closed the panel. Taking a drink Ryo gestured to the panel. “The Chef's going to flip his lid if he ever finds out about that.”

Opening his bottle Ken said, “He's the one who told me about it. All the guys down here has a stash like this around here. The way I see it if the lab coats can have a still we can have these hidden stashes. But only Hanger personnel is supposed to know about it so shh.” he held a finger to his lips. Ryo said nothing, he just took another drink as he pulled up a stool and sat down next to him.

Leaning forward a bit Ken said, “I'm sorry Ryo, I really am. I hated keeping all of that from you guys, especially about Joe. I never wanted to hurt any of you like that.”

“I understand,” he eventually said. “I hate it with a passion, but I think I understand it. At least a little better now after I saw how you're being physically affected. Speaking of, Jess asked me to see how that was doing now since I told her I was going to look for you.” Like before he was reluctant to do so so Ryo told him. “You know she's going to corner you and check for herself if you don't, so you might as well get it over with.” Ken sighed and lifted up his shirt, like he claimed it was healing rapidly considering how it looked when they first seen it. Still Ryo asked, “You been hurt like this before and never let on? You are a fucking idiot.”

Lowering the shirt Ken went, “Had to play the cards I was dealt, no matter how sucky the hand was.” After another swig he looked at Ryo for a bit. Finally he said, “So are we still good?”

“Yeah,” Ryo said after thinking it over for a moment, “We're good.” Ryo held out his bottle. Ken did the same with his and they clinked theie bottles together. “We all have your back in this man.I heard Jess has a couple of ideas of how to get you that signal the Captain was talking about.”

“She mentioned that she had some thoughts,” Ken told him. “Nothing concrete yet. She wants to go over them with Hawk first before she told me.”

Nodding Ryo said, “She told me the same thing.” Looking at his bottle he added, “She also informed me that you asked her out.” Ken was mid drink when he said this so he just looked at Ryo while trying not to choke. So he decided to take it easy on the guy, “Look, you two are both grown adults and you can do whatever the hell you want, it won't affect me any. But,” he leaned forward a bit and looked Ken right in the eyes, “she is my wingman. And if I found out you hurt her in any way...”

“You'll be the next one in line right behind her to deal with the scrapes,” Ken finished for him.

Grinning because that's was probably how it would happen Ryo said, “As long as we understand each other.” Ken grinned as well as they clinked bottles one more time.


-----
ED – Shinedown – Fly From the Inside
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Old July 6th, 2019, 05:01 PM #28
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> scikaiju
Power Ranger
 
Joined: Dec 2012
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scikaiju
Power Ranger
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 382



Episode 27

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OP – Mercy Drive – Burn in My Light
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On a perfectly normal night a car pulled into a ordinary diner, outside of it's vintage look nothing made it stand out as people passed. Once parked the driver quickly got out and went to the other side to open the door for his passenger. She got out and thanked him. Both of them tried not to look as nervous as they felt considering this was their first date in a long while. With the two dressed in jeans and t-shirts the male checked his phone real quick, “No alerts yet, how about you?”

Doing the same she shook her head,” Nothing here either.” That was the one worry they didn't have to think about for the moment. Taking a quick breath to calm her nerves she asked, “You ready Ken?”

Holding out an arm for her to take he answered with, “I'm ready if you are Jess.” With a smirk she hooked the offered arm with hers as they headed for the diner. Ken looked at it. He'd been here plenty of times, mainly from his days in the garage. The last time he was here was a couple of group outings with Jess and the others. While he was grateful for the familiarity of her choice, he still had to wonder why this place? “You're sure this where you want to go? I have no problem if you want to go somewhere else.”

“Yes this is where I want to go,” she assured him, again. “Yes we went to fancier places back in high school, but we always had more fun when we went to places like this one.”

“Not too much fun,” Ken said, “You're dad would have killed me.”

“Well it wasn't my birthday yet,” she told him with a sly smile. It took a second but he started to smile too as he looked embarrassed suddenly. She pointed a finger at him, “And it's not my birthday today either. So don't get any thoughts in your head Mister.”

“After the look Hawk gave me when he handed us the passes?”, he told her. The more than usual stern look he wore as he looked Ken right in the eyes made the message loud and clear to him, behave yourself. “That thought never crossed my mind.” Waiting a beat he added, “It's there now, so thanks for that.”

“Just remember I can get my gun when we get back,” she warned him playfully. Once again he opened the door for her, and she thanked him again as they entered. The place looked particularly busy for the time of night. And more than a few couple doing the same as they were from the look of things. Ken pointed out a free booth that Jess nodded at in approval so they headed over there. A waitress quickly came over and handed them some menus before heading to the next table.Wiping his hands on his jeans before he opened it he looked at Jess, “Why aren't you as nervous as I am?”

As she looked over the menu she responded with, “Girls are naturally better at hiding it,” before she quickly did the same with her hands when he looked at his menu. “Why are you even looking we both know you're thinking about the Philly cheese steak.”

“Not necessarily,” he said getting a little too defensive. Generally meaning she was right. “I mean I've been thinking about trying the,” he trailed off while he read what else was offered as quick as he could and going with the first thing that caught his attention, “meatloaf for a while now.” He looked back down at the menu before looking confused and mouthing the word meatloaf again. Jess chuckled at him as the waitress brought over a couple of glasses of water for them. She walked away when both of them said they still needed a couple of moments to decide. Jess hid a smile as the waitress looked at him funny as she crossed off whatever she had written down. “That doesn't mean anything,” he quickly said.

“Just that you're a creature of habit,” she informed him as she took a sip of water. “Which can be a good thing. I know you changed since the last time we dated, but some things would be too much to take.”

“If your dad doesn't ninja us again I'll be happy with that change,” She snorted in response. So Ken went, “You complained about it too. Any time I was close to kissing you he'd pop up out of nowhere.”

“I'm not disagreeing,” she told him. “The only time I was even able to get in a peck to the check was back in the school's hallways.” Going back to her menu she added, “It was one of the reasons I actually looked forward to school.”

“I still expected him to jump out of a classroom suddenly,” he told her. Sharing a small laugh over the thought Ken looked up as the door opened. “Nope not him.”

“If anybody it would be one of the others,” Jess said. “More than likely Bill.”

“Your gun's in the car if that happens right?”

“Right next to your GLC,” she told him with a knowing look, and apparently deciding to refer the Spark Magnifier by her nickname for it. And suddenly he looked like he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “Ken I understand,” she assured him, “I really do. In case Brooks makes some trouble you might not be able to get back to Castle fast enough. Or at all. And that's the only reason why I'm over looking it.”

“Not to mention Ryo, Bill and Hawk having to explain why they went into my room looking for it,” he added relaxing a bit that she understood, maybe not completely happy with it but at least understood. Jess smiled at the visual he just gave her as she nodded. They ordered when the waitress returned. Ken did end up ordering the meatloaf dinner after all, much to Jess and the waitress' surprise. Alone again Ken looked around to see how close the others diners were, “Speaking of the job,” Jess rolled her eyes a bit, “just hear me out. Have you thought of a way to give me that signal yet? Because we can't keep betting on my communicator being removed every time.”

Sighing a bit she answered, “All right I do have an idea, I'm still going over the logistics in my head before I take it up with Hawk. The biggest one being how well are you going to react at being at my beck and call,” she added with a grin.

Smiling back Ken said, “Then I better hope this date goes better than I hope it does. Because you could probably make my life miserable.”

“I could do that any way,” she reminded him. “And this from the guy who was betting I would sort things your way when you asked me out.”

“I wasn't betting on you sorting things my way,” he informed her. “I was betting on that back then you told me about.” Jess looked confused about what he was talking about. So he clarified it for her, “When I was heading to your room to see that scrapbook, I finally remembered what you said in Japan.” Now she looked like she understood but he kept going.”When I asked if you thought we'd get back together. You said 'back then.' Back then the thought never crossed your mind. Now somebody might take that as you being more open to the idea now.”

“I'm sure someone would,” she said as she leaned in a little. “Took you long enough to figure that one out.”

“You know me,” he replied as he leaned in himself, “I was never the fastest on the uptake. But I also remember you being more persistent in getting your point across. You did spend,” he thought it over for a bit, “two weeks? In trying to get me to talk to you back in high school.”

“It was three,” she informed him. “And you finally started talking back right when I was about to give up. You really need to work on that.”

“I thought it was some sort of prank,” he said trying to defend himself back then. “Nobody talked to me back then unless they wanted help with their car or something.”

“You're just lucky I figured there was more here,” she gestured at him in general, “than most people thought. And figured correctly I might add.”

“Up until recently I would have argued that particular point,” Ken said looking away.

“Stop listening to the Jeff voice in your head,” Jess told him. “It's never going to do you any good.”

“I'm working on a super advanced robot back at Castle, I think I'm past listening to the Jeff voice at this point.”

Before Jess could respond some one new said, “I don't believe it, you're out in public with somebody of the opposite sex.”

They looked to see who it was. “Rose?”, Ken went in shock. Behind her was her husband and no sign of the kids. “What are you doing here?”

“I arranged for some alone time with Davey,” she said. Davey literally had to stop her when she tried to sit with them, “So, is this a date?”

“Will you go away if I said no?”, Ken asked her, hoping she'd get the not so veiled hint.

No such luck, “You sure? Because this looks like it's a date to me.”

Sighing he went,“If I say yes will you go away?”

“Ken be nice,” Jess chided him.To Rose she said, “Yes, it's a date.” Ken looked at her like she didn't understand the door she was opening. And in truth she had no idea what kind of door she was opening. Even Davey gave her a sympathetic look.

“Oh,” she perked up, “with the ex and everything. A little reconciliation is a great thing isn't it? But it's not going to cause too much trouble for you two is it? I mean there's no rule in the UNDF saying team members can't have relationships with each other is there?”

“If there is it's broken pretty regularly,” Jess told her. Rose grinned while she nodded. Ken on the other hand was trying to project the thought of do not engage her in this conversation because she will not go away if you do into Jess' head. So far it hasn't worked, “And I'm sure our Captain would have said something when we asked for the passes.”

“Of course he would have,” Rose told her. Suddenly she grabbed Jess' arm and pulled her up before either Ken or Davey could stop her. “I have to freshen up in the ladies room, why don't you come along dear.” And before Rose heard an answer she went off in that direction dragging Jess behind her.

Ken and Davey watched their respective dates as they entered said ladies room. After a moment Ken rested his head in his hand, “So what are the odds she'll want to continue with this date after Rose is done with her?”

“Not great buddy,” Davey answered him, “not great at all.” Ken moved his head so his hand basically covered his face. Of all the times to run into Rose.

***
Rose fixed her make up a bit as she studied her reflection in the mirror. Next to her Jess did the same although she kept glancing over at the woman who dragged her in here. As apparently chatty as she was when she first came up to her and Ken she was surprisingly quiet once they came in. Jess decided to break the silence, “How long have you known Ken?”

“Ever since he started working at the garage,” she answered. “I could never understand why he was single most of the time, he was such a great guy. Is a great guy I mean,” she quickly corrected. “But you knew that already didn't you.”

“I knew it was in there,” Jess told her, “but it took a bit to finally get him to open up and show it. And I was happy that he did.” Rose nodded at this bit of information. Jess silently wondered if she was trying to size her up for some reason. Deciding to test this particular theory Jess cautiously said, “Although I get the feeling I'm not the type of woman you would have tried to set him up with.”

“He told you about some of them I'm guessing,” Rose said with a slight chuckle. “”I'll admit that I am a firm believer in the idea that's there somebody out there for everybody. I was just trying to help him find her. Actually I was starting to think I should start introducing him to some of the guys I know” Jess snorted out a quick laugh at that. “But honestly I don't know you well enough to know either way if I would or not. Hopefully I'll get the chance to know you better after this.”

“I hope we get the chance to as well,” Jess told her. She wanted this to work out with Ken as much as he hopefully did. And as close as he and Rose apparently were she wanted to be on good term with her at least.

“So do I,” Rose told her. Then she turned suddenly to face her. It was so quick Jess was caught off guard, mostly at the serious look on her face compared to the light expression she wore a moment ago. Resting a hand on the counter she went, “Now I hope you understand that I've known Ken for so long I sort of see him as the brother I never had. So he means a lot to me.”

“I completely understand,” Jess quickly told her, resisting the urge to back up from the look she was giving her.

“Good,” Rose said, “so please don't take any offence when I tell you that if you hurt him in any way,” she leaned in a bit and Jess did give into the urge to lean back a bit, “I will stomp a mud hole in your ass. And walk it dry.” She backed off and went back the way she was before they entered the room. “Good talk. Now I think our men have waited long enough don't you think? We better go join them. Enjoy your date.”

“I.. I will,” Jess stammered a bit as she went back into the diner. She stood there a moment trying to get her legs to work. She had face down several monsters of various sizes but something told her to not get on that woman's bad side. Walking back into the diner herself Jess couldn't help but smile at how relived Ken looked when he realized that she was coming back to their table.

***
Their evening going off without any other surprises, luckily Davey was able to keep Rose at their table and let the two of them eat in peace. And there was no hint of Brooks or a giant monster at all so Ken and Jess could just relax and reconnect. Well more than they have since he joined up with Monster Squad, pretty much against his will but that wasn't a thought he wanted to have tonight. Although Jess was amused by the look on his face when his meatloaf dinner came. He should had ordered the cheese steak. Outside of that,and Rose interjecting herself into it when they got there, dinner went well, at least he thought it did anyway. Both of them agreed that it was time to go and get out of there before Rose made her way back over. Especially before Rose came back over.

Pulling into his usual space in the Castle garage Ken quickly got out and opened the door for her one more time. “You're going to get me use to that,” she informed him as she got out, “and I'm going to get really annoyed when I realize you eventually stopped doing it.”

Ken studied her for a bit as he closed the door, “Now I might be mistaken, but that sounds like you'd might want to do this again sometime. Minus Rose getting involved that is.”

She patted lightly him on the cheek, “See you're picking up the not so subtle hints a little faster now.” He started grinning. “Could you not look like a kid on Christmas morning? It's getting a little creepy.”

“Sorry,” he said fighting to get the smile off his face, and failing as one corner kept curling up. Finally getting it under control he went, “Walk you to your room?”

“Well a proper gentleman would,” she said. Without another word they headed for the elevator that lead to the upper levels. Exiting on the right floor they made their way to her quarters. Ken happened to look down to see her hand wrapped around his. She noticed him looking, “Your hand looked cold.”

“Seriously?,” he went as he looked at her.

“That's the same line you used on me on our very first date Mr. Smooth,” she told him with a slight smirk.

“Well I've gotten a little smoother since then,” he informed her.

“I'll be the judge of that,” she said. Once they got to the busier part of the hallway leading to the living quarters Ken half way expected her to let go of his hand before they came across any one. Much to his surprise she didn't, her hand didn't even feel like they were going to let go. Even greeting a few people while still holding on to him. And apparently not caring all that much as they kept watching them, a couple actually pointing after them.

Looking around he told her, “I gotta admit this is a lot different from the first time we walked together in the building.”

“Yes it is,” she agreed wholeheartedly. “And in a much better way too. You know I was amazed how fast we fell into that old rhythm we use to have back then. I was almost scared what was going to happen since I just happened to be with a person of interest who was considered dangerous enough for me and the others to bring in.”

“It scared me a little too,” Ken admitted. “Like I was opening myself to getting my heart broken all over again. Had to keep reminding myself those days were long gone.”

“Those days may be gone,” Jess said. “But a new one is starting up.” she looked at him with a small smile, that he returned as he got a better grip around her hand.

“What the hell?,” the looked over to see Bill staring at them from a rec room door way. And an embarrassed looking Ryo right behind him. “You're back?” He looked back at something in the room before returning his attention to them, “At a reasonable hour? What the hell is wrong with the two of you?”

Taking Bill by the shoulders Ryo tried to get him away from the door. “Leave them alone Bill they're grown adults finishing a evening together not a peep show.” Both of them turned a little red at his choice of words. Jess still didn't let go of his hand as they continued on their way.

After a few yards Jess went, “Can I ask you something about Rose?” He tensed up a bit, afraid of what she was going to ask. “Did you ever think about asking her out because you too seem really close, even before tonight.”

Taking a moment deciding if he should answer the question he eventually said, “If I'm being honest, before I found out she was married I thought about it. But she's madly in love still with Davey. And I wouldn't do anything to break them up. Now if I could just do something about her unhealthy obsession with my love life.”

“Well she obviously cares about your happiness,” she told him. “I mean why else would she threaten to 'stomp a mud hole' when we were in the ladies room.”

Ken looked up at the ceiling and sighed, “And walk it dry?” When Jess nodded he lowered his head and pinched the bridge of his nose, “Damn it Rose.”

“Hey, I think it's sweet she cares that much about you,” she assured him while pulling him a little closer. “I just wish somebody cared about me that much.”

“Talk to Ryo,” He told her.

“No he didn't,” she said with slight surprise.

“Well nothing as colorful as Rose's little saying was mentioned,” he explained. “But the general agreement was he'd be next in line after you were done kicking my ass.”

She thought about it for a moment, “Sounds about right. So I'd suggest you behave yourself.”

“I was planning on it,” he told her, “because I'm pretty sure Hawk is right behind the two of you if that ever happens.” After a bit he looked up and said, “Here we are.” When she finally let go of his hand he stood on one side of the door and her the other.”Okay now answer a question for me.”

“Shoot,” she told him.

“Do you want me in there tonight?”, and he pointed at her door.

“Now wait a second Ken, I had fun tonight and all but like I told you earlier...”

“I meant to look at the rest of your scrapbook. Why did your mind go south?” Then he started grinning.

Giving his shoulder a quick shove she went, “Quit it.” Then she looked unsure about something, eventually saying, “Even if I was thinking about it, well,” she pointed at his head, “You know.”

Actually he didn't, “What, is my sudden genius level really that intimidating?”

“No,” she quickly told him. Then she started poking him on the forehead, “You know who.”

“He's not even looking right now,” Ken told her, trying to pretend he wasn't hearing the desperation in his own voice. “I made him promise not to and everything.”

“I'm sure you did,” Jess told him. “But just the idea. Sorry Ken.”

“No, no it's alright. I get it.” Still he was frustrated over this particular wrinkle in their new relationship. “Well I guess we should call it a night then.” Neither of them was sure how to proceed from that point after she dropped that particular bombshell. Eventually deciding on a brief hug Ken started to walk away.

Suddenly Jess went, “Screw it.” She grabbed him by the shirt and turned him around. Grabbing him by the head she pulled him close and kissed him. Taken aback by the suddenness of it all he eventually reached out to hold her closer as he kissed back. When she pulled away her face scrunched up a bit as she went “Hmm.”

In disbelief Ken looked at her and went, “Hmm? Why is there a hmm? There should not be a hmm here.”

“You're not a good a kisser as I remember,” she informed him. “Which probably means I have to work on you again.” Leaning against the wall she went on, “And I'm not sure I want to put in the work,” smiling the entire time.

Ken grinned a bit too as he realized what she really meant, “Oh I think you'll find that I'm a willing student.” He leaned in for another kiss as she leaned in as well.

“You two are back already?”, they heard Hawk say as he came around the corner. Which caused them to stop what they were about to do, although neither pulled away from the other right away.

“Talk about deja vu,” Ken muttered to her.

“Tell me about it,” she quickly agreed as the did pull away and faced their commanding officer.

He apparently felt his timing was off, “I wasn't disturbing anything, was I?”

Ken started to speak up but Jess quickly cut him off, “Nothing Captain. Did you need anything?”

“No,” he told them, I just happened to be walking by.” Ken turned his head away as he rolled his eyes a bit. Both of them had heard that from her dad more than once when they were in high school. “I am a bit surprised though, those passes I gave you are still good for a couple of hours. I figured you'd still be out.”

“I don't know what kind of easy date you think I am good sir but I do have standards,” Ken said crossing his arms over his chest. Hawk shock his head. Still Jess jabbed an elbow to his ribs. Good thing that particular spot had long since healed from Dax's last battle, other wise she might have gotten a little more than the small “Ooph,” he uttered as a result.

“Yes well,” Hawk said he placed his hands behind his back. “I let you two get back to what you were doing.” And he walked away from the two of them.

“Yeah, like that's going to happen,” Ken muttered. Looking over at Jess he just knew his feeling was right on the matter. What ever moment that was there had long since been broken with Hawk's arrival. She sighed in disappointment as well. “Well I better get going before the rumor mill kicks up if it hasn't already.”

“Let it,” she told him. “But I would love to do this again sometime. Sometime soon.”

“I'll start checking my calendar for a open day.”

“That's generally every day of the week,” she told him.

“Then we'll have plenty of options then,” he said. Jess gave him as hug an a quick kiss on the cheek.

“Goodnight Ken,” she told him as she opened her door.

“Night Jess,” he said in kind. Only walking away once her door was fully closed. “Hawk coming by was just a coincidence,” he told himself. “In no way is he going to keep ninjaing us like her dad used to.”

***
Sitting back in his chair Hawk looked over some reports he had been putting off. Mostly because they had been busy dealing with various giant threats and in all honesty these reports weren't really that important, just daily status reports from the various section located in Castle. But mainly because he was trying to cover all the bases when things with Richardson came to a head. And there was no doubt in his mind that there would be a confrontation with him sooner or later, particularly when it came to Ken and the double life had had been secretly leading until recently, As much as he wanted to calm the boy's fear Hawk had a feeling those fears were right on the money. And if he was lucky being listed as a biohazzard would have been the least of his problems. Putting the report down he had to wonder again how he handled this particular load for as long as he had. Fortunately for his sanity at least, although he might not see it that way currently, Jess was able to convince Ken to at least confide in him finally.

Which made him wonder who else around here were putting the pieces together about Ken and Ultraman. Granted Jess explained she figured his secret out just because she knew him for so long. And granted he had his suspicions about things when Ken was first assigned to his unit. Him being or being connected to the giant in some way was the only thing that made any sense when you thought about it. But he had no real proof one way or another so he didn't confront him over it once the thought came in his head, not that it didn't stop him from accusing Ken from sabotaging the Alpha One and the security feeds around the vessel. But there was no way nobody else connected these particular dots. So he tried to find out who else around here might have done it, starting with Reid. While trying not to show his entire hand he asked some question or phrased thing in just a way to see if he even suspected. So far he and others like the Chef didn't even indicate that they knew what he was talking about. Although times like this he was glad Jamira was no longer around, may he rest in peace, because he and his men would have no issue hunting Ken down, mainly because he was sure that Richardson's order about Ultraman didn't extend to Ken. And more than likely that would drag Jess, Ryo and Bill in trying to defend Ken from them. He stared shaking his head at the thought of a UNDF cival war.

Okay that thought might have been a bit much. More than likely he would have lead the others into going under ground to protect Ken. And given the way Jamira used to think he would have had Ken's friends and family put under watch just in case he tried to contact them. And that was if Richardson didn't have them but under quarantine in a bid to get them out of hiding.

He put the report down and started rubbing his face, again wondering the young man dealt with this for so long by himself. While he never talked to Ken about it Hawk could only imagine what scenarios went through his head. They couldn't be as bad as the thoughts he ended up having when considering them. At least he wasn't alone now since himself and the others were finally told the truth. Here he had to smile when he actually started to think about why he finally told them, it all started with Jessica telling Ken she knew. While reluctant at first, the sheer relief he radiated after unloading everything about him and Joe was visible. And as a side note seemed to draw him and Jess closer together. And that just made him happy for some reason. So much so he already had another set of passes ready for them if they wanted them since their outing last night apparently went well, all he needed was a date to put on them.

That idea put him in a better mood for some strange reason so he went back to the reports. This one was from medical, In their estimation barring any sort of situation popping up Timothy was good to be released in a few days. Something that should make Lunden extremely happy. And if nothing else the medical staff was probably counting down the days since they could finally get him out of their hair. Although this made him think about Ken again. Mostly because he kept asking if he could talk to the boy. Hawk had tried to arrange that but Lunden was adamant that he be left alone. And there wasn't much he could say without revealing Ken's secret to the man. And Hawk wasn't sure he could exactly trust the man to keep it quiet. Reid, a most definite yes, the Chef, a yes as well, Lunden... well Ken was just going to have to learn to be disappointed.

His communicator beeping broke him out of his thoughts, “Hawk here.”

“This is the control room Captain,” Bridge told him. He sat a little straighter in his chair, wondering what he had found. Usually he would have assumed it was something monster related. Now well he had to consider Ken's whole deal in any possibility he came up with. “Could you come down here? We detected something you may want to see.”

Hawk was out of his chair before he even finished his request. “On my way Bridge, Hawk out,” he hit his communicator again to end the link as he exited his office. “Control just called me if anyone tries to see me,” he told Janet as he passed her desk. She confirmed what he said as he went through the door. Most people he came across stepped aside and gave him a quick salute as he passed.Then he spotted Ken coming in the other direction. Both of them stopped in front of the door. While he did snap off a quick salute like everyone else he just sort of stood there. “Are you going in?”, Hawk asked after a moment.

Gesturing to the door he said, “Bridge said he has something ro show me.”

“That's what he told me too,” Hawk informed him. To his credit Ken didn't looked too surprised at this.

But he did put a couple of fingers on his communicator, “I guess it's a little too much to hope that it's about this this.”

While it was a small bubble all things considered, still he hated to pop it. “I doubt he would have called the two of us into discuss this a public forum.” The younger man seemed to agree with him, he still looked disappointed though. And anybody who knew the situation wouldn't blame him for looking this way. “Come on son, Let's see what's the fuss is about.”

“After you Captain,” Ken told him. Hawk offered him a slight bow before going into the room. Obviously not something he would have done for anyone else, or with other people watching.But as hard as he was trying to make Ken a more serious member of the team, Hawk was forced to admit that the younger man was rubbing off on him a little as well. Going into the control room.they were greeted by the usual amount of organized chaos as the people stationed here monitored for any sign of trouble that would require their attention. Not seing Bridge at his usual station Hawk scanned the room until he spotted him at a side console that was about as private as you could get considering the circumstances. Pointing Ken in that direction they headed over to him. “Anything interesting Bridge,” he asked when they were close enough.

“Maybe,” he answered. Hawk looked at him. Bridge never contacted him over a maybe, ever. Then he turned around, mainly to face Ken. “I have looked into that little problem,” Keeping his hand close to his body he gestured to his communicator. Ken took in a breath but he nodded in understanding, and tried not to look too hopeful. “I was able to discover the sources of the issue.” Hawk glanced around the room, remembering Bridge's theory on how Richardson was able to set up a link to Ken's communicator. Somebody under him had to had done it, but who? And did they know why? Ken did the same before returning his attention to Bridge. “And I figured out how they did it. But fixing it is going to be an issue.” Ken's face fell a little at that last bit of news.

“Do what can about it Bridge,” Hawk told him. “But why did you call us down here?”

“I think we might have discovered were Brooks could be,” he told the two of them. Ken stepped a little closer to the console Bridge was using, pretty much as focused as he had ever seen him.Hawked stepped aside a little to let him get a better look while keeping the screen in view for himself. “When Brooks first revealed himself internal sensors were able to read his energy signature while he was escaping.”

“You were able to read his energy signature?”, Ken asked, empathizing the word 'his'. Meaning did they have anything on him and Daxium in the system.

“Just his yes.” Hawk happened to notice that Bridge's finger was lightly tapping the delete button on the keyboard in front of him, and nodded in understanding. There was one, more than likely from when Daxium wanted to say hello, but Bridge deleted the reading from the system. “Now we haven't been able to track him by it. He knows our sensor range and set up in the city well enough to avoid getting detected. But we have been able to detect something just out of sensor range that matches his energy signature.” He pulled up the readings he was talking about on the screen in front of him.

“How accurate can this information be,” Hawk asked him, “if it's out of range?”

“Because it was close enough to the net I'm sure we can get a close approximation to his location.” With a few key strokes a map with a flashing dot appeared on the scree. “As of five minutes ago he was located right there.” Hawk first instinct was to tell him to get the entire building ready to launch. A full scale assualt and part of him was stioll concerned that it wouldn't be enough, even with Ken and Daxium backing them up. From the look of him Ken wanted to head to that location right now, even casting him a glance like he was looking for the green light.

If that reading was inside sensor range he might have given it to him.But as it is he still had some doubts. “Bridge exactly where is this reading?”

“About a mile out of range,” he answered. Well it was close enough that logically they could pick up something, but Brooks would really have to be broadcasting himself. Something in the back of his head was saying this was a trap. “Co-ordinates potentially has it on the property of a UNDF member.” Hawk and Ken both looked at each other. Guessing the unasked question they were thinking of he pulled the individual's file up for them.

Bridge was about to announce who it was but Ken looked on stunned as he beat the other man to the punch, “Professor Kyrie?” One of Ken's old teacher from when he was in the academy, and the one who identified his gift to begin with, not to mention his most recent visitor. “Why would Brooks be there? If that bastard did anything to him.”

“Calm down son,” Hawk told him. “We don't know anything for certain yet.” Not to mention if the professor was being held against his will or not. And as strange as it was to think this, for Ken's sake he hoped he was. Because if he wasn't that meant he was working with Brooks in some fashion. And that would affect Ken in some way. But they had to know for sure. “Bridge does Ken have anything major scheduled for today?”

Ken looked at him as Bridge looked the information up, “The chef has him scheduled to work on the Alpha One for a couple of hours, but outside of that his night is free.”

Nodding a bit, Hawk cast a look over at Ken, :”You and Jess didn't have any plans for tonight did you?”

“Not that I'm aware of,” he said looking unsure of where this was going.

Again Hawk nodded at this bit of information. Slowly he asked, “How do you feel about paying you're old professor a visit?” Now understanding Ken looked back at the screen. “Just, you know, to say hello and catch up a bit. He did say he and I would discuss ways to help you live up to that potential of yours. You can tell him about Windam and brainstorm some ideas on that little problem it's having.”

Looking at him Ken narrowed his eyes a bit, “In how official a capacity?” Now Hawk looked at him. He could easily see a time where he wouldn't even think to ask that. Now here he was thinking like he had been wearing that uniform since the academy. Hawk couldn't hide how proud he was at that.

“Semi-official,” Hawk told him. “You can take your own car but wear the uniform jacket. But don't bring a weapon, We don't want to tip Brooks that we're on to him and put the professor in the line of fire.”

“I guess we better hope I fast at using this then,” he patted a part of the jacket that held the Spark Magnifier, as he called it. “I could probably use a little back up when this goes south, at least to get the Professor out of there at least. I swear I'm not trying wrangle a second outing with Jess out of this.”

Snorting Hawk went, “I didn't think you were until you mentioned that last part. Even if I considered it I'm not sure I would choose here to be your back up. No offense son but there's too great a possibility you'd worry too much about her getting hurt than stopping Brooks.”

“Not after I let,' he looked around suddenly remembering they weren't alone, then a bit softer, “our friend out. I have no say in what he does after that.”

“I know that's what you say,” Hawk said ignoring how annoyed Ken was getting, “but I have to consider all the possibilities. Honestly I don't even want to send you into this potential lion's den but you're te only one here who has any sort of relationship with Kyrie. And if there's any one isn't going to raise his suspicions it's going to be you. And just you I'm afraid. Any one may cause him to block you out, especially if Brooks is in there with him.”

Ken looked torn for a moment as he focus returned to the screen. Hawk watched as he got that distant look in his eyes and his head tilted just slightly. Something he quickly learned to identify that Daxium was talking to him.

Finally he stood a bit straighter and said, “Well we did say we'd try to get together and talk. Today's as good a time as any.”

“I think I can arrange something so you can get away for a while,” Hawk told him. “Thank you Ken, I know this is going to be hard for you.”

“As long as I find out the Professor is alright,” he said with a determined look. “If it wasn't for him identifying my little gift you probably wouldn't have given me that big of a chance to begin with when they stuck you with me.”

Nodding Hawk told him, “You would've had to worked harder to earn my trust and respect. Finish your rotation with the Alpha One check up. I'll have directions to Kyrie's place ready for you by then.”

“Rodger,” he said with a quick salute and he left the room leaving Hawk next to Bridge.

Bridge spoke up saying, “Is it wrong that I'm hoping this Kyrie isn't working with Brooks? Just for Ken's sake.”

Still looking at the door out of the room Hawk told him, “Your preaching to the chior Bridge. Get those directions printed and send them to my office ASAP I'll give them to Ken personally.” Bridge said that he would and Hawk left for his office.

***
Pulling into a drive way of a 'modest' looking house, actually it looked a like a couple steps from being labeled a Mansion, Ken stopped before pulling up all the way. For one he wanted time to see someone coming at him. Mostly because he was sure any place that looked like this should have had a gate surrounding it. At least some guards, UNDF or otherwise, if he was as important as he claimed to be back at the academy. So far nobody was in sight, not even a guard dog who should have been barking up a storm the moment he pulled up. Getting out of his car he looked at the house. Kyrie often invited him to come over to discuss thing. But Ken never did, either because he was too busy with his studies or the head administrator down right refusing to give him leave to do so. Ken often wondered what his life would have been like if he did take him up on those offers. One thing for sure he wouldn't be bonded to Dax right now. More than likely he never would have met Hawk and the others. Never would have reunited with Jess.Yeah his life would have been way different than what it was now.

Closing his door he studied the building for a bit. While he didn't see any one in the windows he did spot some sort of device on the roof. Studying it as best as he could it looked more like it was designed to transmit than receive, but he was too far away to be sure. Kyrie always said he did his bigger experiments at his home, away from prying eyes of officials. That might have been one of them. Getting halfway to the house he started to feel it, that something that would indicate something from that dark universe the monsters and beings Dax and his people were fighting was near. But after everything Brooks did to hide himself after the first time he detected him why would he not to it now? Maybe this was a trap after all, Ken just hoped the Professor was a pawn in it and not an active participant, like he feared. Then Dax spoke up, “Ken wait a moment. Something about this feeling seems off.”

Stopping where he was Ken asked, “In what way?”, because he sure as hell couldn't tell a difference in this feeling compared to the others. But seeing how he felt them through Dax to begin with he was willing to trust his judgement on the matter.

“Like it's coming from Brooks and it's not.” And that did nothing to clear things up.”I understand your frustration Ken, I share it. The only thing I can tell you for sure is that it's coming from above us.” Ken immediately looked up as his hand went for the Spark Magnifier. Again his eyes locked on the device on the roof. Why would the Professor be transmitting an energy signature similar to Brooks? How would he even know what it was to begin with? A little more cautious he started toward the house again with eyes and ears a little more open.

Suddenly the front door opened and Ken stopped in his tracks, ready for anything. Then Professor Kyrie wheeled into view. He happened to note that the Professor didn't seem surprised to see him. “Ken,” he greeted him as he walked up the steps to the door. “It's wonderful to see you again so soon.”

“I had some free time and thought I'd come by and say hi at least,” he told him. It was a half truth any way.

Looking amused he gestured to his uniform Jacket, “You were in a rush to get out of there I see.”

“Well it is mandatory, so I forget I have it on sometimes,” Ken told him. Again it was a half lie, it was mandatory after all.”

“Yes they do love to make you lot dress a like don't they,”he said with a slight chuckle. Backing up his chair a bit he went to the side to let him come in “Come on in. You didn't come all this way to stand outside my door.” Ken walk in and immediately looked around trying to see any sign of a trap. “It's about time you visited my not so humble abode. I invited you enough times.”

“I know Professor,” he told him. “And I really wanted to come to see some of those machines you said you were working on.”

Chuckling again he closed the door and lead Ken further into the house, “I always knew we were a lot alike in some ways. Oh can I get you something to drink?”

“No thank you sir,” Ken said falling into a old habit.from back at the academy.

“Yes, ever since I discovered we had the same gift. I did tell you how I discovered yours didn't I?”

“No,” Ken said, probably getting a little too distracted by the conversation considering Dax was still getting what ever it was he was feeling. “You never did.”

“Really?”, he seemed genuinely surprised at this news. “Well I was probably planning on it before they kicked you out due to your flying problem. But do you remember that complex machine that I had in pieces and told you to put together?” Ken nodded, how could he forget. He was medically disquauified a couple of days right after that. “It generally takes a team of four three hours to put it back together. It took you two, by yourself and you took a good look at the plans once. Yes you went back to double check something once or twice. But I saw it in your eyes. I thought I did before but that time I was sure. You got a complete picture of what the final result was going to be in your mind almost as soon as you looked at the plans.The only person to do it faster was me, and that's only because I designed the damn thing,” he added with a sad grin. “Right at that moment I knew you and I could change the world together Ken, we still might.”

“If you're offering me a position, Captain Hawk is going to fight it,” Ken informed him having heard a similar spiel before.

“Yes, yes I've heard the same from Greenberg,” Kyrie said off handedly, “I guess he told you I've been talking about you for ever since those idiots made that decision. You know, I never told your captain I thought he was right in in his hunch that you'd be running a department by now.”

Rubbing the back of his neck Ken said, “I'm not sure I'd go that far Professor.”

“Now is that your brother talking?”, Kyrie asked. How many times did he have to tell people he wasn't listening to the 'Jeff voice' as Jess put it any more? “Then again I don't think you would have taken that robot Greenberg offered you if you were. What did you name it again, Wind something?”

“Windam,” Ken answered him as they hit the living room. Although he again looked for any sign of a trap. Or if Kyrie was trying to signal him in some way. He was having no luck in either case.

“Oh yes that's right,” Kyrie said as he turned the chair around to face him. “I think he mentioned something about one of your team mates coming up with it though. She at least knew you well enough to go with something with a deep meaning to it based on what he heard.”

“It did,” Ken told him. “Jess came up with a good one.”

Kyrie studied him for a bit, “And you two seem to be close, just judging by your expression of course.”

And here he wondered how much he should actually reveal knowing Brooks might be around somewhere close. “We are. We've been friends for a long time now.” Not to mention he got lucky in that billion to one shot at a second chance considering how things ended the first time around. But Ktrie seemed satisfied with his answer and let it drop. Actually Ken was grateful he was unattached to the base's grapevine because the news about the two of them spread pretty fast. “So what are you up to now?” he asked hoping he might let something slip.

“Something potentially world changing,” Kyrie told him. “I've never been one to worry about my own legacy but this just might cement it.” Pointing to a closed door he said, “It's right in there if you want to take a look. I would really like a second opinion on it. At least one from some one who'll come close to figuring out what it does without me hand holding them.”

Despite himself Ken went over to the door. Grabbing the knob he stopped himself, something was causing the hairs on the back of his neck to stand up. Dax wasn't getting anything outside of what he had been feeling the entire. So what was causing him to hesitate here? Kyrie urged him again to open the door and see. Ken was hoping that the fact he wasn't insisting in a aggressive way was a good thing. Figuring it was just his nerves Ken turned the knob but he stood back when he pushed the door open, just in case. The first thing he saw was some various machines that put his brain into over load as he tried to figure out what they did. Walking into the room he heard Kyrie wheel up behind him but stay back as he looked around. It wasn't long before saw two very large containers that could hold a person. And Brooks was in one of them. Ken's eyes went wide as he turned his head to look at Kyrie. He barely had time to register that he was holding a gun on him and pulled the trigger. Ken recoiled as the stun shot sent him to the floor.

***
At Castle Jess and the others sat around in the main cafeteria trying to enjoy a late dinner. All of them trying not to think about the potential danger their absent teammate might be in. None of the were exactly happy when Hawk told them where he was going and why, and none of them wanted to miss out on the action either when it came down to it. They all lost friends to Brooks, particularly Joe. And they didn't want to think about the possibility that Ken might share his fate. Especially now since they all bore witness to how much of the damage Ken took when Daxium was hit. While it was one of the things she first noticed with him after he joined that lead her to realize that he and Ultraman were one and the same the exact amount of damage shook her.

She caught Ryo looking at the time then Bill checking to see if his communicator was still on. Jess was just glad she wasn't alone in wonder what was taking him. It could be something as simple as Ken and his old Professor simply lost track of the time as they talked about various things, more than likely mechanical in nature. And while she didn't know their thoughts Jess hoped that was the case. But it was probably the main reason why Ryo suggested the late dinner. Just something to take their minds off where Ken was, not that the conversation was exactly over flowing at the moment. Well outside of Bill who would lean back in his chair every time a female officer would walk by, like he was doing now, and say in a overly friendly way “Hey Samantha.”

As she passed she gave him a strange look, similar to the one the previous four gave him, he watched her go. Ryo and Jess looked at each other. She beat him to the punch by going, “I asked him the last time he was acting strange. It's your turn.”

He snorted but put his fork down and looked right at Bill. Waiting until he turned back around he asked, “What are you doing exactly?”

“What?”, he asked innocently, “Just being friendly is all, Kathy, how you doing?”

Brow furrowing Ryo asked, “Then why haven't you done this until now?”

“I don't know what you're talking about,” Bill informed then he nodded at a couple of ladies as they walked by. She and Ryo just looked at him. Bill saw it and realized he wasn't going to get out of this one. “Fine it's because of the two of them,” he said pointing toward Jess. She looked down and he better hope he wasn't pointing at what she thought he was pointing at. “I mean their practically a couple now after last night. You saw the two of them.” He was talking about her and Ken, he did not realize how lucky he was that he mentioned that last part.. “I don't want to be the only one in our group not in a relationship.”

Both of them just stared at their team mate. That was what his current behavior was about? While it was a distraction from what was going on with Ken still, what the hell? “Bill there's no rush,” Jess told him.

“No offence Jess,” Bill told her, “but that's easy to say when you're already in one. I mean there's you and Ken and Bridge apparently has Emiko over in Japan. Ryo, buddy it's just you and me as the lone single dudes in this particular group. And I'm not going to be the last one.”

Ryo looked at him, “You're forgetting about Captain Hawk.”

“He's married to the job,” Bill quickly replied. Still Ryo kept looking at him. “Beside you remember the gossip when we first joined up, about his wife divorcing him after the UNDF got started. He already had his shot.”

Leaning back in her seat Jess muttered, “I'm telling him you said that.” It was just loud enough for Bill to hear. And he quickly got a panicked look on his face. And he quickly back off that line of thinking. But he did go back to his previous ways as a couple more females walked by. Sighing Jess decided to take a little pity on him. “You know if didn't look so,” what was the word she wanted to use here, she used it with Ken after their date, “creepy when you did that you might have better results.”

“I don't look creepy,” he insisted, looking borderline offended that she would even suggest that.

Right then Samantha came back by and overheard their conversation and said, “You do look creepy.” Jess and Ryo got a good laugh, more out of the timing of it more than the look on his face. Although that was pretty amusing as well.

Bill quickly tried to save face, “Yeah well, at least I'm trying. Ryo here,” Ryo looked up seeing how he was being dragged into this again, “not even trying. At all..And I will have girlfriend before you.”

“I hate to admit Ryo,” Jess told, “but he just determined enough to pull it off.” Bill looked triumphant that she agreed with him. “It probably won't last long,” and he look just as betrayed just as quickly, “but he'll beat you to it.”

Despite the dig Bill still took it as a victory. “Prepare to be the lone single man and enjoy it.”

With as smug as Bill was looking, this was as annoyed as she had ever seen Ryo, even when he was upset with Ken. He muttered, sounding full of frustration, “Told my self I wouldn't do this,” He quickly unzipped his jacket and pulled out his wallet. He flipped it open to show Bill something. Jess moved around to see what he was showing him as Bill's jaw nearly hit the table. It was a picture of a blond haired, blue eye woman. She and Bill looked at each other before turning their attention back to Ryo who was just staring Bill down. Eventually he said, “Her name is Tabitha. We've been seeing each other for about a month now.”

“No way,” Jess said as she took his wallet from him and stared at the photo. “You never told me anything.”

Snatching his wallet back he said, “I don't tell you everything.”

“I told you Ken asked me out,” she shot back as she sat down.

“You let it slip,” Ryo told her. “You had no intention in telling me at first.”

“I would have,” Jess informed him, “eventually. Before the date happened.”

Bill on the ther hand just kept staring at the spot the photo used to be completely stunned, “I'm the... I'm the...”

Looking at him in pity Jess finished the thought for him, “The only single dude in the group.” Bill lowered his head to the table.Waiting a bit to make sure he wasn't going to start crying, Jess turned to Ryo, “You enjoyed that,”

Replacing his wallet back in his uniform he said, “He had it coming.”

Suddenly they were aware of the murmur of the cafeteria died down. Even Bill looked back up to see a serious looking Hawk come in their direction. And he only looked that serious if something was going down. With A few people start to talk to each other or check their communicator in cased they missed an alert. Even the three of them did a little checking just to be sure. He motion for the room to relax as he got to their table. He leaned on the table, with the room taking it to correctly mean it was a private conversation with Monster Squad and went back to what they were doing before he showed up. Considering they knew things the rest of them this didn't calm their nerves any. Nor did what he said next, “Have any of you heard from Ken in the past couple of minutes?”

Trying not to sound to concerned Jess asked, “Why? What happened?”

“About a half hour ago,” Hawk began, only going so loud so only the three of them heard him, “Bridge stopped getting that reading.” They looked at each other as he went on, “And Ken hasn't reported in yet. In fact he's not even responding to any of our hails.”

Ryo immeditely tapped his communicator, “Watanabe to Scott, come in. Ken?”

Bill joined in, “Waters to Scott. Ken are you there? Civilian this isn't funny.”

Trying not to fear the worst Jess hit her communicator as well, “Wade to Scott. Ken are you there?” Trepidation started to creep in as she got nothing in response as well. “Ken if you know what's good for you you'll answer this damn call.” Still nothing.

Hawk communicator beeped, “Bridge to Hawk, I think I discovered the problem. It's still a bit out of range but We've been detecting some sort of interference over the line when I've tried to contact Ken. I think the signal's being jammed somehow.”

All of them looked at each other, worried about what that meant. Jess was holding on to the hope that meant he was still alive since whomever was responsible wouldn't try and disrupt communications from a corpse. Hawk looked at the three of them. “Ryo, Jess. You two take a Scan Track and head to Kyrie's place and scope out the situation.. Bill get the Razor Wings ready. I'll talk to Reid and have him get Beta team ready to launch while I do the same with Alpha. Contact me the moment you see something off.”

“Rodger,” they all said as they stood up and headed to their respective destinations.

***
He was groggy as hell when he came too, and Dax was practically screaming at him to wake up. Okay this was metal right under him, now what happened? He vaugely recalled getting shot with a stun shot again. Sucked as much as it did the first time too, and it was by Professor Kyrie this time to top things off. But he was on the floor this time around compared to being in a chair. Slowly he got his limbs under him and stood up holding his head. He was going to have whomever designed the damn thing get shot with it a couple of times and see how much they liked it. He looked around to see where Kyrie was and realized he was in one of those huge containers he saw before the Professor shot him. “How in the hell?”, he asked as he pressed his hands to the glass, which felt warmer than he thought it should.

“Finally you're awake,” Ken turned his head and saw Brooks staring at him. His hand immediately went for the Spark Magnifier. He realized two things right then, one the Magnifier was missing, again, and two Brooks was still in the container he spotted him in earlier. “It was getting boring with you out.”

“Oh I'm so sorry,” he told Brooks, high on the sarcasm. Right now he had a bigger problem if that was possible considering who his neighbor currently was. He started exaining his cell for a way out, but so far it seemed to be a solid piece of glass, he wasn't finding a seam anywhere. So how did he get in here? How was he even breathing for that matter? He looked over at Brooks and saw the device over him on top of it, which made Ken look up and see a similar machine on top of his. Something about it kept his attention.

“There's that quizzical expression I grew so fond of,” Ken looked back down to see Kyrie come back into view. He came to a stop in front of both containers, he reached over to some sort of control panel. Part of the floor by him opened up and a column slowly rose from it. Again Ken found his eyes locking onto something, this time a space like opening that was in the middle as it continued up. But mostly the electronic components thar he could see from his position.

Going back to the Professor, who kept looking at him expectantly, Ken demanded, “What's going on? What is he doing here?”

“I've been asking that for the past couple of hours,” Brooks spoke up.

“Shut up,” Ken snapped at him.

“Now, now,” Kyrie said drawing their attention, “I realize both of you are slightly irritated at the moment but there is a reason for why both of you are here.” He wheeled a little close to Ken. “Now I'm sure you're curious to how I got you in there. It'll be my pleasure to show you.” Rolling back he looked behind him and called out, “Rover, Spot would you come here please.” A metallic sounding footstep made Ken Look past the Professor. A pair of humanoid robots came into view and stopped behind the Professor. “Now I'm not sure how advanced these two are compared to Windam, but they do help out when I need it.” Rubbing his legs he added, “Which is something I need more and more of these days.”

Brooks quipped,”A little too helpful if you ask me.” Something about the annoyed way he said that made Ken look at the robots a little closer. Then the why and how he was captured became very clear.

“They tased you,” Ken blurted out. Which drew another annoyed look from Brooks and one of excitement from Kyrie. He motioned for Ken to elaborate, like he use to do back at the academy. He complied out of habit more than anything else, “A forearm is bigger than the other on both of them. Meaning there has to be room for something else inside them.”

“Excellent Ken, just excellent,” Kyrie said looking pleased with his deduction. “I did have something a little extra built in, just for him.”

“Professor what is going on?”,Ken asked again trying not to let his frustration show and failing at the moment.

“To explain what's going on I have to start to what brought all of us here to begin with,” Kyrie told him. “You see shortly afters those giant monsters and Ultraman showed up A colleague of mine studied the remain of some of them. Well the monsters mostly,” he said glancing over at Brooks, who just narrowed his eyes at the older man. “He discovered a unique energy signature, which he naturally attributed to the energy weapons from Ultraman. Then they discovered something extrarodinary, the remains themselves had a signature of their own. But the wavelength was the complete opposite of the previous energy they orriginally detected. But they didn't have the equipment to properly study it, so they brought me in.”

Rolling over to another machine, one that looked damaged for some reason, he looked at it sadly, “So I created this thing here. Through it we discovered something so very interesting.” He looked at Ken and Brooks. “The universe isn't exactly what we thought it was. There were multiple universes out there similar to this one. Oh we were so excited to discover the existence of a multiverse we almost shared it with the world. But then I realized something. Those energy signatures being opposite of each other troubled me so. I was able to convince the others to study it more before revealing the research we have been doing. And because of my curiosity we discovered something else. That there were three universe sharing the same dimensional plan.”

“Yes, yes,” Brooks cut in, “Three universes just out of phase with each other. I've been well aware of this fact. And I'm sure his giant friend has informed Scott of this as well.”

“Of course you were,” Ktrie told him. “But I've been dying to tell this fact to someone.” He looked back at the damaged looking machine and Ken took the moment to look for some sort of defect in his cell. If only that thing over his head was a little lower. “I should have I know,” said after a bit, a inflection in his voice catching Ken's attention one more time. “But we we were all too stubborn for our own good, then we discovered that things in this universe had a similar wavelength to the other two, almost an middle point of sorts. My friend theorized that we were originally supposed to be one universe with the other two but something happened and they split like they did. Then we tried to prove it.” Ken looked at the Professor then at the machine.

Now he understood why it look so damaged, “It blew up,” he said softly. Kyrie just kept looking at it as he nodded. “How many of you survived?”

“Just me,” he said, voice starting to crack a little. “I had it brought here to serve as a reminder, and inspiration.”

“Bull,” Brooks spat. “I was still part of the board when the men I'm sure you're talking about went missing. There was no talk of their demise in any matter.”

“I guess you never heard of the term cover up,” Kyrie shot back. “And it took me a lot to cover it all up let me tell you.”

“If it wasn't for this energy disruptor,” Brooks pointed at the device above him. Ken looked at his again. “I'd show you, could you pay attention while I'm threatening you?”, he stated as he saw Kyrie was watching Ken. “Well this is just humiliating.”

Things about that device started to click in his head after Brooks mentioned the disruptor. He could see exactly how it could disrupt a energy source. But there was something else. “Wait,” he muttered as he took a step back. Kyrie had that expectant look on his face again as he folded his hands in his lap and waited for him to piece it together on his own. “Those are scanners,” he said as he figured out what was bugging him about it. Kyrie clapped his hands together, obviously proud of his former student.

“I knew I was right about you,” Kyrie said.

At the same time Brooks exploded in anger, “What?! I've tried getting out using my abilities. That thing keeps dispercing my attempts!”

“It's both,” Ken told him looking back at Kyrie. “He built it to do both.”

“Quite right,” Kyrie told him.

But Ken wasn't sure it mattered, there was something that seemed more important at that particular moment, “But if you already discovered this universe is sharing a plain with two others why did you build these cells?”

“Something one of my late colleagues said. About that maybe the universes weren't suppose to originally split. Perhaps they were originally meant to be one universe.”

Both Ken and Brook looked at the damage machine. With a rock forming in his gut Ken said, “You tried it.”

Brooks looked just as stunned, “But you failed.”

“It was something small,” Kyrie told them. “A plant, a small one. And we were able to bring over two similar things from the other universes. All three were there for the briefest of seconds.

“But the other two weren't compatible with this universe,” Ken said in understanding, remembering what Dax once told him about when his people or Brooks' allies tried to go into the others world. What was happening to Dax before he bonded with Ken. “They started to dissipate almost immediately.”

“Correct,” Kyrie said, finally tearing himself away from the machine. “Oh we tried to stop it but it became too much for it and the power surge was quite substantial. To Brooks he said, “I was able to cover that up too in case you were wondering. Even in the UNDF money talks,” he sounded disappointed as he said that.

“Of that I have no doubt,” Brooks commented “But you said you kept it for inspiration. What could that possibly inspire you to... do,” he trailed off as he figured it out, and looking at the Professor like he was a mad man. And at the moment Ken couldn't argue with him as it hit him too. “You're going to try it again? Was the first failure not enough for you.”

“Professor,” Ken spoke up. “The three universe aren't compatible with each other.”

“I think I found away around that problem,” Kyrie said. “Both of you are showing no ill effects. I'm sorry Ken but I sort of lied to you when I visited you before.” Reaching into his coat he pulled out a device that he didn't recognize. “I wanted to prove a hunch I had about you and the giant. I designed this to detect anything emitting either of the energy signatures. Which I picked up from you. And thanks to his rather spectacular escape I knew he had the opposite one. I'm just assuming based on the power display when you brought that creature over it was meant to let it stay in this universe.” He pointed at Ken, “You were the big question. How were you and the giant co-existing being from two different universes, and showing no ill affects at all.

“Then it came to me,” he went one. “You united with the giant some how. It was the only thing that made any sort of sense. Ultraman is surviving because of you.” Waving the device a bit he continued, “This just proved the theory was on the right track. Because why else would the board come up with that whole civilan operator business just to get you on board without going through the proper channels again? So I needed you here. It's why I set up the transmitter on the roof, I was just hoping you would detect it and come investigate. What I didn't expect was it would attract him as well,” he pointed at Brooks. “Fortunately I had Rover and the rest ready when he tried to crash this particular party.” Ten more robots came forward when Kyrie raised a hand. All of them stopped when they surrounded both containers.

“We've met,” Brooks said dryly as he looked around at the scene.

Speaking up Ken announced, “Castle picked up your broadcast.” Kyrie rolled forward a bit, looking interested. “They know I'm here.”

“I sort of figured that was the case,” the Professor told him. “Back at the academy you couldn't wait to get out of the uniform they gave you to wear back then. So you'll understand if I didn't take your word when you said you 'forgot' you still had that jacket on. I've been jamming communications since I had my helpers put you in there. I'm sure they noticed you haven't called in by now and probably already sent people here to investigate.”

Hitting his communicator Ken went, “Scott to Castle.” He looked down at it when he got nothing but static. The worst part was Kyrie was probably right, Hawk may have sent somebody else here to see what happened to him.

“Spot,Rover,” he said to the first two robots. “Take the others and patrol the grounds. We have some uninvited guest coming. Please give them a proper greeting when they arrive.” The bigger forearm on the first two opened a bit as they lead the rest out of the room.

Pounding on the glass Ken yelled, “No!” It didn't budge, the glass didn't even shake. He watched Kyrie head to another machine that looked like it was connected to the chambers the two of them were in and started pressing some controls making the machine hum. “Professor! It won't work. The other two universes are at war with one another. Don't you think they would have tried this by now.”

“Perhaps,” he reluctantly agreed. Giving Ken a slight shread of hope that he was getting through two him. “But they don't have the ingenuity that makes humans so special.” Ken pounded the glass again, more in frustration then an attempt to get out, as Brooks rolled his eyes. “As I said I think I figured it out. And you gave me the way to do it Ken.” He reached under his leg and pulled out the Spark Magnifier. “I saw you reach for this,” he said after examining it a bit, “when you first arrived. “ He squeezed the handle a few time, popping the crystal prongs. Brooks looked at Ken expectantly, eventually getting a disappointed look on his face. “Don't look so down,” Kyrie told him. “I'm sure this only works in his hands any way, But this is the conduit he needs to summon Ultraman. And that makes it exactly what we needed back then to make it work. And what I need now” He went to the column that rose from the floor and placed the Magnifier into the opening in the middle. Going back to the other controls he pressed some buttons before flipping a switch, the opening started to glow as the Magnifier started to hover in the opening as some sort of barrier appeared around it.

Kytie started to roll to another part of the room. And onto a square area with a pole at each corner. Brooks stared at him, seething at this point, “You will pay for this.”

“For what,” he asked as he retrieved a remote from another pocket. “For reuniting three universes?”

“Maybe they weren't meant to be one,” Ken called out trying to think of anything to get him to stop this. “Maybe they're split for a reason. Did you stop to think what would happen if you failed in uniting them? You could end everything.”

“That's just fear talking Ken,” Kyrie told him as he adjusted something on the remote.

“You're damn right it's fear talking,” Ken told him, getting his attention. “But it's a possibility, you had to have considered it. Please tell me you considered it.” Kyrie said nothing. He didn't have to, the unsure expression on his face told him everything. The Proffessor never even thought about it. “”Professor, let me out and call off the robots. You trapped Brooks, that will go a long way after this is over.”

“I'm sorry Ken, I truly am,” he told him. “But I invested too much, lost too much to just give up now. I have to see this through..”

He pounded on the glass again as Ktrie pressed something on the remote. “Professor!” The scanner above them activated. Ken felt his skin tingle as the scanner did it's job. In the other chamber Brooks studied his hands as he felt the same. The poles around Kyrie activated as bolts of electricity started to connect them. Before long two shapes started to appear. One was a dark creature, with one eye that seemed to pierce his soul as it set it's gaze on Ken. In the other chamber Brooks stiffened a bit at the sight. Then a being made of light came into exsistence, and while Ken couldn't make out any color scheme there were enough phsyical similarities to identify it as one of Dax's people. “Professor,” he muttered, stunned at the sight.

Overjoyed at the sight Kyrie spoke louder to be heard over the sounds of the machine. “Look! No degradation what so ever! Phase one worked like I expected. And if I'm right in my calculations these two are my counter parts from those universes. So let's begin Phase two shall we.” Pressing another button on the remote the bolts of electricity went from the poles and connected the three of them freezing them in place. Slowly the dark and light being seemed to be pulled apart and into Kyrie. As he screamed from the action Ken started kicking the glass around him, trying to do anything to get out of there and stop this before it was too late. But nothing was budging and he could only watch helpless to stop anything.

Ken and Brook shielded their eyes as there was a bright flash. When it faded Kyrie, and the other beings were gone. In their place was some sort of creature with a grey and black body with some sort of glowing patch over it's heart. It's head turned to face him showing black markings covering indicating eyes and a mouth. Fins like things adorned the top of it's head. Both Ken and Brooks were stunned at what they were looking at. Placing a hand on the glass Ken whispered, “Professor?”

The being looked around the room before looking at itself. It's shoulders started to shake slightly, like it was laughing. Then it yelled right before it started to grow in size, going right through the ceiling and it kept growing. Through the falling rubble Ken saw Brook's cell open and let him out. As he stepped out he looked right at Ken and smirked before he started glowing and flew out of the hole the still growing creature created. He pounded harder on the glass trying to break free as more of the ceiling came down.

***
Seeing the drive way they were looking for Ryo stopped their Scan Track behind a line of trees to keep from being seen. Jess checked the Track's sensors real quick and saw nothing so they got out. Both drew their side arm as the made their way to the drive, Ryo kept an eye on his wrist scanner in case something popped up. Jess got there first and announced, “There's his car,” before quickly making her way toward it with Ryo right behind her. When they reached both of them looked inside and saw nothing a miss. She hit her communicator, “Wade to Castle.” Her only response was the static they got earlier. “We're still being jammed.”

“Take it as a good thing,” her usual wingman told her. He looked around and didn't see anythng right away that could be trouble. “Come on, let's try the house.” They started for the building when the front door opened. Jess started to raise her weapon but stopped in case it was Ken. It wasn't, a series of robots came through and took up a defensive line in front of them.

“Again with the robots,” Ryo muttered as he studied they're formation. None of machines said anything as,almost as one, they raised an arm that opened up to reveal another sort of device. Ryo and Jess both opened fired before the robots could do anything, although a few were able to fire off a coil from the device. Jess and Ryo quickly retreated and took cover behind Ken's car. Jess winced a bit as she heard those cables impact the car.

Like he was reading her mind Ryo said, “Maybe Ken won't notice.” She shot him a look before they popped up long enough to fire off a few shots. The shot impact didn't affect the robots like they would a human, but Jess did score a couple of head shots before they retreated back for cover.

Hearing a few more impacts and detecting a slight burning smell she told Ryo, “If he wants a sexual favor for damaging his car you're going to be the one performing it.”

“What?!”, he exclaimed she popped back up and fired off a few more shots. “You got behind here too.” There was a new sound, like something being destroyed that made them look from where they were. Some sort of monster was breaking through the house. The robots that were still standing turned their attention to the new threat as something flew out of the weakage and started launching those cables at it. They creature looked down , bending down to swat the robots away before freeing itself from the building.

From their communicators there was a burst of static before they heard, “...ott to Castle. Can anybody hear me?” She looked over at Ryo who looked as relived as she felt hearing his voice.

“Ken it's Jess,” she responded to him. “Me and Ryo are outside the building right now. Where are you?”

“I'm in a room on the first floor in a glass cage,” Both looked at what was left standing of the building. He was still in there? “I could use a little help getting out of here.”

“Go,” Ryo told her, “I'll contact Castle. Watanabe to Castle a creature has emerged from Kryie's home,” She heard him say as she watched, waiting for the moment so she wasn't spotted by the monster.

“We detected it once the whatever was jamming the signal stopped,” Bridge replied. “Razor Wings have already launched.” She didn't hear the rest as as she saw the monster look away and she sprinted toward the front door. So far the front hall looked stable as she ran in. Now where in the hell was the room he was in?. Some rubble started to fall from the upper floor that made her jump back a bit. Making her way forward found the living room and spotted a closed door by a gaping hole in the wall the monster made. Looking through the hole she saw the remains of some sort of lab and jumped through.

“Ken!” she called out as she made her way through the wreakage.

“Jess!” she heard from behind her. She turned around and saw him in a huge glass container like he said he was. She ran over as he started to look at a similar one that was opened next to his.

“Ken how do I open it?,” she asked.

He pointed to something behind her as he kept looking at the other chamber, “By the destroyed panel over there.” She looked over sand saw something that was crushed. When she look back at him wondering now what he went, “Give me a moment.” He studied the other chamber some more, particularly the top, before saying, “On this side of the cell, on the device above me. Do you see four blue wires?”

Going over to that side she looked up and tried to see what he was talking about. “Four blue wires, I see them.”

“Now are there two red lights behind them?”, he asked holding up two fingers.

“Got 'em,” she told him.

Looking right at her he told her, “Shoot the bottom one!” Not even hesitating she aimed her weapon and fired a single shot at the bottom light. There were a bunch of sparks as a panel in the chamber became partially open. She quickly helped him move it out of the way so he could get out of there. Once he was free she immediately wrapped her arms around his neck.

“Do not do that to me again?”, she told him as he hugged her back. He pulled away and pointed at his communicator with both hands. She got the message, Richardson might be listening in right now. “What happened? Where's Professor Kyrie?”

He pointed at the creature and she didn't realized until then at how close it still was to them. “That's Kyrie.” Then he turned his attention to a cylinder in the middle of the room that was housing the Spark Magnifier inside it. “He did something and turned into that... Kyrieloid or whatever you want to call it.” She knew that expression on his face, there was more he wanted to tell her but couldn't. And she knew why.

“We'll worry about it later,” she told him. “We need to get out of here before he decided to come back this way.” As she made her way back to the opening she looked back and saw that Ken wasn't following her. Instead he was looking over the thing holding the Spark Magnifier. Figuring she better play her part she called out, “Ken, this way!”

Walking around the column he studied it intently as he said, “I'm going to look around here a bit. Maybe I can figure out a way to undo what he did to himself.” The sad part was that thought probably was there in his head.

“Ken this building could collapse at any moment,” she told him right before she heard the familiar sounds of the Razor Wings in the background, a few moments later she heard missiles firing off and exploding against what used to be Kyrie and him yelling out in pain. “Ken come on! Now we got to worry about a stray missile hitting this place.”

“Go,” he told her. “I need to see if I can save him.” Jess, act or not, was going to argue that point with with him, she's stun him herself and drag him out of here if she had to. “I have to try,” he said suddenly. “He was the first one in this entire organization who saw something in me and before they kicked me out and almost made me believe it.” He had to be joking. Now was not the time to get sentimental. “He was the only one at the academy who thought I could go far in the UNDF. Then my problem was too much of a problem for the higher ups. He said he tried to fight for me..” She recognized that look, it was similar to when people were telling him he couldn't get the beat up motorcycle to work, he was determined to do this no mater what any one told him. “I have to at least try.”

Still she muttered under her breath, “I'm going to need to get my head examined for this.” Looking at Ken she told him, “Don't stay too long, because I will not dig you out.” She mouth the words, “Be careful,” at him. He nodded before returning back to to column, testing out that barrier around the cavity with a finger only to quickly pull it back after a zapping sound. She waited a moment before heading out of there. And hoping leaving him there wasn't going to be a mistake.

***
“That thing was Professor Kyrie?”, Hawk said as he sat behind Bill in Razor Wing One. They and a couple of other Wings flew in a loose formation as they flew up from a strafing run on the creature. From the pilot seat Bill let out a low whistle as he heard Jess' quick report. Hawk started trying to see anything of the older man in what he was seeing.. So far there wasn't a feature he recognized from his brief meeting with the man. Then again he didn't see anything of Jamira when the same thing happened to him.

“That's what Ken said,' Jess told him. “I didn't see anything that would make me doubt him.” Her choice of words confused him slightly. After everything all of then have seen since this started why would she doubt him now. Glancing at his own communicator he thought he began to understood why.

“Ken's problem hasn't spread to anyone else,” he hope he said in a way that she would get it, and nobody else would wonder what the problem was. As it was while checking with Reid he was afraid he set the man down the path of figuring out Ken's secret by accident. “His is still going on though the last I heard.”

“Understood,” she said. “Ken said he's going to try and see if he can reverse what was done to Kyrie. I'm not sure what he can do everything looked pretty messed up to me. He's going to need all the good luck his charm can give him.” Now Hawk nodded, noting the code both of them decided on when describing the Spark Magnifier over a open line. “He need to get a hold of all he can.” His brow creasing a bit he pondered what she said just now. She seemed to empathize the get a hold in that sentence. It was a shot in the dark but maybe the Magnifier was used to turn Kyrie into what he is now.

“Fall back just in case. You and Ryo get in that Scan Track and try to draw it away from what's left of the house.”

“On our way,” she replied.

In front of him Bill called out,” Razor Wings eighteen and twenty five form up on the rest of us and follow. We going to try to draw the creature away from the house a bit.” After both Wings confirmed the order he looked back at him. “I'm just assuming that meant us as well.”

Smiling to himself Hawk said, “We do have a man in there. Let's give him some breathing room.”

***
With the battle going on outside, hell he could see most of it every time he looked up, Ken kept working to see if he could get te Spark Magnifier out of it's holding place. Finding another control panel he experimented with a couple of switches and buttons trying to see if they were connected to anything close to the cylinder on container. If he only had time to crack this thing open, then maybe he could figure out what wire went were. Going to another he thought maybe he got lucky, this one was connected to an interior power source of some kind. It made sense, this lab had to use an incredible amount of power, even as wealthy as he was the bill would have to start hitting him in the wallet sooner or later. Going over the controls he flipped a couple switches and under the chaos going on outside he heard the tell tale whine of a generator wind down to a stop. He quickly looked back at the cylinder, the barrier was still active and the Spark Magnifier was still hovering inside it. Slapping the console in frustration he lowered his head and tried to think. “Of course it would have it's own power source, the casing is one solid piece to keep somebody like me from trying to get into it.”

Tapping his fingers a bit he stopped as he looked back up, “Maintenance hatch,” he said to himself. Rushing over to the cylinder he started looking around the floor trying to find said hatch, it had to be close. “Come on, you got to be somewhere,” he expanded his search to a wider area. “You had to have plan to work on it at some point. You just didn't plant it in the floor and leave it at that.” Looking around he started to figure there was an access in the basement but what where the odds the way to the basement wasn't block or buried when Kyrie grew to Dax's size. Ken looked back out the opening and saw what was his old professor try to catch the Razor Wings flying by him. He looked back the barrier keeping him from the Spark Magnifier. He was running out of time. He tested it a few more times with his finger, get a sharp zap in return each time. Shaking in an attempt to get the pain away he studied harder. The barrier wasn't solid, while there was some push back he was able to penetrate it a little.

Looking around, Ken didn't see anything he could stick in there right away. So that just left him with one option. Sighing he went, “This going to suck.” Steadying himself and taking a few deep breaths Ken thrust his and into the barriers. He got through with no issue but that slight push back was even stronger now that he was using his whole hand and feeling an electrical charge going up his arm he struggled before the barrier won out and he pulled his hand away. Flexing his fingers Ken steadied himself before he tried it again. Gritting his teeth he forced his hand even further before the barrier threw it out again.. Holding his arm Ken stared at the Magnifier. If Kyrie wasn't a monster right now he'd ask how he pulled this barrier off. Breathing hard from the pain the electrical charge was causing him he said to himself, “All right, third time the charm.” This time he jammed his hand in there but again what ever was trying to force him back stopped as he was less than in inch away from grabbing it. There was some sort of impulse that forced his hand out with enough force to spin him to the floor as the barrier gave him a stronger jolt. Getting up he pounded the floor then started clutching his arm.

“Ken!” Daxium called out in his head. “Stop, you're damaging yourself trying to get the Spark Magnifier. You need to leave before this dwelling falls on top of you. You know Jessica was right about that. We can fight another way.”

Not taking his eyes off the Magnifier he said, “You have another way that l can let you out that you've been keeping from me?” His giant friend fell silent. “Yeah, that's what I thought.” Shaking the pain out of his arm he thrust it in one more time, pushing against whatever the force was that was keeping him from grabbing it. Screaming as the current assuauting his arm seemed to increase with each second, finally he felt the Magnifier on his palm he quickly wrapped his fingers around it and pulled it free. Nearly falling back Ken kept his footing and looked at the Magnifier while he wiped the sweat off his brow with his other arm. Looking back up at the opening above him he didn't see Kyrie but he could still hear the battle going on out there. Despite the pain he raised the Spark Magnifier over his head and activated it.

***
The Kyrieloid, as Ken dubbed it, slowly turned around as the column of light faded away, revealing Daxium standing there. They sttod there for a moment before Kyrieloid started toward him in a meanicing way. Instead of getting in a defensive staff like he usually he did he jusy stood there and held out a hand, telling him to stay were it was. It was more for Ken's sake than anything considering how connected he was to the human this used to be. Not to mention one of his own was dragged into this situation, so if there was a way to save both of them he had to at least try. All he needed was for the other being to co-operate and stand down.

The Kyrieloid tilted his head as he looked at Daxium. Then it charged. Both giants stood there and grappled while on the ground Ryo backed the Scan Track out of the way to keep them from being stepped on. In the air Hawk orderd all Razor Wings to fly in a holding pattern until further notice. The two giants struggled before both was pushed back. Daxium came in with a punch that was easily avoided by the other giant. Kyrieloid went for a kick the Daxium blocked. This went on for a bit with each one dodging or blocking the other's attack. Hit by a kick to the gut Daxium stumbled back. Kyrieloid went in grabbing Daxiun in a headlock then lifted him up by the neck as he fell back. Landing with a grunt Daxium barely had to time to realize Kyrieloid quickly straddled him and started raining down hammer like punches at his head.. Covering up as best as he could he waited for any opening in the other's attack.

Finally reaching through the fist raining down on him he grabbed Kyrieloid by the back of the neck and pulled down. It was enough to get a leg up between them and flip him off. Quickly rolling over he got to a knee and fired off a flash bolt as soon as his opponent got to his feet and faced him. As he held his Stomach Daxium ran in and tackled Kyrieloid into what was left of the building. He punched and chopped at his fallen opponent as he listened to something Ken suggested, which he never done until now, so he back off and fired off another flashbolt, Kryieloid saw it coming this time and the bolt hit the building as Daxium quickly jumped back. Part of the building blew up in a bigger explosion than those watching would have expected. Kyrieloid looked at the burning remains of the house before turning toward Daxium. With an angry yell he charged the light giant again. Daxium was ready for it as he grabbed an arm reaching for him and twisted a bit as he flipped the combined being over his shoulder.

While he was on the ground Kyrieloid held up a fist that startled Daxium. Then a stream of fire shot out that the light giant barely avoided. Getting to his feet Kyrieloid grabbed Daxium by the waist and flipped him over his head. Grabbing his fallen opponent by the neck he hualed him up in the air and slammed him to the ground. Keeping hold of Daxium's throat he hualed him up again. This time Daxium bashed his forearms together and mode shifted into Power mode. Grabbing Kyrieloid's wrist he slowly removed his hand from his neck. Keeping his grip of Kyrieloid's wrist he pulled him close and lifted him over his heads. Quickly locating an empty lot close by Daxium grunted as he threw the combined creature at it. The ground shook a bit as Daxium put his fist by the jewel on his chest. Before he could draw in any extra energy to pull off the Giga Wave Kyrieloid shot up and fired off another stream of fire. Taking the full hit of the blast Daxium fell back to the ground.

Kyrieloid rushed in and kicked Daxium in the side to flip him over. Then he jumped on his back and wrapped an arm around his neck and started pulling up and squeezing with all he had. Daxium struggled to free himself the jewel started to blink. Eventually he got a foot under him and slowly stood up with Kyrieloid jumping higher on his back to secure his grip and add some more weight to the effort. With a grunt he finally stood up and reached up to grab Kyrieloid and slam him to the ground and pounded on his fallen foe a bit before backing away. In the safe zone he had set up so long ago Ken pleaded with his former mentor as he started to get up, “Come on Professor, just stop this already. We don't have to do this.” At the time Daxium tried to contact the light being that was mixed up in there hoping to convince him to do the same thing.

Finally he told Ken, “I'm not getting anything, not my compatriot, not Kyrie, not even the dark being he dragged into this.”

Ken lowered his head, “I know, I feel it to. Whomever they were before all this, they're not there now.” A tear started to fall down his cheek, “Do what you gotta.”

Nodding in the outside world as he backed up Daxium crossed his arms infront of him and shifted to Hyper Mode.Getting into a running stance he drew in energy and waited for Kyrieloid to finish getting to his feet as he extended the light stream whip from his finger tips. As soon as Kyrieloid was standing and turned toward him Daxium made the barest of flinches then in the next instant he was standing behind Kyrieoid who had a line across it's body. The whip retracted as Kyrieloid fell back and exploded. Daxium stood there with his head lowered for a bit before looking up and flying off into the evening sky, “Shiah!”

***
“I saw the orb over there,” Jess said as she and Ryo ran toward what they thought was Ken's location. They slowed down as they spotted him sitting on a rock. At first she was worried after seeing some of the hits that Daxium had taken during the fight. Then she got a good look at his face then hurried toward him with her wingman right behind her. She watched him, Ken didn't even reacted to either of them, Coming to a stop she followed his gaze to where Daxium had finished off his opponent, smoke was still rising up from the spot. She looked back at Ryo and gestured toward her communicator.

“I already talked to Hawk,” he said. Coming closer he looked at Ken who still didn't respond to either of them being there. “Bridge said the program never started, neither Richardson or his assistant were at Castle, they had a function elsewhere and Dr. Williams was in one of the labs the entire time. He apparently never heard something was going down.”

All she need to here was that it wasn't on, Jess immediately sat next to Ken and wrapped her arms around him, “Ken I'm so sorry about Professor Kyrie.”

Walking over Ryo put a hand on his shoulder, “I am too man, I knew he meant a lot to you.”

“Thank you,” he said softly as he gripped one of her arms and closed his eyes for a moment. He leaned into her embrace for a bit before he opened his eyes, “But he did it to himself, all because he couldn't let an idea go.”

“Some people are like that,” Jess told him as she used her thumb to wipe a tear from his face.. She looked over at the remains of Kyrie's home. “I don't know what Daxium accidently hit when Kyrie moved but I'm pretty sure all he had on that project is destroyed now.”

Ken looked with them for a few moments before getting up. As he did so he said, “That was the idea.”

Jess and Ryo looked at each other when he said that. She got up as Ryo went, “Ken, what do you mean.”

“I mean,” he told them as he turned around to face them, “that it wasn't an accident. I told Dax exactly where to aim that flash bolt. Kyrie tried to do something that wasn't meant to be. And there's probably somebody in this fucking organization stupid enough to try it again once they find out about it.”

Jess looked at Ryo, like she told him before he was defacto second in command of Monster Squad and technically could do something to him for destroying what was technically UNDF property. Slowly he nodded before saying, “Damn shame the creature moved, that was a million to one shot from the look of things.”

“Ryo?”, Jess said in disbelief, “You're letting that go?”

“Accident's happen,” he replied with a shrug. “Besides he's not wrong about somebody trying whatever happened here again. It's probably for the best that bit of info got lost in the battle. I'll tell Hawk privately, but I'm sure he'll agree.”

The three of them left for the vehicles that brought them here. While she was going over with Ryo about her riding back with Ken, just to make sure he was going to be all right of course, he looked on not believing a word she was saying. After a bit she noticed Ken had trailed behind them a little just looking at both the Scan Track and his car. When they got closer he stopped where he was, they stopped and looked back at him. Ken looked past them before asking, “What happened to my car?” Ryo started looking to her for help as he stammered out a answer. Jess just pushed him toward Ken as she backed her way to the Scan Track.

***
A couple of days later in Castle's medical wing Lunden was hovering around Timothy as he packed his bags. They were finally letting him go today but go where? His abilities were gone, Lunden assured him that it wasn't for good but he knew his face well enough to tell that he was lying to him. His parents practically gave him up when Lunden offered to help him refine his former powers and refine his control. Hell they seemed happy to get rid of him, and more than likely they weren't in a rush to see him again any time soon. And despite what Lunden kept telling him he didn't belonged back at the company either. So where does he go from here? The door opened and Lunden looked over as Captain Hawk came in for a bit, “I'm sorry to disturb you but there's a bit more paperwork for you to sign before they release Timothy. I told them I'd come get you.”

“My hand's going to fall off if I keep signing my name. I'll be back as soon as I can Timothy. I wouldn't put it past the board to sneak some sort of document that says I'm signing over control of my company.”

“All right,” he said solemnly. Lunden put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, at least that was probably his intent. All it did was remind him that he couldn't read people any more.

“I wouldn't say things like that out loud Mr. Lunden,” Hawk said as he held the door open for the man. “Somebody is going to get an idea. Timothy started to turn back to his bag when he caught somebody stop the door from closing out of the corner of his eye. Some red headed woman, who he thought was familiar, held the door open as she watched Lunden and Hawk walk off. Then she waved somebody into the room, Ken, as she finally let the door close.

Confused Timothy looked at Ken and the door, “What?”

All he said as he held up a finger was, “Test run on an idea she had.” He made sure the door wasn't going to open anytime soon before breaking into a small grin as he faced him. “And I wanted to see how you were doing before they freed you. That Lunden guy's worse the the guards at the royal palace. He didn't let in anybody to see you that didn't work for him.”

“I noticed,” Timothy told him. Although part of him was glad Ken at least made the effort to visit. “As to how I'm doing,how do you think?”

“It's gotta be rough,” Ken said.

“Rough?”, Timothy repeated in disbelief. “My abilities are gone, probably for good. I can't hear you or sense Daxium at all. You're as blank to me as that wall behind you.”

“You're not the first high schooler to make that comparison about me,” Deep down Timothy knew he meant it as a joke, an attempt to lighten his mood a bit. All it did was make him angrier.

“Don't you get it?,” he snapped. “My power is gone. I'm,” he did not want to admit this, at all, “I'm normal. Absolutely normal.” He sat on the bed completely dismayed at his fate.

Ken came closer saying, “Normal. I think I remember what that feels like.” Timothy just snorted and waved him off. “It's an adjustment. You'll get use to it.” He looked away not believing him. Ken saw it and tapped him on the head to make him look at him. Pointing at his own head he went, “You know who I got living in here. You think this was easy to get use too when it first happened? Let me tell you it wasn't, especially after I joined up with these guys.” Sighing a bit he added, “And Dax wanted me to tell you that he's sorry you got caught up in all this, but he's glad you're relatively okay. So am I.”

“I'm sorry,” Timothy told him, “I'm just scared.”

“Look Tim,” Ken told him, “I never dealt with you exact situation but trust me, I get it. Like I said it's an adjustment. Anybody will tell you that. But most of them don't understand the size of that adjustment sometimes. Maybe listen to those of us who have an idea about how big it's going to be. He didn't reply since the floor was so interesting so Ken went on, “So what are you going to do now?”

“I don't know,” was his reply. “Mr. Lunden says I still have a place with his company. He said I can't be the only one with these sort of abilities. That I could use my experience to help them cope.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Ken sat on the bed next to him. He studied Timothy for a bit, “So why does it look like you don't believe him?” All he could do was shrug. “I'm assuming you been in his head, has he given you any indication that you should doubt his word?”

A small, “No,” was his answer.

“Listen to me Tim, a good mentor can help you reach heights you didn't know you were capable of, I had somebody like that back at the academy that I lost recently,” Ken looked sad for a moment.” I'm lucky I got that now with Captain Hawk. I don't think any one else would have pushed me this hard to be better than what I was when I first got here. Unless it was out of his unit. Just give Lunden a chance. I don't think he would be this over protective if he thought you were just a project for him to get famous. Because a lot of guys would in his position.” Before Timothy could respond Ken put a finger to his ear. Then he pulled back his sleeve a bit revealing some sort of device, and clicked something on it twice. “Test's over. I gotta get out of here before Lunden gets back. Think about what I said okay.” He quickly went to the door. Opening it enough to look out out Ken opened it a bit wider so he could slip out before closing it.

Only then did he respond with, “Okay.”

***
In the hallway Ken lowered his head a bit as he past Lunden who was hurrying back to Timothy's room. So far he hadn't noticed him which suited him just fine. He passed a few more intersections before turning into the one Jess was waiting for him in. “Worked like a charm,” he said with a grin.

With a hand on her head Jess went, “I can't believe we pulled that off. I can't believe Captain Hawk agreed to it.”

Neither can I,” He told her. “But your idea works. We should celebrate some how Do you think Hawk would aprove a couple of passes on this short of notice?”

“I wouldn't press our luck,” she told him as she removed a small microphone and receiver from her ear. It was small enough that she could hid it with helmet or her hair if she had to. And it was connected to an inner ear receiver that was currently in Ken's ear. “But I'm shocked. I thought you'd want to try to beat the simulator again.”

He knew it was a joke. A well deserved one considering how many times he'd tried to beat since he's been here.“This is going to come out wrong but you're more fun than that simulator.”

“You're right, that did came out wrong,” Jess told him with a smirk. She put her hands around his waist while he drew her closer. “But it is nice to know I rate higher than that test.”

“You always rated higher, but I think I should give the test a rest.” Hearing this Jess immediately put a hand on his forehead to see if he was feverish. “I'm serious, I saw what being that obsessive about something did to Kyrie. I can easily see myself going down that road if I'm not careful.”

“Never going to happen,” Jess informed him. “You have one thing he didn't. Someone like me to keep you from falling off that deep end.”

With a slight smirk he held her a little closer as he said, “That sounds a tad long term.”

“If you play your cards right it will be,” she smiled back. “So I suggest you behave yourself.”

“Yes ma'am.” Smirking a bit more he looked around to see if anyone was around, “I do seem to recall saying I'd be a willing student.” Jess just gave him a look but didn't try to get out of his grip. “I'm ready for my next lesson if you are.” He leaned in to kiss her.

“There you two are,” Hawk said as he came around the corner. “It looks like the plan worked.”

Just inches from her lips Ken muttered through his teeth, “It's your dad all over again.”

“It's not that bad,” she said softly then they turned their attention to their commanding officer. “Yes it did, I'm just glad we had the equipment on base. It be a nightmare to explain why we wanted something like this.”

“And Lunden didn't suspect anything?”, Ken asked. He had a hard time believing the man didn't notice was being dragged around.

“Not as thing,” Hawk told him. “It helped that there was some more paperwork that required his signature, otherwise I have no clue on how I would have gotten him out of there. But I think a celebration is in order.” Walking forward he reached into a pocket. He surprised both of them when he produced a couple of passes.

Both of them took the offered passes but Jess still went, “Captain?”

Ken quickly spoke up, “Don't question it he might change his mind. Thank you sir. We appreciate it.”

Hawk chuckled, “After the past couple of days you had I think you deserve it. And a little company probably wouldn't hurt. Now those passes aren't for more than one day, so I expect both of you to be back here before midnight.”

Shooting off a quick salute Ken told him, “Yes sir.”

Stepping a little closer he pointed right at Ken. “You better behave yourself.” With that he walked off to somewhere.

Ken watched him leave and went, “What about her? She's going too.”

“I don't have to worry about her,” he shot back. Before long he was around the corner and out of sight leaving them alone again.

Ken started to go after him to argue the point. Jess stopped him and told him, “Come on we're burning free time. Let's go to the diner again, I'll get you the Philly Cheese steak this time around .” Getting a little closer she added, “And maybe, if I'm over my hang up by then, we can make plans for your birthday in a couple of months, but only if you're good.”

Ken looked at her. “Seriously? Just the hint of some birthday 'fun'?You think that's all it's going to take to get me to go with you?” She gave him a sly smile and nodded once. She took his hand as he put his arm around her shoulders and they they headed down the hall, “Well, you're half right.”

-----
ED – Shinedown – Fly From the Inside
-----
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