Ken stared at the sheet of paper, still not comprehending the implications of the data printed upon it. A myriad of questions kept running through his head, when? Why? How? Hadn't his young life already been filled with enough lies and deceit?
20 Years Earlier
It was the first time he'd had opportunity to meet her. Kentaro had deliberately kept them apart throughout their courtship, "I'm not letting you even attempt to steal this one from me," he would say during their regular social occasions. "I'll wait until we're all legal, then there'll be nothing you can do about it."
He would simply shrug. They had history of hitting on each other's girlfriends, nine out of ten times Kentaro would come out the victor. His easy charm, confidence and charisma making him automatically the more popular of the two with the ladies, whereas he himself often came over as too geeky for the opposite sex.
Still, he was seeing her now, and everything his best friend had raved about her for the past couple of years turned out to be true. She was stunningly beautiful, with the most startling blue eyes he had ever seen, tall, and slender, a simple elegance few women he'd met could pull off, with the simple a-line silk gown and none of the fancy adornments many brides seemed to desire for their big day.
He barely took his eyes off her throughout the day and well into the evening. He noticed how she kept the same glass of champagne with her at all times, politely refusing all top ups, until it was time for the speeches when she allowed a waiter to refill her glass, whereas he new husband gladly accepted all offers with wild abandon, supposedly not to offend their guests. He himself was taking it easy on the alcohol. Unlike the inebriated groom, he had to work in the morning.
As the night drew to it's inevitable close, and the numerous guests bid their farewells, it was left to him to assist the incapacitated newlywed to the bridal suite. Sayori led the way as he half carried, half stumbled with his best friend up numerous flights of stairs before finally reaching the door to their suite. She swiftly unlocked the door, turned on the lights, and invited him to enter the room, which had been festooned with red roses, and balloons. A tray with a bucket of champagne was waiting with two glasses, and as he dropped Kentaro onto the king-sized bed, Sayori poured herself a glassful and swallowed it all in one.
"You needed that?" Nambu asked, as he busily stripped the prone figure of his outer garments.
"I've deliberately stayed sober in anticipation for tonight. Looking at him now, I wish I hadn't bothered." She put the now empty flute on the bedside table and began filling the second, which she offered to Nambu. "Care to join me?"
"I'd better not. Going to drive home soon." Now he'd finished the disrobing, he pulled back the quilt and lay Kentaro down. The man just gave a loud snore and rolled onto his side.
"Thanks, I don't know what I would have done without your help."
"Oh, I've had years of practice, and no doubt he's done the same for me a time or two too." He smiled as he made towards the door.
"Before you go..."
"Well, I don't suppose you could help me out too... I wouldn't ask but..." she indicated the laced up back of her bodice.
"Well, you could call reception..." He pointed to the phone on the other side of the bed.
"But you're here now, and at least I can go straight to bed without hanging around twiddling my thumbs.."
Now he was becoming increasingly flustered. This incredibly beautiful young bride wanted his help with undressing, and, as much as he wanted to, he knew he was heading into dangerous territory.
"I really don't think..."
He gasped as she unpinned her hair, and a cascade of blond tresses fell over her shoulders. "Please? It won't take long, and I really can't manage on my own." She turned away, lifting her hair from the back so he got a clear view of the lattice of ties going from just below her shoulders to her waist.Despite his feelings, Nambu obliged. "You've been friends a long time then?" She asked, making small talk as he set to work.
"Since High School. We met in freshman year, and graduated together. We went our separate ways for a few years, he to flight school, I went on to Uni, but our paths crossed once again when we both were headhunted by the I.S.O. for our individual talents."
"What were you studying?"
"I went into the sciences, but I won't bore you with the details."
"So you're a doctor then?" She half turned to look at him over her shoulder, her wide blue eyes enchanting him further. "I can understand why Kentaro refused to introduce us earlier."
Nambu chuckled. "He didn't want me hitting on you."
"Or maybe it would have been me hitting on you."
"I must admit that didn't occur to me." He finished pulling the lace through the eyelets and handed it to her. As she turned to take it, she wrapped her arm around his neck, pulling his face to hers, kissing him fully on the mouth, her dress falling to the floor and puddling around her feet.
Nambu took a step backwards, the shock of what had just occurred etched clearly on his face. "Wha... what do you think you're doing?"
"You don't find me attractive?" She eyed his crotch appreciatively.
"Well, it's not that I don't, but you're my best friend's wife, it's a line I don't want to cross."
"Can I level with you?"
"I've been saving myself for this night for my whole life, well, for as long as I've been sexually aware anyway. Every boyfriend I've had in the past has always found some excuse to finish with me soon after I've refused to go 'all the way', either they don't want to make any kind of commitment, or they would rather find someone who was more willing to let them have their way. Kentaro was different, I thought he respected my wishes, he stuck around, treat me like the lady I was purporting to be and didn't push me any further than I was willing to go."
"And you want to repay that loyalty by sleeping with me?"
"Not really, but we planned this night, and his getting blind drunk was not part of that plan. Losing my virginity on my wedding night is a big deal to me, and I'm more than a little pissed off that he can't perform his marital duties, so I want to ... shall we say compromise?"
"You want me to take your virginity because your annoyed with him for getting drunk?"
"Basically, yes. He has forfeited his right to be my first with his behaviour tonight. When he wakes up, I'll tell him how wonderful a lover he is, and how much I want him to make love to me again, he's so out of it right now he'll never realise it didn't happen. Only you and I will know the truth, and I trust you can keep a secret."
"Can... can't you just wait until morning?"
"The morning is not my wedding night. I'm only going to have one chance, and this is it. Besides," She stepped out of the pool of silk and lace around her ankles and lent up close to him. "I've seen the way you've looked at me all day. I may be a virgin, but I'm not naive. You want me as much as I want this, now wouldn't it be better if we exorcised that demon now, rather than letting it fester between us until it can do some really serious damage?"
He had to admit she had him there. Until now he had tried to remain focused on her face, but those beguiling eyes did him no favours. She closed them now, moving in for another kiss as her hands worked deftly at his belt and waistband.
Nambu stopped resisting.
Ken had spent his whole life hero-worshiping his father. The man supposedly killed in an aircraft when he was just four years old, who later revealed himself as a friend and ally, before confessing his paternity immediately before sacrificing his life to save the world.
Kentaro Washio was simply the man his mother was married to, and the guy who had raised him from being a small child, whom Ken had looked upon as simply a father figure, was the one who had provided half his genes.
So many questions raced through his mind. At what point in his life was his paternity questioned? And what was the catalyst to trigger the paternity test? Did his father know? Was his mother aware? Obviously she must have slept with Nambu at some point, but was it just a one night stand, or were they having a full blown affair? Were Nambu and his mother in love? Was it any consolation if they were?
20 years earlier,
"Oh good, you made it!" Nambu turned in response to the enthusiastic slap on his back.
"Kentaro, Sayori! How are you both." The scientist greeted his friends warmly. "Sayori, you look stunning tonight."
"Doesn't she just?" Kentaro looked at his wife proudly as the woman smiled, simultaneously flattered and embarrassed by the attention. He put his arm around her shoulders and placed a possessive hand on a clearly swollen abdomen.
"Is that...? Are you guys..." Nambu's face broke into a grin. "When is it due?"
"In about three months, give or take."
"Good grief, you didn't waste any time, did you conceive on your honeymoon?"
Kentaro laughed as Sayori's blush deepened. "You know, I think we just may have done." He kissed the top of his wife's head lovingly, "We hadn't planned it so soon, but we couldn't be more delighted."
"Here, take my seat, let me get you a drink, why didn't you tell me this piece of news sooner?"
"You've had your head buried in work since the wedding, I guess the subject never came up." Washio looked almost contrite. "I mean, you were gonna find out sooner or later anyway."
"Of course." Nambu chuckled. "Speaking of work, mind if I borrow your husband for five minutes?"
"Oh you're not talking shop are you? It's Christmas, I thought you'd be taking a break from all that." Sayori made herself comfortable, and took in the scenery around her.
"Not shoptalk, I promise." Kentaro gave her a quick peck before following Nambu to the bar.
"So, parents eh?" Nambu found a space at the bar and looked around for a member of staff, tapping rhythmically on the surface.
"Yeah, quite the adventure, you might want to try it one day."
"I don't think so. You know me, I'm married to my research."
"Yeah, I've got your message, thanks." Kentaro stopped Nambu's incessant tapping. "What are you doing after this little shindig is over?" He finally caught the barman's attention and placed their order.
"Retiring to my rooms, I suppose."
"Well, Sayori and I want to invite you up to our room, for a few drinks..." He paused as the drinks were placed before him and handed over some cash. "A chance to catch up, if you like."
"Sure, why not." He took his glass and they made their way back to their table just as the resident band struck up their first number. Putting the glasses down, Kentaro excused himself and headed towards the men's room.
"So, you've agreed to join us later?" Sayori had to move closer to Nambu to make herself heard. "If we can get him drunk enough, you could have me all to yourself again."
"I'm sorry, but what are you talking about?"
Thinking he simply hadn't understood her with the surrounding noise, she merely repeated herself, only to get a blank look in response. "You know, the old ménage à trois?"
"And you don't want that?"
"Oh, it was my idea, but I'm just saying, if you'd like a repeat of before then we only have to get him blind drunk..."
"Could the baby be mine?" Finally he managed to say what had been preying on his mind since they had arrived.
"It's possible, but unlikely. I pierced a few condoms so at least one would split. Don't worry, he'll never know"
Maybe not, but I'll always wonder, Nambu thought, as Kentaro returned to his seat.
Two hours later the trio stumbled into the Washio hotel room, laughing and joking in various states of sobriety. Kentaro flopped onto the bed and stretched out, trying to catch his breath after laughing so much at some joke Nambu had told them in the lift.
"Come on, park your bum and make yourself comfortable." He patted a space on the mattress, then tugged at Nambu's jacket sleeve as the doctor sat down. "You know something, I never imagined you to be the type to participate in anything like this?"
"Has to be a first time for everything, I suppose." Nambu shed his jacket and loosened his tie.
Sayori smiled at the pair of them. "I just need to freshen up, don't start anything without me, okay." She promptly disappeared into the bathroom, and the men soon heard the sound of the shower being turned on.
"She'll be in there for hours." Kentaro grumbled good-naturedly. "Anyway, if this thing's gonna happen, we need to establish one or two ground rules." He propped himself up on his elbows. "Rule one. Where Sayori's concerned, I got first dibs, after that anything goes. Rule two," He reached inside a bedside table and pulled out a small travel bag, scrambled inside for a couple of seconds, then pulled out a wrapped condom, which he tossed in Nambu's direction. "Rule two, you keep yours covered at all times. We don't want junior to be the only child, and I would appreciate knowing I'm the only potential father junior two has."
Nambu nodded, and picked up the foil packet. "Anything else?" He asked.
"Just one more thing, I'll keep out of your arse if you keep out of mine. Any questions?"
"Are you bisexual?"
That seemed to throw him for a minute. "You know, I've never given it any thought," he responded eventually. "Never been in the situation where I've wanted to fuck a guy before, but then it might be just that I've never been in the company of a guy who wanted to fuck."
Nambu shrugged. "You said anything goes, I wanted to know where the line was drawn."
"Don't knock it 'til you've tried it, is what I say, so if you want, we could give it a go." He laid back onto the bed and rested his head on his hands. "So, Operation Firebird, the message you kept tapping in Morse on the bar top, what can you tell me about it?"
"Nothing at all, except you'll be hearing about it within a month or so. I want you to volunteer for it's test flight."
Ken had searched every inch of Nambu's former office, looking for anything that would give him some clue to his history. Every draw had been emptied, the filing cabinets, broken into. Yet he found nothing to suggest anything of a personal nature. The once pristine office space now looked as if a hurricane had blown through it. Ken shifted a pile of old documents off a chair and sat down to think.
Perhaps personal documents and correspondence would be kept in a more personal area of the house, somewhere Nambu would usually spend time alone, and where no one else would have general access to. Racing out of the room, he took the stairs two at a time, before stopping outside Nambu's bedroom door and finding it locked. Still, a locked door never deterred him before, and in less than a minute he was stood in the middle of Nambu's personal sanctuary.
Now he took things a lot more sedately. It had been a long time since he had been in here. His memories were as a small child climbing into bed while being comforted because he missed his mum and dad.
Did Nambu know then that he was comforting his own son?
He sat on the edge of the bed and looked around. He noticed for the first time that the room seemed bare, although all the furniture was still in place, the little touches that give a room it's character had been removed. Going over to the wardrobe, he opened a door, and wasn't surprised to find it empty. He got the same result with the drawers and the rest of the furniture. The staff were probably instructed to clear out all personal effects after his funeral.
Except the study. Nambu's staff were not permitted in there, in case they saw sensitive documentation. The executors were probably waiting for someone with the relevant security clearance to remove all that.
Looking around again, he ran his fingers through his hair, now at a loss as to where to look. He wasn't even sure what he was looking for. Then he noticed the pale patches on the wall, running around the room, clearly where framed pictures used to hang. Only one framed print remained above the bed, a large, nondescript picture of a river with a rickety old bridge crossing it, and a couple of trees to one side.
Why would that one be left? Even if nobody wanted it, it should have gone to some charity shop.
Carefully he tried to lift it down, only to find it bolted securely in place. Well, that explains why it was still here, but then begged the question: what was Nambu doing fixing such an unremarkable picture to his bedroom wall? It couldn't be merely it's size, larger frames than this were hung around other parts of the villa, and they had subsequently been removed.
He set to work, loosening the screws with his boomerang, before removing them with his fingers. He was surprised at how light the frame turned out to be, considering the need for it to be fixed so securely.
He soon discovered why. A safe was embedded into the wall behind it, locked with a four wheel combination dial. This had him stymied. Mortice locks he could unpick, but with potentially ten thousand combinations, this could take him hours to open. He didn't want to risk blowing it, since he didn't want the safe's contents, if there were any, damaging.
He only had one real option.
Joe arrived in less than five minutes. Ken called to him from the top of the stairs. "Okay, what are you doing here, and why couldn't you explain over the bracelet?" the Condor wanted to know.
Ken didn't answer, just turned and led the way back to the bedroom. "I want you to open that safe for me." He instructed, pointing to the wall.
"Do I get an explanation first?"
Ken pulled the paper with his DNA results from his pocket and handed it over. Joe perused it with a frown.
"Does it matter now who your father was?" He asked. "I mean, you are who you are, your ancestry makes no difference to how everyone sees you."
"It matters to me." The Eagle answered vehemently. "I've been told lie after lie, and I want to know the truth once and for all."
"And you're sure the answers are in there? For all you know, it could be empty."
"I don't know, but I've tried everywhere else."
"Be it on your back if the shit hits the fan over this then. I'm only acting under orders from my commander, understood."
"Yeah, I'll take the rap." Ken talked as Joe worked at drilling the safe door open. "A lawyer called me into his office yesterday, handed me that letter and told me that as the letter proved I was Nambu's only heir, it overruled his last will and testament and I basically inherited everything he owned. At some point Nambu had sent samples to a civilian testing center, instead of the ISO lab, and the backlog of tests they have to do meant the results weren't sent out until after Nambu death."
"So this is all yours then? You know you could clear your debt at the J now?" Joe quipped, relieved that he wasn't breaking any laws with his actions. "Shit, does this mean we don't get our cut then?"
"Right now, I'm not deciding anything, although whatever's done so far stays done. You'll all get something though, you just have to wait a bit longer."
Joe heard something click inside the lock and stopped drilling. To Ken's relief, the door swung cleanly open. Inside Joe spotted a tack of video tapes, a couple of files, and a pile of envelopes. "There you go, knock yourself out." he said, stepping to one side.
Ken pulled the items out and laid them carefully on the bed, Joe took an interest first in the video cassettes, all but one labelled with individual teammate's names.
"Any chance I could have these?" he asked, picking up a couple with his name on.
"Depends what's on them, but I can't see why not." The Eagle replied, paying more attention to a folder full of legal documents, and insurance policies.
"Cool, I'll get Jun to transfer them to a digital format." He picked up the unmarked tape. "Wonder what's on this one?"
"How would I know until I've watched it." Ken left the folders and started rooting through the piles of letters. They looked suspiciously like personal correspondence. "I think this is what I'm looking for." Joe watched with interest as Ken opened the letters one by one, perused each one quickly before moving onto the next.
"Well?" he asked eventually.
"They are letters between my mother and Nambu, but don't suggest anything more than friendship between them." He picked one up at random and read aloud, "Thank you for the latest pictures of Ken. It's wonderful to see how much progress he's making...." Then another, "My doctor feels I could benefit from a visit from my son, would it be possible to fit one into your busy schedule? My whole childhood compressed into a dozen or so short notes."
"Don't suppose they had reason to write to each other before she was hospitalized though." Joe told him logically. "And afterwards, what were they going to get up to? Mind if I look through some of these, I might see something you're missing."
"Be my guest." He handed over another, smaller pile of letters. "Wonder why Nambu kept them?"
"To show you when you grow up?" the Condor smirked, opening a larger, yellowing envelope. "Holy shit." His eyes widened and jaw dropped at the sight he found himself holding. "I mean, how is that one even possible?"
"Trust me, you do not want to look at these." he flicked through a handful of photographs. "But it certainly answers a question or two."
"Then why are you still looking?"
"Not my parents, but I'll never think of Nambu or Red Impulse in the same light ever again."
"Give them here." Ken tried to reach for them, but Joe kept them frustratingly out of reach.
"I'll show you one that encapsulates them all, but be warned, what you see can never be unseen."
The hint of menace in Ken's voice told Joe that Ken had had enough fooling around and gave the pictures to him. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
The Eagle never spoke as he found himself looking at pictures of his parents in what could only be described as compromising positions. Silently he returned them to the envelope and put them back on the bed.
"Don't suppose that's what's on the unmarked tape, do you?"
"I don't want to think about it."
Joe picked up the relevant tape. "Why don't I zip through it, then give you the heads-up if it's safe to watch?"
"Why would you want to look at anything like that?"
Joe shrugged. "Maybe I'm just a little more broad minded than you? Like I said, they're not my parents."
"You don't speak a word of this to anyone, understand."
"Of course not." For once Joe was being sincere. "Where is the VCR?"
"There's one in the study." When Joe left, Ken sorted through the letters again, arranging them into date order, reading them according to the order they were sent. Even after seeing the evidence for himself, he still couldn't see any hint of them being anything more than friends. Each one was addressed to 'Dear Kosaburo' or 'Dear Sayori' and closed with 'regards' or 'sincerely', and there was absolutely no mention of his paternity. He thought back to his childhood, and the letters and cards he'd received through the years until her death, and remembered feeling her love between every line. Did he just imagine it, because that's how he wanted to? Even the few visits to her at the hospital, he'd been greeted with affection, whereas Nambu had sat and hardly spoke, other than to make polite inquiries after her health.
It still didn't add up.
He didn't know how long it was before Joe called him via his bracelet. "It's safe," was the simple message. Still he didn't rush, returning each letter to it's correct envelope and stacking them neatly in order before he went downstairs and back to the study.
Joe was tidying up some of the paperwork Ken had left strewn around the room when he arrived.
"I went through the whole thing on fast-forward." Joe informed him. "As far as I could tell, it's just Nambu and your father talking in this room. Oh, and there must be a security camera in here somewhere, don't know if it'll still be running after all this time though."
"Thanks." Ken took a seat in front of the monitor Joe had rigged the video player to.
"Want me to go?"
"Nah, you don't have to, but if you don't want to know what it's about you can leave."
"You can be an idiot sometimes." Joe pulled up another chair and made himself comfortable.
Sixteen years earlier
"What's the meaning of this, Kosaburo?" Kentaro burst into the doctor's office, brandishing a sheet of paper.
"What are you talking about?" Nambu closed the file he'd been reading and gave his best friend his full attention.
"You've rejected my application for the R.I. Project."
"Why? I'm obviously the best man for the job."
"Firstly, we require good pilots, not brilliant ones, there's no way I, or anyone could convince a panel of investigators that a pilot of your caliber lost control of a plane. Second, men who try to fake their own deaths can often end up dead for real, and third you have a wife and child to think about, you can't just leave them in the lurch like that."
"Well, your first excuse is poppycock and you know it, second, I'm prepared to take that risk, and third...." he paused to take a deep breath. "I asked Sayori for a divorce, because I found out Ken is not my son." He put the sheet of paper he'd brought on the desk in front of Nambu.
The doctor studied it carefully. "Why would you suspect Ken isn't yours? What has Sayori said about it?"
"Oh, she swears the only other man she's slept with is you, and of course I know all about that. But a couple of years ago, not long after Ken's first birthday, actually, we decided we were going to try for another kid. Shouldn't have been a problem, right? Not when you consider how quickly she fell pregnant the first time." Nambu said nothing, allowing Kentaro to continue. "Well, after a couple of years with no success we start to wonder what's going on. We go see a doctor who basically tells us that we haven't been trying long enough, but sends us both for a few preliminary tests anyway, just to rule out the obvious. And what do I get back?"
He pulled a second piece of paper from his inside pocket and passes it over to be read. Nambu looks at it carefully. "You're infertile?"
"I'm so fucking infertile it's a bloody miracle Ken was conceived at all! So I confront my wife with this latest development, and she names you as the only other potential father, except she was already pregnant when you were invited to join our marital bed.Then I remember something. The day after our wedding, I find something in the bed." He dug into another pocket and places a small item on the desk. "I woke up to this thing digging into me, except it's not mine. My cuff-links were antique, given to me by my grandfather before he passed away, and I still have both of them in the original box."
Nambu picked up the single item, recognising it instantly. "It must have come off when I was helping you into bed..." As soon as the words came out he realised he'd said the wrong thing.
"So, you were in the bridal suite on our wedding night? When I was too drunk to remember anything that was going on?" Nambu nodded, sorrowfully. "You better tell me everything, Nambu!"
Nambu did, as honestly as his own memory allowed. Kentaro let him talk. When he finished, Kentaro lent across the desk in a menacing fashion.
"So give me one good reason why I shouldn't beat you to a pulp right now."
"Apart from the fact you wouldn't get this job, I can't, you'd be perfectly justified." To Nambu's immense relief, Kentaro sat back in his chair.
"If it had happened during one of our threesomes I could accept it easier. Hell, I probably would beg you to impregnate her again. Anyway, I asked Sayori for a divorce, and you know what the bitch did?" Nambu shook his head, it was a rhetorical question anyway. "She tried slitting her wrists. Of course, I wrestle the knife from her, but she somehow manages to catch me with it." He removed his jacket and undid his shirt, pulling it off one shoulder to show a long, red welt going from his shoulder to half-way down his bicep. "I would like to believe it was an accident..."
"Where is she now?"
"Sectioned to the psychiatric ward at St Bart's. She's too mentally unstable to give consent for a divorce so I'm stuck with her for the time being."
"Short term foster care, until his natural father can be traced, otherwise he'll be put up for adoption."
"Why can't he stay with you?"
"Because I'm not his father, I'm just a schmuck married to his mother. Social services are very particular about details like that. So, this job comes up, and I think it's perfect. I pretend to die, officially ending my marriage, and you and the conniving bitch can live together with my blessing, bringing up your son however you see fit."
Nambu shook his head. "I asked her if the child was mine before he was born, she told me it was possible, but unlikely. Said something about puncturing condoms too. Okay, I'll agree to come forward as his father, but I couldn't possibly replace you as his dad."
"Of course you can, just take one of these tests, it's easy."
"No, those blood tests can eliminate men as potential fathers but they can't confirm with any certainty whether a man definitely is. If I could be his biological dad, then so can every man with my blood type. Give it a few more years and DNA technology will be able to determine a child's paternity with pinpoint accuracy."
"Yes, and they won't just need blood samples either. They can find DNA in hair, skin, saliva, semen, and vaginal fluids too. Once they finish cracking the code they could potentially map a child's entire family tree. Besides that, Ken worships you. You're the one who taught him to walk and talk, it's you who read stories to him at night, and takes him swimming and buys his clothes and toys. That's the sort of thing that makes a man a dad, not whether he shares your genes or not. He's your son, Kentaro. He will always be your son no matter what happens. I'll only ever be the sperm donor."
"Well, he can't stay with Sayori, unless you both get together..."
"I'm not in love with Sayori, I never have been, and I never could be."
"But you'll jump into bed with her at any opportunity."
"No, just that once. When she hit on me in the bridal suite, I was still a virgin myself. She presented herself as more of a business arrangement, she only had a small window of opportunity, and I was the only available candidate, but sleeping with Sayori helped me accept something I'd been denying about myself."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"I'm gay, Kentaro. When I agreed to join you in a threesome, I lost my real virginity. It was the only way I could have any kind of sex life without feeling ashamed about it. Just having a woman present gave it a kind of legitimacy I could never have otherwise. Hell, I don't even know how to meet like-minded men, never mind try to get one into bed."
"Shit." Kentaro thought carefully for a minute. "Ok, you'll have to keep quiet about that little detail, at least until you have Ken in your care. Hopefully, when you tell them your his biological father, they won't question it further."
"So you still want to go ahead with this scheme of yours?"
"I can't think of any other way out of this mess."
"You're not worried about my sexual orientation rubbing off on him, or any of the other stupid idiot prejudices the bigot brigade come up with?"
Kentaro laughed. "We go back a long way, Kosa, and still I'd never have guessed you were anything other than a red blooded ladies man. Just tell me I've got the job okay."
"Of course you've got the job. There isn't any other candidate who comes close to your qualifications or experience."
"Fantastic, so I won't be needing these after all." he went back into his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope.
"What's this?" Nambu took it and started to rip it open.
"Plan 'B', blackmail fodder." He grinned, "and yeah, I have copies, but I'll burn them, along with the negatives."
"You sneaky bastard. When did you take these?"
"Ah, now I can't give trade secrets away like that, or you'll never hire me."
"Touché," The doctor grinned, "you must admit we had a fantastic time though."
"We did, even if I did have to take it up the arse a time or two."
"You gave as good as you got."
"I aim to please." They fell silent for a moment. "So boss, you have instructions for me?"
"Yes, of course." He proceeded to brief Kentaro on the mission ahead. "So when you get to the co-ordinates, our rescue team should be two minutes away, but it will take the naval rescue squad at least six minutes to reach you. Don't let them find you first. The rescue team will brief you further, I don't know any more than that. Any questions?"
"Yeah, you will let me know how Ken is periodically?"
"If things go according to plan, we'll still be able to keep in touch, but only on a professional level. Once you're legally declared dead, we can't risk anything exposing your real identity, and I'm sorry, but that will include any contact with Ken, at least until sufficient time has passed for him to be unable to recognise your face."
With that, Nambu got to his feet, walked around the desk and held out his hand. "Good luck, I pray for your success."
Kentaro stood and shook the offered hand warmly, then pulled his best friend into a hug. "I'm gonna miss you, man."
"Yeah, me too."
Ken watched the screen intently as Kentaro left the room. He continued to stare as his father leant down and opened the bottom desk drawer and pull out a bottle and a glass, pour himself a generous measure, swallow it in one gulp, then refill the glass before returning the bottle to it's place in the drawer.
He continued to watch his father cover his face with his hands, rest his elbows on the desk, and sob.
He barely acknowledged Joe's reassuring hand on his shoulder. "I think it finishes here."
"No," Ken whispered, "Not yet." Joe squeezed his friend's shoulder and sat back in his chair. Ken focused his attention back onto the monitor.
His father's sobs were subsiding now, as the office door re-opened and Kentaro walked back in, striding purposely across to the desk. Ken's father stood up, almost instinctively, but before he could say anything, Kentaro kissed him firmly on the lips.
"I love you." Ken heard his father say.
"I know, and I'm sorry I can't reciprocate, not in the way you want, but..." Kentaro spied the still full glass and drank it's contents in one mouthful, "But I think I can handle one more arse pounding for old time's sake."
The two men on the screen kissed again, their embrace becoming more heated, and their clothing looser with every passing frame.
"Don't you think... we'd be more comfortable... taking this upstairs?" Ken's father suggested.
"Good idea," Kentaro took a step back. "Lead the way, loverboy."
They left the room hand in hand, and the cameras continued filming an empty glass, on a desk cluttered with unread files, in an unoccupied office, until the tape ran out.
Ken finally turned to face Joe. "Well?" The Condor asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I understand now." He nodded. "And yes, I'm okay."
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"We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.." - Stephen William Hawking CH CBE FRS FRSA (1942 - 2018 )