Dislcaimer: I do not own Nadesico or any of its characters or such.

A/N: This takes place almost immediately after the movie.

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"He'll be back," was all Hoshino Ruri said with her back to the others. "And if he doesn't return, I'll just go after him."

"Ruriruri?"

Ruri turned to look at the others, "After all…after all, he is someone important."

With a slight smile, Ruri turned her gaze back towards the sky.

The Damned

Akito, now with his black armor almost completely discarded, looked at the remains of the Artifact. His gaze hardened into a glare as he looked at the piece of equipment that had almost certainly ruined his life.

It had brought about not only his turmoil and suffering, but also robbed his true love of almost three years of her life. He'd spent time in captivity, but once he escaped with Lapis, the search had begun. He'd spent the better half of almost two years simply trying to locate the ancient artifact. Once he'd found it, the problem was simply getting to it.

The colony that the Hisago Plan had initiated in had somehow gained custody of the artifact. And breeching their defenses was going to be tough without a distraction of some sort.

That distraction came the second Hari had tried to hack into the main system of the Amaterasu. A secondary presence had made itself known and had virtually blocked any and all functions that the colony's main system supported.

Using that moment to jump, and begin his plan, was the moment everything had started. And it had ended just an hour ago.

He hated Kusakabe for what he'd done to Yurika. He hated Yamasaki for manipulating her emotions and desires. But most of all, he hated himself for what he had become.

The white outlines that traced his face began to pick up in brightness the more he thought about it.

He was self reliant no more. He had to rely on Lapis to help him most of the time. She had inherited more problems than she knew what to do with, but had somehow worked things out for the better.

He no longer had most of his senses. Of course, to a degree he still had some of them. He had almost no sense of taste, though, and that thought alone was why he had passed on his recipe to Ruri. He retained his senses of smell, touch, sight and hearing relatively well, but they were heightened even more when he was with Lapis.

He could no longer think things through without having an automatic second opinion and corrections of his errors broadcasted to him.

It was now a way of life for the young man.

Akito continued to glare at the single most influential piece of history ever to be discovered with contempt. He walked up to the seemingly broken artifact and began to concentrate, much like he had when he revealed Yurika.

Layer after layer of the golden material began to recede into its original position. The spread out artifact began to compact in upon itself as it continued to recede.

Finally, after a few moments, a perfect golden cube was sitting where the former spread out artifact had occupied. It looked just like it had when they brought it aboard the Nadesico A almost three years ago.

He turned and looked at the sky above the abandoned research facility to see his hijacked battleship floating above him. He turned and looked directly at the Cube. In a matter of seconds, neither the artifact nor Akito, nor the battleship were in sight. Such was the power of a modified Class A jumper and his assistant.

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Yurika opened her eyes immediately as soon as she felt his presence. She looked around the medical bay in the hopes that Akito had stopped running from everyone.

When she found nothing but the sterile white walls and the figure of Fressange Inez looking at her, she seemed to slump slightly and sigh.

The good doctor shook her head slightly, "How do you feel?"

"A little tired, but otherwise fine. Why? Is something wrong with me?"

Inez sat on one of the chairs at the foot of Yurika's bed. After looking at the medical data she'd recorded thus far, she began to perform a routine scan. When nothing turned up, she looked back to Yurika who had a look of concern.

"There is nothing wrong with you, Ms. Misumaru-"

"Tenkawa," Yurika said, interrupting Inez.

"Yes, Mrs. Tenkawa. As I said, nothing appears to be wrong with you, but none of us will be able to predict what will happen when you begin to integrate yourself with the outside world again. No one has any idea if acting as the artifact's imaging system will lead to problems in the future. Not to mention you were in a remote location and state for the better part of three years. Most of us are amazed that you still have the strength you do."

Yurika smiled slightly, "I wasn't as harmless and isolated as you make it out to be, Ms. Inez. I still had some degree of access to the outside world and could see what was happening. However, most of that was stripped when they began their simulations."

Inez nodded, "Understandable. They wanted to limit your pathways to view the outside world. By eliminating all of them and simply forcing you to live in a dream world of their creation, they were able to do that as well as appeal to the more emotional side of your heart and thought processes."

Both continued to talk about probabilities and possibilities as time continued onward. They spent a fairly decent amount of time discussing what had happened in the past three years, as well. Yurika was still surprised, and mildly upset, they she had been out of things for three years. After all, Ruri had seemingly grown up without her. And without him.

Both stopped when Yurika suddenly was able to feel Akito's presence again, and began looking around for him.

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"But…but you can't! There is currently a cease fire in-between the Martian Successors, the UESF and the UE."

Akito, once again in his black combat gear, turned his attention to the man in charge that was sitting in front of him.

"Does it look like I belong to any of those organizations? I did have a place in one of them before, but you people ripped that away from me…and from HER. What makes you think I care what the organizations that abandoned us are doing?"

"You'll start the entire war again! The simple agreement was for the Admiral to surrender himself without his subordinates being harmed. What will the others think? What will you do when your so called allies turn on you?"

An almost animalistic smile appeared on the lower part of the young man's face. It seemed full of insanity, as well as hatred.

"They tried to do it once before. What makes you think they will succeed this time?" replied the blackened figure.

First Lieutenant Shinjyuu began to back away from the person in front of him slowly. The figure pulled out a newer style six round hand gun from a holster hidden under his black cape and aimed it directly at him.

"Don't worry," the figure reassured, "your friends will be joining you soon enough. Even I may see you in hell when this is all over."

Shinjyuu screamed and turned quickly before trying to run away, only to find that the first round had gone through his left kneecap. Any quick movements on his part were now impossible. He looked up, sweating and breathing heavily to see that the barrel of the gun was pointed directly at his face.

His last shout of terror was silenced by the roar of the gun. Akito opened the revolver chamber and took out the two shell casings of the bullets he'd used. He dropped them on the floor and loaded two fresh bullets. When he gun was once again secure, he turned and began to move to the central computer unit.

After a few seconds, he had completely crippled the system with Lapis' help. That was, of course, after he'd gained as much information from the data banks as possible. His main target was still at large. However, he would go through every single Martian Successor stronghold and base of operations looking for the man he desired to kill most.

Yamasaki Yoshio.

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For the sixth time that day, Yurika felt Akito's presence as he boson jumped.

After he had done it the second time, Yurika had explained what she felt as best she could to Fressange. It had taken her almost no time at all to come up with a hypothesis and explanation. The hypothesis was simple: since Yurika had been the RIS (Ruin Imaging System) for such an extended period of time, she was still able to feel others boson jumping around the universe.

The fact that she knew it was Akito, and had felt him, was proof enough that the people that Yurika identified with and knew took priority over the ones that she didn't. After all, with the battle over, some of the Jovian forces were still returning to Jupiter and Mars. A boson jump was guaranteed to occur within the time that Yurika had been in her care aboard the Nadesico C.

The Nadesico C was still in a midway position between Mars and Earth, so it was no surprise when Omoikane began to detect that a few places on the planet's surface were sources of conflict.

To reaffirm that fact, both Hari and Ruri began to sweep the entire planet's surface, to find that seven points were identified as conflicting.

Each zone showed a destroyed or decimated compound when it was magnified enough to give a decent visual.

When scanned, the areas surrounding each compound were still littered with boson particles.

She had her suspicions on what it could mean, but would not assume anything until she had proof. As the day drew to a close, she couldn't help but let her mind wander.

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On a private channel linked directly to Nergal headquarters some serious matters were being discussed.

Akatsuki had just received word that a figure in black was waging his own private war against the remaining displaced members and factions of the Martian Successors.

"Get out…now!" was the only advice Akatsuki had to his uncover man. For he knew what that meant.

Tenkawa Akito. Despite his disappearance, and assumed death, the young man was still as active as ever.

According to the information he'd just received, nearly a dozen of the Martian Successors private estates and facilities were already gone. He'd destroyed every single person in every single one of them.

The compounds listed were seven active facilities on Mars, one inactive facility on Mars, and four active facilities on the Moon and Deimos, one of the moons of Mars.

Akatsuki looked down the list of bases that still remain, thanks to his sources, and wondered which one would fall next. Which base would become prey for the enraged man? He'd agreed to help Akito refuel his battleship because it gave an advantage to whoever had Akito on their side. He was mildly surprised when he'd learned of Akito's motives, after discussing it with Erina Won. The boy truly had lost his mind and ideals. He'd lost touch with reality and his fantasies if he was going against what he'd learned and valued in his immature anime.

Akatsuki himself was rather disappointed at how Tenkawa was handling things. He had planned on trying to persuade some of the faction members to rejoin the UE, UESF and Nergal. After all, with more undercover agents and capabilities, the more he could learn about practically anything he wanted.

Elegance and grace seemed to still evade the young Tenkawa, as was painfully obvious to the chairman of Nergal.

Someday…if Akito ever came to his senses, Akatsuki vowed to try to teach the man the essence of culture and finesse.

Akatsuki turned his attention back to the list of Successor facilities still active. He'd counted that at least 17 more were going to be targets of Tenkawa's fury.

He opened a small visual-read only communication lines with each of his agents he had working undercover at the remaining facilities.

The message only included two words, and his name:

"Get out.

-Akatsuki"

After he confirmed that the messages were sent, he turned his attention back to the security monitor he had running on his sole prisoner. Although, the luxurious arrangements were far from a prison, the man was still theirs.

He then began to type up new orders for the security detail and ordered that the Nadesico B be brought to Nergal HQ as soon as it was possible. He continued with his actions by reinforcing the current number of guards on patrol and guard and the number of Aestivalis that were surrounding the building.

After he was satisfied with his work, he also began to plan several routes of escape, as he was sure he would need them.

After counting the six available routes open for a timely emergency escape, he closed everything on the unit and turned to look at the security monitor again.

He was sure that Tenkawa was after the lone man that sat in his well furnished prison. He had absolutely no doubt about it.

However, that man was worth protecting, due to his knowledge of the artifact and how the advanced system worked. This lone man had worked on it more than Fressange and the entire Jovian fleet combined.

After all, he was the number one scientist on the side of the Successors, and knew of all their plans and much more.

Yes…Yamasaki certainly was worth protecting.

No matter what the cost.

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Akito looked at the information that was streaming past him on the battleship's main screens. He had thought that the day, in itself, was fairly successful, even if he didn't find what he was looking for. He had found plenty of information to make up for the loss of finding Yamasaki.

He had single handily destroyed enough of the Successors for them to no longer pose a threat to the UE or UESF. He was sure that the Joint Peacekeeping Forces would be in an uproar, but that didn't matter to him.

Only one thing mattered to him anymore. And that was making sure that she was avenged properly.

He closed his eyes and could already picture her face, as well as figure. He could also imagine her yelling at him with tears in her eyes. He knew that she hated any loss of life, but it was necessary.

It was necessary to find where Yamasaki was hiding, as well as put a firm halt to any plans or aspirations the Martian Successors had to rearm and strike again.

The only problem was Akito was exhausted. He'd been jumping around from place to place, from facility to facility, for almost the entire day.

He knew that the stress on his body was tremendous, but it was necessary. It was at this point that his thoughts were interrupted by Lapis.

"Resting takes priority. If you push yourself too hard, you may cause damaged to yourself that cannot be fixed."

Akito sighed. The only time he was really his old self was when he was around Ruri or Lapis. After all, he knew the both of them well enough to know that they knew when he was hiding something. The latter more so than the former.

"It can't be helped."

"Yes…it can. Now that the Successors know, we must be careful. We cannot possibly continue with another day like today."

"That makes sense. Think of a pattern to attack them in. Vary it from days, to weeks. We want the total element of surprise so we can dominate them."

"Understood."

Akito nodded and wordlessly left the main area of the ship. Lapis did not have to ask where he was going, as she already knew.

He was going to rest.

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Akatsuki Nagare, chairman of Nergal, was not pleased.

Within the last week, he had not been able to pry any information out of Yamasaki regarding the artifact ruin. All the man had told he was exactly what he already knew.

Fressange had told him exactly what the rebel scientist was revealing. In other words, it was old news.

He wanted to know the specifics, not the general statement, as he'd heard so many times before.

He sighed and leaned back in his chair while intertwining his fingers. He knew patience was what paid off in the end, but with what was happening, his patience was running thin.

Akito had already taken out another three of the Successors bases. It had been ten days since Akito had seemingly disappeared from the realm of space…again.

Ten days had passed since he utterly berserk and destroyed whatever he could find that belonged to the people who had ruined his life.

Akatsuki had used a blatant and obvious threat as his last attempt to get information out of Yamasaki. He threatened to release Yamasaki to Akito himself if he would not deliver.

The scientist simply smiled in return and had said, "What he would do to me…I would deserve every last bit. I've played in the realm of God, as well as foolishly tampered with the hearts and minds of others. I am a disgrace to our own kind."

The threat had been delivered yesterday, but Akatsuki could not cave in and simply hand Yamasaki over to Tenkawa. Not before he could try one last time to crack the scientist.

He knitted his brows in thought and sighed when he finally came to a conclusion.

If Yamasaki was not willing to divulge information, then they would have to force him to spill his guts. There was a serum within his possession that was not only a truth serum, but allowed those who were more connected to science to actually view the contents of his mind via a mind probe.

He wondered whatever happened to the few test patients that he had tested the serum on before. The last he heard, his latest test subject was suffering from schizophrenia and extreme hyperactivity.

He wondered if the company had found a way to minimize the drawbacks of the serum.

He quickly stood and left his office, still thinking of other ways to try to get the information willingly out of Yamasaki.

After all, he was a man of finesse and value. He hated to act on such a rash impulse.

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Yurika sat in complete silence as she continued to read the reports that were filed in the Nadesico C's archive.

Ruri had told her of the ruined Successor facilities spread throughout the known forefront of the solar system. Now that she was reading the filed reports, she could confirm, without a doubt that Akito had, indeed, done what Ruri had thought.

Ruri had told her not to suspect or assume anything, but with the information here in front of her, it was obvious.

Each day or hour that the report listen coincided perfectly with the times she felt Akito boson jump. The fact that he had destroyed one dozen of the opposing forces other bases of operations in one day made her sick to her stomach.

The fact that he still continued on his path of revenge, the fact that he condoned the loss of life, the fact that he willingly did so…these were enough to drive most people crazy.

Yet, Yurika knew why Akito felt the way he did. And she knew the single person he was after. She also knew he would not rest until he had found that person.

Yamasaki. The scientist who had manipulated her in the first place after they had simply thrown Akito away. Instead of becoming the RIS, like she had, he had become one of their experiments.

She wasn't sure what had changed about him, but from what Ruri told her about their meetings…it wasn't good. Although when Ruri admitted he seemed slightly like his old self during one meeting, it wasn't enough to comfort her.

The simple and plain boson markings that she still had, were nothing compared to what Akito's had become. That was the first thing Ruri had told her.

The second, was the fact that they messed with his mind.

That thought alone was painful enough to make Yurika cringe and tear up.

Akito had gone through so much while she was away…

He had lost part of himself. He had lost part of his humanity. He had lost her. He had lost his friends.

He had lost everything that was precious to him in the blink of an eye.

She could still remember the both of them being forced, by the Martian Successors, into the main core of the artifact ruin. She was glad that at least she was with him, even if they were forced to be tools. The both of them had take on a role of simply watching. They were forced to watch what their actions brought upon others.

When they found that Akito's acceptance and tolerance had brought down the accuracy ratings of the ruin, he was taken out. She could remember the sadness she felt when she no longer felt his presence with her. She longed for him constantly.

Then she remembered being jumped to somewhere strange. The ruin itself had jumped from the base of the Successors to an unknown area in space. After a while, the relic was discovered and brought aboard the colony Amaterasu. She watched as the government began to cover its tracks almost immediately. She also watched as they designed the base platform for the Hisago Plan.

Things had gone pure dark since then. Then, she remembered being awoken once again. Things happened very quickly, but she could still remember feeling Akito even before he arrived. Then, he was forced to leave due to Hokushin's presence.

After that, things went into a cycle of darkness and light again, as she was forced into simulations of being with Akito when they needed her abilities.

After she had fully awakened, she realized that things were different. She slowly opened her eyes to look at her friends and crew from the Nadesico. The only person that she didn't see was the one she wanted to see most.

Her mind turning back to Akito, she looked out the window of her new cabin on the Nadesico C.

"Akito…where are you?"

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Akito scanned through the information that he'd recently obtained from his latest raid. With another facility out of commission, the Successors were becoming more and more desperate. He found that they were sloppy in covering up their tracks and found the information much easier to find in the databases.

He had destroyed three more bases, but these were easier jobs. Lapis was organizing the dates and jumps so that they wouldn't suspect something until it was too late.

He looked at the rank of the upper officials that were listed as dead. Most of them, he'd already talked to and dealt with. There were only two more names on the list of higher ups that he needed to find. After he crushed the both of them, the Successors would surely have no chance to try to regain anything.

A list of the hierarchy was also displayed. He found that Yamasaki was placed directly under Kusakabe in the chain of command. After that, it listed four Majors, two First Lieutenants, five Colonels, three Captains and six Generals. (A/N: Out of rank order I know, but I'm tired)

Of the 20 listed in the higher ranks, the only ones that weren't dead were a General Takasoto and a Major Fujimako. The only other two, who were the highest on the chain of command, who weren't dead, were both Yamasaki and Kusakabe. Kusakabe was incarcerated, and he had no idea where Yamasaki was.

Akito closed his eyes and pushed away all his thoughts. He relaxed and just let his mind wander around in his memories. That was, until the experiments began to creep back into his mind.

Akito opened his eyes and abruptly stopped his daydreaming when he felt a tap on his shoulder.

He looked to his right to see Lapis standing next to him. He smiled sadly at her.

"Sorry if you saw that…I try to keep those thoughts away from your eyes."

Lapis nodded and looked at the main console. She quickly dismissed all the information that had been listed on it, much to Akito's annoyance.

She turned back to him and looked him straight in the eyes. After a few moments, the silence was broken by her monotonous voice.

"The next attack will happen in twelve days."

"Why twelve?"

A holomap appeared next to her and she enlarged the image of the Earth. After a few moments, the scale enlarged even more. It showed a small island that was clustered with a few others in the northern region of Australia. It wasn't exactly close enough to be considered New Guinea, but it was close to both countries.

"Hacking into the system network of the enemy had produced enough evidence to locate the last two remaining officers of rank. This is the first one, and also the hardest."

"The hardest?"

Lapis nodded, "Yes, they have prepared well for our coming. Things could prove to be a little more challenging. A more thorough scan should be performed first."

Akito flashed a feral grin as he heard Lapis talk about a challenge. The last challenge he'd received was his exercise at Amaterasu and his duel with Hokushin and his cronies.

His expression slowly faded into a small smile as he looked at Lapis.

"Good work."

Lapis bowed and left the room.

"Twelve days huh…And she knows where the last rat is hiding too. After that, we wouldn't even have to bother with the remaining bases. Without leaders, they're just sheep to be led to the slaughter."

A slight look of happiness mixed with insanity appeared on his face as he began to chuckle.

Soon, there would only be one person he would need to find.

Yet that lone person seemed to constantly allude him. No matter how much information he found, no matter who he questioned it about it, it was all meaningless.

No one knew where the supposedly brilliant scientist had disappeared to.

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Akatsuki Nagare, chairman of Nergal, was pleased.

In a last ditch effort to try to get Yamasaki to crack, they had warned him of their intentions of using a new untested serum on him. He'd been told that the others who had taken the serum had to be terminated not long after it was introduced to them.

He had succumbed, finally, and willingly began to explain the mysterious artifact ruin. After all, he refused to let himself be killed by the idiots at Nergal.

He would've rather had his death be an honorable one. One that had let him clear his slate and confess his sins at the same time. One that would bring happiness to the person killing him.

The only person he figured would take his death that far, would be Tenkawa Akito.

As he sat and began to explain the imaging systems and the actual success of a boson jump, he suddenly felt very tired. He had held out as long as he could. Enduring their abuse, their mind games, their threats and their tactics. But now that he had willingly caved, he felt so much more tired than he could've possibly imagined.

It wouldn't matter how much they got out of him, because he knew one thing.

Once Tenkawa found his location, everyone would be as good as dead.

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Days seemed to fly by in a mere instant as things continued aboard the Nadesico C.

The Nadesico C was a civilian battle cruiser once again. Not tied down by the UESF or the Joint Peacekeeping Force, it was free to do as it wanted.

And as such, most of their time was spent drifting from place to place to either try to weed out any acts of rebellion from the Successors or try to locate Tenkawa Akito.

Yurika, now being promoted as the residential commanding officer, had asked Ruri to help her try to find the points where Akito had jumped. However, since a fair amount of time had passed, picking up a boson field was far harder than they thought. There was always a certain resonance that boson jumping left, but it, like everything else, deteriorated over time.

She was still slightly depressed that Akito had still refused to come in contact with anyone and kept his distance, but she also couldn't help but forgive him.

She knew that Akito was doing what he felt he had to do, and she also knew that even if he was with them, none of them would be able to stop him. It was a form of punishing himself, as well as trying to regain some of what he lost.

As each day passed, the remaining boson particles deteriorated further and further. By the time they had actually reached some of the further jumps, there wasn't even a trace of them left.

Yurika looked out the window in her room with a slight look of worry and concentration. It had been almost five days since she had felt his last jump. Even then, she only felt part of the jump, and then he seemingly disappeared.

She shut her eyes and began to concentrate even harder. She could sense a few boson jumps that had taken place recently, but none of them bore his specific signature.

Each jump, depending on who jumped, left its own distinct signature. She could almost always tell if someone she knew had been involved with the jump or not. She always knew when Akito was involved, just by his signature alone.

As she continued to reach out and concentrate, the marks on her face began to glow softly.

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Akito's eyes snapped open as soon as he felt it. He wasn't sure what it was at first, but he settled down when he realized it was just Yurika. She was trying her damnest to find him, but he had gone through great lengths to seal off the area they were in now.

He wasn't sure how they had initially discovered it, but they made their base on the small asteroid that floated along with its brethren. In the massive asteroid field behind Mars was where they were stationed. He didn't know how, but he'd found that the asteroids surrounding the area they resided had a tendency and capability to block out boson particles. He had found similar asteroids floating around the belt, and had carefully maneuvered them into place around the central base.

With this system, only he could jump in the massive anti-boson field, as he knew exactly how to. But to everyone else, it would appear as if he simply vanished completely.

He relaxed, knowing that they were still safe from her reaches, when a knock on the door caught his attention.

Lapis entered and looked directly at Akito. He wasn't sure, but he could almost see a scowl begin to build on her features as she continued to look at him.

As the moments passed, Akito simply pushed it away and turned back to the monitor.

"What is it?"

"Why are you going through such great lengths to not be found?"

"This isn't over yet. I can't go back until everything is settled. That way, there is no possible risk to anyone."

"Anyone aside from us."

Akito looked back at the pale girl with a slight frown, "Yes. That is how is has to be. They would only serve as a distraction. Something horrible could happen in those moments of uncertainty."

There was a slight pause.

"She's searching for you."

Akito sighed and pulled off his dark eye plate to reveal tired eyes that hinted at sadness.

"I know," was all he replied with as he rubbed the bridge of his nose and eyes.

"Sooner or later, you will have to meet up again."

"I know," he replied as he lifted the eye plate back into its original position.

"It's only causing you more pain."

Akito snapped his head around, "You don't think I know that! What has to be done has to be done. There are only two mere insects left before I can finally concentrate on hunting that son of a bitch down."

He seemed to pause slightly and sighed again, "Then…maybe then, we can all be together again…"

"One week. That's the time limit."

"You needn't remind me. Now go."

Lapis nodded and left the room, leaving Akito, once again, to his thoughts.

Akito leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes.

'There are 14 more bases still active that the Successors control. But that won't matter anymore with these last two. They will be without leaders. A flock of sheep without a shepard can do nothing but wait and graze.'

Akito could still feel Yurika probing a massively large area for him. He sighed when he realized that was one of the after affects of her being an RIS; she had a range almost as large as Ruri when she was hooked to Omoikane.

Things could prove to be quite difficult if she kept trying to find him. Especially with what was coming up.

With that thought, Akito passed into a dreamless and restless sleep.

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Yurika sighed as she couldn't feel anything at all, aside from relatively old jumps. Old jumps were nothing to her, though, as she was only looking for one person.

She opened her eyes once again and looked out the window before turning to lay down on her bed.

She slowly drifted off to sleep, dreaming of the one thing she wanted most.

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Days continued to pass as things seemed to stay on course. That was what at least half of the crew didn't want, however.

Most noticeably, it was what Ryoko didn't want. She was continually found either working on her Aestivalis or driving the maintenance crew nuts.

Eventually they had called Saburota to pester Ryoko into leaving. He'd managed to do his job fairly well, but it wasn't in the style that the crew had expected.

After simply a few moments of talking, Ryoko had a look of anger on her face, along with a slight blush. Saburota was walking away while laughing when Ryoko caught up to the Jovian pilot. She continued to yell at him, but could get no response than a mere shrug for her efforts.

As they exited the hangar, all the engineers could hear the new shouts that were taking place in the hall. Apparently, both Hikaru and Izumi were there…waiting.

Seiya turned and scratched the back of his head as he looked out the main hangar exit.

"Chief?"

Seiya turned around and looked at the rest of his crew, who had gathered behind him.

"We'll never understand those three, will we?" the mechanic chief asked with a slight sigh.

"Probably not."

Seiya shrugged, "Either way, we have to make sure everything is in perfect working order! Let's start with that rookie's Aesti."

Several of the mechanics turned away and began walking to the blue Aesti on the far side of the hanger while Seiya turned to look at the black armor that Akito had discarded after his fight with Hokushin.

If he had any kind of luck, he would be able to take the designs and specs in those armor pieces and actually be able to build a new kind of Aestivalis.

That was, of course, after all his work was done.

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Yamasaki looked up as someone entered his 'cell,' if it could so be called.

He was surprised to see a rather stoic looking blonde staring at him for a few moments. She was not one of the normal guards or staff that often frequented his little world.

After he had given Akatsuki pretty much all the information he knew was useful, the scientist was thrown back in his holding room, and would only be disturbed when the staff had questions.

The blonde continued to look at him until she stepped into the room and shut the door behind her. She quickly stepped in front of the chair in front of Yamasaki and sat down, still staring at him.

A few moments passed as each scientist examined the other. After a few moments, Yamasaki broke their deadlock gaze as he looked down.

"Do you know who I am?"

The man sighed, "How could I not? You're praised as being one of the most, if not the most, scientific and intellectual minds in the universe."

"It seems you've done your homework, Yamasaki. I'm rather surprised."

The man looked up with a weak smile, "I had to know almost everything about their enemies. The Successors had a most interesting information network."

Inez raised an eyebrow, "Their?"

Yamasaki nodded, "Yes, their. I wasn't in this operation for anything aside from being able to study the ruins of Mars and the center artifact ruin."

"If you had no loyalty to the Successors, why did you refuse to share your knowledge for so long?"

"Why would I just willingly give up everything I had worked so hard to learn? Why would I just hand it over to them when they did nothing to deserve it?"

"That's very noble of you. However, you are still a fool, nonetheless. Allowing yourself to be captured by Nergal was your first mistake."

"Is that so?"

Inez Fressange smiled at the male scientist, "Yes. However, that is not the reason I came from the Nadesico to visit you. Someone who you may know fairly well wishes to meet with you."

"If you're going to try to take me away from this place you won't succeed. They have guards everywhere and a camera in this very room."

Inez put a hand on his shoulder, "Is that so?"

Yamasaki seemed slightly spooked when he saw the white lines slowly appear on the good doctor's face.

After a few moments, the room that had formerly been the cell of Yamasaki Yoshio was currently empty.

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Inez and Yamasaki both appeared in what appeared to be an observation deck. He looked around in slight confusion before his eyes settled on Fressange.

"You…you were the Class A jumper they were talking about. The last one that was in possession of the UESF."

The blonde simply smirked as she turned away and walked out of the room. Yamasaki turned his attention back to the observation room and looked at the scene in front of him.

It seemed like a perfectly normal sunset that was present every afternoon on Earth, except this one wasn't real. He sighed and seemed to sink slightly as he felt someone walk up behind him.

He already had a feeling he knew who it was, but he wasn't sure how to approach the person.

He simply turned around, only to gaze into the bright teal eyes of a blue haired beauty. He paused slightly, not sure of what to think. He'd figured that the presence behind him had belonged to another person…a man, to be exact.

When he saw the long haired female standing in front of him, he couldn't help but pause. Yet, after another few seconds, he slowly began to recognize the, now fleshen, figure.

"Misumaru Yurika…"

A prolonged silence followed, as the two simply stared at each other. They had had a very bad relationship in the past, so he had expected a slight standoff. His former experiment suddenly shook her head with a slight smile.

"No, Tenkawa Yurika. Akito and I were married shortly before everything…happened…"

The scientist raised an eyebrow, "Taking another's surname is almost unheard of in this age. What prompted you to do so?"

"It brought us closer," was all she said as she looked at the floor.

Another awkward silence followed before she looked back at the man.

"I had Inez-san bring you here for one reason only. I take it you know that Akito is searching for you?"

The man nodded.

"And I take it you've heard of what he's done?" Another nod. "I hope you understand your position here then. For we need your assistance with something."

"Assistance?"

Yurika shifted slightly, "Well…more like your presence."

"Bait," the man replied flatly.

"Yes…We need you here to draw Akito back to us. He'll be on an endless search, constantly avoiding everyone that cares about him if he doesn't find you."

Yamasaki sighed as he looked out over the sunset, "I suppose this is fitting. I'd like to do whatever I can. Consider it a form of an apology for making both of your lives a complete hell."

Yurika smiled at the scientist and nodded, "You were only doing what you believed was right. You were being lead by your heart, despite your mind trying to refute your feelings."

Yamasaki turned with a shocked look on his face, "How…?"

"Being a former RIS for a boson jump network has left a few…side effects. I can detect jumps if I concentrate enough, as well as read the emotions of ones that have recently passed through a jump if they jump near me."

"I see…"

"You need not worry about our crew, Professor. However, I do have the feeling that you should stay alert while here. Akito hasn't been detected in nine days, and none of us can predict when he will appear again."

"I understand. And…thank you."

Yurika smiled brightly at him before turning around and walking to the door. She paused at the frame and looked back.

"I wouldn't thank us just yet."

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Akito looked at the data on the screen that Lapis had taken the better part of almost two weeks to gather.

It seemed that this base was far more advanced than the ones they'd taken before. Not to mention it had far more armaments. It looked as though at least two dozen ground forces Aestivalis units surrounded the perimeter at all times. Not to mention they had another dozen or so units fit for air combat.

There were easily three times the number of soldiers present in the base compared to the highest population he'd run into before. He was positive they would all be armed, but how extensively, he couldn't guess.

They certainly did seem quite set on protecting that General of theirs; which was sad, because it would lead to their eventual demise.

Akito closed out the information screen and opened the last update Lapis had given him on the system. The girl had seemed keen on leaving him alone to prepare for the next attack. But he knew it was more than that. She was losing faith in him, which could be disastrous.

It had been almost four weeks since Ruri had, almost single handedly, handed defeat to the Martian Successors.

Since then, he had remained almost completely isolated; only going out for his missions of destruction.

Akito skimmed over the basics she'd given him and smirked. He'd been itching to take out the remaining ranking officers of the Successors, but he had to be patient about it. Anything that he did wrong could change the outcome.

But tomorrow was finally the day.

The plan would be put into action in roughly 18 hours.

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The Successor base on an island north of Australia was brimming with confidence. All the subordinates of the movement knew that the infamous Tenkawa was slowly wiping out all of their forces, but they were not worried in the least.

The base had been able to pull many resources to its aid, as General Takasoto was stationed with them. So far, they had a force stationed at the base worthy enough to execute a ground assault on a major city or country capitol and still be fine.

Many were still on edge, however, as the days passed by. No one was sure exactly when Tenkawa would arrive. He had been a rather slippery opponent, never staying in one place for an extended period of time. He was also practically untraceable.

It came to a surprise to many of them as a week passed, and no boson activity was sensed anywhere near the base. They seemed to relax some at this point, many thinking that Tenkawa had gone after their other active bases of operations. After all, he'd wiped out half of their resources by himself already.

As the time ticked by, the base seemed to ease into everyday activities. They seemed to almost forget that they were on the run from not only the JPF and UESF, but also Tenkawa himself.

However, the base was still on alert and ready for Tenkawa's arrival.

It came as no surprise, then, when a large boson reading suddenly appeared directly above the base.

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As soon as the battleship appeared, the four gravity blast canons it was equipped with tore through the out defense perimeter. In that single shot, the ground Aestivalis units on the west side of the base were almost completely decimated.

The remaining 18 Aesti ground units immediately came to the aid of the west side, leaving the base perimeter completely open.

A second, smaller, boson reading was then recorded directly behind the ground units. A pink looking Aestivalis appeared with what appeared to be a white knife.

Half of the units turned around to look at Tenkawa's Aesti with hatred. The remaining units kept their attention rapt on the single battle class ship that was hovering above them. Soon, a series of three bay doors split open to unload a large amount of unmanned fighters.

Within five minutes of the ships arrival, the two enemies clashed head on in an attempt to kill the other.

Many of the pilots were wary of Tenkawa's abilities on the field. After all, it was said that he stood on even ground against seven Aestivalis units while they were still under control of Mars.

There were a few that didn't even have time to react to his headlong rush, as he immediately cut down two units standing in his way. The leader of the ground Aesti unit called out to be very careful around the madman. After all, he was out to try to destroy them all.

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General Takasoto watched from the control room as the fight outside continued, with several explosions every few seconds.

The ground unit was doing fairly well against the swarm of unmanned drones. There were still eight units remaining that fought against the continual wave of the drones.

However, the other half that had survived was doing very poorly against the considerably better Tenkawa. It hadn't even been that long, but the man clad in black had already destroyed seven out of the original nine units that faced him.

As the battle continued, he looked around the control center with mild amusement. There were at least 50 soldiers hiding in the shadows and on the upper walkways, all armed with advanced class weapons.

His attention was ripped back to the screen as the alarm started going off signaling another boson jump. But this time, the jump was even more massive than the battleship that Tenkawa had showed up in.

As the reading continued, a massive shadow began to appear above the base. As soon as it began to take shape, it appeared as if three massive arms were spreading out from the main body.

Takasoto watched in amazement and fear as the Nadesico C appeared and fired its gravity canon directly at the ground forces dealing with the drones. All eight were wiped out, leaving only two units left out of the two dozen that they had started with.

And both those two were deadlocked in a battle with Tenkawa.

He turned to his left and shouted, "Send the air combat unit out now!"

Originally, he knew that he would have to deal with Tenkawa and his battle class starship. And dealing with that would've been at least somewhere productive in terms of time.

However, the tables had turned in their favor when the Nadesico had appeared out of no where and started to help Tenkawa.

As the air unit was launched, the Nadesico C responded with launching four units of her own.

Akito, who had been slightly distracted when he felt the massive jump, was still fighting the two ground Aesti units, despite a small handicap. He had lost his additional flight boosters during his slight moment of hesitation when the Nadesico appeared. One of his opponents had noticed and scored a mark on his backside.

He was still able to hover slightly, but that was about it.

Tenkawa looked at the both of his opponents in irritation. His marks began to glow exceedingly brighter.

He had enough of fooling around. He began to concentrate and pinpoint the exact times he'd need to jump.

As the fight continued on, he began to settle into his series mindset. As soon as the two closed on him, he jumped behind the leader of the two and began to mercilessly attack its backside with only his hands. The unit's backside began to slowly cave in with each punch, leaving it practically crippled. He then slammed his psi knife squarely in the back of the unit, and the end protruded through the front of the cockpit.

Akito jumped away just as the other unit began to close in, and reappeared at the units left. He jumped again, and again and again, all in different places at different times. The Successor pilot had no idea which direction is next attack would come from, so all he could do was play the defensive.

After a while, the pilot had seemingly given up on trying to trace Akito and tried to flee the battle. As a result, Akito had simply beheaded the unit and crushed its cockpit.

With his first assignment finished, he moved and jumped once again, except this time inside the base itself. His Aesti also vanished, as he sent the giant mecha back into the hangar of the battleship.

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Most of the bridge crew from the Nadesico could only watch in absolute shock as Akito continued to decimate the ground units. It seemed that after he'd been struck, he lost his temper and decided to use his full strength to defeat them.

Yurika watched with a look of worry and sadness at what had happened to her precious Akito. Originally, he had wanted to avoid being a pilot altogether. He had only gotten an IFS so that he could work more efficiently on Mars.

Now, it seemed as if he would destroy anything in his path just to get what he was looking for.

Yurika turned he attention back to Ruri, who was sitting in her extended platform above Hari. She had already shut down and locked most of the base's systems as soon as they arrived. After seeing that she was still concentrating on holding back any attempts the Successors were using to reemploy the systems at full strength, she turned to look out at the aerial battle.

As it turned out, the four pilots were more than a match for their foes. Even outnumbered three to one, they had still managed to continually put a dent in the aerial forces. All that remained were five air units.

She smiled as she could hear the four of them arguing back and forth, and Ryoko yelling at all of them to shut up.

"For the last time, get off my back! I don't want to have anything to do with this little punk!"

"Oh? So he is riding you after all?"

"WHAT!"

"He said he could give you a ride after all. I'm sure he'd be more than happy to continue."

Saburota simply laughed as Ryoko continued to yell at her teammates.

Yurika's attention was then immediately back on Akito, as she felt him jump once again.

Things were going to be different things time. She had traced his original jump and then jumped to the area almost as soon as she learned where it was.

She wasn't simply going to let him leave this time. Not by a long shot.

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Akito reappeared in the armory of the base, and immediately began destroying anything the enemy might have a use for.

After he was done, he told Lapis to access the system and tell him where the control center was. After all, he was sure that the head honcho was there.

After a few moments, her voice began to ring in his head with directions.

Akito began to follow several hallways in the confines of the base. The metallic walls all seemed the same, but he trusted his information source.

He ducked behind a wall before the bullets could even be fired. That was another thing he trusted. Due to having two inlets for sight, he could see two different perspectives of a fight at the same time. As he was running down the hallways, he could not only see the straight metallic panels ahead of him, but he could also see himself running through the hallways courtesy of Lapis using the security cameras in each hallway to track his movements. He could also see the hallways ahead of him for the same reason.

That was how he knew that there were soldiers coming around the corner ahead of him. He could see the slight look of confusion on their faces as he smiled and plunged out into the fray. He fired six bullets, each finding their mark in a targets head or chest, as he continued to run down the hallway.

The remaining three began to fire as soon as they saw him begin to reload his handgun. However, it did no good, as he began to duck, dodge and weave in-between the bullets.

A click notified the soldiers ahead of him that Tenkawa had finished reloading, and each began to get nervous as they saw him level his gun out again. They had no time to worry about what happened after that, though, as each of them lay on the floor with their comrades.

Akito opened the revolver again and took out the three empty shells and replaced them with new ones. He also pulled out a small knife that he held in his left hand. As soon as his preparations were complete, he took off down the hallway again.

After a few more minutes of running, he stopped in front of a set of large steel doors. A deep scowl appeared on his face as he concentrated on getting to the other side of the door.

As he reappeared in the control center, he looked directly ahead of him to find a lone man in the center of a bright light. The man had a welcoming smile on his face which Akito intended to wipe off of it.

Due to his numerous abilities, he'd already spotted several hidden guards in the shadows, on the catwalks and behind certain work stations around the control room.

He moved forward and began walking towards the lone figure and stopped directly outside the circle of light. A smirk appeared on his face as he looked at General Takasoto.

"Why don't you introduce me to your friends?"

Takasoto raised an eyebrow in surprise and nodded.

"Very well then. Come out."

Akito looked around himself as he noticed that roughly 50 soldiers appeared. All arms with an assortment of rifles and guns. He noticed a few shotguns and standard ground rifles, as well as hand held pistols and sniper rifles.

Tenkawa moved his head just to the left as a gunshot rang out in the silence. The bullet passed straight by his head and hit one of the soldiers standing behind him.

He smirked, "You didn't think it would be that easy, did you?"

"No, we were actually hoping it wouldn't be. What fun would it be to simply kill you as soon as you make an entrance?"

Akito snorted slightly, and quickly raised his left hand and let loose his small knife. It hit a soldier, who was lining up a shot with his rifle, directly through his esophagus. The man dropped the rifle and started clawing at the small object impaled in his throat, but it only lasted a few seconds. A gurgling sound could be heard as the soldier fell over in a pool of his own blood.

Akito, who hadn't taken his eyes off of Takasoto, began to get excited. Despite the overwhelming odds, he knew he could pull it off. It may have been 48 against 1, but he was almost positive he could finish this mission without sustaining any damage to his body.

As soon as the marks on Akito's face started appearing, the fight began. Bullets started falling from the sky as if they were rain, all targeting one man.

Akito simply jumped out of the way and appeared behind the troops on the east side of the room. Several soldiers all around the center crumpled to the ground. The victims of bullet ricochets of all the bullets fired.

Takasoto realized that, at that moment, they were doing more damage to themselves than they were to him. Gunfire continued to ring out in the now silent room, although it was the sound of a single hand pistol being fired.

After a few seconds, six more of his soldiers in the rear fell over.

The game had just started, and Akito had already managed to take out nearly 18 soldiers by using their own stupidity against them. He quickly began to reload his gun, and then picked up another hand gun and an automatic rifle.

He began his pattern of slowly mowing the enemies over, starting from the rear first. By the time another 10 had fallen and he had drawn attention to himself, he had jumped again and started on the other side.

With half of his troops already gone, the good General was starting to get slightly worried. Tenkawa was, indeed, a worthy opponent. He had merely thought it was rumors and speculation when he heard that the man had single handedly wiped out over half of the Successor bases, but with the proof now in front of him, he was starting to believe he was doomed from the very start.

Akito took out another six men and jumped again. He had kept track of all the idiots who had fallen in the battle so far, leaving only 16 men standing, excluding the General.

He appeared in the middle of the room again and simply fired his two hand pistols twice in seemingly random directions, but another four men came crashing to meet the floor.

The last dozen men quickly ran around their target and surrounded him in a circle. The battle hadn't even been in motion for anywhere close to five minutes, yet only a quarter of the soldiers remained.

Each soldier had his gun pointed straight at Tenkawa, while Tenkawa was simply smiling. The marks on his face had been glowing dully the entire battle, but now there were steadily glowing brighter.

Akito was looking squarely at Takasoto, but could also see each solider around him without looking around.

The staring match lasted for another minute before Tenkawa simply disappeared again. He reappeared directly in front of the man to his left and left loose a round in the man's face before immediately jumping again. This time, he landed behind one of the soldiers closest to the sealed steel doors and pulled the trigger again in the back of his head. Akito immediately brought up his other hand gun and shot the man directly to his left and then jumped again.

He quickly dispatched three more soldiers as he landed on top of the upper level catwalks and fired down at them. The six remaining soldiers couldn't hide their fear. They had just seen over 40 of their compatriots murdered in cold blood by a single man.

Akito jumped and reappeared in the center of the room again, where he was surrounded once again by the six remaining soldiers.

An evil grin was present on the young mans face as he looked at Takasoto.

"I must say I'm disappointed. When I was told this would be harder than the other bases, I expected more of a challenge than this. This was like a normal warm up for me."

The General snarled as he pulled out a pistol of his own and leveled it at Tenkawa.

He noticed that the cocky grin was no longer present on the man's face, but it looked like he had a temporary lapse of concentration.

The General took that into consideration and fired immediately.

Akito, who had hesitated once again, took a bullet in his left arm. As Yurika arrived, she saw the remaining soldiers fire their rounds at the man in black as well.

Akito was hit in several places before he was able to regain his concentration enough to turn, empty an entire clip into the General's chest, and then jump away.

Yurika immediately followed the young man, with a look of absolute horror on her face.

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Akito reappeared in the middle of the battleship's hangar and crumpled to the ground. He grabbed his chest in pain and hissed. It felt like his entire upper body was on fire.

His head snapped up when he felt a presence next to him and couldn't help but laugh at who he saw.

The worried blue eyes of the person he last wanted to see were staring directly at him with tears forming in them.

Akito slowly tried to rise, but eventually ended up on his back staring at the top of the hangar. He winced as his back and shoulder came into contact with the floor. His eyesight was beginning to get blurry. The last thing he saw was the blurred face of his wife before he simply lost consciousness.

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"Akito!"

Yurika had been frantic when she arrived and saw six soldiers shoot, at almost point blank range, the person she loved.

"Unless he gets medical attention within the next few minutes, he will die."

Yurika turned around in shock at the second voice that had spoke out from nowhere. She saw a little girl with yellow eyes and slightly pinkish hair standing in the doorway to the hangar.

"If you really love him, you should hurry. If you don't he will die. I can already feel him becoming weaker. His mind is slowing down."

Yurika turned and looked at the bloodied and prone form of Akito and nodded.

"I'll take him aboard the Nadesico for the time being."

She quickly ran over and grabbed one of his hands before they both simply vanished in a flash of light.

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Anyone from the Nadesico who had ever known Tenkawa Akito had gathered in the waiting room outside of the medical bay.

It had been almost seven hours since the wounded young man had been brought on board by the almost hysterical Yurika.

To save time, they had simply jumped him directly into the med bay itself, and then Inez had simply ushered everyone out.

Everyone seemed rather sullen, while Yurika seemed almost beside herself. She couldn't help but replay what she had seen as soon as she jumped in.

Akito, still frozen in what looked like shock, stood directly in front of six soldiers. They each fired a round at the man before he seemed to come out of his stupor, finish his mission, and then boson jump out.

She could only guess that it was her fault that Akito had been that way. It was her fault because her jumping to him had distracted him. It was her fault that he had been wounded so severely.

And it would be her fault if he died from his wounds.

Ryoko was pacing around any open area in the waiting room, while the other three pilots watched. Ruri was sitting next to Yurika, simply staring at the bay door. Jun had taken his spot on Yurika's left, trying to console her the entire time. Minato and Yukina were sitting in the corner, simply watching everyone while silently talking to each other. Each stole glances at the doors every now and again.

The only people that were really missing from his little group of friends were Howmei and her girls and Megumi. But none of them had boarded the ship again.

Hari sat next to Ruri, staring at the pale young lady.

"Is he really that important?"

Ruri turned and looked sullenly at the young boy. She nodded her head once to show an affirmative before turning and looking at the door again.

"He was the only person that I trusted implicitly. He protected me from any danger, no matter how bad it was. He helped me whenever I asked…He and Yurika even asked if I wished to join them in their home…"

"Do you love him?"

Ruri turned back to stare at the young man. After a few moments, her stare caused him to start fidgeting and he dipped his head slightly.

"Yes."

"I see…"

"He is the closest thing to a brother – maybe even a father – that I've ever had. So of course I love him. He is…family…He treated me as an equal when no one else would. He respected me for who I was. He taught me many things, even if it did take me a while to realize it."

Hari turned to look at his captain and was surprised to see the pained look on her face as she looked at the floor. She turned to look at him and he almost jumped in shock to see that she had tears forming in her eyes.

"I don't know if I can live through his death…again…It was hard enough the first time."

Hari looked at the floor again, not sure of what he should do or say. As he was trying to come up with something, the light above the door blinked off. Soon, the doors slid open to reveal a very weary Doctor Fressange. Most cringed at amount of blood that seemed to cover the sleeves and middle portion of her lab coat.

Yurika was immediately on her feet as soon as she saw Inez exit the room.

"Is he alright? Will he be ok? What's his condition? Why'd did it take so long?"

A flood of questions from one mouth, while many more went unasked by the others gathered in the room.

Inez put a hand up in front of Yurika and moved off to the side slightly. She looked around and saw that pretty much everyone that she needed to talk to was there.

"His body has been put through a lot of stress. His constant jumps were partially at fault for this. The wounds he sustained seemed to override his entire system, due to the shock and stress. He's barely staying away from critical condition, but that's the best I can do. He lost a fair amount of blood. There was a fair amount of internal bleeding from his wounds as well. One bullet clipped the upper part of his left lung, while another was completely embedded in one of the lobes in his liver. One of the bullets that entered his back shattered one of his lower ribs, leaving it completely unsupported. We were lucky that it didn't puncture anything."

Yurika began to sob quietly as she heard all of his injuries being explained by Doctor Fressange. If she had known that her presence would've effected him that much, she would've waited until she felt him jump back to his battle class cruiser.

"In short, I'm not sure when he'll wake up. I'm also not sure if the stress had any affect on his mind at all. We'll have to wait and see."

Yurika, still sobbing, ran past Inez and straight into the med bay. Everyone watched with heavy hearts as she burst into a complete crying fit after seeing Akito hooked up to all the machines. He was also heavy wrapped, but only in the places that they had to operate on or where he was shot.

She slowly collapsed to her knees, still crying loudly. Inez looked at Jun, who nodded in return. Both walked into the medical bay and gently brought Yurika back to her feet. They walked her back outside, and through the doors to the adjoining hallway.

As Yurika left, everyone turned their attention to look at Akito. Ruri, who had been trying to suppress her emotions, had finally lost most of her control. She quickly stood and walked out of the room, tears could be seen streaming down her face. Hari soon followed his adoptive sister, still at a loss of what to say.

Everyone else slowly filed out of the waiting room after catching a glance of the wounded young man. Each felt a mixture of emotions, but it was Ryoko who felt anger. As she looked at the peaceful Tenkawa she raised a fist and punched the wall.

"If only he wasn't such a fool and let us help…"

Saburota shrugged, "He said that he had something to take care of. We couldn't guess what it was when we parted ways a month ago."

"He could've trusted us…He could've at least talked to us!"

Izumi looked slightly more depressed than normal, "Things change."

Hikaru nodded, "People change."

"He couldn't change that much!"

The three remaining pilots sighed before Hikaru spoke up.

"Don't you remember when Erina warned us about him? Told us to be careful? She said that he was a loose canon…that his only care in the world was revenge…"

Ryoko began to shake her head violently, "He wouldn't do that! That isn't him at all!"

Saburota put a hand on her shoulder, "He was put through a lot through those bastards. Plus…it has been three years."

Ryoko replied with a rather shaky voice, "I still can't believe it. It isn't like him at all…"

With that, the three pilots lead an emotionally unstable Ryoko out of the room.

With no other human occupying the medical bay, a window popped up directly in front of Akito. A miniature Aestivalis appeared and looked down at the bed ridden pilot. After a few moments, tears seemed to be streaming out of the electronic eyes of the deformed mecha. Soon, the window vanished, leaving the entire area completely undisturbed, aside from the constant beeping of the machines.

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As the hours ticked by, everyone on board the Nadesico C couldn't help but succumb to the gloomy atmosphere.

They had received orders to return to Nergal HQ, which many weren't too thrilled about. As the massive ship neared Japan, an incoming transmission appeared on a screen almost immediately as they were in range.

An image of Admiral Misumaru Kouichiro appeared on the main screen. The happy countenance of the Admiral broadened when he saw Ruri sitting in front of him.

"Hello again, Ruri-kun. It's been a while hasn't it?"

Ruri nodded at the image, "Yes Admiral, it has."

After a slight pause, the man started to chuckle slightly.

"I don't mean to sound rude, but you weren't the main reason I was calling. Is Yurika around?"

Ruri hesitated slightly as she looked at Yurika's father. After a moment, Ruri shook her head.

"I'm afraid some rather…devastating events have caused her to lapse into a deep depression. She's in her room at the moment…I can try to patch you through, though I don't know what will happen after that."

The suddenly serious man nodded solemnly, "Please do."

Ruri nodded and the image of the Admiral disappeared as she redirected the line directly to Yurika's quarters. She sighed and looked directly out the cockpit window.

Several things had to be reported and explained. She also knew why Akatsuki had ordered the recall of the Nadesico.

There could only be one possible reason why he had issued the order.

He knew.

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A small visual screen appeared in a darkened room, with the worried and subdued face of Admiral Misumaru.

"Yurika?"

The quiet call was heard by the room's lone occupant, and sent her scrambling in front of the screen. The Admiral smiled gently, which caused the girl to start to tear up again.

He was rather surprised when her figure completely disappeared. He looked at the screen rather confused until he felt a pair of arms encircle his shoulders from the left. He looked over at the now crying girl and began to rub her back.

A few moments later, the doors to his office flew open and a few armed guards began to enter. When they saw what was happening, they hesitated slightly.

"Sir, we recorded that there was an increased boson reading is this room…Is everything alright?"

The Admiral waved his hand dismissively, "It's nothing. Just my beautiful little daughter having a reunion with her father."

The second figure, directly to the Admiral's left, lifted her head and looked at the soldiers with red eyes. Each man saluted to her, recognizing her authority over them. She nodded at them and the soldiers filed out of the room and shut the door.

"Father…I've done something horrible…"

The elder Misumaru looked at the younger and smiled, "I am glad that you are still among us Yurika…Many of us were heartbroken when we learned that you had been confirmed dead."

There was a slight pause as the older man wiped away the tears forming in his eyes.

"If you are here, then how is Akito-kun?"

That question brought about a new torrent of tears, as she began to cry into her father again. He let her settle down first before separating her from him and looking at her.

"Has he…?"

Yurika shook her head and replied weakly, "No…But Inez-san doesn't know what will happen. She says he isn't in very good condition due to the constant strain on his body."

Admiral Misumaru nodded, "He was always one to push himself to his limits…"

"Yes…That's why he's been fighting a war by himself…He avoided us and tried to shut us out, but his last jump I tracked…We showed up a little while after the battle had started, which proved to be a slight distraction to him."

The man nodded, "Understandable. How would you feel if the people you were trying to avoid and protect just showed up in front of you?"

Yurika nodded, "I should've taken that as a hint to stay behind…but I just couldn't! I had to see him!"

Tears began to stream down her cheeks again.

"I jumped while he was still fighting with some of the soldiers in the control center…and my arrival did nothing but distract him enough to be shot…It's all my fault!"

She began to wail and broke down into sobs once again.

The Admiral embraced his daughter and tried to soothe her.

"There, there. He's a strong boy, he'll pull through."

The exchange continued for just a little while longer, and then Yurika regained her wits and began to talk seriously with her father.

Since she was now acting Admiral over the Nadesico, she had access to any amount of information she wanted.

She continued to ask her father about the UE and the newly formed JPF, as well as what the military and Nergal had been up to.

Things continued on this track until Yurika thanked her father, gave him and hug and simply vanished from them room.

Admiral Misumaru couldn't help but smile as he turned his chair around and looked out through the window at the scenery below.

Things were slowly falling back into a rhythm once again.

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Yurika jumped back on the bridge of the Nadesico and was immediately face to face with someone she thought would never be there to bug her anymore.

Akatsuki Nagare.

The chairman of Nergal smirked as he noticed that she had returned. He motioned for her to follow him and lead her to one of the executive suites that were present on this ship.

"Well isn't this just a pleasant development this turned into?"

Yurika frowned at the man, "How did you get on board the Nadesico?"

Akatsuki put his hands up and shrugged, "A miniature transport vessel. It's still in the hangar bay right now."

He lowered his hands and then began to scowl at Yurika.

"I don't believe that using an ancient technology for your own benefit is smiled upon."

Yurika's eyes narrowed as she looked at the man, "And what did you hope to gain by possessing his knowledge?"

"The secrets of the universe, of course. If Nergal were to actually control the center for boson jumps, they could expand beyond limit within the vast reaches of the universe."

"And what about your accusation? About using ancient technology for your own benefit? How is that any different?"

Nagare sighed and smiled, "Ah but it is! You see, Nergal won't be the only organization that benefits. After all, if Nergal expands, more positions will be needed. We'd need explorers willing to tread in new territory. A unit that serves as an enforcer and protects the others. Places for the new explorers to live while they do their research."

Akatsuki nodded, "Don't you see? By one company controlling the vast reaches of space, so many more organizations benefit from it. Everyone as a whole benefits from this design, not simply me."

Yurika raised an eyebrow at that statement, "And I suppose that the increase in wealth, power and recognition has nothing to do with this?"

Akatsuki smiled again, "Of course it does. Everything that benefits Nergal, benefits me; thus, why I want the company to succeed. Work for the whole to appease the one."

"Your petty claims of our benefit are nothing compared to the plan you've just described."

Akatsuki laughed while putting a hand to his forehead, "Now now, who will believe you if you try to explain it to the media? After all, you're all considered war criminals that are wanted by the military."

"WHAT?"

"Of course. What did you think would happen when you violated the cease fire that was negotiated between the JPF, UESF, UE and the Martian Successors? Nergal may still be its own individual entity, but we support and fight with the UE and UESF. By using our weapons against the enemy, you violated the agreement."

"So I was just supposed to let the Successors do as they pleased while we sat and watched Akito fight our war for us?"

Akatsuki raised his hands in front of his chest, "It's nothing like that; however, the fact that the ranking officer takes responsibility for the actions of the crew still remains."

Akatsuki smirked and looked out the side window with his hands behind his back.

"You don't have to worry though. I've already made sure that nothing will happen to the crew or the ship. It wouldn't do to have our most advanced machine grounded because of the foolish actions of a love sick girl."

He turned around and looked at Yurika, "However, you must hand Yamasaki back over to me."

"If you're done with him, why do you want him back?"

"There are still some questions our research team would like to ask him. That is, before he meets his impending doom."

Yurika looked surprised at Akatsuki.

"What is it now? You didn't think I knew that Tenkawa had a personal vendetta against Yamasaki? Don't you know why he's done all of this?"

"Enough…"

The quiet, yet cold voice seemed to surprise both members of the room.

Both turned to look at the door and noticed a still bloodied Tenkawa leaning against the doorframe.

Inez Fressange appeared slightly behind him with a worried look on her face.

"I couldn't stop him…He simply won't listen to reason."

"Akito…" Yurika's voice was extremely quiet. "Please, don't push yourself."

He turned his face, still covered by his eye plate, to look at Yurika.

"And just what were you planning to do with that bastard."

"I only wanted to use him as a way to try to get you to come home!"

Akito continued to look at her, "I don't have a home anymore. Those Successors made sure of that."

"But what will you accomplish by killing him? Will it really satisfy you?"

"I'm not sure, but I can't forgive him for what he did to me…and especially not to you. That bastard will pay for his sins."

"'The past is the past'," a new voice entered the conversation, "or did I hear that wrong?"

Akito turned his gaze to the woman now standing beside Akatsuki. He wasn't sure how she'd managed to snake in, but she was still present.

"You heard right."

"Then what will you accomplish by killing someone who tormented you in the past, Akito-kun?"

"Who said I wanted to kill him? I said he would pay. I won't deny that I want to end his life, but I've thought of a far more fitting punishment than death."

Everyone present simply stared at Akito as a small and vicious grin appeared on his face.

Akito suddenly stood straight and began to walk out of the room. Everyone seemed shocked by his actions.

Yurika rushed outside and called after him.

"Akito? Where are you going?"

"To find Fujimako, and to kill him. That will put the Successors down for good."

"You can't! You aren't in any condition to fight, let alone jump!"

Akito turned back with a sad smile on his face, "I don't care what happens to me, as long as I can complete what I need to."

He continued on his way down the hall and vanished in front of everyone's eyes.

"He's going to get himself killed…"

And with that statement, Yurika could feel a large boson jump fade away.

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Akito appeared before Lapis.

"Have you traced Major Fujimako yet?"

The young girl nodded, "Are you sure you want to go?"

Akito clenched his teeth, "We have to. This way, nothing is guaranteed to happen to them."

"Understood."

Akito turned and looked at her, "I know you probably don't like it here, let alone me…but thank you. You're the reason all this was possible."

Lapis seemed rather surprised as Akito turned away and walked down the hall.

"Send me the coordinates, and we'll finish this once and for all."

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Somewhere in the frozen wasteland of Siberia, a lone metallic form stood amongst the snow. Its massive walls and large expanse made it look more like a monstrous mountain more than anything.

There were no visible defenses, as many inside the base thought that the horrible snowstorms and freezing conditions were enough to thwart any attempt of an attack.

However, they hadn't counted on the tenacity or blind hatred of one man.

Huge boson spikes started forming as a large battle class ship appeared above the base. Another, smaller, jump was detected in the compound.

A man clad all in black stood in the middle of the control center, drawing stares from everyone present. His head turned to scan the room, and finally settled on one figure.

"Major Fujimako, for being a part of the Martian Successor movement, I'll carry out your sentence as I please."

He pulled out a gun and then proceeded to shoot every single person present aside from Fujimako. The man looked around, terrified. He'd just lost several loyal officers and friends to the hands of a lone mad man.

"For throwing your chips in with these fools, you shall die."

He reloaded his weapon and aimed it directly at the frightened Major. He seemed to hesitate slightly, but pulled the trigger anyway.

As the body fell to the ground, reinforcements burst through the doors. Quickly surveying the scene, the men in the front leveled their weapons at the lone figure.

The figure simply smirked and began to glow. Several rounds were fired at the mysterious attacker, but it didn't look as if any had hit their mark.

After a few moments, the entire base was destroyed by one well placed gravity blast from the battle class ship hovering in the storm.

As Akito turned to start walking down the hallway, he stumbled and fell to the ground. Several of his wounds had reopened, and his body was screaming in pain. The one new bullet wound he had received had barely grazed his side, but it still wreaked havoc on his exhausted body.

The pain soon began to override most of his thoughts. His eyesight was becoming blurry; as his mind was slowly shutting down to prevent him from feeling the pain.

The last thing he saw before he passed out was the small face of Lapis Lazuli.

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It had been less than a minute after Akito left, but the large battleship made a quick reappearance and took its place, once again, next to the Nadesico.

No one was sure what was going on, because they had all seen it vanish. Not to mention that there were still boson particles floating in the air.

What was even more confusing was when two figures boson jumped into the hangar. One was laying still on the steel floor, while the other was hunched over it.

Seiya, the first to notice, started walking over.

"Hey, we can't have people laying down on the job, let alone cause an obstruction. Get your ass out of here if you want to lie down."

After a few moments, the hunched figure brought her eyes to bear on Seiya. He was slightly surprised to see that she looked like a miniature version of Ruri, the only difference was the hair color.

He seemed slightly annoyed at the fact that she didn't respond.

"Didn't you hear what I just said? Get out of here so we can do our jobs."

As Seiya moved closer to the girl, he could see the figure on the floor slightly better. He was clad in black, with a strange nose guard that covered his entire upper face.

Soon, he found himself looking down at the bleeding Tenkawa.

"Tenkawa! What the hell are you doing down here? You're supposed to be in the infirmary!"

After not getting a response out of the man, he immediately picked up his headset and began barking orders to his mechanics. The first of which was to call Dr. Fressange and the captain down at once.

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Inez looked at the information flying by on the screen and compared it to the charts that she had just finished before Akito left.

According to the new scan, he had another new hole in him, and his body was on the verge of complete shock. The only thing that seemed redeeming about the entire situation was that his mind still showed a high amount of activity.

The body was something that could heal over time, the mind wasn't. If he'd managed to damage his mind, he would've caused himself problems for the rest of his life that would only lead to grief.

She sighed and pulled down her glasses as she looked at the bedridden man.

His old personality still shined through once in a while, but otherwise, he was a completely different person. His stubbornness was still present at full strength, however that was all that seemed to remain fairly intact.

After a few moments, the silence of the room was interrupted as Yurika burst through the doors.

"Is he going to be ok Inez-san?"

Inez looked at her, then back at the young man.

"It's hard to say. He's pushed his body pretty much beyond anything that it can handle. I have to say I'm amazed he's still alive. After what he pulled, any normal person should be dead."

A groan prevented anything more from being said, as Akito was now beginning to sit up.

"Where do you think you're going this time?"

Akito put an elbow to his raised knee while panting. It was obvious that any sort of movement that he made took an effort. Not only that, but he was in extreme pain and doing it anyway.

Before anything more could be said, however, Yurika moved across the room and stood before Akito. He raised his head slightly and looked at her through his mask. She quickly reached up and yanked it off before he could say anything.

Almost immediately, a numerous amount of broken lines began to appear on his face. They were dim, but still very noticeable.

After a few moments of simply staring at him, Yurika raised a hand and slapped him. His face jerked to the left from the impact, but he didn't say anything. He simply turned his head slowly back to the position it was in to look at her.

The marks on his face were slightly more noticeable, as they'd grown brighter.

"Hit me all you'd like…it doesn't matter anymore…I've fulfilled my purpose."

He smiled at her sadly, with a look of utter exhaustion present in his eyes.

Her hard stare softened when she noticed that he seemed to be letting his defenses down. She couldn't stop herself from shedding a few tears as she looked at what was left of the man she loved.

Finally, she'd had enough. She quickly moved forward, grabbed Akito's face and pulled him into a deep kiss. The kiss lasted for several seconds, but it had seemed like an eternity for Akito.

How he'd longed to be back where he belonged. How he'd longed to be back with the one he loved. How he'd longed to be back with his friends…with his family, onboard the Nadesico.

Finally, that wait was over.

As she pulled back, Yurika could tell that she'd reached him. His features seemed to soften slightly as she looked at him.

"Will you please tell us what this is all about now?"

Akito nodded, "As soon as I get some rest…It's been so long since I've been able to…"

Yurika nodded and looked at the chair that Inez had once occupied. It seemed that the good doctor had slipped out of the ward while they were busy.

"Rest…and regain your strength. I have a feeling you will need it."

Akito nodded again and began to recline back on the bed. He shut his eyes and sleep claimed him almost immediately.

Yurika wiped the tears from her eyes and leaned down. She planted a light, lingering kiss on both his forehead and his lips before turning and leaving the room.

She turned back and looked at his sleeping form with a smile.

Things were finally looking up.

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When Akito slowly opened his eyes, he noticed that there was a slight weight on his right arm. He shifted his head slightly and looked to see a mass of blue hair at his right.

He looked around, noticing that he wasn't in his typical surroundings. He blinked a few times as he looked around, and recognized the place as the medical bay on the Nadesico. He closed his eyes in confusion as he tried to remember the events that brought him here.

His eyes snapped open when events came flooding into his mind, one after another.

Leaving despite numerous protests, killing Fujimako, jumping back and passing out; then awakening in the very sick bay he now laid in with Yurika at his side.

He wasn't sure how much time had passed, but he couldn't simply lie around and do nothing. He gently began to nudge Yurika. His prods only gained the response of a small snore and murmuring.

Akito couldn't help but grin. He then began to shake her shoulder, which had a much more profound effect.

"Huh? Wha?"

Yurika turned her still sleepy eyes to the head of the bed and noticed that Akito was sitting up slightly.

"Akito! You're awake!"

"I could say the same about you."

Yurika shook her head, "I haven't slept as long as you have."

Akito raised an eyebrow, "Oh? And may I inquire as to how long I was asleep?"

Yurika looked thoughtful for a moment before being interrupted.

"Four days."

Akito turned to see that Inez was standing in the doorway with a smile on her face. She walked in and put a hand on his arm.

"It's good that we can count you amongst the living again."

Akito shrugged, "There are always more battles to be fought."

Yurika looked at him in annoyance, "Oh no you don't! Don't you pull that stunt again. We're not letting you go this time."

Akito looked at his wife with a hint of amusement, "Oh? And who plans on stopping me?"

Yurika made a face at him, "Me!"

"And me," added Inez.

"Me too." All three turned to see Ruri standing in the same position Inez had just been in.

"And me." Ryoko now stood behind Ruri.

"Same goes for us," replied Hikaru as she and Izumi appeared next to Ryoko.

"You're not going anywhere until you tell me how you managed to draft those armor pieces. I want the designs and specs!"

Everyone turned to see Seiya looking over all of them.

"What?"

Akito couldn't help but laugh as everyone turned around and began to push the mechanic chief out into the hallway. Everyone stopped almost immediately and turned to look at him as Akito's laughter continued.

Once he finally stopped, due to the pain, he noticed that everyone was staring at him.

"It's been a rather long time since I've been able to actually enjoy myself."

Inez cleared her throat, "Yes well…I wouldn't dwell on that feeling for much longer. You still owe all of us, and the crew, a very long and detailed explanation."

Akito looked around the room to notice every person present was nodding in agreement.

Akito sighed, "Very well. Everyone meet up in ten minutes in the observation deck. I'll try to explain things as best I can."

Everyone nodded, and soon people began to file out one by one, leaving Yurika and Akito alone.

"You better have a good reason, Akito. I won't be happy if it isn't."

Akito looked at her with a slight grin on his face.

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As things seemed to settle down in the observation deck, Akito came walking in with Yurika behind him.

As he nodded towards everyone, they each took spots on the ground. Akito walked over to the panel on the left side of the room and adjusted the time of day to be roughly dusk. The sun was mostly hidden behind the scenery, but it was still light enough to see.

Akito then walked over towards the group of people and stood with his back to them.

He seemed to pause slightly and take a few deep breaths before turning to look at the others.

Most were shocked to see the designs that now covered almost all of his face. They were far different from the normal designs that Yurika and Inez had.

Akito reached into his pocket and pulled out his usual eye guard and slipped it on. Almost immediately, the light coming from his face all but disappeared.

"It started a little over three years ago when the Martian Successors were first gaining strength." He turned his back to them once again and looked at the scenery before him.

"I'm not exactly sure how, but they were able to secure the ruin." He paused after hearing a few whispers behind him. "And after that, a few scientists began to work with it. They had found that the normal accuracy rate of the cube was, at best, around 50 percent. So they began research to test out various different theories. After a while, Yamasaki came up with the idea that they could use an actual person to help guide the system."

He turned around and looked at his crowd, "Several people were chosen to be test subjects, but they couldn't handle the stress and simply vanished from existence. It was then that they set their sights on Class A jumpers. A few started to disappear at first, but then more followed. They continued testing with the ruin, naming the person inside a Ruin Imaging System. Countless Class A jumpers died, while others simply lost their minds. In the end they decided that they needed experience. That was why they went after me and Yurika. I was the first person to successfully jump with no outside equipment or help. Yurika was my wife, so they figured that she, too, had the ability."

Akito paused for a while. It looked as if he were trying to think of the right words to say.

"They succeeded in our capture, as you all know. They had made it appear as if we had died, but it was simply a cover. Both Yurika and I were kept in some sort of pods."

Akito looked over at Yurika and kept his eyes on her, "At first, they tried to connect us to the ruin while still inside the pods, but that failed. They then inserted both of us into the ruin and began testing again. This time, the accuracy rate reached somewhere around 70 percent. After a while, it began to slip back down again. They removed me and continued their tests with Yurika while I became their personal guinea pig. The things they did to me…the things they changed, added or took away…all of it was painful. They had abducted Lapis from a Nergal growth facility, much like the one Ruri was in when she was younger."

Akito concentrated and soon Lapis was standing by his side. He put a hand on her shoulder.

"I'm not sure how, but they connected us…We each function normally as a separate unit, but when put together, our abilities and performance shoot through the roof. Lapis was just another victim of their sick game, just like I was."

He motioned for the girl to sit down, and she took a seat at his feet.

"After dealing with all the crap they put me through, I couldn't take it anymore. I managed to break free just before one of the testing sessions and get to the area they had the ruin in. I had to hurry, so I sealed it back into its original shape and jumped it as far away as I could. After that, I sprung Lapis, stole one of their newer technology ships designed specifically for Lapis and left the facility. With no idea where I had sent the ruin, I began to search constantly. Jumping from place to place in the universe in an attempt to find Yurika. This continued for a while until I discovered a nice little area in the asteroid field behind Mars. That became our base of operations, as the minerals in the surrounding asteroids somehow absorbed boson particles."

"So that's how you were able to hide…"

Akito nodded, "Yes. The search continued, but something odd happened along the way. I wasn't sure how, but during one jump I managed to land almost five years in the future. In that timeline, I couldn't do anything but watch. Yet watching was enough. The Martian Successors, despite the loss of their leader, had still kept their ideals and plans. They continued to rebuild and gain power until they were able to declare war on the UE and UESF. The JPF could do nothing to prevent the upcoming war."

Akito paused and then slowly sat down, "As a result, I vowed that as soon as Yurika was freed, I would try to prevent that future. I wanted everyone I cared about to live in peace in the future, not having to take up arms again. Not for the third time. So when I made it back, I found the easiest way to prevent that future from happening."

"But why did you isolate yourself?"

Akito looked at Ryoko, "I'm not there yet, Ryoko-chan. The odds at actually finding Yurika were overwhelming, yet I had a lead as soon as the Successors started attacking all the colonies participating in the Hisago Plan. After they destroyed the last non-vital colony there was only one left. The rest, you all know."

Akito looked at the sky, "I tried to distance myself from everyone because I knew what I had to do, and I knew that many of you would frown on it. I knew that I had to destroy most of the Successors assets, as well as take out any of their leaders to prevent them from rearming and gaining power. I wasn't sure if I was going to live through the encounters, so I kept my distance from everyone, hoping that they would understand and let me continue with my job."

Akito brought his gaze down to Yurika, "But I hadn't exactly accounted for some of the things that had changed. Such as Yurika's ability to sense and track jumps. That was my first mistake. Another, was I didn't take into account at how obsessed she would become in trying to find me."

Ruri looked at the man with a sense of disdain, "So you intentionally tried to shut us out so that you would have no distractions. And with no distractions, you could fully concentrate on trying to prevent another war that we would all be caught up in."

Akito nodded, "That sounds about right."

He turned his gaze on the many people gathered there, "I know what I have done may have been wrong, but it was the only way I could think of. I haven't been the same since they messed with my mind. I've lost so much…and I didn't want to risk losing anything else."

Yurika stood up abruptly, "So you tried to shoulder the entire burden without telling anyone else, is that it? You didn't think we would feel anything if you died since you were acting distant and harsh?"

"I couldn't take the chance. I didn't want anyone to get hurt."

Ryoko, who had only spoken once before, stood as well.

"Didn't you take into account another kind of hurt? Didn't you think about what it was doing to us when you simply shut all of us out of your life?"

She walked right up to him, with anger present on her face.

"What about trusting as Tenkawa? What about putting your faith in us and telling us instead of using some bullshit excuse and lies? If you had simply told us, we would've accepted the fact that you'd seen something you didn't like. But you had to go and act like the macho tough guy and be a complete ass!"

She stuck her finger directly in his face while moving her closer, "I'm not buying it Tenkawa! Not for a second! You could've trusted your family, but instead you turned your back on us!"

Hikaru and Izumi quickly grabbed Ryoko and dragged her back down on the floor. She still looked rather steamed.

Inez stood and walked up to Akito. She seemed to pause a second before slapping him rather harshly.

"I concur with Ryoko. There were much better ways to handle the situation, but you backed out of your responsibility and hid from everyone. You acted like a child! All you've explained is that you made excuses to cover your tracks and failed to have trust in the people you care about. I've very disappointed in you."

Akito glared at the rest of them, "This has nothing to do with trust! This has nothing to do with excuses! I didn't tell you because I knew that the rest of you would insist on helping, whether I wanted it or not. I couldn't put any of you in danger like that!"

"But you willingly threw yourself in the line of danger to keep us safe," Ryoko replied with a sneer.

"Yes! What would the UESF have done if they found out that the crew of the most advanced warship in the universe was helping a vigilante? What would you do if they found out that you were intentionally breaking the fragile peace that now exists in the sector?"

"We would've simply stood behind our actions and claimed it was the right thing to do," Yurika replied. "It was for the sake of preventing anything from happening again."

Akito sighed, "No one knew about the war in the future, only me. Would they believe you if you told them I knew the future? I doubt it."

At that moment, Akatsuki walked into the room with a face that Akito knew quite well.

"They are being brought up on charges of treason as it stands, Tenkawa. The little stunt they pulled to help you has brought scorn upon them. So even if you were trying to protect them, it was all in vain."

Akito wasn't listening to the chairman as he continued to ramble on, though. He simply stared at the one man who had pretty much ruined his life. Ruined Yurika's life. Ruined everything.

In the middle of one of his patented speeches, Tenkawa bolted forward.

He grabbed the other figure by the throat and lifted him to the wall.

"Yamasaki. I didn't know that I would be getting this pleasure so soon."

The scientist simply stared down at Akito, while struggling to remove the mans hands. After a few moments, the death grip on his throat was released and the man began to gasp.

"No, you don't deserve to die. Not after what you put us through."

Akatsuki stepped in-between both men.

"I'm afraid that isn't possible. He is still needed by our staff to answer a few questions."

Akito looked straight at the long haired director, "Why should I care?"

"Because if you kill him now, I would have no reason to prevent the UE and JPF from pressing charges against the crew of the Nadesico, now would I? As long as he remains in ideal health and with me, I will see to it that your friends won't be taken into custody."

Akito growled, "Still hiding behind others while trying to negotiate I see. You haven't changed one bit Akatsuki. You're still as spineless as you used to be."

"If that's what you believe, then I won't stop you from forcing yourself to believe it. After all, I hold all the cards here."

Akito smirked, "Not all of them."

Akatsuki frowned at the young man. He still had some of his cocky attitude, but it seemed this time he could back it up. He was a considerable threat, seeing as how he could go wherever he pleased, whenever he pleased. Not to mention he had already killed many hundreds of soldiers, all for the sake of protecting his friends.

The chairman had no doubt that Tenkawa would continue with his spree, if he deemed it necessary. The key was not to agitate him or threaten anyone he cared about. And so far, he'd done both of those as soon as he stepped in the room.

Without saying another word, Akatsuki left the room. He didn't want to rile up Tenkawa more than he already had.

With the chairman gone, Akito turned and looked at the rest of his friends.

"Can you all please wait outside a second. I need to have a little chat with Yamasaki."

The edge in his voice didn't leave room for any debate. Everyone nodded and began filing out of the observation deck, except for one person.

"No."

Akito sighed and nodded, "Fine."

He knew that she had some issues with the scientist as well, but Yurika had probably stayed behind to make sure he wouldn't do anything foolish.

As soon as the last person left and the door was closed, Akito focused on the man in front of him completely. He simply stared at him, his eyes unmoving, uncaring.

Yamasaki began to squirm after a few moments. It was obvious to anyone that the man was nervous. After all, there were two people in front of him that'd he used as guinea pigs. Run numerous tests on them, fooled with their minds and hearts, and even tried to use for his own gain.

He was coming to terms with what he'd done in the past, and it was frightening. Especially seeing Tenkawa dress completely in black, with his facial markings glowing brighter by the second.

The frown on Tenkawa's face seemed to be getting deeper as well. Soon, it turned into a snarl as he bared his teeth.

Akito couldn't stand the man standing in front of him. He hated him for what he'd done, for what he'd taken away. His emotions were beginning to take hold of him, but he couldn't stop himself.

A few moments later, a hand grabbed Akito's shoulder and squeezed. He looked back to see Yurika frowning at him in disappointment. Akito relented with a sigh and backed off.

"I know this may be a moot point…but I truly am sorry."

Akito snorted and shook his head, "And why is that, doctor? Because you finally realized you're going to get yours when this is all over?"

"Akito! Just let him finish."

Yamasaki nodded at the young lady and took a deep breath.

"This may sound like a lie, but I never meant to harm either of you. The Successors were rather forceful in their persuasions. But the call of working on the actual ruin from Mars was what made me join the project. I'd been fascinated by it ever since it was discovered by Nergal.

"As a result, when the Successors came to me and offered a position that let me research the ruin, I accepted. It was like a dream had come true. I'd wanted to study the ruin for so long, and they gave me the opportunity to. You must understand, it was only my interest in the ruin that got me started in with their plans. I don't want another war."

He turned and seemed to slump against the wall, "But they were forceful…Once they had the both of you, they made me think of a way to have the both of you integrated with the ruin as one so that it would boost its efficiency. I was against it the entire time, as I'd seen what it had done to countless others. They said it was alright…that the two of you were special. I didn't question what they said, as I was afraid of the repercussions.

"After a while, I began to feel as though I was robbing you of your humanity…It was then that I devised a series of tests that would intentionally show the decline of efficiency and accuracy in the ruin. It was the first step of a plan to get one of you released."

He looked up at the both of them, "I figured since Tenkawa-kun was a bit more willing to act on his impulses and less patient, that he would be the best choice. I had them remove you, and I couldn't stop it when they began testing certain things on you. They also forced me to join in so that their plans would progress faster.

"I don't know if you remember or not Tenkawa-kun, but it was me who connected you to Lapis. It was against Hokushin's wishes, but Kusakabe approved of it. I knew that if you had help, outside support, that you could be able to change everything. I also helped set up your escape, by calling for an unmarked testing of you. The guards seemed rather surprised that you managed to break free, but I was happy. The plan had succeeded, and you even managed to escape with Lapis, your Aesti unit and the battle ship Variable."

Yamasaki smirked slightly, "I must say I was rather disappointed that you sealed the ruin and transported it away, but it was needed. After all, the actions of Hokushin and his group caught your attention and led you straight back to the ruin. I had to start over with my research, but I was at least well versed with the ruin by now."

Yamasaki turned to look at Yurika, "They were threatening to replace, and even kill, me if I didn't figure out a way to get the accuracy of the ruin up. They needed it so that they could wage a full out war against the UE and UESF. They weren't concerned with anything else. I was forced to feed you simulations of being together with Tenkawa-kun. Although I was surprised to see they worked, I was also dismayed. The fact that I had given them what they wanted struck home. After the fighting began I simply stood in the shadows and managed to sneak away from everyone else. Later, I was captured by Nergal and interrogated by Akatsuki. He demanded to know what it was that I had found and researched. He even threatened me by saying he'd call Tenkawa-kun over to deal with me."

After a slight laugh, he looked at the floor.

"I managed to hold off their advances, but then they struck back with a serum that would force me to tell them the information they wanted. Akatsuki had warned me that the last test subject had killed himself due to numerous traumatic problems that happened after the serum was introduced to his system. I finally cracked and had to tell them everything.

"Fressange-san helped me escape, as I had been tossed aside like a soiled rag. Apparently, though, they still have need for my knowledge."

He slowly shifted positions, and was soon sitting on his knees. He bowed forward and touched his head to the ground.

"Please…forgive me for being a fool. I know I don't deserve your forgiveness, but I would die happy, at least knowing you heard my side of the story."

Yurika had a rather soft look on her face as she looked at the hunched figure pleading his case before the two of them. After hearing everything, she was finally able to move on.

Akito's face was unreadable as he stared at the hunched figure. He knew most of the story of the Successors, and a few things about Kusakabe that Tsukomo told him. It appeared that he had the entire story now. He continued to stare at the figure, but finally seemed to break.

"Get up."

Yamasaki looked up at the man and slowly rose to his feet. Akito walked over to him and simply stared at the man once again. Yamasaki still appeared to be unnerved by his attentions.

After a few moments, Akito swiftly connected his fist with the man's jaw. Yamasaki stumbled back, but still remained standing.

Akito reached up and pulled off his face guard. He continued to stare that Yamasaki, but it wasn't the intense, soul piercing gaze it was before.

"I may not forgive you for what you have done. To either of us. But if you help me to regain, at least, some of my humanity, I might consider it."

Yurika, who had almost jumped on Akito and began yelling at him, smiled. She had predicted things to be a lot more violent, but it was just as well.

"He has always been the stubborn one. I forgive you, Professor. After all, you had little choice in the matter correct? They couldn't simply let you go after you'd worked with them and seen what they possessed."

"Yes, I suppose that's so."

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As the others clustered around the screen, Ryoko seemed steamed about something.

"That was all? One punch? Go after him Tenkawa! Beat the crap out of him!"

"Shhhh!" Others quickly put their hands to her mouth and tried to silence the yelling Aesitvalis pilot.

Another screen popped up next to the one everyone was staring at.

"Captain, Akatsuki-san is requesting that Yamasaki be sent to the shuttle bay immediately. They are returning to Nergal HQ. They said we were free to do as we pleased when they had left."

"Very well, I'll inform them."

As Ruri slid the door open, she could see that Yamasaki was shaking Akito's hand, while Yurika had draped herself around his neck.

"Yamasaki-san, your presence is requested in the shuttle bay so that you may leave. They said it was of the utmost importance that you hurry."

"Thank you," he bowed at Ruri and then turned around and bowed at the couple in front of him. He quickly left the observation deck and made his way to the shuttle that was waiting for him.

After a few moments of silence, everyone began to pour back into the deck. Akito smiled at them and nodded.

"I'm not needed here anymore. I think I'll probably head back to the surface and try my luck as a vendor again."

"You're going to go back to your old life after simply wiping out half of the Successors? Don't you feel the call to action anymore Tenkawa?"

Akito chuckled, "No Ryoko-chan. After three years of constant battles, I think it's time to fully retire my pilot status."

"We still have an opening for a chef on the ship."

Everyone turned to look at Ruri.

"Howmei-san decided to stay on the surface. We need a staff in the kitchen."

"Is that an offer to stay aboard, Ruri-chan?"

"Of course."

Akito smiled broadly, "Being with friends again while chasing after my dream huh…"

He turned and bowed slightly at everyone, "I'll work my best, if you'll have me."

A loud cheer followed and Yurika squealed and latched on to Akito as he was starting to rise. This action caused the both of them to plummet to the floor, with Yurika on top of him.

A chorus of laughter ensued as Akito kept trying to squirm his way out of her grip, but it was impossible.

Resigned to his fate, he simply returned the death grip she had on him.

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Epilogue:

Things seemed to return to normal on the Nadesico, despite having a sea of unfamiliar faces to get accustomed to.

Akito remained at his station of the ships chef until the Nadesico C was taken off of the active duty roster.

As the time passed, he seemed to be slowly reverting back to his old self. The fact that Yamasaki had helped him also contributed to the fact.

It had taken several tests and numerous months of research, but Yamasaki had been able to adjust things in Akito's system back to normal.

He regained his sense of taste, as well as a boost in his other senses. When he was around Lapis, however, his senses almost seemed supernatural. No one could sneak up on him or even try to surprise him.

Lapis had been one of his assistants in the kitchen while he was on board the Nadesico. He had jumped the Variable to the asteroid base, still not having the heart to simply abandon the ship.

Over time, Minato and Goat Hory had begun seeing each other again. Despite Yukina's numerous outbursts, the two were still fairly happy.

She would never forget Shiratori Tsukumo, but she needed something more real to live on than simply memories. His little sister had kept her life fairly interesting, but she was still lonely sometimes.

And on the topic of Yukina, she was seeing Jun. She had continued on with her education and was going to graduate from high school soon. Jun had continued his career with the military for a while, and then simply resigned.

Ryoko and Izumi both ended up working under Hikaru, which was quite odd. No one could've imagined that the three of them would still stick together after everything was settled. Who could've guessed that the three of them would become relatively well-known manga artists?

Megumi had returned to her voice acting job. She continuously worked on several new series, which seemed to boost her status even more.

The Prospector remained at Nergal, still having his duties to attend to. But many suspected that he would quit as soon as he could.

Seiya returned to his run down mechanic shop and still continued with his illegal modifications, but no one seemed to pay any heed. The last they heard of him, his wife was expecting a third child.

Others continued their lives, walking separate paths from their friends. Yet they all remained in constant contact with a system that Ruri and Omoikane designed.

Before long, two entire years had passed.

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Akito looked up from his current assignment and gazed at his wife as she walked through the back door slowly. He smiled as she took her usual seat in the back of the massive kitchen.

"Several of our regulars have been wondering about you lately."

"Oh? Why is that?"

Akito scratched the back of his head, "You haven't made an appearance in a while. After I told them the reason why, they seemed to understand."

Yurika put on hand on her stomach and sighed, "I wish I could get around more…"

"Well…Inez did say you would have a lot less strength when you reached the third trimester."

Yurika nodded, "Has she been able to tell if it's a boy or girl yet?"

Akito shrugged, "Beats me. I haven't talked to her in almost a week."

A screen suddenly flashed before his eyes with a message.

"Ruri-chan, customer!"

A soft reply came from outside and to the left. If Akito had to guess, she was still interacting with Omoikane. He wasn't sure how, but the girl had managed to save most of the computer's AI and some of its systems before it was powered down permanently.

She had enough money saved from her pay as captain of the Nadesico C to rebuild some of the system in the restaurant they now owned. Instead of having an overhead menu or simple hand-out menus, whenever a customer was seated, a virtual menu appeared in front of them. It was an interactive menu as well, so they could order whenever they were ready. It was easy and fairly efficient. Yurika still made her normal rounds, despite the system, simply to keep a more social aspect of the restaurant going.

He smiled as he could hear Ruri talk to the customers and then seat them. After a few moments, an order popped on the screen to his left.

He looked it over quickly and began to prepare it. As he was busy, Lapis arrived in the back as well.

The four of them had decided to live as a family. For Yurika and Akito, it was only natural. They extended their offer, once again, for Ruri to join them if she wished. Akito had taken Lapis in, because he was the only figure that she really knew and understood. It had taken a while, but Lapis was beginning to adapt to the idea of a family.

She also served as a waitress with Ruri and Yurika, but she was a bit more reserved and quiet than the other two.

The restaurant itself was fairly popular, due to a few reasons. Akito had developed into a great cook while still on the Nadesico. The fact that his senses seemed to be heightened past normal helped out in numerous ways.

Another was the fact that all the waitresses were female. Many came simply to chat with the girls and Yurika. Hari was also a visitor quite often. He still had an emotional attachment to Ruri as an older sister, so it wasn't surprising.

Maybe they could add him in as well, Akito thought as he finished off the meal preparations.

"Order up!"

He handed the plate to Ruri, who took it to the lone customer. After a few moments, a small conversation could be heard.

Akito looked out of the small kitchen food platform to see someone in uniform sitting in a booth across from Ruri. She seemed to be blushing, as the stranger continued to talk.

The gentleman had slicked back hair, aside from a wide sweep of black hair on the left side of his head. He seemed to be quite entertained simply by talking with Ruri. Akito wondered if it was another person she met while she was still in command of the Nadesico before they arrived back.

Yurika put her hand on Akito's shoulder, which caused the young man to turn.

She had a slightly pouty look on her face as she stared at him.

He smiled, "What'll it be?"

Her smile returned as she hugged him gently, "The usual."

He put his hands on her shoulders, pushed her back slightly and kissed her. After a few moments, they parted.

They simply stared at each other happily.

As Akito turned around to complete his wife's order, he couldn't help but smile.

Most of his dreams had finally come true, despite the numerous set backs.

It was simply a matter of time before things would start to speed up again.

Except this time, he was looking forward to them.

A/N: Alright. This is huge, long and probably boring, but I don't care. After watching Nadesico and reading StarChylde's 'Chasing the Darkness' I just had to try to end the series as I saw it.

There had to be a task that Akito wanted to complete, thus why he didn't return with the others. This was simply my idea of what he had to do. To put it shortly, this project was simply for me.

I haven't written or thought up of many happy endings to series, but this is one of the few exceptions. After all the crap they were put through, I think the Nadesico crew deserves to be somewhat happy.

Hope y'all enjoy it! There isn't going to be a sequel.

Peace.