Warnings: Spoilers for entire series, dead people, semi-original characters, and poking fun at Gekigangar 3

Warnings: Spoilers for entire series, dead people, semi-original characters, and poking fun at Gekigangar 3. Typical Nadesico stuff. Probably a tad more angsty than series. Also note: SERIES; the movie has no part in this. I also apologize in advance if there are any elements or plot stuff in this fic that have shown up in other fics; the fics were so good that certain aspects of it blended into my beliefs of Nadesico. Damn fanon anyhow, right? :P

The All Around Guy:
The Dead Pilot

Starting from the beginning is oftentimes the best idea, but I'm a little shaky on what happened those two years ago, a good, well, week before I finally met him. I guess I could compensate for a week somehow because although we didn't actually meet each other until a week after he died, I knew that he must have been a pilot aboard the Nadesico because of his red suit. I knew who he was--or rather, simply what he looked like--ever since the first time I saw the interior the ship, but I didn't realize that he was dead until the Nadesico's funeral campaign.

But I do know a little bit about what had happened during that entire day before I came to know him. Wait, saying that he was dead for a day before I knew him is an exaggeration. I think he was dead for a good five or six hours before I first came face-to-face with him.

Compensating for a week would have been difficult. I'm glad that I knew him before I met him during that week. Creating a story out of the little knowledge I have of his past and the great knowledge I have of his personality to describe what happened to him during the time from when he died to when we actually met is much easier. Very, very, very much easier.

Well, to start off with, I'm sure he must have been greatly confused as to what was going on when he first awoke to his death. Everything that he did, everything that he touched had no effect on anything on the ship. He couldn't get anywhere since none of the doors would open for him, he couldn't strike up a conversation with anybody because nobody could hear him (though, I wonder from time to time if that was anything abnormal), and he couldn't control the Aestivalis because the computer on the mecha would not respond to his IFS, but that was something he didn't realize until I came on board the ship.

He knew that he was dead. He just never accepted it. In fact, he kept throwing fits at people for ignoring him--or, rather, he kept throwing fits at Tenkawa-kun for ignoring him since his spirit was so attached to the boy. Or rather, the boy was so attached to his spirit. That's a long story. I'll get to it soon. He would throw fits at every single machine on the Nadesico for countermanding his orders, and he even threw a fit at the men moving his stuff out of the room he once shared with Tenkawa-kun. When he realized that he was dead, I'm sure he whined and whined about not being able to do the "ghostly" things, like go through walls and stuff like that. Yeah, if I know him at all, he would have done that.

I think the temper tantrums before I came on the ship ended when he "met" Hikaru. I think by then he was just too stunned by her cheerfulness and perhaps even her love for the same anime show that he worshipped (I am NOT exaggerating) to resume his bad mood.

And that is when I come into play.

See how I just skimmed over everything? I don't know what Tenkawa-kun did after he died, so I can't give the all the details as to what I think happened. One, that would take too long; I might end up pulling a Fressange-san and give full in-depth explanation as to why I think that happened based on his personality alone. Two, well, I'm conceited, and I want to get to the part about me as quickly as possible and actually tell a freaking story.

That might be important, no?

My first glimpse of him was in the Aestivalis hangar, where all three pilots introduced themselves to everybody present. Er, well, Ryoko introduced Izumi-chan, but really, is that the point? Tenkawa-kun, the Captain, and some other bridge members and mechanics were there to witness it. Over the years, I've forgotten who was there that first time.

I'm getting off the topic here. Gee, thanks a lot, Gai Daigoji, for turning me into a digressing maniac!

Anyway, I didn't have a first impression of anybody in the hangar. I think it was the initial crew members who had the first impression of Izumi-chan, Ryoko, and Hikaru. Besides, I was way too busy feeling somehow embarrassed with how Izumi-chan was acting in front of them. Gai said it best:

"At first, I thought she was just plain insane, but as I got to know her..."

We'll get to the rest of that sentence later.

Okay, I admit that it's completely my fault Izumi-chan turned out the way she had, but what could I have done? Nobody would listen or even look at me if I apologized for her, but in most cases, Ryoko spoke the exact words I want to say when concerning Izumi-chan to the crowd of strangers. That day in the hangar was NOT one of them. She just sighed and turned to everyone and said:

"That's Izumi Maki. You'll learn more about her later."

The look on everybody's faces was almost identical: disbelief. They wondered what kind of new pilots they were stuck with, and considering that their other two pilots were a cook who had no desire to fight and a deceased man just a tad too obsessed with an anime show, life can never be normal on "The Ship of Fools".

I think that's what Ruri-san once said. I could be wrong, but she always did go around calling everybody "baka".

I don't blame her one bit.

But the look that Gai gave to the three girls was more relieved than anything else. Relieved in the exasperated sense; he was glad that he had died before he could have met them, but did I know that at first?

Of course not. I'm not a genius or anything.

But my attention had been caught, and I continued to be curious about this man with the strange hair-do. He was very peculiar, but no suspicions arose from me until a moment later in the elevator when one of the girls asked the Captain:

"What about the other two pilots that you had?"

"One of them passed away very recently," the Captain answered softly. She turned her head toward Tenkawa-kun. "And this is the other one."

I frowned and looked at the two boys. Tenkawa-kun was not dressed like a pilot, but Gai was. If that was the case... but maybe the Captain meant Gai when she nodded towards the two of them, so I didn't question, not until Hikaru decided to inspect Tenkawa-kun.

"Really?" she asked, and Tenkawa-kun backed down sheepishly.

"Well, I'm actually a cook..."

"I knew it! You didn't look like a pilot!"

Then what was with the other man in the pilot suit, I wondered. The elevator stopped at a floor, and Tenkawa-kun hurried to get out. "That's right! I'm a cook! I'm only just a temporary pilot!" he yelled as the elevator doors closed.

"Strange kid," Ryoko muttered.

Like I did with most of Ryoko's statements, I heartily agreed. Later I was about to find that nobody, nobody on this entire ship at all could classify as "normal". I almost wished I had known that beforehand, but what difference would it have made in the end?

"So, what happened to your other pilot?" Ryoko continued. "Died in battle?"

The Captain shook her head, and Gai seemed to listen intently. "He was shot last night in the hangar--"

"WHAT?" Gai gasped with his face horror-stricken. I still had my pride and dignity, and I was not about to make a fool of myself just to see if he really was dead, so I just stared at him, drowning the rest of the Captain's explanation out.

I wouldn't find out the rest of the story until nearly a year later.

The elevator stopped again, and everybody but Gai walked off of it. I followed them, deciding that whether or not he was alive, I should just let him go about his own business.

Meanwhile, the Captain showed Izumi-chan, Ryoko, and Hikaru their rooms and told them that they could get refreshed before they had to go out and recover the last Aestivalis and search for any survivors on the colony. I knew that the girls would need their privacy while they did so, so I followed the Captain's little group out. I didn't follow them back to the bridge for I had my duty, so I just waited outside of the girls' room patiently, my mind on the strange man in the pilot suit and the cook.

A cook who was also a pilot?

I didn't believe it, so for a good hour I tried to convince myself that the Captain meant the other man in the elevator. So while I discovered that Gai was a dead man wandering the ship during the funerals only a couple of days later, I had my suspicions for much longer.

I think I might have exaggerated with the whole "week" thing. It was more than two years ago; how am I supposed to remember all of the little details like that?

It took two hours for Izumi-chan, Ryoko, and Hikaru to get freshened up, and when they finally came out, chatting about what had happened on the Satsuki Midori 2 colony, I followed them to the hangar. My mind wandered to subjects that were neither on the colony nor Gai, but to other things. Trite stuff, if you will.

When we reached the hangar, the girls separated to go into their Aestivalis. As normal, I followed Izumi-chan to the blue robot, but Gai had been in the hangar. Seeing the three getting ready to take off into space turned him into an overexcited, obnoxious boy, so any and all suspicions that he was dead flew out the window in that instant. He must be alive, I figured. I shrugged it off and hopped into Izumi-chan's Aestivalis, only to find that he went into the spare mecha that Ryoko brought over.

Pilot or no pilot, there was no way he'd be able to maneuver it so quickly! Izumi-chan, Ryoko, and Hikaru were among the best pilots that Earth could offer, and it took them at least a week to get a hang of the Zero-G frame.

I decided that I didn't care if I was dead or not and nobody could hear me. I needed to vent, so I did.

"OI! Idiot!" I yelled. "You need training on that goddamned thing first!"

"It's fine! Besides, that's what I came in here to do--" he responded just as Izumi-chan closed the hatch for her Aestivalis.

I sat in Izumi-chan's cockpit, stunned. He heard me. He, a man I barely knew and up until a minute before he retaliated my outbursts, heard me. Either he had supernatural powers that I always thought were nonexistent or he really was dead.

I chose that the former made more sense somehow. After all, I'm a wandering spirit, right? Anything could happen when you find yourself in that position.

It wasn't until that spare Aestivalis came flying through the hangar of Satsuki Midori 2 did I realize otherwise.

"Let me do something to help!"

The voice belonged to the cook: Tenkawa-kun.

I arched a brow as the Aestivalis slowed in front of us, and Tenkawa-kun's face came on the screen. Hadn't the other pilot been in there earlier? Upon closer inspection, I saw half of his face on the very left of the communicator.

That's when I became convinced.

The man in the red pilot suit really was the dead pilot the Captain had been talking about earlier.

But I couldn't think anything more of it since Ryoko kicked Tenkawa-kun out of the colony, and the other Aestivalis the girls were sent to get turned out to be infested with Jovian computers.

Since the only survivors from the destruction of the Satsuki Midori 2 colony were Izumi-chan, Ryoko, and Hikaru, massive funerals had to be held. On the second day of the funerals, I finally relocated and introduced myself to the other wandering spirit on the Nadesico.

"Sheesh, the Captain could show at least a little bit of sympathy to those who have died," he muttered when I first approached him. "It's not right, damn it."

"Yo," I said.

"Heh?" he looked up from the window he was staring at and met my eyes. "Who... are you?"

"Kenichi Hamaguchi," I said with a small smile. "The other spirit on this ship."

"You're dead, too?"

"To put in less than flattering terms, yes."

"How did you know that I was?"

"Many reasons," I replied. "Do you really want me to list them all?"

He stared at me for a while and then looked back out the window. "No, it's fine. It still hasn't sunk in yet that I'm dead. I think it's because I can't go through walls like all other ghosts are supposed to do. Can you?"

"Can I what?"

"Go through walls."

"Of course."

"So why can't I?"

I cringed and followed his gaze. "We'll figure it out within time. First things first: I need to call you something. What's your name?"

"Gai Daigoji," he said simply. For a brief moment, there was silence, and then he spoke, "Your name is Kenichi?"

"You can call me either that or Hamaguchi-sama," I said jokingly. It was an inside joke that haunted me for the rest of my afterlife. I always told myself to never use that as an introductory phrase ever again, but I'm an idiot. At this point, however, I didn't realize it, thanks to Gai's next question.

"Can I call you Ken?"

I blinked and looked at him quizzically. "Ken? Why do you want to call me Ken?"

Gai turned to me and smirked triumphantly, and I immediately regretted asking.

"Because Ken is the name of the best character of all time," he announced, raising a fist to the air. "Ken Tenkuu, of Gekigangar 3!"

I stared for a good ten seconds before I narrowed my eyes. I think an eyebrow might have twitched. "You want to name me after an ANIME character?"

Gai lowered his fist. "Haven't you ever seen Gekigangar 3?"

"I have," I replied. Hikaru was a big fan; of course I have, and I didn't particularly like what I saw.

Gai was completely oblivious, to say the least. "So what's the problem?"

"I don't WANT to be named after an ANIME character!" I snapped, and Gai recoiled. He sighed and pouted.

"You're no fun," he muttered as he turned to stare outside again.

It was either that I had no comment or I was too annoyed to say anything more to him, and it was probably likewise for him, for silence drifted our way for a good five minutes. It was perfect. Just utterly perfect. Sense the sarcasm? I searched for something to say to him, but after the small altercation we had just had, I was in no mood to associate with him. I still wonder to this day while I didn't just leave, but I no longer regret that I stayed.

And, you know, Hoshio might be right. I think it was my yearning for company that had me glued to the spot. I don't know. It sounds kind of outrageous to me; it's like something out of an anime. If there's one thing I've learned from the war against the Jovians, it's that life isn't an anime. Nothing is what it seems, nothing is as simple as one-two-three. Nothing is nearly as deep as people make it out to be. Everything is always one, big, complicated mess.

I digress. Again. Damn it.

I still really don't think that I was lonely enough to get any company I could get my hands on. I'm NEVER that desperate.

Back to the story, I guess.

It was Gai who restarted the conversation.

"So, I'm a ghost, right? Shouldn't I be able to go through walls?"

I sighed. "Are you obsessed with this or something?"

"Well, it's no use being a ghost if you can't do the things ghosts should be able to do," Gai said. "I'm not happy with being dead, but being a ghost is absolutely useless to me."

"First of all," I said, trying not to sound too annoyed but knowing all at the same time that I was failing, "we're not ghosts. Ghosts are mindless souls wandering the place where they died without a purpose. We're spirits. Though, considering what I know about you thus far, I think I might start considering you to be a ghost..."

His eyes flashed. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Exactly what you think it means."

"You're accusing me of being mindless, aren't you?"

I hesitated.

"Yes," I stated simply. Gai twitched. "Besides, you haven't given me your purpose of being around on the Nadesico, and I take it you've died here, so I'm assuming that you're a ghost. No purpose, no reason, staying around the place where you've died... yes, you are a ghost indeed."

Gai pouted. "I did manage to get off this ship."

"Oh, when you MINDLESSLY boarded the Aestivalis and tried to follow Izumi-chan and her friends when you apparently couldn't even get the computer to listen to you?"

"I forgot that I was dead."

"Typical answer for a mindless soul."

"I am NOT a ghost!" Gai protested. "I can't even go through walls and stuff like that!"

I snickered. "Oh, NOW you say you aren't a ghost."

"You're accusing me of being mindless."

"You're not proving to me otherwise. And besides, just because you managed to get off the Nadesico doesn't mean that you're a wandering spirit, guardian or otherwise, like me. What if it was just the normal thing you would do had you still been alive?"

Gai fell silent to this and turned away, his features melancholy. "Aren't ghosts... supposed to not know that they're dead? You call that mindless?"

I stared at him, for it was the first time since I first laid eyes on him that he displayed any sign of real intelligence. He had a point, and some of the myths about ghosts were actually true. Ghosts didn't know that they were dead. They couldn't go through walls; such a privilege is only restricted to Shinigami, and the powers were restricted to spirits like myself. We could only go through anything with a door, and if the door was locked, we had no access.

Another myth about ghosts is that they are transparent and that they can show themselves to anybody at any time. It's true, for the most part. Ghosts are transparent to mortals and immortals and those in-between, but the times that mortals can see them range anywhere from the anniversary of some important date in their lives to midnight. Spirits, however, are transparent only to mortals; to immortals and other spirits, we're quite solid. We can touch each other. And we can only show ourselves to the people we love either on the anniversary of our death or during Tanabata... or through other means that I didn't find out until about a couple of years later.

"You're right," I said with a defeated sigh. "It's not that the ghosts are completely mindless; they're just lost in time. I take it back. You really aren't a ghost, but I still think that you're an idiot."

"I don't think I'm liking you."

"All the more to prevent you from calling me 'Ken'."

Gai looked up at me, and I smiled as innocently as I could possibly muster. "Just for that..." he growled, and I realized my mistake.

"Damn it," I hissed. "Shouldn't have mentioned it, shouldn't have mentioned it, shouldn't have mentioned it..."

"So what's this about a purpose?" he asked, ignoring the opportunity to taunt. "You said that spirits, like you, have a purpose for being around still. What do you mean by that?"

"It's just what it means," I told him. "It's our reason for still being on the mortal plane. I can't help you discover what your purpose is; it's something you'll have to discover on your own."

"I see," he muttered, his eyes still poignant.

"Gai," I started, and then I paused. "It's okay if I call you that, right?"

"Better than Jiro."

"Eh?"

"Never mind. You can call me Gai."

I frowned but continued. "Anyway, Gai, I understand your frustrations about being dead. I really do. All spirits have it at first, but we get used to it within time. And there's nothing, NOTHING we can do to reverse the ways of fate."

He sighed. "Is there anything we can do to satisfy ourselves?"

"That's why we have our 'purposes'."

We didn't speak much more after that, since there was nothing more I could tell him and nothing more he wanted to ask at the moment. We went our separate ways for the night, and I would have been left pondering about his existence had it not been for my discovery upon returning to the three girls' room.

When I entered, there were a couple of packets of paper on the table. Izumi-chan was taking a shower, Ryoko was out of the room, and Hikaru, as usual, was drawing doujinshi. When I looked down at it, there was a rough sketch of two of the main characters from Gekigangar 3. Remembering what Gai wanted to call me at first, and what he was to call me for the rest of the time we were to know each other, I shuddered. Why did I have to run into a Gekigangar fan who had the slightest possibility of being more obsessed than Hikaru?

I know, I know, the Jovians were worse, though I still question: if I had a choice between spending the rest of my afterlife with Gai or the Jovians, I'd choose the Jovians.

They aren't nearly as obnoxious.

I took a seat at the table. Since I had nothing better to do, I decided to read the bundle of papers, which turned out to be contracts. I had to remind myself that the Nadesico was a civilian battleship, so there were hardly any military members onboard to abide by any standards. They needed a contract. I don't read contracts for I had never come across any in my life (I used to be in the United Earth Force's military), but boredom can bring out the worst of people.

I spent a good half an hour reading the contract before I came across something very interesting, but something that would also ruin MY purpose of sticking around on the mortal plane.

Luckily for me, at that time, Izumi-chan FINALLY came out of the bathroom. I needed to catch her attention, even if something like this wouldn't concern her as much as it would anybody else on the ship. Did they know that this was in the contract?

But there is no way for apparitions like myself to catch anyone's attention. It was neither the anniversary of my death nor was it Tanabata, but I never did say that there was something else spirits can do, did I?

It's a moment of turning into a poltergeist, but I really, really need to show Izumi-chan and her friends this.

I walked into her body to possess her mind.

Reread the contract. A certain paragraph.

"Hm?" Izumi-chan looked to the table.

Reread the contract. You missed something.

"What's wrong, Izumi-chan?" Hikaru asked.

"Instincts are telling me something," she said. "I think there was something we skipped over in the contract."

"Eh? You think so?"

Izumi-chan walked to the table and picked up the stack of papers.

Second page. The second to the last paragraph. The smallest font on the page.

Izumi-chan's eyes scanned over to the requested section, and my job had been done. I moved out of her body and sat on Ryoko's bed. Izumi-chan widened her eyes.

"'While Nergal does not restrict associations between men and women, to insure public morality, employees must not do any more than hold hands'," she read. "What the..."

Hikaru looked up from her drawings and bounced to the table. "What?" she asked, picking up another copy of the contract.

It was then when Ryoko walked back into the room.

"Food's pretty good here," she said before Hikaru enlightened her on what the contract said.

The news spread like wildfire.

I smirked. My purpose had not been ruined because of the idiocy of Nergal.

It wasn't until the next day did the rallying and protesting began, and I stood with most of the crew of the Nadesico on the bridge for the protest. It was actually just Uribatake and the pilots (the rest of the mechanics and those who opposed Nergal's regulations were in the hangar), but Tenkawa-kun and Gai were nowhere to be found. Well, Gai was dead, but I half-expected him to show up for whatever reason. How could the words not reach his ears? And Tenkawa-kun's too!

As I got to learn more and more about Tenkawa-kun, he couldn't have cared less even if he tried. He wasn't big on romance like most of the rest of the people on board.

When Megumi-san finally requested for the Captain to come to the bridge, it was only a matter of five minutes before she arrived. With her came a few other mechanics who either hadn't heard the news or just plain didn't care, Tenkawa-kun, Minato, and Gai. I came to the conclusion that he was following somebody in that crowd around. But it wasn't something neither of us were concerned with at the moment.

Gai came down with the Captain and immediately approached me.

"What the hell is going on?" he asked.

"We're protesting," I answered.

"I can SEE that--wait. 'We'?"

"'While Nergal does not restrict associations between men and women, to insure public morality, employees must not do any more than hold hands'," the Captain read. She looked at the protesters. "What is this?"

I smiled triumphantly, and the grin only grew wider as Gai asked:

"YOU started this, didn't you?"

"Of course," I answered, half-listening to the conversation that the protesters and the Captain were having.

"How?" Gai asked.

"I'm not inclined to tell you," I replied.

"Hey!"

I chuckled. Out of frustration, Gai gave up talking to me. It was either that, or Uribatake's outburst of "I AM young!" caught both of our attentions. As he began something like a poetry recital (it was really just an act of melodrama to make a point) about the how beautiful love is, Gai muttered under his breath, "I always knew he was flaky."

I turned to him, but I couldn't ask him anything for that was the precise moment that the Prospector showed up.

"It's that elevation that's the problem," he announced.

"YOU BASTARD!" Uribatake shouted as he pointed towards the two Nergal officials on top of the bridge.

I glared as angrily as Uribatake showed in his voice at the Prospector and Hory-san. THERE was the problem. I wondered for a brief moment if I could turn poltergeist just for revenge, but I don't think I should get Izumi-chan into trouble of that sort. While it would keep her out of danger, it would cut her off from the two people who were keeping her soul alive: Ryoko and Hikaru.

Eh, purpose or no purpose, I don't like Nergal's regulations at all. I, to this day, still can't believe that everybody skipped over that part.

Nergal is oppressive that way. Damn them.

"This makes me wonder," said Gai quietly next to me, "I wonder what other stuff was in the contract that I didn't read."

"You skimmed through it?" I asked.

Gai shook his head. "Err... no," he said sheepishly. "I was too hyped up about coming onboard this ship and piloting robots that I signed the contract immediately. I didn't read it. At all."

I stared at him for a good, long five seconds. "You really are an idiot, aren't you?"

Timing is of the essence in war. The ship shook violently, and many people on the bridge struggled to keep their balance, whether by themselves or with help. Others fell. Being spirits, Gai and I stood almost perfectly still, although we both flinched at the explosion.

"Shit," I muttered. "We're under attack."

"You think?" Gai snapped.

With the Captain's pleas, everybody went back to work, and I followed Izumi-chan, Ryoko, and Hikaru to the hangar. Tenkawa-kun and Gai trailed behind me. I shouted behind me to get Gai to stay put; there was nothing he could do, and his answered implied that I was being hypocritical.

"My situation is different!" I answered.

"How?!"

I had no intentions of telling him, and even if I wanted to, I had no time to as I jumped into Izumi-chan's Aestivalis just as she closed the hatch. I caught a glimpse of Gai climbing into Tenkawa-kun's before Tenkawa-kun even reached the foot of the robot. We took off, and the battle begun.

I'm no good at describing battles, so I won't go into much detail. The girls had their moment, although most of it was reserved for Izumi-chan. To Ryoko, Izumi-chan's speech was a disconcerting one, and Hikaru had no comment. To me, it was a bit of a revelation that all was not lost. I smiled and let Izumi-chan handle all of the piloting and the fighting, wondering in the back of my mind how Tenkawa-kun and Gai were doing.

I didn't have to wait too long to find out. Tenkawa-kun's Aestivalis came flying past the girls after they realized that the Jovians were using distortion fields. He tried to do something or the other; I couldn't pinpoint what it was, but Hikaru saw it as a kamikaze attack. When Izumi-chan connected to Tenkawa-kun's Aestivalis, I found my opportunity to scold Gai.

"You moron!" I growled, getting in front of Izumi-chan to talk to Gai. I could see him on Tenkawa-kun's right side clearly, and he scowled. "What the hell did you think you were doing, going out to battle the way you were?"

"I forgot!"

"Even after I reminded you?"

He fell silent, and Hikaru asked the other three living pilots for a plan on how to defeat the Jovians. There was a short moment of silence before Gai rolled his eyes and said something about "Akito's idiocy". He jumped into Tenkawa-kun--INTO Tenkawa-kun--and immediately Tenkawa-kun had an idea pop into his head.

The communication link between Tenkawa-kun's Aestivalis and Izumi-chan's was cut off, and, astounded, I watched at how Tenkawa-kun managed to destroy the Jovian battleship. Or rather, how Gai managed to destroy the Jovian battleship. Gai really was an ace pilot when he was alive; it wasn't just some random Gekigangar 3 fan. He was like Hikaru, except maybe even better.

At that moment, my respect for him grew.

He had helped Tenkawa-kun out a lot, too. Izumi-chan, Ryoko, and Hikaru no longer saw Tenkawa-kun as a deranged cook who piloted just because.

When we returned to the Nadesico, I approached Gai. While I was impressed with his and Tenkawa-kun's skill combined, wondering never stops a human being.

"Oi, Gai," I said as we met in front of Tenkawa-kun's Aestivalis. "How did you know how to do that?"

He looked puzzled. "How did I know how to do... what?"

"The poltergeist thing," I said. He blinked, and I mentally smacked myself. How was he supposed to know what the 'poltergeist thing' was? "Merging with a mortal's body. How did you do that?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Before that kid--" I pointed towards Tenkawa-kun over by the vending machines. "--destroyed the Jovian spacecraft, you jumped into his body. How did you do that?"

Gai shook his head. "I... don't exactly know. I think I forgot again that I was dead, and I hopped into his seat to take control of the Aestivalis. I really don't know how I did it."

"But... but..." I stuttered, unsure of what to say. How could Gai have instantly done something that I worked for two months to accomplish? "You couldn't have..."

The ship shook again. There was no news of an attack, so I suspected that we were entering Mars's atmosphere. The mortals either fell to the ground or held on to something to prevent themselves from doing so, but like earlier, Gai and I only jumped at the sudden turbulence. We adjusted quickly, but it was too hectic to say anything more to each other.

It wasn't hectic enough for my thoughts to go haywire, so I managed to recollect myself before we landed on the planet. By the time the shaking ended, I was able to proceed.

"Anyway, Gai," I said, "you merged with that boy's body, but you think it was because you forgot that you were dead?"

He nodded. "Yes, but can we drop it? The pilots are heading to the bridge, and I need to go with them."

"No, you don't!" I said, but sure enough, all four of the pilots were heading in that direction, so naturally, I followed. "Gah, fine, come on. We'll talk on the way."

"No, really, Ken," he said. "Drop it. It's no big deal."

"It IS a big deal!" I snapped. "And my name is Kenichi, not Ken!"

Gai sighed. "You're really worked up over this."

"It's because you don't know the basics of the spiritual plane," I said. "If you can't even get into closed rooms--'walking through walls'--then how did you manage to merge with his body? It took me a good couple of months to master that technique, and I even had a teacher."

"Spirits have teachers? Wow."

"It's the only way we can keep ourselves from being caught by the Shinigami," I told him. "And it's the only way we succeeded in our afterlife."

"Shinigami?"

"I'll tell you later," I said, and just then, a thought hit me. "You know, Gai, if you want to learn how to 'go through walls' and the like, I can teach you."

By then, we had reached the bridge. Gai stopped and turned, looking at me quizzically. "Teach me?"

"The Shinigami mean well, but they do get in the way of our purposes, especially for spirits like you who don't what their purpose on the mortal plane is yet," I informed him with a small grin. "We're safe in space since it's so vast that they don't want to set up a system there, but while Mars has a Shinigami system, it's a weak one. We still have to be careful though. You don't want to be caught, do you?"

"You need to explain more about the Shinigami to me," he said slowly.

"That's why I'm going to be your teacher."

Gai stared at me, controversy dancing in his eyes. He then sighed and smiled weakly. "I'll be able to go through walls when you're finished, right?"

I nodded, my grin growing wider. "Of course. But we have to do it now."

"That's fine."

"For your first lesson, you need to accept your death not in your mind, but in your heart. After your 'poltergeist' move, I think that step has already been reached..."

"He sure seems like an elaborate man."

I shake my head. "Oh, you have NO idea."

He hesitates for a second and then slowly says, "Kenichi..."

"Yeah?"

"Tell me your real feelings, how you really feel... be honest." He takes a deep breath, a little unsure of himself. "If Daigoji-san never died, do you think... do you think Minato would have fallen for him?"

I blink at him for a moment, but I understand his fears, his suspicions, his helplessness... I know exactly how he feels. I sigh.

"Tsukumo, he may have been a lot like you, almost like your clone, but like I already told you, he was the OBNOXIOUS version of you. If anything, Minato would have been annoyed by him. I surely was," I reassure him, deciding that for his sake to omit the last words of 'at first'.

He laughs.

"Besides, I'm not finished telling the story yet..."

To be continued...

Bearit's Notes: So here goes for my Nadesico three-parter! How do you guys like it so far? I love Gai way too much for my own good. Yes, the title is supposed to be a pun. I couldn't resist. Feedback welcome!

Footnotes:

(1) - Shinigami are dead souls who have a strong attachment to the living plane, but they live like they would have on Earth in Meifu, the land of the dead. They have something like a detective's job in which they investigate unnatural serial killings and/or deaths. They also bring dead people who haven't checked in the afterlife into Meifu. In short, a not-really-that-big-to-mention crossover with Yami no Matsuei.

(2) - Tanabata is a Japanese festival held on July 7th. There's a myth about two lovers being separated by the Milky Way, but you can look it up yourself if you really want to know the full story.