Morph Forty: Bakaguru's Legacy
They did not have to wait long.
0 was standing in the middle of the street when it happened. He looked to the left and saw him in a coffee shop. To the untrained eye, Charon probably looked a little unhinged. His bald head was sweating, his pupils were dilated, and his hands almost crushed the paper cup containing his coffee on instinct. 0 held up his com-link.
"Pi, let them know to converge on my position," he ordered. "Tell them to remember their parts of the plan."
"Can do," said Pi. "Keep us safe in there."
0 nodded and stepped inside the shop. It seemed so unusual that he would meet Charon in such an
ordinary place. Flashes of a memory jolted through his mind: him taking May and Sarah to a small shop in Kanto a long time ago, almost like a lifetime ago. Sarah had been so small and precocious that 0 had had to balance his coffee and his daughter in the same hand while May placed her own order. He joined Charon at the counter and turned to the cashier.
"Mocha, please," he said, and handed her a bill. "And quickly." He turned to Charon and smiled. "Thirsty, Charon?"
Charon twitched. "None of your business, Golden Boy," he muttered. "Shouldn't you be running for the hills? That's what you guys do, right? Run away at the first sign of trouble?"
0 looked him over. There were bags under his eyes that belonged on a much older face. "You're in trouble," he said. "Are you deteriorating?"
The cashier handed him his coffee and 0 offered Charon a seat further away from the crowds. Charon accepted and sipped at his cup. Before Charon could say something snappy, 0 just lifted his hand and took a deep draught of his cup. Charon fell silent and waited.
"Let's skip all the dumb parts, shall we?" asked 0. "I know you're not going to back down. You want our morphers. And you know we're not going to back down. We're going to keep them. So let's not do that whole thing where we puff ourselves up and make ourselves seem important. I'm getting tired of it, and I want to enjoy this coffee. I didn't get much of a taste for anything other than beer for a few years, and I'll tell you, you never really appreciate variety until you lose it."
Charon just sipped his coffee.
"You're getting tired too, I can tell," 0 muttered, looking him over again. "By the looks of it, I say you've got six months. Fewer, if you keep using that technology. You won't live to enjoy yourself, even if you do kill us all."
"You don't know anything," Charon grumbled. "I'm perfectly fine."
0 shook his head. "See, that's where you're wrong. You went through some sort of boundary you weren't supposed to go through. You evolved passed Shattered Form with that Master Morpher. It'll eat you away, until there's nothing left."
"Others have evolved with no problems. Your little pet did it, I will be no different."
"Max evolved once, from Chained to Sealed Form. Perfectly normal in a Dark Gem's life cycle. You evolved passed Shattered Form. No way of telling how that ends for you. But, judging from all those lines on your face, and your jittering, it's not going to be great."
"What's the point of this?" asked Charon. "You already know I'm not going to stop. I already know you're not going to stop. We're two opposing forces, just waiting for one to give the slightest leeway."
"Because I'm offering you a chance," said 0. "I'm trying to be a good leader. Being a good leader means being willing to talk instead of fight. If you give me that morpher and walk away, we won't come after you. You can live, however long you get to, but you can live. Your Dark Ruby is powered through that morpher, so you could take it off and walk away." He finished his drink and set it on the counter. "It's up to you whether or not we throw down. I'm tired. I mean it. I am so tired of all these threats to my family. I just want them to stop, and the only way they stop is if all the Dark Gems go away. And I know that's not going to happen. But I'm going to give you that choice. Your partner already died tonight. Do you want to join her?"
Charon set his cup on the table. "Ranger Gold, nothing you just said matters to me," he replied, almost cheerfully. "While you were in fact saying it, my mind was drifting to another subject entirely. Most of it was involving your daughter, and the numerous ways I could defile her after I kill you tonight and she spends the next ten years as my slave. So spare me your patronizing shtick. There is no other way for this to end."
0 sighed and cracked his knuckles. "I did try, you know."
Then he placed his hand on Charon's shoulder and injected him with enough electricity to paralyze a Wailord. Charon convulsed and hit the ground at about the same time the other denizens of the coffee shop started screaming.
"Pi, come on down," he ordered, before he turned to Charon. "What you're feeling is about all the electricity that I can safely shock a person with without it being considered a felony. It'll still keep you about as rigid as a board as you convulse around and wait for your inevitable defeat. I just wanted to give you a chance to back out."
He leaned down and grabbed Charon by the ear, hoisting him up while still delivering another jolt of electricity. "You honestly think I'd let you talk like that about my little girl? You're obviously not a father, Charon, and your dad did a terrible job with you."
He turned to the other customers and sent out a wave of lightning that briefly short-circuited the power in the building. "I'd leave if I were you," he suggested. "Things are about to get really messy in here."
Everyone took his advice and ran all. All except for six others. A man with dark skin and fox-like eyes. A tiny woman next to him with silver hair. A man whose eyes could change from brown to green in flashes behind his glasses. A woman with short purple hair and red eyes whose expression never changed. And, behind them all, the most beautiful woman in the world holding the most beautiful girl in the world.
"My family will have peace tonight," said 0, as he demorphed back into his ranger armor. "Max, let's get things started."
Max nodded and stepped forward. He grinned and wrapped his chains around his arms and pressed his Dark Emerald against his flesh. "Dark Gem Ignite!" The chains melted into his flesh and he transformed. Max cracked his neck and his shadow chains began slowly winding down off his gauntlets and into his hands.
0 turned to 415, Brock, and Serena. "You guys ready?"
Serena nodded. "Sure you can handle this?"
"Doesn't matter. Do it."
She saluted. "On it, boss." She, 415, and Brock all transformed. Max's chains, one by one, pierced through their skin, connecting all four of them together.
"Pi, brace yourself," whispered 0.
It chuckled in his head. "See you on the other side, partner."
"Max, do it!"
Another one of Max's chains snaked up and bit into 0's neck. 0 groaned, then suddenly felt the power surging into him. First, it was Brock. He felt the Swampert's strength, and Brock's pain, that had forged the new Ranger Blue. He felt Serena's loneliness and her Dewgong's fear. He felt the struggle inside 415 between her nature and her heart, and the Luxray roaring for her to keep fighting. He felt all the sacrifices that had brought his team to him. He felt Max's anger, and the Dark Emerald's whispers to his brother-in-law to keep him sane. It would have been enough to break any other man, any other human.
But not Ranger Gold. As Charon struggled to his feet, 0 began a metamorphosis.
"Have we reached the threshold?" he asked.
"We're transforming! We're transforming!" shouted Pi.
Cario Form emerged first, the Claw Gauntlets settling into place onto his arms and hands. The spikes at the back of his hands extended in a bright blue flash. Next came Chariard Form, with its magnificent orange wings and its fiery tail. Oal Form bulked up his body, with its hardened black armor. Towl Form elongated his helmet, amplifying his sensors. And, finally, he watched as his Perior Form sprouted elegant vines along the leggings and boots covered by the Oal Form armor.
Then every single piece of his armor turned gold in one sudden, violent flash of blinding light. He heard his friends and family scream, he heard Charon shriek, and, in the distant din of his mind, he heard a soft chuckle he was certain he was imagining. After all, it was impossible that Bakaguru could be there, giggling in his ear.
"Auxiliary Pokemon System: Synch Battlizer registered. Activating Synchronization Form
," said the strange, deep voice from his Ailed Morpher. Then the light died down and 0 found himself glowing in the abandoned coffee shop, the only source of light left now that he had knocked out all the power during his transformation.
0 lifted his head and looked himself over. "Oh, now this is much more like it," he murmured. His head felt funny, in that it did not feel different at all. He was himself, without any of Lu's scrappiness, Tork's emotions, Z's savage nobility, Noct's cleverness, or Serp's regal bearing. "Pi, can you hear me?"
There was no answer, though 0 was certain that his best friend was there, somewhere. Ranger Gold cracked his knuckles just as Charon transformed into the Ruby Master Ranger.
"Ready to die, little boyo?" he asked. His body was radiating the same vile odor it was before, only it didn't seem to bother 0 this time.
He felt better than fine. He felt fantastic
. He turned around and saw his teammates demorphed, with 415 tenderly clutching onto Max's unconscious body.
She looked at him and glared. "Make it count, Ranger Gold," she said. "I will watch over him. He will wake."
He nodded, and then turned to Charon. "Do you realize how screwed you are?" 0 asked. "Look around you, Charon. Look who came to back you up. Nobody. Look who came for me. Everyone. My family. My friends. My team." He cracked his neck and started walking towards Charon. "There's not a snowball's chance in hell you're getting out of this."
And he dealt Charon an uppercut with such force that the Ruby Master Ranger smashed through the ceiling, continued flying, then smashed back through another section of ceiling to clatter to the floor. 0 could hear Charon wheezing as the monster got back onto his feet.
"Oh, your daughter's going to hate you when I'm done with all of you!" he growled and charged. 0 took the assault head on and the two of them locked arms. Charon tried to flip him over, but 0 held his balance thanks to his tail and the vines rooting him to the ground. The two shared a stalemate for some of the longest seconds of 0's life.
"Funny," said 0. "Your evolution doesn't seem to be holding up as well as my new armor. Isn't that an interesting development?"
Then he grimaced and clenched up his fingers. "Synchronization Drive: Protect! Synchronization Drive: Inferno!"
A sudden burst of blue energy surrounded them, and then suddenly the air around him and Charon froze in a small bubble of impenetrable energy. 0, who knew exactly what was coming, activated his life support system and shut off all contact with the outside world as his hands and forearms began supercharging enough heat to melt through the strongest of metals. The air inside the bubble evaporated into a vortex of heat and fire.
Charon just stood there, glancing from side to side, wondering how any of this could even be possible, before he and 0 were engulfed by the flames.
When the fire died down and Protect disappeared, the charred remnants of the Ruby Master Ranger stumbled away from 0 and fell to the floor. He was healing fast, though. His seared armor was already starting to repair itself and reconstruct his entire body.
0 had to end the fight soon. The energy output was dropping. His visor was indicating that he had perhaps five minutes before he would be forced to completely abandon his ranger form and morph to his human body to recover. There was no chance that Charon would give him time to recover for a second shot at Synchronization Form. He had to end it now.
He raised his hand. "Synchronization Drive: Psychic!" he ordered. His entire head glowed with soft light as Charon's body rose from the ground to suspend itself in midair. His arms and legs were entirely outstretched; he almost looked like he was about to be crucified. "Synchronization Drive: Leaf Tornado!"
A thousand million pieces of leaf materialized out of the air with faint golden glows. They jabbed at Charon's weak chinks in his armor, preventing him from regenerating. They shredded his tendons, they tore open his armor to expose the pitiful pale flesh that dwelled inside it.
"Any last words, you parasite?"
Charon tilted his head up. "You're all going to die. Just like that fat, pigheaded idiot Niwa. It's only a question of who gets to do it."
0 shook his head. "Bakaguru was ten times the man you are. A hundred times." Behind him, everyone nodded in agreement.
"He was a fool and a coward, and his only legacy is that of a pathetic band of failures who couldn't even follow simple orders."
"His legacy is the Rangers Seven," said 0. "His legacy is that he gave our planet its protectors. Yours will be just that you were another body destroyed by them."
Ranger Gold raised his hand. His bright, gleaming sword materialized into his grasp and he pointed the blade directly at Charon's Dark Ruby. "Synchronization Drive: Agility!" 0's entire body began to blur, and 0 himself began to laugh. "Synchronization Drive: Inferno! Synchronization Drive: Aura Sphere! Synchronization Drive: Leaf Tornado! And lastly, you evil little worm, Synchronization Drive: Volt Tackle!"
The leaves appeared again, only this time they attacked from behind Charon, holding him securely with the Psychic to ensure there was no chance of him moving. The three other attacks went straight into the sword, channeling a vortex of fire, lighting, and aura so fierce that the very vibrations it emitted as it tore through the air shattered every single piece of glass within a block radius.
0 was moving faster than he ever had in his entire life. His wings were folded low to not create wind resistance, his entire body was tucked like a coil to spring out at the last possible moment with all his might.
Let's see if your will is strong enough to stop me this time
He released his sword and it pierced through the Dark Ruby, pierced through Charon, and even launched directly through his body and into the wall across the room. 0 himself opened his wings and came to a stop some feet behind the Ruby Master Ranger, and morphed instantly into his human form. His face was sweaty, he was breathing heavily, and he heard Pi screaming in his head in victory. He turned and grinned at the hole cut directly through Charon's hide.
"Y-You think you've won?" asked Charon, as his ranger uniform simply melted around him. "There will never be a single moment of peace for you, little Ranger Gold, nor for anyone you've ever loved as long as you live. You think it'll s-stop with the Dark Gems? It'll never stop. If not them, then the next threat, then the next, until you wither and die with all of them. You'll never save anyanyanyone."
And then the blood spilled out from his lips and coated the fragments of the Dark Ruby still latched to his chest. He crumpled and faded away, just like all the others hand. Only a gleaming hunk of metal, once more white and orange, remained where his hand had been. 0 walked over, bent down, and picked it up.
"The Master Morpher," he whispered. He felt his family around him, and rose so he could be with them.
"Over?" asked May.
He nodded. "Until next time," he replied.
"We should do something about Bakaguru's morpher," said Serena. She was somehow supporting Brock, despite the fact that she had a few pretty deep cuts herself.
415 nodded. "We should destroy it. He would have wanted it destroyed."
0 shrugged. "It's not a decision we have to make tonight. Besides, we're done here. Let's all go home."
May nodded, and 415 and Max headed out to look for taxis to take them back to Aura Town. Brock found himself a chair that looked sturdy enough to support his weight and Serena joined him, leaving 0, May, and Sarah standing very close to where Charon had just died.
0 coughed and turned to his daughter. "Sarah," he said suddenly, "you're getting a baby brother."
And nothing, not all they had been through that day or what Sarah had been through her whole life, compared to her reaction to this news. For it is possible for a man to save his family, save his friends, and unlock an entirely new, powerful way to defend them, but it is utterly impossible to console his daughter when terrible news strikes.
Sarah stamped on the ground as hard as she could and screamed, "Nooooooooooo
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It was not as hard to clean up Ranger Downs as 0 originally feared it would be.
Charon had smashed up a good deal of the technology in the hideaway, that was true, but he had not done any damage to the underlying structure. Wires, foundations, circuitry were all undamaged. The walls and floors were still intact. All that apparently would need replacing would be the monitor screens and some computer hard drives. Maybe a new operating table would be required, depending on whether Chansey and Elgyem could fix it up. The teleporter would have to be completely redone, there was nothing 0 could do about that. He had fried the teleporter, not Charon, and the program had been so complete that, had he not had the blueprints to construct a new one, his entire team would have had to walk to battles from then on.
They were, however, at a complete loss at what to do about the Master Morpher. It was just sitting on what had once been a control panel, with an entire room of adults trying to decide the best course of action.
"We could preserve it," suggested Serena. "It was Bakaguru's most prized possession. I think he would have wanted us to keep it safe as a
reminder of him."
415 disagreed. "What we need to do is destroy it. The Master Morpher is entirely too powerful to be left unguarded in a simple shrine. Besides, Bakaguru Niwa was not a fool. He had no thoughts as to what would become of his possessions after he passed on beyond giving us the technology to continue the war. Anything else was to be destroyed. There were no files on his computers when we burned his lab to cinders. There should be nothing left from this, either."
"It seems wrong to just destroy it," said Serena. "It's
it's his. He deserved better than for us to just scrap his last remnant."
0 nodded. "I agree. We should keep it, but dismantle its internal components. That way, it can never be activated again. After we're done, we'll destroy the hardware inside it so the tech can't be replicated. We can do whatever we want with the casing."
"It would be more difficult, but it could be done," said 415.
"Then do it," said 0. "Bakaguru deserves to be remembered."
Serena summoned Elgyem, which directed its attention directly onto the Master Morpher. The little device floated up into the air, dancing delicately in nothingness. Pieces began to wobble, shift, and eventually come apart. Strands of wires and gears flooded out from the device, filling the hideaway with junk.
But 415 glanced up, and noticed something among the wreckage. "Freeze the process," she ordered. Each piece ceased motion as she pointed to a small metal box near the nexus of the morpher. "What is that?"
0 reached up and grabbed it. It looked like a solid grey cube with a red button. He looked at the others, who all looked at him with confusion.
"What's this?" he asked.
"Press it," said Serena. He did, and a soft hum, followed by a very familiar laugh, issued.
"Hello, all! Surprised to hear my voice again? I'll bet you are. At least, I hope it's you. I highly doubt anyone else would have the skill to find this little tool, so I'm just going to assume it's you simply because it would be far too strenuous to record two messages
" whispered Serena.
"In any case, I'm almost certain you all made it out safely. If you didn't
well, I'm sure you found others. Possibly not as grand as our little family, but worthy nonetheless. I trust your judgment. I didn't at first, did you know that? I never wanted anyone to have my technology. It's why I made the morphers so hard to trade off to others, or why I never made more than just a few. But I trust you. It's why I convinced you to run, and why I chose to stay. There is nothing left my generation can give you. All I hope is that Arthur, Terry, and I did our best. We tried to make this a gift, not a weapon. Try to look at your morphers that way
415, Serena, and 0 looked at their morphers, remembering exactly how they had come to them. For Serena, it had been an accident. For 415, a lifelong obsession. For 0, a forced responsibility.
"I have no idea how long ago it was since you last heard me, and I promise I'm not stupid enough to believe that I could still be alive and severed from this morpher. I'm essentially recording my will and testament for whoever happens to find this morpher on my body after I'm gone. Again, I just really hope this is you all, and not some urchin three hundred years in the future that finds my skeleton
"There is not much I can tell you to prepare you for what's to come. There isn't, and I apologize for that. Too often do I deliver bad news instead of good. All I can tell you is that it will end. One way or another, it will end, and whether or not that end favors you is up to you now. It is up to Rangers Gold, Silver, Black, and even you, Dark Emerald. You all have the spark, that primal essence to do what's right, that led me to trust you and give up my gift to the world. Even May and Sarah, they may not have strength, but even those you protect have power. I never had anyone to protect before you all. You gave me the strength to let go. You can give each other the strength to succeed
"One last piece of advice: this morpher contains a small trigger that will incinerate every component that makes up what this device can do. You will want to duck now
Everyone hit the deck really fast just as most of the morpher detonated in tiny, controlled explosions. When the dust cleared, only the husk of the morpher and the small cube remained.
"In a way, every one of you became my children. So stay safe, stay together, and don't let this all be for nothing. You are my legacy, and I've never felt safer than the last time I saw you
The box then erupted in small, bright sparks of fire, leaving nothing behind of the morpher but cinders and the exterior. 0 reached over, and picked it up.
"Well, you heard the man," he said. "We've got prep work to do. Training. Gotta get Brock up to speed with everything, keep Max from evolving, and put everyone in tip-top shape. After all, not anyone can just save the world. Gotta be us, right?"
May nodded. "Absolutely right, dear."
"Can do," said Max with a grin.
Brock chuckled. "I'll need Sarah to transform, but sure. Count me in."
"Sounds perfect," purred Serena.
"We should commence immediately," said 415. "There is no telling when the final wave will be upon us."
"Then let's go already!" shouted Sarah.
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"Is it time, big brother?"
Axi and Bix sat in their cave, just as they always did. Axi perked up his ears at the water dripping somewhere in the distance. Bix just looked at the ceiling. Neither one of them seemed to notice that there was an entire army of Rangerlings surrounding them. All the little monsters stood stoic, simply waiting for orders.
Axi nodded. "I believe it is, little brother. All our friends are gone. No more Sap, no more Top, no more Dia, no more Ame, no more Rub. Just the two of us left out of all our friends. It's so very sad."
Bix looked around, acknowledging the monsters around them. "We still have them. We could still play with them all day long."
Axi shrugged. "But if we do, who would destroy the world? Our other friends? No, they keep taking our rangers away."
Bix stared thoughtfully for a moment. "But wasn't that the plan, big brother? Didn't we need everyone else to go away before we could come out and play?"
Axi nodded. "Of course. Why else haven't we played with them before? We can't exactly just run around like everyone else. The main baddies always need an amazing entrance, otherwise the entire plan would fall apart at the end!" Axi turned and giggled at the surrounding Rangerlings. "Oh, my pretty little darlings! You're so close to being done. Wouldn't you like that? Wouldn't you love to be free at last and let everything come tumbling down?"
The little monsters all chattered up a storm, jumping into a frenzy of ferocious movement that threatened to absorb the entire cavern. They were silenced by a sharp pitched shriek from Axi that sent them scuttling into the holes and tunnels where they dwelled.
"Oblivion will be ours, little brother!" he screamed. "And then there will be nothing, nothing, to stop us from reshaping this world in our image! In our making!"
"What a beautiful world it'll be, big brother!" shouted Bix. "All we need are the Rangerlings, little Serena, and the Dark Gold."
Axi grinned, to the point at which every single little tooth in his mouth was clearly visible. He brushed the silver hair out of his eyes and turned to his brother. "And with a plan like ours, there's never been a surer thing, little brother! Never been a surer thing!"
The two of them continued to cackle and cackle until the sun began to peek out from the horizon outside. Their plan wouldn't take long, considering how long they had already taken to bring everything about, but the rewards would be entirely too sweet to be imagined.
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Twenty-Five Years Ago
Bakaguru sat on a bench, waiting.
The hospital had been very friendly, considering the fact that both he and Terry had had to be brought in from overseas under special circumstances. Originally, it had been only Terry, but Bakaguru had insisted on coming along too. Arthur was still at headquarters, trying to smooth out the details for their new program, but Bakaguru had not been interested in that. He had to come. He had to explain what was going to happen next.
He heard them approaching long before he saw them. He could hear a child's voice echoing along the quiet, dank hallways. Finally, they appeared. The woman was short but, then again, Terry had been a rather big fellow. The child was tiny, perhaps five years old at the most, and looked exactly like Terry must have looked as a child. The shape of the face was different, the boy definitely resembled his mother in that respect, but the eyes and the hair were both perfect replicas. Especially the eyes. Bakaguru noticed that, even though the boy was easily distracted and kept shifting his attention from one thing to the next, the eyes always looked as though they were penetrating everything, analyzing everything, making the boy seem wise beyond his years.
The woman peered closely at Bakaguru, as if unsure of how to engage him in conversation. "Excuse me," she said, "are you my husband's friend?"
Bakaguru sighed and nodded. "Yes," he said. "I worked with Terry. I came with him to talk to you."
The woman nodded and turned to her son. "Why don't you go play over there for a bit?" she suggested. "Mommy has to have some grownup talk with this nice man."
The boy smiled and nodded. "Okay, Mommy!" he said and bounded off to where he could not hear them. The woman sat down next to Bakaguru on the bench after he scooted over to give her some room.
"They told me something happened," she said very suddenly. "They didn't explain what, though. Is that why you're here?"
Bakaguru nodded. "Yes. I-I'm sorry, ma'am, this is a bit difficult for me. They have trained professionals at PKM to help people with things like this, but I didn't think they would understand. I felt
I felt it had to be me to tell you, and it's going to be hard. In many ways, this is my fault. All of it can be traced back to me."
The woman nodded. "Why don't you start at the beginning?"
He did. "It was just an idea of mine. I had this idea to make soldiers safer in the field. We would give them armor to withstand bullets, so as to keep men like your husband safe, so they could come home." Bakaguru coughed and readjusted his glasses. "In retrospect, it was foolish. Oh so foolish. We built the armor. We tested it. And it ended up being completely useless in your husband's case."
"What happened?" she asked.
Bakaguru found it hard to look at her. "We came across these houses on the first night we tried out the armor. We went inside and found this little girl and a monster. Terry tried to save the girl, but the monster"
"A monster?" asked the woman. "Like, a Pokemon?"
Bakaguru shook his head. "No, a real monster. Like the stuff of nightmares. This
thing had hurt this girl so badly, so very badly. It made Terry so angry and he attacked it. But it just kept coming back and then
" Bakaguru took a deep breath. "Then it did something to Terry. It shot something at him. Terry went down. We were able to stop the monster, but it was too late. Too late to help him. Too late to do anything."
"Please," she said. "What happened to my husband?"
"Terryhe came back shortly after he was brought out of the house. Not a scratch on him. Only it wasn't Terry. Something happened, the beam did something to him. Whatever it was, it changed Terry. It changed who he is, it took away who he was."
"I don't understand," she replied. "Please, can I see him?"
Bakaguru shook his head. "No. He has insisted on that point. He was going to have himself listed officially as K.I.A., but I convinced him to at least let me talk to you."
"That doesn't sound like my husband."
"That's because it isn't your husband. He isn't Terry. Not anymore. There's no other way to describe it."
"How can that be? How can you tell me that Terry's alive, but at the same time he's gone? That doesn't make sense!"
There were tears in her eyes. Bakaguru did not know how to stop them. "The monster said it split people. When it pointed the light at me, Terry stopped it. We thought he had died, but the monster said it didn't split bodies. Terry's been split, but not on any level you or I can ever understand." He lifted his hands to his glasses and discovered he too was crying, and he did not know how to stop.
you said there was a girl," she said. "What happened to her?"
Bakaguru took a deep breath. "He saved her. We were able to get her to the base, she's being taken care of. She will have some reconstructive surgery to repair what we can, but she's the same way as Terry. She's silent. Cold. Won't speak to anyone, except for when she asks for him."
"Is Terry silent too?"
"That's difficult to answer. He'll talk to me, but only if he needs to. He mostly listens now."
"Does he sound like Terry?"
Bakaguru shook his head. "It's like something got switched off in his head. He used to be so happy, so insightful. Now whenever he speaks, he just sounds like a robot. Won't use contractions, uses words in a way Terry never could. It's made him so much smarter, but at the same time"
"It's like he's gone, even when you can see him sitting right next to you." The woman paused, and Bakaguru noticed that her hands were gripping the edge of her seat. "Does he remember me? Does he remember our son?"
This was going to be the difficult part. "Yes," said Bakaguru. "He remembers who you were to him, but he can't remember how that felt. Whatever piece of Terry that loved you and your son was severed off. He can only remember your marriage as facts, not as feelings or as love. It barely registered to him."
" The woman chocked, burying her face into her arms. "No, no, this isn't happening. My son needs a father. I need my husband. II can't do this without you, Terry." Her voice trailed off, lost between her sobbing.
Bakaguru could not help himself. His eyes were burning. "This is all my fault," he whispered to himself, wiping away some of the tears on his cheeks.
"I should never have let him try the suit. I should have kept him away from the house. He shouldn't have taken the hit for me. Any way you look at it, this is my fault. And all my work accomplished was that it ruined your lives. It was supposed to help people. It was supposed to save lives. How could I fail so spectacularly?"
He felt a hand close in on his, and looked up. She was smiling through her tears. "You didn't do any of this," she said. "Terry did this. He made his choice to protect the world. I made my choice to love him, and to have his child. Without you, he would be dead, right?"
"Does it matter? So I killed the demon. It changes nothing."
"It changes everything. He's alive. Maybe he's not the same person, maybe he needs time to heal. Maybe our Terry will come back to us."
"And if he doesn't? I've ruined his life, your life. How can you say it will be alright?"
She smiled at him. Bakaguru noticed there were no more tears in her eyes. "Did he save the girl? Did he save you?" she asked.
"Yes, but he didn't know what he'd be giving up! He didn't know he would end up like this!"
"He would have done it anyway," she said. "My Terry is
always like that. He always tried to help everybody. Did you know that's how we met? He was being silly and tried to get me over a puddle of mud. Ended up getting us both dirty. He was always such a good man. You must be too, otherwise he wouldn't have saved you. Well, he still might have, but he might have figured out a way to throw some whiplash your way." She giggled, it was a slight sound that sounded like a cough. "He always tried to do the right thing. So should you."
"Yes, but what is the right thing in this situation?"
"We wait," she decided. "We don't know what the monster was, right?"
"No. PKM is still doing research to determine exactly what it was."
"Then we wait. In time, maybe Terry will come back to us. Until then
" Her voice trailed off, and she looked at the little boy at the other end of the hallway. "Until then, he's on a journey. A long journey. Until our Terry can come back to me and my son."
"But he might never come back. He might never be the same as he was."
She shrugged. "That's the chance we'll have to take, won't we? Will you keep in touch with me about his condition?"
Bakaguru nodded, and then looked to the boy. "But, no one else can know. Not now, and not until we can figure out what did this to Terry and how to fix him. Your son won't understand."
"I know how to protect my son," she said. "You just keep my husband safe. You promise me that."
He nodded. "I swear on my life. And I swear to do everything in my power to bring him back."
She seemed satisfied with that, and called her son over. "Come on," she said with a small smile. "We're heading back home."
The boy tilted his head, confused. "Who were we supposed to see here?" he asked.
"This man here."
The boy turned to Bakaguru. "Hi, mister," he said. "Are you sick?"
Bakaguru chuckled. "Not really. I'm here to see a friend of mine."
"Are they sick?"
"Maybe. Maybe not. We'll have to wait and see."
The boy bobbed his head up and down. "Okay. Mommy, I wanna go home."
"Okay sweetie," she said, and stood up from the bench. She turned to Bakaguru. "Goodbye."
Bakaguru grinned. "Until next time. Hopefully there will be something soon."
"Hopefully," she said. Then she left, and Bakaguru was left alone in the hallway again.
Bakaguru stood up and headed into an adjacent room with black shades on the window. His hands were still shaking. "Stop," he murmured. "You got through it. What's done is done."
"How did they take it?" asked another voice.
Bakaguru looked up. He looked exactly the same, exactly
the same. Only nothing about him was Terry anymore. He could see it in the eyes the man had. They were dead, so pale and immobile that he might have looked blind to the untrained eye. His mouth was firm and hard, so unlike the Terry that had always had a grin.
"As well as you expected. She was braver than I was."
"Terrance chose wisely when he selected his wife," said Terry. "She will keep strong, no matter how many years she is separated from him."
Bakaguru took a seat next to the bed. "How are you feeling?" he asked.
Terry turned to look at him, and Bakaguru had to suppress a shudder when he felt Terry's new eyes on him. "I am unchanged," he replied. "This body is healthy. I am ready to return to the field. Why am I still being cared for here, and not in a PKM facility?"
"Arthur thought that the change of scenery might help you. He pulled a lot of strings with his father to get you admitted closer to your home."
"It was an irrelevant gesture. We should return to resume work on the armor technology."
Bakaguru shook his head. "No, we're going to stay here until you return to normal. This change can't be permanent."
Terry looked at him, and then briefly at himself. "Terrance is gone, Bakaguru Niwa. I am here. What matters is that someone survived what happened."
"But you still have his memories," said Bakaguru. "How can you not be him?"
"Because those memories were formed by someone else," said Terry. He tapped at his skull. "The beam scattered Terrance's psyche. I was what put the pieces back together into a working mind. I have his memories, but all they are to me are a frame of reference to how I was created. I understand Terrance had a wife, and a son, but those people will not understand who I am. I am not her husband. I am not his father. That man is dead."
"But if you can work that out, why can't you figure out how to feel those emotions?" demanded Bakaguru. "There has to be some way to undo what's been done!"
"There is not," said Terry. "I have tried. The memories cannot connect with me. There is something blocking it, something that prevents my two selves from merging again."
"Your two selves?"
"Or something to that effect," said Terry. "The fact remains that Terrance remains locked in here and I cannot reach him. Ergo, I am not Terrance at all. I must be something else. I am what the demon created in Terrance's image."
"So what do we do?" asked Bakaguru.
"I have been wondering that. Do we have any information on the girl? Is she like me?"
Bakaguru nodded. "She's exhibiting the same symptoms. She must have been hit by the same thing."
"If we continue to monitor her, we may find out a way to reverse this. However
"However what? There's nothing else to do. We have to repair you. We need to get you back to your family."
"I understand. But would you not agree that I may be more efficient this way? Terrance was always such a fool. Perhaps I can be more of a use to this world if I remain as I am."
"Don't be foolish. That would mean trading off any chance of normality on the off-chance you perform better at your duties. You can be Terrance and still be a good agent."
"Regardless," said Terry, changing the subject, "there still remains one more issue I would like to consider."
"My name. I am no longer Terrance. I require a new identity, at least until it can be decided what to do with me as I am." He thought for a moment. "This mind was constructed from nothing. It came from nowhere. Perhaps I should be 'Nobody'."
"Ridiculous. That is hardly a name. Perhaps a designation would be better. It would give you hope to return to yourself."
Terry nodded. "An interesting suggestion. Perhaps '0'. It means the same as nobody."
Bakaguru considered this. "Very well
0. We'll call you that for now. But you're going back to being Terry one day. Don't forget that."
"No. And you remember the armor. It is our legacy, Bakaguru Niwa. It is what we will leave behind."
Bakaguru shook his head. "No. The armor is something I will make. But you're coming home to that boy one day, as Terry. Someday. I promised her."
0 looked at Bakaguru. "I am afraid that someday may be a long way away," he said.
"Well, hope springs eternal."