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StormStrike #42

Created By Antony -- May/31/07

 


STORMSTRIKE #42


SHOWDOWN IN OKINAWA





As the sun rose for a new day, Jai Cabarini just finished her morning jog as she ran up the steps that led to the house she has called home for the last several months. As the sweat poured down face, she saw the disapproving look Taro gave her as he remained in his seat and she slowly shook her head. "What now?" When he only grunted as a reply, Jai repeated a little more sternly, "What?"

"Why do you continue? Physically you are as ready as you ever will be."

Jai looked away until her eyes rested on the west corner of yard. Her mind raced back to her first day she spent there as a young girl. "I'm not ready yet. I may have to face Akai."

"Hmph."

Jai looked back at him with a puzzled expression. "You want to say something so go ahead and say it. It's not like I can stop you anyhow."

"Jaden, you have been here for months now. Your morning runs only tire you out if you were attacked now. Your problem is not physical. It's mental. You should learn to pace yourself. Plus, I had hoped when you mentioned that dream you had that it would snap you out of it. But there is still a part of you holding back. Why?"

Jai took a deep breath even though she had regained her breath from the jog. "It's hard to explain."

"No. It's not. The dream of your dead friend watching over you affected you."

Jai attempted to change the subject. "Let's just begin today's training."

"No. I have nothing more to teach you physically."

"What about Akai?" Jai asked.

Taro laughed which was not the response Jai expected. Taro made his way into the house still laughing. He called out, "You will join me and go to the market so get ready!" He continued his laughter loud enough for her to hear while she remained on the porch.

Forty minutes later, Jai followed a step behind Taro through the street market area. She just watched as he went from vendor to vendor buying a variety of food items. As he stopped at young boy to buy some vegetables, Jai exchanged a subtle grin with the boy.

Taro placed the vegetables in a basket he carried then turned to Jai. He looked over her shoulder and frowned.

Jai asked, "What?"

"Behind you." After Jai slowly turned to see four young adult males approaching, Taro continued, "Those are some of Akai's followers." As the four made their way to them, Taro said softly to Jai, "They don't look like they will be playing by the rules and they may be looking for trouble."

Jai sighed. "Why can't they look for trouble after breakfast?"

Taro grunted as the four reached them. "We are not looking for trouble."

"Too bad, old man." He looked at Jai who eyed him with a disgusted expression. "What are you looking at?"

Jai returned, "Nothing."

"Hmph." He looked at the boy who sold the vegetables. "Time to pay up."

Jai watched as the boy sadly gave them a portion of the money he collected as the one who seemed to lead them roughly grabbed the boy by shirt. She looked back at Taro with a startled expression. When he nodded to her to answer an unasked question, Jai looked back at the four with a mean stare. "Give him back his money and leave him alone," she warned. As the four looked at her with humored expressions, Jai asked Taro while keeping her gaze on the four, "Is this what the Kobura has become under Akai's command? Common street thugs?"

Taro replied, "Aye."

"Careful, old man, the blood hunt ended and you lost."

Jai noticed one of the four standing silent behind the other three that laughed. She pointed at him and just said, "He'll do."

"What are you talking about?"

Jai asked Taro without replying to her adversary, "Do you have a problem with that, Master Taro?"

"Master? He is breaking the rules of losing the blood hunt and training a new student after all."

Jai shook her head. "Wrong. The blood hunt is over when one side has lost all their students. And the problem is he had one student left." She looked at the fourth one that she pointed out. "And he will be the one that will be able to go tell Akai that I'm back."

"Who in the hell are you?"

As a silent Jai gave a mean stare, Taro answered, "This is Jaden. Akai will know that name."

Jai positioned herself in a defensive stance as the four moved themselves to surround her and Taro took a step back to give her more space. Jai noticed they were positioned to her north, south, east, and the one she pointed out to her west. She asked the one that seemed to be more of a leader, "Ready to give up yet?" After he laughed, she continued, "Bad choice." Jai was partially surprised when he acted first by trying to hit her with a straight thrust that she was able to sidestep easily. She swiftly grabbed the outstretched arm and pulled him until he stumbled by her into the one that stood behind her. She kicked the one to her left square in the stomach. Jai notice the one who stood to her right moved in. She blocked his rapid lefts and rights as she moved back to stay outside of a certain range. When he tried a reverse round kick, Jai ducked down low to the ground as the kick went over her head. However, with his legs in the position, Jai took the opportunity to hit him with a straight punch below the belt. As he fell to the ground holding his crotch in pain, Jai turned around to see one got behind her and already in the air in a jumping kick attempt. Jai spun out of the way as he went by her to land beyond her as she used the motion to deliver a spin kick of her own to one of the others in the knee. A sound of a break then a yell of pain was clearly heard as she immediately moved on to the one that missed the kick as he rushed towards her. When he swung at her, Jai caught his swing and pulled to extend his arm then gave a blow from underneath that caused a broken arm. Jai looked around and noticed the one she pointed out stood and started to take a step back. "Wait. Don't." When he looked at her with a nervous expression, Jai said, "You will deliver a message for me. Tell Akai I'm back. Now go before I change my mind about letting you leave." Jai watched as he turned and ran off in the direction he came. She turned to Taro who just gave her a small nod. Jai walked towards him only to stop to give a quick kick in the crotch of the one she hit in that spot already. She looked around at the remaining two with broken limbs then continued on her way to Taro. After she reached him, Jai asked Taro, "Well?"

"Jaden, you know what must be done. This is the blood hunt after all."

Jai shook her head. "No. I will not kill them."

Taro replied, "You know what must be done!"

"They are poorly trained and not true Kobura. I will fight for the honor you trained me for but I will not be your executioner." After Taro grunted and turned to walk away from her, Jai turned back to the wounded. She looked back at Taro as he continued on his way then turned back to them. Jai walked over to them and stood over them as they moaned in pain. She said, "If you want to truly be Kobura, then you will follow me to the one true master who can properly train you if you want it. Word of warning, continue to follow Akai and you are only going to end up dead or his pawn forever. This choice is only valid now." As she turned, Jai caught the young boy looking at her with a smile on his face. Jai walked over to him then asked, "Are you okay, Ryu?" After he nodded quickly, Jai gave a small grin then continued on her way to try to catch up with Taro.

Ryu looked as Jai disappeared through the path he saw her used many times before in recent months. He looked at the three she left from their brief encounter then looked back at the path.

Jai walked up the steps then saw Taro standing at the top. She took a deep breath then walked up the rest of the steps to stop at the last one. She looked up at Taro. "How did Akai's side win with poorly trained people like that? The rules of the blood hunt means that you and him were not to engage in the battle so Akai did not use his powers. So mind explaining how it happened again?"

Taro waited a moment without giving an answer then looked pass Jai. He looked back at Jai then asked, "What do you plan to do with them?" When Jai looked back over her shoulder at the approaching males that she just fought, Taro said, "Do you think you are ready for that, Jaden?" When she looked back at him with a stern expression, Taro continued, "Two already with broken bones, a third, and a young boy?"

Jai quickly turned back to see Ryu emerging from the path. "That was unexpected." When the three older males reached them, Jai said to Taro, "We can't turn them away now."

One spoke. "I guess this will beat waiting to become food for the bitch."

Jai asked, "What does that mean?"

"Don't worry about it," Taro said. When Jai looked at him, he grunted. "Fine. No need to give them their initiation I guess since you already beat them, Jaden." He looked at the males. "Go inside and wait." After they walked in, Taro said softly to Jai, "If this does not work out, you will be held responsible and punished accordingly as you know."

Jai watched as he walked inside then turned to Ryu who just made it up the steps. When he smiled at her, she shook her head. "What do you think you're doing?"

"I want to join you. I saw how nobody will be able to pick on you and wanted to be like that. I want to be able to defend myself even against the likes of them."

Jai smiled slightly then gave a small nod. "You know, there is a tradition that the Master's number one pupil gives any new prospect a taste of what he will endure. And I am the number one pupil at the moment." When he took a step back, Jai gave a half-grin. "I think maybe we can just go with you witnessing it being good enough."

An hour later, Jai walked into a room where Taro sat on the floor in the center alone. She walked over to him. She sat onto the ground in a fluid motion almost as if it was part of her stride. When he opened his eyes, Jai said, "You never did answer my question."

"Jaden, I am not required to answer your questions. You are a puzzle yourself. First you come to me seeking further training although you have learned all there is to learn of the physical battle. Why? Then I find you holding back as if you are afraid of some great terrible thing you are capable of doing. Why? Then you tell me about a dream of your dead friend that you never got the chance to tell him how you truly felt about him and it affected you in an odd way. Why? I must say I never taught you that low blow punch. I guess you picked up a few things on your own yet back here for training. Why? Now, you are undertaking the ascension and don't deny that is what you are doing. Why?"

Jai gave a fast nod. "Okay. But I see no other way to end this. What I saw is that Akai has turned the Kobura into a street gang and that's wrong."

"You should reconsider. The risks involved."

Jai gave a puzzled expression. "You mean you actually care?"

"For you? No."

Jai replied with sarcasm, "Right." Then it dawned on her that she heard that before a few times from Travis and partly surprised she said it the same way.

"For Wildfire? Aye."

Jai nodded. "My father. Why did you call him that?"

Taro took a deep breath. "He never told you his secret I guess. I promised him that I would never reveal it. But he's dead now and I guess since you are his first born you should know. Your father was a metahuman who worked for the United States government."

"What are you talking about? My father flew commercial airlines."

"That was his cover job. And only because he was a pretty fair pilot. It helped explain why he spent so much time away from the family without raising suspicion."

Jai asked, "He was a metahuman that worked for the government? Was he a member of ShadowStrike?"

Taro smiled. "No. He worked for a different branch of the government. Did you know he was in the DEA?"

Jai nodded. "He got out when my mom got pregnant with me from what I heard. But a metahuman?"

"He only led his family to believe he was out but he was still in until his death. However, I was there when he found out about having the metagene. Right after he met your mother he was on a special assignment that I really should not discuss but I was part of it. Let's just say that assignment was to recover some drugs that escaped America and made their way to Japan. I think our governments wanted to keep this drug hush-hush. You see, this drug causes normal humans to gain metahuman abilities but the side effect is that after prolonged usage, the user will have certain death. This drug was created by the United States government."

Jai said, "I don't understand why they would make such a thing. At that time you're talking about metahumans were very well, very unpopular. Why would they make a drug to turn normal humans into metahumans?"

"Normal humans were never their intended target. You see, there are really three classifications. Normal humans which are the majority, metahuman inactives which have the next largest number, then metahuman actives which you are one." Taro took a breath then continued, "This drug was designed for the inactives. You see, if an inactive took the drug, they would get the benefit of the metahuman ability without the risk of death with only taking one dose. Normal humans have to keep taking it to keep what power they develop and it will kill them. Anyhow, your father was an inactive unknown to himself even. I guess that's where you picked up the gene from. The ones who stole the drugs were found by myself and your father but they caught us. They forced us to take the drugs to kill us. But your father and I used the powers while we had them to fight our way out of it. The powers I had began to wear off and I must say the withdraw effects are pretty bad but your father kept going. His power was over fire so I started calling him Wildfire."

"Fire? Like me? But for a child to inherit the powers of a parent would mean both parents have that power. I know about that. I've seen an entire family with the power of magnetism."

Taro shook his head. "Not exactly the same. You generate the fire but he could just control it. He could not make the fire himself."

Jai breathed a sigh of relief. "Good. Then there may still be hope for Franki to not go active."

"As for your more recent question, I had hoped you would not go down this path. It's not that I don't think you are not ready but there is more than you know. Akai is not the only one you know on his side. Starfox is with him."

"What? Tamiko joined him?"

"And that's not all. She is a metahuman as well. Think about it. During a blood hunt, the Masters do not engage and let their pupils wage the war. Do you think I would have lost with Akai not engaged and the rest were like what you faced out there? If you go down this path, you know that you will face Akai and a pupil of his choice which will no doubt be Tamiko at the same time. They will use their powers."

"What can she do?" Jai asked.

Taro shook his head. "You can't beat her. She only has to touch you to kill you. She somehow rips the life out of a person through physical contact and it makes her temporarily stronger."

Jai stood up. "I have no choice. I will have to face her one way or the other anyway. I think" Jai spun around when a loud crash was heard from outside. "What was that?"

"I think Akai got your message."

Jai ran out of the room and saw the new arrivals standing in the outer room. "Wait in here." She continued out the house where she saw Akai approaching with a female a step behind to his right then a large crowd of individuals. She saw Akai shooting ice beams at random in which one went by her and ripped into the house behind her. Jai stood her ground with a determined expression on her face until he got close to her. Jai then said offhandedly, "Akai."

"Jenny."

Jai returned, "I'm a little too old to be called that anymore."

Akai gave a grin. "So, the prodigal daughter returns. I should have guessed it was you last time but I guess you must have been a little scared."

"Scared?" Jai smirked. "Now, why would I be scared?"

"I love your bravado but let's face facts." Akai grinned widely for a moment as she eyed him intently. He continued, "I was the one person you've never been able to beat."

Jai replied deliberately, "That was then." She looked at the female that frowned at her. "Tamiko." She looked back at Akai. "We know that we can finish the blood hunt now but I have something better. With the blood hunt still on, Master Taro is free to recruit new students and he has four others now. However, why don't we do it differently? I propose ascension."

Akai laughed. "You realize that when you lose and lose you will that you will owe your life to me. And my first order to you will be to kill Taro as painfully as possible." He looked at Tamiko then returned his gaze to Jai. "You will have to face myself and her."

Jai grinned wickedly. "Looking forward to it."

Akai eyed her suspiciously for a moment. He finally nodded then turned and proceeded down the steps with the others following him.

Jai looked over her shoulder when she heard someone walk out to see Ryu. She said, "Go back inside. Stay with Master Taro." Jai quickly walked down the steps to the bottom where Akai and his followers awaited her. She asked, "Are they aware of what this means?"

Akai nodded. "They understand not to interfere." He smiled at her. "Are you ready?"

Jai nodded then watched as they all took a step away except for Akai and Tamiko. She tried to breathe calmly as Akai stood his ground in front of her but she noticed Tamiko was moving to take a position to Jai's left. Jai thought about a few things but fought to return focus to the moment. Jai noticed that Tamiko launched herself towards her. Jai moved away from her reach and realized she was only trying to make physical contact and Jai remembered what Taro told her. Jai continued to avoid Tamiko then wondered why she was not also dealing with Akai. Jai shot a quick glance to him to see he was standing back and waiting. She turned back and found Tamiko almost on her. When Tamiko grazed her forearm, Jai felt a sharp pain shoot through her arm and she let out a short yell as she promptly pulled away.

Tamiko looked at her with a smile. "Did that hurt much, bitch?"

Jai looked at Tamiko then glanced at her forearm that she touched then returned her attention to Tamiko. She looked back up the steps to see Taro standing at the top then she looked back at Tamiko again. Jai then allowed a small grin to cross her lips much to everyone's surprise. She took a breath then said, "Not really. So, are we using metahuman powers now? Isn't that against some rules?"

Tamiko smiled. "Screw the rules, bitch."

Jai grinned. "You know, that's the one thing I picked up from you back then. I've said that a few times to a few people. But it's good to know what we can do here."

"Now that you know I am a metahuman maybe you can beg for your life. Beg, bitch. Beg like a dog. If you don't, as soon as I get a good hold on you, you're dead."

Jai's smile continued. "I don't do begging well so you may as well give up asking me." Her facial expression changed to anger to show she was serious with what she was about to say next. "Now are you going to try to kill me or just bore me to death by opening your pie hole too damned much?"

Tamiko looked at Akai who just gestured with a shrug. She looked back at a grinning Jai as her breathing grew rapid from the anger that was building in her. She ran towards Jai then jumped into the air towards her.

As Tamiko was coming down, Jai had already begun the build up process from deep inside her. When Tamiko landed just in front of her and reached for her, Jai said softly, "Gotcha." Jai release blast of fire directly at Tamiko that engulfed her and pushed her burning body over the nearby small cliff into the water below.

As Jai turned to him, Akai yelled, "Why didn't anybody say she was a metahuman too?!"

Jai noticed that he raised both fists towards her and then a blast of frigid cold emerged towards her. She put her own fists up in front of her and used her fire to generate heat to combat the cold blasts he was shooting. Jai tried to a step towards him but the cold was making it hard for her to move.

Akai yelled as he continued to hit her with the cold, "Die already! Nothing in your training from Taro can beat me!"

Jai could feel he turned up the intensity as it was getting harder to use her own power to keep warm. She dropped her right hand to her side as she continued to use her left to try to combat his cold blasts which she began to realize he had more power at his disposal than she did. She thought of something to try but was not sure she would be able to hold out long enough to do it. But it was the only way she saw to end it. Jai began to concentrate more on her right which was allowing more of his cold blasts to get through but she figured she only would get one shot. She quickly dropped down so she could get off one shot underneath his cold blasts and shot him in the crotch.

When her shot him, Akai stopped his blasts and fell to the ground as the fire grew on him. He yelled in pain as he rolled frantically on the ground without success of putting out the fire.

Jai eyed Akai until he stopped moving then she looked at his followers. She watched as they moved slowly towards her then stopped just before they reached Akai's burning remains. Jai said, "It's over. The ascension means that I am now your leader unless one of you wants to challenge that." She waited but none said anything. "Good. As the new leader, the blood hunt is now over. If you want to be true to the Kobura, you will submit to the training of Master Taro. Or you can leave now." When only three walked away, Jai turned to see Taro walking down the steps. When he reached them, Jai said, "Master Taro, these will be your new students. Train them well in the ways of the Kobura." Jai turned back to the others. "This is the only true master of the Kobura."

Taro said, "No."

Jai turned back to him. "But"

"There are now two masters. You are ready, Jaden. You were ready before you returned."

"But I can't stay", Jai said. "I have other things to attend to and I think I'm ready to go back now."

Taro returned, "You don't have to live here to be a master. You are always welcome here, Master Jaden." He looked at others. "Now, go inside and wait."

As the group moved towards the steps, Jai called out, "And nobody better mess with Ryu or I'll deal with them when I come back." She took a breath then continued, "And I must say I have no problem with the smell of burning balls."

After a few reached to cover their crotches and others cringed then ran up the steps, Taro smirked. "What made you do what you did in the fight?"

"It was Akai's idea." Jai grinned slyly. "Really. He told me nothing you taught me could beat him so I hit him with something I learned after I left. But the kicker was that I was told I needed to pace myself by someone. So I figured I'd wait to get in my shot."

Taro replied, "So you did listen sometimes."

She laughed softly. "Sometimes." Her tone changed to a serious one. "If I had another choice, I wouldn't have killed them you know."

"Then you have fully learned everything I ever tried to teach you, Jaden. While there may be a reason to kill, it should never be your first choice." After she gave a grin, Taro asked, "Are you returning home now?"

"I think I can wait until the morning."

"Good. I want to give you a going away present. My final lesson to teach you."

Jai watched as he walked up the steps. She then turned to look at Akai's remains again. She shook her head then made her way up the steps.

Jai walked down the dirt road that served as an airstrip. She allowed a small grin when she saw the familiar black jet parked at the end. A quick rush of memories flooded her concerning the jet she had piloted many times herself. She saw the landing ramp lower as she approached. She saw him walk off the jet and wave to her.

A grinning Kurt said, "We never thought to find you in Japan."

Jai pointed to her left without breaking stride. "Technically, Japan is that way. This is Okinawa you know." It just dawned on Jai that she has not spoken any English for months until now.

As she got closer, Kurt chuckled softly. "Welcome back, Jai." He followed Jai into the jet.

Jai looked up at the cockpit and saw another familiar face. "Ray."

Ray Fulton gave a half-grin to her. "About time you showed back up. I was having a hard time explaining why that car was still in the garage to the wife. Or should I say 'the master'?" He laughed.

Kurt said, "Ray, let's take our time getting to the Philippines. There's a lot to talk to Jai about."

Jai asked, "Philippines?"

"Yeah, we need to check on something while we're this close. Part of the lot to talk to you about stuff."

Fifteen minutes in the air, Jai sat in a seat in the back of the jet with Kurt across the aisle. It dawned on her that was the first time she was not in the cockpit herself. She looked out the window as the sun was beginning to set to signal the end of another day.

Kurt asked, "Did you find whatever you were looking for?"

Without taking her eyes out the window, Jai replied coolly, "And more."

Kurt waited a moment in hopes that she would say more but after a silent moment he knew she was not going to offer more. At least at this time. Kurt took a deep breath then noticed something sticking out of her bag that rested at her leg. "Are those Sais?"

"Yeah, they were given to me as a present by someone." Jai took in a long deep breath as she gave a thought about her months since she last was on this particular jet that served as the air transportation for her former team. "He said I'll never need them but wanted me to keep them as a reminder that I can do more without them."

"Interesting concept. Was this person a friend?"

"Something like that."

When he noticed she was not going to stop looking out the window, Kurt took another breath then changed the subject. "It's time. StormStrike has been out of it too long." When she slowly turned her attention to him, Kurt continued, "And don't say that StormStrike is dead."

Jai returned to looking out the window only this time she focused on the Pacific Ocean below. And she knew that meant she was on her way back to a previous life as she saw it. "The team that existed before will never be together again though. However, someone taught me that their spirit and ideals will live as long as I carry the torch for them." She looked at Kurt then asked, "Is there still a team?"

Kurt waited a moment before he answered as if to think of what to respond. "No but would like to consider you the first member of the new StormStrike. And speaking with Yuri, the twins would be available and willing to help take back the compound." Kurt let out a soft chuckle. "From what I hear, one of them is rather anxious to bash some Metahunters and I'm sure his twin sister won't be far away."

Jai said, "And I guess we can count on Steven and Aurora too. Along with myself and Ryder that makes six."

Kurt sighed. "Um about Ryder"

In a hospital in Tokyo, a doctor walked into a room and saw a nurse at the end of the bed. The doctor asked, "How is our patient?"

The nurse replied, "Still unable to respond."

"With the amount of burns she took, it's no wonder. Continue the medication. We have a plastic surgeon on the way that will see what he can do about the burns. I doubt we'll be able to make her look the way she did before whatever happened to her on Okinawa. And that's if she pulls through."

The doctor and nurse left the room. After the door closed, the patient on the bed slowly barely moved her bandaged fingers and let out a soft moan then mumbled, "Jaden."

NEXT ISSUE:

Jai has a lot to learn about what happened since she went into seclusion. And the day is filled with surprises and reunions. And the Metahunters finally find Lord Omega.

STORMSTRIKE #43

STORM ON THE HORIZON




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