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Reese K. Kincaid

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Reese Kennedy Kincaid walked through the bamboo grove on his mansion grounds, listening only to the soft crunch of the ground underfoot.

He was an imposing figure, six and a half feet of toned, lithe muscle, a walking icon of martial dedication and skill. His garb played out to that idea, with a white gi leading down to a crimson hakama, and white toe socks slipped into simple sandals. He could be mistaken for an oriental, save for the combed back, short blond hair and clear blue eyes that marked him as a westerner. There was a touch of the Japanese about his eyes though, for his mother had been a native, and his father a warrior of a very different sort, an American soldier who had been stationed in Japan after World War Two.

Reese had been thinking of his father more often of late. The old man - the old hero - had not been in contact for some time. He was eighty one, now. Any day could be his last. A chasm lay between them, though, one deeper and darker than the ocean between Japan and States.

Between the gaps in the tall, straight strands of bamboo, the mansion came into view. It sprawled across the grounds, with a central three-storey building that spread out a network of roofed walkways into a dozen single storey houses. All were tile-roofed and spined, following a deeply traditional Japanese ethos.

At the edge of the bamboo grove, Reese paused to smile, and just gaze at his home. It never failed to make him proud. It could only have made him prouder if he had the skills to build it himself. Instead, he had insisted on being there with the construction crew, ferrying materials to the workmen and marvelling as every day went by and wall by wall his home came into being.

He headed toward the mansion, moving to the bank of the stream which ran through the bamboo grove and down a series of rock waterfalls into a pool. If he followed the stream long enough it led off the mansion to an entirely natural waterfall. He loved to train under that sometimes, as much for the stereotyping of the thing as anything else.

Reese caught a flash of white as one of the servants made his way toward the larder, and jogged over to him. His casual jog put many people's sprints in the shade, and he caught up to the man in moments.

"Ah, Mr. Kincaid-sama," the servant said, bowing deep.

Reese returned the bow, inclining his torso just a little, to indicate their relative positions. "Ishimura-san. Could you tell me the time?"

Ishimura gave a sagely nod. Someone always received this question, and they usually had the same answer. With great ritual he extended his right arm, turned it over and brought his watch up in front of his nose. "It is precisely six thirty, Kincaid-sama. Your daughters have just returned."

That brought a smile to his face, and he gave Ishimura a little pat on the shoulder before heading toward the main building.

Reese trained every day without fail, and for hours. But he took no watch, no measuring stick. He had no way to tell the time save discipline, by creating a routine and sticking to it with determination to the point that he could perform a dozen different exercises every day yet always finish at the same time. It was just another way to further his training, in his mind.

He heard the patter of little feet as he slid back the door which led into the main building, and a repressed girl's giggle.

"Takako!" Reese called, kicking out of his sandals. "Kiku, Hanako?"

He heard answers from his wife and eldest daughter, but just another poorly-repressed giggle from Hanako, and another pattering of little feet.

"Kiku?" He called, feigning concern. "Where's your sister? Did she come home with you?"

"Hana's around here somewhere, father," came the answer. "She was here a minute ago, I'm sure."

"It's fine," he said, "I'll go looking for her."

Reese concentrated. He was pretty sure that Hanako had hidden herself in the crawlspace underneath the stairs to the sword room four corridors down. So he headed that way, calling her name in tones of exaggerated confusion.

Of course she gave herself away with another giggle when he was near. He could hear her laughing into her hand. "Well, where is she?" He said to himself when he stood right in front of her, and threw his hands up in mock frustration.

With a great girly war cry, Hanako emerged from her hiding place and charged his leg. Reese gave a gasp of surprise and collapsed onto the varnished floorboards, while his nine year old daughter clambered on top of him and started jumping up and down, laughing. "I am vanquished," he cried, "vanquished! Tell Takako... I'll be there..." he reached up one hand toward the light overhead, "for dinner." Then he let his arm fall, and played dead.

Hanako sat on top of him, breathless and flushed.

Reese sat up, picked her up with one hand and started tickling her with the other, so she laughed and laughed until when he put her back down, she couldn't have stood up if she wanted to.

Hanako was still a little round-faced, still growing. She had wide, innocent eyes, and was still dressed in her school uniform, with is vivid white blazer, red tie and blue skirt. Her white socks had been dirtied by something, though.

"Hana," Reese said, a little sternly, "how did you get your socks dirty?"

She giggled. "I was playing with a kitty."

"A stray, no doubt?"

"No," she said, with childish certainty, "he found me just fine."

Reese moved from sitting to standing in a single fluid motion, grasping Hanako by the arms and picking her up as if she weighed no more than a piece of lint in his pocket. She giggled again and he swung her round before putting her down on her feet. He gave her a little beep on the nose. "Well you run along and get your socks changed. Not having you come to dinner like that."

"Okay," she said, and went running off towards her room.

Hanako had an affinity for strays and runaway things, they seemed drawn to her, and she to them. Her mother despaired of it at times, but Reese thought it harmless enough. There were certainly more sinister things a girl of nine could get up to than stroking every stray cat that couldn't flee fast enough. So long as she did not pick up fleas, he would be fine with it. The only worry was her trusting nature. She had the unusual status of having been conceived by a Nova, post-eruption. The press never got tired of that little nugget of information.

Reese headed toward the kitchen, where he had heard Takako's voice coming from. She always insisted on being involved in the cooking herself, no matter how many servants they hired.

As he came to the end of the corridor, though, he heard Kiku approaching, and stopped until she walked out in front of him and let out a gasp. "Father! You frightened me."

He gave a sagely nod. "Was it the looming shadow or the massive muscles that did it?"

She gave him a playful shove on the legs, for he stood on the step above her and so stood even taller than usual. "It was your big stupid legs, actually."

Reese frowned and looked down at his hakama. "My legs? They're not even visible!"

"Exactly," she said, turning up her nose. "It's not natural for a man not to have legs. Not even for a Nova."

He laughed, then. "I am vanquished a second time. At this rate I'll have reincarnated thrice before dinner. I dread to think what Takako's brewing up for me."

Kiku was fifteen, his daughter by his first marriage. Her mother had died in the attack that caused his eruption, killed by shrapnel from an explosion. In that storm, that eruption haze, Reese had caught every bit of shrapnel that had been speeding towards his then four-year-old. He had been cut and ravaged, and his wife had died. She was growing up strong, though, and smart, and beautiful. Unlike Hanako, Kiku had changed out of her school uniform already. She wore a rather skimpy orange dress, now, low cut at the bosom and split down the sides.

"I have to ask this, Kiku. What are you wearing?" He asked, giving her a queer, studious looking over.

She smiled. "It's a new dress. I bought it the other day. Do you like it?"

Reese frowned. "Make it a few sizes larger, put it on your mother, and yes."

Wrong words. Wrong moment. The mirth died in Kiku's eyes. Reese frowned and turned away from her. "I'm sorry, I misspoke."

"No, it's fine," she said, as she always did on the occasions he slipped up. She hugged his legs. He did stand nearly a foot taller than her even on the same standing. "I know you loved her. It's not like I remember, not really."

His heart sank, all the same. He didn't want his daughters to ever think about those times, if he could avoid it. He was their father. It was his job to remember the hard times, and shield his children from them as best he could.

Reese reached down and pulled Kiku up into his arms, holding her like a child. She laughed. "Father, you shouldn't do this, I'm too old to be carried like a little kid."

"Nonsense! The only reason children get too 'old' for this is because they start eating sweets and get too heavy. You, however, have a father that can juggle tanks."

He flipped her up onto his shoulders. She gasped, but could not resist a little whoop. "This is not at all safe!"

Reese headed toward the kitchen, making Kiku fear for her life at every doorway, until he ducked under it low enough to keep her safe every time. He put her down near the kitchens, leaving her as flushed as her little sister, though not as happy. Even though she said she did not remember, there had always been a somber note in Kiku, a seriousness that showed no sign of emerging in Hanako. Takako said she must have picked it up from Reese.

He had to agree.

"I'll go get ready for dinner," Kiku said. "Oh, did you find Hanako?"

"Oh no," Reese said, heading for the kitchen, "she found me."

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They all knelt down at the low dinner table, servants and masters both. Reese had a large section all to himself, because he ate ten times as much as everyone else. His wife occupied the far end of the table, and his two daughters were nearest to him, eating from a single bowl and each.

Hanako found her father's eating funny, Kiku found it slightly embarassing. The servants tended to focus on their own eating.

Reese was often asked about his diet in interviews, and he always compared it to that of a sumo wrestler. Before him was a massive jug of sake, and an even bigger bowl of rice, with smaller bowls contained black bean sauce and many, many strips of beef. Side dishes of vegetables and rolled bread completed his meal.

As he ate he inquired about the days of his daughters, wife and servants, one by one. He wanted to know all of them, and for them to know him. Doing that he learned the details of his servants' lives, and in the process learned more about his own.

Hanako was still in pre-school, and she often found it hard to explain her day. In fact she talked more about the cats she had found and chased than what she learned at school, much to her mother's dissatisfaction. Reese let Takako chide her for that. They had a sort of unspoken split in action; Takako focused on Hanako, Reese on Kiku. He was father to both children, but she was mother to only one. It seemed unfair to take both from her, and unwise to try and force a new mother on Kiku, who might not remember her mother well, but remembered her well enough to know Takako was the wrong one.

"How was your day, father?" Kiku asked, after the full round.

Reese shrugged. "Well enough."

"Oh don't be so niggardly, Reese," Takako called from the other end of the table. "You expect to hear every detail of your daughters' school lives, don't you?"

"I do," Reese said, holding up his chopsticks and looking over his rice bowl, "however, there is a clear difference between this question and mine."

"And what is that, husband?"

"I actually care."

He smiled through the storm of protests from both of his daughters, even though Hanako did not quite seem to understand what they were talking about and just liked the chance to make noise. Kiku half-laughed through most of her objections.

"Alright, alright," Reese said, holding up a hand for silence. "Alright. It's been a good day. I've started a new workout routine using some experimental hyper-dense alloys Gumo Industries wants me to test out."

"And?" Kiku's interest was altogether genuine, now. She had a good head for science.

Reese nodded. "They're very heavy. Heavy enough that I took a good while to find a tree branch heavy enough to support me and them. I ran a few miles with some blocks of it strapped to my back, and even strapped some to my legs and arms and ran through some kata. It's viable, definitely."

"So are you going ahead with that workout project of yours?" Takako asked, eating with a gradual, studied pace.

"For certain. I'm concerned that a lot of Novas don't appreciate the value of a traditional, hard-wearing workout. In part I think it's because they can't create the circumstances to have one. Many of them are turning to mite, or purely technological approaches to improving their bodies. That bothers me. Everyone can do with a little more discipline in their lives."

Reese paused, and cast his eyes around the table. He saw an awful lot of patient, understanding faces. The sort that told him he was being a broken record again. They had all heard variations of those words. 'Discipline' was his watchword, and the main thing he complained about when he spoke of his fellow Novas. Too many of them seemed to have little or none.

"Well," he said, "it's been a good day. I feel sharp. My body is loose, my mind is rested, my soul is free. If a man can ask any more of a single day, I must think of him as a greedy one." He looked down at his rice bowl. "Says the man who eats like a horse. Best get on with it, then."

So he did. With discipline.

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Night followed day, as nights always had, and life at the mansion slowed to a dreamy crawl. The servants went home, his daughters and wife went to bed.

And Reese... Reese lay in bed beside her, wide awake. He only needed to sleep once every couple of weeks, and it had been three days since the last one.

Soundless as shadow, fluid as grace personified, Reese slipped out of his marriage bed and moved out onto the balcony. He snagged a silk nightgown, neglecting his usual eufiber. It could impersonate silk at his will, of course... but it would not be silk. That mattered.

Too often, people preferred pleasant illusion over reality in these modern times. The martial arts, he believed, were a journey into oneself, where a man learned of his limits, surpassed them, reached and surpassed them, in an endless loop. But that loop broke the moment a man lost a clear view of himself and his abilities.

The night air was cool on his skin, scented faintly with beef ramen and perfume. The mansion grounds were just close enough to the city that Reese's enhanced senses could detect those things when the wind was right. He had grown to like it.

With a little thrust of his foot, Reese leapt from the balcony and flipped down onto the grass three stories below, landing with flawless poise and grace, and throwing himself into a roll as he landed so as not to damage the ground.

He walked to the still pool at the end of the stream that ran through his bamboo grove, and sat upon the rocks there to watch the water. Funny, the things which made him wonder about his father.

Reese wondered. Something had been bothering him all day long. That said, something had been bothering him for weeks, worrying at him like a splinter in the thumb, or a thorn in the lion's paw. Yet... and yet...

He tried to relax, watching the water, mind drifting back to the day of his eruption, to the exploding bomb, to his hands, filled with shrapnel. His dying wife, her last gaze full of knowledge, and love, and hope, and the sound of Kiku screaming.

She had known, he realized. Before even he had. Mariko had known he had erupted in the moment before she died.

Reese blinked, his vision clouding with sudden tears. They did not emerge, though. This was a wound eleven years old. It had lost much of its sting.

He settled himself, and concentrated on meditation. Now that he thought about it, he could see why he was unsettled. Just old memories, looming up out of the past to stand and be counted.

Well, they had stood and he had counted them. They could now go happily back into the shadows, and leave him be for a few months more.

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Not too far away, and only a little later, Yoshihiro Ishimura gave a double knock on a disused shopfront that had once sold washing machines. He waited for six minutes precisely, blowing into his hands to keep off the cold. He had dressed like a homeless man, complete with a bottle of cheap sake that he actually appreciated in this weather. It was uncommonly cold for a June night. It ought to have been hot by now.

At the end of the six minutes, a latch slid back, and the door opened.

He stumbled in, and immediately straightened up.

"How's it going?" He asked.

"Targets are both easy access. No reason not to do it right away if the bosses want it done."

The other man was American, and Ishimura did not like him, but he was good at what he did.

A flickering lightbulb came on, illuminating a dirty table and the cleaned out interior of the shop. It had not been cleaned up, the better to hide the technology that had been impregnated into every inch of the building to make it a perfect observation platform.

The American was six foot, but slender, almost like a scarecrow, with watery grey eyes that always made Ishimura think of graveworms and dead things. His dirty blond hair was lank against his scalp, and he wore a covering trenchcoat. When he spoke, it was in a near monotone. "Your report?"

Ishimura shrugged. "I've been doing frequent tests. I readministered the cocktail in June and October of last year, and February of this year. His chromozone count hasn't dropped one iota. He's immune."

"He can't be sterilized," the man said. That was what Ishimura disliked. No emotion. What did that mean, beyond an observation of fact? "A genuine Nova breeder. Quite the stressful situation."

Ishimura nodded, though he did not agree for the same reasons. He could not help but be worried he might be discovered. "So what next? Do we..."

"Kill him?"

"Yes," he said, frowning. It was necessary. Novas could not be allowed to breed. They would erase the human race inside a couple of generations. Reese himself had a healthy sexual appetite and his lifespan had been estimated at three hundred years. How many potential Nova children were in this man? Two dozen? More?

"Not yet."


"The Slider incident is still in the public mind," the America said, moving to the window and gazing out of the one-way glass onto the street beyond. "Mistakes were made. The Breaker isn't Slider. He's tougher, and a physical danger. Slider's death was only important because she was famous, and popular. Reese K. Kincaid is famous, and popular, and considerably harder to kill, and well armed to take revenge with full public support if another mistake is made."

Ishimura nodded. "We should get the children."

The America nodded. "Yes. We probably should."

And that was the last thing he said that night.

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