Hiryu sat on the edge of a sheer cliff face which overlooked the Pacific Ocean. Beside him sat his glider, which had been retrieved from Kazakh's streets by his mentor, Ryuzaki. He watched as a pod of humpback whales spouted some thirty kilometers from the island's shore. He heard footsteps behind him and turned to see Sheena approaching, clad in her new platinum-and-chartreuse Strider uniform. She had qualified for Strider placement, but had not yet been given a rank. That had to be earned. It was doubtful that she would make A-grade, but more than likely that she would eventually reach B. She sat down beside him and he slipped an arm around her waist as she rested her head on his shoulder.

"Amazing, isn't it?" she murmured.

She now spoke fluent Stark, due to an optical light-shield treatment that had given her eight years of language training in twenty seconds of sequenced flashing.

"What is?" he asked.

"Earth," she replied. "Meio was a fool to want to destroy this planet and start over."


He stood up, shouldering his glider as he did so. Sheena looked at him with curiosity.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"I'm going to ride those whales out there," he replied.

"You're what?"

"You heard me."

He gripped the horizontal bar firmly in both hands and leaped off the cliff. He caught an updraft of humid air and directed his flight towards the pod. As a child, he had done this when circumstances troubled him, and he had found it strangely calming. The whales would always let him ride for as long as he wished, and would not return to the depths until he had departed. He selected a large one and dropped from his glider to its back, alighting there a few meters in front of its blowhole. His glider flew onward for a bit, then reversed course and headed back to the island as he'd programmed it to do.

He faced the wind, keeping his balance though it was strong enough to whip the water up into a foaming frenzy. The sky was clear blue. The sun was warm. The ocean's spray was salty and refreshing. He had won all this back from Meio, yet he was still troubled. He felt as though he had not completed the assignment. Had Meio truly died on the Third Moon? Could a being that powerful be killed by a weapon as rudimentary as a plasma sword?

He waited, but the calm never settled on him as it had in the past. Eventually, the whales themselves sensed this, and brought him back to Moralos' shoreline. He dove into the water and swam to one of the island's beaches. He pulled himself out of the surf upon reaching it and brushed the sea-weed off of his uniform. He turned and watched the whales sink one-by-one into the ocean depths before silently making his way back to base camp.