This interchange occurs during the group's stay at Merikano.
Edward Aldrich perched on the nose of the resting transport Winnebago, arms folded over his chest and his sword resting in the crook of one arm, idly chewing on a straw of wheatgrass as he watched the sun rise lazily over the horizon.
He still felt that Dai Gurren was a much more fitting name, but ultimately it was not his choice to make. At least Calvin let him have the flag and both agreed that it should be painted red… if they could find a way to get any sort of paint to stick that is. No matter, he would just get Marcus to work his magic on one of the transports like he had done for the blasters after they beat the Snake men at the Center.
Edward grinned a bit at the thought. While this place certainly was lacking in realm of modern technology and conveniences, it more than made up for it in sheer awesome. Maybe when this is over and done with, I’ll take to the road as a wandering vagabond slash hero of some sort, kinda like Jubei or Lina Inverse; traveling the lands righting wrongs, treasure hunting and squashing evil…
Edward blinked, his internal monologue disrupted when he caught sight of Donovan returning from another one of his ‘scouting missions’.
“Scouting mission my ass… either that man’s overly paranoid or there’s something he’s not talking about,” He mumbled to himself as he stood slowly in a lazy attempt to get Donovan’s attention.
As Donovan swooped down, he banked towards the transport, having easily seen Edward with his keen eyesight. He halted so that he faced his comrade-at-arms at the same level, which had him hovering about six feet above the ground.
Don greeted Edward with his usual smile. "Hail and well met, my friend," Don intoned, then with a grin, added, "What's shaking?"
He seemed in good spirits, although there was the shadow of some concern behind his eyes.
Edward shrugged his shoulders.
"I dunno Don, you tell me."
He paused for a moment and decided to elaborate.
"I'm gonna cut right to it. I've noticed that you've been making yourself scarce lately, and while we were on the road, I could understand the need for all of these scouting runs and whatnot. But now that we're playing the waiting game, I've noticed that you've been popping smoke a lot more frequently and been staying out longer. Now, I know it's not really any of my business as to what you do and why, but I am concerned... Everything alright?"
Donovan's smile turned wry. "You're worried about me?," he said amiably. "I'm touched."
He sighed and looked down for a moment. He drifted slowly closer as he turned to look up to the sky.
"Let me ask you something, Ed," he said in a conversational tone, as if discussing the weather. "If you woke up tomorrow to find out all of this was just a dream, I don't know, some sort of coma-induced hallucination from the crash, if everything that's happened to us was not real," his face moved to look at Ed directly, "what would you miss the most?"
Edward folded his arms behind his head and looked off in no direction in particular, thoughtfully chewing at the end of wheatgrass.
"Hmmm..." he began after a moment. "Hard to say really. There really is a lot here that I like and that I would miss. It's hard to really pick just one thing. I mean, hell, I've got a lot more going for me here than I ever did before... I would be hard pressed to want to go back. Why? You know something the rest of us don't?"
Donovan sighed, his gaze wandering back to the sky. "I meant what I said at the beginning of all this. If there is a way home to be found in the Center, I will take it. I'm not going to force any of you to follow me, but someone has to report back."
His body rotated slowly to face Edward.
"The passengers on our flight, some of them have loved ones who are wondering what happened to them, not to mention the airline. I can't shirk my responsibilities.
"The way I see it, there are three possible outcomes to our quest. Either I die during the fight, find the way home, or stay stuck here. It's probably very likely that whatever gave us these powers won't come along to the other side. So that's two out of three I won't be able to fly much longer.
"So do you blame me for wanting to get as much of this," he spread his arms and did a quick loop in the air, "while I still can?"
Edward looked off beyond Donovan for a moment. “That’s a good question. Sounds to me like you’ve got someone or something that you want or need to get back to.”
Donovan barked a laugh uncharacteristically tinged with bitterness. "Me? Oh, no, not me. I have a lot of experience giving up things that I love."
He fell silent, looking uncomfortable after his outburst. "Look, Ed," he finally said, in a more subdued tone, "I appreciate the concern. Once this is over, it's hard to say what'll happen to us, but do me a favor. Make sure Cyan is... well, just make sure she's all right."
Edward shrugged. “Sure, but I thought that she was gonna go back with you? A better question, what makes you think that should you be able to go back that you’ll be able to reintegrate into society?”
Donovan raised an eyebrow and replied, "She might have changed her mind, but what exactly do you mean?"
“Well,” Edward began, “first off there’s the amount of time that we’ve been gone. I don’t know if time here flows faster, slower or at the same rate relative to where we came from. Unless time flows significantly faster here, you’re looking at being gone for weeks or months, then consider where the plane vanished.
"Putting all of that new-age mysticism BS, superstition, and crack-pot theories about the Bermuda Triangle aside, the fact of the matter the fact of the matter is that the plane went down over the ocean. Considering the altitude, and speed that we were traveling, we would have hit the water like teacup dropped from a skyscraper and the weather and the nature of the Atlantic Ocean in general would have made sure that any wreckage and bodies were scattered over hundreds of miles in short order. So depending on how long you were gone, it’s entirely likely that the entire flight’s been written off as missing or dead.
“Now, assuming the act of going back where we came from will put you somewhere safe so that you can ‘report back’ like you want to, what then? I’ve heard of the rare case of survivors from high-altitude crashes, Don. But you’re a pilot; you know that doesn’t happen often. And when it comes to giving your report, what are you gonna tell them? Tell them the truth? That will likely get you laughed at or in trouble. That we’re dead? If we’ve been gone for weeks or months, it’s likely they’ve already decided that. That you don’t know? That won’t be entirely helpful and may land you in a fuckton of trouble. I mean folks are gonna think that since you’re a pilot, they are going to equate that to you being the pilot, and that won’t end well.
“Then there will be the media and there will be media. I mean, that plane vanished in the Bermuda Triangle for Christ’s sake! Things that vanish from there just don’t decide to come back. I’m not saying it’s not possible, it could be… but think about the reaction to that. You’re gonna get hit left, right and sideways from everyone wanting to know what happened and how you just happened to be the only survivor and the only person to come back from the Bermuda Triangle after being vanished…and that’s just from the mainstream. Imagine what the fringe and conspiracy theorists are gonna do. Hell, some of them may decide that since our flight vanished but you came back that wherever the flight went to was obviously safe and will likely try to do whatever they can so that they can ‘vanish’ themselves. How well do you think that will go for them?”
Edward sighed and scratched the back of his head. “Look, I’m not trying to get you to stay. If you wanna go, fine, but I think that you should take a look at the bigger picture here.”
Donovan grinned and tried to keep his reply from sounding patronizing. "Not a bad assessment there, Ed. You've got a number of the details wrong, but all in all you hit it more or less on the spot."
He dropped the grin and paused for a few seconds as he pondered how much to say. He hadn't regarded Edward as the best person to confide with but as the final confrontation loomed, the need to at least express some of the thoughts churning in his head was stronger.
"I'm not expecting a parade if or when I get back. You're right; the best that I can hope for is to be laughed off. More likely I'll be locked up in an asylum to keep from embarrassing the airline.
"I made a decision once that put my duties ahead of... what I wanted. And I paid a price for it. I spent a lot of time convincing myself that I did the right thing, regardless of how it worked out."
Donovan lowered his head then brought it up to say in a tight voice. "If I now choose to place my desires and wishes first, if I shirk my responsibility for personal reasons, I put that previous decision into question all over again. And that's not something I really want to deal with right now."
Edward turned his attention to the distance as he considered Donovan’s words. After several moments of tense silence, he turned to look at the pilot, all mirth gone from his voice. “You were wrong then.”
Donovan's response was neutral, his face unreadable."I'm listening."
“Look, I know what it’s like to have to weigh duty over personal wants, and more often than not that’s an easy choice. Even if it’s not an easy choice, even if you have to spend days, weeks or even months or years to make that final decision, once that decision is made it should not be made with regret. Sure when one looks back there are some things that we think that we could have done better, done differently, maybe even a few small regrets. That’s normal. You, however, sound like you’ve got at least one regret the size of a tank hanging around your neck.
“Let me ask you a question: you know why people have eyes in the front? Because they have to move forward to see the landscape in the distance. If you had eyes in back, all you could see is your home town getting farther away; you can’t move forward like that. If your eyes are in front, what you see in the distance keeps getting closer. That’s what lets people move forward.
“People make mistakes Donovan, hell, I’ve got a list of ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’s as long my arm, and from the sound of things, it sounds like you made a pretty big one yourself. At the time, you might think it's a mistake you can never undo. Even if it is, if we kick and scream and fight like hell, we move forward a little bit. And that’s what you’ve gotta do here Don. Move forward. You’ve got the opportunity to start over. Stop looking back and start moving forward.”
Donovan tilted his head to regard Edward, his mouth quirked into a genuine smile. "Ed," he said good-naturedly, "as a psychiatrist, you make a hell of a swordsman. You're way off-base there, but I know you mean well and that means a lot to me. Thanks. I'm glad you'll have my back when the ball drops."
He looked up at the sky, and his eyes gleamed like a lover reunited. With a sigh, he said, "I'm going to get some fresh air. Don't wait up."
Edward made a face and then shrugged. “If you say so. But if you ask me, you really outta think long and hard about what you want before you add another anchor around your neck.”
He realized he was speaking to the rush of air filling in the space Donovan had occupied.
Edward scratched the back of his head as he watched the dwindling spot in the sky.
“That… went over a lot better in my head.”
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