With one great sweeping strike of his sword, the last of the Goumin fell, and Marvelous turned to do a quick headcount of his crew as they approached him from varying parts of their makeshift battlefield.
"Oi." He pointed at each of them with a frown. "Where's Joe?"
The others exchanged glances among themselves, obviously only just realizing Joe's absence.
"He went after that Zangyack." Don said after a moments thought, pointing in the direction he remembered Joe chasing the Commander. Marvelous nodded and immediately headed the way indicated, his sword ready.
There was no sound of fighting coming from the alley Joe had apparently gone down, and Marvelous wasn't surprised to find a dead end waiting for them. What did surprise him was his first mate on the ground, curled on his side and unconscious.
"Joe!" The Captain ran to him, falling to his knees and pulling Joe into his arms, shaking him.
"Is he dead?" Gai squeaked. Ahim put a hand over her mouth.
In response, Joe gave a weak moan, and Marvelous shot the crew a cocky grin. "He'll be fine. Let's get him back to the ship."
Marvelous rose to his feet, lifting Joe from the ground and heading back out of the narrow alley. The rest of the crew fell into step behind him.
Not a single one of them heard the feeble stirring of another body in a shadowed corner of the alley.
Joe rolled over onto his stomach and crawled out into the open. He had a cut over his eye, steadily trickling blood and confusing his vision. There was no sign of the Commander he'd been fighting alone, nor of any of the crew.
Joe stood up, brushed himself off, and headed for the Galleon.
"Why isn't he awake yet?" Don asked, leaning over to look around Luka towards where Joe lie on the love seat. He'd hardly stirred at all while Ahim bandaged the cuts on his face, and even now that dinner had been served, was curled up on his side breathing deeply and for all intents and purposes deeply asleep.
Marvelous shrugged, pulling the plate Gai had filled for Joe over to his own empty spot. "He'll be fine. He's taken harder knocks to the head."
"But Marvelous-san, what if something happened to him?" Gai asked, also turning to look at Joe, who shifted a little on the couch as if he knew even in his sleep that they were talking about him.
Marvelous frowned and swallowed his mouthful of chicken. "Like what?"
"Like that Zangyack who made you all... funya." Don said, and Gai nodded, possibly more enthusiastically than necessary.
"He's not going funya." Luka pointed out. "He's just sleeping."
"It is true, however, that Joe-san rarely sleeps this long." Ahim added.
Gai and Don both turned to Marvelous again, nodding in tandem.
"You're all worrying too much!" Marvelous waved his hands in the air. "I'm telling you, he just needs some rest, and he'll be up and good as new! Who's known him the longest?"
Marvelous' eyes very nearly fell clean out of his head. Joe was still asleep on the couch, stirring a bit, probably because of the Captain's raised voice. And yet from the stairwell came echoing what was very obviously Joe's voice, and he sounded angry.
"Marvelous, what's going on? What's happened, why'd you just leave?"
Marvelous stood up from the table and moved into the main room to find Joe coming up the stairs from the deck, blood all over his scowling face.
Marvelous stared at him, then glanced at the couch, where Joe sat up slowly, blinking and rubbing at his eyes.
"What happened?" The Joe standing in front of the Captain asked. "Is everyone alright?"
"Marvelous?" The Joe sitting on the couch asked, his voice soft and slow with the remnants of sleep.
"Joe?" Marvelous cleared his throat, looking between them. "Joe?"
The two Joes turned to look at each other as the others stood from the table and crowded behind Marvelous. There was silence in the cabin for a long moment before the talking and shouting started.
"What's going on?"
"Who is that?"
"He looks like me!"
"Why are there two of him?"
"Quiet!" Marvelous shouted over all of them, drawing his sword from beneath his coat. "I want to know what's going on. Now."
Joe, or the Joe who was standing anyway, had also drawn his sword, and had it trained on his counterpart's face. For his part, the Joe on the couch was sitting up straight with his empty hands held out, staring up at the other Joe with wide disbelieving eyes.
"It's a Zangyack trick, obviously." The Joe with the sword said, moving the blade closer. "I think I'd be insulted that you could mistake anyone else for me, but it is a pretty good copy."
"A clone." The one sitting on the couch whispered, edging away from the sword in his face and shooting a frightened glance at Marvelous. "They must have made a clone of me. The commander..."
Marvelous looked between the two of them, his forehead creased and he realized the hand holding his sword was trembling slightly. This wasn't something he'd ever experienced before, and it was shaking him to his core. Had he accidentally brought an infiltrator aboard his ship?
"Joe..." He said carefully, and immediately winced when they both turned towards him. He cleared his throat. "Joe with the sword."
The standing Joe's eyes narrowed slightly. "What?"
"Put your sword away. Don't do anything rash."
"Marvelous, it has my face."
"I know that." Marvelous took a step closer, reached out to put a hand on Joe's wrist, gripping hard to make his fingers stop shaking. "But you have to think clearly."
"I'm not an it." The seated Joe said softly, still inching his way down the love seat and away from the threatening sword. "I'm Joe."
"Shut up!" The Joe standing snapped, would have obviously lunged at his counterpart if Marvelous hadn't been holding him. Marvelous stepped between them and frowned. For the first time he was beginning to doubt which Joe was the real one.
Marvelous had almost forgotten the others were there, until Luka cleared her throat. "Hey. I still want to know why there's two of Joe."
Marvelous frowned, and so did the Joe on the love seat. The other Joe with the bloody face just scowled some more. The thought hadn't occurred to Marvelous that they might somehow both be Joe. He turned to look at Luka, but her attention was focused solely on Don, as if she wouldn't take anyone's answer for fact until the mechanic had weighed in on the issue.
Don seemed to wilt under Luka's piercing stare, but he collected himself quickly and took a step forward, wiping his hands off on his apron. "I'll do a scan, if that's alright." He cleared his throat. "And maybe I could take a sample of blood?"
Marvelous nodded his agreement with this. He'd hardly admit it, but he was glad to have the decision taken out of his hands. He was angry at the thought of someone or some thing masquerading as his first mate, and he was frustrated with himself that he might possibly be unable to tell the difference.
The standing Joe put his sword away and stood up proudly, lifting a hand to wipe at the blood still trickling down his forehead. He offered his bloody hand to Don, who frowned slightly but took it in his stride, searching his pockets until Ahim came to his rescue, offering him one clean white handkerchief and taking another to the Joe still seated. "If I may, Joe-san?" She asked in that impossibly sweet voice that simply couldn't be denied.
He nodded and she reached up to peel away the bandage on his head. For the first time Marvelous noticed that the pair of them had identical wounds there.
Ahim wiped away the gathering of blood from beneath the bandage and passed the now soiled cloth to Don, who took it gingerly and headed immediately to the console. Navi lifted off from her perch on the Key chest and floated over to light on the console.
"Joe-san." Ahim said quietly, now addressing the standing Joe. "Please, sit and let me dress your wound."
He hesitated briefly but did as she asked, sitting beside the other only after giving him a devastating glare. The other Joe shifted aside immediately.
Marvelous threw himself into his chair and crossed his legs, carefully examining the mirror images of his first mate. After a moments quiet but for Don tapping away at the console and muttering softly with Navi, Marvelous sat up and looked towards Gai, standing still in the doorway.
"Ne, Gai. Is this familiar to you? Has this happened to other Sentai before?"
Gai blinked. Despite his insistence that they all learn their Sentai history, he still seemed taken aback every time they actively asked his opinion on anything. The fact that Marvelous cared enough to question him even when there was obviously no treasure to be had surprised him.
"Well." He mused, pacing a little. "There have been similar stories. Once, a Gedoushu masqueraded as ShinkenGreen, Tani Chiaki-san. They were trying to make the Shinkenger doubt one another."
"I'm not a Gedo-thing." One of the Joes said. The other shot him a narrow-eyed glare, inviting Ahim to smack his knee to make him bring his head back around so she could finish bandaging his head.
"A member of Zangyack could do the same thing, maybe?" Luka asked. Gai shrugged in response.
"I don't know, Luka-san."
Marvelous sighed. "Doc? Any results?"
Don turned around. "It's very strange. They're the same, genetically. Exact genetic copies."
"A clone, like I said." The quieter Joe said, which earned him another glare from his counterpart.
"I am no clone."
"No." Don agreed. "Neither of them are clones. Clones aren't exact, or perfect. And a clone this fast... No, it's not possible. There would be a remainder of growth increasing chemicals, a wash of hormones."
"What are you telling us, Doc?" Marvelous asked, putting a hand to his head, which was starting to ache.
"They're both Joe." Don said at last. "I mean, as far as I can tell. He's been duplicated somehow, or possibly split, but they're both him."
"Split?" Luka asked. "What do you mean, split?"
"Two halves of the same whole." Don clarified, or tried to, though it didn't really clear anything up.
"So how do we fix it?" Asked the freshly bandaged Joe, standing up and advancing on Don. Marvelous stood as well. There was something strange about this half of Joe, he was too aggressive, not at all like the Joe he was accustomed to.
Which didn't help matters in the slightest, as the Joe still seated folded his hands in his lap and looked incredibly meek. Again, not as Joe should normally look, even in so strange a situation as this.
Don spread his hands helplessly. "That I don't know."
"I still think Zangyack is to blame." The seated Joe shifted awkwardly when everyone turned to look at him, complete with a disbelieving snort from his other half. "The commander I was fighting on my own,"
"I was there too!" Spat the other Joe and Marvelous turned a frown on him, which went ignored, much to the Captain's surprise.
"We." The meeker Joe corrected himself. "We were fighting. He must have done this..."
"So we'll find him and destroy him!" The other Joe shouted.
"No!" Don exclaimed suddenly. "You can't do that!"
Joe, the angrier Joe, spun to glare at the mechanic. "Why not?"
"Because then you might be stuck this way!" Don explained hastily. "We have to find out how he did it first. If it was some technological device, simply defeating him would leave us helpless."
The standing Joe growled but made no other response. The seated Joe looked around the room and bit his lip. "So what do we do?"
Everyone looked towards Marvelous, who blinked. They were waiting for orders, and he found he had none to give. "For now... We wait."
The standing Joe heaved a frustrated sigh. The seated one nodded in agreement.
Marvelous felt very lost.