1. Chapter 1 by Ebonyswanne
2. Chapter 2 by Ebonyswanne
3. Chapter 3 by Ebonyswanne
4. Chapter 4 by Ebonyswanne
5. Chapter 5 by Ebonyswanne
6. Chapter 6 by Ebonyswanne
7. Chapter 7 by Ebonyswanne
8. Chapter 8 by Ebonyswanne
9. Chapter 9 by Ebonyswanne
10. Chapter 10 by Ebonyswanne
11. Chapter 11 by Ebonyswanne
12. Chapter 12 by Ebonyswanne
13. Chapter 13 by Ebonyswanne
14. Chapter 14 by Ebonyswanne
15. Chapter 15 by Ebonyswanne
16. Chapter 16 by Ebonyswanne
17. Chapter 17 by Ebonyswanne
18. Epilogue by Ebonyswanne
Fuming Jun went into the accounts again, typing in her carefully selected passcodes.
“I’ve been hacked Timmy.” Gritting her teeth as the data downloaded. “Damn it.”
Tilting her head to the baby rocker, she spoke to her youngest son cooing away without a care in the world. Four months old, he was wide awake staring at something on the ceiling, playing with his soft toys on the rail above him in his blue jumpsuit.
She was working over the numbers in both bank accounts and the suspicious transfers.
“Syrah’s been hacking into out financials.” She cursed out loud. “Has to be her, and she’s left a trail I can follow. Sloppy Syrah…soooo sloppy. I bet she didn’t think I could follow her. She’s gotta lot to learn about hacking.”
Their bright daughter was doing a lot more hacking of late. She had found a path into the ISO security and she almost got in. A phone call from Chief Anderson confirmed it, she was prepared to let it slide of she pulled her into line.
She totalled the amount that gone missing. Eyes widening, followed by vigorous typing trying to work out what they were doing with it. Ken was going to flip, if kids didn’t fear her, wait until the wrath of their dad came down on them. Even Jamie trembled when dad was in full discipline mode.
”They have no idea.”Furious she complied the information to start searching for them.
She’d been at the computer terminal in their home in Utoland doing other work, when she discovered the discrepancies. The weekend was approaching and both kids had asked for time with friends. She granted it, because they’d been so good of late.
Too good… she should have known, seen through it. Having another baby had kept her occupied.
They’d been busy cleaning their bedrooms, coming home on time from friend’s houses. Helping out around the house, she thought it was because of Timmy’s birth.
Now she understood why, they had their own agenda, and getting on their parent’s good side was part of it.
Underlying worry resounded in her words, they had to find them. The last few months Jamie had become more rebellious.
Ken was even finding him hard to deal with. No longer a small child he was standing his own ground, a headstrong budding teenager. A lot Ken at the same age in some ways.
About four weeks before, a few days after Ken left for Riga, and was caught by her street racing through Utoland with an unruly gang.
Remembering the night, she frantically called in a sitter after discovering Jamie was gone from his bedroom… Tight lipped Syrah declared she knew nothing about it when she woke her up.
Timmy was crying for his feed time, getting through it first, so he’d sleep. Joey fast asleep in his bed. Half asleep Syrah was asking what the fuss was all about. He was probably in the garage looking for something. Her high-powered motorbike was missing… she’d checked the garage.
“At midnight, I doubt it.” She snorted. “Where did he go?”
“He’s likely sleeping at the terminal, probably in the computer room mom.” She snorted. ”I’m going back to bed.”
Jun knew better…. Suspecting her daughter as a co-conspirator, she was closest to Jamie and adored her older brother. Dragging Syrah out of bed again, the girl moaned all the way to the car.
Getting the three of them into car quickly, out of the driveway into the pouring rain, the dead of night and furious, she raced into the city.
She knew where he’d be, street racing was his hobby. He was banned from it, but it didn’t stop him, no matter how he felt, all he wanted to do was race.
Worse he was being chased by the cops when she found him along with a few other daring racers, darting into alleyways, and thinking it was fun.
Driving family car that more like a mini bus, into alley ways, pounding rain made it more dangerous. Screeching tires and hugging corners, with Timmy wailing and Joey scared, her temper grew as she caught him in the headlights.
Stopping like a stunned nocturnal animal he screeched to a halt, tires spinning in the wet.
She stepped out of the car, sleep deprived, her chest was fire from tension. Her irresponsible boy standing before her.
“You head home now.” She hissed, balling fists, soaking wet and shivering. She could feel the milk swelling her breast with discomfort. If she didn’t feed Timmy soon, she’ll burst.
“No, I’m finishing the race.” He retorted. “I was winning until you showed up.”
“Selfish boy.” She fumed. “Back answering me, you think this helps you?”
“I only get to live once mom.” Retaliating, he started up the bike, gunning the engine. Tightening the helmet.
“Hey Jamie, this broad trouble?” A voice came out of the darkness. All the while his siblings waited in the locked car, she could hear Timmy.
A street gang descended on her, thinking she was a push over.
“Hey, leave her alone, she’s my mom.” He shouted, pulling off his helmet, revealing his bald head.
“I got this.” For the first-time fear entered his stance, as his eyes darted from her to the car with his siblings inside it.
Jun took care of it- the leader didn’t see it coming, and Jamie was floored when he watched his mother take down four gang members within seconds. They backed off, and ran. It hurt, the pain of her swollen breasts, body still recovering from birthing another baby, along with martial arts movements compounded her anger.
Turning on her son, like thunder. When she looked at him she was met with a youths slumped shoulders, worried about his siblings. He’d put them in danger, the one thing that would stop his reckless behaviour.
He gradually agreed to come home, gunning the motorbike, skidding in the rain as they left the street racing gangs territories.
During the trip home that night he faded, pulling over to the side of the highway and falling off the bike unconscious. He was always pushing himself past his limits, like his father.
Syrah, helped her get him into the car, and they raced to him hospital. Jun had a meltdown from the mounting worry when he refused to stay there, he needed the medical help, part way through treatment and he was on a path of self-destruction.
Grounded with a loss of privileges did nothing to curb his attitude. Until two weeks ago, she saw a change in him. Thought he was coming to his senses.
She’d have to send word it was time Colonel Cronus came home from Riga.
He’d been there training a squadron for the Federation on a new base.
Anderson had come to conclusion either he included them-- or risked a rogue team. He’d rather have Ken on his side, under his alias. They had struck an agreement.
Because of Jamie’s illness, she had stayed in Utoland. In a way, he was trying to deal with his son’s diagnosis, and flying on missions out of Riga, was the only way emotionally he could do it without falling apart.
Tear stung her eyes as she thought about the day the specialist handed them the results. Ken pleading with him to take out the implant in his brain to put it into Jamie’s.
The doctor sadly shook his head, it was impossible to remove it, the implant was interwoven into his brain now from recent scans- It was part of him.
They’d hidden the true results from Jamie, fearing he’d give up hope if he read them.
Her heart broke as he wept like a small child, he didn’t care if it killed him to remove it- save his son. She’d never seen him like it, he lost all of his normal stoic composure in those moments.
The doctor left them alone to have privacy. Weeping with her own fears, after a while he came out of his own enough emotional state, to pull her into his arms holding onto her like if let go she’s vanish.
“We’re not giving up.” She whispered. “We don’t give up.”
“I know.” He croaked. “We stay strong.”
Pulling her out of her thoughts, the sounds of shuffling feet caught her attention.
Joey stood in the doorway, the kid took one look at his mother’s pensive glare and bolted.
“I’ll deal with you in a minute.” She roared after him. He was more timid than his older siblings, kept to himself mostly.
Musing she was tracking her children’s movements.
“They booked a flight, false passports… How long have they been planning all of this?” Jun mused.
Clever kids, part of her admired them for it. “They changed flights, and after that the trail has gone cold.”
Sinking into her seat, with a hand over her mouth, unshed tears stood in her green eyes. In those moments, she missed her husband.
She was worried sick about him. If he missed a treatment… she didn’t want to think about the consequences.
Jamie was once a sensible boy, and overnight it was like he turned into a rebel determined to commit every crime on the planet, and now he had dragged his sister into it the mess.
Leaving the room, she went to find Joey, the kid had to know something of what his older siblings were up too.
How long has it been he wondered? The days and the months merged into nights as the planet rolled around them, shorter nights during some seasons, and some seasons were more like constant twilight blending into nothing.
Survival was all that mattered. He was good at surviving.
So far there was no way off the rock Joe crashed on in his attempt to escape from Spectra and attempt to return home.
The season was in a time of nights and days, but from his scratching and trackers it would soon be turning into twilights as the suns crossed over.
Watching the bluish horizon, anticipating a change in weather that held promise from the darkening atmospheric clouds in the distance.
Adjusting his leathers, a form of clothing he’d made from skins, after his shoes fell apart and prison garbs turned to threads over the years. Calloused heels protected his bare feet, and hands from the rough terrain that made up part of the landscape.
Mostly in the summer months he didn’t bother with wearing clothing, enough to protect his groin, was all he needed alone, in a place with no other souls to be concerned about. He did as he pleased.
The odd drone had flown over, but none of his investigations revealed a source. It could have been federation scoping the place, but if it was, he’d have seen a ship of some sort gracing the skies.
Running to find more supplies, he considered heading back to his treehouse. The rocky terrain contrasted the jungle like woodlands close by the river.
His companion. ‘Great Spirit,’ dropped in occasionally when his mental guards were down. The creature enjoyed its conversations, often talking to him about power and the need for him to come to its presence- Insisting he and the creature were connected.
Then there was the other dream, it was more like a vision…. He saw his son Jason standing behind a thick wall that was like ice. He was a grown man, with craggy features much like his own. The dream twisted his insides wanting it to be real.
How they would ever be connected in anyway shape or form. He couldn’t fathom. He had lots of time for thinking, and hated it.
His ship had crash landed on an outer Spectran planet. Fortunately, one with a combatable atmosphere to Earths, the gravity was less, he could do leaps across rivers in ways he would never be able to do on Earth without his birdstyle.
Unlike the planet atmosphere generators, and precious distribution of the mineral vitalunas was used for planting crops, on outposts throughout the Federation. Causing an explosion in settlements with people leaving Earth wanting a better life.
The crisp air around him, enhanced his alertness, a gentle breeze brushed his long hair.
The planet he had come to know and respect, was a natural balance in its echo system. A few run-ins from time to time with the wildlife had instilled a sense of caution in him.
The season he was in was winter. While the climate in these parts was temperate, it grew colder of a night. Grateful for his treehouse- Joe had enough to keep himself and his furry friend warm.
Even a half human, half cyborg had the common sense to keep out of the path of a creature with claws of a lion, five times the size of any found on Earth. They incredible strength and speed for a creature of their size.
In his time on the planet he hadn’t stumbled across civilization, nothing to assist him finding a transport out of there.
His current destination opened into a huge gorge with a wide river flowing through it. A few waterfalls lead into other gorges and river flats further downstream.
Massive fish lived in parts of the rivers, along with smaller creatures.
Fishing was interesting, he’s take to making a net out of vines to catch a meal. It was enough for several days. He’d even learned to salt the meats with natural pink rock salts found in the rocky regions surrounding the area.
The river that had spent thousands of years cutting through the rock raged below him on his never-ending trek.
Glancing up at the pale skies reflecting the colours of the landscape. Joe noted, he was yet to stumble upon an ocean. He’d found huge lakes where the rivers ran into, and gorges like the current one he was following.
But no oceans, endless rivers flowed across the planet. Surprised at finding no human life, he had become an explorer, mapping his way on tree bark with charcoal. Finding foods without poisoning himself was a miracle.
He’d swiped a medical bag in his escape from the prison. Inside it was tiny bacteria tablets enabling him to drink the water, and adjust to the planet over the course of a year. Boiling it had become his option after that.
Pulling at his beard, He was contemplating if fish would be on the menu or Wildcat.
The distant sounds of an engine of some kind caught his enhanced hearing. Stumbling on the rocks- The shock of hearing a mechanical sound that hadn’t even whispered in his ears since he landed on the planet sent him into a moment of shock.
“Joe, it your way out.” Out-loud, addressing his travelling companion. “Get it together.”
“Whoofffahhh.” The dog like creature responded, tongue hanging out he was kind of like grinning at him.
He had feeling it was trying to talk, sometimes Jin’s big dark eyes had a personality of their own. A wiry animal with the body of a greyhound, and shaggy long fur resembling a Scottish deer hound crossbreed.
He’d rescued it as a pup, when its mother and the rest of the litter came under attack from a wildcat.
“That sound, we’re finding out what it is.” He watched its furry face, and amber eyes. For some reason, he had a feeling it understood him. Or he was going insane from being a hermit.
He couldn’t tell if it was male or female, and after a while he didn’t care.
The dog he’d named ‘Jin’ after it keep annoying him by following him after its rescue. The thing jumped all over the place, full of energy, after a while he grew fond of it. Like the Swallow when he was a kid, and annoyed the crap out of him daily.
The only reason Jinpei survived childhood was because of Jun, and sometimes Ken from the wrath of the Condor.
Jogging to keep the silver ship insight, the former federation commander pushed his muscular body faster. Breathing in the cool winter air, his lungs on fire, he increasing his pace.
He hadn’t hunted in the last day so his stomach had begun a campaign threatening legal action if he didn’t oblige its needs soon. Ignoring its growl, he pushed on through the rocky terrain.
He’d lost track of the years, as he explored the planet, after long time of being a nomad he’d finally found a place to build himself a ‘home.’ Not far from his current location was a forest with massive tree’s, on one of them he’d built himself a treehouse. What started as a basic shelter grew over time.
Loneliness had become a friend and, his greatest enemy.
Jumping over a few boulders, landing gracefully behind another, the ship had landed on the open surface below him.
“Fucking Spectran’s. the first ship I see… and its them.” He snorted, looking at his pet. “Now what are they doing.”
He moved slowly along the rocky slop, easing his way down, watching a single hooded prisoner pushed roughly from the ship and moved into position. A gun at the poor soul’s head signalled an execution was about to take place.
Leaping over the cliff in an arc landing close by the first soldier, taking the man down in one swift move he turned to the next one, with less than a minute he was surrounded by bodies.
The prisoner in the meantime had taken flight. Arms tied the person stumbled and fell into the rocks tripping over, falling down the slope, and rolling to a halt next to a boulder.
Unmoving, he slid down the slope as fast as his legs would carry him. Grinding to halt, and observing the human being before him like it was some alien.
The black hood, and the loose clothing indicated they person was a slave of the Spectran empire.
Still, whoever it was, he had company for a change.
Taking care of the small ship, he closed the exit bay, checking it for tracking beacons. Then proceed to dump the Spectran bodies onto a path normally occupied by wildlife. Some wildcat will enjoy a hearty meal tonight.
Picking the unconscious body off the ground, and tossing it over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He headed back towards the treehouse. Keeping up a steady pace he would be there by twilight.
He had a few rations at the treehouse, a collection of cooked salted meats, it would have too, since he didn’t have time for anything fresh.
Climbing the ladder with a weight on shoulders wasn’t new, but this one was alive, and human. He gently placed the unconscious body onto the floor with a soft thud.
Scolding himself loudly, he forgot one detail when he picked up the body.
Pulling the cord on the black hood, he gently pulled it off the persons head. Revealing a familiar face in the fading light.
Gawking, Joe gazed into her face. His heart hammering, and paling internally-- he had to be dreaming…
“Asha.” He spoke her name out loud- And she murmured.
Her eyes flew open, and with a start she bolted upright, ridged with caution, like an animal in snare ready to fight its way out. She scurried towards the exit.
“Asha its me.” Quickly he found a torch, lighting the stick, he held up to his face.
Hesitating, her eyes darted around the treehouse, falling back onto him. Traumatised by the events, she shuffled keeping him in sights like she didn’t believe her reality, looking for a weapon.
“Can’t be true… can’t be…” Shaking her head. Never in his wildest dreams did he expect to see her again.
“It’s me.” He choked. “You’re alive.”
“You’re supposed to be on Earth, raising your son and married to some Italian woman by now with more children than you know what to do with.” She gasped, staring at him, her defences crumbling as he moved in closer. “No…its not real.” She cried, I’m dead, the sound of the gun…”
Shivering uncontrollably, she moved slightly, Jin sniffed her hand. He moved the animal away, indicating it go and sit on its fur pelt.
Moving through the room he found a fur skin to draping it around her shoulders he found a water skin for her to drink from.
Sinking to the floor, as the shock set in. He joined her, watching her every move.
Accepting it, greedily slurping own a few gulps and handed it back. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
She finally came out of her trance.
“You’ve been here a long time.” She observed. The light of the moon filtering through the tree’s leaves illuminating her fine features. He grunted, the thought of conversation was daunting after being a hermit for more time than he could count.
“Too long.” Closing his eyes, remembering his last sighting of Jason, and leaping across the sand to save his life from the blast, only to fail him. He wished his dreams of him being alive and grown up were real.
Tilting his face away from her, the sharp edges of his grief had diminished with time, but not the guilt. Walking to edge of the hut’s wall, and looking out the window.
A wildcat was passing below, slowly sniffing the air to catch the scent of its prey. Fortunately, the big animals didn’t like to climb for their meals.
The huge birds preferred the higher branches and were herbivores. They had taught him some of the green vegetation he could eat without being poisoned. She once told him to watch the animals, they knew what they could eat in an alien environment.
Sensing his tormenting emotions, she didn’t press him for more information.
Having her in the same space again, was like a dream magically morphing into reality.
For a long pause, the sounds of the jungle filled the space between them. Both of them lost in the river of their own journey through time until now.
“Why…” He started to ask, and lost his words.
“Why was I being executed?” She filled him in.
“One of my questions.” He turned slightly, she hadn’t moved.
Long knotted hair hung to her waist, she was thinner, more drawn. In his dreams, he’d lost some of the details of her, the strong feelings had remained.
Time had made some changes, but she was still as lovely to him as the day he’d left her standing on the docking bay.
“I was a terrible slave.” She bitterly smiled. “I kept trying to escape... I threw a spanner in the workings of a mechanical beast, there was explosions, I was thrown… They bagged, me and threw me on the ship, and now I’m here.””
“Good to hear you haven’t lost your touch.” A grin tugged at his lips.
“Your influence, I decided I was over being a slave trying to escape.” Whispering harshly, she moved her legs underneath her. “I did it out of desperation.” Dark eyes glistening in the soft light, unshed tears stood in the depths of her eyes.
A jarring pain like a stab in his heart hit him, what had they done to her?
Walking back over to stand in front of her. Joe extended his hand assisting her to her feet. Gingerly she stood in front of him studying his appearance. “ How long? You’re almost unrecognisable.” The words caught in her throat, she was as overwhelmed as he was.
Touching his beard and unruly long hair. Her facial features softened, moved by his presence.
Seeing her again stirred him emotionally, the undercurrent of chemistry between them reignited.
It was like his blood had been stagnant in his veins, a sandy riverbed after a long drought- and then the rains finally came in a rushing torrential downpour. His veins flooded with a rush of strong currents bringing him back to life.
His heart pumping harder to keep up with the pace of the flooding. Joy glimmered inside of him like the farmer seeing the dark grey clouds on the horizon, the rain was coming drought was over. He would survive another season.
He’d been devoid of human connection, hungry for the simplest touch. Drawing her into his arms, leaning down and burying his face into her musty hair, a welling pool of emotions threatened to drown him. Breathing in her every feminine scent, he was holding a real human being, not just anyone- his Asha.
“I thought you were dead too.” He whispered into her ear, warm tingling ignited like a gas lamp, weaved through his entire being. “Pinch me… tell me I’m not dreaming. You’re here with me.”
“I’ll ask you the same thing.” Encircling her arms around him, resting her cheek on his chest, time melted away between them. “I never forgot about you. I hoped you were living a good life…not alone like this.”
They stood there for an eternity, holding each other and not wanting to let go.
Lightly her fingers touched a precious item still hanging around his neck, gasping in surprise as her fingers traced the outline of the golden angel. Question eyes sought his.
“You’ve always been with me Asha. I’ve spend a lot of time remembering our few hours together, and your parting gift.” Joe wondering if it was all dream, her warmth against him, was like a soothing balm for his soul.
Asha wrapped her arms around him tight. Burying her face into his chest.
Joe was no longer alone.
Looking out the small window of the shack, yawning as he pulled on his shirt, trying to wake up. The hour before dawn, when everything was still, the world was on the crest of waking up, but not quite. The sounds of his kettle boiling broke through the stillness. Making a cup of instant coffee, he needed something to kick his vitals into gear.
Some people would think it was the best part of the day, but for the Eagle, all he wanted to do was crawl back under the covers of his still warm bed and grab a few more hours of sleep. When he wasn’t being called for a mission, his late morning sleeping in time was more precious than gold.
He had given his word to Jamie, if he didn’t show at the break of dawn, the race was off. Likely he wouldn’t, but he had to be prepared.
Walking with his coffee, still half-asleep into his bedroom, and rummaging through a few draws he eventually found what he was looking. Placing the cup on the side table, he yawned again as he stared at the cover of a small photo album.
Gingerly turning the pages, he found a few pictures of some small kids playing in a park. From the looks of it, the park was close to the boardwalk in Utoland bay.
Staring at the young boy laughing, with a little girl warmed him. It was his favourite photo of them together.
Jamie and Syrah, his siblings from another land. When he looked at Jamie he saw Jun in him. He recognised them at the race track, he’d looked around for Jun and Ken during the race, making an excuse to go and buy a drink, scooting off on his own searching the area- Only the two young teens were there.
He wasn’t sure how to approach it, his pride didn’t want to admit his own guilt in cutting of the contact when he was nine years old. He was still in two minds about it, and didn’t have time to allow conflicting emotions in the current climate of pending war.
There were things he didn’t discuss with the team about himself. His adoption was one of them. Not even Princess knew he was adopted by Matt and Natasha Butler as a baby. They’d assumed he was their biological child, and while it wasn’t raised as a subject, he sensed the assumptions there from them.
His mother had been a nurturing influence on his team before she passed away. Princess often talked of her warm and affection during the days when she was grieving for the loss of her own parents. He missed them deeply, someday, more keenly than others. Hid way of coping was to pour himself into his work. Forget about the lingering pain.
He couldn’t explain why he chose not to correct them- it’s not like he needed to keep it a secret, it was simply something he kept private, he kept it all locked away inside.
Jason didn’t disclose his private thoughts about his father and his death. The only thing Jason had mentioned about him in all the time he’d know him.
“My dad’s dead, some accident in space, his ship was blown up, and I have no idea who my mother was…she gave birth to me I figured, and cleared out.” The Condor shrugged it off like it was important. The topic was dropped and it hadn’t come up again.
Speaking of the Condor, he heard his car pulling, tired screeching to a halt near the hanger, the hum of a motorbike a few seconds later.
Tiny and Keyop wouldn’t be there, he hadn’t invited them, and wouldn’t have even had Jason and Princess present, if they were not there when the challenge was issued.
He wasn’t about to let the kid call him a coward, if he backed away from his challenge, the words tethered on his lips as he watched him think about it. Plus, he was curious, what had Ken taught his son about racing? He had the idea Ken was a good fighter pilot, fought during the Galactor wars.
But he hadn’t provided much information beyond it. By other peoples, ideas of family they would consider Ken his father because of blood. But to Mark, and his own ideas on family- Ken was a sperm donor, and nothing more in his life.
He didn’t raise him, he gave him away along with Jun. He’d never behave like he did, getting Jun pregnant, walking out on her. What kind of man was he?
Then she took him back after how he treated her? Why? He was struggling to comprehend the betrayals. Mark wasn’t ready for the answers and more lies.
It stung like a scorpion bite to be discarded by the people who should have loved him. They had a chance to reclaim him and neither of them did.
His father, the one who loved him and raised him was missing presumed dead…. He was determined to find him. He didn’t feel in his heart he was dead.
Drawn out of his thoughts by the sounds outside, it was time to face the world again.
The sounds Princesses charming voice and a few others he recognised. Jason must have stopped by the hotel and offered them a lift. He wasn’t going to miss seeing this kind of race.
Finishing his coffee, the bitterness hitting his stomach, and waking up. Quickly stashing the small album back into the draw. Mark walked to the door of the shack, hit with the coolness of the morning air, drawing it into his lungs, he was ready for battle.
“Hi Mark.” Jamie stepped forward, with a black beanie pulled tight over his head making his green eyes stand out more. Not even a wisp of hair showing from underneath it.
The young boy in his photos had more colour in his flesh, spirited and joyful. The older version standing before him had more untamed wild in him. What had changed over the years? He wanted to know their reasons for running away. He hated to think they were being abused.
He had a cocky nature in how he observed him. Not sarcastic like Jason’s he was somewhere in between with a competitive edge. He was sure of himself, and he wondered if he was like Ken in personality.
Pink stains of the sunrise were on the horizon.
“You’re on time.” He said, indicating to the rising sun.
“I keep my end of the deal.” Jamie cocked his head sideways, observing Mark like he was waiting for something.
“So, do I.” Mark extended his hand, Jamie clasped it.
“Before we get started I’m making a few rules.” He said, tightening his grip.
“What… no small talk about the weather?” Jamie’s young face broke into a cheerful grin. “I like your style.”
“Get on with it.” Syrah on the other hand was cautious. “It’s not why we came here Jamie, so you could race.”
Syrah was like a tight rose bud blooming, the soft curves of her figure changing from a girl into a woman were highlighted by the tight jeans and white T-shirt she wore. She was tailored, neat hair pulled back into a ponytail, her young eyes spoke of intelligence.
Jason was ignoring her long looks, leaning against his car, arms folded waiting to see what his commanders next move would be.
Glaring at his sister, Jamie turned his full attention to Mark while Princess rode his trail bike out of the hanger, checking the fuel tank and handing Jamie a helmet.
Mark outlined his expectations.
1. No cheating
2. They start the race officially once Mark had done one full turn after take-off.
3. Jason and Princess determined the winner
4. The race circuit was according the map he’d prepared. Two rounds of the circuit.
“Looks like you put some thought into it.” Jamie said, studying the map. “I want Syrah to be other one to call the winner. Let the girls decide.”
“Fair enough, one from my team and one from yours.” Mark agreed, finalizing it with a handshake, he left for his Cessna.
“You fly lower, it’s not a race of you’ve got easy, meters off the ground.” He challenged, as he reached his plane.
“I can fly, you worry about staying in the race.” He called back.
Princess caught up with him as he went to jump into the cockpit.
“Mark, you know something about them.” Her eyes narrowed. He didn’t answer straight away, not wanting to lie, and not wanting to elaborate either.
“I like your new hair colour, suits you.” He said, pulling down the canopy before she asked any more questions. Secretly enjoying her response, he hid the warm smile playing on his lips.
Turning her long lashing onto him in a way that sent his heart racing. Placing her fists on her hips, tilting them slightly conveying her annoyance and, shaking her head. She did look cute with bright green locks, deepening her eyes and making her skin even more creamy.
The Swan watched him turn the plane heading down the runway. He enjoyed the game they played, she asked him a question he didn’t want to answer, and returned it with a compliment.
Look but not touch, that was his personal rule when it came to Prin and any other female under his command or within the ISO.
He was her commander, and understood the Federation rules relating to relationships within units and their punishments for breaking them. He had a job to do, that demanded his complete focus.
The sounds of his engine and the wonderful feeling of lifting into the skies dominated his concentration as he turned the plane around seeing Jamie on the start line. The kid had wait until he was about to pass over, Princess was ready with a flag in her hand to signal the start of the race.
The red flag swooped down as he came over the top flying low, and the kid on the motorbike leaped off the start line, gunning his engine with balls of dust and engine smoke in his wake hurling down the runway, and straight off the end into the grasslands area surrounding the airfield.
Watching the rider below taking the lead, he figured he’d give some false confidence. The first lap was done, with the rider below him racing over hills, the both of them had come to a tie.
Seeing his team mates below waving, as the sun rose in the sky, and the day was shaping up to be a sunny and warm. The next part of the circuit was going to be tricky, he had navigate, between the hills.
But what was a race without a real challenge in it for both of them. Mark was using as a training exercise. Keeping his wings level, one false move and he’d be landing in a few awkward places with his plane it pieces.
Diving lower over Jamie, he saw him look up for a split second before jumping over a hill and flying down the slop, kicking up plumes of dust, like small clouds behind him.
Aiming the lever as he plunged down the hill after him over taking the rider he was in the lead now.
A few more daring jumps, he had to admire, Jamie’s skills on a motorbike. The kid could hold his own.
It was on one of those jumps that things unravelled for the young teenager. Mark couldn’t exactly tell why it happened. Mid-air he tilted sideways on the bike, and came crashing to the ground, thrown off his ride, and splaying on the dirt below.
“Jason, get up here.” He spoke into his communicator.
“On my way.” He replied.
Doing a circle, taking the plane higher trying to find a landing place in the hills was never an easy task in civilian mode. Jamie wasn’t moving, paling from the sight of him sprawled on the ground, and praying he wasn’t badly hurt Mark found a place he could land.
Running back toward him Princess held out hand as she rode past, pulling up behind her without slowing down. The sleek manoeuvre had been practised many times over the years.
Jason was already there with Syrah. The you girl leaping out of the skyline crouching down next to her brother. Tenderly she checked his vitals.
“We have to get him to a hospital now.” She ordered, without looking up.
Pulling off his helmet slowly- Syrah was trembling. Revealing instead a crop of thick dark hair like he expected from his childhood photos, Jamie’s head was bald.
That’s why he wears a beanie. Mark thought wildly. Turning questioning eyes onto the young girl. Jason checked him for injuries.
“He’s very sick.” She choked in tears, like a babbling brook she spoke. “We shouldn’t be here, it’s my fault, I should have talked him out of it…but… he would have come alone and--”
“What’s wrong with him.” Princess tenderly touched the panicked girls arm. “We can help you.”
“Cancer, it’s bad, he’s in the middle of treatment…he needs to go home.” Syrah stared straight into his eyes, anger brewing like a boiling kettle. “You could have told him NO. But your egos took over as usual, boys are soooo, idiotic.” Like she was about to boil over”… you’re both hot heads by the looks of it.”
Princess was sympathetic, nodding… like she actually agreed.
Jason found the accusation amusing, smirking as he checked his patient.
“We’ll get him to the hospital.” Mark promised. Jason already had the back door of his car opened up. Indicating he couldn’t find any breaks.
“Why are you here?” Mark cast her hard look.
“He… wanted to meet you.” She whispered. “That’s all.”
“Really.” His eyes widened a touch, tightening his lips. They knew about him. What have they been told? He wondered.
“Yes.” She replied sharply.
“You shoulda stayed home kids.” Jason snickered. “You’re out of your league here.”
“You’re mean.” She shot back at the Condor.
“It’s my car you’re travelling in little girl, hang on tight.” Jason helped him carry Jamie’s limp body into the car, not asking questions but as usual the Condor was taking it all in, he could see brain ticking over in his cloudy grey eyes.
Syrah dove into the back seat, cradling her brothers head as they lifted him inside. Princess was shooting him all kinds of enquiring looks, and he didn’t have time to elaborate.
Syrah’s words hit home like a hard slap across the face, if he knew his condition, he wouldn’t have allowed the race to happen.
“We’ll follow.” He indicated for Jason to get moving.
Leaping onto the bike behind her, gripping her tiny waist tight, trying not to allow his swimming emotions to surface. Closing his eyes tight as she gunned the engine, and kicked up the rest bar, they followed the G-2 into the city.
Praying his younger blood brother would be alright.
They’d had a few weeks catching up on the last decade since the time they had parted ways. Sitting on the floor of his treehouse, leaning against the main trunk running through it, resting, they didn’t have a lot to do but talk.
Joe told her about the events on the beach, fresh tears stung his eyes as recalled it in details. For a long time, he blotted it out of his memory.
The jaded images hit him hard like blasts of fine sand as the images of the rose hitting the ground, shielding Jason with his body… Everything blurring around him…. his son limp in his arms unable to save him, before he lost consciousness himself, and woke up a captive…
Asha was curled up beside him as he talked about it, reaching out for him with her arms. Resting her warm cheek on his chest bringing him the comfort of home. She wept with him, feeling the pain of his loss as he finally found the words.
“Common, let’s go for a walk.” Springing to his feet, she followed him down the ladder, and along the path.
After a while they entered a clearing, indicating they had work to do. Asha complied, waiting for his instructions, she’d asked him to teach her better fighting skills.
The foundations of their relationship always had been close friends, taking things slowly he’d respected her need to touch base again with him.
They’d both been through a lot since they last saw each other.
He warmed inside watching her fascination with his world, the plant life he showed her, and her excitement. He stared as she studied leaves, and flowers. A particular red flower caught her attention, furrowing her thick brows he watched her delicate fingers trace its soft petals. The flower was familiar, a miniature version of the enormous flowers that Jun almost died in, the flames of the field flashed through his memory, and Ken’s plane flying over.
Watching her studying the fauna of his world, and throwing his thoughts, back in time to planets they visited while on missions, and her collections in the labs ready for ISO scientific studies. He fell in love with her during their long treks, alone through strange environments and dangers.
He’d taken her to the waterhole, not far from the treehouse. It was safe for swimming in. A crystal, clear water in a solid rock basin, with run off streams into the main river after rain.
Enjoying the growing intimacy again, between them it was like lost pieces of puzzle coming together again at last.
Asha, gave him an idea of what her life had been like being a Spectran prisoner. Pretending to play the good slave in order to gain access to places and escape.
She told him of the things demeaning things she faced as a slave, and her escape attempts, one she came close to succeeding a few years before. They kept transferring her other units once the Captains grew tired of it. Eventually her last actions led to them deciding to get rid of her altogether.
“You can get out of this.” Gripping her arms in a lock, she worked to fight her way out of it. “I could bite you.” Baring her teeth, she was trying hard to find a way out of his grip.
“Do that and I can’t guarantee your safety.” He smirked.
Seeing the scar on her arm, he still cringed at the painful wound. He’d extracted a tracker from her arm with his knife, a painful procedure. Bravely she tried not to cry- but painful tears still stung her eyes, escaping down her cheek as he dug the knife in. Closing as best he could with a bandage made from leather.
“You’re holding on too tight.” Joe coached her. “Loosen up, relax more.” The lesson was turning into a brawl. Eventually Asha worked it out and he copped a hard elbow punch in his abdomen.
“It’s not good enough. We’ll try it again.” He readied himself to begin the fight. Pursing her lips tight, she turned and marched away.
Clenching his jaw tight, she wasn’t backing out of it. Reaching for her shoulder, she deflected him, eyes flashing like a wildcat. Pivoting on her heels, strutting in the direction of the treehouse.
“What’s going on?” Shouting, after her, his temper rose.” You’re still not doing it right get back here--“
“It’s not about that Joe.” She retorted. “I’ll never be on your level in hand to hand fighting.”
Throwing his hands in the air, following her. The last few weeks had been bliss until he started martial arts training with her. He had to remind himself constantly she wasn’t Jun in skills, barely had any form of instruction.
Jin followed him, a curious expression on the dog’s face like a scientist observing human interaction.
Arriving at the treehouse, she pulled herself up the ladder. Following her, he was worried if they ended up in a serious fight she’d be badly injured or worse. Determined to improve her fighting skills he was pushing harder than normal.
“Then what?” He asked settling onto a bundle of furs, drinking from the water skin.
“We have a ship, why are we staying here?” pacing the treehouse hands clasped behind her back like they were on the bridge of his ship.
Direct as always, he thought. Pushing him to examine his reasons.
“We’re not ready.” He answered. “Your hand to hand fighting skills need more work--“
“We or you.” She responded, her native accent thickened more when she was angry. “I’m better with a gun, then, close combat. Spectra will come back to investigate their missing soldiers.”
He had to agree with her there, she could shoot a target accurately, and then there was Spectra.
Falling silent, he wondered himself. Why the delay?
A lot of time had passed creating changes, and growing apart with them. Both of them needed space. Part of him wanted her as much physically and emotionally, as he had during the time of his command on the Federation exploration ship the Endeavour.
He spent years trying to find a way off this isolated planet, only when the opportunity presented itself he didn’t want to leave. How could explain it to her, when he couldn’t explain it to himself.
“What will happen to Jin?” Pointing at his dog.” I can’t leave him on his own.”
“We take him with us.” She said. “We can’t stay here.”
“Why not?” He snorted. “What’s out there for us? What am I going back to Earth for?”
Tension building, she changed the topic. “You need a shave.” She picked up the sharp knife from his pack.
The truth was he hadn’t shaved since before he escaped from the prison, she’d commented a few times he looked like a caveman.
Sitting cross legged, and straightening his back. he gave in at last to her request he remove the fuzziness from his face. Picking up a small pouch of gel she found in a plant. Explaining it was like Aloe Vera from its scent and substance. Testing it on her skin she found it had benefits. Running plant oil through his long-tangled mess of hair, pulling out the knots as she worked.
Walking around him, tenderly tilting his face up wards his eyes met hers, his forehead resting on her breast. Angling the knife, he was at her mercy as she slid it along his skin removing facial hair.
Bits dropped to the floor, and the breeze picked up moving it towards the door of the hut. The intimacy between them grew as she worked, he couldn’t tear his eyes off her, watching her furrowing her dark brows in concentration. Taking extra care with the knife not to cut him.
She fell silent for a moment. “I’m not a psychologist, I’m a biochemist and botanist, I study vegetation and molecular cell growth its why I was on your ship to start with.” Closing her eyes.
“I know.” Trying not smile from the memories. Asha was trained for radar at the Federation academy. The woman who wanted to serve on a ship so she could collect plant samples, and ended up on a radar on the bridge. He allowed her to make use of the small lab on board. A lot of crew were multitasked in qualifications.
Keeping him close, eyebrows furrowed in concentration as she finished- his heart filled to the brim, watching her pretty golden features, in the dappled light drawing out her reddish highlights in a mass of dark brown hair falling softly around her oval face to her waist.
“I can see your face now.” She examined her workmanship and continued.
“I have all I need here.” He quietly replied as she applied the plant gel to his skin. Deeper feelings swirling’s inside of him, the love he once felt for her surfacing again, blossoming each day they spent together. He could stay there, and forget about the rest of the universe.
Live a life together free of the problems of the Federation and the entire universe.
“The universe has a way of finding those how isolate themselves.” She whispered as if reading his thought. Smoothing his skin, taking her time. “What about your friends? The ones in the photos you kept on your desk on the ship?”
Shifting his gaze away from her, he had thought about his family, and how their lives had progressed for years. He hoped Ken and Jun had a happy family life running their restaurant. Ken a knife throwing champion.
That thought often brought a smile to his face, images of his brother perfecting the art, and turning dicing vegetables into a form of ninja skills. Ryu would be a father by now and Jinpei? Who knows with him, likely newly married or single, or being the- annoying-pain-in-the-butt he always was.
“They’re living their lives without me.” He selfishly retorted.
“Running away… It’s not like you…” Scolding him, dropping the knife onto the bag.
“I’m not good at being close to people.” He admitted. “Anyone close to me dies.”
“We all die one day, we’re alive now…. Let’s not waste it.” She moved closer to him, feeling her warm moist breath on his skin, goose bumps rose from her breath. Placing a hand on his knee.
He was being stubborn, he was holding back—and finally understood why. He was being selfish, wanting her for himself and time alone. Reigniting everything, he had lost during her absence.
“Main tumase pyaar karata hoon.” She breathed in her native tongue, meeting his searching eyes, lost in the moment.
“What does that mean?” He asked.
“Mohabbat.” Love… A smirked played on her lips. “Shut up and kiss me.”
“No- it doesn’t.” He chortled.
Playfully Asha side glanced him, with her long eyelashes fluttering seductively. “Chup raho aur mujhe kis karo.”
Greedily Joe picked up her smaller hand with his fingers, drawing her closer, the undercurrent of electricity encircling them.
Touching her cheek tenderly with his fingers, moving her hair away from her face, curling his fingers around her head cradling her, drowning in the warm pools of her deep amber glaze.
A natural beauty in his eyes, she needed no embellishment for him to love her. Her spirited personality and willingness to take risks was devilishly attractive.
Pulling her in closer, returning his affections. Parting her lips, pressing his lips against hers, he drew her in more deeply with each passing second, their hunger grew like sounds of wildcats in the distance.
It was the first time he’d kissed her in a decade, and she had the same hold over him. Warm sensations flooded his entire being heating up the air between them.
The hours that followed reignited everything he had suppressed for years. Shedding clothing wasting not a second more, wanting her in every way was like sweet torture.
Lying down on the bare timber floor of his home, shaking from pent up desires and years of abstinence- both of them trembling with urges they’d not touched on for years.
The warmth of her bare flesh against his overwhelmed his senses and desires as they ardently made love into the afternoon on the floor of the treehouse.
Later as the sun dipped into the sky- Breathless, with her body moulded with his, long hair flowing around her, tickling his skin. Her cheek lying on his chest he stretched his neck so he could see her face.
The sound of the tree’s branches moaning, and rustling of leaves as the birds claimed the higher branches the solitary sounds of the forests nocturnal wildlife waking up around them. The growl of a wildcat coming out to hunt drifted up from the ground below. Jin- lazily lifted his head from his afternoon nap, and slumped back down again for a longer one.
“I still want to know what. Main tumase pyaar karata hoon.”
“What do you think it means?” She said, shifting slightly.
“Ti amo la mia bella Asha.” He replied, his heart beating wildly, tingling sensations ran through him like a stream. He meant every word of it. Searching her eyes they softened as he spoke.
“Sono innamorato di te.” I’m in love with you… he whispered, thick with emotion.
“In English, what do those words mean?” Tilting her head, she moved up his body closer to his face. From her expression, she’d guessed their meaning.
“You first.” He chuckled.
“One day…I’ll tell you.” She replied in deep thought, fingers stroking his chest. “I want to stay here too. Just the two of us. But we can’t Joe.”
Sighing and shifting off him, and picking up her ragged slave clothing- Inspecting her, feminine curves as she walked to the window of the treehouse.
She shivered as the cold breeze drifted inside, drawing her arms around herself to stay warm. Springing to his feet, and eloping her in his arms. Relishing the feeling her soft breasts against his biceps, warming her body with his own crushing against her.
Enjoying the moment holding her in his arms- Planting a hot wet kiss on her neck, she quivered turning slightly, drawing in a sharp breath, as his callused hands ran over her smooth skin.
“I know we can’t stay here.” He resided. “I’ll be ready soon…. To face the universe, and the human race again.”
“Joe… “Closing her eyes returning his affections, in his heart he understood the meaning of her words spoken in Indian. I love you in another language means the same thing. Everything about her body language conveyed her feelings towards him, reciprocating with his own unspoken language.
She wasn’t a woman to hide her feelings, but at times she chose not to voice them too openly, a discipline she used often during the time they served together in his ship.
“The ship is short range, not suited for a long run to Earth, plus its Spectran. They’d be touchy over it, depending on what relations are like now days. We need something bigger- in the next few days we’ll fly to Oden...town of Harken.” He decided.
“Harken- it’s a rough outpost, and we have no Federation money.” She reminded him.
“I’ll make a few house calls. A few pirates owe me, for not shooting them. Besides pirates don’t care who’s ship it is, they’ll buy it.” They were lucky, when he was the Condor and a driven teenager out for revenge. He wouldn’t have hesitated as much especially since they would have been the types to align themselves with Galactor. He calculated a few gangs he’d had run ins with during his command.
“I know what your house calls entail, I think I’ll need some more hand to hand combat lessons. We have those Spectran guns if… when things get out of hand.”
“You know me well.” A feral grin fluttered across his lips.
“Harken… of all places.” Asha leaned into him. “I remember the last time we were there. Federation asked our ship to check some trouble in the place.”
“Wasn’t so bad. We lived through it, and they learned not to mess the Commander Asakura.” His grin intensified. “Wonder if Dingo is still around, he owes me.”
“Owes you, he wants you dead, it’s what he said as you blew up his joint, and threatened to haul him back to the Federation for trial-“
“He had you as his prisoner the shit, threatening all sorts of things- what did he expect from me.”
“How did you know I wasn’t in the place you launched the rocket into? You never answered beyond that feral grin you mastered so well.”
“I know a bluff when I hear it, he wanted to show everyone in town how powerful he is… thinking he could intimidate a Federation commander to his bidding.”
“I came back…”
“So… you did…came back unharmed, and he lived… see why he owes me.” Joe swayed with her in his arms, enjoying their shared memories of missions.
”Let’s get back to what’s happening here.” Trailing hot kisses down her neck, a low growl left his lips, enjoying her skin against him. He could feel her gently moaning from his touch as his hand slid down her stomach towards his intended destination. Both of them stumbling towards the bed of furs for the evening.
Jin would have to catch his own dinner tonight, the dog observed them briefly, and left. Leaping from the branches onto the platforms towards the ground Joe had made for him.
Catching his lips with hers, as they fell onto the soft mass he used for a bed. “You’ll have to tell me how you learned to fight the way you do someday.” She gasped for air between passionate kisses, and their hands moving everywhere.
“Someday…” He promised, feeling his physical response to her touch, as it heated up the atmosphere around them, sensual tensions building, their steamy breath sending clouds into the air. He was never parting ways with her again.
She didn’t know he was a cyborg, or the Condor from the Science Ninja Team during the Galactor Wars. He’d find the right time to disclose that information, for now he was enjoying other sensations.
Unprepared for how he’d feel when was finally given the opportunity to leave his place of isolation.
It had served as an escape from his pain, and grief over the people he had lost along the way. His parents, Dr Nambu and his son, until that moment Asha.
Going back meant knowing the fate of his family, Ken, Jun, Ryu, and Jinpei. A small flame sparked inside of him, with her reminding him of them. A deep longing to see them all again ignited unexpectedly.
With Asha coming back into his life he was finding the strength to come to terms with it. Move into a place of acceptance and the courage to find his sons resting place on Earth.
The idea of standing before his grave was raw, but it was time to seek out closure, like he did with his parents. He couldn’t block it all out forever.
Zoltar stood tapping his foot inspecting the damage to his new mecha, receiving word that the project had hit another delay, he’d flown to the slave planet of Horition furious he had hit another obstacle in launching his attack.
“What did you do with said slave?” He asked. Leaning in closer to the Captain in charge, he wanted to strangle the culprit himself.
“That stupid slave was nothing but trouble sire. Totally incompetent at doing her work correctly. All her fault it’s been delayed.” Stammering, the man hurriedly explained he sent her with a crew to be executed. Unsatisfied with the answer, he wanted to know if she was a spy.
“Why couldn’t you shot her on the base for all to see, it would be more effective. The body?” Zoltar hissed, the tip of his mask poking the man’s trembling face. “Did they bring back the body?”
“Ahh... left it on the planet, all done my Lord.” The Captain fumbled.
“You left it? You had no authority to land there.” Poking him again.
“Blood is messy to clean up sire, and the men…ahhh well.” He pleaded. “Well… she was feisty and… I ahh… killing a woman like that, cold blood…”
Pursing his pink lips until they turned white, he wondered how they passed the entry exams into his army. The Captain fell into step as Zoltar whirled on his heels and headed down the corridor.
He had thoughts of his own intel about an elite team in the, Federation called G-force. They had a female on the team, and they’d better get a stomach for killing a woman by the time they launched their attack.
“I want to speak to the one executed her… what was her name?” Zoltar wanted someone to take his frustrations out on. Sadly, the Captain jumped ahead of him and had the slave put out of her misery.
“They didn’t come back… did they. Your men?” He said. Clenching his jaw tight, drawing a deep breath he waited.
“Not yet.” Captain answered. “They could have stopped on another slave planet to replace her—“
“You imbecilic.” He hissed, halting.
“Go yourself to the location, investigate.” Poking his chest with a pointy index finger.
“You’ll stand before The Great Spirit and explain your incompetence.” He promised, striking fear into the heart of his captain. The man hastily nodded, marching off to go on his recovery mission.
The planet was meant to be left isolated, by the orders of the great Spirit himself. He has to clean up the mess and fast before he found out- the whole planet was a prison for a particular prisoner, they had trouble keeping caged in.
Flicking his purple cape and marching down the ramp off the beast he was creating to being his military campaign and acquiring of resources his failing planet badly needed Zoltar had to find a way to gently explain their second delay in launching in a decade.
The first was after the capture of two Federation ship officers. They both escaped after the first few hours of capture.
Successfully blowing up the almost finished Turtle Mecha. The force of the explosion sent the pair of them flying, they found the female unconscious. She was immediately put into prison until they could tag her.
The other male was presumed dead, caught in the explosion.
Asha, the name of the person who sent his project back ten Earth years. But the Great Spirit wanted her alive. Said she would be useful, and to send to a remote slave planet to work hard labour. He did it to break her spirit. His leader was never good at explaining his reasons for ordering anything. Any questions he had were met with a sonic blast, and over time Zoltar stopped asking.
Unbeknownst to him the woman had become trouble, and transferred often without his authorisation.
Now he was stuck with a dilemma. The Great Spirit had request he bring her to him, along with picking up Joe Asakura from his planet prison of the last eight years.
She might have proved to be trouble, but she wasn’t stupid like the captain painted her be. This master had plans for her, and he wanted them together.
At least she would possibly be in the same place if the crew failed.
A Galaxy girl dressed in blood red and platinum bluntly cut wig approached him.
“Lord Zoltar.” She addressed him formally.
“My dear.” Turning slightly a sultry smile played on his lips. “I have a mission for you…. To bring me an old friend.”
He had a long history with Sari. She had proven to more than an excellent assassin over the years. Her work as a spy on Earth had located a vital piece of information that would change the course of Spectra and its gathering of resources.
She had located vitalunas an essential mineral only found on Earth. It was vital for the survival of Spectra. Earth had an abundance of it, the beast before him Terrapin, was his answer to the crisis. Earth will be forced to surrender their resources.
His mecha production had slowed down with having to replace metals and find qualified engineers to work on designs. His captive Federation slaves were nothing but trouble when it came to putting them on the job.
Nothing but stress and ongoing problems, was enough to make him want to hand the leadership over Joe Asakura. It what he figured the Great Spirit had wanted to do. Let him deal with it.
Sighing heavily, he adjusted his mask, straightened his shoulders and got on with doing what had to be done. He was Spectran, and Joe wasn’t. That made a bigger difference to his commitment to ruling well.
What was it that made the Great Spirit obsessive with the man, he didn’t know, but eventually he planned to find out his secret.
“You there.” He indicated a man in a green uniform, they all looked alike to him with masks on.
“Yes sir.” The man stepped forward.
“I have a mission for you.” Zoltar flicked his cape, as he strutted towards his shuttle, the man fell into step a respectful pace behind his leader.
Handing the man, a small package, instructing him to fly to Spectra and deliver it to Mala.
Saluting his leader, the man straightened with pride for being selected for an important mission.
Zoltar didn’t see the other man observing the scene, he blended into the general population of working slaves, and moved fluidly through the base without a soul knowing he was there.
Stealing onto the shuttle, the spy had plans acquire the package, and send the information back to the Federation.
An agent working for the red rangers, a source in deep cover, no one knew his identity, only the code name he sent to the red rangers for the intel to be passed on directly to Colonel Cronus himself, who then passed it onto Chef Anderson.
“Mission code Cronus…”
Days later…. Centre Neptune Earth.
The lights dimmed for the footage, as a room full of high ranking officials watched as G-Force showed them what they are made of. Mark issuing orders, and his team responding, Forming a whirlwind pyramid. Then all flying out of it with the ease of bird in flight to continuing their training exercises. Eventually the footage ended, and the light came back onto a room full of silence.
The whole time he confidently waited for the feedback… Then the discussion of the project began in earnest.
His hands clasped firmly behind his back, watching the sharks swim past the huge glass windows catching the odd fish that strayed from the schools swimming close by- Chief Anderson, head of Federation security, listened to the heated discussion going on in the room.
The discussion had turned into a debate, the sharks in the room were lining up for the pickings from anyone who strayed out of the ridges guidelines of the current leadership.
“Gentlemen and ladies.” The General of their federation research fleet stood up to have his say.” We are a peaceful federation, and I don’t see the need for team of hormonal teenagers running around the galaxy stirring trouble.”
“That Condor, can you keep him on a leash?” A commander snickered. “He’s one scary hothead I hear.”
“I bet he’s more trouble, and then the girl?” Another agreed. “Sixteen-year-old pretty girl and teenage boys on heat, in the same room eventually… well…its a bad combination, the boys could be hot for each other who knows what--“
“They’re completely professional Federations soldiers.” He declared, gripping his anger, cutting through the rising voices. “There is fraternisation between any of them.”
A few stern faces tilted in his direction, along with a shift in the conversation. Doubts in the viability of his long-term project had come to surface, and political bickering was like a Roman mob.
“The Commander, Mark is barely eighteen years old. I suggest we can find a replacement. I’d agree to that-“
Another General, with thin hair and a dower expression turned like a shark, staring at Anderson. “His second-command… why not replace the whole team for older, more experienced specialists, if the public learns of their implants as toddlers, the scandal of it, and Keyop’s cloning there will be outrage--“
Clearing his throat, it was time for him to join in. “The public will think they are hero’s they’ll save the day.”
“Save the day?” One snorted.” They’re a financial drain, fancy kids on superhero bird costumes.”
“We need them.” He stated firmly. “They are in sync with each other, we can’t pull Mark out of his Command. It would destroy everything we have achieved, he is dedicated to the Federation, you won’t find anyone as trustworthy as him.”
“There was another team put together by your uncle. The Science Ninja Team.” A General turned an accusing finger on him. “Is it your inflated ego to have a team like his?”
They saw him as a stray fish in their vast ocean of the federation ready to be picked off and replaced. If G-force was disbanded as a team, he would lose his position- and he found himself defending it to his last breath.
“They died protecting our planet, and were a success.” He parried. “You saw G-forces training, and scores. The five of them work together as one, they are more effective than the previous team, I assure you, once activated you won’t be disappointed.
“Spectra hasn’t show itself to be the threat we feared. They have done nothing since we discovered their existence. It appears they wish to be left alone.” Another officer lounged in his seat, fiddling with a pen, oozing arrogance. “We have the outer watch on Pluto, and the Z.A.R.K systems robot, we can put military watches and a few bases closer to them. That should keep them away, and the children you trained can go back to school where they belong.”
This wasn’t about their ages, it was about the costs and funding of running a base exclusive for G-Force, more politics and blindness. He fumed internally, masking it with a slight turn of his head, furrowing his brows and adjusting his glasses.
“This facility can be used more effectively.” His opposition pitched in.
“We need G-force, they are the best defence we have against any attack from Spectra.” A commander with her greying hair pulled tight, flashing eyes stood in his ally.
Eyeballing the generals, the meeting was souring further- politics in action.
Spectra had been quiet, but it didn’t stop him from putting the team on alert. Something was brewing out there, he could taste it like salty water.
His intel had indicated as much, sharing it in the meeting before he showed them the footage appeared to do nothing at all. They had become complacent over the years, and he was in danger of being shut down.
Leaning on the table, splaying his fingers and delivering a menacing glare, he slowly turned his fiery gaze on all of them.
“G-Force are trained like no other team we have. Their cybernetics… ” He paused, some of that information had a higher level of security.” Shut down this project and you leave us vulnerable.”
He had a few supporters in the room, but they were few and he was losing fast, something had to happen, and soon or he would lose his position as chief in favour of someone more pliable.
“You have until the end of the election in a few months to prove it.” President Wallis said. “ If by then we can’t justify G-Forces costs, then we move onto another plan for defending our Federation in slight chance of a threat.”
The meeting gradually came to an end with no real conclusion to the fate of G-force, one by one the official blue clad generals and commanders left the room.
Making choices on revealing information was part of his job. A piece of the pie he kept closer to himself, depending on how the meeting went.
There was some knowledge in command about possible Spectran activity, and constructions. He’d personally handed to the current president, the man said to keep a close, but felt Spectra was more wind, than action.
The monitoring of one of Spectra’s activity was his job, and he did it well.
Placing his hand into his pocket, and fingers curling around a computer stick, he pulled it out, staring at vital information he hadn’t shared.
The cryptic stick contained images and footage of a monster mecha being build, and intel on its intent to be used in an attack on earth lead by Spectra’s leader Zoltar.
It had come to him through Cronus, he had sent him to investigate it with his red rangers. So far, he didn’t have news from him.
Staring at the stick, there no point simply sharing information with the hierarchy. The only other person he had revealed it too, was in a private meeting with the opposition to Wallis, Senator Kane.
Senator Kane agreed telling them was no use, they would dismiss it like they had the others sent though, minor threats, if any, Spectra used the mecha’s for other purposes, they would say.
Complacent since the end of the Galactor wars, the federation was getting comfortable in peacetime.
He had spent time weighing it up, his conscious of what he was retaining, and how it was affect the Federation.
One real attack, and G-Force would be commissioned in full, no one would oppose it. A few sacrifices for the good of the many. Spectra would back off once they saw their effectiveness, withdraw totally. In the end, it was the best move to assure the compete safety of all the planets under his protection.
Most of all, Chef Anderson would retain his position, in war mode he gained a higher standing in the Federation.
Mark wouldn’t disappoint him, the boy had his biological fathers disposition for duty and command, blinded by it like a robot- he owned him like a slave master.
Jason was harder to control, rebellious, and at one point he was going to replace him with Don Wade until the kid turned out to be worse- where near as good in combat, and targeting as Jason was.
Marks protests led to him keeping Commander Joe Asakura’s son on the team. Ever since the young teenager had fallen into a place of insecurity. Anderson saw his determination to be better than his father and follow in his path of command.
He had heard legends about him in the federation, a drive he hoped the young teen would grow out of it.
Dropping the plastic stick onto the floor, it made a soft crunching sound as he crushed it under his shoe. He no longer needed it, picking up the sharp pieces, and dumping them into the fiery disposal unit, no one was accessing it again.
The rogue spy that delivered it was still active- and no one knew his true identity. His first place of contact was with Colonel Cronus- He passed on the information to him.
His gut feeling about the spy’s identity was likely to be correct, all of his transmissions and code held a familiar ring to it and codes, only he would know.
He had all but told him many years ago. Cronus, was the word used each time, and he had figured out it wasn’t for his contact with Ken Washio. The spy was the real Cronus- Matt Butler- Marks missing father.
He couldn’t tell his commander, it would distract him, and he’d want to run off looking for him. He was needed in the Federation, and focused on his job. Keeping a strict eye on his commander, he wasn’t taking any chances.
Another piece of intel he kept to himself. He kept telling himself it was the right thing to do.
Secrets upon secrets.
Clearing his conscious, he thought of the millions of lives he would save activating G-Force, one sacrifice for the good of the many.
The mecha named “Terrapin.” On the computer stick was likely to attack. G-force would defeat it, and he would have his funding, and base, and secure in his position as chief, for the good of the Federation.
He looked younger than fifteen- with a breathing tube running across his nose, monitors stuck all over his pale chest rising and falling as Jamie Washio slept with Mark watching over him.
Syrah rested in a seat nearby, Princess and Jason had left for a while and gab some sleep at his request. They would be back later, Princess especially had picked up he knew more about the kids than he was letting on.
He often thought of his intuitive nature, but she had her own sharp senses, more in people than any of them.
Syrah had gone into her own shell since they arrived, she had spoken quietly on the phone at the nurses, station with her mother. It sounded like Jun was on her way to New Jork, taking a commercial flight.
The scrapping sound as he pulled a chair over by the bed pierced his ears, a sharp pain hitting his senses.
Sinking into it, leaning back crossing his arms, a mixture of emotions fought inside of him. If he hadn’t of broken contact ten years before he would have known Jamie was sick. In two minds over his choices, he wasn’t completely sure why he did it.
Scratching his head, running fingers though it to straighten it out. The odd thought of needing a to wash it drifted amongst his deeper ruminations.
“You don’t have stay.” She said flatly, staring blankly at the pages of a social magazine. “Waiting is painful, and really, I’m sure you have other things to do.”
“I’ll stay.” Mark promised, secretly hoping he didn’t get an emergency call.
“It’s boring, and he’s in hospital now.” Shrugging she moved in her seat.” They’re talking his doctors in Utoland, nothing you can do here.”
“You said he came to see me.” Mark turned sideways in his chair to face her.” You don’t think I know why?”
“Maybe.” She glanced over.” Do you know me?”
“We spoke a few times as children.” His tone softened. “I remember your voice.”
She straightened, eyes widening. “You… remember us?”
Nodding Mark looked into her eyes, he could see the connections there, her resemblances to him.
“You’re my sister, and Jamie is my brother right?”
“Yeah.” She lightened up a little. “Mom told us about you, when we talked on the phone, we were too little to really understand much. Just that you lived with another mom and dad.”
“I know, I had a hard time figuring it all out.” He half smiled.
I’m still trying to figure it all out, he thought.
“How long has he been sick.”
“Too long.” Can his answer from Jamie, his eyes forming slit’s. “Dad was teaching me to fly… one day I passed out on him as we were coming in to land. Almost crashed.”
Syrah moved fast to her brother’s side, sitting on the side of bed.
“I had… well sickness but figured I kept getting viruses…. Than after I blacked out landing… dad took me to a hospital. Tests started and they found tumours…” Jamie croaked.” I wasn’t allowed to fly, do anything. I’m like a caged bird… its suffocating… Chemo… can’t.”
Tensing up, fists balling he looked like he wanted to rip off all the monitors and leave.
“Don’t move.” Mark rested a hand on his brothers chest.” You try to leave, and I’ll have to bring you back, won’t be pretty.”
“You look like dad when you say that.” Jamie snorted. “You look so much like him.”
“I’m my own person, and he-“Cutting of the rest of the words, he didn’t raise me, he doesn’t know my, how can I be like him… he flies planes, so what…. He thought. They might be related as siblings, but they barely knew each other.
A nurse appeared at doorway, beaconing Syrah, from the quick conversation it sounded like her mother was on the phone asking for her.
“I get it.” Jamie inhaled. “You didn’t grow up with us, so… why not start now.”
Mark lightened more, he was warming to the young teenager lying in a hospital bed. He had guts and spirit, even if he could be cocky at times.
Extending his hand, taking Jamie’s fingers in his, shaking hands, and introducing himself, Jamie did the same.
“Good to know, cause, I’d hate for you to have to hots for your own sister.” Jamie joked. “Or me, if you go that way.”
“Nah, too much like a Star Wars plot.” Mark laughed. “I’m straight, if that’s what your implying.”
“Yeah… me too, who’s the hot lookin babe you hang out with? She your girlfriend or the other dudes?” He asked.
“She’s ahh…” How could he respond to it. Its not like he owned Princess, and she was his sub-ordinate.
“She’s single.” He managed. “ Why?”
“I wanna ask her out on a date…when I’m…if I.” He started. Slumping back into his pillow, looking away.
“Then ask her out on a date.” Mark relented, even though he felt strange inside at the prospect of it.
For the next hour, they chatted about various things. Discovering they both had a love of flying. Jamie’s competitive nature had a lean towards racing motorbikes.
He was starting to compete in motorbike racing in Utoland before his illness. It looked like he had something in common with Princess after all. Warming up more, he liked him, they had the potential to become close friends over time.
Syrah came in and out of the room, and one point they helped Jamie sit up so he could eat. From the sounds of it, the doctors were waiting for Jun to arrive and have discussions about his medical treatment, and further planning.
“Mom’s here.” Syrah said walking back into the room, carrying a little baby in her arms and followed by a young shy boy. “She’s with the doctors now.”
“Dad?” Jamie asked, Syrah shook her head sadly. Jamie’s face dropped, he appeared disappointed with her answer.
“He’s still away.” She said turning her gaze onto the baby.
“What’s his name.” He asked, breaking the tense silence.
“Timmy, he’s a few months old. Mom said no more babies now.” She held him out to Mark. Instructing him on how to hold him. Blankets and all.
Taking the sleeping babies weight into his arms, gently cradling his head against his forearm, wrapping his other arm protectively around him. Captivated by the peaceful soft baby features much like his own. For a flinting second, he wondered what his own children would look like. The thought hadn’t entered his mind until that moment.
“That’s what she said after me.” The boy with glasses finally spoke up. “My names Joey, if anyone is interested.”
“Nice to meet you Joey, I’m Mark.” Mark would have extended a hand, only he was holding a baby. A little awkward since it was his first time.
“You too.” Joey brightened a little.
“Big bro.” Jamie pitched in.
“Really, never would have guessed. “Joey sarcastically pitched it at Jamie.
A female figure stood in the doorway, turning and catching his breath, Mark wasn’t completely prepared for his feeling as she watched him. Mixed emotions softy washed across her face taking in the sight of Mark holding her youngest son in his arms.
She was older than the photos he had of her, she’d had a haircut to shoulder length now. More drawn facial features as her gaze fell on Jamie and back to him.
The realization hit him. He was the same age as Ken would have been when was born, possibly a year older, but close to it. Taking in that thought he wondered…
“Hi Mark.” Jun’s greeting broke into his thoughts.
“Hi.” He managed. It wasn’t how he’d pictured the moment they’d see each other again. For a long time, he was able to even forget about it during his training years.
Timmy stirred in his arms, from his mother’s voice. Fumbling a little, he walked over to hand him back to Jun.
“He’s cute.” Mark said.
“Yes, he is, a good baby too.” She forced a smile, trying not to stare at her tall estranged son before her.
“Mom.” Jamie’s voice drew her away from him, walking past him, and handing the baby to Syrah she placed her complete attention onto Jamie.
Everyone else might as well have left the room. Jun indicated she wanted sometime alone with her sick son. Taking the hint, Mark and the others left the room, they sat in a waiting area a few doors down the hallway. Syrah changed her brother’s nappy in the changing room close by, Joey mostly kept to himself. Saying the odd word from time to time.
The young boy was hard to talk too, but Mark sensed he was the kind person you had to peel like an onion, he had layers, and would take time for him to emerge from under them.
Emerging a short time later, Jun didn’t look any happier than when she went in.
Slowly sinking into a seat in the small area, they were alone. Swallowing hard, she stared out the window for a moment gathering in her thoughts, taking in the gravity of the situation.
“He’s sleeping now.” She finally said. “Thank you for getting him here.”
“My friend Jason you’ll have to thank, he drove him here.” He said.
“Either way, you’re here.” She sat forward clasping her hands staring at the floor.
Jun filled them in. “We won’t be leaving here for a while, he can’t be moved and has to resume treatment starting from tomorrow morning.”
Mark listened as she talked about the cancer, and his journey with to the that point. It also left him wondering where Ken was. His son was in a bad way and he wasn’t around. Wondering why Jun put up with it, a twist of his stomach from the thought of the kind of man Ken was, to abandon his family during a time like this… made him determined not to be like him. When he mentioned it, she defended her husband.
Standing up and walking towards the door of the room Jun leapt to her feet.
“I’m sorry.” She said.
“What for?” Mark asked. It was a cryptic answer. Syrah, carrying her baby brother and Joey, walked out the door, saying something along the lines of going for fresh air.
“You don’t understand him, and I can see why you’re judging him- “
“No, I don’t know him, and from what I see, he runs the moment things get tough, Jamie needs him here now.” Mark said.” Where is he?”
“He’s working, it’s not like you think.” She came closer to him, placing a hand on his arm, like she wanted to say more.
“I’m not sure what to think.” Mark admitted. “I’ll be here in the morning to see Jamie.”
Lost for words she watched him walk out, arranging his facial features and suppressing the emotions he didn’t want to deal with in that moment. He left the visitors room to be greeted by Princess walking up the hall.
He cast her a stoic eye and kept walking.
“Mark.” She called out to him. Halting and drawing in a deep breath, as she spun around in front of him with questioning eyes.
He wasn’t in the mood for talking, his insides hungered for the blue skies, drawn to them it was like an eternal pull to reach his plane, and get off the ground. His place of release, peace was thousands of miles above the Earth.
“Its complicated.” He said. ”He’s an old friend from Utoland, my childhood there.”
It was enough to satisfy her curiosity for now.
“Oh.” She responded. “I thought I’d go and see him and Syrah.”
“He’d like that.” Again, that strange feeling ran through him. “I’ve gotta go.”
Prin was used to it, often Anderson called him in for top secret meetings and solo missions, checking out potential alien activity on Earth.
“See you later.” She warmly smiled. “Enjoy your flight.”
“The lady in the doorway, is she his mother?”
“Yes, go and introduce yourself.” He indicated, as Jun stepped back into the visitor’s room.
“I will.” She left him standing there, walking down the hall.
Warming from her assumptions, she was spot on, he needed to be in the air, so much it physically hurt.
Leaving her behind, and racing down the hall, drawn to the beaconing skies of the late afternoon, he’d be flying into a sunset, the most dramatic show of the day.
His car powering down the road to the airfield couldn’t move fast enough, screeching to a dusty halt spinning the wheels in away Jason would have been proud of. Leaping out of the car, and into the seat of his Cessna.
Swooping across the ocean. Running ahead of his team mates, and leaping onto his motorbike.
The Eagle left the city returning to his shack, not wasting another second. He was flying over the ocean when the call came from Zark.
“Ears on Zark.” Mark tensed as he was called into action, adrenaline racing through his veins it was the moment he was trained for. The team were officially being activated, an alien threat was on the shores of his beloved Earth.
Princess left Mark to his calling, she had seen that look in his stormy blue eyes over the years. He needed to be flying, and she wasn’t holding him back.
Walking past the visitor’s room, she saw Jamie’s sitting alone, she was crying, leaning her head against the wall in despair.
An older woman with shoulder length dark hair, drawn lips. Fine lines marked her shaped brows.
Her heart went out to her.
She must be so worried about him. Princess thought, walking quietly into the room. The older woman straightened in her seat seeing someone else in the room, blowing her nose and apologising. Splotched patches of red rings around her green eyes, she looked at her from a moment, and burst into more tears.
“It’s okay, I was just talking to Mark, and he mentioned you… You’re Jamie’s mother.” Gingerly she sat on an angle in the seat next to her. The woman nodded. An awkward silence followed, as the older woman squared her shoulders, trying to get a grip on what was happening around her.
“I’m Princess, its what my friends call me.” Prin said. “Marks one of my friends, I was with him when Jamie… well.” What could she say to his mother about what led to it.
“I know he was racing, Jamie is always wanting to race motorbikes and live on the edge.” Her facial features softened as she studied her. “I’m Jun Washio, you met my daughter too.”
“I saw them downstairs, you have another baby, he adorable.” Prin warmed, and Jun responded with a half-smile at the mention of her children.
”What else did he mention?” Jun ask, raising a brow. They walked together towards Jamie’s ward.
“Apparently they’re old friends from Utoland.” She answered truthfully.
A moment of awkwardness, Jun moved robotically, like going back into the room was a form of torture.
“I should be angry.” Jun’s tone softened staring at the door. “I can’t… I hate seeing him like this.”
Prin didn’t have words, the closest she had to mother after hers died in the car accident was Marks mother. Then she wasn’t in her life for long before she left the world too.
“Would be okay if I go in and see him?” She asked. “You look like you could use some sleep, it must have been a long flight from Utoland.”
Jun appeared grateful for her concern, nodding. “I have to find a place to stay, book into a hotel…Timmy’s feed time is soon. I… my other kids need me to do things for them.”
“He won’t be alone, I’ll stay, you go and do those things.” Prin offered. “I promise.”
Princess hoped she wouldn’t be called out before Jun came back.
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep.” Jun said. “If you’re not here… it’s okay.”
A cryptic smile crossed Jun’s fine lips. A side glance at Princess like she knew something and she wasn’t voicing it. Shaking the thought, she couldn’t know a thing about her, likely it was because she wasn’t around many women with lots of kids to worry about. It was a motherly look, she concluded.
After a few moments of contemplation, Jun accepted her offer.
Walking into the room, Jamie was awake again pulling off monitor cords.
“I’m alive, and hate these patches.” He frowned, peeling off the round white stickers.
“Are you meant to be doing that?” She tried to sold him, but it came out more like a flirt.
“I don’t always do what I’m supposed to do.” A warm smile flinted across his fine features. He looked to be around her age, and without his beanie, his eyes stood out even more, a dark shadow across his scalp indicated his hair would be dark. An unexpected flutter of her heart caused a warm blush flooded her without knowing why.
Walking over beside his bed, she sat in the chair as a conversation sprung up between them, they talked about all sorts of things over the next hour.
“I’ll come back in the morning with Mark.” She said as the afternoon drew on.
“What your leaving now?” Jamie sounded disappointed, shifting in his bed as he tried to get out of it.
“No…no, I need to move.” He cringed, as she tried to help him. Dressing only in hospital pants. Walking gingerly on his bare feet over to the window, stretching his legs, and arms.
He was almost the same height as Mark, leaner build and muscle. Watching him, it was like… shaking her head in doubt, she pushed away the thoughts as coincidence.
“Well, I tracked Mark down, old friends…” Jamie said with a glint in his eyes.
“I’ve known him for a few years, he’s a good friend.” She said, keeping the conversation going. Easing into his company, she found she was liking him more, the brash youthful nature was calmer.
“Wanna go on a date?” Jamie’s face broke into a bright broad grin.” I mean, it’s a little harder in a hospital, but often they have a nice café. Not the cafeteria… I wouldn’t take you there, not classy enough for a girl like you.”
Lightening up from his easy nature, the atmosphere between them electrified, she found him infectious.
Sure, she liked Mark even found him attractive, he was someone she clicked with, but he was also her commander. Any thought of a relationship there was senseless.
“Don’t say yes because you feel sorry for me. You know…’date the cancer guy, might be his last chance…’ that kinda thing.” Jamie’s narrowed, he was dead serious. “I don’t do pity dates. If it for those reasons, say no…”
“Neither do I.” She replied. “I’m saying yes because I like you.” Warming more because she found him genuinely attractive, she’d felt something watching him racing, he had an energy that appealed to her. “I’d love to go on a date with you.”
“Great… give it a few days, you don’t really wanna see me throwing up, not pretty. Not a good way to start things.” He was smiling, he was enjoying her company, blushing again, she kept side glancing him.
“How about I check in on you anyway, then we can plan it on a day you’re feeling okay.” Princess wanted to melt inside with excitement, her first real date.
“Sure, I have good days and no so good ones.” He moved in a little closer. “Spontaneous… I like it.”
Biting her bottom lip, she was wrapped up his attention, he sincerely liked her.
“I’m ahh…turned sixteen, last month.” She blurted out. What? She scolded herself, why did she say a stupid thing like that.
“I’m sixteen in a few days.” He said continuing the conversation. “Mom wasn’t happy… I can tell by her looks- she likes birthdays and always fusses over it. Seeing Mark here helped. But Syrah’s in the firing line worse than me.” Shaking his head. He admitted to his crimes of running away, he wanted to see his old friend, and feel alive.
“All this treatment, I feel washed out, lifeless. Drains it all out of my… like a vampire.” He explained. “I just wanna race… ride my bike… I hate feeling weak… what about you?”
How could she explain her own life? Side glancing him. A few ideas ran though her mind like a movie reel.
Imagining telling the full truth…
She could lightly say. “I work part-time at Jills, and in my other job I make bombs, train to save the galaxy from Spectra if they attack us, transmute into birdstyle ride a super-sonic motorbike, and they I’m called the Swan… I’m home schooled by the ISO on a secret base called Centre Neptune… Mark… well we know each other because we work together he’s the commander… Eagle….Ahh… big fat NO.
The only part of that she could use was Jill’s and lie about going to high school. Heavy internal sigh…
Oh, I understand… she thought. Understand what? She’d have to lie to him- how could she explain anything real when she had a secret identity. Even how she knows Mark is a rehearsed fabrication from the Chief.
The chief had warned them about relationships, and complications. She was willing to take a chance here. Even if Jason voiced to her before she came he didn’t like him or trust him. He didn’t understand Mark, the one with the least trust of people of anyone he knew.
Her heart skipped a few beats. He had something about him that attracted her, she couldn’t place the feelings of familiarity with him. Mark had briefly explained he was an old friend from his childhood in Utoland, not elaborating on it further. That could have relaxed his usual suspicious nature.
A team of doctors walked through door interrupting their conversation. A few disapproving frowns from Jamie removing the monitors.
Ushering him back to the bed, one was there ready to take a blood sample.
“Vampires.” He said to nurse as she drew blood. Princess moved around the other side, taking his hand.
“I’ll keep them away.” She purred.
“You have garlic?” He replied.
“No, but I’m sure Jason has some garlic, he eats a tone of it.”
“Wondered what smelled odd about him. “He joked. “I bet her uses it for fuel, no wonder he wins races.”
Any other time she would have been defensive, but his smile was disarming. His fingers tightened around hers as the doctors continued their reports, and preparing him for further treatments based on his Utoland medical team’s relays.
“You’re mom’s booked into a temporary apartment a few blocks from the hospital, part of our family, and patient accommodation. She’s on her way back now.” One of the male nurses informed him.
Nodding he looked relieved hearing it. Sensing despite running off during his treatment from home.
He had a few weeks left of chemo, screwing up his face at the prospect of it.
“Jamie, you need to do this.” Her tone softened looking into his eyes, there was fear too.
“I hate it, being sick, and then I could die anyway.” Shrugging as he tried to mask his fears.
“I’ll come visit you every day… I’ll bring you a birthday cake if it’s okay with your mother.” She promised. “When you come through it, finish the treatment… We’ll have a fun day out together riding motorbikes, picnic somewhere near the ocean.”
Jamie lightened as she talked.
“Everyday.” He repeated determined. “You’re on.”
“Promise not leave the hospital… and co-operate.” She sweetly smiled, he drew in a breath.
“Promise, for you… I’ll do it.” He said.
Glowing inside, she leaned over and spontaneously kissed him on the cheek as her bracelet started to change colour.
She had a call to duty.
“I have to go.” She whispered in his ear, tingling all over from touching his bare flesh. “See you tomorrow.”
Briefly halting at the door, and turning back, with a small wave, he was craning his neck over medical personnel blocking his line of sight, as she raced towards the door.
“See you tomorrow.” He called after her.
She entering the hallway, bringing her bracelet to her lips receiving the orders to meet up with the Phoenix, pronto.
Turning on her heels, she ran headlong into Jun.
Something crossed her face, as she watched Princess. She tried to say she was being called into work, someone didn’t show for a shift. A knowing smile crossed the older woman’s pink lips.
“I’m sure they need you. Good luck… with your shift.” She called after her.
“Oh,” Jogging backwards.” By the way, would you mind if I made Jamie a birthday cake?”
Jun, looked amused by her request. “I’m sure he’d prefer your cake over mine.”
“I didn’t mean to step in on the family, after all you hardly know me—”
“Go ahead Princess, no offense taken. We’ll have a small party in the café, see if Mark will come with you.” She looked hopeful.
“I’m sure he will.” Princess promised, she’d drag him there if she had too.
Racing away towards her motorbike, adrenaline coursing through her, as she gunned the engine ready for the mission ahead.
Assembling on the Phoenix they all waited for the good Chief Anderson to pop up on the monitors. Instead they got Zark.
“Hello there, team this is 7Zark7 calling from Centre Neptune.” He chirped brimming over in excitement. Jason rolled his eyes, with a jab from Mark for him to hold his tongue and thoughts.
“We know who you are.” The Condor snickered. “Cut the crap and—"
“Hello Zark.” Mark greeted him louder than normal cutting through Jason’s snide remarks.
They all waited for an order to go into outer space, but none of it came.
Zark proceeded to deliver in his own over the top fashion their current assignment. Once it was all out, and the robotic image was off the screen. Jason couldn’t contain it any longer.
“What… All dressed up in our birdstyles and no action?” He exclaimed, thrusting his arms under his blue mantle, folding them. “You have got to be joking, another cooky assignment babysitting a politician. “
“It’s our orders Jason, civilian uniforms, and staying sharp.” Mark shot him a severe glare.
The Condor didn’t bother to hide his disdain. “Senator Kane is doing an election rally, he’s a target for Spectra.”
“We could die of boredom before Spectra does anything. Tiny what do you think, if went to the amusement park we’d get more action.”
The Owl blushed wildly, and turned away, trying to keep out of it.
Her own distractions, of thinking about Jamie, her date, were keeping her silent in at her console. Watching the sweeping motion of the radar blip it was like the pace of her heart. Trying to bring it all under control, she was softly humming a happy tune.
Mark shot her a questioning glance, catching his eye, her blush deepened, sheepishly, she tried to contain her feelings. A secret hand signal indicated he was going to ask her about it later.
“Ahhh.” Keyop saw the whole thing, turning cheeky eyes and a snide grin on her. “Moon eyes for Marky.”
“Ahh.” Caught off guard. She shot up in her seat, faulting with her words as she tried to deny only made it worse, the kid was milking it.
“Well.” Gathering her wit together at last.” Better to be mooneye’s than a silly kid like you.” She shot back, placing her hands on her hips. Mark winked, grinning wildly, he turned back to his command station, so she couldn’t see his face.
It was start of the Swallows taunts, he wasn’t buying she didn’t have a crush on Mark at all. She wasn’t giving more fuel by mentioning she was going on her first date. She had to come up some creative ways to put him in his place.
Arriving at the rally, they did their usual observations of the dense crowds. People waited to hear him speak, his supporters cheered and a some booed, the mission was completely uneventful.
“Jason was right, there isn’t even a protester out of line. What threat was the Chief looking for?” Mark shook his head.
“Nothing stands out to me.” She agreed.
“How did you go?” He finally asked.
“Oh, fine.” She replied, unable to contain her excitement.
“Spit it out Prin, you’re glowing like campfire.” Mark raised a curious brow, shoving his hands into his pockets.
“Well, he asked me on a date, I said yes.” She gushed. “I like him, I hope… well....I hope all…turns out…”
“I see.” Mark held some of his usual caution in his response. “You barely know him.”
“I know, but… I feel something here, and I want to give it a chance to be something.” Doubt played on her mind, hoping it wasn’t too good to be true.
Mark studied her, and he appeared to come to some kind of conclusion.
“Please don’t go telling the others, I just want to enjoy it.” She admitted. “Go one my date with Jamie…without Keyops input and Jason’s threats of disembowelling him...if he steps out of line.”
“I promise.” He warmed, shoving his hands into his pockets. “He steps out of line with you, he has me to answer not Jason.”
“Thank Mark, but I can take care of myself.” She hinted.
“I’m sure you can.” He said, as they headed back to rendezvous point to return him after all the officials had left in their armoured vehicles.
“It’s his birthday in a few days.” She added. “Jun let me be the one to bring him a birthday cake, since they’re not home. I have to prepare, get into Jill’s kitchen…”
“You bake a mean chocolate and raspberry cake Prin, I’m sure he’ll love it.” Mark was sincere. He loved her layered chocolate and raspberry cake with thick creamy frosting, and often asked for seconds when she baked it- The few times he ate sweets.
“I have go shopping.” She declared. “ A real dress, and…oh… ingredients, and present…what should I buy him?”
“You in a pretty dress and a cake, he’ll be smitten if not already.” He stopped walking for a moment, becoming serious, arranging his facial features to his normal stoic manner. “Look, I know I haven’t talked much about my connections with him, and-“
“About time, I was looking for a bar.” Jason cut in sarcastically. “I missed my afternoon nap from the amount of action I’ve had today. Worn out from looking after kids.”
“Prreedoopp. Not a kid.” Keyop growled.
“You act like one.” Princess sweetly smiled. “Kid.”
“Let’s go home.” Tiny drawled. “I have a few burgers waiting for me.”
“Stop.” Princess sighted a screen. “I’m confused, it looks like we were on the wrong detail.”
“What the hell.” Jason strolled up the screen as urgent news updates flashed across it.
The groomed presenter spoke the words that would change the federation bringing suspicion and fear in their midst- The Federation President Harris died of natural causes in the Federation presidential home today…. Speculation of Spectran spies trying to undermine the federation…. Medical experts are currently working to rule out alien involvement… more to come…
There was, a few seconds of reporters trying to get a word from Chief Anderson as he left an ISO building. Overanxious reporters accosted him as he ran for his car.
“The protection of his successors is now my priority.” He stated. “The Federation security is always my first concern. G-Force-“
A reporter cut in, asking about the mysterious team of five, a hand went up, he was refusing to answer any more questions.
“Sounds like your shopping trip will be delayed.” He whispered. “You could still pull it together in time for him birthday… I know you will.”
Princess folded her arms.
“Chief needs us, let’s go.” Mark said louder, as he turned and ran, followed by the rest of them.
Over the next few days, Chief Andersons position was challenged, and hastily Senator Kane rose in power, into the Federation presidential office overnight. He reassured the public Chief Anderson was the perfect man for the job.
He held high confidence in Andersons character, and abilities to protect the Galaxy.
Remote federation planet of Oden.
Thrown smack into the thick of civilization again, he was still in hand-made leather pants, bare chest and a long ponytail.
The smooth surface was strange under bare feet, and the sounds of the growling wildcats replaced with sharp voices and mechanical noises of ships and transports.
Standing in the docks, Joe was used to Federation ships passes. No one asked for a permit when he landed a shuttle there previously, the dodgy port cared more about the black- market and smuggling, anything illegal in the federation was welcomed there.
Roughened crews of even rougher ships graced the dock. Some hurried around the port going about their business, wanting to get out the town as soon as they could. A few cast nervous glances at the Spectran transport ship. There was time when it wasn’t unusual to see a few Spectran traders in the crowds.
Arguing with the docking co-ordinator, the man was telling him he couldn’t park his stolen Spectran ship on his space port without paying fee’s.
“Find me a buyer, and I’ll pay you what I owe.” He told him, clenching his jaw, impatience growing. He wanted to keep moving, they planned to spend enough time there to get some Federations dollars, and another ship, one that could take them to Earth.
Screwing up his nose, the skinny man with greying hair and a permanent snarl threw up his hands.
“You really don’t want to do that.” Asha, on edge, cut in on the conversation. Sighting a group of hard looking men strolling over towards them. She placed a hand over her weapon.
Casting her curious look, she was talking to the man, not him.
“Why?” The co-Ordinator arrogantly sniffed. “Dogs aren’t allowed in most places, it poops on my dock, its dead doggy.”
“Touch my dog, and it’s the last thing you do without a wheelchair.” He threatened. Jin growled, a touch on his head from his master, and the animal settled.
“Off my docks if you can’t pay up, take your ship and go back to where it came from.” He snarled, flicking a finger at his men. “Get rid of him…. Keep the girl, she’ll fetch a nice price on the trade market.”
The slave market, taking note, Joe voiced his disgusted.
He figured there was a human underground trade going on, one he was investigating at the time he was a starship commander.
Insulted she replied. “I’m not for sale.”
Relaxing into a loose stance, he didn’t wait for them to form up around them. Asha pulled out her weapon, standing with him ready.
One launched and it was all he needed, taking them all in a few seconds. The second lot of fighters didn’t fare any better, she even managed to take one down in a few moves he’d taught her recently.
“I’m getting rusty.” Standing over the last one, the man moaning under his foot. Balls fists, he slowly turned on the co-ordinator snarling like a wildcat ready to pounce.
Shuddering, the man backed away trembling wide eyed like a scared mouse. “You have one day to pay.”
Reaching the exit, they walked into the ratbag town, with no money. Joe observed the make shift town of huts, trading tents.
The un named shanty town was more a nomadic hovel. The place flooded once a year hence the docking bay was permanently elevated. When the rains came, the red dirt turned bright lush green for a period of time, and over the following months became a desert once more littered with tents and a few buildings, like the one he was observing now.
“You could do a few of those moves Conan the barbarian, I can hold out a hat.” She offered. His turn to glare.
She fell into step with him. “We need clothes, I’m feeling like Jane of the jungle.”
“I almost lost my mini skirt, how did the Swan wear a tiny dress and fight during last wars?” Frowning she looked down on her makeshift leather outfit.
Chuckling he remembered Jun’s first glimpse of her birdstyle asking the same questions.
“She wore white underwear.” Grinning from the memories- he could have died from the fiery darts in her amber eyes. She was walking closer to him, as a man grabbed under her skirt. Joe turned on him with a balled fist, and the creep ran for his life.
A few admiring glances, and men turning as she walked past, wasn’t lost on him.
“Hey pretty, wanna dance with me?” An older man with a few cronies approached her. “I can pay you whatever your pimp asks.”
Placing a protective arm around her shoulders, and snarling at the man making the suggestion, he fled without any more offers.
“Hahahhaaa…” A deep voice chortled. “Commander Joe Asakura? Is that you?”
“Shit it is.” Clipper pushed through the crowds.” I thought you were long gone back to Earth.”
“I was.” Joe clasped his hand in a tight grip. Taking in the sight of them.
“Lord of the mighty jungle.” Scratching his head, scrunching his forehead running his eyes up and down them.
“Yeah, the dog?” His old crew mate studied the animal. “If it is a dog…”
Jin whined, turning its dark eyes upwards.
“This dump? Kidding me right mate?” Clipper shook his head, chuckling. “What brings ya here to this dump?”
“Trying to buy a bigger ship, you got one?” He asked. “I have a Spectran transport-“
Shaking his head profusely. “You know, those things attract attention of the Red Rangers, no one will buy it.”
“Rangers?” He asked.” Who are they?”
He’d been out of touch for long. One of the other dock hands mentioned ‘Red Rangers,’ with a shudder.
“Asha.” Clipper halted, nodding in her direction. “Good to see you.”
Pensive she waited, taking in what was happening around her. She was scouting the area.
“I see you managed to escape.” She darkened.
“I’m sorry.” Clipper’s tone dropped. “It was a few years ago, I didn’t know what happened to you.”
Joe tightened his hand on her shoulder, feeling the tension. She had somethings underneath about her time as a Spectran slave. She didn’t come out of it completely unscathed.
“Red Rangers.” Clipper filled him in. “Some guy named Colonel Cronus, and a few pilots. They’re not ISO security- Independent contractors. They look after fringe planets.”
“We at war with Spectra?” He questioned.
“Not a good place to talk, and it looks like you both need clothes.” Clipper indicated to shop nearby, following him inside, the man pulled out federation currency.
“My shout Commander.” Clipper said as they looked through clothing on sale. Asha picked out a simple neutral coloured riding tights blouse, vest, dark brown leather boots. Brushing her long straight hair in the mirror until it gleamed.
Joe found himself jeans, shirt and a pair of second hand looking riding boots. They fit his large feet and that’s all he cared about in the line of fashion.
“No, but…tensions are said to be there.” Clipper stole a look around. “Let’s go find a drink or two and catch up.”
Asha didn’t need to speak, he could feel tension radiating off her as she emerged in her new clothing, something was bugging her.
“Women’s needs?” She softly asked the lady in the shop, a sharp nod the woman and she escorted her to a back room picking up a small package, and handing it Asha. The things he forgot when it came to women, and needs he didn’t have to think about.
She emerged a few minutes later, ready to leave after Clipper paid the bill.
They pushed their way through trader under the hot sun, and dusty streets eventually finding a ‘watering hole.’ Clippers reference to a bar.
“Who’s left in town?” He questioned him. Jin curled up under the table, sleeping at his feet. The dog was handling crowds well.
“Not many, Rangers have driven out a lot of the black market.” He grimaced. “That Cronus, he’s one straight lined bastard, shut down a few gangs across the planet.”
“Sounds like he’s doing his job.” Joe sounded interested. “What’s he look like?”
“No one really knows, he gets around in disguises.” He said.” He turns up in his red uniform at times, no one has seen his face.”
Swigging from his cup, Asha asked a few of her own questions. Returning to civilization was harder than he thought it would be. People phobia was setting in, he needed space, and air, and no people around him. Standing up, a flick of his fingers Jin uncurled himself from under the table following him.
“Where are you going?” Asha finally caught up with him down the street.
“I’m over people already.” He answered her truthfully. He had ideas of going home, and now he was having second thoughts. Processing the last few hours of Clipper’s intel.
Kids dressed in birdlike costumes, getting around in a red and blue warship. A cold surge ran through his veins, had Anderson put together another team? Some person called Cronus, and the building of strange mechanical beasts that Spectran claims is mining equipment.
“While you’re not sure, we need money.” She indicated to a trader close by selling guns. Clenching her jaw tight, she was growing impatient.
“You’re a little over emotional right now Asha, I get it your hormonal.” He drawled. “Let me do the bargaining-“
“What? “She huffed, dark eyes flaring, sarcasm lacing her words.” Like your Mr Cool-calm-always-in-control.”
Only on Oden would they have federation and Spectra weapons on a market stand bargaining.
“The first sight of a ranger.” Making a hand signal. ” Gun-traders disappear like a big-cock-up a-”
“I-don’t-want-to-know.” Asha spelt it out to him marching over to the stall. “Anyone in for a trade?”
The man ran his eyes over, warming at the sight of a pretty woman with dark locks and determined eyes standing in front of him.
“Don’t see many like you ‘round here.” He snickered. “Quality weapons on display.”
Ignoring his duel meaning, and slamming the Spectran gun on the counter she indicated what she was trading- The bargaining began in earnest.
A hormonal female. He thought watching her agitation. Women in service often had an injection to stop the monthly flow. He had the idea Asha was due for one. Spectrans had injected her, it was inconvenient to have female cycles in the slave trade.
“We have one more thing to trade.” Joe joined her catching her eye- he understood her desperation, and their lacking of things to trade, but parting with guns was painful- Even Spectran.
The shrewd trader eyeballed him, the man wasn’t easily intimidated, he was used to rough nuts and muscle mountains.
“Show me your goods.” A voice further down the tent piped up. An older woman, rougher than any he’d seen walking through place, smoking a pipe with stone hard eyes came into the light. She was the kind that lived in shanty town permanently.
“Where did ya get it?” She slurred, dull eyes boring into him.
“Who wants to know?” He asked. “You want to buy it or talk about it?”
He had no time for bargaining and Jin was getting hungry, the dog barked, drawing attention his attention skywards.
A red fighter jet with sleek markings flew over the town, doubling around and doing another pass.
“Forget it.” The woman waved to her people, and in a flash the guns and over illegal trade items hit the deck.
“Red Rangers.” Clipper informed him. “Fast bastards, he’s just playing around.”
The fighter jet disappeared into the horizon. The trader was still packing up her merchandise.
“Not a good tactic to announce your presence.” Joe observed.
“Its not the ranger she’s talking about.” One her men pointed skywards again.
“Run.” Joe pushed Asha ahead of him, both of them breaking into a sprint as a three Spectran star fighters swooped down on the town, firing upon the place sending people running in all directions. The air strike didn’t last long.
They didn’t have time to talk, rounding tented streets as they lined up again to be engaged by the lone red fighter pilot.
Shooting down one outside of the town it more fell from the sky, he was quick to engage the next one.
Finding temporary shelter, he scouted the pale skies above, both Spectran fighters and the red jet had left the area in a sonic boom.
Racing back to their transport, he wasn’t hanging around.
“We leave, find another buyer in another town.” He ordered, nodding they both understood, he wasn’t losing his only way out of there.
Reaching their transport, he turned to Clipper.
“You coming with us?” He asked.
“No mate…. It’s a dump, but its home kinda…. Good luck.” Clipper shook his hand respectfully. “Best damn commander I ever served under, gutsy. Anytime you need help, don’t even need ta ask.”
“Goodbye Clipper.” Asha was more solemn, catching her former crew mates eye. ”Its good to see you survived hell after all.”
Leaping into the co-pilots seat, she hit buttons as the ship lifted off the ground. The red fighter had been gone long enough to be out of the atmosphere and after its prey.
“Where now?” She side glanced him as they lifted off the ground.
“Helm, it’s bigger, and more likely to have a ship, from what I saw there, nothing worth trading for.” He said.
“Joe.” She indicated to radar. “We have company.”
“Damn it.” Cursing, he watched the bleep.
“I’ll get weapons ready.”
“You’d shoot down a Federation contractor?”
“No, but I’ll give something to be scared off, throw him off my tail.”
She didn’t question him further, taking over the flight controls and keeping them steady, he jumped into the narrow gunner’s seat. Cocking the weapon as the jet moved in on them. Being away from the Federation for so long, he wasn’t trusting some rouge pilot in a red plane and no proper markings.
“What the hell was that?” The ship was hit some kind of magnetic force radiating from the red jet.
“I don’t know but its shutting things down, I being forced to land.
Frantic, Asha was hitting buttons, trying to get life back into the ship, as it dipped towards the surface.
“Hang on Jin.” Grabbing the dog as she roughly came in for landing, skidding along the dry dusty red soil, eventually coming to halt.
“Asha.” He quickly worked, she was slumped in her seat. Checking her vitals, she was breathing, rendered unconscious and a few superficial cuts. Other than that he couldn’t feel any breaks.
“We have to get out of here.” Gently picking her up, he moved towards the open door, as flames curled from the electricals. A short whistle, and Jin followed them outside.
Gently he laid Asha on the ground, trying to rouse her.
“Stay here.” He whispered. ”Look after her Jin.” Seeing the red jet landing. Pulling out his gun, and aiming.
“Stop right there.” He called out as the pilot aimed a weapon at him.
“Hands where I can see them.” The voice responded. “You’re in Federation territory.”
“No shit.” He shouted. “Cause I’m Federation.”
“Why are you in a Spectran ship?”
“It what I had available at the time.”
The man lowered his gun, staring at him, removing his helmet.
“Joe.” He said in disbelief.
Seeing the figure before him, older, but still had the same stance.
The heat bearing down on him, from the strength of the sun, and long years of wondering. His old friend stood before him.
“I can’t believe it.” Ken jogged over to him flushed from the heat. “We’ve been looking for you.”
Clasping his hand tight, drawing him into a brotherly embrace, he was expecting a punch, or some kind of usual greeting he would expect from Ken, a lecture. Instead he was looking drawn more stoic, his eyes reflecting deeper burdens.
“Ken.” Joe pushed him back to arms- length studying him, he appeared almost robotic- the whole moment was surreal.
“I patrol these parts under the name- mainly watching Spectra’s movements.” He explained. “The weapon I used to bring you down was Jun’s idea, she invented it. We’re not at war, had to find ways not to provoke it… but-“
“I’m hearing rumours, I was in shanty town when the attack happened.” Joe was thinking of the mention of a team of five kids seen training on the more remote planets. Wearing birdstyles. In his long conversation at the bar with Clipper he talked about them. No one knows anything about them other than being a special unit with supposed super powers.
“Something going on at home?” He waited for a reply, Ken’s eyes darkened, jaw tensed. “I was going to leave for home, but I got a call about a suspicious Spectran ship, then a few of Zoltars patrols turned up…”
“They attacked, that’s an indication of war.” Joe pointed out.
“Zoltars planning something, but the Federation is keeping it tight, peace at all costs.”
He didn’t say anything else about home. He was steering away from it. A burning need to know news of the last ten years lit inside of him.
“Someone with you.” Ken indicated to Asha, moving slightly as she regain conscious. “What’s that strange animal?”
“Asha is with me.” He said pointing. “Jin’s my dog.”
“You named it after Jinpei?” Ken smirked. “He’ll be flattered.”
“He can be a pain in the neck, they have a lot in common.” He chuckled. The moment didn’t last, Ken’s smile evaporated as the strolled over to them.
Joe assisted Asha into a sitting position, they chatted for a minute. She was dizzy, other-wise okay. Watching Ken apprehensively, from the corner of her eye.
Picking up a small communications device, Cronus called in transport. They didn’t have to wait long as a red painted small ship landed.
Walking them over, he mentioned they’d be flying to his base on Riga.
“What happened to the restaurant business in Utoland?” He had so many questions about home.
“We’ll talk soon.” Ken’s melancholy demeanour was troubling. It wasn’t the greeting he expected after being missing for approximately ten years. During the war, he was gone for two years and his greeting held more warmth in those days.
His old friend, jogged back to his fighter jet, he’d be following them.
“Welcome back to the Federation.” He said turning to his lover. “Somethings really wrong.”
“Can we trust him?” Asha stole a concerned glance in his direction.
“I’ve known him all my life, we can trust him.” Joe indicated they move as the red fighter jet lifted off the ground. It did an arc across the skies, and then fired on the dying Spectran ship, exploding into a million pieces as he left for outer-space.
Following Jin onto the shuttle, sitting in a seat not far from the pilot. Jin settling down between them. Silence followed the trip back to Red Rangers base on Riga.
Back on Earth…
Over the next few weeks…
Princess checked her make-up in the mirror for the thousandth time in the last ten minutes. Mark would be there any minute to pick her up.
Fidgeting with her fresh curls, she’d spent hours with rollers in her long emerald locks, checking she had it all perfect.
“Preedopp. You look like girl.” Keyop teased. Brightening, he was spending the evening watching anime movies with Tiny.
“I am a girl.” She curtly replied. “I’m glad you finally noticed, I was beginning think your observation skills needed sharpening.”
Nothing could ruin her mood now other than a call for duty. She prayed it wouldn’t happen.
A few days before was Jamie’s small birthday party in the hospital. She managed to bake her cake in a hurry, and decorate it with Marks help. They arrived a little late, into a small café Jun had booked a few tables in for the family.
They’d eaten by the time she walked through the door with Mark in tow. Holding the crisp white cake box, she borrowed from Jill’s, more nervous than she liked to admit as she approached the group in the corner of the room.
A few balloons graced the table, in the colours of black, red and silver with sixteen printed on them.
He lit up like a lantern, the moment he caught her eye- watching the door like a hawk.
Leaping out of his seat, and quickly greeting Mark, his bright greens flinting in her direction the whole time. The Eagle seeing what was going on relented, catching Syrah’s eye, he found a seat next to her and Joey.
“Hi.” She said, placing the box on the table, as Jamie indicated he had a seat next him vacant. Blushing as she brushed his leg accidentally…
Mark offered a few words of apology, saying something along the lines of being back later than he’s anticipated from a mail run, and of course, Princesses shift at Jill’s ran overtime…
Groaning internally, she hated the pile of excuses, she cringed at the fabrications, while smiling outwards. Suppressing the real truth of being in meetings at Centre Neptune with Chief Anderson all morning.
The rest of the party went well, the younger kids demanded a lot of their Jun’s attention. Watching his family, a deep longing for her own mother and the love she witnessed in the room as the kids bickered at times, and were friends again in minutes.
It was during the noise of his siblings, Mark trying to have a conversation with Syrah and Joey that Jamie reminded her of their date.
“I can’t…well… I’m kinda grounded here.” His face dropped a little. “I’d love to take you out to a real restaurant and movie. You know my dad was a chef once…he kills pizza toppings, my friends love coming over for dinner when he’s home.” He threw in a hint of pride. “ I’m used to nicer places with table clothes. He was a champion knife thrower in chef’s comps.”
“Really, you said something about him flying planes too.” She could see Mark’s ears peak up at their conversation.
“Yeah, during the Galactor wars he was a pilot, that’s how my parents met. Mom… well… they were a special kinda unit.” He frowned. “They have always been hazy on details… part of the army or something… from the bits I’ve picked up. Not sure what exactly they did.”
“Oh.” She replied. “I’ve read about the Galactor wars in history lessons.”
It was about that time she gave him her gift. Nervously watching his response as he pulled back the tissue paper.
“Nice.” He warmly smiled. “I love it.”
“I… wasn’t sure what you’d like.” Fidgeting, she watched him hold up the black scarf printed with white shadowy birds on it.
“It’s cool.” Pulling off the light cap he was wearing, Jamie tied it around his bald scalp. “Thanks Princess, I really love it.”
She had limited shopping time to pick out a gift for him. During that shopping trip, she decided to pick out a dress for a potential date if it happened. Dragging Mark through stores for his opinions on gifts, dresses and shoes.
A thousand gowns later piled in a dressing room of a department store, and dozens of shoes, tears, and frustration. Mark was left sitting in a chair watching her parade, shaking his head often, reading a book while he waited. Finally, he gave the thumbs up to the simple crimson silk sheath dress and silver heels.
He had more patience than Jason when it came to shopping. Mark had good taste, and didn’t just pick out mini-skirts and crop tops like Jason did.
Jun frowned, lost in thought for a minute. She left the table, and from the corner of her eye she saw her talking with a lady who looked to be the owner of the café.
Warmly smiling the young woman nodded, and the next thing she knew they had a place all to themselves. The owner was going open that evening especially for their date with a special menu.
Her special first date night had finally arrived.
“Marks here for your date.” Keyop teased. “Pree dipp. He’s not dressed up for it, bit disappointed.”
“Who says its Mark.” She chimed in.
“Looks like Mark to me out the front.” Keyop’s cheeky grin said he wouldn’t buy anything else.
“Why would he be taking me on a date? You know Federation rules. I’m going out to dinner that’s all.” She pointed out to him
“Sure, I bet you’re keeping it secret. Pree…doopp.” His grin widened. “I’ll keep it secret sis.”
Completely ignoring Keyop, she walked out the door trying to keep her feet steady in high heels she was unaccustomed to. They looked pretty in the shop, and she was soon discovering they were not shoes she’d wear in battle.
“You look incredible.” Mark warmed, admiring her with sparkling blue eyes. Opening the door of his red sports car, assisting her into the seat. Keyop was watching from the apartment window the whole time. Taking in all the details for later.
“It’s nice of you drive me there.” She said relieved to be away from Keyop’s prying, and Jill’s pep talk on dating dangers.
“Not a problem.” He watched the road ahead, as they drove into the city in silence towards the hospital.
“What are you going to do tonight?” She wondered, he hadn’t mentioned plans.
“Working, I have reports to do.” He said simply. “I’ll pick up when you’re ready or if we get called out.”
That would be Mark she thought. Always working, rarely ever going out and enjoying life.
The usual plan was in place, in the event of an emergency call, out- she didn’t have her uniform on underneath, he had it with him. It was too bulky for a dress that hugged her curves tight without room for extras.
The reason Mark offered to drive her there, it wasn’t suited to a motorbike, and her hair would by ruined by the time she arrived.
Pulling up in a drop off zone, she leapt out of the passenger side, saying goodbye to Mark, he wished her all the best on her date, driving off.
The sharp echo of her high heels clinking on the polished floors as she made her way to the cancer unit. She stopped twice, fixing her lipstick in a mirror, soothing nerves and trying her best to not show any of it by the time she reached the unit.
Walking through doors and down corridors, the sounds of cleaning equipment and the odd smells of disinfectant waffled past her like it was a standard perfume of the place.
It wasn’t exactly the kind of place she’d pictured her first date with a boy her age. She had all sorts of fantasies, some of them had involved Mark asking her out. Those were all squashed when federation law military was part of their studies a year ago. She settled on being friends with him and no dating allowed.
“Remember… you can’t-“ Jun’s voice floated down the quiet hall as she approached his room.
“Mom I know.” Jamie sounded annoyed, the usual banter between a mother and her teenage son. “Do I really have to wear these shoes? My runners are more comfortable.”
“Yes.” She firmly replied. “It’s a date, not a footy match.”
“The collar is fine.” He said. “Mom stop fussing, put the camera away.”
“I know…it’s your first date, and I want it go well for you.” Jun fussed. “She’s pretty sweetheart, but look for whats inside with a girl not just looks… and I worry…about you.”
“Worried about what?” Jamie sounded exasperated. “The last test results the cancer is shrinking... besides, I like her for more than being pretty.”
“Well.” Jun hesitated. “There are temptations with dating, you can’t well exchange fluids with other people… do things at all, and-“
“Gross way to talk about kissing mom.” He said. “Seriously, mom, not the sex talk now. Dad covered it last time he was home remember.” He sounded embarrassed, almost scolding his mother for her comments. “It’s a first date, you think I’m going to do stuff… well…hell no… just no. I’m not stupid, I’ll respect her. “
“Okay.” Jun sounded satisfied, in a motherly tone. “I know you know you will… you look so grown up.”
“Please don’t cry.” Jamie begged. “I’m not a little kid anymore.”
“Happy tears.” Jun sobbed. “You’re a handsome young man now Jamie, so tall…Your father…he’d be so proud seeing you.”
“He’d be giving me a worse lecture than you about behaving with a girl.” Jamie’s voice dropped an octave. “It’s the longest he’s been away, I want to see him. Even if he’s kicking my butt all the way to Oden for what I did- it was all my idea mom, don’t be too hard on Syrah, I roped her into it.”
“No one ropes Syrah into anything.” She snorted. “You have responsibility with her, she’d follow you no matter what you do.”
Silence…. Feet shifting uncomfortably from behind the door.
He’s prepared to take the fall instead of his sister. Princess thought, she was impressed by that in a guy.
“I know, once he gets over being angry he’ll forgive you… you know I miss him too.” Jun sighed.” He’s got to finish a few things before he come home, to kick-your-butt-all-the-way- to-Oden like you mentioned.”
A warm flush flooded her cheeks for listening into a private conversation through the door. She hadn’t given that part a second thought, she’d been focused on the idea of a first kiss at last…. Not second and third base.
Pausing at the door, she waited a moment before knocking. Trying to bring her flushed cheeks and the thoughts entering her mind under control.
Finally knocking, she waited for him to open it.
“Hi.” Glowing, he was dressed in fresh jeans, a crisp white shirt, polished brown shoes and the scarf she gave him tied around his head.
He greeted her warmly, hurrying out the door. “Mom’s here.”
“Hi.” She waved to Jun, he didn’t invite her in, instead taking her, hand they headed down the hallway towards the café.
“No- you don’t… I want a photo.” Jun caught up with them armed with a camera. A few poses and explosive flashes in the faces, she was satisfied she got memories in print of his first date with Princess.
“I’ll see you in the morning.” Jun winked, leaving them alone at last.
Butterflies threatened to undo her as he guided through hallways, trying to walk like she was an old hand with high heels, rather than it being a new experience like the first time she tried to leap out of a plane in her birdstyle trusting the wings to hold her steady in one of many practices.
They entered the café past the closed sign, to find it set up with a table in the centre, flowers and candles.
“Hello.” A tall lady with an oval face, plump cheeks and a gentle nature greeted them.
“You must be Jamie and Princess.” She gushed.
“Thank you- Stacey.” Jamie appeared as awed as she was from the effort.
“Enjoy the evening, I have a special menu for you two.” She warmed, like she was enjoying being part of making their date happen.
He walked a little ahead of her. He was a nervous as she was, pulling out her chair, she thanked him for it. Trying to not to say it was an unnecessary gesture, she could do it herself. Not wanting to spoil their evening together, she stifled it.
After a while, Stacey brought them a soda of their choice each, as they waited for the entrees she made conversation with him. After a while she grew more at ease, finding they had a lot to talk about.
“Is Princess your real name?” He asked, curiously.
“Yes it is real no exaggerations. My parents called me Princess, they must have been hippies.” She giggled. “We lived in the Himalayan mountains in a commune…mediation all that.”
“Do you all live above the diner?” He sounded confused. “I didn’t see anyone who looks like you…”
Her face dropped from the memory of the sounds of folding metal, and screams jarred her memory.
“No.” She said. “They died in a car crash, and I… survived it.”
“Oh, I’s sorry.” He sounded sincere, reaching over and placing a warm hand over hers on the table. “I didn’t know…”
“It’s okay. She said, pushing the memory aside, trying to lighten the moment again by changing topics away from her past.
“I love riding motorbikes too.” She said dreamy. “It’s my passion.”
“Yeah, I mean, dad wanted me to learn how to fly a plane’s, since it’s his passion… but racing motorbikes is mine, sets my veins on fire.” He said, staring into her eyes over a burning table candle. Soft music playing the background they were waiting for the desserts. She melted, as butterflies ran loose inside of her from the electrical current between them.
“He’s determined I become a pilot like him…. But to be honest…it’s not what I want.” He said frowning. “I want to be professional motorbike racer. A few fields in it. I feel alive with the wind and elements.”
“Have you talked with him about it?” She probed.
“I’ve tried, he won’t listen, he’s set on me being like him, a fighter pilot, got to the Federation flight academy in a few years.” He wiped his mouth with a napkin, letting out a long breath. It appeared it was a bone of contention with his father.
“That was the first time I’ve seen a bike racing a plane.” She admitted, shifting the topic sideways.
Outside of herself and Mark in training… She thought. Supressing a smile.
“There’s a story to that.” He said, brightening. Princess asked him to tell her about it.
“It was before I was sick and not long before mom fell pregnant with Timmy.” He started. “My mom is an awesome rider. She’s got the moves, she’s the one who taught me to ride.”
“Really.” She was learning something new about Jun.” She used to race?”
“Yeah, dad boasts at times about her being the best he’s ever seen.” Jamie grinned, family pride.
“I’d love to see her ride one day.” Princess sincerely was interested in knowing more about the Washio family.
“One day… it was a sunny, blue skies and all of that.” He began, drifting back to that day. “Mom wanted me, Syrah and Joey to learn cross country… so we had dirt bikes, out on tracks not far from Utoland. It was the best day.”
“Keep talking.” She encouraged.
He opened up about a fun family day of riding across hills, their mom showing them daring jumps and how to do it.
Joey wouldn’t do it, he was fearful of falling off. His mom would gently coach him, not pressure him to do the jumps, but his younger son’s fears would try his father patience at times.
Jamie’s father was flying, his small plane would swoop over the top of them, do circles and come back. That’s when the racing started.
Three of them with Joey lagging behind raced his father barely ten meters off the ground along the dirt tracks. He hadn’t see anything like the skills his father displayed during that race. The clear day was perfect for it, she could tell it was a highlight in his memories.
“That’s when I knew.” He concluded.
“Knew what.” She ventured.
“I wouldn’t be a pilot like him ever. I’m a motor cross rider. More like mom in interests.” He admitted, shrugging. “I realized I wanted to race anything with two wheels, the wind, and a rush of adrenaline.”
“Me too.” She breathed. They connected like soulmates, she completely understood him. It was like she’d known her whole life.
“Syrah likes flying more than me.” He said.
Stacey placed their dessert on the talk, thanking her she left them alone.
“I have the latest movies on the cable stream in my room, wanna come back for a while.” He said. “I promise not to make any moves.”
“I’d love to watch a movie with you… there’s an action new release.” She began thinking of a movie she’d talked about seeing with Mark. It was almost out the cinemas now.
“Crossbow.” Jamie brightened. “Superhero’s…”
“Yeah that’s the one.” She played with the chocolate mousse.
“You’re a woman after my own heart Princess…. Not many girls would wanna see action movies.” He was impressed.
Standing up as the soft music from the box in the corner changed to a slow song, he extended his hand, as she accepted it. A full explosion of butterflies released inside of her as he held her close in a slow shuffling dance in the semi lit room.
Standing the line of the crowded movie theatre for the candy bar, Mark scanned the room in his normal suspicious mode looking for potential threats. The groups of teenagers and people on dates filled the place with laughter, constant noise and reminder he was there alone.
A few girls flirted with smiles and sultry flicks of their eyelashes in his direction. He had his temptations but the reality was his job was his central focus.
When he put his focus into something it absorbed most his spare thinking time. Dating would mean focusing on developing a relationship. He didn’t feel he could juggle that and work.
Deciding to turn away, he was looking forward to seeing the latest action movie. Even if it was without Princess.
“The popcorn deal thanks.” He said, pulling out his near empty wallet. Handing the cash to the peer behind the counter smiling wildly, making eyes in his direction. The guy was interested, but he wasn’t going there.
“Thank.” He fumbled, picking up the stash, and heading down the hall and into the dark theatre.
Looking for a seat, and avoiding the couples hidden in the darker parts of the cinema, Mark finally found a space he could kick back and relax in. Fortunately, the movie was on the last of its run, and the cinema was half empty.
Again, he surveyed the surroundings. No presenting threats as far as he could see, trying to relax, and focus. The advertisements were almost over.
Another moment of an inner pang, staring into the depths of popcorn. Princess had been his movies companion since they were kids, and now she was on a date with his brother. In a flash, the dynamics were all changing, and he had no control over it. He was losing his best friend.
A hard munch as the soft wafers crumbled under his teeth, and a hit of salty butter slid down his throat, with a sip of soda to wash it down.
A couple close by were getting a bit too cosy for his liking, the moaning disruptive to the mood of the film. They’d been quiet when he arrived, under a blanket making out, until the sounds changed half-way through the movie.
Grimacing he hated inconsiderate dating teens. Then he had to remind himself he was still eighteen. Lightly kicking the seat, he waiting for them to get the hint. A familiar face shot up from under the blanket.
Whack- Kicking the seats harder with his foot this time, to get the message across.
“Back off.” The teenager grunted. Seeing who it was he chuckled.
“You alone? Where’s Prin.”
“On a date.”
“What?” Shooting up further forgetting his half naked dat., Jason eyeballed him.
“You heard me.” His alone time out was ruined. “She’s on a date with Jamie.”
“I’ll disembowel the prick if he hurts her. Are you sure about that guy?” Jason gritted his teeth.
“Jason, why don’t you go back to your trailer.” He frowned. “I’m picking her up later, keeping an eye on him.”
“What’s the fun in that?” The Condor smirked. “This is living dangerously…”
He went to say there were no kids in an over eighteens movie, and the place was almost empty, Lighten up Mark….
“Want some action.” A female voice purred. “It’s right here Jason.”
Delicate fingers grabbed his caramel hair, dragging Jason back down again, tearing off his shirt, as the blanket flew back over the top of them.
Sitting the half full tub of popcorn down, losing his appetite for anything.
Shaking his head, and standing up, he decided it was time to leave. He was going to sit in a cinema with his second in command making seductive moves on his latest girlfriend in public.
Walking out into the street, shoving his hands into his pockets, walking down towards his car, he should have gone flying instead.
“Thank you.” Jamie stood in front of her. They’d watched a movie in his room, tilting the hospital bed upright she snuggled up next to him, enjoying the excuse to be closer. Watching an action flick, and talking about it afterwards.
She could see him flagging, and needed his energy for more treatment in the morning. She was waiting for Mark to pick her up.
“I don’t want you go.” He admitted, a smirk playing on his lips, like he wanted to do say something but wasn’t sure how to approach it. Absently his hand went in the motion of racking hair. Bringing him back to the reality of its absence.
Shifting his feet, looking away for a moment she waited.
“What is it?” She asked, touching his arm.
“I’ve had the best time of my life tonight.” He said. “I don’t want to spoil it.”
Touching his cheek, deep inside she knew what he wanted. Moving in closer, she wanted it too.
“I can’t.” He moved away slightly. “I can’t kiss you.”
An awkwardness grew between them.
“Why not?” Confused for a moment.
“Radiation, I even have my own bathroom so it can’t hurt anyone else, you know make them sick. Body fluids…” His tone dropped disappointed. “How it is for now, I’m sorry.”
Throwing her arms around his neck, turning his face towards her, she planted a firm kiss on his lips. Confident her implant would filter any affects.
“I’ll take the risk.” She murmured. Softly touching his lips again, he couldn’t resist her open invitation.
Unsure of how to use tongues in a first kiss, there was some awkwardness as they softly explored each other in a moment lost in time. Melting like butter, flooding in warmth from his body pressed up against her, she was falling for him.
Relaxing into his arms, she was willing to learn more about kissing.
The clearing of someone’s throat as he entered the building interrupted the tender moment. Blushing she caught Marks eye as they drew apart.
“Sorry.” Mark sheepishly smiled.
Jamie extended a hand, greeting him.
“It’s okay.” He said, a roguish tug of his lips, and sparkling greens met hers. “We were…ahh...getting to know each other more.”
Awkward moment, Marks usual stoic facial features flinted a little with emotions. The dynamic were changing between them, realizing since she’d met Jamie, she was hanging out with him less. It would have been movie night.
“We could go out together sometime.” Princess half smiled.
“Three’s a crowd.” Mark looked away, composing himself.
A flash of his bracelet ended any small talk between them.
“Ahh…I have to go.” Mark hinted glancing at Princess. “Still need that lift home?”
“Oh, yes, I forgot, my brother will be home alone… my friend was leaving soon.” She gushed.
Jamie tried to stop her as she sprinted after Mark. “Hey, would you like a second date?”
“Would love it.” She called back.
“When will I see you again Cinderella.” He joked, stroking his chin. Shaking his head, a little confused by her abrupt departure. “Don’t lose your shoe, I’ll have to go house to house searching for you.”
“Soon.” She shouted back, warming from his radiating eyes and smile. Melting inside from her evening, she floated down the hallway.
Pushing through the glass doors of the main entrance, she hesitated along with Mark.
“Bye Mark, nice seeing you.” Jamie waved.
Mark nodded, waving back, as they disappeared into the night ready for whatever was waiting.
Ken couldn’t believe his eyes when Joe stepped off the damaged Spectran ship carrying a woman in his arms, followed by a strange looking creature.
The silhouette was unmistakable. But it had been so long he needed confirmation, ten years of searching the galaxy for a clue had left him wondering if he had wrong. Was Joe really still alive?
His thoughts hadn’t been far from home. His son was going through the same treatments he had with cancer, and the hypershoot illness. Watching his son losing his thick mop of hair, and wasting away with chemo therapy and operations was eating him alive.
Recently Jun had contacted him again after Syrah and Jamie’s ‘trip’ to Ameris seeking out Mark. He was secretly proud of them, and the cleverness of it, all their planning and strategies to leave the country with his wife knowing. It something he would have done at their age. Of course, when he saw his kids next he’d have to bring them both into line over it.
Throwing open the canape, and jumping onto the deck, the crews busied themselves with refuelling his jet, as the shuttle containing Joe and his companion landed. He had to see his face again to comprehend it was truly his old friend.
“You’ve been busy.” Joe walked off the small ship, and was standing in the middle of the landing bay.
Observing Asha, an exotic beauty, slender. Dark eyes with amber glints looking out from an over face framed with thick straight dark locks- Barely reaching Joe’s shoulder.
“Red Rangers.” A polished ascent left her lips, with a hint of native Indian. She stared at him for a moment, before observing the base. Defiance written in her demeanour, she was military in how she walked.
“Welcome to Riga.” Ken indicated they follow him. Falling in line they walked down a few halls into his office. A spacious room, with galaxy maps on the walls, a desk and photos of his family.
“I should report in.” Asha caught Joe’s eye. “I was still in Federation employment when I was captured.”
“Colonel Cronus.” Inclining her head respectfully, following protocol and saluting the way Federation personal did in more formal settings.
“At ease.” He said, opening the door to another room leading to more private quarters. Sitting on lounges he really wanted to speak to Joe alone. He couldn’t wait to hear his story, and what he’d been doing for the last ten years.
Joe’s arm snaked around her shoulders, indicating they were more than friends. The dog called Jin curled at his feet.
He wasn’t surprised, Joe had a way of finding lovers no matter where he ended up. Another reason not to trust her. His girlfriends, often turned out to be spies and assassins, he attracted them like bees to pollen.
He offered them refreshments, keeping a close eye on Asha.
After a while they began to talk, he discovered she was on board the Endeavour when it went missing.
“Second-in command.” Nodding, he’d read the officers list for the missing starship. She was legit then, but being a captive for so long, he couldn’t take chances of her turning into a Spectran spy. He’d discovered it during rescues of prisoners. They planted people amongst them that had once been loyal to the federation.
“That’s a coincidence.” He said. “You simply ended up in the same place on a lonely planet.”
She didn’t miss his meaning, tilting her head, sitting up straighter, looking from him to Joe.
“What are you indicating?” Her tone increased, tension growing.
“You were a slave for a long time, who knows.” His voice darkened with suspicion. The door opened and two of his men stepped in. Joe stood up.
“Ken, is this necessary?”
“Yes it is, until she’s cleared.”
“Joe.” Asha’s eyes pleaded with him. “I’m not going-“
Jin growled, sitting up on his hind legs ready for orders from his master.
“I have to be sure.” Ken walked up, standing in front of her. “Spies come from captives.”
The men moved in, Joe stood in front of them. “What has gotten into you.”
“Put her in a cell. Step out of the way Asakura.”
“You’re wrong in doing this, she stays with me.”
“No.” Raising her hand, ending the brewing argument. “I’ll go, sounds like you two have a lot to catch up on.”
Placing a calming hand on the dogs head, Jin flopped to the ground again.
“I’ll sort it out.” Joe promised.
“Not the homecoming I expected.” Drawing her lips into a fine line, as the weapons were removed.
Stealing a hard look at Ken, her eyes shifting between the two of them. Mixed emotions coursing across her fine features. Walking between the rangers, she left the room.
“Ken.” Joe growled, clenching his fists. “Where are they taking her.”
“I can’t have her wandering the base.” Ken said. “She’ll be in guarded room until I’m sure she’s not a spy.”
He told him about the sightings she’d made of the mecha’s. The idea of Spectra planning an invasion, if she was a traitor she wouldn’t be passing on that kind of information.
Ken indicated he’d had intel on them, and passed it onto Anderson and ISO security. It was because of that intel he’d increased his patrols.
“She’s not a spy or some kind of agent for Spectra, she’s one of us.” Through clenched teeth, stormy greys silently threatened him, voicing he couldn’t believe Ken’s treatment of her.
He walked over to a bar, pulling out two glasses, pouring whisky into them, handing one to Joe.
Accepting the glass, after a while he relaxed again accepting his reassurances she would remain on the base and it was all precautions.
“Smelling the liquid, closing his eyes the former Condor, swirled the amber liquid before tasting it like it was priceless.
“The taste of heaven, how I’ve missed whisky.” He purred. Sinking into a soft lounge seat.
After a while Joe talked about his imprisonment, some of the details internally pierced him like hot pokers. All of his searching for his friend, he wouldn’t have found him anyway from his descriptions. The remote planet he ended up on was within Spectran territories from his co-ordinates, and uninhabited.
“One day she turns up there.” He finished. “My Asha…. They were about to execute her.”
“Or they could have staged it, knowing you were there.” His tone flattened.
“Not likely, she was a Spectran slave for a long time, she’s wanting to report everything she learned about them. That’s not a spy.” Defending his lover. “Spectra don’t like public executions, people vanish, then die.”
“There’s a lot we don’t about them.” Ken signed internally.
“I’m going back.” Joe stood up pacing the room until he found a comfortable corner, folding his arms.
Ken side glanced him, sipping his whisky, the smooth liquid slid down his throat, relaxing him.
Joe read his meaning. “I have business with Zoltar, Mala and an assassin called Sari. They’re responsible for Jason’s death.”
Ken straightened. “What do you mean… do you think he died?”
It was Joe paled, unfolding his arms, looking directly at him.
“I saw him die-“
“He’s not dead, he’s alive, eighteen now.” Ken cut in, Joe’s chest rose and fell as he drew in deep breaths, he could his mind ticking over as he comprehended the new information.
“He’s alive.” He said over. “What’s he like?”
“Like you in some ways.” He smirked. “But more… angry.”
Joe said dryly. “I was angry as a teenager, wanting revenge it’s all I cared about.”
“I know.” Ken drained his glass, placing the cup on his table. “There’s more…”
“Get on with it.”
He went on to tell him about Ryu and Jinpei. The former Owl had been divorced for a few years, his marriage took a turn for the worse and never recovered, his ex-wife was married again now. Jinpei had a girlfriend, she worked in their trawler business.
Joe asked about the red and blue warship and team of kids in birdstyles- G-Force. He’d been keeping a close eye on them and even became an instructor within the flight academy under Cronus. Training Mark to be the best pilot he could produce from him.
For a while Mark didn’t know who he was, but the kid was smart, he figured it out. He didn’t recognise him as his father, their relationship was on a professional level- he told people his father was missing in action.
Anderson presumed Matt was dead. Watching Mark hold onto hope the same way he did for his own father cut him.
It was like history was repeating itself.
“He’s wearing my colours.” Joe stroking his chin, pride lacing his words. “The Condor, my son is the Condor.”
Yeah, and he’s like you in skills.” Ken said.” He’s an excellent driver, marksman, gunner…”
Joe’s demeanour changed as he listened- mixed emotions coursed through his movements, as he poured another glass for the both of them.
Holding it up, clinking them together in a toast. “To G-Force, and our sons.”
The thought of Jamie sprung into his mind. Catching Ken’s mood change Joe asked about his family.
“Jamie’s sick.” He choked on the words. Joe waited to hear more.
“He’s been struggling for over a year now. In and out of hospital.” Ken hated the images that sprung into his mind, and Jun’s sorrow. “Cancer, and it my fault.”
“Why do you say that?” Joe drawled, relaxing into a chair again.
“I should have known, I passed it onto him.” Ken’s inside clenched like hard clamps. He wanted to fix it, but he couldn’t.
He went onto explain his search for a way to help him. He left for the ruins of the base they destroyed, the one they found the boys in.
“Anderson had a spare implant after all, he put into a kid named Don’s head. He wasn’t a small child.” Ken tensed his fingers on the glass. “He’s hiding something I’m sure of it.”
“Anderson. Never liked the man, he looks like Dr Nambu, but that’s where it stops.” Joe said, Ken agreed.
“What did you find?” Joe asked.
Frustrated, he explained the mission. “I found a few computers I could get working. Took the cryptic data, and I’ve trying to get translations done. Its old codes even Jun couldn’t break them.”
Explaining how he’d searched for spare implants, if Jamie could have the same procedure he did, it would clear up the cancer. Anderson had said a number, of times he couldn’t help him.
Shaking his head, Joe keenly felt it too. “How’s Jun handling it.”
Better than me. Ken thought, she cries at least.
“She’s holding up, she’s the one there now…” Dragging in a ragged breath, desperate to save his son, he was running out of options. Jun’s message to come home two months ago, had sent his mind into a spinning reel wondering if was to say goodbye to his spirited son.
Her following messages and treatment in Ameris was working. He’d been in for surgery. Mark was around, Jun said she’d had time with him.
He also discovered Jamie and was smitten by a pretty girl. Shaking his head at the prospect of his son dating, when Jun filled him on the communications line. Their son was recovering, she planned for them all to return home soon.
He wanted to be there when they arrived in Utoland.
Jamie had asked for more time in Ameris, she’s granted it. He needed time to recover from his surgery, and the chemo rounds had finished. Once his son returned to Ameris, he’d have more tests to see if they got all the cancer out of his young body.
He wanted a permanent solution, the cancer gone forever. The implant was his solution and the option was gone.
“I’m sorry to hear about your son.” Joe was sincere. “It’s gotta be hard to watch your kid go through something like that.”
Ken didn’t really react, inside it numbed him, not wanting to feel the pain any more he ignored it, talking about it reminded him the wounds were still raw.
“Welcome home Joe.” He said. “We’ve all missed you.”
Joe sat in deep thought for a while. Shaking his head, his smile intensified for a moment.
“I was gone too long… thinking Jason died on the beach… damn Zoltar that liar.” He cursed openly. “I’m going to wring the bastards throat.”
“War’s coming.” Ken’s tone darkened. “Even if the Federation command doesn’t believe it.”
Standing up, stretching his legs Joe paced the room again.
“I’m going to see Asha, and your men had better let me in or there’s hell to pay.” Joe didn’t need to threaten.
“I’ll come with you, we just need to get her clearance.”
“Federation rule books.” Joe swore. “That I don’t miss.”
The pair of them left the room, walking down corridors towards Asha’s holding cell. Ken agreed to wait outside.
“What?” Asha fumed. “I’m being investigated, is that what your friend thinks.”
Standing in front of him, balled fists, steaming like a kettle. Asha Was shaking her head.
“Do you believe him?” She snarked.” That I co-incidentally landed in the right place for you to find me? I was about to be executed.”
“Asha-“ He started to say, she held up a hand. She was too overly emotional to hear any more.
Folding his arms, allowing silence to fall between them. He understood her rage, she was captured while on duty, endured years of slavery, and now her integrity was under fire by his closest friend.
“I’m still an officer. I deserve a fair hearing. I have nothing to hide.” She straightened her back like did often on the bridge while on duty. The Asha he knew ten years before stood before him. All she needed was the uniform.
“It won’t come to that.” Joe tried to reassure her. “I’m working on it.”
He knew better than to try and embrace her in that moment, she wasn’t going to collapse in a heap of tears. Pacing the floor, hands clasped behind her back she was working on a solution.
“How do you know him?” Her tone dropped an octave. “Don’t tell me he’s simply an old war friend, there’s more here than that…. What did you do in the Galactor wars.”
Perceptive. He thought, sighing internally.
“You would believe me if I told you.” He said truthfully.
“Try me.” She replied. “I’ve always felt you held something back, like you wanted to speak but don’t.”
Drawing in a deep breath, he was in a secure place, he’d wanted to tell her about his work in the ISO under Dr Nambu. There was never the right time.
“He was my unit commander.” He said. “I was second-in-command of an elite unit.”
“I had that idea from how he speaks to you, he forgets you’re a ranking Starship commander.” She said.” Your, fighting skills, and recovery is beyond normal, and strength.”
She was on a roll now. He hated talking about his alterations.
“It’ll change everything.” He hinted. “Its top secret.”
“When I touch you.” She whispered. “You’re… different, in so many ways… your flesh is real…but… ”
“How long have thought like this?” He was curious, she hadn’t questioned him like this as long as he’d known her.
She stopped pacing, like pieces of puzzle were falling into place. “Since the first time… you were injured during our service together. The way you healed. Then you had medical treatment on the planet Cyrus, a specialised doctor in cybernetics. The time we had a few weeks in port…”
She knew? He had his own questions. Stomach clenching, she was no fool.
“You know what I am?” He questioned. “You followed me?”
“I saw you walk into the office, assumed you were having a medical of some kind.” Her anger dissipated. “You a-“
“Cyborg.” He finished for her. “I’m more than that. I’m mostly human again now, with transplants. But I have metal casings and synthetic organs in places. I’m complex.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” She turned to face him. “I accepted you as you are a long time ago.”
Relief washed through him like an ocean swell, he thought the day she worked it out, she’d leave him.
“I was once called the Condor.” He said.” Part of a special team of five.”
Her eyes widened. “Science Ninja Team, that’s impossible, they all died when the alien ship exploded.” The Condor was a…” Placing her hand over mouth as the truth hit her.
“He was a cyborg and still is… me.” Unfolding his arms, the truth was finally out. “They didn’t correct the initial reports, it helped us start a new life without the media.”
“You had quite a reputation Condor Joe.” She softened. “Hard and ruthless, not to trifle with even on a good day- the best marksman in the military.”
“What do think now?”
“Rumours really don’t reveal the real person underneath.” She walked over to him, placing her hands flat on his chest.” You’re the man I love. It’s not changing now.”
“Good, wanna come with me to Earth? Ken can work out his investigations later.” Grinning wildly, he’d leave the base if Ken wanted him to or not. He didn’t have a say in it.
“We’re going to Earth?” She agreed. “I’ll write a report for the Federation on Spectran slave culture, and my resignation, I’m sure your friend can send it onto high command.”
“What’s on Earth?” Raising a quizzical brow. “We could travel find some work.”
“My son, he’s alive.” His heart sped up, thinking of about him.
She brightened, throwing her arms around him, excited by the news.
“Then we go and find him.” She chimed, het words like musical notes to his ears.
“That’s what I intend to do.” Warming inside, he wanted to see Jason more than anything in the universe.
Walking outside the room Ken stood holding intel.
There’s been an attack, they’re calling the metal creature Terrapin.” Ken was apprehensive. “Spectran has tried to steal resources. G-force engaged it.”
He handed him the report, the team were being hailed as hero’s. Stopping the alien mecha from taking their most valuable resource needed on the outer planets. The life blood of the colonies. The media had reporters lining up outside of the ISO and other places to find out more about G-force.
“I have to go.” Ken angrily spun on his heels, marching down the hall towards his fighter jet.
“See you on Earth.” Joe called after him.
Ken raised a hand. “See you in Utoland.”
he sun setting over the water lifted her spirits. Soft pinks and hues of blue graced the skies on the warm summer evening over soft lapping waving onto the sand, as the tide went through its changes. It was a lovely way to spend their last evening in Ameris, she had their flights booked for the morning.
Enjoying a relaxing few hours, watching her younger children playing in the sand, while Timmy finished his feed time. Jun gently broke the suction from her breast.
Adjusting the feeding bra, discretely clipping it back into place. Burping on her shoulder. Timmy cooed sleepily, ready for an after, feed nap.
Gently placing him onto portable bed, bringing the hood over, he settled down fast asleep.
She'd asked about Jason, apparently, he was racing during the day, Keyop and Tiny had other things happening when she extended the invitation.
In the distance, Mark, Jamie, and Princess were mucking around on the sand along with Syrah. Mark was demonstrating some martial arts moves, with Jamie mimicking him. Jamie was recovering well from surgery, it was the last step in the chemo process.
Now they had to wait and see his results. But they had been given clearance to fly back to Utoland. The medical team would send through the information, holding hope he was on the path to full remission.
Pulling out her camera, clicking away, capturing the memories.
During a few moves, Jamie grabbed Princesses small waist, leaning over her shoulder, she glowed like the sunset, from his touch. Taking advantage of the closeness, moving her hair aside, he planted a kiss on her slender bare neck, she visible shivered, drawing in closer to him as he whispered in her ear.
Warming inside, Jun was tickled to see him with a girl like her- how it was changing him.
Mark, close by turned his attentions to Syrah, and Joey. Clearing his throat, indicating to the two lovebirds they had company.
Eventually he let go of her, exchanging long looks and warm smiles.
Mark started some slow fluid moves in the sand, he was beautiful to watch, poetry in motion- So much like Ken in style when he was younger.
Jamie was following his older brother through a kata, mimicking his moves- Princess joining them. It would take time for him to build up his strength again. It was a beautiful- The two brothers were working in well together. She took more photos, Ken would want to see it all when he finally came home.
Joey tried to join in, he was completely uncoordinated. Mark was patient with him, helping him along the way do some punches and kicks. Syrah, surprised her, she moved fluidly, catching Jamie by surprise laughing as they all tumbled in the sand.
The sounds were like tinkering bells accompanied by squawking seagulls and people further down the beach. Filling her soul with all the reasons she'd wanted to be a mother.
Pushing her toes into the warm sand, feeling the grains rubbing between her toes. She couldn't help wondering what it would have been like to raise Mark, his tall lean frame similar to Ken's and passion for flying. He had a good nature about him, he would have been a delightful child.
Maybe he wouldn't be as angry towards his father. The younger Eagle had righteous ideals, and in them had formed the idea Ken betrayed her.
She tried to tell him it wasn't the truth, on the few times they'd run into each other over the years. He wasn't open to listening, he was grieving for the loss of his own father Matt Butler. The complex nature of his younger life matured him too quickly.
"When were you going to tell me." Princess sounded agitated. The growing heat between all of them radiated.
"Joey." Jamie turned on his younger brother, the boy was confused. Raising his hands several times as if to defend himself.
"But… I thought…" Joey fumbled. "Well, she knew…"
"It's okay Joey, at least someone's not taking more for a ride." Princess's eyes flashed dangerously shifting between the two of boys in disgust. "I bet it was some joke between you."
Turning on her heels, and sweeping up her shoes, Princess stormed through the sand towards her motorbike.
"Why did you say that?" Jamie turned on his younger brother, angry.
"But he is our brother, mom said so and-"Joey defended himself. "I didn't mean to cause trouble."
Marks own dismay flinted across his handsome features. Stood there like his feet was held in quicksand.
Jamie ran after Princess, kicking up sand under feet. He could see her in the carpark jumping onto her motorbike. He was trying talk, she revved it up higher drowning him out. Taking off in a loud screeching sound of tires and anger.
Springing to her feet, Jun trudged through sand over towards the bewildered group of teenagers and young kids.
"What happened." She asked.
Bowing his head, adjusting his glasses. Joey shrugged. "I messed up."
"Joey, no you didn't." Mark crouched down in front of him. "It's my fault, I didn't know how to explain all of this to Princess."
"She doesn't wanna see me again." Jamie returned, obviously hurting badly. "Damn it." Kicking plumes of sand, releasing his anger.
Timmy whimpered, the sun dipping on the horizon.
"Give her time to cool down." Jun tried to console her hurting son.
Jamie fumed, lost for words, he collapsed on the sand, clutching his head.
"You care about her?" Mark asked him.
"Yeah, of course I do. I think…" He stopped, eyes widening. "I've fallen for her, wouldn't deliberately hurt her."
"I'll talk to her." Mark brushed the sand off his white jeans. "It's my fault, this misunderstanding happened. I didn't say anything to her about my links to you."
"Why didn't you tell her, you did promise a few weeks ago?" Jamie stared out at the water. "You ashamed of us?"
Drawing in a deep breath, Mark closed his eyes for a moment, closing a trembling fist- Thinking through a reply.
"To me, you're… strangers in some ways. I don't feel part of this family." He explained. "I look like some of you, but… I'm not one of you."
Jun worked to understand. "I'm sorry." She whispered. Her words were too much for him. Mark headed down the beach towards his car.
Watching his back as he walked away pulling her heart strings- she turned to her family. "Kids, pack up, it's time to go."
Jamie reluctantly followed, shoulders slumped he didn't talk, as she gathered up Timmy, their belongings and headed towards the hire car to make the trip back to their accommodation.
"Luminous one." Zoltar respectfully bowed to his spiritual leader. The past few weeks had been hectic with the execution of their plans to steal from Earth so their own planet could survive.
"Terrapin has failed, can you explain why?" The birdlike creature shimmered, its hissing voice setting him on edge.
Trembling, Zoltar tried to honey his failure with a million reasons and promises of victory. "G-Force, they're called- outsmarted us this time. But next time my exalted one- "
"Next time you'll be replaced." The creature threatened.
Zoltar had worked out its plan of succession- letting Joe escape from the prison planet, he hoped it was enough secure his position as leader permanently.
What made that angry rebellious man so valuable? He saw none of his potential as a leader. Why bother with him at all. He mused. The man was more trouble than anything else.
"My lord." Bowing deeper, his pointed mask touching his chest, he had to preserve his power at all costs.
"My prisoner escaped." The hissing tone went dangerously calm.
Zoltar acted in surprise, promising to find Joe Asakura.
"No need." The creature hissed. "Joe will take on his destiny when the time comes… for now I have another task for you. Launch Rexor."
Rexor was their largest beast, a destroyer.
"Your orders sire." Zoltar waited patiently.
"You destroy a city on Earth. The home the Science Ninja Team. Destroy the place they held precious, raise to the ground- revenge for my brothers, murder." Luminous One chuckled. It wasn't a resource mission, but one of destruction. "Earth will tremble from our power."
"Done my lord." Bowing again, "we will walk in victory." He hailed.
Leaving the round chamber, Spectra's exhausted leader set in motion his masters request.
The smell of the new environmentally friendly octane excited his senses more than anything else on Earth. Hot afternoon sun basked through the side window, a perfect day for the beach- the one place he hated.
heating up the interior, a swig of water from the driver’s water tube, working to hydrated and focused.
Jason revved up the engine of the Skyline racer warming it up in anticipation for the race ahead. Twenty laps of pure adrenaline waited for him in the stretches ahead.
Another car pulled up into the marked starting point, silver tones and racing sponsors on its shell, glancing into the mirror it was a skyline model, latest model and likely without the modifications his possessed.
He couldn’t see the face of the driver from his black helmet, and he didn’t have time to ponder on it as the checked flags flew downwards marking the beginning of the race.
“Eat my dust.” He smirked to the driver of the other car, as his smoking tires plunged the metal cage into the race increasing speed by the millisecond. Racing through the stretches he lost him as he strategically flew around the track like a cougar on the hunt, with twenty other top cars in the final race of the season.
Sighting the silver car as it came up beside him on the final stretches hugging the curves of the black tarmac like a woman in his bed. Jason couldn’t shake the driver, moving in sync like dancers, the race was more about the two of them than anyone else on the track. The rest of the drivers faded in is mind as he raced against the unknown man not letting him have an inch.
Coming along side of him. He stole a glance at his competition, something disturbing hit him as he tried to figure out why the man held a familiar air in his driving. A moment of being transported to his dreams of seeing a wild looking man in a jungle through a thick icy wall slammed him so hard he almost lost control of his car as he came into a bend.
Gripping the steering wheel, working the gears regaining control he was now on the tail of the mysterious driver forging ahead of him.
Gritting his teeth so hard it hurt, relaxing his tensing muscles to keep in the game one false move and he’d lose it completely. Then he saw it, his opening, taking on the driver, scooting around him, into the apex, at the last fine millisecond and into the final lap they tailed each other to the point of an inch between the two cars.
“You’re good.” He stated. “ But I’ve got you pegged and slaughtered.”
In one fluid motion, cut in through the inside, brushing past the silver car and into the lead, putting everything he had into it, slamming his foot onto the floor gaining momentum and neck to neck with his opponent he barely cleared the finish line. He won, by a few inches.
Drawing into the pits, with the ISO racing team sprinting into take care of the race car, Jason jumped out of the widow, pulling of the black stripped helmet, scanning the track for the driver of the silver Skyline.
Asking around, no one had seen him since the end of the race. The winning ceremony went as normal after a race, accepting the winnings and sprays of champagne, cheering crowds and fans.
The mystery driver didn’t show for second place. The name given wasn’t familiar.
“Sore loser.” Jason wondered.
Later as the crowds had left the track, and officials packed up for the day. Jason sat in the empty stands like he often did after a race.
Solitude for a few hours taking in the quiet and reminiscing about the race. The anonymous driver haunted him, he couldn’t stop thinking about a connect he’d felt, like two minds linking for a brief moment- and the breaking away again so abruptly it caused physical pain, rubbing his temples, as a headache lingered.
In the twilight, the Condor waited for a touch of that connection again, it was like a world opening up in his mind.
Something… strange was happening. He mulled. No one would believe him if he tried to explain the strange creature and the man blocking its full power from his thoughts.
“Why aren’t you at the beach with your friends.” A deep masculine voice came from close by. Tensing, he thought he was alone.
“I hate the beach that’s why.” He replied. Every time it brought back haunting memories, especially when there was a bonfire. Like tonight, Mark, Prin, Tiny and Keyop loved it there in summer, footy in the sand, probably night surfing too.
“I hate it too.” The voice responded.
“Well we have cars and hating the beach in common, what’s your name ghost driver?” He asked, not really in the mood for conversation.
“You’re a good racer, but you could be better.”. “You drive arrogant, that can serve you or undo you.”
Tensing at the thought he was being watched, placing a hand over his weapon, and pulling out a feather dart, turning to see who was there.
“Who are you?”
“I’m a ghost driver.”
“Why not come out and introduce yourself.” He said dryly.
“I wanted see if you could drive.”
“I beat you.” He pointed out. The man chuckled.
“This time you won.” He casually replied. “I know how you drive now, next time, you won’t be so lucky.”
“Bullshit, you can’t take losing, didn’t even show up for the podium.” He snarked. “See you on the track old man if you can handle a second round.”
A hooded man stepped out of the shadows, hands shoved into the pockets of a deep blue jumper, plain jeans, nothing he could note about him- Facial features obscured by the deep hood.
Who the hell did he think he was? Some vigilante old race driver wanting to mentor him. He thought. The man likely had his time was wanting to make a comeback.
Striding in closer, he wanted a look at the mystery man, he could be working for Spectra for all he knew.
“You’d do well to drop the sarcasm kid.” Cocking his head, the man turned to walk away.
“Wanna go for a drink? We could exchange track tips.” Jason said. A flood of familiarity smacked him.
Reaching out to touch his arm, the older man defected him easily, punching him in the gut, sending him flying into the stands. Leaping to his feet in a singular fluid motion ready to engage, the man vanished from sight.
“You don’t know who you’re dealing with- you have a lot to learn kid.” He said seriously.
The man’s even tone, his build, held a familiarity about it. An image of the man sheltering him from the blast, leapt into his mind….
Leaping to his feet racing after him, and he still didn’t get a glimpse of the man behind the hood. Could he have been the man on the beach all those years ago? The one who saved his life?
“Wait a minute.” He called out.” Do I know you?”
“I bet there’s a father out there who’s proud of you…son…” The man’s voice carried in the wind.
“My father…” He didn’t hide the bitter pain from his voice. “My father’s a liar… I hate the bastard- he can rot in hell for all I care... no one calls me ‘son.’”
He found it patronising, to be called ‘son’ that by old men who thought they knew better.
The older man halted for a moment, looking over his shoulder at Jason.
“I bet he has rotted in hell more than once.” The man said distantly.” I’m sorry for the pain your father caused you.”
Then he was gone… vanished like a ghost.
Shivering even with a hot breeze around him. Jason sank down onto the bench, with a swamp of questions festering inside of him. Pulling himself together, and jumping down from the high stands, landing like a cat on the ground, he searched the area for his mystery friend. No one was there, it was like he evaporated into thin air.
Eventually giving up on finding he changed his mind about going to Jill’s for dinner with the rest of the team. He needed time out from everything.
“You’re hard on him.” Asha waited in the place Joe has indicated, sitting on a hidden bench- witnessing his interaction with Jason.
“I need to be.” Joe replied with a hint of pride. “He won that race on his own merits, outsmarted me on the last corner.”
“Did you tell him.” She asked, rising to her feet, catching up with him as they left the grounds of the race heading towards his car.
“I take it by your silence you didn’t.” She placed a hand on his arm, drawing him to a stop. Looking into his eyes, he still processing the race and seeing his son alive.
“He’s grown up without me so far.” He stated. “He doesn’t need me, doesn’t want me.”
She gripped his arm tighter. “It wasn’t your fault, tell him exactly what happened to you he needs to know-“
“Know what?” Closing his eyes for a moment, the painful truth hit him. “In his eyes, I abandoned him. I did Asha, I could have stayed, found a job on Earth found a way to raise him, but I didn’t.”
“I know you love him, how much it hurt you to lose him, I bet he wants a father.” Her eyes reflected his pain. “You did what you thought was right at the time.”
His heart pounded, hammered like an anvil against stone pounding metal, inside of him, working to control the shaking creeping up on him. He wanted to shake her off and storm away from everyone- Go back to his solitude with his dog and jungle animals.
Studying his face, Asha let him go. He couldn’t move, watching her intently, stony grey eyes boring into her. She was right, he loved Jason, and wanted to be his father. But his words slashed him deeply, and now he was the Condor in G-Force, he had to stand if he was going to fight against Zoltar.
He wanted revenge against Zoltar, his cronies and find the assassin Sari. For now, he needed time out.
She moved away, both of them standing there like chess players waiting for the other to make a move.
“I’m going home.” He whispered, waiting, they hadn’t discussed their life together since coming back to Earth.
“I quit the Federation Starfleet.” She stared at the stars pinning the sky.
“you’re going back to India.” He asked, a sick feeling of losing her again swirled inside.
“No.” She replied. “I’m starting over.”
“Why not? You’re family’s there.”
A bitter twist of her full lips at the mention of her family- Asha turned away. “My father disowned me. There’s no going back there, and I’m unemployed, I need a job.”
“What happened?” It was his turn, she’d rarely mentioned her family in India.
“Long story.” She said at last. “I’m not always good at following what others think I should be.”
“I have a house in Utoland.” He started to say. “It’s got a spare room.”
“Really.” She sounded interested. “ I could crash there for a night or two.”
“You could.” He said. “Stay… in my room as long as you want, it an ensuite.”
“Move in together.” Placing her hands on his chest, biting her bottom lip, thinking it over.
“We make a great team.” Joe tilted her chin with his finger enjoying her. Gazing deeply into her dark eyes. “I’m not just talking about in bed, we’re good at that too come to think of it.” Drawing a light laugh from her.
“Do me one favour.” She whispered.
“What’s that?” He was curious.
“Never ask me to marry you.” She said seriously. “It would spoil it.”
He chuckled lightly, the thought had crossed his mind. “Rejected already.”
“I walked out on the last man I was supposed to marry days before the wedding-cold feet. Let’s just live together in sin, my father would totally disapprove of it.”
Joe wondered what led to that event. He was sure over long conversations in their home in Utoland he was going to find out.
“Would he disapprove of me?” He queried. Pulling back the hood, moonlight dancing in her eyes.
“Absolutely not- you’re not Indian, or one of his friends, sons.” She smirked.” I don’t have a dowry either, still want me?”
“Absolutely.” Kissing her deeply, warming from the flood of affection in her touch, running his fingers though her long hair.
“I want you.” He said between breath and kisses. “As you are.”
Drawing her towards the hire car, the race car had been on loan, Jason wouldn’t be able to track him.
He was ready to go home to Utoland and start life over again.
Mark woke up to sounds of his phone ringing, grumbling under his breath, he wondered what kind of lunatic would call him before sunrise.
Pushing back his mop, of bed hair, reaching across to his side table, almost knocking off the photo of his parents feeling around for the phone.
Clutching the familiar shape into the palm of his hand, it stopped ringing right at the point he was about to hit the green answer button.
Damn it. He was tempted to throw the thing, what in the possessed him to get a landline.
He was about to place it back onto the table, roll over and resume sleeping when it started again.
“Mark.” A familiar voice came through the line.
“Jun, whats up.” He groaned.
“Jamie, he’s missing.” She sounded worried. “Is he with you?”
“Try Princess, likely tryin to make up for yesterday’s argument before you all fly out.” Blinking, he was about to hang up when he heard a knock on his door.
“Call you back. He’s here.” Hanging up, he knew it was rude, but he had a gut feeling Jamie was on the other side.
Pulling on his T-shirt and jeans, he was at his worst at this hour.
Opening the door enough to see who was on the other side. Sure, enough it was his brother.
Grunting as he opened the door, Jamie walked in.
“Not a morning person.” Jamie noted.
Grunting again, his brother followed him in, looking around the place.
“This is awesome, your own place…bliss.” Jamie said impressed. “Independence and you’re not even twenty.”
“I’m almost nineteen in a few weeks.” He mumbled, cooffeeeeee…. He needed coffee.
“How did you get here?” He asked, his brother didn’t have any transport as far as he knew.
“I hitchhiked, some big guy in a truck gave me a lift to highway exit…walked from there.” Standing in the main room, the shack was too small to have anything beyond one bedroom, bathroom, living area and a small kitchen.
“Coffee, then we can talk.” Mark hit the button the kettle, put a few scoops of instant coffee into cups. Indicating his brother sit down and wait.
“How do you have it?”
“Milk, no sugar.”
Nodding, he proceeded to make it as directed.
Jamie appeared to be apprehensive. Handing him the steaming brew, he sank into his favourite worn out couch seat.
“Hitchhiking is dangerous.” Watching him over his cup.
Shrugging it off. “Couldn’t sleep,” he said. “She really hates me now…”
It wasn’t true, Mark finally managed to have a conversation with later in the evening. They talked for a while and explained his adoption to someone at last. She needed time to process it. She was more, angry with him than Jamie.
Thinking of her words… “Mark I’ve known you since we were kids, and it’s like a secret you’ve kept from me, and I don’t understand why.” She was confused. Disclosing to Princess helped their working relationship at least. They needed trust to function as a team.
“She’ll come around.” Adjusting his position, leaning forward clasping his hands.
Jamie contemplated his words for a minute, placing the cup on a side table. “I’m sorry I put you in that position, I was only thinking of myself. I had a long talk with mom after dinner.”
“What did she say?”
“A lot.” He smirked.” Mostly, about girls… trying to understand a few things.”
Chuckling lightly, placing his own cup aside.” When you work it out, let me in on it.”
“They’re complicated, she didn’t give me a chance to explain.” Throwing his hands in the air, emotionally wrecked as he talked. “She wouldn’t answer her phone…her kid brother did, verbally abused me- told me to leave her alone.”
Keyop, he thought. Once had his mind on something he rarely let it go and he didn’t like Jamie stepping in on what he thought was Marks territory. Another team mate to have a long talk with. The kid was fuming when he found out Princess was dating Jamie.
Raking his finger through hair, what a mess…
He gave him time to calm down. If Princess was happy with his brother, and he treated her well, he was happy with it, even supported them.
“She cares about you a lot. Keep trying.” He hinted.
“I put you in a bad position by coming here didn’t I.” Jamie said apologetically.
“With my friends- yes.” He replied. “I like my privacy.”
The wind went out of his frustration. “I’m sorry.” His face dropped.” I saw photos of you as a kid, and went snooping… mom had an address so I figured out a few things, the race track was in a photo…”
Sighing heavily, a part of him didn’t regret Jamie finding him. “It’s okay, it was hard, but I did mean what I said. I’m not part of your family. I can’t pretend to be.”
“I think you’re hard on my mom. She’s tops, if you give her a chance. I bet you’d really like her.” He warmed talking about his family. “Dad’s great too, when he’s not lecturing me… I get into trouble all the time…boy can he lecture when he’s mad.”
He still had a mixed bag of emotions when it came to Ken Washio, a complicated relationship, he couldn't explain to himself.
Standing up, and walking into his bedroom. Mark picked up the precious photo from beside his bed. Found his small album of his childhood meetings in parks.
“This is my parents.” Handing it to Jamie. “My mom passed away ten years ago, and my dad is missing. They raised me…loved me, I miss them every day.”
Jamie studied the photo. “There’s a photo at home. Your mom… and my mom together in a park, you were a baby…” Handing it back to him, not entirely sure what to say.
Resigned- Jamie sighed. “I don’t even know how the say it all…since in a way my mom…is your mom too kinda…it messes with me. Us kids didn’t have a say in it.”
Mark sat in silence, it was too early for thinking about things like this.
“I wish you grew up with me.” Jamie said.” We’d have had fun together, dad wouldn’t know what hit him.”
Mark drew in a breath. “I didn’t, can’t change it, but we can be friends now- right?”
“Yeah.” His face brightened, adjusting the head scarf Princess gave him, he didn’t really need to wear any more- dark brown velvet hues covered his once bald head in the last week.
“Will you come to Utoland sometime?” Jamie asked.
“Sure, why not come back here next holidays for a few weeks, we can finish that race we started.” He promised. “I have to work, but you can stay here with me.”
“Patch things up with Princess.” His mind ticking over.
“That too… I think she won’t stay angry long, she’ll see you didn’t lie at all.” Mark tried to reassure him.
His conversation with Princess went along the lines of her keeping more secrets from Jamie than the other way around. He defended his brother along the way. She agreed, and cried, his heart went out to her suffering.
“Yeah... wanna lift?” He said. “After breakfast, I’ll even drive you to the airport.”
Picking up his keys.
Jamie noted him moving towards the door.
“Where are we going?” He quizzed. “What about breakfast.”
“Breakfast isn’t here.” Smirking at his brother’s bewilderment. Following him to the car, the pair of them headed into his favourite café.
A while later, they both walked in on opening time. Jill greeted them openly, seeing her regular with a friend.
Jamie was casting a look around. His eyes fell on the staircase leading to the apartment.
“Take a seat.” Mark indicated a booth. Taking a few minutes to order from the breakfast menu, they waited.
He’d tried to call her on his bracelet discreetly. She wasn’t answering, she was a morning person, and often up already out for a run.
“She’ll be around.” He reassured him, as their steaming meals were placed in the table.
“Should I knock on the door of the apartment?” Jamie’s normal self-confident manner had shifted, he was in no mans land with Princess, and wasn’t sure of the kind of reception he’d receive from her.
“Real courage begins here.” Mark said. Noting Keyop coming down the stairs, and no Princess. The kid got his breakfast, joining them.
The whole time sending darts towards Jamie.
“Hey kid.” Jamie frowned.” You back off the die-now-stares.”
“Preedoop. She’s not here, left early.” He said, backing down after an Eagle glare from Mark.
“Do you know where she’s gone?” Hr asked as they finished.
Shrugging, Keyop ate his food woofing it down in gulps like had stop watch in front of him.
“Didn’t say…doop…” He said. “ Got dressed, then left.”
Jamie kept looking at the stairs.
“Common, you’ve got a plane to catch.” Mark indicated the time. Reluctantly Jamie stood up.
“Got a pen and paper?” He asked Jill at the counter. The older woman handed him a note pad. Jamie went back to the table, writing. A page later, he folded it.
“Keyop, I know you hate me…but I seriously care about her.” His face dropped, dismay as he handed the kid the note. “Can you put it under her door.”
Keyop took pity on him. “Doopp…diipp. Do it yourself.” Indicating her follow him, Mark went too as a support.
Jamie walked up the stairs, he pushed the folded paper under her door.
Hands trembling, he stood there talking to the door. “Prin, if you’re in there… I came to say I’m sorry… So many things…I loved being with you… your best person I’ve ever met…I wanted to tell you how I feel, how you make me feel…I’ll miss you.”
Waiting for a reply, Jamie was met by silence. Walking down the stairs, and outside into the sunlight. Something he hadn’t been able to do while in chemo, the treatment had made his skin super sensitive to UV rays. Commenting to Mark it was good to feel it without it stinging.
Observing Jamie, watching his moves. He stopped for a moment, looking up at her window, he could see the silent plea on his face.
Walking away shoulders drooping, he followed Mark out the door, jumping into the passenger seat they headed into the airport.
Princess woke up early, she'd been for her usual dawn jog, and was reading a magazine when she heard a knock on her door, and second later a piece of paper was slipped underneath it.
She'd had a rough sleep, her mind churning over all the mixed emotions swimming around inside when she finally had confirmation on a hunch she'd had for a few weeks.
Mark and Jamie were full blooded brothers. Same biological parents, she was spinning from the idea all those kids were directly related to Mark- And Jun was his 'birth mom' as Mark put it. It was his way of defining roles of people in his life.
The whole idea was ludicrous at first. Mark had never indicated he belonged to anyone else other than the parents she'd known herself as child. Natasha and Matt Butler.
In those first moments on the beach she wondered what angered her more. Looking into Marks eyes he answered it. She was hurt he didn't trust her enough, and Jamie for not mentioning it on any of their dates.
In a way it explained the familiar feelings she had about him from the first moment they met. Some of his behaviours held similarities to Mark. There were also defined differences, Mark had some of his adoptive father's habits and values.
Then she heard Jamie's voice on the other side of the door, feeling a tug of her heart strings.
Her chest tightened, catching her breath as he talked. Frozen for a moment, she wanted to try and sort it out, get her head around it all. Considering it was really Mark's life, not her's. But the feeling of being lied to lingered. Would he hold things back in future?
Staring at the note on the floor, she rose slowly out of her chair…
Gingerly picking it up, the paper crinkled as she opened it up. Reading his hand writing, shaking internally. A tear tracked its way down her cheek.
"Jamie." She, the words thick in her throat. He loves her- wants to work it out.
If I don't see you… I'll let you go, if it's what you want… part of his note said… I didn't mean to hurt you…
Pulling the door open, racing down stairs, he'd already left.
"Preep doop. Marks taking him to the airport." Keyop sheepishly approached her. "He called last night…doopp… sorry I didn't tell you."
Pursing her lips tight turning on him, she halted. She didn't exactly run to the door when he knocked, would she have taken the call if she knew? She'd was digging her heals in, and now she had to swallow a bit of pride, she'd be wrong.
"Keyop, we'll talk about this later."
"Airport…right." Clenching her jaw tight, Princess knew exactly what she had to do, and how she felt about him. Sprinting to her motorbike, she had a mission to fulfil.
"Flight to Utoland boarding… " The announcement across the speakers has come through for last time. Jun was preparing her brood of kids to walk down the aisle. Jamie wasn't moving.
Mark felt sorry for him. It was unlike Princess… she must have been really hurt not to show.
"Looks like its really over." Jamie said glumly.
"Goodbye Mark." Jun warmly smiled, he'd been friendlier since he arrived. He wanted to try and get to know them more, a few small steps.
Jun had outlined a few things to her son when they arrived at the airport. Jamie would lose his gaming console for a week once they reached him. Plus, he had to earn back the money he stole along with Syrah.
She had it all planned out for them, he wanted to know what it would involve. Unaccustomed to parental discipline, his was different from being a commander. Chief Anderson could be hard on him. He'd love to lose only a gaming console for mucking up. Instead of hours of reports and scrutiny.
"I'll come and visit." Turning to Jamie, clasping hands with him, he looked miserable, watching the departures lounge.
Sighing heavily, he reluctantly followed his family down through the gates. Waving Mark watched them disappear.
"I'm too late." Princess came flying through the international flights doors, grabbing Marks arm as she came to a screaming halt.
Tears forming in her eyes.
"You letting that stop you?"
"No." She turned to him. "I messed up too. I should have listened to him, let him explain his side."
"Go tell him." Mark gently pushed her forward, but she didn't need too. Standing at the gates was Jamie.
His sadness turned to wonder, his facial features radiated his joy seeing her there.
"Prin." Stepping past the guards, she ran to him, throwing her arms around him. Jamie didn't hesitate, returning her affection eagerly.
"I know, I'm sorry too."
"I love you Prin…"
"I love you too Jamie."
Mark tried to look away as Jamie passionately kissed her, they two of making up from their first argument. He didn't want to let her go, but the last calls were coming through…
"It's okay, we'll see each other again soon." She smiled warmly, letting him go. "Video call me later."
"I promise… You have my heart." His voice thick with emotion. "Talk soon…"
She nodded, crying tears of joy and saying she'll miss him, he returned her affections as deeply.
The romantic scene warmed Mark's heart. He was sincerely happy for them.
Utoland airport a few hours later.
The long flight with four young kids was exhausting, trying to feed a baby, keep kids from fighting out of boredom even if Jamie was walking on clouds from his reunion with Princess.
She had to think about getting baggage and kids into a taxi.
"Syrah and Jamie, please." She indicated to bag coming around on the conveyer belt in the pick-up area.
"Sure mom." Jamie grabbed it, nothing could bring him down from cloud nine.
Timmy in Syrah's arms, and Joey held the handle of his suitcase, cleaning his glasses.
"I'm sure I can help." A familiar male voice came from behind.
"Ken." Excitement filled her heart. Then same feeling she had every time he'd been away.
Spinning on her heels, and throwing her arms around her husband's neck. Twinkling blue eyes met hers, without hesitation he kissed her. Melting into his embrace she ignored the snickering comments by their children about parents and kissing. She wanted to drink him in and not let go.
Warmth flooded her entire being, pressing in close. She couldn't wait until later, when the kids were in bed for their own time, being close, and catching up on lost time.
"I've missed you so much." Choked with emotion, she could barely talk.
"I know." He whispered back, picking her up and twirling around, not caring about the attention it drew.
"I love you…" He said loudly, enjoying her touch, and warmth.
"I love you too." She replied, kissing him again.
Surround by their children, each of them excited to see their father. Hugs, and back slaps all around.
Taking his time to greet Jamie. "We'll talk more later." Ken promised his son.
"I have another surprise for you." Ken mischievously smiled.
Turning around she thought she was seeing a ghost.
"Joe." He stood there, waiting, watching all of them, unsure of how to act.
He'd changed, he has wilder look about him, longer hair in a ponytail, standing with a woman who appeared to be of Indian heritage.
"You found him." A hand went over her mouth in shock. Unable to contain it any longer, openly crying tears of joy, she ran over to him.
"Joe." She threw her arms around his neck. Hugging him tight.
"It's good to see you too." His voice thick, words stuck in his throat. "You haven't changed much."
It had been a decade, so much to catch up on.
"I'd like to introduce you to someone." He warmly smiled, turning to lady with him.
"Asha…this is Jun." She warmly smiled. Extending a hand welcoming her.
"This is the person you talked about last time." She turned to Joe, a knowing smile. He nodded mirroring it.
"I'm pleased to meet you Asha." She clasping her hand, she looked forward to getting know her, not missing the reservation on Ken's face.
"We'll have time to catch up, Asha and I are settling into my house." Joe said. "Tomorrow, how about we drop in."
He went onto thank her, Ken had handed him the codes for the account they'd set up for him, a gift for when they found him again. He wouldn't have worry about finances for a while.
"You're welcome anytime." Ken's grin intensified. "Bring beer, we have a to talk about. Ryu and Jinpei will be here in the morning- time for a family reunion."
"There's a grave out there with my name on it." The corner of Joe's lips curled. "A sledge hammer should take care of it. Its creepy."
"Let's go home." Her heart over flowing, surrounded by family what more could Jun Washio ask for.
few months later….
The morning sun glistened on the waters of Utoland bay like crystals hanging in a doorway. Adjusting his sunglasses Ken Washio was enjoying family time with his gorgeous wife and kids.
They planned a full day and evening of celebration since the last test results had put Jamie into remission, no more cancer cells found in his young body.
"I confirmed the booking." Jun said warmly smiling, spying the deck of the restaurant they founded, further down the long open jetty, filled with people out for the day. Seeing the place brought back fond memories, of the early days of their marriage, and his life as a chef. They would be there later for a family dinner celebration with the rest of the clan.
"No…no Joey, hold it still." He heard Jun instructing their young son on helping his baby brother eat a spoon full of ice cream in his stroller. The baby wore it, giggling as he spat it out playfully at Joey, and waited for more.
"Awe, yuk." Joey wiped his face with a napkin. "Disgusting Timmy."
"Doesn't take much with you neat freak nerd." Jamie joked, messing his younger brother's neat hair. He teased him relentlessly, it was only thing that could make Joey angry.
"Hands to yourself." Joey grimaced, slouching, trying to not to panic as he straightened his hair and shirt. The young boy's grooming was well beyond his years, he hated mess, and rarely stepped out of line.
"Stop the fighting kids, remember it's supposed to be a fun day out." Ken lightly reminded them.
"Don't talk to your brother like that." Jun scolded him. Syrah pulled an unpleasant face, finishing her gelato. A few shoves and more exchanges of words, Ken stepped in breaking up the tension.
"Hey kids, smiles, laughing, be nicer." Ken lectured. "We are out for a fun family day, stop your bickering."
Leaning against the railing of the pier next to his father, Jamie watched the water. "Uncle Jin promised to take me fishing soon. I miss him being around."
Following his son's eyes across the bay. Looking out for a trawler coming into the bay, he figured Ryu and Jinpei wouldn't be too far away.
"I'm sure he'll arrange it now that you can." Ken said.
"They said midday, you'll see him soon." Jun straightened from her task. "We're in no hurry to leave here yet."
"I know, just enjoying the morning out." He said warmly.
It was the truth, they had been in desperate need of family time. Doing normal things like walking along the pier eating ice-cream and Gelato. The warm weather was perfect for it, not too hot or cold, a warm salty breeze-perfect.
"What's Uncle Jin and Ryu doing?" Joey asked, seriously. He was always serious, Ken wondered if he knew how to smile.
"Dry docking one of their trawlers for some work on it." He explained. "You'll see them lifting the boat from the water, fascinating stuff."
Joey's young eyes widened, brightening, anything engineering and he was interested. "Will I get to see it? I mean being lifted out of the water." He asked. The kid spent hours building things with his connect tools, and inventing weird machines. His bedroom was littered with drawings and his inventions. A small robotic person greeted him at the door one day, its wheels moving past him carrying a snack tray down the hall towards the kitchen…
Turning his attention to Jamie, he'd grown more as a young man in the last few months. The influence of a pretty young girl, living in Ameris had brought out the best in him. His son talked about her all the time.
Mark had him come back during the last school holidays for a few weeks to visit- Bunking at his shack. Syrah went to stay with Princess and Keyop. Princess introduced her to Ameris shopping mall, running up her new credit card. She was going for a casual job to pay it off.
He'd heard a few things about the holiday, one about a day out riding motorbikes, with Princess, and he returned the next morning as the sun stained the sky.
He didn't talk about his reasons for breaking the rules, and neither did Princess. Simply saying they rode their bikes further than anticipated that afternoon- and ended up sleeping on the beach.
Mark noted he was distracted over the next few days. Almost sheepish, seeing Princess again, she was blushing, and more intimate exchanges in looks between them.
Jun scolded Mark over it, but he didn't know until he arrived home, he'd been working most of the day.
Jun had her ideas on what could have happened. Ken wasn't sure what to do about it- Jamie wasn't talking about what he considered private with his lady.
He spent time on video calls of an evening with her, and sometimes talking with Mark. They were growing closer as brothers.
"Want some time out?" Ken turned to his eldest son, part of the reason for the day out was so he could catch up with him.
"Sure." Jamie looked at his mother.
"We'll walk over to the park." She said. "There's a baby change room there, and Timmy's smelling terrible."
Indicating to the waterside greenery and play equipment as she spoke. Joey's dark eyes lit up at the climbing nets, challenging his sister, she took him up on it racing ahead.
"See you later." Jun knowingly smiled. The laughter of his children filled his soul to the brim and the loving kiss on the lips from his wife, before she pushed the stroller in the direction of the lush park.
Joey was already climbing the huge dome racing Syrah to the top. Knowing Joey, he'd be trying to work out how they built it, and Syrah just wanting to reach the top.
Walking along the wide timber broad walk in silence for a while until he found a seat watching the open water breaking the silence with a comment about the day.
They chatted, mostly small talk and pointing to various activities taking place, the lighter atmosphere of the pier and their old restaurant, still thriving a few jetties down with customers dining on the open deck.
"Tell me about your girlfriend." Ken hinted, unsure of his own approval, after lengthy talks with Jun he tried to lighten up. She was overseas, that helped.
Blushing he replied." She's beautiful. "He gushed like a teenager over his first love pouring out his heart as he talked about his smart beautiful girl- who runs off sometimes at the drop of a hat, that part was confusing.
"It's more serious now?" He probed. He'd promised Jun not to make too much of the intel they received about his holiday in Ameris.
"Yeah. We're in love…seriously in love." His eyes distanced, dreaming of his girlfriend. His cheeks went a few shades of pink he couldn't hide his glowing Bambi eyes over her. "She's flying over here in a few weeks with Mark. She said her job at Jill's café has been busy… plus she's a guardian for her brother… makes her hard to contact some days."
Ken understood something his son didn't. The current love of his life, was the Swan of G-force. She'd been busy on missions most likely.
How it was going to work he had no idea… young love overcame giant obstacles mostly in fairy-tales.
They're so young. He thought wildly. Jun was barely a year older than Princess when she fell pregnant with Mark.
They're still kids. He cringed internally, if he knew then what he knew now, he might have waited before entering into a sexual relationship with her?
No, they wouldn't have… a tiny voice inside his head told him. Young love was intense and impulsive, without thought of the real consequences when things like pregnancy happened. Another life to consider, and what it all brings.
He'd have to approach it with him again about intimacy with his girl. He had to understand his responsibilities beyond a moment of passion. Princess' place on the team counted on it.
"I hope to meet her soon." He finished, with a slap on his back grinning- his son was living the life of a normal teenager.
So that's what it's like. He thought, not having the work on your shoulders as a teenager.
He slipped out an object from a slit in his jeans.
"Want to talk about this?" He asked casually.
Jamie swallowed hard, he was caught.
"I lost it… and it turned up in your room." Ken turned the object over his fingers.
"Snooping around in my space." He fumed.
"I own the house, it's my place until you're old enough to buy your own." He pointed out.
His son pursed his lips tight. "I think you're not telling me things, so I went looking."
"You could have asked instead of stealing."
"Why? You could be evasive like every other time I ask about your life before us."
"What do you want to know?"
"You fought in the Galactor wars, but you never talk about it." Jamie said, threw his hands in the air. " Odd… things come up in conversations with my uncles… and mom too. I want to know about it- and then I found that… what does it do?"
Jamie continued his rant. "You're a fighter pilot and an officer. I get that bit, train other pilots for secret missions- and that base we lived for a while on as kids… I never told anyone about it… so many secrets and things in our family… I'm over being kept like a mushroom, fed shit, kept in the dark."
Ken sighed internally. He was growing up, and he would discover the truth eventually and it that could be more dangerous without controls in place.
He had become more curious. He should have expected it, the kid was brimming with questions, and running off to meet Mark all those months ago, was part of it.
"Tell me about Mark?" Jamie asked quietly, like he was reading his thoughts. He was as tall as him, another few growth, spirts and he was likely to be taller.
"What do you wanna know?" He said leaning forward, clasping his hands together.
"Why?" Jamie said. "You gave him away?"
"It's a long story." He said.
"I wanna hear it, why?" Jamie insisted, impatient to have answers. "I'll keep asking until one of you tells me the truth about everything."
Bowing his head, how could he explain to an almost seventeen year old boy the painful past, and the full truth. Weighing it up, he knew in heart the time had come.
It was better to hear it from him, than someone else. He's have a talk with Jun later, he was sure this would be the first of many family discussions about their past.
Opening the palm of his hand, he allowed Jamie to examine the deadly weapon.
"This is called a birdrang, its designed to kill by slitting throats. In a single throw, it can take down twenty or more soldiers."
"Wow." He gingerly touched the cold steel. Ken clicked it open. Showing him the details, and its sharp blades.
"Remember that time you came home from school with an assignment about the Science Ninja Team?"
"Yeah, you and mom helped with some of it. That mission in space, killing that alien thing? You knew more about it than the other kids. I got an A+ on it. Figured it was because you worked at the ISO…it's how you met mom." He answered furrowing his brows. "What does that have to do with it?"
"Everything." Ken said. "We were there, we destroyed it."
"Huh." His son, pulled off his cap, ran his fingers through his short crop of dark hair staring at him. " No way."
"Yes way." Ken mimicked. "That's why, it was the scariest place I've even been inside of- we almost died there."
"You are… no way." He repeated. "You scared…"
"I was once known as Gatchaman- Leader of the Science Ninja Team, and your mother was the Swan G-3." Ken looked him directly in the eye as the penny dropped and he did a double take.
"But…but…" He stammered. "They all died up there, the reports said-"
"The reports are part of our protection, so we can raise you without… without media and have a life." He cut in.
"Uncle Jinpei…. Ryu…. Joe. They're the team- right?" His shock changed to excitement, he was in on a secret, and it appealed to adolescent mind the fantasy of hero's. "You wore those birdstyles and Dr Nambu was your mentor…so cool…"
Nodding he filled him on it, indeed a lot of the stories held truth about them.
"Mark was born between the wars, on the crest of everything breaking out again. It was messy, your mother made the choice without me because I wasn't there for her." He explained. "I was on missions for the ISO, but its no excuse. I should have worked it out sooner."
Silence followed as Jamie's jaw dropped, flopping back into the seat staring out at the bay.
"We called him Dyami…. But his name was changed to Mark for his protection."
For the next hour Ken talked about Mark's and adoptive mothers capture during the war, and the discovery of Jason when they finally found him.
"Marks the commander of G-force… the Eagle." He pieced it together. "Princess hangs out with him… she can't be… no way…"
"Not what we planned, but it's how it ended up. "Ken admitted.
"This is between us." His tone dropped lower, casting his son an Eagle eye.
"Yeah, I'm not telling." Jamie made the sign of a zip across his lips with his finger.
"Not your brothers and sister, no one." He made him promise. "We will talk to them eventually about me and your mom."
"I wanna talk to mom later, now it explains why she kicked butt in the alley a few months ago." His eyes lit up, in that moment he looked a like his mother, only more masculine as his facial features matured.
"Princess… she's the swan right." His paled. "My girlfriend..."
Ken agreed it would be a good idea to talk to her.
"This is serious. What you have worked out about Mark and Princess stays between us." He waited to make sure he direct eye contact." Keeping their identities secret is part of keeping the team safe from being captured and exploited by Spectra."
Jun was signalling it was time to go, the docks were on the other side of the bay, so they'd have to drive through the city to get there. Joe and Asha were meeting them there too since they were settling into his house.
"I know dad." He said seriously. "I'm not stupid, I won't betray either of them, he's my brother and she's my girlfriend, to have Spectra get their hands on her… No even under torture."
Pausing for a moment, he could see his son's mind ticking over. "Cool girlfriend, she's a hero."
"Good." Satisfied for now, they have to leave for the docks to meet Ryu and Jinpei.
Standing up together for the first time in ages Jamie was smiling broadly, like he didn't have a care in the world, he even had a spring in his stride.
"I've got cool parents, who knew." He laughed. "Can you teach me how to throw that birdrang?"
"Sure." Ken found his son's change in mood infectious. "I can teach you a lot more things than that, how about I start teaching you serious martial arts fighting?"
Jamie's illness had stopped him from learning fighting techniques, he was too weak most of the time, and now he would grow stronger.
"Yeah." Jamie said. "The things you were going to show me before I got sick. Now… skies the limit."
Jun was watching them from across the lawn at the park, smiling warmly, and waving. His love for her swelled his heart to bursting.
His relationship with eldest son was about to grow stronger. He made mental plans to find ways for them to spend more time together.
Clasping his shoulder, he stopped for a second embracing him in a fatherly hug. Taking Jamie completely by surprise by his outward show of affection.
Going a few shades of pink to red, the young teenager squirmed a little from embarrassment. From the corner of his eyes he saw Jun with her camera, taking photos of them, and then a few of the kids.
Re-joining them, he planted a kiss on her lips, joyful of the moment in time he'd never reclaim again.
"Seriously, mom, put the camera away." Jamie protested. Instead she ruffled his growing locks until he relented.
"You're beautiful." Ken whispered in her ear. "Take lots of photo's."
"Thank you." She blushed as the kids made faces at their parent's public display of affection.
"A family photo?" She insisted as he playful embraced her planting kisses on her neck. Wiggling out of his arms, and running to ask a stranger if she could please have one of them all together. The lady happily agreed as they lined up together.
A few minutes later, all posing together, a few happy snaps of the Washio's in the park, Jun slipped the camera into her jacket pocket. Finally, they were on their way to the docks, as they loaded the kids into the nine-seater family car.
"Traffic is crowded today." Jun frowned, as she turned back to address Timmy's crying.
"He's okay mom." Joey touched his brothers hand, Syrah threw a soft toy at him.
His cell phone rang, and he answered with the in-car speaker.
"Hi." It was Joe.
"We're about twenty cars behind you."
"Okay see there." Jun chimed in.
"Ahh… what the fuck is that?"
Jun was helping calm Timmy, leaning over the back from her seat.
"What, Joe the kids are in the car watch your language. "Scolding him, with Jamie and Syrah exchanging playful grins.
"Uncle Joe, we can handle it, seriously it's only a word." He called out, taking a playful swipe from her.
"Jun- he means ahead of us." Ken's urgent tone caught her attention. "There's more of them."
They'd been moving slowly towards their turn for the docks when things changed. People further down started to pour out of cars as a massive metal beast landed in the city.
Swallowing hard Ken's and Jun both leapt into action as the sounds of crunching cars and mass hysteria broke out around them. It was like an invasion dropped out of the skies.
Pulling the kids out of the car, Jun clutching Timmy in her arms. Syrah running with Jamie alongside of them.
"What? Ken looked around, Joey was gone, he'd run off down the street towards danger. The young boy was standing in the middle of chaos like a statue watching the beast coming towards him.
"I'll get him." Racing in the direction of his son against the crowd, Jamie following him, while Jun protected her other two children. Timmy was howling in fright, she drew a blanket over his head, covering him from the sounds debris.
Scooping Joey up as a mechanical foot almost came crashing down on top of him. The thing was enormous, bigger than anything Katse built, its attack was bent on destruction. Space ships dove between buildings firing on people, causing explosions as the battle raged on.
"Stay with your mother." Ken ordered him firmly. Grimacing as the beast turned down another street.
He was missing his birdstyle, and tools that would have enabled him to leap without effort into action.
"Dad." Joey pointed. A building was collapsing in front of them, followed by more. The city centre was crumbling into dust.
Jun vanished into clouds of heavy dust, screaming and panic. His last vision of her clutching Timmy tight drawing a blanket over his head protecting his delicate lungs from the dust clouds descending on them. Syrah clinging to her arm.
"Run." He ordered. Tugging his two sons and pushing them to move. Racing back to try and find the rest of his family.
"Jun." He shouted, dragging dust into his lungs, choking. Running along with Jamie and Joey, grit scratching his eyeballs.
People were like grey ghosts- the place had become a haunted city of lost souls. Choking on the debris they three of them stumbled through the streets trying to find a way towards the bay.
Ken turned to see his son racing towards the crowd of people as the mechanical beast carved its way through city centre of Utoland, crashing buildings and people like ants in its wake. More beasts landed, and the air force was flying into engage them. Shooting at the beasts.
"I have to call in the rangers. Get to my plane." He urged, pushing them down towards an ISO building. They were almost there when it exploded.
"Dad, we're blocked in." Jamie pointed to the streets ahead.
"The docks, your mother will go there. " It was his only option, he had to get his family out of danger. "I'll meet you there."
"No dad, don't leave." Joey cried, he was openly terrified.
"I have to stop that." Pointing towards the largest monster tearing up the city.
"Dad, look." Jamie pointed at something ahead of them. A Spectran transports were landing further down the street. A sea of soldiers turning guns onto people.
Without hesitation, Ken slipped his birdrang into his hand- Handing Jamie a gun, watching his son swallow hard at the prospect of using it in a real life situation. He'd had him at the firing range, he could hit a mark accurately.
"Stay close, no heroics." He ordered them. Engaging the group taking them down, they moved onto the next block running down the street.
Jamie's fingers trembled, but his aim proved true, he was able to push post his fears as they went into battle.
Searching the chaotic streets, taking down the Spectrans, he still couldn't see the rest of his family.
They'd been moved with the fleeing crowds further down the street, pulling out his cell phone, calling her—no answer, the line was dead. Useless, in that moment he longed for their communicators. The ones Anderson ordered them to hand over once they ceased to be the Science Ninja Team.
Open fire, and exchange of bullets and gunfire. Using the shipping containers for cover, they would have open ground once they cleared it. Dangerous if they ran into soldiers.
Swept up in the violence around them as they ran onto the open dry docks. Joey seeing the trawler waved to his uncles in the distance.
Scanning the area, no one was in sight, indicating they move in closer walking back to back surveying for potential threats.
"I'm out of ammo." Jamie checked the alien gun. Ditching the useless weapon in frustration.
"Go." Ken tilted his head sharply, indicating they follow him row by row.
Joey taking the queue ran, alongside Jamie. They moved down the next rows of shipping containers closer to Jinpei, who was keeping watch on the jetty. Seeing it was clear, Ken decided to move out into the open, crossing the gap towards the jetty.
"Dad." Joey shouted.
"Joey, duck." Jamie yelled. Sprinting after his brother.
Pivoting on his heels to see what was going on behind him. Spotting green soldiers from the other side the shipping containers.
"Stay with me." He called to Jamie, as Joey ended up in the line of fire.
The sounds of a volley of shots from a group of green clad soldier rounding a corner drew him to a grinding halt.
"No, Joey." Ken called after him, he was blind without his glasses, he didn't see the soldiers, focused on reaching Uncle Jinpei.
Jinpei called out to them, seeing the soldiers, he opened fire on them.
It all happened in slow motion. Jamie shielded his brother with his body, as more soldiers opened fire on his sons out in the open between the last shipping container and the jetty.
Extending his arm as he launched the birdrang into the air, its razer tips sparkled in the light, as spun through the air, in a deadly arc, taking out the soldiers.
They were safe to reach the trawler, or so he thought. A rain of bullets, the pitting sounds cutting the air.
"Dad." Jamie's voice was distant as he collapsed into a heap on the ground. Blood pooling from his chest and other wounds. The last time he's witnessed a moment like this was when Joe was shot up at Cross Karakorum.
"No." Ken screamed, launching his birdrang at the last soldier who opened fire on his son, taking him down with slicing motion across the man's exposed throat. The soldiers collapsed into a heap dead before he hit pavement.
Sliding down beside his son. Wild bright green eyes filled with fear searched the skies, staring past him.
"Joey." Jamie choked.
"I'm okay." Joey was beside him, open fear on his young face.
"Princess…" Trembling like it was a cold winters day, his teenage son was like a small child again. "I…dad…mom."
His young eyes glazed over. "Joey…is he okay? Princess…" Jamie kept saying her name.
Trying to stop the bleeding with his hands. Ken had never in his life wanted to change places so much. It should be me… why Jamie? He is gut twisted in anguish.
"Better than dying from cancer, didn't…. want to die that way." Jamie choked on the words, he looked frightened, and trying to be brave as he gripped his father's arm tight.
Lifting his weight into his arms, he desperately looked around for his wife, baby son and daughter. She wasn't there, did he lose them too in the battle? Was his wife and daughter, baby son lying shot to pieces on a street, the images in his mind crushed him.
"Jun." He cried out. "Jun, please." Be alive, he prayed. If he lost them, he would have nothing, seeing the rampaging metal T-Rex he'd die trying to save what was left taking it on single handed- he wouldn't live without them.
"I'm sorry…" Joey pleaded, tears streaking his dusty face. "Please live Jamie."
"Ken." Jun screamed. Seeing her running towards him, gripping Timmy close, covered in dust, the sounds of destruction ringing around them.
Running up beside him, panting from the polluted air.
"Jamie." Jun pleaded, seeing his wounds, she didn't hide her heartache.
"Mom." Jamie responded hearing them." Mom…Sis…"
"I have to stop it." Ken breathed hard. Feeling useless for the first time in his life. He was working on a plan, he had too. The shaking ground was like an earthquake, and the sounds of explosions and more buildings collapsing ear piecing. Screams of terror as people tried to escape.
She held onto him tighter. "We save our son, damn you Ken you're not running off… leaving us."
He shouted torn. "I have to, millions will die… Ryu take my son please get out of here."
He could hand him to Ryu, stop the madness around them. Find Joe, they could climb it, find a way inside they did so many times in the past.
Jun pleaded. "I love you Ken…. We're not giving up, on the city, our children Ken…please. They'll all die out here, Timmy's tiny lungs and the dust...it will kill him." Through desperate tears. "We need you too."
"I'll get you all on board the trawler, and I'm going back after it." Ken pushed cradling his wounded son as they jogged down the jetty.
Jamie was hanging on by a thread. He'd order Ryu to get across the bay, away from it, the ISO hospital was underground. They could make it there at full speed.
"Common, get in." Jinpei urged, helping him with Jamie, he didn't hide his grief at the sight of his nephew's wounds.
Jun's trembling fingers touched her son's hand, clutching it with hers. The sounds of the monster fading around him, as Utoland fell apart like it was a tiny model city centre under its feet. His strong sense of duty tugged him, ready to jump over the side, he felt Jamie's fingers tighten on his arm.
Closing his eyes tight for a second, torn by duty to millions, and his duty one… his son.
"Joe and Asha." Jun managed. Clutching Timmy close, clearing his nostrils. The exhausted baby stirring in her arms releasing a tired cry. She placed him in a safe spot on deck as she worked to help her eldest child.
Ryu started the engines. The sounds of gunfire stopped him, along with explosions.
Still holding onto Jamie, out on the back deck, he frantically scanned the dock for them. Time wasn't on their side. Joe would tell him to leave without him, and get his family to safety.
Emerging through the flames of the last explosion closer to the jetty. Joe and Asha finally arrived breathless from the mad dash they'd made taking out Spectran soldiers.
Both of them sprinted towards the trawler, leaping on board. Joe didn't need to ask what had happened, seeing Jamie lying on the desk with Ken holding him, covered in dust and blood.
Ryu gunned the engine, madly headed out into the bay at full speed. Huge plumes of smoke and flames polluted the once clear skies.
"Dad… they're here." Jamie's glassy green eyes were skyward. "G-force."
Forcing himself to look up into the blue expanse, humming engines of the red and blue warship, was gracing the skies and engaging the monster in battle in the city.
A white fighter jet launched out of the ship followed by other familiar vehicles. The G-machines launching into battle attacking it from all angles.
Forcing the steel creature to flee out of the city. The Swan racing on her transmuted motorcycle, leapt off the docks into water as it shifted into hover-mode. Skidding across the water not far from them, Jamie watched her, a hint of pride sweeping across his fading features.
She was completely focused on her job, as the Phoenix came in picking her up, swallowing her inside its metal belly. The whoosh of the air from its engines rocked them as the warship headed after its prey.
Across the bay a missile launched hitting the beast. They drove the mecha to mouth of the Utoland bay forcing it further out.
The Phoenix changed into a brilliant firebird golden flames licked the blue sky in its graceful arcs. Like a shining ball of sunlight its blinding flames sliced the mecha into pieces. Chucks dropping into the ocean sending a backwash of waves across the bay area, rocking the trawler in their wake.
Jamie's tone softened, watching the beautiful firebird. "Win this one for me brother, look after her."
Joe's hand rested on his shoulder, he was watching the battle unfold and likely thinking of Jason.
Drawing in his last breath. Ken felt his young chest rise and fall for the last time, crushing his soul. He, couldn't tear his eyes off the battle taking place before him, feeling Jamie losing his fight to live in his arms. His young soul left him, like the fading scorching streaks from the fiery Phoenix across the blue skies dissipated into the atmosphere.
He watched on as Mark bravely leaded his team into battle against odds he understood well.
Feeling Jun beside him, she'd tried to stop the bleeding with the medical bandages Jinpei gave her. Gently closing her son's eyelids with her long delicate fingers.
Torn to shreds, he'd never look into his jade green eyes, so much like his wife's again.
Resting her head against her son's chest, bitter sobs, and wet tears soaking into his shirt. Jamie's blood drenching her dark locks.
Jamie's siblings gathering around them. Syrah reaching out for her beloved brother, pulling at his fingers sobbing. Her young heart was breaking, with Joey beside her silently watching his brother trembling- and little Timmy not understanding what was happening around him as Jinpei picked him up, holding him tight.
Numb to his core, Ken couldn't move, it didn't feel real. How could he live without his children... and how could he keep them safe?
The world became fuzzy around him unfocused and lost, sounds became distant.
Harsh smells of dirty smoke from buildings burned his lungs. Ken didn't care, he wanted to change places with his son. He stood frozen, bearing the weight of the lifeless shell of Jamie, not wanting to let him go.
The only thing he saw clearly, was the open blue sky and the familiar warship, wisps of smoke for the firebird flames still hot on its outer shell, flying over them in victory it did a lap of the surroundings and then it headed back out to sea towards home.
Mark's hand shuddered as he hung onto his phone. The sounds of everything around him was wrong, how could Zarks reports be so wrong?
"I appreciate you letting me know. We'll be there." Maintaining a steady tone. The person on the other end fell painfully silent until she hung up. The buzzing tone of the deadline rang in his ear. Eventually he placed the phone onto the bench.
His mind reeling like a spinning top. His memories of that day was painfully clear. From the monitors on the Phoenix Utoland appeared to have minimal damage, after the battle.
Leading it out to sea was supposed to have saved lives. The warning system has reported differently from Jun's accounts of it. He was going to confront Chief Anderson over the glitch, he had to have answers for it.
At first it was about saving the planet, now it was closer to home. He was coming after Zoltar with exposed claws of a lion, and drawn sharp Saber teeth, he was going to sink them into him and drain out the Spectra's lifeblood to the last drop.
Moving throughout his shack, numb inside, it didn't feel real. Eventually Standing with hand supporting the wall in front of him, punching it until his fist went through it. He tried to breath, but he couldn't, the news was too much bear.
"Prin" He murmured. She mentioned calling her.
Pulling himself together, and grabbing his keys, he had to go and see her. She'd be shattered.
Throwing open the door, the cool spring air hit him more like an icy wave. The sounds of a motorbike tearing down the track halted him. Spinning on his heels he watched Princess racing at dangerous pace, almost coming off her bike as she pulled on the breaks.
Sliding sideways to a halt, she sat there with the motor running like she couldn't move. Emotionally she was a wreck, he'd have to be blind not to see it. Forcing his feet to move, he sprinted over to her.
She was shaking, tears streaking her face like she'd be riding in the rain.
Gently he peeled her fingers from the handles, and helped her off the bike. Killing the engine, collapsing into his open arms the swan sobbed soaking his shirt with her heartbroken tears. She couldn't speak. Prin didn't need too, in that moment he shared her raw grief as it raked his insides like a blade.
He could cry, tears sat waiting to fall, but he couldn't release them, if he broke down Mark didn't feel he would recover.
Eventually her sobs eased a little, weak, she clung to him. "Jamie…" she whispered. "He's gone… my Jamie."
"I know." His voice thickened. "Jun called me… I'm so sorry Princess."
"I want him back." She murmured. "I…it hurts…I can't…I…"
"I want him back too." He said wanting the pain to stop. "We'll go together… to say goodbye."
A week later he flew them into Utoland, it was a bright sunny day…. He walked alongside Ken, Jinpei, Joe and Ryu, and Jamie's best friend Ryan as pallbearers. A sea of black, and green lawns stretched out before them. The ruins of a once thriving city in the back ground, people had begun abandoning it for the outer planets.
Shouldering his brothers coffin, they walked slowly down the path towards his final resting in the family graveyard- the silver casket was lowered into the ground. Princess, Jun, and each of his devastated family threw a single white rose into the darkness…
It wasn't long afterwards Princess set up a secret channel on their communicators, so she could reach out to him during her sleepless nights, and darkest moments. Mark didn't mind, they were both close to Jamie, they could support each other.
He would fly them both to Utoland, without the Chief's permission if he had too, a move that tore him inside. The chief had put more stringent regulations on the team's movements, keeping them closer to home. He wasn't going to let Prin down or his brother.
Turning his face skyward, he searched for clouds, not one graced the open skies leaving a blank canvas ready for the artist, it was a perfect day for flying.
Over the next few days he would retrace the racing route he'd made with Jamie. The one where he flew above, Jamie rode his motorbike. He'd follow the whole trail to the rules they agreed on.
Ten meters off the ground, in his mind there was a ghost rider on the trail, leaping over hills, racing full pace down the slopes kicking up dust and glancing over his shoulder.
The race was tense, closing in him at times, to lose him on a difficult stretch over a steep hill and around tight valleys.
Eventually they would arrive back at the airfield. The ghost rider would tear down the runway, towards Princess holding up the flag, as her hand swooped down to declare the winner….
They would finish the race together as true brothers.
The ghost rider Jamie Washio, would hold out his hand to his lady- sweeping her onto the bike behind him, her arms wrapped around him, and her face buried into the nap of his neck, greenish hair flying in the wind. They'd ride down the rest of the runway, together with him flying over in a victory lap they all shared in.
They would finish the race with a tie, the same seconds and times…. The ghost rider would stop turning is seat and kiss her goodbye. Princess gently stepped off the back of the motorbike, her fingers slipping from his, as he rode off fading like a dream into the darkness of dusk never to be seen again.