The quiet was eerily, the stillness only broken by the sound of distant thunder and the occasional flash of lightning. The thunder storm had gone on for the better part of the night.
It was getting very late but Jun wasn't sure of the time. The only thing she knew was that she'd closed the Snack J about an hour ago because of the lack of business.
The storm outside had kept most people away, and the last group had left long before she even decided to lock the doors.
Jinpei had gone to Ryu's for the night, and Joe was off on a hot date with a blonde that he met at the race track.
Then there was Ken...
Jun heaved a sigh, the misery she felt earlier that day came back for a moment at the memory.
At a routine training session that morning she over heard him say to Joe something about going to Claudia's house tonight...her heart dropped to the floor, who is Claudia is?? She thought, trying to hide the hurt that was threatening to show on the surface. So Ken has a girlfriend.
That explains a few things as to why he ignores her most of the time, especially in the past year since Joe came back, but then there was a time... It was all so confusing- she shook her head in frustration and tried to banish the thoughts once and for all.
She as she poured herself a glass of red wine, switched off the lights and sat at the bar. The only light now was coming in from the softy lit street lamps, and the occasional flashes of lightning of on the distance. Then the rain had come back heavy again and the thunder drew closer.
There was something relaxing about the storm. She though, taking another sip of her wine she looked over at her favourite booth in the corner of the snack. Her imagination pictured how she liked to spend the late evenings after closing at the Snack J.
Between the first and second war he had often dropped in at closing time and they had shared a bottle of wine together.
They just talked about old times, what they had done that day and sometimes briefly Joe came into the conversation.
She found herself smiling at the memories.
Nothing beyond friendship happened between them during that time. Even when she invited him to stay and sleep on the couch because it was so late at night, Jun had hoped something would, but it never did.
Jun knew at the time he was hurting and was still blaming himself for Joe's death.
In those conversations Ken also told her that he was convinced that the war was not really over, it was just the calm before the next storm and he had to be ready for it.
The war did come again and they found Joe, she was so relieved to know that he was alive. But she also sensed that something was not right with him, so she had put some focus on finding out what had happened to him.
He kept it to himself for so long, she had always thought of Joe as a brother, even when they became close in the days after he came back to them. She sensed he felt more but could not give to him what she felt with Ken- with Ken she had a definite connection with on a deeper level, a soul mate.
Finally after another 18 months of war Gel Sadra was dead, Galactor disbanded, and peace was upon them once more.
Jun just hoped this was not another lull before the next storm.
Jun took another sip of her wine- it tasted like plum and spiced fruit with a peppery mint finish. She smiled contently to herself looking at the subdue lights of the street.
Then her face fell to looking at the smooth surface of the bar, and she felt her heart sink as she thought about Ken, and tears were stinging her eyes. For a few moments she analised her ‘relationship' with him.
He was never interested in her beyond friendship was he?
Jun blinked back the tears. "I'll shed no more tears over you!" She declared out loud as she looked at the storm outside with defiance, like the lightning had something to say on her current thoughts.
It was only a few weeks until she turned 21- this brought a new line of thinking. Maybe her crush on Ken had become a habit from the time she was 16 and first noticing men, after all he is very good looking, but is he a fantasy and an unrealistic one? She sat up a little on her seat as she thought about this some more. Determination entered her as she pressed her lips together in thought and her resolve deepened.
Ken was not the only handsome male in the universe and definitely not the only available one. It was time to broaden her horizons she was sure she could meet and connect with someone else.
Jun wanted to find a man who would be willing to fight for her, and treat her in the way she had always wanted to be treated. The kind of man who would love her and pursue her, not the other way around like it was with Ken
She needed a real man not a boy.
She had to start thinking of her own dreams. Her dream had always been to have her own family, to be loved by one man. She began to think more on this subject, and came to a few conclusions!
Well maybe she to get what she wanted she needed to change a few things. With the war over Nambu didn't seem to mind them not wearing the uniform all the time.
Not that Jun had many clothes to start with, and they were getting dated.
But were to start??
Jun hadn't exactly had a mother to teach her these things, and for most of her life she had been training for the Science Ninja Team. Dr Pandora was no help in that area either.
Deep inside of her, she really loved anything girly, but to be a ninja seemed to stop all that. She began to examine the facts again in her mind; her long hair and feminine curves were the only things that she seemed to have to stand out from the boys. They didn't seem to notice anything else about her.
Then a brilliant idea suddenly came into her mind! She poured herself another glass of red wine and headed upstairs to her bedroom. She went straight to her wardrobe with her glass of wine in her hand she surveyed the contents critically.
Three mini skirts, four skimpy tops, a pair of long black boots, a jacket, a spare pair of jeans and few T-shirts. Great for clubbing and men who would look at her in a lustfully when she walked passed them.
No,no,no, it just wouldn't do!
Not if she wanted a serious relationship not a casual fling (not that she really had anything in the way of relationships anyway, after the killer flowers she was hesitant to go with a man for fear of what he would want from her. Koji was the last boyfriend and she'd had and she was so young at the time....sex intimidating to her at 14 years old...)
No, Jun needed some real guidance to attract the type of man she wanted.
The commitment type of guy...
So she switched on her laptop and logged into a search engine typed in the word "stylist" and hit search.
After looking at a few sites she found one that she thought would suit her. Jun glanced at the mirror, she had good self esteem and self confidence, and good features and she kept in top condition, so she did not feel it necessary to become someone else to attract a man, why Ken never seemed to notice was beyond her. She looked back at the screen, some of the make over's she saw looked soooo fake.
Then she found the one person who she knew could help her, a lady who seemed to work on "Enhancing you natural beauty to suit your personality" Peta Miller looked just like the person who could help her out.
After all you don't call in an amateur to diffuse a bomb!
Jun seriously needed an expert in fashion and looks. She jotted down the local phone number and decided she would call her in the morning and make an appointment. Satisfied and suddenly feeling very tired Jun went to bed.
It felt like a long day for Ken.
Training had been hard but he still needed to do it even though the enemy had been defeated for now. The traffic had been horrendous because of the storm, making him late for dinner at Claudia's house, and Claudia had hated tardiness for as long as he could remember since the academy.
"Be late for a class at the academy and meet my wrath," was her saying.
Claudia was about 50 years old, with 2 grown children of her own and 2 foster children, Ben who was 10 and Kim was 7.
He ran into them at a recent air show and she invited him over for dinner to catch up. The air show was great, he was working there that day for some extra cash so when he ran into Claudia.
Claudia was one of his favourite teachers- he was excited at an invitation to dinner. At the academy she had taught him a great deal in mathematical manoeuvres.
He looked at his watch 7.15pm, the scheduled time was 7pm he was late.
Ken let out a long breath and got out of his car and headed for the door.
He could hear Ben and Kim fighting about something as he made his way to the door and it bought a small smile to his face.
An image of Jun's sweet face flashed into his mind...
Ken had always wondered what normal family life would be like. Deep down inside he wanted to experience it for himself. He sort at times her company, the comfort of her companionship made him feel complete as a person.
But hesitated to take what he felt for her further than friendship. Maybe one day....
"Mum I think Ken's here, the front porch light has come on." Kim's voice came from the other side of the door and he saw Bens face at the window. "Well... let him in." Claudia's muffed voice came from somewhere inside.
"Hi Ken, you're late for dinner. but it's O.K cause she's just serving it out now." Ben reassured him.
The mighty Gatchaman still trembled a bit at the thought of the wrath of Dr Claudia Wright. He stepped into the dining room and Claudia gave him a big friendly smile- taking him a little of guard.
"Relax Ken I know the traffic would have been bad, and your not that late. I hope you like roast lamb." She casually reassured him.
"You're getting soft Claudia... I remember a time when you would shoot down a pilot with a look for being late. I love roast lamb." Ken finished with a broad smile- and a twinkle in his eye.
Kim and Ben bought out the rest of the meal to the table, and Ben insisted that Ken sit next to him.
The talk at the table consisted mainly of what the children had been up to that day. Claudia had taken them to the Zoo that so Ken heard all about the sites they had seen. Ben was very impressed by the Australian Wedged Tail Eagle.
‘It was huge you should have seen its wing span at least 2.5mtrs, I bet it even gives Gatchaman some competition"
Ken chuckled at the comparison, even as Ben demonstrated with his arms the wing span. "Well Ben if you run into him some time maybe you could ask if his wing span matches that Eagles" He winked at Ben.
The meal was finished and they all headed to the kitchen to clean up the dishes. After about 15 minutes Ben asked if he could go play with the Xbox there was some new game that Claudia had picked up for them. Ben was closely followed by Kim who pointed out it could be two person game would be much more exciting.
"Ken, do you wanna play?" Ben offered, his eyes lit up for a moment.
"Maybe next time..." Ken responded, he could tell straight away that the young boy was disappointed.
"O.k, next time, sounds good to me." Ben brightened a little and ran after his sister.
Claudia put on the Kettle, and she set about making a pot of tea. The sounds of distant thunder momentarily catching Ken's attention away from were he was. Claudia's questions bought him back again to the kitchen he was sitting in. "So, how have you been over the past few years Ken," she glanced at his for a moment before adding. "Is there someone special in your life?"
Now that got him thinking and he looked at the table and couldn't stop the smile that came to his face. Someone special yeah, she was special, he thought.
"From your reaction Ken I believe there is." Claudia bought the tea pot to the small kitchen table and sat down and waited for Ken to talk.
"You could say that Claudia, I've known her for a long time... But well, we have only ever been close friends and work colleagues. Nothing is about to change there anytime soon."
Claudia raised an inquisitive eyebrow, so he continued- he needed to talk to someone about it.
Still. He hesitated for a moment before going on, and looked up at her. "The timing to start something has never been right, and I'm not sure if she see's me as anything more than a brother these days anyway." He'd exposed far more than he had intended to at that single moment. Why he didn't know, just need to get it out, he thought.
"Ken I know you've always struggled with emotions. I saw it at the academy, but it was expected of you for some reason. Keep too maintain an even strength and discipline, and keep out distractions. It's the life of a pilot, but I never thought it was entirely a natural thing for you. Unlike other pilots you never really dated girls in your spare time- you had a few people thinking you were gay." That's Claudia for you, always straight to the point.
" Well I'm not gay Claudia, just had a lot going on then." Ken defended himself.
Claudia looked at him closely, "there are changes in Ken I see them." She held the steaming cup of tea to her lips. "What ever happened to the very young boy who was sent specially by Dr Nambu of the ISO to be trained as a pilot?" She shook her head like she disapproved of something." You were far too young, most fighter pilots don't start training till much later teens but you were only 13 years old."
Ken knew what she really meant.
He was a serious boy, as a child he had an under lying sensitive nature to him that he kept hidden very well from those around him. It was like he had learned to wear a mask at a young age for self preservation. His mother had died two years before and she wondered if it was to hide the pain of her loss.
Ken had become driven to be to become the best. He dedicated all his spare time to training hard in martial arts and gymnastics in his spare time.
"Ken you're a born leader. I saw it in you when you first started to learn to fly a plane." She said softly. "I had a feeling that you were likely to be a part of a project that Dr Nambu was working on." He looked at her warily, but she dropped the topic, instead she offered him another cup of tea.
Claudia knew better than to question him about it. It was top secret and that was a taboo subject for anyone not involved.
"So tell me more about this girl, are you planning on finding out if she's interested in more than friendship?" She was asking those questions again, at least it wasn't about sensitive areas like Dr.Nambu's projects.
"Claudia it's one of those things that I'm not sure how to go about. "He looked a little frustrated with the topic" If I turn up with flowers one day she may just laugh and apologize for giving me the wrong idea. At one time I didn't want anything that resembled commitment. Now ...."He hesitated again."Now I'm not sure, life has to be more than flying fighter jets and..." Saving the world, there had to be something he was willing to fight for himself he thought.
They talked for a while longer, and then Ken took his leave to go home. It was getting late and Claudia had to get the children of to bed. They agreed to catch up sometime soon.
It had started raining again so Ken decided to make a run for the car.
A little water wouldn't hurt him. His thick chocolate brown hair was soaked when he jumped in the car and turned over the engine, he quickly turned on the heaters to dry out. He sat there and contemplated for a moment if he would drive over to the Snack J, but Jun probably would have closed early on a night like this he reason for a few minutes. He smiled warmly to himself as she came to his mind, and headed in the direction of the J she might still be up he hoped.
Kens thoughts went over events that had happened in the passed few years.
The war had started again, and his best friend and brother, Joe came back to them.
Ken remembered the conversation he'd had with Joe regarding Jun after his return over a few beers at his airstrip. "What do you mean you never acted on getting together with Jun? I told you that day at the Galactor base. She's had it bad for you for years Ken." He shook his head in disbelief."Buddy you can't keep a girl waiting forever or you'll miss the boat. She's like a sister to me so, before you ask me no. I don't have anything going on with her. She was concerned that I was keeping secrets from all of you and she worked hard at getting it out of me but that's it. You ignoring her Ken is going come back to slap you in the face one day hard." Joe took a swig of his imported James Squire beer and shook his head in frustration and disgust.
Joe always had a knack of hitting his sore spots.
Ken had lots of chances to have relationships with women, but duty always came first. How could he focus on a romancing a girl and saving planet earth from Galactor all at the same time!
Still those quiet conversations over a glass of wine with Jun always left him feeling like he was at home. Gentle green eyes and a warm smile had a way of seeing through him. She had often invited him to stay when it got late and they'd often lost track of time and he had taken her up on it. He'd lay on the couch half hoping she'd come out of her room, at times he stood at her bedroom door in the early hours of the morning craving her company, wanting just to hold her.
Those were lost moments, and thoughts that entered his mind when he could not sleep at night.
Keep the team tight, maintain discipline. The drive of his mentors!
To be a ninja Dr Nambu had told him once he had to control his every emotion; from the time his mother had died he had taught him that.
Love was an emotion that clouded your thinking; do not get involved with a woman.
His mother's teaching was different. She had told him once, as a boy when she held him in her lap she told him that love, family and freedom were the only things worth fighting for.
Keep a soft heart and tough skin.
She hoped he would give his heart one day and experience that kind of deep love she had had with his father. Jun sometimes reminded him of her softer nature.
Right now all he wanted was to see Jun, that same wanting feeling was driving him to her home...