"What was that?" Joe stepped back from the screen like he could feel the object touch him as it zoomed past his ship. Of course it was just a natural reaction to danger in an unknown hostile environment that he'd become accustomed to over the past few years.
Deep space could be unpredictable at times from asteroid field's hot flares from suns travelling through space. He'd witnessed many beautiful yet deadly things he couldn't wait to tell Jason about. A stray asteroid could wipe out your ship with only seconds to act...A run in with an alien ship...he has so much to tell him.
A few Federation ships had ended their exhibitions to the outer planets with a collision with asteroids in the time he'd been in command of his own starship the "Endeavour." So far they had the best reputation in the fleet for success in their assignments, and Joe intended to leave it that way when he headed for Earth after they reached their home base on the small planet of Cypher.
I'm just a bit to edgy these days, He thought scolding himself for his reaction, I promised Jason I'd be home in two years...now its extended from two years to four he must think I'm never coming back. With communications being difficult to Earth from his posting, he'd had very little contact with his son. I just want to see him again so badly...and this time I'm not signing any more contracts, he thought wildly- Quickly walking back to stand in front of the screen to see where it went and if there were any more out there in pitch black void of space.
"I'm not sure Commander...it moved incredibly fast..." Asha said studying her radar. "I think we captured an image of it."
Asha, a woman a few years younger than him and a new member to his team having only been on his ship for just over a year, had proven herself to be valuable, and brave at times when exploring new planets for possible settlements. Her level headed manner and intelligence made her a far better second than the one who had been assigned to him.
"You think or are you certain?" Joe asked seriously looking at the back of her head as she punched buttons in front of her. He liked certainty from his crew not wishy washy maybes. And Asha should have known better.
Over the past year Joe had found himself falling for her. That made him even more cautious on how he addressed her these days since he knew his feeling for her went deeper than physical attraction.
Is this the agony Ken went through during the first war with Galactor and then the second war too? Trying not to show Jun anything of how he really felt because of his position of Commander and finding himself drawn to her at the same time.
Joe almost smiled at the memories of how dense Ken could act sometimes when it came to Jun in those days and her obvious affects for him. His denial went so deep Ken almost missed his opportunity when the first war ended to pursue someone else from a habit he'd formed over time to ignore her.
"Its right here sir." Asha said studying the image before her while working to bring it in sharper. Joe walked over and leaned over her shoulder to see the image better on her screen.
The light scent of her long straight black hair that fell to her waist was distracting. So he moved away slightly so he could focus more on the image and less on her.
"What?" His evident surprise provoked a curious frown from her. "It can't be... those ships are redundant these days."
"Can't be what Commander Asakura?" Asha's confused rich brown eyes framed by long ebony lashes bore into his. Her flawless creamy pale golden skin invited him to caress her cheek with his hand, in last few months being close to her for too long had caused him physical pain. It had become harder to resist her. But Joe had a strong will and focusing on the job at hand was one of his main strengths.
Joe knew how to be professional in his job, no matter how attracted to her he felt he couldn't act on it, it could ruin the dynamic of the team, lose focus on doing his job... Damn it I sound just like Ken with that kinda thinking. Joe reprimanded himself again, and stared back at an object that had a familiar shape.
"A Devilstar ship...its looks like a something from the first war with Galactor...See those five points that look like a star, the dome..." Joe quickly explained to her, even the very blurry picture brought back memories of seeing the assassins ships on bases and being attacked when he was once a member of the elite Science Ninja Team.
"I heard Devilstars were assassins from the first war with Galactor on Earth...I hear you fought in that war." Asha asked casually while working to get the image clearer so Joe could clarify his theory. The image stayed blurred despite her attempts.
"I was in the army...demolitions team- you know fired lots of missiles at mechas that didn't work. The Science Ninja Team always came to the rescue...and they succeeded...god rest their souls." Joe's lips twigged at the corners threatening to turn into a knowing smile- no one knew he was once the Condor of the team. He figured it was easier the leave it that way since everyone thought the team perished on their last mission. If he did tell the truth it was highly unlikely anyone would believe him, and it suited him for it stay that way.
In outer space he had become known for his precise and often single minded form of command and on the merits of being Joe Asakura rather than the reputation of the impulsive Condor.
He needed someone like Asha on his command team- she had a way of drawing his focus to things that were important on the mission rather than Joe's need to go head long into danger just to get the job done. Pity she wasn't made his second in command, Bolivar, the young officer who is his second in command often made her life harder because of he felt their connection as a team and saw how well she worked with him. And Joe listened to her more than he listened to Bolivar's advice that made him jealous and insecure of his position on the ship. The man wasn't good at making decisions, and Joe felt respect was earned not given because of a rank. Joe couldn't understand how he got the promotion in the first place.
"It moved so fast we were lucky to get anything. And it looks like this is as clear as its gong to get." She sounded more annoyed than anything. "Has anyone else reported seeing one of these objects?"
"No. Just the odd Spectran warship, but that's nothing new, they like to check up on us occasionally." Curtis called out from the other side of the ship. "And nothing has come in through communications...I'll send out a signal to the fleet sir, that way we can clarify of any recent activity."
"Go ahead, and send a copy of this to the base." Joe ordered, walking back to sit in his command chair. "You know it could have been following us just outside of radar range..."Shutting of his rush of feelings from being close to Asha Joe focused on bringing the ship ‘home' intact, and praying that nothing out of the ordinary happened to hinder his departure from the base once they arrived there.
His gut instinct told this was something to worry about, something not to be ignored. Could he leave it as someone else's problem and just go home? The internal conflict forced him to his feet and he began to pace impatiently. Fatigue had set in hours ago, and he'd been running on adrenalin for the last hour. He was used it from the long missions with the Science Ninja Team.
"What's up boss?" Bolivar smirked. His young polish second in command had come to know Joe's moods very well over the past three years leaned back in his seat lacing his fingers and waited patiently for Joe to respond to his question.
"Just phantoms and strange star shaped objects." Joe muttered Bolivar could be a better second in command if he took his job more seriously, sometimes he reminded Joe of Jinpei some days, and he spent the first year trying not to punch him because he could grate on Joe's nerves immensely. "I'm going to my quarters, if something else show's up notify me straight away."
"Sure thing Commander. I hope this trip proves to be uneventful for the next few hours back to base." Bolivar shook his head and returned to his station, speaking Joe's thoughts as he left the bridge to get some sleep before they entered planet Cypher's atmosphere. Joe figured he would be promoted when he left to Commander, but secretly he hoped not. Bolivar wasn't ready for it. Asha on the other had had the respect of the rest of the crew and they listened to her more than they listened to Bolivar. Hopeful if she was promoted too she could keep the ship and crew intact at least.
The crew were due for a rest, and some of the crew on sleep duty would be up soon to replace them. He figured it was time he got some rest so he was fresh to report to high command at the end of the mission.
After getting into the elevator to go to his quarters Joe couldn't get the thought of Asha and longing to touch her out of his mind. He had to forget about her, she had a contract to stay in space for another year at least and he was leaving go home to Earth it just couldn't work. Yet he wanted to kiss just once...Damn it. Why? He argued with his conscious. How many times did you tell Ken off for being like this stand offish and ignoring someone who was worthy of him?
A hell of a lot. He responded to his own internal argument.
And now you find yourself doing the same things and ignoring her, even though you've seen the look in her eyes that tells you she's attracted to you too. He could feel the chemistry between them from across the bridge on a daily basis. It was like torture to his soul to ignore her. The last time he felt like this was with Jun, but he realized her heart was elsewhere, it made it easier for him to compress his emotions knowing she loved Ken. When he looked at her picture now he only felt a brotherly fondness for someone he shared a special connection with.
Joe walked out of the lift and down the hall, a few seconds later he walked into his room stopping long enough to yank off his black leather boots and rub his toes to bring back the circulation into them. Loosening the collar of his black Commanders uniform he sighed with relief to be finally taking a break. Sinking down onto his bed onto the cool inviting sheets he began to drift off to sleep. A knock at the door brought him out of his relaxed state. Annoyed at being disturbed but knowing he just gave an order to be notified of anything unusual he pressed the button next to his bed to open the door and let the messenger in.
"Commander Asakura." A familiar feminine voice greeted him formally.
"Asha, what's up?" He asked a bit too abruptly.
"You sir...is what's up." Asha stood a respectful distance from him but she didn't waste anytime getting to the point, it was another thing that attracted him to her. Joe hadn't moved from his bed, turning his gaze onto his subordinate he questioned her with his eyes. "I don't know what your referring to Asha...does the crew have a problem with my command that needs addressing?"
"You know damn well what I'm talking about." Asha rebuked, her steady gaze challenging him in a way that made her even more attractive to him.
"Enlighten me." Joe narrowed his eyes and put his hands behind his head.
Asha didn't utter another word- she just stood there staring at him. Like she wanted to say something but didn't dare too, and finally she found some angry words to throw at him. "Stubborn mule, you stare at me like you want me, and then deny it in private. I came here because of how you looked at me on the bridge a few moments ago...you know I don't need a Commander who flirts with me...it so unprofessional. Is it because I'm Indian? You'd rather a sweet Italian girl who'll fall at your feet... Well it won't be me. I know what happens to female subordinates under some commands in this federation. I won't lose a promotion because I didn't sleep with you."
She's got guts and spirit, I like it. Joe though, his heart began to race. And she's right, he mused, that's why he hesitated when it came to his feelings for her.
He'd heard about Commander Saban on Riga and how he manipulated several female officers to sleep with him with the threat of being sent remote bases if they didn't comply and told it would be worse for them if they spoke out about it and that was just the start of his crimes. The man was stripped of his rank and ended up in a Federation prison a year ago, but it left its scar across the federation command when it came to relationships.
Slowly Joe sat up- lifting his tired legs over the edge of the bed he stood up and walked over to pour himself a soda from his bar fridge. The mixture of her oxford English accent with a hint of her native country India only made her more charming to him. Joe loved listening to her talk.
"I won't take advantage of you Asha...I'm going home when we reach the base, and a recommendation for you promotion based on performance during the mission is already sent in ahead to command central. So you have no fear of me taking advantage of you." He reassured her. "And if I find you attractive then that's my problem not yours." Good that's something Ken wouldn't have done! Joe felt like doing a little victory dance.
Looking at the picture of Ken and Jun with their two year old son and new baby daughter, Jun looked radiant in the picture, and so did Ken.
Then there was Jason...the last picture his foster family sent to him he was five years old...he was missing out on so much of his childhood... his reason for leaving his command.
"So you sincerely find me attractive...sir." Asha sounded cautious, walking over to stand closer to him.
"As I said- my problem...not yours. I think its time for you to get some rest." Joe felt his heart begin to pound faster when she put a hand on his arm. He wanted to tell her let go, but at the same time he didn't.
"I feel it too...I just needed to know...that...that." She stuttered. Joe knew she was putting herself on the line here by admitting her feelings for him openly.
She let go and turned abruptly to leave, taking his lack of response and a rejection of her affections.
Without thinking Joe reached out his hand and grabbed her arm stopping her from leaving. Gently he turned her to face him, circling his arms around her tiny waist and before he knew it he was kissing her. Her lips tasted like sweet cherries Joe couldn't get enough of her. The kiss grew deeper and more urgent. Running his fingers through her silky ebony hair he allowed the barriers standing between them to breakdown until nothing remained to stop him from taking her to his bed.
Except one thing...
One thing did still stand in his way. Causing him to pull away from her abruptly he drew in a deep breath to pull himself down from the natural high of euphoria that kissing Asha had taken him too.
"Asha...I can't...I can't do this to you." Joe felt his frustration screaming to be released. "If we're found out even once it could mean a court martial for both of us." He had to stop it before it went too far.
Jason was the result of his compulsiveness. He didn't regret him being born, but he didn't want to place another woman in that position. And his reason for being more cautious that he had been when he was on the Science Ninja Team.
"Too late Commander...You had me the first time I saw you three years ago when the ship docked into the last base I was assigned to. Something about you told me you're special. I wanted to be part of your team from that moment...even if it was just to see you everyday and never be with you like this. " Asha didn't let go of him, instead she circled her arms around his neck, gently she pulled his face down onto hers rubbing noses and enjoying each others touch. He could feel the light moisture of her breath on his skin sending wonderful sensations down his spine. She felt so fragile in his arms, even though she wasn't, her five foot three height made him tower over her. He wanted to protect her, the feeling was overwhelming. He wanted her so much...
"We have 2 hours...until we reach base, and then you're gone." Asha whispered. That was enough for Joe, without any more hesitation they began stripping off their uniforms and together they fell onto his bed entwined in a lovers embrace...