Comments on Reviews!
An extra Thank You and Hugs to all who take the time to share their reactions to the ride as they read this tale!
bluebaby1219: Ha! Well here it is! Took a little mini vacation last weekend so this one was a bit delayed.
JustLucky05: Thanks, was a challenge to come up with a different kind of backstory for our favorite captain that would explain his overprotective ways that is not the norm.
RossoDiSera: Glad you enjoyed it, there will be more of these backwards viewing chapters to set the stage for the meeting of the teams yet to come as well as flashback backstories for Coran, Nanny and everyone's favorite blue prince :D
Agreed on the less is more for some things. To me a reader's imagination can be far more graphic than my words could ever be. I try and set the scene and let the reader fill in the details with their own imaginations. It means everyone will see it slightly different but I kind of like that, facilitating the story but also letting the readers fill in the blanks to their truth. (also goes for the smex stuff too.)
Ohh, I've never watched Criminal Minds. I'll have to add that to my Netflix, sounds like something I would love. (I like tall dark and brooding too, heh.) Yes it's exactly that, instead of becoming his past he wants to save the worlds from it.
MamaBirdCat: Poor Lance, does he deserve all he gets? Maybe, maybe not. But it sure is fun to torture the poor boy. And yep, I think Romelle will be in for a big surprise when she figures out what is going on with Allura… that is if she does. ;)
Julie Horwitz: Hi welcome to the madness that is my mind! Coran is indeed a very fun character to explore. We only got brief glimpses into who he was beyond Allura's guardian in the show leaving so many blanks to play with. As for Nanny she too has a story to tell that will explain her peculiar reaction to the spell, but as of the moment she is not in much of a position to tell it. Maybe Lance will be able to get it out of her or maybe he should run, run, run like the wind! As for Keith and Allura, well the spell is effecting them but there is indeed more at work than that pulling them together.
Bknbu: Ack! I should have put a Kleenex warning on that one I guess! Aww shucks, gosh gee, thank you soooo much.
Umm, fair warning. If you think that was bad there is someone who has a far worst 'daddy of the year' tale to yet tell but it won't be for a few chapters yet.
AHLondon: Ha! Glad I could through a twist in there that could surprise you! :D Still a few more twists and turns to come. This plot is a pretzel!
Notes on this chapter: Pre apologies for the very similar last names of two of the families in this tale. I wanted to stay close to canon with names, hope it doesn't cause too much confusion.
A Chance Meeting
"Ughhhh, I hate space jumps." Jeff groaned as he sat in a booth slumped over its table in the lounge and rubbed his temples.
Kirk looked across to him with sympathy. "Just give it a few more hours, your body will get used to it."
"Easy for you to say, your race doesn't have to deal with…" The sound of wreching across the room made Jeff slap his hand to his mouth to fight off the urge to do the same.
"Why don't you just go sleep it off?" Krik offered.
Jeff shook his head. "Can't sleep, too much on my mind."
"Ahh." Krik nodded, not willing to pry into why. He did not want to know what was rattling around in Jeff's head at the possibilities of the upcoming reunion with their old classmates. He looked over to see Cliff approaching with two glasses in his hands, his usual pallor a bit off, blond hair in uncharacteristic disarray and his uniform slightly unzipped so it was hanging open loosely at his neck.
Cliff slid into the booth next to Krik. "Here." He slid over one of the glasses of olive green liquid to Jeff.
"What is it?" Jeff's eyes crossed focusing onto the putrid looking beverage.
"Supposed to be an old space sickness cure. Sammy swears by it."
Jeff lifted his head enough to smell it, its smell more appalling than its appearance. "Oh hell no."
"Well can't be worse than feeling like this." Cliff reached up, pinched his nose then slammed his glass back, swallowing it down fast so he wouldn't have to taste it.
Both Krik and Jeff watched Cliff curiously. After a few moments Krik asked. "Well?"
Cliff sat up a bit straighter then cocked his head to one side, a slight smiled growing on his lips. "Not, bad… not bad at…" His hand flung to his mouth and he bent over grabbing one of the many strategically placed waste baskets that had been set out all over the ship as his body heaved up his stomach's contents.
His own hand clamped over his mouth, Jeff averted his eyes and grabbed his glass, pouring it into a nearby planter.
Krik let out a chuckle. "No wonder the plants in here are so green."
Jeff wrinkled his nose at him then looked to Cliff. "Any other bright ideas, hotshot?"
Cliff slowly sat upright wiping his mouth dry with a napkin. "I could punch you out."
Jeff shook his head. "You mean you could try."
Cliff set the napkin down. "Is that a challenge, flyboy?"
Jeff leaned forward. "Is that a threat, blondie?"
Cliff matched him. "If you want it to be."
Krik rolled his eyes at the pair. "Come on guys, you know one of the side effects of space sickness is…" He saw the two leaning in even closer to one another. "…irrational…"
Jeff reached across grabbing at Cliff's collar and the two men stood up with such force that if the table had not been bolted down it would have been upended.
Krik threw up his hands knowing full well not to get in the middle of any off Jeff's fights. "…..ughh never mind. Have at it."
The two men were soon tumbling out of the booth and onto the floor exchanging blows with one another, but the whole display was more like a slow motion comedy routine as neither's vision was able to focus enough to land a fist on target nor did either have the balance to counter the momentum of their swings. All Krik could do was sit back and try not to laugh too loudly. "Humans." He chuckled.
Eventually the two exhausted themselves both laying flat, one looking up the other faced down. "Has the ceiling always been that color?" Cliff asked.
"Ceiling?" Jeff's voice was muffled. "What ceiling?"
To Krik's relief Tangor walked into the lounge and he waved him over. "Help me get these idiots to bed would you?"
Tangor shook his head at the pair. "I'll take care of this one if you can get Jeff."
Krik nodded and each man lifted a captain off of the floor hauling an arm over their shoulders and walked the two barely conscious men to their rooms. Krik keyed open Jeff's door and drug him through it to his bunk where he let him fall into it.
"Now doesn't this bring back memories." Krik's mind flashed back to similarly poring many a cadet into their bed after nights of binging, a victim of his own genetic makeup making him the designated captain of the drunk cadet clean up task force. He shook his head then reached down to at least pull off the man's boots.
He then looked around the room finding a blanket in one of the side cubbies and reached to grab it but something else stuffed in there caught his eye. He reached in and pulled out a framed photograph to look at it and smiled. An academy awards ceremony. He ran a finger along all those young faces of the class as they stood at attention, some of them became great friends, some growing closer over the last five years, yet others he thought never to see again.
He sought their faces out, the five that were mysteriously cut from the program… little Pidge the kid genius trying to stand as tall as his brother… big kid and mechanical marvel Hunk at Pidge's other side making Pidge look all the smaller… ace pilot Lance who could fly any ship they put him in whether trained in it or not… Sven, best navigator in the tech program, even outscored Sparks… and Keith… Krik let out a sigh at the image of his old roommate, the one who everyone believed was going to be their chief captain. It had confused them all one morning when the final chosen fifteen were called to the flight deck for the first real test flight and those five were not in their ranks and when they got back no longer on base, no word, no notes, no nothing, and their superiors acting as if nothing had changed. Well all but one. He remembered how pissed the normally cool Commander Hawkins seemed to be, five of his aces pulled from the program.
It wasn't odd for cadets to vanish, many had cracked under training. There were well over 200 of them when they first started, the best and the brightest the various arms of Garrison and Alliance schools could offer as well as those few recruited from other places. But it was always pretty obvious why they were removed. But those five were a mystery. There only clue that something odd was up was that Chip would have known if Pidge was cut. All that the higher ups were willing to tell him was that his brother was instead assigned to a top secret program, need to know only. It wasn't until a year later when they themselves were well underway that they heard word via Chip from a letter from Pidge of what really happened, an idea to this day that was still quite unbelievable. And now they were most likely going there too, like going back in time to the days of legend.
His eyes then drifted to the focus of the photo, Jeff center stage receiving his metals of recognition and achievement for the quarter from his father. Colonel Aki had been a role model to them all. A true master of covert operations and ground tactics and he led that part of their training, always going out of his way never to show any favoritism to his son so Jeff could stand on his own merits. Krik's eyes drifted back to Jeff. Maybe Aki tried too hard in that regard, the two just grew further and further apart through the academy years as Jeff just grew a bigger and bigger chip on his shoulder.
Krik let out a sigh, slipping the photo back into the cubby then walked back to the bunk and whipped the blanket open to let it fall over his teammate, "Night night, Cap." He gave Jeff a sympathetic smile and left the room.
It had been two years since he had walked the halls of Galaxy Garrison Command. While he was still on retainer as a regular consultant he hadn't actually had to set foot on these floors in years. On the one hand he missed it, up until two years ago his whole reason for life and living was Garrison and the Academy but he was also greatly enjoying his retirement, discovering a new life and finding a new and deeper relationship with his wife of over thirty years that he couldn't even imagine having before. She had put up with his extended absences and broken promises all this time, it was now time to make it up to her. They had used his substantial retirement savings to travel the near universe, he showing her the amazing sights he had seen as a soldier in Garrison as well as visiting all new places he never had the time to see before.
If only he had been able to also heal the rift that had grown between he and his son but that had proven fruitless. Any attempt in contacting him was only met with curt, militaristic replies. He let out a sigh as he remembered himself back in his twenties, focused only on the mission, being the best, at the sacrifice of all else. He had risen quickly in the ranks, becoming one of the youngest combat colonels in Garrison's covert ops history, taking on mission after mission no one should have survived and leaving a legacy no son should have to try and match. But then his son was just like him and took it on as a personal quest to top him. He paused to look out the window to the blue skies above and tried to imagine his son somewhere out there in space… and in spite of the odds that is exactly what his son did.
"General Aki!" Admiral Graham's warm voice greeted him in the hall. "I'm so happy you were able to come."
The two longtime friends embraced. "It feels good to be here, and even better news that the old uniform still fits."
Graham let out a chuckle and patted his belly. "Unlike some of us brass, retired or not you will always be fit." He gesture the other towards the video conference room. "You and your wife are coming to dinner tonight?"
"Of course. And then we are off to tour the coast for a few days."
"Sounds wonderful." The two entered the conference room where three others stood chatting.
General Aki nodded to them in greeting. While he respected their ranks he had little true respect for those whose combat experience didn't extend beyond the files on their desks but the realities of any military force was that you needed paper pushing bureaucrats to support it.
The group all took their seats around a large rectangular table as a few video holographic screens shimmered to life around the table as other familiar faces joined the gathering, military and civilian, some beloved and some reviled by Aki. His eyes landed on that of the shimmering image of Commander Hawkins, the feed twisting and distorting on occasion, hmmm, they must be in warp jump he concluded as he nodded to the commander with a sympathetic smile knowing well the discomfort of warp travel.
It was fifteen years ago that they had all come together with a dream, it took them ten of those years to turn that dream into a reality. And now five years after launch date they sat at the end of this chapter of their lives.
"Greetings gentlemen." Graham began. "I wanted to take this time to thank you all for your hard work and dedication to the Voltron project. I wanted to gather you all together to share in this moment. As this first chapter of Voltron's journey reaches its close it is time to pause and think of what all it has achieved. Not only have we scouted out vast new areas in the near universe for colonization we have also gained a most unusual ally in that of the Drule Empire, who's planet's fate can be a lesson to us all in how important it is to live our lives to embrace what we have now and to always plan for our future generations. Because of your work and dedication our children's children will know an entirely different universe."
A chorus of claps and cheers came in response to Graham's proud words. One man's clear and authoritative voice rose above the others calling all in attendance to look on him. The dashing dark haired man with shimmering streaks of silver looked every bit as imposing as he did fifteen years ago in spite of his advancing years. "Admiral Graham, it is you who must take the honor of this achievement. You are the one who were the driving force behind us all. You brought us the ancient technology that advanced our capabilities well beyond where we could have imagined. The new advances in other fields this has brought us have only begun to be seen."
Graham bowed slightly to the regal man. "Akira San, you humble me, but we could not have done any of this without your support."
Akira bowed back, his mouth quirking into a smile. "Believe me, with what this technology has earned my company, it is I who should be thanking you." He winked.
General Aki leaned back and raised his hand to cover his mouth, fighting to keep the frown off his face as he looked at the man. When he had first met Akira he had to admit he too was taken in by his charms, and yes, vast wealth and power but in learning the truth behind those noble looking eyes his perception of the man was forever stained. He was never involved in this project for the greater good of the universe, only the greater good of his business. The man had many deeply buried secrets one of which Aki had discovered. He smiled smugly to himself, if Akira only knew of what became of one of his abandoned 'projects'.
As Graham went on to thank the other individuals personally Aki's mind drifted off remembering the day and a brief chance meeting that would end up saving countless lives in the far universe…
Sitting in the back seat of his military hover car Colonel Aki sat smiling into the video screen that displayed the image of his wife. "So is there anything you want me to bring you back from New Japan?"
Her face smiled back to him. "A red silk kimono would be wonderful."
He raised his brow imagining his lovely wife in red silk. He lowered his eyes seductively at her. "I believe that can be arranged."
Her face blushed and she raised her hand to her mouth to hide a giggle. "I miss you, come home soon."
"And I miss you too, but unfortunately there was no way of getting myself out of this event with Graham insisting my Japanese heritage would be an edge in negotiations. This project is far too important for the Alliance to not stack the deck."
"I understand. Just be back by next Friday night, you promised him."
He let out a sigh. "I know I know, I will try." The look she shot him made him swallow. The only thing the combat hardened veteran truly feared was the wrath of his wife. "I will be there."
Her face transformed into a smile. "Good."
"Is he there?"
Her face turned to the side looking out. "Jeff! Jeff come here. Your father wants to talk to you."
The ten year old's face begrudgingly appeared on the video screen, his eyes avoiding the camera.
"Your mother sent me your report card. Anything you want to tell me?"
The boy shrugged.
He let out a sigh. "Jeff if you really want to get accepted into the academy you are going to have to take your grades more seriously. A D in history is not going to do."
"What does history have to do with flying?"
"That's not the point!"
His son's intensely focused eyes stared back at him from the screen in challenge.
The man's jaw set then he let out an exasperated breath. "Your grades are what the placement screeners will look at to see how well you can…ughh, never mind, I'm almost to this event. We will talk about this when I get back." His stern expression dissolved into a smile. "Tell you what, I will bring back the application guide you've been wanting that will tell you all the information of what the screeners particularly look for so you'll know what you really need to work on to impress them."
His wife's face appeared beside his son's as she wrapped her arms around the boy. "That would be wonderful, wouldn't it, Jeff?"
The boy's eyes twinkled. "Really?"
He nodded to his son. "Is there anything you want from New Tokyo, son?"
The boy's eyes lit up in mischief. "Oh heck yes! One of their new flight simulators!"
He raised an amused brow to his son. "How about something that will fit into carry-on." He added with a chuckle.
"Pffffffff, nothing cool fits into carry-on!"
"History books do."
The horror at that thought as it crossed young Jeff's face made Aki burst into laughter. After taking a bit to compose himself he smiled. "Alright I have to go, I promise I'll find you something…" He paused to roll his eyes. "cool for your birthday."
"Thanks Dad." Jeff grinned.
"See you next Friday."
"We love you." His wife smiled.
"Love you too." He smiled back at them then killed the call. His eyes lifted up to look out the front of the hover car as they approached the massive gates of the Akira estate, they were of modern design but had a nod to the feudal past of Japan's ancient culture as did most of the architecture on this new land.
New Tokyo was a technological and terraforming marvel laying about one hundred miles off the east coast of Japan. About a hundred years ago engineers had created a whole new chain of massive sprawling islands, collectively two times the size of Japan itself. Built on a solid seabed foundation it was not as prone to the destructive quakes that had brought old Tokyo to its knees half a millennia ago. It was the same island building technology that was used to build Galaxy Garrison's own home base and training academy's vast complex off the coast of California but that was not nearly built to the scale and grandeur with attention to fine details with which the Japanese had done it. To look at these islands you would never know the entire place was man made.
His driver's identification clearing and vehicle passing scans his car was waved through the heavily guarded gates and began making its way down the scenic drive through lush gardens. The gardens were planted in a way to look completely natural, as if you were in a mossy wood. Every plant, tree and rock, expertly placed. The man who built this estate one hundred years ago was one of the ones who designed the terraforming process, the great wealth it earning him building the foundation of the massive Akira Corporation of today. Today the Akira name was on almost everything in technology, from medical equipment to military weapons the latter his reason for being here. Galaxy Garrison needed Akira's financial support, his laboratories as well as his influence. 'Get Akira on board on the project and the rest of the Alliance and investors would join like lemmings!' Graham had said.
After over a minute on the winding entry road the woodland garden gave way to a grassy open field and the large sprawling shinden zukuri stylized modern mansion complex interwoven with traditional Japanese landscaping. Its graceful architecture reflected dramatically in the water features that shimmered around it. A large temporary pavilion had been erected on the open meadow the lay in front of it with a playing field marked off beside it where men on horses cantered about warming themselves up for the polo match to be played for the attending politicians, businessmen and interplanetary dignitaries.
His hover car pulled to a stop where a valet waited to greet him as his door opened and he got out. "This way, Sir." He bowed respectfully.
"Thank you." Aki bowed back. The valet led him to the receiving area where some small groups were lingering in chatter. He instantly spotted Akira standing at the back of the group, the tall imposing middle aged man seeing him and waving him over. Aki nodded and made his way to him. He couldn't help but to notice Akira's stunning wife lovingly leaning on his arm. In doing his research on the man he had read all the gossip columns so he knew of the beauty's history as a top fashion model before Akira married her when she was a mere twenty years old. Now seeing her in person he saw that the paparazzi cameras hadn't lied. While now thirty she still had her youthful beauty. Today she looked quite Asian but that was probably more due to the style of her black hair and manner of dress. But her claim to interplanetary cover model turned socialite fame were her eyes which were more European in set. They were huge and fathomless. Deep emerald green pools that could hypnotize any man who looked too long into them. As for Akira himself, he too was of mixed race, Japanese from his father's side and a mix of races from his American mother. He had to admit the pair looked incredible together. It was no wonder the tabloids loved them.
"Colonel Aki, It was so good of you to come." Akira bowed to the colonel.
Aki bowed back. "It is you who honor Garrison. Without your support…"
Akira waved his hand to silence Aki with a smile. "No need to butter me up." He grinned. "Come, walk with us."
Aki bowed again then fell into step beside the magnificent couple as they strolled the immaculate grounds to meet and mingle with their guests.
"I have to say" Akira smiled as they weaved their way along the paths between the various groups. "that this project of yours is by far the most fascinating thing to come across my desk in decades. Almost sounds like a fairy tale."
"That it is." Aki nodded. "A fairy tale come to life."
Akira stopped and turned to Aki. "I won't bother to lead you along in this dance any longer. Let me tell you now, the Akira Corporation will have your full support on the research, development and testing of this new technology. The technological advances that could come of this are mind-blowing."
Aki beamed then bowed deeply. "Thank you, Akira." He slowly straightened up.
One of the valets approached bowing to Akira. "Sir, you wished to be informed when the Baltan delegation had arrived. They are pulling up now."
"Thank you." Akira nodded to the valet to excuse him. "Now if we can only convince the Baltans to work with us." He winked at the general.
"I don't believe you will have any problem there." Aki smiled back at Akira.
Akira laughed. "Well, we shall see." He gestured back to the receiving area and they walked together to greet the offloading car, Akira's wife still beautifully accessorizing his arm.
Out of the large hovercraft appeared the group of delegates from Balto, diplomats, engineers and their spouses had all been invited to stay the full weekend. The Baltans were an ancient, proud but very insular race, and very guarded when it came to sharing their vast technological advances with outsiders. It was only the ever increasing threat of Doom's growing planetary conquests in the far galaxy making them have the genuine need to reach out to new allies. Technology can't always save you when faced with the ultimate evil in the galaxy... and when that threat is looming at your back door you get very motivated. The recent destruction of Voltron and the fall of Arus to Doom had driven that point home in the most frightening way.
"Welcome to New Tokyo." Akira bowed to the party. "It is my wife's and my pleasure to host you here at the Akira estate for your stay."
The Baltan ambassador approached and bowed deeply to Akira in the traditional Japanese greeting. "Thank you, you truly have a magnificent home."
Akira's wife who had remained silent up until then spoke. Her eyes going to the Ambassadors wife. "I trust that your trip was a comfortable one."
"Yes. Was very… nice." The woman replied methodically in broken English from her husband's side with an apologetic smile.
Akira smiled back at her then reached up his arm to tap a bracelet he was wearing on his wrist.
"Konnichiwa." A young deeply bowing dark haired boy suddenly appeared at Akira's side and spoke.
Akira gestured to the boy. "Ambassador, I would like to introduce you to my son."
The young boy rose up to look at the ambassador and bowed deeply again. "Konnichiwa." And then repeated the movement to his wife. "Konnichiwa." He then rose up and said something to the ambassador's wife in Baltan that made the woman smile beautifully at him then respond in kind, the two having a back and forth exchange for several moments.
"Your son honors us." The Ambassador bowed to Akira again. "It is a rare treat to hear our own language spoken so eloquently by an outsider."
The boy respectfully bowed again at his father's side then stood back up with the same eased masculine grace his father held but when the boy looked up and Aki could see the youth's face he was taken aback by the boy's beauty. There wasn't another word for it the boy was simply beautiful and all the women in the Baltan party seemed to agree with that assessment as he herd their cooing whispers between one another. The boy was slight of build, small for his age which Aki knew from his prep work was the same as his own son. Though young and small he had the bodily presence of his father as well as his black hair which was similarly shortly trimmed. His young face hinted at having the same chiseled features of his father. But his eyes…. His eyes were everything his mother's were, only they were inky dark like his hair which just made them seem all the larger.
Akira smiled putting a fatherly hand on his son's shoulder. "Kogane here will give your spouses a tour of the property and escort them to the polo match while we discuss our business if that is alright with you."
The Baltan ambassador nodded his appreciation. "You are a most gracious host." He then looked down to the boy. "Thank you, Kogane."
The boy smiled back up at him then dropped his head. "It is my pleasure." He then glanced to the ambassador's wife. "And if it pleases you, you may call me Keith."
"Keith." The ambassador's wife smiled as she tested out the boy's nickname.
The young boy getting his cue from his father's hand gestured off to a side gate that led to the sprawling water gardens. The boy then spoke again in Baltan and the women in the party all giggled and walked off to the gate, young Kogane following them.
Aki watched the procession go, impressed at how well this was going and made mental note to brush up on his own Baltan. He then turned back to the ambassador, his entourage and their host.
Akira nodded. "Let us go to the house. We have much to discuss."
Akira's wife smiled at them. "And if you will excuse me I must see to the rest of our guests. Remember the match is at three." She added to her husband with a wink.
"Wouldn't miss it." He smiled back at her then led the group to his home and his private study.
As they walked Akira fell into stride next to Aki. "Well that went well."
Aki grinned. "Please tell me you will be sending that one to me at the academy."
Akira laughed. "Academy? Hardly. He has an empire to learn to run." His eyes then began to sparkle. "Though I have a feeling he has a better mind for politics than business. He has a true gift for languages and I can't keep his nose out of history books!"
"Well, if you ever change your mind Garrison is always looking for young bright minds."
Akira gave a snort. "So is my corporation and we pay much better." He added with a wink.
"… and so I thank General Aki." Graham continued, snapping Aki out of his memories. "…for his vast knowledge in helping to scout out and hand select many of the members of the program and overseeing part of Voltron's unique training program."
Aki's eyes flashed up to the image of Hawkins who was smiling back at him. The shifting image spoke, sparking and delaying on occasion due to the distortion warp jumps caused on signals. "I can personally attest … team has performed well beyond expectations, under the most challenging … circumstances and much of that goes to Aki. Thank you, … my friend."
Aki inclined his head and smiled back. "Ah but it was your program, Hawkins."
Hawkins raised a hand. "But without your guidance and eye for raw talent…"
Graham laughed. "After all these years, you both still need to learn how to accept a complement." The rest of the table shared a chuckle. Graham then cleared his throat. "The reason for this gathering is to officially bring this chapter of this story to a close. I wanted us all to be here at this moment to pause and reflect together." He took a long pause then continued. "Now as the next chapter begins, Hawkins, We of the development team send with you and your team our same hopes and dreams for peace and prosperity as your journey of exploration begins in the far universe." Everyone around the table stood up to look at Hawkins and applauded him.
Aki's eyes blinked. The far universe? He glanced around seeing no one else surprised by this news. He stood up and mimicked the others to try and hide his shock.
"Thank you gentlemen. We hope to make history again." Graham smiled and excused those in attendance each taking their leave and images blinking away. "Aki, Hawkins, stay a moment."
Eventually the room grew quiet, all that remained were the two men and the shimmering image of Hawkins. Graham turned to Aki. "You know I couldn't tell you."
Aki met Graham's eyes. "Yes I understand." His eyes rolled to the ceiling then spoke as if reading text he had read a thousand times before. "Personally involved so unable to make unbiased recommendations." He took a deep breath then turned to Hawkins. "How is he?"
Hawkins had by then relaxed, letting his guard down in front of his old friends and let show how ill he truly felt. He rubbed his temples then looked up, lips tightening into a slight smile. "Aside from… ace sickness, well, but bored out of his mind."
"So is he going to reenlist?"
"He hasn't told me yet, but yes … believe he will … entirely too much like his father." Hawkins raised a knowing brow.
Aki couldn't help to slightly smile at the pride he had in his son's accomplishments and that maybe the little time he had with the boy had made an impact. "If I am permitted to now know, what will be your mission in the Far Galaxy? Exploring for more uncharted planets?"
Hawkins eyes twitched and shifted to Graham. "I can't … ieve you really haven't told him."
The tough as nails Graham took an uncharacteristic step back as both men focused intently on him. "I... well… you see… " He cleared his throat to regain his commanding composure.
"What?" Aki asked growing annoyed.
"We're going to Arus." Hawkins answered.
Aki flinched. "You? … What?" All the color fell from his face. "The other team?"
Graham came up to his old friend and put a hand on his shoulder. "Are fine."
Aki relaxed and took a few breaths to let that news settle in. He then suddenly looked up to one face then to the other, concern growing in his eyes. "And do 'they' know?"
Hawkins slowly nodded his head.
Hawkins shrugged his shoulders.
Graham reached his arm around Aki. "If memory serves me right that rivalry is what drove those two young men to become the best this Academy has ever seen and inspired their whole class to do the same." He made a wide arch with his palm. "Imagine what that could do for a whole universe!"
Aki shook his head. "Destroy it, like they did the dojo?"
Hawkins began to chuckle. "And the mess."
"Barracks." Aki nodded.
"And your personal ship." Hawkins shot Graham a sly smile.
Graham waved a dismissive hand at them. "All in the past."
"Right." Both men answered sarcastically.
"Come gentlemen, it's been five years, they both have grown into fine men."
Hawkins and Aki shared a look with one another. Aki then took a deep breath. "I wish you good luck Commander Hawkins. If my son is anything as stubborn as I was at his age, I do believe you are going to need it."
Jeff stirred in his bunk, head still throbbing. He opened his eyes and looked around his room as rainbows danced in the periphery of his vision wondering how he got there. His vision shimmered again and he let out a grumble. You'd think in this day and age they would have come up for a cure for space sickness. The old timers say you eventually gain a tolerance to it, the senior crew having a good laugh at all the young pilots heaving up their meals. Apparently the more trans-universal jumps you did the more hardened you get to it. He couldn't imagine how those cargo boys could do this day in and day out, but then again the cargo ships were rarely crewed with humans. Just a few more days and they would be in the middle universe. And then if final orders are given a second jump to the far.
Jeff's mind wandered to the future and what it was going to be like to work with him again. Work with, ha, that's a laugh. Work under him. He let out a groan. He closed his eye's and drifted off, his mind wandering back to those first days… the first words they shared.
Jeff had an instant disliking of him, quiet and aloof, talked with no one but those weird kids from Balto. No one knew who he was. He was not military, not from any of the junior academies the majority of them had graduated from. His nonconformist mop of hair was unruly and untamed and no-one made him cut it. He was not schooled or trained in any of the standard prep courses yet somehow had all the right answers the instructors were looking for. And worse of all, even with his slight frame and girlish looks, he held the eyes of every female at the academy!
It was just into the second week of being admitted into the specialty program. About two dozen of them were in the belly of a transport ship all dressed in basic alliance desert fatigues. There were no windows so there was no way of knowing where on earth they were flying them but for the length of time they were in the air they could have easily orbited the planet twice. He looked down the line of cadets sitting on the long bench across from him mentally sizing them all up. Only a few of those faces he could put a name to as most were just a blur in his memories, cadets who self-combusted, quit or were cut from the program. But also among this group were a few who were to become the elite and even eventually his best friends.
His eyes first landed on Lance, another hothead he was growing to like very much, always had a witty smart ass answer at the tip of his tongue and rarely held it back. Near to him was an offworlder, Krikadleon, but everyone just called him Krik. He wasn't sure what to make of him yet. He was obviously from a pre military training track, smart as hell and had a strong score in the simulator run they all did the prior day. Cliff was there too. He was first year academy and struggling a bit with adjusting to academy life, but did it all with a casual grin. Next to Jeff sat a blond haired cherub of a girl, her face and features almost doll like and a voice to match. Her tight golden curls were pulled back into a ponytail, and oh yes his pubescent hormone ridden fifteen year old body had imagined doing many sordid things with her when trying to fall asleep in the bunkhouse, but the reality was, she could kick most of their asses in the flight simulator, scored in the top 10 in their placement test. Worse, she knew how to use her innocent looks and her sweet talking voice to her advantage causing many a male to crash his virtual ship into an asteroid. He had already begun a flirtatious banter with her, figuring giving her a taste of her own medicine may give him the edge but then at night he always wondered what dirty things that sweet innocent sounding voice could say, it already costing him hours of sleepless nights. He turned his head to dare a glance at her to see her long lashed eyes glued at the end of the other bench. He grit his teeth. On him of course. His eyes locked onto that black mop of hair, its owner's head bent down and as usual nose buried in some book.
One dark eye suddenly popped up and looked at him through that mane of black. "What?" The boy's voice was cold and had a bite to it.
Jeff casually leaned back, crossing his arms as he stretched out his legs in front of him. "Just checking out the competition."
The one eye studied him. "Is that so?" The eye shifted to Ginger then back to Jeff. "And your friend there?"
Ginger's posture instantly changed when he looked at her, perking up and leaning forward. "Hi, I'm Ginger."
The eye looked back to her. "I'm…"
The ship suddenly banked, cutting him off and began making a steep descent. "Attention Cadets, landing in two minutes form up in one line outside the ship."
The ship quickly descended, everyone having to hold on as the pilot spiraled his way down in an unnecessarily tight landing helix, as if trying to throw them off their seats. The counter jets burst bringing them to a just as sudden stop in a low hover and then the ship kissed the ground and the engines began powering down.
The cargo bay door opened and the intense early morning sun shining through a cloud of dust blinded them all until their eyes could adjust to it. A trainer they had not seen before was there to greet them. "Cadets! Grab your packs and line up!"
The cadets with their overnight packs slung on their backs filed out and made one single line on the dirt. Jeff looked out to the scene before him. They were out in the middle of nowhere. A dry scrubby area with sloping hills and a cloud dotted blue sky that went on forever. Off to one side was a sprawling modular ranch complex, its several structures creating a maze of buildings with a large roof gleaming over the whole complex that doubled as a giant solar array. The many pens built around it were constructed with found wood in a patchwork of paddocks where horses, cattle, as well as some unusual otherworldly beasts of burden were penned.
The trainer that greeted them walked down the line eyeing them all up as another man walked behind him with a hover cart handing them all two water bottles as well as each a wide brimmed hat with fabric panels to protect the back of the neck. "Welcome to the Outback! One of the few vast unspoiled regions on the planet." He gestured to the hats. "You will all wear covers and regularly hydrate. What may seem lush is really a quite unforgiving environment."
Jeff looked around as he put the cloth hat on his head. This man had an odd definition of 'lush'.
"This is the GA survival skills training base. Here you will be trained on the basics. Finding resources, shelter, concealment and tracking."
Jeff let out a groan. Great, just great. He specifically joined the flight academy so his feet would never have to touch the ground and here he was in for a weekend of living in the dirt.
The trainer casually gestured for them all to follow and he walked them towards the ranch, small talk erupting among the cadets.
Jeff began making his way back to Ginger's side when the black haired mop boy blocked his target, walking up to her side and cutting him off.
"Keith." He overheard the mop boy say to Ginger as he caught up to her and then walked on ahead of her.
Jeff watched as Ginger flushed and almost tripped over her own boots, her eyes not leaving the dark haired boy. Jeff slowly made his way back to his place at her side, not that she seemed to notice. Jeff's eyes began boring holes into the back of the black mop's head. This was going to be a long weekend indeed.
Shaking off the ghosts of his past and hair still damp from his shower Keith made his way back into his room to dress, pulling on a clean pair of pants and a tee. Even though he still felt the tingling haze of exhaustion and he knew he was on ordered bed rest, going back to bed was the last thing he wanted to do.
He felt like a caged animal and began pacing across his room, his mind swimming in thought. As much as he wanted to see her with his own eyes to know she was safe his fear of losing control again kept him in check. He was not that guy, not the kind of guy that let his baser impulses rule his actions. He lived his whole life trying to keep himself in check and had almost always managed to do it. The few times he had lost control continuously proved disastrous, first with his father, then with Jeff and now his latest weakness… Allura. He raised his hands to rake back into his damp hair. Oh, but how good did her body feel against his when he did lose control. "Shit."
He shook his head and began pacing again. Don't think about it, don't think about it. But the more he tried not to, the more that was exactly where his mind went, wanting to see her, wanting to touch her, wanting to know she was safe. He turned and caught a glimpse of his desk, his mouth tugging into a smile. What would a call hurt? He was in his room, she was in hers…
Before he could talk himself out of it his legs were carrying him to his chair where he sat down bringing up a screen in front of him and his fingers keyed up a private call to Allura's room. It was just seconds before her image appeared before him as if she knew he was going to call. He almost jumped at the surprise of it. He took in her weary and exhausted features and couldn't help but to reach out his good hand and caressed her image. "Allura?"
Allura's face leaned into his hand as if physically touched and she blushed. "I." Her own hand came up to touch the screen. "Are you okay?"
Keith flattened his palm against the image of hers and nodded, instantly relaxing his guard and feeling as if he didn't need to hide a thing from her. "Yes, just exhausted. Can't sleep. Restless. Crazy dreams."
She cocked her head. "Crazy?" She closed her eyes as a wistful smile grew on her tempting lips. "More like erot…"
"Shhhh!" His other hand came up to touch the image of her lips. "Don't, don't say it. Please don't say it."
She bit her lower lip and looked away with a blush causing a growl to come out from the core of him. Her eyes then looked back. "Hey! What did you do to your hand?"
He glanced down to his bandaged knuckles. "Oh this? Nothing. Just a scratch."
"A scratch?" She tried to pin his suddenly shifting eyes. "I've seen some of your scratches. Did you see the doctor?"
He began to chuckle in spite of himself, knowing full well she already knew the answer. He reached to the bandaged hand and unwrapped it, turning it to the screen to show her the clean lacerations that were expertly glued shut. "See. Scratch." He then covered it back up.
She rolled her eyes at him. "You are impossible, you know that?"
He smiled back. "Yes."
"You will have the doctor look at it won't you?" Her exasperation grew as he continued to avoid her eyes. "Don't make me come over there and drag you to the infirmary!"
His head snapped to look at her. "Don't you dare!" He pointed to her image on the screen then to himself. "Your side, my side. Remember?"
She froze, her mouth slightly slacking and then dropped her head, obviously lost in thought as she studied her interlacing fingers on her desk. "Yes… I remember." She slowly glanced up to him through her long lashes her voice growing breathless. "I remember."
He gasped then forcefully swallowed his body's reaction to her away. He leaned forward on his elbows to cover his face with his hands. "Maybe this call was a bad idea." He let out an exhausted breath. "I don't know how long I can keep fighting this."
His head snapped up to look over his fingers at her innocent looking face that did not match the suggestion those words held. "What?"
The innocent face shifted into that of a knowing one as her hand reached up to touch the screen. "Why are we fighting against what we both want?"
"Allura?" He slowly leaned back. "You're not seriously suggesting that…. That we…" The back of his neck began to flush as his entire body of its own will reacted to the suggestion.
She blinked a few times. "I mean, well… we managed to get some real sleep when we were together before. Why don't we try to sleep now, together?" She took a steadying breath. "Your side, my side." Her finger drew along the screen and it was as if he could feel its touch.
His hand moved to his cheek to try and capture it as his mind slowly managed to come back from its fantasy and comprehend her words. "Sleep, right, yes. We do need to sleep."
She beckoned him to lean forward. "Close your eyes, my Captain."
Feeling inexorably pulled he leaned forward in his chair toward the screen as she bade him.
"Relax and breath." Her words filled his ears.
He took a few deep meditative breaths as her words caressed him. Then as if feeling her hands guiding him he turned his head to one side and lay it down upon his arm on his desk. He imagined feeling her hands run through his hair, calming him, soothing him, while the sensation also stirred things deep within him he long had wished to will out of existence. As sleep began to take his exhausted mind in his half daze he began muttering. "I don't ever want to hurt you, my Princess."
Her soft whispering voice met his ears. "You could never hurt me."
His voice was soon no more than a whisper. "I promised myself I would never hurt anyone like that, ever."
"Like what?" her imagined hands continued to weave through his damp hair.
He began to feel like is old self, a lost, forgotten child. "Like him."
The imagined hands embraced him. "You're not like him, nothing like Lotor."
"My father." Keith muttered as sleep fully took him.
Your father? Allura slightly pulled back coming out of her half dreamy state, her eyes still caressing the image of her now sleeping captain. She again imagined what it would feel like to run her hands through his wet hair, feeling the soft cool locks twist around her fingers. "Shhhh, Sleep, my Captain."
She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes trying to remember that face from her dream… or was it his dream?… that angry man that when she looked into his eyes she instantly felt a gut wrenching rage the likes of which she never imagined. She quickly tried to shake the image away, hating the vile feeling that came along with it. She reopened her eyes to look on him again. Whatever darkness that face represented to Keith was his secret to tell.
Keith never spoke of his past, he rarely spoke of the academy days unless he was talking about the others and mentioned nothing of his life before that. Garrison had long ago sent the pilot's records to Arus when Coran had requested them after their arrival. While the other's files were full of who they were and where they were from, aside from Academy stats and reports Keith's file was just a wall of blacked out files that no one had the clearance to see.
She soon learned from the others that asking Keith anything about his past or his family was a taboo subject so it was something she quickly learned to sidestep. But now there was a crack in his facade and as much as she desperately wanted to peek inside she felt that would be a huge invasion. She reached out to touch the image of his sleeping form again.
Her finger traced the outline of his features. She wanted to know him, know all his secrets, know all of him, mind and… body. She shivered at the last thought. She bit her lip as she remembered what she had almost suggested to him before she caught herself. Thank goodness he bought that she was only talking about sleep for the last thing on her mind in that moment was sleep. Deep down she really wanted to just lose control and let whatever this was take them both. If it was really what they both wanted…
She stopped herself from taking her fantasy too far. Her teeth tugged on her lower lip as she leaned forward onto her own desk, cradling her chin on her forearm. Her hand that was touching the screen slid down its surface, resting on her desk as if trying to hold onto his hand resting on his desk just on the other side of the screen. She sat and watched him breathe, his body completely relaxed and soon was taken to that same place with him. Her own eyes drifted shut, a calming peaceful sleep taking her. She imagined his hand squeezing hers and as she felt it in her mind she heard two perfect words as if they were being whispered in her ear.