The Storm by Alex Simpson
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"THE STORM"

 

Disclaimer: The following is a work of complete and utter fiction which is not meant to
infringe on the rights of Tastunoko Productions, Sandy Frank, Turner
Productions and anyone else I might have missed or misspelled. All errors you
read are mine and mine alone and my proofreader is guiltless. Second attempt at
my maiden voyage--it's meant to entertain,nothing more. Probably the longest
character study I've done to date--hope you guys enjoy it. Oh, and the
installments will be relatively short (I can't type...)


Does ANYONE know what happened to the bottle opener?! Tiny's anguished cry
echoed for the fifth time in five minutes throughout the vast chambers of
Neptune II. Princess was in the bathroom, brushing her hair, smiling at Tiny's
pathetic lamentation. "I thought you had magnificent Cerebonic powers which
make you all manly and strong--or so you keep telling Maria!" she shouted. Tiny
chuckled "Thanks a lot sweetie--hey, at least I'm STILL attempting to impress
chicks!" Princess laughed, but her smile slowly faded as she considered his
words: it was true--Tiny DID try with girls, and even succeeded sometimes.
Hell,he had a lot more than she had right now. Maria worked down at Tiny and
Keyop's favourite Comic book store. She was fun, friendly--a little out to
lunch perhaps--but a sweetheart nonetheless. More importantly, she made Tiny
happy. She was good for Tiny. They were good for each other.

As though her mind insisted on presenting a juxtaposition, the face of her
sometimes tragic teammate formed in her mind. If Tiny and Maria's healthy
companionship was at one end of the spectrum, then surely their lone wolf
Jason, was the very antithesis. She worried about Jason, frequently. Certainly
she, Princess, had no significant other, but she often wondered if Jason didn't
feel it more acutely than the rest of them, as though he was trying to hang on
to the failing bonds of human happiness....oh, she was sure that he had had
more women than warm meals--but that was his business....not to say that she
liked it--truth be told, she hated it. Something in her had always been vaguely
unsettled about him sharing or disclosing a part of himself that had nothing to
do with the team--their drive, their passion, their unity. It was strange; she
didn't know why, but there was always a slight feeling of resentment--as though
Jason should be entirely theirs.

Wondering how on earth her train of thought had taken her there, she mentally
shrugged her shoulders: It wasn't logical,but she reminded herself that it was
a woman's prerogative to not always be logical. If it was logic she wanted, she
had Zark, or Mark for that matter. Mark......right at the top of her emotionally
stilted list, he sat. Well, she could have danced around naked, set herself on
fire, and still he would be loathe to bat an eye--except to remind her about
fire safety. No, Mark wouldn't blink--he never did. Not to say that she hadn't
tried, but this was Mark. Immoveable Mark. Dedicated Mark. Insufferably
frustrating Mark....Thank Heavens Keyop was still into cars and video
games--God help all of them when the interest in girls surfaced!

She continued brushing her hair, the strokes deftly becoming slower and slower
as she slipped further into her thoughts. She had a surmounting feeling of
restlessness, a sensation which had been coming on gradually--a presence which
made her uneasy. She was questioning things: her life, her teammates--her very
reason. She felt different, too. She peered into the mirror to see if her own
eyes would give an explanation: Age. It must be age. She thought back to last
friday. Her Birthday. Her 21st Birthday.

------------------------------------------------------------------------


Chief Anderson had made the reservations.'Valdi's' was supposedly the newest,
hippest fusion cuisine nightspot in town, and Princess had dropped several
clumsy hints about wanting to try it on numerous occasions. Mark led her in,
blindfolded, to the table where the team sat and with hands outstretched,
giggling, she fumbled about her surroundings. Mark undid the blindfold and the
'Happy Birthday Princess' chorus echoed round the table. The decor of the room
was a clean, understated combination of Eastern and Western aesthetics. Parquet
wood floors, golden hued Persian rugs and eggshell walls lent even more of a
surreal glow to the already candlelit environment. Princess's delighted face
seemed even more radiant in the auric light. Chatting away to her guests, she
took off her coat, idly brushed down her black slip dress and laughed saying
she had never heard of this place--was the food any good? She stopped. They
were all looking at her in the most curious manner. Her hand flew up to her
face. "Do I have something in my teeth?" she mumbled inaudibly. Tiny grinned,
"No Kiddo,it's just that you look, well, really great...quite the grown up
young woman." Princess smiled, awkward at the attention and turned to Anderson:
"So, since I'm now legal worldwide, do I get a raise?"

Jason wasn't really a social animal. He liked his life private and certain
things unchanging. His team were his family and his reason for being--though he
would never admit it. Mark was his conscience, Tiny was his sense of humor,
Keyop was his innocence and Princess was his rock: Always there, always caring,
always keeping them together.He had trained with her when she had been that
awkward, gangly teenager--unsure of her own skin....he had laughed at her when
she fought to keep up with him....he had humoured her when she flew off on one
of her tangents....and he had held her when the nightmares of their work became
too much.

But friday night had completely caught him off guard. He sat at the end of the
table, opposite Princess, nursing a drink he would never finish. He looked hard
at her. What was different? Was it her hair--the dress perhaps? It was Princess,
but it wasn't. He studied her more closely. She had always been blessed with a
lovely face, a casual grace and a sweetness of countenance which emanated from
within...but now there was something else. The unaware little girl had become a
woman...and it unsettled him. He saw how the other patrons stared when she
excused herself from the table. Oh, he'd seen men stare before and he'd nailed
a few the off times he caught a derogatory remark, but this was different. They
now looked with an unnerving mix of envy, want, desire...and he hated it. It was
his Princess--their Princess--they had no right.

Further up the table, Mark sat as deeply lost in thought as Jason, but Mark was
silently playing Devil's Advocate. He watched as she opened her present from
Keyop--a photo-frame encrusted with shells off the shores by Neptune II. There
was a complete lack of consciousness in the way she acted, the languid way she
moved. Laughing, she bundled Keyop up into an unmercilessly hard bear hug as he
spluttered out his "GET OFF"s! in vain. She has no idea he thought. He looked at
the bewitching, luminous green eyes; a myriad of kindness, love, fear, horror,
loss, hope and innocence. So many times, he had wanted to say
something--anything. He couldn't. The chief had said to him on day one training
"Never get emotionally involved--it'll weaken you". They were at war, and
feelings were an unfortunate casualty. All the times she she suggested they go
for dinner, a movie--just the two of them--and he would suppress the urge to
say 'yes'. Saying yes would complicate things. Saying yes would make him happy.
Saying yes would make him weak. And every time, he would try to make that soft
smile last, just a little longer, until it faded, crestfallen to the resounding
sound of his 'no'.It was the things unspoken between them which were dangerous
to them both.

Neither Mark nor Jason had any idea that in addition to observing, they
themselves were being observed: Anderson was watching them closely...their
eyes, their body language--their very breathing. Anderson took in a deep breath
and slowly exhaled a weary, prophetic sigh; "There's a storm coming" he muttered
to himself, as he reached for the decanter of wine.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jason stood around the corner, unobserved, watching Princess. His brow was
furrowed, still dwelling on his inner monologue from Friday, recalling his
hasty exit from the party...still unsure of what perturbed him so.

Princess was still staring at her own reflection--looking for her own answers-
when she caught a glimpse of Jason in the mirror. Startled, she wheeled around.
The furrowed brow on Jason's face lapsed for a fleeting second into a look of
guilt, which was then quickly subdued with his familiar self-preservation mask
of arrogance:

"You're getting a bit vain aren't you Princess?" he remarked--hoping the
haughty tone would absolve his feeling of being caught red-handed.

Embarrassed, she looked down and scurried past him. "No, vanity means you like
what you see".

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Where you off to all gussied up like that?" Tiny called out from in front of
the T.V.

"Oh, you know, a frivolous night of dancing--somewhere trashy with the girls!"
Princess replied, zipping up the side of her knee high black patent boots. She
looked over at Tiny and smiled. "I see you found the bottle opener".

Tiny sat with a dark ale in hand and two empties on the table. "Nah," he said
grinning, "I just got manly and used my teeth!"

Mark sat on the sofa reading. His eyes slid over to Princess, but he remained
silent. As she hopped around on one leg, struggling with the zipper, Jason
walked in, quickly doing a head-to-toe of her:

"Nice outfit--where's the rest of it?"

Princess shot him a 'don't start with me' look as she pulled on her jacket.
Jason wasn't finished.

"Well, it's fine if you want to get some cheap attention.." Her head shot up.

"You're a fine one to talk!" she countered bitterly. With controlled anger, she
swung her purse over her shoulder. "Thanks Jase, you always know how to make
someone feel good."

"You pay him no never mind now," Tiny bellowed, "you look awesome! Now, GO!! Go
and do something I wouldn't do!"

Princess gave a wan smile. "Thanks Tiny", she remarked pointedly.

Jason leant against the wall--frustrated. "I just don't get it...why do you
need to go and show yourself off like that? I mean, do you get off getting
those lowlifes to gawk at you..."

Princess whipped around, her eyes positively flaming and her voice shrill with
fury: "Yes Jason, you're right! I 'get off', as you so poetically put it, on
the attention! Maybe I like the attention--of MEN!! Maybe I want to be gawked
at! For Christ's sake, I'd like to be seen as a woman for once!!!"

She slammed the door. Her furious words echoed through the silent room. A few
stone cold seconds ticked by.

"Nice one bud" Tiny muttered.

"WHAT?! Don't tell me you're O.K. with this?" Jason raked his hands through his
hair, "So, you're telling me you guys are honestly fine with a bunch of
scumbags leering and pawing at her? It just isn't--Aw Hell, just forget it!!!"
He stormed out--defeated.

Tiny finished his beer. "I better go check Keyop didn't hear any of that. Mind
you, when that kid has his earphones on, he couldn't even hear Judgement Day
coming!" The good natured G5 got up and left Mark alone on the couch.

Mark swallowed hard. He hadn't said one word. He had heard it all...and he
didn't like it one bit. Princess's words had cut him to the quick; She wanted
to feel 'like a woman'...Mark quietly cursed himself for his having been
silent, once again.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------


Princess pulled her bike around the corner and stopped in the jam packed lot
behind Artemis 15. The club was always full and the weekends bordered on sheer
insanity. She pulled off her helmet and gathered her thoughts. That had been
one unpleasant scene back there. What really bothered her was Jason's
provocation. He had teased her in the past, but tonight was different-
something akin to resentment. He had been acting so peculiar lately...seeming
so uncomfortable around her, staring at her as though she were a complete
stranger...

She shook her head. The problem was, she meant what she had said tonight; She
didn't feel like a woman, in any sense of the word. When was the last time she
had been kissed, touched...seen as someone other than 'one of the guys'? "I'm
an assassin," she muttered bitterly, "an assassin who hasn't had a date in..."

"Hey Princess!!! Are you coming in, or are you going to straddle that bike all
night?!!"

Princess looked up to see Lesia calling from the front door. "Hey, don't knock
it--this is the most excitement I've had all year!!" she replied laughing. She
swung her leg off the bike and pulled down her silver sheath skirt. "Damn it
Jason," She thought to herself, "I hate it when you're right: this skirt IS too
short."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jason sat at his desk,staring out at the aquatic life swimming behind the thick
glass in the wall of his quarters in Neptune II. Damn it, he hated staying
here. Anderson had been adamant though: Spectra were being quiet--too quiet.
They had some leads, awful leads, and the team needed to be close by, training,
upgrading, ready when the call came. Well, if they should stay close, why the
hell had Princess gone off gallivanting, Jason brooded. "Forget this" he
mentally retaliated, grabbing his jacket and heading for the door.

Two steps from the handle, the door opened and Mark walked in. Jason stopped
and looked questioningly at him. His commander walked past him and stood
staring as vacantly as Jason just had at the underwater scene. Jason stood
awkwardly, and was about to clear his throat to break the uncomfortable silence
when Mark finally spoke:

"What was that all about tonight?"

Jason said nothing. Mark continued. "You know we can't keep her...we can't
place the pretty bird in the gilded cage...it won't work. We'd lose her."

Jason found his voice. "That's a load of crap Mark and you know it. Don't try
and fob off your 'holier than thou' speech on me. You hate what's happening as
much as I do! We all hated it when she Go-Go danced, worked at the bar, modeled
and all that shit--and you know damn well everything's worse now that she's
become..." His voice trailed off.

Mark turned around, a bemused look on his face. "Become what Jason? Beautiful?
Bewitching? Desirable?" with each adjective, Mark took a territorial step
closer to Jason, stopping an inch from his face "Untouchable?"

Jason could feel Mark's rage simmering just below the surface, but he stood his
ground. He folded his arms and raised an eyebrow. "You said it 'boss', not me."

Mark took a step back. "You'd be as well to remember that " he said, leaving
Jason to the empty room.

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