Disclaimer: I do not, nor will I ever own Outlaw Star or anything affiliated with said show.
When an alarm began buzzing loudly, the body buried underneath a pile of blankets groaned in annoyance. Swatting at the offending electronic, a tousled head of brown hair rose up from the bed and glared at the clock that continued to make noise; the numbers on the screen showing six in the morning. "Why the hell did I leave that thing on." The young boy growled, stomping on the clock with his foot and finally silencing it.
Running a hand through his hair, he yawned widely and blinked several times to try and clear his sleep clouded vision. Glancing around his room, he made a mental note to give the place a thorough cleaning before he unpacked his stuff. No point putting clean clothes in a dusty drawer. Flopping back on his bed, he yawned again as he stared up at the ceiling.
It was nice to be back on solid ground again, but he'd hoped they would've been able to get more accomplished on their journey. Instead they got another name that led to yet another place that held absolutely no answers about the Leyline. On top of that they'd been attacked by several bands of pirates, and before they'd had a chance to check out their latest piece of information, had been forced to hobble back to Heifong in order to get the XGP a complete overhaul.
Releasing a heavy sigh, Jim decided that he deserved at least another few hours of sleep. While it was true that the rest of the members of the Outlaw Star had been tested to their limits, he'd been required to stay awake for the entire last leg of their journey in order to maintain Gilliam's systems. If he'd stopped his work at any time they likely would've been stranded indefinitely, so he'd kept a diligent watch over the ship's programs for the full forty plus hours. Even with all the coffee he'd had, he was dead on his feet by the time they'd arrived at the dock on Heifong, and barely managed to make it back to their apartment before collapsing on his bed.
Of course in his need for sleep he'd forgotten about the damn alarm clock which was why he was awake only three hours after falling asleep. Rolling onto his side, he closed his eyes, but the damage was already done. No matter how tired his body was his mind was now fully awake and ready to take on the day. Tossing the blankets aside, he sat up and stretched his still sore muscles before standing and making his way to the bags he'd dumped on the floor last night.
It didn't take him long to find and pull on a clean pair of khaki pants and a dark red t-shirt and he soon found himself heading downstairs to the kitchen to see if anyone else was awake. Turning the corner, he wasn't the least bit surprised to see that it was empty. If his stupid alarm clock hadn't woken him up he'd still be in bed as well.
Shaking his head he headed to the fridge to see what was edible, but paused when he saw the stack of mail sitting on the kitchen table where Aisha had tossed it when they'd gotten back. The pile wasn't what caught his attention, they always had a lot of junk to go through when they got back from their space travels, it was the small white envelope with the logo for the Late Summer Moons Resort and Recreation Center.
Grabbing the letter from the stack, he carefully tore it open, curious to see what was inside. He already had the year long membership Lisa had promised him when he'd joined up a couple of months ago, and he'd told her he was going to be gone for awhile when he'd left so he had no clue as to the contents.
When the envelope was open, he pulled out the small stack and found himself staring at several pictures that had been taken during the tournament he'd participated in. Smiling, he looked at one that had been taken when the redheaded brothers Trey and Tony had ganged up on Greg and dumped a container of ice over his head. The blonde haired boy looked absolutely furious and Jim remembered the screaming chase that had followed their little stunt.
The next picture was of the girls Sasha and Julia as they danced around after their victory. The two had towels wrapped around their waists and were holding hands and laughing as they spun in circles. Sarah stood in the background smiling down at her younger cousin and Sasha's adopted parents could also be seen at the edge of the image. Moments after that picture had been taken, Sarah had pulled Julia into a big hug and begun crying about how proud she was. Everyone had laughed at the exaggerated display and then shortly thereafter had gone out for a celebratory meal.
A small note was wrapped around the last picture and Jim read it first. It was written on a piece of stationary from the resort and had Lisa's crisp writing on it. Jim, here are some pictures I thought you might like from the tournament. Let me know when you get back, we'd love to have you join us again. Lisa.
Shaking his head with a smile, he set the note down and looked at the last image. It was a photo of the whole team, including Sarah, Amy and Lisa, holding up their medals after they'd been awarded. They all had huge smiles on their faces as they posed for the camera. Greg was holding up two fingers in a 'peace' sign, Tony and Trey had their arms over each other's shoulders, and Jim was squished between the two instructors Sarah and Amy.
Shortly after the picture had been taken Gene and Melfina had gotten back from their vacation and the Outlaw Star had taken to space once again. And now, nearly a month later, Jim found himself back on Heifong for a few weeks. He hadn't actually thought about rejoining the team until he'd seen the letter, but he figured there was no better way to spend his free time than with his new friends.
Without a second thought, he pulled out his cell phone and called up his swim instructor. Four rings later he got the answering machine. "Hey Lisa, this is Jim. Just calling to let you know that I'm back on Heifong for a bit and wanted to see if my spot on the team was still open. Call me back when you get this. Bye." Closing the phone with a snap, he tucked it into his pocket and headed back to his room to grab his jacket. Since no one else was up, he decided to head to his favorite coffee shop for breakfast.
Ten minutes and many 'hello's' later, Jim found himself standing in line at Fei Sei's Coffee. Glancing around the busy shop, he spotted a familiar head of black hair. "Yo Jack, long time no see." He called out cheerfully, waving his hand at the man working the coffee machine behind the counter.
The man raised his head and smiled when he saw who'd spoken. "Jim, it's good to see you." Jack replied as he wiped his hand on the brown apron that all employees of the coffee shop were required to wear. Setting the drink he'd just finished on the counter, he motioned Jim to come up. "Can I get you your usual?"
Nodding his head, Jim watched as Jack poured him a small cup of coffee and grabbed a blueberry scone from the display case. The scone was dropped into a bag and then both items were placed on the counter in front of him. "Thanks, you're the best." Jim said, placing the money down and taking his order. Before he turned to leave, he pointed at the blue Hawaiian print shirt and green board shorts the man was wearing beneath his apron and grinned. "A new fashion statement?" He asked jokingly.
"You know me, always one step ahead of the curve." Jack said with a laugh.
Waving, Jim shook his head as he took his food outside. Not bothering to take a seat at one of the small tables, he tore open his bag and took a whiff of the delicious smell coming from inside, and then promptly began to devour the scone. "Just as good as I remember." He sighed happily, licking his fingers clean before taking a sip of his coffee. Tossing the bag in the trash, he took another drink and started walking back towards the apartment to see if anyone else was awake yet.
He'd made it all of three steps before his phone started ringing. Struggling with his coffee, he finally managed to pull his cell out and hit the accept button. "Hello, this is Jim." He said politely, you never know when a potential client may call.
"Hey Jim, this is Lisa." Lisa's cheery voice came through the line. "I got your call a few minutes ago and wanted to catch you before practice got started for the day."
"You guys are practicing this morning? Do you have another tournament coming up?" Jim asked curiously.
Lisa sounded like she was shaking her head. "No, nothing quite that official. We've just got a one-on-one match against the Tenpa Empire's team the Hurricanes on Saturday. It doesn't affect our ranking or anything like that, but a couple of the higher-ups in the league thought it would be a good idea to implement random matches between local teams to keep everyone in a competitive mood."
When Jim didn't say any more, Lisa snorted. "What do you mean 'I see'? That's not the attitude I want to hear from one of my swimmers. Now get your butt moving. I expect to see you here in twenty minutes. If you're late you'll have to swim laps." As soon as she was finished talking, the line went dead.
Jim blinked as he stared at the phone in his hands and then he smiled. Throwing his cup in the garbage, he shoved his hands in his pockets and made his way down the street towards the resort. It looked like today was going to be a very good day.
Since he was only about a mile away, and it was still rather early in the day, Jim made it to his destination with almost ten minutes to spare. As he did every time he arrived at the resort, Jim took several seconds to take in the impressive structure with its unique metal and glass exterior. Cocking his head to the side, he spotted a new building that he didn't recognize attached to the left side of the seven story main building. When he'd first seen the place there had been only four exterior buildings attached to the main one, but he had noticed construction going on so the addition wasn't all that much of a surprise.
Shaking his head, Jim continued down the stone pathway to the front entrance. There were several more fountains out front, and the outdoor tanning salon seemed to have been expanded as well. It appeared that Fred Luo's five-star resort was bringing in quite the crowd. Of course with all the recreational areas, it was to be expected. The place literally had everything you could ever want, not that he'd had the chance to explore anything other than the Olympic sized pool while he'd been there.
When he finally made it inside, he spared a quick glance around the fancy lobby area to see what had been changed there. The waterfall on the wall had been decorated with multi-colored light which gave the area around it a warm glow and there were several new expensive paintings attached to the walls. More of the leather furniture was added as well, which was a good thing since the lobby always seemed to have a lot of people milling about.
Not bothering to look at the directory on a nearby wall, he already knew where he was headed, Jim walked towards the doors on the left side of the lobby that lead to the pool. Pleased to note that the metal doors were still as amazing as ever with their gold piping and inlaid flowers, he brushed his hand over one of the pictures as the doors slid open.
From there he turned right and made his way down the hallway that finally brought him to his destination. Standing outside the door that led to the pool, Jim gave it a pull and stepped inside. Bypassing the smaller pool on his right that was used by the guests, as well as the hot tubs and sauna rooms on his left, he headed straight to the far side of the small pool where the much larger one was located.
A smile spread across his face when he saw his friends huddled around their redheaded instructor Lisa. Amy and Sarah, the other two instructors, were lounging on a couple of chairs in bright colored bikinis, laughing about something. Amy, the redhead, was wearing bright green and Sarah, the brunette, was wearing bright yellow. He was somewhat surprised they were still hanging around since they never really did any work, but then that wasn't any of his business.
Before he had a chance to say anything, a blonde kid about his age turned around and grinned. "Yo Jim, long time no see buddy!" He called out, causing everyone to turn and look at him.
"Hey Greg, it's good to see you again." Jim said with a wave.
The two redheaded boys came running over and pulled Jim into a big hug. "Man, where've you been?" Tony asked, followed by Trey. "Yeah, our jokes just weren't the same without you around."
The tall brunette girl walked up and smacked Trey upside the head. "As if your jokes are ever funny." Then turning a smile on Jim, Julia held out her hand. "It's nice to have you back."
Still being held between the two brothers, Jim shifted enough so he could shake the offered hand. "It's good to be back." Looking over at the little blonde girl who was still standing next to Lisa, he waved again. "Hi Sasha." His only response was a small smile and nod of her head.
"Jim, I see you've made it with a whole minute to spare." Lisa said as she glanced at her watch. "Dang, and here I was hoping I could give you extra laps for being late." Grinning, she headed over to join the group with Sasha and a rather tall brunette boy tagging along behind her. "Oh, and let me introduce you to Kyle. He was the one you replaced when we were taking on the Dragons."
Nodding his head in greeting, Kyle held out his hand as well. "It's nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you too." Jim took the hand with a smile.
"Alright you guys, play time is over." Lisa said, deeming the conversation over. "Into the water."
There were several grumbles about her being mean, but everyone eventually slipped into the water, leaving Jim standing outside the pool still dressed in his clothes. In fact, he hadn't even realized they'd even been in their swimsuits. He'd been so happy to see them all again he hadn't paid attention to what they were wearing.
Glancing down at his outfit, he looked over at Lisa apologetically. "I'm really sorry, but in my haste to get here I didn't even think about grabbing my suit from home. Is there anything here I can borrow?"
"Don't worry about it, that suit of yours is outdated anyway." Lisa said with a wave of her hand. "We've got new uniforms now, see."
Jim looked at her black swimsuit with 'Summer Moon Typhoons' written in white across the top and the name of the resort written much smaller beneath it. It looked exactly the same to him, until he spotted the white swirl design on her right hip. "We got new suits just for this?" He asked, pointing to the design.
"It was a requirement sent down from the President of the league. I guess he thought our uniforms could use more pizzazz of something, so he ordered every team to add something like this to their suits." Lisa shrugged. "Personally I thought it was a waste of time, but a rule is a rule." Moving to the edge of the pool, she pointed back over her shoulder. "There's a pile of extra uniforms over there on the lounge chair, pick one and get changed."
As she slid into the water, Jim turned around and went to find himself a swimsuit. It didn't take long, there were only a dozen or so suits, and he quickly made his way to a nearby locker room to change into his new speedo. Within minutes he was back out and in the pool, awaiting instructions from Lisa.
Brushing her hair out of her eyes, Lisa looked down at the team that was treading water in front of her. "Alright you guys I want ten warm-up laps around the pool, any stroke, followed by practice dives. After that you'll each be doing practice drills for front and back stroke, which means I expect to see proper form and good timing, and then I want each of you to get at least five laps of both side and butterfly." Ignoring the multiple groans, she placed her hands on her hips and hollered. "Go!"
By the time practice was finally over Jim was beyond exhausted, and it was only a little past eleven in the morning. Pulling himself out of the pool, he grabbed a towel and waved goodbye to the Crain brothers as they took off out the doors. Sasha left early since she had Karate to get to, but the rest of the team had been put through the ringer. Or maybe he was simply out of shape. Either way, Jim was looking forward to a nice long nap.
"Yo Jim, you want to join us for lunch?" Greg asked, pointing to Kyle who was standing next to him and them himself. "We're going to head out to a nearby diner for burgers."
Shaking his head, Jim deemed his hair dry enough and began toweling off his body. "No thanks, I think I'm going to head home and get some sleep. I haven't worked this hard in a while and my muscles are really feeling it."
Kyle chuckled and nodded his head. "I know what you mean. After my arm healed and I came back, I thought I was going to die halfway through practice."
"I guess we'll see you tomorrow morning then." Greg said with a wave as the two boys walked off.
By the time Jim had dried himself enough to throw his clothes on only Lisa still remained. Throwing on his pants over his swimsuit and pulling on his shirt, he made his way over to her. "Lisa, what's the schedule going to be like for the week?" He asked curiously. The last time he'd ended up staying at the resort since they had two practices a day, but since this wasn't a tournament he wasn't sure what was going on.
Wrapping the towel around her waist, Lisa smiled down at Jim. "Oh that's right, I forgot to tell you didn't I. Sorry about that, I was more focused on getting you in the water than anything else." Reaching into the bag at her feet, she pulled out a piece of paper and handed it over. "We've got morning practice every day this week as well as an extra one in the evening on Friday. They run from eight to ten, today being the exception, and the Friday night one starts at six. Usually we'd only have three practices a week, but the Hurricanes are another team like the Dragons and everyone agreed that some additional practice was a good idea."
Jim nodded as he read over the paper. "So I only have to be here for two hours every morning then?"
"Yep, that's it. Like I said, nothing too intense this time." Yanking a large shirt over her head, Lisa shoved her things into her bag and hoisted it onto her shoulder as she toed on her sandals.
"Okay, I'll see you in the morning." Giving her a wave, Jim tossed the wet towel on a nearby chair for the cleaning crew to deal with and made his way back outside and into the early afternoon sun. It was later than he'd planned and he hadn't bothered to tell anyone he was going to be gone, so he hurried back home.
By the time he reached the door to the apartment, his legs felt like they were on fire and he was breathing heavily. "Note to self, never run like that after practice." He muttered as he reached for the handle.
"What practice?" A cheery voice asked over his shoulder.
Turning to face the Ctarl-Ctarl behind him, who was now dressed in a brand new green and white uniform, Jim glanced around nervously as he tried to come up with a believable lie. "I didn't say practice, I said breakfast." He finally said, nodding at his brilliant response.
Aisha scratched the tip of her long furry ear and looked at the younger boy curiously. "I was certain I heard practice." Shrugging her shoulders, she continued. "Whatever you say." Though she didn't sound all that convinced. "Anyway, I was wondering if you wanted to head out for some lunch. Gene and Mel have gone to meet up with Fred about more parts and Suzuka said she was going to a spa somewhere so it's just the two of us. And I don't know about you, but I really don't feel like cooking."
Resisting the urge to yawn, practice had been hell on him today, Jim shook his head. "No thanks, I think I'm going to take a nap. I'm still pretty tired."
"Oh, well I guess I'll have to go by myself then. I'll see you later." Ruffling the boy's hair, she grinned and headed off down the street.
Jim breathed a sigh of relief. "That was close. I really need to be more careful when I'm around here or else the others might find out." It wasn't that he was embarrassed or anything, he just didn't want to have to explain anything, or to deal with having the rest of his crew as spectators during a meet. He wanted it to stay his little secret.
Walking inside and making his way upstairs to his room, he pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it onto the floor next to his bed. Too tired to deal with his pants, he collapsed on the blankets and was asleep within seconds.
When Jim awoke it was well into the evening and though he really wanted to bury himself back into a cocoon for the rest of the night, he figured he'd better at least put some food in his stomach so he wasn't starving in the morning. Kicking the sheets aside, he rubbed his hands over his face in an attempt to wake up. It didn't work.
With a yawn, he stood up and slowly stumbled his way to the kitchen so he could grab a quick snack. The lights were all off so he assumed that everyone was still out, not that he particularly cared at that moment. Pulling open the fridge when he got to the kitchen, he grabbed a leftover sandwich someone had put in there earlier. Giving it a sniff to make sure it was still edible, sometimes things were forgotten in there, he shrugged and took a bite.
Not bothering to take a seat, he devoured the food and gulped down a soda before going back upstairs. This time he added his pants to the ever growing pile of dirty clothes on the floor and crawled under the covers in nothing but his swimsuit which he'd never bothered to change out of. Burrowing his head into the pillow, he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
At least that was the plan. Not ten minutes after he'd drifted off to dream land his door was thrown open and a very hyper Ctarl-Ctarl came bouncing in. "Hey Jim, guess what?" She asked excitedly. "Fred gave all of us a day pass to his super exclusive resort! Isn't that awesome! That place has so many fun things to do; we're going to have a blast!"
Jim pulled the blankets tighter around his neck. "Mmmhmm."
"Make sure you keep Saturday free, cause we're all going to go together." When Jim failed to answer, she nudged him with her foot, frowning when he didn't seem to notice. "Fine, ignore me then. See if you get your ticket now." Sticking out her tongue, she spun on her heel and left the room in a huff.
Furrowing his brow, Jim tried to figure out why she'd been so upset, but as he hadn't really paid attention to anything she'd said it didn't work. Yawning, he got comfortable once again. He'd deal with whatever her problem was in the morning, right now he wanted to get a little more sleep.