A TWISTED E PUBLISHING BOOK
Crossing the Line
Alpha One, 1
Copyright © 2017 by April Andrews
Edited by Marie Medina
First E-book Publication: February 2017
Cover design by K Designs
All cover art and logo copyright © 2017, Twisted Erotica Publishing
Tobias Hark was a bundle of nerves as he waited in the docking bay of his people’s ship, Alpha One. All around him, lined up against the walls of the docking bay were Alpha One’s scout ships. There were one hundred and twenty-seven in all. There had once been one hundred and fifty. But over the thirty-eight years that Alpha One had been making its way through deep space some of those scout ships had been lost. More often than not they were lost during scouting missions. A rogue comet here, a crash on a planet there, sometimes even a simple mechanical failure led to the loss of a ship. Still, the ships that remained were enough for the needs of Alpha One and its people, and it was certainly more than enough for what was being decided today.
The scouting mission.
The thirty-sixth scouting mission that Alpha One had undertaken. And Tobias was waiting to hear the outcome of the selection.
He wasn’t the only one waiting. In the docking bay over three dozen men and women stood to attention. They all wore the scarlet and black uniform that denoted their status as Alpha One pilots. Tobias had earned his uniform less than a year ago. Apart from him there were only two other pilots who had qualified in the same timeframe, which meant that only three of them had not gone through a scouting selection before. Tobias wondered if the other two were as nervous as him.
He cast a quick look to his left. The officers in charge of the pilot unit on Alpha One—three stern guys, two severe women and one gen-neutral person—were in deep discussion. They held tablets in front of them and were gesturing to records, their records Tobias was sure, he wished he knew what his said.
His friend, Ryan Rowlings, a member of the engineering unit, had offered to hack into the database and find out, but Tobias had given his friend thanks followed by a firm refusal. He didn’t want his fledgling career to be over before it had even begun because he’d gotten caught tapping into a database.
He’d worked hard. He’d logged hours and hours of flight time. He’d aced all of his test flights and all of the written and oral exams. Surely, there was nothing on his record that would stand against him in selection?
One of the officers, an older guy called Javier, turned and caught Tobias’ eye. Tobias immediately flushed, dropped his gaze, and then cursed himself for doing so. If there was one thing he did know would be on his record it was a line that might say something like, lacks confidence when confronted with superiors.
Tobias was working on that though. Working on it hard. And besides it didn’t even tell the full story. Tobias was nervous around Javier not because the other man was his superior, not even because the other man was older than him, but because Tobias had been nursing a crush on the other man since the very first day they’d met. He couldn’t help himself. Javier was everything that Tobias had fantasized about in a man since he’d been old enough to understand what his fantasizing meant.
Strong, capable, stern...
Yep, Tobias’ crush on Javier was stronger than ever, but he was trying his very best to keep it hidden. Javier was his superior, and Alpha One had strict rules around what could happen between superiors and the people that reported to them. It was necessary on a ship where thousands of people lived and worked together, and it meant that no matter how badly Tobias might want it, no matter how often he might fantasize about it, those rules ensured that there was absolutely no chance that Javier might be tempted into one of the scout ships for a quickie. No chance at all.
Tobias almost sighed. He could still feel the other man’s gaze on him. He wondered what it meant.
A moment later and the officers broke apart. They walked along the row of eager pilots and converged at the front. Javier was in the middle of the group. He too wore the scarlet and black uniform, and despite the fact that Tobias was ridiculously nervous he couldn’t help the way his body clenched as he looked at the other man. Javier was well over six foot tall and he was built. He filled the uniform out in a way that Tobias knew he would never be able to, not even if he spent every damn hour of every damn day in one of Alpha One’s workout zones.
Javier held his tablet aloft as he ran his gaze along the pilots, nodding slowly as he did so. The tension in the group was a palpable thing. Tobias wanted to clench his fists to try and dispel it but he knew that wouldn’t look good and so he let out a shaky breath instead. Javier continued to look at them, continued to nod, the seconds ticked by...and then, before any of them could try and work out what those nods meant, Javier called out four names.
Tobias’ was not among them.
The pilots who had been selected grinned as they made their way to the front. The tension in the remaining pilots increased now. The officers obviously felt it because they shifted positions slightly as they looked at the dozens of pilots that were left. Dozens...and yet, Javier had only one more name to call out. Because that was how selection worked. Only five pilots were selected each year to undertake the scouting missions that Alpha One needed. Five pilots who would have the opportunity not only to find much needed supplies for Alpha One and her crew but also the opportunity to fulfill the prime commandment that all of the people on the generational ship followed.
Find New Earth.
Tobias wanted to be selected to do that. He’d fantasized about being the one to find the new home world ever since he had been old enough to think about joining pilot school. It was what everyone on the ship wanted, what they yearned for, and Tobias, despite having been born on the ship, despite never having lived on an actual planet, wanted it too. He wanted to see his mother laughing as she ran through the meadows he’d seen in the old Earth movies, to see his sister looking up at a clear, blue sky. He wanted to build a life for himself surrounded by green grass and soaring trees—and for those things not to be encased in a bio-zone.
Tobias knew that every single pilot in the docking bay had the same fantasy as him. The longing for an actual planet to live on seemed almost to be hard-wired into them. They all wanted to find it. And one day one of them would. But who would get the chance today? Who was the last name on the officer’s list?
Javier took a step forward.
Tobias held his breath.
Probably every other pilot did too.
A second ticked by and then another. And then just as the tension was reaching a point where all of the pilots would have struggled to keep themselves still, Javier spoke. For a moment Tobias was not quite sure that he had heard right and he gasped. But then, all eyes were on him—all eyes including Javier’s—and Tobias couldn’t help but gasp again.
And he had been selected!
Tobias stepped forward automatically. Excitement raced through him. His heart was pumping hard in his chest. His stomach was clenching. He couldn’t believe it. So few people got selected in their first year. It almost never happened! And yet, here he was, walking up to the officers, they were smiling, they were congratulating him, the other selected pilots were too.
This was actually happening!
And then there was Javier. He stepped forward so that he was directly in front of Tobias. Tobias flushed, of course he did, he simply couldn’t help it. His flush deepened when Javier held out his hand. Tobias had no choice but to take it, and no choice either to hide the fizzle of electricity that shot up his arm as he touched the other man.
“Well done, pilot,” Javier said in that deep, stern voice of his.
“Thank you, sir,” Tobias replied.
Javier nodded and pulled his hand away. Tobias let out a shaky breath. His heart continued to race. His skin was still flushed. He looked around the docking bay, looked at his fellow scouting pilots, watched as those who hadn’t been selected made their way out and into the rooms around the bay, but mostly he looked at the ships. One hundred and twenty-seven of them and one of those ships was his...
“It’s that one.”
Javier’s voice...so close... Tobias almost jumped. He turned instead and collided with the older man’s gaze. Tobias could read nothing in those dark, brown eyes. Javier was completely and utterly composed. Tobias had never seen the other man any other way.
Tobias lowered his gaze, took a deep breath, and looked to where Javier was pointing. He frowned once he did because surely Javier was mistaken. He was pointing at the largest, most powerful ship in the entire docking bay.
“That’s the primary scout ship, sir,” Tobias said after a moment.
“But...I’ve never flown that ship, sir,” Tobias said slowly. “No one but the most experienced pilots and officers has.”
“I am aware of that,” Javier said.
Confusion filled Tobias as he looked at his fellow pilots. They were in deep discussions with the other officers. Ships were being pointed out, normal scout ships, not the bigger, more powerful primary ship. What was going on here?
“I’m not sure I understand, sir...” Tobias began but Javier cut him off with that stern voice of his again.
“There’s nothing to understand, pilot,” he said. “It’s quite simple. I will be flying the ship.”
Tobias started. He collided with those inscrutable eyes again. “But...”
“And you’ll be coming with me.”