Most of the time, Mark was content with his life since the end of the war with Spectra. Nothing could rival working as Commander of G-Force, of course. But Mark took comfort in knowing that he was doing his part to keep this corner of the universe safe from invaders from other worlds. A maniac like Zoltar would never again catch Galaxy Security and their interplanetary defense teams off-guard.
But days like today made Mark regret it all: breaking off his engagement, selling the airfield, even taking his job on Riga as a flight trainer for newly-recruited Red Rangers. The security of life in the military, the knowledge that he was keeping the universe safe and well-protected, wasn’t worth this sort of grief.
Mark stared at the message on his computer in disbelief. Jason and Princess are dating?
“Hold my calls.” Without giving his secretary time to question him, Mark hung up the phone and re-read Keyop’s email for a third time.
How are you? How are things on Riga? Things are fine here. I’m taking a break from studying …
Mark scanned the letter, ignoring Keyop’s complaints about his teachers, the Chief, and how unreasonable everyone was for making him study. He skipped ahead to the last four paragraphs.
Since Jason came home, he’s been hanging around the J. A lot. He’s different now, Mark, he’s quieter and less sarcastic and he doesn’t joke around so much. Tiny doesn’t know what to think. I think Jason was just away from people for so long that he forgot how to talk. Except with Sis. They’re always together.
Just yesterday, I caught Jason and Princess holding hands at the J when they thought I wasn’t looking. She kissed him, Mark! She kissed him right on the lips and everything! And then he put his arm around her and she laid her head on his shoulder and …
Mark swallowed painfully. Even after three reads, this information wasn’t any easier to process. He blinked and forced himself to continue.
… they held hands and walked out the door. I couldn’t help it, I had to follow them. And they never even noticed! They held hands as they walked and they smiled at each other with these really stupid looks on their faces. They weren’t even talking, just looking at each other with those goo-goo eyes. And then they slipped into a fancy restaurant and sat on the same side of the table and the bouncer saw me peeking in the window and shooed me away.
I don’t know what’s going on between them, Mark, but I thought you’d want to know. Maybe you can come home and stop it.
Mark shook his head and closed his computer.
Maybe I *can* stop it, he thought. He quickly calculated the time it took for email to reach Riga from Earth. There was that interstellar communications fiasco … so Keyop wrote this, what, a month ago?
He glanced at his desk calendar. Thanksgiving was only three weeks away. As usual, the Chief had invited him home, but Mark had begged off, saying that he had too much work to do. In reality, he avoided Earth and its inhabitants, especially the team. Anything was better than facing the emptiness he felt from losing Princess. He still couldn’t believe that she had dumped him, saying that she couldn’t keep waiting around for him to marry her.
She never forgave me for breaking off our engagement. But I proposed to her on impulse during the post-war festival! How could she hold me to that? I couldn’t marry her then. Jason was just out of surgery. He was a mess. After he left … Mark shook his head.
I have to protect the galaxy! I have to keep Spectra’s forces from regaining ground. Look at what happened between Cronus and my mother! He left her to pursue his duty. I can’t marry until I know for certain that the Federation – that everyone I love – is safe. That’s my duty.
Mark frowned. Why can’t she see that? It’s not like I love her any less. I just don’t want to get married. Right now.
He had always comforted himself with the knowledge that Princess still loved him. In his mind, Mark repeated the mantra that used to soothe himself during this past year and a half without her.
We just want different things right now. Someday, it’ll all work out. But …
Facing Keyop’s letter, it was hard to push aside his fears. What if it doesn’t?
Mark picked up the phone, dialed, and started making travel arrangements.