This is the fifth fic in the On the Run Series.
The G-Force Team prepares to re-take the Earth. But will the Commander ever regain his memories?
Categories: Battle of the Planets Characters:
Chief Anderson, Goon, Jason, Mark, Original Character, Princess, Tiny Harper, Zoltar
Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Hurt/Comfort, RomanceStory Warnings:
Adult Situations, Blood, Guts & Gore, Death, Drug Use, Graphic Violence, Mature Content, Mild Adult Situations, Mild Language, Mild Sexual References, Mild Violence, Sexual Dialogue, Sexual Situations, Strong Language, Torture, ViolenceTimeframe:
On the Run
This is the last fic in my On the Run series. Thanks to everyone who has stuck with my during this long tale, and I hope the conclusion is as satisfying for you to read as it was for me to write!
1. Chapter 1 by TransmuteJun
2. Chapter 2 by TransmuteJun
3. Chapter 3 by TransmuteJun
4. Chapter 4 by TransmuteJun
5. Chapter 5 by TransmuteJun
6. Chapter 6 by TransmuteJun
7. Chapter 7 by TransmuteJun
8. Chapter 8 by TransmuteJun
9. Chapter 9 by TransmuteJun
10. Chapter 10 by TransmuteJun
11. Chapter 11 by TransmuteJun
12. Epilogue by TransmuteJun
Chapter 1 by TransmuteJun
The tiny white projectile came rushing toward him. Instinctively, he moved his arm, blocking the sphere’s progress and sending it flying back to where his opponent stood. Over and over again, back and forth, the little ball shot between the two determined men.
Finally, the challenger put a spin on his paddle’s contact with the ball, and it bounced irregularly, shooting past his opponent and hitting the wall behind.
He had won the game.
“Not bad, Commander.” Jason grinned, tossing his paddle onto the table. “It appears that you remember this game after all.”
“No.” Mark shook his head slowly. “I don’t. But I seem to have good instincts.”
It had been like this for the past four months: ever since Mark had arrived on Riga with Jason and Princess. He still couldn’t recall anything of his life before the Spectran Invasion of Earth, but he had learned to rely upon the instinctive reactions he had to various people, objects, and situations. These instincts had so far always proven correct, and by tapping into them he had been able to regain his combat, weapon, piloting, and Birdstyle flying skills.
And now, it would seem, his ping pong skills as well.
“My champion!” Princess sighed dramatically, throwing her arms around Mark’s neck and pressing her lips against his cheek.
“I just hope that you don’t forget me when all of those ping pong groupies start throwing themselves at your feet, in awe of your superior skill.” she joked.
“There are ping pong groupies?” Jason exclaimed with a smirk. “Let them in!”
Andie, sitting in the corner of the room with a book, groaned loudly, while Tiny rolled his eyes as he reached for a Spaceburger.
“I could never forget you.” Mark told Princess seriously, his eyes connecting with hers in a way that told the Swan that he meant every word.
And he did.
There were so many things that he had forgotten about his past life, but the memories he missed the most were those of Princess. And yet, in a way, he hadn’t forgotten her. When he had been nameless, wandering through Paris in search of anyone who could help him, he had come across Princess.
She had looked different then. Her red hair and brown eyes had changed her appearance dramatically, but somehow, deep down, he had recognized her, and had been drawn to her; subconsciously seeing their connection long before either of them had known who they truly were.
And she had recognized him as well.
It had come as a complete surprise to Mark when, shortly after their arrival on Riga, Chief Anderson had drawn him aside, inquiring about the exact nature of his relationship with Princess.
“We’re together.” Mark had shrugged, confused as to why the question was even being asked. It had taken a conversation with Jason to understand.
Apparently, in this past that Mark was so desperate to remember, the Chief had strongly advised against the Commander’s having a relationship with his subordinate, and the Eagle had acted accordingly. It had only been in France, with his memories gone, that Mark had been able to ignore those admonitions from the Galaxy Security Chief and act on his true feelings; his true instincts.
And there was no way in hell he was going to back off now.
Anderson had seemed to understand that, and had made no further comment, but Mark had noticed that it made the Chief uncomfortable if he and Princess showed any signs of affection, physical or emotional, in front of their foster father.
Of course, that didn’t stop them.
“I could never forget you either, Mark.” Princess said softly, pressing a lingering kiss onto his mouth as he wrapped his arms around her waist. As always, the taste of her was intoxicating, leaving him breathless and eager for more.
And there might have been more, if he hadn’t heard the sounds of clapping and whistling from the other side of the room.
Mark and Princess reluctantly pulled apart from each other, Mark grinning from ear to ear and Princess blushing quietly. Jason, Tiny, and Andie were smiling, and for just a moment, it was easy to pretend that life was perfect.
But in fact, their existence was far from perfect.
They were standing in the new G-Force Ready Room, or at least, what had been hastily put together for them. A few empty rooms had been found in an older, unused building, and this structure had become their new living quarters, with this last chamber being converted into a lounge for their use. Somewhere, Chief Anderson had managed to scrounge up a ping pong table, and had acquired a guitar-like instrument for Princess. A few computer terminals, stacks of books and magazines, and a couple of couches completed the room.
“You Terrans certainly have some interesting games.” Andie commented dryly.
“As a matter of fact, I’m Spectran.” Jason pointed out. “And Mark is as Rigan as you are. Tiny and Princess are the only Terrans here.”
“Really?” Andie was as surprised as Mark was to learn these details. “I didn’t know that!”
“My parents were Spectran defectors.” Jason told her. “They were killed trying to pass important information on to Chief Anderson.”
Mark felt an involuntary flash of jealousy pass through him. He wished that he could remember these kinds of details about his own past. But then he realized the implications of what Jason had said about him.
“I’m Rigan?” he asked curiously.
“Yeah.” Jason replied carefully. “Princess didn’t tell you?”
“I… I never thought about it, until just now,” Princess chewed absentmindedly on a fingernail as she recalled the details. “Mark, your father was Colonel Cronus.”
“You mean, as in Cronus Memorial Field?” The Commander goggled at this news. “All of this time, we’ve been flying out of…” His voice drifted off as he recognized what this meant for him.
“My father is dead.” Mark stated, coming to grips with the realization that the parent he had just discovered was gone. He looked hopefully at Princess. “What about my mother?”
“She died when you were seven.” Princess revealed. “It was some kind of cancer. I’m sorry, Mark. That’s all I know about it.” The Swan wrapped her arms around the Eagle, comforting him as best she could. It was exactly the right thing to do. Even as Mark mourned the family he couldn’t recall, the warmth of the woman beside him filled that void, overflowing to envelop him completely.
“We were all chosen to be on the G-Force Team, because we were orphans.” Tiny explained. “The Chief didn’t want anyone coming after our families in an attempt to get to us. None of us, including you, Mark, even knew that Colonel Cronus was your father, until years later.”
“If it helps,” Andie said quietly, “I think that makes us family.”
“What?” Mark turned to regard the Harrier. “How’s that?”
“My mother was Thom Cronus’ cousin.” Andie explained. “In fact, it was my ‘famous relative’ who convinced me to make a career out of the Red Rangers. I guess that makes us… second cousins?”
“Pretty distant, if you ask me.” Jason observed.
“But still a family relationship.” Mark replied. “Thanks, Andie. It makes me feel better, knowing that.”
“Me too.” Andie smiled briefly, before looking back down at her book, her cheeks reddening. Mark was surprised to see her so flustered. Usually the Harrier was calm and collected: the picture of an unflappable officer. With sudden insight, Mark understood what was different about this situation. The Harrier was the ‘new’ member of the Team, and it was likely that she was still feeling like an outsider. Discovering that she was related to the Commander made her feel more like part of their group… their ‘family’.
Or it could be something else entirely.
Mark noticed that Jason had gone over to Andie’s seat, surreptitiously peering over her shoulder at the book she was perusing. The Harrier appeared to be completely engrossed in her reading material, but somehow her body positioning was such that it was extremely difficult for the Condor to accomplish his objective. Mark smirked to himself. If there was one thing he was certain of, it was that Jason would not find Andie to be a pushover in any situation. The Commander glanced at the woman by his side, noting that Princess was watching the scene with a soft smile on her face.
The Eagle was just about to say something to her when his communicator began to beep. Four other bracelets in the room echoed the sound, and everyone turned to look at their Commander. Mark nodded curtly, raising his left wrist to his mouth and answering for the entire Team.
“Team, assemble and launch the P2. I will brief you onboard.” came Chief Anderson’s voice.
“Acknowledged. Over and out.”
The Eagle looked at his Team. No one needed to be told that this was not a drill. The nature of the message was enough to put them all on alert.
“Let’s go.” Mark ordered, and in an instant they were all running to the P2 Docking Bay.
Chapter 2 by TransmuteJun
They transmuted enroute, performing their changes simultaneously so as not to blind each other. Upon arriving at the Docking Bay they leapt into the air, landing in perfect formation on the top of the bright red hull, the clear dome encasing them before the elevation platform descended to the Bridge.
The P2 was a beautiful ship: similar in design to the original Phoenix, but slightly larger and sleeker in design, to allow for easier access to Hyperspace. The two long wings and accompanying Vehicle Bays that had been prominent features on the first G-Force warship were gone, replaced by a slight flaring on either side of the ship’s tail. The P2’s color scheme was the reverse of the original Phoenix’s: instead of blue with red, it was now red with blue.
As before, the Team had individual vehicles stored inside of the larger warship. The Eagle’s G-1, the Condor’s G-2 and the Swan’s G-3 were updated versions of the G-Machines they had previously used. The Harrier had a small, maneuverable jet that was vaguely reminiscent of the twentieth century military plane that shared her bird name, while a fifth vehicle, a large tank, had been added for the Owl. A new intelligent autopilot feature had been installed on the P2, so that the warship’s pilot could join the rest of his teammates on more missions.
Even though he didn’t remember the original Phoenix at all, Mark had had no trouble getting used to the P2. Jason, Princess and Tiny commented from time to time on various differences between the two ships, but the Eagle noticed that they didn’t seem to have any trouble adapting either. And after the countless hours the Team had put in training in the new warship, general operations were now second nature to them all; a fact for which Mark was grateful when Chief Anderson’s image appeared on their main viewscreen in the middle of their pre-flight checks.
“Team, Spectra is attacking again.” the Chief informed them. “Thanks to the new surveillance outposts we placed after their last attempt to attack the Federation, we have received a little more advance warning this time, although not much.”
“Where is this Spectran offensive taking place?” the Commander asked. “What is Zoltar’s target?”
“Once again, the Spectrans are attacking Mars.” Anderson replied. “At least, that is what their trajectories would seem to indicate.”
“Wait a minute… trajectories?” Andie asked, even as Tiny began pulling out of the Docking Bay. “More than one?”
“Yes.” Anderson replied. “There are two separate mecha. It appears that Zoltar doesn’t want to take any chances on one of them being destroyed, as happened with the last attack.”
The Condor smirked at this statement, grinning at the Eagle and the Swan. It had been the three of them who had been the cause of the Buzzragon mecha’s destruction, during the last Spectran offensive targeting Mars.
“The mecha have been created in the form of trees.” the Chief continued his briefing.
“Trees?” The Owl’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” Anderson replied, his voice in deadly earnest. “I’ve seen the images myself. These are conifers, to be specific. They appear to be inspired by the specimens in Earth’s mountainous regions.”
“This I’ve got to see.” Jason grinned.
“We will be.” Princess reminded him.
“Why would they build a mecha… excuse me… two mecha, in the shape of trees?” Andie asked, perplexed.
“Unfortunately, asking the Spectrans that question probably isn’t high on our list of priorities right now.” Mark responded dryly.
“Exactly.” the Chief agreed. “Team, I am sending you to intercept and destroy the mecha, preferably before they reach the Mars defense perimeter. You should be receiving the location co-ordinates now.”
“Receipt acknowledged.” Andie reported.
“So, we’re going to let the Spectrans see us…” Princess whispered, her eyes wide with the sudden realization of what they were about to do.
“I don’t see any other alternative right now.” Anderson sighed. “I had hoped to hold off on revealing your existence until we initiated Operation Homefront, but you are needed here and now. While the Mars Defense Force has been increased, those troops are not ready to handle two mecha at once.”
“We’re on our way. Chief.” the Commander stated, accepting their mission on behalf of the Team. He turned to the Owl.
“Set course to intercept those mecha, Tiny.” Mark ordered. “Even if we have to forcibly drag them out of Hyperspace.”
Andie and Princess monitored the progress of the mecha as Tiny flew the P2 on a course toward the Planet Mars. Jason and Mark rapidly discussed a number of different attack strategies that would eliminate the enemy spacecraft as quickly as possible. During this time, the mecha maintained their course and heading, but moved more slowly than the P2, likely because of the Spectran ships’ massive size.
The P2 intercepted the mecha less than half an astronomical unit from the Planet Mars. The enemy craft were indeed shaped like pine trees, although they were on their sides, looking vaguely like green pin-cushioned rockets with brown stubby handles. Tiny moved alongside the massive tress while remaining in Hyperspace. At the same time, Jason targeted one of the Spectran craft and sent a few shots from their Spiral Cannons into one of the tree mecha’s ‘branches’. Both the Owl’s and the Condor’s maneuvers were extremely dangerous, as flying through Hyperspace wasn’t an exact science, and collisions could easily occur without an experienced pilot at the helm.
But the Commander had no doubt that the Owl was up to the task, and indeed, Tiny performed the technique effortlessly.
Weapons were almost always useless in Hyperspace, so Mark and Jason had agreed to use the Spiral Cannons in this instance. The Condor’s aim was true, and the Eagle was impressed to see a few small explosions coming forth from within the mecha’s interior. Jason smirked to himself.
“That got their attention.” he noted.
Indeed, both mecha were slowing, and all three warships came out of Hyperspace together. As soon as they had reached Open Space, the trees both turned to face the P2, sending a barrage of oddly shaped missiles their way. Tiny was easily able to dodge the attack.
“I think they’re… pine cones?” Andie guessed. “These Spectrans are crazy!”
“Nothing to compete with a good old TBX Missile.” Jason grinned, retracting the cover over the red button on his control panel. “To be nice, I’ll even send the ‘Super’ version their way.”
“Jason, aim between the third and fourth rows of branches, starting from the top… uh… tip.” The Swan advised the Condor from her control panel. “The ships seem to be weak at those joints, and this set isn’t properly reinforced, as the others are.”
“Thanks, Princess.” Jason said as he analyzed the computer readouts at his workstation, before glancing up at the main viewscreen. The Condor pressed the red button, sending a Super TBX Missile shooting out of the P2 Launch Tube.
The missile hit exactly where the Swan had indicated, and the Condor had a smug expression on his face as he watched the pine tree mecha explode in front of them.
As the alien warship broke apart, three squadrons of Federation Space Fighters came into view, moving toward the other mecha.
“Andie, coordinate with them.” the Eagle ordered the Harrier.
“Already on it, Commander.” Andie replied as she initiated a Comm link. After a moment conversing with the leader of the Mars Defense Force, she turned back to the Eagle.
“Commander, I suggest we let them handle this one.” she said quietly. “They’ve been training for it, and they could use the morale boost. I’ve passed on Princess’ information about targeting location.”
“What?” Jason cried, as the P2 jerked while Tiny avoided yet another barrage of pine cones. “After we’ve done the work, they want the glory?”
Mark looked over at Andie’s earnest face, and then back at the circling Space Fighters on the main viewscreen.
“There’s plenty of glory for everyone.” the Eagle stated firmly. “Tell them to go ahead, Andie.”
“Thank you, Commander.” the Harrier smiled, turning back to her station and speaking briefly again with the leader of the Mars Defense Force.
A few minutes later, with some additional strategic guidance from the Swan, the Federation Space Fighters destroyed the second pine tree mecha.
Their first real mission as a team had been a complete success.
But it had not come without a price.
Chapter 3 by TransmuteJun
When they returned to Galaxy Security Headquarters on Riga, the Team went immediately to Chief Anderson’s office for debriefing.
“You all did an excellent job.” the Chief congratulated them, after the Commander had completed his report. “I only regret that we had to use you at all. The Spectrans on those mecha had plenty of time to send a transmission to their home planet, or back to Earth, before they were destroyed. Now Zoltar knows that there is a new G-Force Team.”
“And we’ve lost our element of surprise for Operation Homefront.” Tiny pointed out.
“Not only that, they now know something of the P2’s weapon capabilities.” Jason muttered disgustedly. “They’ll be prepared when we encounter them next.”
“Not necessarily.” Princess replied. “We didn’t use our Tricolic Bombs, or the Fiery Phoenix. They have no idea about those particular attacks.”
“And they don’t know who any of us are.” Andie added.
“I think it’s safe to say that they strongly suspect that Mark, at least, is on the Team.” Anderson interjected. “From what he and Princess have told me, Zoltar already knew that Mark was alive, and obviously the Spectrans know he hasn’t been recaptured by their Forces.”
“We’re going to have to re-design our attack strategy, or Operation Homefront is unlikely to succeed.” Andie stated.
“We have to assume they’ll be prepared to meet us, now.” Tiny nodded. “There’s no chance of taking them by surprise.”
Mark looked over at Princess and Jason. While they were disappointed at the necessity of having exposed their existence so blatantly to the Spectrans, they didn’t appear as gloomy as Tiny, Andie, and the Chief did.
Were they thinking the same thing he was?
“That doesn’t have to be the case.” the Commander interrupted.
“What?” Tiny turned to look at the Eagle, confused. “But, now the Spectrans know about us…”
“You’re assuming that the next time we meet them, they’ll be prepared for us, because they know we exist.” Mark said. “But… what if we didn’t give them any time to prepare?”
“What are you proposing, Commander?” Anderson asked him.
“I’m proposing that we do to the Spectrans what they did to us.” the Eagle replied grimly. “They destroyed most of Center Neptune, then left. We let our guard down. We thought that we had dodged a bullet. But instead, they came back the next day, when we didn’t expect them, finishing off G-Force’s base of operations and attacking the Earth in multiple locations.”
“What if we did the exact same thing?” Mark suggested again.
“Commander, that’s brilliant!” Princess smiled excitedly. “Zoltar knows that Galaxy Security tends to react slowly. He knows that the Chief likes to think things through from all angles, and take time to recover after each encounter.”
“Heck, that’s what the purple bastard likes to do himself.” Jason pointed out. “Before, he would always be attacking us, and then take awhile to recover and build his next mecha.”
“Not to mention, the ones we encountered today were sloppy.” Tiny added. “Chances are the Snakeheads rushed through building them, to attack Mars as quickly as possible.”
“So you think the mecha the Spectrans used today were their only ones?” Andie asked. “You don’t think they don’t have any others in reserve?”
“No.” Mark shook his head. “I don’t think there are any in reserve. When we were at Ramstein Aerospace Base, Jason, Princess, and I overheard Zoltar complaining about how long it was taking to build mecha. And we just destroyed two of them. I don’t think they have anything else major up their sleeves right now.”
“And even if they did, how does that possibility make initiating Operation Homefront now any more difficult than launching in three weeks, as we had originally planned?” Jason asked the Harrier. “No matter when we attack, we’re not going to know for certain that Zoltar doesn’t have any defensive mecha in reserve.”
“But we do know that right now, he’s just lost two that he had planned to keep around.” Princess grinned.
“They certainly aren’t attacking anywhere else, right now.” the Owl mused.
“You guys make a good case.” the Harrier smiled, leaning back in her seat. “I like this idea.”
“How soon are you talking, about, Mark?” the Chief interrupted the conversation, clearly attempting to throw cold water on the excitement that was beginning to build within the G-Force Team. “Certainly the Spectrans might not be prepared if we launch Operation Homefront now, but neither are we. We still have troops to train, weather patterns to analyze, Spectran defenses to study…”
“If we wait to do all of that, we’ll lose our window of opportunity.” the Condor retorted, jumping up and turning to the Eagle.
“I like your idea, Commander. I vote yes.” he stated. “Let’s attack them tomorrow.”
“This isn’t a democracy, Jason.” Anderson protested.
“Tomorrow?” Andie’s eyes grew wide. “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure.” Princess said, standing up and joining the Eagle and the Condor. “We are ready. Look how well we worked together today! We’ve been planning Operation Homefront for months now. Sure, we’ll have to be flexible and maybe make some last minute changes, depending on what we encounter, but how is that any different from most of the missions we’ve ever been on?”
“I vote yes too, Mark.” the Swan smiled at the Commander.
“I trust you, Commander.” the Owl added, coming to his feet. “I’m in.”
“If this is what you honestly think is best, then I’m behind you, Commander.” the Harrier stated, rising to her feet. “In the time we’ve worked and trained with each other, I’ve never known your strategic instincts to be wrong. I’m in as well.”
The five members of the G-Force team turned to regard Chief Anderson, each of them staring the Galaxy Security Leader down in their own individual way. Yet the Chief didn’t appear to be dissuaded from his original opinion.
“Sir, this isn’t…”
“I said, ‘no’, Commander!” Anderson spat. “I’m in charge here, and this is my decision to make. We are not moving up the timetable for the attack. The Federation Forces are simply not ready.”
“Then let us help them get ready.” Princess suggested in a reasonable tone. “You have to admit that the sooner we do this, the less prepared the Spectrans are going to be.”
Mark felt a warm rush of gratitude for Princess’ grace under pressure. While his strategic mind remained, his missing recollections of the past sometimes caused him problems, as they were right now. The Commander simply didn’t know Chief Anderson well enough to have anticipated that he would take the Eagle’s suggestion as a personal affront to his leadership skills.
But Princess did.
“Perhaps,” the Chief conceded, “but I’m not certain that’s going to be enough. Regardless, tomorrow is entirely too soon. Perhaps we could move the schedule up by a couple of days…”
“That’s still too long…” Jason began to protest, before Mark cut him off with a withering glare.
“Thank you for considering it, Sir.” the Commander said politely, before ushering everyone else out of the room.
“What was that?” Jason demanded, the moment the Chief’s office door had closed behind them. “You just gave in!”
“No, I didn’t.” Mark smirked. “Princess has something up her sleeve.”
“You know me so well.” the Swan smiled flirtatiously, winking at the Eagle before turning to the Harrier. “Andie, would you come with me?”
“Of course.” Andie replied, a little confused but dutifully following Princess down the hall. The two young women put their heads together, and Mark could hear soft giggling coming from their direction as they departed. He was glad that the Swan was on their side, else he might have been worried by their secretive demeanor.
“So you’re just going to leave it in their hands?” Jason demanded.
“Of course.” Mark grinned. “Who else is more capable?”
The Eagle wasn’t surprised when the Swan contacted him a short while later on his communicator, suggesting that the Team meet up immediately in Chief Anderson’s office. He did raise an eyebrow at her request that they all appear in full uniform, but complied, re-transmuting with Jason and Tiny before leaving for their meeting.
Upon arriving at the Chief’s office, they saw the Swan and the Harrier standing next to a man dressed in a red uniform.
“Good to see that everyone is here.” Colonel Rigel stated gruffly, turning to Anderson. “We shouldn’t even be having this meeting at all, so the sooner it’s over with, the better.”
Mark’s stomach lurched. What had Princess gotten them into? But as he looked over at the Swan, he noticed that she was smirking slightly from beneath her visor.
“What is this all about, Colonel?” the Chief asked angrily, rising to his feet and placing both hands palms-down on his desk as he surveyed the G-Force Team.
“The Commander proposed an alternate timeline for Operation Homefront.” the Colonel harrumphed. “One that you don’t seem willing to consider.”
“I can’t believe that you came here for this.” Anderson groaned. “I don’t suppose you were informed that the suggested launch date is tomorrow?”
“As a matter of fact, I was.” Rigel replied, grinning at the Commander cockily. “I think it’s an excellent idea.”
“What?” the Chief’s face turned beet red as he took in the Colonel’s words. “How can you say that? We’re not ready!” Anderson looked as if he might storm out of the room.
“The Red Rangers are ready.” Rigel stated, folding his arms and planting his feet on the ground in such a manner as if to suggest that if the Chief attempted to leave the Colonel would tackle him personally to keep him there. “My pilots are prepared to take on whatever aspects of Operation Homefront you care to assign them.”
“And the G-Force Team is ready as well.” the Commander added, stepping up beside Colonel Rigel. “We understand what is at stake here, and we’re not going to rush into this without being fully prepared. But we are prepared, Sir. We’ve been training for this Operation for four months, now.”
Chief Anderson looked back and forth from the G-Force Commander to the Red Ranger Colonel, his face turning purple for a moment before slowly returning to its normal color.
“I know when I’ve been outvoted.” he sighed, hanging his head. “We’ll launch Operation Homefront tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Sir.” Mark said quietly, stepping back from the Chief’s desk.
“I hope you’ve gotten your rest.” Anderson warned them all. “It’s going to be a long night.”
Chapter 4 by TransmuteJun
The Chief was right. The G-Force Team spent most of the night inspecting their equipment and vehicles, and coordinating with the Red Rangers and other Federation Forces, to ensure that everyone knew what they were doing. At three am they stumbled into bed, exhausted, but eagerly anticipating the battle that was to come.
Mark followed Princess into their quarters and fell onto the bed the moment he saw it, barely taking the time to remove his shoes. Princess giggled slightly, encouraging the Commander to sit up while she removed his clothes, before divesting herself of her own garments.
“Come on, Commander.” she purred. “You can’t fight the Spectrans without being clean, can you?” She reached over to grab his hands, dragging Mark into the shower.
The Commander didn’t protest. The hot water felt good on his aching muscles after their long day, and Princess didn’t just have cleanliness in mind.
By the time they actually got back to bed, the Eagle was smiling, drifting off to sleep with his arms wrapped around his beautiful Swan. But his rest was disturbed by a strange dream.
He was standing on the Bridge of the Phoenix, looking around at his Team. Jason, Princess, Tiny… Keyop… They all had worried expressions, but some of them hid their thoughts better than others.
“Tiny, withdraw.” Mark ordered the Owl.
“Mark, are we… abandoning ship?” Princess gasped.
“We can’t stay here.” the Commander replied curtly.
There was a moment of stunned silence, before Jason stood up from his seat.
“I agree.” he said grimly. “Let’s go.”
Mark gave instructions to his Team, telling them to get to their individual vehicles. They had to move quickly before the corrosive gas surrounding the Phoenix ate its way to the Bridge.
The Phoenix was about to be destroyed, and the Commander knew it. They all knew it. The fact that no one was protesting his orders was proof enough of that.
Wasn’t the Captain supposed to go down with the ship? But the Commander refused to take the easy route. This battle wasn’t over yet.
The Eagle boarded his Summit Jet, pulling away from the ship as soon as the auto-release was engaged, hovering in the air behind the Phoenix and observing the rest of his team leaving their red and blue warship. The Spacemobile, the Galacticycle… and after a moment, the Space Buggy. As soon as the last G-Machine was away from the Phoenix, Mark broadcast a message to all of them from his communicator.
At first, his message was mundane: a warning to maintain radio silence, and instructions as to the tactics he wanted them to use in the remainder of this battle.
But this was not the last battle they would fight that day. There were three more mecha attacking the Earth at that very moment, and even when this fight was over, there was another combat to follow.
They had to regroup.
“When our task has been completed… there are still three more mecha to be destroyed.” the Commander told his team. “We will regroup and meet in Geneva, at the United Nations Headquarters there.”
But, this wasn’t enough. Even the ever-optimistic Commander could see that there was a distinct possibility that they would not emerge victorious from this encounter.
“If… if we do not succeed in this endeavor,” the Eagle said slowly, “make your way to a deserted area, de-transmute, and execute Command Code 3210 in your implants; with a duration of twelve months. You’ll know what to do, after that.”
His heart wrenched at giving this order. They didn’t know what that particular Command Code would do to them, and the Eagle sincerely hoped that they would never have to find out. But if the Spectrans emerged victorious, and were able to take control of the planet, it was the only way they could survive.
And they had to survive.
If they didn’t survive, they would never regroup, and never be able to drive the Spectrans away from the Federation… away from Earth.
“We must survive this.” the Commander urged his team. “No matter what happens, we must survive, if we are to endure. Only if we are alive, can we defend the Earth, and fight for the Federation. Even when this battle is over, we still have work to do.”
He paused before giving his final instruction.
“At all costs, I order you to survive.”
He took a deep breath before going on.
“If anyone can win this fight, can do this with me, you can. Have faith, G-Force.” the Commander assured them. “It has been my honor to work with you all. You are my family, and my Team.”
He closed his eyes, knowing that these were the last words he might ever say to his teammates… his friends… his family.
“G-1, over and out.”
He terminated the communication, not waiting for any acknowledgement that would just make the inevitable more painful for all of them. The Eagle flew back into the clouds, watching the other three vehicles moving away, just as the Spectran Pterodactyl mecha appeared on the other side of the hill.
A volley of missiles came from its mouth, and the Phoenix exploded, destroyed before his eyes. Mark had not been her primary pilot, but she felt like his ship all the same. A tear slid from his eye, as he mourned the loss of an old friend.
But now, he had work to do.
He saw the Spacemobile and the Galacticycle attacking the ground troops, while the Space Buggy began firing at the giant mecha. The Eagle flew his Summit Jet around the Spectran warship, attacking from the clouds, attempting to determine the Pterodactyl’s most vulnerable points. But as he flew by for another round of attacks, something on the ground caught his eye.
The bright yellow Galacticycle was flying through the air. It came crashing down into a sea of Spectran troops, instigating a massive explosion that spread out across the ground.
“Princess, no!” he screamed, but it was too late. The ground below him was now a landscape of blackened and charred metal, littered with the remains of numerous Spectran soldiers.
He had never had the chance to tell Princess how he truly felt about her… and now Spectra had ripped that chance away from him, forever.
He would make them pay.
This primal urge for revenge gave him a sudden clarity, and his eyes fell upon the vulnerable point he had been looking for.
Every time the Pterodactyl opened its mouth, it also opened up a passageway to its interior. He could use that to attack the alien mecha.
Except, the laser guns in his Summit Jet weren’t enough. A TBX Missile might have done it, but there weren’t any on board his aircraft.
Quickly, the Eagle assessed the situation around him, looking for other armaments he might use. What he found was enough to make his heart leap into his throat.
The mangled remains of the Space Buggy were clearly visible on the ground below. Even as he watched, the Commander saw the G-4 explode under a hail of laser fire, and an empty feeling passed through him as the G-Machine began to burn. The Pterodactyl mecha came close down to the ground, pressing one of its feet on top of what was left of the Space Buggy, crushing it into a yellow-black pulp. Deep down, the Eagle knew that the Swallow and the Owl could never have survived such a thing.
That left only him, and the Condor.
But the Spacemobile was tearing down a hillside, attracting the attention of every enemy soldier in the area. It reached the center of the alien troops before exploding, causing a massive wave of destruction to come shooting out in every direction.
It was at that moment that the Commander knew how he could destroy the mecha. The Condor had shown him what to do, in his last moment of life.
The Commander would use himself as a weapon.
The Eagle moved his aircraft into position, waiting for his opportunity to strike.
The next time the Pterodactyl mecha opened its mouth, the Summit Jet shot forward like a rocket, propelling itself into the very heart of the massive metallic creature, aiming for its complete destruction.
Because destruction was all that was going to come from this day…
“Mark, wake up.” Princess urged him. “It’s nine am. We need to get going if we’re going to deploy by ten o’clock.”
The Commander sat up, rubbing his eyes with the back of his fist. His dream had been so vivid, so real…
As real as if those events had actually occurred.
His memories were returning.
“Mark? Is everything okay?”
“Yes… I think so.”
“Okay, then let’s get going.”
Princess was tossing his clothes at him, and in a haze the Commander put them on, his mind still reeling from what he had seen in his dreams.
Was that how it had really happened?
But there was no time to dwell on this now. They were about to begin something…
They were about to end something that should never have been started.
Mark and Princess transmuted just before arriving at the Galaxy Security Main Hangar, and entered to see everything moving along exactly as planned. Jason, Andie, and Tiny appeared less than a minute later, and then Chief Anderson and Colonel Rigel were approaching them.
“Are you absolutely certain that you wish to embark on this insanity?” the Chief asked them dryly.
“Absolutely, Sir.” Mark replied seriously.
“See, Anderson?” the Colonel barked, slapping the Chief on the back. “These kids are front-line fighters. They know what they’re doing.”
“We certainly do, Sir.” the Commander nodded. “But this particular Operation needs more than just the five of us. We are glad to see that we can count on the Red Ranger Forces during Operation Homefront.”
“I just want to kick some Spectran ass.” Rigel grinned.
“You’ll get your chance.” Anderson grimaced. “I just hope this isn’t foolhardy…”
“Only for Zoltar.” Jason smirked.
“Chances are, Zoltar won’t even be there.” Princess pointed out. “He tends to stay on Spectra, now that he thinks the Earth is ‘secure’.”
“We’ll show him the error of his ways.” Andie grinned.
“We’re all counting on you, Team.” Anderson told them. As a ‘pep talk’, it wasn’t the most motivational thing the Chief could have said, but Mark was beginning to understand that the Galaxy Security Leader had a hard time dealing with events that didn’t go exactly as he had planned them.
“We won’t let you down, Chief.” the Commander promised, as he led his team off to the P2. The five members of the G-Force Team flew up to the elevation platform on top of their warship, the dome covering them before they descended down onto the Bridge of the new Phoenix.
Chapter 5 by TransmuteJun
Once they were on the Bridge, everyone moved to their positions immediately, going through their pre-flight checks twice, to ensure that everything was operating within normal parameters. Thanks to a sabotage attempt onboard a couple of months ago, this now included checking through the computer files to ensure that nothing had been altered, and performing visual inspections of all wiring at their individual control areas.
“All clear, Commander!” Princess called out, as she received the check results from everyone’s workstations.
“Tiny, initiate departure sequence.” the Eagle ordered.
“Initiating.” came the Pilot’s response.
The P2 slowly pulled out of its Docking Bay, moving toward the exit as she had done so many times before. But this occasion was different. Unlike their previous training flights, they were now flanked by two dozen Red Ranger Jets and followed by a seeming endless trail of Federation Space Fighters and Troop Transports.
And every one of those aircraft was counting on the P2 to show them the way to freedom.
They had to succeed today. Operation Homefront was a do-or-die proposition. They needed to show the Spectran Empire, and the citizens of the Federation, that they had not been defeated; that Earth did not belong to the Spectrans.
And it was all up to them.
Mark looked around the Bridge at the faces of his teammates. Unlike in his memory-dream, this time they exuded an air of excitement and quiet confidence, each of them secure in the knowledge that victory would be theirs.
And it would be, if the G-Force Commander had anything to say about it.
Of course, there was also a sense of sadness present. An image of Keyop at his station from Mark’s memory-dream flashed through his mind, and the Commander could tell by looking at Jason, Princess, and Tiny that they were remembering their fallen comrade as well.
They would make the Swallow proud, this day.
Their journey to Earth went as expected. The ships all entered Hyperspace at the same point, moving toward their target together. The Federation Forces hung back, letting the P2 and the Red Ranger jets surge ahead, clearing the way for the ground operations that were to come.
It seemed like no time at all before they were nearly within sensor range of the Spectran defense net around the planet Earth. The vessels all exited Hyperspace, coming to a standstill, waiting for the Eagle to begin the next step of their Operation.
“Princess, initiate transmission.” the Commander ordered, and the Swan’s fingers flew over the control panel, sending an encoded hail to the Earth’s surface. Mark held his breath. This was the one part of their Operation that could not be predicted. The process of making contact with the Galaxy Security Agent on Earth was fraught with difficulties, and it couldn’t be done from Riga at all. They had to simply hope that the agent was able and ready to answer the hail at this exact moment. If not, they would have to…
The audio response resulted in a number of relieved sighs around the Bridge as Princess responded.
“Clytac, I am initiating authorization code 69435GS2. Do you copy?”
“Copy. Authorization code verified. Response code 78493GS1.”
“Verified. Clytac, we need a complete listing of Spectran aerospace bases on the planet, ranked in descending order of size.”
“Transmitting the data now.”
“There aren’t many large bases.” the Agent revealed as the transmission was coming through. “Pretty much only five or six around the planet. The rest are small airstrips for local operations. The biggest two are Fallon in Nevada, North America and Ramstein in Central Europe. I guess Moffett Field in California used to be the largest base, but a good friend of mine destroyed it right around the time I got here.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Mark saw Tiny grinning from ear to ear. What was that all about? Mark was about to ask when a sharp cry from Princess brought his attention back to their communication with the Galaxy Security Agent.
“We’ve lost it!” the Swan reported. “The data stream has been terminated!”
“Shit, they’ve found me…”
Clytac’s voice cut off, and the communication stream ended abruptly with a hiss of loud static. Everyone’s eyes turned to the Commander. Mark’s stomach lurched, but he knew that this was no time to panic. He had to make sure that Operation Homefront succeeded.
“Princess, what have we got?” the Eagle asked the Swan.
“The two bases he mentioned over the communication channel,” she replied, “along with co-ordinates and other relevant data. Also one other: Kadena in Okinawa, Southeast Asia.”
“What about the rest?” Jason asked in a tight voice.
“They’re not there.” Princess told him. “The transmission just cut off.”
“Then we’ll have to move to our backup plan.” the Commander announced. “Andie, contact the Red Rangers and inform that their target is the Fallon base. Transmit all associated information. And tell them to begin the first stage of re-entry.”
“I’m on it, Commander.”
As the Harrier carried out the Eagle’s orders, the Commander turned to the rest of the team.
“Tiny, after we take out the planetary defense net, you will set course for the Ramstein Base. Andie will give you the co-ordinates. Princess, you and I will be carrying out Beta Plan once we arrive. Jason, we’ll need your expertise in weaponry to do the most damage in the least amount of time.”
Even as the Commander spoke, dozens of Red Ranger Jets streamed past them, entering the scanning range of the Spectran ships surrounding the Planet Earth. Immediately, the Spectran Fighter Jets swarmed toward the Red Rangers’ position, initiating a firefight. The P2 watched from just outside of the planetary scanning range, waiting for their moment to strike.
It didn’t take long. Less than a minute after the Red Rangers had made their presence known, a huge wave of reinforcement Spectran Fighter Jets appeared, gravitating toward the Rigan spacecraft.
“Commander, are you ready?” Colonel Rigel’s impatient voice came through the Comm Channel.
“Initiating now.” the Eagle replied calmly, terminating the communication and turning to the Owl.
“Fiery Phoenix, now.”
Tiny nodded, and everyone buckled up as the Pilot initiated the maneuver. The giant Firebird came screaming out into the open, tearing through the bunched up Spectran Fighter Jets as if they were made of paper, eliminating the vast majority of the Planetary Defense Force while the Red Rangers cleaned up the few enemy craft that had escaped this fiery offensive.
The G-Force Team gripped their seats. They gritted their teeth, unable to breathe properly until the Owl ended the sequence and the warship returned to its normal state.
One way or another, Operation Homefront was going to reach its ultimate conclusion.
The P2 approached Ramstein Aerospace Base, the Bridge filled with a tense anticipation of the battle to come. There was no subtlety other than speed. The Spectrans now knew that they were coming, and had to have guessed what the Federation’s main objectives would be.
The only thing they could do at this point was to continue the basic strategy behind this entire Operation: to not give their enemy enough time to prepare.
And that was exactly what they were doing. The P2 hurtled out of the atmosphere at top speed, only slowing down once its target was in sight; effectively coming to a screeching halt as it approached Ramstein Aerospace Base.
They could already see hundreds… no, thousands… of tiny green troops scurrying around the base. Mark just hoped that their movements were the result of panic, rather than an organized response. But they had to react as if this were the worst case scenario possible.
“Princess, time to go.” the Eagle told her, and the Swan nodded, following the Commander to the elevation platform.
“Jason, you’re in charge.” the Eagle informed the Condor. “Take this place down.”
“Funny, that’s exactly what I was planning to do.” the Weapons Officer smirked.
Mark simply grinned as the elevation platform rose up and reached the outer hull of the P2. The clear dome retracted, and he and Princess leapt into the air, spreading their wings and gliding down to the ground, heading toward a building with which they were all too familiar.
Even as they approached, they saw soldiers running toward them, shooting wildly into the air. Between the enemy troops’ poor aim and the Eagle’s gliding skills, he had no trouble avoiding their fire. Smiling, he noticed that the Swan wasn’t too bothered by this attack either. Mark was fairly certain that she was already thinking about their task ahead.
They moved closer to the ground, and in the distance, Mark saw the P2 firing at the main hangar, setting off a series of explosions that frightened the green-uniformed guards below them. As they milled about in confusion, a flashing silver bird sped through their midst, and they dropped to the ground before they were even aware of what had occurred. The Commander caught his Sonic Boomerang neatly as he landed on the tarmac, re-holstering it while the Swan shot her yo-yo at the entrance to the small building in front of them.
“The door is unlocked.” she announced sweetly, before plunging through the smoking metal archway and into the damaged structure.
The Commander quickly followed, the two of them running down the halls of the building without pause. This was one part of Mark’s memory that didn’t fail him, and he remembered every twist and turn, including the elaborate door at the end of a long hallway.
Two soldiers were guarding the ostentatious portal, but when they saw the two white-winged figures approaching they threw their guns to the floor, clearly moving to run away. But their feeble attempt at surrender was met only with the harsh mercy of the Swan’s yo-yo weapon, and their lives were extinguished even as the devil-head logo on the door was obliterated.
“You know, they were surrendering…” Mark murmured.
“They might have gone for help.” Princess pointed out.
The Commander nodded, agreeing with the Swan’s assessment.
Behind the door was a familiar office, including a toilet chamber with which Mark was all too familiar. However, the flabbergasted man standing up behind the desk was not the same person who had occupied this room during their last visit.
The Swan immediately headed for the wall-mounted computer terminal with which she was most familiar, confident that the Eagle could deal with the unwanted company.
“Co… Commander!” the man stuttered. He was wearing what looked like the regular green Spectran uniform, save that its color was brown, and it bore Captain’s markings. “I thought… I hoped… you were dead!”
“Then I guess I’m the White Ghost.” Mark growled, raising his Sonic Boomerang. He grabbed the man by his collar and prepared to strike…
Something about him was familiar.
“Where do I know you from?” he demanded of the enemy Captain, shaking the man until his eyes rolled into the back of his head.
And then, it came to him….
He was staring at a pair of brown shoes.
Mark lay crumpled on the filthy stone floor, his body curled into the fetal position, one eye trained on the shoes in front of him, desperately hoping that their owner would just go away, yet knowing that such a thing was not about to happen.
The brown shoes stepped forward, and suddenly he found himself yanked upright, being forced to stare into the sneering face of the Snakehead Commandant.
“So… Commander…” he spat into Mark’s eye. “Let’s see if you’re wiling to talk to us today…”
And now, the owner of those brown shoes was in the Commander’s grip.
“I remember now.” the Eagle said coldly, slicing the man’s neck with a sharp flick of his Boomerang. He pushed the Captain’s lifeless body away with disgust, moving over to where Princess stood, her fingers flying across the controls of the Spectran computer.
“I’ve got it!” she crowed, turning to him with a smile before he could even finish his sentence.
“Then let’s get out of here.” Mark grinned. “I don’t know how long Jason will be able to hold back his natural instincts, and I’m sure this building is due for demolition any time now.”
They didn’t even bother to look back as they ran out of the room, hand in hand.
They returned to the Bridge of the P2 just in time to hear an incoming transmission from Colonel Rigel.
“Fallon’s gone.” he reported. “What’s next?”
“Princess?” the Commander turned to the Swan.
“I’m transmitting that data now, Colonel.” the Intelligence Officer responded, moving quickly to her workstation and sending the information to the Red Ranger Leader. “Red Ranger Forces, your target is the Pirassununga Aerospace Base on the South American continent. I am transmitting co-ordinates now.”
“We’re looking forward to it.” Rigel ended the transmission. The Commander could almost hear the Colonel’s grin in his words. The Harrier immediately contacted the Federation Forces waiting in orbit, instructing them to move in to Fallon and Ramstein, clean up any remaining enemy troops, and initiate ground infiltration.
“And we’re going to…?” Tiny asked.
“Kadena.” the Swan replied as the Harrier closed her Comm Channel to the Federation Forces. “After all, I know Jason’s always wanted to blow up an entire island.”
“Aren’t there civilians on that island as well?” Mark asked as the Owl laid in their course for Okinawa.
“Not according to the data we received from Clytac.” Andie answered. “The Spectrans apparently loved the place so much that they eliminated all Terrans living there in order to take over the entire land mass.”
“That seems odd…” the Commander said.
“The Spectrans also built some kind of large factory there.” Andie added. “A… processing plant…?”
“They’re probably just manufacturing weapons.” the Condor shrugged. “Whatever it is, it’ll be gone shortly.” The gleeful look on his face was enough to make the Harrier laugh.
“You’re just a boy with toys, aren’t you Jason?” she observed.
“Oh, no.” Princess replied. “As a boy, he was much more serious.” The Swan glanced over at the Harrier, and they both began to giggle.
The sound was infectious, and shortly the entire Bridge was laughing. The mood had lightened, and looking around at his team, the Commander knew that the success they had achieved at Ramstein had been more necessary than he could have guessed.
They were confident.
Not that they hadn’t been confident before, but the initiation of Operation Homefront had carried a large element of risk. They hadn’t had any idea how prepared the Spectrans would be. But as the Commander perused over the quick battlefront reports he had from the Condor and Colonel Rigel, it appeared that they had caught the Snakeheads with their pants down.
At that moment, the Eagle knew that victory was assured.
Chapter 6 by TransmuteJun
Nearly twenty-four hours later, the P2 was heading home, the warship and its crew fully intact, if somewhat weary. Operation Homefront had been a complete success; more than they could ever have imagined. The Commander’s idea of turning the tables on the Spectrans, by attacking them after their two large mecha had been destroyed, had proven to be the correct decision. Between the P2 and the Red Ranger Team, the planetary defense net and the seven main aerospace bases the Spectrans had established on Earth had been obliterated, and these assaults had wiped out the only serious source of resistance to the Federation’s offensive. The Red Rangers had attacked Fallon Aerospace Base in Nevada, North America, Pirassununga Aerospace Base in Brazil, South America, and Richmond Base in Southeastern Australia. The P2 had focused on Ramstein in Germany, Central Europe, Kadena in Okinawa, Southeastern Asia, the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in Kamra, Southern Asia, and the Lipetsk Base in Moscow, Central Asia.
The data that Princess had been able to download at Ramstein had been correct, and not only had G-Force and the Red Rangers been able to use it to concentrate on the greatest threats, the data about each individual Spectran base had been used to plan those attacks. Once they had cleared out the majority of the Spectran troops, the Federation Forces had landed on the planet and performed a ground-based operation to retake control of major cities and all remaining aerospace bases. These soldiers had been met with open arms by the Terran civilians, and the Snakeheads had quickly fled, putting up little fight. Jason had joked that the goons always knew when the time was good to go.
For their part, the Federation Forces had let the occupying troops flee the planet in small escape pods and Fighter Jets, although Galaxy Security had given orders to stop any large vessels from departing. The Spectran Empire had already raped the Earth of far too many of its precious resources in the past sixteen months, and Chief Anderson didn’t want any more lost during these last few moments of the Spectran Occupation.
After dealing with the potential threats of the planet’s biggest Spectran bases, the P2 and the Red Rangers helped the regular Federation Forces wipe out the two dozen or so smaller enemy bases around the planet, whose locations Princess had uncovered through her data search at Ramstein. Once the main bases had been destroyed, the other Spectran installations simply surrendered or fled, making G-Force’s job much easier.
With the exception of Clytac’s demise (the Federation Forces had discovered his body among the ruined remnants of his computer system in his apartment on the western coast of North America), everything had gone just about as well as anyone could have expected. Based on their brief transmissions with Galaxy Security, even Chief Anderson was pleased with the success of Operation Homefront.
There was only one problem.
It had been too easy.
Everyone was so excited about their victory, that no one else seemed to share the Commander’s feeling of unease. It was almost as if once the G-Force Team had arrived and made a few offensive maneuvers, the Spectrans had simply given up and fled the planet.
Why would the Spectran Empire work so hard to take over the Earth, only to abandon it at the first sign of trouble? Of course, the Commander’s strategy had been to catch the enemy unprepared, and perhaps the Federation had simply been more successful at that than he had foreseen.
After their return to Riga, the Eagle spoke with Chief Anderson about this matter, and while they both carefully investigated the possibility of Spectran response to their attack, no evidence could be found to refute the fact that the Federation had re-taken the Earth. While Mark still felt somewhat uneasy, after a few days he discovered that he had become more accepting of the Federation’s victory, although as the G-Force Commander, he was of course ever vigilant for any sign of Spectran trickery.
Although the liberation of Earth was cause enough for celebration, Mark had another reason to be excited: his memories were coming back to him. There was no apparent rhyme or reason to their return, it was simply that little pieces of information were coming back to him as he experienced ‘familiar’ circumstances. Now that he was certain that his past was being restored to him, the time had come to tell Princess his exciting news.
That night, Mark took Princess back to their quarters earlier than usual. The moment he shut the door, the Swan sighed happily, winding her arms around the Eagle’s neck and pressing her cheek against his.
“I can see that you wanted some time alone together…” she whispered, her fingers trailing along his jaw. “You just couldn’t wait to get out of the Ready Room…”
“I do want to be alone with you.” Mark murmured, gently removing Princess’ arms from around his neck. “But not for that reason. We need to talk.”
“Oh.” Princess’ face fell slightly, but she quickly recovered herself and smiled back at him.
“What’s going on?” she asked brightly.
“Something good.” Mark reassured Princess as he sat down next to her on the bed. “My memories are returning.”
“They are?” Princess’ eyes lit up. “How do you know?”
“Well, at first I had a dream… about what happened the day of the Spectran Invasion. At the time I wasn’t certain whether it was a true recollection, or just something my mind had conjured up. But in the past few days, I’ve had brief flashes of memory. Something will just trigger a recollection from my past…”
“So, you’ve been recalling the past for a few days…”
“Yes. But it wasn’t until today that I felt that these were truly actual memories; not just imaginings. But everything is so real… so right… that I felt confident telling you this.”
“I see…” Princess paused, as if she were searching for the right words. “Mark… have you had any recollections…. about me?”
Mark’s head snapped up. The surprised expression on his face spoke volumes.
“Well, actually, I…”
He was sitting at a booth in a small restaurant. A young woman with long, dark hair was behind the bar, cleaning up and preparing drinks for a few customers. She turned his way, her green eyes brightening when she looked at him, sending a brilliant smile in his direction.
But he quickly averted his eyes, pretending not to notice her hurt expression as he looked away. It wasn’t like this had never happened before…
“I did, just now.” Mark admitted, his mind troubled. Why had he been ignoring Princess in this recollection?
“Oh.” Princess lowered her eyes, staring at her hands in her lap. “What did you remember?”
“You…” Mark wasn’t entirely certain what he wanted to say. Should he reveal that his memory of her wasn’t entirely kindly?
“You were working in a restaurant.” he said. “Behind a bar.”
“Jill’s.” Princess said, looking up cautiously. “I used to work there part time, and I lived above the restaurant with Keyop.”
“That sounds right…” Mark’s brow furrowed as he considered it. “Yes, I think that was it. Jill’s.”
“Do you remember anything else about me?”
Princess’ expression appeared pinched and nervous. Mark’s heart went out to her.
“I remember that I love you.” he smiled, before pulling her into his arms and capturing her mouth with his.
Princess responded eagerly, and before long they were lost in the intimate pleasures that never grew old between them. And yet, there was something different. Somehow, Princess’ actions and reactions held an underlying note of sadness, and of desperation.
It was as if she felt that they would never be joined again.
Mark did his best to reassure her, uncertain as to what was going on in the Swan’s mind. He let his actions speak for him, touching and caressing her in a manner meant to show her that there was no one else he would rather be with.
But after their immediate passions had been satisfied, she clung to him in a way that made Mark uncomfortable. He had never known Princess to be so emotionally needy.
“What’s wrong, Princess?” he asked her gently, tipping her face upward so that she was forced to look him in the eye.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” she whispered sadly.
“Princess, if you can’t talk to me…”
“You don’t remember everything yet.” she sighed sadly. “Let me just hold onto the hope that when you do remember, that things might not change, between us.”
“What is it that you’re afraid I will remember, Princess?” Mark’s voice was tight. She knew how he had longed for his past, his identity, to be restored to him. And now she was exhibiting reluctance for this to happen?
This wasn’t the Princess… the Kristin… that he knew.
“I guess it’s better if I tell you, first.” Princess admitted. “Although, I’m not exactly sure about all of it.”
“What is it?” the Eagle was beginning to lose patience.
“Before… you didn’t think of me ‘this’ way.” Princess revealed, gesturing to their physical closeness as Mark held her unclothed form in his arms. “I had feelings for you, but you were never interested in me. I was your friend; always at arm’s length.”
“Well, occasionally you would say something a little more than that in Zark’s Ready Room.” Princess admitted. “But afterward, you would always act as if you hadn’t. I understood that I had no place in your life, outside of the Team.”
“You definitely have a place in my life outside of the Team.” Mark reassured her. “We wouldn’t have been together all of those months in Corsica, if there hadn’t been something wonderful between us.”
“And yet, you were never interested before.” Princess pointed out. “I guess…. I’m just afraid that when you remember everything, you’ll remember why that was…”
“I already know what it was.”
“Jason told me.” Mark shrugged. “I guess, before, the Chief told me that as Commander, I wasn’t allowed to have personal relationships on the Team. Haven’t you noticed that Chief Anderson seems uncomfortable with the idea of the two of us being together?”
“Well, yes, but I thought that was because we were his children…” Princess replied. “He actually told you that you weren’t allowed to have a relationship with me?”
“That’s what Jason said.” Mark answered her. “But it doesn’t matter what happened back then. What matters is that we are together now, and I’m not about to let us be separated over something like that!”
“You’re not?” Princess’ face was filled with joyous hope.
“No. I already said as much, to the Chief, months ago.” Mark informed her. “How do you think I convinced him to allocate joint quarters for us?”
The rest of Princess’ words were lost as her mouth found other ways of expressing her joy. For his part, Mark wasn’t about to protest such treatment.
It was some time before they drifted off to sleep, wrapped in each other’s arms.
Chapter 7 by TransmuteJun
A cool breeze passed over his skin, making it prickle uncomfortably. He attempted to turn over and adjust his position, but found that he was unable to move.
He opened his eyes to find himself staring at an unfamiliar metal ceiling. He was so absorbed in attempting to determine his location that it took a moment for him to realize that he wasn’t wearing anything. He was lying on his back, with his arms, legs and neck restrained to the cold metallic slab beneath him.
It was difficult to turn his head to observe more, but he managed to move his view a few degrees to the side, just in time to see a door on the wall opening up. A man entered into the room, a pleased expression on his face. His brown shoes strode confidently across the floor, and he was wearing what looked like a Spectran soldier’s uniform, except that it was the same brown color as his shoes, and bore insignia ranks Mark did not immediately recognize.
He was being held by the Spectrans!
He was being held by the Spectrans… without clothes. While being unclothed was embarrassing to say the least, it also offered a slim thread of hope.
Perhaps they did not know who he was.
But that hope was dashed when the man in the brown Spectran uniform spoke.
“Greetings, Commander.” His tone was pleasant, however the light behind his eyes was anything but friendly. “We have been eagerly waiting for you to awaken.”
“You have?” Mark did not acknowledge the man’s use of his title. He had to play dumb as long as possible. He could not confirm his true identity to the enemy.
“Yes.” the Spectran smiled thinly. “Ever since our troops recovered your body from the wreckage of the Pterotryon mecha, we have been anticipating this moment.”
“I don’t understand… Pterotryon mecha?”
“Come now, Commander, let us not play games. You and I both know that you destroyed the Pterotryon mecha by using your G-1 plane as a missile. Of course, it was not enough to stop our takeover of Earth, but it did make for some spectacular fireworks.”
“Commander? I don’t know whom you’re talking about. My name is…”
“Oh, I know your name, Commander.” the man smirked. “Visual imprints and DNA analysis of the Federation databases we have recovered indicate that you are ‘Mark Turner’. However, we know that your true identity is that of the G-Force Commander.”
“I’m afraid you’re mistaken, although this is quite flattering…”
“Don’t play games with me, Commander.” the Spectran hissed. Mark suddenly found himself eye to eye with the enemy officer, and all traces of false pleasantries were gone. “You were found in these clothes.”
The Spectran moved over to the wall, and Mark had to exert all of his concentration for a moment on wiggling his neck in the tight restraint, so that his eyes could follow the man’s actions. The officer pressed a button on a small pad, and a panel of the wall slid back, revealing a window into a testing chamber, such as one might find in a laboratory.
Inside the chamber were his clothes.
His heart ached seeing the familiar number one t-shirt and white jeans, along with his other clothing. His shoes, his socks, his belt; even his underwear was there.
“Those?” Mark forced a laugh that almost sounded genuine. “Those are hardly the clothes of a G-Force Commander.”
“No, they’re not.” the officer smiled wryly. “However, if we apply our Atomic Replicator Frequencies to these items…” he pressed another button on the pad, the testing chamber lit up with a flash of familiar white light, and suddenly the clothes were gone.
In their place was his Eagle uniform.
“That’s amazing!” Mark exclaimed with forced surprise. “How did you do that?”
“I know it has been some time, but surely you recall that you already encountered our Atomic Replicator Weapon in the city of Lulo.” the Spectran reminded him. “A man as intelligent as you are cannot fail to understand that we can use the same technology when you are not wearing your uniform to force the transmutation, or in your case, reverse transmutation process, even without the use of your bracelet.”
“Yes.” the officer pointed at a corner of the testing chamber. Mark squinted to see, although with his implant-enhanced vision he didn’t have to. His communicator lay on a small table in the corner of the room. The gold plate on its surface was cracked, and even from this distance the Eagle could tell that it had been irreparably damaged. He said a silent prayer of thanks that at least the Spectrans hadn’t been able to get their hands on a working version of his communicator.
“So you must admit that you are the G-Force Commander.” the Spectran prodded.
“I can’t admit what isn’t true.” Mark hedged.
“So, you are not willing to cooperate with us.” the officer spat angrily. “We can do this the hard way, if you insist. It won’t be long before you will tell us anything we want to know…”
Mark awoke with a start, shivering with the surge of adrenaline that was coursing through his body as he recalled the images from his dream. He knew, without a doubt, that these things had happened to him.
No matter how unpleasant the memories, the Eagle was glad to finally be able to recall his past. At least, this could give him insight into what had happened to him after the Spectran Invasion.
“Mark…” Princess murmured, pressing her warm skin against his icy flesh. “You’re so cold…” She moved closer against him, snuggling next to him and wrapping her arms around his chest.
“Is that better?” she sighed sleepily.
“Yes.” Mark whispered, burying his face in her hair. “Much better.”
The pleasant warmth in the air belied the fact that it was just past the first official day of Spring. It was as if the Earth itself was celebrating its freedom from the Spectran Empire. Mark and Princess walked hand in hand through the Jardin du Luxembourg park in the city of Paris. Chief Anderson had asked the G-Force Team to accompany him to Earth while he surveyed what was left of the Galaxy Security facilities on the planet. But once they had arrived, Anderson had surprised the Team with the announcement that if they desired, they could take a leave to visit wherever they wished on Earth, as long as they remained in constant contact via their communicators. Everyone except Andie had jumped at the chance. Mark had felt sorry for the Harrier, as she had always lived on Riga and didn’t have any place to go on this planet. But before he could think of addressing the issue, Jason had graciously offered to let Andie join him in his travels. To the Eagle’s surprise, the Harrier had quickly accepted, and the unlikely pair had gone off on leave together.
Tiny had set off to visit his old friend Captain Jack. And Mark and Princess had known exactly where they were headed.
Although much of Mark’s memory had returned, he still thought of France as the place where he and Princess had met, and had come to know each other. He could tell that this period of their lives held special meaning for Princess as well, and so it was on that warm Spring day that they found themselves happily wandering through the City of Lights, taking a roundabout path to their destination.
“Look, there.” Mark said to her, his tone solemn. “That’s where we first met.” They both looked over at the spot where Princess had come striding across the grass, her red hair streaming out behind her, to prevent a group of Snakehead soldiers from harming a little girl.
“Well, it’s not really where we first met.” Princess reminded him. “And it was hardly a happy occasion.”
“It’s a day… a moment… that I will never forget.” Mark told her. In fact, he still truly considered that day the first time that he and Princess had encountered one another. Back then, he hadn’t even had a name, and Princess had been known as Kristin…
From the moment he had first laid eyes on her, he had known that Kristin was special; that there was something about her that made her stand out. With sudden insight he understood why that had been.
He had already been in love with her.
Even though his implant had blocked his memories, he had somehow instinctively felt a connection to Kristin, and it had been that, more than his sense of duty, that had compelled him to come to her aid.
He had loved her, even then.
From the memories that had returned to him, he gathered that he had taken Chief Anderson’s admonishment to keep the Swan at arm’s length seriously. But it wasn’t until now that he realized how much it had cost him, both personally and emotionally, to follow those particular orders. He had been in love with Princess for a very long time, and it had only been as Luc that he had finally been able to throw away the restraints imposed on him by his superior, admit those feelings to himself, and act on them.
For the first time, he found himself glad that his memory loss had occurred.
There was one part of his past that had not yet fully returned to him: his memories of what had happened during the six months after the Spectran Invasion of Earth. Other than his two dreams and the brief flashes of recollection he had had while encountering the Spectran Captain at Ramstein, the Commander was unable to recall anything about that time period. But this was the furthest thing from Mark’s mind at the moment. He smiled at the woman next to him.
For their return to Paris, Princess had dyed her hair red, and wore special contact lenses to make her eyes a brown color. Neither of them wanted to answer any uncomfortable questions about why these aspects of her physical appearance had changed. But to Mark, it was as if he was looking at ‘Kristin’ again, and he felt as if he was truly her ‘Luc’.
“I’m glad we came back.” Princess said, sighing happily. “This time it is so different, and I’m able to enjoy being here, in this romantic place, with you.”
Rather than answer with words, Mark stopped walking, pulled her into his arms, and kissed her tenderly. They lingered in their embrace, enjoying the warm sun and the freedom they were experiencing, without the burden of enemy occupation or G-Force identities to uphold.
They were simply Luc and Kristin.
Passersby smiled indulgently at the young couple, approving heartily of the romance that their magical city had inspired. What better place to be in love than Paris in the Spring?
A young woman sat on a nearby bench, attempting to soothe her fussy baby. The infant was crying inconsolably, while its mother seemed harried and slightly distressed.
“That could be you, one day.” Mark murmured in Princess’ ear.
“What, completely clueless about being a mother?” Princess laughed. “Do you really think I’d be that terrible at it?”
“I think you will be a wonderful mother.” Mark said, an unshakable certainty in his eyes. “And I’ll be there to help you with whatever you need.”
“You’re always there to help me.” Princess blushed, instinctively shying away from the implication for their future in his words, yet clearly treasuring the thought in her heart.
The couple walked slowly through the gardens, then up the street, taking a long look at the apartment building where Kristin had once lived, and from which they had escaped by climbing up to its summit and then fleeing over the rooftops. Then they walked a few more short blocks up to their destination.
It looked the same as Mark remembered, and yet different too. Perhaps it was the sense of freedom in the air that gave the cathedral a dignity that it hadn’t had under the Occupation. Whatever it was, Mark was glad to be back, and he was looking forward to seeing their old friend once more.
As soon as they entered Saint Sulpice, Mark and Princess began searching for Father Richlieu. Instinctively, Mark headed for the small side chapel that housed the mural of Jacob wrestling with an Angel. As he and Princess entered, they spied Father Richlieu in a corner of the chamber.
“Luc, Kristin!” the priest exclaimed happily, coming toward them with arms outstretched. “How wonderful to see you! And so unexpected!”
“We didn’t know that we would be here until today.” Princess explained, warmly embracing the older man. “But since we were able to come to Paris, we knew that we would have to come and see you.” She pulled away, allowing Luc to greet the priest in his own way.
“I am so glad to see that the two of you are alive.” Father Richlieu smiled. “I heard from Frederic that you had successfully freed him, and one of his comrades as well, from that Snakehead Penal Complex, and had then gone on to Corsica. But after that, there was no word…”
“We are sorry that we were unable to contact you, Father.” Mark apologized. “We will make certain that we stay in touch in the future.”
“Well for now, I hope ‘the future’ includes tomorrow.” Father Richlieu replied. “Unfortunately, today I must be off to visit a parishioner family with a sick infant. But I hope that you will return.”
“Of course.” Princess smiled. “We will be here for another day or two.”
“Before you run off…” Mark said quietly, moving closer to the priest and whispering into the older man’s ear.
“Certainment!” Father Richlieu smiled and nodded. “I will see you tomorrow, then.”
“Thank you, Father.” Mark said quietly, grinning from ear to ear as the priest rushed away to his appointment. Princess looked inquisitively at the Commander, a confused expression on her face.
“What was that all about?” she asked suspiciously.
“Come outside and I’ll tell you.” Mark smiled knowingly.
Curiously, Princess allowed him to lead her out of the cathedral and over to the fountain of the Four Bishops. Taking both of her hands in his and getting down on one knee, Mark looked up at Princess, his brilliant Cerulean eyes fixed onto hers.
“Princess, will you marry me?” he asked simply. His words were straightforward and honest; his love for the woman in front of him shining through his eyes and lighting up his face.
“Mark… I…” Princess appeared to be at a loss for words. It was clear that she had not expected to be presented with this particular request. But then an expression of incredulous joy appeared on her face, only to be quickly replaced by one of dejection.
“I would love to, Mark,” she sighed, “but I just don’t see the Chief allowing it, as long as we are both still on the Team.”
“I thought of that.” Mark agreed, standing up and pulling Princess into his arms. “We may have to wait for a bit, until Chief Anderson can deal with the idea of this. But I do want to marry you, Princess. I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. And to that end, I want to commit myself to you now.”
“So… what do you suggest?” Princess asked, a small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. “I can tell that you have a plan in mind, Commander.”
“You know me so well.” Mark laughed. “Well, I know that we didn’t truly meet in Paris, but it feels to me as if we did. I would like to get married here. Tomorrow. As Luc and Kristin.”
“As Luc and Kristin…” Princess murmured, a pleased expression coming to her face. “Yes, that’s perfect! It won’t be official, since we won’t be using our ‘real’ names.”
“But it will be official in our hearts.” Mark told her. “We can be married here, at Saint Sulpice, by Father Richlieu.”
“That’s what you said to him!” Princess laughed happily. “You asked him to marry us!”
“Yes.” Mark confirmed. “So, does tomorrow work for you?”
“Anytime works for me.” Princess smiled, throwing her arms around Mark’s neck and kissing him eagerly. “But… I will need a dress.” She looked shyly at Mark.
“Then by all means, let’s go shopping!” he laughingly suggested.
“I knew there was a reason I decided to marry you!” Princess smiled happily.
The next day, Luc Cesson and Kristin DuMaurier were married by Father Jerome Richlieu in a side chapel of the Saint Sulpice cathedral in Paris, France, Planet Earth. The bride wore an off-the shoulder white dress that was elegant in its simple, clean lines. The groom wore a traditional jacket and tie. But regardless of what they wore, it was clear to anyone who saw them that this young couple was deeply in love. Father Richlieu was beaming almost as much as the two young people were.
For Mark, it was a day that he would never forget. Yet, the words that passed from his lips, and his immediate surroundings, didn’t register completely on his conscious brain at that moment. Rather, it was the way he felt, and the look on Princess’ face that would always be with him, safely guarded within his soul.
No matter that this marriage technically wasn’t valid. It was valid in their hearts, and that was what mattered most.
They stayed in Paris for one more day before heading to Corsica, sharing their joy with Mattieu Canton, the Mayor of Calvi, where the newlywed couple had lived for more than five months. But all too soon, it was time to return to their lives as members of G-Force, and less than a week after their ‘wedding’, Mark and Princess were on their way back to Riga, their wedding rings carefully secreted within their luggage, rather than adorning their fingers.
The excitement of the past week proved to have been too much for the exhausted Commander, and it all caught up with him on the transport ride. On their journey back to Galaxy Security Headquarters, the Eagle fell asleep.
Chapter 8 by TransmuteJun
”You have not been very cooperative with us, Commander.”
He looked up to see Penal Complex Commandant Patrac wearing his brown Spectran uniform. The Commandant was pacing back and forth across the small stone cell, his brown shoes slamming onto the floor with every step. He glared at his prisoner with unconcealed malice.
“We have tried everything we know how to get you to talk to us.” Patrac growled. “Yet still you refuse to speak!”
Mark winced inwardly, his body aching from the many methods of ‘persuasion’ that the Commandant had personally used. The Spectran Empire wasn’t known for its kindness to prisoners, especially prisoners of war, and Mark suspected that the brutal questioning sessions he had been subjected to were only the beginning of his ordeal.
And yet, the Commander refused to give in to his captors’ demands. Not one word had left his lips since the day he had awoken to find himself in this Spectran Penal Complex.
Once it had become clear that the Snakeheads were certain of his G-Force identity, Mark had not uttered one sound, knowing that doing so would only be the first step in having his resistance torn away, bit by bit. He had to remain silent.
He had to remain silent to protect his Team.
During the battle with the Pterodactyl mecha over France, it had seemed in the heat of the moment that the rest of the G-Force Team had perished. And yet, the Commander had seen every one of them escape from worse situations before. Why, he himself was still alive, despite his hotheaded kamikaze attack on the mecha that had been more characteristic of the tempestuous Condor than of the level-headed Eagle.
If his Team was alive, then his comrades had executed Command Code 3210, and didn’t know who they truly were. That was their greatest protection, and yet, if Mark gave in… if he unintentionally divulged anything about their identities… They would have no chance if the Spectrans found them now.
As their Commander, he had to do everything he could to protect them.
The Commandant had done his best to convince the Eagle that his teammates were dead, to the point of showing Mark the footage of the Phoenix exploding in battle over and over, as well as the destruction of the other G-Machines. It was getting more and more difficult for the Commander to maintain his composure as he was forced to watch these graphic images time and time again. Logic told him that the Commandant wouldn’t be so interested in the other members of the G-Force Team if the Spectrans were truly convinced that they were dead. But in the face of the constant physical, mental, and emotional torture that the Eagle was being forced to endure, that kind of calm and rational thought was becoming more and more difficult to hold onto.
But he had to hold on.
Outwardly, he maintained a calm, stoic exterior, but inwardly, cracks were beginning to appear. Mark didn’t know how much more of this he could take.
Where was the Federation? From the offhand comments made by a couple of his guards, Mark had deduced that he was still on Earth. The knowledge that the Spectrans were holding him on the planet he considered his home was terrifying. Had Zoltar managed to take over the entire Earth? Or was Mark just being held on some kind of secret base that had not yet been discovered by Galaxy Security?
Deep in his heart, the Commander knew that when his Team… when he… had failed to protect the Earth, the Spectrans had won.
He had to escape.
Not only was it becoming more difficult to resist the Commandant’s ‘questioning’, but Mark had to find his teammates. He needed to help the Federation citizens on Earth recover from this disaster that had befallen them.
Except, he was being held under constant guard. At least a dozen soldiers stood outside the only door to his cell, which had been carved out of solid rock. He was constantly restrained at his wrists, forearms, ankles, and thighs, with reinforced drithinium latches. Even his Cerebonically-enhanced strength was unable to break these bonds, and without the benefit of his Birdstyle he was unable to access any of the tools he normally took for granted.
At least he was no longer naked. Although his head had been shaved, his body was now regularly dressed in a bright red prison uniform with five small white stars embroidered over his heart. Commandant Patrac often sneered that such a high ‘rank’ was an honor, but Mark didn’t see how this ‘honor’ did anything but make his captivity more miserable. The Spectrans didn’t trust him enough to even allow him to eat, as that would require loosening his restraints. Instead, he was hooked up to an intravenous drip once a day, which sustained his physical body in the most minimal fashion. As for waste elimination, that involved personal indignities that Mark didn’t even like to think about. It was all part and parcel of being a ‘high ranking’ prisoner of the Spectran Empire.
There was one question burning in the Commander’s mind, but at the same time he was afraid to ask it, for fear of what the answer might be. Of course, his self-imposed silence meant that he would never give voice to his query and simply request the information he wanted to know, but that day, the Commandant seemed to instinctively zero in on the issue that had been plaguing the Eagle’s mind.
“Since you will not speak with me, perhaps you will speak with someone else.” Patrac smirked. “I understand that Lord Zoltar is a very engaging conversationalist.”
The Commander felt a chill run through him, Perhaps it had been egotistical on his behalf, but he had wondered why the Leader of the Spectran Empire had not yet come to gloat over his ‘high ranking’ prisoner. It had been some time since Mark had been captured, although how long he couldn’t exactly say, since day and night were indistinguishable for him in his windowless rock cell.
“I see that this piece of news doesn’t inspire you to share any more with us than you already have.” the Commandant sneered. “But do not worry. You will talk, and soon.”
A nasty smile stretched across Patrac’s lips, and although the Commander did not show it, the Commandant’s expression had its intended effect upon its recipient.
Mark was afraid.
They had been back on Riga for about two weeks. Mark was speaking with Chief Anderson about a change in the G-Force Team’s training routine. The pair was just discussing the need for more combat exercises when the Chief received an audio notice of an incoming high priority transmission.
“Stay where you are, Commander, and don’t make a sound!” the Chief barked out suddenly. The Eagle was shocked by Anderson’s unexpectedly sharp tone, but instinctively obeyed. He was seated in front of the Chief’s desk, unable to see the communications monitor that was facing Anderson. Yet the Commander immediately recognized the voice coming from the transmission.
“Greetings, Chief Anderson.”
“Zoltar.” the Chief responded coldly, ignoring the Spectran Leader’s attempt at false pleasantries. “It has been some time since I have heard from you.”
“Yes.” Zoltar commented in a distasteful tone. “As I’m sure you can imagine, I’ve had many demands on my time.”
“Yes, I would expect that the liberation of Earth has caused you a number of problems.” Anderson replied smugly.
“Liberation!” Zoltar snorted. “Do you really call it a ‘liberation’ when the people of Earth are suffering, and all because of your heartless actions?”
“I would hardly call it ‘suffering’, Zoltar.” Anderson spoke calmly. “The people of Earth are quite happy to be free of Spectran rule, I assure you.”
“You are terribly misinformed, Chief Anderson.” Zoltar said smoothly. “Are you actually so ignorant of the health crisis that exists among the citizens of Earth?”
“There is no health crisis on Earth.” the Chief stated firmly.
“If you choose not to believe it, do you truly expect that it will cease to exist?” Zoltar laughed cruelly. “Well then, know this. When you finally agree with me that the children of Earth have suffered enough, you may accept our generous offer.”
“And what offer is that?” Anderson asked in an irritated fashion.
“Surrender the Earth back to us, and we will distribute the medicine your citizens require.”
The communication was terminated before the Chief could respond.
“What health crisis is he talking about?” Mark asked curiously.
“I don’t know.” Anderson replied, a worried frown on his face. “But I’ll tell you this much. I know enough about Zoltar to understand that this was no empty threat. He truly believes that there is some problem for which we will require his ‘medicine’.”
“Then we need to find out what it is, and procure some of this medicine for ourselves.” the Eagle replied.
“My thoughts exactly.” the Chief concurred. “Commander, update your Team and remain on alert. I’ll contact the officials on Earth.”
Chapter 9 by TransmuteJun
A few hours later the entire G-Force Team sat down for a conference with Chief Anderson. Everyone had been briefed by their Commander regarding Zoltar’s claims, and they were all eager to learn what Galaxy Security had discovered about the situation. While everyone wanted to believe that the Spectran Leader was full of hot air, Zoltar had never been the type of man to simply invent a threat without the means to back it up.
“Give us the good news first, Chief.” Jason suggested, as Chief Anderson entered the office.
“There is none, I’m afraid.” Anderson sighed, sitting down heavily at his desk and burying his face in his hands. He looked up again, surveying the young people in front of him before speaking once more.
“What Zoltar said is true. There is a health crisis on Earth.”
“What’s wrong?” gasped Princess.
“We didn’t see anything strange while we were there a couple of weeks ago.” Jason thought back.
“You might not have.” the Chief replied. “This is an issue involving only young babies less than a year old, and pregnant women.”
“How horrible!” Andie cried.
“What is the problem?” Tiny asked.
“Apparently anyone suffering from this illness is severely ill at all times: in pain, unable to keep down any food in their stomach, and extremely weak.”
“Sounds like the flu.” Jason remarked.
“Or some kind of severe morning sickness for the pregnant women.” Princess added.
“The Medical Centers on Earth thought so as well, at first.” Anderson informed them. “Those possibilities were some of the first they considered. But the usual treatments did nothing, and symptoms only got worse. It is estimated that without treatment, every individual impacted by this illness will be dead within the next sixty days.”
“No one has gotten better?” Tiny was aghast.
“To date, no one diagnosed with this illness has recovered, save pregnant women who deliver, and seemingly pass the illness on to their newborns.” Anderson confirmed.
“How long has this been going on?” Mark asked, his brow furrowing.
“Since about a week after the liberation of Earth.” the Chief revealed.
“Did the Spectrans somehow send this disease to Earth in a fit of spite, because we routed them?” Andie suggested.
“Actually, quite the opposite.” Anderson answered her. “We think the Spectrans left this behind when they fled from Federation Forces, during Operation Homefront. After careful research, Federation medical experts have determined that in fact, this is not a disease, but a genetic condition.”
“Which would explain why it seems to be incurable.” Princess deduced.
“Yes.” the Chief nodded. “The affected babies appear to have an strange form of DNA that is completely unknown to our scientists. Just an hour ago, this particular DNA sequence was determined to be Spectran in origin.”
“But, how did they change the DNA of those babies?” Tiny asked, confused.
“They didn’t change it.” Jason said grimly, looking over at Princess.
“They created it!” the Swan gasped, as her eyes met those of the Condor. An expression of horror covered her face. “That’s what they were doing!”
“The ‘operation’ that Zoltar mentioned to Captain Sohot?” Mark asked, a sinking feeling in his heart as he realized what Jason and Princess were thinking.
“Care to fill the rest of us in?” Anderson asked dryly.
“I can, Sir.” the Commander turned to address everyone in the room. “I believe Jason and Princess are referring to a conversation the three of us overheard on the Ramstein Aerospace Base, just before we escaped from Earth. A man named Sohot, the Captain of the Bee mecha that attacked Mars, was being lectured by Zoltar. Apparently, the Spectran troops were regularly conducting organized rapes of Terran women, and it was Zoltar’s intent to impregnate millions of Terran females.”
“To pass on this genetic defect…” the Chief whispered in shock.
“That would be my guess, Sir, yes.” the Commander nodded grimly.
“Do they really have a cure, if this is a genetic defect?” Princess asked Chief Anderson.
“No.” Anderson shook his head. “From what we’ve been able to determine, the affected infants are missing a vital component to complete their genetic structures. Now interviews with the babies’ mothers indicate that they all suffered from ‘severe morning sickness’ and that they were given special ‘medication’ by the Spectran government to combat this problem. Their babies were also given a special ongoing ‘medication’, from birth onward, but of course the supply of this ‘medication’ stopped when the Earth was liberated and the Spectrans fled.”
“And ever since, infants have been getting sicker.” Jason muttered angrily. “Zoltar has no shame!”
Mark opened his mouth to respond when a strange image flashed across his mind…
Long red gloves held the barbed whip, lashing its full length out at its victim’s naked form again and again, as nearby green-uniformed soldiers poured acid into the fresh wounds.
The Commander had done all he could to remain silent during his ‘conversation’ with the Spectran Leader, but after a few hours of this treatment, his face gave him away. An expression of anguish was deeply etched into his once distinguished features.
The man in the purple mask only laughed, his red-gloved hand plying the whip again and again.
“You see, Commander? You will tell me what I want to know…”
Mark’s head spun as the unexpected vision faded away.
“No.” the Eagle replied coldly to the Condor’s statement. “He doesn’t.”
“That would imply that every soldier who was participating in that travesty also had this particular genetic defect.” Princess muttered angrily. “And from what I saw, that was pretty much all of them.”
“I would guess that the Spectran Empire keeps its troops supplied with this same ‘medication’.” Anderson surmised.
“Can’t we manufacture this drug too?” Tiny asked. “That seems like the simplest solution. Why do we need the Spectrans to solve this crisis?”
“We have been unable to analyze the few samples of the drug that we have so far been able to obtain.” the Chief sighed. “For some reason, our systems are unable to penetrate their chemical structure. We suspect that the Spectrans have integrated a resonant fuornical configuration into its chemical makeup.”
“So, we can’t manufacture it ourselves?” Andie asked dejectedly. “We need the Spectrans to make it for us?”
“The price is too high!” Tiny declared. “We can’t surrender the Earth to Spectra again!”
“But the lives of thousands... maybe millions... of innocent children are at stake!” Princess protested.
“There’s got to be another alternative.” Mark declared. “We just have to find it.”
“I think I already have.” the Chief smiled thinly. It was the most optimistic sign he had given since the meeting had begun. “Andie was right in that we cannot manufacture the drug ourselves… right now. But, if we had the chemical formula for this ‘medication’…”
“All we have to do is find a place where the Spectrans are manufacturing this stuff!” Jason said excitedly. “Then we can break in and locate the formula!”
“That’s what’s so heartbreaking.” Anderson sighed. “The Spectrans were in the process of building just such a facility on Earth… in Okinawa, next to the Kadena Aerospace Base. But they had not yet completed the complex at the time of Earth’s liberation, and we have not been able to locate the formula in the computer databanks we recovered from that facility. If we had stuck to our original timetable for Operation Homefront, perhaps the Spectrans would already have been manufacturing…”
“If we had stuck to the original timetable, Operation Homefront would probably not have been so successful, and would likely have cost the lives of many more Federation soldiers.” the Commander retorted coldly. The Eagle was leaning forward, his eyes boring into those of Chief Anderson.
“This is not the time for second-guessing, Sir.” The tone with which the Commander was addressing the Galaxy Security Chief was one that caused the rest of the G-Force Team’s jaws to drop to the floor.
But there was not one of them there who did not agree with their Commander one hundred percent.
For his part, Chief Anderson appeared flabbergasted that the Eagle would speak to him in such a manner. His face turned a bright shade of red, but just as he opened his mouth to retort, Jason stood up.
“This isn’t the time, or the place, Sir.” he said to the Chief, his eyes staring hard. Anderson gulped nervously, clearly intimidated by the Condor’s glare, especially when it was joined with the Eagle’s. It was obvious that the Chief was viewing the team of warriors that he had created in an entirely new light.
For his part, Mark suddenly appreciated how Spectran soldiers must feel when facing the Condor in battle. But he was especially grateful that his second-in-command had chosen to express his support at this opportune moment.
Anderson looked back and forth from the Eagle to the Condor, and then to the rest of the Team, whose expressions were only slightly less fearsome. The Chief coughed shakily, taking a deep breath. Mark’s memories were still sketchy, but he couldn’t recall ever seeing Chief Anderson so uncertain before.
“Well, isn’t this a switch from the usual.” the Chief grumbled. “We will return to this matter later, Commander. Insubordination is not a matter to be taken lightly. But your second officer is correct that we have other priorities at the moment.”
The Eagle nodded, leaning back in his chair, and the Condor sat back down, allowing the Chief to regain control of the meeting and wrap the tattered remains of his dignity around him.
Mark was amazed at this unexpected shift in the balance of power between himself and Chief Anderson. Perhaps it was due to his lack of memory, but ever since he had first arrived on Riga, he had been more of an equal with the Galaxy Security Chief, as opposed to playing the subordinate role that Anderson clearly expected of him. But whatever the reason, the Commander was not going to let the Chief make decisions for him that hurt his Team.
That’s what had led them all to this point to begin with…
The Commander’s mind reeled at this discovery that had just surfaced. Thoughts that had been buried deep in his brain for over a year were suddenly revealing themselves, and now the picture was finally clear.
It had been the Chief who had insisted that after the destruction of the Space Center, the Spectrans were not likely to attack again for awhile. It had been the Chief who had sent the Phoenix to Moffett Field to be repaired. It had been the Chief who had re-assigned all available Federation troops to assist Zark with the data recovery and reconstruction necessitated by the loss of the Space Station.
It had been the Chief who had been completely unprepared for the Spectran Invasion of Earth.
Of course, the blame for the Spectran Invasion could not solely be placed on Chief Anderson’s shoulders. The G-Force Team itself had failed in their mission to defend the planet as well. But Mark recognized that it was the Chief’s tendency to hesitate, to analyze everything thoroughly before acting, that was their greatest weakness. Sometimes, a quick, decisive action was necessary.
And that was the kind of thing at which the Commander excelled.
Chief Anderson was an important leader for Galaxy Security and the Federation, but he couldn’t do it alone.
He needed the G-Force Team to help him.
And that was all that Mark had ever wanted to do.
“What do you suggest, Chief?” the Eagle asked calmly. Anderson appeared slightly surprised at the Commander’s sudden change in tone, but responded accordingly.
“The factories that manufacture this drug are clearly all within the boundaries of the Spectran Empire.” Anderson began. “The primary facility is, of course, located on the Planet Spectra.”
“Are you suggesting that we go to Spectra to locate the formula?” Tiny asked, surprised.
“Are you suggesting that we aren’t capable of doing that?” Jason accused the Owl.
“No…” Tiny backtracked. “But there’s got to be an easier way… a way that doesn’t invite the Spectrans to invade the Federation again!”
“I agree with Tiny.” Andie said. “If Zoltar is trying to force us to give the Earth back to him, he won’t appreciate us attempting to solve the problem for ourselves.”
“I concur with that assessment..” the Chief said wryly. “Fortunately, I have another alternative.”
“What’s that?” Princess asked eagerly.
“Recently, Galaxy Security Intelligence discovered a strange facility on the Planet Pirolted, on the edge of Spectran Space. On a hunch, I had a few agents investigate the relevant data this morning. It would appear to be a factory involved in the production of medicinal products, based on the large numbers of shipments the facility makes to hospitals and Spectran Military Medical Centers.”
“That sounds promising.” Andie grinned.
“It’s worth checking out.” Princess added.
“I like this idea.” Mark said quietly. “Is investigating this facility your recommended course of action, Chief?”
“Yes.” Anderson replied, fixing the Commander with a curious stare. “It is.”
“So, when should we depart?” the Commander asked respectfully.
“Then we’re on our way.” the Eagle declared. The rest of the Team rose to their feet, saluting in unison.
Chapter 10 by TransmuteJun
The P2 wasn’t exactly a Rigan Stealth Scout, but the Owl piloted her as if she was. The G-Force ship approached the Planed Pirolted slowly, but had so far not been detected. The Harrier and the Swan scanned for the pharmaceuticals factory and any information they could gather about the surrounding area, while the Condor swept the nearby sections of Spectran Space, on alert for any enemy craft, military or otherwise. The Eagle surveyed the situation.
“Tiny, I’m going to need you aboard the P2.” Mark told the Owl. “Normally, I’d like you with us, but on an enemy planet we’ll need our best pilot at the helm in case the P2 is discovered.”
“I understand, Commander.” Tiny nodded.
“Princess and Andie, you are to retrieve the formula.” the Eagle ordered, “Jason and I will create a distraction to assist you.”
“It’s what I do best.” Jason grinned with false modesty.
“We are all to rendezvous back on the P2 in thirty minutes.” the Commander stated.
Mark and Jason circled the northern end of the factory, waiting for Princess’ signal. The Eagle let out a breath he hadn’t even realized he was holding when his communicator lit up.
“Found it, here at the southern end.” came the Swan’s voice. “We could use that distraction now, Commander.”
“Happy to help.” Mark replied.
“Showtime.” grinned Jason, as he kicked open the main doors to the manufacturing complex.
Their arrival certainly wasn’t subtle, and that was just the way the Commander wanted it. Factory workers scattered as the Eagle and the Condor burst in, attacking security guards and throwing miniature Astro Bombs at the plant machinery. Green-uniformed guards came running, falling easily before the Commander’s Sonic Boomerang and the Condor’s feather shuriken.
It didn’t take long before all resistance had been eliminated, and Mark and Jason found themselves standing in the midst of a sea of unmoving green-uniformed bodies.
“Commander, it’s a trap!”
The Eagle’s head snapped up as the Harrier’s frantic voice came from his communicator. Immediately, he responded.
“Andie, what’s wrong?”
“Princess got the data, but a force field surrounded her. We can’t take it down or break through it, although she was able to transmit the formula through to my communicator using G-Force Secret Code.” The Eagle looked up at the Condor. The bleak expression in Jason’s eyes matched Mark’s own. Instantly, they took off sprinting for the other end of the manufacturing complex.
“Jason, get Andie and return to the P2.” the Commander ordered as they ran. He saw the Condor open his mouth to protest, but cut him off before Jason could utter a word.
“Our mission is to get that formula.” the Eagle told his second. “Get Andie back to the P2. I’ll help Princess.”
“I’ll come back, once the formula’s safe.” Jason promised.
“I look forward to it.” Mark said grimly.
The Eagle and the Condor sped toward the locator signal of the Harrier’s communicator, emerging into a large control room to see Andie in hand to hand combat with at least a dozen Spectran goons. In the corner of the room, Princess stood surrounded by a shimmering yellowish energy field, her fingers flying across a control panel that was encased with her.
“Princess!” Mark shouted, moving toward her. The Swan turned, but even as she did so, a hole unexpectedly appeared in the floor beneath her. Her face was a mask of shock as she suddenly fell through the opening below her.
Mark grabbed his sonic gun, aiming it at the ground and creating his own jagged hole next to the neat circular force field that had recently held the Swan. The Eagle plunged headfirst through the opening in the control room floor, gliding down nearly one hundred meters, only to see a Spectran Space Cruiser moving away below him. The Commander retracted his wings, free-falling as fast as he could, slamming hard onto the hull of the enemy ship. The Eagle managed to pull open an entry hatch and climb inside just as the Cruiser left the underground Docking Bay. He looked out through a nearby window, attempting to assess the situation.
Behind the Spectran vessel, the factory exploded, and Mark could only trust that the Condor had followed his orders and gotten the Harrier safely back to the P2. Quickly, Mark scanned the interior of the vessel. By Spectran standards, it wasn’t large, but it would still take him a good quarter hour to fully investigate it, even assuming that he encountered no significant resistance. Grimly, the Commander began a methodical search pattern, determined to find his Swan.
Chapter 11 by TransmuteJun
Fortunately, Princess seemed determined to be found. Less than a minute later, Mark received a locator signal from the Swan on his communicator, using the G-Force Secret Code. His heart beat faster.
She was on this ship.
Quickly, the Eagle tracked the Swan to her broadcast position, silently eliminating any enemy soldiers he encountered enroute, to prevent them from raising an alarm. He didn’t know who or what else was on this spacecraft, and given that he and Princess had apparently already fallen into a trap, Mark didn’t want to make things any worse.
He followed Princess’ signal, approaching her location, and soon he was only a few meters away, facing a large door bearing the inevitable Spectran devil head symbol. The enemy was nothing if not consistent in their interior design choices.
The Commander grinned to himself as he noted the location of air vents along the wall, indicating the placement of ventilation ducts along the corridor and beyond. Using the edge of his Sonic Boomerang as a makeshift screwdriver, the Eagle opened a nearby vent cover and slipped inside.
He continued to follow Princess’ signal, moving along the air ducts toward the source of her transmission. It didn’t take long for the Commander to find what he had been seeking.
Peering through a grating below him, the Eagle saw a sight that made his blood run cold.
Princess lay restrained on a metal table. Zoltar was bending over her. Whatever the expression was on his purple masked face, it was clearly one that did not impress the Swan.
“I’m so glad to have you as my ‘guest’, my dear.” the Spectran Leader smirked. “While your Commander certainly was entertaining while in my care, he didn’t quite offer the same pleasures that you do.”
The Swan’s face was impassive, and she did not move as Zoltar pulled out a long, barbed whip that was all too familiar to the Commander.
Fiery pain slashed through him, nearly sending his body into convulsions. It took every shred of self-control he had left not to pull himself into a fetal position, giving away the fact that he was slowly being weakened by the Spectran Leader’s harsh treatment of him. Every day, the Commander was being broken down more and more. His implant was working overtime to heal him from each session of physical torture, but since the Eagle wasn’t getting enough food or rest, this only ended up weakening him even more.
A fact that was unfortunately fast becoming all too evident.
A spray of salty water mixed with the smallest amount of hydrochloric acid covered his body, creating a fiery agony in his wounds, and preparing him for whatever Zoltar had next in mind. The Spectran Leader flicked a switch on a nearby control panel, and an electrical charge passed over Mark’s prostrate form, conducted through the sheen of water layering his skin, to cover every square centimeter of the Commander’s body. Pain such as the Eagle had never known coursed through him, his wretched form convulsing and shaking within the metal restraints that held him down to the Spectran Leader’s mercies.
And Zoltar had no mercy.
Deprived of sleep for nearly a week, barely given enough nutrients to survive for the past six months, and subjected to the physical, mental, and emotional pressures of his incarceration, the Commander’s resolve finally broke.
It was a soft sound, and it should have been drowned out by the crackling electricity passing over his skin, as well as the thumping thrashes of his convulsing body, but the moment the whisper of noise had left his mouth, Zoltar had been at his side, his malicious cat eyes staring through his purple mask, a victorious smirk behind them.
Immediately the electrical charge ceased, and the Eagle’s body flopped on the table, Mark’s chest heaving as he gulped for air.
“Did you say something, Commander?” Zoltar asked smugly, bending over to carefully study the Eagle’s face.
Mark stared back, his expression once more set into its standard blank countenance. He refused to let one moment of weakness send him tumbling into whatever black abyss the Spectran Leader had prepared for him.
“I see.” Zoltar smirked, reaching back to his control panel. “Then, I guess I will have to begin once more…”
The Commander whimpered again.
Internally, the Eagle winced at this crack in the wall he had carefully set up around himself. Instantly, he was flooded with shame at this involuntary show of weakness.
But the damage had been done.
“Excellent.” sneered Zoltar. “You are ready, Commander.”
Mark shuddered visibly, fearful of what his tormentor had in mind.
“Tonight, I will interrogate you, before all of the soldiers at this Penal Complex.” the Spectran Leader announced. “And you will answer my questions, Commander.” Zoltar laughed, and the sound sent chills through the Eagle’s soul.
No matter how much he resisted, Mark knew that what the Spectran Leader said was true.
Tonight, the Commander of G-Force would be forced to reveal anything that Zoltar, Leader of the Spectran Empire, wanted to know.
Mark swallowed nervously at the memory, before recovering himself. He was no longer subject to Zoltar’s questionable mercies.
But Princess was.
“Will you answer my questions, Swan?” the Spectran Leader smirked.
“What do you think?” Princess asked coldly, her demeanor defiant, despite her restraints.
“I was hoping you would say that.” Zoltar laughed viciously. “Now you force me to convince you to speak.” The Spectran Leader looked straight up at the ceiling.
Straight up at the Eagle.
“But first, why don’t we have your Commander join us?” Zoltar suggested smugly, pulling a nearby lever and causing the ceiling panel upon which the Commander was kneeling to fall open.
The Eagle dropped to the floor, just in time for a force field to envelop him. He slammed one blue-gloved fist against the shimmering translucent wall, but his pummeling had no effect.
“You are so predictable, Commander.” Zoltar taunted him. “I caught both you and your Swan with the same trap! Do you never come up with anything new?”
The Eagle refused to take the bait, not answering his tormentor. Instead, he continued to bang his fists against the walls of his electronic prison. Unfortunately, his efforts proved to be useless.
“I knew the lure of the Hybito Drug would be too much for you to ignore.” Zoltar bragged. “Of course, I had hoped that we would have longer to create more Hybito-dependant Terrans, but a million or so infants seems to be enough to get to your bleeding Federation hearts.”
Mark kept his eyes lowered, doing his best to concentrate on the problem of getting free of his force field prison. But it was difficult to clear his mind with Zoltar’s insidious voice sneaking in to distract him.
“Sure enough, you came to one of our factories to locate the formula for creating the Hybito Drug!” the Spectran Leader cackled.
“We care about all of the Federation’s citizens!” the Eagle declared proudly. “Would that the citizens of the Spectran Empire could say the same about you!”
“How dare you?” Zoltar hissed, turning his malevolent glare in the Commander’s direction. “You, who deny us the very resources we need to exist, claim that I don’t care about my people? It is you who are the source of this conflict: you who are the ones who do not care about the fate of others!”
“And now, you shall tell me what I want to know.” the Spectran Leader declared, an insane light in his eyes. “I will reclaim the Earth for the Spectran Empire, and destroy this new G-Force Team you have somehow managed to cobble together!”
“Even after all of these years, you don’t know us very well, do you, Zoltar?” the Swan laughed mockingly. “We would never reveal anything to you!”
“Oh, I think one of you will.” the Spectran Leader hissed. “I broke the Commander’s resolve, although I will admit that it took me far longer than I had anticipated. But now I know why.”
Mark stared in amazement. What had Zoltar discovered? As if sensing the Eagle’s unspoken question, the Spectran Leader’s eyes bored into him, before he could speak again.
“The Commander refused to speak to us, because he knew his Team was alive. His greatest weakness is that he actually cares about you. He nearly killed himself in what he saw as an attempt to protect you.” Zoltar revealed. “But now, the Commander will be forced to speak, to protect his Team.” Mark snorted in disgust, and the Spectran Leader’s eyes gleamed devilishly.
“If you don’t speak, Commander, “ he addressed the Eagle directly, “you know what will happen to the Swan.”
Zoltar’s whip suddenly flared out, lashing across Princess’ exposed arms.
“Of course, I will enjoy myself even more with you than I did your Commander, Swan.” Zoltar leered, his red-gloved fingers running over Princess’s bare thighs and moving underneath her miniskirt. “I’m sure the Eagle will enjoy watching you scream with pleasure as I ply my whip.”
Mark’s head spun. No… Zoltar wouldn’t… he couldn’t do that to Princess…
“After all, members of the Spectran Military have standing orders to impregnate any Terran woman they encounter.” Zoltar revealed. “And as the Leader of the Spectran Military, I must set a good example for my men…”
Mark’s mind screamed in protest as the Spectran Leader taunted the two G-Force members, continuing to ply his whip against the Swan’s flesh. But the Eagle forced these thoughts from his head.
Zoltar might be familiar with their usual strategies, their tactics, even their interpersonal relationships, but he was entirely wrong about one thing.
The Commander’s loyalty to his team… Mark’s love for Princess… these weren’t the Eagle’s greatest weakness.
They were his greatest strength.
Mark’s need to help Princess was overwhelming, blocking out everything else around him. Silently, he unsheathed his weapon, his fingers flickering over the controls until he had found the setting he was looking for.
The Eagle’s Sonic Boomerang, now precisely matching the frequency and polarity of the force field surrounding him, sailed through his prison walls as if they didn’t exist. The wave of intense sound smashed into the back of Zoltar’s neck, sending the Spectran Leader slumping to the ground, his eyes rolling back into his head. The weapon landed back in the Eagle’s hand, only to be instantly thrown again at the panel that manipulated the force field. Sparks flew as the Boomerang connected with the control system, and the shimmering wall vanished. The Commander caught his weapon again, using it a third time to pry open the Swan’s restraints, a loving expression on his face as he gazed at her tender smile.
They were free.
The Spectran guards pulled him up roughly, removing all of the Commander’s restraints under Commandant Patrac’s supervision. But Mark was so weak that he could barely stand, and Patrac laughed in acknowledgment of the fact that the G-Force Commander was no longer a threat to the Spectran Empire.
“I must leave you now, Commander.” the Commandant sneered. “I have the honor of accompanying Lord Zoltar tonight. I will be at his side, as he questions you.”
Mark’s head remained down, his entire body slumping between the two green-uniformed guards who were forced to practically carry him from the room; not because he was resisting them, but because he was too weak to move under his own power.
Sadly, Mark recalled a time when enemies such as these posed no threat to him whatsoever, although why, he wasn’t entirely certain. He had had difficulty with his recollections of the past lately, and frequently it was now a struggle to even remember his own name. But at this moment, such a thing was hardly the worst of his problems.
The soldiers carried him outside, for the first time in days… weeks… months? He wasn’t certain how long it had been….
The incarcerated man felt the cool breeze touch his skin. It was nighttime, and the stars twinkled down at him, as if holding back a joyous secret that they were bursting to reveal.
The prisoner felt slightly invigorated, but did not use this renewed strength to assist his guards. He wanted to prolong this journey as much as possible.
The man wanted to be free, and this was the closest he had come to it since he had been captured.
The unlikely trio was approaching the large Audience Hall, the prisoner in red being carried by the two soldiers in green. The man could hear a loud roar of approval coming from the Hall, and he knew that the time of his undoing was near.
And yet, hope still flickered in his heart.
Perhaps it was the cool air, or the velvety soft blackness of the night, or the sparkling stars, or the feel of being without restraints, but the man sensed something…
The taste of freedom.
Another roar broke through the silence of the evening, but this time, the sound did not come from the nearby Audience Hall.
It came from the sky.
The man looked up to see red jets racing toward his position.
Red… the color of his prisoner’s uniform…
Anything red must be here to help him!
The soldiers seemed to agree with this analysis, as they began to scream and run, initially dragging the man with them and then roughly throwing him to the ground as the jets tore through the sky above them.
One plane came toward the man, and suddenly, he knew in his heart that this vessel had come to save him. Pulling together all of the strength he possessed, the prisoner ran out into the open, waving his arms at the spacecraft, doing everything he could to catch its attention.
The jet turned, sending a giant missile from its mouth, the instrument of destruction headed straight toward the center of the Audience Hall.
The structure exploded, chunks of metal, stone and earth flying everywhere. The man was caught in the blast, and he tried to flee, but his weakened state prevented him from making much progress. He stumbled, falling to the ground, barely managing to roll over onto his back in the deadly hail of debris. He gasped for air, but choked on the clouds of dust surrounding him, lapsing into unconsciousness as the rubble buried him within a matter of seconds.
But it wasn’t the end.
It was only the beginning….
Mark turned to survey the scene. The large Hall was filled to capacity, dignitaries of the Federation jockeying for seats as they craned their necks to ensure that they had the best view of the proceedings.
Zoltar’s capture by the Eagle and the Swan had effectively ended the war with the Spectran Empire. A trembling representative of the Great Spirit of the Spectran People had made peace overtures, and a treaty had been signed. Zoltar himself had been tried and found guilty of numerous war crimes, and had been sentenced to life imprisonment under the Federation regime. Interestingly enough, the Great Spirit had made no protest that Zoltar would not be returned to his home planet.
Already, the former Leader of the Spectran Empire had grown fat and complacent, reluctantly resigned to this valueless role he was assigned to play in the new Galactic Order.
But none of this was the reason why these dignitaries were here, today.
Mark’s view shifted as he turned to look at Jason standing by his side, roguishly handsome as he winked at Andie, who was standing at the back of the Hall. The Harrier was supposed to remain out of sight, but she couldn’t resist engaging in the flirtatious games the Condor enjoyed. It was evident to everyone who knew them that the pair had formed a strong emotional bond.
Next to Jason, Tiny stood proudly, an amazed smile on his face as he too surveyed the massive crowd. Adjacent to him was an empty space, purposely left open in remembrance of the person who wasn’t there to fill it. Today, Mark especially regretted that Keyop was no longer a part of their lives.
A hush fell over the assembled group, and a fanfare began to play. Slowly, Sianna stepped into view, displaying her luminous grace before all as she slowly moved through the crowd, clearing a path for those behind her. She was followed by Andie, whose brilliant smile was the envy of many. Heads turned again, straining to look as finally a couple entered the Hall, following behind the Harrier.
Chief Anderson’s face bore a strange mixture of pleasure and shock, as if he still couldn’t believe what was happening. At his side, Princess floated above the ground, her elegant ivory and silver gown flowing over her body, molding itself to her feminine curves and trailing behind her, causing the crowd to sigh in appreciation.
They approached the dais, and Chief Anderson held out Princess’ hand, placing it into Mark’s. As he did so, the Chief’s eyes caught those of the Commander, a stern warning being imparted in Anderson’s gaze. Mark acknowledged the communication with a small nod and a soft smile. Then the Eagle turned away, focusing all of his attention where it should be on this day: on his bride.
Princess smiled radiantly, her happiness lighting up the room as they stood in front of the officiant, and the ceremony was begun.
Officially, this was his wedding day, but in his mind, Mark was transported back to another time. He saw himself, standing next to Princess, not in an impersonal Federation Hall, but in a small chapel that was special to both of them…
“Do you, Luc, take Kristin to be your wedded wife; to have and to hold from this day forward; for better or for worse; for richer or poorer; in sickness and in health; until death parts you?”
“I do.” Luc answered, his eyes meeting Kristin’s, a connection being forged between the two of them.
Death had already parted them once, and it had proven to be no barrier to their feelings for one another.
Their emotions… their love… this was their greatest strength, and it would endure throughout everything that was to come.
Thanks to everyone who stuck with me through this long and winding tale. I am grateful for your support!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.