Remorse by TransmuteJun
Summary:

Demoralized by the loss of the Earth, the Federation and Galaxy Security struggle to regroup in the ongoing war with the Spectrans. But will they be able to face up to their enemy without the G-Force Team?

This is the fourth story in the On the Run Series.


Categories: Battle of the Planets Characters: Chief Anderson, Jason, Keyop, Mark, Original Character, Phoenix/God Phoenix, Princess, Tiny Harper
Genre: Action/Adventure, Angst, Character Study, Drama, Hurt/Comfort
Story Warnings: Adult Situations, Death, Mild Adult Situations, Mild Language, Mild Sexual References, Mild Violence, Sexual Situations, Strong Language, Violence
Timeframe: Sequel
Universe: Canon
Challenges: None
Series: On the Run
Chapters: 12 Completed: Yes Word count: 24146 Read: 48115 Published: 11/02/2008 Updated: 11/17/2008
Story Notes:
Thanks to the two special people who generously offered me some inspiration, and so have become an important part of this story. You know who you are.

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

This story follows on from Exit Strategy. It is the fourth story in the On the Run series.

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Chapter 1

Something wasn’t right.

He could feel it: a strange tingling in his spine that acted as a warning.

Only, he didn’t know what was wrong.

His body tensed in anticipation, but no attack came. He blinked, his eyes seeing almost as well in the near darkness as most people would with full illumination, thanks to his enhanced vision.

But there was nothing out of the ordinary to be seen.

The woman beside him stretched and yawned; apparently unaware of what was about to happen. She resettled herself next to his body, wrapping her arms around his muscular chest. The feeling was fading, now.

“Having another bad dream?” she asked sleepily, nuzzling her cheek against his bare back. “Just relax… you’re safe, here.”

“Am I really?” he asked, uncertain of his own emotions. His premonition of danger was still weighing heavily on his mind. These things weren’t always right, but in the past few months he had been experiencing feelings like this, and the warnings had become reality often enough that he had learned to pay attention.

It didn’t pay to ignore what his mind was trying to tell him.

“Something’s not right.”

Somehow, voicing his concern out loud made it seem more real, and the strange tingling returned, stronger than before.

“What is it?” she asked, suddenly wide awake. It said a lot to him that she took these feelings as seriously as he did, especially when all she had to go on was his word.

But that was why she was so special. She believed in him… she trusted him… at a time when there was nothing else more important.

Hell, there had been a time, not that long ago, when he had barely believed in himself. But with Sianna’s help, he had been able to overcome that.

He leaned over, kissing her lightly, relaying his gratitude to her in that one loving gesture.

“I don’t know, exactly.” he said, pulling away. “I just get the feeling that I need to be prepared.”

“Is this it?” she asked, her voice betraying her concern. “Are the Spectrans attacking?”

“No… yes…” He corrected himself, suddenly sensing that she had hit upon the true source of his concern. “Yes… I think that might be it…”

He got out from under the covers, pulling on his clothes with lightning speed, even as Sianna crawled over to the edge of the bed, staring at him with a worried expression on her face.

Just as he finished buckling his belt, the communicator on his left wrist began to beep. A familiar voice came from the austere gold plate on its surface.

“G-2, come in.”

“Ears on, Chief.”

He didn’t have to ask if something was wrong. Besides his premonition, he knew that the Chief would only contact him at this hour of the night if it were something serious.

“We believe the Spectrans are preparing another attack. Come to my office, immediately! There isn’t much time.”

“On my way. G-2, over and out.”

Sianna was standing now, her hand on his shoulder as she stood on tiptoe to brush her lips across his cheek.

“Be safe.” she told him. “I love you, Tiny.”

“I love you too, Sianna.” he replied, before rushing from the room.

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When he arrived at Chief Anderson’s office, he was surprised to see that no one else was there.

“Where is everybody?” he asked.

“You’re the first one here.” Anderson replied, just as a tall, blonde woman walked in through the door. “And Andie is the only other person coming, so now we can begin.” The Chief nodded to the blonde woman and turned to a control panel on his desk, pushing a button. He indicated the large monitor on the wall in front of them.

“These are images taken by the Deimos Surveillance Outpost twenty minutes ago.” the Chief informed them.

“What is that thing?” Andie asked, her eyes narrowing as she peered at a telltale speck in the center of the display. “A… bee?”

“That would be our guess.” Anderson answered dryly. “But more importantly, it appears to be a Spectran mecha. The first new one we’ve seen in a year.”

“A mecha?” A knot of fear began to form in Tiny’s stomach. He had been right. This wasn’t good. A mecha could only mean one thing.

“Where is it headed?” Andie asked intently. “Do we have a projected flight path?”

“Mars.” Anderson informed them.

“Mars?” Tiny exclaimed. “The Spectrans are attacking Mars? Why?”

“Our guess is that they’re after the vast tritonium deposits we recently discovered on that planet.” the Chief replied. “Not to mention that as the closest planet to Earth, it has some strategic value as well.”

“Are we launching the Phoenix, Sir?” Andie asked, her expression unreadable. Tiny couldn’t tell whether she was excited or nervous… or both. Andie tended to keep her emotions to herself. She was strong, and capable, and was able to make strategic decisions without being clouded by emotional sentiment, as Tiny sometimes was.

She was an excellent G-1, and Tiny knew it. But he had an advantage she didn’t: he had been on missions like this before.

The Spectrans had been quiet for the last year, satisfied with their takeover of Earth and busy consolidating their hold there. They had defeated the G-Force Team, and had felt complacent, knowing that the Federation had no effective offensive force to use against them. Unfortunately, they had been right.

That year had given the Federation time to regroup… time to create a new G-Force Team.

But not enough time.

Right now, the team consisted of only Andie and Tiny. Various other applicants were under serious consideration, but no one else had yet been officially accepted.

It was a closely guarded secret that Tiny had actually been a member of the original G-Force Team. It was widely believed that all of the G-Force operatives had died during the Spectran Invasion of Earth, and the subsequent destruction of the Phoenix. But that wasn’t quite true.

Tiny was the only survivor.

He would never forget that day, as long as he lived. Each moment, each second, had been seared into his memory by the intense grief and pain that had enveloped him during that last, abandoned mission.

No, he could never forget…

Chapter 2 by TransmuteJun
Author's Notes:
Thanks to everyone who has stuck with my series so far. Hopefully, this chapter will answer some of your querstions!

Chapter 2

One year ago…

“What the hell is this one?” Mark sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose in a vain attempt to relieve some of the tension he was feeling. Judging by the deep frown lines etched into the Commander’s forehead, it didn’t work.

“Breep… broop… Pterodactyl…” Keyop offered, staring at the still image that Chief Anderson had sent to them.

“Pterodactyl? Didn’t Spectra already do a flying dinosaur a few months ago?” Jason grunted.

“Perhaps they’re running out of ideas?” Princess offered. But her weak attempt at humor fizzled. They were all exhausted, having just destroyed two other Spectran mecha: one over North America and one over South America.

This third attack craft, over Europe, wasn’t the last one they had to deal with, either. Chief Anderson had already informed them that there were at least two more: one over Southern Africa, and one in the Middle East. There were rumors of a sixth in the South Pacific, heading for Australia, but that had yet to be confirmed.

Of course, normally Zark would have been giving them that kind of information, but Zark was gone. Tiny had never imagined that he would actually find himself missing Zark, the annoying robot who had attempted to insinuate himself into every aspect of their daily lives, both on and off duty. But now, Zark had become a symbol; representing everything they had lost.

That very morning, the first target of the first Spectran mecha had been what was left of the Research Center. Less than forty-eight hours ago, Galaxy Security had thought that they had dodged a bullet when all of their personnel had escaped the destruction of the Space Center. But now, the last part of Center Neptune was gone, and with it, the remainder of the technological support that G-Force so desperately needed.

The mecha had clearly been surprised to see the Phoenix approaching them. Shaped something like a chimera, it had been smashing urban centers when they had arrived in their red and blue warship. Tiny had guessed that the Spectrans had assumed that the Phoenix had been destroyed, since it hadn’t shown up to defend what was left of its home base. This had simply been because at the time of the attack, the Phoenix had been undergoing repairs at the Moffett Field Aerospace Center, due to the extensive damage that had been incurred as they had attempted to escape the wreckage of the Space Center. The sad truth was that no one had expected another Spectran offensive so soon, and it had simply taken the team far too long to assemble and launch their warship.

It had not been possible to re-stock the Phoenix with TBX Missiles, since their backup supply at the Space Center was gone, and they had had to launch to face the Chimera mecha with only three TBXs aboard. Jason had needed all three to destroy the Chimera, as each head had had to be individually destroyed. The Condor’s aim had been true, but he had been unable to take out more than one appendage at a time.

The team had sighed with relief at the Chimera’s destruction, but less than a minute later, they had been called to Brazil, where some kind of floating butterfly had been attacking Rio de Janeiro.

It had been enroute to Rio that they had discovered the full, horrifying scope of the Spectran attack. Zoltar had invaded the Earth with not one mecha, but six. The Chief had speculated that the Spectran Leader had wanted to ensure that even if the G-Force Team split up, that they wouldn’t be able to engage all of his attack craft at once.

In addition to the six mecha, each of the attack craft was accompanied by thousands of ground troops, storming through the major cities of Earth on a destructive rampage. Chief Anderson had estimated that there were over one million Spectran soldiers involved in this operation. Hell, Tiny hadn’t even realized that there were that many men in the entire Spectran Army. But then, perhaps this was their entire army. Certainly it was an all-out offensive. Spectra was throwing everything but the kitchen sink at them, and Galaxy Security and the UN were scrambling to keep up.

Regardless, it was up to the G-Force Team to fight this invasion, and the odds definitely weren’t in their favor at five versus one million.

Still, there had been no question in any of their minds that they would do what they had been trained to do; what they had sworn a solemn oath to do: protect the Earth, and the Federation; with their own lives, if necessary.

The Butterfly mecha had proven vulnerable to the Fiery Phoenix, but they had been forced to prolong the maneuver well past the normal safety time limitations, as each of the mecha’s four wings had required puncturing, in order to send it crashing to the ground. Tiny was amazed that they had come out of that particular encounter intact. As it was, everyone on the G-Force Team was feeling exhausted, battered, and bruised from the physical and mental stress of the encounter.

And now, they had to defeat mecha number three.

To make matters worse, as they were on their way to intercept this third attack craft, Zoltar’s sneering image suddenly appeared on their viewscreen.

“Greetings, Terran Citizens!” the Spectran Leader laughed cruelly. Zoltar appeared to be standing on the steps of the Presidential Palace in Cape Town, South Africa. Behind the ornate building stood a massive metallic giraffe.

“It gives me great pleasure to announce that your puny planet is now a part of the glorious Spectran Empire!” Zoltar announced.

“Can you get rid of that, Keyop?” Mark growled. Tiny winced. It was clear that the Commander was not in the mood for Zoltar’s boastful attitude.

“Breep… no…” Keyop moaned. “Droot… jamming… doot… all frequencies.”

“We would have to shut down the entire Communications System.” Princess clarified.

“Damn it!” Jason shouted, slamming his fist into his control panel. Tiny didn’t say anything, but he agreed with the Condor. Their morale had been worn down enough; they didn’t need this on top of everything else.

But wishing wasn’t going to make their most hated enemy disappear.

“I greet you from the former Presidential Palace of the Federation Alliance.” Zoltar smirked. “And it is my distinct pleasure to be standing next to the former President Kane.”

The image pulled back to show President Kane standing next to the Spectran Leader. Three green-uniformed soldiers were holding rifles at the man’s head, but Hiram Kane had never looked more proud, or distinguished.

“You may hold me prisoner, but I am still the duly elected President of the Federation Alliance.” Kane declared staunchly.

“No, I don’t think so.” Zoltar smirked. Before the G-Force Team could blink, the Spectran Leader had pulled out a gun from beneath his purple cape, pointed it at Kane’s temple, and pulled the trigger, casually executing the Federation President live on the planet-wide broadcast. The body of Hiram Kane slumped to the ground, even as the image zoomed in on Zoltar’s mocking grin.

“Earth belongs to Spectra.” the Spectran Leader hissed, before the image disappeared from their viewscreen.

No one spoke for a long moment, but then Mark turned to address his team. His voice was strangely calm.

“We will get Zoltar.” he vowed with quiet assurance. “We will drive him from this planet. But in order to do that, we need to destroy his mecha first. We need to focus on the task at hand.”

Tiny could sense the Commander’s desperation. The G-Force Team was being slowly stripped by the Spectrans of everything it knew, piece by piece.

The Space Center…

The Research Center….

Zark…

And now, President Kane.

It was too much.

The Owl gritted his teeth, doing his best to follow his Commander’s orders, forcing all of his concentration to the task at hand. But the horror of the Federation President’s brutal execution remained fresh in his mind.

They intercepted the third Spectran mecha over Southern France, where it was clearly on its way to Paris. But now, spotting its adversary, the massive dinosaur ceased its journey, choosing instead to shoot hundreds of laser canons at the G-Force warship. Tiny only listened to the other four members of the team with half an ear, as the rest of his attention was focused on dodging the Pterodactyl’s attacks.

“We need to go Fiery again!” Jason was shouting. “There are no more missiles, Mark! What else is there?”

“We could board it and blow it up from the inside.” Mark declared. “Princess, you’re with me.” The Commander moved toward the elevation platform, an exhausted Swan following dutifully behind.

But just as the pair was about to ascend, the Pterodactyl’s mouth opened, spewing a strange cloud of gas that enveloped the Phoenix. Almost immediately, warning alarms began going off on every console.

“What’s happening?” Mark demanded.

“It’s eating away at our hull!” Tiny ran back to her console.

“It’s destroying our protective shell!” the Swan reported. “This is…. oh shit!”

What?” Mark’s voice cracked as he asked the question. Everyone knew that Princess never used foul language.

“It’s Don’s formula!” Princess told the Commander. “From the Ooze Bomb he created for Zoltar. The anti-pollution compound…”

“I thought the formula for that compound got destroyed when Zoltar blew up the base!” Jason protested.

“Well, apparently the Spectrans had a backup copy!” Princess retorted angrily. “Don’t tell me they couldn’t have done that, Jason!”

“Broop… doot…. Phoenix… dissolving!” Keyop shrieked, grabbing everyone’s attention. Mark rushed over to look at the Swallow’s display.

“Keyop’s right.” Mark announced. “Don’s compound is going to corrode through the hull in the next few minutes.”

“The next few minutes?” Tiny exclaimed. “I didn’t think the Ooze Bomb worked that fast!”

“Apparently the Spectrans have increased the acidity of the compound.” the Commander replied grimly. “Once the corrosive gas reaches the Bridge, we’ll have to land, or die from lack of oxygen and rapid decompression.”

“Not to mention what will happen if that stuff touches us!” Tiny yelled, his primary focus still on avoiding the Pterodactyl’s laser fire.

“Tiny’s right! If it can eat through our hull, I don’t want to know what it’s going to do to our Birdstyle!” Jason pointed out.

“Tiny, withdraw.” Mark ordered the Pilot. “Go behind one of those hillsides, if you can. Everyone else, get to your individual vehicles.”

Princess gasped, covering her mouth with her hand.

“Mark, are we…?” she clearly had a difficult time saying the words, “ …abandoning ship?”

“We can’t stay here.” their Commander replied quietly.

Everyone sat in stunned silence for a moment, and then Jason nodded curtly, standing up in a fluid motion.

“I agree.” he said grimly. “Let’s go.”

“Tiny, once we reach position, set the Phoenix to hover and engage the auto-release.” Mark instructed him. “Then join Keyop in the Space Buggy.”

“Breep… broop…” Keyop burbled. “Won’t go… doot… without Tiny…”

“Thanks, Keyop.” Mark said, clapping the boy on the shoulder. “Now, everyone, let’s go!”

Tiny gritted his teeth, doing his best to pull away from the Pterodactyl in a manner that would make it difficult for the massive mecha to maneuver and follow. It would only give them a few minutes, but hopefully, it would be enough for what Mark intended.

The moment he had arrived at his chosen location, Tiny set the G-Machines on auto-release, then ran to the G-4 Bay.

Keyop was already in the Space Buggy, and its mouth was open. Tiny pushed into it as fast as his bulk would allow, and the moment he was inside, Keyop connected with the auto-release.

The Space Buggy descended out of the Bay, and their communicators lit up, even as the grappling arms were released. Their Commander’s voice emerged from their wrists.

“This is the last message I am going to send.” Mark began. “After this communication ends, we will have radio silence to prevent the Spectrans from tracking us. There will be no exceptions.”

Keyop turned to look at Tiny, his eyes wide with fear. Tiny placed a comforting hand on the Swallow’s back.

“Jason and Princess, use your weapons to take out as many of the ground troops and vehicles as you can. Keyop and Tiny, I need you to cover me by distracting the mecha, so I can make a direct assault.”

The Swallow nodded, as if the Eagle were there to see his response. It was clear that the boy was too emotional at that moment to make a verbal acknowledgement of his orders.

“When our task has been completed, we will continue to maintain radio silence.” Mark told them. “There are still three more mecha to be destroyed. We will regroup and meet in Geneva, at the United Nations Headquarters there.”

There was a long pause, as if the Commander was carefully deciding on the phrasing of his next few words.

“If… if we do not succeed in this endeavor, 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.”

Keyop looked at Tiny, his face a mask of confusion. The Owl knew that the Swallow’s expression was mirrored in his own eyes. Tiny had never heard of Command Code 3210. That had to mean that this was some sort of secret code known only to Mark and Chief Anderson. And if the rest of them hadn’t been told what it was… that meant that it was something the Chief had never expected they would ever actually have to use. And if Mark was telling them to use it now…

That meant that the Commander thought there was no better alternative.

Tiny had known things were grim. Zoltar’s callous, live broadcast execution of President Kane had told him that. Abandoning the Phoenix, something he loved more than any woman he had ever known (except, perhaps, Princess) had driven the tenuous nature of their situation home to the Owl.

But this… their Commander ordering them to use some unknown top secret implant Command Code… that spoke of an entirely different level of desperation.

Mark’s voice came through their communicators once again.

“We must survive this. 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. At all costs, I order you to survive.”

They could hear Mark taking a deep breath before going on.

“If anyone can win this fight, can do this with me, you can. Have faith, G-Force.” he said quietly. “It has been my honor to work with you all. You are my family, and my team.”

Tiny sat in stunned silence for a moment, then opened his mouth to respond. But before he could, the Commander spoke again.

“G-1, over and out.”

Their communicators fell silent, and Tiny slowly reached over, tuning his bracelet to radio silence, as Keyop solemnly did the same. The Swallow moved the Space Buggy away from the Phoenix, just as the Pterodactyl appeared over the hill.

The metallic creature opened its mouth, sending forth at least a dozen missiles at the Phoenix’s position.

One was enough. When the first missile hit the badly damaged vessel, the G-Force warship exploded, the flaming bursts a sordid mockery of the fiery transformation the G-Force Team had used on numerous occasions to defeat Spectran mecha. The remaining missiles only added to the conflagration, sending dancing flames into the sky, and flickering orange-yellow light flashing across the clouds.

But even as Tiny mourned, Keyop was circling the alien mecha, harassing it with his Swallow Bombs and Space Missiles. The Owl scanned the area, searching for any sign of the others, but all he could see was a sea of Spectran tanks and ground troops below.

“Dreet… droot… going for… beep… soft underbelly!” Keyop grinned toothily, maneuvering his Buggy underneath the Pterodactyl, closer to the ground. But as he did so, the Swallow cried out.

“Princess!”

Tiny saw it too. The yellow Galacticycle was cutting a wide swath through the ground troops, using its Swan Rockets to destroy tanks, while its rider used her Yo-Yo Bombs to take down groups of foot soldiers. The Swan was clearly outnumbered and outmatched, but was exacting a terrifyingly high price for the Spectran Army’s victory.

“Breep… have to… doot… help!” Keyop exclaimed, turning the Space Buggy around and moving it toward the ground.

“Keyop, those were not our orders!” Tiny lectured the boy. “Jason and Princess are taking care of the ground forces. We are supposed to…”

“Screw the orders!” shouted Keyop, his speech impediment suddenly gone as a frenzied panic overtook the boy. “Got to help Princess!”

But it was already too late.

A barrage of missiles fired from the Spectran mecha, heedless of the green-uniformed troops in its target zone. The missiles detonated on the ground at the Galacticyle’s location, the force of the massive explosion rocking the Space Buggy and sending it flying out of control. Everything spun in dizzying circles, but even as the Swallow struggled to regain their position, Tiny saw the twisted remains of the yellow Galacticycle shooting up from the ground and then crashing back down between two Spectran tanks, causing a massive detonation that gave birth to a wave of destruction across the battlefield.

“Princess!” screeched Keyop, tears streaming down his cheeks. The Swallow moved the Space Buggy down to the ground, rolling across the charred and blackened remains of enemy soldiers.

“Where… broop… are you?” Keyop cried out plaintively. “Princess…?”

Tiny’s heart went out to the small boy. He viewed Princess as a mother, and his distress at seeing… Tiny hated to admit it, even to himself, but it was clear that the Swan had to be dead. There was no way she could have survived such a violent attack. It was up to him to make Keyop see reason.

“Keyop, we have to get back in the air!” he told the Swallow. “Mark needs us to…”

“But… Princess!” Keyop interrupted with a fervent protest, his expression accusatory. “Don’t you… doot… care?”

“Of course I care!” Tiny shouted. “But there’s nothing we can do for her now! But we can still help Mark and Jason!”

“No!”

Keyop wrenched the drive sticks of his vehicle, moving the Space Buggy toward the ground. Tiny found himself unable to stop the Swallow, short of wresting the controls from the boy’s hands, which would jeopardize their safety in the middle of the battle with the Spectrans.

Since he couldn’t prevent the Swallow from embarking on this course of action, the Owl decided to help him by scanning the area for any sign of Spectran troops who had survived the deadly series of blasts that had taken the Swan’s life.

But it wasn’t the troops who turned out to be the problem. Above them, the Space Buggy’s sensors told Tiny that the giant Pterodactyl was moving in their direction.

“Incoming!” he cried out, and Keyop reacted instinctively by immediately executing a standard evasive response pattern. However, while the G-4 mecha was more maneuverable than the Spectran vessel, it was not fast enough to dodge the missiles targeting its position. Tiny was reduced to throwing his bulk against the inside of the Space Buggy to help move it out of the way of the approaching projectiles.

Ultimately, it wasn’t enough.

Keyop was able to avoid most of the missiles, but the mecha’s final shot proved to be their undoing. A high-powered rocket plowed into the rear of the Space Buggy, sending it tumbling through the air; spinning so fast that all Tiny saw was a blur of color passing before his eyes. The few seconds before they crashed into the ground were an agonizing eternity, especially as the Owl couldn’t even correctly anticipate the exact moment of impact, due to his impeded vision.

A sharp pain ripped through Tiny’s left arm, and the Owl bounced around the G-4’s interior, finally coming to rest in a slump over the control panels, his face mashed against the viewscreen. Tiny moaned, fire shooting up his arm as he rolled onto his side. The Owl’s vision cleared, and his eyes rested upon a set of black wings sprawled in front of him. The Swallow’s neck was bent at an unnatural angle, and his sightless eyes stared at the broken remnants of his vehicle.

“No… Keyop…”

Tiny allowed himself a moment to grieve, but the sound of laser fire hitting the outside of the Buggy’s hull told him that it was time to go. Princess and Keyop were both beyond help, and Tiny realized that he could all too easily join them, if he didn’t act now. Giving the Swallow a final salute, the Owl crawled out of the twisted remnants of the Space Buggy, staying low to the ground and grateful for the green color of his wings that allowed him to blend in with the surrounding trees and bushes, making him more difficult to spot from above. Morbidly, he also realized that the green-uniformed bodies of the Spectran troops who had fallen victim to the Swan’s final attack were also acting as an effective camouflage.

He had left just in time. Behind him, a sickening crunch announced that the Pterodactyl mecha had just stomped on what was left of the G-4. The Owl only allowed himself a glimpse of the sight, before forcing himself to move on.

Tiny commando-crawled up a hillside slippery with the gory remains of enemy soldiers, cresting the peak just in time to witness a sight that caused his heart to drop into his stomach.

In front of him, a once pristine valley was now blanketed with Spectran tanks and ground troops. Into the middle of this nightmare came the Spacemobile, barreling down another hill, drawing the fire and attention of every enemy soldier in the area. Before Tiny’s horrified eyes, the G-2 suffered a hail of bullets, laser fire, rockets and missiles, everything converging into a deadly conflagration centered upon the Condor’s vehicle.

Just as this lethal display of warfare came to a head, the unexpected happened.

The Spacemobile exploded.

Tiny’s bottom lip bled profusely as the Owl’s teeth dug into it. Not Jason too…

But he couldn’t deny what he was seeing. Mark’s last words ran through his mind.

At all costs, I order you to survive…

At that moment, it seemed that only Tiny was capable of following that order. So he did the only thing he could do.

He fled, without any idea in which direction he was heading; the only thought on his mind to put as much distance between himself and the scene of the Condor’s demise as he possibly could, desperately hoping that the massive mecha in the sky above would fail to notice his departure.

Some primal instinct deep inside of him made the Owl turn back for one last look, to where the Pterodactyl was leading the Spectran Army toward Paris.

He gazed upon the terrifying mecha, just in time to see a streak of white shooting through the sky, piercing through the head of the metallic creature, resulting in a massive explosion lighting up the countryside with its fiery blast. And yet, this had been no ordinary attack.

The ‘missile’ that had hit the mecha had been the G-1.

The G-Force Commander had ignored his own orders, in order to enact a kamikaze vengeance upon the Spectran craft that had ended the lives of his teammates.

A wave of shame washed over Tiny. He wasn’t worthy of such loyalty from his Commander.

And yet, he found that he was unable to fight his instincts: his primitive desire to survive. And so, he did the only thing of which he was capable.

He ran.

Chapter 3 by TransmuteJun

Chapter 3

Tiny didn’t know how long he had run from the scene of that last battle. All he knew was that somehow he had de-transmuted and become mixed up with a group of fleeing civilians headed for the Federation Aerospace Base at Avord. When they had arrived, the few remaining military personnel there had been doing their best to evacuate as many people off-planet as they could, but thanks to having had to defend against the Spectran Army, the base had been short on pilots. Even with his broken arm, Tiny had been quickly recruited to fly a Federation transport vessel to Mars, evacuating over one thousand souls from the Earth. Tiny had done as he had been told, trying to convince himself that this one act made him worthy of saving as well, despite the fact that he had completely abandoned his own team… his own family…

From Mars, Tiny and the other Terran refugees had been transported to Riga, and it had been when he had arrived there that the Owl’s communicator had lit up, an incoming transmission overriding the radio silence setting that he had never disengaged. The contact had been initiated almost as soon as Tiny had set foot on Rigan soil. Reluctantly, the Owl had found a secluded area and responded to the hail.

“G-5 here.”

There had been silence for a few moments, followed by a surprised gasp.

“Tiny, is that really you?”

Chief Anderson had had the emergency hail set on auto-repeat, in the vain hope that someone would answer it, but he clearly hadn’t expected anyone on the team to actually do so. The Chief had been thrilled to discover that someone on the G-Force Team had survived the encounter with the Spectrans.

Tiny had gone to see Anderson as quickly as he had been able. The Chief had been evacuated from Earth with other Galaxy Security personnel after President Kane had been assassinated. He had already been assigned to work at the new Galaxy Security Headquarters on Riga.

Although Tiny had been embarrassed and ashamed of fleeing the scene of G-Force’s final battle, he had known that he had owed it to the Chief, not to mention his fallen teammates, to report exactly what had happened during that fateful battle.

Chief Anderson had been devastated to hear that no one else on the G-Force Team had survived the Spectran Invasion of Earth, but he had been grateful for the news, and had been surprisingly appreciative of Tiny’s company, despite the Owl’s brutal honesty when he had retold his tale. The Chief hadn’t blamed Tiny at all for following his Commander’s order to survive, and in fact, Anderson had been happy that at least one of his foster children had made it through the Spectran Invasion of Earth.

Despite his initial misgivings, Tiny had stayed with the Chief, helping him develop strategies for the Federation’s recovery from this grave blow it had been dealt. At that time, as now, Anderson had been determined that the Federation retake Earth, but he had known that a Special Forces Team was required to spearhead such an attack.

Approximately three weeks after Tiny had arrived on Riga, Chief Anderson had been privately contacted by a gloating Zoltar. The Chief had shared details of this secret communication with the Owl, and the images this transmission had contained had nearly made Tiny physically ill.

Zoltar had Mark.

According to the Spectran Leader, they had recovered the Commander’s body from the wreckage of the G-1 Summit Jet in the middle of what had been left of the Pterodactyl mecha. The still images that had been sent were of a broken and emotionally battered man disconnected from reality; lifeless blue eyes staring blankly at the imaging device.

But there had been no doubt that it was, indeed, Mark.

Immediately, Chief Anderson had begun searching for Mark’s whereabouts, but that had proved to be nearly impossible to determine. They assumed that the Commander had been taken to Spectra, as this would be the place where he would be the most secure. It didn’t help that for their own undisclosed reasons, the Spectrans had decided to keep this prize of theirs a secret; not even telling their own people of this important prisoner’s existence. Chief Anderson’s theory had been that Zoltar had been waiting for the most opportune moment to disclose news of their captive: the time when the Spectran Empire could use this news to their utmost advantage.

For his part, Chief Anderson had kept the news to himself and a few select others, not wanting to further demoralize the already disheartened Federation’s citizens.

But Tiny had known.

It had gnawed at the Owl’s soul, knowing that Mark had survived, and that he hadn’t gone back to help him. Perhaps, if he had remained at the scene, he could have taken Mark with him when hehad escaped.

But instead, he had failed his Commander… his friend.

And so, Mark had become a prisoner of the Spectran Empire. It had taken months for Tiny to deal with these feelings of remorse. His psychotherapist called it ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’, but Tiny knew better.

It was ‘Survivor Guilt’.

Tiny was the sole survivor of a team of what had once been the Galaxy’s most elite fighting force. Of all of the members of that team, he had been the only one to come out of their final battle alive, or in Mark’s case, free. And it had not been that he was the best fighter, or the most brilliant tactician. No.

It had been because he was the most cowardly.

It had taken Tiny months to get over these feelings of remorse and unworthiness, but despite what Chief Anderson thought, it had not been Tiny’s Rigan psychotherapist who had helped him with this.

It had been Sianna.

Tiny had first met Sianna in Chief Anderson’s office. She had just begun serving as the Chief’s new administrative assistant at the relocated Galaxy Security Headquarters, and as such she had been one of the handful of people who had actually known who Tiny truly was, when they had been introduced. Tiny had taken her hand in his for a stilted greeting, preparing himself for the scorn that he knew he deserved. But then he had looked up, his eyes meeting hers for a brief instant. And in those eyes, he had seen not pity, nor condemnation, as he had expected, but compassion.

A few days later, they had run into each other at the Fitness Facility, and Tiny had found himself showing Sianna how to lift weights safely, to prevent muscle strain. After that, they had both taken to meeting regularly at the Fitness Facility, and the foundations of a close friendship had been laid. One evening, Tiny had impulsively asked Sianna to accompany him to the cafeteria after their workout, and from that moment they had become inseparable.

Sianna never judged Tiny; she merely supported him, and was always there for him when he experienced the inevitable emotional lows that emerged from time to time. She was his rock, and Tiny was extremely grateful to her for the significant role she had played, and was continuing to play, in his recovery.

It had been Sianna who had convinced him to join the new G-Force Team. When the Chief had first broached the idea with him, Tiny had refused Anderson’s suggestion that he be a part of this new Federation fighting force. Yet Sianna had told him that there was no better way to honor the original members of the G-Force than to help lead the new team in their memory. Tiny was the only person in the Federation with any hands-on familiarity with the operation of the G-Force Team, and his knowledge and experience could benefit everyone involved.

So Tiny had accepted Chief Anderson’s offer, and had been promoted to G-2. The Owl understood why he hadn’t been named to the G-1 position. He didn’t have the kind of tactical or strategic mindset that was required for the quick decisions required in that position. Still, Tiny appreciated the enormous compliment the Chief had given him by appointing him to the First Officer rank. Anderson had made it clear that he was going to be relying on Tiny’s level head and diplomatic skills to fill in where Andie’s field experience fell short, not to mention in dealing with the inevitable frictions that would result with the formation of a new team.

“Are we ready to go?” Andie asked Tiny, breaking him away from his memories. The pair was rushing down the corridor toward the Docking Bay for the Phoenix II. Chief Anderson was close behind them.

“All set.” Tiny reported. “I just took the P2 out for a final test flight yesterday. Even with just the two of us operating her, we should have no problem…”

“It won’t just be the two of you.” Anderson interrupted, approaching from behind. It amazed Tiny that the Chief could be running down the hallway and still maintain his unruffled composure and impeccable appearance.

“Sakuma will be going with you.” Anderson informed them. “For this mission only, he has a field commission as G-3.”

“Sakuma?” Andie was surprised. “But he hasn’t even been implanted yet.”

“Nonetheless, he is our best gunner, and you need a Weapons Officer.” Anderson pointed out. “He won’t be leaving the ship.”

“That’s for sure.” muttered Andie. Tiny could tell that she was disappointed that she wouldn’t be manning the weapons station. He nearly laughed out loud. He had to agree with the Chief’s assessment that Sakuma was their best gunner, and he knew that Andie did as well. She was a former Red Ranger, and a terrific strategist, but she always longed for a more hands-on approach. Yet Tiny knew that Andie would never let her personal desires override what was best for the team. He remembered when he had first met her…

Chapter 4 by TransmuteJun

Chapter 4

Six months ago…

It was a couple of months after he had agreed to be part of the revised G-Force, yet Tiny was still the only member of the team. But at that moment, the Owl had more important things on his mind, like spending the day with Sianna. While he deeply regretted that the Spectrans were occupying Earth, not to mention the terrible things that had happened the day of their Invasion, Tiny also knew that his life would never have been complete without Sianna.

And he would never have met her, if her hadn’t come to Riga.

But a beeping noise from his left arm told him that his immediate plans with Sianna would have to be cancelled.

“G-5 here.” he said, bringing his communicator to his mouth.

“Tiny, I need you in my office right away.” Chief Anderson said. “I have a mission for you.”

Tiny’s heart beat faster. A mission? Being the only member of the new G-Force Team meant that he had not been on a mission since the day the Spectrans had attacked Earth, nearly six months before.

“On my way!” Tiny replied, sending an apologetic look in Sianna’s direction. She sighed regretfully, standing on tip toe to kiss him on the mouth.

“Stay safe, Tiny.” she whispered.

“I will.” Tiny replied, returning her kiss for a brief instant before breaking away and rushing off, grateful that he had found a woman who could both love him and at the same time understand his duty to the Federation.

When he arrived at Chief Anderson’s office, Tiny was surprised to see four Red Rangers awaiting him. The Chief stood up, beckoning him forward.

“Everyone, this is Tiny, the best pilot you will ever meet.” Anderson introduced the Owl. Tiny found himself turning bright red at the Chief’s words.

“That’s quite the statement.” an older man harrumphed. Tiny recognized him as Colonel Rigel, the man who had taken over leadership of the Red Rangers Forces after Colonel Cronus had died.

“Try him, Colonel.” Anderson smirked.

A tall, slim woman with blonde hair stepped forward, her eyes curiously assessing Tiny. She did not say a word, but her expression was contemplative. Tiny held her gaze, not in the least nonplussed. After all, as a member of G-Force, he had met dignitaries of far more importance. Finally, the Red Ranger held out her hand to him.

“Lieutenant Andritha Trocol.” she introduced herself. “And you are…?”

“Tiny Harper.” the Owl responded, shaking her hand in a laid-back manner. He refused to let himself be intimidated by this woman’s aggressive approach.

To Tiny’s surprise, the Lieutenant laughed.

“I think he’ll do, Colonel.” she said. “He’s not afraid of me, but he’ll follow orders. This one’s not out to hot dog in front of everyone.”

“Tiny is a consummate professional.” the Chief said quietly, and the Colonel nodded his assent.

“He can go.”

“Go where?” Tiny asked.

“I told you I had a mission for you.” Anderson smirked. “Tiny, how would you like to deliver a package?”

“A package?” Now Tiny was even more confused.

“A Galaxy Security agent.” the Chief clarified. “We need to get our agent to Center City, which as you know is on the West Coast of North America. This operative has a number of tasks to perform for us.”

“I’m sorry, Chief.” Tiny hung his head. “I’m good, but I’m not that good. I don’t think anyone could slip in and out of the Earth’s atmosphere without being detected. Certainly not long enough to safely drop someone on the surface of the planet without notice. The Spectrans have a high-level security net filtering traffic on and off of the planet.”

“You’re right.” Colonel Rigel smirked. “And I admire your honesty, Mr. Harper. You can’t do it… not without a decoy.”

“A decoy?” Tiny’s eyes lit up. Just what were they suggesting?

“That’s where Andie comes in.” the Colonel grinned, slapping Lieutenant Trocol on the shoulder. “She, Airman Winton and Sergeant Ryosuke will be staging an attack on the other side of the planet from your drop off destination. They’ll be flying Ranger jets, making a high profile attack on a completely different target. Think that’ll provide enough of a distraction for you?”

Tiny’s enormous grin was his answer.

“I can do that, Sir.” he nodded. “They’ll be pulling away a significant number of the Spectran forces normally assigned to patrol the atmosphere.”

“That’s true, Tiny.” Anderson agreed. “But if that’s all there was to it, we could use just about any Red Ranger pilot. If you encounter any enemy ships, you’ll be completely on your own, with no hope of assistance.”

Tiny straightened his shoulders, standing straight up as tall as he could.

“I can do it, Sir.”

“I knew you could, Tiny.” Anderson said proudly. Tiny felt a warm glow inside of him. Suddenly, more than anything, he wanted to prove to everyone that Chief Anderson had been right to place his faith in Tiny Harper.

An hour later, Tiny was climbing into a Rigan Stealth Scout. The spacecraft was small, with barely enough room for two, but represented the cutting edge of Federation stealth technology. It had been designed to circumvent Spectran security systems, and avoid detection by electronic search nets.

The downside was that this jet had a low weight capacity, and with a passenger on board, Tiny would only be able to take two TBX Missiles. If he needed further weapons, he would have to rely on a single laser cannon which, while light, required two or three shots to take down a similarly sized Spectran Fighter Jet. Tiny was an excellent pilot, but weapons had always been Jason’s specialty. The Owl wasn’t used to shooting, much less firing a laser cannon while simultaneously flying his aircraft. Mark had done such a thing on many occasions, but Tiny had always flown the Phoenix, which was incapable of firing a shot unless all four G-Machines were aboard.

It would be challenging for the Owl, to say the least, if he got into an aggressive confrontation with a Spectran ship. He would have to avoid enemy vessels at all costs.

Andie approached him, her red uniform standing out like a beacon in the bright sunlight.

“Good luck, Tiny.” she told him. “If you’re as good as Chief Anderson says you are, you may not need it, but Gregory, Sakuma, and I will do our best to help you out.”

“Thanks, Andie.” Tiny grinned. “I won’t let you down.” He decided then and there that he liked the Red Ranger’s straightforward approach. Since his arrival on Riga, he had been dealing with too many administrators and politicians who spoke in euphemisms and never really let anyone in on their true agendas. Sometimes, Tiny felt that Sianna and Chief Anderson were the only people he could truly trust.

But now, he instinctively found himself trusting Andie Trocol as well.

“See you back on the tarmac.” Andie told him, raising her arm in a half-salute as she departed for her own Red Ranger Jet.

But even as the Lieutenant left, Tiny’s passenger arrived. Chief Anderson was escorting a young man to the Stealth Scout. His light brown hair and brown eyes were partially hidden by a thick pair of glasses

“Tiny, this is Clytac.” Anderson introduced the man. “Clytac, this is Tiny. He will be taking you to your drop off point.”

“Nice to meet you, Tiny.” Clytac said, holding out his hand. Tiny shook it briefly, before Clytac vaulted up into the jet, landing in his seat behind the Owl.

“Good to have you aboard, Clytac.” Tiny greeted his passenger. Chief Anderson stepped back from the spacecraft, and Tiny closed off the cockpit, beginning his pre-flight check before initiating the activation sequence. Within sixty seconds, the Stealth Scout was heading down the runway, moving to its place in line beside the three Red Ranger jets that would be accompanying him most of the way to Earth. He looked over to see that Andie’s jet was by his side, and he gave her a thumbs up signal. She smiled and returned the gesture.

The four planes took off together in perfect formation, following their assigned flight paths out of Rigan airspace and up through the atmosphere, finally exiting the Planetary Defense Perimeter. Just before they reached the Hyperspeed initiation point, Tiny received a hail from Andie. He opened the communications channel.

“Everyone, after this message, we will maintain radio silence, until we are back in Federation Space again.” the Lieutenant instructed them. “Tiny, you will accompany us, staying within visual range until we reach the Planet Pluto, at which point you will break off and follow your own objective. Gregory, Sakuma, you will stay in formation with me, as we proceed to our target. We will go in and out, completing our objective quickly, and then departing immediately. We don’t want to get caught up in a firefight with the Spectrans, as they will heavily outnumber us. One shot, and then we’re gone, got it? You will both maintain visual contact with me at all times.”

“Does everyone acknowledge?” Andie asked.

“Acknowledged.” Tiny replied, Gregory and Sakuma echoing his response.

“Excellent. Then, radio silence begins now.” Andie stated, terminating the communication.

Using Hyperspeed, it only took about two hours to reach the edge of the Terran Solar System. During the journey, Tiny kept a close eye on the Rangers, maintaining a constant distance from and relative position to Andie’s jet, while conversing casually with Clytac. Of necessity, his passenger was somewhat close-mouthed about his upcoming assignment, but he told Tiny how much he would miss Riga, as well as his family and friends there.

When they reached Pluto, Tiny veered away from the three red jets that had been accompanying him, moving on his pre-determined course toward Earth. He was taking a different flight path from the Rangers, so as to avoid detection by the Spectrans. Once they had passed Mars, all conversation with Clytac ceased, as Tiny accessed the status of the Spectran Security Defense Network that had been placed around Earth.

The Stealth Scout’s roundabout route had allowed the Red Rangers to arrive about a minute ahead of Tiny. Already, the Owl could see the Spectran Forces in the Defense Grid moving off to the other side of the planet, creating a hole in their electronic security net, right in front of his position. He hid his spacecraft in the shadow of a passing asteroid, monitoring the situation for a few moments. When the majority of the Spectran vessels had moved off, Tiny shot forward, nearly at Hyperspeed, punching through the security net as quickly as possible. He moved straight through the hole that the Spectrans had so conveniently made for him, thanks to the Red Rangers’ distraction techniques.

“Damn, Tiny!” Clytac crowed as he found himself forced back into his seat by four gs of acceleration. “You are some pilot!”

“You’ve got to be fast, if you don’t want the Spectrans to see you.” Tiny grinned. “As far as they’ll know, you’ve been on this planet since before the Invasion.”

“That’s the idea.” Clytac smirked, his body relaxing as the Stealth Scout decelerated and moved into the cloud cover of Earth’s lower atmosphere. “Still, that was amazing! It’s like you know Earth’s atmosphere inside and out! How many times have you done this?”

Tiny was glad that Clytac was behind him and unable to see his expression as the Owl fumbled for a proper response.

“I’ve never done this in a Stealth Scout before.” he hedged, hoping that was enough to allay Clytac’s suspicions. Working for Galaxy Security or not, if Clytac got captured by the Spectrans, Tiny didn’t want him revealing under torture that the Phoenix’s pilot was still alive and able to enter Earth’s atmosphere under Spectra’s nose.

“I can see why Chief Anderson wanted you for this job.” Clytac replied, causing Tiny to sigh with relief that the subject was now closed.

The remainder of the trip was short and unremarkable, as Tiny stayed out of visual range of Spectran Forces and adjusted the Rigan jet’s stealth settings to avoid electronic detection. It wasn’t long before he was hovering over a deserted meadow about ten miles out of Center City, covered by a dense cloud bank.

“Ready to go, Clytac?” Tiny asked.

“Ready as I’ll ever be.” Clytac responded. “Initiating drop… now!” The jet’s passenger pulled a lever next to his seat and the floor opened up below him.

“Good luck, Clytac!” Tiny shouted, as the Galaxy Security agent detached his seatbelt before sliding out of the jet. Tiny remained in position for a moment, closing up the hatch and ensuring that Clytac’s parachute opened up. After scanning the area and determining that there were no Spectran troops or vehicles close by, the Owl took off, heading back to the lower atmosphere.

He had done it.

Tiny nearly laughed with relief. He had gotten in and out and accomplished his mission. All he had to do now was to break though the Spectran security net and get back to the rendezvous point on the other side of Pluto.

But at that moment the Stealth Scout’s communications system lit up, and Tiny knew instinctively that his mission was far from over.

He had an incoming hail marked ‘emergency’.

Tiny hadn’t needed that warning on the communication frequency. Hadn’t Andie ordered radio silence? If anyone was contacting him now, they were breaking that order.

Which meant that they desperately needed his help.

Tiny turned on his communications system, answering the hail.

“Tiny, I need you.” came Andie’s voice. Her tone wasn’t exactly panicked, but there was definitely a sense of urgency that Tiny hadn’t heard when they had spoken before.

“What is it?” Tiny asked. “I’ll do whatever I can.”

“We need a distraction!” Andie shouted, and Tiny could hear the sounds of laser fire in the background. “And we need it now! Too many Spectrans…”

Tiny blanched. He recalled what Andie had said about the Rangers being heavily outnumbered. And originally, they had gone in as a distraction for him.

But now, it appeared that their roles had been reversed.

Tiny didn’t really understand what was going on, but he trusted Andie. From his admittedly brief interaction with her, he knew that she wouldn’t be asking for help if she didn’t truly need his assistance.

“Distraction coming!” Tiny replied, closing the channel and gritting his teeth in preparation for what was sure to be a foolhardy choice of action. The Owl dove back down through the clouds, this time not caring whether or not any enemy vessels spotted him. He looked around, and almost immediately saw what he needed.

In the distance, Moffett Field Aerospace Base gleamed in the sun. Once the pride of the Federation Forces on Earth, it was now swarming with enemy troops.

As Tiny approached, he could clearly see how the Spectrans had appropriated the base and were adapting it to meet their own needs. The area was littered with Spectran spacecraft, aircraft and land vehicles, not to mention thousands of green-uniformed troops.

As a distraction, it was perfect.

Tiny took careful aim, sending both of his TBX missiles at the massive hangar that dominated the base. It had originally been two separate hangars, but the structures had been combined to create a gigantic building that had easily dwarfed the Phoenix, when it had been there for repairs after the first attack on Center Neptune.

The hangar exploded in a giant fireball, the size of the blast indicating that there had been a large number of spacecraft, or perhaps one large spacecraft, inside. The tiny green soldiers on the ground began running in all directions, and Tiny saw Spectran fighter jets taking off from the runway.

It was time to go.

Chapter 5 by TransmuteJun

Chapter 5

Six months ago…

Tiny turned the Stealth Scout around, shooting almost straight up into the sky, moving as fast as a rocket. The Owl didn’t bother slowing down to pass through the Spectran security net. He relied on his knowledge of the Earth’s atmosphere and general Spectran defensive strategies that he had acquired during his many missions flying the Phoenix for G-Force, and instinctively chose the point of greatest weakness for his departure. He zoomed right through the Spectrans’ defensive perimeter, although with the newly heightened level of alert, he found that he was setting off alarms left and right.

Out of the corner of his eye, Tiny saw enemy spacecraft scrambling to follow him, but he didn’t wait around to assess their reaction time. With at least two dozen Spectran Fighter Jets hot on his tail, Tiny entered into Hyperspeed, rushing heedlessly into the shared dimensional plane known as Hyperspace. He did not have the opportunity to take the time to make the usual preparations and adjustments to his flight path to ensure a secure transition from normal space. This made the maneuver extremely dangerous, and easily fatal to an untrained pilot.

But all Tiny felt were a few bumps and shifts as he shot far beyond light speed, moving into Hyperspace before the enemy vessels pursuing him could even blink. The Owl didn’t look back, even after he had exited Hyperspace and had re-entered Federation territory, not stopping until he was well beyond Pluto, at the rendezvous point.

He was the first one there.

Of course, he had pulled out all of the stops to arrive as quickly as possible, so this wasn’t surprising, but the Owl was still concerned when he discovered that he was alone. He spent five nerve-wracking minutes by himself, waiting for any kind of word from the Red Rangers, only sighing deeply with relief when a telltale Hyperspace portal shimmered for a moment. Red jets emerged above him and to his right.

“Andie!” Tiny cried joyfully into his communications system, as the Hyperspace portal shimmered closed again. “I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you! Is…”

The Owl’s words drifted off as he realized that only two red jets were sitting with him at the rendezvous point. He lowered his head before speaking again.

“Should we go back?” he asked the Lieutenant.

“No.” came Andie’s curt reply. “Gregory is gone. There’s nothing to go back for.”

88888

The trip back to Riga was eerily silent. Tiny concentrated fully on flying the Stealth Scout, doing everything he could to take his mind off of the red jet that was not returning with them. The momentary thrill he had felt helping Andie and making such a daring escape from the Spectran Forces was long gone, replaced by the knowledge that whatever he had done, it had been too little, too late.

They landed at the Cronus Memorial Aerospace Base on Riga, again in perfect formation, save that one of their number was not present. Tiny taxied over to the Red Rangers’ main hangar and got out to meet Chief Anderson and Colonel Rigel, who were awaiting them there. The two older men spoke not a word, but took Tiny, Sakuma, and Andie into the Colonel’s office for debriefing.

“So I gather there were some complications.” the Colonel said dryly.

“To say the least.” Andie muttered. She appeared angry, rather than downcast. “I hate to speak ill of… well, you understand, Sir.”

“I do, and I respect you for that, Lieutenant.” the Colonel replied. “But I need a full report. Where is Airman Winton?”

“Dead, Sir.” Andie replied, keeping her eyes on her commanding officer. “He didn’t stick to the plan. Instead of moving to his pre-assigned position, he was circling the area. I think he wanted to check out the target from a number of different angles.”

“Don’t cover for him!” Sakuma snapped. “Gregory screwed up! For all we know, he didn’t even remember his orders! Since we were on radio silence, we’ll never know, will we? But he got himself killed, and he damn well nearly did the same for us!”

“That’s enough!” Andie glared at Sakuma, and the Red Ranger fell silent. The Lieutenant turned back to the Colonel. “Gregory wasn’t in position, and was apparently having difficulty operating his weapons. He was unable to fire. I had to adjust the attack plan, so I ended up shooting directly into the center of the target structure, rather than both of us attacking half of it. My shot covered most of the designated area, but not the edges of the Audience Hall.”

“And of course, that’s where that purple bastard was standing!” snarled Sakuma. “If Gregory had just been able to shoot his missile when and where he was supposed to, then we could have ensured that the entire building was destroyed.”

“Didn’t I tell you that you’d said enough?” Andie growled at Sakuma. “If you speak out of turn again, I’m going to put you up on report!” Sakuma’s jaw dropped open briefly, and then his mouth snapped shut.

“So what is the status of Penal Complex 624-Alpha?” the Colonel asked Andie.

“I shot a missile into the center of our designated target: the Audience Hall.” the Lieutenant replied. “We estimate that at least two thousand Spectran soldiers were killed. Unfortunately, Sakuma spotted Zoltar running away from the edge of the blast. It seems that he was standing at the end of the Hall, and the force of the missile detonation pushed him out of the structure.”

“What about the prisoners?” Chief Anderson asked. “Did they suffer any casualties?”

“Not that we could see.” Andie told him. “We left their buildings alone, and it was after the designated inmate curfew at the time, so none of them should have been outside of their cells. But our assassination attempt was a failure, Sir.”

“What was the Spectrans’ response?” Rigel asked the Lieutenant.

“Sakuma had done a good job of destroying the aircraft housed at the Penal Complex while Gregory and I got into position.” Andie reported. “But we didn’t adequately anticipate how quickly backup support craft would arrive. They literally dropped out of the atmosphere. I’m not entirely certain where they came from.”

“Likely the planetary security net.” Tiny offered quietly. “Just before I entered the Earth’s atmosphere, I saw their patrol craft moving off, presumably to intercept you.”

“That makes sense.” Andie acknowledged. “Regardless, within two minutes we had our hands full. Gregory was still unable to fire his weapons, and he went down almost immediately.” Andie took a deep breath, squaring her shoulders before speaking again.

“I tried to help him, Colonel, but I was unable to. The Spectrans sent a Sybold Missile to his position at point blank range. He died under my command.”

“Is Lieutenant Trocol’s account of these events accurate, Sergeant Ryosuke?” Colonel Rigel asked Sakuma directly.

“Yes, Sir.” Sakuma replied quietly. “Except that she is downplaying the severity of the mess we were in. Literally thirty or forty Spectran Fighter Jets just dropped in from out of nowhere…”

“It wasn’t nowhere.” Andie corrected him. “As Tiny suggested, they were probably summoned from the orbital security net.”

“Well, we were badly outgunned.” Sakuma continued. “The loss of Gregory made those odds even worse.”

“And yet, here you both sit, relatively unscathed.” observed the Colonel.

“That’s because I disobeyed orders, Sir.” Andie confessed. “I broke radio silence and asked Tiny for help.”

“You broke radio silence?” the Colonel asked disbelievingly. “You could have given away his position to the Spectrans! He was much more vulnerable than you, and if he hadn’t yet dropped off his passenger…”

“I had, Colonel.” Tiny rushed to intervene. “In fact, I was just about to go back through the upper atmosphere.”

“Regardless, Lieutenant Trocol had no way of knowing that.” Rigel harrumphed.

“I felt it was the only option to get us out of there alive.” Andie said. “Based on the time elapsed since we had parted ways with Tiny just outside of Pluto, I estimated that it was likely he had accomplished his objective.”

“I do not regret my decision.” she continued, her voice clear and strong. “If Tiny had not assisted us, Sakuma and I would have ended up like Gregory.”

“I think it’s time we heard Tiny’s report.” Chief Anderson suggested quietly. He turned to the Owl expectantly.

“From my end, everything went perfectly.” Tiny informed them. “I saw Spectran Fighter Jets in the security net move away, likely due to the Rangers’ strike on the other side of the planet. I was able to punch through the planetary defense perimeter without being detected, by passing through at Hyperspeed.”

“You entered the Earth’s atmosphere at Hyperspeed?” Colonel Rigel sat straight up in his seat. “That’s suicide! One wrong move and you would have been splattered all over the ground!”

“I have extensive experience in that particular technique, Colonel.” Tiny replied politely. “Chief Anderson will confirm that I am more than qualified to engage in high-risk Hyperspeed jumps.”

“Tiny is correct.” Anderson agreed. “He has performed this kind of maneuver many times before. That’s one of the reasons I wanted him for this mission.” The Colonel appeared to be somewhat mollified by the Chief’s words.

“I dropped off my passenger, and he is now safely on the Earth’s surface.” Tiny continued.

“At least something went according to plan.” the Colonel grunted.

“When did Lieutenant Trocol contact you?” the Chief asked him.

“As I said before, it was shortly after my drop off.” Tiny answered him. “I was on my way back and about to punch through the security net again when I received her hail. When she told me that she needed a distraction, I knew that her situation was serious.”

“When you saw that she was attempting to contact you, why did you break orders and respond?” the Colonel questioned him brusquely.

“I don’t think that Andie is the sort of person who breaks orders casually.” Tiny said resolutely. “If she was doing so, then her situation was grave. I don’t doubt that she would ever have contacted me otherwise. I reacted accordingly.”

“What did you do, Tiny?” Anderson asked gently.

“Andie said that she needed a distraction, so I gave her one.” Tiny said simply. “I had two TBX Missiles, and I sent them both into the main hangar at Moffett Field. There were Spectran troops swarming all over the place, and it was clear that they had appropriated the base for their own use. I don’t know what was inside, but it must have been something huge, because the explosion was massive; much bigger in scale than I had anticipated. But I didn’t hang around to watch. I took off like a bat out of hell and didn’t stop until I got to the rendezvous point.”

“I was wondering what you did.” Andie said admiringly. “Most of those Spectran aircraft attacking us just abandoned the fight and took off for the atmosphere. That’s the only thing that allowed us to escape with our lives.”

“For what it’s worth, I don’t think I would have lasted long in face-to-face air combat.” Tiny admitted. “But I had the advantage of surprise.”

“It seems that you were right to contact Mr. Harper.” Colonel Rigel said in a begrudging tone. “There will be no reprimand on your record, Lieutenant.”

“Thank you, Sir.” Andie nodded her head respectfully before turning to address the Owl.

“And thank you, Tiny.”

Chapter 6 by TransmuteJun

Chapter 6

Chief Anderson had been impressed with Andie’s strategy, quick thinking under fire, and loyalty to her team, making her G-1 within a month after that mission. It had been at that time that Tiny had been officially promoted to G-2. Andie had been implanted and she and Tiny had begun training together. Tiny had to hand it to Andie; she had whipped him into shape, and he was in better physical condition now than he had ever been, dropping fifty pounds of fat and trading it in for a nearly equal amount of solid, hard muscle. In return, he had taught the former Red Ranger Lieutenant the G-Force fighting maneuvers, helped her adjust to her implant, and gone over the technical aspects of their uniforms and equipment with her.

Tiny had also received a new implant; more of an upgrade, really, as it was a small chip that had been integrated into his Cerebonics. It had been shortly after this enhancement that Tiny had begun experiencing his warning premonitions of danger.

They had yet to receive their upgraded uniforms, but the Chief had been working night and day to build a new Phoenix for them, dubbed Phoenix II, or ‘P2’ for short. Ever since its completion a few weeks ago, Tiny had been flying in it daily, learning its capabilities and familiarizing himself with the way she operated. Chief Anderson had insisted to the Federation Council that the P2 was a vital part of the Federation’s defenses. Zoltar was sure to attack Federation planets again. The only question was where, and when.

And it appeared that the answer to those questions were ‘Mars’ and ‘now’.

They boarded the P2, walking up the loading ramp. Even after all of his test flights, it still felt strange to Tiny not to be flying up to the dome on the top of the ship, but without the benefit of Birdstyle, it wasn’t a viable option. Their uniforms still weren’t completely ready, as the technical upgrades the Federation scientists hoped to implement were causing difficulties. Still, hopefully they wouldn’t need Birdstyle for this mission. The P2 was equipped with Super TBX Missiles, Tricolic Bombs, and Spiral Cannons, as well as being capable of a newly enhanced Fiery Phoenix maneuver. If these were not enough to hold off Spectra’s newest mecha, then they had much bigger problems than a lack of uniform.

Tiny sat down in the pilot’s seat, instinctively looking to his right, at the Commander’s chair.

Mark’s chair.

Mark should be there, with them. If Tiny had gone back to help him, had dragged him out of the remains of that Pterodactyl mecha, perhaps Mark would have been commanding this mission.

But instead, Mark had been taken prisoner by Zoltar. God only knew what the Spectrans had done to the Commander, before they had disposed of him. It was yet another event the Owl would never forget: the moment about a week after his mission to take Clytac to Earth, when Chief Anderson had played Tiny the recording of Zoltar’s latest gloating communication with Galaxy Security. The Spectran Leader had casually revealed that since Mark had been of no further use to them, he had been executed.

Zoltar’s voice as he had related this news had been so callous… so uncaring… and Tiny had had to relive his memories of the Spectran Invasion of Earth all over again, not to mention the Survivor Guilt that always accompanied these recollections.

But that was all behind him, now. It had been six months since Mark had been executed by the Spectrans, and just over a year since the others had died during the alien Empire’s attack on Earth.

Now, it was time for G-Force to be reborn, just like the Phoenix from the ashes; and for Tiny to reclaim his role as the Owl.

Andie sat down in the Commander’s chair, looking ever so slightly uncomfortable, despite all of the hours they had logged together on training flights.

This was for real. They were going to have to fly out and engage a Spectran mecha to defend a planet of the Federation; to prevent what had happened to Earth from happening to Mars.

Sakuma boarded silently, sitting behind Tiny in the chair designated for the Weapons Officer. The Red Ranger did not say a word, although Andie turned back slightly in her seat, nodding to acknowledge his presence.

“All present and accounted for,” she said to Tiny. “Take her out.”

“Initiating launch sequence.” Tiny reported, activating the controls and disengaging the docking clamps. Carefully, he pulled the P2 away from its Bay at the Galaxy Security Main Hangar, exiting the base and quickly taking off for the Rigan atmosphere, accelerating quickly once they were clear of Galaxy Security airspace.

Cronus Memorial Field shrank before their eyes on the viewscreen as they ascended, and before long they were in orbit. Tiny adjusted the controls, preparing to enter Hyperspace for the journey to Mars.

“G-Force Team, return to Base.”

Tiny looked up, startled. He had been so intent on piloting the P2 that he hadn’t noticed Andie answering a hail from Chief Anderson.

“What’s going on, Chief?” Andie asked quietly.

“There is no need for you to travel to Mars.” the Chief replied. “The Spectran mecha has been destroyed.”

“Destroyed? By whom?” Tiny was flabbergasted.

“The Federation Defense Forces stationed there.” guessed Sakuma.

“No.” Anderson shook his head. “Return to base, and I’ll fill you in.”

Tiny stared at Andie and Sakuma in disbelief, but did as he had been ordered. Slowly, the P2 descended through the clouds, making its way back to Cronus Memorial Field.

Once they had returned to base, Chief Anderson dismissed Sakuma, while Tiny and Andie were taken behind closed doors, to a private meeting room.

“This footage was recorded by the Deimos Outpost less than thirty minutes ago.” the Chief informed them. He pressed a button, and the Planet Mars appeared on the large wall monitor in front of them.

The Spectran Bee mecha was clearly visible, and Tiny could see Federation Space Fighters coming out to meet it. It was clear that they were no match for the massive mecha.

But before the Federation Forces had even reached the alien spacecraft, the giant Bee exploded without warning.

“What happened?” asked Andie, sitting bolt upright in her chair at this sudden turn of events. “How was it destroyed?”

“We’re not entirely certain.” Anderson admitted. “But we have ruled out the Federation Forces as the cause. None of those Space Fighters were within a close enough range to fire a shot, and none of them report taking any action other than approaching the Spectran mecha. We believe the source of the mecha’s destruction came from within the vessel itself.”

“A malfunction?” Tiny asked disbelievingly.

“Perhaps.” the Chief replied. “That is the most viable explanation at this time. Still, we must not forget the most important information this footage has given to us.”

“What’s that?” Tiny asked, feeling somewhat sheepish at not already knowing the answer.

“Spectra is ready and able to attack the Federation again.” the Chief said gravely. “The G-Force Team is needed now. You are both excellent operatives, but two people are not enough. I want to implant Sakuma and find two other candidates for the team as soon as possible.”

“I understand, Sir.” Andie replied quietly. “I look forward to working with the new team.”

“I’ll do everything I can to bring them up to speed as quickly as possible.” Tiny added.

“Neither of you are to leave Base.” the Chief informed them. “You are needed here, in case of emergency, and until such an emergency arises, you will spend all of your time training with your new teammates. I will have Sakuma implanted first thing tomorrow morning, and he will begin working with you the following day, albeit in limited capacity.”

“You are dismissed,” he finished.

In stunned silence, Tiny and Andie stood up, walking back out into the hallway, attempting to come to grips with the sudden change in their active status. For the past six months they had been training, but their preparations had not had the sense of urgency that they now both felt. The Federation had dodged a bullet that day; one that it hadn’t quite been able to see coming. They weren’t going to waste this precious gift.

Spectra had just upped the ante, and they had to be prepared to meet those higher stakes.

Shell-shocked, Tiny returned to the quarters he shared with Sianna. It was still early morning, and dark outside, but when he arrived, she was dressed and preparing a light breakfast.

“Tiny!” she cried with relief. “You’re back! But so soon…” Sianna rushed over to the Owl, throwing her arms around him.

“I was so worried…” she told him, pressing her cheek against his chest. “I just couldn’t go back to sleep…”

“I know you didn’t have much information when I left.” Tiny acknowledged, pulling her closer to him and burying his face in her hair. “In fact, I’m not entirely sure of everything that’s going on myself.”

Tiny sat down with Sianna and explained everything that had happened since he had left her a couple of hours ago. Now, more than ever, he appreciated the fact that she was Chief Anderson’s assistant, and that he was able to speak with her about this kind of classified information without causing a security breach. She sat in silence, listening to him speak; absorbing his words with a thoughtful expression on her face. When he was finished, she reached up, caressing his cheek, and kissing him lingeringly.

“I’m just glad that you’re safe.” she said, pulling away. “And while I know you’ll be busy training, I’m glad the Chief is bringing in more members for the team. You and Andie are not enough; not if you’re going to be a truly effective fighting force.”

“I have to admit, it feels weird, just having Andie and myself onboard that big ship.” Tiny admitted. “But I’m going to miss spending so much time with you.”

“We’ll still see each other, even if not as much.” Sianna pointed out. “You still have to sleep, right? And eat. I can make you dinner every night.” She smiled at him invitingly.

“And… we’re together right now…”

“Very true.” Tiny grinned. “Let’s not waste this opportunity. Who knows when we’ll have another?”

“I’m not wasting anything.” Sianna murmured, falling into the Owl’s arms.

Chapter 7 by TransmuteJun

Chapter 7

A few hours later, Sianna was at work, and Tiny was attempting to take care of a few odds and ends, knowing that every minute, starting tomorrow, would be taken up with training, and the rest of his time would be occupied with whatever spare moments he could steal with Sianna. He was just finishing going through the papers on his desk when his communicator chimed for the second time that morning. He ruefully rubbed his stomach as he realized that it wasn’t even lunchtime yet. It was going to be some day.

“G-2 here.” he answered.

“Tiny,” came Chief Anderson’s voice, “meet me out at Cronus Field, immediately. Federation Forces Main Hangar.”

“On my way. G-2, over and out.” the Owl responded, curious as to what was going on. Had Spectra attacked again so soon?

Quickly, he walked over to the airfield, and was surprised and pleased to see Sianna waiting with Chief Anderson and Andie.

“What’s going on?” Tiny asked.

“Terran refugees!” Andie said excitedly. “Three of them! They just flew into Rigan airspace about twenty minutes ago, and said that they were seeking asylum.”

“They claim to have left Earth only about seven or eight hours ago.” the Chief added. “If this is true, we need to know how they were able to leave the planet and hope that they can tell us the true state of affairs on Earth. The information we have been receiving is somewhat irregular and unreliable.”

“How did they get here?” Tiny asked, as Sianna moved surreptitiously over to his side and slid her fingers into his. He squeezed them gently, feeling her excitement, and communicating his own, through that simple touch.

“We don’t know.” Sianna said quietly. “They didn’t have time to tell us.”

“But they asked to speak to Galaxy Security, so Chief Anderson was notified.” Andie added.

“Sianna, I need you to carefully record everything about these ‘refugees’ for our files.” the Chief instructed her, before turning to the G-Force Team. “Tiny, Andie, I want the two of you to observe as I question these people. See what you think.”

“You think they could be Spectran spies?” Tiny deduced.

“It’s possible, yes.” Anderson admitted. “It would be the most obvious explanation for how they have been able to escape Earth, when no one else has accomplished such a thing.”

All of their eyes were riveted to the sky as a dozen Federation Space Fighters appeared, flying in formation around a thirteenth vessel. The ebony-colored craft was long and thin, with a sharply pointed nose, looking something like a slim black rocket. The alien nature of its design made it clear that this ship was Spectran in origin.

The strange spacecraft landed on the runway in perfect formation with the Space Fighters. Tiny knew how difficult it was to fly so close to other aircraft, much less remain in perfect position the entire time. There weren’t many military personnel with that kind of training or experience who could do it, and, as far as the Owl knew, no civilians who were capable of such a thing.

Whoever was at the helm of the Spectran ship was an excellent pilot. Tiny was impressed, despite himself, but it just made him all the more suspicious, and a nervous knot began to form in his stomach. Could this be one of Spectra’s top agents, masquerading as a Terran Refugee?

It was Tiny’s job to find out.

The Owl looked over at Andie, and the expression on the Lieutenant’s face told him that she had noticed the operator’s excellent piloting skills as well, and had come to a similar conclusion.

The Spectran craft taxied quietly to the hangar where Chief Anderson and his entourage awaited them. In addition to Tiny, Andie, and Sianna, a large contingent of Galaxy Security personnel were in attendance, and two squadrons of Federation Forces were preparing to surround the enemy plane, once it had stopped. Even now, they were spreading out across the area in case the occupants of the alien craft attempted anything untoward. The Chief, his assistant, and the two members of the G-Force Team stood behind protective glass capable of withstanding the direct impact of a Tricolic blast, quietly observing everything from some distance away.

At last, the Space Fighters came to a stop, the Spectran ship still in their exact center. The Federation pilots slowly exited their vehicles, one by one, until half of them were standing on the tarmac. The other half remained in their aircraft, weapons trained on the alien vessel.

The Federation Forces waved to the Spectran ship, clearly indicating that the occupants should emerge and reveal themselves.

Tiny heard Andie’s audible intake of breath as the three ‘refugees’ emerged from their craft.

They were wearing the green uniforms of Spectran Soldiers, although they had all forgone the masks that should have accompanied such attire. At this distance, even with his enhanced vision, Tiny couldn’t see their faces, but he observed that they all raised their arms, moving in a non-threatening manner in the direction that the numerous rifles pointed at them indicated. It was clear that all three were familiar with military detainment procedures.

“I knew it!” hissed Andie. “Spectran goons, sent to prey on our sympathies!”

“Perhaps you would care to hear them out, before making such a snap judgment.” Chief Anderson replied in an amused tone. Tiny had to grin as well. He recalled wearing a green goon uniform or two in his time, to assist in sneaking through a Spectran base. Perhaps this was how the three ‘Terrans’ had escaped Earth.

Now the three were being marched slowly at gunpoint toward the protective wall where the Chief stood. Anderson received an ‘all clear’ signal on his communicator once the three had been electronically scanned, and the Chief stepped out to greet the ‘refugees’, flanked by Andie and Tiny. Sianna remained a good distance behind.

The trio was still over forty meters away, but with the aid of his implant, Tiny could now see their faces clearly.

“Oh my God!” the Owl cried, taking off in a sprint toward them. But it suddenly occurred to him mid-stride, that at this distance, Chief Anderson couldn’t see what he had.

“Chief!” he called, turning back for a moment. “Come quickly!”

Trusting in the Owl, Anderson rapidly took off after him, leaving a confused Andie behind.

“What is it, Tiny?” he shouted at the departing Owl, but when Tiny turned again to answer, he saw that the Chief had one more stopped in his tracks, stunned, his face as white as a sheet. It was obvious that Anderson had now seen what Tiny had first observed. The Owl went back to help his foster father.

The first refugee approached, surrounded by guards, but clearly visible. He had not altered his speed, in deference to the rifles directing his movement. The Sergeant in charge said something to the man that the Owl, in his shock, did not hear. The refugee nodded, then walked up to the stunned Chief and the equally incredulous Owl, his manner indicating a friendly respect.

“Greetings, Sir.” he said to the amazed Anderson, formally offering his hand in salutation. “It is my pleasure to be here. My name is Mark, and these are my companions, Jason and Princess. And you are…?”

Chapter 8 by TransmuteJun

Chapter 8

It took only a second for the other two ‘refugees’ to move to the fore.

“Mark, this is Chief Anderson.” Princess said gently. “And this is Tiny.” she turned to the Owl, her eyes warm.

“I’d like to give you a hug, Tiny, but I’m not sure these gentlemen would approve.” The Swan gestured to the Federation guards surrounding them. “But it’s wonderful to see you.” she smiled at the stunned Owl.

“Chief Anderson…” Mark said slowly. “Of Galaxy Security? Oh, I guess I used to work with you then, Sir.” He then turned to regard the Owl curiously.

“And how do I know you, Tiny?” he asked in a friendly manner.

“Uh….” Tiny was flabbergasted. He had thought that Mark, along with Jason and Princess, was dead. Never had he expected to see his Commander alive again, much less having to explain how they knew each other.

“I used to be your Pilot.” Tiny blurted, hoping that was sufficient.

“It’s good to see you, Tiny.” Jason said warmly, before similarly greeting the Chief.

Chief Anderson had clearly been rendered speechless. He simply stood, frozen in place, staring at the trio for a moment before finally finding the words that had been eluding him.

“I… think we need to retire to my office.” he said slowly, his eyes darting to the large crowds that were surrounding him and his foster children.

“I will debrief the ‘refugees’ there.” he said, loudly enough for everyone present to hear.

“But, Sir,” protested one of the Federation Guards, “we cannot all fit into one office…”

“Lieutenant Trocol will see to my safety.” the Chief cut him off, “as will Mr. Harper. You will escort the six of us to my office and then depart.” He turned to Sianna.

“Please ensure that this matter is closed.” he instructed her with a meaningful gaze. She nodded briskly, then set about dispersing the troops and Galaxy Security personnel.

“As you wish, Sir.” the Federation Guard replied, although his expression remained doubtful as Sianna herded him off with his comrades.

Andie also had an unconvinced expression on her face, but she remained silent, following the group to Anderson’s office, then closing the door and locking it after the six of them had entered the room.

“Thank you, Andie.” the Chief said to her. “I guess I owe you an explanation. Mark, Jason and Princess are three of my foster children. Until a few minutes ago, both Tiny and I had thought they were all were dead.” As Anderson was giving this explanation, the three newcomers were embracing Tiny in turn, although Mark did so somewhat awkwardly. Princess threw her arms around the Chief, much to his embarrassment.

Dead?” Jason exclaimed, once the greetings were over and everyone had settled themselves into chairs. “Where did you come up with that idea, Chief? Not in our right minds, possibly, but dead?”

“Calm down, Jason.” Princess said, placing her hand on his arm. “Let’s just explain everything we can, and then the Chief can do the same for us.” Jason nodded reluctantly, recognizing the logic in her words.

“Thank you, Princess.” Anderson said, his expression still somewhat incredulous. “Would you care to begin?” he invited her.

“One thing first,” Princess asked, a slight hesitation in her voice as she glanced nervously around the office, “will Keyop be joining us?”

An uneasy silence fell over the room, communicating the answer far better than words ever could.

“Keyop is dead.” Tiny said finally, feeling the pain of the Swallow’s death all over again as he imparted the sad news. “We crashed in the Space Buggy, and he broke his neck. I saw the body…” The Owl looked up, tears slipping from his eyes.

“I did the best I could to watch over him, Princess.” Tiny said pleadingly. “I know you were depending on me to keep him safe, and I…”

“It’s not your fault, Tiny.” Princess said, although the Owl could see the dismay etched on her face. “It’s Zoltar’s fault.” She sighed heavily, her shoulders shaking with her grief, and Tiny knew that he did bear some of the blame, whether or not the Swan was willing to admit it.

Princess sat in stoic silence, absorbing this grim news, as Mark gently drew her into his arms, and Jason stared carefully at the wall. Princess rested her head on her Commander’s shoulder for a moment, before speaking again.

“Deep down, I guess I knew that Keyop was gone.” she said remorsefully. “But, Tiny, we had thought that you were dead as well, and you’re here… I guess I was just hoping for another miracle.”

“I wish it were Keyop here, instead of me.” Tiny replied sorrowfully.

“Oh, don’t say that, Tiny.” Princess cried, pulling away from Mark and embracing the Owl. “You don’t know how happy I am to see that you are alive…”

“Tiny and I are equally happy to see the three of you.” the Chief interrupted. “Would you care to tell us how you came to be here, Princess?”

“I suppose so.” Princess sighed again. “It’s really Mark’s tale to tell, but then, as you can see, he doesn’t remember everything.” The Commander’s expression was pained, but he acknowledged the Swan’s words with a quiet nod.

“To be fair, until a few days ago, neither Jason nor I remembered anything either.” Princess revealed. “We had no idea who we were, until these strange memories came back to us.”

“You did it…” Anderson whispered in shock. “You really did it… you followed the order…” The Chief looked up to see everyone staring at him. “Well, I’ll let Princess explain her side of things first.”

“Yes…” Princess replied, a slight uncertainty in her tone. “Thank you, Sir. As I was saying, a few days ago, I had no idea whom I truly was. I had been living in Corsica with Luc, working with the Terran Rebels to fight the Spectran Occupation.”

“Uh… Luc?” Tiny asked, confused.

“Oh, sorry.” Princess blushed. “I mean, Mark. His name was Luc, before we remembered who he really was. I was living under the name Kristin DuMaurier and Jason was living as…”

“Scott Sheridan.” the Chief finished for her.

“How did you know that?” Jason asked suspiciously.

“I’ll explain later.” Anderson brushed off the glowering Condor. “Please go on, Princess.”

“Well, Luc and I had met in Paris, and I had accompanied him to Corsica. Some months after we got there, we were sent to Chamonix to assist a Professor who had put out a call for help.” Princess went on. “She was worried that the Spectrans would discover a secret Federation Research Facility underneath Mont Blanc, because of their mining activities in the area.”

“What?” the Chief exclaimed, horrified. “That facility hasn’t been destroyed? If the Spectrans get their hands on the data inside…”

“It is gone now,” Mark reassured Anderson, “but Princess will explain that in a minute.” The Commander appeared smug at being able to use the Chief’s phrase against him, and Jason shot a satisfied grin over in Mark’s direction.

“Yes…” the Chief sighed. “Yes, of course.”

“On the way there, Luc and I encountered a pair of Snakeheads.” Princess said.

“Snakeheads?” Tiny asked.

“That’s what the Terrans are calling the Spectran soldiers.” Princess informed them. “Because of the way their masks look. The Spectrans don’t much like the term, of course.” she added.

“But no one really lets that stop them.” Jason smirked.

“Right.” Princess said. “Anyhow, Luc was shot at close range, and somehow I was able to defeat the Snakeheads, get him onto a motorcycle, drive him to safety, and treat his wound. I had never known that I could do any of those things, but somehow, the knowledge was just there when I needed it… does that make sense?”

“That’s how it happened for me, too.” Jason added. “Things I needed to know were suddenly there in my mind, even though I couldn’t recall ever learning them.”

“Keep going, Princess.” Mark urged her.

“That night I had strange dreams, and that was the beginning of my memories returning.” Princess continued. “Over the next couple of days, I began to recall who I really was… although no matter what I did, I couldn’t help Mark remember his past. He still doesn’t recall anything from before the Invasion, other than what Jason and I have told him.” She looked expectantly at Chief Anderson.

“I was hoping that the Federation scientists might be able to help me regain my memories, like Jason and Princess have.” Mark said carefully.

“I will examine you myself, Mark.” the Chief promised. “But first, let’s hear the rest of your stories.” Princess nodded in agreement.

“After a couple of days, I had a strong feeling that we should go to Geneva.” she told them. “I didn’t know where the feeling came from, but the more I thought about it, the more right it seemed. And I knew that we needed to go there immediately.”

“UN Headquarters?” Tiny blurted. “You were there?”

“How did you know?” Princess gasped.

“He’s one of us, Prin.” Jason answered for the Owl. “You and I both knew that Geneva was some kind of meeting place, and Tiny did too.”

“Yeah, but…” Tiny faltered. He didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that he had failed in this part of Mark’s orders as well. Of course, at the time, the Owl hadn’t seen the point of going to Geneva, seeing as how the rest of the team had just been killed.

Or so he had believed.

But here were Mark, Jason and Princess sitting in front of him, talking as if they had been gone for a few days, rather than an entire year. The sound of their voices broke Tiny out of his reverie.

“I had been working in Brussels, running an underground mechanic shop.” Jason was saying. “Like Princess, one day I began remembering things I had never known about myself, and then I got this sudden urge to go to Geneva. It came from out of nowhere, but I found myself unable to resist the idea. When I got there, I saw Mark and Princess, and knew right away that they were the ones I was supposed to meet. I finally caught up with them, and we were able to talk and put together bits and pieces of what had happened to us.”

“So, what did the three of you do then?” Tiny asked curiously.

“We knew that we had to come here, to Riga.” Mark responded. “Princess and I had been wanting to do that anyway, because of the data files.”

“Data files?” the Chief asked, his ears visibly pricking up. “What data files?”

“From the research laboratory underneath Mont Blanc.” Mark explained, as Princess pulled a small data disc from her uniform pocket.

“We copied all of the files before we set the self-destruct.” she told the Chief. “We knew that this information might help the Federation.”

Anderson was holding the disc in his hands, an awed expression on his face.

“Do you know,” he breathed, “how many times I have wished for even a small fraction of this information? We have been attempting to rebuild the results from scratch, but it has been a difficult task, particularly since none of the scientists who had been working in that Laboratory survived the Invasion. That’s why it has taken so long to get upgraded uniforms to you, Andie and Tiny.” Anderson turned to Mark and Princess.

“Thank you, for bringing this to me.” he said gratefully. “You can’t even begin to comprehend how much this means.”

“We are glad that we could help, Chief.” Mark smiled from ear to ear.

“So, how did you leave Earth?” Anderson asked them.

“Jason told us that the Spectrans had taken over Ramstein Aerospace Base.” Mark informed them. “We planned to steal a spacecraft and escape to Riga. But when we got there, we discovered that the Spectrans were planning to attack Mars with some kind of Bee mecha.”

“Buzz-ma-jig…” Jason rolled his eyes. “You should have seen the Captain’s uniform!”

“You saw that mecha up close?” Tiny asked, surprised.

“Saw it? We blew it up!” Jason grinned viciously. “We hitched a ride, and at the right moment Princess rigged a missile to blow and we took off in Zoltar’s escape pod.”

You blew up the Bee mecha, just outside of the Martain Defense Perimeter?” Andie cried out in shock. Everyone turned to look at her. She had been so quiet that everyone had nearly forgotten that she was in the room.

“Where do you think that funky ship we arrived in came from?” Jason smirked. “It’s the stinger!” He leaned back in his chair with a rather pleased expression on his face, as Andie’s jaw dropped to the floor.

“I should have known.” the Chief berated himself. “But then, how could I have?” He looked at the happy trio in front of him.

“Officially, I will have to perform some tests, to confirm your identities,” he told them, “but as far as I am concerned, I can say that I am thrilled to see the G-Force Team together again.”

“These three…. they’re G-Force?” Andie gasped, her face as white as a sheet.

“Ah… yes…. Andie.” Anderson’s mood instantly sobered. “Forgive me. I forgot for a moment that you did not know all of the original G-Force Team. Let me introduce you to Mark: the Eagle, Jason: the Condor, and Princess: the Swan.”

“Pleased to meet you.” Andie replied, her face still in an expression of shock. “I’m…. Andie: the Harrier.”

“The Harrier?” Jason asked, while Mark and Princess looked at Chief Anderson questioningly.

“I’ve been attempting to rebuild the G-Force Team in your… uh… absence.” the Chief explained. “Andie has been acting as G-1, and Tiny as G-2.”

“I see….” Jason said, his eyes narrowing.

“I certainly didn’t mean to usurp any of your positions.” Andie hastened to say, “But I hope that I will be able to work with you. Tiny and I have been training for months now.”

“We do need an extra member on the Team.” Tiny pointed out. “Unfortunately, Keyop won’t be making a miraculous return, like you three have. And I can personally vouch for Andie. She doesn’t crack under pressure, and she’s good at thinking on her feet, not to mention a decent pilot.”

“If that’s how you feel about her, Tiny, then Andie has my vote.” Princess said seriously. “I don’t recall everything about the past, but one thing I do remember is that you’re an excellent judge of character, and you don’t show this kind of loyalty to just anyone.”

“If she has your approval, and the Chief’s, then I’m happy with Andie.” Mark said, smiling at the Harrier.

“And Andie has already been implanted.” Anderson added. “This is an excellent suggestion, Tiny.”

“I guess it’s ‘welcome to the Team’.” Jason said, his expression unreadable. His eyes narrowed slightly as he carefully assessed Andie.

The Harrier beamed, shooting a grateful look at the Owl, outwardly oblivious to the Condor’s scrutiny. However, Tiny noticed that Andie did sit up a little straighter under Jason’s gaze.

“Now that that’s settled,” the Chief moved smoothly to his next area of concern, “I would like you to tell me what happened to you three the day of the Spectran Invasion.” He looked at Mark.

“I don’t know.” Mark shook his head helplessly. “I can’t remember anything that happened to me more than six months ago.”

“Yes, you mentioned that.” the Chief recalled. “I apologize for letting that slip my mind. As I promised, I’ll examine you when we are done here, Mark. I’ll do whatever I can to help you out.”

Tiny bit his lip to keep from speaking. It had been about six months ago that Zoltar had told Chief Anderson that the G-Force Commander was dead. Clearly the Spectran Leader had been lying… or had he? Perhaps Zoltar had thought that Mark was dead. In any case, if Mark couldn’t remember, Tiny wasn’t going to get any further insight into this conundrum right now.

“I remember riding my motorcycle.” Princess was saying slowly. “There were Spectran soldiers and tanks all around me, but I was doing everything I could to take down as many of them as I could.” Tiny closed his eyes, as he recalled the Swan’s Galacticycle surrounded by thousands of troops. He breathed deeply, focusing on what Princess was saying.

“A missile was fired at my position, and I threw myself off of the motorcycle at the last instant.” Princess revealed. “The next thing I remember, I was out of uniform, wandering through the countryside at night… I kept going, and eventually made my way to Paris.”

“What happened to me is similar.” Jason revealed. “My car ran out of ammunition, so I got out and set it to auto-destruct, sending it into the body of troops.”

“So that’s it…” Tiny whispered, but no one was paying any attention to him. Yet, it made sense that Jason hadn’t been in the Spacemobile when the Owl had seen it explode.

“I knew that I had failed in my mission.” Jason said quietly, and Tiny’s head snapped up. Jason had failed? That didn’t make any sense… Tiny was the one who had failed…

“I followed Mark’s last instructions.” Jason said quietly. “He had ordered us to survive. I don’t quite know what happened after that, but like Princess, I later found myself wandering in a daze through the countryside. Somehow, I ended up in Rouen.”

“I see.” Anderson said, steepling his hands together and leaning back in his chair as he rested his chin against his fingers. “Jason, Princess, do you at any time recall issuing a command to your implants?”

Both the Condor and the Swan slowly shook their heads, clearly puzzled by the question, although Princess appeared thoughtful.

“Then, I guess it’s time to get some answers.” Anderson declared.

Chapter 9 by TransmuteJun

Chapter 9

The Chief performed brief examinations on Mark, Jason, and Princess, and then sat them down, with Tiny, to discuss the results of his testing.

“When I analyzed Jason and Princess’ implants,” he began, “I was able to confirm that they are G-2: the Condor and G-3: the Swan, and that they both executed Command Code 3210, as Mark had ordered you all to do on the day of the Spectran Invasion of Earth.”

“What, exactly, does Command Code 3210 do?” Princess asked curiously. “I have some idea, but…”

“I understand, Princess.” the Chief smiled thinly. “Command Code 3210 was designed for an emergency… a complete breakdown of the Federation. In fact, it was designed for a situation very much like the one you encountered when you lost the battle with the Spectrans. Back when your implants were first being designed, I set up this particular Command Code to ease my conscience; never expecting that any of you would actually use it. Only Mark, as Commander, was even aware of its existence.”

“But, what does it do?” Jason asked impatiently.

“In short, it hides your identities.” Anderson replied. “For a limited time, it blocks your memory recall and replaces the missing memories with a set of false ones… an ‘alternate’ identity. The idea was to hide you so well, that even you wouldn’t know who you were.”

“But why did such a Command Code even exist?” Tiny asked. “Why would we ever want to hide ourselves so completely…?” the Owl’s voice drifted off as he realized the answer to his question lay in what Jason and Princess had experienced, back on Earth.

“I knew there was a possibility that one day you might be lost in enemy territory, with no hope of contacting anyone for help.” the Chief explained. “ You have fought so many battles on alien planets, but never did I imagine that this might happen on Earth…” the Chief paused briefly, a tear shining in his eye.

“In such a situation, I wanted you to be able to blend into the society around you.” he continued after a moment of silence. “To have you hide your identities as members of G-Force from whomever might be looking for you.”

“But, what if the Spectrans had already discovered our civilian identities?” Tiny asked. “Then they could find us, and if this Command Code had been executed, we wouldn’t even know why they were looking for us.”

“The command sequence was supposed to change your physical characteristics as well, in case your civilian identities had been compromised.” Anderson informed them. Tiny noticed that when the Chief revealed this information, Princess hesitantly brought her hand to her hair. The Owl was about to ask her what was wrong when Jason spoke.

“So, you gave us our assumed names.” the Condor deduced. “That’s why you knew that I was Scott Sheridan. But the implant gave us backgrounds that fit the situation.”

“Yes.” the Chief confirmed. “It was fortunate also that all of you are fluent in French, thanks to the summers we spent in the Loire Valley when you were children.”

“But, I’m still missing some memories.” Princess told Anderson. “I am recalling more and more each day, but there are still holes…”

“That’s to be expected.” the Chief replied. “The program was designed to let your true memories come back gradually, so as not to overwhelm you if you were still in a difficult situation. But I can end the process now, fully restoring all recollections of the past, both before and after you executed Command Code 3210.”

“Sign me up for that!” Jason replied eagerly.

It didn’t take long for Anderson to adjust Jason and Princess’ implants, and within moments they were both smiling.

“Everything is so clear…” Princess was amazed. “It’s like a fog has been lifted from my mind.” Jason voiced his agreement.

The Commander had been sitting quietly in the corner of the room during the entire time the Chief had been giving them the results of his examination, but now the Eagle finally spoke.

“Can you do the same for me, Chief?” Mark asked. “I must have executed this Command Code later than Jason and Princess did, because I still don’t have any of my memories back.”

“There’s a good reason for that, Mark.” Anderson sighed. “You never executed Command Code 3210.”

I didn’t?” Mark was shocked. “Then, why can’t I remember?”

“My examination of you, and your implant, confirms your identity as G-1: the Eagle,” the Chief said, “but I have also discovered that your implant is currently running Automated Procedure 4566.”

“Automated Procedure 4566…?” Mark asked, confused. “What’s that?”

“As its name indicates, it is a sequence of instructions that your implant chooses to execute, without your conscious confirmation.” the Chief told him. “These instructions are something your implant decided to execute on its own, as a result of what your conscious and subconscious mind were experiencing at the time. This Procedure was something that you would have had no awareness of until it had been completely initiated, and you found yourself unable to recall anything.”

“Why would my implant do that?” Mark asked. “Was it some kind of malfunction?”

“I don’t think so.” Anderson replied, his brow furrowing. The Chief paused for a moment, rubbing the bridge of his nose with two of his fingers. His eyes slid over to glance at Tiny, and instantly, the Owl knew exactly what the Chief was thinking.

“Mark…” Anderson asked slowly, “what’s the first thing you remember? Your first memory?”

“Waking up buried beneath a pile of rubble.” Mark said, his forehead wrinkled in concentration. “I’m not entirely certain how I got there, but I found out later that the Penal Complex I had been in had been attacked, so I’m guessing that a building literally collapsed on top of me.”

Tiny gasped audibly as the Commander spoke. A Penal Complex… so Mark had been a prisoner of the Spectrans, then. Zoltar hadn’t been lying about that. The Owl had been wondering about this very thing since the moment he had discovered that Mark was actually alive.

“You were at a Penal Complex?” the Chief asked, ignoring the Owl’s outburst. “You were an inmate there?”

“Yes.” Mark nodded. “I was being held by the Snakeheads, although I don’t actually recall any of my time there. Just waking up, wearing an inmate’s uniform…” The Eagle’s eyes clouded over as his mind worked to recall his past.

“Mark, while you were there, do you think you were ever questioned by the Spectrans?” Anderson’s voice was calm, but Tiny could tell by the way the Chief’s eyebrows were twitching that the answer to this question was extremely important.

“I… I don’t know.” Mark said, his fists clenching in frustration. “I guess it’s possible…”

“I think they did.”

Everyone turned to look at Princess, who was staring white-faced at Mark.

“You told me, Mark, that you had a lot of bruises and welts all over your body when you escaped… more than the rubble would have explained.” Princess said quietly.

“Yes, that’s right.” Mark nodded. “I don’t know if they were anything special. I’d guess that the Snakeheads treat all of their prisoners that way.”

“Not me.”

Now everyone turned to look at Jason.

“I was a prisoner at the same Penal Complex.” Jason revealed. “They treated us pretty badly, but mostly, it was just neglect: filthy conditions, very little food, that kind of thing. The guards generally didn’t make a habit out of physically punishing us, except as a disciplinary measure.”

Tiny’s eyes grew wide. Jason had been a prisoner of the Spectrans as well? And at the same Penal Complex? Had he seen Mark there? How badly had he been treated?

Was this all Tiny’s fault, for abandoning his friends in their hour of need?

“There’s something else.” Princess murmured, and everyone’s attention was immediately drawn back to the Swan.

“When the Snakeheads captured us underneath Mont Blanc, and brought us to their base… Zoltar saw you in the Control Room, Mark, and he was talking to you…”

“You ran into Zoltar?” Tiny was astounded, but Jason shushed him.

“Zoltar said something about how he ‘missed his conversations with you’, Mark.” Princess reminded the Commander. “Do you think…?”

The Swan didn’t finish her sentence, but her unsaid words hung in the air, a nearly tangible blanket of unease settling over everyone.

“I…” Mark looked at Princess uncertainly. “I suppose it could have happened that way.”

“Those two Snakeheads at the Penal Complex said that Zoltar was there to interrogate an inmate in front of the guards.” Princess whispered. “Only, he never got a chance to, because of the attack. Do you think that’s why you were buried in the rubble? They were bringing you to see Zoltar…?”

“That makes sense.” Mark admitted. “It certainly could have happened that way…” He shook his head as he unconsciously repeated his words.

“I think Princess is right.” Anderson said resolutely. “If the Spectrans… If Zoltar was questioning you, then in an effort not to reveal anything to him, your implant might have initiated this Automated Procedure. That’s exactly the kind of scenario that particular command protocol was designed for.”

“So, you’re saying that my mind did this on purpose, to prevent me from revealing any secret information to the Snakeheads?” the Commander’s jaw dropped.

“Yes.”

Everyone stood in silence for a moment, absorbing this information.

“So, how do I fix it?” Mark asked finally. “I’d like to have my memories back, and truly remember who I am.”

“I can reset your Cerebonics, ending the Procedure,” Anderson replied, “but it’s not going to be an instant reversal. Your memories will come back eventually, but it may take weeks, or even months, for them to return fully.”

“If that’s the best you can do, I’m still better off than I was before.” Mark replied. “Although I have to admit that I was wishing for a faster ‘recovery’, like Jason and Princess had.”

The Commander sat down while the Chief used a complex device to access Mark’s Cerebonic Systems and adjust his implant. The Eagle remained unmoving, but when the brief procedure was over, he slumped over slightly, appearing disappointed.

“I don’t feel any differently.” he said.

“It might take awhile.” Anderson reminded him. “But the Procedure has been terminated, now. Your memories will come back, the question is merely when.”

“Thank you.” Mark said, holding out his hand to the Chief. “Thank you, for everything.”

Chapter 10 by TransmuteJun

Chapter 10

The three former ‘refugees’ were quickly absorbed back into the G-Force Team. Despite not recalling all of the specifics, Mark’s leadership skills and overall abilities appeared to be in place, and Tiny was amazed at how he moved back into the role of Commander so easily. The only real difference from how things used to be ‘before’ was that there seemed to be a lot less tension between Mark and Jason.

The Condor and the Swan reclaimed their positions so quickly that it was almost as if they had never left. As a team, they were just as cohesive a unit as ever.

Andie took over Keyop’s old duties, and she had been re-assigned to the position of G-5, leaving the rank of G-4 for Tiny. Rather than being upset that she was now the lowest-ranked member of the Team, Andie appeared to be thrilled to be working alongside the ‘original’ members of G-Force.

As with Tiny, the fact that Mark, Jason and Princess had previously been on the G-Force Team was hushed up by Chief Anderson, and known to only a select few. The Team practiced and trained together in complete isolation, incorporating Andie into their fighting techniques and strategies. It didn’t take long for the others to admit that Tiny had been right about the Harrier: she was almost as good in combat as Keyop had been. Andie was clearly still improving with their daily training sessions, and would continue to do so when she began gaining field experience. The Harrier was also a better pilot and strategist than the Swallow had ever been, and the Team benefited as a result.

But while the Swallow was missing, he had not been forgotten. Tiny took Mark, Jason and Princess to the unmarked memorial that had been erected for them, on the grounds of the new Galaxy Security Headquarters. The four of them spent some time there, remembering their friend Keyop, who was no longer with them. From time to time, they all came and visited the site on their own as well. Tiny knew that Princess would speak with the boy, as if he were there with her. The Owl understood. He too often felt Keyop’s spirit with him.

The data that Mark and Princess had brought from Earth had proven to be extremely useful. The disc contained the latest Federation research on the G-Force Team’s weapons, individual vehicles, and uniforms, as well as weaponry and body armor for other Federation Forces. Thanks to this data, Chief Anderson was able to create the Team’s new uniforms within two weeks.

These new Birdstyles looked like the old ones, but were a completely different material formulation, and worked on vastly different frequencies, ensuring that any research the Spectrans might have performed on their old Birdstyles was now rendered useless. Additionally, the new uniforms were contained entirely within their communicators. The Team could wear whatever clothes they desired, and their civilian attire would de-materialize, to be stored in their bracelets’ memory chips during the transmutation process. Tiny still didn’t understand exactly what was happening to his clothes, and he wasn’t entirely certain he wanted to know, either. He was just glad that he didn’t have to walk around everywhere with a big number on his chest anymore.

Another change that came with the new uniforms was that their visors could now retract if necessary, and also change in refraction when they were in use. The settings went from almost completely clear, to fully restricting an outsider’s view of the wearer’s face. Chief Anderson wanted to do everything he possibly could to preserve the ‘new’ Team’s civilian identities.

Lastly, in addition to their individual weapons, (which, as before, did not transmute and had to be kept on their persons at all times) they all had sonic guns that appeared with their Birdstyles. Jason’s was fitted with his usual cablegun attachment, as was Tiny’s.

Their practice and training was all done behind closed doors, to ensure the utmost secrecy. Chief Anderson was reasonably certain that Zoltar was completely unaware that a new G-Force Team existed, much less the identities of its members, and the Galaxy Security Leader intended to keep it that way.

It was to maintain this secrecy that the Team was mostly confined to the Rigan Planetary Defense Perimeter when training in the P2.

But on this day, Chief Anderson had given them permission to visit an asteroid belt a few light years from their new home base, in order to practice combat maneuvers with live ammunition in a safe environment. The Condor in particular was eager to try out the P2’s new Weapon Systems. He was especially looking forward to seeing what the new Super TBX Missiles were capable of. To add icing on the cake, since they were all wearing their new Birdstyles, they were able to fly up to the top of the ship and enter through the dome on the surface of the P2’s hull.

Takeoff went smoothly as it usually did on their training flights, but this time Tiny broke orbit, moving to thrusters and traveling to the Tarangi Asteroid Belt.

The last time Tiny had taken the P2 out of Rigan orbit had been on the aborted mission to Mars. This time so much was different. They were all in proper Birdstyle. Mark was sitting to his right, and Jason and Princess were behind him. While Keyop was not there, Tiny knew that Andie adequately filled the Swallow’s old position, and the Owl was secure in the knowledge that if anything untoward were to happen, that the G-Force Team was capable of handling it.

“Approaching Tarangi Asteroid Belt!” Tiny announced, while Andie confirmed that they were alone, with no other spacecraft in sight.

“Okay, Jason, pick a target!” Mark told the Weapons Officer, and the Condor needed no further encouragement. The Plexiglas cover over the infamous red button had already been retracted.

“Let’s try something challenging.” Jason grinned cockily. “The large asteroid in grid-sector Gamma-21, without hitting any other rocks in between.”

“Without hitting anything else?” Andie smirked, her voice laden with skepticism. “This, I’ve got to see.” She leaned back in her seat, crossing her arms and staring smugly at the Condor.

“Watch and learn, Harrier.” Jason winked, his finger pressing down on the missile pad.

But instead of a Super TBX Missile being launched, the Condor stiffened, a crackling nimbus of bluish-white light surrounding his body. Jason did not utter so much as a whimper, but merely fell to the floor, his body convulsing in erratic seizures, while the rest of the G-Force Team stared helplessly in horror.

“What the hell happened?” the Commander demanded, even as Princess rushed over to Jason’s side to assess his condition. Out of the corner of his eye, Tiny could see the Swan beginning to administer cardiac massage, as the Owl turned the P2 around for their immediate return to Riga.

“There was some kind of electrical feedback when Jason pressed the button.” Andie reported, analyzing the P2’s systems from her station. “I’m not sure where it came from, but it was internal. There was no external influence.”

The Commander nodded curtly, clearly appreciating that the Harrier had addressed his immediate concern of potential enemy threats in the area.

“Tiny, return immediately to Base.” the Eagle ordered.

“Already on it, Commander.” the Owl replied grimly. The G-Force Pilot pushed the warship as fast as he could safely maneuver.

“I’ve stabilized him.” Princess reported, but her voice was tinged with worry. “Mark, can you help me get Jason back to Medical Bay, so I can examine him further? It looks like he has suffered extensive burn damage.”

The Eagle jumped to assist the Swan, and together they took the unconscious Condor off of the Bridge.

In just a few minutes, the entire atmosphere on the P2 had changed completely. Gone was the anticipatory excitement of a training exercise. It had been replaced by a nervous silence as both Tiny and Andie attempted to grapple with what had just happened to their teammate.

“Is… is he going to be okay?” Andie asked, sounding more nervous than Tiny had ever heard her.

“Yeah.” the Owl assured the Harrier with false bravado. “Jason can survive anything. I remember this one time…”

Tiny wasn’t even aware of exactly what he was saying to Andie, but telling his story helped keep the Owl’s mind off of what was happening back in Medical Bay. The Commander had not returned to the Bridge, and that indicated to Tiny that the situation was serious. But before he realized it, he was taxiing the P2 toward its Docking Bay at the Galaxy Security Main Hangar.

Andie had called ahead for a medical team, and emergency personnel were already waiting when the ship arrived, along with Chief Anderson. Princess went with Jason to the Federation Medical Center while the Chief approached the other three G-Force members. He didn’t have to speak for them to know that he was demanding answers.

“We are going to inspect the P2 immediately.” Mark told Anderson, and the Chief nodded curtly, turning on his heel and moving away to follow the rapidly departing medical team.

Mark, Tiny, and Andie went back inside their ship. The Harrier sat at her station, working her way through the Weapons Systems files. The Eagle visually inspected the Condor’s workstation. The Owl got out a toolkit and pulled off the back cover from the Weapons Control Panel, to examine the wiring within.

It was Andie who came up with something first.

“Someone tampered with the launch sequence.” she reported. “Instead of firing a missile, that command function was re-routed to the Spiral Laser Cannons. This was clearly an unauthorized procedure.”

“Spiral Laser Cannons?” the Commander was surprised. “That should have fired the wrong weapon, not…”

“Except that the routing back here was altered as well.” Tiny interrupted grimly. “The charge for the Spiral Cannons was wired back into the Missile Firing Button.”

“You’re sure?” Mark asked Tiny.

“I am familiar with every inch of this ship, Commander.” the Owl said quietly. “I was there for her entire construction. I know where everything is supposed to go.”

“But, if the charge for the Spiral Cannons went through the Firing Button…” Andie’s face grew very pale. “That’s about one hundred milliampere… Jason should be dead!”

“Jason isn’t a normal man.” Mark reminded her.

“And he was wearing Birdstyle.” Tiny added. “Our uniforms are supposed to help protect us from stuff like that.”

“I didn’t realize they offered that much protection…” Andie replied weakly, looking down at her light blue miniskirt and nervously smoothing it with her hands.

“We need to report to the Chief.” the Commander told them. “Let’s go.”

88888

Chief Anderson was as unnerved by the Team’s findings as they were. He paced the length of his office, his brow furrowed and his expression grim.

“From what you three have told me, there is no way that this could have been an accident.” he stated.

“No, Sir.” Mark replied, while Tiny and Andie voice their agreement. “We believe it was sabotage. Two different areas of the P2 were tampered with: the Weapons System files, as well as the physical wiring of the Weapons Control Panel. This was no accident.”

“Which means that the Spectrans have not only figured out that we have a new G-Force Team, but they have someone inside Galaxy Security… someone with a high enough security clearance that they were able to enter the P2 and set up their trap.”

“But… that doesn’t make sense, either.” Tiny blurted out. “Why not just kill all five of us, if that was their goal?”

“Maybe they were interrupted before they could finish.” Andie suggested.

“Or perhaps they were trying to make it look like an accident, and thought that we wouldn’t catch on.” the Commander theorized.

“That’s how we’re going to react to this.” the Chief told them. “We will give the impression that nothing has happened, save for an ‘accident’. We will create an environment that lures the saboteur out to strike again.”

“And when he does, we will strike too.” Mark said coldly.

Chapter 11 by TransmuteJun

Chapter 11

Jason spent three days in the Medical Center. Apparently, his Birdstyle and his implant had absorbed enough of the electrical charge he had experienced to prevent his death, but he still had to recover from his cardiac arrest and heal his burns. The Condor was kept under observation, and his implant had to be re-tuned. On the bright side, it had been a harsh field test for their new G-Force uniforms, but one that had been successfully passed.

Jason emerged from the Medical Center a little shakier, but acting like his usual self, and they all went back to their usual routine of training and practice.

Except, it was no longer a ‘routine’. Now they were fighting an enemy amongst them, albeit one they could not see. The jocular camaraderie they had begun to develop as a Team was gone; replaced by a grim silence as they concentrated on perfecting their skills, so that the next time the perpetrator struck, he would be caught.

If there was a next time.

The saboteur, whomever he or she was, wasn’t taking their bait. There were no further signs of tampering, and increased surveillance of the P2 Docking Bay failed to discover anything at all out of the ordinary. Tiny was especially concerned for Sianna’s safety. What if the Spectrans tried to hurt her, while he was out on a mission? For this reason alone, the Owl was desperate to find the culprit, as if he hadn’t already had enough motivation to do so. For her own safety, Chief Anderson had sent Sianna to work on the Planet Pirka in the Vegan Solar System for a few weeks, until this matter had been resolved.

The problem was, it had already been two weeks, and Tiny was about ready to climb the walls from missing Sianna so desperately.

One night after a training session, the Team headed off to the Aquatic Center at the Fitness Facility, as was their usual routine. Their workouts were often held late at night, to maintain a degree of privacy, and so the pool area was always empty as well.

Tiny, Mark, and Jason began swimming lengths, and were quickly joined by Andie and Princess, but before long their orderly laps had degenerated into a water fight, where they all attempted to splash each other in the most outrageous ways possible. It was the break they had all needed, and the stress of the past two weeks receded for a moment, as they completely soaked each other, over and over again.

After awhile, Mark and Princess made plans to grab a late night snack in the cafeteria, and the Swan headed off to the women’s locker room, while Andie remained to resume the laps the five of them had so conveniently avoided while splashing about. Jason moved over to the hot tub, and Tiny decided to join him, heading over to the bubbling water.

“What’s with the leisurely soak, Jason?” Tiny asked the Condor. “This isn’t usually your kind of thing, is it? Normally you’re the first one back to the locker room.”

“Thought I’d try something different.” Jason grunted, his eyes following Andie’s graceful strokes as she moved cleanly through the water.

“Different? Oh…” The Owl quickly realized the source of the Condor’s decision to remain. Not wanting to interfere, Tiny decided to make a hasty departure.

“Wow… uh… this water looks too hot for me!” he said lamely, his cheeks burning. Subtlety had never been the Owl’s strong point. “I think I’ll just go in with Mark.” As quickly as he could, Tiny ran over to where Mark was getting out of the pool.

“Heading to the locker room, Mark?” he asked the Commander.

“Yeah.” Mark grinned. “I don’t want to be late meeting Princess.”

“Definitely not.” Tiny agreed, missing Sianna more than ever. The Owl was so preoccupied thinking about her that he almost missed the uneasy feeling rising in the back of his mind.

“Mark… something’s wrong.” Tiny said quietly, as they approached the locker room door.

“What is it, Tiny?” Mark asked, his head turning sharply as he regarded the Pilot.

“I don’t know exactly, but… there’s danger…” Tiny attempted to explain.

“From where?” Mark questioned him in a low voice, reaching for the door to the locker room to make it appear as if nothing were amiss.

“It’s…”

A sudden flash of inspiration told Tiny exactly where the danger was. More quickly than he had thought possible, the Owl threw himself on top of the Eagle, forcing them both to the ground, just as the Commander pulled open the door.

A fiery blast came from the men’s locker room, the heat from the explosion sending a scorching wave over Tiny’s bare skin.

“What was that?” the Commander asked in shock.

“I… I think it was our saboteur.” the Owl whispered shakily.

88888

Chief Anderson nearly hit the roof when he discovered how close the G-Force Team had come to losing two of its members. They had all expected another attempt on their lives, but not like this… not so close to their civilian identities and in the middle of Galaxy Security Headquarters. Efforts to find the culprit were immediately initiated, yet the Chief still wanted to keep the exact nature of what had happened a secret. But the ‘accident’ line had already begun to wear thin, even before this incident had occurred. How much longer would anyone continue to buy into this feeble explanation?

Tiny couldn’t sleep after the debriefing with the Chief, and the Owl found himself wandering the hallways of the Galaxy Security on-base living quarters. G-Force hadn’t yet been assigned a Ready Room, and Tiny didn’t feel like making polite conversation with others in one of the public lounges. Despite the late hour, there was always a possibility he might run into some Federation personnel who just couldn’t sleep. Insomnia seemed to be a common problem amongst Galaxy Security operatives, of late.

But since the G-Force Team was confined to Base, there weren’t many other places Tiny could go. He debated contacting Sianna, but it was also the middle of the night at her location on Pirka, and he didn’t want to disturb her rest when there was nothing new for him to report, and very little she could do from there.

The sound of soft footsteps broke into his thoughts, and Tiny looked up to see Andie coming down the hallway toward him.

“Tiny?” she asked, blinking in surprise. “What are you doing up at this time of night?”

“Same thing you are, I’d guess.” the Owl muttered, looking down at his feet. “I couldn’t sleep.”

“Come with me.” Andie suggested.

“Where are you going?”

“Red Ranger Lounge. I still have access privileges there.”

“They won’t mind…?”

“No. And if they do, I’ll give them something to really fuss about.” Andie grinned wickedly. Tiny even felt himself grinning momentarily, before lapsing back into his worried mood. It was certainly a better option than aimlessly wandering the halls.

“Okay.” he shrugged. “Thanks, Andie.”

They walked in silence, until they reached the Red Ranger Habitation Section, quietly making their way through the living quarters to the pilots’ lounge, which was located at the end of the hall, next to the exit to the Red Ranger Main Hangar.

Despite the early morning hour, the lounge turned out to be occupied. Andie smiled as she and Tiny walked through the door.

“Sakuma!” she greeted her former comrade. “It’s good to see you.” While the former Lieutenant’s words were cheerful, her tone fell decidedly short.

“Hello, Sakuma.” Tiny said to the Sergeant. “Why are you up at this hour?”

“Old habits die hard.” the young pilot grinned, shaking his head ruefully. “When I was at the Rigan Flight Academy, we would always stay up late and then catch up with a quick nap the following afternoon between classes. Three years later and I’m still on that schedule! What about yourselves?”

“It’s been a long day.” Andie sighed, while Tiny nodded in agreement.

“What’s wrong?” Sakuma asked, solicitously pulling out a couple of chairs at the table where he had been sitting and offering them a couple of Rigan sodas. “Did something happen?”

Andie looked at Tiny, who paused, then nodded briefly. Sakuma already knew what positions they truly held within the Federation Forces, and perhaps, if they told him what was going on, he might be able to provide some fresh insight, or would recall seeing something they could use to catch the culprit. At this point, the Owl was desperate for any information that would help lead them to the Spectran infiltrator who was attempting to kill the members of the G-Force Team.

“Tiny’s just a little shaken up.” Andie said slowy, as they sat down at the table. Tiny wordlessly reached for his soda, opening it and taking a long swallow while Andie carefully chose her next words.

“Tiny was nearly killed today.”

“What happened?” the Red Ranger Sergeant sat bolt upright in shock, genuine concern written all over his face. “Did you guys go out on a mission? I didn’t hear anything about an attack…”

“No.” Tiny replied brusquely. “There was no mission today.”

“Someone planted a bomb in the Fitness Facility.” Andie revealed. “Tiny almost walked right into the blast.”

“Was anyone hurt?” Sakuma asked, clearly upset.

“No.” Tiny shook his head. “The area was empty at the time. But Mark and I…”

“They were nearly caught in it.” Andie finished for the anguished Owl.

“If I hadn’t had one of my ‘feelings’, we would have been inside…” Tiny whispered, staring into his soda bottle.

“It was that close?” Sakuma’s face drained of color. “And no one else was there?”

“No.” Tiny repeated, unsure of why the Red Ranger had asked the question again. “Just me, and Mark.”

“Not Jason?”

All three of them were startled at the question. Sakuma appeared shocked that the words had even come from his mouth. There was a long pause.

“No.” Tiny shook his head. “Why do you ask, Sakuma?” The Owl stared at the Red Ranger intently, a prickling suspicion insinuating itself into his mind. But this wasn’t like the ‘warnings’ he had come to accept. He had misgivings, but there was no sensation of danger.

“I…” Sakuma looked back and forth from Andie to Tiny, and then eventually down to his hands in his lap. “Just wondering.” It wasn’t the right answer, and all three of them knew it.

“Well, Jason wasn’t anywhere near the explosion.” Tiny told him.

“He wasn’t?” Sakuma asked, clearly uneasy. “But, I thought Jason was always the first of you to go to the locker room?”

This time, it only took a second for the Harrier to string the Red Ranger up by his collar.

“We didn’t say that the bomb was in the locker room.” she growled, her face a mere inch from the Sergeant’s. “Enough playing around. What do you know, Sakuma?” The Sergeant’s eyes darted around wildly, as if searching for any sign of escape. But the muscled bulk of the Owl rising to his feet behind the Harrier clearly told the Red Ranger that he wasn’t going anywhere.

A feeling of anger began to overtake Tiny, and the usually placid Owl found himself struggling to maintain his composure. How dare this man try to disable the best chance the Federation had of retaking the Earth?

How dare he try to hurt Tiny’s friends?

But anger wouldn’t accomplish anything right now. Tiny took a deep breath, doing his best to remain outwardly calm.

“I never meant to hurt you, Tiny!” the Red Ranger said pleadingly, looking the Owl straight in the eye. “And not Mark, either!”

“Could have fooled me!” Andie spat, shaking the young man so hard his eyes nearly rolled back into his head.

“I’m sorry…” Sakuma moaned, hanging limply from Andie’s fist.

“It’s okay, Sakuma.” Tiny tried to say, but the Red Ranger didn’t hear him. Andie had ceased her shaking, and now the Sergeant’s words were bursting forth, coming out in a flood that none of them were capable of stopping.

“I just wanted to disable Jason.” Sakuma said frantically. “The electric charge didn’t work, because his implant processed most of it…”

“How did you know about that?” Andie scowled, but Tiny shook his head, physically removing her from Sakuma’s person and placing himself in front of the still babbling Red Ranger.

“I didn’t want to kill anyone…” Sakuma kept saying, over and over again, clearly not entirely aware of his audience anymore.

“I just wanted what was mine…”

“What was yours?” Tiny asked gently, and Sakuma nodded, his eyes glistening.

“They just showed up, out of nowhere…” he mumbled. “And just because they were Anderson’s kids, he let them on the Team.”

Understanding dawned in the Owl’s mind, and he shot a warning look at Andie, indicating that she needed to remain silent.

“You were trying to hurt Jason,” Tiny deduced quietly, “because if he were removed from the Team, you would be called up to replace him as our Weapons Officer.”

“He stole that position from me!” Sakuma retorted angrily. “I was supposed to be implanted, but when I arrived at the Medical Center for the surgery, it was only to be told that I was no longer needed. And why? Because that bastard is Anderson’s son…”

“Tiny…” Andie said nervously, the one word laden with hidden meaning. The Owl nodded in response.

“Come with me, Sakuma.” he said quietly. “There’s someone we need to talk to.”

Epilogue by TransmuteJun

Epilogue

Despite the early hour, Chief Anderson was as neat and professional as always while he questioned the Red Ranger Sergeant intently. The five members of the G-Force Team sat against the wall, observing the entire scene in an awkward silence. In a way, Tiny sympathized with Sakuma, as he had been on the end of the Chief’s scrutiny, nursing a guilty conscience, many times while growing up.

Strangely enough, the Owl also thought he understood how Sakuma felt; being told that he was to be a part of the G-Force Team, and then having the position suddenly taken away from him and given to a complete stranger.

The Chief had truly messed up Don Wade’s departure from the Team, years ago, which had eventually led to the former Hawk betraying the Federation by developing a deadly weapon for the Spectrans. And now, Anderson had done it again, dumping Sakuma without a thought for how the young pilot might react.

Perhaps, if Sakuma had known that Jason was the original G-2, he might have been better able to deal with losing out on the position to the Condor. But the Chief had failed to mention that fact to the Red Ranger, preferring instead to maintain as much secrecy as he could around the new G-Force, even from someone who had nearly been a part of that team.

Tiny also bore his share of guilt, and he could see the same emotions etched onto Andie’s face. The Owl hadn’t bothered to talk to Sakuma, or ask how the Red Ranger was feeling, once Mark, Jason, and Princess had returned. Like the Chief, Tiny had been so wrapped up in the exciting discovery that his original teammates were alive, that he hadn’t given a thought to the man who had almost been a teammate.

Still, regardless of how poorly the Chief had handled things, it didn’t excuse Don’s collaboration with the Spectrans, or Sakuma’s attempts to physically harm Jason.

The good news, if it could be called such, was that Sakuma had acted entirely on his own. The Red Ranger had wanted to be a part of the G-Force Team, not destroy it, and the Spectrans had not been involved or contacted about G-Force in any way.

After the initial questioning had been completed, Chief Anderson arranged for Sakuma’s arrest and incarceration, pending his trial. Andie, as the Sergeant’s former commanding officer, stayed with him while the other members of the G-Force Team quietly filed out of Anderson’s office.

Their mood was thoughtful and somber, with an overlying feeling of intense relief. The culprit had been caught and they no longer felt as if their every move was being reported back to the enemy.

“Thanks, Tiny.” Jason said, breaking the silence. “I appreciate that you got Sakuma to talk, especially since I was apparently the one he was after.”

“It was no big deal.” Tiny mumbled, looking at the floor.

“It is a big deal.” Jason insisted. “I owe you one.”

“No, you don’t.” Tiny looked away, embarrassed. “I’m the one who let all of you down.”

“What are you talking about, Tiny?” Princess asked.

Tiny blanched. He was uncomfortable broaching this subject, but he guessed that now was as good a time as any to do so. He had to get this off of his chest sooner or later, and this night seemed to be the time for confessions of the soul.

“Let’s go in here.” Mark suggested, sensing Tiny’s mood and indicating a nearby conference room. Since it was still the wee hours of the morning, the area was deserted, except for an occasional security guard. They all walked into the empty room, but Tiny felt as if he were marching to his own doom. He was about to lose the respect of three of the people he cared most about in the universe.

“I’ll just say, ‘I’m sorry’.” Tiny said, once they were inside and the door had been closed. “I know I completely screwed up on the day of the Spectran Invasion of Earth, and I can only hope that all of you will forgive me.”

“What?” Princess was genuinely shocked. “Tiny, the Invasion… losing the battle with the Spectrans… that’s no one’s individual fault. If anything, it’s Galaxy Security’s fault for not recovering quickly enough from the destruction of the Space Center, so that we could deal with the new threat.”

“I’m not talking about that.” Tiny shook his head. “I’m apologizing for the way I let you all down, during that last battle.”

“You mean, because you left?” Jason asked, his eyes fixed intently on the Owl. Tiny flinched at hearing his crime stated so bluntly, but he nodded guiltily.

To his surprise, the Condor laughed.

“Then I’m guilty of the same thing.” Jason told Tiny. “When I knew I was outnumbered, I got the hell out of there. It ate me up inside for a little while, having to deal with that knowledge.”

“Yes, but…” Tiny’s protest was lost as Princess interrupted him.

“And I did the same thing.” she told the Owl. “I remember it all now, Tiny. I remember throwing myself off of my motorcycle and crawling into the bushes so that I wouldn’t be discovered. I remember wondering what to do, and then deciding that it was time to follow Mark’s final orders.”

“But, I didn’t even try to help you guys!” Tiny cried, his remorse washing over him and creating the need to confess; to have his failure be completely understood by those whom he had wronged. The Owl relived those terrifying moments in his mind, as he attempted to explain the emotional burdens he had been carrying for over a year.

“If I had gone back… if I had looked for you…”

“You wouldn’t have found us.” Jason told him curtly. “Princess and I were hiding, and we weren’t going to come out for anything. And Mark… well, who knows what was going on with him?”

I know.

“You do?” Mark stared at Tiny. “Tell me! I don’t recall anything about that day.”

“After I saw the Spacemobile destroyed, I decided to run.” Tiny admitted, avoiding eye contact with everyone else in the room. “I turned for one last look, and then I saw it…”

“Saw what?” Princess breathed.

“The G-1… Mark’s Summit Jet.” Tiny replied. “It shot out of the clouds like a rocket, breaking through the mecha’s head and going straight into its body. And then… the mecha exploded.”

Jason turned to look at Mark, aghast.

“You used the G-1 as a missile… while you were still in it?" the Condor asked in disbelief.

“If Tiny says I did…” Mark was as confused as Jason.

“I thought you were dead.” the Owl told the Eagle. “I swear, Mark, I would never have left you if I had known…”

“If you’d known what, Tiny?” Princess asked softly.

“If I’d known that he was still alive, in there.” Tiny said. “Or what would happen…”

“What happened, Tiny?” Mark spoke quietly, but with an intent look in his eyes that unnerved the Owl.

“It was about three weeks after I got to Riga.” Tiny said. “Chief Anderson got a secret message from Zoltar.”

Princess’ face instantly turned deathly pale.

“They had you, Mark.” Tiny hung his head. “The Spectrans had found your body in the wreckage of the G-1, and the mecha. And you were still alive… they were holding you prisoner.” Tiny winced in anticipation of the Commander’s reaction, but Mark’s response was completely unexpected.

The Eagle’s face relaxed, and his mouth curved into a grateful smile.

“Thank you, Tiny.” he said. “It has been driving me crazy, not knowing how the Spectrans captured me, or how they knew who I was, when I didn’t. It finally makes sense, now.”

“You’re not disappointed?” Tiny was astounded. “You’re not upset that I didn’t go back to look for you? Maybe if I had found you first…”

“If you had found me first, maybe we would both have been Snakehead prisoners.” Mark finished for him. “I don’t fault you, Tiny. You thought we were all dead, and you followed your orders. As a Commander, that’s what I would want you to do.”

“Tiny, I had no idea of what had happened to anyone else.” Princess added. “For all I knew, everyone was still alive. But I ran and hid myself all the same. Deep down, I knew that Mark’s order to survive was what was most important.”

“The Spectrans accidentally discovered our weakness.” Jason said. “They destroyed the Phoenix, and in doing so, they broke apart our team.” The Swan looked at the Condor, amazed.

“You’re right, Jason.” she said slowly. “I never thought about it before, but that is why we failed. We were all fighting as individuals and not as a team. Separated, we were weaker.”

“So what you’re saying is, I gave the order to split us up, and that’s why we lost the battle with the Snakeheads?” Mark asked sadly.

“No, Mark, not at all!” Princess protested. “The Phoenix was about to be destroyed, and we all knew it. We had to get off. But your order to us was to survive. You knew that we had to regroup, and fight back as a team.”

“And the only way we could all do that, was if we were alive.” Tiny whispered, a wave of relief passing over him.

He had been right to obey orders… to run away… to ensure his own survival. Because it was only when they acted as a team that they could finally defeat the Spectrans, and drive them from the Earth.

Tiny looked at the three smiling faces in front of him.

Princess, so calm and resourceful…

Jason, so strong and tenacious…

And Mark…

Mark, despite his memory loss, was still the consummate Commander; dedicated, strategic, and analytical; a born leader.

The team was back together again.

And nothing was going to stop them now.

 

The End

This story archived at http://www.gatchfanfic.com/viewstory.php?sid=866