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.
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…