They transmuted enroute, performing their changes simultaneously so as not to blind each other. Upon arriving at the Docking Bay they leapt into the air, landing in perfect formation on the top of the bright red hull, the clear dome encasing them before the elevation platform descended to the Bridge.
The P2 was a beautiful ship: similar in design to the original Phoenix, but slightly larger and sleeker in design, to allow for easier access to Hyperspace. The two long wings and accompanying Vehicle Bays that had been prominent features on the first G-Force warship were gone, replaced by a slight flaring on either side of the ship’s tail. The P2’s color scheme was the reverse of the original Phoenix’s: instead of blue with red, it was now red with blue.
As before, the Team had individual vehicles stored inside of the larger warship. The Eagle’s G-1, the Condor’s G-2 and the Swan’s G-3 were updated versions of the G-Machines they had previously used. The Harrier had a small, maneuverable jet that was vaguely reminiscent of the twentieth century military plane that shared her bird name, while a fifth vehicle, a large tank, had been added for the Owl. A new intelligent autopilot feature had been installed on the P2, so that the warship’s pilot could join the rest of his teammates on more missions.
Even though he didn’t remember the original Phoenix at all, Mark had had no trouble getting used to the P2. Jason, Princess and Tiny commented from time to time on various differences between the two ships, but the Eagle noticed that they didn’t seem to have any trouble adapting either. And after the countless hours the Team had put in training in the new warship, general operations were now second nature to them all; a fact for which Mark was grateful when Chief Anderson’s image appeared on their main viewscreen in the middle of their pre-flight checks.
“Team, Spectra is attacking again.” the Chief informed them. “Thanks to the new surveillance outposts we placed after their last attempt to attack the Federation, we have received a little more advance warning this time, although not much.”
“Where is this Spectran offensive taking place?” the Commander asked. “What is Zoltar’s target?”
“Once again, the Spectrans are attacking Mars.” Anderson replied. “At least, that is what their trajectories would seem to indicate.”
“Wait a minute… trajectories?” Andie asked, even as Tiny began pulling out of the Docking Bay. “More than one?”
“Yes.” Anderson replied. “There are two separate mecha. It appears that Zoltar doesn’t want to take any chances on one of them being destroyed, as happened with the last attack.”
The Condor smirked at this statement, grinning at the Eagle and the Swan. It had been the three of them who had been the cause of the Buzzragon mecha’s destruction, during the last Spectran offensive targeting Mars.
“The mecha have been created in the form of trees.” the Chief continued his briefing.
“Trees?” The Owl’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” Anderson replied, his voice in deadly earnest. “I’ve seen the images myself. These are conifers, to be specific. They appear to be inspired by the specimens in Earth’s mountainous regions.”
“This I’ve got to see.” Jason grinned.
“We will be.” Princess reminded him.
“Why would they build a mecha… excuse me… two mecha, in the shape of trees?” Andie asked, perplexed.
“Unfortunately, asking the Spectrans that question probably isn’t high on our list of priorities right now.” Mark responded dryly.
“Exactly.” the Chief agreed. “Team, I am sending you to intercept and destroy the mecha, preferably before they reach the Mars defense perimeter. You should be receiving the location co-ordinates now.”
“Receipt acknowledged.” Andie reported.
“So, we’re going to let the Spectrans see us…” Princess whispered, her eyes wide with the sudden realization of what they were about to do.
“I don’t see any other alternative right now.” Anderson sighed. “I had hoped to hold off on revealing your existence until we initiated Operation Homefront, but you are needed here and now. While the Mars Defense Force has been increased, those troops are not ready to handle two mecha at once.”
“We’re on our way. Chief.” the Commander stated, accepting their mission on behalf of the Team. He turned to the Owl.
“Set course to intercept those mecha, Tiny.” Mark ordered. “Even if we have to forcibly drag them out of Hyperspace.”
Andie and Princess monitored the progress of the mecha as Tiny flew the P2 on a course toward the Planet Mars. Jason and Mark rapidly discussed a number of different attack strategies that would eliminate the enemy spacecraft as quickly as possible. During this time, the mecha maintained their course and heading, but moved more slowly than the P2, likely because of the Spectran ships’ massive size.
The P2 intercepted the mecha less than half an astronomical unit from the Planet Mars. The enemy craft were indeed shaped like pine trees, although they were on their sides, looking vaguely like green pin-cushioned rockets with brown stubby handles. Tiny moved alongside the massive tress while remaining in Hyperspace. At the same time, Jason targeted one of the Spectran craft and sent a few shots from their Spiral Cannons into one of the tree mecha’s ‘branches’. Both the Owl’s and the Condor’s maneuvers were extremely dangerous, as flying through Hyperspace wasn’t an exact science, and collisions could easily occur without an experienced pilot at the helm.
But the Commander had no doubt that the Owl was up to the task, and indeed, Tiny performed the technique effortlessly.
Weapons were almost always useless in Hyperspace, so Mark and Jason had agreed to use the Spiral Cannons in this instance. The Condor’s aim was true, and the Eagle was impressed to see a few small explosions coming forth from within the mecha’s interior. Jason smirked to himself.
“That got their attention.” he noted.
Indeed, both mecha were slowing, and all three warships came out of Hyperspace together. As soon as they had reached Open Space, the trees both turned to face the P2, sending a barrage of oddly shaped missiles their way. Tiny was easily able to dodge the attack.
“I think they’re… pine cones?” Andie guessed. “These Spectrans are crazy!”
“Nothing to compete with a good old TBX Missile.” Jason grinned, retracting the cover over the red button on his control panel. “To be nice, I’ll even send the ‘Super’ version their way.”
“Jason, aim between the third and fourth rows of branches, starting from the top… uh… tip.” The Swan advised the Condor from her control panel. “The ships seem to be weak at those joints, and this set isn’t properly reinforced, as the others are.”
“Thanks, Princess.” Jason said as he analyzed the computer readouts at his workstation, before glancing up at the main viewscreen. The Condor pressed the red button, sending a Super TBX Missile shooting out of the P2 Launch Tube.
The missile hit exactly where the Swan had indicated, and the Condor had a smug expression on his face as he watched the pine tree mecha explode in front of them.
As the alien warship broke apart, three squadrons of Federation Space Fighters came into view, moving toward the other mecha.
“Andie, coordinate with them.” the Eagle ordered the Harrier.
“Already on it, Commander.” Andie replied as she initiated a Comm link. After a moment conversing with the leader of the Mars Defense Force, she turned back to the Eagle.
“Commander, I suggest we let them handle this one.” she said quietly. “They’ve been training for it, and they could use the morale boost. I’ve passed on Princess’ information about targeting location.”
“What?” Jason cried, as the P2 jerked while Tiny avoided yet another barrage of pine cones. “After we’ve done the work, they want the glory?”
Mark looked over at Andie’s earnest face, and then back at the circling Space Fighters on the main viewscreen.
“There’s plenty of glory for everyone.” the Eagle stated firmly. “Tell them to go ahead, Andie.”
“Thank you, Commander.” the Harrier smiled, turning back to her station and speaking briefly again with the leader of the Mars Defense Force.
A few minutes later, with some additional strategic guidance from the Swan, the Federation Space Fighters destroyed the second pine tree mecha.
Their first real mission as a team had been a complete success.
But it had not come without a price.