But that wasn’t what bothered the commander of G-Force.
The latest Spectran attack had just been thwarted when Zark sent the news – the transport carrying Ambassador Cutleri’s daughter had been hijacked and crashed in the Aperea Woodlands.
Mark thought back to the time he first met Cabiay, Cutleri’s daughter, at a diplomatic function the night before Porcellus was to be formally inducted into the Federation. She looked like a guinea pig the size of a human toddler and the spitting image of her mother who, like any adult cavy, looked like a guinea pig almost five feet tall. Cabiay’s short life almost ended when a Spectran agent dropped her head first from a balcony three floors up. Thankfully, Mark swooped up, caught her in mid-air, and gently landed on the floor below. And as he held the frightened, trembling bundle of silvery fur, a deep, lifelong bond of friendship was formed.
It had only been two weeks, but that poor little cavy’s life was in danger again. It just didn’t seem right to treat someone who was just a month old that way.
Five hearts sank as the Phoenix flew over a giant, black gash in the subtropical rainforest. Debris was scattered for miles; it even reached a nearby grassy area. Tiny’s fingers danced over the controls, and the Phoenix banked around for another look.
What appeared to be the main cabin of the transport had come to rest several dozen yards within the grassy patch. “Set down near there.” Mark commanded.
“If it’s possible,” Zark told the team, “you must get the ambassador’s daughter to the Fulgida Temple right away. The coordinates are being downloaded now. Under no circumstances are you to allow ANY male cavies near her – not even her own brother!”
The Phoenix landed just far enough away from the crash site that the smaller vehicles were needed. Mark rode on the back of Princess’ motorbike while Jason lead the way and Keyop was close overhead.
“I wonder what’s up with not letting any boars near Cabiay?” Jason mused after the team had left their vehicles and started searching the wreckage.
“Maybe there’s a religious connection.” Princess replied, “After all, she IS supposed to be going to a temple.”
Mark heard a muffled cry come from one of the larger piles of debris. “Hold on,” he cried, “we’re coming!”
In less than a heartbeat the four members of G-Force were at the debris pile.
“Are you okay in there?” Mark called.
“Yes,” a familiar voice replied, “I’m just trapped.” Mark was sure he’d heard this voice before, but he couldn’t recall where. Still, he didn’t let that slow down his efforts to clear the rubble. Within a few moments he pulled a thinner version of Ambassador Cutleri into the open air.
“Cabiay?” Mark didn’t disguise the surprise in his voice.
“Don’t you recognize me, Commander?”
“You’ve grown!” Keyop replied.
“Oh, I guess this is a bit of a shock to you.” the cavy said, “I forgot humans grow differently.” But then she tipped her nose into the air and her whiskers quivered. “We have to hurry – boars are coming!”
“Keyop, you take Cabiay to the Phoenix.” Mark ordered, “The rest of us will run interference.”
“Right!” the other three teammates replied. After she snatched up a small handbag, Keyop took Cabiay’s hand and lead her off the pile of rubble.
As Jason made his way back to his car, he kicked a small chunk of metal, and was instantly hit with several large pellets filled with a very strong-smelling fluid. He went into a sneezing fit as the mildew-like stench hit his nostrils. “I’m okay.” he managed to say before anyone could ask, “I just got hit with a few stink bombs.”
Mark took a quick glance in Keyop’s direction to find the Swallow and the ambassador’s daughter boarding the Space Buggy. He relaxed a bit.
But then a strange grunting sound filled the air. Out of the woods came a thundering heard of boars, and that furry mass was heading straight for Jason. Princess darted toward her motorbike while Mark whipped out his sonic boomerang and raced toward his second. Jason was overwhelmed by cavies.
Mark let the boomerang fly. But, to his surprise, it had no effect on the attacking group. It was as if something more powerful had taken control of them, making them abandon their senses as they all tried to grab hold of the Condor. Mark dove into the fray, pulling the giant guinea pigs off Jason as quickly as he could. His head began to swim as the air grew thick with the combined scents of mildew and musk.
Princess drove her bike through the middle of the cavy riot, kicking aside any boars that got too close. Before he hopped onto the back of the motorbike, Mark managed to see Jason scramble into the Spacemobile.
The quivering mass of cavies ignored Mark and Princess. Instead, they threw themselves on top of Jason’s vehicle. The Condor did his best to shake them off, but most of them held on.
“You’re not gonna believe this –“ Jason’s voice cried through the communications bracelets, “they’re actually CHEWING through the metal!”
The Space Buggy banked around and hovered over Jason. Something that looked like a water balloon dropped down to the top of the cavy covering and popped. Almost in unison the boars let out a terrified shriek and threw themselves off the Spacemobile.
“What was that?” Mark asked into his bracelet.
“Cabiay brought...predator scent!” Keyop answered between vocal tics.
“That stuff’s ready to make ME run away!” Jason moaned. The wind direction changed, and Mark and Princess found themselves feeling ill from the new combination of predator scent, mildew, and musk.
* * * * *
It didn’t take long for G-Force to deliver Cabiay to the Fulgida Temple. As soon as they set foot on the temple grounds, two groups of cavies came up to them. One group escorted Cabiay to an inner sanctuary, and the other group unceremoniously grabbed Jason, pulled him into a side chamber, and hosed him down until the stench of battle was replaced by a scent of disinfectant with subtle, grassy undertones.
Ambassador Cutleri arrived a short time later. She rushed over to G-Force, panting, “Am I too late?”
“They just took her back, Madame Ambassador.” Mark replied.
“Oh good!” the ambassador let out a sigh of relief, “This is one of the most important days in a sow’s life. I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I missed it! By the way, I would be honored if all of you would stand in the place of my bonded mate’s family group. You see, since they were executed by Zoltar...”
“It would be our honor, Ambassador Cutleri.” the G-Force commander replied.
“Thank you.” the ambassador said as she started leading G-Force toward their place in the temple.
“Uh, Madam Ambassador,” Mark’s voice had an awkward tone as he tried to think of the best way to put this, “we were wondering if you would tell us the purpose of this ceremony...please?”
“Oh, I’m sorry!” Cutleri cried, “It’s so easy to forget the differences between our species. You see, Cabiay is experiencing her first heat. If she doesn’t go through the Jaca ceremony, every boar she comes into contact with will be driven insane until she starts having pups....”