‘Anne, Jane, Sue’ barked the individual leaning on the console at the senior officer’s station as the deck bucked beneath them, ‘let’s go.’
‘Yes commander,’ the three people around her shouted.
Following the lead of the white and blue uniformed Eagle, four figures rushed towards the rear doors. Unable to move, Princes found her feet glued to the deck of the Phoenix’s bridge as a blinding pain shot through her temple. Once again the metal plating rocked wildly caused by an explosion erupting outside. The main screen darkened momentarily. Blue sky met green sea. In the distance, the coast line dipped to a sandy beach. Between the two, Spectra’s latest threat to humanity hovered ominously in the air.
Confused, Princess wondered what reality she’d ended up in. Standing stock still at her usual console, the yellow, red and blue sparrow darted past her. Something about the gait and stature just didn’t add up. Watching carefully, the throbbing in her head affecting her vision, it cleared for a moment. Finally, Princess realised the difference and what it signified.
‘Wait,’ she stammered, clutching the edge of her position in an attempted to stay upright, ‘what…’
‘You,’ the commander turned to face Princess before entering the lift. Cherry red lips, pale complexion and amazing green eyes met her gaze. Pointing at the Swan, the female Eagle, leading three other women dressed in Birdstyle, demanded, ‘stay with the ship.’
‘I’m not the pilot,’ Princess protested weakly at a loss to understand what occurred around her.
‘You are for this mission,’ grinned the commander as the door closed on the rest of the team.
Unsteady on her feet, Princess made it to the pilot’s seat. Sinking into the well cushioned station, she attempted to remember which buttons and dials controlled what. It’d been a long time since basic training and the last time she been allowed to handle the Phoenix. The pounding in her head increased with the necessary concentration. Shaking off the feeling cleared the double vision, bring the console into focus.
‘At last,’ Princess located the instruments she wanted.
The yawing stopped as she kicked in the stabilizers. Able to set a course around the mecha off the left wing, she covered the team as they spiralled towards the mechanical monster. If she could just forgot the gender of the four birds working together this might be like any other mission.
Off the port bow, the armadillo like mecha swerved suddenly. Taking evasive action, Princess missed the perfect landing. Crouched, the Eagle, Condor, Sparrow and Owl took a moment to ensure they’d arrived undetected. Running towards an inlet, they disappeared from sight.
Her job done for the time being, Princess manoeuvred the Phoenix away from the marauding Armadillo. Setting the giant ship down on the ocean, she just covered it with water. Cloaking their vehicle in seawater, she’d remain safe until the others needed her. Checking the instrumentation, nothing came up red. Once again the ship they all relied on managed to survive another close encounter with Spectra.
Watching the timer above her head, the seconds passed with agonising slowness. Each time the dial clicked over, Princess felt like an hour passed instead of a minute. Closing her eyes, the anxiety reached a crescendo along with the stabbing in her temple.
Too much time to think, Princess attempted to logically sequence events. The harder she tried, the more intense the ach in her head. The only thing she knew for sure, Mark, Jason, Keyop and Tiny had transmuted into women. Everything else about this reality seemed the same.
‘Sam,’ the shout woke Princess from her reverie. ‘Sam are you there?’ the voice demanded. Suddenly realising the voice of the female commander came from her wrist communicator, she acknowledge the contact. ‘We need an evac now, this thing is set to blow in thirty seconds.’
‘Rodger,’ Princess’s training kicked in. Without a conscious thought, she brought the Phoenix’s engines up to full throttle. Erupting from the waves, the rear jets boiled the salty water into a cloud of steam.
Spying the four birds hanging precariously from the Armadillo’s tail, Princess manoeuvred the Phoenix into position. Sending up the platform, she engaged the plastiglass bubble. Open and ready to accept the human cargo, the moment their feet hit the deck, she punched in the retos. In seconds the four women re-entered the main cabin.
‘Buckle in,’ Princess ordered, hitting the main engine ignition. Surging into the sky, they didn’t quite make it out of the shock wave. Managing to hold her steady as her vision once again blurred, she held on as long as she could.
‘Sam,’ a gentle voice accompanied the even gentler shake of her shoulder. Moaning, Princess looked up into concerned green eyes. ‘You passed out. We need to get Jane back into the pilot’s seat.’
‘Do you think you can stand,’ the smallest member of the crew asked. Unlike her male counterpart, she didn’t have a major speech impediment.
‘Ah,’ slowly, moving through gravity which felt greater than normal, Princess managed to control her limbs. Unsteady with pain, she staggered towards her station.
‘You did well,’ the woman now controlling the Phoenix, the woman called Jane, offered.
‘Thanks,’ Princess managed in response, ‘if only my head would stop spinning.’
‘Your head,’ the female in Jason’s colours contemplated, ‘I knew your injuries from our last mission weren’t as slight as you told the doctors at the base. I hope you believe me now Jen.’
‘Anne,’ the Eagle named Jen used the name as a rebuke, ‘it’s not important now. Take us home, Jane. When we get back to base, Sue can take Sam down to sick bay.’
‘Right,’ Anne snorted, ‘like any of us will get the chance.’
Sitting quietly, listening to the banter between the women, Princess started to put the pieces together. The Eagle – Jen seemed to play an equivalent part to Mark. Anne replaced Jason. Jane, the pilot acted in the same capacity as Tiny. That left Little Sue corresponding to Keyop. So I must be Sam, she thought.
‘I wish I had a heavenly body like yours to come home too,’ Jane lamented, shooting a teasing grin over her shoulder.
‘Heavenly body,’ Princess asked confused.
Wondering what the woman meant she looked down at her pink gloved hand. That should have been the biggest surprise. Her mini-skirt no longer existed. Like the others she wore a body suit, only the usual colours had been reversed. Almost maroon boots met snow white leggings. Arms and hands covered in a lighter shade, Princess stared in shock at her digits. Right hand reaching for the flash of gold on her left ring finger, she took in a sharp breath.
‘That’d be the one,’ Jane teased, watching her teammate twist the wedding band, ‘wearing the matching jewellery.’