Due to circumstances beyond our control by Daniella T
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This side

They should have been expecting it. With all the monitoring equipment at their disposal, all the technology, all the computer capacity, they should have been able to foresee when a volcano would erupt. How hard could it be?

But they hadn’t.

Now the Phoenix was grounded on Glacier Island, ash preventing its engines from powering up. Stuck on one side of the gully, with the Spectran mecha, also immobilised but very much present, on the other. And with no communication with Centre Neptune. The team didn’t know why this had happened, probably the lava or the ash had knocked off the communications relay, but they knew that they were on their own. The fact that the Spectran mecha was also probably on its own did not make things better. Not with a village set well within the sights of the mecha. And with the villagers having nowhere to run to as the volcano blocked off any potential routes. In short, as Jason observed when they realised their predicament, they were in a pickle.

“On your vehicles! We’re getting out, now!” ordered Mark, jumping up from his seat as soon as the bubble on top of the Phoenix had been opened.

Tiny kept punching the communications port.

“Come in, Centre Neptune. Come in, Centre Neptune. This is the Phoenix. We are on Glacier Island and we can’t get off. I repeat, we are on Glacier Island.”

He turned to Mark.

“No use, Commander. They can’t hear us.”

Mark resisted the urge to slam his hand on the console. Of all the things that could go wrong...

“Let’s hope the same applies to Zoltar’s team out there,” he murmured. “Okay, everyone out!”

They took their positions on their vehicles, Tiny staying last to lock down the Phoenix, and then jumping behind Princess on her motorcycle. Mark rode with Jason, as he couldn’t take his plane. Jason complained that the car wasn’t big enough for both of them.

“Hold on, Tiny!” smiled Princess. “You’re in for a ride!”

“Yeah. Don’t like leaving her here, though,” he said softly, glancing back at the Phoenix.

“It’s only until the volcano quiets down,” said Princess.

“Assuming we kick Zoltar’s butt in the meantime,” added Tiny, “and we don’t find the Phoenix overrun by his troops.”

Princess snorted.

“That will never happen!”

But Tiny was not convinced, and the look he gave to the Phoenix as the three vehicles took off in the direction of the village was one of concern.

“Attention, everyone,” came Mark’s voice over the intercom. “Head for the village. We’ll try to give the people there a hand until help comes.”

“And be around in case Zoltar comes,” added Jason, as they were racing over the snow, pockmarked now with volcanic ash. A snowstorm had started, covering the ugly marks of the volcano with fresh snow, but making it difficult for the team to stay in convoy.

“I doubt they’ll make an appearance if the mecha is immobilised,” said Princess.

“Well they might have infantry,” said Jason stubbornly.

“Yeah, which they kept very well-hidden until now,” replied Tiny.

Princess was the first one to notice something wrong.

“Keyop? What do you think?”

She counted to five, and when no reply came, spoke into the intercom again.

“Where’s Keyop?”


Keyop had been following the convoy, his eyes on Princess’s motorcycle, when a flurry of snow blocked his view for a few seconds. As he waited for the heat on the buggy’s visor to melt the snow, the driving wind brought down a tree, blocking his path. Swearing under his breath, he went out, attached a laser cutter on the front of the buggy, and switched on the engine again, his idea being to cut the tree and just continue on his way. Only to find out that, the buggy would not start. Whether from the ash, or the snow, he had no idea. He tried again and again, to no avail. Until he realised that the little vehicle was almost covered itself in snow. Swearing again, he got out and started walking.

That side

The mecha commander knew that he a lot to answer for. Not foreseeing the volcano erupting would be one of those things. Zoltar would not accept the excuse that there was no way to know. Nor would he question whether the mecha had been equipped to deal with it. His only consolation was that the Phoenix seemed to be also on the ground. Perhaps they should see this as a truce. Just wait for the ash to clear. Glacier Island was an important target for Spectra. An excellent location, chosen by Zoltar for his underground base. One of the many he had tried to establish on Earth. The mecha commander preferred not to think of what had happened to the other ones.

This side

Mark ordered the vehicles immediately to a stop. The team got out, suddenly anxious about more than their predicament.

“He was right behind me,” said Princess. “He can’t be far.”

“We’ve come a long way in a short time.”

Mark looked at the path they had come from. It was getting dark, and the only light they had were the headlights of the vehicles. With their communicators not working, there was precious little they could do.

“We can’t go back. Head for the village, we’ll regroup there and see what we can do in the morning.”

He made to get back in the car.

“Just a moment, Commander,” said Jason icily. “What do you mean, we can’t go back? Keyop’s out there, and so is the Spectran mecha! He may be found and captured! Worse, he may not be found and captured, and he will spend the night outside, and we don’t know in what condition the buggy is in!”

“I know, Jason, but I can’t risk anyone else getting lost in the snow! It would be different if we had communications going. Now that we don’t, we need to wait for daylight! Now get back in the car!”

“Mark, if you don’t go after Keyop, I will!” said Princess firmly.

She turned the bike around, Tiny still on the seat behind her. Mark walked over.

“Princess, please. I know how you feel. But we have a mission here. G-Force is here to protect the village from a Spectran attack, which may still happen!”

She dropped her gaze.

“You’re right,” she whispered. “We have to get to the village.”

She didn’t say another word until they reached the village, to the enormous relief, and jubilation, of the people there, who were trapped between the volcano on one side and a Spectran mecha on the other.

“G-Force, I am Alex Turner, the mayor of Glacier Town,” said a haggard-looking man, standing outside the pack town hall, where the residents had gathered.

Mark should hands briefly with him.

“Mayor Turner, thank you for keeping the town calm. Let me go speak to the residents, okay?”

He headed up the stairs.

“Wait a moment, Commander,” said Mayor Turner in surprise. “Shouldn’t there be five of you?”

Jason shot him a bitter look.

“Yeah, well, it seems there’s not.”

That side

The mecha commander was hunched over the console when a green-clad trooper burst in the command centre.

“Sir, the men are asking what are they supposed to do until we are able to take off again,” he said deferentially.

“That’s the question of the day, isn’t it?” he said sarcastically. “Did you get through to Zoltar?” he added.

“No, sir. No communication is possible, either in or out of Glacier Island.”

The mecha commander should his head.

“Maybe it’s for the best.”

He turned to his subordinate.

“Set up a patrol. We need to find where the communications relay is, and fix it. If we get there before G-Force, we may have a chance.”

“Of what, sir?”

“Of getting off the island without having our asses kicked.”

This side

Mark stared at the village residents, huddling together on cold benches in the town hall. He was glad of his uniform. At least he didn’t feel the cold. Or the exhaustion that these people were feeling. But he shared their despair: they were desperate about their homes and island, he and his team were increasingly desperate about Keyop.

“I am the Commander of G-Force,” he started. “My team-mates and I are here to help you in case there is a Spectran attack. Our ship has been grounded due to the volcano erupting and we have no communication with Centre Neptune. The same situation is true for the Spectrans: their mecha is grounded on the other side of the gully, and we have to assume their communications have been cut off. They might still mount a ground attack. But we are in a position to repel that.”

He paused as the villagers looked at one another, relief spreading across their faces. Then he took the microphone again.

“However, I have to tell you that one of my team is missing. He got lost in the snowstorm, and with our communicators off, we cannot locate him. Tomorrow morning, we would like to set up a search party. I would appreciate your help. You know the area better than us, and your assistance would be valuable.”

He looked at his team-mates as he was speaking. They all realised this was a unique situation: G-Force asking for help from the locals. Usually it was the other way round.

Princess stepped up.

“One of us will come with the search party, while the others set up the village’s defences. This is a bit lower-tech than usual,” she tried to smile, “but I’m sure it will work just as well.”

“In the meantime, please keep trying the comms. Radio, telephones, anything you have. We might get through to Centre Neptune,” said Tiny.

“And mount a guard to watch for any unwanted visitors,” added Jason. “The mecha might be sitting tight, but nothing tells us that the goons on it don’t have ground vehicles.”

“Another thing we need to do immediately, is organise a team to go to the communications relay centre,” continued Mark. “Can you take us?”

The mayor nodded.

“I will lead you there. You think you can fix whatever’s wrong with it?”

“It will certainly make life easier,” replied Mark, trying not to think of where Keyop could be at that moment.

As they got up and started organising the various teams, he caught hold of Princess’s hand.


She turned, her face a mask of worry.

“We’ll find him.”

That side

“Commander Strosser, we are ready to go,” said a young Spectran officer, stepping into the command centre.”

The mecha commander nodded.

“I’ll come with you.”

He strapped on his pistol, and followed the officer down the corridor.

“Sir...” started the officer hesitantly.


“Sir, wouldn’t it better if we used the ground vehicles to attack the village, instead of looking for the relay? We definitely have more firepower than G-Force now “ they only have their own vehicles, and whatever is available at the village. We could take them out.”

“No, lieutenant. We do not do that unless we have first made sure that we have support coming.”

“But, sir...Zoltar would want us to attack.”

Strosser turned around, his face inches from the lieutenant’s.

“Zoltar is welcome to come and lead this contingent any time he wants to get his ass off his cushy armchair. No one’s stopping him,” he snarled.

The lieutenant turned pale.

“Sir, that’s...that’s treason!” he spluttered.

Strosser smiled.

“Only if you tell on me, lad.”


The Spectran patrol was ready, standing to attention as Strosser appeared.

“Ready, men? We find the communications relay, and we find it first!”

Armed with powerful flashlights, capable of lighting up the whole countryside, they set off across the mountain side.

This side

While Jason was organising the town’s defences, Mark and Tiny, with Mayor Turner, led a small team of technicians across the snowy fields to the relay station. Signs of the eruption were everywhere, but for the moment the volcano was quiet. They all fervently hoped it would stay that way until they could evacuate the village.

The man in the lead of the column suddenly raised his arm, and everyone stopped in their tracks. They were reaching the top of the gully, getting ready to clamber down to the other side.

“What’s up?” whispered Mark.

The man turned, a look of bewilderment on his face.

“Commander, there seems to be...well, there seem to be people there...”

Mark and Tiny rushed to have a look. They could see a forest, and right beyond it, the communications tower, now flooded with light from the powerful beams of...

“I don’t believe it,” muttered Mark. “The Spectrans found it first. Mayor Turner! Everyone goes back to the village! Now!”

Mayor Turner started to give the command to retreat, when a young engineer came up to Mark and Tiny.

“Excuse me, Commander, but why should we not go down there?”

“Are you crazy?” interrupted Turner. “There’s at least four times more Spectrans than us!”

“But we have a common aim. We need to fix the relay. We can do it together,” insisted the engineer.

“Are you crazy?” repeated Turner.

But Mark and Tiny looked at each other.

“You think the Spectrans will agree to a truce?” asked Tiny doubtfully.

Mark shrugged.

“One way to find out.”

The relay tower

Strosser saw the small group of people approaching before anyone else did. His first thought was to order his troops to ready weapons. If any member of G-Force was in that group, it would mean at least a medal, to be able to report that his men had killed, or injured, or captured him. Or her. Then he realised the foolishness of this action. Killing G-Force would not be useful if he could not take, and then hold, the island. And for that, he needed his mecha. And he needed communications, to ask for assistance.

“Stand down,” he told his troops. “Stand down. Leave this to me.”

Resolutely, he walked in front of his men, to meet the other party.


Mayor Turner lay a hand on Mark’s shoulder as they were approaching the group of soldiers standing guard under the relay tower.

“Commander, are you sure about this?”

Mark shook his head.

“Not at all. But it’s worth a chance. We both need communications up and running. If we can do this, then we can go back to killing each other afterwards.”

“That does not reassure me,” said Turner slowly, but continued walking.

“Let us speak to them alone,” said Mark, as they got closer.

He and Tiny broke off from the rest of the group, and approached the green-clad soldiers.

“Who is in charge here?” said Mark firmly.

“I am,” said a man dressed in a normal, army-looking uniform. None of the fancy, preposterous uniforms Mark had seen on other mecha commanders was in sight. Maybe Zoltar had them wear these only when he was around, or when he wanted to show off...

“I am Commander Strosser. And you are G-Force?” he asked politely, as his troopers surrounded Mark and Tiny and pointed their weapons.

Mark put up his hands slowly.

“I am here to offer you a truce.”


Four hours later

The walk back to the village seemed longer, and colder. Even in his uniform, Mark could start to feel the chill. Or maybe it was only because he was tired. Or maybe it was because he was worried about Keyop. They still had a couple of hours to go until daylight. The villagers were exhausted. This team would have to take a rest, let others form the search party, in case Keyop wasn’t back by then.

He raised his communicator again.

“Come in, Keyop. Do you read me?”

He knew the communicator worked. He had called Jason and Princess on it. The joint effort of the Glacier Island engineers and the Spectran technicians had paid off. The relay had been fixed and communications restored. True to their words, the two commanders led their teams away from the tower.

Jason was waiting at the edge of the village.

“We picked up Centre Neptune,” he said excitedly. “Princess is briefing them. They will send a specially-modified ship to fly through the ash and help us look for Keyop.”

They entered the town hall, where Princess was hunched over a radio.

“Commander, would you like to speak to Security?” she said, offering him the mike.

Mark sat down in front of the ancient-looking machine.

“Centre Neptune, this is Mark. Due to circumstances beyond our control we are grounded on Glacier Island and have to wait for the ash to clear before the Phoenix can take off. At least for now, the same goes for the Spectran mecha. We can only hope that they have suffered more damages than us, and, given the chance, will leave. We need some time to get the people here to safety. Can you send transports?”

“Copy that, Mark. We will. And as we told Princess already, we are sending specially-modified craft to help look for Keyop.”

Mark closed his eyes for a second.

“Thank you. Over and out.”

He was just briefing Jason and Princess in detail about what had happened at the relay tower, when the door to the town hall opened again.

“One day...toor...root...toot I’m going to ask...toor...root...why no one came to look for me!”

Chilled to the bone even in his G-Force uniform, Keyop collapsed in Princess’s arms.


Two days later

The Centre Neptune transports had just evacuated the last of the residents of Glacier Island, when a powerful engine roar made G-Force look up from their vehicles, as they were getting ready to head back to the Phoenix. Ash levels had dropped enough to make it possible for them to take off again. The Spectran mecha was flying over Glacier Island. Mark’s communicator beeped.

“Commander, this is Strosser. Sorry to intrude on your frequency. Just wanted to let you know that we are called back. Zoltar wants a full account of what happened, and why we were stranded. And whose fault it was.”

Mark could easily guess what would happen next. Strosser was one commander they would probably never see again.

“Understood, Commander,” he replied. “Safe trip home. Over and out.”

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