In response to the World Tour challenge, Princess finds herself in an altered reality. Everything is mixed up, topsy-turvy and completely strange. How did she get here, worse still, how will she get home? Will she even want too as each chapter reveals how her life might have turned out?
Categories: Battle of the Planets Characters:
Chief Anderson, Jason, Keyop, Mark, Princess, Tiny Harper
Plot-What-Plot, RomanceStory Warnings:
Mature Content, Mild Adult Situations, Mild Sexual ReferencesTimeframe:
Alternate UniverseChallenges: World Tour
Challenges: World Tour Series:
1. Chapter 1 by Lyssa
2. Chapter 3 by Lyssa
3. Chapter 2 by Lyssa
4. Chapter 4 by Lyssa
5. Chapter 5 by Lyssa
6. Chapter 6 by Lyssa
7. Chapter 7 by Lyssa
8. Chapter 8 by Lyssa
9. Chapter 9 by Lyssa
‘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.’
‘Pregnant,’ Jason skidded around the corner, almost taking out the doctor, ‘who thinks they’re pregnant.’
‘Joe!’ Jane flew onto the new comers’ arms. ‘Not me, I promise.’
Folding the woman in an ugly olive green dress into his embrace, blue eyes examined the scene. Nodding towards Mark, Joe/Jason offered his attention back to Jane. Uncaring of the company, he kissed her senseless. It left Princess in no doubt as to the depth of their relationship.
‘Some privacy,’ Mark commented sarcastically, still hunched protectively over his wife ‘would be nice.’
‘I agree,’ the doctor looked unimpressed, ‘out,’ she ordered. Reluctantly the members of G-Force trouped out. Joe, arm slung around Jane looked back over his shoulder. Giving Mark a wink, he herded the rest of the group out of the hospital room.
‘All of you,’ the doctor glared at Mark, pointing to the door.
‘I’m not leaving,’ he returned aggressively.
‘Mark,’ Princess felt a shiver run the length of her spine. The commander had never been so possessive of her and she liked it. Just as the merest whisper of his breath on her face excited her earlier, yet the overall situation confused Princess. She needed to get a grip, understand what happened to land her in this alternative reality. ‘I need to talk to the doctor, alone.’
‘I’ll call you in from the waiting room the minute we’re finished,’ the doctor reiterated.
Reluctantly, eyes imploring, Mark lent in and kissed her. It might have been gentle but still demanded her complete involvement. His tongue swept her lower lip. Shocked at the liberty, Princess opened her mouth in surprise. It gave him the opportunity to deepen the kiss. Once he’d explored, Mark pulled away slowly, a smile covering his face and lighting his eyes.
‘Now,’ he whisper to her alone, fingers still entwined as he stood, ‘I at least feel like I’ve greeted my wife properly.’
Moving away from the bed, Mark kept contact until the very last moment. When their fingers couldn’t touch any longer, Princess found her arm hanging in mid-air. Feeling surreal, she brought it to her swollen lips.
He called me his wife, Princess sighed with contentment. Never in her wildest dreams had she considered marriage to Mark. In her reality it just wouldn’t happen. Pregnancy a very distant dream, not that she’d ever considered it.
Brought rudely back to the present moment in time, the doctor held a strange looking device in her hand. Shaped like a rectangle with a handle on the short side, she waved the wand over Princess. Grunting, the doctor concentrated on her head.
‘You can see the implant,’ Princess guessed.
‘I can see something metallic,’ she stated, ‘which looks like it’s integrated into your cerebrum. Do you mind shimmering into civilian clothing so I don’t have to get through your skull cap?’
Reaching up to her head, Princess made yet another discovered. The helmets they wore while in birdstyle had been replaced by a material covering. She’d missed so many little changes. Putting it down to the horrendous headache, she took the time to analyse everything that had occurred in the last hour and a half.
Remembering how the other girls changed into normal attire, she explored the same region. In the middle of her breast bone, the Swan discovered a small indentation. At the centre, a button, when pressed caused an immediate prickling sensation. It quickly spread to her limbs and head. Less than a second later, Princess looked down at a maroon smock dress covering her body. Obviously here they shimmered.
‘That’s better,’ the doctor remarked, waving the wand over her temple. ‘What can you tell me about this?’
‘The implant, it’s surgically inserted. Just after my tenth birthday I’d been selected to join G-Force,’ Princess recalled, ‘we all have them.’
Astounded, the doctor stopped. Taking a step back she looked her patient over. ‘We…G-Force?’
‘The team,’ Princess remarked, hoping the truth issuing form her lips would transmute her back home. Feeling like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, she tried to explain. ‘Where I come from, things are very different. I’m the only female member of the team. The Eagle – Mark, he’s the commander and there’s no way in hell Chief Anderson would allow a relationship between us. Nor would Mark, he’s far too professional. The Condor - Jason’s his second and the gunner. You call him Joe here. My name is Princess, not Sam and I specialize in programming and explosives. That leaves Keyop and Tiny the pilot. Tiny’s the only one with family. Mark, Jason and I are orphans, which is why the ISO could experiment with the implants in our cerebrum.’
‘It’s essentially a computer constructed of a bio-metallic alloy, designed to grow with us. Reaching its peak potential when we turn eighteen, it gives us the ability to transmute to Birdstyle. I gather your girls shimmer. I’m not sure what’s happened but where I come from we’re G-Force, defenders of the galaxy presently at war with Spectra not Sparta.’
‘Have you fallen recently,’ the doctor asked, quite obviously shocked at the tale. ‘Taken a blow to the head?’ she suggested.
‘Not to the best of my knowledge,’ Princess returned, realising the woman thought she suffered a brain injury. Maybe I need to keep quiet, she silently considered, or they might turn me over to the psychiatrists.
‘I’m going to call your husband back in,’ the doctor now looked more concerned than ever.
‘No need,’ a woman, dressed in a muted red power suit appeared. She’d over heard enough of the conversation without making herself obvious. Coming to stand beside Princess, she asked, ‘do you know who I am?’
Careful not to shake her head too vigorously, the Swan answered no. The blinding pain didn’t return.
‘What’s the last thing you remember?’ she questioned.
Realising this person took the place of security Chief Anderson, Princess though about her response. ‘We were on a mission. Spectra launched a millipede like mech, an improved version of one we’d destroyed before. It broke into pieces. Mark ordered me to take the galacti-cycle and lure them towards the Phoenix.’
‘What happed?’ the woman and doctor glanced at each other, a silent understanding between them.
‘Fast approaching a wall, the rest to the team hiding behind it, I found a launch site,’ Princess explained. ‘Sailing over it, I couldn’t see the Phoenix, only a black tornado. Its vortex swept me up. I tried to hang onto my cycle. Being heavier the winds tore it out of my hands. I saw it ejected and knew I wouldn’t be far behind it.’
‘How far did you glide?’ the doctor asked.
‘The wind tore my wings to shreds. I fell about a hundred meters,’ Princess supposed, ‘like a stone. I remember thinking, this is going to hurt. Then, I came to at my console but,’ shaking her head, she wondered, ‘Mark had become Jen, the rest of the team women and they told me I’d been married for two years. If Sam’s taken my place, I wonder how she’s coping. The Commander won’t lay a hand on her.’
‘What about the pregnancy?’ the woman asked the doctor, now ignoring Princess.
‘I’m not pregnant,’ Princess stated firmly, ‘believe me there’s no way I can be.’
Waiving the wand over her stomach, the doctor sighed. ‘You don’t have to tell your son-in-law off, or report this to the world council.’
‘Son-in-law,’ Princess’s eye became the size of saucers, ‘you mean Mark? You’re my mother?’
‘Yes, Sam,’ she remarked, keeping her distance.
‘My name is Princess,’ fury laced the young woman’s words.
‘Your husband is the only one who calls you that, Sam,’ eyebrow raised, the woman used her tone as a rebuke. ‘You were eight years old the first time you met. I invited Mark and Joe’s parents over to discuss the formation of this team. The boys noticed you at the top of the stairs, wearing a green fairy dress with wings and a tiara. Mark said you looked like a princess while Joe,’ this brought a smile to her face, ‘wondered if you’d only act like one.’
‘That,’ Princess managed, ‘sounds like Jason.’
‘If what you say is correct,’ the red suited woman considered, ‘then were the hell is my daughter?’
'Trapped in my universe,’ Princess offered. A shiver ran the length of her spine. If Sam tried to kiss Mark, to tell him they’d been married, well she didn’t want to know the outcome of the battle.
Thank you for getting this far. I now have a decision to make and would like your opinion. Do I
1) Break from this story to give Sam perspective in the next few chapters. Believe me she’s nothing like Princess!
2) Make this into a series with Sam’s Story to follow this one. Most defiantly 18+ with adult situations!
3) In the epilogue, give Princess’s POV on the chaos Sam’s caused in her universe.
‘We’re about to dive,’ Jane warned. There were on final approach to their underwater base.
‘Home sweet home,’ Sue commented from Princess’s left. Buckled in, they hit the water at speed. Turning her grey orbs toward the Swan, she teased, ‘and I bet someone’s going to be waiting on the dock the moment the hangers dry.’
‘I don’t care if he is,’ Jen commented coming to stand before Princess’s station, ‘you’re going directly to sick bay. I want the doctors to look you over properly this time.’
Princess listened with fascination. Her eye’s darted between the commander and the main screen. The base, a double for Centre Neptune, opened its doors in welcome as the Phoenix prepared to sail inside.
‘This attack,’ Jen continued, ‘coming so close on the last, it’s as if Sparta knows we have an injured member. I don’t want to go out again until we’re at full strength.’
‘As if he’d let Sam go anywhere after this mission when he finds out what happened,’ Anne’s snide comment sounded so much like Jason, Princess lifted her head. Embarrassment coloured her cheeks as her teammates discussed her private life so openly. She still didn’t know the identity of the man she married. Yet Anne hadn’t finished. ‘Remember the way he acted the last time we came in with a wounded Swan.’
‘Talking of coming in,’ Jane offered, ‘we’ve berthed. Two minutes to dry dock.’
‘When he finds out you’ve been hurt again,’ shivering, Jen nodded, returning to the earlier conversation, ‘or worse still, hiding an injury, I don’t want to be in your shoes. The last time was bad enough.’
‘I have to admit,’ Jane chipped in, ‘your husband’s usually quiet but he can sure go up in flames where you’re concerned. You would have thought that gash on your leg equalled an amputation.’
'It put her in the infirmary for three days,’ Anne rebuked.
‘You only got out,’ Jen added, ‘because we needed you for little Spartan display.’
Glancing down at her leg, Princess detected a faint ache on her left thigh. However the hurt had been masked by her horrendous headache until Jane mentioned it. Now it began to throb in time to the blood pumping around her neural pathways.
‘I wish,’ Sue spoke wistfully, ‘I had the courage to go against the chief on my eighteenth birthday and marry the man of my dreams.’
‘At least,’ Jane powered down the Phoenix, ‘we now have access to male companionship.’
‘You mean,’ Anne sounded sour, ‘you do. I can’t believe you’re dating one of his squadron. The rest of those fly boys are just after one thing, and it has nothing to do with a ring on a girl’s finger.’
‘Maybe if you were a little less choosey,’ Sue laughed easily, ‘you’d be in the same situation as Sam.’
‘Speak of the Red Devil,’ Jen pointed out a lone figure entering the hanger now the last of the water had been pumped out.
‘Mark,’ Princess couldn’t help the breathless word escaping her lips. Blood rushed to her cheeks as she realised how it sounded. Striding towards the rear hatch, he stopped a short distance from the Phoenix.
Rolling her eyes, Anne commented, ‘happens every time. I can’t believe you still act this way after being married for two years.’
‘You girls coming out,’ his warm voice called, the hint of a smile covering Mark’s lips.
‘Can you stand on your own yet?’ Jen asked, concern lacing her green gaze.
Shaking her head proved to be a bad choice. Princess felt like she’d through up if she moved. The world wouldn’t stop spinning, movement making the sensation worse. At least the lancing sensation at her temple had become a dull thud.
‘Well,’ Jen returned to her station, ‘I’m not going to be responsible for the reaction.’ Pushing a button on her console, the commander’s voice echoed around the empty hanger. ‘Looks like you’re going to have to come in, Captain. We’ve got a wounded Swan on board who needs your special brand of attention.’
Fifteen seconds later, he appeared in the rear elevator. Red uniform pristine, Mark’s intense blue eyes had only one target. Unconcerned at the reaction from the women attempting to hid their amusement, he ignored them. Rushing over to her, he examined his wife before scooping her into his arms.
‘What happed, Princess,’ he cooed, moving towards the exit.
‘I don’t know,’ she offered, sudden tears clouding her green eyes. Not use to the close contact with her commander, she guiltily snuggled into his warm embrace.
How many times, she wondered, have I thought about this, dreamt the situation might allow us to develop more than a working relationship? It feels so real and yet, I expect to wake up tomorrow morning with nothing but a dream. It has to be a figment of my imagination.
‘Princess,’ Mark called in a calm tone. He felt anything but as he placed his wife on the examination table. She’d passed out on the way to sick bay. According to Jen, this hadn’t been an isolated event. Her body, unable to take the high G force required to escape their nemesis, elicited the same result.
‘You need to check my implant,’ she suggested, a hand going to her temple.
Taking a seat on the bed beside her, Mark placed one hand next to her raised head. The other reached out for her fingers, entwining them. Bring his body in close, his breath grazed Princess’s cheek.
‘Your implant’s not in your head,’ he offered.
‘Yes it is,’ she looked at him with amazement. Remembering this to be an alternative reality, a dream sequence, she used her free hand to point to her left temple. ‘The doctors placed here.’
‘When you had it placed,’ he argued, ‘I sat pretty much where I am now. I saw the doctor inject it into your arm.’
Gazing at him, Princess didn’t have the faintest clue what he meant. He had to be mistaken. Or this meant something entirely different, in which case it could hold a secret meaning. Still feeling dizzy and nauseous, she questioned silently.
‘Do you think it’s failed,’ he asked, a worried expression clouding his orbs.
‘From the symptoms,’ she swallowed hard, bile rising in her throat, ‘yes.’
‘We didn’t want this to happen yet,’ Mark couldn’t make up his mind if he felt happy or sad at the unexpected news. ‘I guess getting the doctors to take a test will tell us one way or another.’
‘Let me transmute,’ Princess offered.
‘Transmute?’ Jen’s voice alerted the young couple to the fact they weren’t alone. Worried about their teammate, the rest of the crew followed Sam into sick bay.
Bringing her hand up to her face, Princess muttered, ‘transmute.’ To her shock, nothing happened. ‘I told you the implant is malfunctioning.’
Mark and Ann spoke at the same time.
‘I though you meant…’ Mark trailed off as she finally understood his meaning. After all they’d been married for two years in this universe.
‘Where did you get that from,’ Anne snickered, pressing a hidden button in the middle of her chest. Shimmering, she came through the other side in a tunic dress. Jen, Jane and Sue affected their change just as quickly.
The doctor, having heard the commotion and receiving a report from the commander, chose that moment to ask, ‘so do you think your pregnant or not?’
‘What the…’ the curse, ripped from Sam’s lips at the same moment she lost her grip on the glacti-cycle. Watching the machine, it became swept up in the black winds of a vortex. Heavier than a human, it sank into the raging storm below. That’s when she noticed her uniform.
What the hell, she thought, pink, I haven’t worn pink since, well never! Even my mother hates the colour. And a mini skirt, that’s like so last century. My ring, don’t tell me I’ve lost my wedding ring. Oh Mark’s just going to love that. They had to cut the last one off my finger in sick bay a week ago. I’ve only just got the new one.
Suddenly the wind stopped howling. She’d been unceremoniously ejected from the vortex. Spreading her arms, Sam finally noticed the ground a hundred meters below her, on it lay her yellow cycle in a thousand shards. It seemed to be coming up at her incredibly quickly. A glance at her wings and she understood why. Before she had a chance to consider her impact with the ground, June brought The Siren under her. Landing perfectly in a crouch, the platform beneath her feet began to descend at the same time as the plasti-glass dome closed.
‘Glad to see you back,’ Jason remarked.
‘You’re safe, Princess?’ Mark enquired, sparing her the quickest of glances before returning his attention back to the main screen. ‘Punch it, Tiny. Let’s finish Spectra’s latest mecha off.’
‘We’re away,’ Tiny pushed the throttled as the ship surged forward.
‘Bird missile ready,’ Jason jumped to the gunners’ position, waiting for the opportunity to destroy the millipede reassembling in the attempt to climb the wall Princess had just flown over.
‘Fire,’ Mark yelled.
Three torpedos left the bay in rapid succession. The explosion rocked the Phoenix, sending Jason into Princess, still standing in the middle of the cabin with an unusual expression on her face. As the fireworks died away, the young woman pushed the man off her. Lying in waste, metallic shreds of Spectra’s latest mechanical monster smouldered on the ground.
‘Hey,’ Jason regained his footing, ‘what’s the meaning of shoving me!’ he glared at Princess.
‘Let’s head for home, Tiny,’ Mark ordered. Rising from his seat, he stood between the two combatants. ‘Jason,’ he warned, pointing out Princess’s shredded wings. Turning his attention to the female member of the crew he asked, ‘what happened?’
‘Mark,’ Sam unthinkingly rushed into his arms. Used to feeling his warm embrace whenever they got close, it took several seconds to realise he didn’t return the gesture.
‘Princess,’ he looked embarrassed, cheeks colouring under his helmet. Gently he pushed her way, ‘this isn’t appropriate even if you’ve had a bad experience.’
‘Bad experience,’ Sam repeated, astounded. ‘Bad experience,’ her voice rose at least ten decibels. She missed the rear doors opening and closing. Mad as hell, she finally allowed her shocked brain to take in the surrounding. ‘What are you doing on the flight deck of The Siren and why is Joe here too. Last I heard you and the Red Devils had been assigned to finish off Sparta’s base in Europe. What the hell is going on around here? Jen,’ she called, looking frantically around the cabin, ‘Commander, are you girls playing some very unkind joke on me! Well I can tell you it’s not funny!’
Felling a prick in her leg, Sam looked down into the strangest set of eye’s she’d ever seen set in the face of an outlandish child. Noticing the hypodermic needle in his hand she knew he’d just delivered a sedative. Eyes wide in shock, she crumpled onto the hard deck. Not even her husband bothered the catch her.
‘Jason, Keyop get her to sick bay,’ Mark ordered, ‘I’ll radio the Chief and let him know Princess has been injured.’
‘We’ll be back at Centre Neptune in thirty,’ Tiny offered.
After that it all became hazy. The sedative didn’t knock her out completely just altered her perception enough to accept the strangeness without question. Sam found one arm around Joe as he almost dragged her to the infirmary couch. It looked so much like the interior of The Siren. Their ship, named after a mythical half bird, half woman, fitted their team perfectly. However these two boys, wearing similar uniforms to Anne and Sue but with strange looking helmets seemed to be comfortable moving about sick bay.
‘What,’ a string of strange noises followed, ‘do you think,’ once again those incessant sounds, ‘happened to Princess,’ the little man finally got out. To the little guys’ credit, he did seem concerned about Sam. He had to know she only allowed her husband to get away with calling her Princess.
‘I don’t know,’ the one she knew as Joe answered.
Only Mark called him Jason. Confusing, how so much resembled her reality with some bazar twists. Wondering who’d come up with this simulation, Sam considered Jane. She’d have the technical ability and the pull with Joe to set something as complex as this up. But, how would she get Mark to play along. He’d been embarrassed, EMBARRASSED, to show her any affection. That had never happened before. In fact, the other girls often teased her about the fact they couldn’t keep their hands off each other.
‘Mark,’ Sam managed to slur through her drug induced haze. If she could just get him down here, she’d ascertain the truth, one way or another. The man she’d married two years ago held few secrets for her.
‘Whatever possessed you,’ Jason wondered, unable to keep the sarcasm out of his tone, ‘to act like such a girl.’
‘Got,’ that infernal speech impediment annoyed the hell out of Sam, ‘Mark’s attention,’ the youngster seemed happy about the incident, as though he’d never seen the two of them together before.
‘Not in the way she’s always wanted,’ Jason responded with a sigh. ‘I’m going to have to stay down here with her, Keyop. Let the Commander know.’
‘Ten-four,’ he managed, before rushing back to the main deck.
‘Mark,’ Sam tried again, this time with tears pooling in the corners of her eyes. Feeling frustrated, her movements slow, she attempted to sit up.
‘Oh no you don’t,’ Jason easily pushed her back onto the bed, ‘Mark would have my hide if anything else happened to you.’
At least, Sam thought, that hasn’t changed.
‘Not,’ Jason continued, ‘to mention Chief Anderson. He’s going to tie the Commander up in red tape over this for the next year. We’ll be lucky to see him under all the paperwork. I told him not to let you go on this one alone.’
Listening with rapt attention, Sam began to realise the situation might be a lot more complicated than she’s first suspected. Somehow that vortex changed her world, altering it to the torture she now endured. If she could just get her husband’s attention, they’d be able to sort this mess out.
Lifting her hand, a white gloved hand, she missed the flash of gold. He acted as though they’d never met, never mind married. Impossible, Sam’s mind flashed back to that moment in his arms. She knew when a man wanted her. She knew when her husband wanted her. Boy, the evidence had been there for her to feel before he pushed her away.
‘Joe,’ she remembered his name in this universe and made a hasty correction, ‘son.’
‘Yeh,’ he looked over from his position, holding up the wall, arms crossed protectively on his chest. The look of desperation in Princess’s eyes drew him. By the time he reached her, she’d acted like a real girl for the first time in her life and fainted. Bringing his communicator to his mouth, he called, ‘Mark, we have to get the Centre Neptune on the double. Our Swan just passed out.’
Tell me,’ Anderson barked at the four male G-force members standing anxiously before him, ‘exactly what happened.’
They stood before him with down cast expressions, hopping from one foot to the other. Not one of the young men could look him in the eye. The unusual reaction sent a shuddered of apprehension along the security chief’s spine. This can’t be good, he silently considered, if they’re all concerned about Princess’s welfare.
‘I ordered Princes to take her glacti-cycle and draw the mecha parts out into the open,’ Mark explained. ‘She found and made the jump over the wall. It forced the millipede sections to reunite in order to climb the obstacle. In order to destroy it, we needed it reunited.’
‘Yes,’ The Chief prompted.
‘Well,’ the Commander, now in civilian clothing scratched his head confused and embarrassed by the next part of his story, ‘she sort of hung in the air for a few seconds. Princess must have been caught in an up draft because the cycle crashed to the ground and she followed. Her wings had been shredded, making them effectively useless. Tiny managed to get the Phoenix under her. If he hadn’t, I hate to think what would have happened.’
‘Frightening,’ Keyop supplied.
‘I can only assume the incident affected her judgement. When she came aboard,’ Mark looked to the other team members who shrugged their shoulders, leaving him to complete the tale. ‘Princess acted, well, kind of inappropriately towards me.’
‘Inappropriately?’ Anderson answered, expressive eyes asking the questions.
‘She acted like she’d seen her lover after being apart for a month,’ Jason supplied in a dead pan tone. ‘Then she thought we were pulling some kind of joke and became hysterical.’
That, Anderson rubbed his hand over his chin as he considered this information, is not her usual behaviour. Princess has been through much worse, trapped in those flowers for several days and not reacted this way. Something strange is going on here.
‘Princess even called the Phoenix by a different name,’ Tiny butted in, ‘at least I think she did.’
‘Siren,’ Keyop agreed, ‘mentioned Red Devils, Sparta and Jen.’ Shrugging his shoulders he offered, ‘maybe hit her head. Gone koo-ko if you ask me! Knocked her out with tranquiliser,’ he smirked.
‘Jen?’ queried the Chief.
‘Princess considered her the Commander,’ Jason shrugged, ‘weird.’
The com unit chimed, announcing the senior doctor had an urgent message. With their companion currently sequestered in sick bay, the team anxiously waited for news. Allowing them to stay, Anderson answered the call.
‘Chief,’ the doctor sounded and looked confused, ‘I need to discuss Princess’s condition with you, down here. We can’t transmute her out of Birdstyle to do a full medical exam.’
‘Is she still unconscious?’ he asked, wondering why they didn’t use the backup system to affect the change. Only a handful of people knew the ability existed and they didn’t want the secret to fall into Spectra’s hands.
‘Well,’ the doctor hesitated, ‘we had to re-sedate her.’
‘What,’ although the volume of his voice didn’t change the tone did. Anderson’s glare did the rest.
‘I’ve expected the amount of sedation to last longer,’ the doctor explained with a frown. ‘We specifically designed those hypodermics for use with the team in Birdstyle, to cope with the increase neural activity. She’s been fighting it from the time she landed in sick bay. The nurse I assigned reports she’s been trying to say something and becoming increasingly agitated. We had to administer another shot when she sat up, tried to get off the examination couch and demanded to see her husband.’
‘What,’ Anderson roared, looking toward the rest of the team. ‘Did you leave anything out?’ he questioned, a stern look on his face.
‘Well,’ Jason couldn’t stop the sarcastic remark, ‘at least that makes sense.’ When the others demanded an explanation, he smirked. ‘The way she ran into The Commanders arms looking for comfort and called out for Mark in sick bay,’ hesitating, Jason enjoyed Mark’s sudden embarrassment, ‘I say our Swan thinks she’s married to The Commander.’
‘Due to Princess’s unusual behaviour, I did a preliminary scan and,’ the doctor visibly gulped, ‘well, her implants vanished, among other issues.’
‘Vanished,’ Anderson echoed, astounded.
Nodding in agreement, the doctor stated, ‘I won’t be able to make a complete evaluation until I can transmute her. Most of our equipment doesn’t work on the special materials designed to protect the team in working uniform. You should know, there may be other complications arising from this marriage psychosis. I won’t know more until I get a full body scan.’
‘I’ll be down immediately. Stay here,’ Anderson ordered the four young men.
‘Not likely,’ Keyop didn’t wait to follow the security chief.
‘I’m with you,’ Mark felt responsible for Princess’s welfare. He’d given the directive which ended in the current situation. Whatever happened to her automatically became his fault. ‘Let’s go team. I don’t like the sound of this.’
Snickering, Tiny commented, ‘married to Princess, what’s not to like.’
‘That’s enough, Tiny,’ Mark rebuked turning on his heal to follow Keyop.
By the time the team made it to the medical centre they could hear the doctor almost whining. ‘I’ve tried everything to get her out of Birdstyle. Even the back-up’s not working. I think it had to do with her cerabonic implant not functioning. Our calibration equipment is designed to be used with any one of the team in uniform and it’s not detecting an output.’
‘I suggest,’ Anderson’s temper caused his voice to become quieter, ‘you simply slide the helmet off.’
Thirty seconds later, Princess’s nurse accomplished the task. Scanner in hand the doctor confirmed his suspicions. Looking to the security chief, he shrugged his shoulders in amazement.
‘Chief,’ Mark tentatively approached, ‘what if one of us transmutes while touching Princess. We’ve never tried it before, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work.’
‘It’s possible,’ Anderson considered. ‘We need to consider this carefully before acting. I don’t want her away again until we have a plan. What if this isn’t Princess but another woman from an alternative dimension.’
‘You mean,’ Tiny asked, familiar with the concept. The same theory had been used to create the fiery Phoenix. ‘You think that vortex made this Princess change places with our Princess.’
‘The vortex,’ Anderson deliberated, keeping his thoughts internalised for the moment.
‘If,’ Mark swallowed, considering the ramifications of the Chiefs last statement, ‘you’re correct I need to get as much information out of this woman so we can get Princess back.’
‘Agreed, Commander,’ Anderson looked at the leader of G-force. ‘You’re going to have to play along with whatever she tells you.’
Taking in a deep breath, Mark nodded his head in agreement. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, literally, he’d always kept his feeling lock securely away. His affections for Princess had remained just that, unmercifully quashed any time they threatened to turn into more than a passing friendship.
‘The rest of you are with me,’ signalling the medical staff out of the room, Anderson lead the three remaining G-force members back to his office. ‘Let’s see if your plan to transmute Princess works. While you gathering intel, we’ll investigate that vortex you encountered on your last mission. Hopefully we’ll learn something from that.’
Left alone with the sleeping woman on the bed, Mark wondered how she could look so much like his teammate and not be the same person. It seemed inconceivable. Examining her, on close inspection he noticed subtle differences. The colour of her skin, a shade darker than his Princess while the minute scare she obtained from their very first Spectran mission didn’t appear on her cheek.
Quickly returning to Birdstyle before his courage abandoned him, he became The Eagle. Reaching out a hand, Mark placed it on a scrap of her shredded wing. Closing his eyes, he muttered the word to take him back to civilian clothing.
‘Mark,’ Sam opened her eyes, expecting the nightmare she’d experienced to continue.
Sick bay surrounded her, which she’d anticipated. Lying on a couch, she didn’t care. Mark and only Mark stood beside her, his concerned blue eyes staring into her face. Without a second thought, she moved rapidly. Her gymnastic flexibility allowed Sam to spring onto the edge of the bed. Arms streaking around his waist, Sam pulled him none too gently into a tight clinch between her thighs.
One hand in the middle of his back, the other stole to his shaggy mop. How she loved to play with his hair. Right now she curled a fist into it, using the leverage to force his head down. Aggressively, born in no small part to her horrendous dream, she kissed him senseless.
Her tongue demanded entry, receiving it almost immediately. Duelling in an ancient rhythm, Mark returned her caress, but not with the same passion Sam expected. She felt his worry in his stiff body language. Reluctantly, she pulled away knowing something really bad must have occurred to elicited the lack of response.
‘At least,’ Sam gave him a cheeky grin, ‘I feel like I’ve greeted you properly.’
‘Princess,’ Mark offered, increasing the distance between them. He’d been blown away by the passion she managed to pack into a single kiss. It’d hit him like a punch to the solar plexus, well a little lower if the truth be known. ‘I’m concerned about you,’ he offered, his expression openly displaying the worry. ‘You passed out.’
‘Well,’ she seemed happy about the fact, ‘that explains a lot.’
‘It does?’ he asked, openly expressing his continued unease.
‘No wonder I had that ridiculous nightmare,’ Sam patted the bed beside her. Mark seemed reluctant to sit down. She could only attribute it to anxiety over her health. After all they’d been in almost the same position last week. Snuggling up to his side, she placed an arm around his waist and her head on his shoulder. ‘You’re not going to believe this. YOU were the commander of The Siren and Joe your second only you called him Jason. The crew were all male, well except me. Like that’s going to happen with the war going on. Everyone knows once a man reaches maturity, they’re drafted. I’m so glad you managed to get into an Earth based unit.’
‘Tell me about your dream,’ Mark encouraged, placing his arm around her shoulders. While it seemed natural, he didn’t like the feelings it generated in him. Keeping his emotions under control, especially for Princes had never come easily. With the woman in his embrace believing them to be married, he didn’t quite know how to deal with the situation.
I need to keep my focus, Mark silently berated, to listen to what she’s saying and gather as much information for Chief Anderson as I can.
A short burst of laughter escaped. ‘Some funny looking kid with a major speech issue hit me in the leg with a needle filled with something that knocked me out. I can’t get a straight answer out of the doctor,’ she suddenly sounded confused. ‘Where did they get the male staff from anyway? All the men on this planet are off fighting Sparta. For that matter, why are you and Joe here when there’s been an attack?’
Thinking hard, Mark remembered something about The Red Devils and Europe. Bluffing, never his strong point, he offered, ‘incursions over. We’re safe for the moment and I needed to be here.’
‘Oh,’ Sam understood he must have been worried about her. ‘Did you lose anyone from your squadron?’
‘Let’s concentrate on you,’ Mark tried to change the subject.
Quirking an eyebrow, Sam grinned. ‘I’d like that,’ she said, jumping down from the examination table. Hands streaking around his waist, she pushed her body between his thighs. Making contact from shoulder to groin she moved her pelvis to gain the reaction she sought.
‘Princess,’ Mark growled, trying and failing to disengage her. Seeking any subject to avoided the blood currently rushing to his male anatomy, he stammered, ‘I want to talk about why you fainted.’
Rolling her eyes, she stopped her sensuous movement. ‘As if you don’t know,’ she grinned, ‘I had the doctor remove my implant five weeks ago. Maybe we got lucky on the first try.’
‘I’m not sure I follow,’ Mark continued to look confused.
‘You, me,’ Sam almost sang with an expression of exultation on her face. Once again moving her pelvis she finished, ‘and baby makes three.’
All the blood drained from his face and other parts of The Commanders anatomy. Pushing the woman away from him, Mark paced the small room.
‘This,’ he stated forlornly, ‘can’t be happening. Anderson isn’t going to be happy.’
‘We’ve never worried about what other people think,’ Sam glanced at the man pacing before her with uncertainty. ‘We decided together, after that last mission when you lost everyone but Joe from your squadron this is what we wanted. Have you changed your mind, Mark?’
‘Sorry,’ he apologised, looking chastised. Remembering his mission to get information out of the young woman, he’d been side tracked by her assertions. ‘It’s just we might have lost you out there today.’
‘How do you think I feel every time you take The Red Devils up against Sparta,’ Sam challenged. ‘You know it’s not just me. Since Jane started seeing Joe, I think there planning on sneaking off to get married like we did two years ago. That’s the reason the World Council didn’t want a female team. As far as their concerned, we should be good little girls and stay at home breading the next generation of casualties for this dam war. The entire reason My Mother invented this team is to break this cycle of death and destruction that’s been raining down on Earth for the past thirty years. Sparta never expected a female fighting force and so far it’s proved the only thorn in their side. We’re actually wining some of the battles. Even your Red Devils have benefited by the technology and pushed the front line out past Pluto. It’s just that the girls and I aren’t supposed to have a real life. I guess us eloping like we did spoil it for the rest of the team, especially Jen. My mother’s been keeping them under surveillance, that’s the only reason we’ve manage to get this past her.’
Confused, Mark tried to take in the rapid fire information. ‘Princess,’ he muttered, coming to sit beside the young woman. As her speech progressed, she became angry and unsettled. Felling obligated, he wrapped her in his arms attempting to comfort.
‘I guess it’s just that stupid dream,’ she sighed, relaxing against his body.
‘It’s not a dream,’ Mark couldn’t help the truth slipping from his tongue. ‘I’m the Commander of G-Force and it seems you’ve swapped realities with our teammate.’
‘Oh,’ Sam pulled away abruptly. Looking first at her clothing then Marks, she noticed the similar attire. Then she realised he didn’t wear a matching wedding band and the reason behind it. ‘Who on earth chose these disgusting pink striped bell bottoms,’ she looked horrified into cerulean blue eyes that should have been so familiar and yet weren’t. ‘Now I know I’m in an alternative universe. No one in their right mind would ever make me wear something as horrendous as this.’
Were back to Princess from the BotP universe struck in an alternative reality.
‘So,’ the woman in the muted red power suit asked, ‘do the others know about this?’
Thinking back, Princess considered everything that had occurred. ‘Except the doctor, no,’ she stated emphatically, adding silently, I had the foresight not to let anyone know what’s going on.
‘Good,’ the woman turned to the doctor, ‘and it’s to stay that way. Neither of you are to say a word to the rest of the team until we can figure this out. Until then you’re going to have to pretend to be my daughter.’
‘What?’ Princess demanded.
‘From now on you’ll call me Anderson, just like the other girls,’ the security chief turned on the Swan. ‘The only time we acknowledge our blood bond is privately. Sam learnt that lesson very early in her training and you’ll be taking her place. Now I need to find a way to get you back to your own reality. We can explain your change in behaviour by a sudden and unexpected illness.’
‘In case it’s passed your attention,’ Princess managed to sit on the edge of her couch. The dizziness and accompanying nausea assaulted her once again. ‘Your daughter has a husband out there. If he’s anything like The Commander, it won’t take him long to realise I’m not the woman he married.’
Anderson looked the girl over, ‘most women would love to be in your position. He’s quite a catch and he’s stationed on Earth so you get to see Mark every day. I know I frown on the relationship in public, but I think you did very well for yourself. So what’s the problem? Just step into Sam’s life. I can’t tell the difference, so no one else will be able to either.’
‘Excuse me,’ Princess’s face took on a shocked expression, ‘but this Mark is not my husband. In fact my Mark and I have little more than a working relationship. We both keep it that way.’
‘Don’t look at me like that,’ Anderson rebuked. ‘You’ve as much as admitted an attraction from your last sentence and I bet he’s prepressing his interest. Use the opening. Who knows, it might help when you get back to your life. I know my daughter won’t let the opportunity pass her by.’
Speechless, Princess wondered what her commander would make of the situation. Suddenly she could picture them, arms wrapped around one another. This Mark carried her from the Phoenix, sat attentively at her side and openly demonstrated his concern before other people. Her Mark would never do that. Then she experienced her first kiss, not just a peck on the lips but a real, passionate caress from a man who loved her. It sent a shiver of need down Princess’s spine. Ruthlessly she buried the emotions.
Laughing at the obvious expression’s, Anderson ordered, ‘use your down time to catch up on the history of this world and your place in it. We’ll invent a concussion to explain your hazy memory.’
‘Down time?’ once again Princess gazed on the woman with suspicion.
‘Two Spartan attacks so close together, I think they’ll leave us alone for a while,’ Anderson supplied. Her mind considered how to begin investigating the phenomena causing the shift in the time space continuum and reverse it. ‘We can use this second injury to take you off the roster temporarily. The only issue is going to be your husband. We have to stop him from becoming suspicious. I think a mild head injury will work and create a level of concern for your welfare that will preclude sexual relations for a few days at least.’
‘I’ll go and give the young man very specific instructions,’ the doctor stated, hurrying towards the waiting room.
‘If I send him back to the Red Devil’s base,’ Anderson finally looked at the woman resembling her daughter, ‘he’ll probably get himself killed concentrating on you and not the Spartan attack.’
Shocked, Princess listened to the words. It took time for her sluggish brain to comprehend the meaning. When it did, she let out a gasp. She’d never considered a romantic relationship with Mark because he was The Commander of G-force. Inappropriate didn’t begin to describe those kind of feelings toward him. In the deepest recesses of her mind, Princess knew she could fall in love with the determined, resourceful individual if the situation were different.
That’s why, the thought bubbled up from her subconscious, in this world Sam managed to marry Mark. They don’t work on the same team. Professional ethics didn’t stop them forming a tight bond. I’m the one living this life now. I wonder what it would be like to….
No, rational thought took over, he’s someone else’s husband. This Mark may look like The Commander but I bet there are differences. I have to concentrate on getting home. Maybe when the war with Spectra is over, we might be able to have what this Princess and Mark have.
Turning on her heals Anderson suddenly marched out of the room. Before Princess could react to the situation, Mark entered. Making a bee line for her position, he scooped her up into his arms.
‘You’re Mother says we can go back to our quarters,’ he looked down at her with a concerned expression, ‘but I need to be careful with you for a few days. So I guess our usual homecoming will just have to wait.’
Embarrassed, Princess tried to hide her blush. Untutored in love, it didn’t take a genus to figure out his meaning. The pounding in her head increased as they transversed the corridors of Centre Neptune. In the recesses of her mind, she wondered at the strange sensation. The cerabonic implant should be correcting any imbalances in her neuro-hormonal status.
‘Please,’ she almost cried in relief as the door to her room came into view, ‘put me on the bed. I need get rid of this headache.’
Placing her gently on the soft surface, Princess felt the mattress dip under her weight. Solicitously, Mark turned down the bedding, indicating she should move so he could tuck her in. Taking the time to look at her surroundings, she noticed the subtle changes.
Princess lay in a large double bed with a photo of a happy bride and groom on the side table. The room appeared to be lived in. The lamp matched the earthy tones of the walls and soft furnishings. Guessing these girls didn’t have to maintain a cover story, they had to reside within the walls of Centre Neptune.
Her quarters held objects most defiantly not belonging to a woman. One wall covered in flying memorabilia. Princess noticed three of the prints also hung in Mark’s airfield shack. The back of the door held a man’s leather flying jacked. Then she spotted an almost naked Mark carefully folding his red uniform onto the chair beside his side of the bed. Lifting the cover, he prepared to join her.
‘Mark,’ she found it difficult to get more than a squeak out.
‘Cuddle up,’ he suggested, helping her into the warmth of his embrace, ‘it’s the only thing the doctor’s going to allow us for the next few days.’
Feeling like a fraud and yet elated at his closeness, Princess chose to close her lids. She felt the soft, warm breath on her neck turn into gentle butterfly kisses. One hand wondered up her chest to cup a breast while the other rested over her belly, drawing circles. At her back, she began to understand the hard object protruding into the base of her spine.
‘Don’t,’ Mark lifted his mouth to her ear, nibbling on the lobe, ‘shiver like that in my arms, Princess,’ he pleaded. ‘I might forget you’re injured and say to hell with doctors’ orders.’
Swallowing hard, Princess wondered how she’d ever return to her own reality. This one seemed so much nicer. Almost like a dream come true.
The next few chapters, as the story winds up will change between realities. If anyone gets lost (hint, hint) drop me a line and I'll attempt to explain it in the next chapter.
Well, what can I say, a review got me looking at this story once again and the writers juices going. I am happy to report that I have completed it and will be posting chapters weekly until it’s finished. I hope you enjoy.
“Three weeks,” Mark spluttered. He’d entered Anderson’s office to inform him of the untenable situation and what he’d uncovered about Sam. To his credit, Tiny had come up with a possible reason for the translocation of individuals across the time/space continuum. He proposed returning to the scene of the crime to reverse the affect. “You are joking, Chief? You want me to take the Phoenix and my team back into the vortex in three weeks in the smallest hope of getting Princess back?”
“I’m afraid I’m very serious,” Anderson replied in a dry tone. Walking over to a board with various notations, he drew Mark’s attention to several squiggles and explained their significance. “I’ve spoken with meteorology, who have analysed the weather patterns surrounding the vortex you encountered. They found an anomaly that appeared at the exact moment Princess took flight and lasted not more than a few milliseconds. It appears that’s when the dimensional transposition occurred, sucking our Swan into another reality and depositing Sam into ours. Right now, our only option is the hope of encountering the same phenomenon again and reversing the situation.”
“I get that,” Mark stated in an icy tone. “What I don’t get is how similar our worlds are. We are both at war, with a specially trained team to defend the Earth as a last effort at victory against overwhelming odds. But how can the people be an almost mirror image when everything else is so different?”
“That,” Anderson explained, “I can’t quantify with science, although there is a theory about choices and possible outcomes, something like a tree of potential parallel universes all existing at the same moment in time. It is possible that the Swan’s from two of these alternative realities simply swapped places when this anomaly occurred.”
“So this is how we get Princess back,” Mark demanded, his tone savage at the loss of his teammate and friend.
In truth, Sam made him feel emotions he preferred to lock in the recesses of his mind. With the woman around, her green eyes accusing him constantly for not being the man she wanted and needed, The Commander of G-force felt he should have made the effort to let Princess know of his affections. If only they could have spoken about the end of the war, about the possibilities for them at that impossible date then she’d know his inner turmoil; that he’d never stop until they found her and brought their Swan home. Now he might never have the opportunity and it increased the guilt consuming his heart.
“Yes,” Anderson answered in a calm voice, noticing the young commander struggle with his feelings. “It is imperative we return Sam to her own universe and restore balance. The expert’s tell me the same set of conditions will occur in approximately twenty days with the best opportunity to reunite our worlds so the exchange can be made. Until then you will just have to utilise the unique skill set Sam presents.”
“You expect me to put up with that woman for three weeks,” astounded, Mark turned on Anderson to hide his emotions lurking so close the surface. “Might I remind you,” he almost spat, “not only does Sam believe she is married to a man who resembles me, but expecting a child in about seven and a half months. Doctor Grayson confirmed the pregnancy with a test not half an hour ago. I will not take a woman I don’t know or trust into battle, let alone one who’s going to have a baby.”
“If you don’t mind,” Sam grunted with effort as she barged into the secure room, “it appears your Princess and I hold the same set of unique skills.” With a wave of her hand, she demonstrated her work. In her grasp, a small device this world’s counterpart would have used to break into any of Spectra bases. She’d needed it to break out of Medical and find her way here without detection. “I don’t think you can take to the sky without me. Besides, my husband and I had always planned to continue with our defence of Earth, no matter what our personal situation. I can only hope the effort will allow our son or daughter to live in a world free of Sparta’s domination.”
“Commander,” Anderson smirked as he walked to the seat behind his desk, “you have your orders. Please show Princess to her quarters. You, young lady, have a lot to catch up on if you’re going to take Princess’s place until we can return you to your own world. I expect a certain level of professionalism in this team and I hardly need to remind you that your husband is in another reality.”
“Yes, Anderson,” Sam saluted.
Sighing, Mark demonstrated how they did it in G-force. “Come on, I’ll give you a tour. Just let me know which areas of Centre Neptune are familiar to you.”
Snorting, Sam glared at Mark. “Centre Neptune is a decoy. Sparta found it early in the war and destroyed it. Our base is called Coral Crescent.”
“Princess,” Anderson rebuked in a quiet voice.
“It’s Sam,” she returned.
“Not in this universe, young lady. Learn to respond to Princess. By the way,” he waited until he had her complete attention, “I’m addressed as Chief. You are dismissed.”
“Is he always so cranky,” Sam asked, walking beside Mark as the pair exited Anderson’s office.
“No,” he stated shortly.
“Are you always so cranky,” she continued in the same droll tone.
“No,” Mark glared at the woman.
“You know, I like you much better in my reality. My Mark is warm and soft and cuddly. He actually shows the emotion he feels. It’s no wonder you and Princess haven’t gotten together in this world,” Sam threw the last part of the sentence over her shoulder as sprinted down the corridor, determined to find her quarters without help.
Cursing under his breath, Mark let her go. Shaking his head he realised something. Sam’s Mark and he were probably exactly the same in personality, after all they followed a similar career path. Only circumstance and cultural differences lead them in different directions where their personal lives were concerned.
“You,” Mark watched the woman running from his presence, “have the luxury of not working together. Princess is my subordinate and anything I feel for her will just have to wait until this infernal war ends.”
Well, I hope you enjoyed.
Princess woke to a heavy feeling. It took several minutes for her to work out why. One very male, and hairy leg had inserted itself between hers. A similar hued arm draped over her chest, lightly brushing her breast. Last night came back to her in a sudden and blinding moment. Staying completely still, Princess wondered how she could escape this situation. Her heart beating a rapid tattoo, it fought the images her mind evoked at the intimate position.
“Sam,” Mark asked in sleepy tone, his head appearing over her shoulder. He’d noticed her ridged posture and wondered what caused it. In fact, he began to wonder about the woman in his arms. Something felt just a little off since yesterday. At first he put it down to her head injury, but that explaination didn’t add up and it puzzled him well into the night.
“I’m not Sam,” Princess couldn’t lie. She’d never been able too. Finding tears welling in the corners of her eyes, she needed to be strong and reveal the facts. Untangling herself, she sat against the headboard and closed her eyes, making this confession that much easier. “My name is Princess, not because you saw me at the top of a set of stairs at the age of eight in a tiara and pretty dress. I am the last remaining child of Michael, Prince of Luxemburg in the reality I come from.”
“What are you talking about,” Mark stuttered, suddenly afraid for his wife’s mental state.
Then it hit him, the very subtle differences. Even now, green eyes examined him, his reaction as if she didn’t know his thoughts or how he’d react. Sam had been so afraid, no, reluctant to show any affection or respond to him from the moment the Siren landed. From her reactions, Anderson and the doctor knew the truth, but were attempting to disguise the facts.
It all came out. The vortex, the alternative reality. Princess’s hidden feeling for her commander and why she could never have the relationship this Mark shared with Sam. How similar their world were, but how different at the same time. Mark asked questions, his analytical mind trying to separate emotion from fact. Looking at the woman and allowing the words to wash over him, he could see the inconsistencies in the early morning light.
“So you see,” Princess finished sadly, “it can never be in my world and I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not. After the war, when Luxemburg is restored, I’ll have to return and try to rebuild my country, as my father would have wanted.”
“You honestly think,” Mark attempted to follow her logic, “you’re Commander is just waiting for the right time? You’re telling me there won’t be a right time?”
“I,” stopping, Princess analysed every interaction between them for the last ten years, “I don’t know. Mark never reveals how he feels about anything. When he leads the team, he can be like ice, cold and calculating. He can’t afford to show any weakness if he continues to lead us into battle. Zoltar would pick up on any small change, and believe me, Mark couldn’t help blaming himself if something happened to one of his team. Spectra would exploit the vulnerability. So you see, our situation is very different to yours.”
“I don’t think it is,” Mark smiled. Sitting up, he leant over to the side cabinet. Taking a hologram from the draw, he turned it on. A parade of pictures flicked across the air between them. All of them held a happy couple at the centre. “Sam and I have to overcome some horrendous odds to be together. We went against every rule in the book and the customs of our society. Anderson, Sam’s mother, has only come around in the last few months. I had to wait until my wife turned eighteen to take her out on a date, even though we’d known each other ten years.” When a questioning look covered Princess’s face, Mark explained, “any girl has to reach her majority before taking a lover, in case she falls pregnant. It is expected that a woman will bear at least four children to sustain the population. If anyone from the World Council got word one of their special girls intended to marry, I would have been sent to the front and certain death. Sam proposed we elope instead of going out on our very first date. Anderson makes sure I have an Earth posting to keep her team preforming at its best. My Red Devil pilots are selected on their suitability as partners for June, Anne and Sue, not their ability, which is why we lose so many.”
“We come from such different worlds,” Princess muttered, thinking of the waste of life for such an inconsequential reason.
“Yet,” Mark reached out and placed a hand on her chin, “they are very similar. Well, Princess, it looks like we need to find a way to get you back to your own reality, because I really want my wife back. I’m going to kiss you and I promise it will be the last time.”
Princess found her heart beat increased with his nearness. As Mark’s lips touched hers, she felt the change in the caress. No longer filled with the passion of yesterday, it signalled a goodbye. In the instant, Princess knew she’d lost something vitally important to her wellbeing, something she could only recover in her own reality. If she ever managed to get back, she’d make sure any kiss her Mark offered never felt like this. In fact she promised she pack such emotion into the caress, he know exactly how she felt, even if they could never been together.
“I’m afraid,” Mark said, looking deeply into her eyes as he pulled away completely, “you and I are going to have to play our part. The war is at a pivotal point and the general public can’t know what’s happened. The general moral of Terra would take a nose dive.”
“I know,” Princess sighed. She couldn’t look Mark in the eye. All her lost hopes and dreams coalesced in that instant. She couldn’t conceive of any situation where The Commander would let his guard down enough to express his emotions. “What might have been,” she exhaled with regret, walling the regret behind a mountain of concrete in the very depths of her imagination.
“Perhaps,” Mark whispered, “you need to look around, experience what Sam has sacrificed and work out if it is what you want when you get home.”
Princess’s gaze came up to Mark’s. His blue eyes were the same shade, but there were ever so slight differences between the two men. They could have been identical twins with the DNA to match, but in personality, nature had effected many changes. Still she nodded, tearing her eyes away.
“What if,” she suddenly found the thought terrifying, “I never get back and Sam stays in my world?”
“Then somehow,” Mark stated in a reluctant sigh, “you and I are going to have to become much better acquainted. Anderson will never allow this marriage to fall apart. It represents too much to the general population.”
Over the next days, while Mark stayed close, even the other girls noticed the slight changes between them. Sparta remained at bay while the affected cities in Europe attempted to recover. The Red Devils went out every day, stopping to help with the clean-up operation, which limited Princess’s time with her alternative reality husband. Still, in the quiet hours they spent together, she began to understand the similarities and recognised their ability to become friends, maybe more, given the time and opportunity.
“Sam,” Anderson called the Swan into her office a week after she’d landed in this strange new world. “Take a seat. It looks like we have a way home. I only hope the people at your end have analysed the situation and come up with the same plan.”
Princess sat in the office and listened carefully. The thought of jumping into a hurricane force wind with the smallest chance of being in the same location as a possible anomaly, and Sam, terrified her. Yet, if it meant the chance of returning home, Princess knew she would take any risk. While she admired this Mark, she knew herself to be a long way from in love with the man.
“When,” she asked, determination in her gaze.
“Two days,” Anderson looked at the girl with narrow eyes. “I am not going to inform the others of the real reason behind this mission.”
“I understand,” Princess smiled sadly. “I hope your daughter arrives safely. I know her husband cannot wait for their reunion.”
Giving the girl a quizzical look, Anderson’s eyes followed her from the room. “You are not like my Sam at all, and yet the same. How can two young women, who look so much alike, indeed have the same training and skill set be so different? Perhaps I have misjudged you, or maybe it is my daughter I constantly misjudge.”
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