Princess stirred slightly. What had happened? Her eyes were gritty and her limbs felt like bags of wet sand. Slowly she came to and remembered that strange man on the path back to the hotel. She had been grabbed and… where was she now?
She sat up and was surprised to realize that she was in a chair in some sort of conference room. In the chair next to her Jason lay slumped across the table in an unconscious state.
“Jason! Wake up!” she hissed as she poked him in the ribs. His head lolled over to the side and she thought she saw him drooling slightly. Lovely.
“Jason!” she said more loudly, this time right into his ear. She grabbed his arm and twisted lightly.
“Ow!” he said, coming to. “Whadya do that for?”
“I had to get your attention somehow!” she replied, “We need to figure out where we are and how to get out of here!”
“Oh my achin’ head…..” moaned Jason. “It feels like I got walloped with a cement brick.”
“I told you not to drink so much!” Princess said self-righteously. “Now where do you think we are?”
Before Jason could answer a door opened and a woman with long, blonde hair entered the room. Princess sucked in her breath. Lady Mala!
“I see that you are awake. Excellent! You have a very fast response time. You were given enough sedatives to bring down a rhino.” She glared at the Spectran guard who accompanied her. He looked ashamedly at the floor.
“I can see that your bodies are used to producing adrenaline.” she continued, “Very good.”
“Why are we here?” demanded Princess. She felt a cold finger of fear run down her spine. Had Spectra figured out their secret identities? Had she and Jason been targeted as members of G-Force? The Race had been a very public forum… a calculated risk… but one that Chief Anderson had okayed.
“Forgive my manners.” Mala said, “I am Mala. I had intended on merely inviting you here to join me in conversation, but my messenger lacked… finesse.” She glared at the Spectra guard again. He continued to find his boots the most interesting thing in the room.
“Where is here?” Jason asked in a cracked voice. It was obvious that the sedative hadn’t mixed well with the alcohol in his system.
“You are aboard a Spectran transport ship heading home.” Mala replied.
“To Spectra?” Princess exclaimed, nearly jumping out of her seat.
“Yes.” said Mala. “I need your services. I will certainly pay you handsomely.”
“Your money doesn’t interest us.” snapped Jason.
“Of course not.” replied Mala, unruffled. “I’ve seen the way you drive. You’re interested in a challenge.”
Jason looked quizzically at Mala. She went on.
“I know your type.” she said in a slightly condescending tone, “You never take the easy way, but take pride in your work.”
Princess had to give a slight smile. Mala certainly had Jason pegged!
“But why do you need us?” she asked, “You certainly seem to have plenty of… help.” She rolled her eyes towards the Spectran goon who was still carefully inspecting the carpet.
Mala sighed. “We have a special vehicle we would like you two to operate. While we regularly build such vehicles, usually they are of massive proportions… large enough to dwarf a skyscraper.”
Princess shuddered inwardly. She had more than a passing familiarity with Spectran mechas.
“However this vehicle is different…” Mala said, an excited gleam in her eyes.
Jason sat straight up. Mala had obviously piqued his interest. If only she knew why he was so eager to hear about this… project of Spectra’s.
“It is very small… built only for two people: a driver,” Mala looked pointedly at Jason, “and a navigator.” she looked over at Princess. “Our people don’t have the talent, the precision, the care, the… finesse…” Mala glared again at the guard, “to operate such a vehicle. But you do.”
She looked directly at Jason and Princess, trying to determine the impact of her words.
“And suppose we don’t want to work for you?” Jason asked wryly, “We’re not Spectran: you can’t make us do your bidding.”
Mala sighed, “I wish you had been more receptive.” She snapped her fingers and immediately two goons stepped forth from hidden alcoves in the wall and pointed large rifles at Jason and Princess’ heads.
“I guess we’re in.” said Princess grimly.
“Excellent.” replied Mala with a smile. “Now…if I may ask… what exactly is the nature of your relationship?”
“What?” asked Jason, surprised.
“Your relationship.” Mala repeated, as if she were speaking to a small child. “Are you lovers?
Princess nearly choked. “No…” she said, “He’s my… brother.”
“Very good.” Mala responded. “Effectively immediately, you,” she pointed a long finger at Jason, “will be given the rank of sergeant, first class. You,” she pointed at Princess, “will be given the rank of Galaxy Girl, third class.”
“Why won’t I be a soldier too?” Princess asked in spite of herself.
Mala laughed. “Women are too valuable a resource, to be common soldiers.” she replied. “We cannot afford to waste them as battlefield fodder.”
She looked icily at the goons. “Get them in uniform!”
Rifles prodded Jason and Princess to rise. They were escorted from the room.