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Summary: When a seperatist faction arises in the Federation, Keyop and his family are caught in the middle of it. Categories:Battle of the PlanetsCharacters: Chief Anderson, Jason, Keyop, Mark, Mary Sue, Original Character, Other Canon Character, Phoenix/God Phoenix, Princess, Tiny Harper, Zoltar Genre: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Hurt/Comfort, Self-Insertion Story Warnings: Adult Situations, Mild Adult Situations, Mild Language, Mild Sexual References, Mild Violence Timeframe: Sequel Universe: Alternate Universe Challenges: None Series: Gatchamaniacs Chapters: 9 Completed: Yes
Word count: 28628 Read: 8311
Published: 07/12/2010 Updated: 07/13/2010
This is another story in the Gatchamaniacs Universe
I want to thank the writers on the Gatchamanias IF for all their suggestions and encouragement in the writing of this story. Thanks guys. You rock!
Garnet surveyed the chaos and clutter that was all that remained of her twins first birthday. God, I love being a parent she thought, if only it weren't so messy sometimes.
She had taken what she thought would be the easier clean-up job and left dealing with two cake and ice cream-covered toddlers to her husband. She hadn't thought about the cleaning up that would need doing after the kids' bath. It was a given that whenever Keyop was left in charge at bath time, more water was left on the floor than in the tub by the time he and the kids were done.
As quickly as she could, she gathered up all the disposable plates, cups and spoons and threw them in the trash. All the decorations and the leftover food--which there wasn't much of--she put in a large box to take home.
After about 20 minutes work, she looked around the recreation room and was satisfied that she was leaving it in decent shape. If I hurry, I can get home in time to stop another bath time flood or at least solve the mystery of how they manage to get that much water onto the floor.
Quietly she slipped into her family's quarters. Immediately she heard the sound of splashing water mixed with the laughter of her children and her husband.
She quickly put the ice cream away, so it wouldn't melt, and then slipped, as quietly as she could, to the half-open bathroom door.
Both children sat safely in their bath seats, happily kicking water with their feet. As was so often the case with twins, they had a way of working together effortlessly. They had figured out the best way to make the biggest splashes, and had managed to completely soak everything around them, including their dad.
"...Stop, stop," he was pleading. "...Your mom's going to...kill me if she gets home...and you two still look like this." The babies just laughed and kept on kicking.
"Want some help?" Garnet asked, opening the door and stepping inside.
He looked at her through the wet hair that hung down in his eyes. She could tell he didn't want to admit defeat, but he knew that things had got beyond his ability to handle.
"...They're worse than usual," he said.
"That's because they full of sugar and they've been over-excited all day. Look at it this way, when they do settle down, we'll have some wonderful peace and quiet. Believe me, when they crash, they're going to crash hard.
"In the meantime, which one do you want to deal with? I'll take the other one."
Keyop opted to deal with Kyla. Garnet wasn't a bit surprised. Their daughter was definitely a "daddy's girl" and had him completely wrapped around her little finger.
Working together, both parents soon had both babies bathed and dried in only a few minutes. "Now if we can just convince them to take a nap," said Garnet.
Keyop looked hopeful. "...Have some work to do," he said, "...and it's easier without help...from either of these two."
Garnet smiled. "Yeah, they do love getting their hands on a computer keyboard. And with you for their dad, it's only a matter of time before we're having to constantly change passwords and encryption codes to stay ahead of them. I just know they're going to grow up to be techno-geeks."
It actually took less time than either of them thought it would to get both kids to sleep.
As soon as they were safely tucked in, Keyop ran for the computer. "...Have an hour, if...I'm lucky, to get this done."
Before he started in on the research for the project that Anderson had asked him to help with, he checked his e-mail. Most of the messages were nothing that important and he either filed them away, or simply deleted them. There was one message, though, that made him stop and stare blankly at the screen for several minutes.
When he finally spoke, his voice was unsteady. "Garnet,...check your e-mail. ...Please."
She quickly logged onto her computer, and what she found in her in-box left her shocked and upset.
To: Garnet Anderson, Keyop Anderson From: GalSec Genetic Research Re: Kadin and Kyla Anderson
It is requested that the above listed subjects be presented at GalSec Medical on 6/10/2116 at 0700 hours for genetic and implant compatibility testing. Failure to comply with this request will be grounds for disciplinary action.
J. Preston Director, GalSec Genetic Research
Garnet looked over at her husband. "Am I reading this right?" she asked. Her voice had a desperate edge to it. "They're ordering us to subject our kids to tests that are unnecessary and not requested by us or their regular doctor."
Keyop nodded. "...Don't like this," he said. "...Don't think they'd be doing this if...weren't my kids."
"Don't we have some rights here?" she asked. "I mean, they're our children. We should have the final say in what happens to them, especially at this age. I mean, I think they should be old enough to decide whether they want to be implanted. I know I wouldn't have wanted some doctor or scientist deciding something like that without my consent."
Suddenly it dawned on her just what she'd said. "Oops, sorry about that, Love. I was ranting and not thinking."
"...Okay," he answered her, but she could hear the hurt in his voice. "Wish...I'd had some say. ...Would have done it, but wish...they could have waited till...was older."
"What are we going to do?" she asked. "We can't just let them do what they want. We work for GalSec, we're not their slaves. They don't own us, or our children."
Keyop shook his head. "...No, but they...own our implants,...not to mention our home...and most of our possessions."
She looked around her, but she was determined that something needed to be done, or at least said, to let them know that the two of them did not want this to happen. "Isn't there someone we could file a complaint with or someone we can convince that this is just not a good idea?"
"...Could talk to Mark. ...Don't think he'd be happy...about this."
"Let's go!" She grabbed his hand and started dragging him toward the door.
Keyop managed to get her to stop. "...Forgetting something," he said.
"The kids," he answered her. "...Can't just leave them."
Garnet stopped and slapped her forehead. "Damn. Here I am ranting about parental rights and responsibilities and I almost run off and leave my sleeping children unwatched. I'll call Green and see if she's free to come over and sit with them. If they wake up, she's good at keeping them entertained."
Green arrived within a few minutes of getting Garnet's call. "What's so important that you needed to find a spur-of-the-moment babysitter?" she asked.
Garnet showed her the printout of the e-mail that Keyop had just made. She read it through carefully and handed it back. "That's not good," she said. "I take it you two are off to knock some sense into someone's head over this."
"Actually, we're on our way to talk to Mark and see what he can tell us. Personally, I hope he points out our target and lets us put the smack-down on them. I just can't believe someone would do this to us."
"...Come on," said Keyop. "Explain later."
When they got to Mark's office, Maddy was at her desk in full Personal Assistant mode. Garnet was alway impressed with the way Maddy kept everything running smoothly in the main offices of G-Force.
"Well, what brings you two here today of all days. I figured you 'd have your hands full of toddlers on a sugar high."
"Believe it or not, they're actually sleeping. Sugar highs only last so long, you know, and then comes the crash and burn, and thank whatever power controls the universe for that," said Garnet.
"...Is Mark here?" asked Keyop. He understood the girls' need to talk, but he also wanted to get to the bottom of this whole e-mail mess as soon as possible.
"Yeah," answered Maddy. "You actually came at a good time. He's not very busy this afternoon.
At the sound of familiar voices in the main office, Mark opened his door to see what was going on. "Well," he said, looking at the couple before him, "what brings the two of you here? It's not that often you come up here."
"...Talk in private?" asked Keyop, pointing at Mark's inner office.
"Sure," said Mark and showed them in. "This must be serious," he said as he shut the door.
Keyop nodded and handed the e-mail printout to his commanding officer. "...Got this today," he said. "Both...of us. Has us worried."
"I'm beyond worried," added Garnet. "I'm pissed. How dare they order us around like that when it comes to our kids. No one's ever done that to you and Princess." Here she paused as a thought hit her. "Have they?"
"No, they haven't," answered Mark. "No one had better either, or I'll be as angry about it as you are."
"...Because of me," said Keyop. He sat down in one of the chairs in front of Mark's desk and buried his face in his hands. "...Because of what...I am." He was nearly in tears.
"Unfortunately," said Mark, "I have to agree with you." He sat down and laid the paper on the desk in front of him. "There are certain elements within GalSec that have never quite been able to wrap their small little minds around the fact that, just because you were created in a petri dish and grown in an artificial womb, doesn't mean you're any less human than the rest of us. Hell, for all we know, you're more human than Princess, Jason and I are. We know the three of us are only partly human. None of us have ever been told who exactly contributed DNA to your creation. You may very well actually be related to Chief Anderson, or any other high ranking official in the IFFP. However, these people still seem to think that you are some sort of cyborg or robot or something. My guess is that the fact you've actually reproduced has scared them. Gods only know what they may be thinking. I can give a guess at some things that may be going through some minds. They know there were tampered-with embryos in the same group that you were created from. They know some of them are unaccounted-for. I would imagine that someone is thinking that instead of you two using your own reproductive cells, you used a couple of the messed with embryos.
"Hold it." he could see Garnet getting red in the face in anger, and Keyop looking up at him with renewed fire in his eyes. "I didn't say that that was my belief. I'm just playing devil's advocate here. Also, it is known in certain circles within the Federation that one of the original people created in this project turned out to be a sociopath. There have been those that worried at every stage of your growth, Keyop, that you would suddenly turn into an axe-murderer or something. Those same people never wanted to believe the Chief when he told them that you were G-Force's compassion. They couldn't see you as anything other than a soulless soldier. Now here you are having kids. I'm sure they think it's some kind of new experiment to create an army like you."
"That's crazy!" exclaimed Garnet. "If they're thinking something like that, they've got too much time on their hands. They should quit their day job and start writing Science Fiction. They'd make a killing selling their wild tales to publishers. We, on the other hand, don't have time for this crap. We're all too busy trying to be parents, that is when Spectra leaves us any free time to even spend with our kids."
"...This isn't helping," Keyop said. He was still looking bleak. "...Have to stop them...from making us do this. ...How, though?"
"I think this may be a matter where we have to involve the Chief. He is our representative to the Federation and has got the council to see reason before when they've got their delicates in a twist about us. Remember, this isn't the first strange order they've given a G-Force member. And yes, I see this as an order with a thinly veiled threat attached to it. I'm pretty sure he's not going to be happy about this at all."
"...Go talk to him...now," Keyop demanded.
"I'm not sure he's even in today," answered Mark. "Go over and see if Sammie can schedule an appointment for you as soon as he's in. Let her know that it's important."
"Oh, trust me," said Garnet, "she, and anyone else I can tell, is going to know just how important this is. It's us this time, but if they get away with it with us, what's to stop them doing something similar to any other G-Force family?"
True to what Mark had told them, Anderson was not in. When they explained everything to Sammie, she quickly found a free spot in the next day's schedule. "I hope he can get this all cleared up," she told them. "Otherwise, it could be really bad for all of us. I mean, look at the number of couples that could be affected. Without trying, I can name at least six."
Garnet nodded. "Do us a huge favor," she asked her good friend, "tell everyone you can that this is happening. I want everyone to know, just in case things get nasty, and from the tone of that e-mail they could, I want people to know that we are just two parents trying to do what we believe is in the best interests of our children."
"You got it," Samantha answered.
By the time they arrived back at their quarters, both children were wide awake. Green had both of them in the middle of the floor surrounded by blocks and books and one blanket out of someone's crib. She was using one of their picture books to create an engrossing and detailed story. Rather than disturb her, both parents simply sat down and listened.
When she was done, she looked over at them. "...How do you do that?" Keyop asked in wonder. "...Try that, they just fall...asleep or start fussing."
"I've tried too," agreed Garnet, "but I can't do much better. I wonder if part of it has to do with it being someone else. I think they think Mom and Dad are pretty boring."
Green could tell that, though they were being light-hearted, these two were very stressed out. Without anything being said, she simply pitched in where she could.
Four hours later, with both babies soundly sleeping, the adults had another talk. "You know," said Green, "if things start looking bad for you, just let me know. You know my father thinks pretty highly of the two of you. He's said on more than one occasion that he spent way to much extra time working with the two of you on improving your combat skills to ever let something happen to you that he could prevent. If GalSec starts pushing, remember that Black Hawk is around and willing to push right back."
"...Thanks," said Keyop. "We'll keep it...in mind."
It was a long night for both of them. Worrying about what could happen to their family made sleep almost impossible.
The next morning, after finding one of the other girls in the Aviary to watch the children, since Green had a previous commitment, they headed to Chief Anderson's office.
They had to wait for a few minutes while Anderson handled an important phone call, but as soon as he was done, he ushered them into his office.
Meanwhile at GalSec headquarters, there was another meeting going on, and it was about the two people currently sitting in Chief Anderson's office.
"Well, Preston, have you heard from that G-Force brat or his wife. Can't believe a real woman would take up with someone like him, still less marry him. She must either have been desperate or there's something more wrong with her than the reports show."
"No, Sir, I haven't heard a word from them. But I know this much; there's no way that they'll show up for that appointment. They're not just going to walk in and hand over those children to us. We'll have to take drastic steps if we want to get them."
"Preston, please remember that the children are only part of what I want. It is more important that we have that thing that passes himself off as human removed from the picture. They can't be allowed to keep recreating a mistake that was made a quarter century ago and forcing more of these human-seeming creatures on a new generation."
"Sir, am I to understand that you want him eliminated completely?"
"If necessary. His death will not cause me any sorrow, but if he is permanently broken and forced upon the mercy of G-Force, then that would be acceptable."
Preston looked at nothing for a long moment while he contemplated what would be needed to fulfill his boss's request. "Sir," he finally said, "I believe there is a way to bring this about. We will need to find a reason to have his damnable cerebonic implant removed."
"Make it happen. That's why I keep you around."
At Neptune Base, Keyop and Garnet sat nervously facing Chief Anderson.
"What is it that brings the two of you here?" He asked them. "There are people I expect to see in my office and then there are those I expect to almost never see. You two are in the latter group. As a matter of fact, I believe all your visits to me have had to do with rules infractions. I don't think either of you have come here of your own choosing."
"...Need your help," said Keyop, cutting directly to the heart of the matter. He handed Anderson the e-mail printout.
"We got this yesterday," Garnet explained. "It seems almost routine, but there's something not right about it. First, we never made any appointment to have the kids tested for anything. Second, the last time I checked, no one could force us to submit ourselves or our children to any medical tests or experiments without our full understanding, consent and cooperation. Third, there is something in the tone of that e-mail that we both found," here she paused for emphasis, "unsettling."
The Chief looked over the e-mail. He had to agree with Garnet's assessment. Something definitely did not seem right about this. He looked up at them. "Let me do some checking," he said. "I'll let you know as soon as I find out anything. It's not like they're demanding you show up tomorrow. We've got three weeks. Let's use that time to get to the bottom of this and get it resolved."
"...Thanks, Chief," said Keyop.
"Yes," agreed Garnet, "Thank you, Sir."
Over the course of the next several days, Security Chief Anderson got in touch with any and all of his contacts in GalSec and it's attached branches. According to them, this Preston was indeed the director of GalSec's Genetic Research Division, but that division was currently being overhauled to save the organization money, make the department more efficient and prevent any future unauthorized research. It seemed that there had been some questionable practices occurring that the Security Council itself wanted stopped.
However, it had also come to light that there was more than one member of the Security Council that supported the direction the Genetic Research Division was taking. They had radical views about what constituted each of the races and cultures within the IFPP and were determined that each race and culture remain pure and true to it's heritage. These people had, at various times, raised issues about interplanetary marriage, the exchange of mass entertainment between worlds and even the trading of fads and fashions. In short, they were racists, and they hailed from every part of the Federation. Now, how prevalent they were was still not known.
At first, Anderson couldn't figure out why these people had apparently targeted the youngest member of G-Force's Prime Team, then he got to thinking more deeply on it and realized that they saw an opportunity to bring they're agenda to the forefront and to use someone who was well regarded in the Federation as a whole, but who was less likely than some--say the Eagle for example--to fully be able to defend himself against their accusations. After all, Keyop didn't even know his racial heritage. Only a select few knew the truth about the source material that had been used to create him, and they weren't going to give that information up easily. Even Anderson's knowledge in that area was very limited.
Anderson continued to dig into the background of this whole situation right up to the last possible moment, and he called in several favors to try to get to the proper people on the Security Council to get this railroading of two G-Force members, not to mention that they were officially listed as his son and daughter-in-law, stopped. Yes, his title was Security Chief, but his powers were not infinite. He was in charge of Earth's security and the protection of other planets that came under attach from forces outside the Federation, but he had no greater say in how the Federation and its councils conducted its business or its internal affairs.
It was with a heavy heart and a sense of impending dread that he called Keyop and Garnet back to his office on June 14.
"I've done all I can," he told them. "I've checked the backgrounds of everyone I can think of, I've spoken to both those who are in favor of and those who are apposed to what is happening; hell, I've even brought this to the Federation President, but nothing is working. Unfortunately, you two are now at the center of a situation that could change the whole direction of the Federation. Up to now, the IFPP has encouraged free exchange of culture and ideas between its members. Now, however, there are more and more representatives that feel that there has been too much exchange and that their own worlds' cultures are being eroded. They fear that, eventually, the more dominant planets, such as Earth, will swallow them whole and the Federation will be nothing but a bunch of Earth-clone worlds."
"...But what does that...have to do with us?" asked Keyop. He could kind of see the point that the smaller worlds were trying to make, but he couldn't see why they were so fearful and he certainly couldn't understand how he, his wife and his children had anything to do with this.
"They're paranoid," was Anderson's first comment. He then went on to explain, as best as he could, what the connection was between a small group of radicals and one genetic construct. "They view you as an ultimate example of what could be done to them. They know that somewhere within the Federation is the knowledge to create and grow a human--or humanoid--in the lab. They fear that we, meaning the people of Earth, are trying to create a race and perpetuate its growth, through you. They see your children as the next step in this 'grand plan' and want it stopped. There have been some very outlandish things said by many of these people. I won't repeat them to you because we know they are not true and they are very hurtful. I only hope you never hear them.
"Unfortunately, this all means that my hands have, effectively, been tied. I can only use the resources of G-Force to protect you, and against the Federation Council, that is limited. They have their own Security Force that has authorization to go just about anywhere and do just about anything. My advice is, since I know you are not going to comply with their demand, stay on base and surround yourselves with as many birds as possible. Every G-Force member has been apprised of what is going on and requested to give you their support."
Keyop and Garnet both nodded. As they rose to leave, Anderson couldn't help but notice how tightly they each held onto the other's hand. For a fleeting moment, his mind went back three years to words he'd spoken over those two joined hands. "What has been joined let nothing divide." He hoped that the Federation, in its internal strife never forced these two apart.
June 16 came, even though both Garnet and Keyop somehow wished that the calendar would just skip that date. 0700 hours passed and the world continued turning. By 1100 hours they were starting to breath a little easier. Maybe they would be left in peace after all. Maybe Anderson asking questions had let the perpetrators know not to mess with members of G-Force.
It was a few minutes after noon when Federation Security arrived at their door.
Keyop took Garnet's right hand in his left and opened the door with his right. He was nearly knocked down by the force of four guards rushing in.
The leader of the guards held a written warrant in his hand. He proceeded to read it aloud.
"By order of the Intergalactic Federation of Peaceful Planets Security Council, Keyop Anderson is hereby ordered to surrender to Security Council Special Forces on charges of contempt of a direct order issued by a legitimate division of Galactic Security and conduct unbecoming an officer of Galactic Security. You are also ordered to surrender your communicator bracelet.
"Also, by order of the Intergalactic Federation of Peaceful Planets Security Council, Garnet Anderson is hereby ordered to surrender the following children, Kadin Anderson and Kyla Anderson, to representatives of Interplanetary Child Welfare. She is also ordered to surrender her communicator bracelet and vacate the quarters issued to she and her husband on Neptune Base."
The couple just stood there motionless and speechless, still holding hands, for several seconds. Keyop was the first to find the ability to both move and speak. "...Don't think so," he said, bringing his left hand up to trace the arc and begin the transmutation process.
He never got a chance to say the word.
He was forcefully grabbed and thrown to the floor, his left arm pulled behind his back. The guard pulled a set of handcuffs off his belt and locked one half onto Keyop's left wrist. The guard then caught his flailing right hand and cuffed it to the other. He then removed Keyop's bracelet and pocketed it.
As soon as the guard had grabbed Keyop, Garnet hit her communicator and sent a scramble to all birds. Hopefully someone would show up soon and this insanity would end.
The guard hauled Keyop to his feet but continued to keep a tight grip on his left arm. He held out his left hand toward Garnet. "Your bracelet, please."
She shook her head. These bracelets are exclusive property of G-Force. No other branch of GalSec may take them, for any purpose. I request that you return my husband's bracelet to me. I'd also request that you free him and leave, but I know I won't win on that count, so I'll have to settle for one out of three.
The guard knew she had him there. He really couldn't take a G-Force wristband even though his superiors had strongly requested it. Reluctantly, he handed it back to her.
"Now," he said, turning to the other members of his team, "lets get this one to our holding facility in Center City before we have any more problems. He turned to Garnet. "By the way, don't try to hide those kids of yours. When child welfare gets here, they'll tear the place apart till they find them. You two are facing some pretty serious charges." Here he gave Keyop a shake for emphasis.
By the time about half the Aviary arrived, they found Garnet sitting on the couch sobbing and barely coherent. Once they got the story out of her, Mark immediately called Anderson.
"Chief," said Mark, "we need you down at Keyop and Garnet's quarters; and you might want to bring Keyop's adoption papers." There was a pause while the Chief spoke into the phone. "It's a long story. Suffice to say, you may need to exercise some Grandparents' Rights here soon. Oh, and by the way, your youngest son has been arrested; on some pretty flimsy charges too, I might add."
Anderson arrived more quickly than most thought he would. He even had the requested papers with him.
Everyone stayed to support Garnet when the welfare workers came to take the children. They didn't have long to wait.
When the man and woman arrived, Garnet asked them simply, "Why are you doing this. We're good parents. Our children are healthy and happy. The only thing we've ever done is not take them to that appointment this morning. That should have been our right as citizens of Earth and the Federation. The last time I checked parents still had final say in the care of their children."
"Oh, there's much more to it than that," said the woman. She was a stereotypical welfare worker; conservative business suit, styled hair and a syrupy voice that made a people want to suck a lemon to the get the taste out of their mouths. "We're taking these children for their own protection and we're charging you with neglect of a dependent and child endangerment. Once we get the children somewhere where we can have them thoroughly examined, we may be adding abuse of a dependent to those charges."
"What!" said several voices at once. Anderson quickly stepped up and took charge. "My guess," he said, "is that the neglect charge is based on this morning's failure to bring the twins in for that test; but where does child endangerment come into it?"
"It has come to our attention that at least one of the people that this couple has allowed to watch their children is a knife-whelding psychopath."
"That would be me," said Green, stepping forward and holding up a neatly sharpened and polished blade. "I would advise you not to refer to me as a psychopath again, if you value your anatomy all being in its proper place. I love Kadin and Kyla, as well as all the kids of G-Force and would kill to protect them."
The social worker took a step back. "Point made," she said. It did not go past anyone that that statement could be taken two ways.
"Now, surely," said Anderson, trying to maintain the peace and get the discussion back on-topic, "I have some rights here. I am the children's Grandfather after all."
The woman's eyes opened wide for a split second before she regained her composure. "That is not possible. This woman has no living family, and that--person--she's married to never had a family. The way she had said the word person made it sound like she thought calling Keyop one was disgusting to her.
Anderson produced the adoption papers. "Keyop is my son," he said, "and has been since he was two years old."
She went through the papers. They were legitimate and in order. "I must speak with my supervisor," she said.
When she came back, she shook her head. "My supervisor says that in this situation, we need to take these children completely off the base. We cannot risk parental contact."
"What about getting Keyop out of jail?" Mark asked.
"I know nothing about that," the woman answered.
While Garnet sobbed against Princess, the welfare worker and her partner collected the children and a few of their things. "When we are gone," she said, just before leaving, " these quarters will be sealed. They are now evidence. Nothing is to be taken from them."
"What about my personal items?" Garnet asked tearily. "You mean I can't even take the pictures of my husband and children to comfort me?"
"Nothing," the woman repeated and left.
At IFPP Security Council headquarters, Preston was being advised of the situation.
"Good," said Preston into his cellphone. "You know what we want from him, right? We want genetic samples and we want that implant." He paused while the person on the other end of the call spoke. "We've never had one of them to study. If that technology could be made available to all the Federation planets, then there would be no reason for them to be dependent on an Earth-based organization and their Rigan backup for protection." There was another pause. "No. We don't care what shape he's left in. That is irrelevant. What matters is the technology. Besides, wouldn't you take a bit of perverse pleasure in G-Force suffering the loss, or permanent damage, of one of it's Prime members. I know I would. Let justice be served on the vengeful."
Keyop sat in the cell they had placed him in. He had looked around carefully when he'd first been put there. It was a maximum security cell and had special shielding that would have prevented communications had he even had his bracelet. Without access to tools or a computer interface, he was as completely trapped as any non-G-Force prisoner would be.
He had lost track of time but figured he'd been there a good five hours or more before anyone bothered to even come and speak with him. When someone did show up, the man was not at all what Keyop had expected. He was used to loud, tough-talking goon-types. This guy was little and mousy and wouldn't have scared a five-year-old. His voice even reminded Keyop of a mouse.
"So," said the newcomer, "the mighty Swallow of G-Force reduced to sitting in a cell at the mercy of the Federation he claims to serve. How does it feel to be the small, defenseless one for a change?"
"...Always small," was Keyop's comeback. "Never defenseless."
The man just smirked at him. "We'll see if you still have that same attitude when we're finished. In a minute, one of our genetic technicians will be here to obtain some samples from you. You will cooperate or we will use force against you."
"When...I get out of here,...you're going to regret it."
"Save it for someone who cares," said the man as he stepped away from the cell to speak with someone who had just arrived.
Within a few minutes, the technician was shown into the cell. Keyop could tell that there were about eight guards standing at the ready. He had often been described as foolhardy, but he wasn't stupid. There was no way he was going to try to take on eight trained Security Council guards without his weapon or the ability to transmute. He became even more downcast when the tech approached him.
The tech was young and seemed very apprehensive about this whole thing. "You're going to cooperate with me, aren't you?" he asked. Keyop just folded his arms and clamped his mouth shut.
In the end, the guards had to step in so that the tech could get his samples. One scraping of cells from inside his mouth and five vials of blood cost them two black eyes, one broken nose and one set of injured gonads. All eight guards panicked when they saw where the tech was eyeing their prisoner.
"You can forget it," said the least injured of the guards. "If they want one of those samples, they can either come down here and get it themselves or wait till they take him to get that damned implant out of his head. Either way, leave me and my boys out of it."
Mark and Princess had taken charge of Garnet. The poor girl was inconsolable. All she could do was sit and sob and whisper the names of her husband and kids over and over. Finally, John ordered a sedative for her in hopes that sleep would help calm her. They were going to need her clear-headed to face whatever it was these people were up to.
It was late when Anderson's cellphone rang. He looked at the number worriedly. When it registered in his mind who it was, he quickly flipped the phone open and answered.
"Rafael, what has you calling me at this hour?"
"I wanted to let you know that I got a call from the Security Council a while ago. They've ordered me to head over to their prison facility in Center City. They said they have a 'former' G-Force member there and they want me to remove his implant. I had no idea that we had any more rogues running around with our hardware still in their heads. So, I figured I'd call and give a heads-up before I left."
"Thanks," said Anderson, and the shock and strain were obvious in his voice. "Rafael, do me a huge favor. Be as gentle with him as you can and let him know we're doing all we can to get him back."
"Who is it?" Rafael could not hide his curiosity.
"Keyop," Anderson said brokenly.
When the call ended, Anderson dropped the phone on the table and put his head in his hands.
Early in the morning, Mark walked into the Chief's office. "We have some serious problems," he said without preamble. "I have a drugged sister-in-law sleeping on my sofa, I have one of my Prime Team members in jail, I have Jason and Green ready to go tearing off to Center City to break Keyop out of jail and I have a whole flock of birds on edge and ready to fight anything that even looks at them cross-eyed."
"Sit down," said Anderson wearily. "It's about to get worse. Rafael called me late last night. Hell, maybe it was early this morning; I don't know. Anyway. The Security Council has contacted him. They want Keyop's implant removed."
Mark looked stunned though he tried hard to hide it. "Do we know what the consequences of that could be?"
"No, but it could be quite dire. Mark, we could lose him."
Garnet awoke mid-morning and while she was still distressed, she was now feeling determined to do whatever she had to to get her husband and kids back. She looked at Princess over a cup of coffee. "So," she said, "what do we know that we didn't know when John shot me full of sedative?"
Mark had contacted Princess earlier and told her what Anderson had told him, but he had stressed that she was not to tell Garnet about this development yet. "Not a whole lot," Princess answered, hoping her face didn't show more than she was telling. "Tai and a few others are looking into the current political situation within the Federation. It's kind of funny that, for an organization that is charged with protecting the Federation, none of us particularly follow the politics of it. I may have to suggest to Mark that we have a couple of people keep track of the climate in that area from now on. Well, I don't think I phrased that quite right. We have a few people who have their fingers on the general pulse of the Federation, and there's a required command-level course in basic politics, but, mostly, for us, the President may change, but our job still remains the same."
"Forgive me," said Garnet, "but what do politics and my husband's arrest and the taking of our children have in common? Help me out here, Prin. I'm feeling a little lost."
Princess took a sip of her own coffee and thought for a moment before answering. "The Chief seems to think that there is a political reason behind all this. He says there's been some displeasure within some of the less influential worlds that Earth and Riga have too much say in all areas of Federation life. Basically, they're bigoted and close-minded. They want the protection of the Federation without having to actually share and share alike."
"I still don't see what that has to do with us."
"Someone put it into someone else's head that Earth and Riga are using G-Force, and especially the next generation, to create a new 'master race' to control the Federation. They seized on Keyop and yourself because of Keyop's genetic makeup. They have convinced themselves that he is the catalyst for this new race." Princess put down her cup and looked hard at Garnet. "They're insinuating some pretty horrific stuff."
Garnet shook her head and pushed her coffee cup away. Suddenly she felt ill. "Their accusing us of--" She couldn't bring herself to say it.
Princess nodded. "Yeah. I see you know Earth's history."
"Who could forget that. The war to end all wars, and all because one man thought his people were the brightest, strongest, best and that all other people were to be subservient to them, or they were to be destroyed. How can they even think we would be anything like him, especially my Keyop?"
"A lot of what Tai and the others have found points to Anderson being their idea of a modern day--I won't even say the name. Keyop is just his tool, in their eyes. They hope to steel the technology and use it against us. At least that's what we suspect."
"Oh God," Garnet moaned. "It just gets worse and worse."
Mark had his own battle to fight.
"Mi-Chan, I cannot let you do this. I know you want Kadin and Kyla back as much as any of us, but I cannot sanction a raid to free them. We don't even know where they are for sure. They're not implanted so Zark can't trace them. Chances are, they're with a foster family somewhere."
Green stood before Mark's desk with her arms folded. "Then get Amethyst to hack their computers and find out where they are. Then, all you got to do is send Jason, Amaya and I over there and we'll do the rest."
"You, Jason and Amaya? You want me to send the Condor, who everyone suspects of being unstable; Amaya, whom they know was rescued from a Deathcat training facility and you. Green, for heaven's sake, they've already labeled you as a psychopath and you're wanting me to authorize you to prove them right. The answer is no."
Green turned and stomped out of the office. "I'll just have to do this the old-fashioned way," she muttered to herself.
Rafael looked around the operating room in the jail's hospital wing. It was woefully inadequate in his opinion. He looked over at the man who had brought him there. "I really need the facilities at Neptune Base to do this properly. There is none of the monitoring equipment I normally use in an implant surgery. I don't like not being able to know a patient's level of brain activity."
"No," she Preston. "You will use the facilities provided. We will not risk taking him to Neptune where G-Force could stop us."
"So," said Rafael, "you're admitting that this removal is not authorized by Chief Anderson."
"Of course not," snorted Preston. "This is his pet after all we're talking about. There's no way he'd approve the removal of anything from his little super human."
"Very well," said Rafael. "I well accept doing the surgery here, but remember this is my job to perform. You will stay out of it."
"Agreed," said Preston, "but I will be here as an observer. Also, once the implant is removed, you will give it to me."
"What do you want with that?" asked Rafael. He was beginning to have an idea of what this man might be up to, and he wasn't liking what he was hearing. "It's going to be useless. Each implant is specifically attuned to the person it belongs to. Once one is removed, it will not work for any other person. It cannot even be returned to the person from whom it was removed."
In his cell, Keyop heard the approach of several guards. His first thought was to try to make an escape attempt, but he rethought that quickly. He knew there was no way he could overcome the numbers of guards in this facility, and then there would really be no place to run. He stood up and waited for them to arrive.
"You and you, with me," ordered the guard captain. "You," he said, pointing at a third guard, "open the cell."
As they walked in, Keyop saw the syringe in the captain's hand. This can't be good, he thought.
"Hold him still, boys."
Keyop put up a struggle, but it was a brief one. The sedative wasn't strong, but it was fast-acting. He went as limp as a boned fish in the guards' arms.
When he opened his eyes, he found himself lying on a hospital bed. Both his wrists were handcuffed to the side-rails, but there was something that didn't seem to quite fit in this prison scene. There was a familiar face looking down at him.
"Doccer Raffell?" His speech was slurred from the sedative, but he had none of his usual extra sounds and syllables because he was so relaxed.
Rafael nodded. "I imagine you have some idea why I'm here," he said.
"M' implant?" asked Keyop. "Whas wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, Keyop. These people want it removed for some reason."
Keyop's eyes opened a little wider and he came more fully awake. "Why? What will...happen to me?"
"They haven't told me why they want it," the doctor answered him. "As for what removing it will do to you; I'm not sure. There could be a wide range of responses to losing your implant. Implanted people who have had them removed have had only very mild reactions such as headaches blurred vision and dizziness. Someone who has had their implant as long as you has never had one removed, so we don't know what will happen. Unfortunately, there could be serious complications. You were only two when you were implanted and you have completely integrated the implant. I'll be honest. Removing your implant could be fatal."
Keyop tried to blink away the lone tear that slid from his eye. "...Want to see...Garnet and the babies...one more time." He took a shaky breath.
Mark paced his office. "I never thought I'd welcome a Spectran attack," he said aloud to himself. "If they attacked the right world, it could prove to be good P.R. for us. If we helped out one of those displeased worlds maybe they'd see us for what we really are and not the threat some politican paints us as."
"Maddy," he said, going to the office door, "could you get the names of those dissenting Federation planets?"
Maddy nodded and contacted Tai.
Green hit send on the e-mail she had written to her father. She had told him the whole story of the taking of Kadin and Kyla and how Keyop was now in jail and Garnet, while still free, was charged with neglecting her kids. Green knew that any child of G-Force was viewed as a child of the Black Hawk too, and she wanted to enlist the Clan's aid in getting them back. Now, all she could do was wait for a response.
"Princess," Garnet finally said, "I need something constructive to do. If I just sit here, I'm going to dwell on what's happening to my children and my husband and I'm going to get more depressed to the point of not functioning at all. Please, find someone to give me something to do."
Rafael was not a happy man as he began the operation. He had an audience, for one thing, and that never made him happy, and he knew that what was happening here was wrong and possibly the wasting of a life. He was not usually a man to deal in ethics, but the injustice of this was forcing him to.
He looked at Preston. "What if I refuse to do this?" he asked.
Preston didn't answer at first. Suddenly, Rafael was looking down the barrel of a .357 magnum. "Then, we simply retrieve the implant from a corpse," he answered, chambering a round.
"Shit, man, put that thing away! I get the point." What is it with assholes pulling guns while I'm trying to operate? That's the second one in six years, and I'm getting damn sick of it. I'm liable to grab the next one and save everyone a lot of grief by just wasting the idiot myself.
Once the gun was out of sight, Rafael focused on his patient. "Keep a close eye on all his vital signs and let me know the moment you see the slightest change," he told one of the nurses that the jail had assigned to assist him. She nodded curtly.
"All right," said the doctor, "let's get this over with."
The surgery took five times as long as any previous implant removal and Rafael was certain that a lot of damage had been done. He had never seen anyone who had so completely integrated the implant. Obviously, the earlier the procedure was done, the more complete the acceptance of the device was.
Now the only thing that remained to know was whether Keyop would survive and, if so, what permanent harm had been done.
Rafael looked down at the implant lying in a dish on an instrument tray. "I'll take that," said Preston.
"I don't think so," answered Rafael. "This is technology exclusive to G-Force. No other GalSec agency may have it. It is to be returned to Chief Anderson for disposal since it cannot be reused. If the time ever comes that Keyop is able to receive an implant again, it will have to be a totally new one."
Preston made a move to grab the dish. In a flash, Rafael had dumped it on the floor and brought his foot down on it. There was a crunch as the device shattered into tiny pieces. "Oh, so sorry for my clumsiness," said Rafael. He knew Preston could retaliate; after all, the man was armed, but he figured there were limits to his ruthlessness. It was one thing to threaten the life of one who could not fight back and totally another to take on a person capable of self-defense. Preston was a fool and a coward, but he wasn't totally brainless.
Somehow Chief Anderson did not find it all that surprising when he received a short message saying that all charges against Keyop were being, temporarily, dropped. According to the statement, authorities wished to do more research before continuing their prosecution of the case. However, the charges against Garnet still stood. He was hereby requested to bring a medical team to GalSec's Center City facility to retrieve Keyop.
Anderson quickly assembled a team. He chose Mark, Princess, John, Garnet and himself. Though Garnet had been ordered to surrender her bracelet, Anderson had never followed through with it. He felt it was vital that she accompany them. Depending on Keyop's condition, her presence could be invaluable.
When they arrived, they were met by Dr. Rafael. "Brought most of the family, I see," he said without humor.
"How bad?" was Anderson's terse question.
"Not good," answered Rafael. "He's on life support. I'd love to get a decent EEG but their equipment here is woefully lacking. "I'd like to know what level of brain activity he has right now. If I knew that, I could give you a slightly better idea of what to expect. I have to be honest with you, I'm surprised he made it through the surgery. I've never seen an implant so completely integrated before. I can't even imagine a Rigan taking to one so completely. My fear is that he won't be able to live without it."
Garnet was looking decidedly faint at that moment. "Can I see him?" she asked weakly.
Rafael nodded. "Come along. I believe the sooner you all can get him back to Neptune Base, the better off he'll be. They're set up to deal with implant-related problems there: no place else is."
The sight before them broke their hearts. All of the Prime Team had seen each other hurt before, sometimes seriously, but this was even beyond that. Part of what made it worse was knowing that this time there was no implant to help him heal faster and more completely.
Garnet gently took Keyop's left hand. She couldn't bring herself to look anywhere else. She knew that if she looked at his bandage-wrapped head and pale face, she would totally break down. He needed her to be strong right now, so she focused on what she knew she could handle.
"Where's his ring?" she asked. "He never takes it off."
Rafael shook his head. "They took it, or that's my guess."
"I want it back," she said. She wasn't sure why that simple wedding ring was suddenly so important, but it was.
John came up beside her. "You going to be okay helping prep him for transport back to base?" he asked. "The sooner we can get him there, the better."
She nodded. "Let's get ready and go home."
With the six of them working together, they were able to make the transfer from the jail hospital ward to the medical transport as smooth as possible. Once the two I.V's were situated, the portable ventilator working properly and all the monitoring equipment hooked up, they were ready to go.
"Just think," said John, looking at the pinched faces of his companions, "we get to do this all again when we get back to base."
"Yeah," agreed Princess, "but, at least there we'll have the help of the med techs."
Garnet had been very self-controled and efficient during the transfer. They all noticed that she had been very quiet too. Now she sat, once again, holding Keyop's left hand. At least now, she was able to look at his face without wanting to cry. She had even managed at one point to gently caress his forehead. When someone commented on it, she tried to cover her action by saying that she was checking to make sure he wasn't feverish.
"It's all right," John told her. "We all understand. You have a right to touch him, and you don't have to justify it to us. You're his wife, he's hurt, and you're worried about him. Nothing to explain. If you didn't act like you cared, that's when I'd worry."
Three days later saw no change. Each of the Prime Team, as well as many others from the Aviary, had sat vigil by his bedside at one time or another during that time. Garnet had taken the night watch. That was the hardest time. It was quiet and no one was there to break the silence. Often she would find herself drifting nearly to sleep, lulled by the rhythmic sound of the ventilator, which matched her own breathing almost perfectly, and the constant beeps of various monitors that let her know nothing had changed. To fight sleep, she found herself talking. If Keyop had been able to hear her, he would have learned a lot of new things about his wife.
Even though she wasn't sure how much, if anything, he was aware of, she found little things to do in an effort to make him more comfortable. She hoped that, maybe, at some point these things would help him know that she was there and waiting as patiently as possible for him to wake up.
Early on, Dr. Rafael had told her that he was encouraged by the results of the first EEG they had done. It showed that there was more than minimal brain activity and that there was a decent chance that Keyop would have at least a partial recovery from this trauma.
"Right now," the doctor had said, " his brain is trying to develop a new way of dealing with things, like pain for instance, since he no longer has the implant to help suppress it, he is having to create a new way to cope. When his brain and his body have built those new connections, that's when he'll start waking up."
More than one person had asked why Rafael couldn't just put a new implant in to replace the lost one?
He explained that there had already been too much trauma to Keyop's brain to attempt that. "He'd most likely reject a new implant at this time. That's assuming he would even survive the surgery. "Here's an analogy," Rafael said. "Think of your computer. Now, imagine taking out a key component of that computer, while it is in use. What happens? The computer crashes, right? Now, if you put that same component, or one just like it, back, that won't necessarily mean the computer will be able to start back up and run like nothing had happened. This is similar. Yes, we can replace the implant. No, it won't do any good at this point. We will need to wait and see what functions he has when he wakes up and go from there. He will need to be as fully recovered as possible before I am willing to risk doing another operation of that type on him."
For Garnet, the days began to take on a sort of routine. Everything she did now focused on caring for Keyop. The one good thing this did was keep her from dwelling on her kids and where they were and what was happening to them. She thought of them often, especially when she looked at the pictures she and others had put on the wall near Keyop's bed, but she had to focus on what she could do something about not what she couldn't.
Others, however, did not have this problem. Green had taken the matter of getting Kyla and Kadin back as her personal mission. She had exchanged many e-mails and had many conversations with her father about how best to do this.
It had taken several days, but members of the Black Hawk were able to find out where the children were. Then it was a matter of only a day or two to have a Black Hawk member transfered into the child welfare department. That person had learned that the testing Garnet and Keyop had fought against had been done. She had informed Green that she would do all she could to keep Preston and his people from getting a hold of the results.
Once the testing was done, the children were to be placed in a foster home. Of course, Black Hawk had members that were foster parents. With a few judicious computer commands, a Black Hawk family came up as the best choice to take the Anderson twins.
Green was actually smiling and seemed a bit bouncy as she came into Keyop's room in search of Garnet. Garnet had to admit that seeing the Green Hawk like that was a little scary. This was so out of character for the tiny, blonde ninja.
"What's got you looking like the cat that ate the canary?" Garnet asked. "Oh," she said, "guess that probably isn't the best choice of descriptions when we're all birds and we don't know that there's not still some of Mala's Death Cats still out there somewhere. Anyway, what has you so happy this morning?"
"Good news," answered Green. "Kadin and Kyla are safe. Yes, they were tested, but I've got, or more accurately my father has, people that are trying to make sure the results never make it to anyone. Now, however, the children are in foster care."
Garnet looked stricken. She had heard about terrible things happening to kids in the foster care system. "That's not encouraging, Green. The thought of my babies with another family, and one who will never love them like we do, breaks my heart." She looked down at her hand which had instinctively taken one of Keyop's hands as soon as the children were mentioned. "It's like I'm losing everything, Green."
"No, no it's not," Green said, coming over and putting a reassuring hand on Garnet's shoulder. She wasn't the best at this comforting thing, so she decided to be direct. "They're with a Black Hawk family. They're safe. And, now that the Black Hawk are into this process, it should only be a matter of time before you have them back and have your name cleared."
Garnet couldn't help but cry, but these were tears of relief. The first good tears she'd shed in a long time.
While Green had been working her Black Hawk ninja magic, Mark, Chief Anderson and the other commanders had been trying to work some magic of their own.
Once Tai had provided the names of the dissenting planets, Anderson and the others began formulating a plan to, hopefully, try to reassure them and change their minds about how they viewed G-Force and it's members.
While attacks from Spectra were still common occurrences, they were less common than they had been only a few years ago. Spectra was now learning that worming their way into the politics of the Federation often had better results than warfare did.
Anderson's plan involved a multi-pronged approach. He wanted G-Force to show it's human and humanitarian side. Various groups of G-Force members would be sent to the planets where displeasure with the Federation was highest, as well as to others that were in need of assistance and reassurance, to offer aid directly to the populous. While they would not reveal their identities to the people, they would show that under the costume and helmet was a person, a person who could be compassionate to people as well as being a fierce warrior.
The second prong of his approach would be handled in the political arena. He would make himself, and others of his choosing, available to speak to the Federation Council, its committees and sub-committees. He would be as frank and open as possible with them without revealing the technology behind G-Force or the identities of its members.
Last, they would continue to do what they had always done; protect the Federation from Spectra, or any other outside adversary.
While all this was going on, there would be a concerted effort made to find out who the instigators of this campaign of hate against G-Force were and what would prompt them to choose now as their time to strike.
For Garnet the days dragged on. She could see no change in Keyop and was beginning to lose hope. Rafael and Anderson continued to give encouraging reports, but without improvement she could see, it was hard to believe them.
Then, one day, it happened. Her hope and faith were restored, and it was by such a simple thing.
Garnet was sitting just holding Keyop's hand, as she often did when there was nothing else she felt needed doing, when Dr. Rafael walked in.
"And how is everything today," he asked as he checked the monitors and began his daily examination of his patient.
"Just the same as every other day," was Garnet's morose response.
"Something tells me," said Rafael, taking a sharp but harmless item from his pocket, "that you need to get out of here from time to time. You're starting to show some classic signs of depression; and a depressed person is not what we need you to be right now."
"Yeah. Sure. Whatever you say," was Garnet's response as she watched him do the test for a response to painful stimuli that he did every day. Suddenly she gasped as if she was the one he'd poked.
"What is it?" Rafael asked.
"My hand," she exclaimed, "he's squeezing it!"
Before Rafael could even respond, she leaned over and spoke directly to Keyop. "Keye, Hun, if you can hear me, let go of my hand a little. You're squeezing too hard."
The pressure on her hand decreased to a strong grasp. "He heard me!" She was laughing and crying at the same time.
"Now," cautioned Rafael, "don't get your hopes up too high. Yes, he's responding, but fully waking up could be quite some time away. Now, though, it is even more important that you keep doing all those things you've been doing. Make him want to come back to us."
It didn't take long for word to get around that Keyop was finally starting to wake up. There was a steady stream of visitors, even more than there had been when they'd first brought him back to Neptune Base. Suddenly there seemed to be a cheerfulness that had been lacking in G-Force for the last several weeks. Their injured teammate was recovering, the twins were safe and they had a plan to deal with their nay-sayers. Life was getting better once again.
Determined was the word people now used to describe Garnet's attitude as apposed to the despair they had seen before. She went about taking care of her husband with a joy that she hadn't had before.
Now that he was recovering, each day brought about positive improvement. Within a couple of days he had begun responding to commands and he was showing signs of restlessness and discomfort. He was now breathing almost completely on his own and they decided to remove the ventilator when he started biting on the tube.
Garnet had left while they removed the vent. Just the thought of it made her gag. When she came back, she was shocked at what removing the tube and its attendant hose and tape had revealed. Despite their best efforts, Keyop's lips had become dried out to the point that they had cracked and bled. Garnet found some soft lip balm and began to apply it. He fought her at first, trying feebly to push her hand away with his. Once she talked to him, though, he subsided and let her work. "I know it hurts," she told him, "but this will help. I promise."
The next phase of recovery was not a pleasant one. As his level of consciousness increased so did his level of pain. At first Garnet and Dr Rafael could only tell that he was in pain by the way he squeezed his eyes tightly shut. Whenever she saw this, Garnet would ask him to squeeze her hand if his head hurt. He always did. Then they noticed that he was trying to get his hand up to his face, but his range of motion was limited by the various I.V.'s and monitoring devices. As he began to try to open his eyes more, Garnet saw this happening more often.
One morning, after Garnet had gently pushed his hand away for the fourth time, she realized that the bright lights could be the problem. "Does the light hurt your eyes?" she asked. Keyop squeezed her hand very tightly. She let go of his hand and went to the light switch to dim them. When she came back, she asked, "Is that better?" In answer he squeezed her hand again, but not so tightly this time.
Now, each day brought steady improvement. The only things that Rafael, Anderson and the other medical staff seemed worried about was Keyop's seemingly constant headache and his lack of returning speech. He had not made one sound since regaining consciousness. Even when the pain in his head brought him to tears, he wept silently. The amount of medication needed to alleviate his pain was much higher than what was typical of a G-Force member but it was within the acceptable limits for most people, albeit on the higher end of the scale.
It was about this time that Anderson put the humanitarian portion of his plan into action. He had hand-selected a group of G-Force members to go to the planet Ninevah and offer assistance in the aftermath of recent floods that had devastated its most populated continent. He chose Vo and Maddy along with Tiny, Ian and a medic of John's choosing. He would have liked to have sent Garnet, but she, obviously, was unavailable. Anderson had selected Vo and Maddy because, if this displeasure of the planets had to do with the racial makeup of G-Force, the mixing of races or the dominance of Earth and Riga, who better to send than G-Forces most visible interracial couple.
The team of five took the Gold Phoenix and headed out. Their trip was uneventful, and Anderson had assured them that the planetary leaders were expecting them. Needless to say, they were stunned when they dropped to normal space speed and found themselves faced with the planet's meager space military.
"Ian, hail them and find out if there is a problem," ordered Raptor.
Before Ian could do as Vo had asked. They were hailed by the Ninevans. "G-Force ship, this is the naval vessel Quantum. You are requested to depart Ninevan space and return to Earth."
"Put me through," commanded Raptor. Ian nodded and complied.
"This is Raptor in command of the G-Force ship Gold Phoenix. We were told that your planet was expecting us and that we were welcome to come help you in your time of difficulty. Has something changed?"
"Yes," came the answer from the Quantum. "The welcome has been withdrawn. Our government has decided that we do not wish to receive aide from you. We will do nothing that leaves us beholden to Earth, Riga or their hammer of ruthlessness that is G-Force."
At these words, five sets of eye all looked to each other questioningly. All Vo could do was shrug his large shoulders and respond as politely as possible to the insulting comments.
"Very well, Quantum. We will respect your governments wishes and return to Earth. We wish you well in your time of distress and are available should you happen to change your mind. Phoenix out." Ian closed the channel and Tiny set a direct course back to Earth.
Maddy looked at her husband. "What do you suppose that was all about?" she asked.
"I think," he answered, "that we have a bigger problem than just our image to worry about."
"You don't think these worlds are doing this without a little nudge, do you?"
He shook his head. "You can guess whom I suspect is pulling the strings, from a very safe distance, of course."
"The purple coward himself," was Maddy's answer.
Three more times they tried to help needy planets and three more times their offers were rejected upon arrival.
Shortly after these incidents, Anderson was called to a meeting of the Federation Council. He was ordered to bring the dossiers of all current G-Force members, both those on active duty and those currently suspended.
"What do you suppose they want with our files," asked Mark. He had been looking into the political situations on the worlds that had rejected their help, and he didn't like what he was seeing.
"I don't know for sure," was Anderson's answer, "but I suspect they want to know where everyone comes from. What's scary is that they may start telling us only members from certain planets can go on certain missions. If they want to exempt members from Earth on any given mission, we could have some serious problems. Most G-Force members are purely human. There are those like yourself, Princess, Lee and Vo who are Rigan by half or in full. We have Asandeh who isn't human at all, we have a few that could be part Spectran--I've never looked into anyone's genetic makeup, that's not why we ask anyone to join G-Force--and then we have Keyop. If there's anyone whose background I should probably check, it's his. From what I'm getting from my sources within the Council, there's a lot of planets wanting more autonomy and less involvement by the Federation. Some worlds are beginning to show open hostility toward off-worlders.
"Mark, I'm worried that the Federation is breaking down. Whether it's the weight of our own bureaucracy that's sinking us, or some other de-stablizing force that's causing the problem, it has to stop, or the Federation will crumble and all planets will be at risk from Spectra."
Anderson faced the committee and was grilled on how individuals were recruited and chosen for G-Force, why more effort hadn't been made to recruit from places other than Earth or Riga.
He tried to explain that there had been a general call placed to all Federation planets searching for those people who might be interested in joining G-Force several years ago when the program expanded. There had been almost no responses from anywhere but Earth. He also explained that, when a person joined G-Force, they were not asked about their planet of origin or their racial makeup. Those things didn't matter. What mattered was their desire to serve the Federation in a combat role and their compatibility with the cerebonic implants.
They asked for detailed information about the implants. To that he simply answered, "That information is classified and I am not at liberty to discuss it, even with Council members."
One committee member, a rotund man who was the representative from the planet Midea, asked one of the questions Anderson had been dreading. "Sir," he said. "is it true that two of your G-Force members are currently facing criminal charges in relation to the care and upbringing of their children?"
Anderson took a sip of water and tried to buy some time to properly word his answer. "That is partially correct, sir. A member of our Prime Team, that would be the original five G-Force members, was charged with neglect and resisting arrest; but those charges have been dropped do to extenuating circumstances. A member of our Intervention and Rescue Team does still face charges in the case, but we look for those to be dropped eventually as well."
Another committee member spoke up. "Wouldn't it be more accurate to say the charges have been temporarily dropped?"
"Yes, sir, it would be," Anderson was forced to admit.
After the committee meeting, Anderson met with the Federation President.
"Anderson," said the President, "it's good to see you again. I only wish it were under better circumstances. I hear this no mixing among the worlds business has taken quite the toll on G-Force."
"It has definitely complicated things," Anderson agreed. "It's cost me a Prime Team member and grounded one of our I and R team. It's got everyone with off-world connections on edge and has some of our mixed couples constantly looking over their shoulders waiting for the other shoe to drop. Our services have been rejected so many times that it is beginning to demoralize the teams.
"The question that keeps coming up time after time is, 'why'. Some of my people, including most of my commanders think they smell a rat. They're convinced that Zoltar is involved somehow. They believe he's acting as a puppet master in what's going on."
"My gut," said the President, "is telling me the same thing, but the intel is saying just the opposite. Spectra's been abnormally quiet sense the worst of this business started."
Anderson looked intently at the president. "How bad is it, really?"
"It's worse than most know. There are five worlds who have sent notice that they may secede from the Federation. There is a lot of political unrest on each of these worlds.
"Over the last several years movements advocating each race unto itself and its own planet have arisen on several worlds, but these five seemed to have embraced it more fully than the others. These tend to be the smaller, more far-flung worlds we're talking about here. They want, not only to govern their own affairs, which is what we believe should happen, but they want to decide who can and cannot live there and what can and cannot be imported from other worlds. Little policies have snowballed into huge edicts on everything from the evils of Earth fashion to the outlawing of interracial marriages. Consulates and embassies have been swamped with off-worlders seeking asylum. Most wanting to leave have been evacuated, but those who have chosen to stay have faced some pretty difficult times. The things that are happening seem like pages out of Earth's darkest moments in history.
"I've heard of people being accused of being aliens simply because of the way they look, or speak, or even the foods they like. Genetic testing has been banned in many cases because it is viewed as unreliable, and it was originally used here on Earth.
"My advice, Anderson, is keep G-Force close to home if at all possible. They're viewed as examples of Earth and Riga's intent to take over the Galaxy. They're being compared to Zoltar's goons, only with more brainpower and better weapons."
"Thank you, Mr. President," said Anderson. "I've decided that our open hearts and open hands policy hasn't worked to reassure these planets, so I'm dropping all efforts in that area. I will send G-Force out on missions, but the P.R. part of my strategy to solve this problem is on indefinite hold. I'm not subjecting any more team members to ridicule and harassment, nor am I going to risk what has happened to Keyop happen to anyone else.
Zoltar sat back and smiled. The latest messages coming in from the Federation showed that his plan was working. The unrest was growing. Now all he had to do was make sure his people on the disenchanted worlds sold the planetary leaders on the benefits of joining the Spectran Empire.
Garnet's days were very busy now. Keyop had continued his slow but steady recovery and was now at the point where he was doing physical therapy every day to try and regain strength and coordination that he no longer had. Adapting to life without an implant was proving to be a challenge for him. To add to the challenge and the frustration was the fact that he had still not regained the ability to talk. He could still communicate in sign, but not everyone was patient enough with him for that, especially the medical staff that were not as familiar with the members of G-Force and the Rangers who used sign language as their only means of communication. Garnet had read more than one nurse the riot act for not waiting for him to finish a sentence before assuming she knew what he was trying to say.
One afternoon as Keyop and Garnet were sharing lunch, the topic of the twins came up in their conversation. "Have you seen them?" he signed.
"Just once, for a few minutes. The family that is taking care of them are members of the Black Hawk, as you know, and they managed to set up a meeting in a public place that wouldn't look like a meeting at all--you know how they work--and I got to see them but didn't get to hold them or really do much more than say hi. They looked healthy and happy. I was glad to see them but it made me sad too. I wanted to scoop them up and bring them home, but I couldn't. I still haven't heard when, or if, they plan to hear our case. I just know they're dragging their feet because of all this political crap that's going on. And, no, don't get me started on that! If you want to know what's going on in that arena, ask Mark or the Chief when they're here, preferably when I'm not."
Keyop nodded his understanding. "Okay, then, when can I get out of here? I want to go home."
"Well," she answered him, "It would help if we had a home to go to. Our quarters have been sealed as evidence in the alleged neglect case. I don't know why they still have them sealed; it's been weeks."
"I'm not a big fan of conspiracy theories," he told her, " but I sense one here. People haven't been too careful what they say around me. I guess not being able to talk, or do that much else, kind of makes me invisible to some people. Anyway, from what I've heard, the Federation is in a mess. Some planets want to drop out, others want to isolate themselves, and everyone's looking for someone to blame. I've heard that we, meaning G-Force, have taken a lot of blame for everything from not treating all member planets the same to trying to become the founders of some sort of master race. My thinking is that our little case will never be heard till this is all sorted, and that could be years if what I've overheard is half true. We, my love, are among the scapegoats in all this. They want to use us, and our kids, to validate their fears. Not going to happen."
He lay his head back on the pillows and put a hand over his eyes for a minute or two. Eventually he removed his hand from his face, but kept his eyes closed. "Oh God, the headache's back. Please make it go away."
Garnet quickly got one of the nurses who was able to give him something for the pain. The only problem was that the medicine also made him very sleepy.
After he tried three or four times to sign something to her, Garnet told him to just go to sleep and let the medicine work. "I'll be here when you wake, I promise," she told him.
After Keyop was asleep, Garnet pulled a large folder out of a bag she kept with her for moments such as this where she had nothing to do but wait. She had been reading through the contents of this folder since Amethyst had given it to her several days ago. In that folder were copies of the papers Amethyst's mother had written on bio-molecular engineering. This was the public side of what had otherwise been very top-secret research. A few days ago, Ame had given Garnet the folder along with an authorization note and a key that would allow Garnet, and Keyop when he was able, to have access to all her mother's surviving research. Ame didn't know if her mom had been involved in Keyop's creation, or with any other attempts to design human life, but maybe there was something there that could help them prove that they were not part of some grand plan of Anderson, or anyone else, to create a race of super humans.
This was pretty heavy stuff. Garnet feared that most of it was going over her head. She had been good at science in school and had a fondness for biology, especially bio-ethics, but this was so far above and beyond what she knew that it was like a first grader trying to read a college textbook. She sighed as she finished another page. All the information we need could be right here in front of me and I'd never even recognize it she thought.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a nudge to her arm. She looked over at Keyop. He was trying to get her attention. When she really looked, she could see that something was wrong. His face was pasty white and he had his lips pressed tightly shut. She could see the panic in his eyes. "What's the matter?" she asked.
In answer, he pointed to the little kidney-shaped pan on the table beside the bed. Without a word, she grabbed it and handed it to him, and just in time.
Afterward, he lay back and miserably signed, "Hate this."
"I know you do," she answered, gently brushing his hair off his clammy forehead. "Do you want some water?"
He nodded weakly.
She held the glass so that he could sip from it. "Don't swallow the first mouthful," she told him. "Spit it out. Then you can drink the rest."
Taking slow sips, Keyop managed to finish most of the glass. When he was finished, he gently pushed her hand away.
Garnet looked at him closely. "I've had it," she finally said. "This has got to stop. Do you still have a headache?" she asked.
"No," he signed. "That stuff really works, but it has started making me nauseous when I take it. It's also playing hell with my sense of smell. I don't want to eat because everything smells bad and tastes worse."
"This has to stop now," said Garnet. "I'm going to hunt down Rafael and make him do something. You're never going to get better if what they do to solve one problem causes another. I also want to know if they've figured out why you haven't got your speech back yet."
"Go easy on him," Keyop told her, "he's doing the best he can."
"Right," was all she said as she walked out the door.
Rafael looked up from the report he was studying to see Garnet coming toward him. One look told him she was a woman on a mission. This was confirmed when she stopped directly in front of him and glared at him.
He decided to try the casual, easy-going approach. "How can I help you, Mrs. Anderson?"
"Well, for starters, you can tell me why my husband is still having hellacious headaches and why the medication you're giving him for them is making him so nauseated that he doesn't want to eat. Then you can follow that answer up with the answer to why he still isn't able to talk."
"As a matter of fact, I've been giving a great deal of thought to both these issues. I think it's time to do a thorough MRI on him and see just what's going on in that head of his. We can't those kinds of scans on anyone with an implant, but since he no longer has one, we can do one on him.
"I really don't have a good explanation of why he is having the severe headaches. I do, however, have a theory about his inability to speak." Garnet had become very attentive so Rafael continued. "Keyop was implanted right around his second birthday. He had only just acquired a few words by that point. He was very delayed in speech acquisition, probably because he had never been encouraged to learn to talk. So basically all his language development occurred after he had the implant. It is my belief that his ability to talk was tied to that implant. This belief was supported by what I found when I was forced to remove the implant. I have never seen anyone, human or Rigan, so fully integrate the implant. It was so much a part of him that I was frightened at what damage could be done by removing it. I'd say that we are damned lucky that he only has awful headaches and no ability to talk. It could have been much worse. The more I think about it, the more I'm wondering if the headaches are a result of his brain trying to handle input without the implant. Let's face it, hearing, vision, reflexes, just about everything is enhanced by the implant."
"So, you're saying that he's trying to adjust to life without the implant in a way similar to a person who's had parts of their brain damaged?"
"Basically, yes, " was Rafael's answer.
"Then, you're saying he may never get over this. He may have these debilitating headaches for the rest of his life, and he may never talk again."
"It's possible," said Rafael. "What I'm hoping is that he's just adjusting and will recover almost completely. That's part of why I want to do the MRI. If he recovers enough, I want to try putting in a new implant. I believe that once he has a new implant, he'll regain everything he's lost. It will take time, but I think he'll fully accept a new implant. Before we try that though, he needs to be as recovered as possible from the removal of the old one. We're talking a time-consuming process."
Garnet nodded. "At least you have hope, and that helps me have it too. Thank you Doctor Rafael. In the meantime, is there anything we can do about the pain medicine making him sick?"
"We can change it and hope that helps."
"I'll live with that," she said. "Just about anything will be better than what I just saw."
Over the next several weeks there were many events that occurred that affected the lives of all the members of G-Force. Some of these events were negative, but a few were also quite positive.
Rafael had the MRI scan run on Keyop, and the results were mixed but, on the whole, encouraging. According to the findings, he was healing slowly but steadily. The only thing that was a real negative in the report was that Keyop's speech center, which was already damaged, had been further compromised by removing the implant. The only hope that he would ever be able to talk again was if the new implant integrated as completely as his first one had and acted in place of the damaged part of his brain. Even with the news that he was recovering, it would still be several more weeks before a re-implantation could be attempted.
Other news that reached G-Force, through official channels was about the planets threatening to leave the Federation. Five had filed documentation with the Federation Council stating their intent to withdrawal completely from the Federation. All Federation military would be asked to leave. All non-citizens, as well as all naturalized citizens would be expelled. The Council warned these planets that they could not count on protection from the Federation once they resigned their membership. The accepted this stating that they had reached non-aggression agreements with all known hostile worlds, including Spectra. That left everyone at Neptune Base shaking their heads.
Anderson made one last-ditch effort to persuade the governments of these planets not to leave. His comments fell on deaf ears.
Two days after Keyop was released from Medical to continue his recovery at home, he and Garnet, and most of G-Force, sat staring at the large video screen in the main recreation room. They were watching a GNN broadcast of the Federation Council accepting the secession papers of the five disillusioned planets.
"Do they really even have a clue what a huge mistake they're making?" said Jason. He'd phrased it as a question, but it was more of a comment.
"My guess is they'll find it out real soon," said Tiny.
"Like when they find out that their precious non-aggression pact with Spectra isn't worth the paper it's printed on or the data key it's stored on," was Amethyst's contribution to the discussion.
Keyop looked bleakly at Garnet. "Please tell me, I'm not the cause of this. These people aren't doing this because they're afraid of the few people in the Federation like me?"
"No," she said softly. They are just hateful, spiteful people who used you as a way of trying to give their unfounded fears a sense of reality. They had delusions that they wanted to make appear grounded and rational. Hate is always easier when there's a concrete someone to hate and not just an idea or a concept. It could just as easily been all people who like a certain food or a specific type of music. They just seized on something that the masses don't really understand, genetic engineering, and made it sound awful and evil, and then they needed a face for that evilness so, since they didn't know who created you, they chose you. The fact that you had dared to be normal and have a family just made it that much more tempting to them. They did this themselves, and the people allowed it to happen because they've become complacent and just let politicians make decisions whether they are in the best interests of the people or not. That's how governments are sold, and you know who's always in the market.
He nodded. "Spectra," he signed.
She held him close. Even with her explanation, she knew this was hard for him. These were worlds that he, and most of them, had fought for years to protect and now they were throwing that protection back at them.
For the rest of the day, the mood around Neptune Base was dismal. No one smiled. No one seemed to want to do anything, not even talk.
That night, Garnet lay awake late into the night. It wasn't just the strange bed in an unfamiliar room, or the fact that she was still getting used to having her husband lying beside her again, that was keeping her awake. The universe as she had understood it for years had somehow, in a matter of weeks, turned completely upside-down. She and Keyop were facing a life so radically different than the one they'd been living before all this happened that it nearly caused her to panic whenever she thought about it. Their children were gone. Yes they were in a trusted home with loving, caring foster parents who were making an effort to not the twins forget their real parents, but they weren't where they belonged, and this broke her heart anew each time she thought about it. Then there was the whole issue of Keyop and his future. Would he ever be recovered enough to receive a new implant? If he did, would it work the way his old one had? Would he ever be an active member of G-Force again? For that matter, would she. If the court found against her in the matter of the care of her children, then the kids would never get to come home and she would be disgraced and forced to resign. She dared not think on that. That way lay madness.
Beside her, Keyop too was wakeful. He was trying to be as still as possible so that he wouldn't disturb his sleeping wife. Everything felt so strange. They were staying in borrowed quarters since theirs were still sealed by the court. Everything around them was new, borrowed or in some other way unfamiliar. At the point in his life where consistency and familiarity would be the most helpful, he had little of it. Yes, thankfully, he had a loving wife who had stuck with him through all of this and he had friends that were loyal beyond compare, but right now, all he wanted was to lie in bed with his wife in the home they had shared for four years and know that his two precious kids were sleeping in the next room, safe and loved. Things had just seemed to get to big for him to deal with in time he'd been cooped up in Medical. The world he had always known was gone and in it's place was a chaotic place where the rules were fluid and good appeared to be evil and evil, good. Part of him wanted to run, to hide from it all. Part of him wanted to fight it. All of him wanted to recover from the trauma that had been inflicted on him so that he could have the operation and get a new implant and, hopefully, get at least part of his life back. He felt like maybe he could face chaos, if he was whole himself and as long as he had Garnet by his side.
Both of them suddenly turned toward the other. In the dark, they reached for each other and snuggled close. Each holding onto the only stable thing in either of their worlds, they were both finally able to find sleep.
On Spectra, Zoltar stood before the Luminous One. "Is all prepared for the invasion, Zoltar?"
"Yes, Sire. We are ready to move at your command."
"Good. See to it that Earther you have at your command distracts G-Force. They need to be kept unaware of our plans for as long as possible. If all goes according to my plan, by the time they realize what has happened, we will be established firmly on these former Federation worlds. When they come to liberate them, we destroy them."
"Yes, Excellency," answered Zoltar, bowing.
"See that you do not fail this time, Zoltar. I have handed these worlds and, by extension, G-Force to you. Only a fool could lose."
The mecha descended on the planet Ninevah. The planetary Governor stared at it dumbstruck. "They promised non-aggression!" he cried. "What have I done?"
The people of Ninevah were offered a simple choice, become members of the Spectran Empire or be destroyed. No choice at all, really.
The other four planets, who had left the Federation in a misguided attempt to protect their purity led by those whose real purpose was to offer them up to Spectra's war machine, soon fell to Spectra's rule as well.
Gloating, Zoltar sent a message to G-Force and the Federation. His purple-masked face appeared on every computer and video screen throughout the Federation.
"By now, I'm sure you realize what has happened to the planets that left your ineffective federation. They are now safely a part of our empire and will be subject to the rules that govern it. Should you interfere, it will be viewed as an act of war and treated accordingly."
The transmission ended as suddenly as it had begun. All attempts to trace its source failed.
Almost before Zoltar's image had completely faded from the screen, Anderson had all active G-Force members assembled for a massive mission briefing.
"I want all five Phoenix in the air. We are going to confront Spectra on all fronts. Overwhelm them and confuse them. Keep them guessing which of the new strongholds we plan to attach first."
John spoke up. "Sir," he said, "Gold isn't exactly equipped as a warbird. It's a smaller ship than the others and does not have the fire power that the others have."
"I am aware of that. That's why I'm sending Gold to Helena, it's the smallest of the affected planets and, from what we've been able to learn from our inside sources, the one that Spectra seems to be paying the least amount of attention to. We have also removed all equipment that is not necessary for this mission from Gold Phoenix and temporarily replaced it with more weaponry." "So, what's the plan?" asked Jason. He was hoping this would be a quick swoop i n and take out the mecha and get out, but he had the feeling that it wouldn't be that easy.
"All the commanders and I have met. They each have their assignments. Those of you not currently permanently assigned to a team will fill in where they are needed. The commanders also have those assignments and will hand them out as soon as we dismiss.
"Each team will go to their assigned planet, assess the situation and formulate a plan to deal with it. If it requires the use of force and fire power, then you are authorized to use it, but if working with the local population would be a better approach and engender better feelings toward us by the people of each world, that is the approach we would prefer. If there are no further questions you are dismissed to meet within your teams and make final plans."
Mark looked at the image on the monitor. Ninevah was definitely a world under siege. There was a particularly ugly bumble bee mecha hovering in the sky above the planetary capitol.
Mark looked at the image on the monitor. Ninevah was definitely a world under siege. There was a particularly ugly bumble bee mecha hovering in the sky above the planetary capitol.
"Let's blast it," was Jason's suggestion.
"Not yet," said Mark. "That may be what we have to do, but I want to know what's going on on the ground. That thing looks more like it's here to threaten and not like it has openly attached.
"Tiny, find us a place to land. We're going to slip in and see what's what."
Once the Phoenix had landed, everyone but tiny de-transmuted and headed in various directions to reconnoitre.
Mark eventually made his way to the Governor's Palace. There were two green-suited goons standing guard at the door. He quickly incapacitated them. He didn't kill them. He wanted to keep his identity secret unless it became absolutely necessary to reveal who he was.
Carefully, he slipped through the deserted corridors until he found the Governor's Office. He listened quietly at the door.
"We were promised full autonomy and non aggression by Lord Zoltar himself," Mark heard the Governor whiningly plead. "Why are you invading us? We joined the Empire willingly. There's no need for this."
"There is resistance among your people," said an unfamiliar voice. Mark guessed it was probably the mecha captain. "We have been sent here to insure your full cooperation and to begin acquiring the natural resources of this planet, which you signed over the Spectra when you joined the Empire."
"We did no such thing," answered the Governor.
"Yes, you did," stated the Captain. "Didn't they ever teach you to always read the fine print before signing anything? One other thing that was in that fine print; you're to be replaced, by me."
A single shot rang out and Mark burst through the door. In one motion, he drew and released his sonic boomerang. The Captain fell dead at his feet.
Mark rushed to where the Governor lay breathing his last. "I'm sorry," the man gasped. "Please save my people. I failed them. I was a fool." He released his last breath in a sigh.
"Mark to all Phoenix," he called into his communicator. "The Governor of Ninevah is dead. Spectra has sent the mechas to these planets to install new rulers and plunder each planet of its natural resources. It's time for us to do our job. These people may not like us much, but they don't deserve what Spectra will do to them. Even if they never rejoin the Federation, we owe them the right to make that decision for themselves. G-Force, use whatever means you must to destroy the mechas and liberate these worlds.
"Big ten," came four replies.
Once the people of Ninevah saw that G-Force was attaching the invading ground forces, most of them joined in with whatever weapon they could find. Within a day, there were no Spectrans left on the planet.
Jason grinned as he pushed the Big Red Button that finally released the missile that obliterated the mecha circling Ninevah.
Both the Strike Team and the Heavy Assault Team had similar success. The Recon Team was not so lucky. Despite there best efforts, the people Cassadia chose to side with the Spectra and the new government they had installed. The planet was lost. Raptor took the defeat hard. It was not in his nature to lose a battle, and this one hurt that extra bit because he, and his team, knew that the ignorance and prejudice of a generation of people had condemned a whole world to future generations of hopelessness and despair.
Gold Phoenix had an even grimmer time of it. By the time they reached Helena it was too late. The entire planet had been laid waste. There was nothing for them to save. Being the Rescue workers of G-Force made this an even more bitter pill to swallow. Falcon was angry at the senseless destruction and loss of life that he ordered them to obliterate the mecha still hovering over what had been Helena's most populous city. The Gold Phoenix went fiery and crashed straight through the unprepared mecha. The victory was hollow, but he, and all those aboard Gold, hoped it brought peace to the souls of those lost on Helena.
Once the teams returned to Neptune Base, they were each debriefed by Anderson. Then all of G-Force, both those on active duty and those currently inactive, met together to go over the events of the mission.
"On the whole, I'm pleased with the results," said Anderson. "I have spoken to each team and you each know where I found fault with the way you handled things. Kudos to Prime Team for being able to enlist the help of the local population in your efforts. Just so you know, Ninevah has asked to be reinstated into the Federation Unfortunately, Cassadia appears to be firmly locked into the Spectran Empire. They've learned too late that when they left the Federation over such a small thing that could have been resolved with open minds and open dialog, they placed themselves at the mercy of an Empire that cares nothing for rights, race or culture of a single world it rules.
"My heart goes out to the team members who served on the Gold Phoenix for this mission. I do not necessarily approve of the way Falcon chose to resolve the situation, but I understand the thinking behind it. I know that for the members of the I and R team, this was the worst case scenario brought to life.
"Now, what is left is not in our hands. It is up to the Federation Council to clean its own house and route out those who are sowing seeds of dissension within their ranks. For now, we will leave them to it and focus our own efforts on restoring all our birds to full active status again.
"Teams, you are dismissed."
Unfortunately, G-Force was forced to face again and again the horror of seeing the destruction that had been Helena replayed again and again on GNN. The commentators said very little about G-Force actually in their reports. They mainly expressed the horror that the Federation Council was publicly expressing and the reassurance that there would be changes in some of the Federation's policies to prevent scenes like this from happening again.
Within a couple of weeks, the images began to disappear from the broadcasts and were replaced with scenes of Council hearings and embattled and embittered members of the Federation Council, as well as several Galaxy Security and Intergalactic Science Organization department heads, who were being forced to resign in the face of their involvement with the movement that had started this whole debacle in the first place.
One of those forced out was a man named Preston. The same one who had started the rumors about G-Force and their plan to become a master race.
Everyone involved with G-Force breathed a sigh of relief at this news, but none more than Keyop and Garnet.
Even with the good news about Preston, things were still rough for the couple. The weeks continued to drag on for them. They were frustrated by the lack of information they were receiving about the charges that had been brought against Garnet for suggested child neglect. They had heard nothing official since the day the children had been taken. If it hadn't been for the family fostering the kids, they would know nothing about their children. Garnet had seen them several times, but Keyop still had not. This only added to his frustration about things. He knew it was not the wisest thing for them to see him while he was still so different than the playful parent he had been, but it was still hard for him. He missed them, and he just wanted his family back together.
Rafael had set a date to attempt the re-implantation, but it had to be cancelled because Keyop had, unknowingly, come in contact with someone who had a severe cold. Without the implant to help his immunity, he had contracted it and spent the next two weeks recovering from it. There had been no attempt yet to reschedule the procedure.
Garnet and keyop had just returned to their temporary quarters after yet another visit with the physical therapist, when there was a knock on their door.
Garnet opened it to see a man in a GalSec uniform. "This is an official summons for you to appear before Judge J.H. Henderson in Superior Court One for this jurisdiction one week from today at 1000 hours. The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether or not the charges against you will stand or be dropped. Please bring any legal representation you wish to have as well as all pertinent documentation and potential witnesses with you to this hearing." He handed her the thick summons document and turned and left.
"Who was that?" signed Keyop, coming back into the room from the bedroom where he'd gone to try to take a nap. Without the implant, he was tired most of the time, and physical therapy made it even worse.
Garnet smiled and held up the summons documents. "I finally have a court date next Thursday. This may finally be ending. We could have the kids back in a week."
"Yes!" Keyop signed. "Can't wait to be a family again." He gathered her into his arms for a long hug and kiss. Still holding her, he started walking them toward the bedroom.
She smiled when she realized what he was doing. That had been an area of their relationship that had suffered greatly under the stress of their current situation and the difficulties from his injury.
"Do you have a little celebration in mind?" she asked.
He nodded. He didn't want to let her go to say anything more.
The bond of their love was still as strong as ever but the physical expression of it was subtly different these days. There was something different in their love-making that just didn't seem right to Garnet on some level. She'd been trying to figure it out ever since the first time they'd come together in that way since this madness had started. Now, as she lay there cuddled close in her husband's loving embrace, she suddenly realized what it was that had been so off for the last several months; it was the silence. That was the difference. Both of them were not shy in expressing their love to each other and they had always been vocal in their passion, but now that he was forced to be quiet, she had become so too. That was what had seemed odd to her. She wanted it the way it used to be, but she could not say that to him. If he was never able to speak again, he would feel that he'd let her down somehow and was less the lover to her than he had been. She would never do that to him. So much of his sense of self-worth came from how she felt about him that she couldn't risk saying something and having him feel worthless because of it. She would accept things as they were and silently pray that Rafael was able to make things right with the new implant.
The day of the hearing had finally arrived. Garnet did her best to look like a proper parent-type. She chose to wear a simple but nice-looking dress, that was a modest length. She put on just a little makeup, but not so much that she would look over-done.
Keyop had tried to get out of going. It wasn't that he didn't want to be there to support his wife; he didn't want to show any non-G-Force people who would be there that he was still as incapacitated as he was. Garnet was having none of it.
"You're coming," she told him flat out. "I need you there, our kids need you there, and you never know what the judge may want. He may want to ask you questions too."
"That's kind of what I'm afraid of," he replied.
"Dear," she said, "I want everyone to see that these kids have two parents who love them very much and want them to come home. I want the judge to see that we are stable and happy together and that nothing is going to change that. Neither one of us would abandon the other in the face of a serious illness or injury. We have to be the perfect family. Well, we are, but we have to show it to the world." Here she laughed. She knew as well as he did that they were not the perfect family; they probably weren't even the best family on base, but they were good parents and would do the best for their kids that they could. No one could ask for more.
They walked into the courtroom hand in hand and took seats at the table with the lawyer who worked with Anderson on all G-Force legal matters. Several of the other birds had decided to come and show their support and these filed in and took seats directly behind the couple.
Garnet looked across the room. She saw the couple that had been fostering her children for the last six months. She couldn't let on that she knew them since their visits had not been authorized. She gave them a friendly smile but nothing to indicate that she knew who they were.
Keyop sat and fiddled with a pen that was laying on the table. He didn't look around much. He really hoped this would be over soon. This was the longest he'd been away from Neptune Base since he was returned there after his implant had been removed. He had always been shy and somewhat nervous in groups of people he didn't know, and this, while not like a social gathering, required a sense of self-possession that he currently didn't have.
"You Okay?" Garnet softly asked him.
He shook his head and signed, "I'm a nervous wreck. What if they want to ask me questions and find out I can't talk? What will I do?"
"Well, there's a gallery full of birds who can interpret. And if you're worried about what they'll ask you, well so am I. We'll get through this. Look at the support we have. I mean, really, stop staring at the table and look at everyone that's here for us."
He did finally look around and was surprised to see so many people, many of whom he knew only from doing computer tech stuff around the base. "Never knew we had so many friends."
She smiled and nodded. "Yeah, pretty impressive, isn't it?"
At this point the court was called to order. Everyone stood while Judge J.H. Henderson took his seat on the bench.
The bailiff called out the case. "The first case on the docket is case number 331827-5. Interplanetary Child Welfare Services versus Garnet Anderson. Note: her husband, Keyop Anderson has been added as a co-defendant."
Beside her, Garnet felt Keyop flinch when they read his name. She took his hand. "Wonder why we're just now finding this out?"
Their lawyer heard her comment and whispered, "I'm wondering the same thing."
The lawyer stood to ask the question of the court. "You're honor, this addition of my client's husband as a co-defendant was never brought to our attention until this moment. I'm requesting a postponement until we can prepare documentation for his defense."
"No!" was Garnet's whispered exclamation. "We want this done now. We want our children back."
"Request withdrawn," said the lawyer. "My clients wish to proceed."
"Very well," said the Judge. He then turned to the lawyer representing Welfare Services. "Call your first witness."
"We call security office Joshua Milton."
The man approached the front of the room, took the oath and sat in the witness chair.
"Sir," said the lawyer. "Weren't you one of the officers who served notice to the Anderson's that their children would be removed?"
"Yes, Sir, I was."
"What was your observation of the Anderson home and the Andersons themselves."
"Well, um, their home seemed pretty typical of most on base housing. There's was a little nicer, probably because they have a family. Plus, let's face it, we're talking G-Force, and he's Chief Anderson's kid.
"As for them, well, I wouldn't want to get in a one-on-one fight with him, Sir. He may be small, but he's a hell of a fighter."
"So, you're saying he resisted arrest?" asked the lawyer.
"Yeah," answered Milton, "he did. But I have to say, if I'd been in his place and heard something like those charges read against me, I'd probably have flipped out too."
The lawyer frowned. "Strike that last statement. It was opinion."
"Agreed," said the judge.
"What about Mrs. Anderson?" asked the lawyer.
"Oh," said Milton, "She knew her parental rights, that's for sure. She also knew that my superior officer didn't have the right to seize her husband's G-Force bracelet, or hers.
"As for the kids, I never saw them. They must have been napping at the time."
"No further questions, Your Honor."
Now the lawyer for G-Force, a Mr. Tobias James, stood up. "We have no questions at this time."
The prosecution next called Kayoko Tanaka, the children's foster mother, to the stand.
"Mrs. Tanaka," said the lawyer, "you have had the Anderson children in your home for how long?"
"They have been with us for six months."
"In that time have you noticed anything unusual about them?"
"No, not really," she answered.
"Define, 'not really,' if you please."
"They're normal children who are growing fast and gaining new skills every day, which is typical at their age. They're bright, inquisitive children who are also very loving. They both love animals and their favorite game is hide and seek. The only thing that makes them different than other children is their speech. They have a tendency to add odd little sounds to their words. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. It doesn't seem to affect their language acquisition, just their learning of sentence structure. And, before you ask, yes, it happens in either language they are learning. We have not consciously tried to teach them Japanese, since their native language is English, but we have not discouraged them from learning it along side their language. They are both quite good at both languages for their age. They also do one of the sweetest things vocally. When they are very happy, they make this high-pitched sound." Here she tried to imitate it, rather unsuccessfully.
Keyop got a huge grin on his face and turned to Garnet. "They trill!" he signed excitedly. "I used to do that when I was very happy. I still could, but I tended to purr more than trill around you. Guess that's 'cause most of what makes me happy these days is being with you. You know what I mean. I miss being able to express myself that way." His smile faded.
"I miss it too," she whispered to him. "Soon you'll be able to again." She smiled reassuringly at him and gave him a very quick kiss on the cheek.
The judge saw the little exchange and gave them the slightest of smiles. The prosecution lawyer's frown deepened.
He continued his questioning. "When the children came to you, Mrs. Tanaka, did they seem traumatized in any way?"
"A little, Sir. They had been pulled away from the only family they had known, sent to a facility and tested for something--we were never told what--and then given to a family that they had never seen before. Of course they would appear traumatized."
"Did either of the children show signs of abuse of any kind?"
Kayoko shook her head. "Absolutely not. They had bruises from where they'd been stuck with a needle for a blood draw but that was it. They showed no signs of physical or verbal abuse."
"I have no further questions, Your Honor," said the prosecutor. "I also have no other witnesses to call at this time. I had hoped to call Mr. Preston, the man who had ordered the arrest of Mr. Anderson and the removal of the Anderson children, but he seems to have left the planet after he was fired from his position with genetic research."
"Very well," said the judge. "Does the defense wish to question the current witness?"
"Not at this time, Your Honor," said Mr. James. "I would, however, like to call the first of my witnesses, Sir."
Mr. James called several of the members of the Aviary as character witnesses. Several of these the prosecution decided to cross-examine, but, each time, he could get nothing but positive comments about the character and behavior of both Garnet and Keyop.
James eventually called Green to the stand. "You know the family quite well, do you not?" he asked.
"Yes, Sir, I do."
"How close are you to them?"
"I babysit for them a lot. I love kids, and Kadin and Kyla are two of the sweetest I know. They are a lot like their father to be honest. They like to play tricks like hiding at bed time or bath time; or one of them will distract you while the other does something. They are quite a team."
"Have you ever seen either parent mistreat either child?"
"Absolutely not!," Green stated. "Give me a few minutes alone with the scum that accuses them of that and I'll see to it they don't make that kind of accusation ever again."
"So," said James, "you'd say they were typical of most of the G-Force families."
"Yes, Sir. I'd even hazard to say, they are even more loving and protective of their kids than some. After all, they had to go through a lot to have them and they won't have another chance. To lose those babies would kill them I believe."
"Thank you. No further questions."
The other lawyer stood up and approached the witness chair where Green sat. "So," he drawled, "you babysat those kids, huh?"
"Yes, Sir. I watch a lot of the G-Force kids. I love children. Growing up, there were always younger ones to watch. I enjoyed doing it then, and I still do."
"Have you ever shown any of your weapons to the twins?"
"Not shown. I've told them about them. It's a little hard to deny you're carrying a knife when the kid sees the hilt sticking out of your boot."
He leaned on the rail next to where she sat. "Now, come on. We've been told that these are curious children, surely one of them tried to take that knife at some point."
"No, Sir. They never did. All G-Force children are taught from the beginning that their family and friends carry weapons as part of their work and that those weapons are never to be handled or played with. Only once has any G-Force child ever tried handling a G-Weapon, and that ended with the child tangled in a whip, but, fortunately, not shocked by the electrical charge it could deliver. And, before you ask, no, it was not one of the twins. This child is much older and is now training to become a G-Force team member.
"Sir, I guard my weapons well when I'm around anyone, including my teammates. None of them are trained to handle them, so I watch my use of them carefully. No one uses a weapon on any team unless they have been thoroughly checked out on it first.
"And as to the safety of the twins at home; neither Garnet nor Keyop use edged weapons on G-Force. They both use throwing weapons that I know they keep safely away from the kids."
"Right," was all the lawyer would say.
Green stepped down from the witness stand.
Mr. James now looked at Keyop. "I know you don't want to do this, but it is important that both of you speak for yourselves in this matter. To not be willing to speak up for yourselves would not send a good message to the judge. I think he's forming a positive opinion of you both and I want to build on that by having him get to know you each as a person through your own statements. Yes, that blow-hard over there will try to shred what you say, but both of you are strong. You're G-Force, for God's sake, show that wuss that you're better than him and better than the people who brought these stupid charges against you."
Keyop took a deep breath and nodded. Garnet smiled. "Thanks," she said. "I knew I'd have to speak for myself. It really will be easier for me knowing we're both in this together."
The judge cleared his throat. "Mr. James, do have any more witnesses to call, or should I retire to render a verdict?"
"Yes, Your Honor, I have two more witnesses to call. I first must request of the court that we have two interpreters available, please."
"Can't one of the Aviary interpret?" asked Garnet.
James shook his head. "They have to be court-appointed. There also has to be two so that what no one can claim that what was said was deliberately misinterpreted."
It took several minutes, but the bailiff was finally able to find two of the courts' interpreters.
Once court was reconvened, James called Keyop to testify.
Keyop was clearly nervous and uncomfortable with the eyes of every person in the courtroom upon him. He was having a hard time making eye-contact with anyone and kept looking down at his hands, which were clasped tightly together in his lap.
Mr. James addressed him. "State your name for the record," he said.
Keyop hesitantly signed, "Keyop Anderson."
"Would you please tell the court what happened on June 16, 2116?"
Keyop told them everything he could remember about that day. He was completelly honest and told them about his reaction when the security team had shown up at his and Garnet's door. He explained that his actions were driven by a need to protect and defend his family, and under similar circumstances he'd do exactly the same thing. "My wife and kids mean more to me than anything, Sir. I would risk dishonor or death to keep them safe. My biggest regret is not how I acted or reacted on that day; it's that I failed to to keep my family safe and together." He quickly wiped away a tear before it could escape his eye.
"I have no further questions, Your Honor."
Keyop knew the worst was yet to come. He still had to face the prosecution. He knew this man would try to push every button and bring out every negative in a person. He only hoped he could get through it without destroying all the work that had been done by the other witnesses to show that he and Garnet were good people and good parents.
"So, Keyop, may I call you Keyop?" asked the prosecutor. Keyop only nodded. To do otherwise would probably only make himself look like a petulant child.
"Fine," the lawyer continued. "Would you mind telling the court how old you are?"
"Twenty-four," repeated the lawyer. "So, your a relatively young parent. Do you ever find the idea of raising two children overwhelming?"
"I think most parents do, no matter what there age," he answered.
"Has that feeling of being overwhelmed ever made you wish you'd never had children, or has it ever made you angry?"
"No, Sir, absolutely not."
"So, you are saying that that you have never been frustrated with the whole idea of parenthood that you've never over-reacted to something the twins did?. You've never raised your hand in anger against your children or your wife?"
Garnet gasped. She couldn't believe that horrid man was asking her gentle-hearted husband such a mean question.
Keyop's jaw dropped and tears welled up in his eyes. "No!" he desperately signed. "I would never do that. Even if I was frustrated with a situation, hurting them isn't going to change it. It would only make it worse. I love my wife and my kids. I'd leave before I'd hurt any of them."
"You're a member of G-Force, correct?"
"Yes, Sir. Right now I'm on inactive status, but I am still considered a member."
"All right. I have two questions about your membership in G-Force. The first one is, have you ever committed acts of violence in your professional career, and have those acts ever resulted in another person's death?"
Keyop didn't want to think about this. He knew that what he did as a G-Forcer was violent and abhorrent to some people, but it was necessary to keep Earth free. Reluctantly, he answered. "Yes, Sir, I have done things that I wish I hadn't had to do. None of us enjoy taking lives or blowing things up; it's something that sometimes has to be done to keep this planet safe. No good soldier enjoys war."
"Next question. Would you please tell the court why you are currently an inactive member of G-Force."
"All members of G-Force have an implant in our brains that enhance many of our skills, especially our physical strength and stamina. Six months ago, when I was arrested, I was taken to a facility and my implant was removed without my permission or that of any of my superiors. I was, and still am, the youngest person to ever receive an implant. I was two when I got it. I had not learned to talk at that point because of a defect in my brain that had gone undetected because the scientists who had raised me to that point had never bothered to try to teach me to talk. Without knowing I was doing it, I used the implant to help myself acquire language skills. I still had an odd speech defect, that my children apparently share with me, and it became almost overwhelming when I was under stress or nervous, but I had learned to live with it. When the implant was removed, it was discovered that it had totally integrated with the speech center of my brain. Without it, I lost all ability to vocalize. I cannot make a sound.
"They did this to me!" He no longer tried to hold back the tears. "Unless the new implant they plan to try to give me is able to integrate as well as my last one, my wife will never be able to hear me tell her I love her and my kids will never hear me laugh at their antics and silly games again. They will never know the dad I was before because they are too young to remember." Keyop covered his face with his hands. He was sobbing, but in silence.
"Now, now," said the prosecuting attorney. "I had no intention of upsetting you."
That was the last straw. Keyop looked the man in the eye and the anger and revulsion he felt toward this man was obvious. "Do you believe that because I am mute, I am also stupid! I know exactly what you are trying to do, and I refuse to play your game any more. I am exercising my right to not answer any further questions."
"No further questions, Your Honor." With that the lawyer withdrew. Keyop got up and ran from the courtroom. Garnet looked over her shoulder and saw Mark rising. "I'll go after him," he mouthed as he too headed for the door.
Garnet was beside herself with anger toward the prosecutor and grief for her husband. There was no way her attorney could put her on the stand like this.
"Your Honor, the defense requests a thirty minute recess to locate and calm my clients, please."
"Recess granted," said the judge. "This court will reconvene in one hour."
"I'm gonna go get lunch," said the prosecutor. All the G-Force members in the gallery glared at him as if he were a Spectran goon.
Mark found Keyop on the courthouse steps. He had almost stopped crying, but he looked dreadful.
"Wanna talk about," Mark asked, settling on the steps beside him.
Keyop shook his head. Mark knew his youngest teammate wouldn't be able to keep everything bottled up for long. He was too open and honest and passionate for that. It took less than a minute for Keyop to decide to open up to his Commander.
"Didn't make a great impression, huh?" he signed. "Rat-bastard attorney's probably laughing his ass off right about now. He probably thinks his case is made. He just proved one defendant unstable. Now, all he has to do is royally piss off my wife and he'll be able to say that, yep, G-Force is made up of unstable and irresponsible brats who are used to getting their way and overreact when they don't."
"I don't think that's going to happen." said Mark. "I think that, if you walk back into that courtroom with your head held high, your tears dried and that sense of calmness we all get in full battle-mode firmly in place. He'll see just how badly he underestimated you, Garnet and the whole team. I think the judge wants to find in your favor--he seems to like the two of you--and calmly facing your opponent could be that last little bit that's needed to sway him completely to our side. Besides, you want to support Garnet, don't you. She sat there through your whole ordeal, you owe it to her to be there during hers."
"You're right. I'll do what you suggest."
"Good," answered Mark.
About that time, they were surrounded by the rest of G-Force that was in attendance. "Lunch," said Tiny. "One hour recess to calm everyone down," added Lee. "Yeah," said Amaya, joining the rest of the group, "much more of that guy and I was going to go into damage control mode; meaning, I'd damage him if one of you didn't control me." Green gave her a small smack. "You'd make a half-decent ninja, girl, if you weren't such a hot-head."
With the tension somewhat relieved, they headed out in mass to find something quick to eat.
After lunch, they all headed back to the courthouse in much better moods than they had left it. They had even got Garnet to laugh during lunch, so they were feeling much more confident than they had.
Once the judge was back in place, the proceedings resumed.
"I call Garnet Anderson to the stand," said Mr. James.
"Mrs Anderson, please tell the court the circumstances surrounding the birth of your children."
"Do you mean everything we went through to have children?" she asked.
"Yes," James replied. "Tell us the whole story."
She proceeded to tell everyone there of the year of trying, the finding out that, even with in vitro, they'd probably never have children, of the joy of learning they'd beat the odds, of the months in Medical trying to maintain the pregnancy and finally of the twins early birth."
"Thank you," said the their lawyer. "Once the twins were here and you knew they were going to survive, did you have any moments of doubt that you could parent two infants at once?"
"I think, every parent has moments of doubt, even with one baby. You want to do the best job you can. I don't think I had any abnormal doubts, if that's what you mean. I wondered if I would be able to feed them, and change them and deal with all the little things you have to deal with babies, either at the same time for both, or fast enough that one didn't feel slighted. I've talked to other mothers of multiples and it's a common fear. And, thankfully, usually I had a second set of willing hands to help with most things. Keye was very involved with them from the beginning."
"I have to ask this, mainly so my counterpart doesn't feel compelled to, have you ever hit your children?"
"No! we correct and discipline them, but not by hitting. I can't believe that anyone would hit a child this young if they really cared. You redirect kids at this age."
"I have no further questions," said James.
The prosecuting lawyer sidled up to the witness stand. "So," he said in a mock-casual way, " let me see if I get this straight; you insisted, when you had in vitro done, that they use your husband's potentially defective sperm. Now, why would an intelligent woman, like yourself, do something as risky and possibly unethical as that?"
"We weren't thinking in logical terms, Sir," she began, but he kept talking.
"You could have had a known donor with a record of healthy offspring, but you chose not to."
"Like I tried to say, we just wanted these to be our kids. Keyop never had..." She was stopped in mid-sentence as he rambled on.
"Now, really, wasn't it because you were ordered to bear children that carried your husband's DNA, by Chief Anderson himself? To be honest, is there even any of your DNA in those children?" Aren't these the first in a new generation of artificially created life? All the wonderful stories of love and devotion I've heard today ring hollow in my ears. It is the belief of Interplanetary Child Welfare that this is all a ruse to make us look away as Anderson, Rafael and others use that constructed male to create a new race. Any of these females here could have been the first on chosen, it just happened to be you."
"That's not true!" Garnet burst out. "Keyop and I fell in love six years ago."
He tried to interrupt her again, but she was ready. "You, Sir, will shut up and listen while I refute your words."
"Your Honor," he whined.
"Mrs. Anderson," said the judge, "you will watch your tone of voice or I will hold you in contempt of court. And you, sir, will not antagonize the witness. Please answer the questions, or as many of them as you remember, Mrs. Anderson."
"Keyop and I fell in love six years ago. We were young and it was his first real love. We had our good moments and our bad, as any couple does, but we eventually worked through things. Everyone on base was protective of us. I didn't learn it till much later, but, apparently, whenever a new bird joined the Aviary, they were warned not to mess with us. This was not some order from on high. It was an attempt not have anyone play head games with Keyop. He needed to learn what this whole relationship thing was about without being caught in the middle of a cat fight--or in this case, bird fight--and he needed to figure out what he wanted from a girl, whether it was me or someone else. I guess he was pretty happy with what he had because he asked me to marry him. There were no orders. There are no other children running around Neptune Base with any of his DNA. Do his genes show dominance in our kids? I'd say yes. Do any of mine show up? I certainly hope so. We didn't want the kids tested, not because we wanted to hide some deep, dark secret: we didn't want them tested because we wanted to be like every other parent we know and be able to say things like, 'he's got your eyes' or 'I think she gets that from you'. That's all. If there was a serious problem with their health, we'd have them tested in a heartbeat if we thought it would help.
"So, unless you have evidence that both my children are complete copies of their father, you'd better keep your mouth shut and get out of law. If such evidence exists, which I know it doesn't, you were legally obligated to disclose that to our attorney long before this trial started. Believe me, I've had plenty of time over the last several months to do a lot of research into genetics, bioengineering and the law. If nothing else, I'm a more knowledgeable member of G-Force than I was. I know what I'm talking about, so don't think your little ploy to overwhelm me going to work. You really must be dense, Sir, if you haven't figured out that I have a bird of prey as my call sign for a reason. I'm quiet and a caregiver by nature, but piss me off and I will use my talons."
"No further questions," he said and sulked back to his seat.
This court is in recess for fifteen minutes," said the Judge.
There were hugs, high-fives, kisses and applause among the Aviary. They knew, without even hearing the verdict, that they had won.
When the judge returned 15 minutes later, he was smiling. "It is the ruling of this court that all charges against both Garnet and Keyop Anderson be dropped and that their children, Kyla and Kadin Anderson be returned to them as quickly as is reasonably possible." He rapped his gavel once. "Court Adjourned."
Now the party started in earnest. There were hugs all around and plans being made to celebrate. In the chaos, Garnet grabbed Keyop's hand and pulled him with her away from the crowd of their friends. "Come on," she said. "There's some people you need to meet."
He followed her to where the people who had been the twins' foster parents sat watching the spontaneous celebration. He could see that, while they seemed happy about the outcome, they were sad that they would be losing the children.
Garnet introduced them. "Mr. and Mrs. Tanaka," she said, "I want you to finally meet my husband. Keyop, this is Mitsuo and Kayoko Tanaka."
Keyop looked at his wife critically. "Haven't you paid attention to what Green has taught us?" he asked. "Family name first, given name second."
"Yes, Dear, I know. They gave me permission to use the Western form of address."
"Oh, so that was the problem," said Mitsuo. "I wondered what was being said. Sadly, while my wife and I are bilingual, we do not know any sign language, other than the secret signs of the Black Hawk."
Keyop signed and Garnet interpreted. "So, you are Black Hawk," he said. "That is reassuring. I was worried about what kind of family they had given our children to. I know Garnet had said she had met with you and seen the children more than once, but I still worried. I am relieved to know that they were not only loved, but well protected too."
"No one has come near them without first being approved by the Black Hawk," answered Mitsuo.
"Now, though, it is time to return them to their rightful family, but, know this, they are and always will be part of ours. All G-Force are a part of the Black Hawk and so are their children. We are especially fond of these two, and they show much promise. While we have not made a conscious effort to train them in the ninja way, they have been careful observers. They have seen training sessions and have tried to copy simple moves. They are quiet and clever. We would like to offer, and encourage you to accept, assistance from the clan in finding appropriate education for these two. They are old enough, if you approve, to begin basic martial arts, and in a few years, they will be ready for formal education. We have access to more than one school that could potentially meet their needs."
Garnet and Keyop looked long at each other. While the thought of having their children go to school that was far from home was hard to handle right now, they knew that this could be an excellent opportunity for the twins. "We will seriously consider your generous offer," Keyop finally answered, and Garnet nodded her agreement.
"Now, we must return Ka-kun and Ky-chan to you," said Kaoko. "I will miss them. They are wonderful children.
"We don't want to pull you away from any celebration your friends might be planning, but maybe we could meet at our home tomorrow. We could have dinner and then you could take them back with you then."
"Part of me hates to wait another day," said Garnet, "but maybe that would be a good idea. They're used to your home, and it would be a lot calmer for them for us to come there. As much as I want my babies back, I don't want them traumatized as much by their homecoming as they were by their removal."
"You really are good parents," was Kaoko's response.
Mitsuo wrote down their address and handed it to Keyop. "Until tomorrow." With that the couples bowed politely to each other and went their separate ways.
Late the next evening, Garnet looked around the quarters she shared with her family. Things looked a lot more like they should when a family had two active 18-month-olds. There were toys on the floor, a sippy-cup on the coffee table and dinner dishes in the sink that still needed to be dealt with. She sighed, but it was a content sigh.
It had not been easy settling the twins for the night. They were still excited about this place they barely remembered and all the people they had forgotten. They had been fine till bedtime. Then they had cried and asked for Kako-san and Mitsu-san. At first, Garnet had been hurt, but then she realized that for the last third of their lives, her darling children had been put to bed by these other people. She had to be strong and keep gently reminding them that mommy and daddy were here now and they would see Kako and Mitsu soon, but not for a while. Eventually the twins gave up and fell into an exhausted sleep.
Garnet had been sad when Kadin and Kyla had asked for their foster parents but Keyop had been devastated.
Once the children were asleep, she found him in bed with his face buried in a pillow. She could tell he was crying. "What's wrong?" she asked.
At first, he wouldn't answer, but finally, he raised his head and looked at her. "We've lost our kids," he told her. "Yes, we have them back, but they aren't ours anymore. They don't know us. They don't want us around. We're strangers to them."
"That will change," Garnet tried to reassure him. "In a few weeks they'll start to know again that we're their parents. Keye, you have to promise me that you won't let the way you're feeling keep you from trying to bond with them again. They adored you before and they will again, but you have to make an effort. Be there for them. Be the loving, playful daddy they had. They'll remember."
"It's hard," he admitted. "I'm not the same person I was six months ago, and I may never be again. I can't be a person I'm not any more. I still love them dearly. I still want to hold them and play with them and make them laugh, but I'm not the same person they loved, and I'm afraid they're not going to love this different person I am now."
"You still love them, and as long as you show them that, they'll love you no matter whether your like you were before this all happened or whether you're like you are now. Even if something happens--God forbid--during the re-implantation surgery and you're different after it than you ever have been, as long as you let them know you love them they'll love you."
He looked up at her. "I know you're right. I just have to convince myself." He looked past her for a moment, through the bedroom door. "Leave the mess till tomorrow, okay, and come to bed. I'm tired, but I don't want to be here by myself."
She didn't even bother going and turning out the lights. She just smiled sweetly, got undressed and got into bed.
Over the next several weeks, the twins began to settle back in with their parents. In many ways life was returning to what it had been before they had been taken.
There were some things that the kids would do that would leave their parents wondering. One of these things was what they would say at mealtimes. They would always say the same thing, and it had their parents baffled.
One day, Garnet stopped Green to ask her what it was about. "I know the kids picked up a lot of words and customs during their time with the Tanakas, but could you help us with some of them?"
"Sure," answered Green. "What ones in particular have you curious?"
"Well, we could use a lot of help with several things, but most would probably be easiest to explain if you spent some time with us. So why don't you come over and spend the day this Saturday, assuming none of us get called out that is."
"That works for me," said Green. "I love spending time with the kids, and helping you two understand and respect even more what they've learned always makes me happy."
"Thanks. There is this one thing though that has us totally confused. Why do they keep saying 'it's a duck and a mouse' every time we share a family meal?"
Green started to laugh. "Oh that's great. I really do love those two. What they're saying is 'itadakimasu'. It's something that's said before meals."
"Oh," said Garnet, giggling. "I won't worry so much now. I was starting to wonder what a duck and mouse have to do with dinner."
The weeks seemed to fly by. After the winter holidays, one of the Black Hawk members that was stationed at Neptune Base, started a martial arts class for any of the G-Force children. No one mentioned that it was because the Black Hawk had decided that Kyla and Kadin needed to keep up their training, and that if the other children of G-Force wanted to learn, so much the better.
Winter turned to Spring and life was finally settling into a routine for Garnet, Keyoop and the kids. Garnet was back on full active duty with the team of the Gold Phoenix. Keyop, however was still grounded. If Garnet had to be gone for a mission or an on-base crisis, he took over watching the kids.
Garnet had been right, they still loved their daddy as much as ever. He had started teaching them sign so that they could understand him and to add to their general language knowledge.
The twins were also in speech therapy once a week. The doctors were hoping that early intervention were help them overcome the speech problems that had affected their father all his life. They were doing quiet well too. Kadin had almost completely overcome his problems, and Kyla usually only had difficulties at the beginning of sentences. In all other ways, they were healthy and happy toddlers.
Rafael had finally been able to reschedule Keyop's surgery. The postponement had actually been a good thing. The doctor had been able to do a little more development on the new implant. He was now hopeful that using an added portion of the implant, he could interface it directly with the speech center in Keyop's brain and allow him to regain what he'd lost. It was not a guarantee, but it was worth a shot. The date for the operation was now June 2, 2117, Keyop's twenty-fifth birthday and he and Garnet's fourth anniversary.
The night before, as they got the kids ready for bed, Garnet tried to explain what was about to happen to their father to two two-year-olds.
"Now," she told them, "tomorrows going to be a little different than most days. Your Aunt Green is going to be here when you wake up. She'll get your breakfast for you. Then you're going to go over to Aunt Sammie and Uncle James' to play with the kids."
"I like Uncle Jamie," said Kadin. "He's funny."
"...Play with Maddy! Yay!" said Kyla.
"Where you be?" asked Kadin.
"I'm gonna be with your daddy over in the Medical Center."
"Why," the twins asked together.
"Well," and this was the part she knew she was going to have a hard time explaining. "Your daddy has a booboo that needs to be fixed, and they're going to try to fix it tomorrow."
"...Where he gots a booboo?" asked Kyla
"Can I see?" asked Kadin.
"It's not like a booboo you get from falling down or anything like that. It's inside, where you can't see it."
"Oh," they chorused.
"So," she continued, "I'm going to be with him, and, if everything goes okay, maybe you two can come see him for a few minutes tomorrow night. If, for some reason, I can't be back in time, Aunt Green will make sure you get your nighttime snack and get to bed."
"Okay," from Kadin. "Umhm," said Kyla.
Once the twins were settled and their door shut, Garnet looked at her husband. "You know," she said, "tomorrow is going to be quite a day. We won't get to celebrate either your birthday or our anniversary, but having you back to your old self will be enough for me.
"Don't get me wrong; I love you the way you are now, but I know you miss being able to do all the things you used to do, and, I'll confess, there are a few small things I miss."
"If they're what I think they are, I miss them too. I want to be back doing what I've been doing all my life. I feel useless the way I am. I know the Chief has said that I will always be a part of G-Force, no matter what, but I don't want to be stuck here doing computer work while everyone else gets to do the real work. Do you realize, it's been a year since I was last on the Phoenix? I'm surprised they haven't taught someone else how to fly the bubble and replaced me."
"No," Garnet said. "Mark told the Chief that, if you couldn't return to active duty, whoever filled your position would have to have a different G-mecha. The bubble would always be yours."
As they had talked, they had wandered into their bedroom. They both looked around and smiled shyly at each other.
Keyop found his nerve first. "You know, we won't be able to celebrate tomorrow. You think, maybe, we could, you know, have a celebration tonight? Just the two of us."
"I think that is definitely possible," she answered.
Garnet found a disc of music that she and Sammie had put together when Sam was teaching her how to lap dance for a mission. She put the disc in the player and turned it on. "Remember this?" she asked.
He nodded and pulled her close as he began to move to the music. Garnet now fully realized why, since she had been a young teen, she had always thought the drummers in the rock bands she liked were so hot: they understood the ebb and flow of music like no other musician could. Now, Keyop was showing her that he too had that innate sense as he led her through several very different slow dances. Then the first notes of insatiable came through the speakers.
Keyop immediately let her go. "Dance for me?" he asked.
She nodded and began the same dance she had done for him on an evening six years before. This time, however, the outcome was quite different. There were no self-imposed rules--there were no rules at all--and they could touch and be touched and allow themselves to take things beyond the dance into something even deeper and more passionate.
When the alarm clock sounded at 0400, Garnet's first reaction was to throw it across the room, but she knew she couldn't do that. She decided instead to get up and take a very quick shower before waking her husband. As she started to move, she realized that she was sore in some places she hadn't been in quite a while. She smiled remembering the passion and the sense of reconnecting the night before.
arnet watched as Keyop paced their living room. He didn't have to say anything for her to know that he was incredibly nervous. "Dear," she said, holding a glass with only a sip of water in it. "Rafael gave me something that he wants you to take before we leave. He knows you don't do well with medical procedures so he sent something to help you relax."
"What if I don't want to take it?" he asked.
"Well," she said, "you're an adult and can make that decision, but I'd suggest taking it. The more calm you are going into this, the better off you'll be."
Reluctantly he took the little pill and swallowed the sip of water. "Can't believe I let you talk me into that. You almost never encourage people to take any medicine unless it is absolutely necessary, so I'm trusting that you really feel like I should take it."
"I do," she told him. "Now we'd better get to Medical before that pill takes affect."
Just then, there was a knock on the door. Garnet answered it and let Green in. She gave the other girl a quick rundown on what she needed to know for the day. As soon as she was sure Green had all the information she needed, Garnet wrapped an arm around Keyop and led him toward the door.
When they reached Medical, Rafael was waiting for them. He gave Garnet a small, reassuring smile. Garnet looked at the doctor and then at her husband. Keyop was oblivious to everything. He was having a difficult time keeping his eyes open, let alone walking.
Once they were in pre-op, Garnet helped Keyop change into a hospital gown and get into bed. She sat holding his hand when the nurse showed up to prep him for surgery.
The nurse was cheerful and considerate. She quickly went through the things she needed to do but was gentle in her manner. The only sign Keyop gave that he was not happy with what was going on was when the nurse was preparing to start and I.V. in his left wrist. He tried weakly to pull his arm away from her, to no avail.
"I'll leave you alone now," she said once the needle was securely in place.
When they came to take him into the operating room, Garnet gave him a kiss on the forehead and said, "I'll see you in a few hours. Love you."
She saw him sleepily make the "I love you" sign with his right hand even though he didn't have the strength to lift it off the bed.
The first thing Garnet did after they took Keyop into surgery was go in sure of coffee. It had been a short night, even if it had been a pleasant one, and she knew she was going to need something to sustain her during the wait.
She found coffee and a banana, nut muffin in the cafeteria. She quickly ate the muffin and carried the coffee back to the surgery waiting room with her.
When she got there, she was only mildly surprised to find Mark, Princess, Jason, Tiny and Chief Anderson already there.
"Did he do okay beforehand?" asked Princess. "He hates medical procedures."
"I know," was Garnet's answer. "He did fine, thanks to a mild sedative that Rafael had me give him before we came down here."
"Did they say how long it would take," asked Jason. He was somewhat familiar with the time needed for a standard implant operation, but this was far from standard.
"No, they never even gave me an estimate. If I had to guess, I'd say about three hours, but that could be totally off."
They spent the rest of the morning variously, talking, reading, catnapping and watching GNN. Someone had turned the news network on and no one bothered to see about changing the channel.
"Hey, check it out," said Jason suddenly, pointing at the t.v. "Vengeance may not have been ours, but it's still pretty sweet."
They all watched as the reporter read a story and an all-too-familiar face appeared in a box beside him.
"sources report that embattled former head of genetic research for GalSec and the ISO, Richard Preston, was found dead of unknown causes in a hotel room in New York City. He had been scheduled to appear next week before the Federation Council's Ethics Committee. Preston had been forced to resign his position after it came to light that he had had certain members of G-Force arrested and subjected to unwarranted medical testing. He had also been linked the separatist movement that led to five planets leaving the Federation and temporarily joining the Spectran Empire. As most recall, four of those planets returned to the Federation. Sadly, the fifth was destroyed. We will have more on this story as it develops."
"Well, it's not what I would call good news, but it certainly puts my mind a bit more at ease," said Garnet. "I won't feel like I have to keep looking over shoulder all the time."
Princess gave her a light hug. "Now we can concentrate on the future."
They had been waiting for almost five hours when Dr. Rafael finally came into the room. "We're almost done," he told them. "The new implant is in and he did not reject it, so that's one hurdle crossed. Now it will just be a matter of how well he integrates it."
"How soon will we know how well he's doing that?" ask Mark.
"We'll hopefully see some changes almost as soon as he wakes up, but we won't know how completely he accepts the implant for several weeks; maybe as much as six months."
Mark's shoulders slumped a bit. He really did want his team back to full strength. A year and a half was a long time to be without a member.
"I need to get back in there," said Rafael. "I'll have someone come and let you know when he's in recovery and you can see him."
It wasn't very long until a nurse came and told them they could go see him, if they went two at a time.
Mark looked at all of them. "I think we can go one at a time and let Garnet stay with him. It doesn't seem fair to either of them for us to keep them apart."
The others seemed to agree. Garnet blushed and looked shyly away. Even after six years together, she still felt like she was intruding on the Prime Teams sacred bond.
Garnet didn't know what to expect when she walked into the recovery room. She remembered all too clearly the horrible state Keyop had been in after his implant had been removed. She wasn't sure she could handle something like that again. Fortunately, despite the bandaged head and the two I.V.'s, he looked much better this time. His eyes were closed and it looked like he had simply fallen asleep.
Gently, Garnet took his right hand. This caused him to turn his head toward her. He started to open his eyes but then scrunched them shut in obvious discomfort.
Princess, seeing his reaction, found the control for the lights and dimmed them. "Remember," she told Garnet, "how bright everything seemed when you first got your implant? I imagine Keyop's having some trouble readjusting to that."
Garnet leaned close and spoke softly to him. "It's not so bright now, hun, can you try opening your eyes again?"
He blinked several times very slowly until he was finally able to focus on her. "Welcome back," she said to him, smiling.
He lay there just looking at her for quite a while, then he reached out and took her hand. He gave her hand a weak squeeze and let it go.
She was watching him closely now. She saw him move his head slightly and try licking his lips which were cracked from a lack of moisture. She felt his hand bump hers and she looked down. He was trying to finger-spell something to her, but he was too weak to get more than a few letters formed.
"Are you thirsty?" she asked, hoping this was what he was trying to tell her. He sighed and nodded once.
"I'll be right back with something for you," she told him. "While I'm gone, Princess will be right here with you." With a quick glance at Princess, Garnet left the room.
She was back in a few minutes with a cup of, what Princess figured must be, apple juice. "Here you go," she said, adjusting the bed so that Keyop was able to sit up a little. She held the cup so that he could sip from it. "Is that better?" she asked.
He nodded and gave her a small smile. "I'm tired," he slowly signed.
"The others want to see you," she said. "Can you stay awake for them?"
Unfortunately, he fell asleep before Mark got to see him.
When he awoke the next time, he was in a regular hospital room and Garnet was the only person with him.
Before having the surgery, Keyop had made himself a promise. He was going to learn to do everything he could do before he lost his first implant. He figured now was a good time to begin that relearning process. He took a deep breath and tried to say the first thing that came to mind.
At first, Garnet wasn't sure she'd really heard it. Then the words were repeated again. They were so soft that they could barely even be termed a whisper.
Garnet's mouth flew open and she covered it with one hand. When she'd caught her breath, she gasped. "You spoke! Keyop! For the first time in almost a year, you spoke!"
He nodded. But then he put his hand to his throat. "Hurt, though," he managed to say.
"I'd think it would," she answered. "It will probably be a while before it doesn't. But at least you're talking."
Over the next several days Keyop's speech continued to improve and he was recovering quickly from the surgery. Two weeks after the operation, he was cleared for full physical activity. He was finally being allowed to train again, officially. He had done as much as he could unofficially over the last year, but now he could start doing more of the physical training that required the implant. He was still not back on active duty and his communicator had not been returned to him yet. He would get those back only when he was cleared and approved by all the commanders to return to full active duty. That, unfortunately, was still some time away.
One other thing that he was doing was taking speech therapy. Kyla enjoyed telling people that she and her daddy were going to "talking class" together. This was also a bonding time between Keyop and his daughter. They were both working hard to improve their speaking ability and they also challenged each other in the most loving way to do their best. There was always a generous amount of laughter mixed in with the learning.
One day, Chief Anderson was contacted by the GalSec facility where Keyop had been taken when he had been arrested. They had a few items that belonged to him and that they felt should be returned. Anderson told them to send them to the base and he would see to it that Keyop got them back.
A few days later, a small package arrived addressed to Keyop c/o Chief Anderson. The Chief opened the box, on the principle of safety, and looked through the contents. There wasn't a whole lot there, and Anderson didn't really think Keyop would want it back. It was the civilian clothing he'd been wearing that day, the items he'd had in his pockets and any jewelry he'd had on. The last item to drop out of the box was a small, plain, gold ring. Anderson picked it up and looked at it. If nothing else, Garnet would be glad to see this back where it belonged. Anderson took the box and gave it to Keyop. "There's something in there your wife will be glad to see. It was one of the first things she asked about when we got you back.
Keyop smiled. "...Thanks, Chief." There was a long pause before his next words. "Think I know what it is." His smile grew even bigger. He'd made it through an entire sentence with only the extra syllables at the beginning. He was doing better than he had hoped for. Dr. Rafael's fix for his speech problem seemed to be working even better than they'd hoped. He was always going to have trouble with the occasional extra sounds, and with the word "I", but nothing as bad as it had been.
He quickly went through the contents of the box. Like Anderson, he found the ring last of all. Quickly he slipped it back on his finger. After over a year, and all the changes in himself, the ring still fit perfectly. He held out his hand and studied it. "Garnet will be...so happy," he said aloud.
He didn't say a word about the ring to her; just waited to see how long it took for her to notice. It didn't take long. As soon as she saw his left hand, she squealed with delight. "They found your ring! Now the whole universe can see that your mine, and I'm yours."
By mid December, Keyop was passing every physical test and simulation that the commanders were giving him. He had regained at least 98% of his previous skills and the commanders, along with Dr. Rafael, believed that with continued training and in-the-field experience, that remaining 2% would also eventually be regained.
The holiday season had come again to Neptune Base. While G-Force was a cultural melting pot, they tended to celebrate the major Earth holidays in one form or another. So every December 25th. there was a large gift exchange for all G-Force members and their families.
As the last few gifts were being handed out, Keyop contentedly watched his son and daughter playing with the various toys they had received from other team families and assorted friends. He wasn't paying much attention to anything besides his kids. So it was a bit surprising to hear someone call his name. He looked up to see Mark standing at the front of the room with what looked like the very last present in his hand.
"Keyop, would you please come here?" Mark asked. "This last gift is something special for you. We want you to open it in front of everyone here."
Keyop was nervous. He was not used to being the center of attention in a crowd. With shaking hands, he removed the paper and opened the box. He gave a small gasp, and, smiling, looked up at everyone.
"Show us what you got, mate," said Shinji from the back of the room.
Keyop reached into the box and pulled out a communicator bracelet. He looked at it and then at Mark.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.