All seemed peaceful at Center Neptune –certainly the distant schools of fish swimming past looked serene.
"Here at Center Neptune, many fathoms beneath the waves," said 7-Zark-7, "I keep a constant watch on the universe for any threats to Earth or other Federation planets."
But inside his control room atop the undersea facility, the cylindrical robot was pacing rapidly.
"But I can't remember the last time I was this anxious," he declared fretfully, "And robots never forget! It would be no surprise if I've shorted out half my servo-storage sub-units, the stress I'm under."
He did, however, stop pacing.
"The Phoenix is in the Middle Sea, still battling that terrible Spectran catfish ship, and Jason is still missing. I haven't found any clues yet as to where he's gone, though I've put all my scanners that I can possibly spare on the search. I'll just check my monitors again-"
He was gliding toward his console when he heard the chime of an incoming audio communication being received, as the little dangling speaker vibrated.
"Center Neptune, 7-Zark-7," he said with the voice of one hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
"Hello Zark," breathed a sultry female voice, "This is Susan, at the early warning station, on planet Pluto."
"Well, hello, Susan!" said Zark, momentarily cheery, as his antennae sprang to attention.
"There's something I need to tell you, Zark," she continued, "I did as you asked, and put all my most sensitive deep space probes onto tracking the ship in which you said Jason departed the Space Center."
"And have you found out where he went?" asked Zark eagerly.
"Not exactly," replied Susan, "But last position and bearing that I was able to detect, the ship was heading into the Crab Nebula."
Zark's antennae drooped now.
"And you know what that means," added Susan, "But I'll keep looking, Zark. Bye…"
"Jason went to Spectra?" said Zark, beginning to pace anew, "I know he just found out that- But surely he wouldn't- I know him and he'd never-"
He came to a halt.
"There just has to be an explanation that makes sense! But in the meantime, what is happening to the others, on the Phoenix? I have to check my monitors!"
He sped towards his console.
Deep beneath the Middle Sea, the Phoenix was in the clutches of the massive Spectran catfish ship's whiskers even as the catfish fired laser beams at it.
Fortunately all its shots were missing their struggling target –so far- but the force of the explosions from the beams striking the seafloor and nearby rocks were enough to send tremors slamming through the bridge of the Phoenix, and its four occupants.
"Tiny," ordered Mark, "Keep trying –we're not beaten yet!"
"I'm on it," replied Tiny, straining at the controls as he sought to evade the catfish's laser beams, "But those whiskers sure have a tight grip!"
Indeed they did, as one was wrapped about one of the Phoenix's wings as the other gripped the ship around its nose, so tightly that cracks were forming. Inside the nose, Jason's spacemobile shook as cracks grew along the walls around it.
On the bridge, Princess and Keyop were holding on to each other to keep from falling from their chairs as tremors wracked the Phoenix.
"Can't fire missiles… we're too close," Keyop said to Princess, fear visible on his face.
"I've got an idea!" announced Mark, and their hopeful eyes turned his way.
"Tell us!" said Princess.
Mark's face was grim with determination now. "Tiny, push all the thrusters to max, but don't try to go up."
He turned back to the viewscreen to stare out at the fearsome catfish.
"Take us sideways and down –try to smash a whisker!"
"Yeah," agreed Tiny, gritting his teeth, "They won't be expecting that!"
A bright light appeared above the catfish's eyes as it readied its laser beam for yet another attempt to blast the Phoenix. "Now's our chance!" cried Tiny, reaching for the thruster control buttons.
Before the catfish could shoot at them again, he swooped the Phoenix sideways and down, dragging the clutching whiskers with it as he bashed the ship straight into a section of the long whisker whose end was wrapped about the Phoenix's nose. The whisker broke apart at the site of the impact and the now-severed portion lost its grip on the Phoenix and fell away.
With only one whisker now holding them, Tiny was able to whip the Phoenix around in a tight turn, heading away from the catfish. The catfish's laser beam fired twice in quick succession but now its aim was haphazard –the Phoenix no longer held in place- and to the great luck of the G-Force members, one laser beam struck and destroyed the whisker end that was gripping the Phoenix's wing.
"Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!" jeered Tiny even as he slumped over the throttle in relief.
"Now we can fire missiles," said Mark.
"Big ten!" replied Tiny, sitting up and grabbing the throttle and wrenching the Phoenix around in a tight, fast arc towards the catfish ship.
"Oops," gasped Princess. She'd relaxed her hold on Keyop and now he tumbled from his chair onto the floor.
"Need better seatbelt," he burbled reproachfully.
The catfish ship was looming in their viewscreen again.
"Now's your chance, Mark," said Tiny as Mark reached for the red button.
"Keep her steady," he replied.
"Will do," said Tiny.
Yet even as Mark waited for the perfect moment to fire a missile, a barrage of purple spikes suddenly detached from the catfish and came zooming towards the Phoenix. Tiny dodged and maneuvered the Phoenix, barely managing to evade them.
"Now would be good!" cried Tiny and Mark raised his fist and brought it down hard on the red button, sending a missile straight for the catfish's head.
For good measure, Tiny tore the Phoenix through the fin on the end of the catfish's tail and then they sped on their way towards the surface.
An explosion of water and flames erupted from the beneath the Middle Sea, indicating that the Spectran catfish ship below wouldn't be causing any more earthquakes.
The missile had accomplished its job, and now the Phoenix was back in the sunny, blue sky.
On the bridge, Chief Anderson suddenly appeared on one of the screens.
"Good work, G-Force, defeating that Spectran ship," he said, but he looked more stressed than relieved.
"Any word on Jason?" asked Mark. Now that there was no longer an imminent threat of earthquakes, his mind had gone straight to the other problem at hand –their missing teammate.
"Yeah," chimed in Tiny, looking worried, "Anyone know where he's gone?"
"According to Zark, he's gone to Spectra," said Chief Anderson, keeping his voice stiff –even for him.
"Oh no," cried Princess, "Why would Jason go there?"
"I wish I knew," replied Chief Anderson, "But the facts are that Jason has, without any authorization, gone to Spectra and all attempts to contact or track him there have failed."
"What are you implying?" asked Mark, looking stunned.
Chief Anderson closed his eyes, saying "He's turned off or disabled his wrist communicator."
He opened his eyes again to look at them all.
"As Security Chief, I can't rule out… defection."