Disclaimer: The following fanfic was done by a fan for other fans; not for any kind commercial, tyrannical, or terrorist gains. The rights of all the cast, characters, original story, for better for worse until death do us part, - do not belong to me. They belong to Sandy Frank (author ducks as squids are pelted at her). I am not a professional writer; I am barely an amateur. I just felt like writing it. Like it, love it, loath it, take it or leave it – that’s up to you. Constructive criticism and corrections are welcome. How else am I supposed to learn? I’m still a little high from having finally completed it. Anyway, here it is.
By Carolyn Lariviere AKA Pintail
Crewmen bustled in the underwater hanger of Center Neptune. Their fingers flew over control panels and their eyes darted across busy monitors. They hurried from station to station, occasionally glancing at the still pool of water in the center of the huge room. A red light began to flash and the men scurried to various exits and hallways. The hanger was silent for a few peaceful seconds. Bubbles began break the surface tension, and then the water swirled and churned as the tail fin of a large ship split the water in half. The Phoenix emerged and rose to the docking level. Glistening beads of water ran down the angles of the ship, sparkling under the fluorescent lights. To the flight engineers in the control room it was a surreal sight. The crewmen never tired of seeing the Phoenix return home after a successful mission – with a few scars but none the worse for wear – gleaming in the light like a proud victor. This inspiring sight however, beguiled the turmoil erupting within. The truth surfaced as the bubble lift opened above the ship and its five occupants "glided" to the deck. They landed and appeared to be continuing a heated argument.
"I’m warning you Jason, if you ever pull another stunt like that again-" Mark stormed.
Jason, ahead of him, walked on towards a long tunnel, forcing Mark to talk to his back.
"Get off my case Mark."
"It’s over now, Mark," Princess cooed, "We won. Let it go."
"I’m handling this." Mark cast a silencing glance in Princess’ direction. Jason continued on ahead.
"So he’s a hot-head sometimes," Tiny reasoned, "Just ignore him."
"I can’t just ignore the fact that he questions orders when I give them!" Mark pointed accusingly at Jason.
"Yeah, it was wrong. Can’t we just get a burger and talk about it later?" Tiny pleaded.
Jason’s hands were clenched in tight fists as the others trailed behind him into the docking tunnel.
Keeyop piped in. "Tiny’s right. We stopped Zoltar from destroying that outpost. The Chief will be happy. What more can you want, Mark?"
"What I want, is Zoltar locked up in an Galaxy Security cell," Mark’s voice was rising, "and if it weren’t for Mr. Trigger-happy here, we may have accomplished that today!"
Jason stopped dead in his tracks. The others were forced to stop behind him. He turned, slowly. A deadly fire raging in his eyes.
"If it weren’t for your pansy-assed morals, he’d be dead right now. Dead!" Jason seethed. "And a dead Zoltar isn’t likely to escape from any prison cell!"
"We are NOT an intergalactic firing squad!" Mark took a step closer to Jason, "and that is not the point."
"Then what exactly is your point, commander?"
"That when I give an order, YOU are expected to follow it!"
"Is that what it comes down to, Mark? Rank?" Jason tested.
"Listen you son-of-a-bitch. I make the decisions on this team, whether you like it or not. You are not a one-man operation. You will do what I say, when I say to do it, for the safety of this team and the benefit of our missions!"
"Guys! Come on! We won. We’re the good guys, remember?" Keeyop looked from Mark to Jason and back again.
"I am not the good little soldier you’d like us all to be Mark! Do you think I’m some no-brained lackey, or something? What did you expect? Zoltar’s ship was in my sites today and if you hadn’t gotten in the way this entire fucking war would be over now! No more people dying, Mark! No more cities burning to the ground, Mark! No more –"
Mark rushed Jason and slammed his forearm against Jason’s neck and pinning him against the wall.
"Don’t you think I think about that? Every day? Every night? You think I don’t hear those people? You think I don’t smell those fires? I kill him every night in my sleep – a thousand different ways. But guess what? There are over two million Spectrans following that maniac, and any one of them can lead an army. Any one of them can kill a person, or burn a city! The war doesn’t end with one man! Think with your head!"
"Mark!" Princess cried. "Let him go! Stop this! Please!"
"If you don’t step back Mark, I’m going to crack your fucking skull." Jason spat.
"If you don’t shut up, I’m going to break your fucking neck." Mark countered, leaning in to make his point..
"ENOUGH!" Tiny roared. He grabbed the back of Mark’s bird-style in one hand, lifting him off the ground and away from Jason. The other hand was pressed firmly against Jason’s chest. "We are G-force! We DO NOT fight with each other!" Slowly, he released each man from his grasp.
"We fight Zoltar!" Keeyop chimed in.
"We fight Spectra." Mark corrected, regaining his composure.
"Yeah. We leave Zoltar alone so he can torment us another day." Jason stormed ahead.
"Just keep it up, G - two. I won’t tolerate any more of your attitude! The safety of this team is my responsibility and when you act like this we’re better off without you!" Mark shouted after him.
"Mark!" Princess covered her mouth with her hands. Mark simply glared at Jason’s disappearing shadow.
Jason closed the tunnel door behind him and leaned against it, arms folded. He looked to his right down the hall to the recon room where Chief Anderson would be waiting for their report. The hall to his left led to the vehicle hanger and a lift to the upper levels and outside world. He hesitated, head bowed.
"You win, Mark." Jason de-transmuted and headed for the lift. Inside the elevator his finger floated above the button with the red "G" on it. He slammed it with his fist and the doors hissed shut.
The rest of G-force sat quietly in the recon room waiting for Chief Anderson to return. Tiny twiddled his thumbs, Keeyop watched him and Mark stared vacantly at the fish swimming in the clear blue water. A shark approached a school of fish, splitting them in half. It snapped feverishly at the darting fish. They swarmed confusedly, like buzzing insects instead of fleeing. Princess followed Mark’s gaze and then shook her head. How often had they played this scene, she wondered? The tension in the team had been mounting progressively. Each mission, each devastated city, each broken body – it was the same. Zoltar inevitably alludes capture and they return empty-handed. She understood Jason’s frustration. She understood Mark’s responsibility. They weighed on the team like an unbearable burden.
The feud between Mark and Jason began as mere words, but lately they had come to blows more and more often. She rubbed her temples methodically. They just didn’t understand each other. Mark would not listen to advice, and thus not allow anyone else to take the blame for the outcomes of their missions. He alone would bear the brunt of Anderson’s disappointment, of the Federation’s countless inquiries and investigations. More importantly, he alone would be responsible for the death and destruction that followed G-force like a bad omen. She watched him admiringly. He was a tactical wizard and a brave leader. His own humanness, his fallibility; these were unacceptable to Mark. They were his own admitted weaknesses, and he would not allow the team to take responsibility for these faults. He also had a touch of stubbornness that only fueled this particular flame.
Princess’ communicator chimed.
"Is he here yet?"
"No Chief," she answered, "I think – he may be a while."
"Five minutes and we go on without him. Anderson out."
Here they were again. Waiting for Jason before a debriefing. Waiting for Jason or waiting for Mark. The same scene, the same bad actors. Meanwhile, Zoltar is planning his next attack. Princess knew these were the same thoughts racing through Jason’s mind. He was a man of action, and Mark’s by-the-book attitude irked him. They all suspected that Jason’s motivations were more than personal, but there was no questioning his skill and devotion. There was more to him than that however, as he had a touch of leader in him but his tactical contributions were often rebuffed by Mark. This of course was always interpreted as personal by Jason, completing the vicious circle
Princess watched the seconds tick by on the clock, and waited for the Chief. She decided not to think about it for a while, and let her attention drift to the Snack J. They would probably find Jason there later.
That evening, Jason was at a bar, but it wasn’t the Snack J. It was a dark, smoky, tacky little hole in the wall called The Rooster. The music was lousy and the drinks were worse, but the patrons kept to themselves and the bartender didn’t ask your name. Jason stared at the brown liquor swirling in his glass. He had dropped a cherry in to help it go down but it was no use. He had come here with every intention of drowning his frustration and drinking his pride away before he returned to the Snack J. After four hours however, he was still on his second drink. There were too many things on his mind and his back was against a wall. His whole life was about fighting Spectra, about bringing down Zoltar, but things with Mark had deteriorated to the point of impossibility. The thought of leaving G-Force had never seriously crossed his mind, but now….
A large, slightly overweight man wearing a ball cap sidled up to the stool next to Jason. The bartender noticed him and produced a beer out of thin air and placed it on the bar for him.
"Missed ya down at the track today." He emptied the glass in four swallows.
"Sorry Roger. Had other commitments." Jason replied. Roger was his sometimes-one-man pit crew. He was a decent guy and an incredible mechanic but best of all, he never questioned Jason’s comings and goings. He was actually glad for the distraction and ordered another beer for his friend.
"Yeah, that’s what I figured. I only mention it ‘cause there was this woman asking about ya."
Jason half-smiled, "That’s not so unusual down at the track. Someone I know?"
Roger ribbed him with his elbow, "You’re not THAT good-looking ya know. Thing is she didn’t look like the groupie type. She was wearing a business suit and asking all kinds of questions."
"Was she from the bank or something?" Jason was a little concerned. He didn’t like the sounds of this.
"I don’t think so. She lady-like enough, but kind of, I dunno, kind of sneaky. She kept asking about how come you drop out of important races at the last minute, and how come you don’t have no sponsors, and who your friends are and stuff."
Jason was really concerned now. Roger seemed to understand that and hastened to add more details.
"I told her there were a lot of racers without sponsors and to mind her own business. I don’t care where you go or what you do when you go, Jason. I didn’t tell her nothing. Honest. I just thought you should know that there was a creepy lady askin’ about ya down there. The other guys told her off too. Nobody likes her kind."
"It’s alright Roger," Jason put his hand on his shoulder, "I’ll take care of her. She’s probably from the bank or something." He was half trying to convince himself of it. He left a pile of crumpled money on the bar and rose to leave. "And Roger – thanks for never asking."
Roger gave him a mock solute as Jason left the bar. He chugged the rest of his beer and added his own money to Jason’s pile. Roger had met plenty of guys like Jason before, and didn’t ask because he knew he was better off not knowing. A piece of wisdom the woman at the track would soon find out.
Princess sipped her coffee and waved good-bye to Tiny as he left the Snack-J. Mark was still sitting in the corner booth. His face was highlighted by the shadows cast by the street lamps, and Princess felt a tingling rush creep up her face. There was a concerned fatherly look on his face, the kind he might wear after reprimanding one of their children a little too sternly. Two boys and a girl she mused to herself. He was obviously deep in thought, so she felt secure enough to stare a little longer at the man that gave her goose pimples. One thing was for certain, they would be very handsome boys…
"If you don’t blink your eyeballs will dry up!" Keeyop hissed at her.
"Shut up!" Princess blushed heavily. "Go get ready for bed. I’ll say good-night to Mark."
"I’ll bet you will!" Keeyop grinned and quickly darted away before his big sister could deck him one.
Princess grabbed the teapot and walked over to the corner booth.
"Wha- oh. Yeah, just a little." Mark turned his attention to the inside of his cup. "I can’t believe he didn’t show up."
"Oh for crying out loud Mark!" Princess chided. "Can’t you think of anything else?"
"Princess, don’t you see what’s going on? We’ve never had problems like these before. I’m not sure I can even count on him anymore."
"Don’t be silly Mark. If there is one person you CAN count on, it’s Jason." She sat down opposite him.
"Yeah, if it’s on his agenda that day." Mark sighed deeply. "I’m sorry Princess. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I can’t afford to have this in fighting on my team. I’m just afraid something will happen."
"First of all, it is not just your team. Second, we are all human. We’re bound to have problems from time to time. Third…"
Mark wasn’t listening. He was staring intently at an approaching car that looked remarkably like Jason’s. It sped up as it passed the lit Snack J and disappeared into the night.
"I think that was him!" Mark stood quickly. "I can’t believe he didn’t stop."
"Mark, it was dark out. You don’t know – "
"Son-of-a-bitch. I betcha he’s drunk! That’s the only way he can face me these days."
"Mark!" Princess tried to get him to sit down again.
It was no use. He already had his coat on and was charging out the door. He commandeered Princess’s motorcycle. It roared to life and squealed down the street. Princess stood dumbfounded in the entrance. She locked the front door behind her and clicked off the neon J sign.
"Wow! Must have been some kiss!" Keeyop poked his head around the corner.
Princess cast a despairing look over her shoulder at the street. "I wish Keeyop. I wish."
Minutes later, Mark was pounding on the door of Jason’s camper. Jason bolted upright in bed, one hand on the pistol he kept nearby for such occasions.
"Open up you bastard! I want to talk to you before you have a chance to take off again!" Mark thundered.
"Shit! Mark? What the hell?" Jason was scrambling to do up his pants. He was still bare chested when the door gave way and Mark burst in.
Mark cast a momentary glance at the broken door. "Sorry." He said in a slightly confused and subdued tone. Jason, looking quite disheveled and with one hand doing up his fly, took one look at Mark’s guilt ridden face and began to crack up in laughter. He was tired and giddy, and had to sit back down on his bed until he regained composure.
Mark was taken aback by the uncharacteristic laughter, "You prick. You ARE drunk, aren’t you? I was feeling bad for breaking your door but at least I can confirm that is WAS you driving by…"
"Mark – what in the hell are you talking about?" Jason was more than confused.
"Where were you this afternoon? Where have you been?" Mark demanded.
"I was hanging out at … shit. Why? What do you want?"
"While you were getting shit-faced, the rest of us were having a briefing and training session!"
"Look! I am NOT drunk, and I don’t need this shit tonight!" Jason rose from the bed and pointed at the door – or where it used to be.
"Do you have any idea what you are doing to this team?" Mark lectured.
"Team this – G-Force that! Shit, Mark! Don’t I even get to sleep in peace? Get off your high horse for one night." He forced Mark back outside.
"I am not leaving until we work this out." Mark stood steadfast. A warm breeze tousled his hair. "I want to know what your problem is."
"My PROBLEM is that I can’t go back to BED!" Jason hissed.
"I’m talking about your attitude lately. You refuse to work with anyone else on a mission, you ignore my orders and you question every decision I make! I’m sorry about what happened this afternoon, but I think it would better for all of us if we settled this thing tonight."
"You are acting way too anal for me tonight, Mark. I’m too tired to deal with you. We haven’t blown a mission yet, we’re all alive, so what are you complaining about?"
"I’m complaining about your wise ass cracks all the time! I’m complaining about you turning this into a big joke. I’m complaining about constantly having to look over my shoulder to make sure you are in-line!"
"I don’t need any babysitter, Mark! If you spent more time worrying about Zoltar, maybe we’d have him by now!" Jason kicked a rock at his feet, sending it skittering towards Mark’s feet.
"I worry about Zoltar every second of the day! I also worry about lunatics on my team getting one of us killed!"
The two men stood facing each other in the moonlight, knowing that a line was close to being crossed. Princess wasn’t here to talk them out of it, and Tiny wasn’t here to physically separate them. Mark began to wonder if this wasn’t such a wise course of action. He had been angry, and acted on that anger spontaneously. He was also feeling guilty for the scene earlier in the day. Now he was in a showdown with Jason that he couldn’t back out of. Mark shook off the negative thoughts. It was time to sort this out.
"Look," Mark began, "I know you have this thing you need to settle with Spectra…"
"Mark, you don’t know shit. You don’t know where you’re going with that, so leave it alone!" Mark had struck a nerve, and Jason was getting riled.
"It’s obvious when we’re out there! You are running on pure hatred – half the time you don’t even think about what you’re doing!"
"I know exactly what I’m doing! Why are you always on my case? Most of the time I’M the one getting things done!"
"You arrogant prick!" Mark slammed the trailer with his fist, "Who covers your ass? Who cleans up your messes? Who takes care of the mission?" Mark pressed.
"Fuck your mission! You think you run this show, but it runs you! You don’t even have a life! Your mission is to kiss Anderson’s ass every chance you get! You’re so blind you can’t see the hand in front of your face, let alone what’s going on in the real world. You have no idea what I’m thinking about, you don’t have a clue about Zoltar, you don’t listen to me, or Princess, shit – you can’t even she’s obsessed with you!"
"Leave her out of this." Mark warned in a low, meaningful tone.
"Why? Are you afraid that I’m going to move in and give her the things you don’t even have the balls to say?"
The conversation was over. Mark’s right hook was lightning fast, connecting with Jason’s chin before he had a chance to block. Jason went reeling backwards, landing on his back. He propped himself up on his shoulders glaring at Mark.
"You are asking for it!" he seethed.
"Try me." Mark invited, massaging his knuckles.
Jason launched himself at Mark, and the two men went down. Rolling on the ground, they sent clouds of dust into the moonlit air. In a flurry of fists and jabs they rammed against the side of Jason’s trailer. Mark was pinned under Jason but got his knee between them and sent Jason flying with a fast kick. Jason twisted in the air and landed in a crouch anticipating Mark’s next move. But it never came.
"I’ve had it with you." Mark said, panting.
"The feeling is mutual."
"Until you’ve worked out whatever the hell it is that’s eating you, I don’t want to see you around!"
"Don’t worry, you won’t. I’m through with you and your bullshit. I don’t need your lectures, I don’t need your orders, and I don’t need you!" Jason’s chest was pounding with rage.
Mark mounted Princess’s motorcycle. "You are a lunatic." The engine roared to life.
"Fuck you!" Jason yelled as Mark sped away, spewing dust behind him. He watched the motorcycle fade into blackness and finally unclenched his fists. Dark clouds encompassed the moon leaving him in total darkness. He looked towards the lights of the city and reflected on what just happened. It seemed surreal, like a dream he had no control over. He stuffed his hands in his pockets.