For All of You
This takes place four months after Facts of Life
Mark stumbled over the debris and ground his teeth. The attack had destroyed the power station, so everything was as dark as a closet at night. If he looked up, he could see the stars, except when they were hidden behind the smoke still billowing from the debris.
When they had been fitted for their Birdstyles a month before the ear started, they had all balked at Dr. Nambu’s idea to add miner’s lights to their helmets. It would have ruined their aerodynamics, not to mention look stupid, they had all thought. Now, four months later, Mark was beginning to wonder if they should have agreed, having banging his shin for the fifth time. His high beam flashlight had died ten minutes earlier, too.
He was still hearing the banging off to his left.
Once they had destroyed the mech, the team had joined the rescue units to look for survivors in the rubble. It never ceased to amaze Mark how small a pile of rubble was created by a collapsed twenty story building.
The banging he had heard was getting louder. There had to be someone alive making that sound.
“Is someone there?” Mark called, resting his hand on the holster for his boomerang. They frequently found Galactors in the rubble, either victims of team’s missiles or the self destruction of the mech when they knew they‘d lost.
“Can you hear me?” he called again. He squinted and just caught a glimpse of movement. “Are you hurt? Do you need help?”
Mark stumbled yet again and cursed. His shins were going to be black and blue.
He was finally close enough to see a shape that was clearly feminine. The pounding stopped and then he heard sobs.
“Miss! Are you all right?”
The woman ignored him and leaned down. She grabbed something from the rubble and started pulling.
“What the hell?” Mark asked himself, shaking his head. After another few steps, Mark could hear her saying a name between her sobs. A man’s name. A few steps more and Mark could see her clearly and could see what she was pulling on: an arm sticking out of the rubble.
Mark reached her side and gently took hold of her upper arms, trying to turn her to look at him. She stubbornly held onto the arm.
“Miss, he’s dead. You’ve got to let go so I can get you to one of the medical tents,” he told her, trying to get her to look at him. She shook her head violently.
“Tom needs medical attention. We have to get him out,” she told him, her eyes unfocused as she shook his hands off and tugged again.
“Miss, I’m sorry. I really am. There’s nothing we can do for him. Please let me get you to safety.” He took hold of her again, but she pulled away.
“Not without Tom!” she sobbed and pulled on the arm again.
This time, she fell backwards and grunted in frustration and pain. Then began to scream in high-pitched horror.
The arm had come out of the rubble with her. Only the arm.
Mark fought instant nausea and called upon every ounce of his command training to get the woman to stop screaming, to take the arm from her and lay it on the debris, to get her up and moving to the nearest emergency care center.
Jason came into the emergency care center, holding his left hand palm up as blood dripped onto the floor. He’d sliced his palm on something when he’d stumbled over some debris. They had been told their Birdstyles were impervious to bullets. Jason had to wonder if they’d tested the fabric against sharp objects.
Now he had seven stitches across his palm and had to stuff his glove into a pouch on his belt, unable to get it back on over the bandage the doctor had wrapped around his hand.
The Gatchaman team had called while he was getting stitched up. They had just completed their own mission and wanted to know if G-Force needed their help. Ken had talked to Mark, but Mark’s terse ‘no’ had concerned him. Jason had told him not to worry, that he was sure Mark was fine and he seconded the no, they didn’t need any help.
Jason had ordered the others back to the Phoenix when he‘d headed to the emergency care center to get stitched up. Now he tried to reach Mark himself, but Mark didn’t answer.
Seeing G-2 becoming alarmed by the lack of a response from his Commander, the doctor who’d treated him silently pointed to a lone white figure sitting outside of the tent they were in.
Jason thanked the doctor and left the tent, walking slowly towards his Commander and best friend. He found Mark draped in his cape, hunched on the ground, a cup of something still steaming in his hands. The cup was only half full, which was good because Mark’s hands were shaking.
Jason frowned with concern and quietly sat down beside him, wincing a bit as a sharp pain shot up his arm from his hand.
Mark didn’t acknowledge him. They sat for a few minutes before Mark finally spoke.
“I don’t know if I can do this anymore,” he whispered miserably and brought the cup to his lips to take a sip of the coffee. Jason turned towards him.
“What happened?” he asked in a matching whisper.
“There was a woman.” Mark continued to stare off into the distance. “She was trying to free her husband from the rubble. He was buried, except for his arm. It came off as she pulled.”
Jason took a deep breath and blew it out.
“You think you’re the only one of us who’s been totally freaked out at some point the last four months?” Jason asked in a gentle tone that was in opposition to his words. “You can’t let it get to you, Commander. If I had, I would’ve been outta here weeks ago.”
Mark turned his head to look at his second in surprise.
“You never said anything,” Mark accused. Jason shrugged.
“What was I going to say? I quit because it‘s too much?”
“How have you…how have you gotten past it?”
Jason hugged his legs and shrugged.
“When we were kids and I was sick, when Nambu and Anderson were forming the teams, I couldn’t stand the idea of all of you going to war without me. I couldn’t just stay safe at home and wait to see if all of you were going to come back alive. When I got better and they gave in to let me in G-Force, I swore I’d never let any of you down. Allowing what we see and experience to beat me down would break that promise.” He shrugged again. “So, sometimes after we get back to base, I throw up. Sometimes I have to watch mindless on TV to get the horror out of my mind enough to sleep. The alternative just isn‘t acceptable, so I keep going for all of you.”
Mark sighed heavily and closed his eyes, his shoulders slumping even more.
“Come on, Skipper. Let’s go home,” Jason said, slowly getting to his feet. He extended his good hand. Mark sighed yet again before reaching up to take his hand. Jason pulled him up.
“What happened to your hand?” Mark asked, noticing the lack of a glove and the bandage on his left hand for the first time.
“Our gloves aren’t knife-proof,” Jason informed him. “I don’t know what I hit, but it was sharp and cut right through it.”
“Are you okay?” Jason had to hide his smile at Mark’s question. His Commander’s voice was back to normal. Nothing like an injury to get his mind back on business.
“Yeah. I’m going to give the glove to Doc Nambu to check it out. And please don‘t tell Joe. It’s bad enough the Doc will give me another tetanus shot and antibiotics. Joe‘ll start shoving vitamins down my throat to make sure I don’t get an infection.”
Mark nodded and started towards the Phoenix, Jason on his heels. Jason could only hope Mark would be able to hold it together. It was war. It was full of destruction and blood. All Gatchaman and G-Force could hope to do was cope and survive until they could drive Galactor and the Spectrans back to the Crab Nebula. He thought about what he had just told Mark. The alternative wasn’t acceptable.