This is an original work of fan fiction. Gatchaman and Battle of the Planets are the property of Tatsunoko and Sandy Frank Productions. No profit, gain, hire or reward is received by the author for this work.
This story takes place some time after the events portrayed in the BotP episode A Whale Joins G-Force. Written for the inaugural BotP Fic Challenge of January/February 2008.
Keyop stood on tiptoes and waved. "Bye-bye, Nambu!" he called as the whale calf swam away from the ice floe. A massive sneeze put paid to any further farewells and the boy activated his wrist communicator. "Keyop to G-Force… Everything… AOK!"
"Let's pick the little guy up," Tiny said, and the four senior members of the G-Force team boarded the Phoenix.
During the trip home, Keyop recounted his adventure, and Tiny frowned. If Keyop had removed the tracking device from Nambu, the little whale was out there in the ocean all alone, with no mother to care for him, or - more to the point - feed him.
Tiny's brow furrowed in a frown. Out of sight might be out of mind for Keyop, who was too young to think that far ahead, but Tiny's tender heart was troubled. He decided he'd best make a few calls once the team debriefing was finished.
G-Force stood in front of Security Chief Anderson's in their civilian uniforms, each of them focussing their attention on a patch of carpet just in front of their feet as they endured the Anderson Silence.
The Anderson Silence wasn't just a lull in the conversation: the Anderson Silence was a terrible, primeval vacuum that demanded words be spoken. It was a gaping emptiness that yawned, ancient and awful, until Tiny gave in to the pressure and said, "It was my fault, but we were only trying to help."
Anderson quirked one eyebrow. The Anderson Eyebrow, on top of the Anderson Silence, was too much for Princess to bear.
"It isn't all Tiny's fault at all," she blurted. "I was the one who said the whole team should be in on it! I never realised that we'd abandoned that poor little whale to starve to death! Tiny did the right thing! I know you expect us to apologise, but I'm not sorry! We were responsible for the situation and we wanted to make things right!"
Anderson got up from his seat, turned and took the few steps that carried him to the window, where he stared out at the night time cityscape. "Breaking and entering," he said. "Placing hoax calls to a licensed security company. Interfering with wildlife. Use of Galaxy Security property without authorisation. Use of Galaxy Security property in illegal activities without authorisation! How does that possibly make things right?" Anderson took a deep breath, then turned back to the room to address its occupants. "Start from the beginning," he said.
Flashback #2 of 2 (collect the set!)
The last strains of The Immigrant Song died down and the G-Force Ready Room was quiet for a time.
"You're getting pretty darned good at that song," Jason remarked, hitting the ping pong ball back to Mark in a casual volley. Neither Jason nor his commanding officer were trying to do anything more complex than hit the ball back and forth to pass the time.
"It isn't all that complicated," Princess said. "Just catchy."
"I like it," Jason said.
"Prefer… Stairway… to Heaven," Keyop stammered.
"Yeah, but everybody tries to play that one," Mark pointed out. "I heard an elevator version of it in the ISO lobby the other week."
Jason's only comment was a snort of contempt.
"Elevator muzak!" Keyop snarled. "Ick!"
"Yeah," Tiny said. "I like my music real." He got up and brushed a few crumbs off his shirt. "I gotta go, guys. Catch ya later."
"Date with Alice?" Princess asked, smiling.
"Nah," Tiny said. "Alice had to fly to Zarkadia to see her grandma. I just got a few errands to run."
"You've been off running errands every day for the last two weeks," Princess said.
"I have?" Tiny ran a hand through his messy hair. "I guess I've been so busy, I hadn't noticed!" he quipped. "See ya!" He grinned and left the ready room.
"Tiny's sure been out and about a lot, lately," Princess remarked as she unplugged her guitar from the amplifier. "I wonder where he's been up to?"
Keyop trilled a giggle. "Secret… girl friend!" he speculated, with a toothy grin.
"Keyop!" Princess reproved. "Tiny's our friend. You shouldn't imply that he'd cheat on Alice. He's not like that!"
Keyop hung his head, shamefaced. "Sorry," he said.
"So you should be," Princess admonished.
The last customer left and Jill locked the door of the Snack J for the night. "Business is good," she said, smiling, "but all the same, I'm glad we're done."
"Coffee's on," Princess said from where she was loading the last of the dishes into the dishwasher.
"Two of my favourite words," Jill sighed happily.
A few moments later, the two women were seated at the counter, sipping at steaming hot cups.
"Jill?" Princess ventured.
"When a man who's usually completely open about what he does starts sneaking off without telling his friends where he's going… What do you think it means?"
Jill put her cup down on its saucer. "Mark giving you grief?"
"No! It's not Mark. It's Tiny. He always used to tell us what was up with him, but just lately, he disappears and doesn't say where he's going or what he's doing. Just that he's 'running errands.' Keyop thinks he's got another girl on the side, but Tiny isn't like that… is he?"
"He's male, so don't dismiss the idea out of hand," Jill said with a cynical twist of her mouth.
"Poor Alice," Princess said, staring into her coffee.
"I didn't say he was cheating," Jill pointed out. "I simply said you shouldn't discount all the possibilities. Anyone's birthday coming up? He might be planning a surprise."
"I suppose," Princess said. "I'm just being foolish," she decided, and got up to put her cup in the dishwasher. "I guess I'll turn in. Good night, Jill."
Princess had always been the analytical type. When presented with a challenge, she felt compelled to look at it from multiple angles, work out the best way to deal with it, and then map out her best course of action. When she was on the job, this usually resulted in explosions. Now, however, Princess' mind refused to let go of the mystery that was Tiny's unusual behaviour.
The most logical course of action was to ask outright, so the next morning, Princess rode her motorcycle to the coast, and set her course for Tiny's beachfront shack.
Tiny wasn't home, but his van was parked next to the ramshackle building he called home. Princess rested her hands on her hips and considered her step.
Things were decided for her, however, when she saw two people walking up from the beach: Tiny, and a slender young woman with light brown hair and grey eyes.
So Keyop had been right and Alice, dear sweet Alice, who never had an unkind word for anyone, was being thrown over for some floozy. "Hi, Tiny," Princess said coldly. "I don't believe I've met your friend."
"Oh," Tiny said. He fidgeted for a moment, then recovered a modicum of aplomb. "Princess, this is Helen. Helen, this is my friend Princess."
"Hi," the woman said, and Princess realised that the laughter lines around Helen's eyes and mouth belonged to someone well into her forties. Perhaps she'd been a little hasty. "Are you Tiny's girlfriend?"
"No," Princess said. "I'm just a friend of Tiny and Alice's. Tiny's been so busy, lately, the rest of us hardly get to see him, so I thought I'd drop by."
"I see. Are you interested in cetacean rehabilitation, too?"
"In what?" Princess was an engineering and demolitions genius, but biology wasn't merely a closed book to her: it had the pages glued together and was tied shut with rope.
"The rehabilitation of sick, injured and orphaned dolphins, porpoises and whales," Helen explained. "Tiny's been following up on Nambu's case with me."
"Nambu?" Princess echoed.
"That baby whale we saw a while back from Bay City," Tiny said.
"Oh, of course. What about him?"
"Tiny alerted the Cetacean Institute a few months back that one of the whale calves orphaned in the Bay City attacks was all alone, so we brought the youngster in and we've been rehabbing him up at the Francisco Bay Marine Park."
"How did you find him?"
Tiny and Helen exchanged glances. Tiny sighed and thrust his hands into his pockets. "I went out and tagged him with a tracking device, and the Institute sent a boat to retrieve him."
Princess felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise. "And how did they do that?" she asked, squaring her shoulders.
Another sigh: "I, um… lent them a transceiver."
Princess' hands clenched into fists. "You lent one of our devices? Did the Ch-- our boss give you authorisation?"
"I kinda… acted on my own initiative, y'know?"
"Tiny!" Princess was appalled. "Did you bring it back?"
"Course I did. It's safely back in the storage area where I got it. I even recharged the batteries. C'mon, Princess. That baby whale was in trouble. We left it out there - we abandoned it - to starve! I couldn't just sit by and do nothing!"
"We need to discuss this," Princess said. "Alone," she added, with a pointed look at Helen.
"She already knows that I work for G-Sec," Tiny said, "and by now, she's figured out that you do, too. Come on, let's go inside and I'll fix some coffee. I'll explain everything, and then you can decide whether you're with us or not."
"Like I said, I'll explain."
Princess followed Tiny and Helen inside. She sat down and waited while Tiny bustled around the kitchenette, setting up his state-of-the-art coffee maker.
"You know, Princess," Helen said gently, "if Nambu hadn't been retrieved when he was, he most likely would have died. He was very thin and weak when we brought him in. We almost lost him as it was."
Princess' righteous indignation melted away. "That bad? Really?"
"Really. I understand that if you were with the teams dealing with the Spectra attack - and don't worry, Tiny hasn't confirmed or denied anything -- you couldn't take the time out to help a wild animal, but if our intervention had come any later, Nambu would probably be dead."
Princess twisted her fingers together. "I never thought of that," she mumbled, recalling Keyop's jubilation as Nambu the whale calf had swum away free after helping G-Force defeat Zoltar's whale ship, the same ship that had killed Nambu's mother. "We just… we just let him go. We figured he'd be fine."
"He wasn't weaned," Helen pointed out. "Baby animals stay with their mothers because they need the food, care and protection that a parent provides. Without his mother's milk, the baby couldn't feed himself. Tiny hasn't told me how he located or tagged Nambu, and I know better than to ask, but he did the right thing, in terms of animal ethics, and Nambu is now safe and well fed at the marine park."
"The problem," Tiny said, bringing over three steaming mugs on a tray, "is getting him out."
Princess accepted her mug and inhaled appreciatively. "Why do you want to get him out? I thought he was safe, now."
"Nambu's old enough to take care of himself, now," Tiny said. "In the wild, he'd leave his mother and make his own way, but he's a big drawcard for tourists at the park, and the director doesn't want to let him go."
"But you said he was safe," Princess argued. "He won't be safe out in the ocean. Look what happened to his mother! What's so bad about living safe and happy at the marine park?"
"The thing is," Tiny said, "Nambu was born wild, and he deserves the chance to live wild. One of the whales at the park is going to have a baby next year, and things are gonna get real crowded. Nambu could wind up being transferred to another park, and who knows what could happen after that? He helped us, Princess, and now it's our turn to help him."
Princess took a sip of her coffee. "And where do you come in?" she asked Helen.
"I work at the Institute," Helen explained. "My contract's up in a few weeks and I'm shipping out to Lucavia for a research project. The director of the Cetacean Institute and I disagree on a number of things. This is just one of them. I want to see Nambu go free, and it seems Tiny here has a certain skill set that could achieve just that."
"And two heads are better than one," Tiny added. "You in?"
"What about Keyop?" Princess pointed out. "Doesn't he deserve a chance to help, too?"
"If he can keep a secret," Tiny said.
"Not from Mark and Jason," Princess said. "If you bring me in on this, you have to bring the whole team. Honestly, Tiny. You should've told us all about this from the beginning! You know we wouldn't have let you down."
"I didn't wanna get you in trouble," Tiny said, shamefaced. "I just figured that if the Chief was going to blow a gasket at someone, it might as well be just me rather than all of you as well."
"Hey. All for one, and one for all, remember?" Princess considered for a moment. "Wasn't there a movie about this? Free Whaley or something?"
"Something like that," Helen said, "but we don't have time to train Nambu to jump over the wall of his enclosure, and he isn't an Orca, he's a Minke."
"Close enough," Princess said. "Call the rest of the team, Tiny. Let's get this gaolbreak moving."
"Don't you wanna call 'em?" Tiny asked.
"No," Princess said. "This is your op. You're in charge for this one, as far as I'm concerned."
The G-Force team had assembled for what Princess considered one of their more unorthodox briefings. Keyop, in particular, had been horrified when given the background behind their mission. "S-st-starving?" he'd whimpered, eyes filling with tears. "He was… starving? Our fault?"
"We didn't know, Keyop," Princess hastened to say. "You had no way of knowing that he still needed help."
"Should have… thought of it," Keyop declared, clenching his fists. "Won't let him down… this time!"
"That's right," Tiny said. "We won't let him down this time, and I'm going to rely on you to do the most important job, Keyop."
"You bet!" Keyop cried, giving a thumbs-up.
"Mark, I need you to back Keyop up on the sling," Tiny said. "Jason, you're Princess' buddy for this one. No surprises for me: I get to fly the Phoenix."
"What about Helen?" Princess asked.
"I asked Dr Evans to scram," Tiny said. "The less she knows, the better. The decision to go ahead with this is ours."
"Are you sure we shouldn't just ask the Chief to intervene?" Jason asked. "I mean, this is pretty drastic."
"If you don't wanna be a part of it, Jason, you don't gotta," Tiny pointed out. "We're only takin' volunteers for this one."
"Okay, okay." Jason held up both hands in a gesture of surrender. "You're the boss."
The G-Force team waited for night, then sprang into action.
Penetrating security on a secret Spectra base could be considered a challenge.
Penetrating security on a cash-strapped wildlife research facility was almost too easy.
Princess didn't like to say anything along those lines, however, since like most front line troops, she was deeply superstitious and knew that the words, 'too easy,' when spoken out loud, were an invitation for the Fates to spring one of their nasty little surprises.
"Security system is down," Princess reported.
"Big ten," Tiny replied. "We're comin' in.
Jason, meanwhile, had patched in to the communications system for the security company contracted to monitor the marine park. As the Phoenix hovered over the whale pool, Jason made a call diverting the security officer to the other side of town.
"Lower the sling, Mark," Tiny said. "Keyop, you're go."
"Geronimo!" Keyop declared, and dove out of the open belly hatch to land in the whale pool. "Hi… Nambu!"
The whale, about twice the size it had been when Keyop had last seen it, shied away and circled cautiously.
"Sling away," Mark reported from the belly hatch. He lowered the contraption down to the water.
"Going… to break you… outta here!" Keyop told the whale.
The marine mammal held position and regarded its small human visitor out of fathomless eyes.
"C'mon, boy! Get in the sling!"
The whale swam slowly around the edge of the pool.
"What's goin' on down there?" Tiny wanted to know.
"Doesn't… want… to leave!" Keyop wailed.
No matter how many times Keyop dragged the sling over to Nambu, regardless of the amount of cajoling and explaining, the whale refused to swim into the sling.
Time and again, the whale balked at the strange device floating in its pool.
An hour later, Jason was running out of reasons to keep the security guard away from the marine park, and Nambu was no closer to allowing himself to be rescued. He wallowed on the surface, huffing warm air and mist out of his blowhole every few seconds.
"Any… ideas?" Keyop asked, despairing.
"I don't know," Tiny said. "If we all got together, like they do at whale beachings, maybe we could drag him into the sling?"
An incoming signal lit up the communications console. Its point of origin showed up as Security Chief Anderson's office. "Uh-oh," Tiny said.
The tele-comm pinged again, an insistent summons. Tiny took a deep breath. "Mark, can you get down there with Princess and Jason and try to get the whale into the sling?"
"You're kidding!" Princess said, dismay evident in her voice.
"You've got five minutes!" Tiny told them.
"No, you haven't." Anderson's voice broke in on the comm channel. "What are you doing out there? Zark's scanners have had you hovering over the marine park for the last forty minutes. What's going on?"
"Er…" Tiny said. "Would you believe we're trying to pay back a favour we owe an old friend?"
"That depends entirely on how good your explanation turns out to be," Anderson growled. "All of you, report to headquarters immediately!"
The Carpet Redux
"Do you suppose they want an official apology?" Princess wondered aloud as Jason parked the car outside the Francisco Bay Marine Park.
"Maybe they want us to scrub the fish tanks," Jason speculated darkly.
The five members of G-Force exited the car and prepared to meet their doom.
Doom, in the shape of Chief Anderson, was waiting for them in the lobby.
"On time, I see," the Security Chief remarked. "Follow me, please."
A security guard waved them through an entrance marked, 'Authorised Personnel Only.'
"After you told me your story," Anderson said, "I had Zark do a little research. This way." Anderson ushered his charges into a cramped, cluttered office occupied by a small, bald man in a polo shirt and jeans. "This is Dr Michael Forrest, the director of the Cetacean Institute."
"Call me Mike," the director said. He stood up and Princess realised that he was about an inch shorter than she was. "I understand you got roped in by Ms Evans on one of her little crusades."
"That would be your friend Helen," Anderson said.
"I don't follow," Mark said. "Why are we here? And since we are here, why don't you want to let Nambu go? Regardless of what we may have done, doesn't he deserve to be free?"
"Of course he does," Mike Forrest agreed, "and he also deserves the best possible chance at survival. Come on, let's go up to the whale pool. There's never any room in here."
Outside, keepers were cleaning enclosures and the dolphins were being trained with odd little devices that made clicking noises.
Nambu was swimming lazily around his pool.
"Wow," Mark said. "He didn't look this big in the dark."
Mike chuckled. "Nambu was only about three metres long when Tiny helped us bring him in from the wild, and he was very thin. He had to be fed a special formula for almost four months to bring him back up to within the normal weight range for a North Pacific Minke. Of course, now that he's over a year old, he eats krill."
"Krill?" Jason echoed.
"Really small shrimp," Tiny explained. "You wouldn't like it, Jason."
"You got that right," Jason agreed.
"Is he still too small to go free?" Princess asked.
"No, he just doesn't know where to find food," Mike explained. "We hope to transfer Nambu to another facility further north where he can undertake the final stage of his rehabilitation programme. He'll be closely monitored, and when the migrating pods pass through, we're hoping he'll hook up with them and resume a successful life in the wild. If all goes well, he could live to be fifty years old or more."
"I don't get it," Tiny said. "Why was Helen so upset about Nambu being in captivity if you planned to release him all along?"
"Ah. Well." Mike shifted uncomfortably. "I'm afraid Helen didn't have all the information, and things changed rather quickly after Dr Anderson here got involved. The Suzuki Marine Environment Center, where we're sending Nambu, didn't have sufficient funding to take on any more rehab cases, so Nambu was on a waiting list, and we had interim plans to temporarily send him to San Diego once our new Orca calf was born. Nambu might have had to wait up to two years for a place with the Suzuki team, and Helen… well, Helen's passionate about animal welfare. I guess she just didn't want to wait."
"But, given what you've said," Mark reasoned, "early release could have damaged Nambu's chances of making it out there."
"Uh… I think that's where I came in again," Tiny said. "Helen wanted me to monitor Nambu's progress to make sure he was okay."
"So you were going to unofficially try to duplicate what the Suzuki team were going to do eventually?" Princess asked.
"Why… not?" Keyop wanted to know.
"I'm afraid Helen isn't a marine biologist," Mike said. "She's a volunteer tour guide, and she has very little experience in hands on animal care. I don't know how well the unofficial programme would have gone without access to growth charts, biotelemetry, and other resources."
"So we got duped," Jason concluded.
"Let's just say you were induced to act without all the information to hand," Mike said.
"In other words," Anderson said, "the next time you five take it into your heads to go and save something cute, would you please run it past me, first?"
"How…" Keyop chirped, "you get Nambu… to jump queue… for rehab?"
"A few phone calls," Anderson said, "and a few donations from some people who owed me favours."
"You did that for Nambu?" Tiny said, open mouthed.
"You said it yourselves: he helped us. It was only fair that we help him," Anderson said.
"Wow," Princess said. "Who would've thought that being kind to animals could be so complicated?"
Keyop stared at his shoes, lost in thought.
"What's up with you, Keyop?" Tiny asked.
"Just thinking," Keyop said. He seemed crestfallen. "Dolphins… too big… to fit in… bathtub!"
Princess shrieked with horror and the rest of the team laughed at Keyop's scheming.
"I have a better idea," Mike said. "If Dr Anderson agrees, you could maybe join our junior volunteer programme and learn how to take care of these animals. Then, maybe once you've been to college, you can work with them, too."
Keyop's eyes grew huge. He gazed up at Anderson. "Could I?" he breathed.
Anderson seemed to be mentally calculating the distance between the marine park and Center Neptune. "We could try it for a few weeks," he said cautiously.
"Cool!" Keyop's grin was almost as wide as his face.
"As for the rest of you," Anderson said, "you're going to be assisting the environmental officer take samples off the reef back at base for the next three weeks."
Jason groaned aloud. "Just when you think you've got a happy ending…"
Oblivious to it all, Nambu rolled and slapped the water with his tail.
The prompt for this story was: G-3 accidentally discovers a secret that G-5 has been hiding from the team. This secret [is] of a personal nature and has the potential to be a breach of security. What does G-3 do? I'm aware that I stretched the definition of 'personal nature' and at the same time, I think Tiny was treating Nambu's case as something he wanted to deal with personally. I really hated the way A Whale Joins G-Force ended, with the poor little whale calf being sent off to die of starvation, and Tiny seems to me to be the kind of guy who would help out a little whale calf. At the end of the episode, Zark was sure that G-Force and Nambu would meet again, so now they have.