I was in a rather foul mood over Real Life (tm) when I wrote this earlier in the week, so here is some fair warning 'You may never watch BOTP the same way again.' [Should I start to cackle in evil laughter? :-) ]
A Further Warning: Jacque's not so good at nose-cola, so you have here a Dark 7-Zark-7 fan fic. No, that's not an oxymoron. Be very afraid :-} If you like Zark, don't read this.
DISCLAIMER: Tatsunoko Productions holds the copyright over all names, likeness and rights of the Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman, which has been licensed to Sandy Frank Syndication (Battle of the Planets), Turner Broadcasting (G-Force) and Saban Entertainment (Eagle Riders). All these characters are used without permission, and I'm not profiting from this piece of fan fiction, so please don't sue me.
"Ahh, this is a fine day at the new Center Poseidon," 7-Zark-7 sighed as he looked over his spanking new control console. "I will miss Center Neptune. It was most fortuitous that we managed to evacuate Crescent Coral base before Spectra destroyed it."
"Oh, of course, 1-Rover-1. We mustn't forget that it was due to Mark's bravery in getting the message to us that we all got out safely. We--"
The little robot turned around in surprise at the entrance of his visitor.
"Jason! Where have you been? Have you seen Tiny? I've been straining my sensors looking for you and Tiny since you got back. But this is a nice surprise. You don't come to my control room very often. Oh, my very *first* visitor, to my *new* control room! And my audio circuits are working perfectly well, Jason. You don't have to shout to get my attention."
"Never mind where I was. Damn you, Zark! What the hell were you playing at?! Why did you pull Tiny and me back to help with the evacuation?!" The Sicilian second-in-command of G-Force stalked into Zark's control center.
"Why? You were needed at Crescent Coral, Jason. We needed the Phoenix to transport the crew and computer files to safety."
"Oh, of course, 1-Rover-1. We mustn't forget to thank Jason for carrying us out either."
"Mark needed us," Jason's hissed between clenched teeth, "Damn it, Zark! The Spectrans--!"
"Jason, really. Do you have shout? As I said, my audio circuits are working just fine." The lights on the little robot blinked at him in consternation. "Mark is going to be all right. He's out of surgery--"
"Mark is in a coma!! And why?! Because *you* didn't tell us that the Spectrans were battering him within an *inch* of his life while Tiny and I were on a MILK RUN!!"
"Jason! Mark knew the importance of evacuating Crescent Coral befo--"
"Jason! That was rude--"
"You weren't there when Tiny and I found them!" Jason ignored Zark's protests as he came closer with fists clenched as if he wanted to do damage to the little robot. "Princess and Keyop were hysterical! Zoltar made them watch! He made them watch his soldiers ravage Mark!"
"Really, Jason! Mark wasn't in that much danger," Zark tried to tell him soothingly. "It didn't loo... Oops."
"Er... once Mark got the signal out, I was able to home in on the viewing camer--"
"You *saw* them working him over... and you still pulled--"
"Modern medicine *can* perform miracles. Mark will be okay. He always is. He'll be up and about in no--"
"WHY DIDN'T YOU SEND US AFTER MARK?!! HE COULD HAVE DIED FROM THE BEATING!!"
"That's an exaggeration, Jason! Your imaginatio--"
"Exager--Imagin--imaginati--IMAGINATION?!! HOW COULD YOU MISS SEEING THE BLOOD?!"
Zark was fortunate that Tiny chose that moment to enter. The sturdy G-Force pilot caught Jason from behind before he could launch himself at the little robot.
"Tiny! Oh, it is just such perfect timing for you to come in." The lights on Zark's body were flashing a little wildly at Jason's near attack. "This must be a special day. You two hardly *ever* visit me and today both of you came in."
"Zark." Tiny's voice was controlled and cold as he swung the cursing and struggling Jason bodily away from the little robot. "I think you owe us an explanation."
"Oh dear, yes. Jason is just a bit overwrought over Mark's injuries. Maybe you should both go visit him. The doctors were very pleased with the progress from the surgery and he should be waking up so--."
"I just saw Princess and Keyop. They're looking normal... And... Mark did wake up."
"Splendid! You see, Jason? You were worried for nothing. Mark is on the road to full recover--"
"ZARK! STOP THROWING PLATITUDES IN OUR FACE!"
That stunned both Jason and Zark. They couldn't recall their mild mannered pilot ever raising his voice before.
Jason had stopped struggling and Tiny decided he'd trust him enough to release him.
"What the hell is going on, Zark? Mark... Princess... Keyop... They're all fine! They don't even remember what *really* happened in the last twenty-four hours!"
"Tiny, please. Why are my two visitors of the day shouting at me? As I said, my audio circuits are functioning perfectly we--"
"Zark, have you been messing with their memories?" Jason's voice was barely a whisper as new suspicions lanced into his mind.
"Now, Jason, let's not let imagination get too carr--"
"Anderson's too," Tiny growled, "When we brought Mark in, Anderson was ready to bust a blood vessel. I just saw him in Mark's room and he was smiling. They were *all* *grinning* and *laughing* as if *nothing* had happened."
"And why shouldn't our friends be happy? Everything's just fine. Yes, the loss of Crescent Coral base was a blow to us all, but we carried out an orderly evacuation of the entire facility. Everyone made it our safely and no one was hur--"
"And while we were carrying your metallic butt to safety, the Spectrans were doing their damnedest to bludgeon Mark to death! HE ALMOST DIED!"
"Tiny, really. Mark was in no danger. With the wonders of modern medicine, he'll be as right as rain in no--"
"Why didn't you send us after him first?! Princess and Keyop were too broken to talk to us but we're NOT BLIND! There was blood all over-- He was bleeding--" Jason's eyes unfocussed as a thought fought its way to the surface. "There was... blood and--and some--some other viscous fluids."
Tiny turned to stare at Jason as he latched on to his train of thought. "He was bleeding at the--at--"
"Zoltar's soldiers... The Spectrans... they raped him..." Jason's voice had descended into a whisper.
"Jason! That is unheard of and not possible! Really, your imaginat--"
"They raped him... they *could* rape Mark... their reproductive organs are the same as... They're humans. The Spectran soldiers aren't... they aren't robots... or androids... or aliens from another planet... they're humans... They're all living... breathing... humans. They're--like--us...?"
"How could we have missed noticing that Mark was--?" Jason's face had gone white. "Zark, what have you been doing to our minds? You've made it so that we simply... overlook most of the war atrocities, haven't you? None of the horror really registers to us, does it? We actually *have* killed, haven't we?"
"No one dies... no one gets hurt... everybody got away safely... there were no casualties..." Tiny intoned raggedly.
"When Mark sent you the message... You witnessed their initial attack on him, Zark. They hadn't started hitting him yet, had they?" Jason's breathing had become very shallow as he tried to control his racing thoughts. "You--saw them raping him-- And you decided to pull Tiny and me away to evacuate Crescent Coral, to save lives and remove our *precious* information?"
Zark definitely took offense to the sarcasm in Jason's tone. "We *were* moving, Jason. I know now it was a bad judgement call, since I wasn't able to keep an eye on Mark when the assault turned ugly. But Mark's safe now, he'll be fin-"
"What kind of monster are you, Zark?! YOU DELIBERATELY LET THE BASTARDS GANG RAPE MARK!"
"Jason! I'm hurt! You are reacting as if I was the one who arranged that unspeakable attack. It was going on long before I got involved and it wasn't as if I gave away the location to Crescent Coral base just so I could prolong the attack on Mark."
"Don't you *dare* try and distract us! Princess and Keyop--"
"Zoltar did tell them that he never promised to stop the assault for the information. Princess and Keyop will now know better than to try and deal with Zoltar on his terms."
Stunned silence reigned for nearly a full minute.
"An object lesson? You let the Spect--"
"They'll only remember enough to have a few nightmares. I never intended for you to retain any permanent trauma."
"Zark, you can so easily rewrite our memories? What else--?" Tiny's eyes unfocussed for a moment. "It's happened before..." Tiny's voice grew hoarse.
"Damn it, Zark! It's happened before, hasn't it? That's why you weren't worried when the Spectrans started to rape Mark. You didn't think he'd be in any--danger from--from being raped by Zoltar's soldiers?!" Tiny's voice rose again in unrestrained fury.
"Princess..." Jason's face went black, "She's been raped as well, hasn't she, Zark? Was this during the Jigo Killer mission? While Spectra held her... they raped her before we could rescue her, didn't they? And you covered it up as well?"
"That Mechanical Jungle mission... that was one time you goofed with Mark's memory wipe didn't you? You didn't make it clean enough and that's why he was so confused?"
"Really! Is it such a crime to remove the more painful memories? I was protecting all of you! G-Force is quite *young* to be a participant in the war. You shouldn't have to worry abo--"
They advanced on him.
"You've been using the cerabonic implants against us, haven't you? Using it to remove certain pieces of information? The viewing screens... they're all your tools, aren't they? Tiny and I were outside at the beach earlier, you couldn't reach us there."
"When else, Zark?" Tiny was paling. "You did a number on my memory too, didn't you Zark? On that Black Ray Mecha mission? What did the Spectrans really do to Mark for those two days, Zark?"
"Jason! Tiny! Really!" Zark started to get huffy. "Your imagination is running rampant. Nothing permanent has happened. I'm always watching out for you. You've always emerged safely."
"We waited two days for you to track down the base where Mark and Tiny were held." Jason ignored the claims of the little robot
Tiny's face went black as he suddenly charged Zark and swatted him into the wall. "I remember, you *useless* rust bucket!"
Zark was stunned and though he was not damaged in any way, he was hurt by Tiny's insult. "Tiny? What--?"
"Zoltar tried to break his spirit!! Mark wasn't held prisoner in some sedate glass cell!! I was in the cell across from his! I THOUGHT I'D GO *MAD* WATCHING THE SPECTRANS ASSAULT HIM!"
"Did you watch that too, Zark?"
"Jason! That's hardly fair! You know I can only pick up transmission signals. I couldn't have informed you sooner. The base commander didn't contact Zoltar until long after they finished the recording. I contacted you immediately and destroyed the recordings with an EMP wave before they could be distributed."
"What? You didn't save a copy for Susan?"
"Might fog up *her* FOSDIC. Do you have a tape of Princess's ordeal for those nights with you and your lonely transistors?"
"I am *shocked* at you!"
"WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING TO OUR MEMORIES?"
Neither members of G-Force realized that while they were shouting at 7-Zark-7, 1-Rover-1 had been quietly approaching them with his tail poised and ready to strike. They fell before they even had time to react to the robotic dog's attack, victims to the powerful sedative in the hypodermic needle Zark had installed in 1-Rover-1's tail.
Zark heaved a heart-felt sigh as he looked down upon the sleeping teens.
"Jason, Tiny. I love you. I was only protecting you. What you don't remember, can't hurt you."
"Oh, I'm sorry. Yes, you did *very* well, 1-Rover-1. Thank you. Would you like a treat?"
The door to the Snack J opened and Mark looked up from his hot chocolate to see Jason and Tiny entering. Princess and Keyop grinned and waved at them from behind the counter.
"Hello, strangers. We haven't seen you two in a while." Princess greeted them with undisguised delight.
"Zark said that you were both down with nervous fatigue from evacuating Crescent Coral. He said you were instrumental in getting people out before the Spectrans attacked. Great job, you two!" Mark turned to face them with a smile. "So how are you feeling now?"
"Right as rain, brother." Jason unexpectedly reached around Mark and pulled him into a tight hug.
"Jase?" Mark hesitated only slightly in surprise before returning the hug. "Are you okay? Is something the matter?"
Jason released him guiltily, feeling suddenly embarrassed at this uncharacteristic public display of affection.
Mark was looking at him with a mischievous expression. "We don't swing that way."
"Course not! I--I'm--I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me just now. I--I just had a sudden feeling of--of relief?" Jason took the seat beside him. "I mean, we--we were worried about you at the end of that last mission."
"It *was* a rough week. But we pulled it through." Mark petted his shoulder comfortingly. "We may have lost Crescent Coral, but we all made it out okay. No lives were lost. No one was hurt."
"Yeah, we're all safe." Tiny reached for the space burger that Keyop expectantly placed in front of him. "Zark's now at his new monitoring station, Center Poseidon. He'll watch over us and warn us of any danger. We'll be safe with him around."
"Whew! That was a close call, Susan."
"The nerve of Jason." Susan's breathy voice sounded hurt after what Zark told her. "How dare he accuse us of--of being voyeuristic?! That is--that is so sick!"
"Oh, don't be too harsh with Jason, Susan. He *was* angry and he was right that Mark almost died because I made a bad judgment call."
"But Mark would understand. He would sacrifice anything for the war against Spectra."
"*I* wouldn't have sacrificed his life. No, Susan, Jason was right, I really didn't need to pull him and Tiny away to evacuate Crescent Coral. I could have let them rescue Mark and the others first." Zark sighed heavily. "I shouldn't have tried to use it against Princess. I should have paid closer attention to the video feed, I didn't see the blood. And later I had no chance to check on him until I got Center Poseidon up online and by that time we were too late to do anything."
"Zark, you couldn't have known that Zoltar would have him ravaged. If we look at past experiences, Zoltar never tried to injure them in that way before." Susan paused for a moment. "But Zark, for you to leave Mark to be raped again... How could you? Isn't that... it must still hurt terribly."
"No. The doctors can heal and hide all physical injuries. As long as he doesn't remember what Zoltar did to him, Mark won't have to face the emotional trauma. And as long as I have my EMP wave generator, Zoltar will never get any recordings for his propaganda department."
"And the rapists?"
"Susan! How could you even imagine that I'd forget them?" Zark sounded deeply offended. "Most would have fallen to the team's wrath, Susan. We *are* talking about G-Force. And it's easy enough for me to track down and arrange accidents for the few that slip through the cracks. They are after all only ordinary soldiers."
"I've taken care of *all* the evidence, Susan. The only one who knows, apart from us, is the one we can't touch."
"I have to keep a closer watch on Mark. Zoltar had three of them prisoner, but only attacked Mark."
"Mark *is* the G-Force Commander, Zark."
"And probably the focus of Zoltar's hatred. But Zoltar's become so brutal lately!"
"Zark, they don't remember the trauma. That *must* infuriate Zoltar. He probably thinks he has to try worse and worse tortures to hurt G-Force."
"Oh dear. I hadn't considered that. Fortunately, they didn't injure Princess's reproductive system in her assault... I'm sure Mark and Princess will want children after the war. Hopefully, Zoltar will just settle on Mark as a target and leave the others alone."
"7-Zark-7, that is a terrible thing to wish on someone you care about!"
"Females have a much more delicate reproductive system. Mark is young and easier to heal." Zark's antenna perked up at a thought. "I know... I'll just call on Mark's father, Colonel Chronus, to keep an eye out for him. I'm sure he'll be able to keep Spectra's hands off his son."
"This is the thir--no the forth time you've had to alter Mark's memories, Zark. To keep rewrit--"
"No, no, Susan. I don't 'erase' or 'rewrite' anything. I could cause untold damage to their minds. I only put in hypnotic suggestions that they don't think about it. Just like I did the human issue with the Spectrans."
"It did falter with Jason and Tiny."
"Only for a short while and it *can* be reinforced."
They fell silent for a moment.
"Susan... Do you... Am I right to do this to them? To manipulate their memories without their consent?"
"'Without?' Zark, after those two terrible days... didn't Mark give you permission to block--"
"Oh, Zark! That's--that's-- But--it--it's for his own good, isn't it? I mean--we don't have the time to let Mark go through months or years of counseling to deal with Zoltar's abuse."
"That--that's what I keep telling myself." Zark raise a handkerchief to his face plate, hoping reverently that he wouldn't start rusting from this emotional outburst. "Mark--Mark was in so much pain, Susan. He was suicidal! He was determined to drown himself rather than face the rest of the team. Nothing I said could get through to him. And Tiny... he was no better off. I could see him behind Mark, tearing the base commander and those unfortunate soldiers limb from limb. It--it didn't matter to him that they were already dead."
"I--I couldn't leave them with those memories, Susan. It was--easy to send them a hypnotic suggestion to put in a mental block. But I--did feeling terribly guilty about tempering with their memories without their consent, Susan."
"You did it out of love, Zark. You'll do anything to protect G-Force."
"Even... learn to lie..."
"We do this for G-Force, Zark. Never forget that. I'm also familiar with the effort to make that change now, Zark. A burden shared is a burden lightened. I have faith in you to find a way to get Zoltar. You do think of everything, Zark."
"Yes... I do this for G-Force." The lights on Zark's body flashed with a certain glimmer of determination. "I'll watch over them always and I'll protect them from any pain, in any way I have to."
Mark stared in the mirror at the water that was dripping from his face. He had awakened from a nightmare again. He wished he knew why his subconscious mind was so disturbed. Brushing his teeth and splashing water on his face helped to calm him though.
But what was the nightmare of? He'd wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat feeling... feeling... 'bad'? Was that the word he wanted? He felt like his soul was hurting.
Mark snorted at himself as he wiped his face dry. "'My soul is in pain?' You'll never make a poet, Mark." he told his own reflection.
Mark sighed as he walked back to his bed and settled himself beneath the sheets again.
Was he afraid of something? With Susan at their early warning station and Zark watching over them, they were safe. Spectra couldn't hurt them.
"I shouldn't worry. Zark's watching over us. Everything's fine."