Dr. Nambu goes missing. Then Chief Anderson, then Dr. Brighthead...
, Battle of the Planets
, G-Force: GOS
, Eagle Riders Characters:
Ace Goodheart, Aggie/Agatha June, Berg Katse, Chief Anderson, Computor, Cybercon, Dirk Daring, Dr. Brighthead, Dr. Kozaburou Nambu, Galactor (i.e. Katse), Goon, Great Spirit, Harley Harris, Hootie/ Hoot Owl, Hunter Harris, Jason, Jimmy / G-4, Jinpei, Joe Asakura, Joe Thax, Jun, Kelly Jennar, Ken Washio, Keyop, Mark, Mickey Dugan, Ollie Keeawani, Peewee, Phoenix/God Phoenix, Princess, Rocky, Ryu Nakanishi, Solaris, Sosai X, Thaddeus Keane, Tiny Harper, Ultra Eagle, Zoltar
Action/Adventure, Epic, Humor/ComedyStory Warnings:
Mild Language, Nose-Cola WarningTimeframe:
1. Chapter 1.1: Lost by Margo Ryor
2. Chapter 1.2 by Margo Ryor
3. Chapter 1.3 by Margo Ryor
4. Chapter 1.4 by Margo Ryor
5. Chapter 2.1: Found by Margo Ryor
6. Chapter 2.2 by Margo Ryor
7. Chapter 2.3 by Margo Ryor
8. Chapter 2.4 by Margo Ryor
9. Chapter 3.1: Where Am I? by Margo Ryor
10. Chapter 3.2 by Margo Ryor
11. Chapter 3.3 by Margo Ryor
12. Chapter 3.4 by Margo Ryor
13. Chapter 4.1: And Who Are You? by Margo Ryor
14. Chapter 4.2 by Margo Ryor
15. Chapter 4.3 by Margo Ryor
Chapter 1.1: Lost by Margo Ryor
Everybody here belongs to Tatsunoko, I'm just borrowing them for a bit.
Chapter One: Lost
Part One: Washio Airfield, 0530 hrs.
Ken woke to his bracelet's insistent beep. Groping, he knocked it off the nightstand and had to roll out of bed and crawl around the floor to find it.
"G1!" he snapped at last, fully awake and pissed off.
"Pandora here," came the tense answer, "We need you at G-Town, Gatchaman, it's an emergency!"
"Roger." he acknowledged, "What's happened?" but Pandora had already signed off.
"What's the big emergency, Doctor?" Ken demanded some thirty minutes later aboard the G-Town.
The usually pretty scientist looked terrible; grey faced with fine lines barring her forehead and black circles under her eyes. Whatever it was, it was bad.
Turning on her heel Pandora led five worried Science Ninjas from the big conference room, through Dr. Nambu's office, and opened the door to his private quarters.
The austere, spartan little room was a wreck, books and ornaments swept from shelves and dresser top to litter the floor, easy chair overturned, the bed knocked awry with pillows and bedclothes strewn about the room.
Ken swallowed hard, managed, "Where is he?"
"We don't know." was the bald answer.
Gatchaman started to shout, took a deep breath instead and said evenly, "What happened?"
"I left Dr. Nambu just before twelve last night, here in his office." Dr. Pandora answered, "Apparently I was the last to see him. He usually signals me at eight for the morning briefing, when the call didn't come this morning I assumed he was sleeping in for once, you know how he pushes himself."
The Team nodded in unison. Indeed they did, few better.
Pandora continued, holding her voice steady with visible effort. "A message came in early this afternoon I thought he should see. I came to his office and found it empty. I was suprised of course, it's out of character, but if anybody deserves a day off--" her voice wavered dangerously. "I decided not to disturb him.
"Late this evening the chief steward contacted me, concerned that Dr. Nambu hadn't eaten all day. I decided I'd been mistaken, he wasn't taking a rest he'd just gotten involved in his research and lost track of time. He's done that before."
More nods. Yes he had.
"I came back here. Knocked, got no answer, opened the door and found - this." a stiff gesture ecompassed the mess. "I ordered an immediate search, had the daily logs checked. No vessel has docked or left G-Town since I last saw the Doctor. No reported hull breeches or alarms of any kind. He *has* to be here! but he's not, he's vanished into thin air." Pandora finally broke down, burying her face in her hands.
Joe pulled a chair away from the desk and Jun guided her into it, saying gently, "You mustn't blame yourself, Doctor, you couldn't have known." glared promptingly at Ken.
"Jun's right," he said quickly, "I'd have done the same in your place."
Joe, Ryu and Jinpei moved into the bedroom, gingerly inspecting the damage.
"Looks like he put up a hell of a fight." Joe observed bending to pick Nambu's glasses off the floor, one lense starred with cracks.
"Against who?" Ryu wondered.
"Galactor, who else." shrugged Joe.
"But how could Galactors get aboard G-Town without setting off every alarm in the place?" Ken demanded.
Pandora raised her head. "I've been thinking about that. There is evidence that Sosai X has limited teleport capability. It's the only explanation for some of Katse's escapes."
"Then we're finished." said Joe grimly. "They can snatch anybody they want, Director Anderson or the Secretary General, anytime they please."
"Then why haven't they?" Jun argued. "There must be limits, technical problems we don't know about."
Joe grimaced, "Maybe that's why they grabbed Doctor, to fix it for them."
"If they didn't just kill him." said a small voice. All turned to Jinpei, huddled on the foot of Nambu's bed, hugging a pillow. Jun started towards him but it was Joe who offered rough reassurance.
"If they'd killed him they'd have left his body here for us to find. Besides Gel Sadra wants him alive for questioning."
"For all the good it'll do her." Ryu muttered.
"He knows we'll come for him." Ken agreed. "He'll hold out as long as it takes."
"It's already taken over twenty-four hours." Joe said pointedly.
Chapter 1.2 by Margo Ryor
Chapter One: Lost
Part Two: Center Neptune
Disclaimer: Everybody here is the property of Sandy Franks, especially 7-Zark-7.
Somewhere in the Pacific, 1420 Hrs.
Paperwork wasn't Mark's least favorite part of his job but it came a close second. He was frowning in concentration over a weapons manifest when his desk monitor lit up with 7-Zark-7's silver and gold lack of face.
"Sorry to bother you, Commander, but have you seen Chief Anderson?"
"Not since the debriefing yesterday." he answered. "Why? is there a problem?"
"I'm afraid there might be" the computer co-ordinator admitted unhappily. "He's missed three appointments and a Federation Council meeting, and nobody seems to have seen him since yesterday afternoon."
Mark pushed his papers away. "That's not like the Chief." he said begining to feel twinges of worry. "Who saw him last?"
"The Flight Deck Duty Officer," Zark replied, "at approximately 1500 hours yesterday afternoon. Chief Anderson checked out a jet. He planned to fly himself to Capitol City for his meetings and stay there overnight. He should have been back two hours ago -"
"But he didn't make the meetings," Mark interupted, "maybe he didn't make it to Capitol City."
"A crash?" the brain-bot's voice went up an octave, he didn't quite wring his hands. "I'm afraid I never considered that possibility. there was no mayday and the Chief is an excellent pilot."
"You bet he is," Mark agreed. "taught Tiny and me everything we know, but even the best can get unlucky."
"Oh dear!" now Zark was wringing his four fingered metal hands, antenae drooping in distress, "I feel so remiss!"
"It's not your fault, Zark," Mark reassured him, fighting down his own apprehension. "You're supposed to monitor space, not the local air traffic. I'll fly the Chief's flight plan, see if I can spot anything." like wreckage.
The G1 skimmed low over the Pacific, overflying the occasional coral atoll. *A power failure?* Mark conjectured, *but that wouldn't effect the crashbeacon. No mayday, what could be so fast, so total he wouldn't have time to call for help or even eject his flight recorder? Spectra? Zoltar's still lurking somewhere on Earth but a Mecha, even fighters, would've been spotted. Besides, the Chief's good. Good enough to evade the few seconds he'd need to send out a warning. Maybe-* a metallic glint caught his eye admidst the jungle greenery of yet another atoll, then another, then a lot more.
"Oh God!" he breathed, wreckage, enough for a small jet.
Mark stood beside Jason in the middle of the debris field watching as Princess, pale and controlled, scanned for organic remains for the Chief's body. Keyop and Tiny were some distance away, backtracking the crash trail. The older members of the Team had agreed the youngster shouldn't see whatever the accident had left of their mentor.
Suddenly Princess snapped off the scanner, came to stand visor to visor with Mark. "Negative." she reported. "He's not here, he wasn't on the plane when it crashed."
He pulled her to him, felt her shaking with relief in his arms as the sick knot in his stomach unravelled. The Chief was alive, their guardian, the closest thing any of them had to a father, hadn't died on this crummy little island after all.
"The ejector seat's still here." Jason said abruptly, they broke apart to stare at him. "So's the emergency parachute. How'd he get off?"
Then Keyop was racing towards them, throwing himself into Princess's arms, tearful and incoherent clutching something tightly in one red gloved hand. "Glasses!" he sobbed, between hoots and twitters, "found them, his glasses!"
"It's okay, Keyop, he wasn't on the plane, he got off before the crash." Princess soothed, hugging her 'little brother'.
Tiny, jogging up in Keyop's wake, caught the last part, looked a hopeful question at Mark. the Commander nodded.
"It's true, he's not here, somehow he got off in time."
"But how?" asked Jason.
"Teleportation!" the members of G-Force chorused in varying tones of incredulity.
7-Zark-7 looked out of the Phoenix's monitor screen, apologetic but firm. "It was the only possible answer. I scanned for photonic energy remains and there is a particle trail intercepting the Chief's course."
"Good enough for me." Mark decided. "So this trail'll lead us right to wherever they've taken him?"
"It should. Please be careful, Team, Zoltar would undoubtedly prefer Chief Anderson alive but if he realizes rescue is at hand -"
"He may kill him." Mark finished grimly. "Don't worry, Zark, we'll watch it." After the brain-bot signed off, the Commander added quietly, "We're not going to risk loosing him again."
Chapter 1.3 by Margo Ryor
Chapter One: Lost
Part Three: Somewhere Over the Pacific Northwest, 1140 Hrs.
Ace's bracelet pinged. *Perfect timing* he thought raising it to his lips, *on my way back for once* "G1."
"Ace," it was Agatha June, her voice full of worry and anger. "we've got trouble, Dr. Brighthead is missing!"
His stomach dropped out of his body, like he'd just done a double immelman. "What! since when?"
"He hasn't been seen for at least twenty hours."
"And you're only calling in now!" he yelled.
"I only found out myself five minutes ago!" she shouted back, "they didn't want to worry the Doctor's sweet little girl." she sounded close to tears, angry tears. "Damn this cover!"
"Are they trying to ship you home?" Ace asked, hoping to calm her.
"Of course." she answered bitterly.
"Okay, let them. We'll meet at Base and go back as G-Force."
The Doctor had been in Central Asia, investigating a crop blight, possibly Galactor related. As always when he left the security of Crescent Base for any place but another ISO stronghold he was accompanied by a G-Force bodyguard. As his wards they had the perfect cover. It'd just been Aggie and Peewee this time, Ace, Dirk and Hooty all having conflicting commitments; a mail contract, a race, a kid brother's birthday, nobody'd expected any trouble.
*We got complacent,* Ace thought savagely, *you'd think we'd know better by now*
G-Force was greeted by a small, tense delegation of local security officials. A very unhappy E.U. colonel briefed them.
"Dr. Brighthead was last seen here, about four thirty yesterday morning." The colonel said, as he unlocked the door of a pre-fab field laboratory. "According to the two technicians assigned to assist him he dismissed them for the night and they locked the doors behind them as they left."
He gestured around the compound. "As you can see, the lab is protected by a force field fence. There are surveillance cameras set every seven meters. We had four armed guards at each gate and five more stationed in the monitor room. Nobody could have entered or left without being seen, yet -" He flung open the door, the Team gasped.
Scorched and shattered electronic equipment lined the walls. Fragments of glass and metal littered workbenches and floors. The Team entered cautiously, broken components crunching under their boots, while the colonel hovered in the doorway.
"Look's like they fought World War IV in here." Ace breathed.
"How could your guards not hear all this?" Aggie demanded.
"The colonel shrugged helplessly. "The building is sound proofed."
"Must be damn good sound proofing." Dirk commented.
"Too good." the colonel agreed, ruefully.
Hooty bent suddenly to examine a reddish-brown stain. "Blood!"
"Not Dr. Brighthead's." the colonel assured him hastily, "We checked."
Dirk smiled his unpleasant, predator's smile. "He got at least one of them."
"Good for Doc!" said Peewee.
"Should have known better than to tackle him in a laboratory." Aggie murmured.
"But how did they get in?" the colonel demanded, anguished, "and how did they get out again with the Doctor, nobody seeing?"
Ace saw a familiar object on the floor, bent to retrieve it. It was the frame of Dr. Brighthead's glasses, a few fragments of lense still clinging to the twisted rims. Ace's hand clenched around it. Somehow he managed to keep his voice calm and professional as he answered. "I don't know, colonel. Any ideas, Swan?"
"One." she said, "the same way Galactor keeps escaping from us."
Four bird helmets snapped round to stare at her. The colonel merely looked bewildered.
"That's impossible!" Ace blurted.
"She's right, it's the only thing that makes any sense." Dirk argued.
Hooty and Peewee exchanged worried looks.
"I don't understand." said the colonel.
"Wish I didn't," Ace muttered, adding formally. "I don't see how any blame can attatch to your people, colonel. You clearly took every reasonable precaution. It's no fault of yours they weren't enough."
"Teleportation!" Director Anderson exploded incredulously.
"I know, sir, but it's the only logical explanation." Ace replied uncomfortably from his command seat aboard the Phoenix.
"We know Galactor has the ability to teleport himself," Agatha June chimed in over his shoulder. "apparently he's now discovered a way to 'port groups of people."
"Which means we're in big trouble." said Hooty.
"The implications are pretty scary," Dirk agreed, "Galactor could drop a combat team in anywhere from the Secretariat building to Crescent base itself."
Aggie continued, "The way I reconstruct it a Galactor commando force teleported into the lab, subdued the Doctor-"
"After one hell of a fight!" Peewee interupted.
"Judging by the damages." Ace agreed. "Then they ported out again taking the Doctor with them. We're backtracking the teleport beam's photon trail now, hopefully it'll lead us right to Dr. Brighthead."
"-And the teleport equipment." continued Dirk. "We'll try to take it out."
"For all the good it'll do." Anderson was grim. "What's to keep them from building a new one?"
"Nothing," Ace admitted, "we'll just have to blow that one too."
"And the one after that-" said Dirk.
"And the next one-" sighed Aggie.
"And so on, and so forth-" from Hooty.
"Talk about job security!" Peewee finished, shrugging.
A reluctant smile tugged at the Director's mouth. "Very well, carry on G-Force and good luck!"
"We're gonna need it." the Team chorused as the screen went dark.
"I hope Doc's all right." Aggie said, very quietly, after a brief silence.
"Judging by that lab it's Galactor we should be worrying about." Ace replied with faked confidence, trying to raise spirits.
It fell flat. All five had spent enough time in enemy hands to have a painfully clear idea of what their mentor might be enduring.
"Can we go any faster, Hooty?" Ace asked.
Chapter 1.4 by Margo Ryor
Chapter One: Lost
Part Four: The Eyrie
In The Mountains Above Gateway City, 0230 Hrs.
Joe Thax waved casually to the guard at the gate and continued on up the long drive to the main house. Unlocking the front door he stepped into the entry hall, grinned when he saw lights still burning in the library.
"Waiting up, Doc? I'm not a teenager any more -" the pleasantry broke off in a gasp as he pushed the heavy oak door fully open and got a look inside. The big mahogany library table had been overturned scattering books, papers and shattered lamps across the rug. A Vorak android in the familiar green and drab uniform lay crushed beneath it, arms and legs still twitching feebly. A second android slumped beside the door, a feather stunner buried in its right eye.
Joe unfroze, swung his arm into position. "Eagle mode, Now!" dark blue wings swirled into existence around him as he turned shouting, "Doc! Dr. Keane! Where are you?" A quick search of the house proved it empty, the other rooms untouched. The alarm system was still engaged and showed green.
Furious Joe brought a cybernetically enhanced fist down on the console smashing it. Red lights flashed and sirens blared. Ignoring the armed guards crashing in through windows and doors, he spoke into his bracelet. "G2 to G1! Hunter, we've got a crisis!"
"I should never have left him." Joe brooded.
Hunter turned from watching Kelly work on a deactivated Vorak. "Give it a break, Joe." he told his second, "The Eyrie's supposed to be secure, we've left him alone here a thousand times. Hell, the main reason he comes up here is to get some time to himself."
Joe shook his head angrily. "If I'd been with him -"
"There's no gaurantee you could have changed what happened." Hunter interupted. "They might have taken you too, or killed you. Maybe killed both of you."
"I could've -" Joe began. Hunter cut him off, grabbed him by the shoulders and shook.
"Hey! Joe! this is your commander talking! It's not your fault!"
"Repeat after me; 'It's not my fault!'" Hunter insisted.
"It's not my fault." Joe echoed weakly.
"Once more, with feeling." Hunter ordered.
Irritated Joe broke his hold, snarled "It's not my fault! Okay?
that good enough for you, Hunter?"
"Better." the commander conceeded, "for a minute there I thought I'd have to give you one of my lectures."
"No!" Joe cried in mock terror, "anything but that!"
Satisfied Joe was himself again Hunter turned his attention back to Kelly. She had just finished extracting a walnut sized component from behind the Vorak's left eye, the android equivalent of a black box.
"Okay," she said, "this should tell us how they got in here and what they did with the Doctor."
Francine Aikens entered through the wreckage of a garden window trailed by Mickey, carrying her bag, and Ollie. "Nobody saw or heard anything." She reported, "They're not lying but there's no sign of drugs or hypnotic influence, I can't explain it."
"Hopefully the Vorak's vid-corders can." Kelly remarked, starting to rise, her foot knocked against something and she picked it up. For a moment they all stared as if mesmerised at Dr. Keane's glasses, miraculously unbroken, in her open palm then she tucked them away in her belt pouch, breaking the spell, led the way out of the room.
Kelly took the Doctor's data decoder from his private lab and set it up in the living room. Hunter and Ollie started rearranging chairs into an improvised theater as Joe looked on in disbelief.
"How about some popcorn?" he asked, voice fairly dripping sarcasm.
"Good idea." said Ollie, grabbed Mickey and exited to the kitchen. they returned just as the others were settling into their seats with bowls of popcorn, chips and dip.
"I don't believe this!" Joe snarled. "Doctor Keane is missing and you guys get munchies!"
"Gotta keep up our strength." Ollie returned calmly, passed him a bowl. "Have some popcorn?"
"Ready, Kelly?" Hunter interposed quickly.
"Ready." she responded, "Settle down, guys." she flicked a switch on the decoder and a holoscreen formed before the half circle of seats depicting an android eye view of a familiar figure making a speech.
"Sorry, can't get sound." Kelly apologized.
"No problem," Hunter answered, "we've heard Mallanox rave before."
Then they were marched through standard Vorak corridors, through an arch into a spacious lab where strange looking machines generated a ring of misty light.
"What the hell is that?" Joe wondered.
"Can't be." Aikens muttered.
"Can't be what?" Hunter wanted to know.
"It looks like some kind of teleport device." she admitted reluctantly.
"Shit!" said Hunter.
"Double shit." Joe agreed.
Onscreen a detachment of Vorak passed through the light ring into the familiar library with Dr. Keane rising from behind the center table. The point-of-view android moved towards him, weapon leveled.
The Doctor's lips formed a word that popped his charges' eyes.
"I didn't think Doc knew that kind of language." Hunter muttered.
Suddenly Keane lifted the heavy table and literally threw it at the Vorak.
Ollie, equally impressed: "Nice move!"
Hunter and Joe simply gaped.
The picture cartwheeled as the Vorak fell, settled into an out of focus view of the raftered ceiling.
Kelly switched off, changed vid-corders. "This is from the second attacker."
A reprise of the table throwing incident followed by a flurry of ninjitsu moves as the Vorak tried to close in.
Joe, shaking his head, stunned: "I didn't know Doc had it in him."
Kelly: "Neither did the Vorak."
Mickey: "Yeah! Go Doc!"
Hunter: I don't know why I'm so suprised, he trained us after all."
Ollie: "Watch out Doc!"
Outnumbered and unarmed, except for one feather stunner, the end was inevitable. Eventually the Vorak managed to come to grips and then it was android strength against mere human muscle. Dr. Keane had the good sense not to struggle knowing he would only injure himself. The light ring reformed in a corner of the room and the remaining Vorak walked into it, dragging the Doctor with them.
Kelly switched off the machine and the holoscreen evaporated.
"This is not good." Hunter understated grimly, "How long ago did all this happen, Kelly?"
"Roughly twenty-two hours."
"Don't even think it, Joe!" Hunter warned, "there's no way you could've known. He turned to Aikens. "Is there a way to track teleports?"
She nodded, "Yes, the high energy beam leaves a trail of photon particles -"
"Great. Will it still be there after twenty-two hours?"
"Should be." Aikens and Kelly replied in chorus.
"Then let's go!" said Hunter
Chapter 2.1: Found by Margo Ryor
Like I said; All this belongs to Tatsunoko, Except Dr. Keane who is the property of Saban.
Chapter Two: Found
Part One: The God Phoenix, Over The Ural Mountains, 0315 Hrs.
Jun stared intently at her board. "Photon track dissipates about two klicks over that next rise."
"Roger, take her down." Ken ordered.
Ryu tucked the God Phoenix neatly into a little hollow halfway up the mountainside, switched on Piemur and growled, "I don't care what you say, Ken, I'm not staying with the ship this time!"
"The thought never crossed my mind." Gatchaman assured him.
"This is it." Jun announced, snapping off her hand scanner.
Ken regarded the rocky, unpromising slope before them, strewn with boulders and scrubby bushes. "All right, start looking for a way in."
"Somebody coming!" Joe snapped, the Team took cover.
A line of all-terrain cargo vehicles growled into view causing the ninjas to exchange incredulous looks.
"Well that solves that problem." muttered Joe.
"Talk about luck!" Jinpei agreed.
"Maybe it's a good omen." Jun smiled.
"Maybe so." Ken agreed. "All right, five of them, five of us, one to a truck, go!"
Jumping down onto a truck was easy, hanging on as it bumped and ground its way over the trackless mountainside rather less so. Finally the earth opened before them and they drove into the Galactor base. The Team promptly abandoned their trucks, reassembling in the support beams high above the vehicle bay.
Ryu, groaning: "I think I'm seasick!"
Ken: "You wanted to come."
Jinpei: "We're fifty million miles inland, dummy!"
Ryu: "Okay, make that landsick, I sure never felt this bad at sea!"
Ken, very seriously: "Listen up! We've got two objectives, Doctor and the teleport device. We've got to destroy it but we can't move until Doctor is safe or Gel Sadra will use him against us. Joe you go with Ryu, Jun and Jinpei with me. Call in when you find something."
"Roger!" Joe and Ryu chorused.
Dr. Thaddeus Keane tried to analyze his symptoms, deduce what drug they had given him but it was growing increasingly difficult to concentrate. Not a truth serum then, those gave an unnatural clarity of mind and euphoric indifference to consequences. He felt anything but euphoric. He was worried and apprehensive, for himself of course, but even more for his adopted children. He knew they'd be coming after him, was terrified they'd find themselves walking into a trap.
Suddenly somebody gripped his shoulder, "Doctor!"
He forced his eyes open, shrank reflexively from the blurred, blue caped figure bending over him then realized who it must be. "Joe?"
"Thank God," said the familiar voice, "for a second there I thought you didn't know me. You okay, Doctor?"
"I'm afraid not," he admitted, "they've drugged me, a hypnotic by the feel of it, just enough to scramble my reflexes and thought processes."
"Can you walk?" the Condor frowned, concerned.
"I can try." Keane sat up, used Joe's arm to lever himself to his feet. A wave of vertigo broke over him and he was forced to clutch at his foster son for support. Strong arms closed around him.
"Doctor!" Joe cried, alarmed, "Can you hear me? Are you all right?"
Keane took a deep breath, answered, "I'm not going to be able to walk without help, Sorry."
"Don't worry about it. Ryu!"
The strange name failed to register with Keane, he was too busy trying to stay on his feet.
"Here, take him."
A new, thicker arm slipped around him, he looked into the familiar, if blurry face of the Owl. "I don't suppose either of you has my spare glasses?"
Joe: "Sorry, I think Ken has them."
*Ken?* Keane shook his head, trying to clear it.
"G2 here," Joe continued into his bracelet, "we got him."
"Good," came the Eagle's voice in reply, "get him back to the vehicle bay, we'll take care of the teleport."
Joe took point as they moved out, going several paces in advance of the others, checking for trouble. He shot a quick look over his shoulder, Doctor was doing his best but could barely stay on his feet, much less walk. Ryu looked worried.
Joe was worried too. All hell was going to break loose round here the minute Ken and the others blew the teleport, they had to move faster than this. He returned his attention to the corridor ahead just in time to see a squad of Guys-in-Green round the corner.
The Galactors froze an all too brief instant then opened fire in an ill-aimed volley. The Condor flipped himself out of the stream of bullets, tossed a handful of feather shurikens. Five out of the ten fell. The rest wavered and would have run if they hadn't been quickly reinforced by a second, larger troop.
"I could use some help here, Owl!"
Ryu had pushed Keane against the wall, sheltering him from Galactor fire with body and wings. "Stay here, Doctor, don't move!" he instructed hurriedly, then charged into the fray roaring defiance.
Holding onto the wall for support, Keane peered into the struggling mass of bodies, desperately wishing he could at least see what was going on. A rough hand grasped him, spun him around. It didn't take twenty-twenty vision to make out two Galactors, probably cell-block guards attracted by the gunfire.
Instinctively the Doctor broke the hold on his arm. When the Goon grabbed for him again he used the man's own momentum to slam him against the wall. The Galactor slid into a boneless heap on the floor but the move cost Keane his balance. He fell beside his victim, looked up to see a gun butt swinging towards his head, then a feather shuriken caught the second guard in the throat knocking him backwards.
Shaken Joe pulled his mentor to his feet, demanded to know if he was all right.
"I'm embarrassed." the Doctor replied, "I can fight better than that."
"We know." Joe assured him, exchanged a concerned look with Ryu. "The alarm's out, Doctor, we've got to move fast. I'm going to carry you, okay?"
It was clear he didn't like the idea, but he nodded. "I guess you'll have to. Sorry."
"It's not your fault." Joe reassured him. Even with permission he felt uncomfortably like he was violating his mentor's dignity. Picked him up gingerly, flashing back to a memory of himself at a gawky twelve or thirteen being carried upstairs by his guardian after some accident. He felt the Doctor tense then deliberately relax, closing his eyes and resting his head om Joe's shoulder. The Condor gave him a comforting squeeze, feeling a surge of protective affection and fury directed at Gel Sadra for reducing his foster father to this condition.
They made it to the assigned rendevous, an empty workspace off the vehicle bay, without further incident. Three white shadows, or rather two white and one blue, descended upon them.
Ken, Jun and Jinpei in ragged unison: "Doctor!"
Jinpei, accusingly: "You said he was all right!"
"I said we had him." Joe corrected.
Jun, worried: "Is he injured?"
"Joe, tersely: "Drugged, he's kinda out of it."
The Doctor opened his eyes, tried to smile reassuringly at Jun and Jinpei, "Not that out of it." Looked up at Joe. "Are you going to put me down?" Joe, flatly: "No." to Ken, "Let's blow this place." "My thought exactly." The Eagle responded with his wickedest grin.
Chapter 2.2 by Margo Ryor
Everybody but Nambu belongs to Sandy Franks, Hakase is the property of Tatsunoko and doubtless wishes they'd come claim him.
Chapter Two: Found
Part Two: Secret Spectran Base, Tierra Del Fuego, 1510 Hrs.
Mala stepped back, glared furiously at her prisoner. He returned her gaze as unmoved as ever, seemingly indifferent to the blood trickling from four parallel scratches down the side of this face and the too tight metal restraints holding him helpless in his chair.
She fought down a scream of frustration. She'd been looking forward to this interrogation, to matching wits with the formidable Security Chief Anderson and winning, of course! For all his ability he was only human, unequal to one of the Great Spirit's Chosen. She was close to changing her opinion on that point at least. How do you break a man who won't speak or respond to you in any way? Who just sits there impenetrable and immovable giving no purchase at all?
Mala backed another few steps away. It was ridiculous but she felt as if she were the one at a disadvantage. She knew perfectly well he couldn't see her clearly without those odd corrective lenses he affected yet his brown eyes seemed to look right through her, cataloging, analyzing, as if she were some kind of scientific specimen.
*I've got to get out of here, calm down, get my perspective back.* She turned in a swirl of purple and mauve draperies, slammed the door behind her.
Nambu leaned back, closing his eyes. It made no sense, what did Gel Sadra think she would accomplish with this absurd masquerade? Admittedly seeing Katse again had shaken him badly but this soi-disant sister'd ruined the impact. Had Sosai X forgotten he knew the truth about Katse? Nambu willed himself to relax, to try to sleep. He had to keep his strength up.
An indeterminate time later the door opened, startling him out of a light doze. A slight, white winged form swooped down on him, encircling him with arms and wings.
"Chief! Oh you gave us a scare! We thought you were dead!" the Swan all but sobbed.
"As you can see I'm alive," Nambu answered gently, "and very glad to see you."
Her smile faded as she saw the scratches on his face. "That bitch!" Sorry, Chief, but she is." took out her first aid kit and began dabbing antiseptic on the cuts. "Did she hurt you? I mean other than this?"
"No. She was trying a rather clumsy psychological approach."
The Swan grinned. "Wasn't working huh?"
"Perhaps for a moment." he conceeded as his foster daughter finished with the scratches. He was slightly startled when she dropped a kiss on his good cheek before setting to work on the restraints. Jun wasn't usually that demonstrative. *The poor child must have been very upset.*
He looked past her, saw a second white winged figure standing quietly just inside the door. "'The white shadow that slips in unseen.'" he quoted, smiling.
The Swan glanced up in suprise, then over her shoulder. "Oh! Commander, I was going to call in when I'd finished with these." she indicated the metal bands still confining Nambu's left arm and leg.
The Eagle just shook his head, raised his arm to speak into his bracelet, "G1 to G-Force, we've got him. Set your charges and get back to the ship."
G2 and the G5, over bracelet: "Yeah!
Nambu blinked. *Was that Jinpei?*
The Swan finished with the restraints, helped him to his feet. "You okay?" she asked worriedly, "those cuffs were awfully tight."
"I haven't been in them long." Nambu assured her, and promptly belied himself by stumbling over his first step.
Gatchaman caught his arm to steady him, then pulled him into a quick hug. This startled Nambu even more than the kiss, the Team were not given to diplays of affection. His fault really, he knew his reserve tended to keep people at a distance, even his own kids.
"Let's move," the Eagle said, "we've got about ten minutes."
Nambu got his first good, if out of focus, look at the ship waiting for them and stopped dead in his tracks. It was unmistakably the original God Phoenix, with the Owl standing on top, waving them on. *Impossible! I had her scrapped!*
The ground under them shook with yet another explosion as the base consumed itself. The Swallow tugged at his hand, "Tworp-vworp! Come on, Chief!" Nambu allowed himself to be urged on.
The Eagle and the Condor grabbed him by either arm and flew him up to the entry hatch where the Owl engulfed him in a bone crushing hug.
"Boy am I glad to see you, Chief!" he said as the lift dropped them into the ship.
Nambu didn't answer, he too was busy trying to get his breath back and make sense out of a suddenly senseless world. Gatchaman steered him to the command chair and pressed him into it, taking up station behind him, just as he always did when Nambu rode with the Team.
"Big ten, Commander." the Owl answered hitting the launch controls. They blasted away from the flame filled hole that had once been Spectra's secret Earth base.
"There goes Zoltar." the Condor said bitterly.
"And Mala." the Swan hissed.
Looking at the monitor Nambu saw the familiar Katse escape craft shoot away in the opposite direction.
*What is going on here?* he wondered desperately, behind his usual calm mask. His original theory of a Galactor deception didn't hold water, too many errors, even Gel Sadra could do better than this.
He glanced surreptitiously around at the Team, all calmly busy at their stations, except for the Eagle, now leaning over the Swan's shoulder talking softly into her ear. She laughed and slapped playfully at him.
Nambu looked ahead, staring unseeingly out the port. *These aren't my children.* he thought with an irrational, intuitive certainty. *Yet I don't feel they're trying to deceive me. I'd stake my life they're not hostile,* smiled wryly. *In fact I've done exactly that by putting myself in their hands like this.* He closed his eyes. *Maybe I'm dreaming, having a nightmare.* opened them again as the monitor pinged. A robot dressed in a birdstyle appeared onscreen. Nambu just managed not to gape *Definitely a nightmare!*
"Good work, Team!" it trilled excitedly, "It's so good to see you safe, Chief Anderson!"
*Chief Anderson!* Nambu couldn't resist a quick glance down, to see if he had somehow metamorphised into the Director. No, those were his hands, his suit, now somewhat the worse for wear.
"Are you feeling all right, Chief?" The robot asked, concerned.
"A little - disoriented." Nambu understated.
The antenae rose and fell, a sure sign of perturbation had Nambu known it. "It might be wise to have a full physical on your return, sir. There is some history of neurological side effects from teleportation."
Nambu chilled. Indeed there was, including delusional insanity. "A good idea." he heard himself say, calmly. "Please arrange it."
Chapter 2.3 by Margo Ryor
Everybody here is the property of Turner; blame Fred Ladd not me for the names. Excepting Chief Anderson who is the property of Sandy Franks.
Chapter Two: Found
Part Three: Gallactor Base, Gobi Desert, 1350 Hrs.
The cell door crashed open. Chief Anderson raised himself on an elbow and regarded the blurry purple apparition in the doorway with lifted brow.
"Something wrong?" he inquired politely. Gallactor didn't bother to answer, just dragged the Chief to his feet and out of the cell.
Anderson could feel his captor shaking through the grip on his arm, smiled to himself *You're scared, Zoltar, and I bet I know why.*
He glanced at the guard of heavily armed Green cannon fodder surrounding them and temporarily shelved any ideas of escape. G-Force could easily overcome such odds but not him, at least not unarmed and handicapped by his limited vision.
They were transversing a large chamber of indeterminate function when a familiar voice floated down, "Let him go, Gallactor!"
*Mark!* Anderson thought as his captor pulled him into a neck-lock, digging the muzzle of a small beamer into his temple.
"Surrender yourself, Eagle!" the alien shrilled, practically in his ear. "or I kill your master here and now!"
"Don't do it, Commander!" the Chief called, strong and clear over the sudden hammering of his heart, "that's an order!" The arm across his throat tightened, crushing his windpipe, he struggled for air as the room redded out around him.
"Stop!" the pressure eased. "I'm coming down."
*No!* Anderson thought desperately unable to protest aloud, still barely able to breath. A white winged form, blurred by myopia and unshed tears, landed lightly in front of them bent to place his birdrang on the floor, kicked it away. "Now let him go!"
The Chief staggered as he was abruptly shoved towards his foster son. White wings wrapped protectively around them both as Ace pulled him down. Shouted, "G-Force go!"
Anderson's head impacted painfully with the deck. He heard the rush of air as his other children swooped into battle; a chatter of gunfire from the Green Goons; the whistle of the Swan's yoyo; the meaty thunk of the Condor's harpoon gun hitting home; and soaring over it all Gallactor's hysterical screams. Tried to brush the sheltering wing aside to see what was happening.
The Eagle pushed him back. "No, Doctor, stay down."
Gallactor's cries faded down the corridor as he fled pursued by the Team. G1 helped Anderson to his feet, asked anxiously if he was all right?
"Except for an incipient concussion and some bruised ribs, yes." he replied. "You gave me a bad moment there, Commander."
"I couldn't let him kill you." the other explained.
The Chief shook his head. "It was a bluff, Eagle. I'm too valuable an Intelligence source to be thrown away like that."
"Maybe." was the quiet, unconvinced answer. "I couldn't take the chance. I've already lost one father to Gallactor."
Anderson was forced to blink hard, the lump in his throat kept him from responding. In the emotion of the moment he also failed to notice the unfamiliar name 'Gallactor'.
The rest of G-Force pounded back into the room.
G2, furious: "Got away again damnit!"
G3: "Are you all right, Doctor?"
G4 simply put his arms around his guardian's legs and hugged. Anderson hugged him back and assured the Swan he was all right. Flinched as the Condor brushed a gentle finger over the rapidly swelling flesh around one eye.
"Who gave you the shiner, Doc?"
"I have no idea," he shrugged. "presumably one of the guards."
His second son grinned, eyes icy cold. "Guess that means I'll have to kill them all."
"I appreciate the thought, G2, but we would be better employed finding a way out of here." Anderson told him firmly.
"Not to worry, Doctor," The Commander grinned, "our ride should be here any minute."
*Do I want to know?* The Chief wondered, *Probably not.*
The room began to vibrate as thundering engines, punctuated by occasional tearing crashes, drew nearer.
"Stand back, guys, here I come!" crowed a voice over the Team's bracelets.
*Tiny?* Anderson wondered as he allowed himself to be drawn back into the farthest corner of the room. The wall opposite bulged, then cracked and tore, pierced by the Phoenix's bright red prow. The metal bulkheads peeled back as the rest of the ship forced its way through to hover on its belly jets a few feet off the deck.
"All aboard who's coming aboard! the Phoenix special to Crescent base and points east!" The Owl announced happily.
"It was G5's idea." The Eagle explained to their goggling mentor.
"Any trouble, Hooty?" G1 asked as they entered the bridge.
"Nope, walls tore like tinfoil!"
"They just don't make Gallactor bases like they used to." the Condor remarked taking his seat. "Okay if I leave them a few bird missles to remember us by, Doc?" he added, glancing over at Anderson in the command chair.
He nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Certain discontinuities had finally begun to register. Gallactor? Hooty? And since when was he 'Doctor' or 'Doc' to the Team? they'd called him 'Chief' ever since he stopped being 'Uncle Keith'.
He looked around at the familiar faces, the familiar control cabin, frowned inwardly, suspicions now fully aroused. Something funny was going on, yet how could Zoltar have the data necessary to create such a convincing replica of the Phoenix's interior? *Play along,* he told himself, *see where this goes.*
"Wait til we get outside!" G3 snapped, more sharply than Princess would have.
The Condor looked hurt. "Of course I will," he said, "you think I'm crazy or something?"
"YES!" the rest of the Team replied in emphatic near unison.
The Chief couldn't help grinning. *Damn good characterization, whoever they are.*
Credit to Stevie Dmytryszyn for the Chief's first name, 'Keith'. And Thanks to all Sarah Meador for her G-Force Overview, and all others who contributed G-Force information.
Chapter 2.4 by Margo Ryor
The Eagle Riders belong to Saban; Doctor Brighthead to Turner which is solely responsible for his name.
Chapter Two: Found
Part Four: Vorak Base, Somewhere above the Arctic Circle, 1330 Hrs.
Brighthead looked impassively at the enemy comander, noted it was not Gallactor but somebody new. Even without his glasses he could see he/she was wearing the most ridiculous outfit he'd ever seen even on one of Gallactor's lieutenants. The great height, nearly a head taller than Brighthead himself, and deep voice seemed masculine but the cataracts of blond hair and curving figure were definitely female.
*Perhaps a shapechanger like Gallactor but with a weaker grasp of normal human appearance.* he conjectured.
Suddenly the commander cut short hir ravings with a shriek of fury and struck out knocking him to the floor. He lay there a moment, stunned.
S/he stared down at him, visibly dismayed, asked "Are you all right?" in a hushed, scared voice.
*She'd afraid of damaging me, interesting.* Brighthead thought, answered, "I think so, no bones broken." started to rise only to be pushed back by a booted foot square in the chest. He lay back obediently looking up at his captor now poised over him like a hunter posing with hir prey. *Didn't I see this scene once in a blue movie?*
"So you can talk!" The commander gloated triumphantly. "Let's start with the locations of Earth's main military bases.
Brighthead said nothing. *Doesn't she realize she's shown her hand? She's answerable to somebody, Gallactor or Computor, who doesn't want me harmed. Yet.*
"EEEiii!" furious again she lifted her foot for a kick and he swiftly rolled clear, half rising to a crouch.
The tense moment was broken by the entrance of an agitated Greenie. "Madam! The Hawk has been seen inside the base!"
Brighthead hid a smile behind his moustache.
The commander spun, purple sleeves flapping, snapped, "Bring him!" to hir henchmen as s/he headed out the door.
A guard hauled the Doctor to his feet. He pulled himself free, followed the Commander out of the room fingering the energy cell secreted in the pocket of his lab coat.
It wasn't difficult to guess what the commander had in mind. Brighthead now knew that any threat made against him would be a bluff but the Team couldn't be expected to realize that. They would do whatever seemed necessary to protect him, including giving themselves up. He couldn't permit that.
Brighthead looked around. The commander was striding rapidly along several yards ahead, dragging a guard with her as she questioned him. Three more Guys in Green trailed him, weapons at ready.
Deciding he was unlikely to get a better chance the Doctor took out the cell, hurled it to the ground. It shattered releasing its energy in an actinic flash that temporarily blinded the Gallactors. When they could see again Brighthead had vanished.
"Wh-where is he?" the commander stuttered, then screamed, "You fools! how could you let him get away!"
Hir men protested, the prisoner couldn't possibly have gotten past them.
"Then where is he?!" s/he shrieked. "Go! go! find him!"
The guards scattered, the commander stood glaring after them for a moment then flounced off.
Brighthead, watching it all through a ventillation grill set into the concealed access hatch, smiled. Typical Gallactor Goons, no imagination. Good to know he hadn't completely lost his touch after all those years behind a desk.
He glanced around the tiny maintenance cubby noting the tool lockers on the walls and hatches in floor and ceiling. Shrugged himself out of his lab coat, realizing it would be an encumbrance in the 'tween-decks crawlways, added tie and vest to the pile then checked the lockers for helpful items.
First order of business was to keep himself out of enemy hands, second to contact the Team, but if any opportunities for useful mischief did present themselves - well, it would be irresponsible not to take full advantage.
Joe's bracelet pinged. "G2, go." he responded not pausing in his steady sweep through the corridors.
"G1 here, I'm having a little chat with Mallanox."
Joe smiled evilly, "Hogging all the fun as usual, commander?"
"You could say that." Hunter conceeded, he certainly sounded like he was enjoying himself. "She claims, and for once I believe her, that she had Dr. Keane but he escaped."
Joe stopped dead and let out hours of accumulated worry in a gust of laughter. "He got away from her? He's on the loose somewhere in the base?"
"Mmmm-hmmm. He knows we're here, he'll be looking for us."
"Guess we'd better make ourselves easy to find." Joe mused, "I got some ideas."
"I knew you would." said Hunter.
Brighthead squinted, struggling to make out the printed labels on a quartet of pipes running into a ventilation shaft. Myopia was a damned nuisance perhaps he should reconsider having his vision surgically corrected. He'd decided against it originally because the operation left the retinas exquisitely sensitive to enviromental factors which he feared might blind him at the wrong moment. Of course he was out of the field now but there was always the risk of capture. Perhaps contact lenses as a back up were the answer.
He'd have to come up with some kind of defense against future teleport attacks, a photonic barrier of some kind - his mind threatened to wander off into astrophysics, he curbed it sharply, readdressed the problem at hand.
*Ah ha* smiled as he deciphered the final label. *Tcch, careless of Gallactor, piping a corrosive coolant through the ventilation system, an accident could happen so easily.* He set about arranging one.
The Owl and the Swallow wandered the corridors shooting the occasional Vorak and calling for their guardian.
"Doctor!" Ollie roared.
Echoed by Mickey's piping "Doc!"
Suddenly a new alarm added itself to the cacophany, a high thin wail that stopped the two Eagle Riders in their tracks as a knee high wave of purplish-black smoke surged down the passage to engulf them.
"What the-" Ollie bent to sniff, made a face and spoke into his bracelet. "G5 to G1, we've got enviromental contamination on four."
"You two all right?" Hunter asked.
"Just fine." Ollie replied. "It's system coolant, heavy stuff, won't bother us a bit."
"But will give the Vorak a nasty hotfoot." Hunter said approvingly, "Nice work Falcon."
Joe, puzzled: "Wasn't me."
Hunter, inquirering: "Dove?"
Kelly, also puzzled: "Me neither."
A moment of perplexed silence then five voices cried simultaneously: "Doctor Keane!"
Joe, amused and proud: "Looks like he doesn't need our help!"
Hunter: "He might like a lift home. Forget the lower levels, Owl, Doc's too smart to get caught in his own trap." "Unlike some people." Joe put in with pointed malice. Ollie grinned as he pictured the look on Mallanox's face, led the way back to the access ladder. If Doc was rigging traps for the enemy he must be all right, even if they hadn't found him yet. The other good news was that Hunter'd nabbed Mallanox, but Ollie wasn't getting his hopes up. She'd given them the slip before, odds were she would again or Cybercon would rescue her.
Exiting the tube he nearly collided with the suddenly motionless form of his small partner. "Hey! what's the matter with you?" he demanded irritably. Mickey pointed.
It was the Doctor but it took a second, even third look before Ollie was sure. It wasn't just the missing glasses, he'd also lost his lab coat, vest and tie somewhere. He looked younger, tougher, even dangerous, very unlike the scholarly, mild mannered guardian Ollie was accustomed too.
"There you are." the Doctor said with his usual deadpan, then broke into a grin at their sandbagged expressions.
Mickey and Ollie grabbed a hand apiece babbling their relief.
"Boy are we glad to see you"
"You all right, Doc?"
"Fine," he assured them, "in fact I've rather enjoyed myself. It's good to see some action for a change."
Ollie blinked, startled at the unexpected sentiment.
"You did real good too." Mickey said generously.
"For an aging, ossifying desk man." their guardian finished for him.
"Yeah," the Swallow agreed, blissfully unconscious of irony. "That move with the coolant was real cool."
Ollie winced at the pun.
"Thank you," the Doctor said drily, "which reminds me, we should get out of the main corridors, they'll be boiling up from below anytime now."
As they moved off into a side passage Ollie called in. "G5 to G1, we found him." his foster father lifted an eyebrow. "I mean he found us." Ollie amended.
Hunter, eagerly: "Doc!, you okay? Did she hurt you?"
The Doctor: "I'm fine thank you, commander. I trust one of you has my spare glasses?"
Kelly: "I do."
Hunter: "Right! set your charges and rendevous back at the comm center"
Typically they ran headlong into a band of Vorak just as they rounded the final corner to the rendevous point. Ollie and Mickey closed protectively in front of their guardian, drawing their weapons.
The Vorak had obviously come up from below, ragged strips of trouser fabric and synth-skin flapped round blackened and pitted steel limbs, the corrosive coolant had done its work well. Unfortunately it had also left them fighting mad. Usually they ran at the sight of an Eagle Rider but now, faced with two, they stood their ground and opened fire.
Mickey's rebound ball ricocheted through the formation like a manic pinball, closely followed by Ollie swinging his gripper. A rear attack by the other three Eagle Riders completed the rout.
"Good work, Team." said Hunter briskly, "Let's get going, Doc-" he broke off, the Doctor had vanished. He instantly jumped to the obvious conclusion, "Vorak must have got him, circle round they can't have gone far
Brighthead stopped to catch his breath, still shaken at how nearly he'd been fooled. He'd encountered shapechangers before but never so convincing. *I'd have led them right back to base* he thought grimly, *Question; was the real Team ever here? or has it all been a charade to make me accept the imposters?*. He rubbed his eyes, he was tired, hadn't slept in some forty hours, if help wasn't at hand he was in trouble.
He whirled. The ersatz Owl and Swallow had appeared at one end of the corridor.
"You were very good." he told them, "I didn't suspect a thing at first."
"What are you talking about, Doc?"
Brighthead turned again to face G1, G2, and G3 blocking the other end of the passage. Surrounded he placed his back to the wall, continued evenly. "Those strange weapons were a careless mistake, but then your commander didn't impress me with her intelligence."
Our commander!" G3 gasped, "Doctor, it's us!"
He looked back expressionless, clearly disbelieving.
Conscious of the timers ticking away G1 said, "I'm sorry, Doctor, we haven't time to argue with you." and made a grab for him. Brighthead twisted in his grasp shifting leverage. the Hawk hit the wall hard, losing his grip.
Brighthead stepped clear of him, pivoted to avoid the Owl's charge, fiented first one way then the other, got G5 spinning in circles trying vainly to engage until he finally staggered dizzily into a door.
G3's weapon, a long pink whip-like ribbon wrapped itself around the Doctor's right arm. He gripped it, swung her hard and high against the opposite wall. She slid down it to land in a huddled heap.
The Sparrow gave a cry of alarm as he ran to see if she was all right. Brighthead involuntarily turned towards him giving G2 the opening he needed.
Brighthead tried to counter the armlock, steel thewed limbs didn't give at all. "Don't fight me, Doctor," his opponent told him, "you'll just hurt yourself."
The Doctor looked into the familiar face, flashed back to the exposed steel limbs of the Green Guards. "Another android?" he guessed.
A strange look passed over the G2's face, grief? regret? "Not quite." he answered. His grip shifted, applying pressure and everything went dark.
Ollie placed their guardian's inert body on the examination table in the Ultra-Eagle's tiny sickbay. Kelly fastened restraining straps across chest, waist and legs. Working one handed, her right arm held tightly to her side.
"Is that really necessary?" Ollie asked, pained.
"Yes." she replied flatly, matter-of-fact tone belied by the tears running down her face. "You want to risk another fight?"
"No." Ollie left with a long, backward glance.
Kelly wiped the tears away impatiently, set about her examination. There was a lot of bruising, much of it undoubtedly from the first fight with the Vorak, but the Team had to be responsible for the dislocated shoulder, and knee cap, and probably the cracked ribs too. She couldn't reset shoulder or knee one handed so she settled for strapping the ribs and giving him a shot for the pain. Then waited for him to regain consciousness. Hoping somehow, magically, he'd be back to normal.
As consciousness returned Brighthead became aware he was bound, strapped to a thinly padded surface, perhaps an examining table. He opened his eyes to find the false G3 hanging over him. "Doctor?" she asked, hopefully.
She really was *very* good. It was hard to believe this wasn't his Aggie looking tremulously down at him, tears starting in her eyes.
"I guess you still don't believe we're really your team." she said, tremulously. "I just hope we can find a way of proving ourselves to you."
Her distress felt very real to Brighthead, tugged at his paternal instincts as the Swallow's frightened cry had done. It was agonizingly difficult not to respond to her.
He closed his eyes, shutting her out. Sensed her hovering over him, waiting for some kind of reaction which he refused to give. After what seemed a very long time he heard her turn away, then turn back, felt the familiar shape of his glasses settle into place. Opened his eyes in time to catch a flutter of white wing-cape as she hurried from the room.
Brighthead looked around at the unfamiliar sick-bay, now in clear focus. Felt a niggling uncertainty. They certainly weren't *his* team, but could they really be the enemy?
Kelly walked into the control cabin and took her station. The other four looked at her anxiously.
Joe: "How is he?"
Kelly, tightly: "Physically he'll be fine, no serious injuries."
Hunter: "What about mentally?"
Kelly adjusted a dial on her board, hand trembling visibly. "He's still convinced we're some kind of imposters."
"What the Hell did Mallanox do to him?" Ollie wondered.
"Maybe nothing," she answered. "It could be a side affect of the teleportation process. Two of the six human subjects of ISO's TP project had similar delusions after transport. The first recovered spontaneously after a few days-"
"Then he'll be all right?" Mickey interupted eagerly.
"The second subject," his sister continued steadily, "never recovered, he's still in an asylum somewhere. That's why they stopped the project."
The rest of the trip back to base passed in total silence.
Special Thanks to Sally Beck for answering endless, arcane questions about the Eagle Riders.
Chapter 3.1: Where Am I? by Margo Ryor
Everybody here belongs to Tatsunoko except for Dr. Keane who belongs to Saban.
Chapter Three: 'Where Am I?'
Part One: ISO Building, Utoland: Science Ninja Team Gatchaman
Dr. Thaddeus Keane opened his eyes, immediately recognized his blurry surroundings as his own room at HQ, and the small figure in bright primary colors curled up in the bedside chair as his youngest child.
"Mickey?" Keane said, or tried to, all that emerged was a croak.
The boy started awake. "Doctor?" tumbled eagerly out of the chair to stand beside the bed. "How are you feeling?"
The Doctor cleared his throat and tried again. "Much better than last night." he managed, "Any chance of some tea?"
The kid gave him a huge grin of delighted relief. "Sure, be right back." and darted out.
Keane reached for his glasses in their usual place on the bedside table.
The Swallow returned with a tray, put it down, poured a cup for his guardian, then a second for himself, loaded it with honey and settled himself at the foot of the bed. "So, who's Kelly?"
The strange question instantly triggered all Keane's defensive instincts. Expertly covered his shock with sip of tea then managed a polite, "I beg your pardon?"
"Just before you passed out for good you called Jun Kelly," the boy explained, "Joe figured she must be an old girlfriend."
"Joe's wrong," the Doctor returned evenly, heart racing, "Kelly is - a former student who somewhat resembles Jun." *Got to keep him talking, get more information* "How did you find me?"
"It wasn't easy! Dr. Pandora didn't even know you were gone for hours and hours, by the time she called us the trail was pretty cold." Like Mickey, Jinpei loved the sound of his own voice, he rattled happily on for nearly an hour until finally interupted by Jun.
"Jinpei! Doctor is suposed to be resting." she scolded.
"I'm not bothering him," her little brother replied defensively, "am I, Doctor?"
"Not at all." Keane replied with perfect sincerity. The child had undoubtedly saved him from giving himself away and he was duely grateful.
"I think it's time we let Doctor enjoy a little peace and quiet." Jun decided. "Besides, you've got your homework to do."
Jinpei obviously felt the same enthusiasm for school as Mickey. "Aw, Sis!'
"Come on, Jinpei!" Jun ordered sternly, then smiled at Keane. "Remember, Doctor, you're supposed to rest no sneaking off to the office or your lab!"
"I won't." he promised.
They left him with a great deal to think about. He dismissed the possibility of a Vorak deception out of hand. Mallanox lacked both the imagination and the subtlety to concoct such a plan.
Which left him with a Team identical to his own but answering to very different names. Mickey was now Jinpei; Kelly, Jun; Ollie had become Ryu and Hunter, Ken. Oddly enough Joe remained Joe. They were still at war but the enemy too had changed; Galactor, an Earth based organization, instead of the alien Vorak, led by a Gel Sadra not Mallanox.
There were two possible explanations. He could be suffering from teleport induced delusions but Aikens, (or Pandora) had tested him for neurological damage. The fact he'd woken up in his own rooms rather than the Hospital's Psych Wing proved he'd passed.
He turned to the second, far more intriguing possibility. He'd long been fascinated by Multiple Reality Theory and the concept of Parallel Dimensions now it looked as if he might actually have landed in one.
*If this were my apartment at HQ, I'd have half a dozen books on Dimensional Physics in my study next door. Can't hurt to look*
The study was there, identical in every way to his own. he checked the diplomas on the wall, so far nobody had called him anything but 'Doctor', it wouldn't do to to not recognize his own name.
*Kozaburo Nambu? sounds Japanese.*
He turned to the bookcases, promptly located a number of tomes on speculative physics, though authors and titles differed from his own.
*Nambu must be interested in the field too, but then he would be, wouldn't he?*
Keane thumbed through the books with growing excitement. Another universe, another reality. Where was Nambu? presumably back home with the Eagle Riders.
*I hope he has the sense to keep quiet until he has some solid evidence to back up his story.* Keane thought ruefully. *Come to that, I'd better get some corroboration too before announcing myself.*
He jumped guiltily. Dr. Aikens, *No, Pandora*, stood in the outer doorway. "You are supposed to be resting, sir." she said severely.
"Just getting something to read." he replied with as much dignity as is possible when caught barefoot in one's pajamas.
She came over to check the titles of the books he was holding, nodded satisfied. "Good, theoretical speculation, very relaxing."
*Not so theoretical as you might think, Doctor!*
"All right, back to bed with you," Pandora ordered, "you're to take a complete rest today, and perhaps tomorrow too."
He started to protest but she cut him off. "I'm the Doctor here, Doctor!" she declared, waving an admonishing finger under his nose. Added more seriously, "You've been through quite an ordeal, you must give yourself time to recover."
Resistance was obviously futile, besides a few days bedrest would give him time to bone up on his new role. "Very well, Doctor." he surrendered.
"I'm worried about Dr. Nambu." Pandora said to the the four older Science Ninjas facing her across her desk. They exchanged significant looks and she nodded, "You've noticed it too." It was not a question.
"I get the feeling he's hiding something." Ryu admitted.
"Holding back." Joe agreed.
"Doctor is not the most forthcoming of men at best." Pandora pointed out drily.
"This is different," Jun said slowly, twisting a strand of hair pensively round a finger. "he's distracted, like something's haunting him."
"Something that happened while Gel Sadra had him." Ken guessed.
"He was drugged," Pandora mused, "could he have let something slip? Something dangerous?"
"No!" Ken interupted vehemently, "Drugged or no it would take longer than thirty hours to break Doctor. He's been trained to resist interrogation just as we have."
"Besides he'd tell us, he'd never hold back something threatening planetary security." Jun argued.
"Right." Joe agreed again, "It'd have to be something personal, that affected only him, something they did to him..." his voice faded as a horrible suspicion dug its claws into his gut. The sick looks on his Teamates' faced showed the same ugly thought had occured to them.
"Physically he was practically unharmed," Pandora said quickly, "some bruising from the initial struggle and the residue of the drug in his system, nothing more."
"Psychological then," said Ken, as his color returned to normal, "Could Gel Sadra have tried using hostages to make him talk? tortured or killed innocent people to put pressure on him?"
"She's done it before." Ryu frowned.
"That could be it," Pandora conceeded thoughtfully, "of course he'd never give in to such blackmail, but the guilt of letting innocent people die-"
"Poor, Doctor!" cried Jun, distressed.
"Let's not jump to conclusions," Pandora cautioned, "it could be something quite different we haven't thought of. The real question is do we let him go on struggling with it alone?"
"We can't force him to confide in us." Joe observed.
"No," Ryu put in hesitantly, "but we can let him know we know something's wrong and want to help."
Dr. Keane looked at the distinctive energy signature on the graph, vented a fervent sigh of relief. At last! he'd begun to fear the rift had closed trapping him in this other dimension for good. A familiar/ strange world far more unsettling than the most surreally alien universe.
He was constantly reminding himself this wasn't his team, yet still found himself worrying about Ken's dark moods, Jun's unassertiveness, Ryu's passivity and Jinpei's almost manic restlessness.
His worries about Joe at least were comfortably familiar. They were very much alike the Condor and the Falcon, his Joe perhaps a little more open, certainly more articulate, but with the same doubts about his/their essential humanity and free floating angst rooted in childhood trauma.
Keane flashed back to the tableau of dead parents and dying child, still clutching his father's gun, felt the familiar guilt. *If only I'd been a few minutes sooner -* firmly cut off the thought, refocusing on the graphs. *Well, here's my proof.*
A knock on the door. "Come!" It was Gatchaman, looking nervous, determined and seriously insecure. "Ken, what can I do for you?"
"We -" he began, gulped and corrected himself, "that is I've noticed you haven't been quite yourself since we got you back from Galactor."
The Doctor was forced to clamp down hard on a sudden urge to giggle, consequently looked even sterner than usual further unnerving his foster son.
"If there's anything I can do to help," Ken fairly stuttered.
"Thank you, commander," Keane said quickly, putting him out of his misery, "in fact there is something I need to discuss with you. My briefing room in a half hour?"
"Sure, fine," Ken gulped, "see you then." he escaped.
Keane looked after him thoughtfully. So they had noticed a change? only to be expected if they were as close to Nambu as he was to his Team. Well, the masquerade could end now. He began organizing his materials.
A second knock. "Come." This time it was Joe, dark, grim and considerably more self possessed than his commander. "Yes, Joe?"
"Doctor I know I'm not exactly the perfect foster son," he began, grinned briefly, "in fact I've been a real pain in the ass. But if you ever need anything I can give, it's yours."
"I know." Keane replied, rather huskily, fighting back a surge of emotion in which guilt figured prominently. The sentiment was intended for Nambu, he was hearing it under false pretenses. "There is something I need to tell you," he glanced at his watch, "will you come to my briefing room in about twenty minutes?"
"Whatever you say, Doctor." Joe left.
*He's going to kill me.* Keane reflected ruefully.
The third knock didn't exactly take him by suprise. Keane laid a bet with himself, called, "Come." Sure enough, it was Jun, radiating earnest concern. "Jinpei giving trouble again?" he asked sympathetically. A faint smile fluttered her lips, "Always. But just now I'm worried about you, Doctor."
"Me?" he deadpanned, "why?"
"I can see something is bothering you," she answered, luminous eyes fixed on his face, "Please, Doctor, won't you let me, let us, help you?"
Keane cleared his throat uncomfortably. "In fact I will be needing you all. Could you bring Dr. Pandora and Jinpei to my briefing room in ten minutes?"
"Of course, Doctor." she practically glowed with relief, had obviously feared a rebuff. Rising to leave she reached across the desk to pat his hand shyly, "It'll be all right, you'll see."
"I certainly hope so." he replied.
He almost laughed out loud when the fourth and final knock came some minutes later. "Come in, Ryu!"
The pilot entered, confused. "How did you know it was me?"
"You're the only one left." Keane replied with open amusement.
Ryu winced "Oh. Guess we weren't very subtle."
"Not very no." the Doctor agreed. "I appreciate your concern. I'm sorry to have worried you all, I didn't mean to."
Ryu shook his head, "You don't have to hide stuff from us, Doctor, we're not kids anymore. If you're in trouble we want to help."
"I hope you still feel that way after I've explained." Keane said. He wasn't looking forward to this.
"Whatever it is we'll understand." Ryu assured him earnestly.
"Perhaps." Keane replied noncommitally.
Ken walked slowly down the corridor leading to Nambu's offices. Afraid of what Doctor might tell him, even more afraid of how he'd react. He dug hands in his pocket, frowned at the floor. He wasn't proud of the way he'd acted after his father's death. Rage had clouded his mind, shot his priorities to Hell. He'd nearly gotten himself and the Team killed. He couldn't afford to go that road again but - if Gel Sadra had hurt Doctor...the rage stirred. He entered the empty briefing room, sat in his usual place at the conference table. He wondered if he was up to the role of confidant. Jun was always telling him how bad he was with emotions, would he be able to cope if Doctor broke down on him? needed comforting. Even the thought scared him. He was afraid to see his guardian show weakness, needed Nambu to be strong, to show him how to be strong.
*I'm being selfish, I should be thinking of Doctor, not myself..*
The door opened, he looked up, bracing himself.
Joe's mood as he strode down the same corridor to the same destination was dark, bleak. He put no faith in Dr. Pandora's reassurances, she'd lied to them before. Hell, Doctor'd probably asked her to. Joe could understand that, he'd never told anybody the full story of what Katse had done to him. It was private, and it was over now. There wasn't anything anybody could do to change what'd happened so why harrow Doctor and the Team with the details?
He didn't expect Doctor to confide in him now, he expected him to ask for help in getting revenge. *I can do that,* Joe thought the cold Condor light in his eyes. *I'll bring him Gel Sadra's head in a basket.* Vengeance wouldn't change anything either, Joe knew that better than anyone, but it was all he had to offer.
He opened the conference room door, found himself looking at Ken, already seated.
Jun, on the other hand, felt only relief as she approached the briefing room, Pandora and Jinpei in tow. *It can't be anything bad if he wants Jinpei to hear it.* she thought happily. Obviously they'd been all wrong about what was bothering Doctor. Probably nothing worse than some new Galactor Plot he'd managed to uncover during his captivity. He'd just been worried about how to counter it. Now he'd made his decision and was ready to tell them his plan.
Pandora had come to the same conclusion and was grumpy about it. "Why must he be so secretive?" she complained to Jun, "I'm supposed to be his private secretary! How does he expect me to assist him in his work if he never tells me what's going on?"
"Doctor is used to keeping his own council." Jun soothed, "I'm sure he didn't mean to slight you."
Pandora heaved a long suffering sigh.
Beside her Jinpei gave a happy skip. "Some action at last!" he crowed, "Yeah! get Galactor!"
Both women smiled at his uncomplicated enthusiasm.
Entering the briefing room they found Ken and Joe eyeing each other, visibly nonplussed. Both turned to stare at the newcomers but before anybody could say anything Doctor and Ryu entered together, the latter looking faintly troubled as he took his place beside his Teamates.
Doctor Keane surveyed his audience, decided to relieve their suspense, and his, by cutting to the chase.
"I owe you all an apology." he announced. "I regret to say I've been deliberately deceiving you for the last several days. I'm very sorry but I thought it necessary."
Team and Pandora blinked at him, puzzled but forgiving.
He took a mental breath, gave it to them straight. "I am not your Doctor Nambu."
The announcement was followed by few seconds of stunned silence. Then Joe was out of his chair, slammed Keane against the wall and snarled, "What've you done with him!"
"Joe!" Ken, Jun, Ryu, Jinpei and Pandora chorused starting to their feet, ready to interfere.
Keane blinked away stars, looked coolly, quellingly into the glaring violet eyes just inches away. "I expected you to take it like that." he said, voice dry with irony. "My Joe never thinks before he acts either."
The Condor's grasp loosened fractionally as he struggled with his confusion. "Your Joe?"
"Let go of me." Keane ordered crisply, "sit down and I'll explain."
Responding to the familiar tone of command Joe released him, grudingly resumed his seat as did the others.
Six pairs of wide eyes fixed on Keane as he began, "I trust you are all acquainted with multi-dimensional theory and the concept of parallel universes? God knows I've bored my own Team with it often enough."
"You're claiming to be an alternate of Dr. Nambu from a parallel dimension?" Pandora demanded, jumping ahead.
"Exactly." he agreed, smiling wryly at her obvious disbelief. "I have proof." he spread the graphs out on the conference table.
The Team and Pandora studied them. Joe, Ryu and Jinpei blankly. Pandora, Jun and Ken with dawning comprehension.
"An interdimensional rift?" Pandora asked.
"The one I came through." Keane replied.
"But what happened to our Doctor?" Jinpei asked plaintively.
"Logically he must be in my universe." *I hope*
"And who are you?" Ken asked, studying him narrowly.
Keane sat down behind the conference table, folding his hands. "My name is Thaddeus Keane," he said formally, "I am deputy director of the International Science Organization and chief of ISO's special defense forces, including the Eagle Riders, five youngsters I've adopted and trained to fight the Vorak, android invaders from another planet."
"Sounds like a pretty close parallel." said Ken.
"Very close indeed." the Doctor agreed. "Different names, and our HQ is Gateway City in Australia, not Utoland, Japan."
"Isn't much left of our Australia." Ryu commented.
"I know. Your third World War seems to have been far more destructive than ours."
"And you've got a Joe." said Joe.
Keane smiled at him. "A cyborg, like you, with the same short fuse. I thought you were my Joe when you rescued me. As you'll recall I was in no condition to notice subtle differences. I didn't realize anything was wrong until the next morning when Jinpei asked me who Kelly was.
"Me!" said Jun, in tones of suprise, "I mean my alternate."
"That's right." his smile faded, "I'm sorry I lied to you, but I thought I'd better have some solid evidence before coming out with such an unlikely story."
"Very wise." Pandora conceeded ruefully, "If you didn't have these," she gestured at the graphs, "to back you up I'd probably diagnose a bad case of teleport dementia."
"But what do we do?" Jinpei demanded, "How do we get our Doctor back?"
"No offense." Jun put in quickly.
"None taken." Keane assured her. "I want to get home to my own team too." continued, "The first step is to go out to the rift and try to establish communications with my universe."
Chapter 3.2 by Margo Ryor
Everybody here belongs to Sandy Franks; except Dr. Nambu who is the property of Tatsunoko; and Dr. Teresa Sukya-ti on loan with thanks from Heather Leanne Graves.
Chapter Three: Where Am I?
Part Two: Center Neptune; Headquarters of Galaxy Security
Nambu lay quietly on the examination table looking up at the scanner positioned over his head. A white coated doctor studied the readouts, smiled, "Everything looks normal here."
*But not here.* Nambu thought grimly.
"Oh thank goodness!" fluted a voice. Nambu's eyes slid sideways to 7-Zark-7 visible on monitor in his numbered sweater, and repressed a shudder.
"How are you feeling, sir?" the doctor asked, a hint of carefully shielded concern in his eyes.
*Of course, he's seen the chemical levels, knows I'm under stress.* "Tired." Nambu replied honestly, *Also confused and upset.*
The sight of an intact Crescent Coral, Center Neptune as these people called it, had rattled him badly. Opened up a Pandora's box of grief and regrets. He had seen this base destroyed, the man talking to him now had been one of the casualties.
"He should rest." said Mark from the sidelines, "We can do the debriefing tomorrow."
"Whatever you say, Commander." the robot agreed sycophantically.
"There are two possibilities," Nambu told the bewildered reflection in the mirror. "One; I'm suffering from full blown teleport dementia," he grimaced, "which would account for that robot." Certainly 7-Zark-7 defied rational explanation. Nambu shuddered at the memory, continued his ruminations.
"Two; Gel Sadra's messed up again and somehow managed to project me into a parallel universe." Which left him with the formidable problem of finding a way back to his own world, it would be simpler to be insane.
He rubbed his eyes wearily, *Leave it, Kozaburo, you're to tired to be rational tonight.* turned to open the door with the wry thought, *Maybe I'll wake up and find it's all been a dream.*
He was unsuprised to find the G-Force Team casually disposed around his bedroom, confident of their welcome and prepared to help him unwind just as his own children would have done.
The bed was turned down, with a tea tray on the table beside it. He took the hint and got in. Keyop promptly climbed on next to him. Nambu put an arm around the boy with a wistful thought for Jinpei, now all of thirteen and far to old for cuddling.
Princess offered a cup of tea, he eyed it with mock suspicion. "You didn't make this, did you?" realized, to late, that the usual jokes might be a mistake.
But she giggled, just as Jun would have. "'Course not!"
"We wouldn't do that to you, Chief," Tiny put in, muching a cookie, "You've suffered enough for one day."
Princess made as if to pour tea on Tiny's head. Mark blocked her and wrestled the teapot away amid much giggling.
Nambu breathed a sigh of relief as the pot was finally returned safe to its tray. "You've had a fairly bad day yourselves." he observed carefully, fishing for information.
"At first we thought you'd been killed in the crash." Jason said flatly, covering his emotion just as Joe would have.
"I'm sorry." Nambu replied sincerely, wondered *What crash?*
"We're sorry it took us so long to find you." Mark returned. "we didn't even start looking until you were overdue back from Capital City."
"Go easy on Zark, Chief," Princess put in. "he's feeling pretty bad about it."
"He's not programmed to track my movements." said Nambu *I hope!*
"You know Zark," she shrugged, "he always blames himself when something goes wrong around here."
"Especially when it's got to do with you or us." Mark agreed.
"It's not his fault," Nambu said firmly, "I'll have to make that clear." *Interesting, apparently they're emotionally attached to that dreadful robot.* It cast a new light on 7-Zark-7.
Involuntarily his eyes closed, he forced them back open in time to see Princess exchange a significant glance with Mark.
*She's drugged the tea.* he thought, annoyed rather than alarmed. Jun had pulled the same trick on him once or twice when she thought he was overworking. "Princess." he managed to slur reproachfully.
She blushed. "It's just a relaxant to help you get to sleep."
"I told her to do it." Mark continued. "You're all wound up, Chief, anybody can see that."
"Mark-" Nambu began, was interupted.
"Don't try to talk about it now." the Commander said gently, "tomorrow's soon enough."
"You're very sure of that." Nambu murmured, giving up the struggle and letting his heavy lids close.
"If it was urgent you'd have spat it out the minute we found you." Mark replied.
Nambu left himself drift off into unconsciousness, only dimly aware of Keyop and Princess' good night kisses and a very thorough tucking in.
Dr. Teresa Sukya-ti stood in the elevator to NCC, arms piled high with rolled futons, a lightweight silk quilt and one or two other items, talking to herself.
"I will have a new attitude towards my job." she was muttering, "I will be cheerful, courteous and co-operative."
*A regular girl scout,* a scornful voice in her head responded, *blend right in with 7-Zark-7 and G1.*
"Hey, it's not so bad, it'll look good on my resume; 'Assistant Director of Nerve Center Control'. Who outside of Center Neptune's gonna know that means playing side-kick to a tin can?"
*Yeah, but what kind of references will you get?*
"Shut up!" she snapped, "You will be cheerful!"
The elevator stopped. She glued a smile to her face and exited into NCC. "Hi, Zark, hi, 1-Rover-1. I'm back."
"Bai! Bai!" the robot dog barked agreeably.
Zark glided forward. "Welcome home, Doctor, your contribution was sorely missed."
"What are you carrying?"
"Just a few things to make it more comfortable up here." Teresa answered. *I got tired of waiting for requisitions to get off their bleeding arses.*
She dropped a futon to the floor. "Something to sit on in here. And these are for when I get a chance to nap." tossed the other futon and the quilt into the next room. Turned to her robotic superior and handed him a plastic Phoenix. "This is for you."
He held it carefully in both hands, seemed to stare at it in some bewilderment dispite his lack of face.
"It's a model of the Phoenix." Teresa explained. "If you open it up," she did, "you see, it comes with five little action figures of the team."
"Thank you, Doctor." he said, added wonderingly, "No one has ever given me a present before."
"Um, ulp." *Oh Hell, he's going to go all mushy on me!* she hastily produced a large black wrench. "This is for Rover, it's rubber, be a lot safer to throw up here." Teresa tossed it to the robot dog who caught it neatly.
"Say thank you to Dr. Sukya-ti." Zark ordered.
"That was very thoughtful of you, Doctor," he continued to Teresa.
She blushed, shifted uncomfortably. "It's nothing really," she mumbled, "just a couple of cheap toys."
"It's the thought that counts." Zark replied firmly.
"Yeah, so they tell me." She quickly changed the subject. "Anything interesting happen while I was away?" *That oughta be good for a few hours' listening pleasure.* she thought, flopping down on her futon.
"Oh yes!" 7-Zark-7's antennae snapped upright. "Goodness, I nearly forgot--but of course you wouldn't know." Dramatic pause. "Chief Anderson was captured by Spectra!"
"Chief Anderson was captured by Spectra," the robot repeated obligingly.
"Bloody, bloody hell!" It just wasn't sinking in. Teresa stared at her superior, desperately willing him to laugh and say it was just a joke. *But robots never joke.*
Zark shook his head, antennae drooping morosely. "It was terrible, Doctor. I haven't been so overloaded since the sinking of Center Neptune!"
She gave a harsh bark of laughter, "And now we're sunk again!" *Gods and saints, wasn't once enough? That's it. We've had it!* "How?" she croaked, "How did they pull this one off? When?" *And why in hell aren't we evacuating?!*
"By teleport," Zark said blithely.
*Of course!* Teresa thought savagely *happens everyday!*
"and just under two days ago." he continued, antenae dropping even lower. "I blame myself, I was unforgivably remiss in my duties. Why, the Chief was missing nearly twenty-four hours before I even realized there was something wrong!" A prerecorded human sigh. "Fortunately, the Team rescued him, but he was in Zoltar's hands for over thirty hours. My circuitry just curls when I think of what he must have suffered -"
"Hold it." Teresa signalled for a time-out. "'Rescued.' You mean we got him back?"
"Oh yes." The Can heaved another sigh, this one worshipful. "G-force saved him!"
Her blood pressure sank several points and she became conscious of a budding headache. Sighed, "Thank God for that."
Not that his continued absence wouldn't have solved some of her problems. . . she shook off the thought angrily, scorned herself for entertaining it a second.
*Idiot! He's back and Zoltar can't pick his brains anymore--that's what counts! Not what he's got on you! Earth's survival's more important than your career!*
Her hands were shaking with reaction; she folded them carefully. *But what did he spill while he was in Zoltar's claws? Good God, the man's the key to our entire Security program! Earth's not out of the woods just because we got him back.*
"Has he been debriefed?" Teresa demanded aloud. "How much did he tell Zoltar?"
"Why, nothing, of course." Zark sounded faintly shocked.
*After thirty hours in enemy hands? Come on, pull the other one!* she groaned silently. *He's no agent or G-force member: he's just another scientist when you come down to it! Sure he'd do his best to hold out, but they're certain to have cracked him in the time they had.*
"In thirty hours? Forget it! You know what Spectra does to prisoners: drugs, torture, personal interviews with Zoltar -"
"Oh, please don't talk about it, Doctor!" the robot begged, wringing his hands, metal squeeking on metal like a rodent jam session. "I can't bear to think what he's been subjected to! And he's been so very forgiving, him and the Team-"
"You musn't blame yourself, Zark." she interupted firmly, toes curling as the mouse concerto increased tempo. "You're systems co-ordinator for Nerve Center Control, not the Chief's personal bodyguard." *I don't believe this, I'm reassuring a robot!*
That's what the team says." Zark admitted, antennae still drooping but at least he'd stopped wringing his hands, the mice took five. "He's safe now. I try to focus on that."
"Right, that's the ticket." she agreed heartily.
"Oh dear, all this upset has me neglecting my duties," the robot fussed, "the Rigan sector should have been checked fifteen seconds ago." He skimmed back to his monitors started tapping away on his keyboards at almost lightspeed.
Teresa waited til the tempo slowed a little before interupting with a further question. "Zark?"
"Where is the Chief now?"
"In his office, I presume." the robot replied in mild suprise, head unit swiveling to look back at her. "Where else would he be this time of day?"
*Hunh?!* "Zark," she said carefully, "It was my understanding - that is they taught us in basic orientation that rescued prisoners would be quarantined, debriefed and tested for brainwashing or implanted commands before being returned to duty."
"That is standard operating procedure." Zark agreed calmly. "But quite unneccessary in Chief Anderson's case."
"Perhaps you would care to attend his debriefing? As my assistant your security clearance has been upgraded to permit it.
"Yeah, fine, thanks Zark." *Wot the Hell?*
Chief Anderson's office, unsuprisingly, proved to be in the same place and otherwise identical to Nambu's own office at Crescent Coral. His alter-ego's full name was Keith Anderson, his title Chief of Galaxy Security.
Doctor sorted quickly through the memoes and memoranda stacking the in-box. Status report from the Early Warning Station on Pluto; situation report from Planet Riga; memorandum on new rules of engagement for the Space Patrol; diplomatic dispatches from Planet Zarkadia and Arcturus System; transcript of the last meeting of the Intergalactic Federation Council.
*Intergalactic!* Nambu let the papers drop, buried his head in his hands. He'd had enough trouble coping with the UN Security Council and assorted national governments, the prospect of trying to manage an official branch of a Galaxy spanning Federation was intimidating to say the least.
*It would definitely be simpler to be insane!*
Nambu straightened up, carefully adjusted his usuall deadpan. Mark stood in the doorway, the other four behind him, all eyeing him with visible concern.
"You feel up to a debriefing?"
"Yes, of course, Commander." Nambu replied with an effort at normalcy, "Please come in."
The Team settled themselves on their usual couches. The big monitor opposite the desk lit up showing 7-Zark-7, still in that ridiculous sweater, standing in the middle of Nerve Center Control with a tall, dark haired woman on his left hand, and to his right a gold toned metal dog with outsized head sitting up on its haunches watching Nambu with glowing red compound eyes. Doctor closed his own tightly. *That settles it, I am demented!*
Teresa didn't even notice the Chief at first, she was too busy gaping at G-Force. *Guess I've gone up another notch securitywise,* she thought trying to scrape her jaw off the floor, *I get to see them out of uniform.*
The Commander's face looked both younger and softer without the tinted clear-steel visor, the wide blue eyes troubled. *Shit! he can't be a day over eighteen!*
Even G2's lanky height and lean, hollow cheeked face had an adolescent cast when seen out of birdstyle. G3's pretty, heart shaped face and big green eyes belonged on a homecoming float not the deck of a fighting ship. G5 looked chubby, cherubic and worried like his commander, but G4 was the biggest shock of all.
*Sure I could see he was small, thought he'd been made that way on purpose, a sort of midget to get in spots the others couldn't reach. But he's just a little kid! ten, eleven? Hell, I'm no good at placing 'em that young!* Teresa's stomach twisted. *I don't believe it! We've got the safety of Earth and the Federation riding on five kids who should still be in school!*
Suddenly G3 started forward with a cry of alarm. Teresa's eye automatically tracked her to the desk where the Chief sat white faced, eyes tightly closed, like he was about to faint. *Hell!*
"Chief!" her voice sounded over the speaker, high and frightened, "are you all right?"
"Of course he's not all right!" Teresa heard herself snarl, "He's just spent thirty hours with Spectra's worst doing the fifth degree on him and you're all acting like it's business as usual!"
G1 looked up at the screen, Teresa quailed. *Did I say that? What am I nuts or something?* But the Commander only nodded.
"Dr. Sukya-ti is right, we're pushing it." he agreed. Turned to the Chief, now sipping a glass of water G3 had fetched him. "Maybe you should take a few days off, Chief, we could go up to the beach-house kick back and relax."
*Which is the delusion? the world I think I remember or the one I think I'm seeing?* Kozaburo Nambu wondered, closer to panic than he'd been since that unfortunate incident back in flight school involving Kentaro, a bottle of saki, two 'hostesses' from a local bar, and a squad of military police.
As always the memory triggered an inner smile, helping him regain some equilibrium. he sipped the water Princess gave him, willed his heart rate back to normal, his hands to stop trembling. *Don't jump to conclusions, Kozaburo, there's still the second hypothesis to be tested.* He realized Mark was talking to him. "I'm sorry, Commander, what did you say?"
"I was suggesting we all take some time off, a sort of family vacation." his foster son repeated, exchanging worried looks with his teamates.
Nambu glanced around the room. The kids looked scared to death, the unfamiliar woman on monitor furious, even the robot 7-Zark-7 seemed distraught; voxbox lights flashing in irregular sequence, antennae drooping almost to its nonexistent shoulders.
"That might be a very good idea." Doctor conceeded. "Apparently I'm not as recovered as I'd thought." *And I'm certainly not up to Anderson's workload!* " But I'd like to get the debriefing out of the way first."
For a moment he thought the Commander would refuse, then Princess leaned in, spoke softly in his ear. Nambu caught a few words, his hearing was much better than anyone, including his children, realized. "Trauma.....talk it out....what he needs..."
Mark nodded reluctantly and the kids settled uneasily back onto their couches. The woman, Dr. Sukya-ti, hesitated a moment then sat cross-legged on the floor beside Zark, their heads now on a level.
Nambu studied her curiously. Unlike most of the staff he didn't recognize her, was sure there had been no one like her at Crescent Coral. He got the impression that her concern, unlike the Team's or even Zark's, was quite impersonal, purely professional.
*Not a friend, or even a close associate.* he decided. *How does she fit in around here? Could she be that robot's programmer? If so I Think Anderson should have a serious word with her!*
Teresa shifted uncomfortably and Nambu abruptly realized he'd been staring the poor woman out of countenance for several seconds, quickly turned his eyes on Mark.
"Perhaps we could begin with your giving me some background, Commander?" Nambu suggested. "I'm afraid I don't remember anything about the actual capture." A lie. He remembered the fight in his cabin aboard the G-Town all to clearly. What he needed to know was how and where Anderson had vanished.
"Apparently they pulled you right out of your jet while you were flying to Capital City." Mark answered readily enough. "We found the wreckage on Heikki atoll."
"At first we thought you'd gone down with her." Jason continued, voice tense with remembered anguish.
Nambu ached in sympathy, wished he could have spared them that. "When Prin didn't find a body we realized you must have gotten off somehow," Jason continued, "but the emergency chute and ejection seat were still in place."
"Root-a-toot Found your -tvworp- glasses." Keyop piped up, put them on the desk.
Nambu picked them up, examined the twisted frames and cracked lenses *Why does he talk like that?*
7-Zark-7 continued the story. "I examined the evidence and deduced a teleport beam-"
"Wasn't that jumping to conclusions?" Doctor interupted, forcing himself to look directly at the robot, with a quick side glance at the mechanical dog, now lying beside its master, oversized head resting on metal paws. "Another aircraft could have locked onto mine."
"We considered that first, naturally." Zark replied, obesquious as ever, "But scans of the wreckage showed no trace of clamp marks or grapples. Teleportation was the only possibility left."
*That's what I get for trying to second guess a robot.* Nambu thought ruefully, "I see. Continue."
"I scanned for photon traces," Zark went on, "found a trail and passed my findings on to G-Force."
"We back tracked the beam straight to Zoltar's base." Mark concluded, "You know the rest."
"What do you remember, Chief?" Princess prompted.
"Opening my eyes to find Ka-that is Zoltar standing over me." Nambu replied with a reminiscent inner shiver. It had been a bad moment.
"What did he have to say for himself?" Mark asked. Nambu caught the dry note in his voice, smiled faintly in response.
"Earth was finished, the final victory of the Luminous One was at hand -"
"In other words, the usual crap." Jason grimaced.
"Zoltar is not an original conversationalist." Doctor agreed. He had proved even more loquacious than Katse, giving Nambu plenty of time to recover himself as he nattered on. Doctor frowned slightly, remembering.
"Then what happened?" Princess coaxed.
"Zoltar broke off very abruptly, as if he'd been interupted -"
"Tvworp - Luminous One." Keyop guessed.
"Very likely." Nambu agreed. *Must mean their version of Sosai X* "Called in Mala to take over and disappeared, I didn't see him again." He noted a definite increase in tension at the mention of Mala's name.
"What did she do?" Mark asked, this time with no trace of humor.
"Standard interrogation technique," Nambu began, "undermining physical resistance with drugs, inducing disorientation through sensory deprivation-"
Teresa was shocked by the hint of genuine panic in the glance the Chief threw Zark. *What's the deal? I've never seen a look like that on his face, not Mr. Cool Pants Under Fire! As if the Can scares him somehow!* She frowned at the computer coordinator. *Appalls, yes. But scares?* Still visibly shaken the Chief took the glass of water G3 offered him, managed to drink it without spilling any down his front, a real accomplishment in his present condition.
G1 leaned over him. "Maybe you should take a few days off, Chief, we could go up to the beach-house kick back and relax."
*Good thinking, Commander!* Teresa applauded silently. Looked at the Chief.
Nope, wasn't all there yet. He started, looked up almost guiltily. "I'm sorry, Commander. What did you say?"
G1 noticed; so did the rest of the team. The significant looks flew as the Commander repeated himself, slowly and clearly.
Teresa flicked a glance at Zark, nodded to herself: even he had realized something was wrong. His voxbox lights flickered madly. *Does that mean he's talking to himself? If so I wish I could hear what he's saying!* The profound droop of the robot's antennae suggested it might be very bad news.
Teresa looked back at the Chief, scowled. *Wot-the-hell is he doing out of bed in his condition? Can't he see he's worse than useless to us in this state?* "- Apparently I'm not as recovered as I'd thought." he was saying.
*Got that right,* Teresa agreed approvingly. *Now toddle off back to bed like a good boy.*
"- But I'd like to get the debriefing out of the way first."
*Idiot!* she stormed silently, *Quit pretending you're functional, get out of that chair and let somebody who's compos mentis run things!* Exercising heroic self-restraint she bit down hard on her tongue. She'd already mouthed off once this meeting, that was enough.
G1 frowned and G3 leaned over to murmur in his ear; Teresa couldn't hear what she said, but Zark pricked an alert antenna.
The Commander sighed, nodded slightly, and with a wave of his hand signalled for the team to sit. Which left Teresa looking down at them from an acutely uncomfortable angle. She wished violently for a chair, then resigned herself to the floor.
*Now we get to watch Chief Anderson struggle through a debriefing disoriented, confused and not tracking all systems.* she thought with mordant humor. *This oughta be good -* shifted, trying to get comfortable, on the hard NCC floor, laced her fingers together and rested her chin on them. *- And long. I wonder how many times he's gonna have to ask people to repeat themselves? Maybe if it gets too bad G1'll make an executive decision and call off the debriefing. He sure looks like he's having second thoughts.*
She sighed, wished she hadn't accepted Zark's offer to attend. Seeing the famous Security Chief Anderson reduced to a bewildered and frightened mortal was doing her morale no good at all.
Suddenly the man was staring at her, like she'd grown a third eye. Teresa squirmed, resisted an urge to sink down on her belly and wriggle snakelike out of camera range.
*WHAT?* She thought, beginning to panic. *Dammit he's not going to bring my clearance up now is he? If he says anything in front of the Team I'll never be able to show my face on monitor again--!*
Anderson broke eye contact abruptly, seemed almost embarrassed as he turned his attention to G1. Left Teresa floundering mentally, *What was that all about?*
She listened to the rapid-fire exchange of information, shook her head in suprise. All of a sudden the Chief was back to normal. Answering questions with no more then his usual hesitation, after all the man was famous for choosing his words carefully, and challenging some of Zark's more fanciful assumptions. A teleport beam? What was this, Center Neptune or a pop space opera?
But...there was still that odd reticence towards 7-Zark-7. And the uneasy little glances he kept shooting at 1-Rover-1. Finally it was his turn to talk. "What do you remember, Chief?" G3 asked gently. "Opening my eyes to find Ka-that is Zoltar standing over me." he replied.
Teresa stiffened to attention, ran the answer over in her head, nape hairs bristling. He'd started to say another name, not Zoltar's.
*Saw who standing over you?* an impossible suspicion bubbled to the surface. *Why are you lying to your team, Chief Anderson?*
Special thanks to Heather for much constructive criticism, and best of all writing drafts of Teresa's scenes.
Chapter 3.3 by Margo Ryor
Chapter Three: Where Am I?
The Eagle Riders and Dr. Aikens are the property of Saban, Dr. Brighthead belongs to Turner, credit(?) for his name goes entirely to Fred Ladd.
Mobile Undersea Base, Headquarters of the Eagle Riders
The Eagle and the Condor placed the gurney gently on the ground. Brighthead looked around the unfamiliar hanger - definitely not Crescent Base - and at the ship that had brought him there. Long and thin with backswept, almost vestigal wings and - he blinked disbelievingly.
*Is that a birdface?* Brighthead squeezed his eyes shut, looked again. It was still there; a snarling Eagle or perhaps Phoenix head on the prow. The dulled ache in shoulder and knee told him he'd been given a painkiller - perhaps the girl who wasn't Aggie had made a mistake in the dosage?
Kelly intercepted Aikens, blurted out an abridged but alarming account of the rescue. "I'm so afraid it's teleport dementia!" she finished, "Oh, Doctor, what if he doesn't get better?"
Francine Aikens covered her own apprehension with briskness. "Let's not jump to conclusions, Kelly, there are other possibilities. And even if it is TD that doesn't necessarily make his condition hopeless."
Dr. Keane looked terrible; his coat, vest and tie were gone and his shirt had been ripped open revealing a black and blue, obviously dislocated shoulder. His left left trouser leg had been slit uncovering an equally swollen and discolored knee.
The brown eyes met hers calmly, but without any sign of recognition, in a long cool, dissecting gaze that seemed oddly familiar. Abruptly she remembered; Brighthead'd given her exactly the same look at their first meeting, she winced inwardly remembering the circumstances.
Hunter, Joe, Ollie and Mickey huddled nearby, looking considerably worse than the Doctor. Dispite his injuries and whatever delusions he harboured he was his usual, calm controlled self. The same could not be said for the Eagle Riders.
Hunter looked like death in a birdstyle, drawn face tinged with gray, hands tightly clenched. Joe wore his darkest glower, one foot stabbing restlessly at the deck. Kelly, red eyed, had an arm around Mickey who clung to her like the child he almost was. Ollie looked sick to his stomach, shoulders slumped, head hanging.
Aikens pulled her attention back to Keane. "Good to have you back, Doctor, how are you feeling."
The cool gaze didn't waver. "And you are?"
"Francine Aikens." she heard herself reply, reeling with shock and a sudden, incongruous hope. "Your special assistant."
"I see." was all he said. The medical team came up and he transferred his dispassionate scrutiny to them.
The medics were visibly shaken by his condition, none of them'd ever seen Dr. Keane with so much as a hair out of place before. Aikens delegated two to look after the Eagle Riders. She could see the bruising on Hunter's face even through his visor, and she didn't like the way Kelly held her arm tight to her side. Was that a glint of concern from the Doctor? Definitely! Hope grew stronger.
The medical examination was difficult for them both. An intensely private man Keane would have hated being undressed and handled by relative strangers under any circumstances. If he truly believed himself in enemy hands....Aikens shivered, pushed the thought away, she didn't have to imagine what he was feeling.
She carefully explained her intentions before each proceedure, hoping to reassure him at least a little. He spoke only once; a flat 'No.' in response to her offer of anesthesia, then kept his eyes closed, shutting them out.
Finally it was over. Bathed, bandaged and dressed in clean pajamas the Doctor was transferred to a recovery room and strapped to the bed.
Aikens touched his good shoulder, he opened his eyes with a visible start as if he'd been dozing or on the verge. Another good sign she decided. Subconsciously he knew he was safe even if his conscious mind refused to acknowledge it.
*He must be exhausted, thirty hours in enemy hands, and God knows how long he'd been up before then.* "I'll let you get some rest now, Doctor." she said, hesitated considering the restraints. "Those can't be very comfortable" she continued impulsively, "If you would give me your word not to try to escape or interfere with the functioning of this HQ-"
"No." he interupted flatly. "I'm not making any promises - until I'm quite sure who or what I'm making them to."
Good. He was no longer convinced they were the enemy. Years ago he'd told her 'The best way to get trust is to give it.' She decided to take his advice. "Okay, no promises." she agreed and touched the release the restraints snapped back into the bed. "Good night, Doctor. I'll see you in the morning."
"I'm not sure that was a good idea, Doctor." Hunter said seriously. He was sporting a truly spectacular black eye, blue and purple bruising covering half his face.
"I hate to say it but Fearless Leader has a point." said Joe, "Doc makes a pretty dangerous enemy."
"We're never going to get him to trust us if we keep treating him like a prisoner." Aikens argued.
"He hasn't done anything." said Kelly, eyes on the security monitor, her right arm in a sling. "I think he's asleep."
"I hope so, sleep deprivation could be a big part of the problem."
Kelly turned to the other woman hopefully. "Then you don't think it's TD?"
Aikens shook her head, "Can't be, he's as rational and controlled as he ever was -"
"He just thinks we're the enemy." Joe interupted bitterly.
"He's not so sure of that anymore." Aikens responded, sat down on a nearby couch. "Dr. Keane recognized Ollie and Mickey at once, he didn't begin to doubt you until after he'd seen the new weapons, and he doesn't recgonize me or HQ." she took a breath, she could be raising false hopes but - "I think we're dealing with a kind of self induced amnesia. The Doctor has deliberately blocked out years of his memory to protect himself against Mallanox's interrogators."
"I've heard of that." Hunter said doubtfully.
"But does Doc have the training to do it?" Joe demanded bluntly.
"Yes he does." Aikens replied, "I've seen him use the technique before." To her relief they didn't ask when or where.
Instead the Eagle Riders exchanged richly communicative looks but only Mickey dared say it aloud. "Then he'll be all right?"
"He needs rest." Aikens smiled comfortingly at the youngest Eagle Rider. "And so do you lot. Everything will look better after a good nights sleep."
Brighthead frowned at the ceiling. He'd actually fallen asleep, or the next thing to it, while they were still working on him. *Do I feel that safe?* Yes he did, which meant either his instincts were shot to Hell after fifteen years behind a desk - or he should start listening to them.
*Point one; I shouldn't have lasted ten seconds, much less ten minutes against any kind of adequate opposition, not unarmed and outnumbered five to one! Unles they were pulling their punches, trying not to hurt me....*
He grimaced, he hadn't been holding back, might have managed to inflict some real damage. *I should have realized....* yet the same instincts that said he was in friendly hands insisted these people were not his Team. *Everything's wrong! their weapons, that ship, this HQ, even their names...especially their names! And who in hell is this Dr. Aikens? She doesn't even look like Tracey Crabb!* He turned over, careful of his shoulder.
*Forget it, get some sleep. Maybe things'll be clearer in the morning.*
The faintest possible whisper; "Doctor?
Brighthead opened his eyes, saw Peewee and Hooty, or whoever they were, peering around the door at him.
"Are you awake?" the younger boy asked a little louder.
"I am now." Brighthead answered. "Come in."
They did, closing the door gently behind them.
"Told you we'd wake him." the Owl muttered.
The Swallow ignored him. "Are you feeling better, Doc?"
"Yes," he admitted cautiously, "but confused." A massive understatement!
"Dr. Aikens says you've given yourself amnesia so Mallanox couldn't get information out of you." The youngster told him, coming closer to the bed.
"That - sounds possible." Brighthead conceeded. *Doesn't explain the changed names...* "Would Mallanox be the tall, yellow haired creature, none to quick on the uptake?"
Both boys grinned, seemed to relax a little.
"That's her." said the Owl.
"Or maybe him," shrugged the Swallow, "we're not real sure."
"Whichever," the Owl echoed his shrug. "he or she is the new leader of the Vorak."
One thing about being a cyborg you don't need a lot of sleep. Sometimes that's an advantage, this was not one of those times. Joe paced the floor of his cabin frowning darkly, remembering his own ordeal at Lukan's hands. If Doc feared he was facing anything even remotely like that...Aikens' gesture should have reassured him a little but - *If it was me I'd still try to escape, just to be safe....* And if the Doctor did make a try - the shape he was in he could do himself real harm. Changing course abruptly Joe left his quarters headed for Medical.
He pushed the Doctor's door open gently. His guardian was awake, glasses on, surveyed him calmly. "Ah, Joe, join the party."
"Party?" he echoed, stared as Mickey and Ollie wriggled out from under Doc's bed.
Mickey gave him a cheeky grin. "Great minds think alike."
"Close the door." the Doctor advised gently.
Joe did. "What goes on here?"
"Ollie and Mickey have be filling me in on the history of the last few years." Doc continued. "Very instructive, I apologize for my android remark."
"You weren't far off." Joe replied, lowering himself into the bedside chair.
"An android is a machine." the Doctor corrected sternly, "A cyborg is a Human Being with augmentations. A considerable difference."
Joe smiled a little. That'd been Doc's line from the begining, what's a little solid state circuitry between family? Joe himself couldn't quite accept that point of view, couldn't help feeling he'd lost part of his humanity but appreciated the attitude. He looked at his Teamates. "I thought we were supposed to let Doc rest?"
Mickey, curled at the foot of the Doctor's bed, made a face at him. "So what're you doing here?"
"Checking up." Joe admitted, added to the Doctor, "I was afraid you'd hurt yourself trying to escape."
"As you can see I'm very well guarded." Doc returned equably.
Joe's head turned sharply as his cyborg hearing caught footsteps far down the corridor outside. "Somebody coming!"
The Eagle Riders made themselves air into which they vanished. Doc took off his glasses and pretended to sleep.
The door opened a cautious crack, a blue eye and a green peeked around it.
"S'okay, it's just Hunter and Kelly." Ollie announced, emerging from the wall locker.
The door escaped Hunter's grasp and swung wide as he and Kelly gaped at their materializing Teamates.
"Please come in." said the Doctor politely, reaching for his glasses.
"Yeah, join the party," Joe grinned from the shadows behind the bedside chair.
"And close that door!" ordered Mickey, once again slithering from under the bed.
Hunter and Kelly closed their mouths and came in, Kelly shutting the door carefully behind them.
"What are you all doing here?" Hunter demanded authoritatively.
"Said the pot to the kettle." Ollie grunted, perching on the bedside table.
"Same thing you are," Mickey continued resuming his place on the bed.
"Checking up on Doc." finished Joe from the chair.
The Doctor took in Hunter's black eye and the sling on Kelly's arm, said gently, "I apologize for my behavior at the base, I wasn't thinking clearly."
Joe snorted. "Who would be after thirty hours of Mallanox's nattering!"
Hunter shook his head. "My fault, I should have known better than to jump you."
"Especially after seeing the fight you put up against the Vorak!" Mickey cut in.
"I should have tried talking first." the Commander finished.
"No guarantee I'd have listened." the Doctor replied, "The charges were set and you were running out of time."
Hunter: "I didn't use good judgement."
Joe, softly: "Hunter."
His commander glanced at him, "Yeah?"
"Repeat after me; 'It's not my fault!'"
Hunter snorted with reluctant laughter. Kelly grinned.
Joe persisted, "Say it!"
"'It's not my fault'" Hunter recited, trying to look daggers at his Number Two but a grin kept slipping out, ruining the effect.
"Again! with feeling!" Joe and Kelly chorused.
Hunter raised his hands in surrender, "Okay, okay, point taken!"
"Why do I feel I'm missing something?" the Doctor mused.
"Yeah," Ollie agreed, "what gives?"
"Just giving Fearless Leader a dose of his own medicine." Joe replied.
Brighthead looked ruefully at the Eagle Riders. They were nearly euphoric at finding their mentor apparently back to normal. He hated to bring them down but sooner or later he was going to have to...he needed their help, and so did their real guardian. *Wonder how he's getting along with Gallactor?* Brighthead could only hope his Team had been as expeditious in rescuing Keane as the Eagle Riders had him, and that his alternate had been a bit quicker on the uptake and not tried to fight them off.
Abruptly the door opened. Dr. Aikens switched on the lights. The Team froze defensively but she ignored them, attention fixed on Brighthead.
*Uh oh, looks like I'm found out.*
Aikens' brushed by Hunter and Kelly on her way to the bed, Ollie scrambled hastily out of her way as she stopped, frowned down at the Doctor. Suddenly she slipped her hand under his head running questing fingers through his hair, feeling the back of his skull. Startled, Brighthead pulled away.
She straightened, said flatly. "You're not Dr. Keane."
"I never claimed I was." he replied calmly.
"What do you mean, Doctor?" Hunter demanded of Aikens
"What the hell do you mean?" Joe asked Brighthead aggressively.
Aikens, in a tone of flat shock: "He doesn't have Dr. Keane's bullet scar."
Brighthead: "What bullet scar?"
"Where I shot him." she replied, sat abruptly on the edge of the bed as if her knees had given way.
Brighthead, eyes widening: "*You* shot him?"
Aikens blushed. "It was necessary, to protect him."
Brighthead, incredulous: "You shot Keane in the head to protect him?"
Aikens, beat red and uncomfortable: "It's a long story."
"I'll bet." Brighthead shook his head, "My alternate must have a singularly forgiving nature."
Joe, frustrated: "What the hell are you two talking about?"
"If this isn't Dr. Keane then who is he?" Kelly demanded.
"Benjamin Brighthead." the Doctor replied.
The Eagle Riders in ragged unison: "Who?"
Hunter, in patient Commander mode: "Let's take it from the top. Dr. Aikens, you say this can't be Dr. Keane because he doesn't have your bullet scar?"
To Brighthead: "And you're saying she's right?"
The Doctor, simply: "Yes."
Mickey, bewildered: "Then who are you?"
"My name is Benjamin Brighthead." he said gently, "I'm an alternate of your Dr. Keane from a parallel universe."
"You expect us to buy that?" Joe snapped.
Aikens said: "Joe, he's got the same retinal patterns and the same fingerprints as well as identical DNA. Not even a clone would be that close a match. An alternate, unlikely as it sounds, is the only explanation that makes any sense."
"When you've eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable must be the truth." Brighthead quoted, smiling.
"But how would an alternate from a parallel universe get *here?* Kelly wanted to know.
Aikens frowned. "The Teleport?" she asked Brighthead. He nodded and she continued musingly, "If Cybercon overpowered the beam he'd break through the four dimensions into the fifth -"
"And if Computor had made the same error and happened to be 'porting me at the identical moment -" he prompted.
"It would result in an exchange." Aikens finished. "Unbelievable!"
Kelly nodded as if she was following but Hunter was still struggling with the concept:
"So our Doctor is in your universe?" he asked.
"Logically he must be." Brighthead replied.
"How'd we get him back?" Joe demanded, straight to the point as usual.
"Joe! don't shout at Dr. Brighthead," Kelly said sharply, "It isn't his fault!"
"I didn't say it was," Joe snarled, "and I'm not shouting damn it!"
"The first step is to locate the interdimensional rift." Brighthead interposed, trying to impose calm by his own composure.
Joe; "Great, how do we do that?"
"Dr. Keane's exit point would be a good place to start." the Doctor replied.
Aikens', kindling: "Of course! there must be two breaches in the dimensional fabric, Dr. Keane's exit point and Dr. Brighthead's entry point!"
"And since the latter is now buried under several hundreds of tons of rock -" Brighthead continued.
"The Eyrie is the most accessible." Hunter finished. Added explanatorially, "That's Doc's country place."
Brighthead smiled. "I know, we call ours the Eyrie too."
Mickey, bouncing off the bed: "Let's go!"
Aikens, firmly: "No, Dr. Brighthead is still my patient and he needs at least another ten hours sleep, so do the rest of you."
Brighthead cut through the Teams' protests: "Doctor, time may be of the essence, the rift will be closing."
Kelly, alarmed: "He's right!"
Hunter, sharply: "What?"
Joe: "Oh shit!"
Mickey: "Then we've got to go now!"
Ollie: "Yeah, be reasonable, Doc!"
"No!" Aikens shouted above them all. "I'll send an investigative team to the Eyrie to study the situation but we are staying right here until I say you are fit for duty! Understood?"
Resentful, glowering silence.
Brighthead to Hunter: "Is she always this assertive?"
Hunter, resignedly: "Oh yeah."
Chapter 3.4 by Margo Ryor
Chapter Three: "Where Am I?"
Everything here is the property of Turner, except for Chief Anderson, who is grateful he belongs to Sandy Franks, and Tracey Crabb who is mine but inspired by Heather Graves.
Crescent Base, Headquarters of the Global Defense Force
Chief Anderson stood in the familiar Phoenix hanger listening to
an unaccustomed silence. The constant, sub-vocal feed from Neptune-net
was gone and he couldn't link to Zark. *Dispite appearances this is
not Center Neptune, so where am I?*
"Doctor Brighthead!" he turned, attention caught by the familiar
voice rather than the strange name. A tall woman in the white lab coat
de rigeur for Center scientists stalked towards him, grim face haloed
by whisps of dark hair escaping from a tight bun.
She stopped about a yard off, subjected him to a thorough, frowning
scrutiny, then addressed a point over his right shoulder. "Is he all right?"
"Seems to be." G1 replied, "barring a black eye and bruised throat."
"And incipient concussion." Anderson could not resist reminding him.
"Right, sorry about that."
The woman's frown turned savage. "That was really, really stupid! There was no good reason for you to risk yourself! we have a perfectly comptetent virology department who could've handled the problem!"
Anderson smiled at her. "Thank you, Doctor, I'm happy to see you too."
Sukya-ti's double, (in more than looks obviously!) blushed unbecomingly. "Of course I'm glad you're back okay," she stammered, "I just meant there was no need for you to put yourself at risk in the first place." a hint of grievance crept back into her tone, "You could have done the work here in our labs instead of going off to the EU -"
EU. Virus. Last year Zoltar had released a crop blight in Central
Asia - if this were the same agent...
"Do we have samples of the virus here?" he demanded, cutting in.
"Ye-es, of course." she managed, off balance again.
"Excellent." he headed for the door, followed after a startled moment by both the ur-Teresa and the Team.
"Virology was exactly where it should be, looked just as it always
had, as did its staff. The samples of the EU virus were produced, Anderson slid them into a microscope, focused, and yes it WAS the same virus!. He pulled a convenient piece of paper nearer and scribbled a formula, handed it to the woman who wasn't Dr. Sukya-ti. "This is the anti-viral, have it made up and sent out as quickly as possible."
She gaped at him, at the paper in her hand, then turned and left.
Anderson surveyed the Team, standing in a row looking back at him.
Not his Team, the virus had clinched it. Somehow he'd been projected
into an alternate reality containing parallels of Zoltar, Center Neptune, his Team, himself. Now all he had to do was find a way to reverse the process.
"He's all right, alright." grinned G2.
G3 allowed a slight frown to knit her brows. "It would still be a
good idea to go down to medical." She advised.
No it wouldn't. The most cursory scan would be bound to pick up his
cerebonics the absence of the net-feed made it clear his alternate
was not so augmented.
"Unecessary." Anderson said, smiled reassuringly at the concerned
Swan. "If I experience any after affects I'll go straight to med-center."
She looked dubious but accepted his decision as Princess would have.
"What I really need now is some sleep." he finished.
Anderson actually did go to bed. It would have been difficult to do
anything else as the entire Team tagged after him to his quarters and
hung around as he prepared for bed, all but tucking him in.
He was touched by their concern, could see they'd had a bad scare,
needed to reassure themselves their mentor was indeed back, safe.
*Would that he were!*
He had no trouble holding his own in the casual chatter, the jibes
and jokes were suprisingly familiar, yet his parental eye caught and
cataloged some minor variations in personality from his kids.
Ace seemed less confident, edgier than Mark; Dirk was cooler than Jason and lacked his reflexive rebeliousness; Aggie rather sharper tongued and certainly more assertive than Princess; Peewee didn't have a speech impediment, as he demonstrated by talking continuouslyly; And Hooty was suprisingly smart mouthed, giving the others as good as he got in a way Tiny never could.
At last they left, Aggie and Peewee kissing him good night, as Princess and Keyop would have. The older boys limiting themselves to a self conscious but emotional shoulder squeeze or handclasp. Then Ace switched off the light and gently closed the door behind him.
Alone in the dark, Anderson worried about his own Team, how were
they taking his disappearance? Occam's razor and the law of conservation of energy almost guaranteed that Brighthead, (what kind of name was that anyway?) had taken his place but he wouldn't be able to pass himself off as Anderson. Zark was bound to spot the change. The Chief only hoped Brighthead would be able to prove his unlikely story of alternate dimensions. Then it struck him:
*Of course! all he has to do is find the interdimensional rift!
There's his proof and both our way back!*
He tried to get up, go to the computer to begin his own search,
but his body, exhausted and comfortable for the first time in hours,
refused to respond. *All right,* he conceeded drowsily, *first thing in the morning.* and fell asleep
For the sixth time that morning Chief Anderson tried to link to
Neptune-net and failed.
He looked ruefully around the deceptively familiar office. This
universe, so like yet unlike his own, was beginning to get on his nerves. As was the unaccustomed inconvenience of having to call up data by keyboard. *I wonder if I'm getting to dependant on Zark and the net?*
The first thing he'd called up was his, or rather Brighthead's file. He'd been relieved to discover 'Benjamin Brighthead' was *not* his alternate's real name but a cover identity. He'd then brought up the Teams' files and their monickers had reduced him to near hysterics; Ace Goodheart! Dirk Daring! Agatha June! Peewee! Hoot Owl!
*Oh my God!*
But it was Sukya-ti's alternate's name that finished him, *Tracey Crabb! How very appropriate, and how she must hate it!* No doubt about it, somebody in this organization had a sick sense of humor, he just hoped it wasn't Brighthead.
Tracey called med-center to get the results of Dr. Brighthead's
exam, knowing full well she couldn't count on the Doctor himself to tell her anything, assistant or no.
"What do you mean he never came in!?" she demanded incredulously.
The med-tech shrugged. "Just that."
She remembered to cut the connection before she started swearing.
"Bloody, bitching Hell! Is everbody else around here crazy?" Gallactor
could have done anything to the Doctor during the thirty odd hours
he'd held him; implanted psychological triggers, a control device in his body, anything! She pushed herself violently away from her desk and headed for G-Force's quarters.
"Are you guys nuts?" she demanded bursting into their wardroom.
G1 gave her a look of deliberate, long suffering patience. "You have a problem, Crabb?"
She gritted her teeth. He did it on purpose of course, he *knew*
how she hated that damned name!
"Yeah I've got a problem! Why hasn't Dr. Brighthead been checked
out by medical?"
G3 answered. "He was tired last night, went right to bed."
"Okay," said Tracey, "where is he now?"
G1 exchanged glances with G3, shrugged, "His office I guess."
"Oh My God!!" she slammed out, and it's not easy to slam an automatic door.
Tracey rapped once on Brighthead's door, went in before he had a chance to respond. He looked up from a set of schematics spread across the desk.
"Good morning, Doctor, you seem to have made considerable progress
on our project, I'm impressed."
"Th-thank you," she stutterd, knocked off balance yet again. *Dammit! he always does this to me!*
She sucked in a breath, said in a rush: "Sir, I think it would be a
good idea if you let med-center check you out. Just to make sure Gallactor didn't plant any little suprises."
The brown eyes didn't waver. *Damn! I hate staring contests!*
"Do you?" he said coolly.
Her palms were pouring sweat which explained where all the moisture
in her mouth had gotten too. "Yes, sir." she managed, "It is SOP, sir."
"True." he said calmly. "Very well, Doctor, perhaps it's best to get it over with." got up from his desk and walked past her out the door.
Tracey's buckling knees dropped her onto the nearest couch. *Okay,
that wasn't so bad.* Like fun it wasn't! Throwing up was out in the
boss's office but maybe she could faint a little?
Some little time later the door slid open and Dirk plunged into the office. "Doc -!" pulled up short as he realized the chair behind the desk was empty.
He turned, saw Tracey blinking at him muzzily from her couch and
shoved a schematic in her face. "What the hell is this?"
She squinted at it, recognized her proposed weapons system redesign.
"Why do we need *two* firing buttons?" Dirk wanted to know.
"A firing button on the weapons console and a command override for
G1." she corrected.
"Override! What the shit do we need with an override?"
"I thought it might cut down on the wrestling matched." Tracey
snapped in return. Having just faced down Benjamin Brighthead, she
was in no mood to take flack from G2.
Dirk's face darkened to match the color of his birdstyle bodysuit.
"Look, Crabbe, we don't need you meddling in our flight deck
proceedures -" he began, and triggered a quantum explosion.
"Like Hell You Don't! You're insubordinate and G1 won't crack down
on you like you deserve! The two of you waste time fighting each other
instead of the enemy! It's unprofessional and inefficient as hell and
somebody's gotta do something about it!" by now she was on her feet,
shouting her words into his face.
"Like you?" Dirk sneered, trying to back off to a more comfortable
She followed, crowding him against the desk. "Yeah me! I'm
Brighthead's special assistant aren't I? Not That Anybody Around Here
Ever Tells Me Anything!" decibels bounced off the walls as she ranted
on, "You guy's go behind my back, Brighthead goes behind my back, I'm
Sick And Tired Of Being Left Out Of The Loop!"
Dirk gulped, papers clutched defensively. "Hey, take it easy,
Crabbe." He'd have had more success calming a hurricane.
"You guys think you're Gods or something! You disregard SOP
whenever it suits you! I can't *believe* you let Brighthead pass on
the physical. Gallactor had him *thirty* hours! he could have done
*anything* to him in that time! Hell, maybe it isn't even the Doctor,
maybe they slipped a shapeshifter ringer on us -"
"Hold it, Crabbe." Dirk cut in, "we know the Doctor and we know
shifters, he couldn't have fooled us." but there was a hint of
uncertainty in his eyes, as if factors sensed but disregarded were
being reassessed. "Where is he anyway?"
"Med center," Tracey replied with pardonable satisfaction. "*I* got
him to go."
Dirk sighed in relief. "That proves it's him doesn't it?" reverted
to his original grievance. "Doc okay this?" he demanded waving the
"Good!" Dirk headed for the door and med center. Tracey right on
his heels determined to get in her two cents.
They stalked into Medical side by side, as companionable as dog and cat.
"Is Dr. Brighthead finished with his exams yet?" Tracey demanded of
The woman looked blank, what was it with med personnel anyway? "Dr.
Brighthead?" she echoed.
"Yeah, our boss, tall guy with a moustache."
The receptionist's gaze turned frosty. "The Doctor has not come
"Whaa-" Tracey spun around to share an appalled look with Dirk.
He raised his power band. "G2 to base security, I need a location
fix for Dr. Brighthead."
After a moment the answer came back. "The Doctor is not in Base,
Tracey Crabbe was obviously not as trusting as his, or rather
Brighthead's Team. Chief Anderson reflected ruefully. She would keep
at him until he was forced to submit to a medical examination which he
didn't dare do. No telling what these people would make of his
cerebonics but they'd know for certain he wasn't Brighthead and lock
him up at the very least. He couldn't risk that, the interdimensional
rift would be closing. He *had* to reach it before it did or be
trapped here for good. Not an appealing prospect, as Brighthead would
Anderson nodded pleasantly in response to the guards salute,
inserted his hand into the lock scanner. Naturally his palm print
matched Brighthead's perfectly. The security hatch opened admitting
him to the R&D section's hanger bay.
Good, it was there. The TK-7 was a highly versatile air-surface
-submersible vehicle designed specifically for Civil Defense's special
rescue teams. Though not yet in production the prototype was fully
functional is his world, and luckily this one as well.
Even without the advantage of his computer linkages Anderson had
little trouble circumventing the bay security system. NCC or this
world's equivalent wouldn't see him leave. Of course sooner or later
somebody would get around to questioning the guard, but by then it would be to late.
He slid into the TK's cockpit, lowered it into the launching bay
lock and waited patiently as water sluiced in. He hated to do this to the Team, even if it wasn't his Team. He could imagine what they'd think, what they'd fear when they finally realized he was gone. Brighthead would have a lot of explaining to do when he got back. At least Anderson hoped it would be Brighthead doing the explaining!
He inspected the controls. There were minor variations in
insturmentation from the TK he was familiar with but nothing he
couldn't handle. The technology seemed on par with his own even though
this Earth didn't belong to a Galactic Federation and apparently hadn't extended it's space explorations beyond its own solar system.
It was a pity he couldn't spend some time here investigating the
points of divergence from his own history, but getting home had to
take precedence over mere curiousity. The danger of the rift's closure
forced him to be more percipitate than he would have liked.
The TK-7 had been designed for heavy rescue work, it had the
equipment to burrow deep underground making it perfect for what he had
in mind. If he could reach Zoltar - or rather Gallactor's - teleport
machine and *if* it had survived the Team's assault relatively intact,
he might be able to not only locate the rift but stablize it, give
himself a breathing space, time to plan rather than merely react.
Anderson's intentions recieved an unexpected check when he arrived
at the site of the ruined base to find it crawling with Greenies. He was genuinely suprised, Zoltar never attempted any kind of salvage or rescue operations cutting his losses with surgical ruthlessness, apparently Gallactor was more econonomical. Of course the latter didn't have the resources of an entire slave empire behind him.
*He's after the teleport too.* the Chief decided. Logically that
was the only thing that could possibly be worth the risk Gallactor was taking by returning to his former haunts. Anderson glanced ruefully around the TK's cockpit. *Looks like I won't be needing this after all.*
He contemplated his options. Even if he could beat the Greenies to the teleport, questionable since he didn't even know where to start looking, he'd never be able to hold off an entire assault force single handed and analyze the machine at the same time.....even cerebonics had their limitations!
On the other hand his only realistic course of action was unappealing to say the least....but he had to get to the teleport soon, and prevent Gallactor from trying to use it, no telling what might happen!
He breathed a resigned sigh, cracked the canopy and climbed out of
the TK-7, no sense handing it over to the enemy as well. Scanned the milling Guys in Green until he located a more elaborately costumed figure standing on a podium directing operations, presumably the captain in charge.
Anderson had no difficulty working his way to the Gallactor officer, cover was plentiful, piles of rock, earth and debris from the wrecked base, heavy machinery, and Gallactor's goons proved themselves every bit as unobservant as Spectra's finest. Standing in the shadow of an earth mover he studied his target.
Even at close range Anderson couldn't quite identify the model for the captain's outfit, it couldn't be called a uniform, a gila monster perhaps? that would explain the multicolored ruffles framing his head. The man stood on his podium, craning his neck this way and that and shouting orders into a hand radio. A few bored guards idled at his feet. Taking a deep breath Anderson walked out of cover and joined them.
He waited nearly five minutes, not a head turned. *I don't believe this! what's a man got to do to get captured around here?* He cleared his throat.
Heads snapped round then mouths sagged open beneath fanged half masks and the captain nearly fell off his podium in shock, clutching the railing just in time to save himself.
Anderson couldn't resist. "Take me to your leader."
Chapter 4.1: And Who Are You? by Margo Ryor
Chapter Four: - And Who Are You?
All characters belong to Sandy Frank, (especially Zark), except for Dr. Nambu who is the property of Tatsunoko and Teresa Sukya-ti, property of Heather Leanne Graves.
Nambu was forced to delay his visit to Heikki atoll for two days, time enough for the Team to relax their vigilance. It was a hard two days testing the limits of his self control and acting ability. He felt like he'd gone back in time, seeing his children as they had been before the war had taken its toll, destroyed their innocence...his heart ached for what his own Team had endured and G-Force had yet to face.
He played with the idea of leaving some kind of message, a warning, for his counterpart but soon realized it would be redundant, associating with the SNT would tell Anderson more than Nambu ever could. Still, there was no guarantee G-Force's future would duplicate the Gatchaman Team's past, and even if it did, what could Anderson do to change it? What could Nambu himself have done short of pulling the Team which would almost certainly have given the victory to Galactor?
He gave it up, realizing there had never been any real choice for either himself or his alternate. Evil must be fought, whatever the price, it was just Nambu'd always assumed he'd be the only one paying.
His chance finally came on the third day of their 'vacation'. After a morning on the beach he announced he was going back to the cottage for a rest and only Tiny and Keyop came with him. They settled themselves in the living area with a video game, Nambu let them get well into it before ghosting back downstairs. Standing in the meager cover of the iron staircase he assessed the situation.
The boys had positioned themselves to cover both doors and for all their seeming absorbation in their game would doubtless jump him the minute he went towards either. A window then? the old fasioned casements were cranked wide open to let the sea breezes blow through.
Nambu drifted to the one window not in the boys' line of sight.
It was screened, of course, but the mesh was held in place by only four clips, one at each corner. He tested the lower left, found it pivoted soundlessly on its screw. After a quick glance over his shoulder to make sure Tiny and Keyop were still busy with their game Nambu released the screen, lowered it silently to the floor then slipped out and reached inside to prop it back in place.
Getting out of the house had been the only tricky part, the boathouse was out of hearing of the cottage and on the other side of the island from the beach where the rest of the Team still played. The boat would be tracked, if Center Neptune's survaillence system was anything like Crescent Coral's, but that shouldn't be a problem until and unless somebody started looking for him.
Jet debris was spread over the atoll in small to medium fragments. Nambu winced, not a survivable crash, no wonder Anderson's children had feared the worst.
He took the energy detector from the boat's kit and set it for wide scan. The needle nearly spun itself off the dial, he sighed in relief; the rift was still open. But where exactly was it? G-Force had been all over the little island without stumbling into it...Logically the
teleport beam would have been focused on the plane itself, his eyes tracked upward into empty air.
*I think I have a problem.*
He'd need another plane to find it and getting one was likely to prove difficult...somehow he couldn't see G-Force calmly letting him fly off alone, not after the crash. A slight distortion caught his idly scanning eye, a ripple in the air some six feet off the ground.
*Good God! cut it a bit fine didn't they?*
He picked up a fragment of hull and threw it into the distortion, it vanished with an almost audible pop.
he dropped the detector and leaped - landing hard in near total darkness. Nambu crouched tensely on the chilled metal surface as his frantically searching eyes tried to adjust to the sudden change in light.
*Pretty stupid, Kozaburo!*
He was alone, luckily.
*That was a piece of recklessness worthy of Kentaro or Joe at their worst,* he scolded himself, *you know better than that!* He'd let his emotions get the better of him, it wouldn't happen again.
Straightening for a look around he found he was standing on a low metal platform beneath a pair of focusing beams, beyond them he could make out an extensive range of control consoles and computer banks.
*The teleport, I presume.*
Indicators and readout lights were dark, it looked dead. What little illumination there was came from emergency light tubes inset near the floor. Rock dust powdered everything.
*The Spectra base.* he decided, then with a touch of excitement, *Or its Galactor counterpart!* Could he be back in his own universe? No way to tell. He inspected the teleport device, it seemed intact... ...given an alternate power source he should be able to activate it, find out exactly where he was and Anderson's location as well.
Unfortunately he hadn't brought a generator with him, or anything else for that matter! And he wasn't exactly dressed for spelunking either. He looked ruefully down at expanses of chilled goose-flesh, shrugged mentally.
Judging by the strength of the signal the rift was in no immediate danger of closing. He'd go back to Crescent Island to get what he'd need and gamble he'd be able to elude G-Force's protective custody a second time.
"Zark," Teresa began carefully, "I think there's something seriously wrong with Chief Anderson." Braced herself for his reaction. But the robot didn't flare up indignantly, or even give her one of his pitying lectures on stress management.
The bobble-tipped antennae drooped as he replied, "I'm afraid I must agree."
Teresa's mouth, open to argue, sagged wider. "You do?"
"I have no alternative," the robot replied miserably. He rolled
towards the lift, swung a tight turn back to his consoles, then pivoted yet again and headed for the lift, all without saying a word.
Teresa watched two more oscillations before it dawned on her.
*I don't believe this, he's pacing!*
"This is most alarming," Zark finally muttered on his seventh or
eighth turn. "If Zoltar has suborned Chief Anderson's implant, then
logically he can do the same to the Team's! He could render them helpless, maybe even control them." stubby four fingered hands clasped tightly.
Teresa winced as the discordant squeal of metal on metal began.
*Zoltar getting at G-force through their hardware is bad enough; do
you have to curl my ears too?* She wondered. Then the full import of the Can's distracted soliloque hit her.
"Implant!" she blurted, "You mean the Chief is augmented too?"
The Can stopped short, head rotating to face her. "Oh dear! Doctor, *please* forget you heard that!"
*Like I could,* she thought sarcastically, decided this wasn't the time to remind the Tin Can human beings can't just delete data from their memory banks. "Whatever you say, Zark."
"Thank you, Doctor." Her robot boss unclasped his hands with deliberate care. "I am much too upset. I need to calm down! You're
not cleared for that kind of information, not at all."
She frowned, yeah he was upset all right, great, just what they
needed an emotionally disturbed robot on top of everything else. "Take
it easy, Zark," she heard herself say with unaccustomed gentleness.
"I said I'd forget it."
*And what'n'bloodiest hell would the Chief need augments for? 'I am the supervisor who lurks in the shadows and pops out at the damndest times...' --naahh. Well, he does, but he can't have had a cerebonic unit implanted in his brain just to spy on his underlings! nobody's that big a control freak...*
Her attention returned to the miserably pacing Zark. *He's taking
this waaay too seriously,* she thought, *Or is he?* Her spine quick
froze as she considered the rammifications.
*Suppose the Chief IS augmented, how would the Can know the unit
was offline? . . . unless he has some kind of tie-in, or communications link.....*
She watched Zark trundle to and fro, breaking out in a cold sweat as the implications sank home. *He must have! Imagine linking
yourself to a bunch of computers . . . and a robot! Especially *that*
robot! Dedicated bastard, I give him that. But it makes sense, explains a Hell of a lot....* She could'nt even imagine doing such a thing herself, Hell no! Not even the defeat of Spectra was worth being tied brain to brain with 7-Zark-7! But.....
Take a certified genius. Tie a cerebonic implant, one designed
for data-processing and memory, directly into the higher thought functions and what do you get? The best of both worlds: a brain with the capacity of a computer and the creativity of the original human mind. Who really understood cerebonics anyway? or transmute technology? Keith Anderson, that's who.
*I bet he designed himself a unit that'd let him interface directly
with computers so he can access data . . . even reprogram them without
ever touching a keyboard. And if computers, why not . .* She looked
at the Can and shivered despite herself. *Gods, why not robots too?
No wonder he put them in charge of the Early Warning System!*
And if the Council ever found out their Chief of Security was a
human supercomputer? *They'd freak. Absolutely freak.* Teresa grimaced. *And speaking of freaking . . . .*
"Zark, listen. We've got to do something. God only knows what Zoltar--" *or this Ka-whoever* "--might've done to the Chief. He could've installed some kind of delayed suggestion, maybe even rewritten his whole personality . ." *How much of a computer is he?*
The robot stopped cold. "Yes," he said resolutely, "the Team must be warned. Doctor, you must go up to the island and speak to the Commander at once!"
"Me?!" Her voice scaled up an octave or two. "I can't!" she pulled it down with an effort. "--I mean, I think he'd take it a lot better from you."
"I cannot leave Nerve Center Control," the robot co-ordinator pointed out reasonably. "And my communications can no longer be considered secure."
Teresa caught her spinning head in her hands hands. Zark seemed
to have forgotten all about her clearance: he was letting fall classified info she'd rather not be hearing. *So the Chief can link to him. Ah, hell, then nothing is secure! The Can's central to the running of this place . . . and the Chief controls the whole damn ball-o-wax through him! Whadda're we gonna do?*
"*Doctor,*" 7-Zark-7 said sternly.
"Okay, okay," His assistant mumbled unhappily. "I'm going." *G1's
gonna to love this!*
Teresa's warning was, to say the least, not well received. She tried not to wilt under a barrage of outraged glares from blazing blue, green, violet, and brown eyes. Felt an unexpected sniggle of sympathy for Zoltar et-al.
*If they can be this scarey in bathing-suits and bare feet I'd
hate to have to face them in full combat mode!*
"I don't believe it," G2 said flatly. "Not the Chief!"
"It isn't possible," G3 agreed firmly.
"Yeah!" from G5.
"Garrit rit rit uh-uh!" chimed in guess-who.
The Commander shook his head. "Zark's never been wrong before,"
he admitted, "but this can't be true. The Chief would die before
he'd work for Spectra!"
Teresa somehow mustered enough saliva for a reply. "Nobody's saying he's doing it willingly!" she protested. "He's been brainwashed, reprogrammed, whatever you want to call it! He isn't responsible for his actions."
Five glares increased in intensity, Teresa cringed. *When do the
rays start shooting out of their eyeballs?* She wondered nervously.
Suddenly the team broke off trying to disintigrate her with sheer eyepower and went into conference mode: loaded looks flickering back and forth complete with tiny nods, grimaces, and twitching eyebrows.
Teresa surreptitiously wiped damp palms on her thighs and wondered
a bit wildly if they had some kind of telepathic link on top of everything else. Finally a consensus was reached, and five pairs of unnervingly sharp eyes clicked back to her.
"Okay, Doctor," the Commander said, like he was deliveringa verdict, "tell Zark we'll keep an eye on things. But we still say he's wrong."
She nodded, realizing that for all his courtesy G1 was as mad at the messenger at the rest of them.
*But it's gotta be done.* she told herself righteously, and the
watch had to start now. Reluctantly, knowing the nudge would not be
well-received, she asked, "Where is the Chief now?"
G1's brows knit in annoyance but he answered evenly enough. "Up in
his room, resting."
"No he isn't!" G3 blurted. "I looked in on my way down. He wasn't
"Keyop and I've been here all morning," G5 protested. "He couldn't've gotten past us."
"Yes he could," G2 corrected grimly. "If he wanted to."
The Team exchanged looks of dismay and concern while Teresa held
onto her poker face by main force and glanced casually around the cottage's main floor. It didn't offer much cover, being a single large room divided by a counter and some steps into cooking, eating, and sitting areas.
"Maybe you should look for him?" She hinted carefully after a minute or so of unhappy silence. Earned another hard look from G1.
"Keyop, Princess, check upstairs and the cabana," he rapped out,
as smoothly as if this was one of their missions. "Tiny, you take the
grove, Jason the south beach, I'll check the north shore."
"I'll check the boathouse," Teresa offered, and collected yet another round of glares.
*What'n'hell's the matter with them?* She fumed stalking down the path to the dock. *They're acting like kids!* Then: *Hell! they are kids! for all they're Earth's last line of defense!* and wasn't that a comforting thought!
Kids . . . and the Chief. Plenty of gossip around the Center on that topic, come to think of it. *The Chief has kids they say, and don't the rumors fly over who Mum was, or Mums as the case may be, and why she/they'd scarpered. Nobody's ever seen so much as a scrap of lingerie around the Chief's quarters.* she snorted. *As if! He probably sleeps in three-piece suits WITH the glasses.* The official, dull and probably true story was the kids were War orphans he'd adopted. *Five of them, wasn't it? Four boys and a girl, the girl's supposed to be some kind of genius ....*
Then the obvious hit her in the face like a wet mackeral. *Ye gods.
G-Force! Teresa, you idiot! You shoulda known! Guessed it the moment
you saw their real faces!*
She started walking again, staying on the path more by luck than
judgement. *Idiot! No wonder they're pissed. I just accused 'Daddy' of
treason. It's a wonder they didn't fill me full of quills!* She contemplated Chief Anderson as a father figure and shivered. *Better them than me! Cold bastard, using his own kids like that!*
Teresa hit the dock in time to see a motorboat coming in. Squinting
against the glare, she could just make out the pilot: tall, well-built, dashingly clad in nothing more than a pair of blue swim trunks.
*Nice. Ver-y nice. Don't suppose he's seen the Chief? Well, it's a good opening line anyway. she cupped her hands around her mouth, "Hoy there!"
The bright afternoon sunlight flashed off his glasses as the pilot raised his head. "Dr. Sukya-ti?" he called back in a shockingly familiar voice, bent to collect a coiled line from the bottom of the boat and tossed it her way. "Catch!"
She did, barely. Then stood there, the line dripping from nerveless fingers, as the boat gently thumped into the dock.
Chief Anderson jumped ashore, took the line, and looped it expertly
around a mooring ring. Giving her a fine view of rippling muscles and
*Muscles? where'd he get muscles sitting behind a desk?* she wondered stupidly over the blood pounding in her ears. Her face felt like an incandescent bulb.
*Maybe I'll have a stroke, that'd be a good out.*
No such luck. She was still upright and conscious when the Chief
straightened to face her.
He frowned slightly. "Are you all right, Doctor? You look overheated." A surprisingly cool hand touched her cheek, went clinically on to check her brow.
Her brain felt like porridge, extra-thick and sticky, ditto for her knees. She managed a sort of sizzling noise and kept on her feet by sheer force of inertia.
The Chief's frown deepened. "Better come up to the house for a cold drink," he advised. "We don't want heatstroke."
*Actually,* she thought numbly, *I'd like heatstroke a lot better than what I got!*
Chapter 4.2 by Margo Ryor
He kept a hand under her arm all the way back to the cottage, she could've done without the support if only he hadn't insisted on walking so close, bare shoulder occasionally brushing her sleeve paralyzing higher brain functions and throwing the lower ones into embarrassing turmoil.
*It'd be a lot easier to cope with the Chief of Security in a bathing suit if he weren't built like a model in a jeans commercial!* She reflected, struggling to keep her eyes locked on the ground in front of her but they kept straying back to the local scenery.
*Pull yourself together, dummy!* a diminished sense of reality scolded, *It's not like you've never seen a man in a bathing suit before! And less! what about that nude beach in Oz last leave?*
*Yeah,* the right hemisphere snarled back, but those guys weren't three-piece-suit-and-a-lab-coat Chief Anderson! For one thing most of them hadn't been built half as well...her eyes threatened to drift sideways again, she caught them just in time.
*This isn't just hormones,* she told herself, *it's a major paradigm shift!* Frowned, thoughts suddenly veering away from her embarrassment. *Come to think of it - what'n hell does he think he's doing toodling around alone in a motorboat? He's the central control of our whole damn defense system! So why's he acting like an regular guy on holiday?*
She shot him another quick, sidelong look, this time at his face, and suprised a preoccupied frown that vanished with magical suddenness at G4's whoop of delight as he spotted them from the porch.
In seconds the entire Team was clustered around, babbling in relief and all but dragging their mentor into the cottage.
Teresa would have been happy to slip off quietly and leave them to it but the Chief refused to let go of her arm. He escorted her to a couch and pressed her into it, saying something to G3 about heat exhaustion and cold drinks.
Teresa managed a sickly smile of thanks, doing her best to ignore the barbed looks the Team were shooting her behind Anderson's back.
*I'm not going to say anything in front of the Chief, fer-God's-sake! How dumb do they think I am?* she wondered, disgruntled.
Then blushed yet again as the Chief, still wearing nothing but bathing trunks and glasses settled on the sofa next to her luckily she was already so red and sweaty it probably didn't show.
"Dr. Sukya-ti found me down at the pier," he explained casually, in answer to the Team's
questions. "I didn't mean to worry you, I'm sorry."
G3 approached carrying a tray of tall glasses, ice tinkled as she handed the first to Teresa. The fall of her long hair screened her face from the Chief only Teresa saw the wry smile and covert sympathy in her eyes, realized the other woman knew quite well her
problem wasn't heatstroke.
*Aw Hell, I won't say anything if you don't!* Teresa thought and took a hearty gulp of the iced tea.
"Slowly, Doctor, sip it." The Chief counselled and she nearly sprayed them both.
She wondered what would happen if a junior researcher rounded on the Chief of Galactic Security and told him to 'go put some clothes on for God's sake!' decided she'd rather not find out and obediently sipped her tea. The Chief accepted the second glass from G3's tray and she moved on to distribute the remaining four among her Teamates, before taking the last for herself.
"Brrurit, rrrit, Where were you?" Keyop demanded.
"Heikki atoll," the Chief replied readily, "I thought the crash site might stir some memories."
*Oh, right, he's supposed to have a touch of amnesia isn't he? Teresa thought, *Hell maybe he does, maybe he doesn't realize he's been brainwashed!* But no, he'd
deliberately lied about who his interrogator was, the amnesia must be a ploy to keep the Team from asking to many questions.
"You should've told us." G2 grumbled.
"It was a sudden impulse," the Chief returned mildly, "I didn't realize I was under house arrest."
G5 choked on his tea. G4 took a hasty gulp of his. G2 seemed to flush slightly and shot a sidelong look at the Commander.
"I don't think it's a good idea for you to go anywhere alone, Chief," G1 said firmly, "Not while
Zoltar's still on Earth."
"Zoltar's on Earth?!" All eyes swung to her and Teresa realized she'd spoken aloud.
"Afraid so," the Commander said, quite casually, "we destroyed his main base but he's bound to have a back up or two."
Anybody'd think they were talking about the weather. "But shouldn't you - we - be doing something?" she blurted.
"Such as?" G2 asked ironically.
"I know how you feel, Doctor," G1 said, and he actually did look sympathetic, "But there isn't
anything we can do until Zoltar shows his hand."
"But...but.." she stuttered, dammit there had to be something! "Can't we......shouldn't you...."
but her cudgelled brain refused to supply any ideas.
G2's mouth twitched in chilly amusement.
G3 gave her another, more openly sympathetic look.
G1 just waited patiently, big blue eyes politely attentive.
It was the last that got to her. *Who're you to tell G-Force Commander his business?* she demanded of herself, * Teenager or not he knows more about Spectra than you ever will! Just shut up and stop making a fool of yourself!* "Sorry." she mumbled trying to sink into
the sofa cushions.
G1 turned his attention back to the Chief. "As I was saying, we don't know what Zoltar's plans are, he may try for you again. Until this business is settled I don't want you going anywhere without at least one of us with you."
Anderson inclined his head in acceptance. "Whatever you say, Commander." then changed the subject, putting Teresa squarely back on the spot. "By the way, Doctor, I forgot to ask what brought you up to the island."
Caught totally off guard Teresa could only gape. *Gods! I'm way outta my league here, just one thing after another with these people, no time to even catch your breath!*
"Zark sent her up to get a human eye view of how you're doing." she heard G3 saying through the roaring in her ears "Seems he doesn't trust us to give him the real low down so he sent Dr. Sukya-ti to spy for him." she smiled tolerantly and threw Teresa a complicite wink.
She had the wit to wink back, realizing she'd just been included in a long standing conspiracy to hoodwink the Tin Can, for his own good of course! Which in turn meant G3 at least was begining to accept her as...what?
"Zark is such a worrier." the Chief remarked.
"Sometimes he's got reason." said G2 unexpectedly. Teresa looked at him but the violet eyes were hooded, strong boned face unreadable, giving no clue to what he'd meant.
Anderson insisted Teresa have a lie down upstairs after finishing her drink. She'd had to visit the loo first, all that tea, then G3 showed her to one of the small, plain bedrooms. For a while she stared into the curtained dimness as thoughts chased each other round her head but gradually her eyes began to close, her brain to lose coherency, she was nearly asleep when
the door opened. Jerked upright, ready to scream, swallowed it when she saw the big numeral two on her visitor's chest.
"Unk!" she greeted him graciously.
He closed the door behind him, leaned against it with folded arms and transfixed her with those laser targeting eyes, said, "Looks like you and Zark had a point, Doctor."
*Hunh!* speech centers were still inoperative, all she could do was stare interrogatively.
"First the Chief deliberately sneaks past Tiny and Keyop to go to Heikki alone." G2 continued evenly. "Then he keeps you from reporting back to Zark. He' up to something, no question about it!"
Teresa flushed hotly for the nth time that day, this time with rage *Ah Hell! Heatstroke my ass! He knew
exactly what was wrong with me and used it to keep me off balance! That slippery, manipulative -- Bastard!* She took a couple of deep breaths, tried to cool down,
"He played me like a guitar!" she heard herself sputter.
G2 gave one of his ironic grins, "Oh yeah, he's real good at that!"
Which said some funny things about their family life.
"How do we know he really went to Heikki atoll?" she asked. *Not that there's many places he could've gone in just a few hours by motor boat. . . .*
"His boat was tracked going and returning." G2 replied, terse as always. "I think we should go have a look."
*We? who's 'we'? surely not...* "You mean you and me?" she managed to squeak.
"You see anybody else?" G2 had a whole arsenal of sardonic looks, this one had to be number five or six.
She closed her eyes to keep them from rolling right out of her head. "Wha-what about the rest of the Team?" she quavered.
"They've fallen for his line." G2 answered bluntly.
She opened her eyes, wished she hadn't. His glare could've melted neutronium plate. "Don't get me wrong, Doc, I don't buy this working-for-Spectra notion of yours any more than they do. But the Chief's hiding something from us, and I want to know what.
"Me too." Teresa managed to croak.
*What a Hell of a day!* Teresa thought morosely, squinting against wind and sunglare. *First I find myself agreeing with the Tin Can of all people, then I piss off the whole G-Force Team, and after that suprise the Chief of Security sneaking around wearing nothing but a bathing suit!* And the day wasn't finished yet. Her teeth rattled as the boat thudded over the waves. At the controls G2 scowled and pushed the power up another notch, treating the open ocean like a Formula One track.
*Now here I sit, on my way to a tropical atoll, with G2 no less! to find out if Spectra has somehow managed to suborn Security Chief Anderson!* She sighed, suddenly editing mission tapes and listening to Zark's endless drivelling looked real good.
"There it is!" G2 shouted over the thundering engine, pointed ahead.
She half-rose for a better look, holding firmly to lifeline, thudded back into her seat as G2 swung the boat into a wide braking curve. Funny, she hadn't expected it to be this close.
Disembarking on rubbery legs, Teresa looked around, there wasn't much to see; Heikki atoll was just another coral flyspeck in the middle of a great big blue nowhere. It had the regulation white sand beaches and palm groves, both liberally strewn with a whole lot of jet debris. and not much else.
G2 didn't seem bothered. "You expected him to leave it out in plain sight?" he demanded, "the Chief's smarter than that."
"Then how are we supposed to find it, whatever it is?" she argued.
"We don't." G2 replied, mouth quirking in sardonic look #7, he deigned to explain. "He couldn't have
brought anything back with him, not without your seeing it -"
Teresa's face heated up again. *No he sure wasn't hiding anything!*
"So it's still here, whatever it is," G2 continued calmly. "my bet is he'll be coming back for it, all we got to do is wait."
*Huh!* "But that could take hours!" she protested, "what about 7-Zark-7? he'll be expecting me back in NCC -"
"Don't worry about Zark," G2 cut in easily, "I told him you were following up a lead with me."
*Fine!* she thought savagely, *that takes care of my boss, but what about my friends? If Mary or -ohshit!- Keefer notices I'm not on the rec deck this afternoon they're sure to ask why. Oh Gods! If they ask the Tin Can he'll probably tell them!* She groaned inwardly, *Alone on a desert island with G2! I'll never live it down!*
She shot quick look at the heart throb of Center Neptune, leaning against a palm trunk and glowering at the innocent ocean, Shuddered. *I'd a soon get it on with his vulture namesake! And he's jail bait to boot!* She wondered nervously what they were going to do if the Chief did show, but didn't dare ask. Instead she found herself a seat on a fallen palm trunk and tried to keep one eye on G2 and the other peeled for any signs of the Chief.
An hour dragged past. Heat and boredom weighed down her eyelids til she could barely keep them open. G2 was about as much company as a cigar-store Indian, it was unnerving the way he kept glaring at nothing, but better than having him turn that glare on her!
She pinched herself to stay awake, tried to pass the time drawing in the sand with her toe. Finally in desperation she got up and began sorting the jet debris into piles; fuselage, electronics, charred components, melted components... eventually looked up to meet G2's
bemused gaze, he arched a brow.
"You never know," she responded defensively to his unspoken question, "something might turn up."
He shrugged. "Whatever turns you on, Doc."
Afternoon wore slowly to a spectacular tropical sunset. Gritty from sand and oily from wreckage Teresa eyed the rose tinted ocean longingly as she savored the cool evening breeze. Jumped when G2 unexpectedly broke the silence.
"The Chief won't show until after the Team's gone to bed." he stated, "another four, five hours yet. Might as well get some sleep while we can."
"Sleep?" Teresa stared incredulously. *Is he trying to ruin me? Spend the night on a tropical island with G2? I'll be getting winks and nudges for the rest of my natural life!*
"Yeah," he returned casually, stretching out at the foot of his palm tree and closing those gimlet eyes. "likely to be busy night."
"But - shouldn't one of us keep watch?" she stammered.
"I'll know when somebody shows." he returned calmly.
Between nerves and sand fleas Teresa achieved no better than an uneasy doze, haunted by specters of jeering friends. She jerked fully awake, heart pounding, to see G2 on his feet and staring intently into the shadows under the palms.
Teresa squinted in the same direction but saw nothing deserving such attention. "Wha-" she began, was cut off.
"Chief." he said flatly.
"Jason." sighed a familiar voice, and there he was materializing apparently out of thin air just a few yards away.
*So that's how he got past G4 and G5.* Teresa thought, swallowing hard as her heart made a determined bid for freedom past her teeth. *At least this time he's dressed!*
In jeans and a windbreaker rather than the familiar suit and lab coat. He moved into the open to confront his adopted son. They looked oddly alike, both etched in chiascuro by moonlight.
"I figured you'd be coming back." G2 continued, coolly "want to tell me what you're looking for?"
G2 gave a little snort, as if expecting that answer. "You're not suprised are you? Guess you saw I wasn't buying your line at the cottage." he persisted
"I hoped you would trust me." Anderson returned quietly.
Huddled against her fallen palm Teresa flinched. *Low blow!*
G2's shoulders tensed as the dig went home. "You've lied to us before," he retorted harshly, "about things we had a right to know!"
Teresa couldn't see any reaction from Anderson but G2 did, he stepped closer, spoke almost gently. "Why don't you trust us for a change, Chief?"
Anderson answered with another question. "Why didn't you keep me from leaving the cottage as Mark ordered?"
*He what!* Teresa stared at G2's back, appalled. *we're here against orders? Oh great! Just what I
need, one more reason for G1 to be pissed off at me!*
G2 snorted. "I know you, you'd have gotten past me somehow." he shrugged, "Mark'll be just as mad but maybe this way I'll have some answers. Blind obedience isn't my bag, Chief."
"Not in any universe." Anderson agreed cryptically. His right hand blurred into motion and G2 gaped in disbelief at the quill lodged in his chest.
The Chief caught him as he started to slump, lowered him gently to the sand. "I'm sorry, son." Teresa heard him say softly, to the unconscious G2 "But I just haven't the time for explanations and arguments." Then he looked up, straight at her.
She froze, like a rabbit, transfixed by the glare of moonlight reflected off his glasses.
"He'll be all right," Anderson reassured her, "I cut the dose by three quarters, he shouldn't be out more than twenty minutes at the outside."
She continued to stare, eyes glazing. *This can't be happening!* her mind gibbered frantically. *Where'd the Chief learn to use those things anyway? and why didn't G2 have the sense to bring a fighter to back him up, instead of me!*
The Chief rose, she cringed, but he just stood a moment longer looking sadly down at his foster son then turned, walked several brisk paces, lept astonishingly high into the air, and vanished!
Teresa thumped back onto the sand. *No-Way-In-Hell am I gonna be able to explain this to G2!*
Chapter 4.3 by Margo Ryor
Chapter Four: 'And Who Are You?'
Part Two: 'Joe Asakura, Meet Joe Thax.'
Disclaimer: The Gatchaverse is property of Tatsunoko; Dr. Keane and the Eagle Riders belong to Saban; Dr. Brighthead is the property of Turner Broadcasting which is solely responsible for his name.
ISO HEADQUARTERS, UTOLAND CITY
Different city, different continent, different *universe* but the same rotten architect.
Doctor Thaddeus Keane eyed this ISO building with the same disfavor he gave his own, on the rare occasions he could bring himself to actually look at the monstrosity; a squat silvery skyscraper with a bite out of the top.
The assembly hall was equally tasteless with its gaudy yellow and orange color scheme and representatives' desks hanging on the walls.
"Like a carnival ride." Keane grumbled to Pandora as their desk glided upward on its track.
She bit her lip fighting a smile. "That's just what Dr. Nambu says."
Pandora and Ken had both been against him attending this Council meeting. Careful questioning had revealed their objections were based on reflex not reason.
"What if somebody realizes you're not Dr. Nambu?" Ken had argued.
"I fooled you for three days." Keane reminded him.
"It's an unecessary risk." Pandora said.
"Breaking pattern would be far more suspicious." Keane pointed out. "Assuming Nambu is as conscientious about such things as I am."
An exchange of guilty looks made it clear he was.
"Dr. Pandora will be with me, I'm sure she'll find a way to forstall any indiscretions on my part." Drily, "Worse comes to worse she can always shoot me again."
That got a blush from Pandora and a reluctant grin out of Ken. "Yours did that too, huh?"
"My Dr. Aikens tends to be somewhat drastic in her methods."
"You can say that again." Ken'd replied.
So here he was, sitting in his usual place halfway up the west wall bored to tears, also as usual. Keane approved of democratic representative government in theory but that didn't make the practice any less tiresome.
Pandora had admitted, under pressure, that the other delegates simply didn't know Nambu well enough to detect a change. Excepting Director Anderson of course and Keane intended to do his best to avoid him.
Sitting next to the wrong Doctor Pandora admitted to herself that that Keane had been right to come. Nambu's absence might well have provoked questions and curiousity, especially from the Doctor's political enemies. She wondered if Keane had the same problems in his universe.
So far he'd behaved exactly as Nambu always did, even to grumbling about the decor. Now he was apparently absorbed in his notes and calculations but she guessed like Nambu he'd be able to repeat every speech verbatim, complete with acidic commentary, if asked.
She let her mind wander. Dr. Nambu's exit point on the Pacific seabed posed major logistical problems but Dr. Keane's entrance point, buried in the ruins of the Galactor base, hadn't proved much more accessible. Still, after two days digging they were close to the teleport chamber. With luck it would all be over soon - and no one the wiser.
Suddenly the Doctor stopped writing, listening intently to the latest speaker; a delegate from the Pacific Basin states asking for humanitarian aid after a series of devestating unseasonable storms.
Pandora looked at him worriedly. If this were Nambu that stony impassivity would indicate grave concern, even alarm.
The second the session ended he hit the desk control and was heading for the door almost before it'd reach floor level. She grabbed purse and papers and hurried after him.
"Doctor, what's wrong?" she panted, catching up.
"I'm a fool." was the grim reply. "I've been so relieved the rift remains open I haven't bothered to calculate the effects of the anentropic energy flows on Earth's electromagnetic field."
"You think the strange weather could be related to the interdimensional breech?"
"I think it's a possibility that must be checked."
The Team'd set up a monitor and control center in the Galactor hanger bay to detect the rift's energy signature and direct the diggers. Joe, Ryu and Ken, dusty and tired from the day's work, were slumped on convenient heaps of rubble drinking bottled water as Jun and Jimpei prepared to shut down for the night.
The Doctor brushed them aside bringing the main board back up and tapping briskly away at the controls.
"Something wrong?" Ken asked Pandora.
"Doctor is afraid energy flows from the undersea rift may be affecting Earth's weather." she explained/
"Worse than that that." Keane turned from the console, grimfaced. "Both rifts are growing."
"What?" the others chorused in various registers of bewilderment and alarm.
"Slowly, very slowly, but the rate is increasing expotentially."
"That's not supposed to happen." Jun protested. "The universal matrix should be trying to re-establish the norm. The rifts should be closing."
"They should be, but they're not. We must find a way to seal the fissures and soon." Jinpei made a protesting sound and Keane smiled reassuringly at him. "After we get Nambu back of course."
"Maybe that's the problem, you and our Doctor are on the wrong sides." Ken suggested. "Maybe when you're both back where you belong the rifts will close automatically."
"I doubt it." Keane replied. "Two people shouldn't make any difference to the matrix." frowned down at the readouts. "None of this is according to theory."
"Sounds like you need a new theory." Joe observed.
"Maybe." the Doctor agreed ruefully.
"We're nearly there, we could go back down and finish tonight." Ken offered.
Keane shook his head. "Working tired is a good way to have accidents. It's not worth the risk."
"I said no, commander!" the Doctor calmed himself with a visible effort. "A few hours isn't going to make that much difference. Get some rest." He readdressed himself to the console as the Team and Pandora headed back to the surface. After several minutes he looked up to see Joe still there, waiting patiently to be noticed.
"I don't get tired. No reason why I can't go back down."
"Not alone. You could be buried by a roof fall."
Joe snorted gently. "Wouldn't hurt me."
"You're not indestructable." Keane reminded him. "and it might rebury the teleport chamber as well. It's not worth the risk, Joe."
He shrugged, accepting the decision. "Whatever you say, Doctor." Leaned himself against a computer bank. "So your Joe's a cyborg too?"
Keane nodded. "Towards the end of Lukan's War he began to suffer from the effects of an old head injury. Being a stubborn young fool he hid the symptoms and got himself killed in a one man invasion of the Vorak's headquarters."
Joe snorted again. "Except a mad scientist collected the meat before it was cold and turned him into a cyborg."
"Something like that." the Doctor agreed. Sat on the chair facing the consoles. "I should have paid more attention to him. Seen he was in trouble."
"Now hold on, Doctor," Joe protested, "you must have had plenty of other things on your mind at the time."
Keane shook his head. "I should have noticed *something*. My own son was dying on his feet in front of me and I missed it."
"I was damn careful my Doctor didn't get a chance to see anything." Joe argued, "I bet your Joe was too. What happened to me, to us, was our own stupid fault."
Keane was unconvinced. "I failed him." took off his glasses to rub his eyes. "And Joe and Kathy too, they counted on me to take care of their son."
There was a long silence. "Damn." Joe said softly, at last. "You think my Doctor feels that way too?"
"I'd be very surprised if he didn't." Keane put his glasses back on. "I'm sorry, Joe. The strain must be telling. I don't make a habit of inflicting my emotions on others."
"Neither does Dr. Nambu." said Joe.
THE EYRIE, ABOVE GATEWAY CITY
"They're gonna kill us."
Hunter looked at his second in surprise. "Who is?"
They both looked at Dr. Brighthead. He had a definite limp, one arm in a sling, and a large bruise clearly visible on his throat where Joe had knocked him out.
Hunter winced. "Maybe they'll understand."
Joe gave him a look. "Would we?"
"It was my fault for starting the fight." Brighthead broke in, proving his hearing was as uncannily sharp as Dr. Keane's. "And I'll tell them so."
Kelly stood somewhat in advance of the others aiming a scanner at a heat wave like distortion in the center of the library. "This is the breech all right but I can't get any image of what's on the other side."
"Not surprising." the Doctor said calmly. "I doubt any signal could pierce the anentropic interference. In all probability there's nothing there but a wrecked Gallactor Base."
"We hope." said Hunter. "Oh, well. Nothing ventured as they say. Let's go have a look." He brought his arm into position intoning "Eagle Mode, now!"
All five Eagle Riders flouresced as shirts and jeans reformed into birdstyles.
Hunter settled his wings, took a breath, said, "Follow me." and walked into the rift. It was dark on the other side but there was enough light to see the Doctor had been right, nothing but a ruined base. He barked his shins on a fallen beam and nearly fell headlong. Recovered, wings flapping, only to be pushed over as Joe barged into him from behind.
"Sorry." the Falcon extended a hand to help his leader to his feet.
Hunter glared, then accepted it, both quickly moving out of the way as Kelly, Ollie, Mickey and Dr. Brighthead came through in rapid succession.
"Watch your step." Hunter warned. Then, "Doctor, I didn't mean you to come." eyebrows arched and he finished defensively. "It could be dangerous." "This is my universe, Commander." glanced ruefully around at the half caved in room. "We may need an earth mover to get to the surface."
"Your Team sure did a job on this place." Kelly agreed.
"They did indeed." Brighthead looked at what remained of the teleport machine, smashed flat beneath a toppled pillar.
Joe stepped forward, heaved it out of the way uncovering at the squashed machinery. "Maybe you and Aiken's can do something with the pieces?"
Brighthead didn't sound very confident. "We can try."
Dr. Aikens, when she came through, was even less sanguine. "You've got to be kidding!" she said nudging fragmented components with her toe.
"Think of it as a challenge." Hunter advised.
"Or a little something to keep you and Doc occupied while we dig our way out." Joe suggested.
They all looked at the precariously balanced tangle of fallen posts, beams and wall panels
"Be careful." Brighthead warned.
"You got it, Doc." fervently from Ollie.
"Kelly, you can't dig with that arm, why don't you help the Doctors with the teleport." Hunter ordered. "Mickey," the smallest Eagle Rider tensed suspiciously. "We're going to need you to do some scouting for us. Wriggle your way into that mess and give us some idea of where to start so we don't bring the whole place down on our heads."
Mickey beamed. "Sure thing, Hunter."
"Be careful." from Kelly.
"I know what I'm doing." the Swallow slipped away through the interstices of rafters and rubble.
"Good thinking, Hunter." Ollie said, quietly approving.
"I'm not snowing the kid." his commander answered as softly. "We start shifting this stuff around at random anything could happen."
"I take it Mickey is self conscious about his size?" Brighthead asked Kelly.
She nodded. "He's nearly fourteen now and smaller than all his friends - even the girls. He will grow - According to his chromosone plot he'll be as tall as Joe someday - but in the meantime we try to make his shortness look like an advantage whenever we can. What about your Peewee?"
"He's only ten years old. That problem hasn't arisen yet."
The three older Eagle Riders spent the rest of the day digging, directed by Mickey, getting as far as the seventh level before breaking off for the night.
The next day started early but proved even more laborious. The upper levels had been badly damaged.
It was late afternoon when Joe suddenly stopped working and whispered, "Quiet!"
The others froze, looked at him tensely. "There's movement ahead," he continued softly after listening a moment. "Somebody else is down here with us."
"Vorak?" Mickey hissed, wide eyed.
"More likely Dr. Brighthead's Gallactors." Hunter corrected.
"I'll go see." Joe vaulted a barrier of fallen rubble and was gone before Hunter had a chance to argue.
As he moved towards them the small sounds, inaudible to normal ears, stopped. Joe froze in place, listening intently. After a long moment he heard movement, somebody coming steathily towards him.
*They heard me!* Which meant they had augmented senses too. Dr. Brighthead had said the Gallactor didn't run to androids or cyborgs but some were aliens with unusual powers. *Okay, forget quiet. Let's see what he looks like.* Joe started moving again, directly towards the other.
After a few minutes he was blocked by a fallen support column, he started to heave it out of his way and felt the massive pillar turn suddenly weightless, as if somebody was lifting from the other side. Together they sent it toppling. Joe straightened to find himself face to face with - himself!
The two Falcons stared at each other speechless. And a familiar voice said; "Joe Asakura, meet Joe Thax."
"Dr. Keane!" and there he was, watching the two of them with visible amusement. "Am I glad to see you, Doc." Pulled himself together and addressed his alternate. "Dr. Brighthead's going to be happy to see you too."
The other Joe blinked. "Who?"
"Not Dr. Nambu?" Keane asked sharply.
Now it was Joe Thax's turn to be confused. "Doctor Who?
Keane looked grim. "I think we we have a problem."
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.