1. Chapter 1 by Dei
2. Chapter 2 by Dei
G-FORCE: The Reality Show
"Just imagine, Chief, what it could mean. We work in the shadows: if the public knows something about us, it could be a real morale-booster."
"That sounds suspiciously like a pitch, Mark."
"I know, but it's true: we've been all about security, but I’m sure we could work out some way of being more accessible without compromising ourselves."
“I do not feel that any public interest consideration is sufficient to even risk a potential security breach. And it would take up a lot of the G-Force Team’s time which would be unacceptable.”
“It doesn’t have to do either if we retain control over what they get to see in the first instance. And with everything being pre-recorded, we can schedule any post-production input well in advance of broadcast and minimize any disruption.”
“How much planning have you put into this?”
“With or without help?”
“I admit I have been talking to the production company. Yes, Chief, I know I should have cleared it with you first. But it’s only because I think it’s really worthwhile.”
"Indeed you should have. However, are you all agreed on this?"
"To be honest, Chief, I'm a bit wary, but I'm willing to give it a chance."
"That's not what you said earlier, Jason."
"I said I'm willing to test it out. I'm just not jumping for joy."
"Anyone else with misgivings?"
"No, I'm with Mark."
"So am I."
"Very well. I take it that this is a limited series?"
"Yes, just for twelve episodes -- a short glimpse at the workings of the Team."
"Okay. Let me see the proposal in more detail then. I can’t say I like it, but if it all checks out, I’ll provisionally approve it. I wouldn’t smile just yet, Mark."
"Have you seen this?"
"I'm seeing it now... could you slap me? I just want to check I'm awake."
"Who knew Zark could talk that much?"
"Yeah, Princess. He seems awfully comfortable with that color commentary."
"True, but it's all post-recorded and Zark assures me that it doesn't cut into his vigilance."
"If that camera shakes any more, I'm going to feel sick."
"Told you you shouldn't have had that fifth space-burger."
"Well, they don't call it helmet-cam for nothing."
"You can barely tell what's going on."
"Isn't that bit from our March training session?"
"I'm confused -- this is just a mix up of last month's mission, training sessions and a publicity session -- oh wait, you're on now."
"Do I really sound like that?"
"I'm afraid you do, Jason."
"You know Mark, I'm not sure I like this. They could put some sort of slant on things."
"Well, look on the bright side, Tiny: it's so mixed up that there's nothing new Zoltar could learn from it."
"Other than getting a good look at Zark."
"Like that'd help him. What's so funny, Keyop?"
"Zoltar... studying show."
"I'd pay to see that.”
"Hello and welcome to A! Entertainment Daily. Tonight we have here the producer of ‘G-Force Illuminated’, the television show that has everyone talking, Mr. Simon Toksvig."
"Thank you very much; it's a pleasure to be here."
"So would you say that yesterday's premiere went well?"
"The reception has been unbelievable: the first episode went out in 87 countries and in every single one of them it's been *the* top-rated show. There are a further 90 countries it will be going out to this week, and we're in the final stages of negotiating syndication rights on six planets."
"How did you get to make this show?"
"It's been something I've been absolutely desperate to do for the last several months. We've had these Spectran killer ships dropping out of space for the last six months and yet we know more about them than we do about our putative giant-killing heroes."
"Surely there can be no expectation of their being public persons at this point?
"Absolutely not. Nothing about this show is about exposing G-Force. But all we learn about G-Force is a radio announcement announcing the all-clear and crediting them with turning back the latest threat -- it's all far too secretive for its own good. I've been writing to the PR department of Galaxy Security pretty much since the beginning and nothing, sorry, no interest."
"So what changed?"
"The honest truth is -- I don't know. It's just one of those stars aligning events. I’d given up. My partner-in-crime at Barking Mad Production, Charlie Baker, and I, had gone to try pitching a concept in person at their PR office. Total disaster. We were kvetching about it on the way back in this little prop job of a plane we chartered out of LAX. Only thing we could get as our normal jet was a write-off: it'd been slagged at Chicago when O'Hare was hit."
"I understand you got a call directly from the G-Force commander himself."
"You could have knocked me down with a regular chicken feather. Apparently, he'd gotten wind of our ill-fated pitch and... agreed with it. We went back and forth more times than a tennis ball at a grand slam tournament but give the man some credit, he made things happen. So yeah, we have a 12-part series looking at the G-Force team as they work."
"Have you met them yet?"
"No such luck -- we communicate via phone. I've not been able to get any crew to them either. We explain what we need, send over any camera equipment or microphones -- and by send, I mean take to an agreed pick up location for one of their couriers to fetch. We get footage back the same way. On the other hand, so far they've been great about giving us a free hand with processing that footage."
"You mean, they don't ask to see the final product before it screens?"
"No: it's been an awesome trust on their part."
"So were you watching TV last night?"
"Oh yeah, G-Force Illuminated! Amazing -- it's quite something to see them."
"They're so young, flamboyant... and yet..."
"I know. It's hard to believe that they can fight off all those men!"
"I think I may be getting a favorite. Or two."
"What do you think, Princess?"
"It was okay. Is there anything else I can get for you ladies?"
"It's three o'clock in the morning."
"Yes, I appreciate it's a little early at your end, but it's 6 am in New York, 12 noon in Düsseldorf, and 7 pm in Kuala Lumpur, so there's no time like the present."
"It's three o'clock in the morning."
"We established that already. We'd like to have a short conference call with you about some aspects of the third episode."
"The reception was off the wall. And not to beat about the bush; we think there's a real star quality about you, G-2."
"Ah yes, a man of few words: the epitome of the tall, dark brooding stranger."
"It's like you guys chose your get-ups for TV. So dramatic."
"Look, I've been up for 35 hours straight. Get to the point or I'm hanging up."
"Well, it's this: the thing that really stood out was your confronting G-1. We'd like to see more of that, and maybe you taking it up a notch."
"In what way?
"How about you swear, to underline how serious the situation is? We'd bleep it out."
"Out of the question."
"All I'm asking is for you to take it up a notch or two. When you stood up to your commander, the ratings totally spiked! We were the number one show that timeslot, across all channels."
"Listen, I don't argue for the sake of it and I care nothing for your ratings. Goodnight."
"It's for Miz Sportif, which does a line of sporting gear aimed at sportswomen, female hunters and athletes."
"But I don't wear anything from them -- all our clothing is custom made."
"We know that, but they're thinking of making a line of short-skirts that would be similar to yours and your endorsement would be excellent."
"I'll... I'll have to think about that."
"Actually, if you think about it, whenever you have embedded journalism with special operations teams, you see remarkably little violence. You see the soldiers running, taking cover, maybe shooting, but it's rare to see who they're shooting at or what's happening."
"That's true enough, Jim, but the problem I'm having with the 'G-Force Illuminated' series is that while the camerawork gives a real sense of immediacy, I feel we lack a little context."
"Look outside. We're broadcasting this radio show from a freaking Nissen hut in the middle of a cleared rubble field because our studios got flattened and you're concerned about the Spectrans' side of the story? *Bleep* the lot of them."
"Cool it, Sam, let's not make a mountain out of this molehill. I accept what you're saying, heck I live it too -- I've only just been able to move back home."
"At least you have a home to get back to – we’re still looking for a place that takes dogs. So why are you carrying the Spectrans' water?"
"I'm not! I'm just not totally happy at how... heavy-handed some of the redaction is."
"Look. Is your problem that we don't, quote-unquote, understand those poor Spectrans or that we're not getting enough blood splatter on the screen?"
"Now you're just being obtuse, Sam."
"Folks, you're listening to Timberline FM on 103.9 and this is the Lunch Hour with Jim Jones and myself, Sam Tucker. As you've heard, right now Jim here's barely making sense. So what do you think about the G-Force show? Got an opinion? Sure you do -- call in on 0800 254 2455."
"And I'm glad you called, as I've something I want to get off my chest as well."
"What would that be?"
"You keep on putting up shots of myself sleeping. I'll admit I have been known to nod off but I can tell you that on the last two episodes, you screened footage from missions where I was out of the Phoenix and yet cut in scenes where I was asleep. You even had shots of me in the base -- how can I be asleep on the Phoenix at the same time?"
"It's part of who you are, on screen: the easy-going big guy."
"I'm not that easy-going. Or big."
"I keep telling you -- the Fiery Phoenix is one of our riskiest techniques. It's not a special effect."
"But the way you guys went clean through that cat ship... it's just the sort of amazing pyrotechnics the male 16-24 year olds totally go for. Do you know how hard it is to get that demographic in front of a TV?"
"I understand you have a version that's even more off the chain, where you guys break up into your individual vehicles."
"Who told you gentlemen about that?"
"Oh we have sources, Commander. Reliable sources."
"Well, the answer is still no. We do what we have to -- and no more. Sorry if that's not dramatic enough for you."
"What the...? They just inserted that bleep to make it look like I was swearing!
“We never used the Fiery Phoenix then, either.”
<Mod_One> Hi! Welcome to a special live chat session with the G-Force Team! Please put your questions to one of the moderators and we'll forward the question. You will then have the chance to ask a follow-up question. Absolutely no text or ‘l33t speak’ of any kind will be tolerated.
<JQPublix> So is there any special high-performance food you eat before a mission?
<G-1> Depends on if there's time, but if there's an hour to spare I favor a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
<G-1> I know it sounds weird, but it's a great mix of fast and slow-release energy and it’s a beautiful caloric package.
<JQPublix> Do you have it with milk?
<G-1> Water, if I’m thirsty.
<G-2> And if there’s no time, we just do without. It’s life.
<Sparkz> What's your favorite food?
<G-5> On a mission, whatever I can get. Off it, it has to be a burger.
<Sparkz> What kind of burgers?
<G-5> Well if you take a soft-crust sourdough, add onions, tomatoes, sweet pickles, relish, toss on a grilled 12.oz patty and top it with poblano, you have what I like to call a space burger.
<The Real G-4> *rolls eyes* You just had to ask. He’ll eat five of those… things at a go.
<Henchdude> How do you manage those interplanetary flights?
<G-5> I hope you'll understand that we can’t answer that question.
<Henchdude> Are you worried that your putting yourselves ‘out there’ so to speak might help the enemy in some way?
<G-1> Not from the show: there’s nothing in there that they don’t already know.
<RunFstBiteHrdr> I understand if you can’t answer this in too much detail, but I can’t help but notice that a lot of the equipment on your warship seems... rather analog. Why’s that?
<G-5> Ha, now there’s a can of worms. The simple answer is that it’s got to be robust because we put the Phoenix to some pretty hard use. Simpler tends to trounce fancy.
<G-2> As I say, if I can’t hit it with a hammer, set it on fire, put it out with seawater and still have it work, I’m not interested.
<G-5> Well, we’ll consider it if it can be fixed in an hour without specialized tools. The dirty look I’m giving G-2 is because he *shot* a new system.
<G-2> Only the once. And it was just one bullet.
<G-5> With an M-16.
<G-2> They said it could take *anything* so I wrote them a reality check.
<G-1> We’ve got an active support network that is always working on new and improved weapons and systems that might give us the edge. As G-2 and G-5 have explained, our demands are stringent. In the course of operation, any equipment won’t just be dropped: it’ll be slammed repeatedly. It has to withstand, well, forgive, extremes of temperature and humidity, dust, smoke, corrosive environments. And with rare exceptions, it can’t be too specialized. We jury-rig stuff regularly.
<RunFstBiteHrdr> That’s really interesting. So how much new stuff do you guys get?
<G-3> It varies, but I’d say that of every 10 proposed improvements only one or two make it in.
<G-2> And of those, their operational lifespan is normally measured in weeks. We keep less than half long-term. It might not look like it, but we’re always experimenting, reconfiguring and improving.
<The Real G-4> Keeps things interesting – both for us and for the enemy. They never know what we’ve got.
<GalNerd> You guys seem to argue a lot. Does it make it hard to work together?
<G-1> Most of that’s editing. We do have our disagreements but nowhere near as much as the producers make it out to be.
<G-3> We’re actually all very close and enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, us hanging out isn’t something we can have shown.
<Purp13> Can you kiss with that visor?
<G-3> I've never tried.
<Purp13> Does that mean you want to?
<G-3> I would prefer not to answer that.
<Funky_Chicken> Do any of you guys get hurt? What’ll happen if you did?
<G-1> We maintain full operational readiness and that is all we’re prepared to say.
[Private from <G-1> to <All_Moderators>: We won’t entertain any more questions like the last two. We won’t be discussing operational details or our private lives.]
[Private from <Mod_One> to <G-1>: Understood. Sorry about that.]
<Mod_One> May I remind all participants to keep their comments civil.
<Morningstar> Any idea of when the war going to be over?
<G-3> The short answer: not soon enough! We're hoping that the Spectrans will realize that they simply can't hope to take anything by force and negotiate for what they need instead.
<Morningstar> Do you give autographs?
<G-2> We can't for security reasons.
<Rig'un> Why do you kill people?
<G-2> It'd be real nice if the enemy would just stay at home, but they came a long way and a stern 'get lost' just doesn't get the message across.
<G-1> We'd much rather not kill anyone but we also have to do whatever it takes to get our job done. And sadly, that often means casualties.
<Loxo> What are your favorite weapons?
<The Real G-4> Our wits.
<G-1> It’s true, we have to be one step ahead of the enemy to succeed. That aside, I love my boomerang.
<G-2> If you’re talking about most liked rather than most used, then my choice is a bolt action rifle. I don’t think you’ll be seeing it on TV.
<The Real G-4> We call that gun Zeus.
<G-2> I told you, it doesn’t have a name.
<G-5> And we keep telling you, it ought to. When you break it out, it’s like armor-piercing lightning.
[Private from <G-1> to <G-5>: Hey, let’s not get too specific.]
[Private from <G-5> to <G-1>: Sorry.]
<G-3> I’m torn between my yo-yo and my timed detonators.
<Suki> So what's the deal with the way you speak, G-4?
<The Real G-4> I have a particular form of expressive aphasia. I find myself having to reach for the right word. As you can see, I write a bit better than I speak.
<Suki> Isn't that a rather big word for you?
<The Real G-4> No, just one not so familiar to you.
<Sans_nombre> does that mean you're retarded?
<The Real G-4> No!
<The Real G-4> *exit*
<Mod_One> Once again, I ask everyone to keep their comments civil. I'm really sorry about that. Could we continue?
[Private from <G-1> to <All_Moderators>: Last chance. We’re not here to be harassed. ]
#Sans_nombre has been banned#
<Swee’pea> What’s the best part about G-Force?
<G-1> Watching the sun rise after a mission. It just fills me with a sense of peace. I feel relief that once again, we’ve been able to come through and gratitude at all the hard work and sacrifice so many people put in to make all possible.
<G-2> For me it’s before that, when the killer ship and its forward operating base go up in flames. It’s about the plans they won’t be able to carry out, about all the people whose lives won’t be disrupted, who aren’t going be displaced, who aren’t going to die. It’s about making things just a little bit more right in the world, wherever that is.
<Rig'un> You guys are amazing. I thought you’d be shills, but you’re actually sincere. You’re the whip hand of the Government that pretends to be at war with Spectra in order to control people, divide up territory and conquer. And you’re so stupid you don’t even see it. Keep deluding yourselves that you’re ‘heroes.’
<G-1> I think we’re done here.
“Mark, you know how I said that I’d give this a chance? This *was* their chance.”
“One crazy doesn’t make an asylum, Jason.”
“That crazy’s words have gone on a free trip round the Galaxy. We don’t need the seeds of a conspiracy theory being planted.”
“I hate to say it, but I agree with Jason. It’s time to pull the plug on this.”
“I hear what you’re saying, guys, but I still think this is more good than bad.”
“Like what? The calls we get in the night? The stupid endorsement requests for junk we wouldn’t poke with a stick?”
“The way they twist things about us. They make me out to be a total slug who just flies the Phoenix and sleeps.”
“Really? You seemed awfully glad to ham it up in that chat session.”
“I didn’t see you doing too badly yourself.”
“Cut it out, both of you. Maybe you’re right: we’ve been trying not to let this change us, but, yeah we did play a bit to the crowd there. Ah, you’re back Princess. How’s Keyop doing?”
“I’m afraid he’s not said a thing since we logged off. That really upset him.”
“That’s bad. I’ll go talk to him. And I’ll talk to Barking Mad as well.”
“Well, Korkun. What are the results of your tests?”
“Sire, I am sorry to report that the results of our pilot study into the ‘peanut butter and jelly sandwich’ were not encouraging. Our first difficulty was in establishing the formulation of this product. The ‘sandwich’ appears to refer to the practice of layering a filling between two pieces of baked cereal derived from a paste of Triticum aestivum as well as to the item so produced. After several failed attempts to produce our own, we purchased fillings of commercially-produced pastes derived from Arachis hypogaea and from Vitis vinifera.”
“Continue: how did you perform the tests?”
“Twelve healthy volunteers matched for height, weight and body fat were fasted for four hours, and then given a preparation consisting of 50 g of each filling in 100 g of baked cereal paste to consume. All subjects reported the comestible to be extremely objectionable in both taste and texture. Common descriptors were ‘overly sweet’, ‘sticky’ and ‘earthy’. Some reported a paradoxical finding of sliminess. On mastication, it appears to form an extremely thick and sticky bolus: three subjects choked, one of whom required resuscitation. Only six subjects were able to consume the entire sandwich and of those, two of them subsequently reported feeling distress and vomited. ”
“And of the subjects who were able to fully consume and digest the sandwich?”
“We performed a series of aerobic and anaerobic tests on them commencing an hour after consumption and noted no significant improvement in performance when compared to their baseline performance.”
“I am having difficulty recruiting sufficient volunteers to participate in the pilot study on this ‘space burger’ food item.”
“Thank you, but further testing will not be necessary. It is as I thought: an Earthling propaganda piece designed to mislead.”
"Mark, some paperwork has arrived for you. I've had it sent to your office."
"Thank you Zark. I take it it's something to do with Barking Mad?"
"That is correct."
"Afternoon, Toksvig here."
"G-1 here. I received these, audition files and I'd like to know what it's about."
"Ah, Commander. I was hoping that you'd ask. You see, these sort of things need an arc -- a progression. Always got to be thinking of the next thing."
"We're at war, Sir. Things happen."
"Yes, yes, I know that. You've not got control over what the Spectrans will do next, but the audience likes to see... changes. So, what do you think of the profiles I've sent? Think any have potential?"
"Potential for what?"
"As you know, we're halfway through the first season and next week, we're planning on starting to shoot a parallel program. It's an audition show to select the candidate for the start of Season Two, ratings permitting of course."
"I still don't understand."
"If you'd stop interrupting me, you would. We want to create a contest where candidates compete in a series of grueling physical and mental tests to win a place on one of your missions as celebrity G-6. Of course, popularity enters into it as the audience will be voting candidates off weekly."
"Have any of these... candidates served in the military?"
"No, but they're all physically fit. Some of them have black belts."
"Gained in carefully choreographed situations?"
"Well, at least they have the basics and we envisage the winner getting some additional training before the show. They’ll be able to keep pace with you."
“Our pace is measured in miles per minute. I very much doubt anyone will be keeping up.”
“Don’t knock it before you try it. So are you up for this?”
"Look, Mr. Toksvig. We've put up with a lot, your middle of the night conference calls, requests to make senseless operational changes, endless requests for access over and above what we agreed. We have recorded hours of color commentary about trivial incidents we barely remember only to see them twisted beyond all recognition. You have turned us into caricatures. But this is a step too far. This is not a game."
"Commander, I understand where you're coming from. As I said in our previous conversation, we really regret what happened with the chat session and the staffer who allowed that line of questioning has now been sacked. But to address your other concerns, I want you to try seeing it from the public perspective. Up until this program started, the way most people learn of your activities is when they get the 'All clear' over the radio."
"Yes, we went through this already -- it's why we agreed to this in the first place."
"I know. However, it's done far more than we expected. And I don't mean just in terms of popularity. Do you know that there's a 1% suicide rate among evacuees? People lose out every time they're forced to move because they're in the predicted path of a killer ship and after two, three, four times, they start to despair. I've just got this data in: in the places your show has gone out, those suicide rates have more than halved. It's not a joke: seeing you guys gives people real hope. You guys are real to them, and you're not some sort of übermenschen -- you're human, you've got your foibles they can identify with. I'll hold up my hand to say that it is entertaining. But it's not trite."
"<Sigh> That's good to know, but I'm sorry. I still have to refuse."
"We're not asking for full combat. It'd just be a celebrity special and the winner would just be embedded with your team for the mission."
"I refuse. We can't afford to babysit. If they slow us down, we would dump them. If they got injured or killed, we might not be able to recover them and we would abandon them. I'm sure you'd agree that it's unethical."
"On the contrary, the danger being real is exactly what we want."
"I'm afraid that I must disagree there. If I may refer you to the terms of our contract, you agreed to participate fully in the production process to the best of your abilities. Refusal to participate would constitute a breach of contract and the penalties for that could be most... severe.”
“Are you threatening us, Mr. Toksvig?”
“No, I wouldn’t dream of it. I’m just pointing out that if we were to take legal action, it could cost you more than you care for in time and reputation. Now which 12 candidates would you say have the most potential?"
"Chief, you were right and we were wrong."
"It's destroying us!"
"Truthfully, I would say that this is working out rather well for us. It's proved extremely popular and the actual information covered within the show is so minuscule that it's veritable disinformation."
"Mark, what are you doing? Get off your knees this instant!"
"I can't see myself being responsible for the pointless death of a civilian."
"What do you mean?"
"We were sent an advance copy of the episode that'll go out on Wednesday. They've got a body double of me sitting in a leather chair with his back to the camera going through audition tapes of actors and selecting sixteen of them. I've only seen some acting portfolios and I've made no selections."
"And what's this in aid of?"
"They're planning a spin-off whereby they look for the 'next' G-Force member as a popularity contest and basic training combo."
"Their idea is to have the 'winner' join us for a mission as part of the second season."
"I never gave permission for an extension to this."
"That's why we're here. It's all getting out of hand, Chief."
"I can't take responsibility for the life of a civilian. Not for entertainment."
"I see. You can get off your knees Mark. All of you. This won't be a problem any longer."
"I always intended to detain the production team by the end of the season. Even at their present remove, they're still too much of a security risk."
"So why did you wait until your team appealed to you, Anderson?"
"Because, Kane, I wanted to see them eat every last word. With salt."
"Does that salt include funding their detention out of the G-Force Team's cut of the revenue?"
"First, the royalties are something they neither know about nor would expect. Second, yes, yes it does.”
“Well, they are your team to manage and I’m reluctant to pass comment. Nevertheless…”
“There’s sufficient left to give them a very pleasant surprise once they’re no longer operational."
"Forgive me for saying this, but you're a little... smaller in person than you look on TV, Commander."
"I'm six-three in these boots and helmet. How tall does the TV make me look?"
"Closer to seven."
"I'll take that as a compliment."
"Anyway, we're here now. It was a good run while it lasted."
"I'm very sorry about the way it turned out, Mr. Toksvig. If it's any consolation, Galaxy Security has accepted the need to be more open about our activities."
"They'll be putting together a publicity campaign. But I was asking how you're finding things here."
"Oh, the facilities here aren't too bad. We've got TV, chefs, concierge service. Other than the phone service being supervised, it's a beach really. The biggest problem we have is that Sandra, my personal secretary, is rather missing her regular masseuse. Between the two of us, I think she's getting along just fine with her new one, if you know what I mean."
"I'd rather not know. I hope you understand that we're going to have to keep you here until the war's over."
"Well, those are the risks of doing a high-impact show like mine."
"Are you joking? We're not! This is pure gold: once this war's over, we'll be released and as soon as the embargo's lifted, we'll all be raking it in. We've lined up deals for autobiographies, a tell-all G-Force Exposed series, a making of documentary, a dirty secrets sorta-documentary, film options... You see, the reality show was always just a launch platform. This is where the heavy money is."
"I... I see. Well, I'll leave you to it then."
"Commander, just make sure you guys win. Preferably in the next six months -- you know how fickle the youth demographics are. Okay?"