Truth and Treachery
Fish swam past the underwater base beneath the coral reef in calm and leisurely rows, but inside, a little cylindrical robot was pacing back and forth anxiously.
"Here at Center Neptune, deep beneath the sea," 7-Zark-7 said, "I am constantly vigilant, watching for any and all signs of trouble from planet Spectra and that eeevil Zoltar."
Here he paused in his pacing.
"But even though I have the most advanced programming yet devised," he continued with a small sigh, "Zoltar is ever coming up with new and devious ways to infiltrate Earth! Just now, I was tracking a Spectran ship that seemed to be heading towards Earth, and then just like that, it was gone from my monitors! Some kind of cloaking device, I don't doubt, and most disturbing. Why, that ship could be anywhere now, doing anything."
The robot glided quickly back to his flashing and blinking console and panel of monitors.
"But I'll keep searching. I really can't alert G-Force that there might be a Spectran ship up to no good on Earth, if I have to tell them I have no idea at all where it went!'
He began rapidly pushing buttons…
It had been, Jason thought, a while since he'd raced –much too long. It had been even longer since he'd raced an Indy-style car. Ever since Mala had exposed him with the anti-transmute ray he'd been obeying Chief Anderson's directive to "lay low" and unfortunately, in the world of racing, his skill -with the victories to prove it- had made him somewhat high profile.
But this morning, the stands were deserted and his was the only car on the track. In fact, it wasn't his car at all; it was on loan from an automotive conglomerate hoping to entice him to race under their sponsorship. Surely the Chief couldn't object to him just trying out their car, on an empty track…
Jason was glad to be back in the racing game to any extent –even practice laps to get the feel of this new car felt satisfying. Ever since Chief Anderson had made adjustments to his cerebonic implant, three months ago, he'd been feeling like his old self again.
He pushed harder on the gas pedal; it was time to see what this baby could really do…
Yes, life was good again, or at least as good as it could be until the day dawned when Spectra was no longer a threat to Earth or to galactic peace. He was fine -no dizziness, no blurred vision, and above all, no bizarre and disturbing dreams of unconscious strangers and a masked Spectran woman at a beach to mess with his sleep and leave him surly and exhausted.
But suddenly, his vision blurred.
"No," he growled, gripping the wheel tightly. It was nothing… just the way the light was hitting his racing goggles. He was fine. The Chief had fixed the problem, and it would bloody well stay fixed! That was all behind him now.
Only dimly conscious he was doing it, he accelerated even more, as if he could literally leave it all behind. He stared fixedly ahead, willing the universe to distill itself down to nothing but the chaotic purity of speed and the roaring wind's harsh caress.
And he found clarity again; the sky and the track –all that he could see- were sharply delineated once again.
Yes, he was just fine.
Until movement, and color, in the side mirror drew a quick glance from him. Two helicopters, flying low, were behind him and he needed only a second to see that they were gaining on him, fast.
What's this? Some kind of emergency response drill for medical evac personnel?
Flying even lower, the helicopters flanked him on either side, and now he could see their occupants.
Thoughts of "How did they find me?" and "Did Mala figure out who I am?" raced through his mind in the instant it took for him to comprehend that one soldier was aiming a gun at him and that there was nothing he could do to avoid its bullets.
But the two bullets fired flew past his face, well in front of him.
Warning shots across his bows –they wanted him but they wanted him alive. That, at least, gave him a chance. He floored the gas pedal, surging the car towards the point where he would cease to have any control over it, but he had to get out of here! He had to get somewhere where there were trees, overhead wires, buildings –anything that could get these helicopters off his tail!
He was skidding… He struck the rail. But he managed, somehow, to regain a vestige of control, enough to get him tearing along the track again.
They were behind him now but he had no idea if he'd be able to keep it that way. He'd never driven a car like this, this fast, on any track, and he honestly didn't know if he'd be able to keep it up without crashing. But speed might well be all that was keeping him safe –if the Spectrans in the helicopters wanted him alive, they'd never shoot his tires out when he was going this fast.
But they could fire more "warning shots." Three shatter-ringed bullet holes now speckled his windshield. A hasty glance at the mirror showed only one helicopter in his wake –where had the other gone?
In a second he knew –it had cut across the track's infield. It was flying head-on towards him –and low. It was forcing him to brake and swerve –the car's tires screamed in protest- and he lost all semblance of control.
The car smashed through the track's railing, and kept on flying… He could not be in it when it hit the ground again.
But he was cerebonically enhanced –he was G-Force! He could survive this.
Drawing on every trace of speed and physics-defying agility he possessed, he leapt clear of the car. But something was wrong –he was disoriented, dizzy.
He wasn't going to be able to land on his feet…
His mind struggled towards consciousness. He was lying on his back and he seemed to be in one piece, but his head spun and nausea coursed through him in waves.
They've got me, he thought, I can't even stand up. But I was supposed to cured!
A rough booted foot brushed across his face.
He looked up, and there was a bearded Spectran soldier, clad in the blue uniform that indicated higher rank –likely a Captain.
"Wake up! Do you know how many days I've been looking for you?" growled the Captain as he kept his gun trained on Jason, "But there's long been rumors that you race cars," he added, spinning his gun smugly in one hand now, "I knew that if I staked out enough tracks, I'd find you eventually."
They hauled him into one of the helicopters, and as it rose upward, a massive Spectran ship shaped like a moth swooped in and loomed above, bay doors on its belly opening to welcome the helicopters inside.
The car, on the grass far below, was the sole, mute witness to his abduction.
By the time they got him out of the helicopter, inside the moth ship, Jason was relieved to find that he could see straight and walk upright again without staggering. He knew the drill –they would take him before their leader (no doubt dressed like a total freak), and he was determined to be standing tall when that happened. He just needed to bide his time, and the opportune moment for escape would come. But once again, his body –or his implant, really- was playing traitor on him and as the soldiers escorted him into what resembled a throne room, he was suddenly terribly conscious of his absent helmet and concealing tinted visor as he silently willed his face to reveal none of the anxiety he was feeling.
Sure enough, this Spectran ship's leader was wearing a garish robe and a weird hooded mask. He was slouched nonchalantly on his "throne," leaning on one elbow as he propped his head up with one arm.
But as the soldiers flanking Jason stopped and then stepped slightly away from him, the hooded figure spoke
"I've had people searching for you for quite some time," drawled a generic male Spectran voice, "I hope they weren't too… rough on you."
Could this be Mala again, trying another disguise? Jason couldn't tell for sure.
"I'll send you the car repair bill," he replied with a hint of a smirk, adding "But whatever guy you're looking for, I'm not him."
"No? You fit the description that I was given perfectly –you even have the number 2 shirt.'
This must be Mala's doing…
"Of course," continued the hooded figure, "we'll need to do some tests on you nevertheless, just to be certain there's no… deception here."
"I'm just a race car driver," declared Jason, "Don't waste your time."
Tests? The only hard proof I'm G-Force is inside my head, thought Jason, feeling his face tense as the hooded Spectran merely gazed at him silently, But Spectrans don't know about our implants… or do they?
"I don't think it will be a waste. You are most interesting to me, as I've been assured that a thorough medical exam will reveal that you have a cerebonic implant, and that you are also half Spectran." The voice grew sharper, though the figure's slouching posture didn't change, adding "And that you recognize one Mala Latroz at a glance, even from a distance, and then rush after her."
Several of the Spectran soldiers in the room all took a step closer to Jason now.
"You need some new informants, man," insisted Jason, "How much did that pack of lies cost you?"
So it was that damned doctor at the sleep clinic! No wonder the guy skipped town weeks ago.
"This informant was initially… confused, for some weeks, as to where his best interests –and greatest rewards- lie, but Dr. Ratold is now loyal only to me. You didn't know, then, but he did a scan of your brain at his sleep clinic. He has sent results to me, along with the blood samples he took from you that day. Allow me to greet you now, for the first time…"
He reached up with one hand and yanked away the hood and robe.
"As your long-lost uncle!"
It was Zoltar.
"You don't seem all that bright," said Jason, thumbing his nose derisively, "but you must be nuts too, to think I'd fall for a crock like this. Whoever 'Ratold' is, he's scamming you big time."
"No one insults Lord Zoltar –you will apologize!" declared the blue-clad Spectran Captain, now pointing a hand gun directly at Jason.
Jason said nothing -he merely turned his head and glared- but the soldier stepped back hastily.
They all believe I'm G-Force. But keep denying it, play for time, then escape…
"Hey, he just insulted me," growled Jason.
"Your denials are futile," said Zoltar, smirking now as he walked towards Jason, "Blood cannot lie. Neither can your mother –not after I've interrogated her. Now I know all about your little 'reunion' three months ago, though I haven't gotten the identity of your Earthling father out of Mala –yet."
"My parents," retorted Jason, "were Joseph and Kathryn. They died in a car accident when I was six –but I remember them. And I have no uncles!"
Zoltar briefly recoiled as he spoke, clenching his fists in frustration, but then his smirk returned and he leaned ingratiatingly towards Jason.
"You believe these 'memories'? Believe Anderson? You could be a Lord of Spectra, a number '1' -not taking orders from those who should be taking yours!"
Jason turned away, unsure if he could keep a straight face much longer if he had to keep listening to this absurd ploy. Did they really think he was that gullible?
Okay, I'll play along then, play for time, then escape…
"Well, when you put it that way…" he replied, now briefly glancing back at Zoltar with a slight smile, waving his fingers in a "tell me more" gesture.
"I've long seen the superior, fiery spirit of a Spectran Lord in you," said Zoltar silkily, nodding as he rubbed his hands together.
"I'll admit that G-Force and I aren't an ideal fit," said Jason.
"Naturally," said Zoltar, nodding again.
"So I'm willing to give your whole recruitment offer a listen," continued Jason, holding his chin thoughtfully, "But it'll have to be awfully good to lure me to a crappy rock like Spectra."
Zoltar managed to swallow this insult to his home world, so eager was he to let Jason continue speaking. He leaned even closer towards him.
"Actually, it's never going to happen!" snarled Jason, now seizing the chance to spin around and punch an unsuspecting Zoltar in the face, hard enough to send him sprawling on his back. Immediately, Jason punched the nearest Spectran soldier on the jaw, and as another one lunged for him, Jason grabbed him and hurled him straight at a cluster of five other soldiers, too startled to move, knocking them all down. Jason leaped high into the air, aiming for the massive chandelier hanging from the ceiling –if he could kill the lights, he had a better chance of getting away.
But even as he soared through the air, the same dizziness and disorientation that had afflicted him when he'd leapt from the crashing car earlier returned suddenly with a vengeance.
No, not again!
He no longer knew where he was in relation to the floor or ceiling; his vision blurred and his head throbbed.
He missed the chandelier completely and dropped back to the floor. He was on his knees, resting one hand on the floor as he struggled both to regain his sense of balance and to not puke.
But there were soldiers right beside him –he had to move!
With supreme effort, he snapped to his feet and threw himself sideways, knocking down the nearest soldier. Then he ran, as even more soldiers began to chase him, approaching what his blurred vision told him was a staircase –and maybe a way out.
But in that instant, intense pain blossomed within his head and forced him to a halt as he clutched his forehead with one hand and dropped to his knees –too dizzy to stand and barely able to see through the fog of pain and nausea and he leaned on his other trembling hand.
I have to get out of here! Get up!
Sensing that he was now drawing on nearly his last reserves, he somehow managed to stand again, desperately forcing his traitorous implant and body to obey his will. The soldiers chasing him were almost upon him; he took a fighting stance, prepared to battle to the very end if necessary.
Maybe not necessary –in that moment he realized that he was beneath the chandelier again. He leaped high with all the strength he could muster, holding himself in a tight somersault as he flew towards the lights. Bullets were flying around him, but he reached the chandelier and grabbed hold of it, letting the impact of his weight and speed take its toll.
And it worked! Even as he used his momentum to fling himself away and back towards the floor, the chandelier ripped from the ceiling, all its lights extinguished, and plummeted towards the floor.