September 12, 1998
A Gatchaman story
by Janet Coleman Sides
Disclaimer: This story contains a little bit of rough ("F-word")
language, and the characters are not mine. Angst alert,
too. Anyone may archive or distribute this story, but not
ever for profit and not ever without my name and this
disclaimer attached, unaltered. Many thanks.
Finally, they were gone. Into that pit of vipers, the last
stand, the last hope. He had run his race. He had to trust
them to finish theirs. At least he had had a chance to say
goodbye. Unusually merciful, that. God was usually content
to screw him completely.
Konduru no Joe lay on his back in the grass at Cross
Karakoram, twitching, only dimly aware anymore that he was
riddled with bullets, torn and bleeding to death. He didn't
really mind. He was dying a warrior under an open sky, not
an invalid in a disinfectant-reeking hospital -- and he had
earned it fighting Galactor, as he had always sworn. He was
still bound for Hell, but he could walk in *cocky*,
goddammit, even if he did have to go without the dark wings
of the Condor cloaking him. And Ken...
All he could really feel anymore were the edges of Ken's
boomerang that he clutched to his chest. Ken had
understood, he thought vaguely, had known Joe would hate to
have to walk unarmed into Hell...
No. No, Ken wouldn't have understood that at all. Joe had
been Catholic, though, before his parents died, before his
whole world had been torn into strips and then brutally
reassembled. He could remember the little boy's fear of
Hell only all too well, since after all he had been thrust
into it that day on the beach. The laughing woman had said,
'sin of the father', and that fact seemed to snap into place
for Joe -- he knew he was a cold killer, the spawn of
killers. Oh, he'd fought for the right side, but he'd
*enjoyed* it, enjoyed killing. And Joe knew he was beyond
redemption. Besides, he was dying unconfessed and
Unconfessed...! For though he'd had a chance to say
goodbye, he *hadn't* said anything to Ken. All he'd said
was, *Are you going to lecture me to the very end?* What
kind of last words were those to say to his best friend?
But Ken had done the right thing; Joe was proud. Had done
the right thing, leaving him lying in the grass, and racing
with the others to finish the mission Joe'd failed when he
missed Berg-fucking-Katse with that cursed
He clutched the boomerang harder, with what little ebbing
strength remained in his spasming hand. There seemed to be
a wide, ringing space of silence around his head, his eyes
strobing with holiday fireworks in purple and white. A
*tugging* commenced on him, as though his heart were a
hooked fish; but for a few minutes more, Joe resisted the
oncoming darkness to drag his hand up, inch by slow,
agonizing inch, fighting the leaden short-circuits of
disconnection sweeping up his spinal column as his body
continued inexorably shutting down.
He dragged his hand up, to be ready to fling that
boomerang into the Devil's teeth. Or -- and here a faint
flare of the familiar anger gave him a push of another few
inches -- if somehow he did go up, he could throw it at God
Him-fucking-Self, the old bastard. For the life He had made
Joe lead. For his parents, of course, for the needless
suffering of so many. For making him a monster. But most of
all, for His cruelty in letting him ever glimpse happiness
at all, if He was only going to snatch it away.
He exhaled, trembling, and knew that if he did not
consciously do so, he was not going to breathe again. He
forced through the lethargy, deafened his ears to the
insistent soothing voices buzzing along the glowing
fishing-line, telling him to just let go, that he had
succeeded his mission... Gritting his teeth around his
unvoiced curses, Joe took another breath.
Pain found him again, then, in a terrible burst of
clarity; and then his vision cleared. His arm was cocked
back at last, ready to throw. Air hissed out through his
teeth. He was ready now, goddammit. *Come and get me.*
His head lolled to the right, and he stared unfocused at
the gleam of the metal projectile in his blood-streaked
fingers, thinking about the wings of the angel of Death...
thinking about pure-white wings in a fluid sweep near his
face as Ken knelt beside him and closed Joe's hand over the
birdrang, his eyes huge with suppressed pain.
*Joe... forgive me. We swore we'd die together, but now we
have to abandon you. Take this boomerang, at least. Hold it,
as a memory of my feelings...*
Then a skip in his memory, a fast rewind to:
*...Are you going to lecture me to the very end? *
He forced himself to breathe, once more. It was slow and
ragged and intensely painful. He did not much notice. He
wished bitterly, far, far too late, that he had not wasted
his last opportunity to say goodbye, to speak his heart.
The bright-scaled fish that swum caged in his ribs
struggled wildly against the insistent line.
*If only I could have had another chance.* God wouldn't
give a shit, of course, what George Asakura's dying wish
might be, but he could still make it, goddammit. Closing
his eyes, Joe pressed his trembling lips to the boomerang,
tasting his own blood, and then flung himself with it into
When the old man got to him he was not breathing. His hand
lay slack, a fancy projectile weapon of some sort lying next
to it in the blood-soaked grass. The old man hardened
himself to the carnage around him as he worked feverishly
to bundle his patient into a stasis unit. Dr. Rafael would
be able to get the Condor back to his lab without further
brain damage. He had had to wait to approach till the
unnerved Galactors surrounding the entrance had panicked at
the latest round of tremors, which coincided with Asakura's
loss of consciousness, and vanished undergound like the
vermin they were.
Rafael pushed the unit on its anti-grav lifters into his
vehicle and, instructing the pilot-mecha to fly them back
to his laboratory, began the long, slow, meticulous task of
reincarnating the fallen G-2 as a cyborg.
When he opened his eyes, he thought the old man was God.
He really did. And there was more confusion occasioned by
the name 'Rafael'. But when he finally absorbed what had
happened, and the fact that it would be long months before
he would be able even to move again, Joe had lots of time
alone to think, oh yes in-fucking-deedy.
Well, well, well. God *did* hear his dying wish -- AND God
was a filthy bastard. He'd ridden the boomerang, but
boomerangs came back, didn't they? Just as foolishly
phrased wishes came back on the wisher.
He would, after all, have his second chance to speak his
heart. Except that now, of course, his heart was an
But hadn't it always been? He closed his eyes in despair.
It didn't matter. It wouldn't matter if his heart were
filled with confetti and a candy-fucking-surprise.
The bright fish was gone.
No one could love a machine.