Please be warned... This piece has the same flavor as 'Watching Over You.' So if you don't like disturbing stories, *don't* read this!
The beginning of this fic is based loosely around Episode # 100 of Gatch I 'Gatchaman, 20 years later'.
DISCLAIMER: Tatsunoko Productions holds the copyright over all names, likeness and rights of the Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman, which has been licensed to Sandy Frank Syndication (Battle of the Planets), Turner Broadcasting (G-Force) and Saban Entertainment (Eagle Riders). All these characters are used without permission, and I'm not profiting from this piece of fan fiction, so please don't sue me.
"Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. This is *terrible*, 1-Rover-1! I just can't find Mark!" The lights on 7-Zark-7's body were flashing wildly as the little robot zipped back and forth around his surveillance console.
"Of course I'm worried! We haven't had any contact with him since he and Dr. Makishimu went down with their plane. We can't even find the plane!" Zark stopped himself short of slamming his steel fist on the console.
"Oh! Susan, you startled me." Zark leaned against the console for a moment to try to control the racing lights.
"I had to call you, Zark. I've just seen a blip of a ship which went past my station, heading for Spectra."
"WHAT? That's-- that's horrible. Is Mark on it? Susan, do you know if--?"
"I-I can't tell, Zark. I-I can't be sure. I've not received any transmissions since--since Mark-- Oh, Zark! What are the Spectrans going to do to him this time?!"
"Stay calm, Susan. Zoltar still wants Dr. Makishimu's geothermal equations. He won't give them to the Spectrans if they try to harm them."
"And if they torture Mark? Zark, even--even Princess broke down to give them the location of Crescent Coral. Dr. Makishimu wouldn't--his heart isn't that hard."
"No, we know Dr. Makishimu. He won't let his work be misused, that's why Mark was acting as his escort. If the Spectrans act as savages, he--he won't tell them anything, no matter--no matter..." Zark was ready to break down. "Susan, you must try and trace that ship! We have to send the team after them!"
"I'll--I'll do my best, Zark."
The communications probe, which was Susan's interface with Center Poseidon, withdrew leaving Zark alone with his thoughts.
"Oh, oh, oh." The little robot paced as he wrung his hands. "What is Zoltar planning?"
"And just what have you planned for the poor boy *this* time, brother?" Mala asked with ill-concealed disgust as she entered Zoltar's office.
"A game, perhaps. I plan to transport the G Force Commander 20 years into the future, dear sister." Zoltar grinned at her as he presided over a scaled model of a futuristic city. "I will show it a world where the Spectran Empire has prevailed and won against its precious InterGalactic Federation. Then I will see if I can finally uncover the Commander's breaking point."
"That would hardly convince Dr. Makishimu to share his geothermal equations and research with us, brother."
"Oh? The good doctor does not need to know the final fate of the G Force Commander. Only that Spectra has won and that he might as well share his research with us since the InterGalactic Federation no longer exists in this far flung future."
"Hasn't your curiosity run its course, brother? Frankly, your steady abuse of the boy disgusts me. Kill him and be done with it, why do you waste your time?"
"It intrigues me. A lesser man would have been broken by my first treatment of it. Galaxy Security has created a rather fascinating automaton in the G Force Commander. I am curious as to its limits."
"*He* is a boy."
"*It* is not human. What child could possibly survive the abuse we've inflicted upon it without some indication of trauma?"
"I wish no association with your debased abuse." Mala's eyes were hard as she regarded her brother. "What kind of monster are you, Zoltar? To gleefully inflict--"
"*It* is not human, sister. How many times do I need to remind you of this?"
"Oh? And would you inflict such tortures on a helpless animal? A dog perhaps? Or even a lab rat?"
"Sister! We know G Force to be a band of emotionless automatons, caring only for their own kind and little else. They kill without remorse and do not even suffer any trauma for all the abuse we've heaped upon them. A dog and a lab rat can be hurt. They apparently cannot be harmed in that way. Your concern is misplaced."
"I am not concerned about G Force! It is *you* I am worried about! It was but a moment of madness that made you decide to have the G Force Commander gang raped. When did you suddenly allow this madness to take permanent residence? When did you allow cruelty to govern your every decision with regards to the enemy?"
"Mala, this discussion is at an end. If you're so concerned for the G Force Commander, why don't you pop by and help the doctors ease its passage for my attention?"
Zoltar pointedly turned his attention away from his sister to look over his final plans for the futuristic city scenario. She turned away from him with a snarl of disgust.
Jason sat on his bed holding his head. Something was bludgeoning his senses. He felt the building dread within him over Mark's absence, but he just couldn't tell what caused the growing fear within him. The others were looking just as worse for wear as he was.
They had to have faith in Mark's ability to survive. He had gone missing before and he had always managed to return safely.
<But what if this is that one time when... when he's never coming back?> That thought came unbidden to him.
Jason was surprised to feel tears rolling down his cheeks. He couldn't remember ever being so scared that he'd be crying. He brushed the tears away angrily. They *weren't* going to give up on Mark.
Zark and Susan had turned all their sensors to look for him. Whenever one of the team was in danger, the two robots always managed to find them and get help to them in tim--
A chill ran through Jason's frame and he frowned. That thought didn't seem quite--correct?
The bracelet chimed faintly.
"Mark! A bird scramble!" All other thoughts were pushed aside as Jason raced out of his trailer and to the G-2 parked outside.
The expression on Mala's face was reminiscent of a storm brewing as she dragged her brother out of his office.
"Mala, I really have other--"
"There is something I want you to see, brother."
"Couldn't you have shown it to me on the monitors, instead of dragging me throug--?"
"No! I've disabled *all* security monitors."
"Wha--? Whatever for?"
"I'll explain later, brother."
Zoltar rolled his eyes as he followed her down the corridor. He knew better than to argue with her when she took that tone with him.
"We're approaching the infirmary."
"Very perceptive, brother."
"Mala, what's going on? Why are you so angry?"
"Just shut up and come with me."
A doctor was leaning outside one of the recovery rooms as they approached. Zoltar was quite bewildered to see streams of tears running down his face.
"H-he's still... His cries are-- Captain, he--he's just a boy. What horror--? I'm--I'm sorry..."
"I took the liberty of moving the G Force Commander here, Zoltar. I want you to pay attention." Mala pulled her brother along as she opened the door and swept them into the room.
Zoltar's eyes widened and his jaw dropped in shock to see a huddled figure wrapped in white wings in the far corner of the room. Great wracking sobs ran through the shuddering figure that was curled into as small a posture as was physically possible.
"It appears the drugs we used to keep the Commander docile created enough of a chemical imbalance in his mind to override certain mental blocks." Mala told him grimly. "There you have it, brother. Your proof that you really *did* traumatize the G Force Commander. Happy?"
Zark watched the Phoenix's approach of Spectra from his console.
"Be careful, team. I'm not sure why I wasn't able to get visual contact, so I'm afraid I can't advise you on your approach."
"You've managed to track down Mark, Zark." Jason nodded to the camera. "That's enough for us. We'll get him."
"Radio silence from now on, Zark." Princess waved her finger at the screen. "So no peeking in on us. We can handle things from here."
"Good luck, team."
Zark's lights flashed in anxiety as the monitor turned black. "Oh, I do hope Mark is still all right. My nerves are just frazzled! I believe I could use a ten-second oil break."
Chief Anderson appeared on one of Zark's monitors.
"Oh, Chief Anderson? The team is on their way to get Mark. They've just entered radio silence. We shall hopefully be hearing from them again soon."
"That's good, Zark. Zark, tell me... Are you sure you didn't hear anything else from Mark besides the scramble?"
"Why, no, Chief Anderson."
"Hmm, I find it--odd that Mark didn't even try to send us a--a--code." Anderson frowned. "I--th--that's all, Zark. Just something peculiar."
As soon as the little robot was off the monitor on his wall, Anderson sank into his chair and raised a hand to his mouth as he turned pale.
"Oh my Lord. What have I created?"
Anderson quickly walked over to the monitor on the wall and disabled the visual feed before he called the head of security to his office.
"Wha--what is this?" Zoltar whispered to his sister in stunned surprise as he stared at the shuddering white-winged figure.
"We can speak normally. The G Force Commander is semi-conscious, but I doubt he is even aware that we are standing here." Mala's eyes were hard as she regarded her brother. "You told me to go look in on him and so I did. The guards were clearly anticipating your orders. They took the opportunity to... explore and I noticed him flinching from their touch even though he was unconscious."
"I had my suspicions, brother. So I transported him here and had the doctor raise his level of consciousness slowly. We got this result."
"Why--? Sister, just tell me what you know."
"Apparently, he has been repeatedly betrayed by the two robots who assist Galaxy Security in monitoring Spectra's movements and watching over G Force." Mala folded her arms as she studied her brother's face carefully. "A case point. From what I can piece together, the incident which stands out strongest occurred when we scored our victory in the destruction of Crescent Coral.
Apparently, the robot called 'Zark' was fully aware that our soldiers were assaulting him. Yet the robot still diverted all rescue attempts to handle the more 'pressing' and 'critical' concerns of evacuating Crescent Coral before our attack. 'Zark' appears to be someone the Commander had thought would look out for his best interests, yet it still deliberately left him to be raped and ravaged by our soldiers."
Mala caught a slight glimmer in her brother's expression and before she was even aware she was moving, her fist connected with her brother's face.
"DON'T YOU DARE CONTINUE THIS PERVERSION!" Mala glowered over her surprised brother. "He is human! Isn't this enough?" Her hand stabbed behind her at the small figure.
"How much more *completely* can you devastate the child? Are you *proud* to know that you were instrumental in causing this breakdown? You abuse him... this demon called 'Zark' blocks the memories... He has been hurt enough! This *madness* has gone on LONG ENOUGH!"
Mala took a deep breath before she could calm down enough not to feel a need to punch her brother again.
"There is still Dr. Makishimu, Zoltar. You probably need to revise your plans." Mala told her brother evenly as she pulled him up from the floor. "Following your earlier scenario, Dr. Makishimu would expect the G Force Commander to be with him in this 'future' scene. Using the G Force Commander is clearly out of the question right now. Dr. Makishimu will take one look at him, call us a bunch of savages and destroy all his coded notes."
Zoltar couldn't face his sister. The recent revelations had him off balanced. The sound of the heart wrenching crying knocked a considerably large hole in his perception of G Force. He felt... ashamed for the brief flicker of maliciousness which prompted his sister to hit him.
Mala's arm prevented him from approaching the crouched figure. "I do not suggest you go anywhere near him, brother. The G Force Commander may be weakened by the drugs, but he is not any less dangerous."
Zoltar glanced in the indicated direction to see the drying blood on the floor.
"I thought he was being uncharacteristically merciful. His four guards are in a world of hurt, but they *will* live. *You,* on the other hand, shouldn't push your luck."
"I--I think I need a moment to reconsider my options."
"And him?" Mala jerked her head towards the white-winged figure as she drew her gun.
"No. Leave him alive for now. Would it be safe to leave him here?"
"The child is incapacitated by his trauma. He will be little danger to us for the moment." Mala gestured with her gun. "This *is* a quicker and more merciful end, you know."
"Leave him. Put guards outside this door with orders to keep their hands to themselves. I'll decide what to do with him later."
"You like to *play* with the enemy too much, brother."
"Not like that!" Zoltar flushed at her words as his eyes were drawn back to the corner. "Not--anymore."
They left the room, letting its sole occupant continue to cry in privacy.
Shortly, a shadow appeared at the ventilation grills and a blue winged figure silently darted into the room.
"M--Mark?" Jason called softly as he approached the corner.
Zark's light's flashed in a pattern of annoyance as he stared at the blackened screens of his console.
"Oh, I wish the Phoenix's cameras didn't malfunction."
"Huh? Oh, I'm sorry, 1-Rover-1. You're probably right and I'm being overly concerned. Jason's already told us that Mark's fine and back with them, but I wish I had visual confirmation!"
"I know, I know. Now that the team has retrieved Dr. Makishimu, G Force has to maintain radio silence so that the Spectrans can't track them down and give chase. But I'm sure they're not supposed to be invisible to me too! How can I watch over them if I've lost all visual contact?
Oh, this is too much of a coincidence. There must be a malfunction with the electrical systems of Center Poseidon." Zark wrung his hands in frustration. "First I can't lock into the Spectra cameras after Mark gives me a clear location. Then, I've lost visual contact with the Phoenix. To top it all off, I've been steadily losing my surveillance cameras around the base the whole afternoon! Where *are* those servicemen? I put in the work order an hour ago!"
"You're right, 1-Rover-1. I'm being edgy. I'm just so worried about Mark and I can't really access the damage Mark has been through without visual contact." Zark sighed. "At least we know he is alive. We can handle any abuse the Spectrans inflict as long as they don't kill him. Our doctors can heal all his physical injuries and I can block the rest."
"Block what, Zark?"
The little robot turned in surprise towards his unexpected visitor. "Princess?! When did the Phoenix dock? I wasn't aware you were all back. How's Mark?"
"Zark, I--I need some answers." The Swan strode in determinedly. Her stance was rigid and her eyes looked as if she had just been crying.
"Of course Princess, ask away. But first, please tell me how Mark is," Zark asked her eagerly. "Susan and I were so worried about him."
"Really? How much do you see from your surveillance console, Zark? How much do you *really* see?"
"Princess? I'm not quite sure I understand--?"
"How much do you really know, Zark? How much have you hidden from us?" Princess's green eyes were starting to light up as if on fire.
"Princess, I don't know what you mea--"
"Damn you, Zark! I'm remembering things!"
"Oh, dear. Now, Princess, this isn't a very good time for this."
"All the worrying we were going through for Mark. It's all valid and beyond our fears, isn't it? You've been understating our danger all the time, haven't you?!"
"Princess, it really was for your own good, if you--"
"All those nightmares... they really did happen, didn't they, Zark?" There were tears streaming down her face now.
"If it was not bad enough to--to see Mark as he is now." Her voice turned cold. "On the flight back from Spectra? I started *remembering* details. So did Keyop! My little brother is lying on the floor of the Phoenix, hugging the chair and *crying*!"
"It wasn't just a nightmare! We actually *witnessed* the Spectrans gang rape and ravage Mark!! And you made us forget!!"
"Zark, you can't erase it and treat it like it *never happened*!" Princess was screaming at him now. "The Spectrans have been abusing us and *you've* been *covering up* for them! My God, you don't even care enough to bother to get us help! MARK WENT CATATONIC, ZARK!"
"Princess! How can you think I don't care?! And I can fix Mark--"
"WHY DIDN'T YOU ARRANGE COUNSELING? WHY DIDN'T YOU GET US HELP? KEYOP WAS WETTING HIS BED FOR WEEKS AND WE DIDN'T KNOW WHY!"
"Keyop? I didn't know. Well, we can fix that now--"
"Zark! That's not the point! WE TRUSTED YOU! YOU SAY YOU LOVE US, SO WHY ARE YOU MESSING WITH OUR HEADS? WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING TO US?"
"Princess, please, I'm doing this all for your own good. I wanted to protect you--"
"I was raped, wasn't I?" Princess started to cry again. "You made me forget, but that doesn't take away the pain, Zark. You're not helping us by making us forget!"
"Of course I am! What you don't remember won't hurt--"
"THAT'S NOT TRUE!"
The sudden sound of a crash turned their attention to a pile of mechanical debris, which landed against one of Zark's control panels.
The little mechanical dog spluttered and sparked, quite dead.
"Princess... do what is right." Anderson stood at the door holding a baseball bat.
"Chief Anderson? What's come over you? Why--"
"These are my children, Zark. You've been hiding-- They've suffered so much-- How could you *not* let us get them help?! HOW COULD YOU LEAVE THEM TO SUFFER IN SILENCE?!"
"But I was protect--"
"YOU ARE A MONSTER!" Princess flung her yo-yo at the little robot.
Zark gasped as the yo-yo embedded itself in his chest.
"Princess, please. I love all of you. Everything I do is for your own good."
"YOU DON'T LOVE US, ZARK! ELSE YOU WOULDN'T RAPE OUR MINDS!" She sent the charge through her ring.
The cry ended abruptly in an explosion that blew the head of the little robot to pieces. But even that wasn't enough for the Swan. She grabbed the baseball bat from Anderson and swung it at what remained of the robot. Her sobs punctuated each impact of the baseball bat against the squat robotic body.
When all that remained of 7-Zark-7 was a spluttering piece of rubble, Anderson caught the battered baseball bat and removed it from her grip.
"Chief? Oh, Chief..." Princess turned to face him and darted into his arms.
Anderson cradled Princess in his arms as she cried.
"It's okay now, Princess. We'll have things under control again." He told her soothingly, "We've made the base safe until we can take down Susan at the early warning station. They're not going to take over our minds ever again. All surveillance equipment has been shut down."
Anderson sighed ruefully at the spluttering remains of the security robot. "I guess you were just a little ahead of me."
Princess looked up from his shirt and flushed slightly in embarrassment as she looked at the baseball bat at their feet. "I'm sorry I was so selfish. I didn't even let you hit him at all."
"Oh, it was satisfaction enough to watch you destroy Zark, Princess." Anderson shook his head with a wry grin. "I'm proud of you."
"You could still kick him."
"I would *never* kick Zark."
"I'd break my toe." Anderson jerked his head towards the smaller pile. "Rover, on the other hand..."
Princess grinned as they shuffled over to the crumpled mass of metal and wires that was once 1-Rover-1, so that Anderson could launch it into the wall. They stood in silence for a moment, watching the spluttering piles of debris with a shared glow of grim satisfaction.
"Ooooo, Jason's going to be so mad with me," Princess grimaced.
"I could rebuild Zark and give it to him for target practice." Anderson mused speculatively. "On second thoughts--I had better not. Jason might use a bird missile and blow up the whole of Center Poseidon as well. Princess? H-how--how is Mark?"
"M-Mark went catatonic as soon as we got him to the Phoenix." She leaned her head against Anderson's shirt again. "Jason's... On the whole flight back, Jason just... held him and rocked him. He wouldn't say anything to us. I--don't think Jason even noticed that we docked.
I left Tiny to try to get Keyop to release his seat. He--he said he'd keep an eye on the others until I could get help back. Tiny--promised to grab them and run if--if I didn't get Zark first."
"How did you escape Zark's tempering on the ride back?"
"Mark warned Jason." Princess seethed as she remembered Jason's white-faced instructions when he returned to the Phoenix, cradling Mark in his arms. "The Spectrans drugged him, but didn't touch him... this time. Mark was still conscious enough to... He--he told Jason not to trust Zark or Susan. He warned Jason about the visual feed, so Jason had me disable all the video equipment in the Phoenix... he said that it would prevent Zark from tempering with our minds."
Princess coughed out a short bitter laugh. "Dr. Makishimu thought we were mad to rip out all the video feed circuits. He--I'm--I'm sorry, Chief. The doctor was disturbed enough by what happened to Mark and the whole mess with Zark that he destroyed all his coded notes on his geothermal equations."
"I *don't* *care* one wit for those stupid equations." Anderson's throat was tight with tears.
Princess closed her eyes as tears started to flow freely down her face. "The whole team's heading for a nervous breakdown, Chief."
"Let's get the others. We all need a vacation. We can stay at the lakeside mansion, it's--it's quiet enough there. G Force can afford to take an extended vacation.
We'll live through this together." Anderson shifted his grip to hug Princess with an arm around her waist as he guided her through the door. "We'll start--we'll call in the best counselors... get all of you the help Zark denied you. We *will* survive this *together*."
Zoltar sat at his computer console, with an image of G Force on his screen.
"Sulking, brother? You've been staring at that image for a long time." Mala came up behind him and slid a hand on his shoulder. "Come now, you've been closeted up here since G Force managed to sneak in and spirit away your toys. Penny for your thoughts?"
"If they are worth that much."
"What now, Zoltar? You've been much too quiet."
"I always thought they were automatons, sister. And with perverse scientific curiosity, I tested the G Force Commander for his upper limits to abuse." Zoltar traced his fingers on the screen. "To realize now, that I've been--that he's--dear lord."
"Nothing that you can do will ever make up for that evil, brother."
"He is still the enemy."
"Don't you *dare* attempt to justify your conduct, brother. Take it as a lesson learned not to trust appearances. A leader of a nation must have compassion, not only for their own citizens but for the enemy as well. To have none of this makes the leader a tyrant."
"And Spectra cannot survive with such a leader." Zoltar finished for her. "I can't even apologize. Words are empty... There can be no peace between us..."
Zoltar reached for his sister's hand on his shoulder and squeezed it gently.
"Everything I've learned in Military Science says I should launch an attack now. We've heard from our spies that Galaxy Security's surveillance systems and their early warning stations have been crippled. I've received rumors that G Force is paralyzed..."
"I feel reluctant to take advantage of this."
"You are far too fond of playing with the enemy, brother."
"There is little satisfaction in playing with an injured bird, sister."
"*My*, you've suddenly sprouted a heart with honor fluttering in its depths?" Mala raised her hand to her forehead and leaned her head back dramatically. "I feel faint from shock."
"Okay, *okay*, my conduct has been inexcusable with regards to my wanton abuse of the members of G Force. I've proved myself to be a royal bastard, unfit to rule!"
"I need a vacation to meditate on my changed perceptions and growth. It should be long enough for you to rebuild our military strength."
"Of course it is an *incidental* result that you've also provided G Force with some time to heal?"
"Very well, brother. But when you do pick up your toys to play again. Please don't dally too much."
"When will you ever stop treating me like an imbecilic little boy, dear sister?"
"When you finally grow up, dear brother." Mala tweaked the nose of his mask fondly.
Mark laid the rake against a tree as he accepted the glass of lemonade from Jason.
"So? What do you think?"
Jason looked critically at the immaculate patterns Mark had created in the small Zen garden.
"It looks better than last week." He finally gave his assessment.
"I'm getting there." Mark finished the lemonade and placed the empty glass beside the pitcher before turning to gaze at his work.
Though Mark did notice his brother's movement, he still wasn't able to hold down the slight flinch as Jason's hand came to rest on his shoulder.
"Don't rush it, Bro."
"I know better than that. You can relax the suicide watch, you know." Mark closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
"He's dead, isn't he? That is, Zark lied about my father ejecting and escaping."
"Yes." Jason had been expecting that question for a long time. He wasn't about to lie.
"You know, it never even occurred to me to track my father down after that mission." Mark leaned back his head to stare up at the clouds. "Damn Zark for his censorship..."
Jason tensed slightly. Of all of them, Mark was the one hurting the most for Spectra's abuse and Zark's deceit. He was also the last to enter counseling, as it took them quite a while to draw him out of his earlier catatonic state. Jason squeezed Mark's shoulder gently in comfort.
Mark sucked in a deep breath and let it out again before he spoke. "I wonder what Dad would say, if we propose to bring the war to the enemy instead of fire fighting all the time."
"Dad may be Chief of Galaxy Security, Mark, but he still has to spar with the Security Council. That bunch of old curmudgeons'll probably throw a fit if we propose an attack." Jason snorted as he shook his head. "But... does this mean I get to fire the bird missiles without you fighting me every step of the way now?"
"You've got a hope," Mark snorted at him. "*I'm* the one who has to fill out all the paperwork. But *if* you want to take over that responsibility..."
"I hate filling out forms."
"Den ya don' get ta push da wed button."
That started Jason laughing as Mark grinned at him. Mark picked up the rake while Jason grabbed the pitcher and glasses, and they turned towards the mansion trailing laughter in their steps.
And *many* thanks go to Lori McDonald for her advice on this fic's direction.