Everybody Has Doubts Sometimes
PLACE: Dr. Nambu's mansion, the study.
TIME: Just after the destruction of Crescent Coral Base
Nambu heard the door open but didn't turn from his contemplation of the crashing waves.
Ken' voice came uncertainly: "Doctor?"
"The news channels are reporting the destruction of Crescent Coral, we're down as missing-presumed-dead. Have you reported our survival to the Director yet?"
"No," Nambu replied quietly. "And I'm not sure I'm going to."
Ken stared wide eyed at his guardian's rigid back. "But - Doctor, with Crescent Coral destroyed and the Gatchaman Team dead the Security Council might surrender to Galactor!"
"Perhaps that would be for the best."
"Doctor! You can't mean that!" Ken protested, horrified.
"Is freedom really worth so many lives?" Nambu demanded. "So much destruction?" Suddenly he was shaking so hard he had to put out a hand to steady himself against the window glass.
He had started this conversation as a deliberate ploy, to try to break Ken out of the war weary depression that had held him since Kentaro's death. But Nambu found himself unexpectedly in passionately earnest; a lifetimes' commitment undermined and in danger of crumbling beneath the impact of grief and guilt.
"I started this war," he said harshly. "Maybe it's time I ended it."
"What are you talking about, Doctor?" Ken was beginning to be frightened, he'd never seen his guardian like this. "It was Galactor -"
Nambu whirled on him. "I discovered Galactor! I sent spies to search out its secrets, developed weapons to fight it, trained the Gatchaman Team -" his voice fell. "If I hadn't done all that it would have been so easy for them, one day they'd have just taken over, bloodlessly." He was silent a moment then said flatly, "I killed your father, Ken."
"Doctor, what are you saying?" his foster son pleaded, horrified.
"And Joe's parents," Nambu continued grimly. "God only knows how many others -"
"No!" Ken interrupted desperately. "No, Doctor, it was Galactor, Galactor killed them!"
"I sent them in harms way! The responsibility is mine!"
Fumbling frantically for something to say Ken grasped desperately at his father's memory. "If Red Impulse could hear you talking like that he'd kick your butt!"
Nambu laughed. Short and hard but a laugh. "He would indeed! Kentaro always did argue with his fists."
Ken produced a weak grin. "Tell me about it! Doctor I don't believe you or anybody else *ever* made Father do anything he didn't want to."
Nambu dropped wearily onto a couch. "He didn't want to leave your mother, or you. He felt he had to, that nobody else could do what had to be done."
Ken's knees were like water but the worst seemed to be over, he all but collapsed next to his guardian. "Father was right."
"Like Hell he was!" Nambu snapped unexpectedly, "Your father was a great pilot and a great fighter, but he was never the ninja I was." The last words rang with an arrogance worthy of Red Impulse himself.
Ken gaped. "You, Doctor, a ninja?"
Nambu glared. "I taught you didn't I? 'White Shadow who slips in unseen'."
Ken swallowed, he'd put his foot in it but good. For some reason he'd never really thought about how or why Doctor had learned his skills, had never imagined him using them for anything but self discipline and contemplation. "Sorry."
Nambu smiled slightly, reminiscently. "I never beat your father in the air, or hand to hand, but in a battle of wit and stealth - that was a different story."
Ken was knocked off balance again. "You *fought* each other?"
His guardian nodded. "We were on opposite sides in the Third World War."
Ken's jaw dropped. "Father was the *enemy*?
"Or I was, depending on your point of view." Nambu tried to explain. "It was a different kind of war than you're used to, Ken, not so clear cut." He sighed. "I fought for my side and Kentaro for his. An honorable enemy can be respected, even loved."
"I can't imagine ever feeling like that about Katse!" said Ken.
Nambu grimaced. "Katse is not an honorable enemy."
"We can't let him win, Doctor."
"I know." Nambu took off his glasses and massaged the bridge of his nose. "I'm sorry, Ken, I don't know what got into me."
Ken reached over to put an awkward hand on his guardian's shoulder, embarrassed and shaken yet feeling closer to Nambu than he ever had. "I've felt the same way, especially since Father was killed."
Nambu gave him a straight and level look. "Kentaro regretted leaving you more than anything he'd ever done. He was afraid to tell you the truth, afraid you'd hate him for it."
Ken blinked back tears. "I know, when we were in Hontowol together he told me about leaving his family-" he broke off, suddenly understanding the purpose of that oddly intimate conversation at the lodge. *'He wanted me to know how he felt, in case I ever did find out the truth and he wasn't there to explain.'* "He said he wondered if his work had really been worth the price," Ken finished aloud.
Nambu put his glasses back on. "So even Kentaro doubted sometimes." he said softly.
"He was only human." Ken replied. *And so are you, Doctor.* "I told him I was sure his son would understand, like I understood why my father'd had to leave me...God, I was so dense!"
Nambu looked thoughtful. "So that's why he suddenly decided to tell you who he was! I'd wondered what made him change his mind."
Ken caught his breath in realization. The worst part of his loss Had been the things he'd never had a chance to say to Kentaro; 'I love you.' 'I forgive you.' *But I did tell him! Indirectly but he understood.* Ken sighed and finally was able let go of his grief. *Good-bye, Father, rest in peace.*
"Doctor," he said gently. "Shouldn't you call the Director now?"
Nambu smiled wryly at the unconcealed prod but nodded. "High time I did." He crossed to the phone on the desk, and dialed. "Director? this is Nambu -" he winced and held the receiver away from his ear.
Clear across the room Ken heard the Director's shout: "Nambu! my God man, we thought you were dead! And the Gatchaman Team?"
Grinning Gatchaman headed for the door, back to the Team. A battle had been lost but the fight went on.
HAZARDOUS ASSIGNMENT (All characters belong to Sandy Franks, etc.)
Mark had never been so scared in his life. His hands were sweating inside their blue gloves his guts were twisted in a knot and he couldn't stop swallowing. A hand landed on his shoulder, making him jump.
"Easy Commander, I've survived it, so can you," Chief Anderson said carefully concealing his amusement.
Mark looked up at his mentor and superior officer and asked plaintively, "Couldn't you have at least made it a closed session?"
"I suggested that," Anderson replied, letting his sympathy show. "The President overruled me. The whole point of this exercise is for you to be seen."
"Even if it blows my cover to hell?" Mark muttered. "How can it?" the Chief asked reasonably. "The Council and the media won't see anything a few thousand Spectran soldiers haven't already."
"Nobody's seen G-Force Commander make a fool of himself on Galaxy wide telecom before!" Mark groaned.
"Courage, Commander, it'll all be over soon," Anderson soothed.
"Funny. That's exactly what Zoltar said the last time he had us cornered."
Security Chief and G-Force Commander stepped side by side into the chamber and right into a barrage of bright lights and popping bulbs. Mark froze, fighting his warrior's instinct to take cover or counter-attack. He thanked God for the Chief's rock solid presence at his side and Jason's absence. God only knew how his second would've reacted to this kind of assault.
Anderson surreptitiously tweaked his cape setting him in motion. Together they crossed the floor to the big table, taking the two empty seats facing the arc of delegates and department heads who made up the Federation Security Council with President Kane seated in the middle. Mark folded his hands carefully on the table before him, wondering if the cameras would pick up their trembling. He took a deep breath and looked around, moving only his eyes. Everybody was staring at him! The Council and the people in the galleries both - not to mention the millions upon millions watching on TV including his Team. *'Pull yourself together, Mark, flub this and Jason and Keyop'll never let you live it down!'*
Kane cleared his throat. "First I would like to welcome the G-Force Commander and thank him for agreeing to appear before this special session of the Security Council."
*'Like you gave me a choice?'* Mark inclined his head in response, not yet trusting his voice.
"As you know the more - unusual - aspects of your command has raised certain questions in the Federation Assembly -" the President was interrupted by a skinny rat faced delegate three seats down on his left.
"Those bizarre costumes you affect for example!"
What? this old thing? Mark did *not* say. "The birdstyles serve a psycho-strategic function," he replied. His voice sounded unbelievably cool and calm in his own ears. "As the delegate knows Spectrans have a complex totemistic belief system; the White Eagle, Black Condor, Swan, Swallow and Horned Owl all provoke superstitious reactions that are tactically useful."
"According to eyewitness reports members of G-Force can fly," put in a fairly young woman from the far end of the arc.
"Not exactly," Mark corrected politely. "We can use our cape wings to slow a long drop or ride air currents like a hang glider. We don't actually fly."
"Whatever you want to call it, it's not a normal Human capability," snapped Ratface. "It has been suggested that the members of G-Force are Aliens, perhaps even renegade Spectrans!"
*'Who the hell is this guy?'* some of Mark's outrage leaked into his voice edging it with ice. "All five members of G-Force are either Earth born or of Earth derived stock. We are not Aliens and certainly not Spectrans!" Ratface paled, as did some of the delegates near him. *'Steady, Mark, watch the temper.'* "Our 'unusual' abilities are due to rigorous training and certain technical assists," he finished evenly.
"About this technology -" The Federation Chief of Technological Development began.
"I'm sorry, sir, I can't discuss that in a public forum," Mark cut in firmly.
"Of course, we quite understand, Commander," said President Kane giving his colleagues an admonishing look. "I remind the Council that certain security restrictions are necessary to protect G-Force's effectiveness and the personal safety of its members."
A short, uncomfortable silence ensued as the Councilors tried to formulate permissible questions. Mark concentrated on slowing his heartbeat and bringing his blood pressure down to normal.
"Perhaps, Commander, you could describe your mission for the Council?" Kane prompted.
"G-Force combines two missions," Mark began readily. "The Phoenix and her weaponry are designed to combat Spectra's Terror Mechs. My teamates and I are also trained for covert duties, specifically infiltration, intelligence gathering and sabotage."
"And assassination?" Ratface asked provocatively.
"No sir, we leave that to Zoltar." Mark replied levelly and sensed the approval radiating from the Chief at his side. And from the President too, from behind his mask of official impartiality.
"When did your training begin, Commander," a delegate asked quickly.
"Eight years ago, shortly after the first Spectran attacks," Mark replied promptly.
"I take it you're volunteers?"
"Yes." That wasn't entirely accurate. They hadn't volunteered to be implanted. The Chief their guardian, had made that decision for them. On the other hand he'd always said they were free to resign from the program at will - and proved he meant it by letting Tiny go that time - so in a larger sense they *were* volunteers.
The questions kept coming, one amused him. "No sir," he replied. "We are not under standard military discipline. If we were my entire Team would be doing time for multiple counts of mutiny, insubordination and absence without leave."
"As would their Commander," said the Chief dryly.
"As would their Commander," Mark agreed, amusement warming his voice. The Councilors shifted uneasily, not quite sure how to take that. "Covert operations require a high degree of individual initiative," he clarified. "I don't always like the decisions my Teamates make," he smiled sidelong at his mentor. "And Chief Anderson doesn't always like mine."
"What do you do when one of your Team does something you disapprove of?" a female delegate asked, intrigued.
"I yell at them," Mark answered simply, triggering a titter from the gallery.
"Is that effective?" the man next to her pursued.
"Not very," Mark admitted ruefully. The titter became a laugh.
Anderson smiled privately into his moustache. Mark was finally beginning to relax and let his natural charm surface. He exchanged a congratulatory look with Kane across the table. The political situation was far more precarious than G-Force realized. Nearly a decade of Spectran terrorism had produced an understandably xenophobic mindset among Earth's population. The Team's birdstyles and unusual weaponry had provoked a good deal of alarmist speculation about Alien or Mutant mercenaries. Anderson and the President had agreed the best way to defuse the rumors was to allow the Team to be seen, unfortunately that solution had its own problems.
They couldn't afford to have the Team recognized as the youngsters they were, Princess and Keyop's youth was painfully obvious even in birdstyle letting them out. Tiny was far too shy to do well in front of a Galaxy wide audience and Jason could never have tolerated hours of sometimes inane and pointless questioning. That'd left only Mark.
The Chief looked again at his eldest. Mark had always had a precocious maturity of mind and with the long dark hair tucked out of sight beneath his helmet and the tinted visor shading his face successfully gave the impression of being several years older than he was. Fortunately. The Council and the Combined Defense Chiefs would certainly react negatively if they ever learned ultimate responsibility for Earth's survival rested on the shoulders of a seventeen year old boy.
Anderson suppressed a sigh. Not that he liked it any better himself. It was hideously unfair to burden his kids with responsibilities adults would've found difficult to bear but Zoltar'd given them no choice. He studied the Councilors across the table and nodded, satisfied. No doubt about it, Mark was wowing them and hopefully having a similar affect on the viewing audience.
All things come to an end, even televised appearances before the Federation Security Council. Safe at last in the Chief's office Mark de-transmuted and proceeded to go quietly to pieces. "Tell me the truth, Chief, how bad was it? Did I look like a complete cretin or just a minor moron?"
Anderson laughed affectionately and hugged his shaking foster son. "You did just fine, Mark, I'm proud of you."
The door opened, "Congratulations Commander! a magnificent preformance!"
"I'm gonna get you for this Mr. President," Mark said into the Chief's shoulder, "Somewhere, sometime, just keep looking behind you!"
Kane exchanged a grin with his Security Chief before saying, "I'll take my chances." He continued seriously, "Believe me, Mark, it was necessary."
"Yeah, that's what you both keep saying." he pulled away from Anderson to face the President. "I'd keep an eye on Ratface if I were you."
Kane blinked then comprehended. "Oh, Delegate Bossard, yes I agree."
"We're still checking his background," the Chief put in. "Nothing so far but..." he shrugged.
"Zoltar's sneaky." Mark finished for him. "I wouldn't put it past him to suborn a member of the Council *and* cover his tracks well enough to elude detection."
"We're watching the situation, Commander," Anderson assured him.
"It's your baby, Chief." Mark shrugged. "Guess I'll go home and face the music, bet the Team's gonna have a lot to say." He made for the door.
"If they give you a hard time, tell them it'll be their turn next." Anderson suggested.
Mark swung around, wide eyed. "You mean we might have to do this *again*!"
"It's possible," Kane conceded. "But not anytime soon."
"Better not be," Mark grumbled, opening the door, "I swear I'll defect!"