Everybody here belongs to Tatsunoko except for Dr. Keane who belongs to Saban.
ISO Building, Utoland: Science Ninja Team Gatchaman Headquarters
Dr. Thaddeus Keane opened his eyes and immediately recognized his blurry surroundings as his own room at HQ, and the small figure in bright primary colors curled up in the bedside chair as his youngest child. "Mickey?" Keane said, or tried to, all that emerged was a croak.
The boy started awake. "Doctor?" He tumbled eagerly out of his chair to stand beside the bed. "How are you feeling?"
The Doctor cleared his throat and tried again. "Much better than last night." he managed, "Any chance of some tea?"
The kid gave him a huge grin of delighted relief. "Sure, be right back!" and darted out.
Keane reached for his glasses, in their usual place on the bedside table. The Swallow returned promptly with a tray, put it down, poured a cup for his guardian, then a second for himself, loaded it with honey and settled himself at the foot of the bed. "So, who's Kelly?"
The strange question instantly triggered all Keane's defensive instincts. Expertly covering his shock with sip of tea to buy time he produced a polite, "I beg your pardon?"
"Just before you passed out for good you called Jun Kelly," the boy explained. "Joe figured she must be an old girlfriend."
"Joe's wrong," the Doctor returned evenly, heart racing. "Kelly is - a former student who somewhat resembles Jun." *'Got to keep him talking, get more information'* "How did you find me?"
"It wasn't easy! Dr. Pandora didn't even know you were gone for hours and hours, by the time she called us the trail was pretty cold." Like Mickey, Jinpei loved the sound of his own voice, he rattled happily on for nearly an hour until finally interrupted by Jun.
"Jinpei! Doctor is supposed to be resting," she scolded.
"I'm not bothering him," her little brother replied defensively. "Am I, Doctor?"
"Not at all," Keane replied with perfect sincerity. The child had undoubtedly saved him from giving himself away and he was duly grateful.
"I think it's time we let Doctor enjoy a little peace and quiet," Jun declared firmly. "Besides, you've got your homework to do."
Jinpei obviously felt the same enthusiasm for school as Mickey. "Aw, Sis!'
"Come on, Jinpei!" Jun ordered sternly, then smiled at Keane. "Remember, Doctor, you're supposed to rest no sneaking off to the office or your lab!"
"I won't," he promised.
The two of them went off, leaving him with a great deal to think about. He dismissed the possibility of a Vorak deception out of hand. Mallanox lacked both the imagination and the subtlety to concoct such a plan. Which left him with a Team identical to his own but answering to very different names. Mickey was now Jinpei; Kelly, Jun; Ollie had become Ryu and Hunter, Ken. Oddly enough Joe remained Joe. They were still at war but the enemy too had changed; Galactor, an Earth based organization, instead of the alien Vorak, led by a Gel Sadra not Mallanox.
Keane could think of two possible explanations. He could be suffering from teleport induced delusions - but Aikens, (or Pandora) had tested him for neurological damage. The fact he'd woken up in his own rooms rather than the Hospital's Psych Wing proved he'd passed. He turned to the second, far more intriguing possibility. He'd long been fascinated by Multiple Reality Theory and the concept of Parallel Dimensions now it looked as if he might actually have landed in one. *'If this were my apartment at HQ, I'd have half a dozen books on Dimensional Physics in my study next door. Can't hurt to look'*
The study was there, identical in every way to his own. he checked the diplomas on the wall. So far nobody had called him anything but 'Doctor' and it wouldn't do to not recognize his own name. *'Kozaburo Nambu? sounds Japanese.'* He turned to the bookcases and promptly located a number of tomes on speculative physics, though authors and titles differed from his own. *'Nambu must be interested in the field too, but then he would be, wouldn't he?'*
Keane thumbed through the books with growing excitement. Another universe, another reality. Where was Nambu? presumably back home with the Eagle Riders. *'I hope he has the sense to keep quiet until he has some solid evidence to back up his story,'* Keane thought ruefully. *'Come to that, I'd better get some corroboration too before announcing myself.'*
"Doctor Nambu!" He jumped guiltily. Dr. Aikens, *'No, Pandora'*, stood in the outer doorway giving him the hairy eyeball. "You are supposed to be resting, sir," she said severely.
"I was just getting something to read," he replied with as much dignity as is possible when caught barefoot in one's pajamas.
She came over to check the titles of the books he was holding and nodded satisfied. "Good, theoretical speculation, very relaxing."
*'Not so theoretical as you might think, Doctor!'* he thought ruefully.
"All right, back to bed with you, sir," Pandora ordered. "You're to take a complete rest today, and perhaps tomorrow too."
He started to protest but she cut him off. "I'm the Doctor here, Doctor!" she declared, waving an admonishing finger under his nose. Then added more seriously, "You've been through quite an ordeal, sir, you must give yourself time to recover."
Resistance was obviously futile. Besides a few days bed rest would give him time to bone up on his new role. "Very well, Doctor," he surrendered.
"I'm worried about Dr. Nambu," Pandora said to the four older Science Ninjas facing her across her desk. They exchanged significant looks and she nodded. "So you've noticed it too." It was not a question.
"I get the feeling he's hiding something," Ryu admitted.
"Holding back," Joe agreed.
"Doctor is not the most forthcoming of men at best," Pandora pointed out dryly.
"This is different," Jun said slowly, twisting a strand of hair pensively round a finger. "He's distracted, like something's haunting him."
"Something that happened while Gel Sadra had him," Ken guessed.
"He was drugged," Pandora mused. "Could he have let something slip? Something dangerous?"
"No!" Ken interrupted vehemently. "Drugged or no it would take longer than thirty hours to break Doctor. He's been trained to resist interrogation just as we have."
"Besides he'd tell us, he'd never hold back something threatening planetary security," Jun argued.
"Right," Joe agreed again. "It'd have to be something personal, that affected only him, something they did to him..." his voice faded as a horrible suspicion dug its claws into his gut. The sick looks on his teammates' faced showed the same ugly thought had occurred to them too.
"Physically he was practically unharmed," Pandora said quickly. "Some bruising from the initial struggle and the residue of the drug in his system, nothing more."
"Psychological then," said Ken, as his color returned to normal. "Could Gel Sadra have tried using hostages to make him talk? tortured or killed innocent people to put pressure on him?"
"She's done it before," Ryu frowned.
"That could be it," Pandora conceded thoughtfully, "Of course he'd never give in to such blackmail, but the guilt of letting innocent people die-"
"Poor, Doctor!" cried Jun, distressed.
"Let's not jump to conclusions," Pandora cautioned. "It could be something quite different we haven't thought of. The real question is do we let him go on struggling with it alone?"
"We can't force him to confide in us," Joe observed.
"No," Ryu put in hesitantly, "but we can let him know we know something's wrong and want to help."
Dr. Keane looked at the distinctive energy signature on the graph and vented a fervent sigh of relief. At last! he'd begun to fear the rift had closed trapping him in this other dimension for good. A familiar/ strange world far more unsettling than the most surreally alien universe.
He was constantly reminding himself that this wasn't his team. Yet he still found himself worrying about Ken's dark moods, Jun's unassertiveness, Ryu's passivity and Jinpei's almost manic restlessness. His worries about Joe at least were comfortably familiar. They were very much alike the Condor and the Falcon. His Joe was perhaps a little more open, and certainly more articulate, but with the same doubts about his/their essential humanity and a free floating angst rooted in childhood trauma.
Keane flashed back to the tableau of dead parents and dying child, still clutching his father's gun and felt the familiar guilt. *'If only I'd been a few minutes sooner -'* before firmly quashing the thought and refocusing on the graphs.
*'Well, here's my proof.'* A knock on the door. "Come!" It was Gatchaman, looking nervous, determined and seriously insecure. "Ken, what can I do for you?"
"We -" he began, gulped and corrected himself, "that is I've noticed you haven't been quite yourself since we got you back from Galactor." The Doctor was forced to clamp down hard on a sudden urge to giggle and consequently looked even sterner than usual further unnerving his foster son. "If there's anything I can do to help," Ken fairly stuttered.
"Thank you, commander," Keane said quickly, putting him out of his misery, "in fact there is something I need to discuss with you. My briefing room in a half hour?"
"Sure, fine," Ken gulped, "see you then." he escaped.
Keane looked after him thoughtfully. So they had noticed a change? only to be expected if they were as close to Nambu as he was to his Team. Well, the masquerade could end now. He began organizing his materials. A second knock. "Come." This time it was Joe, dark, grim and considerably more self possessed than his commander. "Yes, Joe?"
"Doctor, I know I'm not exactly the perfect foster son," he began, flashed a brief grin, "In fact I'm a real pain in the ass! But if you ever need anything I can give, it's yours."
"I know." Keane replied, rather huskily, fighting back a surge of emotion in which guilt figured prominently. The sentiment was intended for Nambu, he was hearing it under false pretenses. "There is something I need to tell you," he glanced at his watch, "will you come to my briefing room in about twenty minutes?"
"Whatever you say, Doctor." Joe left.
*'He's going to kill me.'* Keane reflected ruefully. The third knock didn't exactly take him by surprise. Keane laid a bet with himself and called; "Come." Sure enough, it was Jun, radiating earnest concern. "Jinpei giving trouble again?" he asked sympathetically.
A faint smile fluttered her lips, "Always. But just now I'm worried about you, Doctor."
"Me?" he deadpanned, "why?"
"I can see something is bothering you," she answered, luminous eyes fixed on his face, "Please, Doctor, won't you let me, let us, help you?"
Keane cleared his throat uncomfortably. "In fact I will be needing you all. Could you bring Dr. Pandora and Jinpei to my briefing room in ten minutes?"
"Of course, Doctor." She practically glowed with relief, had obviously been fearing a rebuff. Rising to leave she reached across the desk to pat his hand shyly, "It'll be all right, you'll see."
"I certainly hope so." he replied.
He almost laughed out loud when the fourth and final knock came some minutes later. "Come in, Ryu!"
The pilot entered, confused. "How did you know it was me?"
"You're the only one left," Keane replied with open amusement.
Ryu winced. "Oh. Guess we weren't very subtle."
"Not very, no," the Doctor agreed. "I appreciate your concern. I'm sorry to have worried you all, I didn't mean to."
Ryu shook his head. "You don't have to hide stuff from us, Doctor, we're not kids anymore. If you're in trouble we want to help."
"I hope you still feel that way after I've explained," Keane said. He wasn't looking forward to this.
"Whatever it is we'll understand," Ryu assured him earnestly.
"Perhaps." Keane replied noncommitaly
. Ken walked slowly down the corridor leading to Nambu's offices. He was afraid of what Doctor might tell him and even more afraid of how he'd react. He dug his hands deeper into his pockets, frowning fiercely at the floor. He wasn't proud of the way he'd behaved after his father's death. Rage had clouded his mind and shot his priorities to hell. He'd nearly gotten himself and the Team killed. He couldn't afford to go that road again but - if Gel Sadra had hurt Doctor...the rage stirred.
He entered the empty briefing room and sat in his usual place at the conference table. He wondered if he was up to the role of confidant. Jun was always telling him how bad he was with emotions. Would he be able to cope if Doctor broke down on him, needed comforting? Even the thought scared Ken. He was afraid to see his guardian show weakness. He needed Nambu to be strong, to show him how to be strong. *'I'm being selfish, I should be thinking of Doctor, not myself..'* The door opened and he looked up, bracing himself.
Joe's mood as he strode down the same corridor to the same destination was dark and bleak. He put no faith in Dr. Pandora's reassurances, she'd lied to them before. Hell, Doctor had probably asked her to. Joe could understand that, he'd never told anybody the full story of what Katse had done to him. It was private and it was over. There wasn't anything anybody could do to change what'd happened so why harrow Doctor and the Team with the details? He didn't expect Doctor to confide in him now, he expected him to ask for help getting revenge. *'I can do that,'* Joe thought, the cold Condor light in his eyes. *'I'll bring him Gel Sadra's head in a basket.'* Vengeance wouldn't change a thing, Joe knew that better than anyone, but it was all he had to offer. He opened the conference room door and found himself looking at Ken, already seated.
Jun, on the other hand, felt only relief as she approached the briefing room, Pandora and Jinpei in tow. *'It can't be anything bad if he wants Jinpei to hear it,'* she thought happily. Obviously they'd been all wrong about what was bothering Doctor. Probably nothing worse than some new Galactor Plot he'd managed to uncover during his captivity. He'd just been worried about how to counter it. Now he'd made his decision and was ready to tell them his plan.
Pandora had come to the same conclusion and was grumpy about it. "Why must he be so secretive?" she complained to Jun. "I'm supposed to be his private secretary! How does he expect me to assist him in his work if he never tells me what's going on?"
"Doctor is used to keeping his own council," Jun soothed. "I'm sure he didn't mean any slight to you."
Pandora heaved a long suffering sigh. Beside her Jinpei gave a happy skip. "Some action at last!" he crowed. "Yeah! get Galactor!" and both women smiled at his uncomplicated enthusiasm.
Entering the briefing room they found Ken and Joe eyeing each other, visibly nonplussed. Both turned to stare at the newcomers but before anybody could say anything Doctor and Ryu entered together, the latter looking faintly troubled as he took his place beside his Teammates.
Doctor Keane surveyed his audience and decided to relieve their suspense, and his, by cutting right to the chase. "I owe you all an apology," he announced. "I regret to say I've been deliberately deceiving you for the last several days. I'm very sorry but I thought it necessary." The team and Pandora blinked at him, puzzled but forgiving. He took a mental breath and gave it to them straight. "I am not your Doctor Nambu."
The announcement was followed by few seconds of stunned silence. Then Joe was out of his chair and slamming Keane against the wall with a snarl; "What've you done with him!"
"Joe!" Ken, Jun, Ryu, Jinpei and Pandora chorused starting to their feet, ready to interfere.
Keane blinked away stars and looked coolly and quellingly into the glaring violet eyes inches from his. "I expected you to take it like that," he said, voice dry with irony. "My Joe never thinks before he acts either."
The Condor's grasp loosened fractionally as he struggled with his confusion. "Your Joe?"
"Let go of me." Keane ordered crisply, "sit down and I'll explain." Responding automatically to the familiar tone of command Joe released him and grudgingly resumed his seat. So did the others. Six pairs of wide eyes fixed on Keane as he began; "I trust you are all acquainted with multi-dimensional theory and the concept of parallel universes? God knows I've bored my own Team with it often enough."
"You're claiming to be an alternate of Dr. Nambu from a parallel dimension?" Pandora demanded, jumping ahead.
"Exactly," he agreed, smiling wryly at her obvious disbelief. "I have proof." he spread the graphs out on the conference table. The Team and Pandora leaned in to study them. Joe, Ryu and Jinpei blankly. Pandora, Jun and Ken with dawning comprehension.
"An interdimensional rift?" Pandora asked putting a slim finger on a particular spot.
"The one I came through," Keane nodded.
"But what happened to our Doctor?" Jinpei asked plaintively.
"Logically he must be in my universe." *'I hope.'*
"And who are you?" Ken asked, studying him with narrowed eyes.
Keane sat down behind the conference table, folding his hands. "My name is Thaddeus Keane," he said formally. "I am deputy director of the International Science Organization and chief of ISO's special defense forces, including the Eagle Riders, five youngsters I've adopted and trained to fight the Vorak, android invaders from another planet."
"Sounds like a pretty close parallel," said Ken.
"Very close indeed," the Doctor agreed. "But my team has different names, and our HQ is Gateway City in Australia, not Utoland, Japan."
"Isn't much left of our Australia," Ryu commented.
"I know. Your third World War seems to have been far more destructive than ours."
"And you've got a Joe," said Joe.
Keane smiled at him. "A cyborg, like yourself, and with the same short fuse. I thought you were my Joe when you rescued me. As you'll recall I was in no condition to notice subtle differences. I didn't realize anything was wrong until the next morning when Jinpei asked me who Kelly was."
"Me!" said Jun, in tones of surprise. "I mean my alternate."
"That's right." his smile faded, "I'm sorry I deceived you, but I thought I'd better have some solid evidence before coming out with such an unlikely story."
"That was very wise," Pandora conceded ruefully. "If you didn't have these," she gestured at the graphs, "to back you up I'd probably diagnose a bad case of teleport dementia."
"But what do we do?" Jinpei demanded, "How do we get our Doctor back?"
"No offense," Jun put in quickly.
"None taken," Keane assured her. "I want to get home to my own team too. "The first step is to go out to the rift and try to establish communications with my universe."