Maxare: Georgian male name (give me anonce); Shalva (from chalom); shvili = son of
Shalvashvili (son of peace/Georgian family name)
Hong: Chinese name (wild swan)
Places: Prelo Valley on Tortuna (place where Max Sawyer lived)
People: Karen Sainsville (Billy Sawyer's mother), George Sainsville (Billy's maternal grandfather), lives in Auckland, New Zealand
Retcon: Buzzwang refers to himself as a Galaxy Rangers in wishful thinking. (Since I placed the episode earlier in the timeline.) He went along on a mission to escort colonists to their new home world for data gathering when the rangers where re-routed to Tortuna.
Set after "Sundancer"
Inspirational songs: Father's Eye's (Amy Grant), Innocence Lost (Amy Grant)
Denial – Sadness – Anger – Truth and Consequences – Hope
Finished June 13, 2010
Goose remembers what Max Sawyer meant to him
Author's note: I placed this episode earlier in the series than it was aired. (See my profile at fanfiction net for the timeline I use.) That means that I have to "reinterpret" Buzzwang's comment about being a Galaxy Ranger as his wishful thinking. In my view, he simply went along on a mission to escort colonists to their new home world for data gathering when the rangers where re-routed to Tortuna.
Disclaimer: 'The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers' is copyrighted by Hearst Entertainment, Inc. This is a work of fanfiction and I make no profit of it.
Billy bubbled on how exciting the race had been, and as he recounted the events, the black rider became a nightmarish phantom from a video game's advanced level and Sundancer a creature of legend that carried the hero to victory while the hero's friends applauded. Finally, the heroes blasted off into the sky for new adventures.
The Tortuna sunset basked the cragged desert scenery into warm red light.
Goose had to bite his tongue to keep himself from making another sarcastic comment at that thought. At least they were leaving the planet alive. Billy was safe. They had recovered Sundancer. He had not failed Max again.
He tried to calm down by thinking of what lay ahead of them: hyperspace, maybe some Crown destroyers, docking and routine maintenance, reports. As the tension from the fight at the Exelon was leaving his body, weariness set in and other worrying thoughts started to force their way into his consciousness: questions of the future and what would happen to Billy and Max's legacy. He tried to ignore those thoughts because there was nothing he could do about any of it.
Niko was giving Billy a tour of Ranger One, and Goose quietly settled into a recess next to a supplies closet. He was glad Niko was taking care of the boy and that Doc and Zachary were piloting. It gave him some time to collect himself.
Billy was asking many questions about the details of BETA and Longshot and seemed hardly able to contain his excitement at being able to see all that for himself soon.
Goose had done everything he could for Max, and it still didn't seem enough.
They had won the race at the Exelon, but Max had not been around to see it.
Goose had wanted to ride Sundancer himself, but he understood that Billy had the right to do so. Sundancer was Max's last gift to his son, and he didn't want Billy to believe he had failed his father. The danger was real but calculable. Niko and Doc convinced Zachary by pointing out both of them had been doing mounted obstacle races that were far more demanding than horse racing at Billy's age.
Sundancer was Billy's heritage, and riding the winged horse at the Exelon was a chance to show the world that Max's creation was far superior to anything Brappo's money or the Queen's ruthlessness could produce.
It was a way to show their last respect to Max who would never be able to see the world he had envisioned where fighting had stopped.
Niko startled him when she took a blanket out of the supplies closet next to him. Apparently, she had managed to convince Billy to lay down on one of the cots in Ranger One's back compartment for a while.
Billy insisted one more time that she should wake him if there was anything with Sundancer, and Niko reassured him that hyperspace was as uneventful as a routine visit to the dentist.
Goose smiled involuntarily. Billy could be as stubborn as Max was when it came to following his plans. His smile faltered when he remembered Max would never see his son grow up into whatever he would choose to do with his life.
"Are you coming?" Niko interrupted his glum thoughts as she walked past him. She looked concerned, but he was not sure about what. He couldn't bring himself to ask.
He silently shook his head no when she kept looking at him inquiringly and was glad when she finally returned to the cockpit without further questioning him. He wasn't ready for a long discussion with Zachary and everyone else about Sawyer and the Supertrooper project even if he understood it was unavoidable. He doubted he knew more about the case than his colleagues already did. He hadn't even been aware Sawyer had a wife or a son.
There were too many mysteries, and he could solve none of them today. He felt tired. He wished for some rest for himself, but knew it would be a long time in coming.
Goose watched Billy while the boy slept. The blanket was wrapped around him like a protective shield, yet his face was peaceful.
Lying still and without the exuberance that accompanied everything he did, Billy looked even more like a younger version of Max Sawyer: smaller and less worn down by life but with the same stubborn refusal to accept an 'impossible.'
Goose had learned in the interrogations following the end of Wolf Den that there had been several attempts to close down the base in its earlier years, but all had been averted; he wasn't surprised it had always been Sawyer who had provided successful test results in time to keep the project running.
Wolf Den was hard to explain to outsiders. But if the whole universe was your enemy, preparing for it any way you could made sense, and raising children to be perfect soldiers seemed normal. Indeed, it was a privilege to be allowed to learn to fight and defend oneself and others.
Yet Max had decided not to pass his own burdens on to his son. Goose could see it in the carefree way Billy held himself, the way he considered all of Tortuna a giant adventure playground and not a battle field.
He had done all he could for the boy. He hoped it was enough.
He was glad Billy was resting now. The boy would not get much rest in the following days. The Federal Intelligence Service would question him as soon as he returned to Earth, though it seemed clear that Billy did not know anything about his father's genetic engineering projects. Sawyer had not been someone to accidentally reveal information he wanted to keep secret, not even to his family.
He had grown up around Sawyer, and, heck, he hadn't known half the things in the report that on Zachary's insistence, Commander Walsh had finally sent them.
He hadn't known Max had been born as Maxare Shalvashvili in Georgia in the Caucasus, let alone, that he had to bury his entire family including his first wife and two daughters there when the Russian army decided to end the civil war in the country once and for all.
He hadn't known Max emigrated to New Zealand, took a new name and signed up for the government's most advanced genetic research project at the time: to transfer mutated genes into the human genome and keep them stable. He married Karen Sainsville eight months after his arrival in Auckland. Billy was born half a year later.
Goose hadn't known Billy existed until he met him in the Prelo Valley of Tortuna outside the hut where Max had just died.
Yet the details fit. Max outward gentleness had always covered a will of steel.
Goose switched off his comm device.
He had not been able to bury Max.
He remembered an incident years ago when Hong died in one of the too many training accidents at Wolf Den. They were fighting battle spiders in a net of ropes far above the ground. The spiders navigated the ropes much faster than humanoids could, and the Supertroopers were hard pressed to get a good shot at them. Hong miscalculated a jump and fell through a part of the safety net that Amber had melted in an attempt to destroy one of their opponents. He broke his neck on impact with the ground.
It was the first time Goose understood what it meant when someone was 'gone' from their unit. He had just turned seven at the time
It was customary among Supertroopers to show their respect for a fallen comrade of their unit by drawing a knife across their left wrist and wearing the scar proudly until it faded. Goose was unable to keep a surface wound for more than a few hours due to his biodefenses, but he would reproduce the injury whenever he could while the angry red on the wrists of the others was still visible.
Walsh didn't seem to notice, but Max called him on it during his weekly medical check-up for gene stability.
"What are you trying to achieve that way?"
Silence was the only reply he could give to the icy question while he waited for the punishment that was sure to follow.
"He's not coming back. You just endanger yourself and your comrades if you pretend otherwise."
Max never yelled or threatened, but he never softened harsh truth.
It was hard to answer.
"He lived and fought with us. I can't act as though he was never there."
Sawyer seemed to consider that. His calm voice was still cold but less biting.
"Honor only carries you so far, Shane. Try to let him go."
"But I remember. I need to." How could he try to describe the nightmares of an empty camp where everyone had gone?
"Then try to remember the good times and not the pain."
He looked up from staring at the desk plate. Sawyer was standing close to him now.
The genetic analyzer beeped that it had finished its work, but Sawyer chose to ignore it. His gaze held him, but it wasn't hostile.
He knew he had already crossed the line of disrespect to superiors, but he needed to know.
"Why death? It's a part of life. The only answer is to keep living."
Max still seemed slightly angry, but it was no longer directed at Goose.
Goose shook his head. That wasn't what he'd meant.
He could deal with combat injuries, the glaring sun and biting salt wind, training until exhaustion, the taunts of the older troopers and the gnawing pain the genetic enabling factor caused in his stomach, but he needed to understand why.
Darkstar only said they needed to help each other through. Jackhammer said there were good thing about being a trooper and showed him how to spot and hunt wild life. Killbane laughed when he asked and put him through an hour-long wrestling match in the salt water. He perfected forming gills as a result of it.
But he still couldn't find the answer to his question.
"Why do we have to fight?"
For a moment, Max seemed to be looking at a scene far away, before he fixed his eyes on Goose again and put a hand on his shoulder.
"Someone has to bear the burden of being fighters. You are soldiers. It is your duty to protect others, Goose."
That was when he swore he would not let one more die.
He absent-mindedly noticed the jump into hyperspace though it seemed more jarring than usual. He almost activated his bio-defenses to counteract the cold tingling.
Walsh taught them about maneuvers and battle strategies, but it was Max who showed him why he needed to fight. He demonstrated precision and never gave up.
Little lessons about life Max slipped in during chemistry revisions helped him to make sense of things. If you could ask why the acetylsalicylic acid in aspirin was harmful to the stomach, there was also room for one or two short questions about why people sought to relieve pain – and why it was sometimes necessary to cause it.
Max impressed upon him to never kill unless necessary.
Sawyer did what was necessary to make them into good soldiers, and he helped Goose survive.
Max maximized the dose of the genetic enabling factor for Goose faster than for any other Supertrooper, but it had not been Max's idea to cancel the gene engineering project and put Goose in a group with BDCs three year's his seniors. He needed to catch up, or he would have died. Walsh's ideas of fairness were not enforceable beyond official hours, and there were areas where he simply could not outsmart Killbane or Gravestone.
It wasn't until much later that he understood the price and stopped taking the GEF.
The weight on his chest felt constricting, and he wanted to punch a rock. He tried to take deep breaths, but it was as though the air didn't want to enter his lungs. Every breath felt like fire.
Max was dead, and he didn't know what to tell Billy about his father.
They didn't even know who had killed Sawyer.
Brappo was a detestable piece of slime, and he may have ordered a raid on Sawyer's house to scare him, but Sawyer had been worth much more to Brappo alive. Going after Brappo would have been like hanging the right criminal for the wrong reason. The merchant may have no ethics, but he had business sense. It would make no sense for him to kill his only provider of custom-made chimeras.
Nor did it make sense for a gang of outlaws to attack an isolated settlement when Pedulont caravans were much more profitable – unless someone had ordered and paid the bandits to do so. But who? Who would send a bunch of killers to settle a personal dispute? Unless there was more to it…
The whole case remained a mystery. It was like trying to pry open a steel door with only one's fingernails.
There was no hint why Max had suddenly been offered amnesty when for years he had been on the Federation's most wanted list, nor why Max had even tried to negotiate with the government when six years ago he had packed the blue prints for all the gene bricks used at Wolf Den and disappeared without a trace. And there was no explanation why he had needed to flee in the first place.
Walls everywhere and no way to blast through.
All he knew was that he and his colleagues had been escorting colonist ships to their new home world when all of a sudden Walsh sent them a code red message to divert their mission to Tortuna and retrieve a human scientist within twelve hours. There was not even time to stock up on supplies and weapons, let alone ask questions.
But their enemies had been prepared for them.
Whoever had killed Sawyer, he would find them, and he would make them pay.
He wondered if it had been the right decision to let Billy search for Sundancer.
Zachary had given him a hard time about letting Billy slip away, but Goose had not wanted to keep the boy from doing the only thing he could still do for his father: find the companion he had made for him and ride him.
He knew Billy wasn't a Supertrooper, not even a fighter, but the kid knew basic street survival, and Goose had not anticipated that it would take them that long to get permission for their second mission to Tortuna. It was almost as though someone wanted all traces of Sawyer to disappear and blocked the rescue.
His paranoia whispered that maybe someone wanted all traces of the Supertrooper project to disappear…
There weren't even graves, just slots with numbers in an unmarked part of Longshot's cryocrypt.
He clenched his fists so hard that bruises formed. His comrades were gone, but not forgotten.
The Tortuna dust clung to his skin like a vice, and he desperately wanted to take a shower with real hot water.
He settled for a sonic shower instead, but the memories could not be washed away.
They had medical staff at Wolf Den whose faces kept changing, but it was Max who visited him in the isolation ward when he came down with the flu. Goose didn't remember Max ever losing his temper, but he would never yield on anything he considered important. Proper isolation of virus carriers was one of them. He kept the other Troopers out, but he stayed with him.
There were visiting experts to supplement the teaching of their AIs, but the most important lessons he learned from Max.
"Someone has to bear the burden of being fighters. You are soldiers. It is your duty to protect others, Goose."
"Why did Hong have to die?"
He thought that if Sawyer was ever going to yell at him, it was now.
"He was doing his duty. You all have to do your duty."
Now Sawyer looked as stern as ever.
"Why is duty important?"
"We need to fight to protect what we love. Duty without love is pointless."
He may just have imagined the momentary softening in Sawyer's face.
He had never understood why people needed to die.
When he left the shower cabin, he found Niko waiting for him.
"Goose, Zachary would like to talk to you if you have time."
He doubted Zach had said the last part, at least not before Niko prodded him to do so. She had been trying so smooth team relations since they found Sawyer's dead body.
He knew Zachary wanted answers, but he couldn't give them to him. The Captain was only doing his duty, but Goose could not treat Sawyer like any criminal even if the evidence was stacked high against him.
"It's probably the last chance we will have to talk before we have to report to Walsh."
She was only trying to help. Pointless.
"There is nothing I can say. Max stole information from a secret government project and became invisible; when he reappears, he is murdered before we can question him. What can I say?"
"If he is innocent, we will be able to clear his name."
It wasn't her fault the world was the way it was, yet he couldn't rein in his temper.
"Innocent? He worked on a project to create living weapons, and after that, he manufactured illegal hybrids."
"Yes, he was, and Billy will need to face that," Niko whispered. Her stance was firm. Goose wondered what she was aiming at.
"What will happen to him after questioning?" he asked, suddenly anxious. If anyone suspected Billy knew more than he did, there could be a lot of trouble for him.
"Walsh has been able to contact Billy's maternal grandfather, George Sainsville. He and his second wife are willing to take Billy in. He lived with his mother in Auckland until he was eight. He should remember his grandfather. A stable environment will help him recover."
It made sense. Only that no one would understand Billy there.
"What about Sundancer?"
"He will be studied at Longshot. Genetic hybrids need a special permit to be kept on Earth, but I assume Billy will be allowed to visit."
"Sundancer is the only thing he has left from Max!"
Niko put a finger to her lips. "Ssh." She pointed to the still sleeping Billy.
Goose moderated his volume but not his anger.
"His relatives are strangers to him; they won't understand what he's been through, and they're going to take Sundancer from him."
"He will learn to live with new people. He's resilient."
"You don't believe that." He didn't understand how she could be so calm in the face of this injustice.
"Sometimes we don't have many choices, but we must make the best of them."
He looked at the sleeping boy.
"Billy shouldn't have needed to lead that life. Max shouldn't have needed to run."
"But he did."
"Max wasn't a traitor!"
"That's not the point here."
"What is?" he almost snapped, but this time he kept his voice down.
Niko had gradually moved closer until she was standing right in front of him. Her whisper was barely audible for normal ears.
"Billy has hardly seen his father, neither when Max worked at Wolf Den, nor when they were out on the run. He's going to have a lot of questions about his father, and there aren't many people he can ask. No matter what your feelings about Max Sawyer are, Billy needs to work through his emotions in his own time and find his own answers."
For a second, he was taken aback, then he met her eyes to face whatever accusations might be coming, but she just held his gaze evenly.
When she seemed convinced he had gotten her message, she turned around to leave.
"You know where to find me or any of the others if you need to talk."
The doors swooshed shut behind her and left him to his own thoughts again.
He hoped she would give Zachary an excuse why he wasn't coming. He knew he couldn't rely on her to handle team relations for him, but that was a problem he would face later.
There weren't any places he could go for answers. The evidence that Max had been a traitor was overwhelming.
It hadn't been Max decision that blocks of super powers fought each other and entered into an arms race.
It hadn't been his decision the Russian army razed his family's home.
He made the decision to fight back the only way he could, with his knowledge of genetic engineering.
It had been his decision to work at Wolf Den.
It had been his decision to run for whatever reason.
Goose could still have needed a father back then, but Billy had never had much of a father. He would try to tell him the good stories about Max.
He couldn't pass his own burdens on to someone else.