Disclaimer: All Gatchaman and Gatchaman-related characters are property of Tatsunoko Productions. No profit is being made from this story
Author's Note: I'd like to say "thank you!" once again to Springie, who's fanart "Alone" inspired this fic.
It was fall, and a crispness had just started to permeate the air, signaling the seasons were about to make their final change from warm summer to cool autumn. Joe stared out at the rolling ocean waves, seeming to watch them with intensity, but, if anyone had been there with him, they would have noticed that Joe instead had a far-away look to his eyes. A light breeze blew and gently tousled his auburn hair. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, slowly inhaling the coolness of the air, the salty scent of the sea. The memories came flooding back to Joe, almost overwhelming him. It had been a day just like today, all those many years ago. A day that had started out just like any other, but before it would be through, nothing would ever be the same.
Though they lived on BC Island, his father had insisted that they spend some time at one of the island's many ocean-side resorts. It was the very end of summer, and Joe's father, Giuseppe, thought it would be good for him, his wife Katarina, and their son George to spend some time together - alone as a family - away from the stresses of his job. Though this is what he had told 8-year-old George, all little Georgie understood was that they were spending their vacation at a seaside escape. He didn't know or understand why his father needed time away, nor what it was that his father did for a living.
It was a beautiful day, with bright sunny skies; the deep blue of the ocean glittered in the sunlight. There was a slight briskness in the air, and Katarina had insisted that Georgie wear his blue cap and matching jacket when they went out to the beach. Little Georgie had protested at first, but then gave in to his mother. He knew there would be no way he would win this argument.
Joe smirked mournfully to himself. His mother. The only person whom he had ever willingly given up an argument to. But, as sweet as he was to his mother, he was that much of a ruffian otherwise. He had never understood where that delinquent streak had come from, or why he had found such satisfaction from it, but it was there. He and Alan, his best friend, had definitely been on the road to becoming juvenile delinquents, and they both had certainly had the offenses to prove it. Theft, arson, fighting – they had been young hoodlums, plain and simple.
"Mama, can I go play in the sand?" Georgie asked. Giuseppe and Katarina were sitting at a table on the beach, enjoying the last vestiges of the summer sun.
"Of course you can, my son. Just don't go too far." she lovingly responded.
Georgie smiled. "Yes, Mama," and ran off.
He went past a jetty and a few rocks that lay scattered on the beach, hidden just enough that he could not be seen by his parents, but still close enough to hear if they called for him.
He was playing in the sand for only a short while, quiet and alone, when he suddenly heard the blood-curdling screams of his parents.
"JOE!" they yelled in unison.
Instantaneously, Georgie heard the sounds of gunfire. Two shots, and all then fell silent.
Joe's body momentarily trembled, as he could still hear those rounds clear as day. Two shots – one bullet to each of his parents' heads. In that instant, everything he had ever known had become no more. And everything he hadn't known had become a secret for years to come.
George ran back to where he had left his parents, and was shocked by what he saw. His parents, alive, loving, and smiling just a few moments ago, were now slumped over the table, their bodies as limp and lifeless as rag dolls.
George didn't cry out or otherwise say a word. He spotted the handgun in his father's hand and instinctively took it into his own. His father had shown him how to use a gun, and had even taken him for target practice a couple of times, so George knew what to do with it. He cocked and aimed the gun simultaneously, though at what, he wasn't sure. But then he saw her standing there, laughing her menacing laugh.
A Devil Star. Sent to do Berg Katse's evil bidding. What had brought them to that point? What had his father done and what had been his plan? Had he only threatened to leave the organization, or had he already made plans to associate with the ISO? Joe had no idea. And Hakase had never said anything about a relationship he may or may not have had with Joe's parents, which led Joe to believe that Nambu didn't know the full story either.
What would have happened if the boy known as Georgie Asakura had been aware of the truth? Where would little Georgie – now known as Joe – be if any of those events hadn't occurred, or had occurred differently? Or if he had known his parents' truths from the beginning. There were so many "what ifs" in Joe's life, he barely knew where to begin.
What if his father had never been part of Galactor? Where would they have lived? What would he have done? Who would he have been? And his mother. Had she been a willing Galactor follower, or had she succumbed to their terrorist ways due to the love she had for Giuseppe? Had her membership been by choice, or by proxy? And where would Joe be today if they had never been part of the organization? The possibilities of whom and what Joe could have been were endless.
"The sins of the parents are the sins of the child."
The Devil Star had said that to him. He hadn't understood what that meant at the time, but now, years later, he did. Was she right? Had he carried his parents' sins all those years ago? Did he still? And, if so, at what price?
What if his parents hadn't been killed and remained within the ranks of the organization? Would he have become a high-level leader of Galactor, as his father had been? He seemed to have been heading in that direction. The delinquency of his youth; he now understood where that came from. It was from the Galactor blood that flowed within his veins. The lessons he had subconsciously learned from being born into the organization.
Joe looked out to the ocean, his mind taking in and reflecting upon the ebb and flow of the waves as they broke onto the shoreline. The water being pushed onto the beach by the force of the waves, then being sucked back out again, pulled by the now-retreating force. Was that what it was like to be in Galactor? Pushed along, forced to follow their schemes and terroristic ways, then forcibly pulled back in if you tried to make an escape, lest you be killed.
George could do nothing but watch as the Devil Star lifted a rose in front of her. The next sequence of events happened so fast, he didn't have time to react. He watched helplessly as she tossed the rose towards him…
How would it have been if George had been groomed as a leader of Galactor? Well over ten years had transpired since then, and his life had an entirely different path and meaning now. But if he had remained with the organization, it could be he who was leading one of the many uprisings against the ISO and the Science Ninja Team, he who would be leading the fight against them and everything they stood for. Fighting against all that he now believed in, and that he now lived. Ironically, it would be he who was fighting against the people who, in this new life he was now living, were his friends and his family.
Joe smiled ruefully to himself as he thought about how, either way, he was involved in the same battle. Well, at least all that fighting from his youth on BC Island turned out to be good for something…
George still held the gun tightly in his hand as he watched the rose come his direction, the pink and red petals of the rose head dispersing as it flew towards him. The last thing he was cognizant of was the bright flash of light and simultaneous loud bang.
The explosive sound of the rose bomb resonated in Joe's head, and made him jump, as if it were occurring right now, on the very place he currently stood. However, the phantom sound of the explosion melted away and quickly faded into a familiar beep.
"Joe? Joe, are you there?"
Joe stared blankly at the ocean for a moment, his far-away mind suddenly working feverishly to return from its reverie.
He glanced down at the flashing communicator on his wrist, then took one final look at the ocean. The sun had started to set, and the colors of the sky had turned amber. Joe's steel gray eyes lingered contemplatively on the distance for a moment, and as they did so, he was transported wholly back into his present.
"Yeah," the Condor confidently responded into his bracelet, "I'll be right there."