Incident At Alpha Three by ElectricWhite
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Story Notes:
This was part of Gatchamania's 2018 Gift Exchange. The prompt I had been given was: I'd like a BoTP fic.
one of the team is so wore out that he/she makes a major mistake during a mission.
Incident At Alpha Three

So to stay awake...

\"Can you hear me?\"

Must keep eyes open....

\"Keyop, is something wrong?\"

Maybe if I shut them....just a minute....

\"Pull up! Pull up!\"


\"Doctor, will my Ali be all right?\"

She sounds familiar....why can\'t I open my eyes and look at her?

\"I can\'t say at this time, Damiya. He\'s so badly hurt. He should be in hospital, but I\'m afraid he wouldn\'t survive the trip to Mandinat \'Uwzuris.\"

Damiya heaved a heavy sigh. \"Sometimes it seems Allah is very cruel. First Jabril died, and now my Ali keeps returning just long enough to increase my agony when he is taken away again.\"

\"You mustn\'t say that!\"

\"I know. Allah is the most gracious and merciful. It\'s hard to remember that sometimes.\"

So tired....

* * * * * * * * * *

\"I\'m sorry, I can\'t let you go --\" Security Chief Anderson addressed four members of G-Force, who were each in a sick bay bed.

\"Can\'t or won\'t?\" Jason interrupted, an icy glare forming in his eyes. One might have thought he was about to leap out of bed and punch the communications screen.

\"None of you are in any condition for space travel.\"

\"But, Chief,\" Tiny chimed in, \"we\'re just one planet over. Surely we could pop back to Alpha-Three to look for Keyop.\"

\"Colonel Cronos is in charge of the recovery mission.\" Anderson replied flatly.

\"Don\'t you mean rescue, Chief?\" Mark asked.

Anderson continued on as if nothing had been said, \"Zark will update you as necessary. Anderson out.\"

A moment of seething silence passed. But then Princess\' chin quivered and a tear ran down her cheek.

\"I can\'t believe he thinks Keyop\'s dead.\"

\"Well, we know better!\" Tiny cried, \"The little guy\'s one tough cookie!\"

Jason swung his legs over the side of his bed as he said, \"I say we go and -- \" He planted his feet on the floor and stood....only to have his legs give out from under him. Two nurses rushed in to help him back into bed, scolding him in the dialect of Farsi commonly found in Marduk City, the capital of Alpha Four.

Finally, the older -- and bustier -- nurse jabbed a finger into his chest. \"YOU STAY IN BED!\"

\"Okay,\" Jason replied, \"Your wish is my command.\"

\"Good!\" both nurses said in unison. With that, they left the room.

\"You must\'ve taken a few hits to he head,\" Tiny said, \"since you seem to think you\'re a genie!\"

\"Things would be a lot easier if you could grant wishes, Jason.\" Princess added.

\"What do you say we see what I can do?\" Jason replied in a teasing tone, \"Just rub my --\"

\"Let\'s hope,\" Mark interrupted, \"That we can get our implants to kick into overdrive. The sooner we heal, the sooner we can do something useful.\"

* * * * * * * * * *

Keyop heard whispering off in the distance. It seemed familiar, but he couldn\'t quite place it...what was he -- no, she -- saying?

He managed to force his eyes slightly. He could make out the shape of a plump woman on the floor near the foot of his bed. She had prostrated herself with her head pointed toward the corner closest to his right ear. He squinted at her as the smell of maize-corn on the cob cooking on a charcoal grill filled his nose.

\"You were a naughty boy for running away!\" he remembered her saying as she pulled him close, \"But I forgive you, as always.\" He decided then that it would be nice to have a mother, though he was manufactured.

The next thing he knew, she was beside him, bent over to gently kiss his forehead. \"Please, my sweet Ali,\" she whispered, \"please tell me I wasn\'t imagining...please be waking up.\"


\"Oh my precious child! You\'re home and in your bed. I\'ve made sure it stayed soft and clean and free of bedbugs, just as it was when you were last here.\"

A weak grin spread across his face. But then he could have sworn a tear from Damiya\'s eye hit his right cheek.

\"Ali, you were found near a ship with that accursed mark of Iblis on it. Why oh why were you near such a thing?\"


\"Oh, Ali! Don\'t you remember what the Qur\'an says about that?\"

Keyop gave her a blank look.

\"Oh my poor Ali! You must have hit your head!\"


\"Well, I will refresh your memory, my poor, sweet son.\" Damiya straightened up and left the room. A few minutes passed before she returned with a well-worn book in her hand. She sat on the side of the bed. \"Do you remember when you were a very small boy, when your father and I would take turns reading you?\"

Keyop let out a contented sigh as he imagined what that must have been like.

\"Of course you do.\" Damiya smiled as she reached out and touched his cheek.

She turned her focus to the book. She opened it and searched for the section she wanted. \"Now pay attention, Ali.\" she said before she started reading:

\"A man came to the Noble Prophet of Islam, saying: \'O, prophet of Allah! I am young and vigorous, and ready for action and service, and wish to go to the battle-front for the advancement of Islam, but my mother does not let me leave her side and go to war.\'
The Noble Prophet said: \'Go and stay with your mother. I swear to Allah who chose me as prophet that the spiritual reward which you receive for serving her even one night and making her happy with your presence, is greater than a one-year long holy war.\'\"

Damiya closed the book. \"Do you see why you were wrong, Ali? You should have asked me...\"

Keyop had fallen asleep.

\"...even though I\'d never let you go.\"

* * * * * * * * * *

The crimson uniforms of Riga\'s Red Rangers stood out against the pale sands of Alpha Three. They seemed to have the same brain, judging by the way they silently combed through the shattered Spectran fighter. Finally, one of the men pulled a strap from a twisted bit of instrument panel and took it to another man, the one with a large, lower-case \"R\" on his elaborate helmet -- Colonel Cronos.

Cronos\' visor hid the look of recognition as he took the smashed G-Force wrist communicator. \"Any sign of the boy?\"

The other Red Ranger shook his head.

\"There are no bodies whatsoever.\" the third Red Ranger added as he joined his teammates.

\"I don\'t know if that\'s good or bad.\" Cronos said. He scanned the countryside. Immediately south was the small mountain of rubble that was the Temple of Amon-Ra, stolen from Earth and vandalized by Spectra before being used in an attempt to hide an illegal mining operation here on Alpha Three. A little ways past that, to the southeast, was the village of \'Ahl Alqarya. And just past the horizon was Mandinat \'Uwzuris, the City of Osiris, the capital of Alpha Three.

He looked down at the sand. Any tracks that could have hinted where Keyop had gone had been blown away by the wind.

\"So where would a young, injured member of G-Force hide?\" the colonel muttered to himself.

* * * * * * * * * *

It had been the ninth time G-Force had been deployed in the past three weeks. They had been chasing Spectra across two-thirds of the galaxy. The wear began to show. Though none would admit it, each member of G-Force nodded off at their stations from time to time.

Spectra\'s latest mecha looked like some weird cross between a Virginia possum and a porcupine with a little tapir thrown in for good measure. The monstrosity was heading toward Alpha Three -- clearly it was going to make a visible grab for the planet\'s supply of selenite.

The Phoenix managed to catch the mecha between Alpha Three and Alpha Four. G-Force found an airlock and docked with the Spectran ship. All but Tiny boarded, and they split up to set explosives throughout the mecha.

Keyop had finished setting his charges and was going to find Princess when the mecha was suddenly rocked by an explosion.

\"What the hell\'s that?!\" Jason\'s voice shouted through the wrist communicator.

\"It sounds like an explosive went off early!\" Princess replied.

There was a screech of buckling metal as another charge went off.

\"Everyone back to the Phoenix -- STAT!\" Mark barked his command.

Keyop started running, but he kept falling to the floor...or the ceiling...or wall...the combination of buckling decks and malfunctioning artificial gravity made it impossible to plant his feet on any solid surface.

\"Keyop, where are you?\" Princess pleaded as the corridor in front of him twisted shut.

\"Cut off.\" he replied, \"But I see the launch bay. I\'ll try taking one of the fighters.\" He made his way toward a hole that had opened up in a nearby wall while cursing his verbal tic for going full-force.

The few Spectran soldiers who were there were already dead. Keyop guessed that they had accidentally shot each other -- Spectra\'s military was notoriously bad with guns, and it had notoriously bad guns, so it was no stretch of the imagination for bullets to be flying at the first explosion.

He scrambled into the nearest fighter, which was designed to look like an enormous porcupine quill. Within moments the fighter\'s thrusters pushed him away from the mecha.

The adrenaline seemed to wear off the instant Keyop cleared the mecha.

\"Can you hear me?\"

\"Keyop, is something wrong?\"

\"Pull up! Pull up!\"


He let out a scream as he shot straight up in bed.

\"Ali, it\'s all right.\" Damiya whispered as she dabbed his face with a cool cloth, \"What kind of nightmare frightened you?\"

\"It was the crash.\"

\"Oh, my poor son!\" she cried as she pulled him close, \"Don\'t think of it anymore!\"

\"Yes, ma\'am.\" he replied. He took a deep breath -- Damiya always smelled of charcoal and grilled maize-corn on the cob. She let go of him, and he eased his head back down on the pillow.

* * * * * * * * * *

Mark, Jason, Princess, and Tiny were in Security Chief Anderson\'s office in Marduk City. As usual, Jason leaned against the wall near the door while the others sat in chairs in front of the chief\'s desk. None of the team knew how long they had been on Alpha Four -- part of that was due to the differences in the length of Alpha Four\'s day compared to an Earth day, and nobody told them how long they\'d been unconscious in the sick bay.

\"I\'m afraid I still can\'t let you go yet.\" the chief said from behind his desk.

\"Why not, Chief?\" Mark asked, \"The odds of finding Keyop would be much greater if we took the Phoenix to Alpha Three and scanned -- \"

\"There are several problems with that. First, the Phoenix isn\'t completely rebuilt yet, even though our engineers have been working around the clock. You have no idea how badly damaged the Phoenix was when Spectra\'s mecha exploded.\"

\"Geez,\" Tiny interjected, \"You make it sound like it\'s a miracle we didn\'t become a fine mist floating between Alpha Three and Four!\"

\"That\'s more accurate than you realize, Tiny.\"

\"Can\'t we use some other ship?\" Princess asked, \"We don\'t need the Phoenix\'s firepower to look for Keyop.\"

\"Yeah,\" Jason chimed in, \"Alpha Three\'s an awfully big place for just three Red Rangers to search.\"

\"There\'s also the issue of the amount of strain each of you has undergone in the past few weeks.\" Anderson said, \"You are all so fatigued that it has shown up in your cerebonic implants. It was a mistake to send you out on that last mission.\"

\"But think how much worse it could have been if that mecha had landed on Alpha Three!\" Mark cried, \"How many civilians would have suffered?\"

\"True,\" the chief replied, \"but that doesn\'t alter the facts in what actually happened. The charges went off prematurely. Why? Were they defective? Did one of Spectra\'s soldiers accidentally set them off?\"

\"Or one of us messed up.\" Jason virtually spat that.

\"I don\'t mean to insult you, Jason, but it is possible. The largest surviving piece is the Quill Fighter that Keyop stole to get away.\"

\"And he did a good job of smashing it to bits.\" Tiny sighed.

\"Give the Red Rangers time.\" Anderson said.

\"I just hope the little twerp\'s time hasn\'t run out.\"

\"Don\'t talk like that, Jason!\" Tiny cried, \"He\'s never given up on you!\"

* * * * * * * * * *

A silver-haired man in a white linen suit casually strolled along the streets of \'Ahl Alqarya, just a tourist among many. The street vendors selling fool, souvenirs, and other odds and ends started to blur together until he came upon a plump woman tending to a large charcoal grill cooking big ears of maize-corn.

But what caught his eye was the boy in the doorway of the small stone house behind the woman. The boy was wearing a traditional thobe with a white keffiyeh headdress. The youngster\'s head was down and his keffiyeh concealed his face.

\"May I help you, sir?\" the woman asked.

\"I hope you don\'t mind my asking, but is that your son?\"

\"Why, yes, that\'s my Ali! My poor son was in a terrible accident not too long ago -- \"


\"Yes! Doctor Almaealij wasn\'t sure he\'d survive, but Allah heard my prayers and the prayers of my neighbours and caused Ali to heal very quickly. Isn\'t that right, Ali?...Ali?\"

Keyop let out a startled snort before he looked up and saw the man in white. The man shot him a quick look.

\"Oh, hello.\" Keyop said in a tone that let Colonel Cronos know that the message had been received.

\"Hello, Ali. I heard you were in an accident.\"

\"Yes sir, in the desert.\"

\"Well, I hope your speedy recovery continues.\" Cronos turned his attention back to the woman. \"I\'ll take one,\" he said as he placed a coin in her hand, \"and I\'d like to buy one for Ali,\" he placed another coin in her hand, \"and I want you to put this,\" he filled her hand with coins, \"toward anything that will help with a fast recovery.\"

\"Oh, sir! You\'re far too kind!\"

\"Don\'t mention it. Ali just happens to remind me of a boy I know.\"

* * * * * * * * * *

The full moon had just cleared the horizon. Two men in scarlet crept from shadow to shadow, making their way to a certain stone house. They hurried to the door, adjusted their night vision goggles, and set to work. One man pulled out a small can of lubricant and sprayed the door hinges while the other man picked the lock.

The door silently swung open and the twosome rushed inside. One went to Damiya\'s room, the other entered Ali\'s.

Damiya stirred but then sighed and sunk into a deeper sleep when a small aerosol can was sprayed under her nose. Colonel Cronos clapped a hand over Keyop\'s mouth and shushed the boy as he let out a started sound.

\"I\'m taking you out of here.\" Cronos whispered. Keyop relaxed at the sound of the familiar voice.

The next few moments seemed to last a heartbeat while stretching out for eternity. The Red Rangers silently stepped into the dark street. Cronos carried Keyop, who still wore a thobe, while the other Ranger carried a small bundle containing the boy\'s clothes.

They had gone down a couple of alleys -- Keyop, still weak from the crash, had fallen asleep -- when they suddenly heard behind them, \"Gentlemen, will you please stop and talk to us.?\"

\"The night guard, I\'ll bet.\" the other Red Ranger muttered.

\"I doubt they\'ll believe us if we said we\'re simply out for a night stroll.\" Cronos replied.

One of the guards had moved around to get a better view of Cronos. \"Say,\" he said, \"Isn\'t that Damiya Walida\'s son, Ali?\"

The two Red Rangers glanced at each other and, without a word, bolted.

The night guards followed, calling out an alarm as they went.

After so much zigging and zagging, the Red Rangers realized they weren\'t going to shake the residents of \'Ahl Alqarya. They quit trying to evade and headed straight toward the rendezvous point.

The third Ranger waited at the edge of the village with three horses purchased earlier in the day. As soon as the rest of the team arrived, they mounted the horses -- putting Keyop in front of Colonel Cronus -- and spurred the steeds to a full gallop.

The villagers tried to catch them, but the Red Rangers were able to get to their fighters and launch before any of the residents of \'Ahl Alqarya were within yelling distance.

As the thrust of Cronos\'s fighter pressed Keyop back in his seat, the young G-Force member found himself thinking about Damiya, about how heartbroken she\'ll be over losing her son.


Tears ran down his face. \"So sorry.\" he whispered.
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