A follow-up to Truth and Treachery: Jason is now a captive in a secret base on Spectra, but no one knows where he’s gone or why, or that the entire planet is in peril… For a challenge: turn an unused Gatchaman episode into a Battle of the Planets episode.
Categories: Battle of the Planets Characters:
7-Zark-7/1-Rover-1/Susan, Chief Anderson, Great Spirit, Jason, Keyop, Mark, Princess, Tiny Harper, Zoltar
Tenuously CanonChallenges: Making a BotP episode
Challenges: Making a BotP episode Series:
Making BOTP out of Gatch
In the same manner that I turned Gatchaman episode 102 into a “Battle of the Planets” episode, Dreams of Deception, and Gatchaman episode 103 into a follow-up “Battle of the Planets” episode, Truth and Treachery, here is Gatchaman episode 104, also converted to a “Battle of the Planets” episode. It’s a follow-up to the first two and starts immediately where Truth and Treachery left off, making it "episode 87."
Again, there’s probably too much fighting and suffering in this for Battle of the Planets (though I did “edit out” a lot from the Gatch version), as well as too much plot weirdness (oh yes!) and episode continuity, but I’m not claiming this could really pass muster as a BOTP episode. As ever, I have a much greater appreciation for what the Battle of the Planets writers accomplished!
This is also very image-intensive, as I’ve added screen cap “illustrations.”
1. Chapter 1 by lborgia88
2. Chapter 2 by lborgia88
3. Chapter 3 by lborgia88
4. Chapter 4 by lborgia88
5. Chapter 5 by lborgia88
6. Chapter 6 by lborgia88
7. Chapter 7 by lborgia88
8. Chapter 8 by lborgia88
All seemed peaceful at Center Neptune –certainly the distant schools of fish swimming past looked serene.
"Here at Center Neptune, many fathoms beneath the waves," said 7-Zark-7, "I keep a constant watch on the universe for any threats to Earth or other Federation planets."
But inside his control room atop the undersea facility, the cylindrical robot was pacing rapidly.
"But I can't remember the last time I was this anxious," he declared fretfully, "And robots never forget! It would be no surprise if I've shorted out half my servo-storage sub-units, the stress I'm under."
He did, however, stop pacing.
"The Phoenix is in the Middle Sea, still battling that terrible Spectran catfish ship, and Jason is still missing. I haven't found any clues yet as to where he's gone, though I've put all my scanners that I can possibly spare on the search. I'll just check my monitors again-"
He was gliding toward his console when he heard the chime of an incoming audio communication being received, as the little dangling speaker vibrated.
"Center Neptune, 7-Zark-7," he said with the voice of one hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
"Hello Zark," breathed a sultry female voice, "This is Susan, at the early warning station, on planet Pluto."
"Well, hello, Susan!" said Zark, momentarily cheery, as his antennae sprang to attention.
"There's something I need to tell you, Zark," she continued, "I did as you asked, and put all my most sensitive deep space probes onto tracking the ship in which you said Jason departed the Space Center."
"And have you found out where he went?" asked Zark eagerly.
"Not exactly," replied Susan, "But last position and bearing that I was able to detect, the ship was heading into the Crab Nebula."
Zark's antennae drooped now.
"And you know what that means," added Susan, "But I'll keep looking, Zark. Bye…"
"Jason went to Spectra?" said Zark, beginning to pace anew, "I know he just found out that- But surely he wouldn't- I know him and he'd never-"
He came to a halt.
"There just has to be an explanation that makes sense! But in the meantime, what is happening to the others, on the Phoenix? I have to check my monitors!"
He sped towards his console.
Deep beneath the Middle Sea, the Phoenix was in the clutches of the massive Spectran catfish ship's whiskers even as the catfish fired laser beams at it.
Fortunately all its shots were missing their struggling target –so far- but the force of the explosions from the beams striking the seafloor and nearby rocks were enough to send tremors slamming through the bridge of the Phoenix, and its four occupants.
"Tiny," ordered Mark, "Keep trying –we're not beaten yet!"
"I'm on it," replied Tiny, straining at the controls as he sought to evade the catfish's laser beams, "But those whiskers sure have a tight grip!"
Indeed they did, as one was wrapped about one of the Phoenix's wings as the other gripped the ship around its nose, so tightly that cracks were forming. Inside the nose, Jason's spacemobile shook as cracks grew along the walls around it.
On the bridge, Princess and Keyop were holding on to each other to keep from falling from their chairs as tremors wracked the Phoenix.
"Can't fire missiles… we're too close," Keyop said to Princess, fear visible on his face.
"I've got an idea!" announced Mark, and their hopeful eyes turned his way.
"Tell us!" said Princess.
Mark's face was grim with determination now. "Tiny, push all the thrusters to max, but don't try to go up."
He turned back to the viewscreen to stare out at the fearsome catfish.
"Take us sideways and down –try to smash a whisker!"
"Yeah," agreed Tiny, gritting his teeth, "They won't be expecting that!"
A bright light appeared above the catfish's eyes as it readied its laser beam for yet another attempt to blast the Phoenix. "Now's our chance!" cried Tiny, reaching for the thruster control buttons.
Before the catfish could shoot at them again, he swooped the Phoenix sideways and down, dragging the clutching whiskers with it as he bashed the ship straight into a section of the long whisker whose end was wrapped about the Phoenix's nose. The whisker broke apart at the site of the impact and the now-severed portion lost its grip on the Phoenix and fell away.
With only one whisker now holding them, Tiny was able to whip the Phoenix around in a tight turn, heading away from the catfish. The catfish's laser beam fired twice in quick succession but now its aim was haphazard –the Phoenix no longer held in place- and to the great luck of the G-Force members, one laser beam struck and destroyed the whisker end that was gripping the Phoenix's wing.
"Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!" jeered Tiny even as he slumped over the throttle in relief.
"Now we can fire missiles," said Mark.
"Big ten!" replied Tiny, sitting up and grabbing the throttle and wrenching the Phoenix around in a tight, fast arc towards the catfish ship.
"Oops," gasped Princess. She'd relaxed her hold on Keyop and now he tumbled from his chair onto the floor.
"Need better seatbelt," he burbled reproachfully.
The catfish ship was looming in their viewscreen again.
"Now's your chance, Mark," said Tiny as Mark reached for the red button.
"Keep her steady," he replied.
"Will do," said Tiny.
Yet even as Mark waited for the perfect moment to fire a missile, a barrage of purple spikes suddenly detached from the catfish and came zooming towards the Phoenix. Tiny dodged and maneuvered the Phoenix, barely managing to evade them.
"Now would be good!" cried Tiny and Mark raised his fist and brought it down hard on the red button, sending a missile straight for the catfish's head.
For good measure, Tiny tore the Phoenix through the fin on the end of the catfish's tail and then they sped on their way towards the surface.
An explosion of water and flames erupted from the beneath the Middle Sea, indicating that the Spectran catfish ship below wouldn't be causing any more earthquakes.
The missile had accomplished its job, and now the Phoenix was back in the sunny, blue sky.
On the bridge, Chief Anderson suddenly appeared on one of the screens.
"Good work, G-Force, defeating that Spectran ship," he said, but he looked more stressed than relieved.
"Any word on Jason?" asked Mark. Now that there was no longer an imminent threat of earthquakes, his mind had gone straight to the other problem at hand –their missing teammate.
"Yeah," chimed in Tiny, looking worried, "Anyone know where he's gone?"
"According to Zark, he's gone to Spectra," said Chief Anderson, keeping his voice stiff –even for him.
"Oh no," cried Princess, "Why would Jason go there?"
"I wish I knew," replied Chief Anderson, "But the facts are that Jason has, without any authorization, gone to Spectra and all attempts to contact or track him there have failed."
"What are you implying?" asked Mark, looking stunned.
Chief Anderson closed his eyes, saying "He's turned off or disabled his wrist communicator."
He opened his eyes again to look at them all.
"As Security Chief, I can't rule out… defection."
Far away, on Spectra, inside the secret underground base in the Damruk Mountains, Jason was lying on his back on the floor.
Not only was he still dizzy and nauseous, but the paralytic tranquilizer Captain Baldrik had shot him with prevented him from standing or walking and there was no indication that it would be wearing off any time soon.
But then, Jason had hit the Captain and his soldiers with feather stunners and they wouldn't be conscious again any time soon.
They had apparently been taken to a medical ward, but the soldiers who had found them all lying on the ground outside had dumped Jason here, on the floor of what appeared to be some kind of control room. Several of them now stood guard over him, awaiting Zoltar's orders as to what to do with him. They'd found his gun and taken it away from him. It, and his badly damaged wrist communicator, lay on a nearby table.
There was nothing for Jason to do, as he lay there with his eyes closed, except to think, and remember…
An apartment in a city… An old lady, Rian, she took care of me, Mala visited whenever she could, took me to the park across the street…
The gleaming red pod, made of the most heat resistant material known, was poised over the deep shaft, ready to be launched deep into Spectra's mantle.
"Awaiting coordinates and detonation timing, Sire," announced a voice.
"Your mantle reactor was to save, not destroy Spectra," intoned the Great Spirit in a cold voice from the wall of his audience chamber within the base.
"It will, Oh Luminous One," said Zoltar hastily, gesturing with one arm, "Soon we will have near infinite energy at our disposal!" He held his arms aloft and spread them wide for emphasis.
"The reaction is out of control, the planet's mantle unstable!"
"The mantle procedure will restore stability, I assure you," declared Zoltar, brandishing his hands before him in a show of confidence, "Then, we will truly have the power we need to conquer all!" Zoltar smiled as he clenched his fists.
"Do not attempt to deceive me," replied the Great Spirit, "I know what has happened to Captain Baldrik. You need his expertise for the procedure, and you have lost it!"
The Spectran deity's face began to flash in harsh patterns of erratic lines, a rare show of fury.
"Fear not, Oh Great Spirit," gasped Zoltar, "I worked closely with Baldrik on all the preparations, and I swear I know enough!" He waved his arms beseechingly before bowing his head and raising a hand to his chest in a deferential salute, "I will yet save Spectra."
"The ancient temple here," replied the Luminous One more quietly, "Was built for me, when I first came to Spectra."
"Have you not always been here on Spectra?" asked Zoltar, his head snapping up in surprise.
"I am older than you can possibly comprehend, Zoltar, but I have not always been here," replied the Great Spirit enigmatically, before shifting to an imperious tone again. "Win Mala's son over to our side or force him to collaborate, but above all, succeed with the mantle procedure!"
Zoltar bowed again, saying "I live only to serve you, most Glorious One," before turning and departing the chamber.
"You have failed me too often, Zoltar, for me to trust in your competence now," said the Great Spirit to himself, once alone, "I will make preparations of my own…"
His eyes turned a sinister shade of red.
The tall coils of the deep seismic energy detectors were glowing near the ceiling of the large room that housed the controls for the mantle procedure.
The four soldiers who had worked most closely with Captain Baldrik and Zoltar (those who had not fallen prey to Jason's feather stunners, that is) were seated at a long console before panels of buttons, dials and instruments. Zoltar presided over them, sitting further back in a throne-like chair. At his side was a small table holding a bottle of wine chilling in an ice bucket.
"The directional coordinates and detonation timing has been set, Sire!" announced one of the soldiers.
"Let us begin," said Zoltar. He downed a large swig of wine, but snapped his fingers as one striving to show confidence.
A small table covered with a glass dome now rose up from the floor before him. The dome retracted, exposing a large yellow button with the red Spectran symbol upon it, the pressing of which would begin the mantle procedure.
Zoltar paused, casting back his cloak and clutching his hands together, cracking his knuckles.
"Closely track all incoming mantle data, planet wide," barked Zoltar, hunching over to stare anxiously at the yellow button, his fists clenched, "Quick, precise analysis will be vital!"
It was fortunate that the four soldiers had their backs to him as he stared, trembling, at the yellow button; they did not see the two tears that fell from his eyes.
"And the pods' positions and timing…" he whispered to himself.
"To our success!" he yelled grandly, and slammed his fist down on the button.
Lights began to flash on the console, and beneath a large and prominent number display.
The first of the many, many pods to come was conveyed along an elevated track towards the deep shaft that had been constructed to give them ease of access to the planet's mantle.
"Remember," Zoltar was telling the soldiers as the first pod slid into the device over top the shaft, which then began to rotate to bring the pod into the correct launch position, "As long as the mantlemeter does not reach the end, there is time to succeed with the procedure."
The pod now in the correct position, its wheels aligned precisely on the guide rails that would direct it down into the planet's liquid mantle, it was sent on its way…
"Keep me apprised of all energy output from the mantle, planet wide, where it is both dangerously high and low," continued Zoltar, "I will determine exactly where to send either cadmixium or plutantrium pods, and exactly when they must detonate."
The first pod disappeared into the dark depths of the shaft.
In his office at the Federation headquarters on Earth, President Kane held a telephone in one hand and a cigar in the other.
"Zark's decoding a top secret message," he said, "That's been sent to me?"
He stubbed out his cigar in an ashtray. "And you don't know who it's from?"
He was silent for a moment, listening.
"He thinks it's Spectran? Why not through the usual… hmmph, diplomatic channels?
He hung up the phone then.
"Very odd…" he said quietly to himself, staring across his office.
The pod plunged from the planet's crust and into the glowing magma of the Spectran mantle.
There it exploded, releasing and dispersing its contents through that region of the mantle, deep beneath the planet's surface.
But all was not well on the surface of Spectra. In a distant mountain range, lava suddenly burst forth from the ground and spewed into the air as the whole region shook violently in a severe earthquake.
"Dangerous high readings!" cried one of the soldiers as a needle on one of the console's many instruments began waving erratically.
Even the base itself was affected by the earthquake. Bits of debris fell from the ceiling of the procedure control room as the soldiers stared up anxiously.
"Sire," asked one soldier apprehensively, "Is this… normal for the procedure?"
"Do not panic!" yelled Zoltar, extending one arm in a quelling gesture.
"I know what I am doing! Everything is in order! I will study the newest incoming data, but in the meantime, continue with the pod sequence that I have set!"
He clenched his hand, swinging his arm angrily.
In his office, President Kane stood up suddenly in shock, a telephone held tightly to his ear.
"An underground revolutionary movement, on Spectra?" he gasped, now clutching some papers on his desk anxiously.
"Yes," came Chief Anderson's voice through the receiver, "Their message claims they want Federation support, though we don't know who their leader is."
"I'm on my way over!" declared President Kane, hanging up the phone and striding quickly from his office.
Even as he did so, the Phoenix flew past the many skyscrapers visible through his office's large window.
Despite their victory over the catfish ship, on the bridge of the Phoenix, tension and worry prevailed among the G-Force members as they all slumped wearily in their chairs or stared blankly ahead.
Mark's arms were folded stubbornly. "The Jason I know would never defect to Spectra," he declared, frowning.
Princess bowed her head, clutching her helmet with both hands.
"He must have tried to contact us, to explain," she cried, sitting up suddenly to scrutinize her wrist communicator, "Could his signal just be delayed?"
Keyop said nothing, but he gazed sadly over at the empty chair by the radar screens, where Jason should have been sitting.
"He just learned he's half Spectran," said Tiny, rubbing his nose nervously, "Could he be looking for…"
"Must have been adopted, as baby," pointed out Keyop emphatically, frowning, "Knows nothing… about biological parents."
Having been grown from a single cell in a laboratory, knowing nothing of one's genetic progenitors was a familiar state for Keyop.
"That's right," said Princess, standing up, "The mother and father that he remembers…"
"Yeah," said Mark, continuing her train of thought, "The parents he lost when he was six-" Mark stood up and looked at the others, "Jason knows neither of them were Spectran!"
Suddenly Ken turned his head back to the front of the bridge as Chief Anderson appeared on one of the screens.
"G-Force," he ordered, "Return to Federation headquarters and await further instructions there."
"With all respect, Sir, shouldn't we go to Spectra?" replied Mark.
"No," replied the Chief, "Zark can't find him and you won't either."
Mark's eyes widened in dismay, as all the others gasped too.
"But Chief…" began Princess.
"Spectra is a very large planet," continued Chief Anderson, "You'd be in danger and wasting your time."
"Jason's no defector!" declared Mark, raising a clenched hand and moving closer to the screen, "He'll have some explanation."
"Commander, my word is final –you're not going to Spectra!" snapped the Chief.
Shock registered on Mark's face as he realized the Chief was adamant in this.
"What are we supposed to do, then, just sit around and wait?"
"Until I say otherwise," came the Chief's reply, "Yes. It seems there's a volatile political situation developing on Spectra. I don't want to believe Jason's involved, but until I know more, you wait."
And with that, he vanished abruptly from the screen, leaving Mark staring at its blankness.
Mark sat back in his chair resignedly, saying "Tiny, you heard him, take us to headquarters."
"I'd like to know what this ‘political situation' is," remarked Tiny, glancing over at Mark.
"Yes," agreed Princess.
Frustration was writ large on Mark's face.
"We have to trust in Jason. Whatever hot-headed notion made him run off to Spectra…"
Here Mark stared ahead grimly.
"He would never be disloyal."
In strange way, Jason almost appreciated the Spectran soldiers on either side of him who were keeping him upright on his feet by holding the barrels of their two guns beneath his armpits –it was better than lying on the floor at Zoltar's feet –or worse, having his face stepped on again.
But he absolutely did not appreciate the fact that Zoltar was holding his head upright by grasping onto his hair! But he was still so limp and numb from the tranquilizer, there wasn't much he could do about it.
"Do you know how important that man is to me?" Zoltar was yelling, unable to resist shaking Jason's head to punctuate his angry words, "Thanks to you, Baldrik is useless now!"
But he let go of Jason's hair and, with a sweep of his cape, stalked off towards a nearby table and leaned his hands on it.
"But I fail to see why you are here, nephew," he said, clearly trying to speak more calmly, "Unless you plan to join with your fellow Spectrans."
Jason made no response. The wretched state he was in, silence was his best option.
Zoltar glanced over at him again
"Perhaps you need encouragement," he said as he pointed one finger dramatically. "Dose him with my new truth serum!" he ordered the soldiers.
"We'll take him to the med ward," replied one of the soldiers who was propping Jason up. "And then bring him right back," agreed the other.
Still holding him up with their guns, they conveyed Jason towards the door as the other soldiers in the room called out to him "Resistance is pointless!" and "You belong with us!"
As soon as they were gone, though, two of the soldiers rushed forward. The older of the two, who had a small beard, did the talking.
"Sire, we are technicians. May we examine his gun and bracelet carefully?"
The older, bearded soldier looked to his companion, who nodded in agreement.
"And just why do you want to examine them?" asked Zoltar, picking up Jason's gun from the table in front of him.
"To ensure they've no secret bugs or tracking beacons."
"I've no time to spare," replied Zoltar, tossing the gun back onto the table hastily and walked out of the room, "Take them away and report your findings later."
"We will do that, Sire," replied the older soldier, as he and his companion bowed.
Zoltar gone, the older soldier picked up the gun and briefly twirled it in his hand, as his companion picked up Jason's wrist communicator and the loose components that had fallen out of it. They exchanged a knowing look…
In the procedure control room, the number on the mantlemeter was still high, far from the deadly "F" that would mean that the mantle plan had failed.
"Has the next pod sequence that I designed been initiated yet?" demanded Zoltar from his throne-like chair as the four soldiers busied themselves studying the instruments and their readings.
"Yes, Sire, but it's not going well," replied one of the soldiers quietly, activating a screen to show a distant view of a city surrounded by bleak terrain –and the large volcano that loomed beyond the city was erupting violently.
Indeed, as the soldier zoomed the image in closer, it was apparent that a massive flood of lava was streaming directly towards the doomed city.
"This is Wilga City," said the soldier nervously, "On the other side of the planet from here…"
At Center Neptune, Zark was also busy at his console, studying his instruments and readings. His canine robot companion, 1-Rover-1, sat nearby.
"1-Rover-1," explained Zark, turning around to look at him, "Susan and I have had all our scanners and deep space probes trained on Spectra, trying to find some clue as to Jason's whereabouts."
"No," sighed Zark, "We haven't found a sign of him, and what we have found –well, I'm afraid it has the most serious implications!"
1-Rover-1 yapped again.
"I wasn't even looking for seismic data, but the readings coming in were so abnormal my sub-processor flagged them for review anyway," said Zark, "And now I've completed a more thorough analysis and the findings are undeniable."
Zark turned to stare straight ahead.
"The entire mantle layer of planet Spectra is rife with critically unstable energy reactions, and if the situation continues much longer, the entire planet will self destruct!"
Zark rushed back to his console.
"I must inform Chief Anderson immediately!"
Chief Anderson stood up from his desk at Federation headquarters and turned to face the four members of G-Force who sat in a row on the nearby couch.
"The situation that I referred to," he told them as he walked their way, "Is that an unknown rebel group on Spectra says they're planning a coup against Zoltar and wants Federation backing."
"And you believe there's a chance that Jason's involved with them, Chief?" asked Princess, as she and the others stared up at screen that was lowering into place on the wall, showing a image of the Earth, with a cross section removed to show all the planet's layers, crust, mantle and core.
"I believe there's a worse situation," answered the Chief.
"Don't like ‘worse,'" Keyop remarked to Tiny worriedly.
"And you think I do?" needled Tiny.
"Got to… hope for the best?" said Keyop, still looking apprehensive.
"Right," sighed Tiny.
"Allow me to explain Zark's most recent findings to you all," said Chief Anderson, "Using this image of planet Earth."
But he changed the image to one of a multitude of atomic particles, and then to images of numerous, small atomic reactions creating bursts of energy.
"It has long been theorized, that energy producing reactions could be unleashed within a planet's mantle, and then tapped for a near infinite supply of energy. But, the reactions would have to be carefully positioned and controlled to maintain stability."
Chief Anderson looked very grave.
"If mantle stability is lost, well then…" He bowed his head, eyes closed.
"Is this happening on Earth?" asked Mark, frowning in concern –and some confusion.
"No," replied the Chief, still looking grim, "All of Spectra is in peril."
Everyone jumped to their feet, shock registering on all their faces.
Chief Anderson changed the image again, to one of a planet in space, beginning to disintegrate.
He held up both his hands, simulating the shape of a planet.
"Dangerously high pressure is building within Spectra's mantle, straining its crust and causing severe earthquakes and volcanic eruptions."
The image changed again, to one of a planet breaking apart, spewing its matter into space to form a swirling cloud around it.
"Unless mantle stability is restored –quickly!- the entire planet will self-destruct. Nothing will remain but a cloud of matter in space, gradually dispersing."
The image changed to that of a cloud of planetary fragments fading away into nothingness.
"Can't believe it," said Keyop, trying to laugh. "Bye bye to Spectra? Too good to be true!" he joked to Tiny.
"Keyop, the Chief's dead serious!" cried Tiny, giving him a shove on the head.
"Indeed I am," answered the Chief, his eyes closed briefly. Then he held up one hand, saying "Millions of Spectran children and non-combatants are in mortal peril, and I doubt they've been warned what's really happening."
The image changed again, to utterly empty, black space, a meteor passing through the void where a planet once existed.
"Spectra may be our enemy," he continued, "But we cannot stand idly by while an entire planet is lost."
"You've sure got that right, Chief," declared Mark, looking horrified.
"But determining what to do," replied Chief Anderson, "Will be a most critical decision."
Walked over to the couch and sat, slumping forward and holding his head in his hands.
"If only we could find Jason –I'm sure that would be a start."
"Chief!" cried Mark, his eyes contorting with emotion as the full scope of the situation sank in, "You have just got to let us go to Spectra!"
Another pod exploded deep within the Spectran mantle, dispersing its contents, but stability was far from being restored to the planet.
Inside the Damruk Mountain base, another earthquake shook the walls of the mantle procedure room, leaving cracks and causing debris to rain from the ceiling.
‘It's not getting any better," said one soldier, staring upward nervously.
"Does Zoltar know what he's doing?" asked another.
"Why isn't he here right now?" demanded a third soldier.
"We've still got time," said the first soldier, and the mantlemeter did indeed indicate that time remained –but not nearly as much as before.
Elsewhere within the base, more walls and ceilings shook and cracked and hanging lights swayed.
In a soldiers' barracks room, one soldier at a table clutched his drink nervously.
"I'm not liking this one bit," he said, as his card-playing companion added "Should we scram?"
"Not just yet –let's wait and see…" said another soldier, also easing his fears with a drink.
Over in a far corner, though, the two technician soldiers who had taken Jason's gun and wrist communicator were huddled close near one of the bunks.
"I think I've almost got it, Cronus," whispered the younger of the two as he carefully took the remaining loose components that had fallen out when the communicator was damaged and inserted them back inside it with long tweezers.
"Don't use my name," whispered Cronus in reply, putting his hand on the younger soldier's shoulder, "We're too close –no mistakes now." His companion nodded silently and continued with his repair efforts.
Chief Anderson banged his fist hard on his desk.
"Doesn't the Federation Council understand how little time could be left, while they sit around debating what's to be done?" he demanded into his telephone's receiver.
They were still at the Federation headquarters. Mark was seeking relief for his frustration by staring out the window while the others sat on the couch, listening to Chief Anderson.
"I must get authorization to send G-Force to Spectra! I understand the Council wanting more information first, but frankly, who better to get it than G-Force? And no matter what happened, the situation could hardly get worse!"
Mark turned his head to stare, along with the others, as Chief Anderson abruptly hung up the phone.
So rarely did the Chief raise his voice like this, but the stress and uncertainty were taking their toll on all of them.
Mark turned back to the window, banging his own fist against the glass.
Jason, contact us –now!
(Hey, I figure if Gatchaman's Masaki can be presented as Colonel Cronus in the BOTP episode "Awesome Ray Force," then I can do it here too!)
The red liquid within the hypodermic needle was injected into Jason's arm, but he kept his eyes tightly closed –he hated needles.
"Listen," the medical ward's doctor was telling him quietly, "But don't react –spy cameras are everywhere in this place."
Jason was surprised but he stayed still and kept his eyes closed even after the doctor had taken the needle out of his arm.
"I'm with the rebel movement," continued the doctor in a low voice, "We're going to free Spectra from Zoltar, and you can help us –our leader is Mala, your mother."
Jason opened his eyes at these words!
He briefly stared up at the light above him, noting with dismay that his vision was blurred.
But he found that he was able to suddenly snap up into a sitting position on the examining table.
The two soldiers who'd brought him into the room hastily brandished their guns at him, but the one facing him said "We're with you –play along with us!" in a piercing whisper.
"You're lucky it's my duty shift," remarked the doctor softly as Jason just sat there, trying to process these bewildering developments, "I didn't give you truth serum."
Still huddled in the corner of the soldiers' barracks room, Cronus made final adjustments to Jason's wrist communicator as his companion looked on.
But then his companion glanced through a doorway and saw Jason being led down the corridor outside. He was shuffling awkwardly and the two soldiers escorting him were still holding him upright by keeping the barrels of their guns beneath his armpits.
He tapped Cronus on the shoulder, staying silent, and Cronus looked up just in time to catch a glimpse Jason before he returned his attention to the workings of the wrist communicator.
A moment later, his repairs were complete at last and he closed the small yellow pentagon down over the inner components.
"I'll try a long-range beacon," Cronus whispered, wiping his face with one hand.
He began to press the communicator's surface, "That might get relayed to Earth."
Far away on Earth, even as Mark still stood near the window of Chief Anderson's office at the Federation headquarters, his wrist communicator began to beep.
"Everyone, I'm picking up an incoming signal!" cried Mark as everyone startled and turned their heads his way.
"From who?" gasped Chief Anderson, and he and the others all rushed over to the window where Mark stood.
"It's a weak signal, just a beacon –no words-" Mark told them as he scrutinized his wrist communicator's display carefully. Then he looked at them all, adding "But its origin ID is Jason's!"
"Then it could only have been transmitted from Jason's wrist communicator," said Chief Anderson, holding his chin pensively.
"Is signal," burbled Keyop, "Coming from Spectra?"
"Yes," answered Mark, studying his communicator again, "Considering the distance, a beacon is all that would have a chance of getting through."
He turned excitedly towards Chief Anderson.
"Chief, we can track this –it can take us straight to Jason!"
"You do realize, Mark, only the Council can authorize that," said Chief Anderson, still holding his chin.
"But now we won't just be wandering Spectra aimlessly. I have a set of coordinates, where we know Jason must be –or must have been recently!"
"Find Jason, then try to save Spectra," added Keyop, raising a fist enthusiastically.
"You're right, Mark, this changes everything," said the Chief, closing his eyes wearily, "Go –I'll deal with the Council- but be careful."
"We understand," said Mark as he stood with his teammates, all their faces grim and intense.
Turning to them, Mark called "Let's go to Spectra!" with a sweep of his arm.
"G-Force!" they answered, and as one they dashed from the room.
The Phoenix swept through the Spectran sky –a clear blue, this far north.
Far below were the jagged peaks and deep valleys of the Damruk Mountains.
On the bridge, Mark glanced over at Princess as she studied the radar screens.
"As soon as you've got the beacon's exact coordinates, Tiny will find a place to land."
"Big ten, Mark," she replied, tuning the screen's resolution for the most precise fix possible.
Cronus, along with his companion-in-infiltration, was still huddled in a corner of the barracks, and still sending out a long range beacon from Jason's wrist communicator.
What they failed to realize, however, was that they were being observed onscreen, via a spy camera, by two soldiers in another area of the base.
The soldiers exchanged a look of mutual suspicion.
"Welcome, nephew," said Zoltar as Jason stood before him in the mantle procedure room. Jason was still propped upright by the two soldiers' gun barrels, but his head was slumped forward and his eyes were closed.
"Did you know," remarked Zoltar conversationally, seated in his throne-like chair, "That Mala was only nineteen when you were born?"
Jason remained silent, not even looking up at Zoltar.
"She spent much time off Spectra in those days," he continued, "Studying abroad, or secluded away here at the university –I never knew she'd been pregnant."
Almost involuntarily, Jason raised his head and opened his eyes.
Answers, answers he so desperately craved.
But his vision of Zoltar was blurred, and he was wracked with nausea. Sweat trickled down his forehead.
"And then she hid you, as an infant, with her old nanny, and visited you in secret."
Jason blinked, hoping that somehow that would enable him to see straight, but Zoltar remained a shifting red and purple blur.
"Amazing what I've learned from Mala, with my new truth serum –like that Colonel Cronus is your father!"
Jason's eyes widened in utter shock, even as his vision was briefly restored and he stared at Zoltar, lounging in his chair with one leg crossed, his fingers steepled together.
"And you'll truly be amazed at the report I've just received," continued Zoltar smoothly, with a flourish of his arm.
"Cronus is my father?" gasped Jason.
"Yes," said Zoltar, standing up, his tone becoming a shade harsher, "And now he's here, likely for Mala –seems they had a… liaison on Riga, twenty years ago."
But Zoltar was gesturing towards the mantlemeter, where time was continuing to run out.
"I don't have much time, but enough time to finish off him!"
"No," cried Jason, "You can't!" as his face filled with anguish.
The Phoenix was flying lower over the Damruk Mountain now, just above the bands of thick fog that shrouded the valleys and reached even to the peaks.
"We're over the origin point now," announced Princess, looking over to Mark, "Coordinates K-61."
"Take us down, Tiny," said Mark, his face alive with grim anticipation.
"Not so easy in this fog," replied Tiny, frowning slightly.
"I know," said Mark, looking more apprehensive now, "Do the best you can, but every minute counts now.
"I like a challenge!" declared Tiny, spitting on his glove before giving the throttle a hard shove forward.
The Phoenix descended smoothly despite the dense fog. Soon they were low enough that a strange and ancient-looking outline became visible on the broad valley floor beneath them.
"What kind of strange place is this?" demanded Tiny, his eyes widening as he took in the unexpected sight.
"Creepy," agreed Keyop, staring at his monitor's screen, "Looks like… evil chicken."
"Just the place for Zoltar then," said Mark, staring himself now at the images of the bizarre stone statues that covered much of the valley's floor within the strange outline.
"The fun's about to begin," he added, his own face becoming stony.
Jason had slumped his head forward again, and the two soldiers still held him upright with their guns as his trembling legs were still too weak from the paralytic tranquilizer for him to be able to stand on his own.
"And now it is your turn, my nephew," announced Zoltar, "To do some truth-telling –about G-Force."
"Zoltar," said Jason wearily but firmly, lifting his head, "There's no way I'm talking –and if you hurt Cronus, you'll pay."
But then he winced and lowered his head, momentarily overcome with nausea.
"Has the truth serum yet to take full effect?" remarked Zoltar, "Soon you'll be blabbing secrets, not empty threats." He turned, sweeping his cape behind him dramatically, and walked away.
In his wake, Jason's eyes quivered with rage.
Katse had walked over towards the procedure room's consoles, where soldiers were still intently studying incoming seismic and mantle data.
"It's still unstable, Sire," said one soldier anxiously, as Zoltar stared at the mantlemeter's countdown.
Glaring like a madman, Jason drew on every vestige of strength he still possessed.
Reaching behind his back suddenly, he grabbed the ends of both guns that were being used to prop him up, and flipped himself over backwards.
Even as he flipped, he knocked one soldier over with his leg.
"What are you doing?" yelled Zoltar, but Jason had grabbed the other soldier between his legs and flung him towards Zoltar.
Zoltar was knocked over backwards as the unfortunate soldier collided with him.
Sitting on the floor now and wasting not a second, Jason reached for the side compartment of his jeans, hoping desperately that somehow he might yet still have some feather stunners.
He pulled one out and hurled it at Zoltar, who had just risen to his feet again.
But Jason was far, far from being at his best –though he never missed, this time he missed.
The feather stunner instead struck the mantlemeter display on the console.
Jason slumped to the floor, awash with disappointment and drained from his efforts.
"Idiot!" yelled Zoltar, reaching up to snatch the feather stunner away from the mantlemeter. "If you've damaged any of this equipment, in any way!" he ranted.
But the feather stunner slid through his grasp and was sucked into the machinery behind the console's panel.
"What have you done?" snarled Zoltar, whipping around to glare savagely at Jason and wave a fist at him, "You treacherous little rat!"
Jason slid himself over to have the wall at his back, hoping to use it to get up on his feet. All the soldiers in the room had their guns trained on him now.
"Sire," asked one soldier eagerly –one of the soldiers who had propped him up before. "Shall we drag him off to one of the prison cells?"
"No," said Zoltar, still sounding furious, "Any minute now the truth serum will start working."
Jason was overcome with weakness and nausea, and still hunched against the wall, he slowly fell over sideways.
"Zoltar!" cried a soldier, as Jason vainly sought to rally his fading strength, "Another earthquake, near the equator and- Is that the Phoenix?"
Jason's eyes flew open.
"The Phoenix is here?" yelled Zoltar, "Why, why is everything going wrong?"
Zoltar dashed over to the console to stare at the view screen as Jason, gasping with the effort, rallied and tried to use the wall behind him for support in order to stand up.
But it was no good –he fell over again and ended up on the floor, flat on his back.
But the very sight on the screen that infuriated Zoltar, was the most wonderful sight in the world, at that moment, for Jason –even upside down.
"Sire, we need the next pod sequence," implored an anxious soldier's voice but Zoltar ignored him, yelling "Ready all missiles! Shoot them down at once!"
Even though he was lying on the floor, weak, sick and unable to stand, Jason found himself smiling.
G-Force was here. Mark was here.
As Tiny brought the Phoenix closer to the ground, a multitude of small missiles began firing from the mouths of all the statues on the ground, targeting the ship's underbelly.
One struck the landing gear on one side of the Phoenix, blowing off the tires and sending them to bounce and roll across the valley floor in flames and causing the ship to land unevenly, with a crunch as it lurched to one side and a wing pod banged into a rocky outcropping.
On the bridge, everyone gasped at the impact and struggled to remain in their chairs (though Keyop did not succeed.)
"There's got to be a base here," called Mark, already running for the exit, "Let's go find it!"
"G-Force!" responded the others, dashing after him.
Outside, missiles from the statues were still bombarding the area around the badly skewed Phoenix, creating multiple explosions.
But the four G-Force members crouched only briefly on the dome before soaring swiftly to the ground as one, evading the explosions to take refuge behind the base of a large pillar (though Tiny's landing was less graceful than the others').
But the missile bombardment ceased, and in the sudden silence, Mark and the others peered across the eerie terrain, obscured by bands of fog through which peered the sinister faces of the many statues, only faintly visible.
"We need to find the way in," said Mark, standing quickly and dashing off, "Everyone, follow me!"
They all began to run, sticking close together so as to not lose each other in the fog, but their movements were not obscured quite enough.
The soldiers inside the statues now began firing bullets them, though none found their fast-moving targets.
And suddenly, the stone-paved ground beneath Mark's feet fell away as a trap door opened beneath him.
With a cry, he began to fall and, close on his heels, his teammates fell with him as the door snapped closed again and they were enveloped in darkness.
Not total darkness, however. One bright beam of light suddenly flared up and revealed that they were in a tunnel that was clearly of modern construction –surely some part of the Spectran base they sought.
Two figures were speeding towards them, their feet clattering on the smooth hard floor, but they were obscured by the near blindingly bright beam of light that they shone before them as they ran.
Mark pulled out his boomerang, glaring tensely as he and the others stayed crouched where they were, waiting as the figures got closer…
As their unknown welcoming party loomed near, they all quickly stood and moved back against the narrow tunnel's walls, Mark and Tiny on one side, Princess and Keyop on the other.
But when the two figures suddenly stopped running, they were still obscured by the light they held but one spoke with a voice that Mark recognized instantly but could hardly believe he was hearing –his father's voice.
"So the long range beacon worked."
Mark stared in surprise, still brandishing his boomerang as the others remained tensed, waiting.
"I'm glad to see you, son," continued Colonel Cronus, shifting the light in his hand to reveal himself and his companion, now both clothed in the uniforms of Rigan Red Rangers.
Mark relaxed his arm and lowered his boomerang, stepping closer to his father.
"What are you doing here?" he asked in amazement, adding quickly "Is Jason with you?"
"Why I'm here –that's… a long story," replied Cronus cryptically as the others moved in behind Mark.
"Do you know the mantle's unstable, that the whole planet could be destroyed?"
"Jason's here," said Cronus tersely, "Now listen -rebels will take over this base as soon as I free their leader, Mala, from her cell."
"Mala is the leader of the rebel movement?" said Mark and Princess together, both thoroughly confused. Mark put his boomerang back in its holster.
"But what about the mantle?" asked Tiny anxiously, as Keyop chimed in with him, "This whole planet could blow up –soon."
"I have a confession, Mark," said Cronus, but he gestured impatiently with his arm and turned away to start running back up the tunnel, "But there's just no time now –follow us!"
As puzzled and concerned as they all were, there was nothing for it but to follow after the two Red Rangers.
"I'll explain, Mark, as soon as I can…" intoned Cronus, his voice heavy with unknown meaning, as Mark and the others ran as fast as they could in his wake.
But they didn't know that, even as they ran, they were being watched by Zoltar, via another of the base's many spy cameras.
"Curse that Cronus! He has brought G-Force inside the base!" snarled Zoltar as he watched them all on a screen in the mantle procedure room, "I gave orders for him and the other one to be apprehended!"
He seized a microphone, barking into it "Security team –how did Cronus escape capture?" as his eyes quivered in rage.
"Run while you can, Cronus and G-Force," muttered Zoltar to himself, "Soon, I will finish you all."
A small door opened, one of many along the perimeter of a large, circular room that served as a central hub for the base's myriad of underground tunnels.
Cronus and his fellow Ranger ran inside the room, brandishing their guns. Mark and his teammates were close on their heels.
"Here we part ways," said Cronus, now still and surveying the room to confirm it was secure, "First, find Jason –then we'll all deal with Spectra's mantle."
Cronus and the other Red Ranger had left, the door closing after them.
But before the G-Force members could do likewise, the ceiling of the room suddenly retracted to reveal, high above, dozens of armed Spectran soldiers.
"Take cover!" yelled Mark.
A second, higher tier in the ceiling retracted to reveal Zoltar.
He laughed as he looked down on them.
"I had hoped all six of you were here," he called down, "But capturing the four of you is a very good start, and Cronus will not be able to evade us for much longer!" Zoltar raised his arm in triumph, "Now surrender!"
The soldiers all had their guns trained on them.
But G-Force had no intention of surrendering –not when they could all throw hand grenades up to where Zoltar was standing!
The four of them turned suddenly and dashed from the room, evading the hail of bullets now coming from the soldiers' guns.
"How did we get back out here?" gasped Princess as they all ran as fast as they could from the room where they'd thrown their grenades.
"Don't know," said Mark, but it was plain from the ground beneath their feet and the stone statues around them that they'd somehow exited the base in their mad dash.
But an explosion was erupting behind them, so none of them had any desire to turn back whence they'd came –they would have to find another way to infiltrate the base again.
But they stopped running, and turned to stare back at the flames for a moment. Not surprisingly, no one had pursued them.
"Well," said Mark, looking to the others, "The next part of the plan is clear –we get back inside the base and we find Jason."
"Big ten!" cried Princess, Keyop and Tiny as they all scattered to begin searching for another hidden entrance, certain there had to be one, somewhere.
But as they dispersed to search individually amid the statues, Zoltar was watching them slip off into the fog from the vantage of yet another spy camera.
His clothes were dirty –even singed- and he clenched both fists in fury as he glared at the screen.
"Why is everything going so badly?" he hissed, "My pod sequences are all wrong, and now Cronus and G-Force have escaped!"
Far away at Center Neptune, Zark was talking even as Chief Anderson was staring out the window of President Kane's office at Federation headquarter as both men waited anxiously for news from G-Force.
"I usually know more than anyone else about what's going on," said the robot fretfully, "But now I might as well be in a fog!"
Zark didn't know that at that moment, Jason was pulling himself along a floor with his arms, in the Damruk Mountain base, still unable to walk but with intense determination on his face…
"I don't know if Jason is okay or if Mark and the others have even found him yet –or why he went to Spectra."
Zark didn't know that the mantlemeter on the console in Zoltar's mantle procedure room was showing time was quickly running out.
Yet another pod was sent down the deep shaft, heading for some region of Spectra's mantle.
Yet another terrible volcanic eruption blasted torrents of lava over its surface.
"And I don't know what is going to become of planet Spectra. If stability isn't somehow restored to its mantle…"
"I know that Spectra –and Zoltar- have given Earth nothing but trouble, but no planet should ever be destroyed."
All that Zark could see on his monitors was a view of Spectra from space, with thick, sooty clouds now covering its northern pole, where the Damruk Mountains were.
At Center Neptune, Zark turned away from his monitors.
"I've got a feeling, deep in my central processor, that no matter what happens, nothing is ever going to be the same again."
He began pacing.
"There's a terrible volcanic eruption taking place on Spectra's southern continent –my scanners can pick up that much- and all the latest readings I've gathered indicate the Spectran mantle isn't any closer to being stabilized –in fact, if anything, it's worse!
But then came the unmistakable chime of an incoming audio communication.
"Oh?" said Zark, eager and apprehensive, "Center Neptune, 7-Zark-7 here!"
"Hello Zark." Susan's sultry voice came wafting from the small dangling speaker.
"Susan!" said Zark, his antennae standing on end, quivering, "Has something happened? Is there some new development?"
"Not that I know of, Zark."
"Oh," replied the robot, crestfallen, "Why are you calling then?"
"I knew that you must be worried, Zark, about G-Force and even about planet Spectra."
"Well yes," admitted Zark, "I'm very worried."
"I'm worried too, Zark," replied Susan, as 1-Rover-1 came into the room and walked over to sit beside his fellow robot, "But when you're worried, the best thing to do is be with your friends."
"You know, Susan," said Zark, after a pause, "You're right! And what's more, Mark, Jason, Princess, Keyop and Tiny have never yet failed to find a way to save the day, no matter how bad things might look."
"That's true," said Susan.
"I'm going to put my trust…" Zark said intensely, "In G-Force!"
To be continued…
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.