A Place on the Team by TransmuteJun
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But Susan’s departure actually doesn’t help. 1-Rover-1 sits quietly at my feet, occasionally scratching his ear, while I think. I go round and round this code, but its meaning still escapes me.

I reluctantly go back to my work setting up G-Force’s implant alignment parameters, while waiting for the team to return. It’s amazing how often these parameters need to be re-calibrated in order to keep the G-Force team in peak physical condition. Every two weeks, each team member sees the implant specialists, and has an alignment check. I am in charge of sending the alignment parameters to the technicians. In the beginning, Chief Anderson used to have a team of doctors inspect my work, but after a few months he deemed this level of supervision unnecessary. I am quite proud that I alone have this awesome responsibility.

Still, I am not the only one who could do this. There are other robots, and humans as well, who could do it, even if not as efficiently as I. If I am failing at my other duties, I could be replaced.

This is my greatest fear. G-Force is my life. If I weren’t here, at Center Neptune, what would become of me? I know, deep down, that if I have no use… no purpose… that I will be dismantled, and destroyed. This is why this unknown code troubles me. I should be able to analyze it. I should be able to determine what is wrong. I should know why it was used.

But I do not.

An incoming communication interrupts my gloomy thoughts. It is Tiny.

“I’m coming in, Zark!” he announces. “We’ll be in the docking bay in a few minutes.”

“I’ll be ready, Tiny!” I promise, giving him an enthusiastic salute. “I’ll work on this problem every second, until the Phoenix is in fully operational again!”

“You’d better!” sneers Jason, from Tiny’s right. “Isn’t that what we pay you for?”

“Jason…” I hear Mark’s voice in the background. It has a warning tone. But that doesn’t stop him.

“You’re right, Mark.” Jason snickers, “We don’t pay him anything! Because that’s all he’s worth.”

I can feel the oil in my circuits boiling. Why does Jason always get under my diodes this way? What makes it worse is that he’s usually right. In this case, I am extra sensitive, because I haven’t been working up to par. I need to solve the mystery of this code as soon as possible. But does he constantly have to address me with that condescending, superior attitude?

The rest of the team at least tries to be polite. Even Keyop! But Jason has always had some kind of dislike for me, which I don’t understand. At times he can be downright…hostile.

None of which is anything new. And neither is my standard response to his insulting comments.

“I’m sorry you feel that way, Jason.” I respond, “I will endeavor to perform to my full potential.”

“A lot of good that does us!” Jason sniffs.

“I’m sorry, Zark.” Mark says, stepping into view. “I apologize for the behavior of my second-in-command.”

“You don’t need to apologize to that overgrown pile of circuits!” Jason huffs.

“We’ll be docking shortly.” Tiny reports, before the transmission is cut.

I sigh. This isn’t the first time Jason has acted this way, and I am certain that it won’t be the last, either. But this time it hits home a little more, because of my short-comings over the last twenty-four hours.

If I’m going to link up with the Phoenix’s database, I’ll need to be in my secondary room. Despite what everyone thinks, it’s not just my oil-changing station that resides there. I have a number of pieces of sophisticated equipment there: usually the devices that I don’t need to use very often, but still require ready access to. The Phoenix computer linkup system is one of these devices.

“Stay alert, 1-Rover-1!” I order, as I creep across the control center. I should have known that my decision, not to wear my cape today, would blow up in my face.

Eventually, I reach the glass tube and rise slowly up to my secondary room. While accessing the Phoenix linkup system, I turn on the monitoring device that lets me supervise 1-Rover-1, when I am not present at my usual station.

I am not surprised to see Mark and Princess enter my Ready Room. They are still in uniform, and make a show of looking for me, while 1-Rover-1 yips inanely.

This scenario has become all too frequent, of late. Sometimes, I barely have a chance to leave the control center before the Commander and his third enter. Curiously, I listen in on their conversation.

“Well, it looks like Zark’s not here, Princess.” Mark grins at her.

“I guess not…” she says, looking up at him coquettishly. “You’ll just have to talk to me, then, Commander.” She draws out the word ‘Commander’, as if it were a term of endearment. Knowing these two, it probably is.

“I was really impressed by your performance, this morning, during our training session.” Mark says, trying unsuccessfully to hide the fact that he’s trying to catch glimpses of his subordinate’s underwear. Officially, it was Chief Anderson who approved the design for the Swan’s uniform, but somehow I suspect that Mark and Jason had something to do with it as well. They certainly seem to enjoy the visual aspects of its… lack of coverage.

I can’t say I blame them. Princess is very attractive, for a human. And she certainly is considerate of me, and my feelings. If I were capable of such emotion, I might have a crush on her myself.

Whom am I kidding? I have a crush on her. And I certainly have no complaints about her uniform, either.

But she seems to have some strange affection for Mark. Which is odd, since he never openly admits to any serious feelings for her. Instead, they play this bizarre game in my Ready Room, using the pretense of looking for me to spend a few stolen moments alone together.

“Well, Commander,” Princess replies flirtatiously, “I was certainly impressed by your performance as well…” she giggles from behind her glove.

“You’re a valuable part of G-Force, Princess.” Mark answers, licking his lips. “I would hate to lose you.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Mark.” Princess whispers, putting her hand on her hip. I can’t help but be drawn into this bizarre attempt at socialization. Fleetingly, I wonder if it will ever actually lead anywhere. Somehow, I doubt it. These two are too sheltered, in their lives as part of Galaxy Security, to break out of their shells. These meetings are already quite a stretch within their bounds of ‘acceptable’ behavior.

“I’m glad to hear that…” Mark says quietly. He looks as if he is going to say something else, when his communicator beeps.

“Mark, this is Chief Anderson.”

“Ears on, Chief!” the Commander says.

“I would like to speak with you, in my office.” Anderson responds.

“I’m on my way!” Mark replies, signing off. He and Princess leave the Control Center, casting longing looks at each other.

Sighing, I can see that the connection to the Phoenix’s internal systems has been made. I begin my analysis of the scanning systems. It looks like this will take a few minutes.

Bored, I turn my monitoring device to the G-Force Ready Room.

Jason is in the room, alone. I can hear the strains of Celine Dion in the background, as he absently smashes a ping pong ball into the wall. Suddenly, the door opens, and in a flash G-Force’s second-in-command is at the music panel, changing to a heavy metal station.

“I can’t believe the crap they have on this thing!” Jason exclaims angrily, as Tiny enters the room.

Somehow, it always makes me feel better, to see Jason so flustered.

“Yeah…” mumbles Tiny, distracted. He wanders over to the fridge and tries to surreptitiously load soda cans and ice cream bars into his arms. Jason obliges by feigning an intense interest in the music player.

The Phoenix’s pilot exits the Ready Room with his payload of snacks, muttering a farewell to Jason.

As he exits, he nearly bumps into Keyop and Princess, as they walk into the room. Turning red, he rushes off toward the docking bay.

Keyop and Princess barely notice. They are discussing their band practice.

“Brrrt…. not today, Princess.” Keyop protests, rubbing his arms. “I just… doot… don’t feel like it.”

Princess knowingly looks at Keyop’s arms.

“That’s okay, Keyop.” she smiles. “Say… do your arms look bigger? They seem more… muscular.”

That’s Princess for you, always making everyone feel good. I feel a warm glow in my circuits.

Keyop’s grin nearly splits his face in half.

“What are you talking about, Prin?” Jason smirks, “You really think the Squirt looks bigger?”

“Yes…” replies Princess through gritted teeth, “He does.”

“I… I guess you’re right.” mutters Jason, cowed. It’s good to know that somebody has some control over him.

Keyop, mollified, walks over to the music player.

“Brrt… can I… doot…change station, Jason?” he asks.

“Sure…” Jason mumbles, as Keyop fiddles with the channels.

A strange look comes over Jason’s face as the room fills with the sounds of Celine Dion.

“Doot… love this song!” Keyop happily tells Princess, as he flops down on the couch to play video games. Princess smiles at him lovingly, as Jason turns back to the ping pong table.

A small beep informs me that my analysis is complete. I switch off the monitor and turn my attention to the Phoenix’s scanning systems.

Everything checks out as being within normal parameters. Except for this one reset screen. And nothing appears to be preventing me from activating a normal reset sequence.

Except… it seems too easy. Too simple. If it were really that easy, why wouldn’t I have noticed this earlier? What is it about the 7-X2-1321 setting that is forcing the need for a reset? I am reluctant to perform the procedure without knowing the potential impact of it.

My communicator activates. I can hear Mark’s voice over the line.

“Zark, any word on that reset? I’d like to go back out and finish our training maneuvers.” the Commander states. I can tell by his tone that he’s irritated, and that this is not a request.

Afraid of angering him further, I make my decision on impulse.

“I’m activating the reset sequence now, Commander.” I report, “The Phoenix should be ready to go in a couple of minutes.”

“That’s terrific news! Thanks, Zark!” Mark responds, sounding relieved. I feel pleased that I can be so helpful.

Until I remember what I just promised to do. My doubts come rushing back.

Still… there’s no indication that anything is wrong. It’s just… a slightly out of the ordinary setting. That’s all.

But I’m committed now. Before I can change my mind, I rapidly activate the reset sequence.

A small amount of feedback streams through the data connection and into my memory drivers, but it is well within the usual specifications. It appears that the reset was a success.

Sighing, I disconnect from the Phoenix’s systems. I feel drained of energy.

Checking the time, I’m not surprised. I’m long overdue for a ten second oil break. I move over to my platform, and begin the oil changing sequence. I’m too tired to even bother to put on my number 7 sweater.

I deactivate all but my most basic of functions as the oil begins to course through my circuits.

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