Coming up next on the Battle of the Planets Christmas Special: Zoltar makes plans to attack a Federation planet the day before Christmas! Only G-Force can stop him, with the aid of five young boys. Don’t miss one exciting moment of… Battle of the Planets! Stay tuned!
“Deep beneath the ocean’s surface, we at Center Neptune are on watch twenty-four hours a day.” 7-Zark-7 spoke to himself, as if performing for an unseen audience. “We cannot let down our guard for even one minute, because that minute could be the exact moment when Spectra strikes!” Zark inched across the room, moving slowly on his cumbersome feet. He had forgone his usual cape today, and as such, his relative speed suffered.
“Of course, such a busy schedule makes it difficult for me.” Zark moaned self-indulgently. “I am constantly on duty, never allowed to take a break, always sacrificing myself for the good of the Federation…”
“Wap, wap, wap!” 1-Rover-1 interrupted 7-Zark-7’s self-pitying monologue.
“Of course you’re right, 1-Rover-1.” Zark agreed brightly. “Today I have been given a rare chance for a much-needed vacation! It’s Christmas, and I have been invited to spend the holiday with my grandfather, 4-Zark-4.”
“Yes, yes, I was just getting to that!” Zark muttered with a touch of impatience. “Since I won’t be here to monitor the Federation for signs of invasion from evil alien planets, Galaxy Security is sending a temporary replacement for me. I just wish I knew who it was…”
“Susan?” Zark was clearly shocked by this news. “My replacement is… Susan?”
A familiar device dropped down from the ceiling, its two cylindrical parts giving it the appearance of periscope-style binoculars.
“Yes, Zark.” Susan answered in a breathy voice. “I’ll be in charge. So don’t you worry. You have a good time visiting with your Grandfather.”
“But Susan… you’re not here!” Zark protested. “How can you do my job when you’re not at Center Neptune?”
“No matter where I am, I have to watch over the entire universe, Zark.” Susan seemed to be slightly miffed. “I can do that as well from Pluto as I can from Center Neptune. Besides, I’ll have 1-Rover-1 to help me.”
“Well, if you’re sure…” Zark sounded doubtful.
“Chief Anderson said I was completely qualified for the job.” Susan insisted. “So you can go now, Zark.” Her tone was decidedly frosty.
“Fine… well… if you don’t need me anymore…” Zark slunk quietly out of the Ready Room, his feet progressing inch by inch. Susan and Rover didn’t speak until he was gone.
“Imagine, he thinks we can’t handle things without him!” Susan huffed. “We’ll show him, right, 1-Rover-1?”
“Wap! Wap, wap!”
“Now, let me just monitor what’s going on in outer space.” Susan hummed to herself, the binocular-like device practically turning to focus on the many screens of colored lights displaying secure information from across multiple galaxies.
“Look, there seems to be something happening on the Planet Erat!” Susan noted. “Oh, it must be their Christmas celebration! Let’s observe more closely!”
Scenes of the planet in question flashed across Susan and Rover’s monitors.
“Erat has a terrible history of war and fighting.” Susan explained to Rover. “The man behind all of this conflict was the evil General Taranto, who only wanted power and glory for himself. Fortunately, the people of Erat asked for help from the Federation. Ambassadors were sent, and the people refused to fight. Battlefields were abandoned, and General Taranto was driven off the planet, under the direction of the newly-elected President Nevyn!”
“The people of Erat were thrilled to discover the joys of peace.” Susan continued after a pause. “They embraced the Federation and the people of Earth as friends, and even took on many Earth customs to show their gratitude. But the Earth custom the people of Erat most enjoy is the celebration of Christmas. This alien planet has embraced our holiday, using it to honor the sentiments of peace, love and giving. Why even now they are preparing for the Snow Festival to celebrate the holiday, where all children will be given gifts by Santa’s Elves and the Snow Queen.”
Inside the President’s mansion, President Nevyn leaned back against his chair, smoking a cigar, relaxing for a moment as Vice-President Dander prepared to make his report.
“So how are the preparations for the Snow Festival going, Dander?” Nevyn asked. “Have we ordered enough presents for the children? I would hate to see the little ones disappointed.”
“I will personally ensure that doesn’t happen.” Dander replied. “I understand how important this is to you, and to the good people of Erat.”
“I appreciate your hard work.” the President smiled, taking the cigar out of his mouth. “We suffered for so long under that tyrant, General Taranto, that the people truly deserve a peaceful holiday.”
“I agree, Sir.”
The cry came from outside the building. Dander was startled as he and Nevyn approached the large picture window in the office, to better see what was going on. A strange purple ship, piloted by a man wearing a green uniform, was hovering outside.
“Protect the President!” the guards cried, but before they could do anything, a small jet shot off the side of the purple ship and swooped overhead, knocking them to the ground. The jet passed by the window of the President’s office, shattering the glass and sending Nevyn and Dander diving for cover. The purple ship moved closer, hovering right in front of the broken window. Even as Nevyn and Dander dusted themselves off, a door on the side of the ship opened, revealing the ominous form of General Taranto.
“President Nevyn and Vice President Dander, you don’t look so smug now!” the General smirked.
“But…” Nevyn protested, but Taranto cut him off.
“I am the true ruler of Erat!” Taranto declared. “These people are too stupid to know what’s good for them! Electing a leader… pah! You have twenty-four hours to hand over control of your planet to me, or I will be forced to take military action against you!”
As he spoke, a strange man, dressed in purple, walked up behind the General, almost as if he, and not Taranto, were the one truly in control.
“Whether or not your people survive long enough to celebrate this disgusting… Christmas… is up to you, Nevyn! I await your answer. Remember, you only have twenty-four hours!”
With that, the door closed and the ship sped away, moving quickly up into the atmosphere and then to outer space.
“Mr. President, this is a terrible turn of events!” Dander gasped. “General Taranto…”
“We have even worse problems than that.” Nevyn replied, unable to tear his eyes away from the spot in the sky where the strange ship had vanished. “Did you recognize that strange man behind the General? That was Zoltar, leader of the Planet Spectra. The Spectrans are violent people, prone to military action. This was no empty threat. Taranto has allied himself with Zoltar.”
“We cannot defend ourselves against Spectra!” Dander cried.
“We have to do something.” Nevyn admitted. “Erat cannot afford to have that vicious dictator in control once again. Yet we no longer have a military force…”
“We don’t have a military force… but the Federation does!” Dander exclaimed.
“You’re right…” Nevyn turned away from the window, stroking his chin. “We could ask the Federation for help.”
“They have aided us so much already…”
“I hope they will aid us once more.” the President said, looking up in hope.
“Should we evacuate the citizens, Mr. President? Get them to the bomb-proof shelters?”
“Not yet… we don’t want to cause a panic.”
“You doubt me?”
“No, of course not. You’re right. It would ruin Christmas for everyone.”
“We won’t run away!” the President declared.
“Then we’re counting on the Federation?”
“We’re counting on G-Force!”
Christmas Disco, the latest Dirty Name 5 hit, blasted through the G-Force Ready Room, with Princess and Keyop playing along to the beat. Mark and Jason bounced a ping pong ball between them with their habitual precision, yet in a somehow more festive manner than usual. Tiny was eating Spaceburgers in his lounge chair, stretched out in the shadow of an enormous Christmas tree, which was so large that it almost entirely blocked the viewscreen through with 7-Zark-7 communicated with the G-Force Team.
“You did a terrific job decorating the Ready Room, Princess.” Mark noted casually as he flexed his knees, bending down and hitting the ping pong ball.
“Looks… great!” Keyop agreed in his usual burble.
“I really like the tree.” Tiny added. “It smells… pine-y! It’s giving me an appetite!”
“It could smell like the dump and you’d still have an appetite.” Jason remarked slyly.
“Just for that, I’m not sharing any of my Spaceburgers with you, Jason!” Tiny retorted, but it was clear that he had taken his friend’s comment in the humorous manner in which it had been intended.
“Actually, I still have one more decoration to put up, Mark.” Princess did her best to ignore the not-so-witty repartee. “I haven’t yet decided where to put the mistletoe.”
“Mistletoe?” Mark’s face turned slightly red, and he appeared to be momentarily choking on the word. The ping pong ball came toward him and the Commander made a wild swing, sending the white sphere flying into Tiny’s Spaceburger, knocking it out of his hand.
“Aw man, that’s the second time today!” Tiny groused.
Just then, something on the control panels chimed, and the Team stopped what they were doing, to pay attention to an incoming transmission.
“Hello, Team.” Susan’s breathy voice came from the obscured monitor behind the Christmas tree. “I wanted to let you know that Chief Anderson would like to see you all right away.”
“What’s up, Susan?” Mark asked, as the Team lined up in front of the tree.
“The Planet Erat is in great need of assistance.” Susan informed the Commander. “They require the presence of G-Force immediately!”
“We’re on our way!” Princess replied. As one, the Team turned, just in time for the floor to drop out from beneath them. Their hair went flying as they sped away to their briefing.
“As you know, Erat is in the process of joining the Federation, but we could lose a valuable ally if General Taranto takes over control of the planet once more, especially if he is backed by Zoltar.” Chief Anderson explained, his eyes on the uniformed G-Force Team standing in front of him. “The democratically-elected President has requested your help in holding off any kind of invasion, particularly one aided by Spectra.”
The Commander appeared grim, but determined.
“The people of Erat are celebrating Christmas, with their Snow Festival.” Anderson continued. “You are all to mingle with the crowds, looking for any suspicious activity. I understand that you’re giving up your own Christmas celebrations to help, but the people of Erat are counting on you!”
“Our duty comes first, Chief.” Mark replied for all of them.
“Then launch the Phoenix for the Planet Erat!”
No sooner had the order been given than the Phoenix was in the air.
“G-Force is traveling through space, using Time Warp.” Susan said to herself, watching the Team’s progress on Zark’s monitors. “They’re traveling great distances in the blink of an eye! Isn’t this exciting, 1-Rover-1?”
“Not too much longer, 1-Rover-1. They’re arriving on Erat now.” Susan replied. “Shortly, the Team will de-transmute and separate to explore Okra, the capital city, undercover. Let’s watch them on Zark’s monitors! Look, there’s Keyop!”
In the streets of Okra, Keyop wandered aimlessly, an expression of disappointment on his face.
“Why others… go to Snow Festival… not me?” Keyop burbled. “No one here… in city…” But even as he uttered these words, he heard the sound of footsteps. He peeked around a corner, only to see a young boy in green overalls holding a purse away from a small girl.
“Give my back my purse!” the girl cried.
“Just playing with it!” the boy grinned, keeping it just out of her reach as she struggled helplessly. “Don’t you know how to have fun?” A number of other boys showed up, laughing at the girl. Keyop’s blood boiled.
“Here it is!” sad a taller boy, snatching it from the first boy, but still holding it up where the girl could not reach it.
“Please give it back to me!” The girl spoke prettily, but her hands were placed indignantly on her hips. Keyop could see that her patience was fast running out. The boy didn’t appear to hear the girl’s plea as he tossed the purse back to his comrade. It landed on the boy’s head.
“Please! I need my purse!” the girl seemed to be on the verge of tears. The boy in the green overalls bent down, teasing the girl by offering the purse and pulling it just out of her reach. But it wasn’t the girl who snatched it off of his head.
It was Keyop.
“Oh! Are you helping me?” the girl asked Keyop with a smile. But the boy in green overalls rudely pushed her out of the way.
“No, it’s mine! Give it back!” the boy lied while Keyop scowled.
“No… Christmas spirit!” Keyop lectured, lightly smacking the boy with the purse before handing it to its rightful owner.
“Hey, what did you do that for?” the boy asked, holding his nose while the girl ducked behind Keyop, knowing a protector when she saw one.
“Why’d you have to ruin our fun?” the boy added, his hands now placed indignantly on his hips.
“Just leave us alone!” the other boys cried in unison.
“Not nice… to take things…” Keyop was unfazed, the girl peeping out from behind him.
“Who do you think you are?” the boy in the green overalls shouted. “Come on, guys!” The boys approached menacingly in a group, but Keyop stood his ground. In fact, he took a step closer, to show them that he wasn’t afraid. Next to Spectran soldiers, these little bullies were nothing.
“Aren’t you going to run?” the boy in the green overalls asked. “Don’t tell me you’re going to fight us! Five against one!” He was screaming now, and pointing at Keyop’s face.
“No fighting!” Keyop yelled back, causing his attacker to cower in fear. He was so intent on dealing with these unruly boys that he didn’t notice the girl running away.
But the boy in the green overalls wasn’t down for long. He rushed at Keyop, who grabbed him and tossed him aside. The other boys were suitably impressed… but only for a moment.
“Get him, guys!” one of the other boys shouted, and then they were all coming at Keyop. One dove for his legs, but Keyop simply jumped above him. Another boy jumped at him, but Keyop simply pushed his opponent up, over his head, and out of harm’s way. He landed next to his friend on the alley floor.
“I’m going to get you!” The last boy ran toward Keyop, but his kick was so poorly executed that it didn’t even touch Keyop, and the boy simply sat down and cried.
“See? Fighting… no good!” Keyop told them smugly.
“No fighting? You sound like my Grandma!” the boy in the green overalls began laughing, and soon his friends were laughing too.
“Aw, maybe he’s right.” one of the other boys admitted. “We were never any good at fighting anyhow.”
“I wish we’d never taken that girl’s purse.” the smallest boy agreed.
“Not nice… to take things…” Keyop agreed, glad to see that his message was getting through.
“Just so you know, we were going to give it back!” the boy in the green overalls insisted. “We do this all the time, and it’s just for fun! Why did you have to ruin our fun?”
“You know, the kid’s got a point, Jack.” the smallest boy said.
“You’re right, Chester!” agreed another boy.
“Hurt… girl’s feelings…” Keyop began, but he couldn’t finish, as Jack stuck his hand over his mouth.
“Stop it already!” Jack cried. “You really are like my Grandma! Making me feel guilty… okay, I’m sorry. We were just having some fun. But maybe there are better ways to have fun.”
“I’m sorry we did that too.”
“We shouldn’t have taken her purse.”
Keyop smiled. He was happy to know that he had gotten through to these boys.
“See…? Not so… hard…” Keyop grinned, shaking Jack’s hand. “I’m… Keyop!”
“Hey, Jack, the Snow Festival is about to start!” Chester announced. “I don’t want to be late!”
“Oh yeah!” Jack suddenly recalled. “I want to get my present!”
“Presents?” Keyop asked.
“The Snow Queen and Santa’s elves give presents to all of the kids!” Jack informed him. “Everybody will get one! Why don’t you come with us, Keyop?”
“Yeah!” all of the boys cheered.
Half of the group ran off.
“Come on, Keyop!” Chester urged.
“Can’t… mission…” Keyop burbled, before suddenly realizing he might have said too much. “Uh… okay…” He found himself unceremoniously dragged off by the remaining two boys.
At the Snow Festival, jets were streaming through the air, music was playing, and everyone was in a holiday mood.
“Merry Christmas to all people of Erat!” An announcer’s voice passed through the crowd, which included the other members of G-Force. “We welcome you here to our Snow Festival! All children please come forward to receive your present from the Snow Queen!”
The children rushed forward, eager to receive their gifts. As they approached the Snow Queen, the announcer continued speaking.
“Vice-President Dander and a couple of Santa’s elves are assisting the Snow Queen in this special duty. Santa would be here himself, but as you know, tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and he is preparing for his journey. He is in his workshop, buried in the snow beneath the ceremonial ice statues of the Festival!”
“I guess that makes sense, since there’s no North Pole on Erat.” Princess giggled softly. “At least Santa’s in the snow!”
“And remember, you must wait until midnight before opening your gifts! That’s the Snow Queen’s rule!” the announcer added, as children continued to clamor for presents. “Rewards only come to those with self-restraint!”
But that self-restraint came at a price. Only a few hours later, at sunset, Jack and his friends were standing around an old warehouse, glum expressions on their faces.
“I can’t believe that we have to hang around until midnight before opening our presents!” Jack complained. “I’ve been waiting for this all year!”
“I didn’t even have a chance to peek!” another boy sighed. “My Mom took mine from me as soon as I got home.”
“You tried, Ted.” a third boy attempted to console his friend.
“I can’t wait until midnight!” Chester whimpered.
“And it’s all Santa’s fault…” Jack grumbled.
“Santa’s fault?” Ted was surprised.
“Yeah! He wasn’t there to hand out the presents, and let the Snow Queen make all the rules!” Jack explained his train of thought.
“Oh yeah…!” the other boys cried out.
“Yeah, Santa’s underneath the statues!” one boy shouted, throwing his arm into the air.
“Let’s go see him!” the other boys cried together.
“Maybe he’ll let us open presents now!” Chester concurred.
“Put on cloaks; it’s cold!” Jack reminded the others.
“Yeah!” the boys agreed happily.
The large clock tower in the center of Okra showed 9:30 pm. The streets were dark, and no one moved. Yet a shadow appeared for a brief moment, before blending back into he darkness again.
“At 9:30 pm, you’d think there would be some activity on the streets.” Mark thought to himself. “Why is it so quiet?”
He moved to the next street, his white Birdstyle flashing as he passed by the dark buildings. But an unexpected noise from inside one of the homes made him pause. Curiously, the Commander opened the door… only to find an Erat citizen who had collapsed to the ground!
“What’s wrong?” Mark cried, then he gasped as he beheld the rest of the scene. The Commander was standing in a private home. A woman and a girl had collapsed at the kitchen table, and a boy was on the floor, near the sink. A strange, purplish gas filled the room.
“Sleeping gas!” Mark realized. The Commander picked up an open box from the kitchen table. It had a strange device in it, which seemed to be emitting the gas, although it was weakening now.
“This is one of the Snow Queen’s presents!” Mark cried, sniffing at the box. “Fortunately my cerebonics were designed to filter out this kind of thing…” He raised his communicator to his mouth.
“Everyone come in!”
“Mark, those presents contain some kind of sleeping gas!” Jason replied. He too had discovered a slumbering family. “The family I found opened their gifts early, before midnight, but others…”
“At midnight, everyone is supposed to be asleep!” Mark realized. “Spectra is going to attack at midnight!”