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Hostilities by Grumpy Ghost Owl
Hostilities by Grumpy Ghost Owl
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Story Notes:
G-Force acquires a new enemy: the space pirate, Captain Doom.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Zark has designed a new star ship, the XF-97, and of all the pilots in the Federation, Mark has been chosen to test fly it at a big air show. Unbenknownst to G-Force, however, a new enemy from a distant planet is planning to make his presence felt on Earth.
.

DISCLAIMER
This is an original work of fan fiction. Gatchaman and Battle of the Planets are the property of Tatsunoko and Sandy Frank Productions. No profit, gain, hire or reward is received by the author for this work.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Thanks to Catherine Rees-Lay for beta reading. Thanks to Sharon Alvarado for technical advice on the properties of metals and the Modified Moh's Scale.




Battle of the Planets: 2163
HOSTILITIES




"Earth?" Ven Arish didn't try to conceal his surprise. "My boy, is this wise?" Nested in a large, well upholstered armchair, the Provincial Governor took a deep draught of wine from his silver goblet. "Earth has successfully repelled all of Zoltar's invasion attempts to date. Even with your new weapon, dare you hope to overcome G-Force?"

"Earth is not as impregnable a fortress as it looks, Arish," Captain Doom declared from the other chair in the Governor's private study. "The ISO is weak and Galaxy Security in particular has overreached itself. Their new Chief of Staff is so busy fretting after G-Force, he lets gaping holes in Earth's defences go unstopped."

"The Assembly of Peers will take a great deal of convincing," Arish said.

"Whilst I would prefer to have their support, the Assembly has no power of veto over me," Doom said. "I am, after all, a privateer."

"Ishmael," Arish used the name by which Urgos' most feared pirate was known to such friends as he had, "I fear your motivation for this venture is personal."

"Of course it is," Doom said. His face behind the death's head mask was unreadable, but there was strain in his voice. "Earth is the planet where I was born. Far better that it should fall to me than to Zoltar. Urgos will gain from it -- mark my words, Arish, this will be Urgos' greatest achievement -- but Earth will also benefit. I won't enslave her people! I won't strip her of all her resources and leave her a ruined husk of a world! Earth will become a client of Urgos and a new era will begin. The success of this plan will mean the best possible outcome for both planets. You must believe me. I would never betray Urgos. Your crew took me in after Galaxy Security gave me up for dead. My family is here. Earth is where I was born but Urgos is where I was re-born."

"The Federation will not share your sentiment," Arish predicted.

"I do not plan on consulting the Federation."

"You will meet with resistance," Arish said. "Be certain that your desire for vengeance does not cloud your reasoning."

"Any vengeance I take will be my business. My judgement is clear. I will make a decisive first strike on Earth while Zoltar regroups his forces after his next attack. Neither Earth nor Spectra will be expecting us to move. I will attack quickly and present my terms before Zoltar can take advantage of the situation. Spectra can still have a share of Earth's resources but Zoltar will have to deal with me to get what he wants."

"You run a terrible risk, my boy," Arish warned. "Lord Zoltar is a formidable enemy."

"I know it," Doom said. "The greatest prize always carries the greatest risk. You taught me that when I was a deck hand."

"And now you would be the conquerer of Earth," Arish sighed. "Had I known of your ambition when I found you, I might have feared you. It was fortunate for Urgos that I took you on all those years ago. You have become an asset to us."

"But you fear that I overstep my bounds," Doom concluded.

"I do," Arish said.

"I am determined to succeed, Arish," Doom said. "I will go ahead with or without your support in the Assembly."

"You have it," Arish said. "I will address the Peers." The Governor drained his cup and stood up. "Come, now. Enough of business. The women will be wondering where we are and I want to hear all about this young man my god-daughter is so fond of. Have Jahno's parents said anything, yet?"

"Jahno's mother has been speaking with Tierna," Doom said. "I have yet to hear from them, formally. Elenie is so young, Arish!"

"She is fifteen!" Arish said. "That's old enough for a betrothal. It isn't as though they'll be handfast tomorrow. You can set the length of the engagement up to nine years if you want. What are you worried about?"

"That the heart of a young girl can be fickle," Doom sighed. "What if she changes her mind and then blames me for making her keep to the handfasting vows?"

"Now you are talking like an Earthling," Arish said. "Urgosian girls aren't like that, and Elenie takes after her mother."

"How fortunate," Doom said wryly, "that she doesn't take after me."



"I don't like this, Aida," David Anderson said, addressing the tele-comm.

"Neither do I, David," Space Admiral Aida Nagarajan's image said from the screen. "The XF-97 Scout was supposed to roll out of the hangar four weeks ago, and before you start telling me that my engineers didn't work to schedule, I remind you that it was your designer that kept sending alterations to the spec!"

"I know," Anderson sighed. "I'm aware that the delay is Galaxy Security's responsibility, and I'm prepared to take the flack for pulling the XF-97 from the air show."

"Oh, no you don't," Nagarajan said. "Showcasing the XF-97 is not negotiable. In addition to several influential members of the Federal Appropriations Committee, the Vice President's going to be there. I don't want any of them on my case and neither do you. The Scout flies, and your boy flies it! You keep telling me he's the best test pilot since his father, and this is important, David -- IM-POR-TANT -- with capitals. You're not worming your way out of this." Nagarajan's index finger stabbed at a control and the image vanished.



"That'd better be the final modification," Mark said as he worked his way through his downwind checks for what seemed like the hundredth time. There were three thuds as the undercarriage locked into place and three green lights lit up on the instrument panel. "Down and locked. Three greens. The human brain can only handle so much, Zark."

"Sorry, Commander," the robot said, managing to sound contrite. "I just keep coming up with newer and better ideas for this new starship! And what better time to implement them than while the machine is still in the hangar? Besides, these last seven have only been software changes."

"But in the last six hours? Zark, buddy, give me a chance to catch up, here!"

"The changes are only minor," Zark insisted. "The simulator logs indicate that you're doing extremely well," he added in an attempt at providing some of the positive reinforcement he'd heard humans liked.

"Right," Mark drawled. "X-Ray Foxtrot Niner Seven, downwind for a full stop."

"X-Ray Foxtrot Niner Seven," Zark replied. "You're a little wide, you know."

"Am not," Mark said.

"I assure you, my sensors indicate --"

"Who's flying this thing, you or me?"

"You are, Commander."

"Then pipe down and let me fly it."

"Of course. Sorry. You're within tolerances, of course, it's just that practice makes perfect."

Mark eased back on his fuel flow and listened to the turbine winding down. "You see, Zark?" he couldn't resist saying. "She wants to stay in the air, that's why I need the extra distance on base let-down."

"You could compensate with flaps," Zark pointed out.

"Zark..."

"Sorry, Commander."

Mark activated the flaps and pushed the nose down as both lift and drag increased. He was a little late with them, he knew, but his ego had a point to make. He turned on to final approach. "X-Ray Foxtrot Niner Seven, permission to land?"

"X-Ray Foxtrot Niner Seven, you are clear to land," Zark said. "You're a little high."

"Cool it, Zark." Mark dropped the flaps to full extension, eased the nose down and aimed along the tarmac. The wheels hit with an appreciable jolt and a screech of rubber. Mark taxied to a full stop and ran through his checks before shutting the engine down.

The simulation terminated. The canopy went blue and a series of clunking noises preceded it being slid back. Mark pushed himself up to perch on the back of his seat to look out over the simulator chamber. Anderson was standing at the base of the gantry below where the port wing would have been on the real XF-97 Scout. "How did it go?" Anderson called.

"Zark's a back seat driver," Mark grumbled.

"Apart from that?"

Mark pulled his helmet from his head and ruffled out his dark, unruly mop of hair. "It's a nice machine. Just so long as this is the last software upgrade."

"I noticed you were a little high on approach," Anderson remarked as Mark clambered out of the simulator cockpit.

"I was having a debate with my unofficial co-pilot," Mark said.

"I see." Anderson stepped away from the gantry and Mark leapt from the ladder to land lightly next to his mentor. "I'll order him not to bother you on any of the real flights," Anderson said.

"He means well, I guess," Mark sighed.

"Mark, I can't stress how important it is that you impress the members of the Appropriations Committee with this new ship," Anderson said. "The Patrol's in need of a fleet upgrade and the ISO Council feels that we're far safer going with something we've developed and built ourselves rather than taking the risk with something off the shelf. We can't prove that Spectra's infiltrated several of the biggest defence contractors, but Counter Intelligence have their doubts about the integrity of some of the major players."

"And doubts aren't enough to act on," Mark concluded.

"Not yet," Anderson said.

"So, when does the real XF-97 roll off the hangar floor?" Mark asked.

"Tomorrow morning," Anderson said. "I'm afraid your first flight's going to be the deadhead from Seahorse Base, then you'll be in the full glare of the public eye."

"I can handle it," Mark said, "just as long as there are no more software upgrades."

"I'll make certain of it," Anderson promised.



"Will I ever play the violin again, doctor?" Princess asked, giving Dr Robert Halloran a wide eyed look from where she lay prone on the examination table in the Cerebonic Lab.

"Sure, if you take lessons," Bob Halloran parried with a smile. "Just don't take them anywhere near me," he added. "Stick to the guitar, okay?"

Princess sat up, a little too quickly as it turned out. "Whoa," she said as the room seemed to spin around her.

"Hey, take it easy," Halloran cautioned belatedly. He held out a hand to steady her. An affable neurosurgeon and a collaborator of Chief Anderson's from college days, Bob Halloran had been involved with G-Force from the project's inception. He and his wife Kate, who served as Galaxy Security's Chief Medical Officer, treated all five young fighters as though they were part of their own brood of children. "Your cerebonic recalibration's looking good, but I still want you to rest for four hours, then you're on restricted activity. You'll be back to full fitness by tomorrow evening, and don't go overdoing it."

"Okay, Dr Bob," Princess said. She accepted the glass of water Halloran offered her. "Is it all right if I chill out in the ready room?"

"As long as you aren't trying to dance a hole in the floor, young lady," Halloran said. "And eat something, or Kate'll have my hide."

"I'll be good," Princess said, grinning. "I wouldn't want to get you in trouble with Dr Kate."

"Glad to hear it. Now take your supplement," he handed her a large white capsule, "and go relax for a while."

"Big ten," Princess agreed. She swallowed the capsule, finished the water and got down off the examination table. There was no dizziness accompanying the movement and she smiled. She left the glass on the countertop and walked at a leisurely pace to the shuttle bay where she caught a transport to take her from Science Center to Center Neptune on the other side of the coral reef.

Jason was in the G-Force Ready Room, reading intelligence bulletins. "How're you doing?" he asked without looking up.

"I'm fine," Princess said. She selected her acoustic guitar from its rack and settled into a chair with it. She checked the tuning, then began picking out a few simple lines of melody.

"My last recalibration, I had a headache for three days," Jason recalled.

"I'm not you," Princess said without rancour.

"It affects us all in different ways," Jason agreed. "Shouldn't you be eating something? You know how recalibration burns up our energy stores. You want me to send down for a protein shake?"

"I'll grab something later. I'm on down time for four hours and then I'm on restricted duty until tomorrow," Princess said. She let her right hand rest in the curve of the guitar. "Jase, I'm fine, okay?"

"Okay." Jason turned his attention back to his reading material.

"We're not scheduled for duty until tomorrow, anyway," Princess said. "All we're doing is our usual fly-past, then we get to watch Mark fly that new starship of Zark's."

"I wish he'd stop referring to it as a 'starship,'" Jason grumbled. "It's an interceptor."

"It's capable of short-range time warp," Princess said. "That qualifies it as a starship, even if it doesn't look the part."

"I guess."

"You're just jealous."

"Of Zark? Hardly."

"No, silly, you're jealous of Mark because he got picked to fly the XF-97 Scout."

"Instead of me?" Jason laughed. "I'm not a fighter pilot, remember? You're starting to sound like Zark. You sure that recalibration went okay?"

"Very funny, Jason." Princess set her guitar to one side, got up and made her way to the refrigerator. She opened it and selected a bottle of Gatorade. "I'll be good." She flourished the bottle as she closed the refrigerator door with her other hand. "See? Fluids and electrolytes."

"Works for me," Jason said absently. "You want these when I'm done with them?" He waved a piece of paper.

"Sure." Princess flopped into the chair next to the one Jason was occupying. "Pass me over the ones you've read already."



"I guess we're as ready as we'll ever be," Mark said. He cast a glance out over the crowded airfield. A mix of commercial and military air and space craft were parked on the hard stand and the field was swarming with people eager to see the latest the industry had to offer. He had flown the XF-97 Scout in with a fighter escort at first light, and she was now waiting in her hangar downstairs, under guard. Zark had complied with Anderson's orders to cease and desist his constant upgrading of the Scout's operating software and was producing an ever lengthening list of items for the next build.

"It's all up to you, now, Mark," Anderson said.

"I won't let you down, Chief," Mark said. He grinned and ran for the stairs.

"If only the same could be said for the bean counters," Anderson muttered under his breath. He hurried away to the corporate observation lounge where Admiral Nagarajan was riding shotgun on the politicians.

The air show sponsors, Nebula Aerospace, had provided plush surroundings and top of the range catering in the corporate lounge. Aida Nagarajan didn't appear to be indulging in the champagne or the canapes, however. "David, there you are!" she beckoned Anderson over to her side. "The Vice President seems to be on board, thank heavens, and Councillor Severin's making favourable noises, but Councillor Xiao keeps going on about 'fiscal responsibility' and Councillor Veren's just vaccillating."

"Vaccillating is what Veren does best," Anderson said. "Relax, Aida. Have a drink or something. Adam Veren always follows Danny Xiao's lead and Xiao invariably goes with the main political chance. Get Julia D'Castro enthused and you're pretty much there."

"Politics!" Nagarajan sighed. "I hate politics!"

"Don't we all?" Anderson confided. "Chin up. Smile. That's it."

Nagarajan gave her colleague a look of distaste. "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, is that it?" she asked.

"I'd prefer a fly swat," Anderson told her, made out of a length of two by four, with a nail in it, for these flies... "but you know as well as I do that we have to play the game."

Over by the enormous window, Julia D'Castro, Vice President of the Intergalactic Federation of Peaceful Planets, stood drawing patterns with one finger in the condensation on the outside of her lemonade glass. She wasn't paying much attention to Councillor Ross-Darkan of Vega, but kept staring out at the tarmac.

"Forgive me for interrupting," Anderson said, approaching them, "but the XF-97's about to taxi out. Madame Vice President, Councillor, I'm sure you'll want to see the demonstration."

"And you'd like to gloat," D'Castro quipped, smiling.

"I'd never do that, Madame Vice President," Anderson said.

"I would, in your place," D'Castro said. "If my son had beaten out every other pilot in the ISO to fly this bird, I'd be broadcasting it from the rooftops... and possibly playing it for political points, too," she added wryly.

"From what I hear, Flight Lieutenant D'Castro's a fine pilot," Anderson said. "Admiral Nagarajan tells me he was commended last month."

"Yes." The Vice Presidential smile was shadowed by motherly concern. "You were right about Spectra. I just hope your projections about the duration of this war were overstated."

"As do I." Anderson dared to offer a sympathetic smile. "I honestly wish I could be wrong about these things more often."

"No." D'Castro had recovered her politician's poise. "No, I think we'll keep you as you are, David. Is that the Scout I see down there?"

Anderson's reply died on his lips as his palm unit sounded, heralding an incoming priority call from Nerve Center. "Excuse me." He moved away and answered the call on the tiny hand held computer unit. "Anderson."

"I'm sorry to bother you with what's surely a trivial matter, Chief Anderson," 7-Zark-7's synthesised voice said, "but you approved the procedure last month, that I should notify you of all unidentified and unscheduled incoming space traffic."

"Go ahead."

"My sensors have detected what appears to be an old fashioned biplane on its way inbound for Earth, currently transecting the orbital plane of Planet Neptune. Susan at the Early Warning Station on Planet Pluto has voiced some concerns, however I feel certain that with the big air show on today --"

"What kind of concerns?" Anderson interrupted.

"The ship's course puts its point of origin as Planet Urgos --"

"That qualifies as a concern," Anderson said, and closed the channel. He dialled another code from memory. "Princess, are the others with you?" He listened for the reply. "I want the four of you up here, right away."



The XF-97 Scout flew just like the XF-97 Scout simulator, with the added thrill of reality. Mark put the Scout through a performance take-off and had the wheels up and locked before was fifty feet above the runway. As he trimmed the Scout for climb, he could see people waving and cheering below. He resisted the urge to wave back and focussed instead on his flying. Nice as it was, public adulation wasn't important. What mattered was what the politicians saw and thought. He kept the circuit fast and tight, then lined up for his first fly-past.



Flanked by her team-mates, Princess stood on the balcony outside the observation lounge.

"Chief... worry wart," Keyop said, leaning on the safety railing and gazing out over the airfield.

"I wouldn't have his job for all the spaceburgers in the galaxy!" Tiny declared. "Speaking of which, did anyone think to grab any of those appetisers from the buffet in the observation lounge?"

"You can eat, later," Jason said, his eyes fixed on the XF-97 Scout, which was executing an aileron roll.

"Nice flying," Princess murmured.

"Expect anything less?" Jason asked her.

"Course not," Princess said. She blinked, slowly, as though tired.

"You want me to go get you some water?" Jason asked softly.

"I'm fine," she said. "Recalibrations don't bother me."

"If you say so," Jason said.



"Commander," Zark's voice sounded over Mark's communicator, "there's an unidentified aircraft entering the restricted zone. I'm sure it's nothing to worry about, but Chief Anderson seems to think there could be a problem. You'll be pleased to know that he's briefed the rest of the G-Force team and that they're standing by to provide backup if you need it. Climb to one thousand five hundred feet and turn onto vector two three zero to intercept. Observe only. Do not engage unless authorised."

"Big ten, Zark," Mark replied. "Heading two three zero and climbing to one thousand five hundred."



Aida Nagarajan hurried to David Anderson's side. "What's going on?" she whispered.

"We have a visitor," Anderson told her. "The Scout's on an intercept course to take a look."

"Is that wise?" Nagarajan asked.

"Zark's analysis suggests that it's only one small aircraft, and the Scout's already in the air," Anderson reasoned. "It'd take too long to get anyone else up there, and I don't want to spark any unnecessary incidents."



The man who styled himself Captain Doom chuckled. Tierna hadn't liked this plan, and neither had Demmish, but Doom had overridden the objections of both his formidable wife and his respected First Mate. It had to be showy, he'd insisted. It had to be flashy. It had to have flair. Doom had built a reputation as much out of showmanship as he had from tactics and firepower. A frightened enemy was already at a disadvantage long before the first shot was fired and Doom played the fear factor for all it was worth. Fear kept profits up and losses down. A quick surrender saved casualties on both sides and part of Doom's reputation was for granting mercy when his victims complied with his demands. It was good for business.

Tierna had outdone herself with this ship. She had researched Earth history and come up with the biplane concept. From there, since she had no wish to become a widow (a line she had repeated several times while berating her husband for his recklessness in undertaking this 'insane enterprise' as she put it) she had built in layer upon layer of safety devices. Doom stood atop the craft, the rush of wind barely constituting a stiff breeze thanks to his personal force field, boots locked in position with powerful electromagnets. He adjusted the ship's course with subtle movements of his fingers in the delicately calibrated control gloves, reading the head-up display inside the death's-head mask.

This was going to be good.

Doom could imagine the initial reaction from the public attending the air show: they'd think it was some kind of stunt and they'd train their cameras on him in anticipation of some new spectacle. Some of them might recognise him and that might start a panic. Those in authority would react with disbelief and suspicion. Someone there would definitely recognise him. There would be a brief, frantic flurry of speculative analysis. Security Chief Anderson would probably not order him shot down. Doom's arrival would constitute a puzzle, and David Anderson could never resist a puzzle. No, Chief Anderson -- as long as his will prevailed among his ISO colleagues (and by all accounts, this would most likely be the case) -- would order the intruder intercepted and brought in, rather than destroyed at the outset, and this would be his undoing. All that credibility you've worked so hard to build up since the last time I saw you, Davey boy... it's going to suffer a setback today! You wrote me off and left me for dead. Now we'll have a reckoning, and you'll finally have to admit that I'm the better one.

Ahead of him, a small interceptor aircraft was closing. Let the entertainment begin!

Doom readied himself. The optical interface in his mask zoomed in on his opponent, revealing a human pilot in the cockpit. At least they hadn't insulted him by sending a robot pilot or a remotely controlled drone. He wouldn't kill this one, he mused, smiling to himself behind the mask. He'd teach him a lesson and let him live to tell the tale of Captain Doom and his invincible biplane. Doom flexed the fingers of his left hand and in response, the weapon ports opened to release Tierna's new weapon. Urgosium alloy was unique, and the Earthlings were about to find out just how innovative Urgosian engineering could be. Long, articulated metal whips snaked out of the wing ports.

The pilot of the interceptor was on a collision course with Doom's biplane, flying straight and level like a student in a flight test. Doom grinned. So, it was to be a game of chicken! I make the rules in this game, my friend. The biplane's computer predicted a collision in less than two seconds. It would probably be survivable if the ship's force fields were activated and set to maximum intensity with forward augmentation.

But it wouldn't have to come to that. Doom took a breath and activated the whips as he increased pitch and thrust on the biplane.

The biplane leapt like a steeplechaser and silky metal hissed out and down. The whips sheared through the wings on the interceptor, which fell like a stone toward the ocean. Doom looked back over one shoulder and laughed. Too easy.

A parachute blossomed, flower-like, and slowly settled onto the water. And no doubt the story will get better with each telling, Doom predicted. It was a pity, he decided, that he couldn't see the expressions on the faces of the ISO Chiefs of Staff, right now. That'll teach you to leave loose ends lying around. Doom grimaced. So much for the sideshow. Now for the main event! He turned on to a heading that would take him directly over the air field, and prepared to attack.



Panic, Anderson realised with dismay, would kill people today. His view was limited to the small screen in his palm unit, adding another stone to the edifice of his indignation. On it, he could see the crowd surging as instinct took over and the people became a mob of terrified, unthinking creatures, fleeing for their lives. One of the officers from the Vice President's detail was currently standing on a chair, fiddling with the inoperative tele-comm screen in the bomb shelter. His efforts didn't appear to be producing any results, thus far.

The people outside had good reason to run. Captain Doom was casually destroying the aircraft on the field with his outlandish whip weapons. Flames boiled up from ruptured fuel tanks, tainted with black, oily smoke. Smouldering debris littered the tarmac. Beside him, glaring at the shifting images on her own palm unit, Aida Nagarajan stifled a low growl of distress and anger.

"This is a disaster," Nagarajan said.

"G-Force should be airborne within a couple of minutes," Anderson said.

"Look at him," Nagarajan said. "He's destroying every aircraft on the field. Those whip weapons are almost surgical."

Julia D'Castro approached. The civilian occupants of the VIP lounge huddled in small, frightened knots, kept away from the ISO chiefs and the Vice President by a polite but uncompromising perimeter of security officers, Anderson's own personal detail among them. "What can you tell me?" D'Castro asked, directing her question to Anderson.

"That we're being toyed with," Anderson growled. "He could have taken out the fuel stores by now. The control tower's still standing. He's laughing at us. He's playing some kind of game!"



Princess ran, blood pounding in her ears. He just sat there! He just sat there and let that alien take him down! Mark! What were you thinking? The G-Force command ship Phoenix loomed above her, blue and red livery gleaming in the low light of the hangar. Princess leapt onto the port wing pod, bounded along the wing and jumped for the dorsal dome. Jason was standing next to it, one hand outstretched. "The others are aboard. Come on!"

They were obliged to wait for the lift to return before stepping onto it and descending into the Phoenix. The command ship began to move almost before the lift had settled, and rolled out into a war zone.

"Get us airborne, Tiny," Jason said, his voice tight. "He's headed this way."

"I see him," Tiny Harper responded, his hands darting across the control panel. "Hold on." He put the Phoenix into a vertical climb as Captain Doom's biplane closed in.

Princess fought against the g-forces of the climb as she worked her console, garnering tactical information from Zark's data feed. "Has anyone heard if Mark's okay?" she asked.

"Yeah," Tiny answered as the Phoenix levelled out. "The Chief raised him a second or two before you got here."

Princess stared at the back of Jason's helmet, waiting for some comment about her being unable to keep up, but none was forthcoming.

"Let's teach this guy some manners," Jason said instead.



Captain Doom watched the Phoenix gain height. There was no rush. He closed in on one last heavy transport and applied the whips. The Urgosium alloy tore through the fragile shell of the aircraft like a knife through rice paper. Now to deal with the much-vaunted G-Force. He allowed himself one last backward glance at the airfield. He could see bodies, and he shook his head at the futility of it. Still, the fear was there, and fear was good.

He was over the ocean again, and the Phoenix was banking around in a slow curve to line up for an attack run. Sunlight glinted off the bright blue fuselage and sparkled on the waves below. He would let them come and show them just how useless they were against him. He wouldn't destroy them, though. Not yet, anyway. Defeat, yes. Demoralise, yes, but not destroy, not unless it became unavoidable. The differences between Urgos and Spectra had to be observable. Zoltar had promised destruction and conquest. Captain Doom would offer something a little less unpalatable.

A weapons bay door was opening on the ventral surface of the G-Force command ship and an urgent tone in Doom's earpiece told him that he was the subject of a laser targeting system lock. He activated the biplane's defensive force fields and waited. Sure enough, a missile streaked clear of the Phoenix. Despite his confidence in Tierna's team, Doom braced himself. All his systems were in the green.

The explosion was blindingly brilliant, even through the mask and closed eyes. The biplane shuddered, but continued on its course. Another missile, and the force field held. "Now it's my turn," Doom muttered, and shut the external force field off as he called up the whip weapons.

The biplane skimmed over the Phoenix, surfing the airflow, and one whip sheared off the rudder. Doom put the biplane into a climb, and triggered the transformation sequence. The wings of the biplane closed up and the ship converted to its high speed jet configuration. Doom fired the thrusters, leaving the G-Force ship wallowing and disabled in his wake.

Doom relaxed. He would give the ISO time to submit an analysis to President Kane. If the scientific and military minds of the various ISO agencies were as good as they were supposed to be, they'd realise what they were up against, and once they did, Doom would cordially invite them to surrender.



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