ARCADIA PARADOX: Rings of Fire
By Julieann Dreamer
An Alternate Gatchaman Universe
Copyrights belong to their respective creators.
Chapter 1 - The Circle
"Be careful!" Sherry Hines yelled out to the loading personnel. She cringed as they again jostled the crate filled with fragile repair equipment while loading it onto the shuttle. Looking at her watch she was grateful this was the last one. They needed to launch in fifteen minutes if they were going to stay on schedule.
Sherry paced in a little circle, knowing her own worries were making her more cranky than usual. The hanger was busier than usual, and the sharp sounds that echoed inside seemed to resonate even louder in her head. She put a hand to her temple for a second and then pushed a stray wisp of hair behind her ear.
Running footsteps behind her caught her attention. ''You're late.'' she reprimanded.
''I know,'' Gary Strather panted, looking completely unrepentant. ''Blue Phoenix had some last minute trouble with their secondary generator.'' Sherry glanced across the hanger to where Blue Phoenix sat, its engines softly whining as they warmed up in last minute preparations for flight. Usually she would protest their use of her science tech, but not today. Blue Gatchaman had enough to worry about without her getting on them. All of Gatchaman had enough to worry about.
Sherry quickly shut the thought out of her head. It was going to be hard enough to get through today as it was without thinking about that.
As if reading the secret thoughts in her head, Gary said, "I hear they are going after one of the Enova Door Actuators."
Unconsciously Sherry shivered. The Enova guarded the Actuators fiercely, they would not be easy to overcome. She could still see vividly in her minds eye the one time she had seen an Enova. Alien opaque yellow eyes and twittering chirps still haunted her dreams.
Firmly she put out of her mind any of the Gatchaman teams. Worrying wouldn't help any of them come back safely. If she thought too much of what kind of situation Noah was going into, she wouldn't get any work done. Setting her mind back to business she rechecked the manifest on her E-pad before signaling to the Hanger Chief that they were ready. Support personnel and equipment drew away from the stubby shuttle as she boarded and sealed all the hatches behind her.
Everyone in the cabin was already seated, quietly murmuring about the days job. Sherry did a quick head count, noted that everyone was there, and then poked her head into the cockpit. ''Ready when you are Troy.''
He gave her the thumbs up from the Captains chair, ''We're getting our clearance now."
She nodded and retreated to the cabin.
"Think we can get that Water Converter working again in only 6 hours?'' Gary asked her as she fastened her seat belt.
''You had better hope so, or we'll be spending the night at the Outpost."
He groaned. "Wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't so cramped.''
"Atmosphere is precious." she said silently agreeing with him. Even by Venus standards the quarters on Outpost 5 were small. All talking stopped while the co-pilot went through his pre takeoff briefing. Through the window on the other side of Gary she watched Blue Phoenix drop through a Door, making it appear as if the hanger floor had swallowed it. Her heart dropped with it.
As soon as Blue Phoenix was gone and the Door was closed, the hanger doors opened into a huge airlock. Cabin conversations picked up again as soon as soon as they were outside on the runway starting their takeoff run. Once aloft, the bleak Venus landscape rolled by below them as they turned away from Sherwood Base towards Outpost 5.
Forcing her eyes away from the window, she turned towards Gary, ''So, what do you think our plan of attack should be for the repair?''
* * *
Erica Dawson played with her boomerang, twisting it through her fingers as Polly Carrow warmed up the engines. With 5 years experience behind her she usually wasn't this nervous before a mission, but this one had so much riding on it. Never before had all ten Gatchaman teams been called out at the same time to work on the same mission.
"Red Phoenix, stand by for destination coordinates.'' a voice from Arcadia Departure Control said over the radio.
"Standing by." Ryla Jackson, the ships navigator, said from behind her.
She half listened as the final preparations were made for takeoff. On the viewscreen Black Phoenix could be seen beginning their launch roll out of the Arcadia's launch bay into the black of outerspace. The forcefields that kept the atmosphere contained within the launch bay sparkled momentarily as Black Phoenix pierced them. Soon, only the white heat of the engines could be seen. Launch crews continued moving in a precisely choreographed pattern as they prepared Gold Phoenix. Green Phoenix was already gone, on its way to destroy several old Russian and Ameris satellites that the Enova had managed to reactivate and use.
*All systems are standing by.* Polly said directly into her mind quietly yet clearly. As the top rated telepath of any of the Gatchaman teams, Erica was doubly glad to have her, especially on this mission. With radio sometimes being too risky to use in battle, Polly was an essential part of their communication system within the team.
"We're ready for Drop." she heard Orion Baker say. Erica didn't say anything. After the briefing that morning there was no need to. The good natured radio comments with the other teams was missing, everyone knowing how much counted on today, also knowing that there was a good chance that some of them may not come back. Flipping her boomerang into it's holster, her hand strayed to the small canister of poison attached to her belt.
The scientists claimed it was deadly only to the Enova and she hoped they were right. Despite the fact that the Enova now possessed Earth there were still small pockets of humans in existence and she wished them no harm. There were so few of them left now.
"Red Phoenix, prepare for Door opening within confines of Arcadia launch bay." Arcadia Departure Control said.
"Roger Arcadia Control, stand by." Polly activated the hovering jets and the ship rose just enough to allow the landing gear to retract. "Arcadia Control, Red Phoenix is ready for Drop."
"Door Actuator enabled, drop in ten, nine,..."
As the countdown continued a glittering web of energy appeared below them. From an area covering only a few square feet, a ring of blue fire expanded outward until it extended past the wingspan of the Phoenix. Energy arced from one side of the ring to the other, obscuring the view of the other side. Unlike Black and Green group, they were to appear directly in the Earth's atmosphere. a mere thousand feet above the surface.
"Red Phoenix, cleared for Drop."
"Roger, cleared for Drop." Polly looked over to Erica.
"Go ahead with the Drop." Erica said quietly, her muscles tensing.
Polly cut the hovering jets and the Phoenix fell through the Door below it. In a vertigo inducing change of scenery they were on the other side, the thrusters and hovering jets at full power to stop their loss of altitude.
Erica checked her scanner and then adjusted the view of what was above them. As soon as the ring collapsed she announced, "Door closed."
Polly brought them quicky to the surface and skimmed the ground a few hundred feet above the ground, hugging the contours of the land.
Erica stood up and face her teammates. The faces were tense, but determined. She tried to smile, but she couldn't. Instead, she said simply, "You all know what we're up against, so be careful. Stick with your wingman, don't get separated, and stay in contact at all times. Hopefully by days end we will have regained a foothold on Earth."
*Good luck everyone.* Polly mentally sent to all of them as they began to file into the turbo lift.
*You too.* Orion sent back
Within minutes Ryla and Erica had each settled in their planes. "G-1 ready."
"Launch when ready." Polly said over the com.
Erica fired the engines as soon a the rear hatch to the Phoenix had opened. She kept a firm grip on the controls as her plane was slowly pushed backwards until she was being towed a short distance behind the main ship, the small fighter jet being pounded by wake turbulence. When the tow bar released the jet pitched nose up, quickly clearing the Phoenix .
Ryla dropped out of the base of the left wing and followed her as G-2 and G-4 prepared to leave the Phoenix on their mission.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Terry Farington relaxed in his chair with a cup of coffee in one hand and a snack bar in the other. For a few moments he could relax, at least until Blue Gatchaman got back. The Control Center of Sherwood Base was busy, as usual, but calm. From his position on the second tier he idly watched the techs working below. The main view screen was cut up to show multiple viewpoints. One showed the Venus landscape directly outside the main hanger, another showed inside the hanger, and yet another held the sensor scan of the space directly above the base.
"Door Actuator power is back up to 55 % and Science Shuttle 3 has reached Outpost 5." Renae Parkins informed him.
"Good." He sipped his coffee, his feet propped up on the console in front of him. His eyes ran over the numbers displayed on the multiple screens at the front of the room. They stopped at one of the displays and his feet thudded to the floor. "Where is that power surge in section 3 coming from?" he demanded.
"Sections 3 is empty sir. For refinishing." Renae reminded him as she continued to type into her console without missing a beat.
"Exactly." He hit the com button for the System Status tech, but before he could speak an alarm sounded.
"Enova door has opened in Section 3. Enova moving outward into subsections 3-1, 3-4, and 3-7. Security responding."
"Evacuate and seal off the areas. Go to red alert." Terry ordered.
"Bulkheads are closing now." A systems tech announced.
"Warning, Enova Door has opened into subsection 7-15A." another warning sounded out.
"I think we're in trouble." he mumbled. "Renae, get me Arcadia."
"Yes sir. Camelot Base is on the emergency channel."
As soon as he opened the line a wide eyed tech came onto the screen. "We have Enova Doors randomly opening into every part of the base. Director Liven has been killed. I have all the survivors I could find sealed off in the south hanger."
Terry stared at the tech in amazement. Liven had been a good friend and far too professional not to have called earlier if he was being attacked. They must have been overran incredibly fast. "Renae, have Door Control open a personnel Door into the south hanger of Camelot." he threw over his shoulder towards his second-in-command. He turned back to the screen, "Get your people ready, with the power we have available we can keep it open for only a few minutes."
"We'll be ready." the terrified tech said, "We were able to warn Outpost 2 through 4. Outpost 2 has an old shuttle that might get everyone to Arcadia. We need you to destroy our Door Actuator, I can't do it from here."
"Consider it done." Terry said.
"A Door should be opening in 15 seconds." Renae passed on.
Even before the connection was cut Terry was logging onto his computer and in seconds he was in contact with the Camelot mainframe. He dreaded to even think what would happen if the Enova got their hands on their Door Actuator technology. How were they being so precise with their Doors? He typed out the self-destruct code and then contacted the Door Chief, "You have ten minutes to get those people out of Camelot before the entire base explodes."
"I doubt we could keep the Door open that long anyway, we're already down to 49% power. We'll have them all on this side in no time. It looks like there are only a few dozen survivors." the Door Chief said.
Renae interrupted, "We've lost contact with Avalon Base. Satellite pictures show a huge explosion occurred approximately 55 seconds ago."
"Their Door Actuator?" He asked as the lights dimmed.
"Judging by the energy signature, yes. Two more Doors have opened in section 1 and 5. Arcadia is on-line."
"Power generator 3 has been destroyed." a tech said from below.
"Security has been overrun in Section 3. They have retreated to Section 4." Renae added.
"Have security concentrate on protecting the remaining power generators, the Door Actuator, and shuttles. Sound the evacuation code." Renae nodded.
Terry turned to his private screen. "Eiko, we have an emergency."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
This was the kind of flying Erica liked best, skimming the ground at only a few hundred feet, hugging the terrain. Seeing rolling hills of foliage dressed in autumn colors again was refreshing, accustomed as she was to the eternal summer in the Arcadia's bio-dome. Their target came into sight and she reluctantly returned to reality and prepared to land the plane.
The devastated city ahead of them sat at the mouth of a wide valley that had once been dense with farmland. Dialing up one of the Arcadia's reconnaissance satellites she got a readout of the prevailing winds and smiled. For once things were going as planned.
She slowed the plane and touched down on a semi smooth portion of road, coming to a stop at an intersection where two streets and a park ran into each other. Erica unbuckled her harness while focusing on the mental link that Polly kept open to everyone on the team she thought, *G-1 and 3 have reached target.*
*Roger.* Polly answered back, her distance from them causing her mental 'voice' to sound faint
Ryla was already on the ground, her scanner in her hand. She shook her head when Erica joined her, "I'm getting a lot of interference. The readings say we're alone but I wouldn't trust them."
"I don't sense anything. The nearest garrison is 60 miles away and the other teams will be keeping them busy. We should be okay." Erica said, her mental 'ears' tuned to the sounds around them. "Just a few birds in the park." She looked around critically. The area seemed fairly clear of any obstructions, not much to use for cover. A two story building lay in ruins behind her, directly ahead stood a covered subway entrance with a mall in good condition behind it, and the park to her right.
She walked across the four lane street to a tall monument that marked the entrance to the park. Spreading her wings she made a short jump to the top of the pedestal. Still rising above her was a narrow etched pyramid pointing into the sky.
*G-2 and 4 have reached their target.* Polly announced.
So Orion and Doru had already reached the remains of the power station. Orion was never one to waste any time in getting a job done, one of the things she had always appreciated in her second-in-command.
Taking the canister from her belt Erica worked to attach it to a flat side of the pyramid, a cold stiff breeze playing with the tips of her wings. The breeze would catch the poison from the canister, the buildings down the boulevard serving to disperse the airborne agent through the city and into the valley below. Elsewhere four other teams would be strategically placing similar canisters while the others would be introducing the Enova at the nearby Door Actuator and Garrison to a newly developed bomb.
The explosion behind her took her completely by surprise. In a flash she was off the pedestal and behind it. With her laser in her hand she peered around the edge as Ryla joined her. Smoke billowed from both their severely damaged planes, partially obscuring the view.
"The subway. The scanner didn't pick them up." Ryla breathed.
Erica nodded, her senses having already told her who the attackers were. She should have sensed them sooner and she mentally berated herself for the lapse. She had expected the Enova to attack, but only after the Phoenix took off to join the other Gatchaman teams in wiping out the last resistance at the Enova Door Actuator.
Compact in build, dark leathery skin, thin limbed with arms that looked a little too long for their height, the Enova Drones that were swarming out of the subway branched out in their typical protection pattern. They were shivering in the cool air despite their heavy clothing, chirping in their native language of their displeasure. Erica smiled as the translator in her helmet passed on the Enova comments. The outside temperature was 50 degrees cooler than a cool day on their home planet Evo. Already at a disadvantage in moving in the lighter gravity of Earth the cold would slow them down even more. They would not be fighting at their best. She gave Ryla the 'get ready' sign as she waited for another Enova to come out of the subway. That was the target. Without the Protiyl to give orders the Drones would be easier to deal with.
When a cloud of smoke from the burning jets drifted between them Erica gave the signal.
Their leap from behind the pedestal was lightening fast and Erica struck the Protiyl with a shot fired from her laser before any of the Drones could react to their sudden appearance. The shot bounced off his special armor, but stunned him. Another shot hit a drone and it fell instantly, lacking any of the special armor that was reserved for only the Protiyls.
The Protiyl staggered slightly. Landing behind him, she brought her hands together in a combined fist and brought brought them down with all her strength to strike between the shoulders. Her aim was perfect, and she felt the armor giving way to her fists, striking the inherent weak spot of the Enova.. The armor might be good at deflecting light laser fire, but not for hand to hand. The alien fell heavily to the ground and lay still.
Yellow eyes glittered at her as the Drones tried to close in, high pitched growls and chirps showing their agitation. She knew better than to stay where she was. Enova were physically stronger than humans but more clumsy in their movements. Agility was her edge over them, all she needed was fighting room.
Two Drones fired their lasers at her and she sprang out of the way, the shots hitting two of their companions instead. In an instant Ryla was behind the two. striking at their weak spots. Always keeping track of Ryla's location Erica dodged out of the way, putting her hand laser to good use as a group of three tried to surround her.
She gasped and stumbled as the wind was knocked out of her from an unexpected blow to her side. Before she could regain her balance an Enova had knocked the laser from her hand and it skittered across the ground out of reach. A backhand spring took her out of arms length and gave her enough time to launch her boomerang. Arcing through the air, its laser sharp edge sliced through tough brown cloth of his chest, the concussion of the impact knocking him to the ground. Erica didn't give him time to recover, this one was too well trained. Taking one of his dead companions firearm she quickly dispatched him.
The sound of Ryla's energy bolo spinning through the air as it returned to its owner after striking its target signaled the end of the fight. "They shouldn't have known we were here." she said catching it with practiced ease, flipping the two ends together to deactivate the deadly energy string between them, and placing it in the special pouch on her belt.
*G-1 and G-3, prepare for emergency pickup. Enemy airborne targets are incoming. G-2 and G-4 are already on board, mission incomplete.* Polly's mental voice intruded.
"That did not sound good." Ryla said slowly, scanning the sky.
Erica turned back towards the subway entrance. "Someone else is coming."
Ryla flipped open her scanner again, "I'm still not picking anything up. "
"Our mission isn't going to be incomplete!" Erica ran for the monument, jumped onto the pedestal, and after checking to see that the canister was still firmly attached, activated the timer.
"Kietchie?" Erica questioned looking back. Sure enough, G-4 of Copper group had stumbled from the subway entrance. After she checked the canister one more time she ran towards them.
He was limping on his left leg, his birdstyle torn in several places, a part of his left wing missing. Kietchie looked at them wearily, his yellow eyes dull. In all her time in knowing this friendly Enova, she had never seen him so injured.
"Your team was suppose to be placing canisters 5 miles north of here. What happened?" she demanded.
He shook his head, "They were on top of us a few seconds after we came through the door. I was in my skimmer, ready to launch from the Phoenix when we were hit by a missile. G-4 was thrown clear in the explosion and crashed near the city. I've been playing hide and seek in the subways ever since."
"No one else made it?" Ryla asked.
He shook his head and added, "I'm being followed."
At that moment Erica's senses picked up other lifeforms approaching. The comforting whine of the Phoenix warned them of it's arrival just as Ryla shrieked, "Incoming!"
They hit the pavement, covering their heads as a missile skimmed over them, quickly followed by an aged military fighter jet. Out of the corner of her eye Erica caught the movement of yet more old fighter jets, no doubt piloted by Enova pilots. Red Phoenix banked sharply to the left, the missile passing under its wing only to be hit by two others from the other direction. Erica knew she screamed into the deafening roar as the Phoenix exploded into a huge fireball.
Slowly finding her feet she glanced at the subway and then back at the sky.
"Erica, get us out of here!" Kietchie said forcefully, "Its only a matter of seconds before a squad gets here."
"A weakness..." She started looking around, all her senses straining, looking for the dancing lights that only she could see. Unlike the Arcadia Space Station, that could open a door anywhere, she was not so fortunate. Arcadia always had subspace weaknesses floating around inside it, a result of the high powered Door Actuator that was housed there. All she had to do was connect one from Earth to one up there ...
Then she spotted one. "Follow me!"
In two steps she launched herself upwards and landed on a firmer part of the partially collapsed two story office building. Ryla was right behind her. Kietchie landed hard at her side, falling to his knees. She grimaced, "Sorry, I forgot."
"Just get us home." he said through gritted teeth as he regained his feet.
Her eyes concentrated on a point unseen by the others, trying to pin down the other side of the Door, using her senses to probe the other side until she found one with lifesigns nearby. Now having a destination, she concentrated hard in an effort to punch an opening through the two weaknesses. A glistening of sweat appeared on her forehead.
A barrage of laser fire created a curtain in front of them and pieces of the buildings facade began to collapse into the street. The Door suddenly opened, energy arcing around it. With Erica and Ryla each supporting a side of Kietchie they flew upwards, disappearing through a small ring of cold blue fire.
The landing on the other side was anything but graceful. After a moments surprise at their arrival in the middle of the launch bay of Arcadia the flight crews converged on them. With sweat running down her face Erica looked up to see a damaged Blue Phoenix and two large Venus shuttles unloading a steady stream of people. Green Phoenix sat beyond the shuttles, looking as if nearly an entire side of the fuselage had been blown away. The right main landing gear was sheared off as well as the pod that would have housed G-3.
"Better get up to Control Central Commander." the Hanger Chief said to her. She nodded.
"I'll take care of Kietchie." Ryla said. "Get up there and find out what the hell went wrong!"
Erica nodded and quickly moved to a turbo lift.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Gary sat in the small skimmer waiting for Sherry as she checked the fasteners on her helmet and air supply. "I think I'm ready."
"About time. I plan on being in this shuttle when it returns to Sherwood tonight." Gary said activating the skimmer's power packs.
She reached for the airlock controls to open the outside door. "A code red from Sherwood for you, Sherry." Troy's voice said in her ear.
"Great. Something else to repair." Gary said rolling his eyes, switching off the power packs with an irritated flourish. She ignored him and took off her helmet. She keyed open the inner airlock and quickly made her way back to the shuttle. She headed towards the cockpit, dodging the stacks of equipment that were being unloaded into the Outpost through a sealed corridor.
"Hope this is important." she mumbled as she sat down in the engineers seat. She slipped on a headset for privacy and opened the line. "What is it, Sherwood."
"Listen close Sherry, I don't have much time. My shuttle leaves in three minutes." Renae said curtly. Sherry sat up straighter, suddenly worried. She had never heard Renae's voice like this.
By the time Renae was done she was scarcely breathing. Tearing off the headset she keyed the emergency channel, "Science teams, this is Sherry Hines. Return to the shuttle, Bird Scramble!"
Troy looked at her in surprise at her use of their highest red alert. "What's going on?"
"Think we have enough fuel to escape the atmosphere with our science teams and the Outpost personnel?" Sherry asked, her face tight.
He shook his head, "Not with the radiation armor on our ship, even if we stripped everything inside."
"The Enova are on Venus, the other two bases have been destroyed and Sherwood is soon to follow. We have to get to Arcadia."
"Then we'll have Arcadia open a Door within the atmosphere where weight won't be a factor. I think this qualifies as a first class emergency." He turned in his chair and started checking the gauges. Sherry wasn't sure she liked that idea but she wasn't in a position to argue. The simple rule of 'Vacuum to Vacuum, Atmosphere to Atmosphere' was usually followed to the letter. But a Door from Venus's toxic atmosphere could not be made directly into Arcadia itself. But like Troy said, this was an emergency. Leaving him to his job she ran towards the back of the ship.
The unloading had stopped when she had made the emergency broadcast.
"Get everything off the ship that you can!" She ran through the airlock corridor into the Outpost, not waiting for any questions. The Outpost supervisor met her on the other side.
"We need to evacuate the Outpost."
"I know, we just got a call from Outpost 2. I've called in the personnel at Outpost 1. They should be here in ten minutes."
"Most will have to ride in the cargo area without seats."
"Just as long as we get everyone."
"Amen. Get me a people count as soon as you can." Sherry ran back into the shuttle and started tracking the location of the science teams that had already left on their various jobs. By the time the last skimmer had returned to the shuttle she was worn to a frazzle. Several scientists made token protests at their equipment being left behind but they didn't receive much sympathy.
Sherry ended up sitting on the floor of the cockpit as the shuttle lifted into the sky, every nook and cranny packed with people. Troy commanded the controls himself, letting his co-pilot handle the coordinating with the Venus satellites on the location of the door from Arcadia.
"There's the shuttle from Outpost 2." the engineer said pointing off their right wing.
"That thing shouldn't even be flying." Troy said glancing over.
Sherry stood on her knees to look out the side window to catch sight of it. It's hull discolored by corrosion caused by the Venusian atmosphere, it had obviously seen better days. She hoped it survived the change from atmosphere to the vacuum of space in one piece.
"Arcadia Door should be opening in two minutes."
Sherry sat back against the wall next to the door, bracing herself. This did not promise to be a smooth ride.
She was right. The Door from Arcadia appeared on time, although 500 feet south of it's intended point of opening. Troy muttered a few choice words but Sherry silently felt he should be grateful they didn't have the Enova version of a Door Actuator, which at times could be a couple miles in error. As the Venus atmosphere funneled out to fill the vacuum on the other side of the Door, an area of severe turbulence directly in front of the opening was created. Bounced from one side of the cabin to the other she struggled to keep from hitting the Captains chair.
About the time she was sure she was going to be sick they burst out on the other side. She grabbed the handle to a storage compartment to keep from floating around the cabin, wishing that their shuttle had gravity generators like the larger shuttles. The sudden return to gravity at the Arcadia's launch bay threshold was not something she was looking forward to, nor did it bode well for her already bruised hind end.
"Arcadia Approach Control this is Venus Sherwood Science Shuttle 3, number two for landing." Troy said cinching his seat belt tighter.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
As soon as the door slid open to Arcadia Control Central, Glenda, director of all the Gatchaman teams, descended on Erica. "How did you get here?"
"I had to open a door on my own." Erica answered tiredly.
"And your team?"
"Red Phoenix was destroyed by missile fire with everyone but Ryla on board. We brought Kietchie with us. The rest of Copper group is dead. What are Venus shuttles doing here?"
"All three Venus bases were attacked a few minutes after your launch. The Enova sensor net is officially activated." Glenda said with a pinched look on her face.
"Then they now know when and where we open our Doors. That would explain how the squad found us so soon." Erica crossed her arms over her chest trying to stop their shaking, feeling totally drained. She couldn't open a Door now if her life depended on it. Unlike the Door Actuator housed in the top of Arcadia, it took a lot longer for her to recharge after using her gift.
"And how they knew when Blue, White, and Silver Phoenix's left Venus for Earth, leaving the bases undefended and had the coordinates to appear inside them. We have two more shuttles inbound. They are the last from Venus." Eiko Washio informed her from behind Glenda. Troubled blue eves gazed out of a youthful face that belied her 60 years, the successful result of a recent Rejuvenation session. Eiko turned back to watch a screen over Vicky's shoulder.
"I just talked with Ryla." Erica whirled at the voice from behind her. Keith Richardson, the Blue Gatchaman Commander looked exhausted, his birdstyle showing the signs of an intense battle. "Sounds like you ran into the same trouble we did. Becky, Miffa, and I were the only ones of Blue group to come back. We brought the remains of Silver with us. We never got close to the Enova Door Actuator."
"How many of us are left." Erica asked Glenda in a small voice.
Eiko answered for her. "With the group you came back with a total of eleven members."
"Out of fifty-three!?" Then she thought of something else. "If the Enova can now track our Doors, then they now know where Arcadia is."
Glenda nodded, "We've already moved the Station enough that they're not going to be appearing inside. As soon as the shuttles land we intend to completely change our orbit."
Eiko had already turned back to watch the multiple screens at the front of the room. The main screen showed the inbound tracking of two shuttles as they made their approach from where a Door had deposited them.
"First Earth, now Venus." Erica heard Keith say quietly from behind her.
She didn't know what to say so she stayed silent. Arcadia was all that was left for humans now. Her hand strayed to her boomerang, almost exactly like the one Ken Washio had used during the first Galactor offensive. She suddenly wished they had such a foe, instead of the Enova. Somehow she didn't think the Gatchaman of 2066 would have agreed with her.
Alarms rang out from all corners of the room as a tech announced over the intercom, "Enova Door opening, coordinates 331.5 degrees by 61.2 degrees."
One of the screens switched to an outside view and magnified the image. The ring of blue fire was fully mature and a torrent of nearly translucent gas screamed through the opening showing that the Door had been opened from an atmosphere. One of the shuttles landed as a group of objects streaked out of the Door.
"Missiles targeting radar locked on Arcadia, impact in 3 minutes." the tech said over the speaker.
"We don't dare use the LDS until that last shuttle is out of the way. Open a Door ahead of those missiles!" Eiko ordered. The techs in the tier below worked furiously at their computers and the group of missiles disappeared off the screen as it entered a Door a few hundred yards from the Station.
"Missiles has been redirected 10,000 miles towards Sol." a tech said.
"Door Actuator power down to 35%." another tech warned.
"Redirect all but emergency power to the Door Actuator and shields." Eiko said as another torrent of missiles appeared out of the opening
"Science Shuttle 3 has landed." a tech to their right announced
"Close the Launch Bay doors. Activate Laser Defense Systems. What is the status on Door Actuator power?" Eiko asked.
The protective laser barrage started too late to intercept all the missiles and the room rang with an unnerving collision alarm. Some where deflected by the shields, several others impacted on the lower levels and Erica grabbed an empty chair for support as the gravity generators momentarily fluctuated. More alarms sounded.
"Power generator 3 has been hit." One of the screens changed to show the damage, power lines sparking and arcing brightly as the sheared ends floated in space. A cloud floated out of the ragged opening indicating that one of the chemical storage tanks had been ruptured.
"One of the warheads is nuclear!" Vicky suddenly yelled to Eiko over the alarms.
"Shut down the LDS! Divert it with a Door." Eiko ordered. With frantic fingers Vicky shut down the Defense system. The main lights dimmed as power was drained off to the Door Actuator.
A Door opened between them and the offending missile, obscuring Arcadia's view of a drifting piece of debris, the remains of a shattered sibling. The two collided within the aperture of the Door ring and a flash of intense light momentarily blinded everyone in the room before the computers adjusted the screens to compensate. The space around Arcadia became alive with glittering webs of energy.
"Warning: Nuclear detonation. Radiation shields down to 25% power." A computer voice calmly announced in the chaos filled room.
Erica almost screamed as her senses were assaulted by the wild and uncontrolled energy of the damaged Door. Using all the skills she had learned over the years she tried to shut off her senses and erect a protective shell around her mind. Arcadia's infrastructure groaned as the shock wave hit. She collapsed to the floor feeling as if a ton of bricks had fallen on top of her as the gravity generators suddenly increased the internal Station gravity. A few seconds later they were weightless. The webs of energy dancing outside reached into the station and began to arc across the consoles in the Center, scrambling and shorting out the computers.
The main lights blinked out casting everything into intense darkness, only shooting sparks of electricity piercing the gloom. Red emergency lights tried to flicker on as she held onto the foot of a chair where it was attached to the floor, flinching when a spark hit her leg. Papers, coffee cups, and electronic pads battered her body as the gravity generators played havoc with anything not bolted down. The pressure in the room changed, weighing heavily on her chest leaving her gasping for breath. A roar filled her ears, becoming deafening until it finally overcame her.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Erica slowly opened her eyes, groaning softly at the pounding in her head. Kicking away the flotsam that had landed on her she slowly rose to her feet grateful the gravity generators had decided to stabilize, leaning on the chair for support.
"All solar generators are off-line. Emergency power will last for another 72 hours." Vicky reported to Eiko who was leaning over her shoulder to see the information for herself.
"Get the repair crews on the generators immediately. Conserve what energy you can but keep the long range scanners going. We don't want anymore surprises."
"Take it slow." Glenda advised gripping Erica's arm to steady her. "Are you okay?"
"Just give me a minute." Erica took a few deep breaths and let go of the chair, glancing back at Keith who was leaning up against the wall looking as wrung out as she did.
"Can anyone explain what just happened?" he asked holding his left hand close to his body.
"We're not sure, all we know is that the station has moved." Glenda said. She gestured to the techs who were scrambling to repair the computers in various parts of the room. Some techs were just waking up, others being attended to by medics. "We have a lot of repairs ahead of us."
"Anything we can do?" Erica asked.
Glenda shook her head, "I think the best thing you two could do is see to who is left of the teams. Most of them are in the Med-bay." She looked critically at Keith. "You should have that hand looked at."
"In other words, get out of the way." Erica summed up.
Glenda ran her hand through her short blond hair. "I'll be down myself before long."
Once they were in the relative privacy of the turbo lift Erica asked him,"What happened to your hand?"
"I think it's burned."
She nodded. "Sorry about your team."
Soft music started to play through the speaker and Erica smiled. "Greasemonkey got the music channel going again."
"Eiko isn't going to like him wasting energy." Keith said. After a few seconds of silence he murmured, "Nice touch though."
The door opened into the Med-bay, the hall full of people waiting for treatment. Unlike the rest of the Station, the Med-bay had fully restored power. Erica opened the door into the Gatchaman Ward and was nearly plowed over by a harried nurse as she left the room.
The nurse apologized profusely even while taking in the way Keith was holding his hand. She gestured him into the general care room while taking his hand into her own. "I hope this isn't serious." she said unclasping his bracelet to remove his birdstyle.
"I think I can take care of it." Erica said looking at the angry red skin. She motioned with her head towards the door. "I'd say you're needed more out there."
"Bless you." The nurse made a beeline for the door.
"Looks like I've been dropped into your capable hands." Keith said as Erica led him to one of the tables and prepared to dress his hand. A familiar twinkle appeared in his eyes, "What were your scores in first aid again?"
"Oh, shut up."
"Doesn't look so bad." Ryla commented taking a quick peek while on her way with a tray of food to a dejected looking Koko Patapoff at a nearby bed.
"Speak for yourself." Keith said after her. He sighed out loud in relief when Erica applied the anesthetic. A few passes with the skin regenerator and the hand looked almost normal. Becky Shuster came in from the other room and leaned over the table to watch, taking care not to bump her right arm that was now in a sling. Her birdstyle had been replaced with a drab blue hospital gown, and Erica noted she still looked gorgeous. She swore the woman would look great in a sack.
"I didn't think you had been hurt." Becky commented.
"It happened in Control Central." he said. "How's everyone else?"
Becky pushed her jet black hair out of her face only to have it fall back, "Lance and Noah are pretty bad, but they'll make it. They're working on Kietchie now. Bryce has them worried though. They think there may have been some damage to his heart."
"What happened?" Erica asked putting the supplies away.
"As we were escaping a missile detonated in front of us and caused an energy feedback in all the primary systems. Bryce's instrument panel blew up in his face." Becky said shifting her arm into a more comfortable position.
"I didn't know it was so bad." Keith said shaking his head walking towards the other room.
Becky and Erica looked at each other. Becky shrugged her shoulders and Erica nodded in understanding. Without a word she followed Keith into the next room where the intensive care beds were located. Nodding at the nurse sitting at the lifestation monitoring all the instruments in the room Erica stooped for a moment at Noah Westwinds bed. His large eyes were closed and she pushed his wavy dark hair away from his large pointed ears. He was an Elf, one of 3 major mutations Galactor had created on Venus for specialized slave labor. It had been fortunate in the war with the Enova that Galactor's slaves had revolted not long after the Solar Shift Plan had fallen apart, thanks to the original Gatchaman and the change of heart of Gel Sandra so many decades before. It had meant a place for the disposed populace of Earth to retreat to when Earth was overrun.
His chocolate skin had a sheen of sweat on the surface but he appeared to be sleeping peacefully and the monitor above his head showed strong life signs. As the only Healer she had ever known it bothered her to instead see him in need of medical attention. Twice in her life she had experienced his tingling healing touch, once as G-3 of Silver group during her initial training run. One of the facts of life in the war with the Enova were many injuries, and unfortunately, many deaths. Noah had enabled several of them to live to fight again when conventional medical aid would have been too far away to help. She made a mental note to check on his Grandmother a little later.
Making her way to the far corner of the room she stood out of the way as two doctors and Miffa attended Kietchie. He had morphed back to his true form from the humanoid one he preferred to use while on the Station. Even though she knew him to be a loyal friend to the point of death his natural form still managed to disturb her. Of all the Enova only he and Miffa had chosen to side with the humans.
Kietchie looked up at her through large slitted eyes, his breathing ragged, the nostrils of his flat nose flaring slightly as the doctors closed a wound. "The Station is safe?" he asked.
She nodded. "Don't worry about it."
Miffa turned her head towards her, yellow opaque eyes glittering in an otherwise human face. Partial shapeshifters that they were, the one outward feature an Enova could not change were their eyes. "I will be ready for debriefing in a few minutes."
"Don't be in a hurry. Glenda and Eiko have their hands full in Control Central."
"Yes, I sensed the Door malfunction."
Erica was about to ask her what she meant but Miffa had already turned back to Kietchie. Static interrupted the music from the speaker for a moment before resuming to a spunky beat. She looked over to one of the other intensive care beds where Keith was standing.
"Go to sleep you idiot, you can't do anything." she heard Keith tell Lance as she joined them. Bryce lay beyond them, a stasis generator having been lowered from the ceiling until the glowing spikes were a few inches from his body, keeping his condition stabilized while a large regenerator positioned over his chest slowly healed what it could.
"They're going to need me to make repairs on the Phoenix." Lance Patapoff said lifting his head. Keith gently but firmly held him down. Too weak to fight he collapsed back into the pillows.
"Trying to be a hero again, Lance?" Erica asked sweetly.
"Drop dead Erica." Lance said, his speech slurred.
She had long since stopped taking anything he said to her seriously and instead looked up at the monitor. "From the looks of it they've pumped enough drugs into you to sedate an entire army. You always were stubborn."
"DN-5." he mumbled.
His comeback was completely unexpected "DN-5? What's that suppose to mean?"
"Always liked that song."
Erica started to worry about the severity of his head injury and she looked at Keith only to find him looking up at the ceiling speaker. It wasn't until that moment that she realized the music was different from what she was accustomed to hearing Greasemonkey play. Through the mysterious static that still sometimes interfered she recognized the song.
"Baby, my angel..." Lance's slurred singing trailed off as he finally succumbed to the drugs.
"I haven't heard that song in a long time." Erica commented.
"It's over 60 years old. I wonder who dug it up?" Keith said shaking his head.
"That was the DN-5 and their second hit single 'Clear Love' from off their debut album 'Dead Street Avenue'. According to Rolling Stone this group is the next one to watch." an announcer said in a deep voice. Keith and Erica looked at each other as a patch of music played before a segment of news was announced.
"Someone find an old radio recording?" Erica asked.
"That's really old."
"...In the International News: The ISO has refused to comment on the identities, or even the existence, of that new and mysterious group currently monikered as Gatchaman. Sources indicate that they may be a part of a new branch of the military to deal with the new terrorist group Galactor, but military officials have denied it..."
"This is getting too weird. I think I'll go see what Greasemonkey is up to." Erica said heading for the door. "I'll be back in a few."
The Arcadia disc jockey was not in a good mood when she arrived.
"I don't suppose you know who is doing this? Perhaps your second-in-command?" Greasemonkey demanded, his brown eyes glittering at her, his dark hair sticking out wildly in all directions.
"Orion is dead." Erica informed him, surprised she could say the words without breaking down. She knew she would soon, but for the moment she steeled herself to continue, "Are you telling me what's on the speakers isn't of your doing."
"Someone has hacked into my system!" he threw a computer board on the desk, one of the consoles showing the evidence of his frustration, "With that power surge having fried just about everything in here I can't stop it."
"Who in the world would have a taped broadcast like this? And why play it now?"
"A sick sense of humor?" he shrugged and then as an afterthought said, "Sorry about Orion."
"Thanks." She took a quick look at his instruments and played with a few knobs.
"Hey!" he slapped her hands away, "This is my domain. Don't touch anything."
"Just trying to help Greasemonkey." Ignoring his wail to get out of his office she sat down at his desk and called Control Central with his vidscreen. A brown haired woman answered distractedly. "Hello Vicky, I'm down in Greasemonkey's pit. Have you been listening to what has taken over the Station speakers?"
"We all have." Vicky said, "Tell Greasemonkey that it's not his equipment that's malfunctioning. Some of the intercom and speaker circuits have been fused to the communication dish system. We're working on repairs now."
Erica slowly worked out what she meant, and then asked, "You mean we're picking up a signal from outside the Station?"
"And a low frequency one at that. One that hasn't been used in years." Vicky said shaking her head. "Seems to be coming from Earth."
"Who are you talking to Vicky?" A sharp voice asked from somewhere off the screen.
Vicky snapped around as if caught and reported, "It's Erica down in the Audio Entertainment Booth, Ms. Washio."
"Then I'll take over." the screen changed from Vicky to Eiko. "Do you think you can shut off the speaker system from down there? Some of our controls are frozen."
"I think I can." Erica said.
"You will not." Greasemonkey interrupted. "Not my system."
"This is Top Security Monkey. You know the rules." Eiko warned.
"What's going on?" Erica asked, suddenly feeling tired, "Why do you want to stop the broadcast?"
Eiko glanced around her and then said quietly, "Monkey, if you say anything before I say so I'll skin you alive. We're trying to verify the facts before we make a public announcement. We think the broadcast may be real."
"Real? How can it be real? The DN-5's first hit record was released in the first part of 2066." Erica protested.
"Exactly." Eiko said slowly, "The same year the original Gatchaman team became active to fight the first threat of Galactor. We think we may have been thrown back in time 67 years to the year 2066."
To Be Continued.....