Hostilities by Grumpy Ghost Owl
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Author's Chapter Notes:

Earth has been attacked by the space pirate, Captain Doom, from the hostile planet Urgos. Galaxy Security must now analyse Doom's formidable new weapon and plan a counter-strike.

The way the location of the asteroid is expressed is so absurd, it could only be canon, and that's exactly what it is.

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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



Security Chief Anderson had been up all night. Even under the best of circumstances, Security Chief Anderson wasn't really a morning person.

He never had been. He tended to function best once his brain had taken a run-up and by evening, his thought processes usually had enough momentum to keep running well into the night.

All his adult life, he'd been the type to start working on something in the early evening, lose track of time, forget to eat and eventually fall asleep in his own notes.

When Anderson had been an undergraduate, his room-mate had frequently woken up to find him out like a light at his desk, having fallen asleep in his notes, pen still clutched loosely in one hand.

As a doctoral student, Anderson had run tutorials which became notorious for dragging on for hours if the young scientist was asked a question that he found interesting or challenging. His supervisor had to ask him to stop after the cleaners complained that they couldn't access the classrooms because Anderson's marathon sessions ran on too late.

During his relatively brief stint as a field agent, Anderson had been good at stake-outs. He could stay awake through the small hours, monitoring his target and keeping himself awake by musing on such frivolities as developing a more efficient way of boosting mitochondrial energy output through intranucleotidal nanotechnology.

When he returned to the cerebonic programme at Science Center, Anderson's staff would joke that he never left the lab.

As Chief of Galaxy Security, the workload was such that Anderson had to work late just to keep up. The difference now was that he was working late because he had to, not because he wanted to.

The passion just wasn't there any more.

It had been replaced by anger.

Where Dr Anderson the biophysicist had been driven by his passion for the discovery and development of new technology, Chief Anderson the head of Galaxy Security was driven by a slowly simmering rage against those who would despoil and conquer Earth.

At this particular moment, however, Chief Anderson the head of Galaxy Security was driven by the simple human necessity for sleep. He hadn't resented the night's work, primarily because he hadn't been stuck behind a desk. After returning from the Presidential debriefing and the ISO Council's emergency meeting, he'd caught up with Dr Umzabe, the Director Science Division. He and Bert Umzabe had both tossed their suit jackets over chairs, donned lab coats and worked like any other scientists with the xenomaterials team as they isolated and analysed tiny flakes from the damaged rudder of the Phoenix. The stresses of the day took a back seat to professional curiosity as they'd examined the alien metal extracted from the affronted titanium ceramalloy of the G-Force command ship.

After the team had garnered enough to work with, Anderson had been obliged to return to his office, return calls, read more reports and wait for Umzabe to have the final analyses sent over. When the numbers on the page he was reading had begun to blur into each other in the small hours, Anderson had programmed a wake-up call, kicked his shoes off and stretched his tall frame out on the sofa.

Now, Anderson's eyes opened in response to a soft but insistent chime from the computer. Six forty five, already. The leather upholstery of the sofa creaked softly as he sat up, and the blanket tumbled into a heap at his feet. He frowned. He couldn't remember getting the blanket out. He reached for his glasses, which were on the coffee table, and put them on. The room came back into sharp focus. Anderson grimaced and set about putting on his shoes. Neither rising nor shining really felt like a preferred option at this point in time. Nonetheless, he picked up the blanket and tossed it on the sofa in an untidy rumple as he stood up.

Anderson walked to his desk. He picked up the sheaf of papers he'd left on his blotter and considered the numbers again. The data continued to refrain from offering anything approaching an epiphany. A tap at the doorway heralded the arrival of his security coordinator, who was carrying a coffee mug.

"Morning, sir." Major Jones put the mug down on the coaster next to Anderson's desk blotter. Anderson harboured a suspicion that Major Jones didn't approve of coffee. Empirical evidence suggested that coffee didn't approve of Major Jones. The very beans seemed to take umbrage at whatever it was she inflicted on them in the percolation process and the result was invariably a substance better suited to road surfacing than it was to human consumption. Staff had been known to trip over each other in the rush to ensure that anyone other than Jones made the coffee.

"Thank you, Major," Anderson said without looking up. He was aware of Jones walking across to the sofa and folding the blanket into a neat oblong. Anderson picked up the mug and risked a cautious sniff of its steaming contents: tea. Under the circumstances, it could be argued that good tea was better than bad coffee. Anderson stretched, being careful not to spill the tea, and took a sip. I should spend more time in the lab, he told himself, knowing, even as he articulated the thought, that he probably wouldn't get much chance to do anything of the sort. He ignored Jones as she stowed the blanket in the office closet and left him to ponder the materials data.

Anderson finished his tea and looked at his watch: 07:08. I'm no closer to finding the ball park this stuff came from, let alone an accurate location. What am I missing? He walked to the window and stared at the reef. The fish were up and feeding. The scientists had listed every property they could test for, performed the tests, and come up empty handed. The sample's hardness -- 12.3 on the Modified Moh's Scale -- coupled with its apparent flexibility, made it effectively the indestructible substance of engineering legend.

A flash of silvery movement caught Anderson's eye as the fish on the reef darted in panic from the sleek shape of a shark. No small and slender reef shark, this, but something larger and more menacing from deeper waters: the predator cruised in to view, on the prowl for breakfast. The regular denizens of the reef fled before the intruder.

Of course! Anderson strode back to his desk and lunged for the controls of his comm unit. "Zark, run a comparison of that materials data from the lab with everything you can dig up on asteroids from surveys conducted in the last hundred years. I'm looking for anything that's drifted in from outside the Milky Way."

"It would be my pleasure," Zark acknowledged. "You do realise, sir, that the information is by no means comprehensive or even consistent. A lot of the data in the mineral exploration databases is commercial-in-confidence --"

"I'm authorising you to do it anyway. Out." Anderson stalked out of his office, heading for his quarters in search of a hot shower and a change of clothes.



"Not hungry?" Jason's voice broke into Princess' thoughts -- or lack thereof -- as she poked a spoon into her cereal bowl. The team were seated at their usual table in a quiet corner of the executive ward room for breakfast.

"Huh?" The spoon stopped a couple of centimetres above the cereal, dripping milk.

"You've been mashing those corn flakes for the last five minutes without eating a bite," Jason pointed out.

"I have?" Princess put the spoon back in the bowl and let it lie against the rim. "Guess I'm not hungry. Is there any fresh coffee?"

"I asked you if you wanted coffee ten minutes ago," Jason pointed out.

"What did I say?"

"You said -- and I quote -- 'Mmmpfh.'"

"Oh." Princess frowned. "Was that a yes?"

"You tell me."

Mark swallowed a mouthful of toast. "Cut it out, Jason," he said.

Jason shrugged and turned his attention back to his shredded wheat. "Whatever," he said.

"We're due in Anderson's office in an hour," Mark announced, checking the time. He sought out eye contact with Princess, who shoved her chair back and stood up, hands clenching into fists at her side.

"Whatever," she said, then grabbed her bowl. Milk sloshed over the side unheeded and Princess made her way to the return counter, where she slammed the bowl down on the conveyer, her movements uncharacteristically rough. She strode out of the ward room as though she had any number of places she'd rather be.

At the table, Mark and Jason exchanged looks, then Mark got up and hurried in the direction Princess had taken. Jason shook his head as he got up and collected Mark's plate.

"Princess! Wait up!" Mark caught up with Princess in the corridor.

"Yes, Commander?"

Mark made a helpless gesture with both hands. "Hey," he said. "I just want to know if you're okay."

"What makes you think I'm not? Has Jason been talking behind my back?"

"Jason?" Mark frowned. "What would he have said if he did?"

Caught out, Princess blushed. "I had my cerebonic recalibration the day before yesterday. Jason's been acting all protective and trying to be subtle about it, like he thinks I won't notice. He's the one who gets headaches every time Dr Bob tweaks his implants, not me! I'm fine!"

Mark took a breath. "I guess the words, 'Jason,' and, 'subtle,' aren't usually found in the same sentence. You want me to talk to him?"

"I can handle it. I'm as good as any member of this team. I don't need anyone to look out for me."

"I hear you, Princess, but if there is a problem, you tell me. We all have off days, and we all know that sometimes the scientists have to readjust our implants. If Dr Halloran's team doesn't get it quite right, I need to know, and that goes for any and all members of this team." He met her gaze. "You're telling me straight that Jason has no basis for worrying about you?"

Princess' hands clenched into fists. "None. Like I said, Mark, I'm fine."

"So you've got my six," Mark concluded. He noticed how Princess' gaze slid away from his.

"Right," she said, voice low.

"And I've got yours," he told her. He turned and started to walk away.

"Mark?" He stopped and waited. Princess' hand touched his arm. "I really am fine," she insisted. "I just didn't sleep well last night and for whatever reason, I wasn't hungry this morning. Jason's getting on my nerves, that's all. You can rely on me."

"I know," he said. "I'm heading down to the maintenance hangar to see how they're doing with those tailfins. Why don't you take some time, have a cup of coffee or something? I'll see you back in the ready room, before we report for our briefing."

"Sure, Mark."



Some of the more significant differences between the doctoral student he had been and the executive he was now, Anderson mused wearily as he brushed his teeth, had to do with the face that looked back out of the mirror. The doctoral student never had a web of fine lines around the eyes and mouth, or the furrows between the eyebrows, or the encroaching strands of grey in the hair. Admittedly, the doctoral student hadn't been quite as respectable or as well paid, but there were times when the executive wondered if it had been worth it.

By the time Anderson returned to his office, he felt almost ready to resume the day. There was one more thing he needed.

The aroma that drifted from the small kitchen area suggested that Anderson's requirement -- and that of several other staff -- was about to be met.

"Coffee's nearly ready, Chief," Lieutenant Maxwell said by way of greeting as he set mugs out on the countertop. "I'll bring a cup through to your office. Should I send down for breakfast?"

"Later, maybe," Anderson said.

"Yes, sir."

Anderson headed back to his office and considered the scanning unit with its enigmatic sample. The comm unit on his desk chimed and he answered the call.

"Good morning again, Chief Anderson. You'll be pleased to know that I believe I've found what you're looking for," 7-Zark-7 announced. "The alloy sample contains a large amount of a metal detected on an asteroid --"

"Send me the report, Zark," Anderson interrupted. "I'll read it."

"Oh." The robot sounded disappointed. "As you wish," it sniffed, and closed the channel.

Anderson settled in to his chair and called up the report. Zark had been busy: the robot had done what he was designed to do and interrogated thousands of databases from universities, manufacturing firms and exploration companies (the latter by electronic subterfuge backed up by the fine print in the Galaxy Security Act.) He'd matched the properties of the fragments retrieved from the rudder of the Phoenix with those of a mineral found in a core sample taken from a wandering asteroid, some six and a half kilometres across, with, at most, a few tonnes of useable raw ore. It was perhaps enough to produce a few weapons and armour a few ships, assuming the alloy makeup remained consistent with the sample. Certainly there wasn't enough to equip an army or a large fleet. At least that question was more or less answered. The question of a defence, let alone a countermeasure against something that could slice through ceramalloy like a hot knife through butter remained unaddressed.

Josh Maxwell arrived with fresh coffee and left again. Anderson drank the coffee and felt fortified enough to turn his attention from science to politics.

Anderson briefly re-read the casualty reports from the attack on the air show. Thirty four civilian spectators had been injured and two killed in the rush to escape the aerodrome. Seven more had been killed as a result of being aboard or too close to aircraft on the hardstand when they'd been destroyed. Eight civilian and ten military air crew had been killed, with another eighteen injured. Given that there had been hundreds of staff and thousands of spectators, and given the kind of damage Captain Doom could have inflicted, had he chosen, the figures were relatively light. On top of everything else, the Coroner was going to be called upon to deliver a report.

The next item was a copy of the communiqué from Captain Doom himself, setting out the terms of Earth's surrender. Doom had gone to some pains to point out that his terms were far more generous than anything Earth might expect from Zoltar, but this had done little to mitigate the outrage of the Federation Council. The ISO had held an emergency meeting, but since Doom had disappeared, and Planet Urgos denied that the pirate was acting as an official agent of their government, there was little that could be done. The Urgosian Assembly of Peers had not gone so far as to condemn Doom's action, but they were carefully distancing themselves as only politicians could.

President Kane had made a speech full of patriotic jingoism and a sternly worded letter had been presented to the Urgosian Ambassador, couched in diplomatic terminology which basically took three pages to effectively say, 'Hand the bad guy over, or else.' Anderson wasn't anticipating a particularly cooperative response.

While the diplomats exchanged polite but stern correspondence, Captain Doom would be marshalling resources for a second strike. Next time, Anderson vowed to himself, the space pirate wouldn't catch Galaxy Security flat-footed. Doom had sauntered in among the traffic for the air show, bypassing overloaded checkpoints and even Galaxy Security's own Early Warning System. President Kane had been decidedly unimpressed and dropped hints (although he'd stopped short of actual threats) to the effect that Anderson was holding on to his job by the skin of his teeth.

Anderson printed out the latest bulletins and read them: Urgos had indeed responded to Earth's diplomatic, 'Or else,' with an equally diplomatic, 'Or else, what?' but had also added a tacit denial of any knowledge of Doom's whereabouts or the location of his base of operations. Deirdre Kelly, G-Sec's Director Intelligence, was trying to make sense of conflicting analyses. Her initial recommendation was for the anomalous asteroid, which Zark had pinpointed as currently floating two hundred million miles out from Venus, to be investigated for evidence of unregistered mining operations. If there were any personnel around, they could be taken into custody and questioned.

The Federation's politicians and Earth's public wanted to see G-Force striking back at Captain Doom. In the absence of anything better to point them at, Anderson would send them two hundred million miles out from Venus to see if they could find a pirate turned prospector.



The Phoenix settled into time warp and Princess breathed deeply. Cold sweat trickled down the back of her neck and she tried to appear untroubled by the discomfort of the jump to time warp. That was a tough space shot, she mused. Tiny must have been pushing the envelope on that one. She called up the tactical data on the target asteroid and its surrounds.

Keyop's console uttered an alert tone and Princess got up from her seat to see what was happening.

"New... information!" Keyop chirped.

Princess skimmed the screen: Cosmic Space Patrol 409th Squadron reports target asteroid deserted. Evidence of mining ops. Samples collected for analysis by SciDiv. Preliminary soil contamination results and new intel information implicate Urgosian involvement...

The voice of 7-Zark-7 sounded on the internal speakers, advising them to divert to Planet Urgos. Princess and Keyop studied the rest of the intelligence report, then began configuring the Phoenix's infrascanners to detect the mystery metal's unique signature.



"You're certain that the Urgosian Assembly of Peers knew about this?" President Kane asked, eyes narrowing under his bushy white brows.

"Our operatives were able to obtain a classified transcript of an Assembly session held in camera some six months ago, Mr President," Anderson said. " A provincial politician, one Ven Arish, put up a proposal that the Assembly allocate funding to Captain Doom for metallurgical work relating to something called 'Urgosium.' We believe that Urgosium may be what they're calling the alloy made from the ore they got out of that asteroid."

"Knowing about a weapon isn't quite the same as using it, Anderson."

"Three weeks ago, there was another secret session. The dialogue is circumspect, but the gist of it is that Ven Arish -- again -- was trying to get overt support for Captain Doom's attack on Earth."

"Given the denials we're getting out of the Urgosians, I assume he failed," Kane inferred.

"The Assembly gave informal, in-principle support for the attack, and made it clear that they intended to deny any involvement once the proverbial hit the fan. They knew about it then, they know about it now, and they're waiting to pick up the pieces as soon as we look like capitulating."

"An Act of War, then," Kane growled.

"An undeclared Act of War, sir," Anderson confirmed.

"Then let's return the favour," Kane said.

"The Phoenix is en-route to Planet Urgos as we speak, Mr President," Anderson said.

"Good." Alexander Kane got out of his seat and strolled to the window. "Several members of the Federation Council are already starting to talk about the feasibility of opening negotiations with this pirate. We need G-Force to succeed, and decisively."

"With respect, sir, they're facing a weapon that has the potential to destroy virtually anything we send up against it," Anderson pointed out. "We don't have a countermeasure and we don't even know what to expect."

"And if we don't nip the ambitions of this Captain Doom in the bud, here and now, he'll walk all over us!" Kane growled.

"Yes, sir," Anderson said.

"I'm aware of your misgivings, Anderson," Kane said, "but we simply can't afford to show weakness at a time like this. The public need to feel that their government can protect them. We didn't even come close, yesterday. We need to try and restore public confidence in the Council and the ISO."

And your administration. "Yes, Mr President."



Deep within the Urgosium refining base, the workers had their quarters. A spacious apartment had been set aside for the project leader and her family. Tierna had retired to her quarters to shed a few scant tears of relief at her husband's escape following the success of his mission, then composed herself, prepared the evening meal and calmly awaited his return.

When the biplane was confirmed as having safely landed, Tierna instructed her daughter Elenie to make tea, and went to greet Captain Doom.

Tierna waited in the doorway, calm and dignified, her light brown hair pulled back in its usual coil, while her husband strode along the corridor.

"Did you see?" he called to her as he approached.

"I did," Tierna said, smiling. "I have also been monitoring the GNN news bulletins. The Earthlings speak of nothing else but your surprise attack on the air show. Quanto Tobor Aeronautics, Mitsubishi Starship, Boeing, Terajima Corporation, Galactic Dynamic and Consolidated Aerospace shares are crashing on stock exchanges all over the galaxy. They say the sector could take years to recover."

Doom swept her up and into their quarters, kicking the door shut behind him. "It was a triumph, beloved! The Earth forces had no idea what was going on until it was too late!"

"You had the element of surprise," Tierna qualified, ever the cautious one. "Next time, they will be on their guard."

"True," Doom admitted, "but they have nothing that can stand against weapons made of Urgosium." He set her down on her feet in the living room, but kept his hands on her waist in a familiar gesture of affection and possessiveness. "Have you had word from the Assembly of Peers?"

"You will have to speak with Demmish about that," Tierna said. "He has been in almost constant communication with Governor Arish."

"I'll speak to him soon," Doom said. "What does GNN say about me?"

"Their reporters speak of a secret weapon that defeated G-Force. They speak of your mercy and your daring, and they have run stories on what they know of your history. Frank Wheeler from the Times is calling you 'the mystery gentleman swashbuckler from the stars.'"

"Frank Wheeler is an idiot," Doom said, "but it's a nice touch."

"I must confess," Tierna said, a mischievous smile playing around her eyes and mouth, "I thought it had a certain charm."

"We should discuss this later," Doom said, as their daughter entered the room. Both parents turned to greet Elenie, who at fifteen, was still somewhat awkward and coltish, but showed promise of beauty as she matured. She had her mother's grey eyes but had inherited her thick auburn hair, a rarity among Urgosians, from her father.

"Welcome home, Fa," Elenie said, smiling. Her smile widened and she almost jumped up and down on the spot. "Ma, may I tell him? May I?"

"Tell me what?" Doom asked. Tiarna nodded.

"Jahno wants to give me a betrothal pin!" Elenie squealed.

"Then we have double cause for celebration!" Doom declared.

"You approve?" Elenie breathed, eyes shining. "I thought you didn't like the idea."

"My only concern with this betrothal," Doom told her, "is your happiness, and you appear to be very happy. Know these two things, though, my sweet: if you ever change your mind, I will move the stars to set things right, and if Jahno ever does anything to hurt you, he will have me to deal with."

"He never would, Fa. He loves me."

"Of course he does," Doom said. "And now, forgive me, but I must ask Demmish to join us for tea. I need to hear his report."

"Elenie," Tierna said, "set an extra cup at the table. I must give your father my report, as well."

"Did you manage to solve the ceramic impurity problem?" Doom asked.

"I did," Tierna said, her lips curving into a smile of triumph. "This afternoon, we will alloy the remaining Urgosium into enough armour to outfit the Firebrand. The Urgosium whips remain your exclusive weapon, but incorporating Urgosium into ceramalloy plate will make your flagship safer and stronger than anything else in the galaxy."

"Including the legendary Phoenix," Doom added. "You're a genius, Tierna. I'm a lucky man."



Amidst the humming, almost musical buzz and chime of Nerve Center, 7-Zark-7 took note of the biotelemetry data being transmitted back from the G-Force team and his antennae jumped with alarm. "Oh, my!" he said. "Princess' cerebonic implants aren't functioning at peak potentiality. This could be a real problem..." The robot turned as the access door slid open and an IT team entered, looking for all the world like surgeons in their antistatic suits, gloves and masks.

"Hey, Zark," Lieutenant Morris said, raising a hand in greeting. "Time for your new upload, cyberdude."

"But I'm in the middle of --" Zark began to protest.

"Chief Anderson's orders," Morris chided. "No delays, he said. You really ticked him off, not issuing an alert when you detected that pirate vessel inbound yesterday. We have to get you a little sharper on those early warnings, my little metal man."

"But I have to warn --"

"Not that it's your fault," Morris said, and reached behind Zark's head to flick a switch. The robot's arms went limp and his facial LEDs blinked yellow as Zark powered down into maintenance mode. "It's just your programming. Garbage in, garbage out, as the saying goes," Morris continued. "Chan, you get the top of his head off. Schiavo, pass me the microvac. We might as well clean out any crud that's got into his circuit boards while we're here."



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