It was unnatural.
It was unholy.
It just wasn’t right.
It was the Leader’s voice, but. . .
“She’s a super freak, super freak
She’s super freaky, yow
Super freak, super freak. . . “
“Um, are you all right, Leader X?” Katse nervously asked as he entered the room, “You’re acting strangely.”
“Ah, Katse,” Sosai X said in a nostalgic tone, “I first got the idea for you after listening to a Rick James marathon. . .” He paused a moment before adding in an annoyed tone, “I’m fine, Katse.” Another moment passed before he said in a more level tone, “I’ve got the music in me for conquering the world.”
Katse waited a moment to be sure the Leader wasn’t going to channel Barry Manilow and start singing “I Write the Songs.”
“So,” Katse finally asked, “are you going to rig the Grammys?”
“No, fool!” Sosai scolded, “I’ve composed a weapon of sound that will kill anyone who hears it. It’s the Sonic Mecha!”
“The Sonic Mecha? Can people truly be killed by sound, Leader X?”
“Oh my, yes! Just listen to grade school-aged children try to sing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ or ‘Away In a Manger’; it’s not far to go from that torture to death!
“With my intelligence,” the Leader continued, bubbling with enthusiasm, “I have single-handedly composed a murderous piece of music!”
Again, Katse paused; this was certainly a perfect time for “I Write the Songs” to start. But, again, it didn’t happen.
“You are truly a wonder, Leader X!” he tried not to lay it on too thick.
“The only problem is that no one in Galactor’s ranks can play my music.”
Katse was clearly not surprised by this.
“However,” Sosai continued, “I’ve heard that a rock band called the Demon 5 possesses brilliant musical skills. Berg Katse, I order you to capture them and bring them here, understand?”
Katse bowed low, as only he could, and left.
Sosai X started singing softly to himself, “I write the songs that make the whole world DIE. . .”
* * * * *
If it had been an arena, the Science Ninja Team would have been well past the nosebleed seats. They sat under a couple of trees in a park that surrounded an amphitheater. On stage was a group that looked like a late 1960's hippie tribute band. This was the Demon 5. Though, truth be told, Alice Cooper has sneezed up things that looked and sounded more evil than this band.
Several hundred – if not thousand – people crowded near the stage that evening; many of them seemed determined to have their own Woodstock experience without the bad acid trips or mud.
Perhaps, in her own way, Jun was trying this; she sat with her eyes closed and a rare look of tranquility on her face as she let the music envelop every fiber of her being.
Jinpei and Ryu were next to her, clearly doing a parody of her peace-out; they each wore a wig that made them look like they were stuck in the awkward period between the hippie movement and the disco era. Those wigs also proved to be excellent for hiding the earplugs they wore. Even though they supported Jun as any good friend would, Ryu and Jinpei weren’t possessed by any great love for the Demon 5.
Neither were Ken and Joe, for that matter. Ken sat with his back against a tree while Joe was stretched out on his side. They were both too bored to yawn.
“There’s nothing like having their music in the air tonight!” Jun sighed, “They’re the greatest.”
A dark form floated in the night sky toward the amphitheater. It stopped just above the stage.
“I think they kind of suck.” Joe muttered.
A triangular tube dropped down, surrounding the band. In less than a heartbeat, the band was vacuumed off the stage and the tube retracted.
“That’s not what I meant!” Joe said to Jun. Then he added, “Who the hell would kidnap the Demon 5?!”
All eyes were focused on the machine above the stage, which looked like a car’s exhaust pipe with a couple of pizza cutters for wings. The air was filled with a nasty laugh.
“That sounds like Berg Katse!” Ken shouted.
“Hello, drippy hippies!” Katse’s voice boomed over the audience, “Don’t act so upset. I’m giving you a silent night that you’ll soon wish would have lasted forever!”
With that, the Sonic Mecha disappeared into the night.
* * * * *
At Galactor’s latest secret base, Katse and his crew strode into the recording studio. While the henchmen took their places at various consoles, Katse felt himself standing just a bit taller as he watched the bewildered band members on the other side of the glass look around and pick through the sheet music on the stands before them.
“Greetings, groovers!” he crowed into the intercom, “Sorry if I frightened you. You’ve been selected to assist Galactor with out greatest mission.”
“Hey, man,” the lead guitarist said, “we don’t do missionary –“
“This magnificent studio is part of Galactor’s secret underground base.” Katse was too excited by living part of his rock and roll fantasy to let any snide remark bother him.
“Um,” the singer tried to keep her voice from showing fear, “you want us to sing a Pig Latin version of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’?”
“What?!” Katse was thrown by that. A goon with a handful of papers dashed into the recording area and quickly switched out the sheet music that was on the stand in front of the Demon 5's singer.
“Um, sorry.” the goon muttered as he returned to the control room, “I was trying out a new translation program while printing out their music. . .”
The Demon 5 quickly discussed the composition before them.
“The guy’s a total genius!” the lead guitarist gushed.
“This thing’s way too hard!” the drummer griped.
“Nonsense!” Kate reassured them, “I know you’ve got the right stuff – I believe!” With that, he gave a quick signal to the henchmen in the recording area with the band.
The goons pulled out syringes large enough to vaccinate livestock and injected each musician. Five helmets descended from the ceiling and landed perfectly on each Demon head.
“This will keep you from having a heart attack and from hearing the music you play.” Kate explained.
“Oh wow,” the keyboardist mumbled, “I’m comfortably numb. . .”
“Let the music play!” Katse commanded, “And to the young lady who’s singing, I don’t care what kind of crap comes out of your mouth, but you can’t use any intelligible words. Pretend you’re Yoko Ono.”
Katse put on a protective pair of headphones. The rest of the crew, however, had no such protection.
The Demon 5 began playing. Katse moved to the beat while several goons dropped dead. The rest, on the other hand, carried out their duties at their control panels; they had been specially lobotomized so they could carry out their duties without suffering the effects of the Murder Music.
The Demon 5 didn’t notice the death around them. They were too busy feeling, seeing, tasting, and smelling a psychedelic light show while they played Murder Music One.
* * * * *
It was a warm, sunny afternoon in downtown Peaceful City as kindly folks walked the streets. Birds chirped, dogs and cats preened each other, and litter deposited itself in the nearest trash receptacles.
But then the Sonic Mecha, looking like a pipe organ with pizza cutter wings, silently cast a shadow over the exact center of Peaceful City.
Katse, still wearing his protective headphones, salivated at the scene below. “Time to test Murder Music Number One. Play it, Sam!”
Windows shattered and buildings crumbled. Cars swerved off the road and exploded. People dropped to the ground – some even tried to thrust their hands all the way to their eardrums before they died. Birds dove into brick walls. Dogs and cats tried to rip out each others’ throats to put each other out of their misery. Even the trash burst into flames.
“Oh, pretty doggie.” the goon at the controls on Katse’s right said.
“No, Sam.” Katse replied with unusual patience.
“You can’t have the dog because dead puppies aren’t much fun.” Katse had taken a liking to this lobotomized goon; Sam had become the pet that he never had.
“Oh.” Sam sounded disappointed. Blood flowed from his eyes just before he slumped forward in his seat. Sam was the last of the lobotomized goons; this part of the experiment was a failure. Galactor was just going to have to supply all the henchmen with protective gear. He was promptly replaced by an unaltered goon with protective headgear.
Katse returned his focus to the streets below. A wickedly satisfied grin spread across his face.
* * * * *
At the Crescent Coral Base, the only thing disturbing the utter tranquility of the sea was the regularly scheduled fish parade sponsored by the Bose Corporation. (At least, that’s what the crawl on the occasional passing electric eel said.)
The Science Ninja Team, too, was quiet as they sat in a briefing room, waiting for Dr. Nambu to come in and give them their mission.
Finally, the doctor came in the room, carrying a rectangular piece of black plastic in his hand.
“What’s that thing?” Jinpei asked, pointing to what the doctor held.
“It’s a seriously outdated antique.” Joe replied.
“It’s an audio cassette.” Ken added, “It was used for recording and playing music.”
“I think you all should give this a good listen.” Dr. Nambu inserted the cassette into a player on his desk and hit the “play” button. He slipped on a pair of headphones just before any sound could come from the speakers.
But as soon as the tape began playing, all five ninjas clapped their hands over their ears and cringed in pain; they hadn’t heard anything this agonizing since Joe’s voice began to change when he hit puberty.
“I’ll stop the tape at this point,” Dr. Nambu said as he pressed a button, “because you’d go insane if you heard any more.” He gave the team a moment to recover before he added, “And, if I’d used modern audio equipment, you’d all be dead.”
“So Galactor’s using a sonic weapon now.” Ken said, his growing anger thinly veiled, “Those bastards –“
“It sounded like the Demon 5 was playing.” Jun said. “In fact, I’m sure of it!”
“The Demon 5?” Dr. Nambu asked. For a moment, the Science Ninja Team was completely stunned – there was something Dr. Nambu DIDN’T know!
“Um, the Demon 5 is considered one of the greatest rock bands ever.” Jun tried not to feel overwhelmed by the awkward feeling that came with informing Dr. Nambu, “Stock markets crash whenever their lead singer gets a cold.”
“And that’s why Galactor kidnaped them!” Ken cried, “Katse’s been forcing them to play that funky music!”
“I’ll work on a way to defeat the sonic weapon,” the doctor said, “while you search for Galactor’s secret base.”
* * * * *
Katse stood before the image of Sosai X being projected to the Sonic Mecha. “The mecha makes me want to shout! It’s brilliant!” he gushed, “25 cities have been thrown into chaos!”
“Wonderful!” the Leader replied, “I’ve written Murder Music Two. Return to base and record it.”
Leader X’s image had barely faded when a henchman’s voice came across the intercom. “Lord Katse, the God Phoenix has been spotted!”
“Excellent!” Katse answered, “It’s about time they were made to shake, rattle, and roll!”
* * * * *
The God Phoenix vibrated violently as it was blasted by the full force of the Sonic Mecha.
“There’s a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on,” Ryu said, “and we’re not gonna take it!”
“We’ll be fine as long as we have our helmets on.” Ken reassured his team.
Cracks started forming just above Joe’s head. “We’re going to get ripped to shreds!” he called from his post.
“I’m scared.” Jinpei cried.
Joe leapt up from his seat and darted over to the missile launch button. “Time to shoot a couple of Birds into those screamin’ demons!”
Ken grabbed Joe’s arm. “They’ll just explode as soon as they’re launched! We’ve got no choice. Let’s get out of here, maximum speed!”
Katse’s chest swelled as he stood on the bridge of the Sonic Mecha, watching the God Phoenix turn tail. “Don’t let them get away!” he ordered. He then yelled to the image on the screen, “One way or another, I’m gonna get ya!”
“Ken, if we go underwater, the soundwaves will dissipate.” Jun said through rattling teeth.
“Yeah!” Jinpei shouted, desperate to try anything.
The God Phoenix plunged into the sea, and peace enveloped the ship.
* * * * *
The Demon 5 band members were herded back into the recording studio.
“No way, man!” the lead guitarist protested, “I’ve had enough!”
“We don’t want our music to be used for murder and mayhem!” the singer added.
“Demons don’t have an ethical code!” Katse barked. He pressed a button, sending a charge through the helmets.
“Didn’t they read the title at the top of the page?” one goon whispered to his neighbor.
“Yeah, really!” the other replied, “What the hell did they think ‘Murder Music’ meant?”
“All right,” Katse said to the band a moment after the charge stopped, “Rock it!”
* * * * *
The 105th Monster Mecha Fodder Division had been dispatched to face Galactor’s latest beast. Every piece of equipment – both land- and air-based – used the latest technology in senseless self-destruction. An asthmatic child could wheeze near a tank to make it explode.
Katse knew this, but he didn’t care. He unleashed the full force of Murder Music Two. Every jet, tank, and rocket launcher exploded into a fine, metallic mist.
Meanwhile, the God Phoenix peacefully floated on the ocean. Its nose had been retracted, and a large dish was mounted in front of the G-2.
Inside the ship, Jun sat at a console. Two cords ran from a control panel just above her head to her helmet. Her eyes were closed as she listened intently for anything unusual. Jinpei fidgeted in his seat next to her.
“Can you pick up any tv signals?” he whispered to her, “The Monalince Toppers are supposed to be playing the Bluestone Badgers right now.”
"Shush! I need to hear -- "
“Man, it just bites that we’re playing hide and seek like this!” Jinpei whined loud enough for everyone to hear.
“He’s right.” Jun sighed, “Can’t we get any closer to – “
“If we got any closer,” Ken replied, “the God Phoenix would fall to pieces.”
“Wait a minute . . . “ Jun placed her hands near the places the cords attached to her helmet, “we’d better get this back to the base right now!”
* * * * *
Back at the Crescent Coral Base, Dr. Nambu sat at a console as a printout was being produced. The Science Ninja Team stood behind him, anxious to know what he had learned.
“Someone in the Demon 5 has been using drumsticks to send a message in Morse Code.” the doctor announced.
“Talk about obsolete!” Ryu said, “A lot of countries’ militaries quit using Morse Code years ago!”
“Here’s what the message says:” Dr. Nambu read, “Andes. . . Titicaca. . . Galactor secret base here. . . send help. . . we also like poetry readings . . . and long, moonlit walks along the beach. . . “
“Do they mean the Andes Mountains in South America?” Ken asked, “And what the heck’s a Titicaca?’
“Good to see those online geography lessons are paying off.” Joe muttered.
“Titicaca?” Jinpei cried, “That sounds like something dirty!” Jun promptly slapped him in the back of the head. She secretly dreaded what he’d be like when he’s on the edge of seventeen.
After Dr. Nambu pulled out a map and pointed out Lake Titicaca to Ken, Jun said, “They’re some kind of wonderful – even while performing, the Demon 5 were signaling for help!”
“Science Ninja Team,” Dr. Nambu commanded, “sneak into the secret base and rescue the Demon 5!”
* * * * *
In their prison cell, the Demon 5's drummer tapped on the door’s bars with a spoon.
“Give it up, man!” the bass guitarist moaned, “Nobody can hear you!”
“Hey, you, get off of my cloud!” the drummer replied, “At least I’m doing something.”
“Oh yeah.” the singer voiced her support as she pulled out a spoon and joined the drummer by tapping on a tin cup.
“Cut it out in there!” a guard yelled from the other side of the cell door.
“Hey, I gotta be me!” the drummer yelled to the guard, “We’re musicians. We got the beat, so we keep practicing.”
“And,” the singer added, “have you ever heard of OCD?”
“So,” the lead guitarist replied, “if you keep interrupting them, they’ll have to go back and start over again and again and again!”
* * * * *
The God Phoenix arrived at Lake Titicaca. Jinpei opened his mouth to make another joke about the lake’s name, but Jun rapped his helmet in a preemptive strike.
“Jun, activate the audio sensors and see if you can pick up anything.” Ken said.
“The sensor’s online.” Jun said. A moment later, she added, “I’m picking up the same sort of Morse Code as earlier.”
“Dive, Ryu!” the Eagle commanded.
Deep under the surface of Lake Titicaca were the remains of an ancient Incan city.
“Now we know where Galactor’s secret base is.” Ken said to nobody in particular.
At this time, the members of the Demon 5 had been rushed into the recording studio. The helmets were placed on their heads, and a recording of Justin Bieber singing Marilyn Manson’s tunes blasted into their ears. They dropped to their knees, clutching their heads in agony.
“Crank it up to eleven!” Katse commanded the goon at the appropriate control panel. He then went to the intercom. “I can’t believe you shits thought you’d get away with that signaling trick!” He let out a little laugh before he added, “If you think this is bad, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”
Just then the nose of the God Phoenix punched through a wall.
“Sir,” a henchman shouted, “it looks like the Science Ninja Team’s trying to sneak in!”
“Berg Katse,” Ken shouted as the dome on top of the God Phoenix opened to allow him, Jun, Joe, and Jinpei to launch their attack, “we’re here to strike a sour note in your murderous melody!”
“You’ve done better, Gatchaman!” a goon yelled.
“I was originally gonna say, ‘you can tune a piano but you can’t tuna fish’, but that only sounds good after nine Coronas.”
“BLOW THOSE BASTARDS OUT OF THE WATER!” Katse shouted. The air was filled with tracer rounds.
The four ninjas flew off the God Phoenix and had taken out half of Galactor’s troops before reaching the ground.
“Help the Demon 5!” Ken ordered. Jinpei shattered the glass between the control room and the recording area, and he and Jun darted through.
Katse and Gatchaman faced each other.
“Berg Katse, it’s finally time to finish you off!” Ken angrily proclaimed.
“Fool!” Katse sneered, “You think I’d let myself lose to YOU?”
Ken flung his boomerang at Katse. But, just as the weapon was about to reach its mark, a clear, triangular tube dropped down to surround Katse, shielding him from the attack.
“Bye bye, Birdie!” Katse laughed as the tube drew him upward before disappearing into the ceiling.
“Come back here, you purple piece of – “
“Ken, he’s just escaping to the Sonic Mecha!” Jun cried as she entered the control room, supporting the lead singer, “We should get back to the Crescent Base!”
“She’s right.” Joe called from the spot where the other band members were lying, “They’re unconscious, but I think they’ll be okay. I can’t say the same for this base, though!”
“Right.” Ken replied, “Let’s blow this joint!”
* * * * *
The Sonic Mecha was waiting for the God Phoenix as it broke the water’s surface.
“Now I can let the Murder Music Play!” Katse crowed.
“Damn it, what the hell are we gonna do now?” Ken cried in frustration.
Ryu opened his mouth to suggest they make a break for the ocean, since it was nearby and they would be protected from the sound. But then he realized that this was a very sensible solution, and they had not encountered the Okora Paradigm yet. This phenomenon proved to be consistently frustrating by the insidious way it made sensible solutions into the most regrettable. Even though Dr. Nambu seemed to be the only one to completely understand it, Ryu was able to pick up on a couple of constants: first, the people the Science Ninja Team were to help would die, and, second, some bizarre disaster occurs on another part of the planet (for instance, a herd of seven-foot-tall Chihuahuas runs rampant across the Sonoran countryside.) So, if they did the sensible thing, would the Okora Paradigm cause the Demon 5 to die as well as unleash some freakishly weird stuff in Peoria?
Before Ryu could go any farther with that thought, Ken gave an order, and the God Phoenix turned toward the continent’s interior.
As the Sonic Mecha chased its prey, Katse became more and more giddy with delight. Not only was he on the verge of wiping out the Science Ninja Team, he was also bitch-slapping the planet. For, as the God Phoenix went further and further into the continent’s interior, the Murder Music was shredding more and more tropical rain forest, destroying countless endangered and undiscovered species.
“While we’re okay because of our helmets,” Joe said to Ken, “I don’t think the Demon 5 can take much more of this.”
“Damn it,” Jinpei complained, “one thing leads to another!”
Ken grit his teeth as he tried to figure out what to do.
Sometimes the universe allows a fortunate coincidence to happen. In this case, it was a well-timed transmission from Dr. Nambu.
“I have a way to defeat the Sonic Mecha!” he declared, “If you broadcast the sound waves a half-beat behind Galactor, the sound waves will cancel each other out..”
For a brief moment, the five ninjas were stunned – a simple solution? With no Okora Paradigm?
“I get it.” Joe finally said, “It’s like an eye for an eye and a beat for a beat, right?”
“Okay, Ryu,” Ken said in one of his most commanding tones, “turn this thing around so we can hit them head on!”
“I pray for your success.” Dr. Nambu said as his image faded from the screen.
“Okay, Jun, get ready to roll tape!” Ken added, though he wasn’t sure he used the archaic term correctly.
Jun started turning on the outdated audio equipment that had been rigged to her console; she wasn’t sure why the doctor insisted they use this antiquated machinery, but she had faith that he had a good reason.
“Ryu, break out the speakers!” Ken ordered. With a flip of a switch, the nose of the God Phoenix retracted, and what looked like a large antenna extended past the G-2.
As Katse watched from the Sonic Mecha, he nearly doubled over with delighted laughter. “They’re crazy!” he shrieked, “They’re making this too easy!”
“Okay, Jun,” Ken said, “slowly increase the volume. Then, when we’re exactly a half-beat behind them, crank it up to – “
“Could you say something besides ‘crank it up to 11'?” Jinpei suddenly asked, “It’s getting kind of old.”
“Really?” Ken replied, “I never noticed. Okay, then. Jun, pump up the volume!”
And the Murder Music died.
“What the hell?!” Katse yelled, “Why did you shut down the tunes?”
“Sire,” a henchman replied, “the audio track is playing, but there’s no sound coming from the speakers.”
With that, the bridge of the Sonic Mecha was filled with flames and metallic scraps.
Ken let out a relieved sigh as he watched the remnants of the Sonic Mecha fall to the earth.
The air beneath the trees, however, was filled with panicked screams as huge chunks of Galactor gear came crashing down on several hidden villages.
One piece of metal did not fall like the others. It floated for a couple of moments as wings extended and a small jet engine fired. Katse escaped again.
“I FUCKING HATE YOU!” Katse screamed as he pounded the control panel of his escape pod, “I’ll get you for this, Gatchaman!”
* * * * *
A few weeks later, the Demon 5 appeared on stage, looking like a late 1960's hippie tribute band. If it had been an arena, the Science Ninja Team would have been well past the nosebleed seats. . .