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Dress Rehearsal by WyldKat
Dress Rehearsal by WyldKat
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Thank you to Nancy and Shay for doing the beta read on this, and for putting up with how long it took me to get this one done.  (6 years, but who’s counting?)

 

Thank you to Jane Lebak for answering several questions so I could get a certain scene with Jason done.

 

Disclaimers

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.

 

 

Some violence, about in keeping with early Gatchaman.

 

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Dress Rehearsal

 

Prologue

 

 

On the outskirts of a New Mexico desert, nestled in the foothills of the San Augustin mountains, sat a half forgotten air base.  The original occupants had moved on years before when the government had down sized the military leaving the sand, sage and desert grass to reclaim the land.  Only a handful or so of the buildings were still standing. The rest of them had fallen victim to the pervasive sands, wind and temperature fluctuations.  The asphalt landing strips and concrete pads had lost their battle with the elements: cracks riddled the surfaces, giving homes to hardy weeds and insects.  Evergreen trees, stunted by the sparse rain, lined the remnants of office buildings and roadways.  A couple of years prior, life had returned to the area when the base had been converted into a small private military school.  Some of the buildings were renovated, turned into classrooms, an athletic center, living areas and offices.  The rest were torn down, in some cases leaving only the foundations to hint at what once stood there, in others even the foundations were removed. 

 

Inside the largest building, a group of people from all across the globe gathered.  Some were the people who spoke to and for President Kane, advising him on world matters, others spoke as part of the Galactic Federation on the Council, giving Earth a voice in the complicated arena of galactic government, the rest represented the major regions of Earth.  All were somehow part of the Federation Security department, trying desperately to push the organization through its infancy into a fully functioning, self-sustaining department of the Galactic Federation.

 

“We’re going to have to push the timetable up.”  The recently promoted Chief of Security looked around the starkly lit room at the dozen people sitting around the beat-up office table.

 

“Not all of them are ready, Neal.”  A woman a few years shy of middle age shook her head.

 

“I know, Amanda.  I’ve heard from our other training facilities.  But if what Tanna has told me is right,” he nodded towards a slim, dark haired, woman at the opposite end of the table, “we are running out of time.  Spectra has picked up their activity.  Already Riga is having problems holding their own.  So we take the ones that are ready and hope that this will be sufficient until the rest are ready.”

 

“You really think putting children out there will help, Anderson?”

 

“Ask some of the villagers in the Middle-East if the eight year old kids with automatic rifles are of any help, Kozaburou.”  Neal quietly responded.  “Or the fifteen year-old girl in South America if the knife she carries helped protect her from her attackers.”

 

The Japanese representative huffed and leaned back in his seat.  “Those are different circumstances.  They are defending something.  You’re asking children to go out and hunt people down.”

 

“They won’t be hunting people down, Kozaburou.  They’ll be responding to these strange attacks, which are not quite the same.”

 

“Thank you, Tanna.” Anderson nodded to the German intelligence officer.

 

“When are you thinking about going live?”  The South American representative asked as he leaned forward and knocked the ashes off the tip of his cigarette.

 

“We’re talking about doing trial runs within the next week, Artur.”

 

“So soon, Neal?  The new base isn’t ready yet.  It won’t be for nearly a year.”  A frown deepened the age lines on the African woman’s face.

 

“I know, Fola.  I know.  But we don’t have any other choice.”

 

“I am guessing that you have your selections?”  The Australian envoy looked up from the briefing folder.  Ten years in the private sector had done little to erase the military bearing about the man.

 

“Yes, Mitch, we do.  I’ve heard from the other four section bases and they are also gearing up to take their alpha teams into ready mode.”  Anderson nodded and turned to a small console next to the table.  Behind him a screen came to life.

 

“These are the ones that have been chosen for Sector Zero’s Alpha team.”  As he began to list off the names images of the newly formed team flashed on the screen.

 

“Markel Allen Dacanrus, pilot, rated in anything up to a twin engine jet.  He was supposed to be the second but with the death of his brother last year, Mark was moved up to the command position.  He can be a bit rash at times but he has shown that he is willing to listen to his team.  He will be the primary co-pilot of their command jet.”

 

On the screen a dark haired blue eyed teen dropped from a bar near the ceiling of a gym and plunged like a hungry raptor towards the floor.  Just before he hit the ground he flexed his knees so he landed in a half crouch.  A second later he was standing up, turning and heading towards a pommel horse.

 

“Jason Assidi will be the second in command.  He’s an expert shot with small arms, sharp shot with long arms.  He can drive just about anything with wheels and a motor.   Something of a hot-head at times but very focused when he is working.  He’ll be manning the weapons station.”

 

A grey eyed young man with reddish brown hair uncoiled himself from the underside of a car, slowly stood up and turned an intense stare at the camera.

 

“Jun Ishito is the third in command.  She is a promising computer programmer.  The tech guys say they have yet to find a program she can’t hack into.  She is something of a big sister to rest of the group, even the ones not picked for this team.  She’ll be managing navigations.”

 

A graceful and lithe green eyed black hair girl progressed though a complicated kata, movements timed to match a song only she could hear.

 

“Randolf Harper, his friends call him “Tiny”.  What Mark can’t fly he can.  He has an instinctive feel for large aircraft.  He is a Junior Master Diver, with rescue & recovery experience, as well as being physically the strongest member of the team.  He’s the pilot of the command jet.”

 

Behind him on an American style football field, the defensive end,  number 92, broke through the offensive line and lumbered forward, ignoring the guy hanging on his back, wrapped a bear hug around the quarterback, pulling him to the ground.

 

“Jessica Monroe seems to have an innate grasp of languages.  She already speaks four fluently and is learning two more now.  She has proven herself more than capable of holding her own in a confrontation.  She will be in charge of the communications console.”

 

A group of teens engaged in a type of tag appeared on the screen.  One was obviously Mark; a second boy that bore a strong resemblance to Mark was trying to get around Mark to take a flag off his belt.  A third was a red-haired girl who was watching the contest. After observing the boys for a few seconds the girl darted behind Mark as the younger boy feigned a grab, she snatched the flag and rolled out of his reach as the older boy pivoted around.

 

“Tina Calvin is without a doubt the best fighter of our females.  Most of her instructors have commented that she is highly opinionated.  She has shown an ability to process information quickly and react accordingly, so she will be operating the Electronic Counter Measures station.”

 

A young red haired girl squared off on a mat against a teenage boy who was over a head taller and looked to out-mass her by a good thirty pounds.  The girl circled around the boy, periodically moving close enough to take a light jab then dancing out of the way as he retaliated.  After a few passes the obviously tiring boy made a small mistake and left himself exposed.  The girl took advantage of opening and darted in, yanked a wooden knife from her gi belt and raked it along his right side as she swung past.  Pivoting around she took the knife in her teeth, grabbed his right arm as he tried to turn and used his momentum to spin him across the floor.

 

“Last but not least - Key Ishito has trained since he was three in karate.  He likes to take mechanical things apart just to see what makes the work then see if he can reassemble them.  Usually he is successful.  He was the first of the team to pass the First Responder training and still has the highest score.  He will be the engineer for the command jet and serve as the medic for the team on the field.”

 

A pile of kids between the ages of 9 and 13 years flashed on the screen.  From the edge of the pile a boy of apparent Japanese decent squirmed his way under the pile then slowly backed out clutching a ball.  As he stood up and moved as if to run one of the other kids noticed he had the desired object of possession and scrambled off the pile. The younger boy dodged, laughing, his easy movements hinting at the grace adolescent’s would give him.

 

“Some of those people are mere babies, Anderson.” Kozaburou protested as Anderson turned the screen off.

 

“The kids picked have all passed the age of accountability, Kozaburou.”  Tanna cut in.  “Some just haven’t hit their growth spurt yet.”

 

“All of these people know what they are being asked to do.  Each was given the opportunity to back out of the program.  None of them wanted to leave.  In fact, a couple of them we didn’t seek out, they came to us and asked to join.”  Anderson told them.

 

“So you took advantage of them, used a probable desire for revenge against them, warped them to suit your needs.  What about their mental well being?”  The Japanese envoy countered.

 

“I won’t dispute the desire for revenge charge.  There are a few here for precisely that reason and they will not hesitate to tell you that.  They know what they want and they know the best way to get it.  They understand and accept the risks.  Sounds fairly well adjusted to me.  I know some adults that still do not know what they want in life.  Moreover, I think we can all agree that it is better for them to be here, where we can offer them training and equipment, increasing their odds of surviving their vendettas, than allowing them to run off by themselves, which is almost a death sentence in of itself.”

 

“Then too, most people do not pay attention to kids, they don’t notice their coming and goings, which makes it easy for them to move around.”  Tanna interjected.

 

“There is also the hard fact that we can expect at least fifteen to eighteen years of active combat from even the oldest, assuming they don’t get killed of course.”  Mitch added with a slight shrug.

 

“What about this command jet you mentioned?” Artur asked, trying to turn to conversation away from the ages of the new team.

 

“It is a new hybrid craft, capable of atmospheric flight and interstellar travel.  The team has affectionately named the first one Phoenix.”  Anderson paused and decided it would not be a good idea to tell the council that the name had been picked after the fourth consecutive wreck in the simulator in one day.  Let them assume it was named after the project.  “It will be equipped with air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles and short to mid-range lasers.  Radar and radio jamming mechanisms and a puncture resistance skin coupled with a variable shield will help protect the team in the advent of aerial combat.  The variable geometric wing design will make the craft highly maneuverable, considering its size.  Parallel jump engines will allow them to travel about one light year in an hour putting even systems up to eighteen light years within easy reach.  We will be adding a barrier that will bend light rendering the craft all but invisible but right now we have yet to integrate the Regalian technology into our systems.”

 

“So the Capellan system has changed their mind?”

 

“No,” Anderson shook his head.  “They remain resolutely neutral.  The shield was given to us by one of their scientists.  She lost her family and her life trying to keep it out of Spectra’s hands.”

 

“You keep saying “will”, Neal.  Are we to take that the jet, plane, whatever it is, isn’t ready either?”  Russia’s delegate asked.

 

Anderson sighed at the question and looked down at his briefing notes, reluctant to admit that the command craft was not yet available.

 

“We ran into some minor set-backs setting up the ECMs, Mirco,” a deep voice with a soft Texan drawl answer in Anderson’s place.  “We expect it be ready within 72 hours, max.”

 

“The EC whats?” The Russian stumbled over the acronym. 

 

“Electronic Counter Measures, sir.  It’s what’s going to help keep them youngsters alive in that there jet.  Seems some of them Yankee boys crossed up a few wires and dang near shorted out half the cock-pit.”

 

“Now, Chuck, you know it wasn’t that bad.  And they didn’t do it just to annoy you.”  Amanda gently scolded.

 

The burly engineer leaned back in his seat and smiled.  “I don’t mean to imply they did it on purpose, Darlin’.  I meant to imply they didn’t know what they was a doing.  I got me a couple Georgia boys fixing her up as we speak.”

 

“Fine, that takes care of risks in aerial combat,” Mars’ spokesperson finally spoke up.  “What about on the ground?”  He sighed softly and wished this meeting would end so he could get back to a more comfortable gravity.

 

“Kozaburou, would you care to address Anton’s question?”  Anderson inclined his head and sat down at the head of the table.

 

Kozaburou scowled faintly at being put on the spot so suddenly, straightened his tie and sat up in his seat.

 

“You all know what Kevlar is.  One if the biggest problems with Kevlar vests are the weight and rigidity.  Simply put, they are uncomfortable.  They are hot, heavy, and hard to move around in.  We have improved on the material.  We used synthetic spider silk to create a material that is as resistant to standard arms as Kevlar and is light enough to make a complete suit that will protect a person from head to toe.  It also will give it wearer limited protection against fire and certain forms of radiation for a short period of time.  Imbedded nanotechnology gives these suits the ability to shift color a couple of degrees allowing the wearer to blend in with their surroundings.  Additionally the suits can, with the addition of an external control device, phase shift giving the soldier the ability to don the suit in a matter of seconds in the event of an emergency.  Although,” he paused and looked at Anderson, “we assumed they would be used by trained, adult, soldiers, not children.”

 

“Look at it this way, Kozaburou.  Your battlesuits will give them a better chance of becoming adult soldiers.”  Mitch gave him a thin smile.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Anderson stood back up, “the decision has been made.  We are running out of time.  We had hoped that Spectra would confine their activity for a while longer.  That it would not be necessary to go through with the project for a few more years, if ever.”

 

“But something has stirred up the Spectrans,” Tanna rose and moved around the table.  “They claim their planet is running out of resources.  They say all they want is a new home.  The problem is they do not want a virgin world.  They want a world that is already developed and they have shown they can be ruthless.”  She reached past Neal and flipped the screen back on.  “These are some images taken of Spectran assault sites.”  A series of images of buildings destroyed by something extremely large, houses bombed and burning and land torn open by machines flashed on the screen.  “The initial assault is typically aerial.  Once they land they ravage the area.  These were taken on Riga, Trelon and Leneral within the past six months.  There was no overt attempt to negotiate.  If you look close enough you might be able to make out the bodies of the people who were not lucky enough to escape.”  Tanna glanced over her shoulder and paused on one image of what looked like farm lands.  Something that might have been a barn lay smashed with smoke rising from inside the rubble.  “They come in, destroy anything they do not think they need, take prisoners to work for them, then proceed to strip the land of anything usable.”  She flipped the screen to an image of the smoke and ruins of what probably has been an outdoor festival.  “They are no less ruthless when they are trying to coerce someone to work for them.  This was taken last year on Regalia.  They were only after a few people.  Make no mistakes people, they are on Riga, they are on Terlon, they are on Earth.”  An image of the Spectran cat head painted on a stucco wall flashed on the screen.  “This was taken last week in Sicily.”

 

“The time to move is now.  Before they realize what we know.”  Mitch slapped the table in front of him.  “I’m no happier than you are that we’re using kids not out of high school yet.  But circumstances have forced our hand.  Kids can handle the space jumps better than an adult.  They can adapt to the new battlesuits faster.  I’ve met these kids,” he waved a hand in the general direction of the outside wall.  “They’re good kids; some of them are downright likeable.  I’d hate to see any of them hurt, let alone killed, but make no mistake, given a choice between putting them in the line of fire and watching half the galaxy end up like that,” he pointed at the last image.  “I’ll give them all the training and help they need, I’ll pray for them and then I’ll send them out.”

 

“I, ah, will talk to my people,” Fola broke the silence that had fallen over the room.  “We will see what can be done about getting your base operational, if not completely finished, within half a year.”

 

“And you’ll have your Phoenix in a few days.”  Chuck told them.  “There’ll be four more like it ready within a few weeks for the other Alpha teams; all we will need is pilots to transport them to the respective bases.  Construction has started on five back-up crafts, just in case they do manage to break one.  We’ll keep you covered with the planes.”

 

“Thank you.”  Neal nodded.  “Your efforts in speeding up the project are greatly appreciated.  We expect some rough going in the coming months as we transition from plans on paper and training to fully operational but with team-work and cooperation we will be able to give the team all the support and,” he glanced at Mitch, “prayers they need.  The remaining Alpha teams on Trelon, Athoc, Burkon and Marteis will be going operational in the coming months.  We hope to have the five Beta teams ready within eighteen to twenty-four months.”

 

“You expect this conflict to last that long, Neal?”  Titan’s envoy was no more comfortable than Anton but didn’t display his discomfort.

 

“Yes, Abhijat, we do.”  Anderson responded to the blunt question in the same vein.  “We can hope it ends quickly, but from what we have seen, this will be a war of terror rather than a straight forward war.  And, as we have seen in the past, terror wars can drag on for year after year.”

 

“We know where they are coming from, why do you not plan an assault on them?  Stop the war before it really begins.”  Abhijat raised his chin and fixed a piercing stare on Anderson.  “The ultimate objective in war is to destroy your enemy’s desire and ability to wage war.”

 

Anderson unflinchingly returned the stare.  “We know where their home world is.  We do not know where their leaders are.  They are constantly on the move.  The Federation will not sanction a preemptive strike on unarmed, presumably innocent, civilians.”

 

“As you will.”  Abhijat inclined his head a fraction.  “I will speak with our leaders about retaining the mining agreements we have as well as having one of our ports designated as an emergency repair station.  It might be easier to dock an injured craft there than here.”

 

“You have your team, Neal.  You have avowed support from around the planet and the Sol system.  What do we do next?”  Artur asked.

 

“We find out if G-Force is ready.”

 

“Well, folks, I think that is my cue to leave.”  Chuck pushed his chair back and stood up.  “I have a war-bird to fix.”  He started for the door, paused on the threshold and looked back.  “I’ll call you as soon as the girl is ready, Neal.”

 

“I will take our findings to the President.”  Mitch also started to stand.  “I doubt he will disagree with us.”  The slight smile and arched eyebrow suggested the presidential briefing would be short and to the point.

 

“Thanks, Mitch.”

 

One by one the representatives stood up and left the room, a few quietly talking as they exited, until four people were left.

 

“What about you, Neal?”

 

“Pardon?”  Anderson turned to look at the only person in the room who had not spoken during the briefing.

 

The gentleman slowly stood up, putting only part of his weight on the cane he carried, and studied Anderson.  “You say G-Force is ready, are you?” 

 

“I’ll do what I have to.”  Anderson countered, a hint of annoyance in his voice.

 

“Are you ready to send those kids, your boys, into the lion’s den?  After all, Mark and Jason couldn’t be any more your sons than if you had sired them.”

 

“If you are asking if I will allow personal feeling to cloud my judgment, Uncle Mike, the answer is no.”

 

“We’ll see.  You’re going to find out very quickly that working on the field and sitting behind a desk sending people out to die are nothing alike.”

 

“We all knew the risks when this project was first suggested fifteen years ago.  And I am aware of the difference.  I didn’t get the job simply because of my charming personality.”

 

Tanna outright laughed as Amanda ducked her head to hide a smile.  Uncle Mike smiled and adjusted his glasses.  “I didn’t exactly get my old job by being nice either.  I just want to be sure you aren’t expecting perfection in them, or yourself, right away.  Give them time, give yourself time, and don’t expect not to be hurt or angry if something happens to them.  Just don’t let anyone see it.”

 

“I assume you are excluding me from that statement, Michael.”  Amanda tilted her head and smiled.

 

“Of course dear lady, if he manages to hide anything from you then he would be doing better than I.  I couldn’t even keep his mother from knowing when I was up to something when we were younger.”

 

“Being the younger sibling can be a bitch at times, can’t it?” Tanna grinned.

 

The rest of the conversation was interrupted by a soft beeping from Anderson’s watch.

 

“Time for your next meeting.”

 

Anderson rubbed at the bridge of his nose.  “I know.  And I do not expect it to be any easier than this last one.  Kronus has already indicated that he is not happy about having to work with others.  I rather expect he will be even more displeased when he realizes who he will be working with.”

 

 

 

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