Chapter Four

Fifteen years after the collapse of Galactor (and counting):

A few years before, Dr. Nambu had arranged for Berg Katse's transfer to a larger, nicer, cell with windows. She had a few privileges, access to a laboratory (under the supervision of Nambu or other carefully-picked personnel), and scrupulously observed the conditions imposed on her. So many years in prison had made her fearful of the outside world, and now that she had a chance to contribute (if she dared), she did not want to lose it.

She hadn't seen the sky in nearly a decade and a half. That hadn't kept her from looking up at the ceiling of her cell and wondering where Leader X had gone. As she wondered this night.

Would it return? It had to. No matter what preparations it had made, unless it landed on an asteroid chock full of all the raw materials it needed, it could not survive forever. Nor would it be happy on an asteroid.

X plans to return. I built it to be my front. Its goal is taking over the Earth. It will return to finish that job, eventually.

When would it return? Had it returned? Was it even now worming its way into computer networks around the planet, subverting defense, power, and communications? Would people log on one morning and find Leader X gloating?

Nambu believed her when she told him her concerns. He and other computer programmers worked ceaselessly on programs to root out malware and defend networks and individual machines. Investigators watched for other anomalous activity.

But there was nothing.

More than anything, this bewildered her. Where was X? She had programmed it: she knew its capabilities, and its motivations. Why wouldn't it return? Was it able to return?

One night, unable to sleep, she opened her window to look out at the sky. It was still frightening to be outdoors, but she enjoyed looking at the sky, especially at night, when it was dark, and she wasn't mentally assaulted by the vastness of the outside world.

She looked up at the stars, absently wondering what secrets they held, and suddenly she knew.

X had found something out there.

It made perfect sense! After all, her creation had launched itself into space, and should have returned by now. That it hadn't strongly suggested that it had found another source of supplies…perhaps even people to assist it.

There had to be life (intelligent or not) on other planets. The universe was too vast not to contain sentient beings other than humans. It was only logical. And once X outgrew its initial programming (which process had started before it left Earth), its capabilities were limitless.

At first, Katse was pleased with her discovery. If X had found another planet, another people to rule, it would have its needs fulfilled, and would no longer need to return to Earth.

And yet…

She had programmed X. Some of that programming would still remain, no matter how much time passed. The one thing that had always driven her creation was a need to control the Earth…to conquer the Earth. X could easily ignore the existence it had created for itself on this other planet, no matter how pleasant, if the one thing it truly sought was revenge.

At its heart, it was a machine. Time meant nothing to it. Who knew how long it might lie in wait, gathering its forces and allies, waiting for just the right time to strike out at the Earth?

The next day, she contacted Dr. Nambu. She rarely initiated communication between them, fearing that she would grow comfortable with such intimacy; comfort that could only lead to bitter disappointment. Yet in this instance, she knew that her revelations were of such importance that she had to pass them on immediately. She had no evidence, but she was certain that she was correct in her supposition.

Dr. Nambu believed her. He presented her suppositions to others, reluctantly passing them off as his own, knowing that if he revealed the true source of his misgivings, many would not take them seriously, or think that Katse was working on a new scheme. It took time, but gradually he encouraged the new-made World Government to work on defensive technologies and furthering the exploration of interplanetary and interstellar space.

Their first contact with extraterrestrials was almost comic. In all the vastness of space, where a single second of a degree of arc can mean the difference between reaching one's destination and missing it entirely, a Terran space probe almost hit a Rigan survey vessel.

After that first contact, Earth had no trouble finding sentient life beyond its solar system. New planets meant new friendships, and new alliances. Trade flourished, and with it came rapid technological advances.

Katse reveled in these new discoveries. She was content to spend days in her laboratory, working on her new project. In the new data from other worlds, she had found a key to surpassing the mental limitations of cyborgs, and also to aiding those who were crippled or in chronic pain. She also hoped that this new device would tip the scales in the war that was sure to come. At last, she knew that she was truly remorseful for what she had done, when she found herself hoping that her new creation would be the undoing of her last.

The cerebonics she developed created new connections between neurons. These connections could bypass damaged nerves, dampen pain at the source (rather than dulling the pain centers of the brain), quicken reflexes, and alleviate the effects of injuries to the brain.

Unfortunately, the punch line was that they worked best in children. Neural connections could be attracted to the implants most easily in newborns and very young infants. At least, that was the case in the animal tests. There was no reason for that not to be true for humans.

Berg Katse died before completing her work, but she was able to transfer the data to Kozaburo Nambu before she passed away. The good doctor worked on the project himself for a few years, before old age made it difficult. Knowing his time was short, he entrusted his data and his lifetime of work to his grandson, William Anderson, and his team of researchers. He died of natural causes, at age eighty.

William and his team worked to perfect his grandfather's device. He knew there was more to the cerebonics project than helping the paralyzed walk, the blind see, and stroke victims recover fully, noble as those goals were. Katse had anticipated that a future version of the Science Ninja Team would need more than intense training to beat a returning Leader X.

They did develop versions that could be used in adults, to bridge severed spinal cords or major nerves and bypass some types of brain damage. Desperate parents gave permission for injured or crippled children to receive implants, with promising results.

As new worlds joined the Federation, rumors reached the Council of an enemy power in the Crab Nebula. This enemy used spaceships shaped like animals or other beings, and would sometimes engage in – peculiar – tactics in battle. They had a real god, one that spoke to their leaders (although most people thought this was a fraud perpetrated by priests or another alien being).

Then the rumors were confirmed. Refugees arrived, with data and personal stories. The enemy was called Spectra, and their god was the Luminous One.

Spectra was hard on the refugees' heels. With a demand for the Federation: Surrender, or face war. Right out of nowhere, as far as anyone knew.

The Federation Council saw the faces of their enemy. They refused to surrender.

William and his son, Carl, the new Chief of Federation Security, recognized the uniforms, and the leader's regalia. They recognized the Spectran god. After the first few engagements with the enemy, they knew something else.

This was no longer Leader X. The old tactics would not work. They needed to use the cerebonics technology for war.

After much debate and argument, the Council approved the G-Force Project. Their one requirement: the children must be orphans. No connections that could be used against them, no relatives for Spectra to hold hostage. (As Carl observed, "No one to sue us.")

Colonel Cronus went undercover to Riga. He left his son, Mark, with Anderson, and approved the boy for the G-Force Project. To both Andersons' dismay, Mark was a nearly perfect candidate for the implants.

Fifteen years later, four of the five members of G-Force were eighteen years old. The youngest member was an experiment in growing a warrior. Their first two missions were against fairly conventional incursions from Spectra.

Anderson deliberately copied the uniforms and equipment of the Science Ninja Team, updating them for the new enemy. A message to the Luminous One.

The Luminous One chuckled. How perfect. I return to accomplish my plan, and the Science Ninja Team is reborn. Carl Anderson could almost be Kozaburo Nambu's twin.

This time, I shall prevail. I shall test them. I shall find their weaknesses and use them.

The first mecha attack by Galactor had been the Turtle King.

G-Force would face the Space Terrapin.

As the members of the G-Force Team assembled on the Phoenix, they sensed that this call to action was something new. Collectively, they held their breath as they gazed upon the vaguely turtle-shaped metal monstrosity on the Phoenix's main viewscreen: the Space Terrapin.

This was no minor incursion, no skirmish like the first two incidents, meant to test the strength and speed of their defensive reactions. This was a full scale attack.

For better or worse, the real war had begun for them.