by Addar Norton
The ships still hung over the cities of Australia. By now the heroes knew who was controlling the ships, which was surprising considering the total amount of intelligence in the ships could fill the shell of a walnut, as Austar had remarked disdainfully. An ant has more intelligence than these guys, thought Austar. Whoever gave advanced ships like these to these kind of people was either a criminal mastermind or has the most warped sense of humor ever. The jury was still out on that one.
Austar was in the middle of King George Square in Brisbane, floating about ten metres off the ground, just looking at the ships. The Roo had contacted her a while ago through the police and had told her that the Melbourne hero Reef actually got into one of the ships. From within Reef had discovered that the people controlling the ships were calling themselves the Offspring, using the names of such legendary nineteenth-century bushrangers as Ned Kelly, Captain Thunderbolt, and the like.
Well, can’t say this gig is boring, she thought to herself. Somehow they had to get these ships out of the Australian skies. Initially there had been talk of the Australian military shooting them down, but they held off when someone pointed out to them that the fallout would rain on the civilians, and probably destroy Australia’s three most major cities. Of course, that was typical of the military: if they didn’t understand it, they just blew it out of existence, and then figure out who or what it was later.
Austar sighed. She had only been at this super-hero gig for a short while, and she already had a spaceship hovering over her city. She wondered if Superman or Batman had days like this when they were first starting out.
The Roo looked up at the ships; he had just finished talking to Austar in Brisbane and would be conferring with Reef later on. There was something strange about the ships that he hadn’t noticed before. That observation, combined with what Reef told him about the ships inside, had made him curious.
Pulling out a pair of high-powered binoculars, the Roo looked closely at the ship above Sydney. There was something nagging at him about all this. It was too simple, and the so-called Offspring didn’t seem to have enough brains, by the sounds of it, to build even one spaceship and fly it, let alone three large ones. Noticing something, he looked a bit more closely. It was a bird flying near the ships. Suddenly, it disappeared, then reappeared on the other side of the ship.
“Well, well,” the Roo said. “It would seem that the ships aren’t real at all. There is something up there, but not what I see before me.” He had been wondering how the Reef reached the middle of the ship so quickly; she said she wasn’t in there for too long. It must be a solid hologram! Only humans recognized certain things in the visible spectrum, but birds and other animals just ignored it, relying on other senses besides sight.
Jumping down from the building, the Roo found a cop and asked him to patch him through to Melbourne and Brisbane. If the three heroes were going to beat this, they’d have to do it together.
In Brisbane, Austar heard one of the police officers yelling to her. She looked down at him; he was holding up one of those new mobile phones to her, which looked more like a brick than a phone receiver to her. Austar floated back down to the ground and took the phone. It was the Roo calling from Sydney, and she listened to his explanation, which made sense in light of what she’d heard about Reef’s encounter with the ship. It does explain a lot of things, she thought to herself.
The Roo had already told his idea to Reef, and now told Austar, and both of them agreed it might work. But they had to do it together to get the best results. If it worked, the Offspring would be defenseless, and then the local enforcement agencies could deal with those yahoos.
Handing the mobile phone back to the cop, Austar floated back up to the ship, knowing that in Sydney and Melbourne, the Roo and Reef were doing the same thing at the same time.
Austar approached it as close as she could, then raised her hands towards the ship. Gathering her energy, she forced it towards the ship.
In Melbourne, Reef took another leap onto the ship, but this time landed atop it. She jumped on the ship repeatedly, causing it to wobble and flicker.
The Roo, on the other hand, went a more technological route with the ship above Sydney. Holding up a device, he turned it on. It omitted a special white noise frequency, one that wouldn’t interfere with any other technology. The goal was to affect only the so-called ship hovering over his city.
On the ship above Brisbane, the Offspring were running around like headless chickens. They didn’t know what was happening to their hologram, but it was starting to short out. The ship’s holograms were interconnected to each other, so what happened on one happened to the others. While the members of the Offspring thought this was an interesting design point, the aliens who built it had considered it a mere cost-cutting measure.
The ship above Melbourne was spinning out of control like a giant top in the sky, and Reef was having the time of her life with it. For the civilians on the ground, it was a good excuse to have a party; to an Australian, any excuse to have a party was a good one. Ned Kelly screamed for a bucket, as he was going to throw up; it wasn’t a good look for the leader to get sick in front of his gang.
The ship above Sydney started to glow suddenly with a bright light. Then the hologram disappeared, and in its place was a rather small ship, which didn’t look nearly as impressive as the hologram of the ship had. As the ship’s hologram gave out in Sydney, the ships in the other cities did as well.
Austar looked at the small ship hovering over Brisbane and laughed. “You have to be kidding me,” she whispered. It looked like it was a patched-up collection of many other ships that had been shot down over Australian skies over the years. It turned out not to be much of an invasion force after all.
Reef forced the small ship to land safely in Melbourne, and the local police force and military swarmed around it immediately. Ripping off the door of the ship, Reef went in, followed the same path as before, and ended up in the control center. There, many of the Offspring were green in the face; Ned Kelly had a bucket to his face, and a sickening sound came from him. They didn’t object to being arrested.
In Brisbane, Austar forced her ship down near the site of next year’s World Expo 88. Ripping off the door, she found the crew inside ready to give up without a fight.
In Sydney, it was another story. Before the army could get the ship to land, it shot off into space. The Roo watched the ship disappear. Somehow he knew this wasn’t over. Something was happening, and whatever it was, it going to be big.
The ship flew past the orbit of Jupiter, and the aliens within looked at one another. “Well, that didn’t go too well, my brother,” one of them said to the other.
“No, it didn’t!” the other answered. “We shouldn’t have given the ships to those fools! But at the time they were handy to see what forces there are in that small country!”
“Yes, it would have been good to have a base already there for what is going to happen soon, my brother,” the first one said. “Soon, the Earth will belong to us and our allies!”
The ship soon disappeared from the solar system.
In Australia, Reef, the Roo, and Austar met in person for the first time and decided to form a team for the land down under. They decided to call themselves the Bushrangers, not only after the outlaws who’d existed a century earlier, but also after Australia’s first mystery-man, the Ranger, known for being one of the so-called Batmen of All Nations. (*) He had gone into semi-retirement years earlier, but he had still served as an inspiration for the Tasmanian Devil and all other heroes of Australia who had followed in his footsteps.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Batmen of All Nations,” Detective Comics #215 (January, 1955).]