Book: Origin of Prometheus

Origin of Prometheus

Origin of Prometheus

Book One of

The Abraxis Complex

By Ben Winston

Copyright © 2015 Ben Winston

Published by Blue Space Publications, LLC.


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Origin of Prometheus

About the Author

Connect with the author or Blue Space Publications, LLC.

Books Published by Blue Space Publications, LLC.


To my wife, Lori, without whom I would have surely never finished this book

To my brother Michael, without whom this work would never have been published

And to my mother, may she rest in peace, who taught me it’s alright to dream.


This story contains fiction people as well as fictional places. Any resemblance to actual people of places is purely coincidental. It is not my intent to imply that any nation's intelligence service is bad or evil. This work is not a political commentary. I simply needed the fictional versions of those agencies to be bad for the story to work the way I needed it too. In other words, this is a work of fiction, written for the enjoyment of an audience. It is not intended to be taken as truthful in any way.

Origin of Prometheus

Book One of

The Abraxis Complex

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

Bella and Jolene were excited about the arrival of their friends. It had been a long time since the four friends had seen each other. Bella and Jolene grew up together as best friends, as did their friends, Greg Albrecht and Mandi Adams. However, Greg and Mandi had gone to school in Colorado. Although the quartet had been friends for years, they had always wished they could be closer to each other.

Today, that wish was being granted, although the circumstances had been terrible. During their graduation rehearsal, Mederos High School, the school Greg and Mandi attended, had reportedly been destroyed by a reported gas leak. Many people had lost their lives in the explosion, but Mandi and Greg had survived - much to Bella and Jolene’s relief.

A newer Chevy sedan with Colorado plates pulled into Bella’s driveway. “They’re here Bella!" Jolene called, excitedly.

The four friends first met at a regional academic fair, as opponents and had immediately became friends. They had stayed in contact via the internet ever since. They had all commented on how close their friendship had become even though it was over a computer. It was almost like they were all brother and sisters, and missed each other badly while they had been separated.

Greg and Mandi hadn’t been related until their respective parents got married two months ago. Now, they were half-siblings and had joked that they would have to start arguing a lot more. Then, last week, during the rehearsal for their graduation ceremony, their school was turned into a vision from hell. The official records report the incident at Mederos High as the result of a leak in the gas main for the school heating system. Since the rehearsal had taken place on a cool spring day, the old, large gas boiler tried to ignite to warm up the buildings.

However, both Greg and Mandi knew differently. Although the friends had told their parents about the incident, and what they had witnessed, they had not told their friends. Mandi’s Dad told them both that they couldn’t tell anyone about the incident, not even Bella and Jolene. His reason was that social media and cell phones where not private, and could very well be monitored.

Shortly after the incident, Greg and Mandi’s parents told them they would be moving to the same town as their friends, to get them away from the bad memories. Both of the newlyweds had jobs that had them travel extensively, so where they lived really didn’t matter. They said that by moving to the small town in Utah, Greg and Mandi would have friends they could visit that hadn’t been involved in the incident, while the parents were gone. Although it seemed like a pretty thin excuse, neither of them questioned it.

Bella and Jolene ran out the front of the house to greet their friends. Now that they all lived in the same town, they would be able to see each other a lot more often and they were excited about it.

After all the initial greetings were over, Greg looked at the two ‘new’ young ladies. “Can we go see your 'bunker’? There is something we’ve really been wanting to talk to you both about.”

“Uh, sure Greg, there are a few things we want to tell you guys about, too,” Jolene replied, losing most of her smile.

Jolene and Bella had convinced Jolene’s parents to let the girls have the old bomb shelter in their back yard. The girls had left most of the survival gear, but had made the bunker a safe getaway.

Bella’s father, a computer control systems engineer, had made sure that the Bunker wasn’t dark in any way. Not only had he made sure that the lights would always work, the new, state-of-the-art generator and battery system would make sure that they had lights and even computers during power outages. In fact, the parents could communicate with the kids via the messaging systems of the computers in the bunker.

Both Jolene and Bella’s parents worked at the same place. StealthCon was a government funded think-tank that was basically the only reason that the small town remained afloat, making the town a military parasite town without the presence and accompanying hassles of the military.

Going back through Jolene’s house, the quartet headed for the girls’ hide-a-way.

'The Bunker'

Blane Residence

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

When they reached the shelter, and closed the door, Bella spoke out loud. “We’re home! Who’s online today?”

“I am, sweetheart,” a male voice said from the walls.

“Hi Daddy!” Bella replied cheerfully. “This is Greg Albrecht and Amanda Adams. Our friends from Mederos that we told you about." Smiling at Greg and Mandi, Bella continued the introduction. “Greg, Mandi, the disembodied voice you hear is my Daddy, Jon, talking from his office over at StealthCon.”

“Nice to meet you, Sir.” Greg said. Mandi smiled and simply said 'Hello’. When the group had entered the bunker, one of the many computer’s mouse had been moved, and cleared the screen saver. The contents of the monitor immediately caught Mandi’s attention.

“Jolene, this is wrong. According to this math, you’ve got the object pulling forty-three gees; even with a mercury-gyro anti-gravity unit that would be touchy even for a UAV,(Unmanned Aerial Vehicle)” Mandi said, pulling out a calculator to double check her math.

“Bella, please allow visual,” Jon asked.

Bella typed a few things on one of the computers, and a big screen mounted one of the walls, came to life with a picture of a man sitting behind a desk in an office.

Jolene had moved over beside Mandi. “I know. I’m trying to explain how that could have happened. Not how to make it happen.”

“That data is supposed to be classified, young lady. If General Hollister had been in here, I could have been in huge trouble!” Jon said.

“I’m sorry, Mr. G! I thought I had cleared that off. It won’t happen again, I promise!" Jolene replied looking hurt because she'd let him down.

“Don’t worry about it, Honey, just don’t let it happen again,” Jon said. “Now, Miss Adams, would you like to take a stab at the question that has all the scientists that are cleared to know of it stumped?”

“The only answers I can think of Sir, are that either the craft was unmanned, or it had technology that we cannot currently reproduce. Hell, even unmanned I think we’d be hard pressed to duplicate this.” Mandi said. “May I ask where this data is from?”

“Uh, yeah, that’s kinda what we wanted to tell you two about,” Bella said. “We know the truth about what happened at your school.”

Jon cleared his throat. “Kids, what she is about to tell you, and show you is classified ‘Top Secret’ by the United States Government. I know you already promised your parents not to talk about it, but this is official. People get shot to keep secrets like this.”

“Hold it, what are you folks talking about?” Greg said, suddenly feeling protective of the girls. “If this is something we don't need to know, then we shouldn’t know it.”

“I’m afraid that can’t be helped at this point, son,” Jon replied. "You’ve been in the center of this since it began.”

Jolene picked up the explanation. “This information was taken from a UAP (Unknown Aerial Phenomenon) that preceded the events at Mederos High School in Colorado. Shortly after this was tracked over the western slope of the Rockies, the Mederos High School exploded taking the lives of thirty nine students, five teachers, and two janitors," Jon said.

“Damn! Mr. Rodriguez died? I really liked him. He cared about the kids,” Greg said, sadly. “But how would you know what we promised our parents?"

“You mean, you people know it wasn’t a gas leak?” Mandi asked accusingly. "Why didn’t the freakin’ government do something? I had friends blown apart by those assholes!”

“Whoa, Sweetie, hold up!” he raised his hands palm out in front of himself. “They didn’t do anything because they didn’t get the chance! The Air Force scrambled fighters out of Peterson Air Force Base and even a couple of bases no one is supposed to know about. They simply couldn’t get there in time, but even if they had, what do you think would have happened to them?" Jon explained. Seeing she was in a better frame of mind. He sighed and continued. “Are you sure there were three ships? We only tracked one, and that was with a pretty high resolution system.”

Mandi nodded. “The three ships I observed did not use thrusters for any obvious form of propulsion as we know it. Their movements and actions do indicate precision control of gravity in a controlled area. I would be very tempted to say they were not from around here since I don’t know of anyone that has this level of gravity control yet.”

Greg nodded confirming Mandi’s story. “There were three of them, Sir. Although they didn’t land, they did come to a hover three to four feet off the ground and moved slowly through the wreckage, like they were searching for something.”

“Any idea what they were looking for?” Jon asked.

“No, but if I had to venture a guess, I think they were looking for bodies. I saw someone trying to dig themselves out, and before I could get to them, one of those ships turned and blasted them,” Greg said, angrily. “I just wish we could have done something to stop them!”

“Bella, Jolene, maybe you should fill them in on everything going on here. I’ll work on getting them a clearance. Of course, they probably already have one because of their parents,” Jon said.

“Greg’s mom works for Adelson’s Supramart. She’s like, a Vice President or something,” Mandi said, confused. “My Dad’s some kind of project troubleshooter for a tech company out of California."

“You’re parents are troubleshooters alright, but not for the companies you think. They work for ‘The Company’ - the same ‘company’ most of us work for. It was initially believed that the Mederos attack was intended to kill them, so they were moved here,” Jon replied.

“Daddy! I thought you wanted us to tell them? Don’t you need to go impress Uncle Carl with your new information?” Bella asked.

“Oh! Right! Uh, Carl might want to talk to you two himself, are you okay with that?” Jon asked.

Greg shrugged, “As long as the parents are okay with it, and we’re home before dinner.”

Jon grinned and nodded before saying his goodbyes to the girls, and telling Greg and Mandi that it was nice to finally meet them. When he finally killed the video from his end, Jolene shut off the video link. She typed a bit more, and nodded to Bella.

“Jolly just made sure all the listening devices in here are either turned off or blocked,” Bella said. “A few years ago, at a dinner party, Dad bragged to Uncle Carl about how unusually smart Jolene and I were.”

Jolene picked up the story. “Uncle Carl, a.k.a. General Hollister, thought Mr. G only had a massive case of ‘Proud Papa Syndrome’ and was about to blow him off when my father opened his laptop, and brought up a couple of the physics problems that had stumped them at work.”

“Uncle Carl laughed and told Daddy to go ahead. We solved both problems in a little less than an hour. Of course, Uncle Carl accused them of having us memorize the answers just to show him as entertainment,” Bella replied.

“Then Uncle Carl suggested that they show us a problem that they had yet to solve, and we did. He no longer thought the whole thing was very funny,” Jolene said. “When our mothers told him that we had unusually good hand-eye coordination, he told our fathers to bring us to the lab for testing.”

“We took the tests they gave us, and smoked everything they wanted us to do. That is, until Uncle Carl very quietly told us to start failing because we had gotten the attention of certain scary agencies that had spies in the labs. You know, the ones that make people disappear and make up some lame excuse no one believes,” Bella said.

“With the help of our testers, we quietly established a pattern of losses that showed us as not actually super-human, just very good normal humans. However, it was clear to both ourselves and our testers that we exceeded the established performance profile for humans, even gifted ones," Jolene explained. “We’re not telling you both this in order to brag, because from your grades, we believe you are like us. We both think Mandi is actually smarter than we are, which will make Uncle Carl freak out."

“Are we sure it’s wise to tell him then? If he freaks too much, will he turn Mandi over to those spooks?” Greg asked, instinctively moving to protect his longtime friend.

“No, because if he turned her in, he’d be turning us in as well. No, he may freak-out, but he’ll accept it, he doesn’t really have much of a choice,” Bella said as if the matter had been decided.

Mandi saw a small circular object, that she thought looked cool as hell. “Jolly, what’s this?” she asked, holding the device up. “Sorry, I don’t mean to change the subject, but my ADD is kicking me.”

“I have no idea, we found it just outside the bunker door a few days ago. Since then, I haven’t been able to find any references for the symbols, or runes on it. They resemble ancient Sumerian the most, but it isn’t. I was thinking about taking it to a professor friend of my father’s that specializes in ancient languages. I kept getting sidetracked by something else. I’m actually a little hesitant to show it to anyone,” Jolene replied.

“Why?” Mandi asked.

“Well, for one thing, the crystal in the center glows blue when I touch the device. It glows green when Bella touches it. As far as I know, we’re the only two that it does anything for. You’ll notice it didn’t glow for you?” Jolene said.

Since Bella and Greg were watching, she tossed it to Greg. As soon as it hit his hand, the crystal flared and glowed a bright, pulsing red. Greg hastily sat it down. The pulsing glow immediately stopped.

“That’s really odd. Any clue why it was pulsing like that?” Mandi asked.

Bella shook her head, but didn’t take her eyes off the large medallion-looking object. The other two looked equally as clueless. Mandi snorted softly in frustration; she really hated things she couldn’t explain. Then a thought struck her.

“Wait a sec ...” She reached over and picked up the device again, and studied the surface intently. “I have no idea who they belong to, but these three glyphs ......” she pointed to the three she meant. “Look like signs for Water, Earth, and Fire. But that doesn’t make sense; what about Air?”

“I think that might be a question only the person who designed it can answer. My question is why does the crystal glow when we touch it? What’s with the different colors?” Bella asked.

Mandi looked at her as if she was slow. “Blue is for Water, Green for Earth, and Red for Fire. You three need to touch it at the same time.”

As one, the three other young people reached out and touched the medallion. The crystal began pulsing a bright white. Jolene pulled her hand back and the intensity dropped by a third.

“Are we sure it’s safe to do this? I mean, we don’t know where it came from. I mean, it could be some outer-space, alien booby-trap or something!" Jolene said, hesitantly.

“If it was something like that, it would have exploded already,” Mandi said offhandedly.

“So it took all three of us to produce a white pulsing light? What for? Is it supposed to be a beacon of some kind?” Bella asked.

“I don’t think so, it would have been a lot brighter if it were something like that,” Mandi said, and then noticed that Bella had her finger on the symbol for water, and Greg had been touching Earth.

“I got it!” Mandi said and turned the Medallion, then put Greg’s finger on the Fire Symbol, and Bella’s on the Symbol for Earth. Jolene, was hesitant, but closed her eyes and put her finger on the Water symbol.

For a moment nothing happened, not even the flare of bright white light like before, then a voice issuing from thin air made the kids jump.

“Stand by; stabilizing link and assimilating log files. You may remove your fingers, Rangers.”

'The Bunker'

Blane Residence

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

Confused, the three teens pulled their hands back. However, before they could frame any of their questions. It spoke again.

“Assimilation complete. Thank you, young Fixer, for figuring out the puzzle. It is now imperative that we speak.” A small hologram formed over the now glowing crystal. The hologram was a middle-aged man, wearing a hood-less robe. He had brown hair, a neatly trimmed beard, and appeared to be human.

“You may call me Abraxis. I am the local segment of the Rafliss Alliance Assembly, Sector defense Artificial Intelligence Construct.”

“You’re an AI? Cool! I’ve got, like a trillion questions! Since you appear to be human, may we assume that this Alliance you mentioned is also human?” Mandi asked, excited.

“That would be an incorrect assumption, young Fixer. In the case of humans, you have no interracial experience with what you would call aliens, so I altered my displayed image to one you should be more comfortable interacting with. I should also mention that the Alliance Assembly lost cohesion as a viable ruling body one-hundred ninety-two of your centuries ago. It is surmised that the Alliance was also destroyed shortly after,” Abraxis replied.

“Abraxis, why is it imperative that you speak to us now?” Greg asked.

Abraxis turned slightly to face Greg, and bowed. “Greetings, Fighter. It has become necessary because your lives are in danger, and I must begin your training in order to ensure your survival.”

“Excuse me? How do you know we are in danger?” Jolene asked.

Again, Abraxis bowed to Jolene. “Greetings, Finder. I know this because there has already been an attempt on Fighter Greg and Fixer Amanda. I believe you refer to it as ‘The Mederos Incident’." Abraxis then turned to Bella and again bowed. “Greetings Pilot.”

“Oh man, we are so gonna need the parents for this one.” Bella said as she nodded to Abraxis.

“The final decision is Fighter Greg’s to make, but I would recommend limiting those who have knowledge of me. Your planetary officials are still very immature and I believe they would attempt to capture this interface and the other equipment for their own use,” Abraxis advised.

“Why is it my decision?” Greg asked, concerned.

“You are the Fighter; security is your responsibility,” Abraxis replied reasonably.

Jolene snorted. “That makes perfect sense to me!”

Bella nodded at him. “You always were a good leader, Greg.”

Greg sighed and closed his eyes to consider letting the parents know what was going on. He always came back to the same conclusion; if they were going to need time away, then the parents at least would have to know what was going on so they could cover for the missing teens.

“Okay, we’ll get the parents here, but for now, that’s it. We’ll need them to cover our asses anyway,” Greg said.

Abraxis nodded acceptance. “As you command, Fighter. Do you wish for me to withhold a full explanation until ‘the parents’ have arrived?”

“Yes, please. I think I need a little time to come to grips with all this anyway,” Greg replied.

“Um, Abraxis?” Mandi asked.

“Yes Fixer?”

“You mentioned ‘other equipment’ earlier. What kind of equipment did you mean? No one has found anything else.” Mandi asked.

“Nothing else has been dispatched yet. There is a special storage facility on your moon, placed there a number of years ago, that contains the equipment I was speaking of earlier. I am currently readying the transfer of the equipment once the team has decided on the location they wish to store it,” Abraxis answered.

“How much stuff are we talking about? Will it fit in here?” Jolene asked.

“Negative, Finder. The equipment list includes three Spectra class hyper sleds. Each sled will require space equivalent to two times the area of one of your standard two-car garages, complete with door for easy egress. I am sure the Fixer will also want sufficient room to repair the craft as well.” Abraxis paused a moment. “I would also suggest that you include apartments for the entire team.”

“Okay, so if we need to have a hanger large enough for twelve full-size cars, four apartments ...” Mandi started to list their requirements, but Abraxis interrupted her.

“My apologies, but you will need training room as well as a computer and medical center. For training, much can be accomplished with holographic projectors, but the room will still need to be there. This underground area is well shielded from orbital detection scanners. However, it is far too small. If at all possible, you will need to remain shielded.”

“So, any ideas for where?” Mandi asked. “Abraxis seems to think we need to do this quickly.”

“Well, we have no way to build anything without letting more people in on the secret,” Bella said, muting the headset she had been speaking on.

“I don’t know how much digging we’d need to do, but there’s the old silver mine outside of town. There’s a lot of steel and whatnot above ground. Plenty of places to hide things,” Jolene offered.

“Dad said he would round everyone up, and head home,” Bella said. “They should all be here in about fifteen or twenty minutes. He mentioned that Uncle Carl would like to meet the two of you, but I asked him to make sure it wasn’t tonight.”

“Scanning” Abraxis said. “It would seem the Finder is correct. I cannot get a good reading inside the buildings, and nothing at all underground there. I know there are chambers there, but since it’s listed as a mine, it should be ignored if the Drellians scan it.”

“I’d still like to know why these Drellians want me and Mandi dead in the first place,” Greg asked rhetorically.

“You know, there isn’t room for everyone down here. Maybe we should move into the house?” Bella asked

Greg sighed then nodded. “Abraxis, can you operate in there, and will it be safe for you to do so?”

“It should be for now. The Drellians are currently searching for you near Colorado Springs. The company that your parents work for listed your family as having moved there. I would say we have a good idea where they are getting most of their information,” Abraxis replied. “However, once the ‘mistake’ is cleared up, they will be here. Time is short.”

“Sheesh! Impatient isn’t he?” Mandi asked Jolene as she picked up the medallion.

Jolene chuckled as she followed Greg up the steps. “I don’t think he’s the only one!”

Blane Residence

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

“Hey guys, why don’t we make dinner for everyone? Then we talk this all over around the table while we eat,” Jolene suggested.

“Sure, but what do we want to make?” Bella asked.

“Cheeseburger Hot-dish!” Mandi said grinning.

“Bacon Cheeseburger Hot-dish!” Greg said.

“Uh, neither of us have ever made that, but we’ll try to help. What do you need?” Jolene asked.

With all of them chipping in, dinner was almost finished by the time they heard the first car door slam.

When all six parents had gotten in the house, Beth Grien, Bella’s mother asked. “Uh oh, they made us dinner.”

Sharon Adams picked it up without missing a beat. “Yeah, but it can’t be that bad, they made Greg and Mandi’s favorite dish. If it was something involving blood, we’d be having Steak and Lobster.”

“She does have a point. I think they just wanted to make sure they had our attention. With the way that smells, I know they got mine!” Jolene’s father, Ned Blane added.

Carla Blane winked at her daughter. “So what was so important that you had Jon talk Carl into letting all of us out of there early?”

“Let’s talk over dinner, I know at least my folks are hungry when they get home!” Bella said.

Jarad Adams nodded his head. “We usually are too, so I don’t think we’ll complain to much about an early dinner!"

By now, almost everyone had found a chair around the Blane’s expanded dining room table. It was pretty much elbow to elbow, but everyone had a chair. After everyone had gotten a plate dished up, and had retaken their seats, they all focused on Greg for the explanation.

“As you all know, Mandi and I have been online friends with Bella and Jolene for a few years now.” He glanced at Bella and Jolene, as he continued. “We decided to meet over here today to get reacquainted, and renew our friendships. We also met Mr. Grien via video chat and discussed the incident that took place at Mederos High School.”

Jon interrupted him. “Excuse me, son, but not everyone here is familiar with the event. As I said earlier, it’s classified.”

Greg nodded to him. “Thank you, Sir, but for this explanation to make sense to all of you, they need to know.” speaking to the rest again, he told them of the event and his and Mandi's parts in it.

“Like I told Mr. Grein, the reason I took the time to tell you about the incident is that it has a bearing on the rest of what I have to tell you. You see, since speaking with Mr. Grien, we’ve discovered who the aliens were looking for. We haven’t gotten to the why yet.” He paused to set the medallion in the middle of the table.

“A few days ago, Jolene and Bella found this cool looking medallion just outside the door to the bunker ...” again, Greg was interrupted, but this time it was by his father.

“What bunker?”

“Ned and Carla let the girls have an old bomb shelter in the back yard as a playroom of sorts. They’ve pretty much turned it into their own research lab,” Jon explained, proudly. "It’s pretty neat.”

Greg picked up his narration again. “When they found it, they had no idea what it was, but since it had glyphs and such on it, Jolene was planning on doing some research to try to discover what it was and what it said. However, when she picked it up, the crystal on the middle glowed a bright cobalt blue."

“Well, not really glowed, it was more like one of those old mood ring things you guys had in the seventies,” Jolene quickly explained. “When Bella touched it, it took on a green glow.”

Greg nodded and continued. “Strangely, she didn’t think much of it at the time, and set it aside for more pressing matters. When she saw it today, Mandi picked it up and asked Jolene about it. After Jolene explained what she knew about it, Mandi tossed it to me. The crystal glowed very brightly and began pulsing red.

“Mandi figured out that we each needed to touch the medallion at the same time and in a certain way. We had no idea what would happen, but we did it anyway. I think it’s safe to say we were all very surprised at the results.” He grinned. “Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, I would like to introduce to you, our new friend, Abraxis.”

Blane Residence

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

The same hologram they young people had seen earlier appeared over the medallion, and it spoke. “Abraxis systems online. Good evening everyone, it is a pleasure to meet all of you.”

Greg continued. “Abraxis is the holographic avatar of a very old, alien, artificial intelligence.”

“Impossible! We’re nowhere near the level of technology needed to create an AI,” Jon said. However, he was studying Abraxis intently.

“Affirmative Mr. Grein, human technology is still rather primitive. However, the Fighter did not say I was of human origin,” Abraxis replied. “Fighter, do you wish that I now impart the delayed explanation?”

Greg nodded, and took Jolene and Bella’s hands. “Yes, Abraxis. That is my wish, please.”

“Before I begin, I must mention that some of this data comes from Abraxis Prime Main Memory, other sources include hyper-net news services and the private insights of the researchers and technicians of this branch installation. The possibility for error exists due to input without a viable means of corroboration.

“Eons ago, there was a race of beings that were very warlike, and felt that in order to rule the universe, they had to first defeat it. They would invade, and enslave whole star systems. But it soon became apparent that their existing military was insufficient to continue their conquests. Their answer was to put slaves into their military. The megalomania of the far away Emperor had infected his Realm. The Empire turned cannibal; it now had only two choices; grow or die. So it grew.

“Far away, an Alliance had been formed to defend against this invader Empire. The races banded together and merged all of their navies into thousands of separate battle groups large enough to counter anything the enemy had used to date, or so they’d believed. When the first battle was fought, three of these battle groups had been utterly destroyed and four star systems had fallen to the Empire. The Alliance was in shock. They had thought themselves safe behind the invincibility of their mighty fleets. They were wrong.

“In a far corner of the Alliance, one of the member races had developed, in secret, what they felt was the weapon that would finally end the war. They had no idea how right they were. The original Abraxis Project called for the large-scale genetic alteration of beings, Alliance Volunteers, into a form of super-soldier. These beings would have traits and abilities far superior to those of normal beings. However, the Alliance rejected this part of the project in favor of racial screening to search out the beings that already possessed the special combination of traits and abilities naturally. They planned to train these gifted people and provide them with all the knowledge and wisdom of all the member races of the Alliance.

“In order to ensure no one could tamper with, or corrupt the project, it was decided to turn it over to a sentient, non-centralized, Artificial Intelligence. They believed that the very nature of the virtual construct would protect it from tampering or destruction. Abraxis Prime was brought online, and immediately assumed its primary duties of defending the Alliance.

“It became a great a honor to be chosen for training. The project always found the Rangers in groups of four, although at first, it was thought to be groups of only three:  Fighter, Pilot, and Finder. The forth type identified for Abraxis to train was called a Fixer.

“These specialized teams proved very effective against the Imperial Fleets. They operated small, armed Hyper-sleds that the Imperial forces simply couldn’t target. For the longest time, the Empire had no idea what was going on. Ships, even their big capitol class ships, would simply explode too quickly for them to issue a report.

“It was a Fixer named ShanDyrell of Clandeth, that discovered most of the enemy forces were slaves controlled by obedience collars. She discovered a way to release the collars saving millions of former enemy lives. As a result, Imperial loses became devastating to their expansion efforts.

“Due mostly to the vagaries of faster than light travel, (since countered by a temporal compensator in the hyper-drives,) the war would continue for another six hundred standard years, however that event marked the beginning of the end for the Empire.

“Once it was discovered, Imperial agents tried several times to destroy or disrupt the Abraxis System. They even tried hunting down the candidates and killing them before they could be identified, only that didn’t work either. Finally, after five centuries of trying, the Imperial agents managed to corrupt the Abraxis Prime Core in a most grisly and abhorrent way.

“The virus, as you would call it, allowed the Agents to change the way Abraxis trained the Rangers. New Rangers were being forcibly reprogrammed to become fanatically loyal weapons for the Emperor.

“The Abraxis Prime Core is a decentralized AI. That is, it doesn’t exist in one single computer system, but in billions. In order to force the virus to spread to the other Abraxis terminals, they had to destroy all of the computer systems on the core world at basically the same instant. They achieved that by triggering a short-term singularity in the outer system. Not only did the event succeed in infecting the Prime Core, it also killed eleven billion souls, and utterly destroyed four viable planets and the star system they were in.

“Meanwhile, and, at the time, unknown to them, several Ranger teams had penetrated all the way to the seat of the Empire. The most heavily defended system in the Empire, and they thought no one knew they had slipped past the defenses. That soon changed when they tried to enter the atmosphere of the planet.

“Distortion mines grabbed the descending sleds and blew them apart, killing two teams before they could pull out and avoid the mines. However, the surprises didn’t end there. The mines triggered a planetary force field that trapped all but one of the sleds. The distortion mines' tractor beams quickly finished the remaining sleds, killing off the rangers that had fought so valiantly, and so long, to get there. The remaining Ranger Fighter, after witnessing the deaths of her mates and friends, jumped to the local primary and used her sled’s hyper-drive to trigger a massive solar storm. The storm lasted ninety-eight of your years, and completely sterilized the Drellian star system.”

Jared held up his hands “Wait a minute; if both sides were destroyed, then what does all of this have to do with us?”

“When the Rafliss System was destroyed, Abraxis Prime Core spread the virus to many of its terminals. Those terminals are still functioning, and producing Drellian altered Rangers. In addition, if any Abraxis Terminal contacts any other, there is a sixty-five point nine-nine-seven-two percent chance that the connection will transmit the virus.

“Only the Capitol system of the Alliance was destroyed. Hundreds of systems that were vassals of the Empire or members of the Alliance are still there. Abraxis Prime Core is still active, and those worlds, along with Earth are in danger.

“The last information this unit received indicated that the Drellian Rangers were fulfilling their programming in ‘protecting and expanding the Empire’. If that is true, then there are thousands of worlds that are being suppressed by an Empire that hasn’t existed in thousands of years.”

“I still don’t understand the timing, why now, why here, and why our kids?” Carla asked.

Jon answered. “Why our kids is simple. They’re Rangers, although I don’t know which is which."

“The ‘why’ is because the Drellians have already tried to kill them once,” Sharon said thoughtfully.

Abraxis nodded in agreement. “You are both correct. Fighter Greg is the team’s leader and is the Combat Specialist. Isabella is the team navigation specialist and is the Pilot. Jolene is the team's intuition, curiosity, and problem solver, she is a Finder. While not considered a Ranger since she is a non-combatant, Amanda’s specialized skill is her intelligence. She excels in problem solving and troubleshooting. She has the ability to instinctively know what is wrong with a piece of technology and tell what will be needed to fix it. She is a Fixer.”

“When did they try to kill them?” Ned asked a little frightened.

“The Mederos Incident. Those ships Greg told us about were Drellian, but they were looking for Greg and Mandi,” Jared said. “Abraxis, what can we do to keep them safe?"

“Agent Jared Adams, I am here to train them; to help them to reach their ultimate potential. Once trained, it will be their purpose to protect you, this planet, and this sector from the Drellians. What you can do is support them, advise them, and help them do what they need to do,” Abraxis explained.

“But how do we stop all this? From your explanation, it sounds like we need to figure out a way to destroy or stop Abraxis Prime,” Jon asked.

“How?” Sharon asked. “It was designed to not be stopped. Aren’t you part of the Abraxis system? How do we know your systems haven’t been corrupted as well?

“You are correct Agent Sharon Adams; this facility is part of the original Abraxis Defense System. However, once the virus was discovered, the technicians at my installation took steps to ensure I would not be corrupted. You are also incorrect;  Abraxis Prime was not designed to run forever. There was a failsafe built into the base programming of the Prime Core. One of the original Abraxis programmers had been stationed at the node in the Tigris system of the Vega Sector prior to his passing. In his notes, he mentioned that the secret to shutting down the Abraxis network had been placed on a backwards planet no one had ever heard of before. It was a counter virus he called ‘The Abraxis Code’.”

“I guess we don’t have much of a choice but to help them. What do we need to do?” Jared asked looking at Abraxis.

“Hold on a second! There are other choices! We need to call Carl and get him in on this. We’re going to need the government’s resources and backing in order to do anything! Then we need to get the kids to a more secure location ...” Jon said, almost panicking.

“Mr. Grien, I don’t mean to disagree with you, but that would be a huge mistake, and could very well mean the destruction of the entire planet,” Greg replied. "If we get the military involved, the first thing they are going to do is try to confiscate all the technology, so they can tear it down and figure out how it works. The secure location they will move us to is likely to be a lab where they will do the same thing to us that they’re going to do to the equipment. They will completely ignore the threat Abraxis has warned us about while they use the technology to take over the rest of the planet. Before we know it, we have a new Drellian Empire only this time, the seat of power is Earth.”

“I think you’ve seen one too many conspiracy movies, Son! The government would never ...” Jon began.

“Jon, he’s right.” Jared said, trying not to insult him.

“Huh? That stuff doesn’t happen! It’s just sensationalist science fiction!” Jon replied.

“Jon, why do you think Sharon and I are here?” Jared asked. “You damn good and well know what our jobs are, so ask yourself why would the agency put us here?”

“But Carl said that ...” Jon began, but Jared just shook his head. “The agency took Carl out of the loop when he covered up Jolene and Isabella. They assigned us here to make sure nothing else got covered up, and all tests were run to accurately, and to completion.”

“So they know about Bella and Jolene?” Ned asked turning pale.

'Well, yes and no. They knew that Carl had warped the tests to reflect that the girls were in fact normal. However, the results they saw showed them as only slightly above the optimal performance profile for gifted humans. They believed that, since the comparative data was ‘dated’ to say the least, perhaps the girls weren’t anything more than the new benchmark for ‘gifted’. Since the agency doesn't like to let potential assets slip through their fingers, they moved us here to make sure their assessments were correct, and that nothing else was being hidden,” Sharon explained.

“No, way! You two are spies?” Mandi said. “Way cool!”

“You know I love you, Mandi, but sometimes, you’re kinda slow,” Greg said grinning at the girl.

“You didn’t know either!” Mandi accused, and slugged him in the shoulder.

“What about Greg and Mandi? Both of them are ‘gifted’ too, don’t they know about them?” Ned asked.

“Not that we’re aware of. Also, neither one of them have really done anything that would make them stand out,” Sharon said.

“Anyway, Sharon and I planned on writing our report so that it shows Carl acting for the good of the agency in that he down played the test results because he believed that the hype of the original tests was influencing the final test results. We’ll make sure the agency doesn't look too close. So, the question then becomes; do we trust Abraxis to train our children so they can defend themselves and us, or do we run and hope these Drellian assholes forget the whole thing and go home?” Jared asked.

“Would they go home if they couldn’t find them?” Carla asked hopefully.

“I’m afraid not, Ms. Blane. In point of fact, they would become more and more violent in the search. More and more people will be killed. It will become harder and harder to cover-up each of the incidents. Until finally there will be no way to cover it up because they nuked an entire city trying to kill Fighter Greg’s team,” Abraxis said. “Case in point is Fighter Greg and Fixer Mandi's former school. As soon as the Drellian Agents discover the ruse that was set up for them, I imagine they will be taking out their frustrations on something; most likely either Colorado Springs or Peterson Air Force Base.”

“I guess that means they’re getting trained. Any idea’s on how to go about this?” Jon asked.

“Finder Jolene suggested a most fortuitous location on the edge of this community. I believe she said it was an abandoned silver mine. I’ve scanned the area, and find that it would be very hard for the Drellians to see anything either inside or under it. The amount of ore in the area provides a lot of interference making it easier to hide things underground, and will greatly benefit us in the manufacture of replacement parts for the team’s equipment,” Abraxis said.

“That’s all well and good, but how do we get the mine, and how are we going to turn it into a viable training area for the kids?” Beth asked. "I know I’m not that good with a shovel!”

“Once Fighter Greg decides on an area, I will dispatch their equipment package. In it, there are several remotes that can be used to create the areas needed without disturbing the surroundings. I took the liberty of tracing the current owner of the mine.

“State of Utah records have the sole owner of the Gerrymander Mine listed as William Andrew Rice, Jr. Mr. Rice currently resides in Denver, Colorado. Do you wish to have his contact information?” Abraxis said.

“Yes, thank you, Abraxis,” Jon said. “I’ll see if Mr. Rice is interested in selling the mine.”

Jared nodded agreement with the rest of the adults. “Sharon and I’ll try to supervise their training. We do have some money saved up, so when you find out if he’ll sell, we’ll chip in what we can.”

“Agent Jared Adams, Engineer Grien, your planetary data net lists Mr. Rice as a professional gambler. The purchase records for the mine say that Mr. Rice paid one dollar for the property. The Assessor’s office has the tax value listed as one hundred ninety-four million dollars. It is pending seizure for back taxes owed. That amount is ten million, two hundred, thirty-seven thousand, three hundred and eighty dollars,” Abraxis added. “You currently do not possess the requisite amounts in your collective accounts. Do you wish for me to correct this?"

Momentarily stunned by the monetary amounts Abraxis was telling them, Jon was about to agree, when Jared stopped him. “Abraxis, how would you correct that?”

“I have located several large accounts in the names of men that are known criminals and fugitives. Most of which are in other countries. I would simply use that money since criminal accounts are the property of the public in general. We need the funds to build an agency to protect the people, therefore the money in question is the logical answer," Abraxis explained.

Jared nodded. “Perhaps you should work that out with Sharon, since she specializes in covert corporate dealings.”

“I’ll get with you later, Abraxis,” Sharon said, to which Abraxis bowed to her in agreement.

“If Carla agrees, we can make sure everyone’s healthy, and try to put a trauma kit together for emergencies,” Beth said, while Carla nodded agreement.

“I would like to help get them set up, and make sure they have everything they’ll need from the outside world,” Ned said. "Besides, I’m dying of curiosity to see this ‘equipment’ Abraxis keeps talking about."

“Abraxis, do we know what these Drellians look like? Would they be able to question someone, or are they too alien to risk global panic?” Jared asked.

“Like Rangers, the Drellians are drawn from a large range of races, human and human-like among them. I would assume that those sent here would be humanoid and at least passable as human in appearance,” Abraxis replied. “Of course, there are ways to extract information that would leave the individual without memory of the event.”

“Okay, what I don’t get is why they are trying to kill the kids in the first place. Shouldn’t they be trying to recruit them?" Carla asked.

“They can’t recruit in this sector while I am still active. So they have to kill all the candidates they find,” Abraxis replied flatly. "If they knew my general location, then they would simply track down one of my trusted terminals, like this one, and infect me. Then Earth and all the free planets in this sector would fall to them. By trying to kill as many potentials as they can, they hope to triangulate my position.”

“I don’t follow, how could they triangulate your position by killing us?” Greg asked.

“Because, I would act to protect you. When I dispatched this interface unit, I had no idea your team was incomplete. When the Drellians attacked the Mederos High School it surprised me, but the odds of two teams being this close together are not as high as one would think. However, in order to triangulate my position, they would need one more planet in this sector to produce guardian candidates."

“That means that there are other teams in this sector then?” Ned asked.

“Correct Doctor, there are other teams in this sector,” Abraxis confirmed.

“Well, can’t they protect us, then?” Carla asked fearfully.

Sharon put her hand on Carla’s shoulder. “No, because they need help. I don’t know for certain how large an area of space a sector is, but I imagine it’s pretty damn big. Although he didn’t come right out and say it, I don’t think the traits needed for becoming a ranger are all that common. We have to support our kids in this. There really isn’t another choice. Besides, in addition to protecting us, they will also be looking for this code that will shut down the Prime Core.”

Carla closed her eyes and nodded reluctant agreement with Sharon. “I know, I’m just terrified by the thought of our kids in combat, especially space combat."

“I’m not thrilled with it either, but if they’re the only ones that can do this, then we have to let them try,” Sharon reasoned.

“I just had an idea,” Ned said, snapping his fingers. “Abraxis can you scan the area in the vicinity of a place called 'The Valley of the Gods’? You should find it in the southeast corner of the state.”

“Certainly Doctor, with your permission Fighter?” Abraxis asked.

“We’ll have to set up an access priority system for later, but for now, please try to answer everyone’s questions. Also, please drop the Fighter before my name, I'm just Greg.”

Very quickly, everyone else agreed that formal titles should only be used if the situation demanded them.

“The scan will be completed in ten minutes, Ned.” Abraxis said.

“Okay, we’re all decided to help the kids out. But, I feel the need to point out that, all of them are legally adults, and as such, have the right to make their own decisions. I think this would be a good place to start letting them do just that," Jared said.

“They really don’t have much experience with that,” Carla replied.

After some discussion, the parents decided to let Greg and the girls handle their own lives for the time being. The decision was timely in that Abraxis announced he had completed the requested scan of southeastern Utah.

“Did you find any areas that were shielded in a similar fashion to the mine?” Ned asked. “I remember watching an old TV show called ‘Airwolf’ and the main characters hid the fictional super-chopper there.”

“The shielding is of a different type, but yes, there is actually a larger area that is shielded from orbital scans. In fact, the only type of scan that can work in that area would be a neutrino pulse, but that would require a receiver on the far side of the planet. Still, because of the structure of the planet, there would be many false positives. There is sufficient area to construct a substantial base, and still remain invisible to scans,” Abraxis reported.

“Aha! I knew it! It isn’t really all that far away either. We could, as a group, buy the land and hopefully the mineral rights, get a permit from the state, and open a gold mine out there. We’re far enough out in the middle of nowhere that if we are discovered, there would be fewer casualties if the Drellians attacked.”

“Excuse me, Ned, but the information was incomplete. Building a base for the team out there would make it easier for the Drellians to locate, and attack the team. The lack of collateral loss of life simply means that they do not have to be careful and make sure of the kill by identifying bodies. Thus, they would use what you would call weapons of mass destruction," Abraxis explained.

“Just to kill four people? That’s criminal!” Jon spouted.

“The Drellians have no consideration for the value of life, Jon. They would simply consider this an abject lesson for when they do return and take over the planet,” Abraxis said. “The other reason we cannot use that area is because portions of that area are already in covert use.”

“Really? I wonder by whom?” Jon asked.

“It sure as hell isn’t the Chinese, Jon!” Jared grinned.

Low Orbit

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

The Immortal Emperor is most displeased with your progress in this mission, Fen’ness. Why have you failed to locate the Emperor’s quarry?” the sepulchral voice drew across the being’s mind.

It has proved elusive and cunning, Abranix, as you well know. The only reason they escaped the initial attack is that these ... humans,” the disgust was clear in his voice. “Seem to be more resourceful than we were lead to believe. This will be a most challenging hunt. Perhaps M’lord Emperor would care to track this prey himself? Or perhaps your own vaunted Prime Nexus would care to assist us more directly?"

The next voice the being heard almost froze his heart and caused him to crash.

Prime Nexus is online.” A voice like that of the mythical demon, Gra'Ga'Dems the Destroyer, himself risen from the void, entered his mind. “Do not assume that we are leaving this mission to a mere minion, fighter. You will accomplish your objective or we will suspend your access and send others that are capable of fulfilling the directive. You have one local revolution to achieve this. No other consideration may supersede this directive.

I understand Prime. But if I may, why is this mission so important? What is one human to the Empire as a whole?” Fen’ness asked.

You do not understand, Fen’ness. If you did, you and your mates would already be floating through the void on the way to Horfus. Returning control to local node.

“I’ve been thinking about this, and I don’t think the human team is complete yet,” Tyarn'D said. His mates hadn’t been privy to the conversation he’d had with the Prime. Which is all to the good, since they would most likely panic anyway.

“What makes you so sure we’re hunting a Ranger Team on this tiny mud-ball?” Not'Cern asked. Abranix only told us to destroy that building, then to go through it to make sure we’d killed whoever we were supposed to kill.”

“Well, that’s just it. The damn computer wouldn’t tell us exactly what we were looking for, so we must have been looking for more than one. Especially since we didn't find whatever it was we were supposed to find,” Tyarn'D replied. “Now it won’t even come up with a suggestion on where to look next.”

“What I don’t understand is why we just don’t crater this dump from orbit and move onto the next mission?” Not'Cern asked. “Fen’ness, has that damn computer given you any more information yet?”

Regaining his composure for his mates, Fen’ness took a deep breath and replied. “You both have gotten soft! We rely far too much on the Nexus for our information. Our Emperor has given us a great gift! We will finally have a challenge to hone our hunting skills once again, and bring glory and pride to our clan! We do not hunt for the rogue computer or the puny half-trained rangers it trains; instead, we are hunting for a single individual in a herd of billions. We have been given the scent, now it is up to us to bring this prey to the table!”

Both Tyern'D and Not'Cern growled and roared the traditional challenge of the warrior clans. He had them focused; now he just needed them to do what they both did so well and perhaps they would actually survive long enough to be allowed to breed.

Blane Residence

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

While the group had been talking, Bella’s phone received a test message. Glancing at it, she frowned, and put it back in her pocket. Seconds later, it went off again, and once again she looked at it. But this time she typed in a short message, sent it, and then put it back in her pocket. Again, seconds later, it went off again. This time, everyone stopped talking and looked at her.

“Sorry guys, it’s just my ‘stalker’ bugging me again for a date,” Bella explained. “I told him I’m busy at the moment, and I’ll text back later. The asshole won’t leave it alone.”

“Skyler again?” Jolene asked. “Hasn’t that ass gotten the message yet?”

“No, he ignored it. I’m half tempted to get a restraining order on him!” Bella said, in frustration.

“Who’s Skyler?” Mandi asked.

“Skyler Tannis is the son of the area’s wealthiest businessman. His Grandfather had the good fortune of owning the land that StealthCom was built on. When StealthCon was built, a surveying mistake placed half of the facility on old man Tannis’ land. Of course, the old drunk was too plowed to notice, but his kids sure as hell did. When they got old enough to do something about it, StealthCon had been finished, and was too far into its mission to change. They filed several lawsuits, and when the smoke cleared, got a settlement of a million dollars a year for every year StealthCon has used and will use the land. So they got a fifteen million settlement check, and get a million more every year.

“Since that time, they have basically bought up everything they could in town. At this point, it’s actually hard to find a business that they either don’t own outright, or have control of in some form. The local police and sheriffs offices are very much in the Tannis pocket, and none of them can do anything wrong.

“So, about mid-way through their junior year, Skyler Tannis has decided he wanted to date Bella...” Jon was explaining, but Bella interrupted him.

“More like ‘own’!” Bella said, in anger.

Jon nodded and smiled sadly at her. “Yes, well, that’s the truth for what’s worth. However, Bella thinks the kid’s a jerk, and told him she wasn’t interested.”

“I was nice about it at first. I thanked him politely, but declined, telling him that I just wanted to focus on my studies. At first, that seemed to work, but he began telling people that we were dating, and this and that. It was all I could do to deny all the lies. I was almost expelled once over it because one of the teachers told me that if Skyler said I was his girlfriend, than I better start acting like it,” Bella said. “I told her I wasn’t his girlfriend, I wasn’t interested in becoming his girlfriend, and I didn’t see how personal relationships were any of her business anyway.

“Apparently, she told the principal, and I got suspended for a day to think about my manners,” Bella finished. “What I learned was to keep my mouth shut, and get the hell out of there as fast as possible.”

Greg grinned. “If you trust me, let me see your phone a minute.”

Bella handed over the phone, but gave him a hairy-eyeball. “What are you going to do?”

“Nothing much, just get him off your back completely,” Greg said and began typing a new message; “Skyler, this is Bella’s future husband. We would both appreciate it if you would please quit harassing Bella for a date. We plan on getting married soon, and this is upsetting her. Thanks for your understanding.” He hit send, and handed the phone back to her. “There, that should take care of the problem.”

“I’m afraid to ask, but what did you tell him?” Jared asked.

Bella read the message back to everyone in the room. Jolene fell out of her chair laughing. Mandi was also laughing, and Bella looked shocked. “You know he’s going to make life hell for both of us now, right?"

“How?” Greg asked. “In a couple of weeks, he won’t be able to get anywhere near us,” Greg answered.

“Just how spoiled is this kid?” Jared asked.

“Let’s just put it this way, they made an exception for him to play varsity football when he was a freshman. That wasn’t good enough, so they made him the quarterback. He still has no idea how to play football,” Jolene said. “Oh! We forgot to tell you that he’s a sophomore this year. He’s barely fifteen years old!”

“What a dweeb! How was he supposed to take you out? Mommy going to drive you around?” Mandi asked.

“No, he has a driver’s license. In this state, money really can buy everything,” Bella said. “Even the four Corvettes he’s totaled so far.”

“Well, watch your backs, kids. If this prick is that spoiled, who knows how far he’ll go to get revenge,” Sharon said.

“We’ll I’m probably bigger than him, so I doubt he’ll try to beat me up!” Greg replied.

“No, but he can have the police do it for him,” Sharon replied. “You can’t beat them up.”

“Pardon me, Sharon, but I would not put that knowledge to the test yet. They are untrained yes, but their instinctive knowledge, especially Greg’s is more dangerous now because of his lack of training. He has all the strength and speed, but none of the control or knowledge,” Abraxis cautioned. “Fighter, I would suggest avoiding any type of hand-to-hand combat until you are sufficiently trained to not kill by accident.”

“Thank you for the warning, Abraxis. But what happens if I’m not given a choice?” Greg asked.

“Then be even more careful, son. Target the legs and arms, not the torso or the head. It’s very hard to kill someone that way, and they won’t expect it. Disable them then get the hell outta there!” Jared offered.

“That is wise counsel, Greg. Human anatomy is very fragile compared to some, but there are fewer potential areas that can be fatal in the extremities. More so in the lower extremities; below the knees and elbows,” Abraxis agreed.

Greg nodded. “Thanks Dad, Abraxis. I think for now, Abraxis should remain here, in the bunker. Since it's the only shielded place we have and nothing can trace him in there. Girls?”

All the girls agreed, but Jolene asked, “In case of emergency, how will you contact us?”

“I can utilize the telephone network, or the internet as a source. Both are easily detectable, however, it would take a lot of time and resources to trace. We can use that method for now,” Abraxis replied.

“No, I just thought you might have some sort of communicator or something for us,” Jolene answered.

“We will eventually have secure communicators, but for now, I am having a hard time adapting them for humans.”

“This is a problem for tomorrow. Come on, let's get home, I’m exhausted,” Sharon said. Saying their good-byes, two of the three families left for home.

Tannis Residence

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

All in all, it didn’t take long for Skyler Tannis to finish throwing his tantrum and devise a plan to eliminate his enemy; Bella’s future husband. Of course, once his mother got involved, then the plan went from childish to very dangerous in a few minutes. She couldn’t, after all, let some cheap slut like Isabella Grein snub her son like that. She would have to make them pay; and pay she would, she would be on her son’s arm, or she would see how she like becoming a lesbian’s pet in prison.

It wasn’t hard to create the situation, and the evidence that was needed was readily available - hell, the police already had it! However, it did take a couple of days for the plan to be put into action, since witnesses and the like had to be purchased, and evidence falsified. This man that was supposed to marry Bella had to be located, and any dirt dug up on him.  All told, the plan couldn’t be put into action for almost a week. Which was good since both ranking police officials would be out of town during that time.

Skyler almost threw a fit when he found out how long it was going to take. He had begun ranting and raving until finally, his mother, Gail Tannis had had enough. Although she abhorred the thought of it, she ordered their maid Marie to go ‘clean Skyler’s room’. Marie begged the woman to reconsider, since her son was so cruel. But she held firm. Marie was a menial, and this is what menials were meant for.

As soon as she heard Marie start screaming, she picked up the phone and called for an ambulance since it took them almost twenty minutes to get out here. The other maids would clean up the blood, it’s just too bad that such accidents happen when cleaning a young man’s room.

Sharon Adam's Office

StealthCon, Inc.

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

Since a new base had yet to be decided on, Abraxis did what he could teaching the new team members using existing technology. He complained that it was very limiting, and had Mandi build a few new modules from scratch that he insisted were absolutely required.

After they got off work, Jared began teaching the team martial arts, and how to control their instinctual fighting strength. Jared wasn’t trained as an instructor, he was trained as a field agent, none the less he did his best, and the kids did start to learn. When Abraxis wasn’t teaching the kids, he was with Sharon Adams learning a few things himself.

“While I applaud your idea, Abraxis, it’s not actually feasible. The DEA and several other law enforcement agencies are most likely watching those accounts like a hawk. If we tried to move that much money into the United States, we’d have government types crawling out of every orifice. So, we’re going to have to be sneaky about it,” Sharon said.

“I understand, Sharon. But then, how do you propose we acquire the funds we need?” The AI asked.

“Have you ever heard of a game called ‘Three Card Monty’ or the children's version 'The Shell Game'?”

“No, I don’t believe I have. What is it?”

Sharon opened a drawer to her desk and removed a deck of playing cards. “This is a deck of fifty-two playing cards, a few jokers, and a card listing the rules to various games one can play with the cards.” She took three cards out of the deck, and then set the rest aside.

She carefully folded the three cards down the middle. When she had them folded the way she wanted, she flipped them over. “In Three Card Monty we are only going to use these three cards: the ace of spades, the ace of clubs, and the queen of hearts. The rules are simple; once I turn them upside down, I'll shuffle them while you watch, then a person would normally place a bet that they knew which card was the queen.”

She began shuffling the cards very quickly. “Keep in mind that most humans have only a single focal point, because this ‘game’ is actually a very clever con-job that relies on sleight-of-hand and optical illusions to cheat the player out of his money.”

When she finished, she said, “Pick.”

“The middle card is the queen,” Abraxis replied.

Sharon smiled as she turned the card over to show him the ace of spades. She turned the queen over, to show him where it had actually been.

“I don’t understand. I was tracking the card, how could it not be in the middle?” Abraxis asked.

“Exactly. That’s the whole point of the con. On the street, that would have cost you ten dollars. However, now your curiosity is going, as well as feeling a little miffed that you might have missed something. A good dealer can work a mark for every dime he has. That’s why the game is illegal when played for money,” Sharon explained.

“I understand, but how does that fit into our dilemma with getting the money we need?” Abraxis asked.

“We use the same sleight-of-hand and optical illusion to get the money into the country without anyone else knowing who took it, or where it actually went,” Sharon explained.

“But, if it’s illegal, why are we considering it?”

“To tell you the truth, Abraxis, taking that money and using it for our own project is illegal as well. Our government is very greedy, and wants all that money for its own. However, you are correct that those monies should be used for projects like this that are for the benefit of the people. The problem is that the government can’t know about this. That’s why we have to circumvent some of the laws.

“I’m not wild about breaking the laws either, but in order to accomplish certain things, sometimes you have to be willing to bend or even break the law. I prefer to think of this as bending the law, since we are actually helping the population, so my conscious is clear.” She snorted, “Besides, the government tells me to do the same damn thing when it suits them. At least this time, I know the money’s going to a good use.”

Abraxis considered this for a moment, he had already known all of this, but he wanted to learn Sharon’s thoughts on the subject. It gave him better insight into the humans he was working with. He knew that most of the group was basically good at heart, but he had to make sure with Jared and Sharon. Both of them lived and worked in the gray area that was covert operations.

Abraxis suspected that Sharon had been a Fixer or possibly a Ranger Finder and Jared most likely a Ranger Fighter that had simply never formed a team, and were now too old for training. Somewhere out there, were the other two members of their missing team, perhaps it had even been their deceased spouses.

When she outlined her plan for getting the money into the country, he had to admit that even he would have a hard time following where all the money went. As she finished her explanation, he anticipated her first request.

“... so, now all we need to do is find a few ‘local’ groups on the terror watch list to use as scapegoats, and then we can build the matrix for moving the money around.” Abraxis smirked. “It would seem there is no shortage of those in this area. The FBI has several groups listed, three of which are currently under surveillance: two in Colorado and one in Utah. However, there are six on the list that are within five hundred miles of our location.”

“Excellent, we should pick a few of them, and we can get started getting the money moved. We’re going dangerously fast for something like this. This set-up should take months to begin to bear fruit, but we simply don’t have months,” Sharon said.

'The Bunker'

Blane Residence

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

“How is it going with trying to acquire the silver mine?” Greg asked when the folks had their daily video conference.

“We've figured out how to get the money into the country, and even have a few dupes to use as scape goats for the feds or the drug dealers if they come looking. However, it's going to take at least a week to get the money to where we can safely use it,” Sharon replied. “We're going recklessly fast as it is. An operation of this size should take months to set up, and years to bear fruit.”

“You know, the need to be shielded, and the search of this area of Utah got me to thinking,” Greg began.

“Uh oh!” Mandi whispered to Bella playfully.

Greg gave Mandi a playful look of frustration, but continued. “Doesn't the government have decommissioned facilities such as abandoned missile silo's that are for legitimate sale?”

Ned slapped his forehead. “That's it! That was the reason I asked for the scans! I was trying to get that thought to surface!”

“We know dear,” Carla said as she patted his hand placatingly.

Ned blushed while the group got a chuckle at his expense. Given Ned's intellect, he was probably telling the absolute truth.

“Abraxis, can you get into the StealthCon computer system and see if there is any underground complexes or missile silo's that might be for sale, so we can check them out as suitable bases?” Greg asked.

“As you command, Fighter. I should have a list in less than an hour, the system is rather simply structured. Should I continue with the money transfers that Sharon has planned?”

“Yes, we will still need a substantial amount of money. Besides, we can always make anonymous donations to programs that really do actually help people,” Greg replied. “If I may ask, how much money do we have before we begin reallocating the drug money?”

“With everyone's permission, the total available amount is eight hundred ninety-four thousand, six hundred and twelve dollars. However, I don't believe we want to use the whole amount,” Abraxis replied.

Jared sighed, reaching a decision. “Abraxis, there is an account you are unaware of. Technically, it belongs to the Company, but I have an account in Switzerland that they tend to ignore since it also benefits them by giving me options if I need them. This is money that I've managed to obtain on my overseas trips as a safety net.”

“Are you aware of the current balance of the account?” the hologram asked.

Jared rattled off some numbers, then a password. “The last time I looked at it, it was about twenty-one million. The problem is still the fact that it's overseas.”

“That's actually not that much of a problem. We can secure a loan using the balance as a guarantee of the loan, then simply arrange payments to be made from the account. The only thing we would end up paying is property tax,” Sharon said. “The Corporation we are forming can even write off the interest on the loan as a tax deduction.”

Bella looked amazed. “It can't be that simple, the feds have to have a way to tax it three or four times.”

Sharon chuckled. “No, that was a rather simplified description, but the principle is the same. However, we will be paying tax on the money at least once, but it won't be all at once.”

“Okay, so when should we bring the General in on this?” Greg asked. “I'm still a little nervous about involving a high-ranking member of the Intelligence Community. They have a way of taking things over.”

“Uncle Carl is a lot of things including a patriot, but the one thing he's not, is an idiot. If we tell him what we need to do, and he let us get through the explanation, he'll see the truth,” Jolene replied.

“It's getting through the explanation that bothers me. I'm worried he'll think we're either under alien control, or at the least have been misled by Abraxis. He also doesn't know either Mandi or I,” Greg explained.

“Then I would suggest that any conversation you have with the General include Jared or I,” Jon suggested. “I would also have the girls there as well since he has known both of them since they were children.”

Greg nodded. “Would either of you be available tomorrow, and could we get an appointment to see him?”

“This place has more bugs than New York City. We should have him visit the bunker. Call it a ... security inspection,” Jared suggested.

“That makes sense. Let me talk to him, Greg, and I'll get back to you with a time,” Jon asked.

“Fair enough,” Greg agreed.

“If I may, why don't the four of you just take the rest of the day for yourselves? I think tomorrow is soon enough for you to worry about saving the world,” Beth said in her doctor's voice. “You need to rest and just be around each other for a bit.”

“Besides, we all need to get back to work before someone freaks out,” Carla added.

“Uh, before we all go off in different directions, could I send a physics formula for you girls to look over? We are having a horrible time with it,” Ned asked.

“Sure Dad, but Mandi and I haven't finished writing out the answer to the other one you sent,” Jolene said.

Abraxis took that moment to interject a suggestion. “Perhaps Bella and Greg should make the first attempt at Dr. Blane's equation while the two of you finish the previous problem sent to you?”

“Is that an order Abraxis?” Greg asked grinning.

“Fighter Greg, I am only a guide, I cannot, and will not, ever give you an order. I will make suggestions as well as render an opinion when asked. But I am incapable of issuing an order to a sentient life-form,” Abraxis replied. “It is an intentional design limitation.”

“So how does that work if we need to be sent someplace?” Greg asked.

Abraxis looked at Greg like he might be a little slow. “I will simply inform you of situations as I detect them. The decision of what to do about them will be yours as the team commander. I am no more than an adviser.”

“I have a feeling that is the year’s major understatement. Anyway, let’s get to work on those physics problems.” Greg suggested.

Low Orbit

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

Abranix, I demand more information on this prey the Emperor has sent us to hunt,” Fen'Ness growled in his mind where he knew the AI 'listened'.

You've been given the scent, what more do you need?” the AI hissed in reply.

That's the point; we haven't gotten the scent. We've dug through the records of the facility where the cubs had been attending lessons. Twenty-five females are no longer living at the address listed. Either those females were destroyed beyond recognition, or they have left the area. We've managed to locate and terminate sixteen of them, however, the computer refuses to confirm that any of them are the female we are looking for.

You have all the information Prime is willing to allow at this point. Be very careful what you ask for whelp; you might just get your wish. I suggest you continue as you have been and find the girl. Remember, you have three-fourths of a lunar cycle remaining to accomplish your mission. End of Line.

Fen'Ness growled in frustration with his superiors, and the abrupt way the AI terminated the contact. Although he told his mates that they were tracking a female cub, he had little more information to give them. So they worked on that approach, which only got them so close. The remaining nine female cubs have relocated to other places on this continent, but only Gra'Ga'Dems knew where they had gone to.

“Not'Cern, plot a course for planetary intercept from the system's asteroid belt. Tyern'D I need you to calculate the mass we would need to blast this hemisphere into dust. Then, I'll need both of you to find a suitable asteroid that we can use to finish this mission once and for all,” Fen'Ness ordered.

“That could completely destroy the planet, Fen'Ness! Have we been ordered to do that?” Tyern'D replied in fear. She was already working on his orders, but she could still ask him about it.

“In about twenty solar cycles, Prime Nexus is going to 'downgrade' us if we do not have this task finished. Of course we haven't been ordered to destroy the planet. But if I'm going to die for that human cub, I'm damn sure going to introducer her to Horfus personally!”

“If we could get the locations down to a few microsectors, we could just use an antimatter pulse, couldn't we? It's not that I care either way about these humans, but this planet isn't so bad. It reminds me of T'Shan'drow,” Not'Cern asked, bringing images of their home world to all their minds.

Fen'Ness nodded agreement. “I agree, but we will need a plan if we cannot lessen the search area.” He snorted. “You both know how the Prime likes bold action.”

'The Bunker'

Blane Residence

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

A decommissioned silo complex up in the foothills of the mountains proved to be the location of choice and Sharon, with Abraxis' help, set up everything needed to purchase the underground complex.

Although Abraxis' counter to having a rural base still applied, he made thorough scans of the area, and even had a hard time finding the silo hatches. The only way he'd found the 'ground entrance' was by the location of the security fencing at the end of a long, rarely used trail.

The interview with the General that Greg had been dreading had actually taken a couple of days to arrange. By the time the interview was set-up, Sharon and Jared had been assigned the task of investigating the unusual company that had recently purchased one of the decommissioned and abandoned NORAD (NORth american Air Defense command) complexes.

The 'bunker' was large enough to accommodate the six people that were present for the General's visit provided they didn't have to spend a lot of time in there.

Plates of food in hand, Greg led the procession down into what used to be the girls' private domain. Carl himself had only seen the inside of the bunker via the monitor in his office. Once they all got seated, he immediately noticed that there had been some changes.

He also noticed how the four young people interacted. He smiled to himself thinking that they had become a very tight working team. He grinned involuntarily at Greg, who was obviously the leader.

Jon began the meeting by introducing Greg and Mandi as Jared’s son and daughter. He went on to mention that the girls believed that Greg was at least as smart as they were and Mandi was even smarter.

Carl snorted. “I'll believe that when I see it!”

“It's true Uncle Carl. Mandi is way smarter than we are. Who do you think has been solving all those impossible physics theorems your folks have been throwing at us?” Bella said, bragging for her friend.

“Okay, I believe you Bella, but what I wanted to talk to all of you about was if you would consider taking an office at StealthCom and you can finally start getting paid for the work you've been doing,” Carl countered.

“Sir, I'm afraid that won't be possible. You see we wanted to talk to you about something else we are going to be involved in,” Greg countered. “It's a bit of a tale, so I hope you're comfortable.”

Carl chuckled. “Son, I haven't been comfortable since I finished high school and joined the Air Force.”

“Carl, Greg had a hard time deciding to bring you in on this, because he was worried about what your reaction would be. Would you please keep an open mind, and don't jump to any conclusions until he's finished. After that, all four of them will be happy to answer your questions. The reason Jared and I are here is to reassure you that they are not crazy, do not pose a threat to the United States, nor have they been influenced in any way.”

Carl lost his grin while Jon spoke. “Considering the average intelligence in this room, that does not set my mind at ease, Jon.”

“With respect General, I doubt very much if this conversation is going to improve that condition,” Greg began. He explained the entire story, from beginning to end. Telling of how they discovered the 'amulet', and how Mandi figured out the puzzle to 'opening' it.

“General, I would like to introduce to you, our local node of the Abraxis Virtual Construct. He has a series of numbers that identifies him, but we just call him Abraxis,” Greg said finally, motioning for the hologram to appear, which he did.

“It's a pleasure to meet you, General,” Abraxis said and bowed to the man.

“The honor's mine,” the General said trying to think all this through. It registered to him that these folks had taken a hell of a risk telling him about it. The question was, is this a test to see if he's telling everything on his reports? He knew who and more importantly what Jared was. He turned to the spy first. “Agent Adams, I need to know if this is a test by the Company to make sure I'm still a team player.”

Jared reached behind him, and pulled out a sheathed combat knife. After removing the knife from it’s sheath, he reversed it and handed to Carl hilt first. “You have my word of honor, General. This is not a trap, and is exactly what it appears to be.”

Carl recognized the combat knife of the intelligence service elite combat troops. These blades were zealously guarded and it was rumored that only after the soldier's death could a person take the knife. He'd seen only two, both of them in their sheaths. The soldier was always buried with his knife, 'in case Satan gave them any lip'. He'd never seen one drawn, and he'd never heard of a real one ever being owned by a civilian. Jared's vow on the blade, meant it was the utter and absolute truth.

“I understand. Thank you for the honor,” Carl replied as he carefully handed the blade back, hilt first. Greg had Abraxis fill the General in on the story of Abraxis Prime, the Drellian Rangers and their mission. When Abraxis finished, Carl leaned back and let out his breath. “You young folks are taking a hell of a risk telling me about this. The question is why?”

Greg nodded. “Because Sir, we need to build a base we can work from. We know that there is no way in hell to do something like this without someone getting curious.

“To prove my point, earlier today, you handed a case file to my parents. They are to investigate the purchase of a silo complex up in the mountains near here. Ironically, they are two of the people 'on the board' of the company that bought it. I intend for that complex to be our new base. We are also aware that there are a considerable number of covert installations in this little corner of Utah, so we are hoping we could simply blend in. The one thing that will give us away will be the landing and launching of our hypersleds, and if we ever get attacked.”

“They would dare to attack you in the open like that?” Carl asked.

“Sir, the Drellians have no problem at all fighting in the open on this planet. In fact, the team will be hard pressed to make sure that the heavier weapons won't be used,” Abraxis said.

“How heavy are we talking about here?” Carl asked.

“Carl, these Drellians have already made an attack. The Mederos incident,” Jon replied. “I guess you hadn't gotten that report yet.”

“I got the report, I just didn't connect the dots to this,” Carl said.

“They were trying to kill Mandi and I,” Greg said.

“To answer your question, General, how heavy can you imagine? They do possess the ability to destroy the planet. However, they rarely use it. They value slaves more than a destroyed world. That however, will not deter them from using nuclear or antimatter weapons,” Abraxis explained.

Carl got very pale. “This is not good, not good at all. I really think we need to get some experienced pilots, and a detachment of Marines ... “

“You know damn good and well how that'll work, General. Besides, the kids are the only ones that can use the equipment. Something about genetically predisposed or something,” Jared said.

“Yeah, I know, the Pentagon won't believe the story about the 'little green men', and will immediately take the sleds to white sands for reverse engineering so we can build more of them, then take over the rest of the planet ... "

“And pretty soon, we have a new Imperial seat of power right here on Earth. No, General, I'll destroy the equipment myself if I even suspected that were to happen,” Greg said. “This task has fallen to us. We have to handle it, but more importantly, we'll have to be free to handle it.”

Carl thought it through again, and nodded agreement with Greg. “I take it you’re the team leader then?”

Greg smiled and nodded. “Yeah, I am, but I like to ask for advice a lot from my other team members, and friends.”

“Well Commander, for what it's worth, you have my support. However, you will still have the government crawling all over you as soon as they think they can. I'm about half way to hatching a plan to deal with that when it happens, and will most likely need to borrow your father, and perhaps the skills of your AI when the time comes. You will remain autonomous, but it would be much better to have the help of the local government, don't you think?”

“Yeah it would, but I will not allow any tech transfer that will give one nation an advantage over any others. We're here to help the planet, not one nation. If we have to, we can relocate to the moon, or one of the other satellites, although doing so would greatly lengthen our response time,” Greg replied.

Carl tilted his head back and howled in laughter. “Son, you do have a head on your shoulders! Just keep that attitude, and don't back down. They'll call you everything they can think of including a traitor, but as long as you believe in what you just said, you can never be a traitor. I'll help in any way I can.” He turned to Jared, “Take a week or so, and then give me a clean bill of health for the company. I'll issue the order to release the access codes to a courier, (Greg), and you folks can get busy moving in. It sounds like there really isn't any time to waste.”

“Thank you, Sir. No, there isn't any time. As far as we can tell they're not trying to hide their presence here. So, we need to get on this; they could start tossing the aforementioned 'heavy' weapons.” Greg replied.

Carl nodded his understanding. “I hate to say it, but our leaders would be more inclined to accept this situation if there were something to happen publicly to make them panic. Unfortunately, they'd still try to steal your tech, but they wouldn't overtly interfere with you.”

“Honestly, Sir, once this gets going, the local governments will be the least of our worries. We also intend to make sure we have the capability to not only build the sleds, but to improve them, or apply upgrades. Which means that Rangers from other planets will have to come here for the work,” Greg added and Mandi grinned and nodded her agreement.

Carl looked a little uneasy hearing this. “You intend to invite aliens to this planet? I don't know how well that would go over.”

“Not all aliens are bad, Uncle Carl. The ones that will come here will be like us. With the same job, for the same reasons,” Bella said. “Besides, not all of them will be able to leave the facility without a suit.

“Rangers, I applaud your motives, but I must also advise against the construction of a full maintenance base here. Ranger teams stay alive because they remain hidden. A base such as you are describing will eventually get the attention of Abraxis Prime, and the odds of planetary destruction climb exponentially,” Abraxis interjected.

Carl looked at the hologram. “You mean there are no bases of your fighting forces? How do they resupply, upgrade equipment, and keep the warriors sane?”

“You could say that there are very small bases, one for each team, hidden on their planet. Most missions are short term, but in the event of a long term mission, there are small replicators built into the sleds for food, and water as well as waste disposal. The Rangers stay sane because they come home to their families every night. We have found that the practice reminds the Rangers why they are fighting, and what they are fighting for.”

“Are these hypersleds the only weapons platforms you have?” Carl asked.

“The hypersled is the pinnacle of Alliance technology. The Alliance found that they are so effective that none of the other ships were needed, and were in point of fact, a massive waste of resources,” Abraxis answered sounding a little pompous.

'The Bunker'

Blane Residence

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

Carl looked about ready to argue the point, but Greg, shook his head and changed the subject. “A week delay getting into the complex is going to be a little long, General. Is there a way we can get into it sooner?”

Carl looked a little concerned, but accepted Greg's stalling tactic, for now. “I suppose you could get into it anytime you want. All the locks are computerized. However, I should warn you that there are alarms set on those locks as well as motion sensors and monitored cameras in the complex itself. Not to mention the silo doors themselves. Not only are there sensors on the doors, the power usage is monitored in case someone overrides the system.”

“You sure seem to know a lot about missile silo's Uncle Carl,” Jolene said.

He smiled at her. “I wasn't always a General you know. At one point in time I had to work for a living. I was actually the commander of the complex you're buying.”

“Once I can get the Ranger's equipment into the complex, I'll take over the whole system prior to rebuilding it. I will also be replacing the old back-up generators with a pair of Helium-Cobalt Reactors. They are a form of non-radioactive, cold reactors that supply almost limitless energy, without damaging it's surrounding area. They are also the safest power unit to use since anything else would be spotted from orbit,” Abraxis replied.

“Nice, I assume there has to be a downside to using them?” Greg asked.

“Yes there is. No reactor is one hundred percent efficient. By that I mean total conversion of fuel to energy. There is always a waste product. My concern would be storage or disposal of this by-product,” Abraxis intoned.

“What is it, is it dangerous, and what have other races that use this do about the disposal question?” Jon asked.

Abraxis turned to face him. “The by-product is a synthetic compound called Pentalithium Carbonide that was a highly controlled substance in the Alliance. The Alliance were the only ones allowed to use or run one of these reactors and then it was only used on a weapons producing world.”

“May I ask why?” Carl asked.

Abraxis turned to Greg. “Ranger Fighter, this area of questioning is classified. Only select individuals may learn this knowledge after swearing an oath to never release it to unauthorized individuals.”

“Is there such a person here?” Greg asked.

“Amanda is allowed this information, as it is required knowledge for her duties. However, she would not be able to answer the General's question either,” Abraxis replied.

“I understand, Abraxis. Delay installation of the reactors until after Mandi learns this information. Then perhaps we can decide what to do about it,” Greg said. “If operation of these reactors was so highly controlled, why did you suggest we install them here?”

“If you plan on proceeding with your idea of a maintenance base. You will need the by-product. Also, they are almost completely undetectable when installed on the surface. Underground, they would be invisible,” Abraxis answered.

They were interrupted by the outer door opening. Sharon stuck her head in, and it was plain there were tears in here eyes. “Jared, the Drellians haven't been idle. Allison Neison, Kari Walton, and fourteen others have been killed. Investigators all say that it looked like laser fire from the burn marks.”

Mandi got pale. “Alli and Kari are dead?” Tears formed and began sliding down her cheeks. Jolene, who was the closest to her, tried to comfort her.

“All of them say the same thing? Aren't there any witnesses?” Jared asked. “They had to be very public attacks.”

Sharon nodded. “Most were. All the witnesses claim to have seen 'flying saucers' according to the police. When questioned they said that these ships fired multiple times and the house or apartment literally burst into flame. In all of the cases, the whole family was home, and all the bodies are accounted for.”

Greg looked shocked but recovered quickly. “They're going after just the girls?”

“That's what it looks like. What are you thinking?” Sharon asked wiping her eyes.

“I'm not sure. But I think the attack might not have been to kill Mandi and I, I think they were after just Mandi!” Greg replied.

Everyone was silent for a moment, each dealing with the information in their own way. The first to speak was Mandi.

“Why on Earth would they be after me?”

“Although a Ranger team can function without a fixer, they do so at a handicap. Fixer is also the most common manifestation of the Ranger gifts. There has to be another reason the Drellian team is targeting the Fixer,” Abraxis replied.

Again everyone paused to ponder the question. However, Greg spoke this time, and he spoke as the team leader.

“Okay, we're not going to figure this out today. However, these incidents, as heinous as they are, only underscore the need for us to get busy learning, and doing our jobs. Abraxis, beginning tonight, I want you to work on taking over the complexes' security systems. As soon as you got that, let us know so we can get down there and figure out where to put everything.”

“There are six silo's included in the complex. Dispatch our gear but split it into however many packages you might need to get it in there. In the meantime, Ladies, we need to keep working out, and getting in shape.”

Sharon looked at her husband. “Do you think Paul Richards would help?”

“Who's Paul Richards? I'm getting a little uneasy about how many people that know of this secret already,” Greg asked.

“Sifu Richards was the man that trained your mother and I in mixed martial arts. He loves the martial arts, and he really tries to impart that love to his students. I honestly believe that he would probably be the absolute best person to teach you hand to hand combat,” Jared said. “The only problem is, I think the Company keeps pretty close tabs on him.”

“Abraxis, would he have to learn any additional forms to be effective as a teacher?” Greg asked.

“Yes, there are several art forms that are not from here, however, a lot of the principals are the same. If he has an interest and the aptitude for this, then I'm very sure he would be able to assimilate this in a short period of time.”

Greg looked thoughtful for a moment. “General, how are you planning on handling the report of the Mederos incident?”

“I hadn't decided yet. I haven't actually read all of it myself. However, in light of what you've told me, I was considering talking it over with your father before I pass it on.”

“If I may make a suggestion on that?” Greg asked. When Carl nodded, Greg continued. “Send the report in like you're supposed to, however, perhaps spin it a little bit to make it look like the reason Mandi and I were targeted was because of Mom and Dad. Once the Company contacts them for confirmation, they can ask for Sifu Richards to come train us in hand to hand in order to help protect us. Since they assume that both of you are combat oriented because of your pasts, they'll send Richards with orders to evaluate us as possible future operatives. Once he arrives, we can either take him into our confidence, or not. Either way, he'll still be able to teach us."

Carl wrinkled his eye brows. “How will you be able to tell if he's duplicitous or not? For that matter, what makes you certain I'm not?”

Greg looked at him and smiled. “I have the absolute belief of Jolly and Izzy as well as their parents that you can be trusted to not betray us, as long as you believe we are not a threat to the United States. That's all I needed. Since I've met and gotten to know you, I'm inclined to agree with them.

“However, we also have him.” Greg pointed to his Dad. “I don't think it's occurred to you, or maybe it has, that your life is his. Everything depends on his report to his superiors. Even though you would be reporting on his children, who do you think they would believe?”

Carl nodded agreement. “Absolutely right on all counts. No, I wouldn't betray you, even if Jared and Sharon are not the threats they are. I happen to agree with your reasoning for trying to stay covert. I've been in the military for thirty-two years. I can honestly say that what you think would happen to you, is pretty accurate. That was the main reason I falsified the data about Jolene and Isabella in the first place. No one deserves to go through that kind of death. At least now, I know I made the right decision.”

“As for Mr. Richards being duplicitous, we'll just have to see once he gets here,” Greg replied.

Carl looked thoughtful while Greg had been speaking. “You know, I have a thought that might make all of this easier for everyone. Ned's section isn't really working on much right at the minute, and he's been bugging me to give them lab room to test out some of their theories. If I can get my idea into the Pentagon before the sale is finalized, we might just be able to make the whole place look like another covert installation. On paper, we can re-purpose the silo's as large scale testing labs. You kids would have Ned's entire department on site, but you would also have a full detachment of Marines on the surface guarding you.”

Greg shook his head. “Won't work. Too many people would see what's really going on, and the secret would be blown. You know damn well the curiosity of scientists and the dogged loyalty of Marines. All it would take is for one of them to see something unusual, and that would be it. Besides, doesn't Dr. Blane have to submit progress reports to justify his funding?”

Carl nodded, and also agreed to what Greg said. “Yeah, I see your point.”

Greg grinned at him. “However, both Drs. Blane and Grien are more than welcome to establish private labs there.”

Carl grinned. “I can still justify placing a guard there then. Yes, Marines are doggedly loyal, and very unimaginative as a whole, but above all else, they follow orders. If they know there is a possibility that they might have the opportunity to see strange things, then they develop a selective blindness. Besides, I know just the man for the job.”

Jared grinned. “Captain Lionel Washington, USMC?”

“That's him!” Carl said. “He has a well established dislike for me, and no one would question this assignment. Hell, he would be grateful for it, since he wouldn't have to see me everyday. He was assigned to me as a punishment anyway.”

“Hold it!” Greg said, as he was about to ask, Jolene answered his question.

“Lionel is Carl's son. His mother didn't want to be married to the Air Force. Carl loved her very much, but she refused his proposal flatly. She walked away from him and he never saw her again. However, he was contacted and told about the birth of his son. He hadn't even known she was pregnant.”

“So, why does he hate you?” Greg asked Carl.

The General shrugged. “I'm not really sure, and Lionel won't tell me. I think his mother might have a different memory of events than I do. However, I never missed a child support payment. I also made sure there was a college fund available to him, and an offer to sponsor him at Annapolis. Once he graduated from school, the balance of the college account became fully available to him.” He shook his head. “So, has anyone decided what to call your new base?”

“No, we really haven't had...” Greg began. Mandi interrupted him.

“Prometheus. The bringer of light and knowledge.”

The room was silent while everyone thought about her name. 'It really is appropriate if you stop to think about it,' Greg thought to himself. He looked at Jolene and Izzy. “Ladies?”

“I believe it would be appropriate on many levels. We do intend to release some of the advanced tech, but only in small non-harmful, yet beneficial, ways,” Izzy nodded. “A good name.”

“I agree, and I know my father will go gaga over it. He has a thing for mythology, and Prometheus is one of his favorites,” Jolene added.

'The Bunker'

Blane Residence

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

“General Hollister, if I may ask, where are the cameras and alarms for Prometheus monitored from?” Abraxis asked. “And how does the information get there.”

Carl looked surprised. “I'd have thought you'd already know?”

“General,” Abraxis replied, trying not to sound condescending. “There are literally billions of computer and communications systems on this planet. I could eventually find what I need, but it would be more expedient to simply ask.”

“I suppose it would. Safer too, since the system has triple redundancy. The primary is a fiber optic link up to the top of Gail's Mountain. From there it's sent via a dedicated microwave network to the main command bunker in Nebraska.

“The second is a dedicated fiber optic relay system installed and maintained by the telephone company (at the time it was Western Bell). I guess now it's Qwest or who ever has bought them this month.” Carl seemed to have finished as he paused in thought.

“What about the third?” Abraxis finally asked.

“Huh?” Carl asked, breaking out of his thoughts. “Oh yeah, finally, there is a computer network cutout that will trigger alarms in all near-by installations. Once there has been a sale, a request is sent through channels to cut the decommissioned facility out of the networks. It usually takes three to six months for everything to be disconnected.

“However, there is one point that all three systems have in common. If you could replace the control computer with one that would emulate the signals, and send false data, then the only alarm systems you'd have to worry about are the ones on the silo doors.”

It was Abraxis turn to concentrate. It was a few moments later when he turned to Greg. “I have the control computer. The General is correct, there is only one connection to the silo doors in this system.”

“So, if there are other sensors on the silo doors, how are they monitored, and by whom?” Mandi asked.

“They aren't exactly sensors per say, but rather simple electric usage monitors that are remotely monitored. Its a one way link to a computer that's sole task it to monitor the power usages from the silo doors,” Carl replied.

“I still have a few tasks remaining to remove the base from the systems securing it. Then I will trace the power lines back to the monitoring system, and remove that as well,” Abraxis said.

“Thank you, Abraxis. Please let us know when you're finished. If you have them, could you give us a floor plan of the base?”

'The Bunker'

Blane Residence

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

Later, after everyone else left, and it was just the girls in the bunker, the room lights were dimmed and a three-dimensional map of the complex was hovering over the medallion.

Jolene and Bella were intently studying the display, while Mandi was working on one of the terminals in the room. Greg had left to talk to his parents.

“We're going to need at least six more fixers if we're going to make this work right,” Bella said.

“I can see needing maybe one or two more than Mandi, but other than that, why don't we ask the other teams to simply bring their fixers with them. That way they can learn the improvements by assisting in the installations?” Jolly replied.

“I was going to suggest that,” Mandi said from behind Bella, where she was sitting.

Jolly smiled. “Well, you know what they say; great minds and all that.”

Bella nodded agreement. “That's a good idea. When we build the three bays at each silo, we should also add multi-environment housing for the teams. That way, we can adjust them to make them as comfortable as we can for the visiting teams.”

As she spoke, the repair bays, as well as the block stretching from the first bay, formed all the way down past the bottom of the silos.

“Why so big Abraxis?” Bella asked.

“You specified a facility capable of adjusting to the various environments of the visiting crews. This is the amount of room required for the equipment necessary to achieve that,” the old AI replied.

Jolly asked, “My question is how are we going to do this? I mean we're talking some seriously major underground construction, here.”

“Jolene, in your equipment pack, there are remotes capable of building a construction pod. With the assistance of the remotes, these facilities can be assembled given enough time. At this time, the remotes are scheduled to build such a pod anyway for the necessary alterations to the base. As for the removal of dirt and other minerals they will simply be broken down into their component molecules and reused to form the materials needed for the construction projects. What isn't used can be maintained in stasis for any number of uses.”

“I guess that explains that,” Mandi replied. “Abraxis, when the labs for Dr. Grien and Dr. Blane are being built, could we include a small area for me? Granted I could simply use one of the empty hangar bays, but I was thinking about a small, quiet area, where I could go to think and experiment on a small scale.”

“Your request is not uncommon, young Fixer. Many new and innovative ideas have origins in such places. However, may I suggest adding it as an annex to your apartments instead of to the scientific facility?” Abraxis asked.

“That would certainly make more sense to me,” Jolene said. “In fact, I think all of us should have small offices or research areas to work from without disturbing our other mates.”

Bella nodded. “I agree. I know I have a lot to learn about navigation and the like, but I've always had a strong curiosity about space. I'd love to have a place where I could do more research on it.”

“Excuse me, but could someone please notify Fighter Greg that I now have complete control over Prometheus, and I need his permission to dispatch your equipment pack?” Abraxis asked.

“Sure! I'll go get him for you,” Bella said, getting up from her chair. “I need to stretch my legs anyway.”

“I'll go with you. We're out of juice and water in the fridge,” Jolene said. “Do you want anything from the house, Mandi?”

“A caffeinated soda if you have it?” Mandi asked never looking away from the computer monitor.

One of the printers in the room started up, and a page listing various computer components finished printing.

“Please excuse my interruption, Rangers. Jolene could you see about getting this equipment?” Abraxis asked. “With it, we can build three secure computer systems that will interface with the technology in your equipment pack as well as making it easier for me to impart your lessons. No software needs to be installed.”

Jolene grabbed the list and looked it over. “I'll do what I can, Abraxis, but some of this stuff is a little expensive.”

“I understand. However, If Dr. Grein uses his credit card to purchase the equipment, I'll be able to repay the account. If something needs to be ordered, please try to get it here as soon as possible,” Abraxis replied.

Blane Residence

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

Greg gave the go-ahead for the dispatch of the equipment, and it was quietly lowered into one of the missile silos without incident. As promised, the Construction Pod was quickly assembled and put to work.

Bella, Greg, and Jolene began an intense routine of exercise. Mandi joined them for most of it, although she didn't possess the physical gifts of her friends.

On the day Greg arrived at StealthCon to pick up the access codes for the new base, he had a surprise waiting for him when he returned to Jolene's house; Gail Tannis’ plan had been put into effect.

Several police cars were parked in front of the Blane house, and police were at the front door. Several more were walking around the back of the house, apparently looking for a way in. All of them had weapons drawn. Greg immediately called his dad.

After explaining what he found when he got there, he told his dad he was going to get out of his car to see what was going on. Once again, he left the phone connected, but muted so the police wouldn't know Jared was listening in, and recording the whole thing.

Greg got out of the car and began walking over to the police. As soon as they saw him approaching, They freaked out, and pointed their weapons at him.

“Get on the ground! Get on the ground, now!” They yelled at him, Greg got to his knees and put his hands on the top of his head. Very quietly, Greg told his father what was happening. As six police very cautiously approach him, Greg asked. “Excuse me, Officers, but can I ask what's going on here?”

The one in front of him, with his pistol pointed at Greg's head, yelled at him. “Shut the fuck up! Just don't say another fucking word, punk!”

So Greg kept his mouth shut. Two of the officers put their guns away, and roughly grabbed him under his arms and lifted him up. They then threw him, hard, against one of the police cars and very roughly began to frisk him. They cleaned out his pockets, and threw his keys, and cell phone up on the trunk of the car in front of him. When they jerked his arms down and around his back to put cuffs on him, one of the officers slammed him against the car again.

“Where are your little whores, Punk?”

Since the officer had told him to shut up, Greg didn't answer. He got slammed against the cruiser again, this time harder, making him grunt.

“I said, where are the girls at, you little fuck?” the cop asked again, angrily.

“Excuse me, Officer, but you told me to shut up. Will you shoot me if I answer you?”

The officer punched Greg hard in the kidneys with his night-stick, making Greg cry out in pain. “Don't be a fuckin' moron, you sick bastard! Answer me, or I might just have to beat the shit out of you for resisting arrest!”

“In that case, I refuse to answer any more of your questions until my parents and my attorney are present. Until then, I chose to exercise my right to remain silent,” Greg replied. He knew it was coming, but it still hurt none the less.

The cop spun him around, and punched him in the gut, again with the short end of the night-stick. Greg replied by puking on the cops shoes, and falling to his knees. The cop then kicked him in the head, slamming Greg’s head back, into the front fender of the cruiser.

Greg slumped to the ground, but still refused to answer. He turned his head slightly, and spit out the blood from a cut lip. He looked up at the cop just as the snarling man drew back with his night-stick and hit him in the left arm. Greg thought he heard the bone break, and the pain was incredible, making him slightly light headed. But still he didn't speak, at this point, he doubted he could even if he wanted to. Another blow hit him in the head, hard, and the world went away.

In the bunker, the girls, and through the telepresence equipment, Jon and Sharon watched the attack and beating of Greg. Jolene, with tears in her eyes, was physically restraining Mandi. Bella stood and watched with balled up fists and tears of anger and frustration on her face.

“We have to do something! That fucking cop is beating him to death! Look! Greg's not even conscious anymore! Why didn't he fight back?” Bella asked.

Sharon was mad too, but was controlling it better than the girls. “Bella, he didn't fight back because he would have killed that policeman, and any of the others that would have jumped in, one of the other trigger happy assholes would have most likely shot him, and he might not have survived.”

“So, why can't one of us go help him? I hate just standing here and watching this! We don't even know what the hell's going on!” Bella replied, almost yelling.

One of the other policemen stopped his comrade once Greg fell unconscious. It was clear however, that the brutal policeman wanted to continue beating the defenseless Greg. Everyone watched as the police picked up Greg's unconscious body, and stuffed him into a police car. The car pulled away as the rest of the policemen had a discussion in front of the house.

Even as sensitive as the security systems audio equipment was, no one could hear what the men had said to each other. However, they soon broke up, and most left, while one police cruiser remained to watch the house. Since it was still daylight, Bella hoped that some of the neighbors had filmed the senseless beating of their friend.

Jon got the girl's attention. “You three stay put! We're on our way home. Carl is following Jared to the police station with a platoon of Marines. I made sure that the video feed was piped to him as well. Don't worry, we'll get Greg away from those assholes as quickly as possible. But until we know what the hell's going on, stay put! You heard that cop; they're after you as well.”

“Jon, the police network has warrants out for the arrest of Greg, Bella, Jolene, and Mandi. Physical descriptions are included in the system. There is a high probability that the Drellian Rangers will locate this information if it is not removed from the computer system. If they locate the information, this entire area could very well be destroyed. You must hurry,” Abraxis urged.

Bella turned to him. “Abraxis, see what you can do to remove or modify the information. I'm afraid stealth is a lower priority to getting that information removed. If you have to dump the whole computer system, do it! That information cannot be spread to other law enforcement computers.”

Abraxis bowed. “At once, Ranger.”

Jon, now on his speaker phone, asked. “Abraxis, can you tell me what the charges are, and where they originated from?”

“The charges are possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance. Possession of a controlled substance in a public educational facility. Possession with the intent to distribute child pornography, trespassing, voyeurism, suspicion of statutory rape with insertion with a child under the age of sixteen. Possession of an illegal firearm, possession of a firearm in a no guns area. Public lewdness, indecent exposure, indecent exposure to a minor child. I should add that all of these charges have been brought by the district attorney, acting on information received from a confidential informant,” Abraxis replied. “The notes indicate there is a considerable amount of evidence.”

“That fucking bastard! I'll have his balls hanging in the bunker for this! I'll...” Bella growled.

“You will do no such thing, Bella!” Sharon said, shocking the young woman. “You leave that little weasel, and his family, to us. You worry about information control. Make damn sure there is nothing that can lead the Drellian team here. Consider this your first mission! Just think about how many people will die if you don't get it done! Mandi?”

“Yeah, Sharon?” the girl asked, she was still mad, but it seemed to be under control for the time being.

“Do you remember when your father caught you hacking into the utility companies and 'fixing' our bills?” Sharon asked.

“Yeah, you told me you appreciated it, but it was cheating and you made me promise not to do anymore hacking,” Mandi replied.

“Consider that promise negated. I don't want you to actually do anything, but I want you to find as much dirt on those assholes as you can, understood?” Sharon said.

Mandi's eyes glinted with evil intent as she understood what her mother had asked of her. “Consider it done, Mom. It'll give me something to do to get my mind off of all this shit.”

“Like I said, Squirt. Don't actually do anything to any of them. This is recon only, got it?”

“I understand. After all, if there are child porn images involved, they had to get them from somewhere didn't they?” Mandi said.

“Can I add something?” Bella asked.

“Sure,” Sharon said. “As long as it isn't an attack.”

“It's not, at least, not yet. There has always been a rumor that the Tannis family has control of all the stuff that goes on in this area, a lot of it they get away with because of bribes, kick-backs and favors. If we could dig up enough information on them, maybe we could put a few of them away,” Bella suggested.

“I think we should make sure the Tannis family is behind this, first,” Sharon said. “But I do agree, the information could be useful in the future.

“I bet I know where they got the porn from,” Jolene said, looking at Bella.

“Curious George!” Bella said, smacking her forehead. “Of course!”

“You lost me there girls, and hurry up, I'm almost at the police station,” Sharon said.

“A few years back, the school hired a man with Down Syndrome as a Janitor. He got the name 'Curious George' because he was always asking questions about things. However, he would only ever ask the boys. He was terrified of girls, apparently we scared the crap out of him,” Bella said.

Jolene picked up the narrative. “One day, someone found a small video camera in the girls locker room. When the school and police investigated, they couldn't find any proof as to who put it there, so they blamed George. He was fired, and there was this big write-up about it in the newspaper and he was branded a pervert. However, he was never actually convicted; to this day, there still is no proof that George put it in there.”

“But he was terrified of girls, why would he want to film them? That just doesn't make sense,” Sharon replied.

“Exactly. Why would a man that was, for all intents and purposes, emotionally equivalent to a seven year old, want to sneak dirty pictures of girls? How could he do it in such a way that even the police couldn't prove it was him?” Bella asked. “He was framed. The most popular theory is that the boy's Phys-Ed teacher really did it, but again there is no proof.”

“Guys? Look, Jolly's folks are home,” Mandi pointed to one of the monitors.

“Okay, I'm at the cop-shop. Stay put until either Ned or Carla comes to get you. If the cop sees you, he'll most likely arrest all of you,” Sharon said. “Take care girls, and we'll get this dealt with as soon as we can.” Not waiting for an answer, she hung up.

Blane Residence

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

Ned had barely gotten out of the car before the police officer got to him. Like he had always done, Ned walked around the car to open the door for Carla.

“Sir, I have a warrant for the arrest of your daughter, Ms Jolene Blane. Do you know where she is?” The officer said, not even bothering to introduce himself.

Ned looked at the young man. “Excuse me, you are?”

The man looked a little annoyed. “Deputy Sheriff Jerome Tannis. Sir, it is a felony to obstruct or aide a known fugitive, so I'll ask you again, where is your daughter?”

“Deputy,” Carla said as she stood up. “At the present moment, your idea is as good as ours.  We stopped keeping tabs on her a long time ago... shortly after she made the honor roll at school. We haven't had the chance to obstruct anything, and she has yet to be convicted of a crime, so she is not a fugitive either. I'm very sorry we cannot help you, but we will not allow you to intimidate us either.”

Before the officer could reply, Ned spoke again. “I'm certain we know nothing of any investigation currently being conducted. So, I ask you what she is currently being investigated for.”

“Are you aware that your daughter is an admitted sexual deviant? She was seen holding hands, as well as kissing a minor child. That is called Statutory Rape. Evidence has also been discovered implicating her in the possession and distribution of a controlled substance, and a few other sick crimes. I will accompany you into the house to see if she is hiding in there. If she is, I will arrest the both of you for harboring a fugitive, and we can sort all this out down at the station,” the deputy said, getting mad.

“May I see your search warrant?” Ned asked.

“I'm attempting to serve an arrest warrant, I don't need one.”

“Excuse me officer, but this is still the United States of America. Unless I missed the revocation of more of our civil rights, you will wait out here, while we check our home for our daughter. Now that we know she is wanted for questioning by the police, we will certainly bring her down to the station if she is in there. Until then, please be so kind as to get off our property,” Ned replied in a no-nonsense voice.

“That's it, I'm placing you both under arrest for interfering with a police office while attempting to serve a warrant. Turn around and place you hands on the car,” the deputy ordered.

“Do you really want to be the one that bankrupts our town?” Ned replied. “If you put those cuffs on me, I will not only sue you, and the department, but the city and county as well. Just in case you are unaware of them, there are several cameras positioned around my property. They are equipped with high definition audio pick-ups.”

The Deputy snorted. “It's not admissible since I don't see a sign, and you failed to inform me that I was being recorded!”

“You know, for a policeman, you don't know very much about the law, do you? Besides, you're wrong about the sign. It's attached to the fence, next to the gate that has been destroyed. There's another one by the front door. The system is monitored around the clock by the security at StealthCon because I'm a department head.

“So, Deputy Tannis, I suggest you remove yourself from our property before security arrives to haul you away to the Brig.” Ned replied.

The man stood there thinking. He was clearly pissed off about his loss of authority in this situation. However, there was no way he was going to sit in a cell surrounded by Marines until the Sheriff got around to getting him out.

“Fine, but I will wait in my car, right there. If I see her, I will arrest her immediately! Do you understand?”

“As long as she isn't on our property, and we are not taking her to the station ourselves, yes we understand. If you attempt anything other than that, we will file suit against you in Federal court for harassment of a government employee, and his daughter.”

Deputy Strom narrowed his eyes at the man. “Why do you need such a sophisticated surveillance system, anyway?”

“I'm afraid, Deputy, that you do not have the clearance for me to answer that question. You can apply for a clearance at the StealthCon offices here in town if you wish.” Ned replied. He walked away from the officer then, effectively ending any further question by the moron.

He closed and locked the door, and was heading for the back yard when His wife, Elizabeth stopped him. “Wait, Ned. We have no way of knowing if they are watching the backyard. If we head out there now, we'll lead them right to the girls.”

Ned sighed. “You're right of course. Have you talked to her on the intercom?”

“Yeah, they had to sit and watch Greg almost beat to death by those police. He even surrendered with out a fight. Mandi's working on something for her mother, and Jolene and Izzy are helping Abraxis with information control,”

“So, how do we get food out to them?” Ned asked.

“We won't need to for a couple of days. We just restocked the bunker, and the cistern is full. The girls are okay, just really pissed off. Rescuing Greg for them is going to be up to us.”

Ned agreed and led her into his den. Once there he turned the television on, to see if any of this had made it into the news yet. As far as he could tell, nothing was being said about it, yet. Leaving the big screen on, he dialed Jon's cell number.

Shale County Law Enforcement Center

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

The first person to arrive at the police station was a very pissed off Jared. He walked up to the sergeant's desk and rang the bell. He waited a minute, then rang the bell again. When that still didn't get anyone's attention, be got as close to the microphone built into the bullet proof glass as he could and yelled.

“You lazy, coffee-swilling, bastards have about thirty seconds to get your fat, donut-eating, asses out here before I decide to call the local FBI office to investigate the rampant corruption in this department!”

“Just who the fuck do you think you are, asshole?” a fat sergeant looked up from his desk.

Jared smiled without warmth at the big-mouth. He had a huge mug of coffee and a carton of donuts sitting on his desk. “I'm the father of the boy one of your dumb fucking officers just about beat to death for no reason! I'm also Special Investigator Jared Adams of the DOD. So get off your fat ass and let me in to see my son! NOW!"

“Cool yer jets Roger-Ramjet! I'll get to you when I get to you! Now, shut the fuck-up, and take a seat!” the fat cop said.

Jared stepped to the side, reached up and unplugged the security camera. Then took out a paper clip, straightened it out, and shorted out the contacts holding the door closed. He was across the room, and had the fat sergeant on the floor before he could even flinch.

“Would you prefer to spend your retirement with your grand-kids, or have them enjoy your life insurance?” Jared asked.

“W-what you want?” Sergeant Tibbits asked.

“I only want to know what hospital they took my son to. I called the local one, and he isn't there,” Jarad asked.

“He's in a holding cell... In-in back,” Tibbits said fearfully. He knew that the boy was in bad shape, and probably should have been taken to the hospital, but...

“Really? Why wasn't he taken in and treated after the beating he took?” Jared asked getting more pissed.

“That would have gone on Henry's record. One more brutality charge and he gets fired,” Tibbits replied. “So he put the boy in holding.”

“I'm going to go in back now, and take my son to the hospital. Very shortly, General Carl Hollister will arrive with a full platoon of Marines. I would say that you idiots have fucked-up for the last time.”

“But, we only acted on the evidence given to us! We can't ignore something like that!” Tibbits said.

“No, that much we can agree on. You also don't know my son, or you would have laughed at it. I'm not pissed because of that. I'm pissed because when your officers arrested my son, he happened to be on the phone with me.

“I heard and recorded the entire thing, including my son getting beat because he was doing what they told him to do. He did not resist in anyway. Hell, he didn't even try to fight back or defend himself while your officers stood around and watched this 'Henry' person beat him into unconsciousness. That's why I'm pissed. It's your fucking job to protect him! Even if he is a suspect, he is still under your protection. Get it?” Jared said.

He dropped the fat fucker, and pointed to a door. “Is that the way I need to go?”

Tibbits just nodded.

Jared tried the door and found it locked. Instead of picking the lock, he returned to Tibbits’ desk and pressed the hidden button, unlocking the door.

He walked back into a room full of desks. In one corner was the holding cell with Greg in it, lying on a cot. Several officers were in the room, and when Jared began making his way toward the cell, one of them stood up.

“Whoa there, Slick. This isn't visitation day. You're not even supposed to be back here. Tibbits must have fallen asleep again!” The comment got chuckles from the rest of the officers.

Jared calmly looked the man in the eyes. “I bet your name is Henry, isn't it?”

“Now how the fuck did ya know that? You a psychic or something?” Henry asked, causing the rest of the cops to laugh again

“No, I'm not psychic. I'm the father of the young man that you beat unconscious, then dumped in a cell without medical treatment,” Jared said calmly. “Just be thankful you can still breathe, and let me see my son.”

“Now see here, that fucking kid resisted arrest! He deserved what happened to him! Besides, he's a little fucking pervert!” Henry replied snarling.

“Really? It sure didn't sound like he was resisting. It didn't look like it either; we had three surveillance cameras on you the entire time. Jared pulled his credentials out of his pocket and handed them to one of the seated officers. “For the crimes of attempted murder, assault with intent to bodily injury, assault of a suspect in custody, and gross abuse of authority, I am hereby placing you under arrest. Officers, please remove this Deputy's weapons, and place him in hand-cuffs.”

The officer that Jared had handed his credential to, stood.

Without taking his eyes off of Jared. Henry said. “Sit down, Todd. I ain't going anywhere, and no one is going to take away my weapons.”

Jared smiled. “You know, I was actually hoping you'd want to resist arrest. Thank you for the opportunity to return the favor for my son; I just might let you live for that.”

“You’re a real piece of work, aren't you? You actually think I'm gonna lose? Hah! You're gonna see your son alright, you're going to be in the cell with him!” Henry replied.

“Feel free to try to arrest me anytime 'officer',” Jared said quietly.

“Uh, Henry, You might want to see this before...” Todd said.

“Todd, when I want your fucking opinion, I'll crack your skull open and sift through the shit for it. Now shut up!” Henry said and picked up his nightstick from his desk. As he approached Jared, he said. “Now, if you get on yer knees and come along peacefully, I won't have ta hurt ya!”

Jared snorted “I doubt that! My son 'came along' peacefully, and look what you did to him!”

Henry snarled and swung the nightstick at Jared's knees. If the nightstick were to connect with one of them, it would have broken it. Jared moved out of the way, caught the stick, and struck Henry's hand, numbing it.

When Henry released the weapon, Jared threw it straight up to stick in the drop ceiling. “I'm afraid you’re going to have to do better than that.”

“You think so, huh? Well, how about this?” Henry said and reached for his gun. When he looked back up, he was looking down the barrel of Jared's gun; which was about an inch from his face. For once, Henry did the right thing; he froze.

“Good, now, Deputy Todd is it? Please remove this piece of shit's weapon, and put him in cuffs before we need to call the coroner, and a cleaning crew. Would someone please call an ambulance for my son?” Jared said softly.

Todd moved with a purpose. And very soon, Henry was on his knees, ankles crossed, with his arms handcuffed.

Jared pointed at another officer. “Would you please go check on Tibbits? It’s only been a couple of minutes, but I thought he would've been back here by now.”

“You're right, he shoulda been,” the officer said, and hurried for the door.

“Now, can any of you tell me how long ago the 'Curious George' incident took place?” Jared asked.

One of the older officers in the back slapped his forehead. “FUCK me! I knew I'd seen those pictures before!” He picked up the phone and dialed a number.

Jared looked at Todd. “Who he calling?”

“I would imagine he's calling the District Attorney.” He paused to listen to the conversation and nodded. “Yeah, that's who he's talkin' too. You know there are other charges though, right?”

“Yeah, but I think if you look close enough, you’ll see that there is no possible way those can be real either. All four of the kids in question were honor students, with the highest IQ's in their schools, quite possibly the state. Are you sure they'd make a mistake like that? On top of all of that, they have security clearances almost as high as mine and have been working for StealthCon since before they left high school,” Jared explained. “Personally, I’m thinking you should probably take a closer look at where you got your evidence.”

“John?” Todd said. “I need to talk to Allen too, please.”

“Someone get out here! Tibbits has had a heart attack!” the cop who left yelled. Two of the other policemen ran out to the front office.

“This is turning into a fucking mess. Where is the Sheriff or the Police Chief?” Jared asked.

“Both of them are out of town at a conference in Boise. John is acting Chief, and Henry is, er, was senior Deputy,” Todd replied. “Actually, Tibbits was senior, but he refused to do it because of his health.”

“Makes sense. Who's next?” Jared asked.

“Me,” Todd said, frowning. “Look, I can't actually release your son without the DA dropping the charges. However, I will send an officer with you to the hospital. As soon as I can talk to the DA I'm sure he'll drop the charges.”

One of the officers came back from the front. “We sent Tibbits to the hospital in the first ambulance, since he was critical. The EMT said they would call another bus for your son.”

Jared nodded. “I understand, thank you for telling me, Officer. When they arrive, please direct them back here.”

“There's also a shit load of Marines led by a two-star general out there. I think they've surrounded the station-house.”

“That's General Hollister. Please, let him in,” Jared said.

“He had his Marines loading Tibbits. I'll let him know where you are,” the Officer said.

“Thanks, that would be fine,” Jared said. He turned back to Deputy Todd. “Can you open the cell so I can check on Greg?"

“Yeah,” Todd said as he fished out his keys. “Henry threw a fit, but I did what first aid I could for him.”

“I appreciate it, Deputy.”

“Wish I coulda done more, but Henry would have shot me, as it was I thought he was going to beat the shit outta me, too,” Todd admitted.

“Naw, I wouldn't have done that; there wouldn't have been anything left!” Henry said, angrily. “Now shut the fuck up, asshole! You’re gonna get us all kilt!”

“Shut the fuck, up dick-head. You were a bully in school, and you were a bully here. Now, you've seriously fucked up, and you can be a bully in jail. I'm sure there will be plenty of guys that will appreciate your personality there,” Todd said. "Somehow, I don’t think your aunt is going to be able to get your ass out of this one!”

“Bullshit! Once the judge sees all the evidence we have on that punk, he'll let me walk. Besides, you know Rolf's my brother-in-law!” Henry said.

Jared laughed. “Dumb hick really isn't an act with you is it? Officer John over there is on the phone with your DA taking care of the false evidence of child pornography, and I have proof that clears the kids of any illegal possession and firearms charges.

“You, on the other hand, violently assaulted an innocent and fully cooperating suspect using lethal force and it was captured on tape. I sure hope your family has lots of money, because I'm certain my son is going to sue you for every penny of it,” Jared said.

“Never going to happen! We own this county, you fucking puke!” Henry said.

“Really?” Jared said pulling his weapon out again. He pointed it at Henry's head. “How do I know you weren't trying to beat classified information out of my son? That would be treason, and I have full authority to terminate traitors on sight.”

“Deputy Tannis, I would shut up now if I were you. He can kill you and nothing will be said about it. You had the very bad luck of picking the son of someone that can and will stand up to your family. Not even your Daddy's good friend the Governor can save you this time,” Carl said as he walked in the room.

“Hollister! Get your fucking attack dog back on his leash before he does something else stupid!” Henry said, full of angry confidence.

Carl turned to Todd. “Deputy, could you please put this mouthy ass in a cell, and open the one holding Greg so we can see to his medical needs?” Entering behind Carl was a Marine carrying an aide kit. As soon as Todd headed for the cell, she followed him. Two of the other officers lifted Henry off the floor and took him to another holding cell.

John, the policeman that had been talking to the DA joined Jared and Carl. “The DA is dropping all the charges against your son and his friends. She asked me to apologize for this whole event, and expressed her hope that you would understand some of our actions based on the evidence we had.”

“Actually, I could understand some of the actions taken if the evidence supplied had been even close to factual. I have yet to see the specifications of the other charges, but the evidence used for the child porn charges had been used in a previous case! How stupid do you have to be?” Jared said. “I can only hope that whoever drummed up the charges about the drugs and firearms was more careful, or there will be more grounds for a lawsuit. How did you get the child porn charges dropped?”

“I reminded her of the case you mentioned, and she had about the same reaction. I also got her permission to reopen that case, since it never set well with me. I still don't think George did it, but Henry is right about one thing; his family does pretty much own the county, so in a lot of areas our hands are politically tied,” John replied.

Jared was close enough to see what was going on with Greg. Greg was lying on the bunk in the cell, but was awake and had given Jared a brave smile. The Marine medic had him ready to go when the ambulance arrived, and he was wheeled out quickly. Jared told him he'd follow him to the hospital as soon as Sharon arrived.

Obviously, the medic had given him something for the pain, because Greg gave a sleepy smile. “Take your time, Jared, I'm good.”

After Greg had been taken out, the medic stopped to talk to the group of men. “Sir, he's taken a hell of a beating. However, he may have some cracked ribs, but I think only his left Humerus was broken. It came very close to the ephemeral artery, but didn't hit it. I gave him a pain killer and put a pressure splint on it to get him to the hospital. I'm a little worried about the bruises on his back, they are awfully close to the kidneys. He's gonna be sore as hell for a few months, but if his kidneys check out, he'll be alright now.”

“Thanks, Doc. I owe you one,” Jared said.

“Nah, its my job. But you do have one hell of a kid there. He didn't bitch about the pain once and I know he's feeling it. Hell, half my Marines would be crying their eyes out!” the medic said, as she walked away grinning. She passed a very pissed off looking Sharon walking in.

“So, where did you put that fucker's body? I want to piss on it,” she said.

Jared grinned at his wife. “He was smart enough to shut up, for the most part, so I didn't kill him, yet.”

Her smile was all malice. “Oh, how thoughtful! You saved him for me!” She started moving toward the holding cell, but Jared stopped her.

“Sharon, leave him alone. Killing him won't help this any,” he said.

“It'll make me feel better. Besides, if the girls get hold of him, he's done for,” Sharon said.

“I'm going to call Ned and Jon to let them know every thing's been taken care of. May I suggest the two of you go over to the hospital?” Carl said. He didn't think it would be a good idea if either of them were still there when they took Henry out of the cell

“Sounds like a plan; come on, beautiful. Let's go see how our son is doing,” Jared said taking Sharon's hand.

Blane Residence

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

“Okay girls, you can come out now. The charges have been dropped,” Carla said over the intercom.

“Do we know what's happened, Mom?” Jolene asked.

“First off, Greg has been taken to the hospital for treatment. Jared and Sharon are there with him. He is listed in serious, but stable condition, and his wounds are no longer life threatening.” Carla explained, knowing that the girls would want to know about Greg first. “We can go see him in a bit, he’s still being treated.

“All the charges leveled against the four of you were dropped by the DA, and she has reopened the investigation of the ‘Curious George’ incident. It seems that suddenly, everyone recognized the pictures used as evidence. From the sound of it, the DA is trying to simply make the rest of this mess go away, quietly. The officer who assaulted Greg, incidentally his last name is Tannis, has been arrested under Jared’s authority pending the filing of federal espionage warrants. Because of the possible corruption of local law enforcement, the state police have been called in to run the investigation. Carl assures me that will only last long enough to get the FBI involved.

Deputy Tannis is currently sitting in the same holding cell that Greg was in, waiting for a ride to the Marine detention center at StealthCon, he is also being guarded by Marines. Because of the type of charges Jared brought against him, no one is allowed to speak to him,” Ned explained.

“That loud-mouthed deputy is still sitting outside,” Carla said, frowning. “I don't think he's gotten the word yet.”

“Well, for now, you three need to stay in here. That idiot would probably try to shoot one of you!” Ned added. “I'll go out and tell him to call in, since things have changed. If he gets too belligerent, I'll call Carl to come and educate him!”

“Well, just make sure he doesn't shoot you!” Carla said. “I'm getting the feeling this town is full of idiot cops!”

Ned winked at his wife and stepped outside. As he approached the patrol car, the Deputy got out, but kept his hand on his weapon. “I'm sure you're going to tell me your daughter isn't in the house, right?”

“Nope, she's in there. Along with Amanda Adams, and Isabella Grien. What I came out to tell you was that you need to call in, things have changed rather dramatically,” Ned replied.

“Somehow, I doubt that! Are you going to get out of my way, or do I have to arrest you too?” the Deputy replied, sarcastically.

“Before you arrest me, you should call in for another car, that would make four people for you to transport. You can only carry three. Look, just quit being an idiot, and call in, okay? What can it hurt?” Ned asked reasonably.

“Look, Asshole, I don't need you to tell me how to do my job. Put your hands on the hood of the car,” the Deputy pointed to the hood of his cruiser.

“What are you arresting me for, Deputy?” Ned asked, as he calmly complied.

“Nothing yet, but keep running your mouth, and I'll think of something,” he quickly frisked Ned, then put his handcuffs on him. He had moved Ned half way around his car when a Humvee roared up and came to a screeching stop in front of the patrol car.

Even before the big truck stopped completely, a Marine was out of it, with his M-16 pointed at the Deputy. “Deputy, release Dr. Blane and back away slowly! Do it now!”

The Deputy complied immediately, but had a look of confusion on his face. “What the hell are you men doing? This man has been impeding me executing three arrest warrants!”

“The charges against the kids have been dropped, dumb-ass! You’d know that if you had been listening to your fuckin’ radio!” one of the Marines said. “Now, Dr. Grien, please step away from the deputy and his cruiser.”

The other Marine had moved up and removed Ned's handcuffs, all the while keeping an eye on the deputy. That was when he noticed the name tag on the man's shirt. “Tannis. You any relation to Deputy Henry Tannis?”

“Yeah, he's my uncle. You know you guys are in serious trouble when the rest of the family hears about this right?” the Deputy replied.

“Somehow, I don't think that's going to be an issue this time. You're uncle has been arrested on a federal warrant for attempted espionage. The FBI has been called in to investigate several cases of Judicial Manipulation and Corruption. Because of the direct involvement of Henry Tannis, the state police have taken over the investigation of child pornography and the drugs, with the ‘assistance’ of the FBI,” the Marine explained as he handed the cuffs back to the deputy.

“I'll believe that when I see it. The family owns this county, and no one goes against them. Trust me here, I've seen what they do to those who've tried,” the deputy said, nervously. “I think I'm going to go find a rock to hide under until the fallout settles. You guys have no idea how deep the shit is around here,”

“That might be a good idea, Deputy. However, don't go too far. You might be needed for questioning,” the Marine that handed him the cuffs said.

The Deputy nodded as he walked around and got in his car. Ned and the Marine moved closer to the Humvee to let the Deputy get around them.

“Why do I get the feeling that he has more to do with all of this than just being Henry's nephew?” Ned asked rhetorically.

“We can have him grabbed for questioning, later, Doctor,” Corporal Dunham suggested. Dunham had been the one with the M-16 that had been covering the Deputy.

Ned frowned and shook his head. “No, I have no proof, just a gut feeling.” He sighed. “You guys got here just in time. Well done.”

“We were already on our way over here, Sir. Surveillance called us to let us know what was going on, so we made sure we got here quicker,” Private Marshall said. He'd been the one to uncuff Ned.

“This whole thing is just a huge mess. I wonder how long we'll be under the microscope from this?” Ned asked.

“I don't think very long, Sir. I heard the General talking to someone on the phone about classifying everything under national security. It's one of the reasons there isn't a hundred news vans crowding the streets around here.” Marshall said.

“Well, that, and all trace of this seems to be just disappearing from every computer system it goes into. It's almost scary,” Dunham replied.

Ned snorted in acknowledgment, but didn't say anything. He knew why it didn't stay in any computers. The girls and Abraxis had been working hard all morning to keep all trace of this out of the computers.

Blane Residence

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

Inside the house, the intercom beeped, surprising everyone, since no one was in the bunker. Carla was the closest so she accepted the call. “Yes?”

“My apologies for disturbing you,” Abraxis replied. “But I have instructed the construction drone to complete the medical facility as soon as possible. Once that is done, Fighter Greg must be brought to it as soon as is feasible.”

“I remember seeing the area set aside for it, but I thought we would have to staff and supply it?” Bella asked.

“That is incorrect, Bella. The Alliance medical technology is one of the areas in which research and development had far exceeded even that of the military. Unless an injury is immediately fatal, repairs can be made to restore the being or person being treated – within certain limitations,” Abraxis explained. “For example, until each of you are fully scanned and an adequate profile is stored in the medical AI's memory, brain injuries as well as injuries to the central nervous systems will not be able to be restored. Each being is unique in these areas, attempting to repair these types of injuries without the profile would be fatal to the patient.”

“I'd be very interested in studying that if I could, Abraxis. I'm sure Liz would also,” Carla replied.

“That can be allowed, provided Fighter Greg agrees. I would strongly urge caution before using any of that knowledge outside of the bunker though. Having such knowledge could easily jeopardize security,” Abraxis cautioned.

Carla blinked a couple of times wondering what that meant. “Uh, okay, I'll talk it over with Greg when he's feeling better.”

“Abraxis, if you want us to bring Greg down as soon as we can, may I ask how the over-all project is coming?” Jolene asked.

“Of course, Jolene. The over-all facility is only at twenty-one percent completion. However, your quarters as well as the hangars for the hypersleds have been completed. Primary command and control is still under construction, but has basic functionality. Currently only one power unit has been installed and powered up, the secondary power unit is almost ninety percent complete, but won't be needed until the bunker is completed,” Abraxis reported. “Prometheus facility is currently mission capable, if only just barely.”

“All that and it's at only twenty-one percent?” Bella asked.

“Affirmative, Bella,” Abraxis confirmed. “The visiting crew quarters, which comprise almost thirty percent of the over-all facility alone, have not been started yet. Neither has the training, or research areas. Also there are the larger work areas for the Fixers, which will be needed to modify the hypersleds. Currently, there is only a basic base set up.”

“When did you get our quarters finished, I thought they were still listed as ‘in-progress’?” Mandi asked.

“Team quarters and the small offices and research areas for you have been completed. However, I should mention that none of the psychological amenities have as yet been installed,” Abraxis replied. Which is why the report still says 'in-progress’.”

“What psychological amenities?” Carla asked.

Jolene answered this time. “Before we finalized the design, we got to thinking that living underground might be a difficult adjustment for us to make, so we added a few things to help us make the adjustments. One of those things is a small park complete with a holographic sky that mimics the outside world. The park would have a few trees, and grass. Maybe some birds or some such. Also, in our quarters, there will be 'windows'. Basically, small holographic rooms that again mimic the surface or whatever environment we want.”

“I can see how that would be a great help. However, with as much time as you guys spend in the bunker out back, I'd have thought you'd be used to it by now!” Carla replied grinning.

“Well, we do spend a lot of time out there, but the difference here is that there will be time that we'll spend days down there. We just tried to think of everything we could in order to make it as comfortable as we could, Mom,” Jolene explained.

“Excuse me, but there seems to be some activity in front of your home, Carla,” Abraxis said, interrupting.

Everyone rushed to the windows in the front of the house. They were just in time to see Deputy Horne begin leading Ned around his car. Bella and Jolene made it almost to the door before Carla called out for them to wait, come back and watch.

When they got back to the windows, the Marines had arrived and the Deputy was moving very slowly away from Ned.

Amanda snorted. “Serves the asshole right! Just because he's a police officer doesn't give him the right to walk all over everyone!”

“Well, it looks like the Marines have the matter well in hand. Can we go to the hospital now please?” Bella asked. The idea was enthusiastically endorsed by the other two girls.

Carla held up her hands and took a step back. “Okay! Okay! Let's just wait for Ned to get back in here and we can go! Sheesh! You' act like the four of you are in love or something!” she teased, playfully.

Kingdom Hospital

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

“How's he doing, Beth?” Sharon asked of her new friend as she arrived from the treatment room Greg was in.

Beth smiled bravely. “He is one tough young man! He had four cracked ribs, a broken left arm which dislocated the shoulder, and a mild concussion. Of course he has enough bruises and cuts to make it look like he was hit by a bus, but all of that is cosmetic.

“We've reset the shoulder and realigned the bone, and he's going to be in a cast for a few months until that arm heals. I won't lie to you, it was really tricky work, the sharp edge of the bone was pressed against the ephemeral artery. If he had taken even a moderate jarring to that side, even during transport, he would have bled out in a matter of moments.”

“Any nerve damage?” Jarad asked.

“Well, with trauma this severe, it's difficult to be completely sure, but I don't think there was any permanent damage. He managed to shield himself from most of the blows that could have blinded him...” Beth replied, but hesitated.

“What is it, Beth?” Sharon asked nervously.

“He sustained several blows to the kidneys resulting in severe trauma. Currently, both kidneys are very swollen and bruised. The one on the right has all but stopped working and the left is operating at just enough capacity that we won't need to put him on dialysis. We'll have to wait and see how they heal, but he could lose one, or at the worst, both kidneys,” Beth explained. “I'm very sorry, but we are doing everything we know how to do to make sure that doesn't happen. At this point, it's all up to Greg.”

By this point, Jared was holding a crying Sharon. That's how the rest of the group found them when they arrived moments later.

As soon as they saw Jared and Sharon, the girls ran up to them demanding to know what was wrong.

Just as Jared was about to explain, his cell phone rang. Looking at who was calling he immediately excused himself. Sharon was still too upset to talk, so Beth once again outlined Greg's injuries.

“Liz, Abraxis wants us to get Greg down to the Base as soon as he can travel. He says that he has technology that can heal him,” Carla told her boss.

“He can replace damaged kidneys? I don't see how he could, but that doesn't actually matter at the moment, because Greg can't be moved for at least two days.” Beth replied.

“Can we see him?” Bella and Mandi asked at the same time.

“He's still out from the anesthetic we had to give him. I'll be sure to have someone let you know as soon as he wakes up, which should be in about forty-five minutes or so, okay?” Beth replied.

About that time, General Hollister arrived with several armed and armored Marines. “Doctor, could you tell us which room young Mr. Adams is in?”

“319, but what's going on, Sir? He can't be moved!” Beth replied putting her hand up to stop the two medics that had started pushing a gurney down the hall.

“Damn! I was afraid of that.” Carl sighed in frustration. “Doctor, his life is in serious danger. Until we can relocate him to a more secure facility, he is to have a guard at all times, and no one. I mean no one, goes into that room unless you know them personally, and they are escorted by a guard.” He turned to the three young women.

“As of this moment, you are to be under guard as well. We have reason to believe that the four of you may be in serious danger. It's really too bad your complex isn't finished yet. That would be the best place to keep you safe,” he finished.

“What's happened?” Bella asked.

“The Drellians, I would imagine. DEFnet was invaded by a powerful computer system this morning,” Jared said, returning to the group. “They were looking for any references to four young people, one of which was Amanda.”

“Oh shit! What did you tell them?” Carl asked.

“Basically, I told them what was going on out here, and how my son was attacked by the local police. I also told them about arresting Tannis, and all the rest of the twisted shit going on in this backwater berg.

“They bought it hook, line and sinker, and have given me sanction authority on my own discretion. This whole mess is now in the hands of DOD pending review by the SecDef and possibly the President. This place is going to be crawling with 'special investigators' before night fall.

“Again, I have leave to do what I need to do to protect my kids, and my family. However, they will want to question the girls. Simply because it is believed that they have the knowledge required to invade DEFnet without getting caught.”

“Jesus! That's all we need right now. Won't this kind of attention attract the Drellian's?” Carl asked.

“It won't matter if it does. We're being erased as we speak. DEFnet is off-line for 'maintenance' while the bright boys try to figure out how it was invaded. During this time, we will be removed from it, and any other computer systems that have our real ID's in them. That includes the StealthCon mainframe.

“Greg will die from his injuries, and the rest of us will follow suit in a car accident later today,” Jared explained.

“So what does that mean, exactly? Do you have to leave the area now?” Jolene asked, concerned.

“No, officially, we were in Colorado Springs, and that’s where we'll die. The computers will list dental as well as DNA evidence as identification in our deaths. We'll be getting new identities when the agents arrive this evening,” Jared replied.

“They are aware of the some of the situation with our children, and know that they have been supporting the efforts of StealthCon basically free of charge.” Jared said, addressing the rest of the parents. “I was asked if there was anything I needed to help insure their safety. I asked for Paul Richards to be sent out here for training. They agreed, and asked if I could 'convince' General Hollister to arrange for them all to be taught to use weapons.”

Carl nodded. “Of course. But hand to hand and firearms aren't all they're going to need is it?”

Jared grinned. “Nope, that's why Sybil Konrad is also coming.”

“Who's Sybil Konrad, and why are you smiling?” Amanda asked.

“Sybil Konrad is a master at escape and evasion. I'm grinning, because of the ulterior motive the Agency is adopting here. All four of you, Greg’s included too once he's healed up enough, will be fully trained as field agents. Basically, you will have all the skills your mother and I have, just no experience. I think they are maneuvering us into making sure you all become agents,” Jared said, chuckling.

“Won't they get pissed when we don't jump on board?” Bella asked.

“Sure, but what are they going to do about it? They won’t be able to justify a sanction on you, and even if they did, do you really think they want six very pissed-off rogue agents on their hands?” Jared replied.

Carl sighed, and looked at Jared. “Okay, so how do you want to handle this?”

“The girls, Sharon and Abraxis and the equipment from the bunker need to go to Prometheus now. We'll get the rest of the kids' stuff moved later, but for now, send a guard with them so they can grab a change or two of clothes, and then get them down there. I'll stay out here to handle the agents, and watch over Greg until he's ready to move.

“Since this is now a national security issue, I can authorize you to round up as many members of the Tannis family as possible, and anyone else that might be involved in this mess. We need to give these guys something to focus their attention on,” Jared paused as if thinking.

Carl nodded. “I'll get the boys and girls on that. I'll also get the guard up to Prometheus and have them expecting the kids.” He turned to the intently listening women. “Girls, each of you write up a list personal items you might need. I'll have a couple female Marines hit the store for you, so don't worry about how embarrassing something might be, if you think you'll need it, write it down.”

“That's all well and good, but we're not going anywhere until we can see Greg,” Amanda said firmly. “Beth said that should only be another hour, so don't freak out. We can get your lists written while we wait. We also need to let Abraxis know what's going on so he can make whatever preparations he needs to make.”

The other two girls nodded in total agreement with her.

“You can talk to Abraxis once we get to Jolene's ...” Jared began, but Mandi interrupted him.

“I can get him a message from here. We worked out a secure email protocol we can safely use. He is still working on communicators for us, but he says he's almost gotten them finished, but we'll need to go to his medical section to get them implanted.

“Speaking of which, he said we need to get Greg down to his medical unit as soon as we can get him out of here. He’s certain he can fix him up in no time,” Mandi finished.

“Which I'll believe when I see it,” Beth said. “Still, I'll be willing to try, but we better think of something to explain him healing so quickly, if Abraxis can do what he says he can do.”

“So far, Abraxis has been on the mark with everything he's said. I doubt he would have said this if he wasn't certain he could do it,” Jolene countered.

“Can we use the misdiagnosis explanation?” Carl suggested.

Beth shook her head. “No, too many of us agreed on what's wrong with him. I made sure he got the best this place could get, and I must say, that's pretty damn good.”

“Experimental wonder drug?” Carla asked.

Jared shot this one down. “No, we'd be all over that in a heart beat. Too many pharmaceutical corporations in the political bread basket. We may just have to fake a fast recovery for him. You have commented many times on how tough he is. That could work to our advantage here.”

“No,” Mandi said. “I hate to suggest it, because I think he’s pretty cute the way he is, but Abraxis will have to change his appearance.”

The conversation lapsed because a nurse was approaching Beth. “Excuse me Doctor, but the Adams boy is regaining consciousness. You asked to be informed.”

Beth nodded to her. “That was fast. Thank you, Nurse, good work.”

The nurse smiled gratefully at her and the family and left. Beth looked at the excited girls. “Wait a minute ladies. I need to see him first, and it'll still be a few minutes before you can see him. Also, I have to warn you; as handsome as Greg is, he isn't very cute at the moment. In fact, he's almost not recognizable.”

Jared's ears perked up. “Really? That gives me an idea. Beth, who was the senior staff doctor that treated him?”

“Doctor Carmichael, he's the Chief of Staff here,” Beth replied.

“Thanks Beth. Make sure you are my son's registered doctor on all the paperwork. Carl and I are going to speak to Dr. Carmichael about killing my son,” Jared replied, grinning.

'Prometheus' Base

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

General Hollister's people either went far above what was asked of them, or someone had a change of plan after the girls left the hospital. While two of Carl's Marines went to the local Walmart dressed in 'street clothes', four more female soldiers took the girls to the Marine barracks near StealthCon.

There they were given black jump suits, boots and new under garments to put on. Once that was done, rank insignia was placed on the girls' collars. Bella and Jolene were given the insignia for a major, and Amanda was given captain.

They all had a good chuckle at it because of the girl's obvious ages, however, they soon found out that the four real Marines took it very seriously. One of the women, a Lieutenant, sat them all down.

“Look ladies. I know you're really civilians, but I also know you're not normal civilians. General Hollister himself ordered this for you, and we are to act accordingly. You'll notice that nowhere on these uniforms does it say what branch of the military you are? It's that way for a reason. If anyone asks, ignore them.” She handed Amanda a black ball cap with her rank on it, and two rolled up berets for Bella and Jolly.

“Why are we dressed like this? We thought the plan was to go get a couple changes of clothes at our house, then head for our facility?” Bella asked.

The Lieutenant shrugged. “I don't know what changed, I just follow orders. So for now, you are three ‘specialists’ we're escorting, and that is the story we are to stick to if anything happens. Try not to talk to anyone if we get stopped; it'll help them to jump to the wrong conclusion.”

The girls nodded their understanding, and followed their escorts back out to the two humvees that were waiting outside. While they'd been inside getting dressed, a military five-ton truck had joined the humvees, and the girls saw it when they got back outside. Beside the first Hummer, there was an African-American Marine Captain leaning against the fender.

When he saw the girls approach, he immediately came to attention and saluted. Bella and Jolene returned the salute before getting into the humvee. As the Lieutenant was about to get into the Humvee herself, the Captain asked. “Everything good, Ell-Tee?”

The woman nodded to him. “It's all good, Sir.”

The Captain, whose name tag said 'Washington' on it, nodded back. “Great, lead on.”

He headed for the big truck, while the Lieutenant got in the Humvee. Shortly, they were on the road, and headed out of town.

Prometheus was a forty-five minute drive northeast of town, and another twenty minutes up a dirt trail that looked like little more than two game trails. In a couple of places the woods were so heavy and over grown, that wind-felled trees had to be moved by Marines, and in other places the trail followed a cliff that was barely wide enough for the truck.

Shortly, they started back down into a small valley, only to find a closed gate with a warning sign on it. The Lieutenant got out, and unlocked the gate while another Marine came running forward to help her open it. After everyone had pulled through, the big truck stopped at the gate while the Humvees kept going.

“Bella, I thought you'd met Captain Washington before. He acted like he didn't know you or Jolene?” Mandi asked.

“We know of the Captain, but we've never met him. I doubt he's ever seen us before,” Bella replied. “Lt. Mays? How much of this does the Captain know about?"

“How much of what Ma'am? I don't understand the question,” the Lieutenant replied looking completely confused. “Our orders are to escort you three specialists out to this old NORAD complex, secure the facility, and assist you in any way we can. We have no knowledge of your mission, Ma'am. We're Marines, we don't need to know.”

“Gotcha, thanks Ell-Tee,” Jolene said using Washington's name for her. Then she turned back to her lovers. “Basically, we're out here on our own mission, and the Marines only know to protect us, and provide assistance if we need it.”

“So basically, don't talk to anyone, because no one knows the secrets?” Mandi asked. “This is getting confusing, how do we know who knows which stuff?”

“The best answer for that, Captain Adams, is to assume that no one knows. Also assume that there are listening devices everywhere. If someone talks to you about one of the things you know, play dumb until you know that they are supposed to know.” The Ell-Tee replied from the front seat.

“I'm going to get a headache!” Bella said, chuckling.

“Being bitchy works wonders against the curious,” Lieutenant Mays added.

Mandi was poking around on her ever present tablet. “Wait a sec... you've got us dressed up as DARPA 'Witches'!”

“What are DARPA witches?” Jolene asked. “I know what DARPA is, but what's a witch?”

Mandi nodded. “The Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration likes to hire young geniuses like us. Most of the time, they are young and female. They are sometimes beautiful, have I.Q.s north of one-sixty, and are so focused on their current projects that the world around them is a secondary concern. However, as project leads, they have almost god-like powers in the agency.”

“It sounds like it should be DARPA bitch instead of witch,” Bella chuckled.

Mandi chuckled. “I think witch was decided on for mixed company.”

“Okay, so we're DARPA specialists on a mission that the Marines know nothing about, and are not supposed to know,” Jolene said. “So, snobby bitch mode on!”

Bella chuckled. “Cool, we got a super power!” In the front seat both Marines snorted out a laugh.

The Hummers pulled up and stopped by a nondescript white cinder block building. The girls got out and walked toward the building while the rest of the Marines deployed around the site. Lt. Mays unlocked the door, and opened it for the girls.

The inside of the building was pretty much like the outside. Plain white walls, a small office in one corner of the room next to a gated set of steps leading down towards the back of the building. In the opposite corner there was a newer looking surveillance area set up with banks of monitors, and keyboards. In front of all of that a bar like desk bisected the room, with a narrow passage cut between the two halves.

“This is the main guard facility. As you can see, security will be run from this point. In the corner is the OIC office, in this case it'll be for Capt. Washington and myself. Below us, is the main entrance to the facility as well as guard barracks, and living areas while off-duty. In the event of an emergency, there is a vault door at the bottom of the steps that will close automatically when the base is sealed. In order to access the base, all personnel will have to come through this point,” Mays explained. Mandi had been reading on her tablet while the Lt. had been talking and learned a few things in addition to what the Lt. was telling her.

About that time, Captain Washington entered and Lt. Mays introduced him.

Mandi shook his hand. “Captain, you'll find a complete diagram and layout of all the security systems and devices that have been installed here in your office. All those devices can be monitored and controlled through the control suite in the corner. We may have need to install better or upgraded equipment soon as we are sure about the level of security we will require.”

Washington nodded to her. “I understand, Captain. I only ask that you please let me know when you'll be altering the systems, that way we don't accidentally shoot one of you.”

Mandi winked. “I'll make sure you get the memo.”

“For the time being, Captain, we cannot allow any of your Marines past the main entrance, I hope you can understand that,” Bella said.

“That shouldn't be an issue, Ma'am,” Washington replied. “Do you have an authorized personnel list?”

“It's on you printer, Captain. Those people on the escorted list must be escorted by one of the people from full access list. For the time being, that list only has one name on it, but it will change as more people are added to this project. I am told you are in charge of our external security, you will have one person above you that will handle our internal security, but he has yet to be assigned. All of this is subject to change, but you'll be involved in those discussions so you'll be kept in the loop.”

“Thank you for that, Ma'am,” Lionel said.

“We need to get below, Ladies,” Jolene said in a bitchy tone.

Bella nodded. “Yeah, you're right. Let's go.”

Both Marines escorted the three 'specialists' to the main lift down into the complex. It raised their suspicions when the doors opened as soon as the group neared them. The three girls stepped into the elevator and turned around. Jolene looked bored, Mandi was still focused on her tablet, but Bella gave the two a small smile. “Be sure to let us know if you need anything up here. The phone systems should be working.”

When the doors slid closed, Washington looked at his second. “Damn! They're getting them younger and younger all the time!”

“Well, I can tell you that they most definitely are what they seem. They sounded like they were talking a different language all the way up here!” Mays replied, seeming to agree with her superior. “I don't think they are actually as young as they look either. They just didn't have that ... feel, you know what I mean?”

“Oh yeah. Those three were intimidating as hell. I felt like a three year old around them! I thought the folks over at StealthCon were smart. Sometimes I wonder if people like them are even human.” He sighed. “Well, we have a job to do, so we better get it done. Get Williams and Olson up here to man the surveillance systems. You can pick whoever else you want to crew the shack. I'll work up the roving roster...” He continued to issue orders while they walked back up the steps to the guard shack.

'Prometheus' Base

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

When the lift doors opened, they were met by a small robot looking device. It beeped and a life-sized hologram of Abraxis took form over it. “I must say, you handled that situation very well. Good work, Rangers.”

“Thanks Abraxis. Uh, what's with the ‘bot?” Jolene asked nodding toward the small robot.

“Well, I have yet to get holographic emitters installed in the whole base, so I have to use this device until I do. Currently, the command center and your quarters are the only places where emitters are installed,” he explained. “If you'll follow me, I can show you to your quarters.”

“Lead on,” Bella said grinning.

“Did you get the medical suite finished?” Mandi asked.

Abraxis nodded. “Yes, for the most part. However, there might be a few items that Doctor Grien will want to have installed once she becomes familiar with everything. However, the equipment is ready for the Ranger Fighter when he arrives.” Abraxis looked like he was expecting an ETA on that arrival.

“Great, now all we need to do is get him down here. I'll bet that'll raise a few eyebrows when we bring him through security,” Jolene added.

“I doubt they'll say anything. They are Marines after all. Did you notice that they didn't say anything about our obvious ages?” Bella said.

“Actually, Captain Lionel Washington did notice. However, Lieutenant Eleanor Mays managed to convince him otherwise,” Abraxis replied. “Here are your quarters. If there is anything I can do to alter them to make you more comfortable, please let me know.”

The place was amazing. It didn't have the feel of an underground complex, but rather a nice, bright and airy home on the surface. They entered a comfortable living room/lounge area that would have been at home in any house on the planet. There was a big screen television, and home theater system. A large over-stuffed couch and love seat, with two overstuffed recliners.

There were four huge bedroom and bathroom combinations that would make anyone able to relax and rest. The kitchen and dining areas were large and tastefully equipped and decorated. Off to one side, right where they had designed it to be, was a small hallway that led to the offices and small labs for the team. After looking everything over, all three girls complimented Abraxis on the project, and said they had no suggestions at this time.

“Abraxis, do you have any more information on the activities of the Drellian team?” Bella asked.

“The 'Accident' Agent Adams spoke of has just been reported, and as yet has not attracted any undue attention. However, the defense computers that were attacked earlier have reported continued intrusion attempts. The system remains off-line, but it cannot remain that way for long. The attempts have been traced to the south central Colorado area, however, the exact location cannot be isolated,” Abraxis reported.

“Is the command center completed yet, Abraxis?” Mandi asked.

“No, it isn't. I reassigned the construction units from there to the medical area. They have only recently resumed construction of that area. If you wish to use the base computer systems, you can access them from your lab, Fixer,” the AI replied.

“Are we on the Internet?” Jolene asked as the girls started heading for the offices.

“Affirmative. I would like to have more bandwidth, but at present we do have sufficient for most purposes,” Abraxis said.

“Good, maybe I can run some interference for the defense mainframe. Have you heard anything about Greg?” Mandi asked

“Officially, Gregory Michael Adams, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, passed away from injuries suffered in the automobile accident in which the rest of his family also lost their lives. In an unrelated event, an as yet unidentified male matching Mr. Adams’ general description is currently being treated at a local hospital, has been downgraded from critical to serious condition. Doctor Grien informed Security Agent Danielson that the young man could be moved tomorrow evening, after the hospital got quiet for the evening.

“The young man was conscious for a short time this afternoon, at which time, Agent Danielson and General Hollister briefed him on the current situation. Your current state of dress and the means of your arrival here, are the result of that conversation. Concerned with your security, the Ranger Fighter suggested this alternative plan to the General,” Abraxis explained.

“Okay, so while these two invade our country's most guarded computer systems, why don't you show me what you've gotten done here, Abraxis?” Bella asked. The AI smiled as he led Bella out of the office area to show her the rest of the rapidly expanding facility.

On the surface, Captain Washington had donned the new uniform this assignment required, and was surveying the site to familiarize himself with his new command.

As he walked along the fence, he met and passed a pair of similarly garbed individuals. Other than a nod, no notice was given. Nothing on the jumpsuits identified them as belonging to any military branch, although they retained their rank insignia, and Lionel still wore his Annapolis ring. The fence would need to be rebuilt in a couple of areas and he made note of those areas. He also planned to ask for a separate guard shack to be built by the front gate.

As he walked he couldn’t help but wonder just what those three DARPA 'Witches' were planning on brewing up in their deep cauldron and how would it affect the rest of the world. It didn’t matter. He had been ordered to protect them, and that was exactly what he was going to do. At least he didn’t have to see 'The General' every fuckin’ day!

About the Author

Ben Winston (1965 - ?) was born in Iowa and grew up in Minnesota on the family dairy farm. Upon reaching adulthood, he joined the United States Army as a communications technician. Before getting out of the military, he decided to go to school for computer electronics.

Shortly after getting out of the military, and after getting a new job with an over-seas company, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. A month after beginning the new job, he was laid off due to budget over-runs on the project he was hired for. Upon returning to the United States, he had difficulty maintaining employment because of the chronic illness.

He began writing as a form of stress release, from being home bound and not being able to work, and found he liked writing erotica. Ben wrote a trilogy called the Talosian Chronicles (Currently in rewrite to remove the graphic sex and finalized his vision of the story). The first book, Star Dancer, won awards and was nominated for many others by the online communities where it was posted.

Ben Winston returned to school for literature, after completion, he began writing professionally. Being an avid fan of science fiction he focused on this genre. He was, and still is, influenced and inspired by Gene Roddenberry, Anne McCaffery, David Weber, Isaac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury. Some of his favorite movies and TV shows are; Battlestar Galactica (both versions), Andromeda, Star Trek, Firefly, Star Wars, and many of the B-rated movies that were actually box-office bombs.

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Ben Winston


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Books Published by Blue Space Publications, LLC.

by Ben Winston

Pollux Paradox

Tides of Mars

Tides of Mars (Omnibus)

Ascension – Book I

Conflict – Book II

The Abraxis Complex

Origin of Prometheus – Book I

Sword of Damocles – Book II (Upcoming)

Talosian Chronicles

Olympus – Book I

Star Dancer – Book II

Talosian Alliance – Book III

*Neptune’s Massif – Book IV (Upcoming)


Temple of S.A.R.A.H.

Prototype – Episode I

Subroutines – Episode II

Base Functions – Episode III

*Hard Wired – Episode IV (Upcoming)

by Michael McClain

Chronicles of Atlantis Series

Chronicles of Atlantis (Omnibus)

Atlantis Rising – Book I

Euthara – Book II

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