While testing the new X-15 ion drive engine, the Thunderbird 2086 team disappear. One hundred years later they encounter the Pluto Early Warning System while limping back to Earth. Chief Anderson mobilises G-force, concerned this might be a new and ingenious way for Spectra to attack Terra.
Categories: Battle of the Planets Characters:
Jason, Keyop, Mark, Other Crossover Character, Princess, Tiny Harper
In an e-mail with Cathrl, a comment was made about doing a cross over between BotP and Thunderbirds 2086. While said author borrowed a character from TB2086 for her BotP AU, I believe a suitable plot might have been the stumbling block for a true crossover fic. Well, Cath, thank you for making me think about it. This story is the result so I would like to dedicate it to the person responsible for the original muse.
1. Comming Home by Lyssa
2. Mobilising the Team by Lyssa
3. Returning to Earth by Lyssa
4. Time Travel by Lyssa
5. Ninety Six Years? by Lyssa
6. Entities and Implants by Lyssa
7. Mistrust by Lyssa
This first chapter is heavy on the TB2086 characters for two reasons. One, to give you an introduction to the series and secondly as an insight into major players. I’ve tried to imbedded the story with pictures.
Prologue – Coming Home
‘Approaching orbit of Pluto,’ Captain Jonathon Jordan Jr, known as JJ, commented.
(Fig 1 - JJ on the left, Jesse in TB2)
‘Better call the rest of the team to the TB2 bridge,’ Jesse Rigel grimaced at his co-pilot.
They’d programed the new X15 ion drive carefully before this shake down cruise. The engine should have taken them just beyond the Sun’s heliosphere. Somehow the combined Thunderbird vehicle came to rest several light days beyond the solar system. Using short bursts, it took the team eleven days to reach their current location. Still they’d learnt a lot about controlling the newly developed engine and more about the flux fields which interfered with its operation.
‘Grant,’ JJ called over the internal com, rousing the older man.
‘Are we just about home,’ Senior Captain Grant Hanson asked clearing the sleep from his eyes.
Their vehicles hadn’t been designed for long term missions. The five captains converted the cabins of TB1 and TB3 to quarters in order to sleep in shifts. Living on ration packs and limited water supplies, they couldn’t wait to get back to Acrology and their real lives.
‘Calculating the final jump now,’ JJ offered. ‘Should be ready to go by the time you, Dylan and Kallan get up here.’
‘I can’t wait to get Earthside,’ Jesse chimed in, ‘and find me a real live female type to help celebrate the end of this mission.’
‘Got a hot date in mind?’ JJ teased. His co-pilot always seemed to have an abundance of women to choose from.
‘I’m sure Captain Rigel has more than one contender to choose from,’ Grant’s gravelly voice issued from an opening in the floor. His couch clicking into place behind the pair, he asked, ‘where are Captain’s Beyda and James?’
(Fig 2 - from right Jesse, Grant and JJ.)
Buzzing the cockpit of TB1, JJ called out, ‘you awake, Dylan or has Kallan been keeping you up.’
‘Are we entering the solar system?’ Dylan managed to sound professional and peeved.
‘That’s a rodger,’ Jesse added unable to keep the smile off his face. He could see Kallan needing to place a calming hand on her husband’s shoulder. ‘Get up here so we can go home.’
(Fig 3 - Dylan and Kallan)
‘On our way,’ Kallan’s softer voice acknowledged.
‘Glad you could finally make it,’ Grant added his unique teasing as the pair of couches appeared, one on either side of his.
‘Unidentified ship,’ a metallic sounding female tone demanded the team’s attention. Overriding their communications system, it continued, ‘you are entering Terran Federated Space without authorisation. Please state your destination and purpose.’
Jesse turned to look first at JJ who wore an astounded expression, then Grant for instructions.
‘Open a channel,’ he requested, watching Kallan’s nimble fingers manipulate the communications console. ‘This is Thunderbird Senior Captain Grant Hanson of International Rescue. We are on final approach to Acrology Island after experiencing technical issues with our test flight of the X15. Our ion drive engine is set to fire in ten seconds. Under what authority are you requesting this information?’
(Fig 4 - Acrology Island, home of the IRO.)
‘Starcrusher?’ Dylan asked softly.
He’d spoken the fear running through the teams mind. As far as they knew, the Nitroid Colonies in the asteroid belt signalled the limit of human expansion in the Solar System. The team had encountered this nemesis several times in the past as the entity attempted to take over the Earth.
‘Negative, Captain Hanson,’ the voice ignored the query for information. ‘You are to remain stationary while I communicate with Terra control for further orders.’
‘What do you think is happening, Grant,’ Kallan asked while JJ cancelled the burn. ‘Could it be Starcrusher?’
‘I’m not sure,’ he hesitated, ‘but I have the feeling we won’t have long to find out.’
‘Thunderbird ship,’ the feminine voice commanded a few moments later, ‘you are cleared to proceed to Terra.
Transmitting flight path and landing instructions to your main frame computer now.’
‘Rodger,’ JJ acknowledged the data streaming onto the screen before him. ‘Hey,’ he yelled as the auto pilot took control away from him, ‘why are we landing on the East Coast of America and what it ISO?’
‘That’s nowhere near Acrology,’ Dylan joined the conversation observing the landing site on his monitor. ‘I don’t think I’ve heard of an organisation called ISO. Searching the computer for references now.’
‘Countdown to X15 ion drive firing, in five,’ Jesse brought the team’s attention back to their most pressing problem. ‘Grant, I don’t have control of the engine. Course is set and locked.’
‘These calculations,’ JJ offered, ‘are incredible. They’ve accounted for the flux fields which interfered with our initial burn. We should coast into Earth’s gravitational well in three hours and twenty minutes.’
‘How could they know about the flux issues,’ Dylan asked, intrigued, ‘when we’ve only just discovered the correlation?’
‘I’m thinking,’ Grant calm tone silenced the speculation, ‘we’ll find out when we reach our destination.’
This is just the beginning. More to come soon.
Mobilising the Team by Lyssa
Enter G-force and the fun really starts.
Chapter One – Mobilising the Team.
‘Security Chief,’ a young operator from the Pluto early warning station appeared on one of his open sreens. ‘Sir, we have an unidentified ship approaching Terra’s heliosphere.’
‘Do you think this is a Spectran incursion?’ he enquired.
‘If I’m to believe the computer,’ answered the operator, ‘the craft is old but one of ours. I’ve spoken to the senior Captain on-board who has confirmed our data. I’m not sure how it can be the link up vehicle used by the Thunderbird rescue team before their disappearance in twenty-eighty six. According to the computer, we have a positive five point identification of the ship. Further, it’s matched both the voice patterns and facial structure of all five captains, suggesting this might be ligament.’
(Fig 5 - Thunderbird Vehicle in linkup.)
Touching his moustache in agitation, Anderson waved a hand in the air signalling his workstation to supply the data. Springing into life, it instantly brought up an archival picture and the accompanying story. On a test flight of the first ion drive engine, all five members of the team and the craft had been lost. The reason why had been tracked back to an elementary error in calculations. Pondering the situation, the Chief made a snap decision.
‘This might be a new method to disguise a Spectra attack,’ he concluded. ‘I’m sending a data stream based on the technology from their time period. If this truly is the Thunderbird vehicle, it will override the early version of the ion pulse equipment and allow us control of their ship. I’ll have G-force on standby as they reach the Moon’s orbit. If this proves to be an ingenious way to breach our defences, I want to be ready for whatever Zoltar throws at us.’
Signing off after sending the data packet, Anderson initiated his team. They scrambled. Tiny used the hidden tunnel under his seaside cottage to enter the Phoenix. Picking up Jason, Princess and Keyop, he waited for the Commander to join them in the air. Melding his jet with their ship, Mark joined his colleagues on the bridge. Leaving Terra’s atmosphere, the team checked in with Anderson at Centre Neptune for their assignment.
‘You’re kidding,’ Jason used his best sarcastic tone at the end of the incredible briefing. ‘The Thunderbird team! I thought they disappeared almost a century ago. This has to be the happiness boys from Spectra trying to pull our chain.’
‘I agree with you Jason,’ Anderson once again felt the need to stroke his moustache. ‘This seems unbelievable and scientifically improbable. It’s both clever and resourceful if Spectra is behind this. It also means Zoltar is learning more about Terra’s history and trying to use it against us.’
‘I don’t like the sound of that,’ Tiny stated.
‘What are our orders, Chief,’ Mark redirected the conversation to the situation at hand.
‘So far the crew have allowed us to maintain control of their vehicle,’ Anderson said. ‘They’re approaching Saturn and will be at the rondevu in ninety minutes. You’ll meet them as they pass the moon. Escort them to the ISO landing field south of San Diego. We’ll have security forces ready.’
‘Rodger, Phoenix out,’ Mark replied, settling back into his seat. ‘I have a bad feeling about this,’ he commented to no one in particular.
‘Join the club,’ Jason muttered under his breath, crossing his arms.
‘What if it’s real?’ Princess asked. ‘What if this really is the Thunderbird team? The Phoenix is based on the technology pioneered by Jeff Tracy and perfected by IRO. Like us they’re a team of five, four men and a woman. I can’t help see the similarities.’
‘It’s a long time to be stuck out in space, Princess,’ Jason’s gravelly voice reminded.
‘Be…dead…by….now,’ Keyop added.
‘Unless they encountered something,’ Tiny suggested, ‘which slowed down time. Sort of the reverse of our space warp technology. We speed up time as we travel vast distances across the galaxy to arrive minutes or hours after we’ve left the Earth. What if they encountered Einstein’s Twin paradox Theory?’
‘What’s that?’ Keyop asked.
‘If I watched you speeding away from Terra,’ Tiny explained, ‘you’d seem to age at a snail’s pace or time would slow down for you. So when you got back to Terra, less time would have passed.’
‘Basically,’ Jason found humour in the explanation, ‘Tiny would be an old man while you wouldn’t have aged a day.
‘What you’re insinuating,’ Mark guessed, ‘is the Thunderbird team left Terra in 2086 and retuned 96 years later because of time dilation?’
‘It’s a possibility,’ Tiny agreed, ‘but we’re not going to find out until they land and come out. Of course, I don’t know how something like that might be achieved.’
‘Let’s leave the speculation until after we know the truth,’ Mark stopped further conversation.
‘Approaching the Moon,’ Kallan stated. ‘No communication signal from Moon Base Omega on any frequency, Grant.’
‘There’s a ship in stationary orbit 4 mega metres beyond the Moon’s orbit,’ JJ reported.
‘Bringing it up on visual,’ Jesse fiddled with his dials.
On the secondary screen, an odd shaped blue and red vehicle appeared. The main triangular body of the ship sported thin wings with pod like protrusions at the tips. Calculating the aerodynamics, Dylan shook his head at the sleek design.
‘I wonder how it flies,’ he commented, ‘I can’t see any engines.'
Almost at the same instant, a white helmet with a transparent blue face plate giving the impression of a bird appeared on the main screen. Intelligent and assessing eyes darted between the five members of the Thunderbird team. Wearing identical uniforms without insignia, Mark couldn’t distinguish the senior Captain from his attire or position within the cabin.
(Fig 6 - The Thunderbird Team - from left Kallan, JJ, Grant, Jesse and Dylan.)
‘Welcome home, Captains,’ Mark’s voice sounded professional, with the barest hint of irony.
‘I’m not sure,’ Grant answered with a shrug of his massive shoulders, ‘that we are home.’
‘I expect to see Dorothy and Toto any minute,’ Jesse added under his breath. It drew glares from Mark and Grant.
‘I’m sorry,’ the confused image stated, obviously unimpressed with the comment.
‘Jesse,’ Kallan reached over to poke her teammate in the ribs drawing the strangely dressed man’s attention, ‘that is Captain Rigel, is an aficionado of old movies. He’s quoiting “The Wizard of Oz”. At the moment we feel like we’ve been transported to a magical land when all we want to do is get home.’
‘Mark,’ a soft feminine voice echoed from off screen, ‘it’s a classic movie based on celluloid technology produced in 1939.’
‘And they were still able to watch it back in 2086?’ a gruff sounding male asked, his words laced liberally with irony.
‘What do you mean,’ Dylan asked hotly, ‘back in 2086. We’ve only been gone eleven days, six hours and forty seven minutes.’
‘I’m afraid,’ Mark’s expression turned grim, ‘you’ve been missing a little longer than that. My team and I will escort you to the ISO…’
‘What,’ Grant silenced his crew with a stern look while glaring at the young man on the monitor, ‘is this ISO?’
‘The International Science Organisation is the scientific arm of the Galactic Federation,’ Mark answered
easily. ‘My team, known as G-force are a special unit enforcing Terran Security.’
‘Then, Mark,’ Grant crossed one arm over his extremely broad chest, cupping his chin with his other, ‘I’m entitled to your rank and serial number.’
‘I am The Commander,’ Mark offered, falling into stoic silence.
‘Mark,’ once again the soft, feminine voice entered the conversation. Gaining the attention of her commander, she offered, ‘initial scans confer a 99.98% probability this is the Thunderbird link up. Hull composition is correct for the time period of construction. The systems are consistent with the available technology in the late twenty first century.’
‘Princess, are you trying to tell us,’ responded the sarcastic tone, ‘this isn’t Zoltar mounting another attack.’
‘That’s exactly what she’s saying, Jason,’ Mark nodded. From the expression on his face, he didn’t seem happy about the situation.
Tell me what you think - I'd like to continue but if it's not playing to the majority just let me know.
Returning to Earth by Lyssa
I see there are a few TB 2086 fans out there. Thanks for reading.
‘It will all become clearer,’ Mark informed the five individuals in the linked Thunderbird cabin looking toward each other in astonishment, ‘when we land and you’re debriefed. Continue to allow the autopilot control of your vehicle Captain Hanson. Until then you are in an affective blackout, able to contact The Phoenix on this proscribed channel. I’ll communicate again on final approach to the ISO facility, Phoenix out.’
Princess cut the connection. Green eyes gazing up at an agitated Eagle, her look filled with questions none of them had answers for. Returning to her attention to her station, she revised any material that might help them understand the situation.
‘Captain Grant Hanson is forty-five. He’s the Senior and team leader with more than twenty years’ experience, eleven with the Thunderbirds. He left behind a wife and two young children. They are, as you would expect, deceased. Starting in the military straight out of school, he became a test pilot before transferring to space duty and eventual inclusion in the Thunderbird team,’ Princess started her synopsis.
Until now they hadn’t needed to come up to speed with the individuals on this particular team. ‘Captain Jesse Rigel studied Federation Law and Politics,’ she continued. ‘He started his career in law enforcement. The Space Rangers recruited him before graduation. The Thunderbirds head hunted him after five years’ service and two commendations as the main pilot for the super-fast rocket ship.’
‘Captain Jonathon Jordan Jr is the oldest member of the team and served almost as long as Captain Hanson. He graduated top of his class in Mathematics. Using his background he qualified in astronavigation and drew attention for his specialist training. He’s the co-pilot for Thunderbird 2, the blue ship in the middle of the linked vehicle.’
‘Captain Dylan Beyda entered flight school in 2076. He passed after a spectacular crash. Both he and Captain Kallan James attended the International Rescue Organisation’s Space Training Academy, served a kind of apprenticeship before being added to the Thunderbirds. They share the responsibility for Thunderbird 1, the advance space shuttle, unless there missions required an ocean vessel. Then Captain James usually pilot’s a submarine currently exhibited in the Smithsonian Museum. They’re the youngest members on the team, in their late twenties and, oh,’ she paused.
‘What is it Princess,’ Mark encouraged, wondering what she’d found.
‘They married ten days before their last mission,’ she almost cried.
‘I don’t see how that’s important,’ Tiny stated.
‘It’s sad,’ Princess replied. ‘They’d known each other for years, first at the academy, then as teammates. They didn’t get time together before they disappeared. After the link up vehicle vanished, the IRO disbanded a single all-purpose rescue unit. They couldn’t justify the cost of new equipment and training such a specialised team.’
‘I wonder what would happen,’ Tiny offered thoughtfully, ‘if something like that occurred to our team? Would The Chief be able to convince the Federation to train and equip another squad?’
‘We’d lose the war,’ Jason answered fatalistically, ‘even if Anderson could magically produce five new individuals to implant, it’d take time to train them. By then Spectra would have raped Terra of her resources.’
‘On that joyful thought,’ Tiny looked to his companions with a shrug of his massive shoulders, ‘I guess we wouldn’t be around to enjoy it.’
‘Just like those two young Captains,’ Princess tried to get the conversation onto a less depressing topic. ‘Not many people knew about their personal relationship, just their teammates and families. It only came out after the disappearance. Even then it didn’t create enough public outcry to reinstate a new team.’
‘I can’t imagine why,’ Jason added the caustic comment. Glancing between the Eagle and Swan, he could guess why it affected their female member so profoundly. If this Thunderbird team could enjoy a so called “office” romance with the risk and danger associated with their work, it would set precedence.
Mark didn’t miss the intended barb, but as usual, he ignored it. ‘Thank you for the synopsis, Princess,’ he commented in a terse tone. ‘Question is, what are we going to do with them once they reach Terra? I can’t imagine what it would be like, going on a mission and returning a hundred years in the future.’
‘That’s The Chief’s gig,’ Tiny responded. ‘He’s going to have to handle the public fall out. Not to mention the psychological damage.’
‘Culture shock,’ Keyop added his thoughts. ‘Time’s changed. World different place now!’
‘You can say that again, Keyop,’ Jason stated dryly.
‘I hope we can help,’ Princess felt sorry for the displaced individuals. ‘They have so much to catch up on.’
‘Not the least of which is Spectra,’ Mark added. ‘Although I can see how their rescue experience could be extremely useful. Just think of all the cities Zoltar and his henchmen destroy in a month. There must be enough work to keep them busy while this war continues.’
‘I hadn’t thought about that,’ Princess agreed softly. ‘Having a specialist team to sweep in might improve moral in the devastated cities and give the Thunderbird team a purpose in their new lives.’
‘It would free us up,’ Tiny commented, ‘to go after Zoltar, knowing someone would pick up the pieces on Terra.’
‘Nice of them to bring their vehicle with them,’ added Jason with a smirk. ‘They wouldn’t be as useful without the main rescue ship.’
‘I guess,’ Princes considered, ‘it wouldn’t take much to get the submarine operational once again so Captain James has her vessel back.’
‘I bet,’ Keyop sat with folded arms, happy to finally add something, ‘Chief already considered that!’
Agreeing, Jason smirked, ‘I just bet he has! What’s the bet it gets to Centre Neptune before we do.’
‘After,’ Mark managed to sound as cynical as Jason, ‘he’s sure it’s not a Spectra plot. I’m afraid our Thunderbird team has a lot of evaluation and debriefing ahead of them.’
‘Grant,’ Jesse offered, ‘we’re entering Earth’s atmosphere. Our descent angle is within structural tolerance. Heat shielding is holding and atmospheric friction is in the green.’
‘Ion drive powered down just after Moon orbit,’ JJ added, ‘we’re coasting for re-entry window.’
‘Forward thrusters firing on Thunderbird’s 1 and 2 to create breaking control,’ Dylan informed, ‘rate of decent is slowing.’
‘All internal system nominal,’ Kallan added.
‘I guess,’ Grant crossed his arms over his chest, ‘we wait for the bird man to give us more instructions and hope he knows TB 2 needs a vertical decent.’
Finally close enough to use short range sensors, Kallan returned her attention to her station. ‘We are definitely approaching Earth. Atmospheric composition and land/sea ratio check out. There are modifications to the coast lines of several countries and the Polar Caps are holding about five percent more frozen land mass.’
Earth appeared much as they had left it except power emanations from several major cities no longer existed. The pattern of illumination usually lighting up the night failed to show on the forward screen. New cities sprung up in previously barren areas producing their own electronic signatures. Large areas of hillside had been turned into water storage changing the reflection from the landscape. With the extra sea water locked in the polar caps, new islands appeared in the middle the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
‘I vote we try to work this out with the information we have,’ JJ stated. His fingers had been fiddling with the computer since Pluto while his mathematical mind considered possibilities. Receiving several signals on wavelengths not used for mass communication, John attempted to decode the transmissions. ‘I’ve managed to unscramble one signal. It might be a news feed. I’m transferring it to your communications station, Kallan.’
‘Dylan,’ Grant ordered, ‘see if you gain access to any other information, specifically the Ethernet. Kallan finish translating the rest of the data stream from JJ computer into a usable form. Put it on the secondary screen when you have something so we can all see it.’
Now they knew which bandwidth to target, it became easier to pick up several individual transmissions frequencies. The Thunderbird Team didn’t realise it but their efforts were akin to listen to television signals on radio. In ninety six years technology had taken great leaps forward. The existing forms of communication changed significantly enough to confuse them.
‘Grant, I don’t believe this,’ Kallan called for her teammates attention. ‘I’m patching through the voice content to the main speakers.’
‘Welcome to The News Hour with James Yuri. Today is Tuesday, June 11 2182. We are happy to report Spectra’s last attack on Terra occurred ten days ago with limited damage thanks’ to the efforts of G-force. Riga and the other planets in the Galactic Federation have remained free of incursion today.’
‘Turn it off,’ Grant ordered.
Shocked silence descended. Astounded, the five pairs of eyes met. Swallowing hard, JJ, their mathematician announced, ‘it seems we’ve landed ninety six years in the future, almost to the day.’
In the next chapter, our two teams will finally meet.
If anyone is interested in reading about TB2086, I write under Cpt Kallan Beyda over at Fanfiction.net. (my BotP and Gatch stuff is there too). Academy Years is the Universe I've created in which this Thunderbird team exist. It's based on the 1983 TV series up until the events of Starcrusher, the eighteenth episode.
‘I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before,’ JJ metaphorically kicked himself for the oversight. It took the computer exactly three point two seconds milliseconds to tell them what they already suspected. The Thunderbirds and their craft had travelled far into their future. ‘I’m the astronavigator. I should have noticed the position of the planets as we approached the heliopause. They’ve changed dramatically since we left the solar system eleven days ago. If I’d calculated the relative orbits, we’d have known the truth back at Pluto.’
‘Stop beating yourself up,’ Kallan placed a gentle hand on Johny’s shoulder. ‘None of us could have imagined something like this.’
‘It’s beyond belief,’ commented Dylan, shaking his head with incredulity. ‘It has to have something to do with the flux field coefficient miscalculations.’
JJ nodded his agreement, ‘or one of Jesse’s Science Fiction movies.’
‘Now is not the time,’ Grant’s authoritative tone halted any further conversation, ‘We’ll deal with the consequences when we have the opportunity. Until then we have work to do.’
‘We need to concentrate on getting this bird on the ground,’ Jesse recalled the team to their most pressing issue. ‘Four minutes to landing sequence. I don’t need to tell any of you what will happen if we can’t delink.’
‘Only Acrology,’ JJ agreed, ‘has a specific bay for taking the entire Thunderbird craft.’
‘Commander,’ Grant demanded for the fourth time. Glaring at the empty screen and muttering under his breath, he turned to Kallan at the communication console.
‘Channel’s been open for two minutes,’ Captain James reported, ‘their listening but not responding.’
‘If you don’t allow us control of the combined vehicle we are in imminent danger of a crashing,’ The Senior Captain reiterated, anger lacing his words. ‘The Thunderbird link up must separate into its components to touch down safely at your assigned location.’
In the cabin of The Phoenix, Mark looked anxiously at Chief Anderson on the monitor above his head. Unsure how to precede the Commander contacted Centre Neptune for further instructions. Instead of getting orders, G-force waited and watched the Thunderbird team become increasingly agitated.
‘Come on,’ Mark demanded impatiently. He understood the stress his TB counterpart suffered as their boss’s head remained buried in his computer. Anderson barked instructions at the machine. Everyone involved knew they approached the wire.
‘I’ve sent the override,’ Anderson looked up into the concerned eyes of five individuals in Birdstyle. ‘You’ll need to watch the team carefully.’
‘You still think they’re from Spectra,’ Tiny asked, astonishment in his tone.
‘No,’ Anderson frowned. ‘They’re used to landing at a specifically designed complex in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Acrology. It seems Thunderbird 1 and 3 need a specialised runway. Once they have all the vehicles down, I want you to direct them into the hanger. The ISO will store the Thunderbird machines.’
‘You mean,’ Jason’s characteristic sarcasm erupted, ‘the engineering team will go over them with a fine tooth comb.’
‘You’re to bring all five captains aboard the Phoenix,’ Anderson gave the Condor a hard look suggesting he remain quiet, ‘and transport them directly to Centre Neptune, Commander. We’ve managed to keep this off the press radar, so the fewer personnel who see your cargo, the better.’
‘Yes, Chief,’ Mark made the signal for his third to cut the connection.
Nodding at Princess, the Swan initiated contact with the Thunderbird team. Before Mark could utter a word, JJ whooped with joy realising they now had control of their vessels. Almost immediately, three couches disappeared from the screen. Like a well-oiled team, they started preparations for landing. Over the next minute G-force heard the landing checks echo between the three cabins. They began to understand the professionalism and cohesiveness of the well trained team.
‘Thunderbird 1 is disengaging,’ Dylan stated, pulling his black craft away from the rest of the ship. They hovered over the tarmac as the young pilot achieved his goal. Circling around, he approached the runway several hundred metres behind the other vessels. It gave him enough distance to stop wind shear giving him the ability to land safely.
‘That’s so cool,’ Tiny commented, watching as TB2 began to move. Picking up speed, it literally dropped the yellow ground craft onto the concrete.
‘Same technique is used for scooping up G2,’ Princess offered, ‘just as the disengagement of TB1 forms the pattern for G1.’
‘Are you trying to tell us,’ Tiny responded, ‘that this vehicle is the inspiration for The Phoenix?’
‘I’m not telling you,’ Princess stated, ‘you can see the similarities for yourself as we watch them delink and land. In fact the technology goes back another seventy years to the original creator, Jeff Tracey.’
‘Didn’t they manage to teach you anything in pilot school?’ Jason asked in a teasing tone. Secretly he wondered where and when Princess had the time to cram all these odd facts into her brain. Mark’s analytical, I’m emotional, Tiny’s easy going, Keyop’s just a kid, but Princess, she’s smart. I wonder about that other team, do they have similar traits?
‘TB3 is rolling,’ Grant offered, applying the brakes on the runway. It forced attention back to the Phoenix’s main screen.
‘I’m right behind you Grant,’ Dylan acknowledged, bring the black bird down fifteen seconds behind the ground craft.
‘TB2 is in vertical mode,’ Jesse reported once the shuttle landed, ‘and we have touch down. All birds are in the nest, Chief.’
Five sets of stunned eyes watched as he settled the massive ship on its four boosters as if it were a feather. ‘Impressive,’ Tiny commented with more than a little envy. ‘I wish they’d incorporated some of those manoeuvres into The Phoenix.’
‘Rodger that Jess,’ the senior Captain acknowledged over the open com. ‘Environmental suits on everyone. I don’t want any mistakes and I don’t want to lose anyone.’
‘Grant,’ Kallan worked TB1’s sensor array, ‘atmosphere has slightly less carbon dioxide and a little more oxygen content than when we left, otherwise breathable. I can’t detect any new or dangerous pathogens. Temperature is 29 degrees centigrade with 30 percent humidity.’
‘Jason,’ Mark managed a grin as he turned on his second, ‘as the rocket ship has the same number and colour as G2, go and retrieve the Captain’s and bring them back to the Phoenix. Princess, take the personnel in the shuttle.’
‘Are you hoping I can sweet talk the female Captain,’ she allowed a rare note of teasing into her voice.
‘No,’ Mark tried to hide a smile, ‘I’m sure your compassion and understanding will be appreciated. I’ll meet the Senior Captain. Tiny open a channel before they get off their individual vehicles and request they park in the hanger.’
‘No fair,’ Keyop complained to Tiny as the others left the bridge.
‘Hey,’ the big man smirked, raising his hands behind his head now he’d finished his tasks, ‘welcome to my world. I get left behind on almost every mission. It’s nice to have some company for a change.’
Moving to sit in Mark’s command seat, Keyop folded his arms dramatically. Allowing a disgruntled noise, he watched his teammates approach their assigned vehicles through the open hanger doors.
A side panel slid open from the yellow rectangle emblazoned with TB3. A massive, grey haired man quickly climbed down the ladder. Offering Mark his hand in greeting, they headed back toward the Phoenix. Few words were exchanged and the body language between the two men seemed stiff and stilted, almost as though they were testing each other. Besides The Commanders two metre frame, Grant Hanson had to be at least forty centimetres taller and almost twice as broad across the chest. He made an impressive sight.
Princess waved to the young couple climbing the stairs extended from the side of the space shuttle. They exchanged looks before ambling over to the Swan and offering a polite greeting. Hand in hand they followed her towards the Phoenix. The two women seemed to converse easily. Joining Mark and the Senior Captain, they continued towards Keyop and Tiny’s position.
Jason on the other hand seemed to be having a more difficult time. He’d walked around the massive ship, unable to find an entry point. ‘How do they get out of that contraption,’ The Condor asked silently, watching a bay door finally open near the nose cone high in the air. Two figures appeared in the aperture.
‘Hey,’ JJ called to the blue winged individual, ‘you got a staircase handy? I’m not a bird so I can’t fly.’ His wide grin accompanied by a nervous laugh.
‘It’s not like we can call the sleds,’ Jesse responded cynically. Quiet enough for his partner’s ears only, Jason’s cerabonically enhanced hearing caught the comment. ‘At least Dylan, Kallan and Grant can extend ladders and climb out of their Thunderbirds. Looks like we’ll have to use the jet packs, partner.’
‘Tiny,’ Jason lifted his bracelet to his mouth before the pair disappeared into their craft, ‘prepare to do a flyby. It seems the two clowns don’t have a way off their rocket ship. I guess the designers didn’t consider emergency landings. I’ll fly up and escort them to the bridge.’
‘Big Ten, Jason,’ Tiny acknowledged beginning his pre-flight checks. ‘I’ll lift off as soon as Mark brings the others aboard.’
Ninety Six Years? by Lyssa
After following the two massive vehicles down the tarmac and into the hanger, Tiny brought the Phoenix’s nose to rest inside the enormous doors. He hoped the ISO personnel lining the runway didn’t get a good look inside the building. Lowering a set of almost unused stairs from the undercarriage, he wanted to block the approaching party from prying eyes. It also gave the Thunderbirds a way onto his ship.
The rear elevator opened a short time later. Princess entered with the two young Captains at her side. Stepping onto the bridge, Kallan and Dylan’s eyes surveyed every surface, cataloguing the differences in technology and layout. Mark, accompanied by Grant, noticed the silent communication between the members of the Thunderbird team. He began to recognise the bonds of experience and efficiency akin to G-force. Zoltar couldn’t emulate the unspoken unity making it even less likely these people came from Spectra.
‘Welcome to the Phoenix,’ Princess offered in a sweet, calm tone, attempting to dispel some of the mounting tension.
‘Thank you,’ Kallan muttered in return. Her eyes acknowledged the Swan’s efforts in attempting to diffuse an untenable situation.
‘Hold tight,’ Tiny offered from the pilot’s seat before either woman could continue, ‘we’re going to lift off. Mark, Jason’s aboard TB2 with the rest of the Thunderbird crew. He’s going to bring them over then we can set a course for Centre Neptune.’
‘Big ten, Tiny,’ Mark nodded, signalling for Keyop to get out of his chair.
That achieved, the five Thunderbird Captain’s stood as a group near the elevator shaft at the back of the main cabin. With nowhere to sit, they made do with the rear console for support. Surprised at the smooth take off, Dylan and Jesse became distracted by the propulsion system. Glancing around the cockpit, the pair focused their attention on Tiny’s movements. Obviously a lot had changed in almost one hundred years.
Princess maintained her position beside the only other female. Two sets of green eyes twinkled as the women shared a private moment of humour. It might have said boys will be boys and nothing much ever changes over the years. Neither missed Jason intense glare. Starring at them suspiciously, the Condor still considering this a very well thought out and executed Spectran plot.
‘Tiny,’ Mark took command easily once they reached cruising altitude, ‘maximum speed to Centre Neptune. Keyop, get the Chief on the monitor and let him know we have the Thunderbird team on board.’
The five Captains watched G-force interact seamlessly. Amazed, Grant assessed his teams’ reaction to the very young people. Each registered subtle signs of surprise. For teenagers, they appeared to be very proficient and skilled at their jobs.
‘How old are you son?’ Grant couldn’t stop the question.
‘What?’ Jason demanded, his eyes darting between the two team leaders. Instinctively he cautioned Mark to be effusive with his answer.
‘None of you look like you could be older than twenty,’ Senior Captain Hanson explained when it became obvious the leader of G-force didn’t care to answer his question. ‘The little one, Keyop, is only a child. He can’t be much older than my son. Has this war decimated the population to the point where we are forced to send little more than children into battle?’
Grant had the armed forces background. Although he knew his comment would sting, he couldn’t help wonder why children had the job of enforcing Earths security. Captain Hanson studied military tactics and history as a hobby. He understood the cost of the last Great War on Earth in terms of personnel. By the end of World War II, boys as young as fourteen were being drafted to the front line. If this were the case, he didn’t need to tell his team how badly the Earth faired.
‘Mark,’ Princess calm voice stopped any immediate answer from her commander or Jason. Pointing to the screen above his head, Security Chief Anderson’s image watched the byplay.
‘I see you have our guests,’ Anderson commented in a dry tone. ‘Welcome home Captain’s.’
‘This world does not resemble our home,’ Grant responded, arms crossed.
‘I’ll have a welcoming party waiting for you when The Phoenix docks. Once you’ve been deemed medically fit, please report to my office for debriefing, Captain Hanson. Commander,’ he turned his attention on Mark, ‘your team’s to report to my private conference room immediately.’
‘Big Ten,’ the Eagle acknowledged.
‘Do you mind,’ Princess requested, understanding the tension had once again risen, ‘if I formally introduce G-force to the Thunderbird team?’
Nodding his approval, the Swan smile prettily, diffusing much of the friction in the cabin. ‘Mark is our Commander, his call sign is Eagle,’ she pointed out the man in white. ‘Each of us has a vehicle based on the technology of your Thunderbird link up. G1 is a fighter plane providing the Phoenix with rudder control. It docks in the back, much like your TB1. Jason, the Condor, his speciality is weapons. Tiny is responsible for piloting The Phoenix. He’s known as the Owl. Keyop is our science officer and the Swallow. My name is Princess. Call sign Swan. I’m the information officer and demolition expert. Our team has been active a little over two years. Terra joined the Federation after Spectra attacked the mining colonies on Pluto a decade ago.’
‘This war has been raging for ten years?’ Jesse asked, astounded.
‘No,’ Princess offered. ‘At first Zoltar, the leader of Spectra, sent raiding parties to strip Terra and the solar system of her natural resources. We knew Riga and several other planets in this section of the Milky Way experienced the same terrorism. It gave the Federation time to mount a cohesive defence and train our team.’
‘How long have you been in training,’ Dylan asked, eyeing the young people.
‘Ten years,’ Tiny couldn’t help the fact slipping out. He watched the astounded expressions cover the faces of the Thunderbird team. Secretly he smiled at the classic reaction.
‘You don’t have surnames?’ Kallan asked, overwhelmed at the maturity of individuals before her.
‘No, and before you ask, the names I’ve given you are our more like our public persona’s,’ Princess explained. ‘There is a story the ISO feeds the media. We are all orphans of this war, united by a common enemy.’
‘Sounds like the IRO,’ Jesse commented with a roll of his eyes, ‘when they play with our public image.’
‘Once we get to Centre Neptune we will transmute into our civilian uniforms,’ Mark added with a stern look on his face. ‘The base is one of only a few places on Terra we can be ourselves. My team enjoys the privacy. While our identities aren’t exactly a secret, they’re not well known outside Centre Neptune and the ISO either. We’d appreciate if you kept it that way. I’m afraid you’ll have to hold any further questions. We’re approaching base now.’
‘I suspect you know who we are,’ Grant stated, finding agreement in the young man’s glance. ‘My team have discovered todays date, or at least deciphered the information directed at our sensors. The subtle changes in Earth’s human and natural geography lead us to suspect our absence has been more than eleven days. Our astronavigator confirmed it with the position of the planets of the solar system.’
‘Then you know you’re ninety six years in the future,’ Jason added caustically.
‘How long until we reach this base?’ Captain Hanson ignored the rude individual to make his requested of Mark. ‘My team and I have been on ration packs and limited water supplies. Our vehicles are designed for short ranged missions, a day or two at the most. We haven’t showered, changed or slept properly in almost two weeks. The autodoc unit has ensured we stayed fit and healthy but we’d like time to shower and eat if at all possible.’
‘A decent bed wouldn’t go astray,’ JJ commented.
‘And,’ Dylan added, ‘twelve hours uninterrupted sleep.’
‘You just want a double…’ JJ’s teasing stopped with Kallan’s elbow to the ribs. ‘Sorry,’ he apologised with a down cast expression.
‘You’re marriage,’ Princess understood the subtle undercurrents, ‘to Captain Beyda became public after your disappearance. Some people thought it might help keep the IRO’s elite rescue Squad. Unfortunately the publicity didn’t work and the program folded within months of your last mission.’
‘We’re about to dive,’ Tiny announced, ‘ETA less than one minute. I’ll radio ahead and let the medical team know.’
‘Great,’ Jesse piped up, ‘you just got us a trip to the infirmary, Chief.’
Grant silenced his pilot with a glare. The rest of the team understood his meaning. They wouldn’t give out any more information just in case Starcrusher and the Shadow Axis had occupied Earth in their absence. After all, the entity invaded the mind of Aaron Pike, one of the navigational designers instrumental in construction of the X-15 ion pules engine without drawing suspicion from his colleagues. Maybe this farfetched team of children were the latest incarnation of their nemesis.
Mark noted the moment the Thunderbird team closed ranks. Wondering what caused the sudden change in their attitude, he saw Princess shudder. The most emotionally intelligent of the team, she often picked up subtle hints the rest of the boys ignored. Watching Captain James, he realised she filled a similar role within the Thunderbirds. Both sets of green eyes attempted to tell him something but Mark couldn’t decipher the expressions.
‘What is it Princess,’ he asked.
‘I get the feeling,’ she stated, her gaze locking with the Senior Captain, ‘this team have come up against Zoltar before.’
‘Grant,’ Kallan moved to place a hand on her leader’s shoulder, ‘I think they’re talking about Starcrusher.’
‘Who,’ Jason’s hand reached for his chin, ‘is Starcrusher?’
Entities and Implants by Lyssa
‘Starcrusher?’ Anderson rubbed his chin thoughtfully, carefully considering the concept.
Making a smooth gesture in the air, the three dimensional holographic screen searched for the term in the ISO’s extensive and confidential database. Several hits appeared, projected into the middle of the room in 2-D. Scanning the synopsis, the Security Chief chose the entry from the most scientifically reliable source.
‘Back in 2070,’ Anderson summarised in his usual lecturing style, ‘Terra started mining several asteroids in the belt beyond Mars. Deltoid and Nitroid stations, funded by Corilium Mining soon became experts in bioengineering due to the numbers of accidents in the dangerous new industry and distance from Terra. An alien entity calling its self Starchrusher infected the Deltoid Colonies computer systems and the personnel on board without the Federations knowledge.’
‘The station claimed independence from Terra ten years later. They called themselves the Axis Colony Alliance. However the entity used the newly developed bionic technology to hide its presence. Developing a cleaver bio-electronic virus, it gained control of the minds of the individuals utilizing the devices.’
‘How come this isn’t well known?’ Jason questioned, his posture indifferent but his expression openly displaying his interest.
‘There are only three documented encounters with the entity,’ The Security Chief rubbed his chin thoughtfully, ‘all from the Thunderbird team. I guess that makes them experts and the reason the incidents have been kept confidential.’
‘What else can you tell us, Chief,’ Mark enquired.
‘The initial contact with this entity occurred on Terra. Captain James, sent to investigate the disappearance of several well-known scientists, became an unwitting captive. These men had been abducted and had to be rescued from a ship destined for the Axis Colonies. At the time no one knew the pilots were controlled by this Starcrusher or that it wanted to exploit the most brilliant minds on Earth. The two agents sent to pilot the space craft managed to escape when the IRO team retrieved their captives.’
‘The second encounter occurred when the Shadow Axis, as they called themselves, attempted to expand and take over the nearby Nitroid colony. Captain Beyda managed to get on board and discover the plot. One of Starcrusher’s agents aimed to infect the entire station with the completely biological variant of the virus allowing the entity access to the human mind. If he’d been successful, the next step would have been domination of Terra.’
‘That,’ Jason commented sarcastically, ‘sounds like a plot Zoltar would hatch.’
‘Same,’ Keyop stated, ‘plan.’
‘What are you thinking, Chief,’ Mark asked.
‘We know Zoltar is only a puppet,’ Anderson hesitated. ‘He is controlled by an entity, or as the Spectran populace believed, a deity called The Luminous One. It appears to use Zoltar as a public interface. So far our intelligence operatives in the Crab Nebulae haven’t been able to gain an insight into the real political power.’
‘You think this Starcrusher might be the entity currently controlling Spectra?’ Princess questioned.
‘That would make it at least one hundred years old,’ Jason added.
‘Not possible,’ Keyop shook his head.
‘I don’t know,’ Princess added thoughtfully. ‘It’s our bodies that wear out. If this entity didn’t have a physical form, it could live forever.’
‘What happened to Starcrusher,’ Tiny played the devil’s advocate, ‘when the Thunderbird team disappeared?’
‘Good point,’ Anderson returned to his screen. Finding the answer, he pointed to it. ‘It seems the last encounter occurred when the team picked up the X-15 ion pulse engine. One of the engineering Team worked for Corilium mining. He lost a leg in an accident. Implanted with a bionic limb, Aaron became an unwitting operative for Starcrusher. ‘
‘Is that why the Thunderbird team finished up here?’ Princess asked.
‘No. We’ve traced the error to a basic calculation which didn’t take into account the ion flux fields within the solar system,’ Anderson shook his head. ‘Aaron Pike, a friend of Senior Captain Hanson had been given an assignment by Starcrusher. He’d been sent to steal the plans for the Thunderbird vehicles from C-core as well as the prototype X-15 ion engine. However his feeling for his friend managed to overcome the viruses affects. Once this entity realised he couldn’t completely control a human mind, that human emotions, especially loyalty destroyed control it withdrew from the solar system. Aaron Pike continued to receive sporadic contact for three years after the teams’ disappearance. There is no evidence of Starcrusher in Terran space since.’
‘You’re suggesting,’ Mark chimed in, ‘Starcrusher needed an easier target than the human race. One who didn’t have the strength of emotion?’
‘I’ll need to do some checking,’ Anderson sounded like he’d uncovered a workable theory, ‘but I believe it may have attempted to do the same on Riga and several other planets within Federated space without success. Each planet, I suspect, will be closer to the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy, spatially speaking.’
‘Meaning,’ Princess interrupted, ‘next stop, the Crab Nebulae.’
‘Biologically, Spectran’s,’ Keyop added, sparing a glance at Mark and Jason. Both individuals had one non Terran parent. ‘Very similar to Terran’s and Rigan’s.’
‘That’s right Keyop,’ Anderson agreed. ‘We don’t know enough about pure Spectran neurophysiology to generate a conclusive theory. Perhaps there basic biology is more suitable complete viral invasion and therefore mind control.’
‘You think,’ Tiny said just to make sure they all understood the Chiefs thinking, ‘this entity, this Starcrusher could control the minds of everyone on Spectra?’
‘Yes, Tiny,’ Anderson turned his back on the team, ‘that’s exactly what I think. However until I’ve spoken with the Thunderbird team and ensured they are exactly who they say they are, I can’t be certain. They’re down in Medical doing DNA analysis and a full check-up as we speak. The results should be available by the time they’ve washed, changed into civilian clothing and had a decent meal.’
‘I’m not leaving my wife,’ Dylan’s voice became quieter as his anger rose. Glaring at the doctor, he refused separated from Kallan.
Entering the underwater dock at Centre Neptune, the five Captain’s had been escorted off the Phoenix. Each accompanied by a member of the G-force team, strength had been implied. The Commander officially handed them over to an armed platoon. They’d been lead to the medical wing and separated into cubicles under the guise of ensuring their health. Only Dylan wasn’t buying it. He suspected something more sinister.
‘Dylan,’ Kallan used her trade mark humour. He realised her smile didn’t reach her eyes. ‘Reverse the situation. What if Jeff Tracy and his five sons’ suddenly touched down at Acrology with some weird tale about flying into the future? Don’t you think Commander Simpson would have done the same?’
‘I’m not leaving you, Kallan,’ Dylan remonstrated. ‘We’ve lost everything we know except each other and the team. Besides the relative position of the planets, one look at the technology in this place and we can tell we’re not at home. I don’t trust anything.’
‘These people,’ Kallan squeezed their linked hands, ‘are fighting a war we know nothing about. It’s a concept we can’t begin to understand. ‘
‘Earth’s nations have been at peace over a century, apart from the Axis Colonies declaring independence. It’s natural they consider us a threat. Dylan,’ she implored capturing his concerned brown gaze, ‘what if the enemy has been taken over by Starcrusher? Think about it logically. Every time the entity attempted to take control of the Earth, it failed. The human mind wasn’t conducive to its manipulation. It makes sense Starcrusher would try to find another race of beings it could use to suit its purpose. If the doctors want blood for a DNA test, let them take it. It will prove who we are and that we’re not a threat.’
‘What then,’ Dylan asked. ‘How do we reintegrate into a society we no longer know?’
‘One step at a time,’ she returned. ‘First we get this formality over with. Then we shower, eat a decent meal and hope they’ll let us sleep. Once we’re rested and de-briefed, I’ll find a computer console. After someone shows me how to use it, the team can catch up on the last ninety six years.’
‘Technically,’ Dylan had that defiant look Kallan knew so well, ‘we’re off duty. I’m not leaving you and no one can make me!’
Throwing her hands up in the air, Kallan offered a smile to the medical professional standing at her side. Attempting the smooth the situation over, Captain James understood only too well. The armed guard outside the door could remove Dylan at the slightest provocation.
‘You’ll just have to treat us as a pair, doctor,’ she sighed with what she hoped carried a put upon expression. ‘Trust me. I’ve known my husband ten years. When he gets this stubborn, it’s better to give in.’
‘I understand,’ the woman tried to hold back a laugh. ‘My husband would be the same if the situation were reversed. Let me take the bloods and give both of you a check over. Security Chief Anderson said you’d been living on ration packs and using an automatic doctor unit to stay healthy, so this is really a formality. We’ve matched your voice patterns and used facial recognition software which is almost 100% accurate now.’
‘I just have one question,’ the Doctor seemed nervous. ‘As you’re married, is there any chance you could be pregnant?’
‘In about two years,’ Kallan managed to grin. ‘At least that’s when we decided to start trying.’
Frowning, Dylan glared. ‘Have them check your implant, Kallan, just case.’
‘Implant?’ The word elicited a strange, almost hostile reaction. Before either Dylan or Kallan could elucidate, the doctor had a scanner in her hand. Waving the odd piece of equipment over Captain James’s head, she muttered, ‘I can’t see any evidence of an implant.’
‘That’s because it’s in my arm,’ Kallan rebuked softly, at a loss to explain the odd behaviour.
‘What kind of implant are we talking about,’ eyeing the pair suspiciously the doctor located not one, but two of the miniscule tubes.
Trading glances, the Thunderbirds realised they’d just uncovered a very important bit of data. ‘My implant stops an unplanned pregnancy,’ Kallan managed. ‘It would be impossible for us to conceive a child while I’m still on active duty. The danger associated with the job isn’t conducive to family life. The implant is a routine procedure,’ gulping, she suddenly realised how Dylan felt earlier as her world crashed down on her, ‘when I come from.’
‘How,’ Dylan looked baffled, ‘do you control conception?’
Holding up her hand, the doctor demonstrated a band the width of a hair around her wrist. ‘Biofeedback. A piezoelectric impulse travels through the nervous system regulating the hormones of the reproductive system. They are designed for both genders. I’m going to need to take out these implants and study them. In the meantime, I’ll have one of the technicians fit both of you with feedback devices, if that’s what you want.’
Nodding dumbly, they watched the doctor cross to the other side of the room.
‘Dylan,’ Kallan called very quietly, as the woman prepared some kind of medical equipment.
‘I don’t want her to take out your implant either,’ he reached for his wife’s hand, ‘but I don’t see that we have a choice.’
‘We have to let Grant and the rest of the team know about this,’ she returned, ‘before we go to the de brief. Somehow I know it’s important. All of us need to be on the lookout for strange behaviour. I don’t think we should even take the time to clean up.’
‘I’m more worried about consequences,’ Dylan’s serious expression accompanied his fingers stroking her arm. ‘We don’t have a job, an income or a house to support ourselves. We have to hope the doctor’s right and those bracelets work.’
Neither Dylan nor Kallan could think of anything worse than bring an innocent life into such a war torn world. One glance and they both understood they’d probably never get home. The rest of the consult occurred in stony silence as the truth of their predicament sank in.
‘Do you,’ Grant demanded of Mark when he couldn’t get a straight from The Chief of Galaxy Security, ‘have electronic implants in your head?’
‘Captain Hanson,’ Anderson rounded on the Thunderbirds, narrowing his gaze. Glaring at the Senior Captain, he replied in a deadly tone, ‘I’ll ask the questions. You are obstructing an official investigation. Right now I need you and your team to tell me everything you’ve experienced that pertains to Starcrusher.’
‘Why?’ Grant took a stance which towered menacingly over Anderson.
Deliberately designed to appear imposing, Mark reacted by signalling his team to take up secure positions around Anderson. G-force learnt Dylan and Jesse had martial arts training as they automatically moved in closer to their leader. Kallan reached for her side arm hidden under her left shoulder. Glad they hadn’t been give the opportunity to change into civilian clothing, each team member still carried their concealed hand weapons. JJ appeared incredibly calm but took up a protective, street fighting stance. He’d obviously grown up on the wrong side of town with the brawling skills to match. Jason noted the reaction and understood this team were well trained for more than just rescue situations. One look at Mark and they found themselves on the same page.
‘That is none of your concern,’ Anderson attempted to regain the upper hand. He knew this could quickly spiral out of control, yet he didn’t want to give up his advantage. The Chief’s stare bounced off the senior captain. Grant returned it, unimpressed by the obvious stalling tactic.
‘When,’ Grant waved his hand, requesting his team step down in an attempt to defuse the situation, ‘we come from, any electronic device in an individual means they are an agent of Starcrusher until proven otherwise. So I’ll ask again, does this team have implants in their heads?’
‘Yes,’ Anderson ground out between gritted teeth. Caught between a rock and a hard place, he felt compelled to tell the truth.
‘Then, until we know these children are secure from Starcrusher’s influence,’ Captain Hanson spared a meaningful glance at the five teenagers, ‘and my team have been adequately debriefed, this discussion is at an impasse.’
‘How,’ Anderson asked, ‘do you propose we do that when you have the information we need?’
‘Tell us about these implants,’ JJ chimed in. ‘Kallan is our field trained medic. Both Dylan and I have degrees in electronic engineering. Between us, I’m sure we can understand the basics. That should give us enough information to make an educated guess if Starcrusher is able to access the device.’
‘That information is top secret,’ Anderson growled out. ‘I’m afraid you don’t have clearance.’
‘Chief,’ Princess spoke up. After sharing a despairing look with Kallan, the Swan walked over to the wall screen. Pulling up several files, she pointed to the relevant information. ‘The Thunderbird team have been cleared for classified files at the highest level. Several of their missions recovered confidential items. They were considered the most elite team at the time and accepted only the most rigorously trained and qualified personnel.’
‘We all have military training,’ Kallan offered, ‘even if our primary purpose is rescue, there has been times we needed to defend ourselves. Grant started out in the armed services. Jesse’s role in the Space Rangers trained him for hand to hand combat and weapons. Dylan has black belts in two martial arts and Kendo, the art of Japanese sword fighting.’
‘I’ve pulled up several archival documents,’ Princess continued. ‘Captain Beyda completed a tour of duty with the space police.’ Only Kallan noticed her husband’s grimace at the reminder. ‘His reactions times during testing were equitant to the Commander’s,’ pausing, she captured Anderson’s eye, ‘with cerabonics. Given Captain Hanson’s and Captain Johnson’s age, their almost within tolerance from their last medical. Captain James accuracy with a hand gun rivals Jason’s. Medical reports their abilities aren’t enhanced.’
‘I don’t believe you,’ Jason’s voice rose with anger.
‘It’s a matter of public record,’ Kallan defined herself. ‘I have several Gold medals from the Olympic Summer Games for air pistol, rifle and trap. I still hold the Academy record for accuracy.’
‘The team have seen action,’ clicking through a series of pictures, Princess tried to get them back onto the topic at hand, ‘with bombs, torpedos, lasers and under offensive fire.’
‘That’s Moon Base Omega,’ Jesse stated. ‘Dylan and Kallan disengaged TB1 while we provided cover fire against their out of control computer.’
‘Almost didn’t make it home from that one,’ JJ added, ‘even with Kallan’s sharp shooting.’
‘What are you suggesting Princess?’ Mark asked, taking on board the experience of this team.
‘Trust is a two way street,’ she stated with a grim glance at each person in the room. ‘How can we work together to prove the entity that controls Zoltar is Starcrusher unless we share information?’
‘Agreed,’ Anderson didn’t like it but the idea had merit.
‘You’ve taken our DNA,’ Grant glared, ‘run our facial and voice patterns through your database. You’ve locked down our vehicles and most probably have a team of engineers going over them with a fine tooth comb. If you haven’t confirmed our identification by now, why are you asking us about Starcrusher?’
When Anderson continued to hold a stony silence, Grant added, ‘my team has been on active duty and limited sleep for eleven days. We all need down time if you want us to be at the top of our game and lend any kind of support.’
‘Alright,’ Anderson conceded. ‘Take a seat. This won’t be a quick explanation. After we’re finished, I want everything you have on Starcrusher.’
‘Looks like it’ll be a while before we’re off duty,’ Grant warned his team, directing them to take a seat.
Making a gesture to the wall screen, the room submerged into darkness. A three dimensional display appeared in the middle of the space accompanied by Anderson’s dry voice. Over the next half an hour, he explained the cerabonic implants and why they needed to be placed in developing neurological systems.
‘They were how old,’ Dylan asked, incensed, ‘when you put them in?’
‘Was it really necessary,’ Kallan demanded at the same time, ‘to abuse children with experimental surgery?’
Before they could enter a moral debate, Grant silenced his most outspoken captains. Starting with the basic information about their nemesis, he allowed the rest of the team to fill in the details. They learnt of Aaron’s fate and Deltoid Colony being abandoned by the Shadow Axis a year after their disappearance.
‘What we need to work out,’ JJ’s thoughtful expression tried to fit the pieces of this puzzle together, ‘is what happened to our technology in that year. I’m sure something changed dramatically enough to force Starcrusher to leave. Maybe the IRO or the Nitroid Colony developed an antivirus?’
‘Possible,’ Anderson rubbed his chin. ‘I’ll have the researchers look into any information we have on that time period. I suggest your team get some rest while they can, Captain Hanson. We may need to question you again. I’m afraid you’ll be confined to three levels of this building. Mark, Princess, please escort our visitors to level 10. I’ve assigned them the empty rooms at the end of the G-force corridor.’
‘We’re effectively prisoners, then?’ Grant asked in a deadly tone.
‘I think it would be better for everyone,’ Anderson replied, ‘to keep your presence confidential for the moment. You’ll have access to a mess and recreation room one level above, a library and training facilities on the level below. This is usually the private domain of the five people you see here. Please remember they value what little privacy they have within the walls of this centre. The staff on duty will treat you with the same level of respect. The rest of you,’ he glanced at Jason, Tiny and Keyop, ‘are dismissed but consider yourselves on standby.’
‘I don’t like this,’ Jason pounced on Mark the moment the Commander returned to the ready room. Settling their guests had taken a lot longer than expected. The Thunderbirds need instructions on how to operate almost every piece of equipment in their rooms. Technology had changed dramatically in a century.
‘Join the club,’ Mark returned in an irate tone. ‘Our cerabonics are a closely held secret. How did the Thunderbirds find out about them?’
‘Medical,’ Keyop informed, delighted he could add something to the conversation. He slipped up to the infirmary and overhead several doctors gossiping. Over several minutes he finally got the story out.
‘She has two implants,’ Jason hit the roof. ‘What’s to say the lady’s not controlled by this Starcrusher or Zoltar for that matter? It’d be great for us if a Spectran agent ends up inside the walls of Centre Neptune.’
‘Can’t be,’ Tiny took the opportunity to tease Jason, ‘she’s not after you.’
‘Ha, ha, big guy,’ the Condor’s look could have killed.
‘Stop it all of you,’ Princess pleaded covering her ears. ‘We need to learn to trust each other and this suspicion isn’t helping.’
‘How,’ Mark turned his icy blue eyes on the Swan, ‘can I trust a man whose reaction time is slightly better than mine without cerabonic enhancement.’
‘Not to mention a woman who can outshoot me. Oh, and the thirty years of martial arts training between Jesse and Dylan,’ Jason retorted. ‘I went up to work out some of my frustrations and saw the two of them going through their Kata’s. Dylan’s been trained by a Master.’ Fielding a hostile glare from Princess, Jason shrugged. ‘Despite popular belief, I can access a computer. It’s all a matter of public record now.’
‘What you’re saying,’ Tiny summarised, ‘this team are older, wise and at least as well trained as us. The only thing they don’t have is any real combat experience.’
‘Could be an asset,’ Keyop commented, ‘under right conditions.’
‘We just have to make sure,’ Princess added, ‘we provided the correct incentives. I get the feeling, if we work together, maybe we can end this war.’
‘I hope you’re right, Princess,’ Mark prayed.
The end of Flux Fields. Trust – the first time the teams work together to battle Spectra is coming soon to a screen near you!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.