Jenny leaned back in her chair as she drank from her strawberry
smoothie. It was a very warm summer day and she had had time to go shopping
for a while. She had been heading toward the mall when she decided to grab
a smoothie at a popular Christian-themed coffee shop called Holy Grounds.
It was her favorite place to go for Cappuccinos in the winter and smoothies
in the summer. She often stopped in it whenever she passed it by.
She absently watched as people came in to order cold drinks to cool
down. A young man wearing a baseball hat came into the coffee shop,
catching Jenny's eye almost immediately. She kept her gaze on him as he
approached the counter and ordered. He was very attractive... and strangely
He received his order and turned to sit down at one of the tables,
taking the one across from hers. He took off his hat to reveal black hair
that was too short to really be styled. Jenny raised her eyebrows as he
tossed his hat onto the empty chair beside him. Taking his hat off indoors
was a sign of good manners. She was impressed.
He seemed to sense her stare and he glanced up at her with deep brown
eyes. They gave each other friendly smiles, but Jenny looked away, suddenly
feeling very out of place. She decided she had better just leave him alone
since she couldn't figure out why he looked so familiar, and she didn't
want him to catch her watching him again.
She jumped when she heard someone pull out a chair from her table.
She looked up to see the same guy take a seat across from her, his smoothie
in one hand and baseball hat in the other.
"I know you, don't I?" he asked her.
Jenny studied him, careful not stare for too long. "That's the same
question I've been trying to answer," she replied.
Finally, it dawned on him and it was clear on his face. "Hey, didn't
you go to Beyer High School?" he questioned.
"Yes, I did. You did, too...?"
"Yeah. You're Jenny Andrews, right?"
She nodded. "And you are...?"
"Jon Tanner! I remember you!"
Jenny's face lit up. "Jon, oh my goodness! Jeez, I can't believe I
didn't recognize you!"
"Yeah!" He stood up to give her a hug. "Man, I haven't seen you since
graduation. How have you been?"
"Busy! How 'bout you?"
"Same here! I scored a great job at Bellflower Industries."
"I thought you were interested in the music industry."
Jon grinned. "Good memory." Then he shrugged. "I dunno... I changed
my mind. I'm one of the big shots there, though."
"Of course you are. You were always a big shot in high school."
Jenny's comlink beeped and they both looked down at it. "What's
that?" Jon wanted to know.
"It's my beeper," Jenny gave her well-prepared lie.
"A beeper? Man, those are old!"
"Not the ones that go on your wrist." She smiled. "It was great
seeing you again, Jon, but I gotta go. My cell phone is in my car." It
Jon wasn't ready for her to leave. "I'll just go with you," he
suggested as they stood and gathered their things.
"I gotta go back to work," Jenny told him. "Look, I know we still
have so much to talk about, so meet me here tomorrow at six."
Jon smiled and it turned Jenny's knees into jelly. "I'll be there,"
"Me too," Jenny replied. "See ya then."
"Kyle called twice while you were enjoying yourself in there, Jenny,"
Domino informed her partner as soon as she climbed in.
"Oh yeah?" Jenny said as she fired the engine and cranked up the air
"He's bringing all of the operatives together to give us another
mission." The AI paused. "Who was that man you were talking to?"
Jenny smiled again. "Eavesdropping, Domino?"
"Not exactly. I was just wondering what was taking you so long so I
scanned the building and found you with a man."
"Well," Jenny said as she pulled out into the traffic, "that was my
high school boyfriend."
Domino's interest was sparked at once. "An old flame! How romantic.
Is he still hot?"
"More than ever," Jenny sighed. "I'm meeting him again tomorrow. We
have a lot of catching up to do."
"Really? Will any of that 'catching up' involve a kiss or two?"
"I don't know, Domino," Jenny laughed. "I guess we'll just have to
wait and see, huh?"
Jenny stepped into the situation room on SkyOne to find Trek, Erica,
Kyle and Duke waiting for her. She quietly took a seat in the nearest
chair, feeling everyone's gaze.
"I'm so glad you could join us, Jenny," Kyle spoke first.
Jenny smiled sheepishly. "Sorry I'm late," she said. "I got... caught
"Right," Kyle said and opened a report on his computer. "Well, to get
right to the point, has anyone heard of Bellflower Industries?"
A few of them confirmed that they had and Jenny said, "That's a
technical and mechanical manufacturing company. They make a whole variety
of equipment, but mostly weapons." It didn't even occur to her than Jon had
said that he worked there. She was already switched into work-mode.
"Well, I wouldn't quite say that they manufacture their equipment,"
Kyle remarked. "They've been expertly stealing valuable machinery and
weapons from places such as competing companies and even the military. Then
they claim it as their own and sell it."
"And they haven't gotten busted for it yet?" Trek asked.
"Not yet," Kyle answered. "The things they steal are things that have
not yet been patented. So as long as they transport the stolen goods
without any witnesses, they can patent them under their own name and there
won't be any way for anyone to prove the goods were stolen. Hopefully,
we're going to put a stop to it."
"Any leads?" Erica inquired, lazily leaning back in her chair.
"Anthony Cutlass. He is the owner of Bellflower Industries.
Unfortunately, his background check didn't provide anything useful. He has
never been caught for any of his wrongdoings except for a curfew violation
when he was sixteen."
"What about any other employees?" Duke wanted to know.
"I haven't been able to come up with any. It seems that his employees
are working under fictitious names." He glanced over at his computer
screen. "Bellflower Industries is using three warehouses here in LA that
belong to a Kevin Minogue, who died a few months ago. The ownership has not
been changed. I believe they are using the property without any
"So we need to go investigate and hopefully catch them red-handed,"
Jenny summed up.
Kyle nodded as they all started to stand up.
"We're on it," Duke said and they filed out.
The grounds of Kevin Minogue's looked dead as the TKR operatives
drove up to the warehouses with their AIs kept on Silent Mode. Kyle
surveyed the area through Dante's windshield. The place looked like it
hadn't been used since Minogue's death. He shifted his stare from his
surroundings to Dante's monitor, which was split into four windows and was
serving as a four-way vid-link to the other operatives.
"Looks promising," Trek commented dryly.
"Oh yeah," Erica put in.
"All right, let's go see if we can find anything," Kyle instructed.
"Erica and I can take the first warehouse," Jenny said, but then she
looked down at the monitor, "if that's okay with you, Kyle."
"Go," Kyle agreed. "Duke, take the second one. I got the third."
They dispersed obediently, each taking the different warehouses. They
staked out the buildings, circling them several times or sometimes sitting
stationary in one place, in search of some kind of action. Jenny sighed as
she completed yet another circuit around the first warehouse. "There's
nothing here," she grumbled after a long while. "What about inside,
Domino took a moment to scan the inside of the warehouses. "There is
absolutely nothing inside this warehouse, Jenny."
"Nothing here either," Trek spoke up through the vid-link. "This
place is as dead as Minogue."
Jenny and Kyle both grinned, but Erica just rolled her eyes.
"This is getting us nowhere," Kyle eventually decided. "I take it
FLAG's resources were wrong about this place. It couldn't have been used
"Kyle," Domino said, "my scanners show that the gears of this roll-up
door around back are warm."
Jenny raised her eyebrows. "So someone has been here," she said.
"Recently," Duke added.
"We must have just missed them," Erica deduced.
"They could've been any of the trucks we passed by on our way here,"
"How do we know they use trucks?" Erica questioned. "They've
eliminated tracks of any vehicles on the dirt."
"This is still getting us nowhere," Kyle said. "We should try for
more information back at SkyOne. We can come back tomorrow. If they use
this place regularly, then they probably go by a routine schedule."
Although no one looked too happy, they agreed and ended their
surveillance, leaving the property and heading back home on the long two-
lane road. No one spoke for a long time, each immersed in their own
thoughts and feeling a little dumb for wasting time in a dead-end. Kyle was
pulled out of his thoughts first when Dante spoke, "Kyle."
"I detect a parked truck a few miles ahead of us and its trailer is
full of weapons."
Kyle sat up in his seat, squinting in attempt to see the truck in the
distance. "That's our truck," he said. "Did everyone hear that?" he asked
through the vid-link. Then he frowned. "Why are they parked?"
"I can't tell," Dante answered. "The truck is in perfect running
order and they don't appear to be loading or unloading."
"So they're just sitting there doing nothing."
"Apparently. There is one man in the cab and two men in the trailer."
"I don't like this," Kyle muttered.
"It could be an ambush, Kyle," Jenny remarked.
"I agree," Dante said. "I suggest we proceed with caution."
Kyle glanced in his rear-view mirror to see the single-file line of
AIs behind him and couldn't help but feel tense. It only grew worse when
the truck came into view. It was a white truck with no logo parked on the
right side of the road and appearing completely harmless. But Kyle's
'internal alarm' was clanging in his head.
The trailer door suddenly flew up, drawing Kyle's eyes immediately.
His gaze met with two men standing in the trailer, both armed with the
weapons that were stored in the trailer.
"Kyle-" Dante suddenly started, but Kyle's alarmed shout cut him off.
Kyle gritted his teeth, jamming the steering wheel hard to the right as
something flashed by like a brilliant fireball.
"Missile!" Dante proclaimed.
Duke looked up with a start as he suddenly found himself in the front
of the line. He gasped and automatically swerved to the left as a perfect
ball of orange flames exploded into Beast's passenger side door. Duke
screwed his eyes shut and held onto the steering wheel for dear life as the
impact of the missile forced Beast sideways, eventually spinning out. A
sudden halt jarred Duke in his seat and he silently thanked Beast for the
passive laser restraint system. He opened his eyes to find the AI crammed
up against a large tree that was now broken and lying across the bed of the
truck. It had saved them from possibly flipping over.
"That wasn't fun," he muttered. He looked over at Beast's monitor and
found that it was blank and his connection to the other four operatives had
been terminated. "Beast?" he called.
"That guy's really gonna pay for denting me," the AI growled darkly.
Duke glanced over toward the passenger's side and found the door
brutally caved in, but there didn't seem to be any further damage. "Just a
dent," he muttered. "It could've been much worse." Another missile flew by
and he instinctively ducked. "Whoa! They're not done, are they?"
Beast's monitor suddenly came to life with an image of a worried
Kyle, who was trying to keep his eyes on both Dante's screen and the road.
"Duke, are you all right?"
"Fine," Duke answered as he lifted his gaze to the chaos occurring a
short distance from where Beast now sat. "I think you might need some
help." He floored the accelerator and Beast shot forward toward the truck,
leaving the tree behind.
Erica winced as another missile blew up dangerously close to the
combo car. She swerved to avoid colliding with Domino. "We can't take a
direct hit," Kat informed her partner. "It could turn out worse than
Erica glanced over at the dented truck as Beast flew past her. "Yeah,
I gathered that," she grumbled.
"Let me give them a taste of their own medicine," Beast said to Duke.
"No!" Duke exclaimed, slamming on the brakes as another missile
exploded onto the pavement in front of Beast. "You do that and you could
ignite every other weapon on that trailer!"
Beast growled, but spoke nothing more.
"All right, I'm getting tired of this," Kyle declared. "I'm going for
"I suggest you do that now then, Kyle," Dante advised. "The two men
in the trailer have just ran out of missiles and are searching for more
Kyle went for the truck at once, his jaw set in determination. He
caught a glimpse of the driver through the truck's side-view mirror and he
knew he had been seen. An arm protruded from the open window of the
driver's side door, aiming a gun at the silver SUV and firing. Kyle was
almost amused at the driver's attempt to stop him and pulled over toward
the truck while the driver emptied his gun on Dante. The driver suddenly
ceased fire and the engine of the truck groaned to a rough start. Kyle took
that opportunity to shoot out of the car and toward the driver, but the
truck took off with a burst of speed. Grumbling, he returned to Dante and
forced the throttle to the floor, keeping the SUV right beside the truck.
The men in the trailer had not been anticipating such a sudden
departure and they almost lost their footing, stumbling over each other and
weapons lying at their feet. Jenny stopped at once as soon as the truck
went into motion. She had climbed out of Domino to apprehend the two men
while they were gathering more weapons, but she could never catch them on
foot now with the truck in motion. She scrambled back to Domino and took
off with Beast and the combo car.
Kyle was no longer amused as the driver continued firing at Dante,
creating nothing but sparks. He couldn't understand why the driver couldn't
see that shooting was useless.
"Kyle, what do you plan on doing?" Dante wanted to know. "These
bullets are going to start chipping my paint."
"That's the last of my worries right now, Dante."
"You know I won't allow you out of the car until he stops firing at us."
"That's what I'm waiting for," Kyle answered. "He can't have that
many bullets left."
"And then what after that?"
"We'll worry about that when it gets here." For now, he just
concentrated on remaining at the driver's side.
Kyle gasped with surprise as the driver took an unexpected right
turn, almost jackknifing the truck. The trailer went swinging wide with
inertia as Kyle braked hard and it smashed into Dante's right fender,
placing the men in the trailer right at Dante's window. Kyle glanced over
and let out a startled shout when he found himself looking down the barrel
of a rocket launcher. Kyle slammed the brakes again, tearing Dante away
from the trailer.
Jenny skidded to a stop at almost the same time, digging her nails
into Domino's steering wheel as she tried not to rear-end Dante. The
Mustang plowed into Dante's rear bumper anyway, jolting both of the cars.
"Sorry!" Jenny hissed at the monitor where her connection to Kyle was
"Accepted," was the only word Kyle had time to utter. He watched as
the man lowered the rocket launcher, but the second man was playing with
something in his hands and he threw it as the truck continued its escape.
"It's a bomb!" Dante suddenly cried.
"It's a bomb!" Kyle echoed, addressing the operatives on Dante's
monitor. "Reverse! Reverse!"
Tires squealed as the operatives changed direction immediately,
retreating from the bomb. A gigantic explosion was generated in front of
the team and sent them flying back even further. They collided with each
other as they lost control. It seemed like an eternity before everyone came
to a rough stop.
"Is everyone all right?" Kyle yelled at the vid-link.
He forced himself to calm down as everyone responded positively, but
then Beast interrupted with a harsh, "No." Kyle tensed again as he looked
toward the monitor at Duke, who was grinning slightly.
"Relax, Kyle," he said, "He's just unhappy with the dent in his
Kyle smiled a little before lifting his gaze up through the
windshield. His smile was wiped off of his face. The dust and dirt had
begun to settle, revealing a large crater on the side of the road. "Whoa,"
"Man, these people aren't joking around," Jenny commented. "Where's
the truck, Domino?"
"Out of scanner range," Domino answered. "None of us can pick it up."
Kyle sighed with irritation. "Let's get back to SkyOne," he finally
"So they didn't even hesitate to attack us with military weapons,"
Trek said. He and the rest of the team were right back where they had
started-in the situation room.
"How did they know to attack us?" Jenny inquired.
"Because we were the only ones on the road?" Erica guessed. She shook
her head and leaned back in one of the plush chairs of the room. "Someone
must've seen us on Minogue's property and got paranoid."
"Missiles are awfully extreme for paranoia," Duke remarked. "I wanna
know who those men were. Do they work for Bellflower Industries? Did we get
"The clearest visual we have of any of them is of the driver from
Dante," Kyle added.
The image appeared on the wall's flat screen. The driver in the photo
was blurred by dust flying up from the ground. He was shooting with his
right hand, so his arm covered much of his face. Sparks from the bullets as
they struck Dante's shell also added to the lack of clarity.
"Is there any way to sharpen it?" Jenny questioned, studying the driver
intently. "He almost looks familiar..."
"I'm not sure," Kyle replied, "I could have Dante try, but it'll
probably take a while."
"Go for it," said Trek, "it's all we have to go on. Let's just hope
he doesn't look familiar because we've tangled with him before."
The sound of the door sliding open silenced the conversation. They
all turned their heads to see Gil standing in the doorway.
"Ever heard of knocking?" Erica spoke up first.
"Just an FYI," Gil said. "We've got most of the damage done to the
AIs repaired. You guys should be able to carry on by tomorrow morning."
"Thank you, Gil," Kyle replied with a nod.
Erica waited until Gil walked away before turning to glance toward
Kyle. "'Should be?'" she echoed the mechanic. She rolled her eyes. "Who
knows how long it'll really take with Gil on the job."
"Either way, we've got to continue in the morning," said Kyle.
"Everyone get a good night's sleep and we'll have a fresh start tomorrow."
It was still a bit early in the morning when Duke came into the
garage. It was still relatively quiet, as people were up but not fully
"You're up unusually early," Beast commented to his partner.
"Who?" came a voice from behind truck. A head popped up on the other
side of Beast's hood, a questioning look about his face.
Duke raised his eyebrows as he recognized the man as Gil. "You," he
replied. "You never work this early."
"Yeah, well." He looked a bit sheepish as he stepped out from behind
the AI. "I, uh. I had to finish the work."
A bit skeptical, Duke moved around Beast to have a look at the
passenger side door. Much to his surprise, where the aftermath of a missile
should have been painfully obvious in the black shell, there was nothing.
It looked like nothing had ever happened. Duke ran his hand across the door
"Wow," he remarked, "that looks great."
"For a change," Beast muttered.
Gil brightened up at once. "Really?" he asked.
"Don't let it go to your head," Beast said.
The comment seemed to go right over the mechanic's head as he just
stood there, looking pleased with himself. Duke decided to just leave it
alone and he made his way to the truck's driver's seat.
"Care to fill me in on where we're going?" Beast asked before Duke could
start the engine.
"Minogue's warehouses," Duke answered. "Kyle wants us to stake the place
out for a while, see if we can catch any activity."
Duke eyed the truck's dash. "You anxious to do surveillance or
"I can't let them get away with denting me."
Duke just shook his head a bit as he leaned forward to fire Beast's
engine with a mighty roar.
Jon's eyes were glued to the clock on his office wall as he watched
the minute hand slowly creep toward the nine. As soon as it hit 5:45, he
was going to get out of there. He had been looking forward to his meeting
with Jenny all day, thus making this day one of the longest days he thought
he would ever experience.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, the clock read 5:45. Jon shot
out of his chair, heading straight for the door. Then, as if on cue, the
phone rang. Jon stopped to turn and glare at the phone sitting on his desk,
debating on whether to just let the message machine pick it up. But when he
took a closer look, he saw that the call was on the private line. He sighed
with defeat and snatched it up. "Jon Tanner."
"Jon," a smooth voice emanated from the other line. "Anthony
Jon stood upright. "What can I do for you, Anthony?"
"A lot. Would you please come into my office?"
Jon hung up the phone in a huff and hurried out the door.