"Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult."
Alex glanced up from her desk as she heard gunshots outside. She peeked through the window and saw Harry cornering her brother. She sighed and massaged her temple against the headache she knew would start as soon as she figured out just what her idiotic twin had done to piss off their boss this time. In the distance, she heard the chop of helicopter blades and Rockhound's call.
"Hey, pucker up! We got clients incoming!"
With a final sigh, she got up from her desk and headed to Harry's office. She leaned against his desk for only a few moments before he stormed in. He stopped for a second when he saw her expression and then continued to his desk.
"I don't want to talk about it, Alex," he told her, picking up a clipboard and staring at it. Alex knew he was too riled up to actually be paying attention to whatever was written there.
"Really now? Because I kind of wanted to know what on earth A.J. could have done to piss you off this badly. Especially this early in the morning."
"He turned on number two after I shut it down last night."
Alex shook her head. "A.J.'s done a lot dumber things in the last five years, and you never drew a gun on him." She took the clipboard from him, demanding his attention. "What did he do?"
Harry sighed and looked towards her. "Did you know he was sleepin' with Grace?"
She was quiet a moment. "You want the truth? I guessed it."
"My answer's only gonna piss you off more."
She cocked her head at his tone but chose not toremark. "Two months ago."
"Two months!" He kicked the desk beside her, causing her to jump slightly. "Jesus, Alex! I'm her father for Christ's sake! You didn't think I had the right to know?"
"Grace is a big girl. I wouldn't be too happy with her if she went running to you every time I found a new bed buddy." He glowered at her. "Besides, I figured when she wanted you to know, she'd tell you. I didn't think it was anything serious because she wasn't willing to risk letting you know." She shrugged. "Guess I was wrong."
He let out a breath that sounded more like a bark. "Yeah."
"Harry, I admit, I should've told you. I just thought they would've been a bit more mature about it."
Harry gave her a look. "It's A.J.," he stated simply.
She gave him a small smile. "Point taken." She blew out a breath. "I'm sorry."
He glanced at her for a moment before placing his hand on her shoulder. "You don't usually do things you feel like you should apologize for, so it means that much more." He nodded. "But you still should have told me."
She gave him a bigger smile. "So, uh, I was gonna work on the relief valve on number two later today, get it up and running again."
"Ok. I gotta go deal with my daughter."
He paused on his way toward the door. "And the clients," he added.
She nodded and he left the way he'd come. She shook her head lovingly and went back to her computer. Something big was going on over the classified networks and she was working on finding out what all of the buzz was about.
She had stayed in her office most of the morning and had barely glanced up when she heard the sound of another helicopter. I guess the clients are finally leaving. She had heard a lot of commotion outside, but she was so absorbed in trying to find out what was going on in the world that she didn't really consider what could be happening. She stared at the codes on her computer screen, trying to decipher a password out of them. Classified information was extremely hard to hack into, hence the "Classified" label, but she was determined to do it. The external world seemed to melt away around her as she concentrated on nothing but her screen. She began to see a pattern but lost it when her door slammed open. She jumped in surprise as the world came crashing down around her before glaring at her brother in irritation.
"Do you mind?"
"She's gone, Lex! They took Harry and he said that he wasn't going unless he took her and now they're gone!"
She stared at him in silence a moment, letting his statement sink in as she tried to put the pieces of his extremely rushed puzzle together.
"Okay, first things first: Who took Harry and, I'm going out on a limb here, Grace?"
"I-I don't know, some guy in a chopper. He said he was some kind of general or something."
Her eyes flicked to him in interest. "He was a general? All right, A.J., I need you to think very hard on this. Did he give his name or his command?"
A.J. thought about it. "Uh, General… General…. General Montgomery!" he exclaimed triumphantly.
"General Montgomery…huh…" Alex clicked on a different screen on her computer and typed in the general's name. A picture popped onto the screen beside a list of information. "General Steven Montgomery, commander of the Pacific Air Forces," she read off.
"Are you supposed to be lookin' through those files?"
She gave him a look and ignored his comment. "It seems he was given orders earlier this morning to come and retrieve our boss."
"Your boss," A.J. corrected her quietly.
"Yeah, my boss," she muttered distractedly but froze when his meaning struck home. "What did you do!?"
"I had a hunch, so I left number two running all night. I knew it would strike oil and it did," he said, defending himself.
"Number two's relief valve was fried open! Jesus, A.J.!" She rubbed a finger against her temple. "Not only does Harry find out that you and Grace are a couple, he catches her in your bed, then you go and pull something like this. A.J., you undermined his authority; you started a drill without his consent after he shut it off. What were you thinking? That he doesn't want to strike oil?"
"Alex! I don't need a lecture here, okay? I just had the love of my life taken away from me because her father doesn't think I'm good enough, and now I lost my job! I don't need this from you."
He dropped into a chair, looking defeated. Alex sighed and came to the front of her desk, leaning against it and facing him. She highly doubted the "love of his life" part, but she could see her brother was genuinely upset.
"Look, A.J.," she started quietly. "Harry's taken care of us for a long time. I just don't understand why you two are always at each other's throats."
"That's just how we work. I'm not like you, Alex. I'm not the dream child." He sighed, not seeing the hurt look that entered his sister's eyes. "Chick's sending us home. I'm gonna use this paycheck plus all that I've saved and I'm gonna start my own company. It's time that I branched out on my own, made a name for myself, ya know?" He looked her in the eyes when she stared at him in disbelief. "But I'm gonna need you, Lexie. I can't do it on my own. I need to show Harry that I'm good enough to be with Grace."
Alex sat silent for a moment longer before nodding her head. "All right, I'll help you. But only until you get on your feet, if we're even able to do that."
"I know you, Lex. You won't let me fail."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah."
He stood up and gave her a hug. "Thanks, sis."
"Yeah, thanks for ruining another outfit."
He glanced down at the oil he had rubbed on her pant suit and laughed. "Sorry, kid."
She shook her head and the two walked out of her office, A.J.'s arm thrown over her shoulder.
Harry stared at Dan Truman in amazement. He had arrived at NASA space center in Houston earlier that day and found out what was happening in outer space and the peril the earth was in. And now he had been told that he was needed to teach a bunch of astronauts how to do his job.
"Well, Mr. Stamper, what do you think?" Truman asked.
"You know, drilling's a science; it's an art. I'm a third generation driller, doin' it all my life and I still haven't got it all figured out. I assume you sent for me because somebody told you that I was the best. Well, I'm only the best because I work with the best. If you don't trust the men you're working with you're as good as dead. Now you wanna send these boys into space, fine. I'm sure they'll make good astronauts, but they don't know jack about drillin'. What's your contingency plan?"
"Your backup plan. You've gotta have some kind of backup plan, right?"
"No, we don't have a backup plan. This is it."
"And this is the best that you could-that the-the government, the U.S. government can come up with! I mean, you-you're NASA for cryin' out loud! You put a man on the moon, you're geniuses! You-You're the guys who think this shit up. I'm sure you got a team of men somewhere just thinkin' shit up and somebody backin' them up. You're telling me you don't have a back-up plan? That these eight boy scouts right here, that is the world's hope? That's what you're tellin' me?"
Harry turned away from him. "Oh, Jesus! Damn it."
Grace walked up behind him followed by Dr. Ronald Quincy, watching her father debate internally with himself.
"We're a little short on time here," Truman reminded Harry. "Will you help us?"
"All they gotta do is drill?" he asked quietly.
"No space-walkin'? No crazy astronaut stuff?"
Truman shook his head. "Just drill."
Grace stepped forward as she realized where Harry was going with all of his questions.
"How many men were you plannin' on takin' up there?"
"We're sending up two shuttles, two teams."
"If I do this I'm gonna wanna take my own men."
"You got it. So you're saying you'll help us?"
Harry nodded and responded softly, "Yes, sir."
Grace stepped in between the men and stared at her father.
"I just don't trust anybody else to do it, that's all," he told her.
"Follow me," Truman told them. They began to head inside quickly. "You'll have the full cooperation of the FBI. All you have to do is find out where your men are and they'll go and get them. It'll keep leaks to a minimum."
"All right. Gracie, I'll need all our files."
"This way, ma'am," said a man in an FBI coat, taking her elbow.
Grace nodded and followed him. Harry sat down at a desk and picked up the phone.
Alex blew out a breath in triumph as she finally hacked her way inside the FBI database. It had taken her all night in front of the computer before she started making headway. After that, locks had fallen out of her way smoothly. She found what she wanted in the form of a video file. She opened it and watched, horror replacing all feelings of elation she had been feeling at her success.
The Shuttle Atlantis in space for its most recent mission, docked by a satellite. The satellite suddenly became bombarded by flying pieces of rock. It blew up, sending the astronaut working on it flying into space, pelted by rocks along the way. More rocks crashed into the shuttle, ripping it to sheds and then exploding into a million pieces. The last sound from the crew had been one of the astronauts cry home. "Houston!"
Alex sat back in her chair, staring at the screen. She had heard on the news earlier that New York had been decimated by some sort of attack. There was no news yet on where the attack had come from but she was pretty sure that she had just found the answer. She shut down her computer and went outside, shaken to the core. She turned as she heard a car pull up and a smile lit her face as Harry stepped out of the black SUV. She rushed over and threw her arms around him, eliciting a laugh.
"Hey, Angel Eyes," he greeted her with a kiss to the cheek. "How ya been?"
"We're all right." She searched his eyes, looking for a clue as to why he had been taken away from the rig by the government and why he was here. She thought it might have something to do with what she had seen, but he gave her no clue.
"He's over here," she told his as they headed towards her brother.
"Yep. You are on your way, A.J.," Harry remarked.
"Well, you know, being in business for yourself has its advantages: make my own hours, nobody shoots me in the leg…You don't got a gun on you now, do ya?"
"Good. 'Cause I kinda wanted to get back to this whole thing about you asking me for help. Does that mean there's actually a job that Mr. All-go-no-quit-big-nuts Harry Stamper can't handle by himself? And needs my expert opinion?"
"A.J.," Alex chastised softly.
Harry shook his head toward Alex and answered A.J.'s cocky remark. "Somethin' like that, yeah."
"Well no, no, no, no, no. I mean, is it something like that? Or is it that?"
Alex dropped her head into her hand as Harry stood toe-to-toe with her brother.
"You know, you and me got a real problem."
"You know Harry, there are only, uh," he held up his hand. "Five words I want to hear from you right no. And those words are: You know, A.J., I really look up to you, been a hero of mine for a long time. I'm very impressed with your work. I'm emotionally closed off. That's like-Well, like eleven words or somethin'. You know what, how about just: A.J., I'm sorry and I love ya."
"You know A.J., there's not a job on the planet that I would want you to work with me on. I mean that."
A.J. stared after him as he began to walk away. Alex shook her head towards her brother when Harry stopped beside her.
"So, what do ya say, Angel Eyes?" he asked.
She looked at him and nodded. "I'll come."
They started walking away together.
"So what are you doin' here? Harry!" A.J. ran after them. "What's the job?"