'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!