Book: Abraxis Code



Abraxis Code

      Abraxis Code

By Ben Winston

Copyright © 2015 Ben Winston

Published by Blue Space Publications, LLC.





Disclaimer

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed by a newspaper, magazine, or journal.

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.





A note from the Author

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

 

-Ben Winston





Abraxis Complex

Origin of Prometheus

Sword of Damocles

Abraxis Code





Dedication

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

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

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


Contents

Copyright

Disclaimer

A note from the Author

Dedication

Abraxis Code

About the Author









Abraxis Code





In transit to

Prometheus Base

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

Working with Carl, Jarad, Sharon, and Abraxis, Greg was able to put together a plan to gain the support of at least the American Government. Greg would have preferred to have global support, but Carl and Jarad managed to convince him that if he didn't bring in the American government first, they would be less inclined to agree to the plan.

The shields, weapons, and helicopter landing area had been completed. Jarad had set up the meeting with his old bosses and was currently bringing them to the base in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

As they took off, the three officials began grilling Jarad for information.

"Jarad, it’s not often a field agent can get all of us out of our offices to personally inspect a facility. What makes this time so damn special?" John Stapleton asked.

Jarad smiled. "Like I said earlier; if I simply told you, you'd think I was off my rocker. John, I've never steered you wrong; trust me here, this is big, and you'll want to know about it."

"Your reputation is the only reason I'm even here, Agent Danielson. This better be good; I had to delay my budget appropriations meeting for this. You should know better than any of us that we need that budget!" Director Whiteshield said.

"To be completely honest, Sir, the only reason these two are here is so I could get you to come," Jarad said indicating his two immediate supervisors. "This whole trip is actually for you to see what we're doing out here, because we're going to need you to understand exactly what's happening."

"Is this related to the Mederos Incident?" Director Whiteshield asked.

Jarad nodded. "Very much so, Sir. In fact, as a part of your briefing when we arrive, we'll explain that incident, as well as a few others that have not been directly linked together before this."

"So you've figured out why three UFOs attacked and destroyed a small high school, then tracked down some of the female students and murdered them and their families?" Colonel Susan Florence asked.

Jarad nodded, "As well as how DEFnet was hacked by someone you couldn't locate. I can promise you that by the end of that briefing, you won't believe a word of it. However, by the end of your visit here, you will be absolutely convinced."

"So, you did prove it was aliens after all?" John asked.

Jarad grinned. "You just can't wait for the briefing, can you?"

"Patience has never been my strong suit," the man replied.

"Okay Agent, let's say I'll be convinced of whatever it is you've dragged me out here to see. Will I like it, or are you going to ruin my day?" Director Whiteshield asked.

"I am most definitely going to ruin your entire year, Sir. For what it’s worth, you have my apologies for that," Jarad said. "But the upside of the whole thing is we have a pretty good handle on everything, we just need support."

Director Whiteshield narrowed his eyes at Jarad. "What kind of support?"

"The kind that the President will have to approve, Sir. I’m not talking about monetary support; don’t get me wrong - the money is nice, but if we won't actually need it if we don't have to hide anything. So in that manner, this will be a help to you as well," Jared explained.

"Then what kind of support will you need?" The Director asked.

Jarad smiled, "That's all part of the briefing, Sir. I can pretty much promise you'll be entertained if nothing else."

"Well, as long as I'm entertained…" the Director said, shaking his head. “You’re going to have a hard enough time convincing me of the little green men aspect of this. I still haven't seen any proof that the Mederos Incident was anything other than an experimental aircraft staging an attack as a weapons test."

"With respect, Sir, the Mederos Incident was carried out by a Drellian Ranger team hunting for my daughter. The reason they were hunting for her is that she carries the kill code for an ancient alien sentient AI in her DNA. Currently, that AI believes she is dead, which is why they have left us alone since my family was killed off. We do have proof to support all of this. We can also prove to you that they will be coming back. When they do, they will not be here to play nice. They will turn this planet into a smoking cinder," Jared said. "…and that, Mister Director, is the god's own truth."

"Alright, I'll try to keep an open mind, Agent Danielson," the man replied. "John tells me you are one of the best field operatives we have, and that counts for a lot, but I’ll have to see how all of this sounds."

Jared chuckled. "Mister Director, why do you think it’s taken us this long to bring it to you? Both Sharon and I know exactly how all of this sounds. The fact that our children are involved is another issue not conductive to our credibility. But, we are banking on the fact that both John and Susan know us and how we operate to help moderate this. This whole…… ah, project, is going to peg your bullshit meter until you see our proof."

"It'll have to be convincing, especially if you want me to present this to the President for you," Director Whiteshield said. "If you can prove this to my satisfaction, you'll be saving some lives too; we've stepped up operations in Asia in order to discover who built the aircraft responsible for Mederos High School destruction."

"Yes, those agents are looking for something that isn't there. By the end of the day, you'll understand exactly what I'm talking about," Jared replied.

The conversation stopped there since the helo was circling for a landing at the base.

Jared changed the channel on the headset he was wearing so he could speak to the pilot. "Captain, once we land, shut down the engines and stop the rotors as soon as you can. They won't lower us into the base while they’re still turning."

"Excuse me, Sir, did you say ‘lower us’?" the pilot replied.

Jared nodded. "Yep, so don't get out until you’re told you can."

"Understood, Sir," The pilot replied.

Jared changed back to the channel used to talk to the others. "Once we land, please remain seated. Control will lower us into the base as soon as the rotors stop turning. We can get out once we're there."

Outside the aircraft, a Marine signaled the pilot on where to land the aircraft so it was properly positioned. As the wheels touched down four other Marines approached the aircraft to chock the wheels into position so that it wouldn’t roll while on the elevator. After the pilot shutdown the engines and braked the rotors to a stop, the elevator began to lower them into the base.

Prometheus Base

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

When the lift stopped moving, the visitors and Jared got out and were met by Greg, Mandi, Bella, Jolene, General Hollister, Captain Washington, Ned, Jon, Beth, and Sharon. Greg stepped forward.

"Lady and Gentlemen, welcome to Prometheus Base. I am Commander Greg Albright, leader of Earth's Ranger team," Greg said as he held out his hand to the newcomers.

Jared made introductions as everyone shook hands and Greg led them all to the conference room next to the command and control center while Mandi led the flight crew to the cafeteria and the lounge area for visitors before rejoining Greg’s party.

Greg took the floor. "Before we begin, I'm sure it was a long flight from Grand Junction. Would anyone care for any refreshments? There are restrooms available as well."

"Just coffee would be good for me, Son," Director Whiteshield replied and the others opted for either water or coffee as well.

Once everyone was served, Greg began the briefing by introducing Abraxis and asking him to explain his history and how he found the team on Earth.

"The event you all know as the Mederos Incident was carried out by a Drellian Ranger team in an effort to kill Captain Amanda Adams. I know this for a fact, because I was there and witnessed the event personally. After discovering Abraxis, we believed that the attempt had been made against both Captain Adams and myself. Since that time however, we have discovered that not to be the case." Greg was interrupted by a question from the Director.

"What proof of these events can you show me, Son?"

"Of these events, none, Sir. I can only offer my testimony and the evidence you've already seen that was gathered for the report. We do have more to tell and show you, and perhaps that will also help you to accept what we've presented so far. Unfortunately, all I can give you for the time being is my word, Sir," Greg said. "I don't blame you for having doubts; all of this has to seem pretty amazing and very difficult to believe. Please, just hang in there for a while longer and I think you'll begin to understand."

"Okay, please continue," Director Whiteshield replied.

Greg continued on, telling the visitors of all the events since the Mederos Incident and how they related to this situation. When Greg got to the mission flown to protect Abraxis, the Director once again stopped him.

"Son, if you flew on a mission against these aliens, then you have ships, correct?"

"Yes, Sir. You'll be seeing them in a few minutes right after the briefing," Greg explained. He smiled, "If you would like, I'll even give you a ride in one."

"At this point, I think that would be a very good idea," the man said.

Greg quickly finished the meeting and led the group on a tour of the small base and its facilities. When they finally got to the small ships, the director laughed.

"Okay, this has been a great joke, but what's the real reason you brought me all the way out here?"

Greg smiled. "Colonel Florence, Director Whiteshield, please follow me." He led them to a small room with lockers and a shower facility off to one side. Greg moved over to one of the lockers and opened it. "Colonel, we took the liberty to create a flight suit for you, would you please change." He turned to Director Whiteshield. "Sir, yours is over here by my locker."

Jolene and Bella had already begun to strip out of their uniforms, so the Director was a little distracted by their nudity. "You don't have separate dressing rooms?"

"No point to it, Sir," Bella replied as she stepped into her skin-tight flight suit.

Colonel Florence had been a little shy at first, but seeing that the girls weren't bothered, she shrugged and got undressed.

Greg had already taken his clothes off and had pulled up his suit; he put his arms through the sleeves, leaving only the place where a zipper should be but wasn't.

Director Whiteshield followed along and changed into the tight fitting suit, feeling a little self-conscious about his unfit and slightly over-weight body. He relaxed when no one paid him any attention at all.

When he got to the no zipper in front to close it, Greg helped him. "It's bio-reactive, Sir. Just press the edges together and the suit bonds to itself. When you want to take it off, you simply try to tear it at the neck."

"That's a handy way to do it," the Director replied. "You have three ships, why didn't you bring John with us?"

"So you will have a witness you trust that will see us fly away in those tiny ships you think are a joke," Greg replied as he handed the Director his helmet. "Don't forget this, Sir, you're going to need it."

Seeing that the rest of the group was ready, Greg led them back out to the sleds.

"Mr. Stapleton, I apologize for not including you in our demonstration, but we need you to stay here and make sure we are not trying to pull a fast one on anyone. Once we get in the sleds, I would like you and Jared to ride to the top with us, so you can see that we do indeed fly away in these small ships," Greg explained.

"I understand, Commander," John replied. "You really believe this don't you?"

Greg smiled again. "So will you in about five minutes."

Greg helped the Director get into the rear seat of his sled, while Bella did the same with the Colonel. The team mounted up, sealed their canopies, and Mandi activated the lift.

John Stapleton was right next to them the whole time and watched everything closely. Jared handed him a headset so he could hear the Rangers as well as their passengers.

"Mr. Stapleton, the hypersleds use a form of antigravity for atmospheric flight, so you won't need to worry about getting singed by rocket exhaust. However, when we do take off, the displacement of air could be damaging. Could you please step back to the edge of the platform to be safe?" Greg asked.

Outside the ships, Jared guided the man back.

"Okay, Control, we are clear and ready to rock. Ranger flight requesting launch clearance and exit vector," Greg called.

"Ranger flight, there is traffic in the area. Launch on heading two-zero degrees for twenty miles at five thousand. Turn to zero-niner-zero and proceed to heaven's gate. Launch when ready."

"Course set, we are launching!" Greg said and gently lifted the sled off its cradle. Outside the craft, John Stapleton's looked on in stunned disbelief. Greg moved the throttle forward and the small ship took off to the northeast gaining altitude as it went. The two other ships followed suit.

"Holy shit! Can you hear me Director?" John called.

"This is a hell of a ride, John!" the man replied.

"Sir, that little fucker is really what they said it is. You shot outta here like a bullet from a gun!" John replied. "Sir, I… I think they’re telling us the truth."

"Maybe; we're not in space yet," the Director replied. "As a pilot, what are your thoughts, Colonel?"

"There is no feeling of movement, Sir," Susan replied. "But if they are using AG as propulsion, there wouldn't be."

"We're taking you to the moon, to show you the base we are building there. You'll be able to get out and walk around for a little bit free of the gravity drive's influence. Once we are in orbit, I'll also shut the engines down so you can feel the weightlessness," Greg replied.

"We are not wearing space suits, how will we be able to walk on the moon?" the Colonel asked.

"The suit you are wearing will protect you from the vacuum as well as any radiation. That's the reason we had you put them on. We won't be staying very long, but we wanted you to see, with your own eyes, that this is very real," Greg explained. "Control, altering course for heaven's gate."

"Roger, proceed for orbital track, Lunar One course is set. Have a nice trip," Mandi replied.

"Thanks control, see ya in a few hours," Greg replied.

In very short order, Greg and the girls had their passengers in orbit. "Ranger One, this is Ranger Two, shutting down the gravity drive for a minute."

"Copy Two, we are too," Greg replied. "Ready, Mr. Director?"

"Yeah, go ahead," the man replied and was startled when he felt the change. "This is really amazing, Son. How long will it take us to get to the moon?"

"If we jumped there, about a half a second. But honestly, it's close enough to not even bother plotting a jump. Our flight time will be just over twenty-five minutes." Greg opened his com again. "Two, this is One, set course for the moon, we need to have our guest home before it gets too late."

"Roger, One. Re-engaging engines and ready when you are," Bella replied.

"Ranger Three is ready," Jolene replied.

"Okay ladies, let's get it on the road. Cruise formation, speed point four," Greg ordered.

After the girls acknowledged the order, the Director asked. "Point four? Is that a setting or a speed?"

"That's a setting, point four C would be a little too fast for this trip," Greg replied.

"Just how fast are these ships, Son?" the Director asked.

"I can't answer that directly, Sir. The physics that we know and understand don't apply very well to these craft. They do have faster than light capability, and we could survive in here indefinitely. However, there is a relativity issue on longer missions. The last mission we were on took a little over five hours for us, while on Earth, almost four days passed."

Lunar transfer orbit

Lunar Base Build Site

Grimaldi Ridge

Ocean of Storms

Selene, Earth's Moon

Twenty minutes later, Greg, the girls, and their passengers were circling the site selected for the building of the lunar base. There wasn't that much to see since most of the work was being done below the surface. What could be seen was a small dome next to the frame of a much larger dome. As they came in for a gentle landing near the domes, a drone could be seen welding something on the big dome.

"Son, just how large is this base going to be?" the Director asked.

"Larger than the one we have on planet, Sir. We wanted to make sure that those that we brought up here would be able to bring their families and loved ones. This is going to be our main off-planet facility; as such it will need living facilities for multiple races as well as massive amounts of storage for cargo. There will most likely be a small ship building facility here as well as a training academy. It will need to be able to support all other major construction projects that will be in our system." While Greg spoke, the small ships had landed. "Shall we take a walk and check it out, Sir?"

"Certainly. This is all truly amazing, Commander. It's just hard to believe you've built all of this with just the money we've given you," the Director said as Greg helped the older gentleman out of the ship.

"Actually, Sir, the only place we've used any money was down on Earth. Most of the money we've been given is just sitting in an account because we haven't needed it yet." Greg reached up and caught the Director's arm as he launched himself trying to take a normal step. "Careful, Sir! Remember, this isn't Earth’s gravity!"

Greg saw that the Colonel was doing much better, but both Bella and Jolene were helping her.

"Ho-lee-shit!" Director Whiteshield replied as Greg pulled him back down, but he was chuckling. "Thanks Commander."

"Think of it as like walking on the bottom of a lake, Sir. Only underwater you'd actually seem lighter," Greg explained.

"Yeah, I think I got it. How are you doing over there, Colonel?" the Director asked.

"Pretty good, Sir. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure we really are on the moon," Susan replied.

"Oh, I'm convinced, Colonel. I'm just going to enjoy the rest of this tour before I let the rest of the implications ruin my day," Director Whiteshield replied.

"Sir, I think Agent Danielson was more accurate when he said it would ruin your entire year. Although, I think it's going to be much, much longer," Susan replied.

"I think you're probably correct, Colonel. Commander, how much of this base is actually finished?" Director Whiteshield asked. "There doesn't really seem to be much here."

The 'small' dome they had seen was actually about as big as a city block. The larger dome, when finished would easily cover nine city blocks.

"Enough that we can evacuate our entire Earth facility up here, including everyone's families, if we need to," Greg replied but quickly changed the subject. "The smaller dome has been built for what surface agencies we'll need. Traffic control, communications, tracking, and even some research areas for those that study astrophysics and the like.  The larger dome that is being built will actually be able to open up to allow a large freighter to land. A large, hollow bay has been built under us for the storage and servicing of visiting craft, as well as the handling of cargo and passengers.

"We do not consider this base to be part of the military defense, instead, we feel it more of a civilian facility to support the needs of the military operations in our system. The purely military parts of this base will be built some distance from here yet be accessible via an underground tram. The military base will have its own space facilities, but as yet none of it has been built."

"I just can't say it enough, Commander; this is all truly amazing," Director Whiteshield replied.

"I bet when you got out of bed this morning, you never thought you'd be walking on the moon today, Sir," Bella said cheekily.

"You got that right, Major! You have most definitely blown my socks off," Director Whiteshield replied. "Can we go down into the base, Commander?"

"Not currently, Sir. I'm sorry. For safety reasons, Abraxis doesn't like running his heavy drones in close proximity to living beings," Jolene replied. "I've seen those monsters work. They are amazing devices, Sir, but being in close proximity to it while it’s working just wouldn't be good."

"We can't go down in the base, but we can go in the command dome. None of the equipment is ready for use yet, but the dome has been sealed and filled with atmosphere. It might be a little cold, but we should be okay for a short visit," Greg said as he led the small group over to one of the emergency airlocks built into the side of the smaller dome.


Command Dome

Lunar Base

Selene, Earth's Moon

Sol System

Greg opened the airlock and all five of them entered the brightly lit lock. Once inside, Greg closed the door and ordered the lock to cycle.

"How cold is it in there, Commander?" Susan asked.

Greg checked the inner lock controls. "It says that the internal temperature is at negative fifty-nine degrees Fahrenheit. The atmosphere is breathable, but you might not want to leave your helmet off for long in that temperature."

"Wait, we're heavy again!" Director Whiteshield said.

"The base has been built with gravity generators in the floor, Sir. Prolonged exposure to lower gravity would be physically bad for humans as well as most of our human-like allies. So, we either build in gravity generators, or we rotate people out of here every six months. That wouldn't be feasible, so we have the gravity," Greg shrugged. "Abraxis said it's actually common practice when building in radically different environments."

The lock’s inner door slid open, and the group exited into a large curved hallway. "This hallway goes all the way around the base of the dome. There are four sets of lifts and stairs spaced equidistant around the dome. As you can see, there are windows as well as benches. Think of this as a sealed sidewalk. The door over there leads to a future astrological research area. The tracking and control center access is on the far side of the dome. It's a special lift that goes up to the top two floors of the dome. The floor below that is equipment and computers because of the command center. The floors below that will be occupied by the various departments I mentioned earlier," Greg finished.

Director Whiteshield left his helmet on, but Susan took hers off right after Jolene took hers off.

"You're brave, Colonel! I'm from a warm state!" the Director said.

"She can't hear you, Sir. Hang on," Jolene replied and looked at Susan. "The Director was speaking to you, Colonel. You'll need to replace your helmet to hear him."

"You have your helmet off too, how did you know?" Susan asked.

"Rangers have their communicators physically implanted in our bodies. They can't be taken or damaged during combat as easily," Jolene replied as she replaced her helmet.

Susan shook her head and replaced her own helmet, which immediately resealed to her suit. "I'm sorry, Sir. What did you ask me?"

"I was only commenting on how brave you were. I'm from a warm state, the air here has to be brutally cold," the man replied.

"Oh, it's pretty damn cold. I would have had to put my helmet back on soon anyway just to prevent frostbite. I hope it's a lot warmer up here before people start arriving!" Susan replied.

Greg chuckled. "It will be. Once a section is finished, the environmental controls are set to seventy-two degrees."

"The moon, especially the far side, has a lot of asteroid strikes. How are you going to protect these domes from being breached?" the Colonel asked.

"Force fields and what amount to be point defense weapons," Greg replied. "There will be many hidden defensive weapons systems built into the lunar surface near this base, but there will also be several small weapons systems whose sole purpose is to shoot and destroy any object that would impact the domes."

"Just asteroids?" Director Whiteshield asked.

"Any object not approved for approach, Sir," Greg replied. "Space is a dangerous place. It’s very easy to get killed up here. We'd like to limit as many of those opportunities as possible, at least for the occupants of our bases."

The Director looked at the wonders around him. "I think we should probably head back now, Commander. For the record, and in spite of what is to come, I want you to know that you have granted a lifelong dream I'd believed I'd never experience. I appreciate it more than I could ever tell you."

Greg smiled. "I'm glad for that. To use your own words, Sir; in spite of what is to come, I want you to know that my only interest is the protection and continuation of the human race and its allies."

"That much is very clear to me, Son. I will do what I can to make sure you are not branded a traitor. You might be a lot of things, Commander, but that is not one of them. You understand what's coming then?" Whiteshield asked.

"Yes Sir, that's the main reason this base was built. To get our people and their families to safety so they cannot be used against us. I'd hoped that wouldn't be necessary though; you only know part of the whole story so far. We needed you to know we are for real before we ask you the question we need to ask before we send you back to Grand Junction," Greg said. “Now, it's time for you to know and understand our plan. I know you'll have to do what you can to take as much of this tech away from us as you can, but it simply isn't going to happen, Sir. We already know how that will turn out, and I'll destroy it all myself before one megabyte of advanced tech is transferred to you."

"Well, you know I don't agree with you. But, like I said, let's return to… what did you call it? Prometheus Base? Aptly named, by the way; the bringer of knowledge to humanity." Director Whiteshield replied.

Greg put his hand on the Director's shoulder. "Please, Sir, don't make me give the order to kill our own people."

"Don't worry Son, you won't," Director Whiteshield smiled calmly.

Greg put his hand to the side of his helmet. "Prometheus Command, this is Ranger One."

"Command here, go ahead Ranger One," Jarad's voice replied. All five of the group could hear it.

"Command, we are returning to base. Please prepare for Exodus and set security level Brown-Two," Greg replied.

"I was afraid of that, Commander. Brown-Two will be set in three minutes. When would you like Exodus to begin?" Jarad asked.

"When our VIP's depart. I still have hopes to avoid the obvious mess," Greg said.

"Agent Danielson, this is Director Whiteshield. You are to secure that entire facility immediately. Order General Hollister to assemble his Marines and secure all research being done there. Tell John he is to order a Majestic response to your base immediately. I know she is your daughter, but Captain Adams is to be placed under protective custody pending transportation to…"

"No Sir." Jarad replied.

"Excuse me?" Whiteshield replied.

"Two things, Sir. The first is that you do not have all the information yet. The second is that the fucking corporations that control the government are not going to get their hands on this tech. The American Government is not going to use this tech to take over the rest of the planet, because it is not going to get this tech, period. Sir, with respect, you can help us prevent the destruction of our planet, or you can get the hell out of our way. But understand, this technology is not yours and will never be yours; the Rangers serve the entire planet, not just one government. General Hollister, the Marines, the scientists serving here, and their entire families all understand and agree with this.

"We had a pretty good idea about what would happen when you discovered what we were really doing out here, and we prepared for it. We knew that you would basically ignore the entire alien threat and try to claim the equipment. Or you would ignore the fact that, as we mentioned in your earlier briefing, in order for these ships to work effectively, they had to have a specific genetic profile as an operator. I disagreed with Greg about asking for your help, but he is the commander here and will remain so," Jarad replied.

"I see," Director Whiteshield replied.

"Sir, just listen to the rest of the information we have for you before you decide to try to take over everything. You just might see that we're already doing it the right way," Jarad said.



"It would appear I have little choice in the matter," Director Whiteshield replied. "So I will listen, but I don't see how you are going to change my mind."

"That's all we ask, Sir," Greg said as he closed the airlock door and led Whiteshield back to the sled.

Prometheus Base

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

It was past lunchtime when the group had returned from the moon. So Greg and the girls invited the group to the common area of their apartments to share a meal and begin the 'discussions' that everyone knew were coming. The move threw the agency people off their game but not for long.

"Okay Commander, give me just one good reason why we're not going to take over here," Director Whiteshield said.

"There are a couple of reasons, Sir, but the most important is that if we are not allowed to remain free and do our jobs, the human race will be extinct in approximately two years. Here's why…" Greg began and explained the entire situation the Rangers now found themselves in. "We can get the other Ranger teams and their people to cooperate with us, but a certain amount of trade will have to be made in order to show good faith.

"We have the knowledge and a plan to protect the entire sector from the Drellians. However, that plan requires us to be free, and it requires the help of our allies. In order to do that, we will need to help at least one of them. The others might or might not require assistance in some way, but what I do know about right now is that one of our allies has a severe food shortage caused by a natural disaster. That's why I need your help with the President. I need to have the resources to hammer out a trade agreement.

"Now, before you blow that off as not having any solid proof, which I admit you don’t, there are other reasons to leave us free." Greg paused to take a drink of his soda.

"The other main reason is the one I told you about. Simply put, I'll destroy this entire base before I let it fall into the hands of, or under the control of, a single government. I would entertain a cooperative form of governing from the UN, but only if we still retained over-all control. Based on documented past experiences, none of the governments on this planet can be trusted with this technology. You'd take it to Area 51 or someplace like that, tear it down, and try to figure out how it works. Then you'll mass produce them, but keep them strictly for the United States forces because you can't trust your allies with this level of technology. At that point, you'll immediately take over the Middle Eastern oil fields. North Korea has been an increasing pain in the ass to the US for years, so they would be quickly dealt with, but you wouldn't stop there since China has been expanding their influence onto islands and territories well out into the Pacific Ocean. You'll use that as an excuse to overthrow the last stronghold of communism left on the planet. Very soon, the entire planet will be under the domination of the supposedly 'free' nation of America.

"Believing yourselves to be invincible, the Drellians will arrive shortly after that. You'll ignore their demands for your surrender while you prepare your forces to engage these invaders in the atmosphere because your pilots can't control the ships in space.

"The Drellians will respond with kinetic strikes using meteors from the asteroid belt and antimatter missiles to reduce the surface of the planet to a frozen wasteland not capable of sustaining human life. Meanwhile the other planets in our sector will also be destroyed as a means of locating and destroying Abraxis. They will completely sterilize this entire sector for the simple reason that we have the knowledge and the potential to eventually destroy them."

Greg held up his hands to forestall the denials that no one would really believe. "Now, for the sake of argument, let's say you did take the threat of the Drellians seriously and somehow managed to build a sufficient force to defend Earth from destruction this time. The first thing you would do would be to get control of the other sentient races in our sector because you'd need a sufficient labor force to build the ships you'd need to take other sectors away from the Drellians. You succeed and manage to create a sustainable, effective counter to the Drellian threat. Each of the 'allies' we gained by taking control over their planets, for their own good of course, has to have a human force on planet in order to 'maintain peace'.

"In the span of fifty years we will have removed the threat of the Drellian Dominion and replaced it with the Terran Dominion," Greg finished.

Director Whiteshield shrugged. "What's wrong with that? I don't see a problem with a star spanning Human Empire."

"The very fact that you can't see the problem with that is complete and utter proof that you cannot be allowed to have access to, or control of, this tech," Greg explained. "You don't see the forced enslavement of other races as a bad thing."

"Hold on, who said anything about enslavement?" John asked.

"What, you honestly think they are sitting out there simply waiting for us to come along so we can rule them?" Greg asked. "No, I stand by my decision. None of the governments on this planet are… mature enough to use this technology responsibly."

"So you're telling me that a twenty-year-old, civilian, honor student is more mature than the entire United States Government?" Director Whiteshield asked.

"Sir, with respect, when speaking of the U.S. Government as an entity, I am telling you a spoiled twelve-year old is more mature," Greg replied. "Individual people in the government, possibly; but in groups or as a whole, no Sir. You are the head of an intelligence agency, you have to know how badly the people of this country feel about our current leadership. Most of the people feel that the current seated leadership is too corrupt to do the job for which they were supposedly elected. I say supposedly, because there is doubt that current electoral methods are accurate and trustworthy. Simply put, the average citizen of the United States believes that their government is no longer effective, nor do they feel they were elected in a fair and impartial manner. It is a widely held belief that no one is truly free either. Personal rights mean nothing here.

"For example, what you are telling me you are going to do is a direct violation of our personal rights. By law, we own all of this. It is our property, yet you would seize it for no other reason than you want it. How is that even close to fair? In fact, if a private individual or company did that, it would be called theft, unless it was being stolen for the U.S. Government."

"It isn't theft; it's Eminent Domain. You have something that is a benefit to the nation as a whole. That gives the nation not only the right, but also the duty to seize it for use by the nation for the good of the nation. As for the rest of the conspiracy crap you pointed out, not one bit of that is true…" Director Whiteshield began, but Sharon interrupted him.

"With respect Sir, remember who you're talking to. We're not like the average rubes off the street. We know at least some of the truth of our nation. Denying it only makes you look foolish."

Director Whiteshield looked thoughtful while John was about to tear into her for talking to the Director like that. The Director stopped him. "She's right, John. I underestimated them. Look Commander, we have thousands of pilots far more qualified for this type of combat…"

"Excuse me Sir, but how could they be qualified on something that, until now, didn't exist?" Greg asked. "You're still overlooking the small matter that each pilot you have would have to have the specific genetic make-up of a Ranger in order to even get the sled to function properly. So, no, you do not have anyone more qualified, or Abraxis would have known about it already. Sir, we can counter every single argument you will make because the best possible situation is right here, right now. I will never do anything that will allow this tech to be transferred to the planet. I will share it with people I can trust to do the tasks that need to be done and nothing else."

"So, what will you do if I refuse to help you?" the Director asked.

"The first part of that has already begun. This base is sealed, its weapons and defenses are both active. If we do not have an agreement before you depart, we will destroy this base and move our operations to the moon. We will publicly ask for assistance from all nations in the form of manpower as well as the needed trade materials. Simply put, we will ignore the governments and appeal directly to the people. You have no weapons that can threaten our craft when we return to the planet to retrieve them. Honestly, we don't actually need you, but we would rather work with your blessing than do what we need to do in spite of it."

"If we were to oppose you and move to prevent you from abducting American citizens, what would be your response?" Director Whiteshield asked.

"You want to know if we would declare war on you or the United States. No. Our job is to protect you, not to kill you ourselves, no matter how stupid you are being. We would use the minimum required force to ensure the safety of innocent people. Death by stupidity will not be blamed on us," Greg replied. "We will warn your troops not to fire their weapons when there is a shield present because they would most likely only hit themselves with a ricochet. We will ignore a national edict prohibiting the recruitment of citizens because that decision is one that should be made by the individual, not an uncaring government that is only throwing a temper tantrum."

Director Whiteshield chuckled at that comment. "What, exactly, do you want us to do for you?"

"Simple, Sir, I would like to speak to the President and I would like you to sponsor that meeting. I need a substantial amount of a certain commodity. I will leave it up to her if we should approach the United Nations for that commodity or if she would be willing to supply it, or at the least let us purchase it at current market value," Greg replied.

"How much and what do you need?" John asked. "Maybe we won't even need to talk to the President."

"We need about two million metric tons of soybeans and other tree and vine grown fruits and vegetables with the exception of tomatoes; they’re too acidic," Greg said, grinning. "I don't think you can get appropriations for that, do you?"

"That's a lot of food, Son. Can you tell me the situation you need it for?" the Director asked.

"Two local years ago, or about three of our years, the home planet of a race called the Greynus was struck by an asteroid. It was large enough to pretty much destroy food production in the southern hemisphere of their planet and greatly impact production in the north. They have already lost thousands due to starvation.

"As a race, they are exceptional structural engineers of all types of facilities. In order to successfully oppose the Drellians when they return, we will need to build several structures all over the sector. The Greynus would be the perfect choice to do the construction.

"According to our analysis, our soybeans are the perfect food source for them and they should find them to be very enjoyable to eat. We had also planned on using some of the soybeans as seed to teach them how to grow this crop using hydroponics, underground. The planetary emergency, if it continues to get worse, has the potential to become an extinction level event for them. They have yet to find another planet suitable for colonization," Greg explained.

"How do you plan to get the cargo to them?" the Director asked.

"Another race we are allied with already has a merchant fleet that could be called upon for the delivery. This would be a combined effort to save their race," Greg replied.

"So you've already worked out the deal?" the Director asked.

"No Sir, I haven't. In fact, I haven't mentioned it to anyone not part of this base. I wanted to have the goods before I agreed to provide them. I knew I would have difficulty convincing certain parties to either provide the needed materiel or to allow us to purchase it," Greg explained.

"That's the second time you have implied you could purchase the soybeans. Son, do you have any idea how much that will cost?" the Director asked.

"We have a pretty good idea, Sir. Do you know the price of Iridium or Platinum? How about Gold? We could even sell Helium-3, but we would be very careful about that. There are also several technological breakthroughs we could easily sell once we make ourselves public. I bet we could sell the hell out of our hydrogen automobile engine conversion kits, or the zero-point energy module for powering a household. Hell, even if we just stayed with our improved solar cell units we could make a killing," Greg said in a conversational way.

"Okay, okay, I get your point," Director Whiteshield replied. "If we try to seize this place, you'll destroy it and run to the moon. At which point you'll basically go public and circumvent us completely. Currently, you believe you have covered yourself well enough to prevent us from forcing you to surrender this facility and everything in it."

"Director, think about this; you've seen that we have advanced technology here. You've met the Artificial Intelligence we have at our disposal; you've even flown in our ships. Do you believe that even if we overlooked something, you would be able to force us to surrender to you?" Greg asked.

"With the right lever, you would move in the direction we need you to go," Director Whiteshield replied.

Greg looked the man directly in the eyes. "You mistakenly believe that I would surrender the lives of our entire race to prevent the murder of a few in order to enrich those in power. You would also like to know to what ends I would be willing to go in order to prevent you from doing said murders. Well, I have ways to make sure those operations are made public knowledge complete with live video footage and close-ups. We could very easily make your life a living hell, Sir. But I'd much rather you see the real picture here, just see what we're actually trying to do and support us because of that."

Director Whiteshield was quiet for a time being. "Would you be agreeable to helping us out from time to time?"

Before Greg could answer, Jarad jumped in. "Director, by 'helping you out', it would violate the neutrality we are trying to build. For now, our entire focus needs to be on getting the defenses we are going to need built. In the event of a global emergency, we would be willing to assist, providing we could, but other than that, no Sir. Doing otherwise would undermine our mission and purpose in the eyes of the rest of the world."

Prometheus Base

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

That night, when Jarad had returned from escorting his bosses back to their plane, the group once again met in the Ranger's apartment.

"So do you think he'll stick to his word?" Greg asked his parents.

Jarad smiled and replied, "What is your read on the situation?"

"He'll support us, but he'll still try to sneak someone in on us. Those agents will have orders to steal tech or find a way to force us under U.S. control," Greg replied.

Jarad nodded. But Sharon smiled at her son. "You're learning!"

"But what I really need to know is do we move our people or not?" Greg asked.

"I know at least half of them would like to go anyway Sir." Lionel replied. "We could always get them moved and offer it to the rest to see if they want to go as well."

"That might not be a bad idea," Greg replied. "It would be less people for us to worry about being used against us."

"The largest and easiest group to move is local to us here. All of the researchers’ and scientists’ families really want to go. We can start with them anytime, Sir," Lionel replied.

Greg nodded. "Abraxis? How's the base up there, is it ready for a few occupants?"

"Currently, the base can easily support up to five thousand humans. As you know, construction is still underway, but we could safely relocate those researchers that wish to go. That was the original plan for those individuals anyway, and moving them now would not significantly alter the time-line for the activation of the base," Abraxis replied from the speakers. "I have already returned the temperature in the command dome to normal settings. The environment in the residential areas is optimal for human habitation. Replicators can supply food stuffs, but as you know, it would be better if supplies were taken up."

Greg nodded. "Okay, let's get the people moving then. However, make damn sure everything is guarded and don't take any chances. We need to be aware that the Director will do everything he can think of to crash this party. I’ll visit the President three days from now to secure her support and cooperation. Failing that, we will have to go to the UN.

"The people going up to the base will set up shop to continue or expand their research and assist Abraxis' remotes in the construction of a few new small freighters capable of hauling cargo. We will slowly begin moving our operations up to the base, but for now, the team will operate from here.

"Sharon, could you find out if there is a warehouse complex we could lease or buy capable of servicing one of our small freighters? We'll use that as our main supply point. Try to make it as remote as possible, yet still capable of handling a large amount of cargo. I would imagine we’ll need more than one, since that will be a strategic weak point.

"Please try to keep an eye open for a facility we can use for loading the big bulk freighters with the supplies for the Greynus. We might have to modify that facility some in order to land and load those freighters, but we can talk to the Harclens about what their ships will need once we set all this up. Any comments, ideas, or changes anyone can think of?" Greg finished his summary.

"What are we going to do about StealthCon?" Emma Mays, Lionel’s second in command asked.

Lionel snorted. "I wouldn't worry about 'General Daddy'. He always lands on his feet in a clean uniform."

"Not this time," Jarad replied. "General Hollister's career is over. The agency knows they can't trust him so he will be retired. The real question will be the method of his retirement. Normally someone in his position would receive a visit from one of my less… sane, brothers. However, since he is connected to us, the agency might simply try to get him off to some place quiet and then retire him. We'll have to remove him from the equation. Greg, I suggest we make him the new moon base commander. Although he is a damn good officer in almost every way, his strength lies in his administrative ability."

Greg nodded, but turned to Lionel. "Captain, I know you and the General have a history, and there are issues there. Will my putting him in command of the moon facility piss you off?"

Lionel was quiet for a long moment, deep in thought. Finally, he sighed. "Abraxis, could you please see if the General has a moment for a call? I'd like to put an end to this."

"Certainly Captain. One moment please," Abraxis replied.

"Thank you," Lionel replied. "Greg, with your permission and knowing we are off duty after this meeting, would it be possible for me to get a beer? This juice just isn't cutting it anymore."

"Actually, it's getting close to supper time. Would anyone object to joining us for dinner? I can ask the chef to make some pizza for us?" Bella suggested and grinned at Lionel. "That beer sounded really good!"

"You know, I never thought anyone would be able to make a better pizza then the Pizza House back home," Emma replied. "That is until I tasted the pizza our cook’s make. I will never turn down an offer of one of their pizzas."

Everyone else agreed to stay for dinner and the formal meeting turned informal as everyone ordered their beverages from the replicator in the dining area of the apartment.

"Captain Washington, General Hollister is on the line for you. You may proceed when ready," Abraxis said from the room speakers.

"Before we get into that, Chef Karen said the pies would be ready in fifteen minutes and she will have them brought over," Bella said. "Sorry Lionel, go ahead."

Lionel nodded to Bella. "Thanks Bella, please connect him Abraxis."

"This is General Hollister, what can I do for you folks tonight?" Carl asked.

"General Hollister, this is Captain Washington. Actually Sir, I asked for the call. If it is alright with you, Sir, I would like to get something off my chest. It's becoming an issue with my duty and that is a luxury I do not believe I can afford any longer," Lionel said.


"I think it's safe to say I don't mind. I've been waiting for this for a very long time. I can't try to fix whatever is wrong if I have no idea what it is," Carl replied.

"I'm sure you don't know. In fact, I'm sure you don't know anything about me. The part that actually surprised me is that you have everyone believing that you want to know!" Lionel said angrily.

"What are you talking about, Lionel? I always wanted to know! I wanted to be part of your life, but your mother didn't want to be married to the military!" Carl replied.

"Bullshit! Don't give me that 'poor me' routine; it won't work with me. Mom told me how she waited and waited for you to come back, but you never did. She told me that years later, when her parents told us that they knew you had a son because they had made sure to tell the military to attach your pay! We knew then that you didn't want anything to do with us!" Lionel said.

"Wait! That's not what happened! Your mother and I had been dating for almost a year when I decided to ask her to be my wife. We had a little fight because she thought I had cheated on her, but before we could get back together, I was served with a restraining order accusing me of beating her up!" Carl replied. "The MP's arrested me while they investigated but released me when they discovered that she had been beaten by her own father! I never found out why that asshole had done it, and I still couldn't do anything about it because the civilian restraining order was still in place. I even asked a police officer to escort me to a place where I could speak to her and make sure nothing bad happened. When he tried to arrange it, he brought back a handwritten note from Jenna's parents. In it I was told that Jenna wanted nothing more to do with me and I was forbidden from attempting to contact her ever again.

"My police friend and I went to Jenna's work only to find out her father had called in to tell her boss she would not be returning. Smelling that something was not right, my police friend went to your grandparent’s house to speak to Jenna directly to make sure all of this was really her and not just her parents.

"The long and the short of it was that no one was allowed to speak to Jenna because she was too 'distraught' over her 'ordeal' with me. The court order stood and I was cut off from the woman I loved. Until I had heard she passed away, I kept in contact with that police department and made damn sure they knew how to find me if she had ever asked. Two years later, your grandparent's attorney informed me that you had been born. No demand for child support was made, no contact information was offered, not even a picture. I got nothing else.

"I set up the child support payments for you and had them sent to the child welfare office in your hometown. I set up a scholarship for you to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, but had it transferred to Annapolis when I found out you had joined the Marines. I would have tried to contact you then, but I had no idea what to say to you," Carl finished. "Son, I was blocked at every turn from you and your mother."

"How can you say that? Grandpa told me how we had to move away because Mom refused to give me up and she wasn't married. He told me about how hard it had been on Mom and me trying to get by on the tiny bit of money we could get out of the Air Force. Mom had to work two jobs just to make ends meet for us! I hardly ever got to see her! She worked herself to death because of what you did! Grandpa Bill told me she cried herself to sleep every night until she died over you! You fucking murdered her!" Lionel accused.

In the silence that followed, Abraxis spoke. "Police records in Columbus, Georgia from twenty three years ago show a case of aggravated assault on one Jenna Washington. The case is still open, and the notes from the investigator say that the Air Force had refused to continue the investigation due to a lack of evidence and the fact that the assault in question happened several hours after Miss Washington and Airman Hollister had parted. Although Carl Hollister is listed as the main person of interest in the case, no charges were ever filed due to a lack of evidence or testimony from the victim.

"Records of the Columbus Child Protective Services agency indicate payment initiated by the Air Force on behalf of Hollister, Carl A, Airman First Class, were received and directly deposited into the account of Bill and Helen Washington. I have found deposit records for every month of your life corresponding to almost ninety thousand dollars. In addition to that, the United States Air Force had you listed as a dependent, which authorized you free medical care, as well as allowing your family to shop at any military base exchange. There is a record of a dependent ID being issued in your name…"

"Hold it Abraxis! Grandpa said the Air Force only allowed a dependent payment of fifty dollars. How could there be that much money? If there was, where did it go?" Lionel asked. "I don't mean to argue with you, but I never had a military ID card until I joined the Marines."

Several military IDs appeared on the large screen TV in the room. "Are these images of you?" Abraxis asked.

"Uh, y… yeah, they are, but I don't remember taking them. Wait - Grandpa would take me to Camp Lejeune every few years and have them do a bunch of stuff. He said it was so his retirement would take care of me if he passed away before I turned eighteen." Lionel replied.

"William Washington served seven years in the United States Marines. He did receive the Purple Heart during a tour of duty in Viet Nam, but did not retire from the military and did not receive retirement benefits other than those awarded him for his service in Viet Nam.

"William Washington does have an extensive police record for domestic disturbances and spousal abuse. However, no charges were ever filed for those offenses. He is listed as the main person of interest in the death of Helen Washington, which has been moved to a cold case archive. Wilmington, North Carolina records show that a request was made by investigators for the medical records of Jenna Washington. The request was denied citing the case as being cold and all interested parties as deceased," Abraxis replied. "Carl's payroll records indicate that he paid out four hundred dollars a month for the time he indicated. Evidence shows that so far, the General is telling the truth."

"I know you looked up to him, Lionel, but Bill Washington was a gruff, scary bastard when I knew him. I admit I didn't get to know him all that well, but it sounds like he really screwed the both of us," Carl said gently.

"But why? Why would he even want to? What was it to him?" Lionel said. "I never saw him lift a hand to anyone my whole life. Sure, he got mad, but he didn't hit anyone!"

"Just because he didn't do it in front of you doesn't mean he didn't do it, Lionel," Jarad said. "From the sound of his police record, he had your grandmother pretty cowed. She wouldn't press charges against him."

"I don't blame her! Back then, if she would have done something like that, he would have spent the night in jail, come home the next day, and make damn sure she changed her story. Abuse victims back then had little to no protection. Most still don't," Sharon said.

Lionel was quiet a long time. "You didn't really abandon us did you, General?"

"No, I didn't, Son. If I had a clue it was as bad as it sounds like it was, I swear I would have come and kidnapped both of you. I would have done everything in my power to get you and Jenna out of that situation," Carl replied. "Did your Mom ever date anyone else?"

"I think so, but no one I ever met. I do remember over hearing Grandma helping mom once. I think Mom had just lost a baby because Grandma was telling her it was for the best considering who the father had been." Lionel replied.

"Oh gods!" Mandi said softly.

"What?" Sharon asked, thinking there was something wrong with her daughter.

Mandi looked at her mother in concern. "Mom, think about what Lionel just said and keep in mind that Bill was an abusive man."

"None of that matters anymore," Carl replied. "What matters is that Lionel knows what happened. Son, if you would like, I'll make some calls and get that investigation reactivated. But if you would rather just let matters go, we can do that too. I'll leave it up to you."

"Let me think about it, General. I… I have a lot I need to think about," Lionel replied.

Greg took a deep breath. "If you will all forgive me, and since Lionel needs time to think about this, I'm going to change the subject.

“General, Jarad and Sharon tell me they believe your life may be in danger now. The first shuttle will be leaving for the lunar facility in the next couple of days. You have a seat on that shuttle."

"Yeah, I figured that old Indian, Whiteshield, might not be too keen on letting me stay where I am. Do you honestly think they’d try to take me out Jarad?" Carl asked.

"Yeah, one way or another, you're going to be retired. I would suggest you grab some clothes and move into the guest quarters down here until that launch is ready. You might want to do it as soon as we get off the line, the order could very easily have already been issued. I know it has been for both Sharon and myself," Jarad replied.



"General Hollister, I'll have four of our Marines at your residence in thirty-five minutes…" Emma Mays began when Jolly cut her off.

"Emma, you can send them to get his stuff, but why don't I go pick him up in a sled? If they're going to try to assassinate him, four Marines would not stop them and could just get more people killed," Jolene said.

"I'll go," Greg replied.

Jolly shook her head. "Nope, you've had a beer. I had soda; sorry, Greg."

"The Ranger Finder is correct. Operational regulations prohibit the standard operation of the hypersleds within two hours of the ingestion of an alcoholic beverage. Both the Ranger Fighter as well as the Ranger Pilot have consumed beverages containing a restricted substance," Abraxis cited.

Greg smiled but nodded. "Okay, you win Jolene. Carl, Jolene will be there to get you as soon as she gets changed and launched."

"I don't have a flight suit," Carl replied.

"We're not going into space, Sir. You should be fine for this short trip," Jolene replied as she stood and made for the door. "See you in a few minutes, General."

Amanda and Jarad got up to follow her. "We'll take the command center while she's out."

White House

Washington D.C.

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

Director Whiteshield did as promised and got Greg in to see the President and made sure she knew who and what he was. He did tell her that he had no independent confirmation of the situation Greg brought to her, but all things considered, how would he? However, having him help get Greg into see the President did nothing that actually helped the Rangers. The President had never heard of the Mederos Incident, or StealthCon.  While she had been told of the MILNet hack, she believed it to have been a domestic hacker that the FBI was still looking for. Like the rest of the nation, she had blown off the 'UFO Murders' as sensationalist hype.

When Greg went in to see the President, she was completely unprepared for him.

"Wait a second, young man. This whole story is just a little far-fetched for me to believe it. I do trust Director Whiteshield when he tells me that you are indeed some self-appointed guardian of the planet, but if even half of what you tell me is true, why haven't I heard about it before now?" the President asked.

"Madam President, I cannot tell you why you have not been briefed on the Mederos Incident. The completed report should have connected the other incidents associated with that action, but they did happen. As for our battle with the Drellian team, all I can offer are the flight logs from our ships translated for Earth equipment to view. However, that very act of translation would kill any credibility they had for you.

"I could have a flight suit made for you and take you to the moon like I did for Director Whiteshield, but I really don't believe your Secret Service detail would appreciate that. While I can prove who and what I am, I cannot prove the veracity of the threat now facing the planet. Drellians don't simply show-up when we want them and we don't believe there will be any major attacks in this sector for some time to come due to the destruction of their Rangers in the last battle.

"Still, we do need help to prepare for their return. That's why I've come here today, to try to enlist your aid."

"How am I supposed to take this, Commander? The only proof you can offer me is video from your equipment that is, by your own admission, not trustworthy. So I will ask one more time, why are you wasting my time?" the President asked.

"Madam President, I did not say it wasn't trustworthy, I said it wouldn't have any credibility for you since it would have to be processed. I can promise that every frame would be the absolute truth, but you would only have my word on that."

"Give the data to Director Whiteshield's folks. Let them translate it," the woman offered.

"With respect, we can't. In its raw form, our data is not compatible with Earth's computer systems. The Alliance Technology that recorded it is more organically based. Even to give the data to you it would have to be manipulated to some degree. If you would like that, I can order it to be done immediately." Greg turned to Director Whiteshield. "I could ask Agent Danielson to verify its authenticity for you."

"We'll accept the data of course, but Agent Danielson has been declassified. He no longer has any standing in the community," Director Whiteshield replied. "I think this joke has gone on long enough. Greg Albright, you are hereby under arrest for eight separate violations of the National Security Act." While he spoke, several large men entered the oval office and surrounded Greg and the President.

The Director turned to the President and nodded to her. "Madam President, thank you for your assistance in this matter. We will take care of the young man from here."

She nodded. "That's fine, Gerry. But I want to be kept in the loop on this; none of the normal secrecy bullshit that you are so famous for. I don't say much about most of it, and you know it; but this one, I want to be part of; do you hear me, Gerry? I want to know everything."

"Of course Madam President, I'll make sure you get all the reports I do," the Director replied.

The President nodded. "Good and I want a copy of this 'Mederos Incident' report he was talking about; the whole report, not the sanitized ones you normally give me. If there is anything to his story, we'll need to be ready for it."

"I'll make the call, Madam." He looked at his gorillas that had tried to grab Greg. "Well? Grab him, what's wrong with you?"

Greg just stood there smiling sadly and shaking his head.

"Sir, we can't touch him. It's like there is some kind of shield surrounding him," one of the men said.

"Gerry, I told you I wouldn't let you do something like this. You also told me you wouldn't. So, I guess we know what your word is worth," Greg said and turned back to face the President. "Madam President, I am truly sorry for your decision. I do hope that in the coming days you will understand that you left us no choice in our actions."

"That sounds very ominous young man, remember who you're speaking to," the President replied, angrily.

"As I told Director Whiteshield, Ma'am, our job is to protect Earth and the people living on it. We will not harm anyone if we can avoid it. This situation is a good example; what would be the point in hurting anyone? Whether you like it or not Wilma," Greg used the President's name to try to bring her down a peg. "We have a job to do, and we will do it to the best of our ability.

"We cannot afford to let the greed of petty provincial governments block us from it. We would have liked your assistance, but if all you will offer are lies and deceit, we will make do without your help. You want proof, I'm telling you the truth; just wait until the Drellian fleet arrives. But by then it'll be too late because they won't even try to negotiate. They will attack without ever getting close enough to Earth for you to even think about defending yourselves. They can simply sit out at the asteroid belt and launch rocks at you until the surface of this planet looks like the moon."

"Why will they do that Commander?" the President asked, countering him. "What possible use would it do these Drellians to destroy this planet? Could it be that it's because you attacked them without even asking anyone if you should? Did you give any government on this planet the chance to reach a peaceful resolution? No you did not! Because of that, if what you say is true, we are now facing annihilation if and when they return. How dare you?" She spoke angrily to him. "How dare you presume to speak for the rest of our race by taking an action that unilaterally placed us at direct odds with an alien force that is superior to us in both technology and numbers? It is because of your actions, Commander!"

"Madam President, the Drellians attacked us first. There was no attempted contact; there was no attempt at a peaceful resolution. There was the blatant destruction of a public educational institution that killed innocent American citizens. If not for my team and I, they would have nuked entire cities by now searching for one young woman," Greg replied calmly, when she opened her mouth to counter that he stopped her.

"No, I listened to you, now it's my turn. You accuse me of unilaterally attacking a foreign power without authorization. I defended the people of this planet from a hostile power that proved they would stop at nothing, murdering as many people as necessary in order to ensure the death of one innocent girl who had no idea she was different in any way.

"No one on this planet has the capability to counter this threat. We do. Yes, I could have immediately surrendered everything to you as soon as we learned of it, but with every day that passes and every action this government takes, it proves the reason I didn't simply surrender this technology.

"I know who has really been running this nation since the end of World War II Madam President. I know beyond a doubt, that if I had surrendered the technology you are now trying to steal, you would take it to Area 51 or White Sands and try to reverse engineer it. Then you would mass produce it and arm our troops with it. You would then simply take over the rest of the planet, completely ignoring the threat of the Drellians. Our planet would become a race of slaves to the ruling powers long before the Drellians could arrive. Which would at least make the transition easier for our people.

"No, I will work with the people of the planet Madam President, but your actions today have proven to me once and for all that governments cannot be trusted. I should tell you that my advisers warned me that trying to enlist your aid was a mistake. I should have listened to them. We really don't need you; it would have been good to be able to work with you instead of without you, but it was never a requirement.

"So, go ahead and read the reports your intelligence people decided you didn't need to see. Then do whatever you feel you need to do. We will simply continue on with our plans as if the decision to approach you had never been made. I'm sure you'll discover you can call me whenever you wish. Good luck and good bye, Madam President," Greg finished. He picked up his helmet and took a step towards the door.

"If you think you're leaving here, you're sadly mistaken, kid!" one of the agents standing next to him said as he pulled out his gun.

"Are you really going to risk a ricochet from your weapon hitting the President?" Greg replied to the man. "You can't even touch me, but you think your gun will hurt me? You rode the short bus as a kid didn't you?" Greg turned for the door and several agents moved to blocked it.

Using his martial arts training, Greg used the minimum amount of force needed to disable them thus clearing the door. As he opened it, he turned back to Director Whiteshield. "As you already know, General Hollister is safe as are the families of all of our people, including the Marines we have guarding us. We did that without hurting anyone," Greg said smiling. "Oh, I will be asking the United Nations for a few observers and at least two security analysts. I'll make sure to ask them not to select anyone from the United States. By the way, you should call a medic for that gentleman," Greg pointed to one of the men on the floor. "I had to break his arm to get him to move." Greg said and put his helmet on. When it sealed, he opened the control panel on his left forearm, triggered the cloaking screen on the suit then stepped back into the office and closed the door. He quickly moved over to the door exiting out to the rose garden. Then simply stood there, listening.

"Fuck!" Director Whiteshield said. "All units, we have a cloaked intruder on the grounds. Retrieval team, have you gotten that ship loaded yet?" he said into the microphone in his left cuff.

He listened for a moment, and then swore again. "I don't give a damn what you have to do, get that ship on that truck! And double your goddamned guards! He's on his way back there right now and he's most likely invisible. Do not let him leave in that ship, do you understand me?" he replied in a threatening voice.

"Gerry, what the hell are we getting ourselves into here? Is he for real? Are we facing the threat he was talking about?" the President asked.

"Honestly, I don't know. Like he said, he can't offer any proof. However, I believe he's telling the truth. He invited myself and a couple of my senior officers out to Utah and gave us a tour. He did take one of my people and myself up to the moon. He's telling the truth as far as he knows it. As far as what he told you about the events on this planet, every scrap of evidence we can find supports what he told you. So I have to believe this Drellian threat is a real and viable one. That being said, we need to get this technology so we can prepare to fight them. The longer it takes, the less chance we have," Gerry explained.

"What about working with him? Would that give us access to the tech?" Wilma asked.

Gerry shook his head. "Not in any way we could use ourselves. We simply don't have a lot of choices here, Madam President. We have to secure this technology at any cost and we have to do it quickly."

"You don't believe this 'Commander' is capable of protecting the planet? It sounded like he has a plan, did he share it with you?" Wilma asked.

"Other than a little martial arts, he's had no other real training at all. He does have a group of pretty talented people working with him and he obviously has some natural ability as a pilot and as a leader. However, I can't believe he should be allowed to do this without our control and guidance. Personally, I don't think he should be involved at all; he's a civilian," Gerry replied.

"As for his plan, it involves allying himself with other races in our sector of space. These races apparently have their own 'Ranger Teams' but little else in the form of defenses at all. It seems to be the norm to rely solely on these Rangers for their protection. I just can't understand how three small fighter craft could protect an entire planet; that just isn't realistic.

"His plan was to secure your assistance in getting trading items in order to enlist the aid of these other races. One of which is in danger of starvation because of a planetary ecological disaster. He wanted to give them a large quantity of soybeans and teach them how to grow them in underground hydroponics facilities.

"That race would build the needed facilities for this alliance all over the sector. Another race, as their part of the agreement would provide transportation of the goods. There is more to the plan, as well as other races involved, but that's all he told me about. He doesn't even have diplomats to negotiate these treaties, he is going to do it himself," Gerry finished.

"It sounds like he has a half-baked plan that will leave us completely dependent on these other races. Then again, we know nothing about them. Damn it!" the President said, slapping her desk. "We need more information that only he can give us, and we can't trust him!"

"Oh, I think you can trust him, Madam President. He hasn't lied yet and I don't believe he knowingly will; he just isn't the type. However, he does have two of my best operatives working with him and I know for a fact they are capable of some serious shit. If you combine that with the fact that he does have an advanced AI, well, let's just say there is no end to the damage he could do if he set his mind to it," Gerry asked.

"How do you think he'll proceed?" Wilma asked.

"He'll try to approach the UN to secure the needed assistance. That will start a huge firestorm of shit for us. Foreign intelligence agencies will be climbing out of the woodwork trying to get this technology. I imagine we will even see fights break out over this. Consider what North Korea will do when they discover we have advanced technology in our grasp?"

Prometheus Base

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

After listening to the President and the Director for a few minutes, Greg left through the open patio doors since he had landed his hypersled in the rose garden.

He walked out to see several men trying to move the sled onto the bed of a truck they had backed up. He had gravity-locked the sled, which meant that the only way they could have moved it would be if they had been able to turn off the planet's gravity. Of course, they didn't know that, and it was pretty fun watching them try to move it.

There were quite a few armed Marines around as well. Greg knew that if he revealed himself someone was going to get shot. He remotely activated the engines and raised the shields, which snapped the cables and chains being used to attempt to move the ship. The agents working on the ship all backed away quickly but the Marines moved in, raising their weapons and scanning the area closely.

When the canopy opened the Marines almost shit themselves. One of the brave men used the butt of his rifle to see if the shield was still up. Still cloaked, Greg slipped between two of the guards; the shield recognized him and allowed him to pass through. He climbed into the small ship and closed the canopy. When he did that, the cloak expanded to surround the ship making it disappear right before the men's eyes.

Well, at least none of the Marines started shooting. He lifted out of the rose garden being careful not to wreck the boom of the crane they had brought in, and slowly flew away from the White House.

"Control, this is Ranger One returning to base," Greg called.

"Understood, Ranger One, Lots of traffic in your area, suggest you go above it. Vector nine-zero degrees to the black for return. Call before descent. How'd it go?"

"Nine-zero to three-hundred K, proceeding. You called it Jarad; Wilma was a bitch. But it's worse than we thought; we are now a priority target for the United States Government. We need to accelerate Exodus. Prepare the base for relocation," Greg replied. "I'm kinda pissed, can we talk more when I get back, that way I have time to cool off before I get there."

"Understood and good thinking. See you soon."

By the time he landed, Greg was in much better humor. When the elevator finished lowering, he saw Jarad, Sharon, and his team waiting for him.

He had no more than got out of the sled and off the elevator than the sled was whisked off to its work bay. Mandi must have another software update for the computers.

"You know, I've had about as much politics as I think I can stomach for this life time!" Greg said by way of greeting.

"She didn't listen huh?" Amanda asked.

Greg shook his head. "Whiteshield didn't prepare her at all. She didn't even know about Mederos. So, it looks like it is time for Plan B."

"Can you remind me what Plan B was?" Jarad asked.

"It was Plan A before I messed up and decided to try to talk to the President. We relocate to the moon and go directly to the people," Greg said.

"What about the U.N.?" Bella asked. "Shouldn't we try to get them to help?"

Greg shook his head. "No, while I was eavesdropping on Whiteshield and the Prez, I learned something I hadn't thought of, but I'm sure Jarad and Sharon probably had. Two words: North Korea."

"What about them?" Jolene asked.

"If our existence becomes public through the U.N., there is a good chance that North Korea would go nuclear and I mean that literally, not figuratively. They would start tossing nukes at South Korea and Japan. China doesn't have as much control over them as they believe they do. When we go public, there is a chance they will use it as an excuse to nuke the South anyway, and there really isn't much any one can do about it. They've been shooting off their mouths for years and threatening everyone who even looks at them wrong. Of course, they blame every problem they have on the United States. So far, China has been able to keep them under control, but that whole line of North Korean leadership has been totally insane for years," Jarad said, while Sharon nodded her agreement.

Greg sighed. "Sometimes I wonder how we have lasted as long as we have. We have all these insane assholes running countries with nuclear weapons. I mean, look at India and Pakistan? How long have they been at each other’s throats? How about Israel and all the Islamic nations, Lybia, Cuba… The list is unending. How did all these insane people get in power?"

"It's just the way it works Greg. Each of those leaders, at one point in time or another, offered the people of that nation something they believed they really needed, or one of their ancestors did. Once they put one of these crazy revolutionaries in power, then they have to live with it. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't." Sharon explained.

Bella snorted. "Name one time it worked out!"

Jarad grinned. "The Treaty of Paris, 1783. The Colonial forces of the Unites States of America successfully rebelled against English rule."

Bella blushed. "Okay, point taken. I had something a little more modern in mind."

"Not all revolutions and rebellions escalate into wars. Sometimes, popular opinion is enough to overthrow a government. There is a very good chance the United States is getting close to something like that, if you believe some of the political analysts out there. The fall of the Iron Curtain is good example of that. The former Soviet Union simply collapsed under its own weight without a shot ever being fired," Jarad explained.

"We're getting off topic here," Greg said. "How is Exodus coming?"

"Sharon will be taking another load up later tonight. So far, the people that have moved are very pleased with the accommodations," Jarad began.

"I have three more loads scheduled and that should cover us for people until we begin recruiting. We rented a closed distribution center outside of Grand Junction, Colorado, two days ago. I had the cooks get together and build a list of foodstuffs for the moon base and placed the order. The first load should be ready just in time for the cargo shuttle being built in silo three.

"We're going to need a couple more shuttle pilots, at least in the short run. Since we'll have a total of five loads of groceries and all the equipment we have here. If we abandon the night only runs, we can be completely moved to the moon in a week."

Greg nodded. "I'll make some calls to try to get our skies cleared. That'll mean you’re going to get shot at, but the shields should keep you from being damaged."

"It's still going to be a scary ride. You'll feel the kinetic force of the impact to some degree, but it won't hurt you. That being said, it will probably panic a load of passengers," Mandi explained. "If the fighters only use guns on you, I don't think you'll even notice."

Greg nodded. "Okay, let's get it done. Sharon, see if you can recruit a couple of pilots from our new people. Jarad, you might want to start looking for people as well. We're all going to be growing pretty fast, so we should plan for that."

"What about a civilian government, Greg?" Jolene asked.

"Which one?" Greg replied.

"The one we will need to form for our people. If we grow as fast as you are hinting at, our folks are going to want a civil authority," Jolene replied.

Jarad nodded. "She's right, Greg. They will need their own government."

Greg sighed. "Let's discuss this at our next meeting. I need a shower and some food."

Prometheus Base

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

It took the U.S. longer to respond than Greg thought it would. Their first 'attack' was also a whole lot more subtle than he expected.

Two days after the meeting with the President, six FBI agents arrived at the front gate of the complex demanding entry. When questioned, they replied that they were investigating the kidnapping of several individuals and families from several diverse locations.

Greg was in his office discussing ways to get the needed supplies for trade with Sharon and Jarad when Lionel called to tell him about the FBI.

"Sir, I have a group of FBI Agents up here demanding entrance. They claim to be investigating the alleged kidnapping of several people by our 'organization'."

"Well, that's certainly a different approach. I was betting on a battalion of Marines," Greg replied.

"I was too, Sir," Lionel replied. "What should I do with the Agents?"

"Are we sure they're really FBI?" Greg asked.

"We are still digging Sir, but so far they appear to be legitimate."

"Escort them into the Guard Shack, Jarad and I'll be up to speak to them. Please make sure your people are armed though, just in case," Greg replied.

"Are you sure that's a good idea, Sir? What do we do if they try to arrest you?" Lionel asked.

"They have no legal reason to arrest anyone. No one has been kidnapped. If they follow the rules, all we need to do is either give the agents a ride to the moon to question the residents, or bring everyone back down here so they can see them to make sure no one has been kidnapped," Greg explained.

"So what will you do?"

Greg grinned. "Ask Sharon to get ready for a flight to the moon of course. They will have to surrender their projectile weapons, but I don't see why we can't answer their questions."

"The best known secret?" Lionel asked.

"This isn't going to be a secret much longer, Captain. Get the agents some coffee, treat them with respect, we'll be right up." Greg finished.

"Will do, Commander."

"So, what was that all about?" Jarad asked as Greg hung up the phone.

"The FBI has come a callin'. It seems they believe we are involved in the abduction and kidnapping of several citizens," Greg replied.

"Ahh, so you want me to take them up so they can speak with the alleged victims themselves; smart. But are we certain they are indeed from the FBI?" Sharon asked.

"That's still being checked out. Please get ready to take them up. I'll arrange a guard detail for you so they can't simply hijack you," Greg replied.

Sharon nodded and stood. "I'll get the passenger shuttle ready, and warn the crew. Do I warn Beth and Carla?"

Greg nodded. "Yeah, but just for a scan, we don't want them to bring anything up with them. No injections or treatments. If someone can't go, then they won't."

Greg and Jarad had also stood. Outside the door, Sharon turned towards the hangar while Greg and Jarad made for the main lift to the surface.

"How are you going to handle their weapons? You know they won't surrender them," Jarad replied.

"Don't they carry tasers, too?" Greg asked.

"The FBI normally doesn't carry those. Local police and Marshals do, but not the FBI," Jarad replied.

"So we'll offer them an alternative, tasers or ceramic ammo," Greg replied. "They can't be so stupid as to think we'll let them get on a spaceship with equipment damaging ammo."

"That might work, but don't hold your breath," Jarad replied as the lift arrived. "If these men think we're guilty already, then they will not trust anything supplied by us."

When the pair arrived at the surface, they were mildly surprised to find the FBI agents questioning the Guards. Instead of interrupting, Greg and Jarad joined Lionel. "What's going on?" Jarad asked.

"Well, I got to thinking that the kidnappings these men are here to investigate are the relatives of my people. I figured that since my folks had something to add to the investigation, I should have them speak to the agents. You did tell me to treat them with respect, Sir, I felt that meant we should cooperate as well," Lionel replied.

Jarad chuckled. "You're a genius, Lionel."

Lionel grinned and waved to an Agent that was just standing up from speaking to a Marine. "Commander, this is Supervisory Special Agent Dean Wilson." He turned to the man and introduced Greg. "Special Agent Wilson, this is Commander Greg Albright, the commanding officer for the installation."

"You're awfully young Commander Albright," Wilson said as he offered his hand.

Greg shook his hand and nodded. "I get that a lot, Supervisory Special Agent Wilson. May I introduce our head of security, Jarad Danielson?"

The agent nodded to Jarad and shook his hand. "Mr. Danielson, I was told you are a former NSA operative, is that true?"

Jarad nodded. "Yes I am. Since we started this project though, I have resigned my commission so as not to be caught in a conflict of interest."

"Just what is it you folks are doing here?" the Agent asked.

Greg chuckled. "You're not going to believe it, but we're defending Earth from a group of very hostile aliens."

Wilson laughed. "You're right, I don't believe it. Seriously, what are you guys up to?"

"Agent Wilson, What I told you is the absolute and utter truth. The people you are looking for, and believe we may have kidnapped, are on the moon right now. We relocated them there, with their agreement, to protect them from the machinations of certain parties that wish to take over and capture all of our advanced technology. I have made arrangements for you to travel to the moon to interview these people if you would like," Greg offered.

"You're serious?" Wilson replied looking a bit stunned. "Okay, you've gotten me interested now, neither of you seem like kooks and the stories we're getting from the folks here all fit with what you’re telling me, but aliens? Really?"

"Agent Wilson, I swear to you that I have not and will not lie to you. If there is something you ask that I cannot or will not answer, I will tell you," Greg said looking the man in the eye to impart how serious he was. "Our mission is exactly what we told you and if you so wish it, we will provide transportation for you and your men to our lunar facility so you may question the individuals you believe have been kidnapped. If I may see a list, there is a good chance a few of them might actually still be here."

"I'll get you a copy, but I first have to ask, are you or anyone under your employ or control holding anyone here against their will?" the Agent asked.

"No Sir. We have made certain that everyone so far involved in this project is taking part of their own accord and free from coercion on our part," Greg replied still looking the agent in the eye.

The agent narrowed his eyes. "What do you mean 'on your part'? Did someone else coerce these people?"

"To my knowledge, not directly. However, most of the people we have relocated to the lunar facility believed that they had little choice in the matter since they felt they would be in danger if they remained here. For example, Lieutenant Emma Mayes is Captain Washington's second in command. Since the Lieutenant chose to work with us, her family felt that they were in danger from unspecified agencies that would use them as leverage in order to either convince us to surrender our technology, or to force the Lieutenant to cooperate in infiltrating our group. By their request, they asked to be relocated for their own protection," Greg explained.

"You're talking about the government, aren't you?" Agent Wilson replied. "You're one of those conspiracy nuts that think our government kidnaps people and forces backyard inventors to surrender their inventions."

"Agent Wilson, you know who I used to work for; I can tell you beyond a doubt that is exactly what would have happened to them. We are not talking about a hydrogen engine illegally confiscated in order to prevent its release. We are talking about advanced weapons technology, advanced space flight technology, advanced medical technology, everything you can think of that would completely destroy our world in a matter of months if it was misused or abused.

"These people have valid reasons to believe they were in danger. I know that for a fact, because I've been ordered to do exactly that on behalf of our government in the past. I refused and was punished for it. In fact I was almost killed because of it," Jarad explained.

Wilson just shook his head. "No, our government just isn't like that. It doesn't happen."

"I suppose you believe they don't lie to us either?" Jarad asked.

"No, they have to do that sometimes, our National Security depends on it," Wilson replied.

"Are you familiar with an event that occurred at Mederos High School in Colorado?" Jarad asked.

The agent snorted. "Who hasn't? That was just tragic. However, what does that have to do with this?"

"Mederos High School was not destroyed by a leaking gas main. It was destroyed by three alien fighter craft in an attempt to kill one young woman," Greg replied.

"Bullshit!" Wilson replied. "The report is cut and dry, there is no evidence of anything else occurring. I know for a fact that they looked for evidence of explosives; because they first believed it had been some crazed student with a grudge."

"I was there when it happened," Greg replied. "I was in the building attending graduation rehearsal when it was attacked. Three small ships using high energy weapons completely leveled the building then hunted down anyone left alive and killed them."

"I'm sorry, Commander Albright, I simply cannot believe that, the report is complete; there are no findings to support your story," Wilson replied.

"The report you read; was it the one written by SSA Rockfeather?" Jarad asked.

Wilson nodded. "Yes, that's the official report by the Agent in charge of that investigation."

Jarad chuckled. "That's the report I wrote for the cover-up. No one ever looks into this stuff once the official report is filed. How can the building have been destroyed by the gas main when the gas main wasn't even in that building? Mederos High School was heated by forced steam piped in from an external utility plant. That's where the gas main is actually located. There was nothing in any of the buildings destroyed that could have explained the destruction."

Wilson just shook his head. "You guys managed to side-track me. Commander Albright, how are you going to get us to the moon?"

"Actually Agent Wilson, I was waiting to see if you really needed to go. The one thing I'm curious about is that all their cell phones are still working. Why didn't you simply call the missing people?" Greg asked.

"We did check the locater chips in the phones. Would you have accepted 'the moon' as a location?" Agent Wilson replied. "We just assumed someone hacked the cell network and covered their tracks in case one of them was able to get a message out."

"Yeah, but did you even try to call any of them?" Jarad asked.

"No, if the cell network had been hacked somehow, that wouldn't have proven anything. We need to speak to these folks face to face," Wilson replied.

Greg sighed. He had been hoping not to have to send these guys up, but that was not going to be avoidable now. "We'll take you below once you've finished with the Marines." He turned to Lionel. "Captain, please assemble a small team to escort the Agents for the duration, including the trip up to the lunar base. Find out from each agent what weapon each is carrying, and arrange replacement ammo for them."

"What's that?" Wilson replied.

Greg smiled back at the senior agent. "Your weapons cannot be taken if you keep your current ammunition. If you discharged your weapon and it hits a piece of equipment, it could kill everyone on the shuttle. It would also be too dangerous once in the base. So in order to avoid requiring you to disarm yourselves, we are going to offer you ceramic ammunition, or if that isn't available, a sidearm that has ceramic ammo available for it."

"Why would you have ceramic ammo out here where they are guarding a missile complex?" Wilson asked.

"Because they are not only guarding the missile complex. Agent Wilson, we have a lot of people and are growing larger every day. The possibility for infiltration grows with each load of people we take to the base. The only weapons allowed are side arms with ceramic ammo or tasers. Anything else, and it would be too dangerous," Jarad explained.

Wilson nodded. "So you do have armed guards at this base?"

"Sir, there are currently three hundred and eighty seven people up there that include the two armed guards. Normally, they only carry a taser but stronger weapons are available." Lionel explained. "Simply put, they are only there to respond if there is an emergency."

"What kind of emergency would require armed guards?" Agent Wilson asked.

"Sir, with respect, we are simply trying to make sure every contingency is covered. As for them being armed, they are not armed with lethal weaponry," Lionel replied.

"But that weaponry is available to them, correct?" Wilson asked.

Greg felt he should rescue Lionel. "Special Agent Wilson, Yes, that weaponry is available to the constables. Our spacecraft are armed with what you would consider to be weapons of mass destruction as well, but that doesn't mean we are going to use them against our own people. Eventually, there will be a military base up there and the soldiers will be armed with laser and particle beam weaponry. There is nothing underhanded going on here. I can't say illegal because our benevolent government is too fluid on their definition of that term.

"However, no one is here against their will. We are going to make sure your investigation into the kidnapping charges proceeds, but I feel I do need to warn you that you will see acts that are, by the current definition of our government, illegal."

"I am duty bound to arrest you if I witness such an act, Commander Albright. You have admitted to having WMD's in your possession, but since I have not yet seen any, I cannot arrest you. I feel I should warn you that that admission alone will put you on the terror list," Wilson replied.

Greg chuckled. "I'm really surprised they haven't already put us on that list, Agent Wilson! We are an independent military organization operating within the bounds of the continental United States. Which makes us a militia. I'm really surprised it was you they sent out here instead of the ATF or someone else."

Agent Wilson narrowed his eyes. "You mean these men and women are not actually U.S. Marines?"

Greg shrugged. "I can't honestly answer that question. These Marines were assigned here as guards by their commanders. Since that time, we have taken them into our confidence and shown them exactly what they are guarding and briefed them on what we are trying to do here. Since that time, they have been working with us to keep this facility functioning because it's that important to them.

"Are they still Marines? Yes. Are they still U.S. Marines? I don't know," Greg finished.

"Sirs, both myself and Lieutenant Mayes have written up our resignations but have not sent them in yet. We have received orders to arrest and detain any and all personnel in this facility pending an investigation by a specific federal intelligence agency. However, we have respectfully declined that order, as it is illegal. We have witnessed no illegal activities in this facility, nor have we witnessed any activities that are counter to, or a threat to, United States National Security. No word has been returned to us concerning our questioning of the order. However, it is still obvious to me that we are considered to be U.S. Marines at this point," Lionel explained.

"I didn't know you received that order, Captain. Why didn't you report it?" Greg asked.

Lionel shrugged. "It was an illegal order, Commander. Why would I need to report that?"

Greg grinned and nodded. "Very true, thank you Captain." He turned back to the now concerned Agent. "Well, there is your answer, Agent Wilson. They are still U.S. Marines."

"Captain Washington, did you not swear an oath to follow the orders of your commanders?" Wilson asked.

"Yes Sir, as did you," Lionel replied. "However, we all have a duty to question those orders if they are illegal. We are sworn to defend and uphold the constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Our duty is to the people first, Sir, then the Government. However, if the government issues an order that is in direct violation of a person's civil rights when said person has not broken any laws or threatened the country, then that order must be questioned. If we do not, then our country would become no different than any other dictatorship on the planet."

The Agent chuckled and nodded agreement. "Well said, Captain. However, we must also be vigilant against those that would use the freedoms we have against us. Lest we be undermined from within."

"I assure you, Special Agent Wilson, if anyone here was working against the American people, I would shoot them myself," Lionel replied with absolute devotion. "I can't believe you actually used the word 'lest' in conversation!"

The agent actually laughed. "I was quoting someone, I can't remember who. Okay gentlemen, I'll accept your explanations for now. We will also need that ride to wherever these people are so we can make sure they have not been forced to comply with you."

Jarad grinned. "To tell you the truth, you might find a couple of very upset fourteen-year-olds that are pissed because they had to move, but other than that, no one is here against their will."

Before being escorted down into the base, SSA Wilson and his team had spoken to every single Marine at the base. They set up in the back of the cafeteria and started interviewing the people of the base there. Lionel had new ammunition for the agents before they went down to the base and while they joked about it, none of them really complained.

They had yet to find a single person that was being detained against their will. But the main part of the list they had was the people on the moon. Greg, Jarad and the guards made sure to stay away from the interviews so they could be conducted in private. There could be no question about coercion of any kind.

When it came time for the agents to depart, Greg and Jarad led them to the sealed vault style door into the main part of the base. Greg turned to the agents.

"Gentlemen, before we proceed I have to ask if any of you need to use the restroom for any reason. Once we pass through this door, you will have to remain escorted at all times until you reach the lunar facility. Once there, you will once again be free to use a restroom and speak to people without a guard looking over your shoulder. This is a security precaution only."

"Will there be a meal served on the flight?" one of the agents said, grinning.

Greg laughed. "No, you will be making the trip weightless; the flight is not that long, but it should serve to assure you that you are indeed traveling through space. Because of that, dinner will not be offered until you reach the facility."

"You still honestly believe you're sending us to the moon?" Wilson asked.

"I would hope so, because that's what I ordered for you. Now if everyone is ready, we'll proceed," Greg finished. "Abraxis?"

Without reply, the AI opened the heavy door and allowed the group into the small area between doors. When the outer door finished closing, the inner door opened. Abraxis had been informed of this so he knew what was happening and would not take action against the untagged agents unless they were not escorted.

"Who is Abraxis?" Wilson asked.

"The Artificial Intelligence controlling the base," Greg replied.

"You have an AI?" one of the Agents asked in disbelief. "Don't you mean it is a computer you have programmed with a voice address system?"

"Please follow me, Gentlemen." Greg then replied to the question. "No, I mean an AI. Abraxis was built by an ancient alien civilization. He came here when he detected the formation of a Ranger team. I would explain it all to you, but it would take a long time; time I do not believe you have at the moment."

"Perhaps you could explain it during the flight?" Wilson suggested.

"I'm not going with you. I have a lot of work to get done today and your visit has really put me off my schedule. If you need anything or have questions, your guards should be able to help you or get in touch with someone that can. Once I introduce you to your flight crew, I'll be leaving you in their hands," Greg replied. "Your cell phones will work here and they will work on the moon, however, they will not work during the flight. We didn't feel the need to install the required gear in our short-range shuttlecraft. So you should be able to keep in touch with your office except for the forty-five or so minutes of the flight."

He stopped at the medical area. "Please step in here gentlemen, we have to make sure you are not carrying any bad stuff with you before we send you up. Don't worry, we won't do anything to you other than scan your body to make sure you’re healthy; that's all."

They did grumble about the exam, but that stopped when none of them had to take their clothes off and the only thing done to them was a bar of light passed over their bodies.

"You call that a medical exam?" Wilson asked Beth. "How can you learn anything about us from a bar of light?"

Beth chuckled and showed him the monitor she was looking at. "The equipment here is not of human origin; it's very advanced. That ‘bar of light’ was caused by high-energy photons interacting with your body's natural magnetic field. From this scan I can tell you anything you want to know about yourself medically." She frowned. "You need to schedule an appointment with your Doctor; your blood sugar and blood pressure are very high."

"What would you do if I was a member of your organization?" Wilson asked.

"Treat you for the condition. In your case I would prescribe a specific medication and advise you to alter your diet. Permanent damage hasn't begun yet, but it will soon. So I'd make that call as soon as you get back," Beth replied. "I would advise you to reduce stress, but I think you already know that."

Wilson nodded. "Yeah, I kinda figured that part out. Is that everything?"

Beth nodded. "Yep, enjoy your trip."

"Do you believe I'm actually going to the moon, too?" Wilson asked.

"You are. I went up once to inspect the medical facilities. It's a nice trip. I think you'll really like the base as well; it's very relaxing," Beth said.

Wilson left and the next Agent took his place. All six were cleared for the trip so Greg led them over to the silo holding the shuttle.

After he saw the ship, Agent Wilson grinned. "We're going to the moon in that? Where are all the rocket boosters?"

"The shuttle uses gravimetric engines, not reaction drives," Greg replied and introduced Sharon and her co-pilot. "They’re all yours Sharon. I know it will take them awhile to interview everyone, but could you remain at the base until they have finished? That way there will be no delay in returning them to their offices once they have concluded their investigation."

Sharon nodded. "Will do. Now Agents, please follow me and I'll show you where to strap in and stow your gear."

Greg and Jarad remained in the base until the shuttle left, but then returned to Greg's office. "So what do you think of this bullshit about kidnapping?"  Greg asked.

"This one was a harassment and a test." Jarad replied. "They wanted to see how we'd react to the intrusion of federal agents into our area. They will send more; next time there will be infiltration agents in the mix. If I were in charge of this, I'd send either the ATF or OHS; the ATF because we have 'unlicensed' automatic weapons in our hands, the OHS because we can be considered terrorists for not doing what we're told. In addition to this, I would expect a massive publicity campaign to discredit us in the media."

Greg nodded. "Our own media campaign should be launching very soon. If they want to hurt us, now would be the time to do it."


Lunar Base

Grimaldi Ridge

Ocean of Storms

Selene, Earth's Moon

The agents made the trip in remarkably good condition. Except for the small fact that they now believed that they had indeed been taken to the moon base. That scared most of them, but they still had a job to do, and SSA Wilson held them together and kept them on track. Although two of the agents would need time to recover from the trip, the rest got to work shortly after they arrived. Retired Air Force General Carl Hollister, now Governor of the small colony, met them in the landing bay.

"Good afternoon, Gentlemen. I am Carl Hollister, the Governor up here. Welcome to the lunar base. We have made our transient quarters available for you and set up interview space for you near the main commons area," Carl said and smiled at the look on the faces of the agents.

"General Hollister, I am Supervisory Special Agent Dean Wilson. You have been reported as kidnapped by the United States Air Force," Agent Wilson replied.

Carl snorted. "I don't see how, I told them exactly where and what I was leaving to do. I don't mean to show disrespect to you or the FBI, but I think you're being used as a harassment tool."

"I'm beginning to think you are correct General," Wilson replied.

Carl smiled. "I'm in the civilian sector now, either Carl or Governor Hollister will do. I'm not much of a General anymore."

Wilson nodded. "Once a General always a General, Governor. I do appreciate the offer of quarters, I think we're going to need them before we begin."

"There are quite a few people on this base, Supervisory Special Agent, I doubt you will be able to interview all of them in one night. We made sure that your quarters have computer access as well as fax machines and anything else we could think of to make your stay as painless as possible." He smiled sadly at the two green looking agents. "There is some anti-nausea medication available as well as a medic. I'm told the trip up was without artificial gravity to prove to you that we are indeed on the moon. The return trip will be much easier for you."

"That will be very much appreciated, Sir," one of the sickly looking agents replied.

"If you gentlemen would follow me, I'll show you to those quarters. We'll provide a map of the base as well as a list of safety instructions for the facility. Usually, we hold an orientation meeting in the common area and go over the rules and answer any questions. However, if you just read over the list, your guides will be able to answer any questions you may have," Carl said, indicating the Marines that had accompanied the team.

He turned and led the group out of the receiving lounge and into a large, comfortable looking atrium. "This is the main communal area and business hub. We don't have a lot of business up here yet, but we hope too eventually. We do have plans to expand this area if needed. Before you ask, we are fifty feet below the surface of the moon. Transient and residential access lifts are on the far side of the mall. While all residences are deep under the lunar surface, we have gone to great pains to ensure and promote a more 'open' feeling.

"Apartments as well as the hotel have all been built around large atriums. This helps counter the feelings of living underground, as well as helping with oxygen recycling and production. So your hotel rooms will have balconies overlooking green spaces. These gardens have holographically simulated sunlight, and environmental systems even generate ‘breezes’’’. Under normal circumstances, it's very hard to remember we are actually on the moon. However, if you need a reminder, we can escort you up to the Science and Command Dome on the surface and you can look out the window."

"Although I don't doubt we are actually on the moon Governor, if you have artificial gravity and holographic technology, it should be very easy to make someone believe we are actually on the moon when we are not. Am I correct?" one of the agents asked.

"You're correct. Unfortunately, the only way to prove it conclusively is fatal. Even going for a walk on the surface could be recreated with those two technologies," Carl replied.

"What part of the moon are we on? Basically, where on the moon?" one of the other agents asked.

"We’re near the crater called 'Grimaldi' on a rock shelf overlooking the Ocean of Storms in the western hemisphere. Relax guys, there's no weather up here." Carl added when some of the men looked a little anxious at the name. "It's only the name of the place."

"Speaking of names, your Commander Albright didn't tell us the name of your organization. Could you tell us what it's called?" Wilson asked.

"We actually don't have an official name yet. Some of the people up here are calling us 'Aegis' because we are trying to shield our sector from some bad folks. But I haven't let the Commander know that yet," Carl replied. They had arrived at the lift to the living quarters and hotel. "For the time being, this is the only working elevator serving the hotel. There are stairs, as well as another lift that services the residential areas, but the hotel is still small enough that only one lift is needed. Of course, there is a much larger cargo elevator, but that is little more than a gravity controlled platform that moves up and down a shaft."

"This is a very beautiful base you have started here, Governor. Although I know I'm on the moon and everything is enclosed, it feels more like I'm in a large empty shopping mall and not a base on the moon," one of the agents said.

"Well, if all goes according to plan, this is going to be a very large colony. Once everything gets built and populated, I could easily see the population here reaching close to a million or more," Carl replied.

"You plan on recruiting that many people for this?" Wilson asked.

"Well, we will have to recruit a lot of people, but not all the residents are going to be from Earth. There are other civilizations out there that we will be working closely with, and some of them will need to live here as well, especially during the shipyard construction. Once we get the Greynus here, the rest of the base will get built pretty quickly," Carl explained.

"Other Races? You mean aliens, from other planets?" an agent asked.

Carl nodded. "Currently, there are at least six other races we know of, four of which have Ranger teams just like ours. We are hoping they will join us in forming an alliance that will work together to build the facilities we are going to need to oppose the Drellian forces when they arrive."

"You make it sound like you’re getting ready to go to war, General," Wilson replied.

"We are," Carl replied reasonably.


Prometheus Base

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

Greg and Jarad returned to Greg's office to work out the details of contacting the other races. Greg was beginning to feel a sense of urgency about getting in touch with them and getting the ball rolling on planning their defenses. It was decided that Greg should go ahead and begin speaking to the other Ranger teams about forming an alliance for defense.

Greg sat in the command center and began calling the other Ranger Fighters. He thought he would begin with the one that he felt would be the easiest one to speak to, Ranger Fighter Delion of the Harclen Consortium.

"My greetings Ranger Fighter Greg of Terra. To what do I owe the honor of this call?" Delion asked. She was smiling, and Greg hated to ruin her day.

"Abraxis tells me he has informed you of the likely attack by the Drellian Empire. If you have the time, I would like to discuss this with you," Greg replied.

"This development has been troubling me greatly. She," (Abraxis appeared as a female to the Harclen who had a matriarchal society) "has also spoken to me about the possibility that you might be working on a plan to oppose them. I have been looking forward to hearing about this plan."

Greg nodded. "I have been working to devise a method by which we can successfully defend ourselves from an attack such as this. I can come up with nothing that does not require that all of us work together. My people would call this a mutual defense agreement. This is an agreement made between separate nations, what you would call tribes, to work together in order to defend themselves against a much larger opponent. If we are to defeat the coming attack and keep our people safe, all of the Ranger teams, as well as the technologically advanced nations that do not have teams as yet, must join together in the creation of a combined defense force.

Delion nodded, "I thought it would be something like that. The information provided by Abraxis has led me to the same conclusion. We will need a much larger force to successfully repel an attack on this scale. I have spoken to my leaders on this issue. I received a great deal of resistance from them initially but once I explained that the creation of such a force would require many agreements, including trade agreements, they began to see a benefit for our people. I am ashamed to admit that most of my leaders seem to value greed more than they do freedom."

Greg almost laughed. "That is not a trait exclusive to your people, Fighter Delion. I have encountered a great deal of opposition from our leaders as well. In my case though, I do not have one single governing body to work with, but several. It seems every situation is viewed in terms of wealth and power, both politically as well as militarily. We are still a very warlike species and I am working hard to keep our technologies away from them. I fear they would ignore the threat to the planet in order to make war on each other. I could easily see them becoming as bad as the original Drellian Empire."

"Surely not? We have yet to encounter a race that barbaric in our peaceful explorations. We have found that peaceful, more agrarian societies are the norm in the sector," Delion replied.

"We are a very barbaric race, my friend. So much so, that I feel it will be the most powerful of our societies gifts that we will bring to the alliance. The trick will be keeping that violent and barbaric nature in check and under control so as not to let my people gain power over any of the others.

"Is that how you are such a good tactician? Because you were raised in a violent and warlike society?" Delion asked.

Greg smiled back at her. "I don't know how good I am at tactics, but I suppose you would be correct in that I was raised in a warlike society. My apologies for changing the subject, but you said you spoke to your leaders about this issue. May I ask what was decided, if anything?"

Delion nodded. "They will support this. The lure of gaining more trading partners appealed to them. I have been given some authority in this area and can make limited agreements on our behalf. I would say they are looking forward to meeting new races."

"Well, as long as your leaders understand that my people are warlike and can be deceptive if they feel they can gain power or money, we should be okay. I will swear to you right now, Delion, I will never knowingly deceive you in any form and I will actively work to prevent my people from doing so to others," Greg explained.

"I have never considered that you would, Fighter Greg. It would be against your nature to be duplicitous. So tell me of your plan so far and how the Harclen people can assist," Delion said without reservation.

Greg laid out the whole thing for Delion and she felt it had promise. With the limited power given her by her leadership, she would begin to make the necessary inquiries to secure transportation for goods from Earth to the Greynus and possibly other worlds as well. She chuckled when she informed him that construction had already begun on larger, longer ranged freighters. The Harclens were hedging their bets.

Greg reminded her to let them know that some of those ships would need to be ore freighters. He got her support and agreement to participate in future meetings, either via video or in person as needed to get this alliance built and moving. She agreed time was limited. Now that she knew their goals, she could work on her end to make sure things got done.

Greg spent the rest of the day speaking to the other Fighters about the possibility of forming an alliance against the Drellian threat to the sector. Abraxis had done a good job of keeping the other Ranger teams informed, and when he spoke to them they had been ready for it. He held the Onarians and the Greynus for the last as he felt that he would receive the most opposition from the Onarians and because he had nothing to promise the Greynus but the attempt to try to help them with their food issues. He was surprised on both fronts.

The Onarians had already begun preparations to ramp up production of computer systems and construction efforts. The entire overly logical society had already made a decision based on the information supplied. Abraxis had told them that Greg was working on a plan to counter the pending threat and the Ranger Pilot, who was acting as the team leader until a replacement Fighter could be found, acted on that information. Abraxis later explained that since Greg had worked with all the teams on the last incursion, a default mutual support agreement was already in place. The Onarians knew, that since Greg was a Ranger Fighter, he would automatically be acting in their best interests.

Greg just shook his head in wonder. His own people wanted to take all this equipment away from him because they felt he was too young and inexperienced (among other more self-serving reasons). Yet the Onarians, who had never even met him had decided to support him without even speaking to him first simply because of the position he held. Logic was a scary thing sometimes.

The Greynus had already assigned two primary hive clusters to the project provided transportation and materials could be arranged. They were simply waiting for a ride before getting to work. When Greg spoke of trying to get them assistance for their food problem, they informed him that any assistance would be greatly appreciated, but the simple fact of getting some of the hives off planet and working on projects would ease the burden on the planet. They were dedicated to the project before the details had even been discussed or agreements had been made.

In total contrast to that overwhelming show of support by the other races, the US government was doing everything it could to make life hell for the team from Earth.

On the day the FBI interviewers returned to Prometheus, a veritable army of law enforcement officials arrived to surround the compound and begin to lay siege against the Rangers and those working with them. Of course, a circus of that size had to include a full-blown media festival as well.

Which actually worked to the Ranger's advantage as the shuttle from the moon arrived after the siege began. Of course, every camera involved caught the arrival of the shuttle.

By the time the FBI, ATF and OHS agents approached the front gate, the FBI team that had been to the moon had disembarked, gone back through medical, and accompanied Greg and Jarad to the surface. At Jarad's insistence, Greg was wearing his flight suit under his coveralls to prevent a sniper from getting a shot on him.

When the first set of FBI agents arrived to investigate the 'kidnappings', Jarad had discussed the issue with Lionel. They had agreed that the next course of action would be for the ATF to show-up for the automatic weapons the Marines carried. After consulting Abraxis, another, non-terrestrial weapon was devised for the Marines to carry.

All the government issued weapons the Marines had were crated up, inventoried according to their issuing documentation, and prepared for shipment. The Marine guards were issued the new, non-lethal, yet still effective, weapons. All the government weapons were loaded in the government issued truck the troops had arrived in and parked by the gate under guard.

Greg, Jarad and Lionel, accompanied by the FBI team, met the new agents at the front gate.

Greg was the first to speak. The media was held far back, but Greg insured that they were receiving the video feeds from the security cameras mounted on the gate itself.

"Gentlemen, before you say anything, I feel I should inform you that this entire meeting is being recorded as well as rebroadcast to the media vans, as well as to our internet servers. This meeting is being broadcast live, on the Internet. My name is Ranger Fighter Greg Albright and I am the group leader here. How can we be of assistance today?"

"Mister Albright, I am Supervisory Special Agent Jon Handley. On behalf of the other agencies represented here, I have been appointed to negotiate with you in order to bring a peaceful resolution to this issue."

Greg extended his hand to the speaker. "It's good to meet you Supervisory Special Agent Handley. Forgive me, but what issue are you speaking of, we are unaware of any issues that might require your presence here."

"There are a number of reasons we're here, Mister Albright. The first is the kidnapping of five federal investigators that arrived here a few days ago to investigate the disappearances of several United States citizens…" the Agent began, but SSA Wilson interrupted him. Removing his FBI credentials, he approached the other agent.

"Agent Handley, I'm Supervisory Special Agent Wilson of the Salt Lake City office. I am the Senior Agent sent here to investigate the supposed kidnappings. I can assure you that no such crime has been committed. We have spoken to each and every person that has been reported missing, and each one has assured us that they have relocated of their own volition. No form of coercion was used to get them to relocate. When I return to my office, I will be formally dismissing the investigation. As for our kidnapping, I have been making daily reports back to my office. If you simply call Agent Sempis in Salt Lake City, she will be able to confirm that."

"I'm sorry Agent Wilson, Agent Sandra Sempis was murdered last night as she was leaving the Bureau Offices in Salt Lake. I'll call and have someone check her computer for your reports. One of the reasons we are here is we believed the crimes to be connected, as the murder has all the signs of a professional assassination. If you and your team will please come with us, we can verify your identities and debrief you," another agent replied sadly.

SSA Wilson turned to Greg and Jarad to shake their hands. "Gentlemen, thank you for your assistance in our investigations. I will make it clear to my superiors that you cooperated fully and that we found nothing illegal in any portion of your operations here."

"I'm glad we could be of help to you, Supervisory Special Agent Wilson. If you have any further questions for us, please feel free to let us know and we will do our best to get the information for you," Greg replied.

SSA Wilson nodded his acceptance and stepped away, behind him each of the agents also stopped to shake their hands. When they had finished, the group of agents was led away by the agent that had told them of Agent Sempis' death.

"I am sorry for the loss of Agent Sempis, Agent Handley. I never met her nor have I ever spoken to her, but I feel it’s a horrible crime when one of the people sworn to protect the citizens of this country is killed, especially under these circumstances. I can easily assure you we had nothing to do with it," Greg replied. "I would offer our services in assisting you to discover her assassin, but as we are your prime suspects…" he shrugged. "Is there anything else we can help you with?"

"Several of the former Marines you have as guards took their government issued weapons and equipment with them when they joined your group. The ATF has filed charges against you for the illegal possession and theft of those automatic weapons," SSA Handley replied. "We have a federal order to search these premises and confiscate any and all automatic weapons in your possession."

Greg nodded. "I'm afraid we cannot let you in here without clearance, Sir. However, we did realize what we had done with those weapons. They are all right there, crated and inventoried, with all the ammunition and other equipment issued by the federal government. We sent a message to the local Marine commander two days ago, but have not received a reply. So we simply collected them up and placed a guard on them until someone arrived to take possession of them. As you can see, we even loaded them onto the truck for you. As soon as an authorized individual arrives to sign for them, you can have them."

The Agent nodded. "We appreciate that Son, but I'm afraid you don't understand. You cannot stop us from searching these premises. We have a federal warrant. You are not working for any federal agency and you are not protected by the National Security Act. We have every right to enter this facility and search."

Greg nodded as if he agreed. "As I understand it, Sir. The warrant specifically states that you will be searching for the automatic weapons inadvertently taken by our people when the transition was made. Since we have agreed to surrender those weapons according to military and civilian law, you no longer have anything to search for. We are conducting private research here and have every right to privacy guaranteed to any other corporation in this country. If you would care to apply for clearance through our security office, we would be happy to process it, and, if you pass that check, we will be more than happy to give you a tour of the non-restricted areas. However, until that time, we have every right in the world to refuse you."

One of the ATF guys stepped forward. "We have information that says you are doing weapons research here. Military weapons research. We have also been informed that you have armed aircraft on the premises. The private ownership of this type of weapon is restricted to the government and governmentally authorized contractors.

"We have no aircraft here, Agent. We do have spacecraft as you recently saw one land. Nothing on any of our craft here is considered a weapon according to U.S. law. We have been very careful in what we do here, Agent. As I told the President of the United States in the meeting we had just a few days ago, we are engaged in the over-all protection of the planet from external threats.

"We have broken no laws and have even gone out of our way to comply with those laws. We did refuse to surrender any of our advanced technology to the federal government, as we refuse to allow any single country to control what we are doing here.

"We would like to work with the United Nations in this undertaking, but have been blocked by the United States at each attempt. We also believe that even if an agreement with that august body could be reached certain foreign governments would use our existence as justification to make war on nations. So we have undertaken this effort ourselves and have asked for volunteers through our website. We will welcome volunteers from all countries regardless of political affiliations. Any and all research, which includes any weapons research we are undertaking, has been relocated to a place not under the jurisdiction of any terrestrial governing body. The only things going on here are spacecraft maintenance and as an embarkation point for those who wish to join us," Greg explained.

"Are you denying that you have nuclear weapons?" One of the OHS guys asked.

"That's not what I said, Sir. I said we do not have weapons as defined by U.S. law. You know as well as I do that any twelve-year-old with sufficient intellect can build a nuclear bomb in his garage. What we have is very different from that, and far more stable than even the crude warheads your government uses. The difference with us is we will never use them against the people of this world - the same cannot be said of your government," Greg replied. "Look guys, all the legal mumbo-jumbo aside; you are not getting in here as anything other than as a potential candidate for emigration. We would even relocate our fighter craft but that would mean we would have a slower response time if there was an emergency here and that would leave the planet open to attack."

"Attacked by whom, Son? We are not at war with any non-terrestrial groups. You want to dispense with all the legal stuff fine, here it is in a nutshell; you have admitted that you have, in your possession, weapons of mass destruction that are not controlled by the federal government. You also have other, more exotic weapons that we know little about. If you profess to be working in the public interest then we demand to know what kinds of weapons you have and we demand that governmental controls be placed on those weapons to ensure you won't change your mind and use them against us. We don't know you from Adam; how are we supposed to trust you? As a people we have elected officials that have created the framework to handle this stuff. Who gave you the right to take it upon yourself to use those weapons you've built against other races you might find out there and get us into a war we didn't choose?"

"Most of what you said is valid, Sir. Trust me here; I don't want this job. So you ask, why haven't I surrendered this stuff to the United States? Because I don't trust our elected officials to use it for the purposes they were created for. Would you give a spoiled and petulant child a nuclear weapon?" Greg sighed. "Out there," he said and pointed up. "Is a very hostile Empire that would like nothing better than to come in here and enslave or destroy this entire planet. Whether you believe me or not doesn't make the threat less real. I will not allow any of this equipment or the destructive technologies to be controlled by any government on this planet, as they would only use it for their own interests. As far as what control we have, every person on this planet that has access to a computer has a say in what we do and how we do it. Yes, we took this upon ourselves because we believed we had the duty to all the people of this planet to protect them not only from the aliens that now threaten us, but also against the corrupt and irresponsible actions of fairly elected officials. We will continue to do the best job we can to protect everyone, whether they like it or not. You are more than welcome to sit out here until hell freezes over, Supervisory Special Agent Handley. But the facts are the facts, just because someone in power disagrees with them doesn't change them. Good day, Sir." Greg finished and walked back through the closing gate. He stopped and turned back around as the gate finished closing. He put his hand to his ear to show he was using a communicator. "Control, active the shield. Seal the base."

"Wait, there has to be a way…" Handley began.

"With all respect, Sir, as long as your government insists on harassing us just so they can get their hands on our equipment, we have nothing to discuss. However, I will comply with one of your demands. Keep an eye on the web site, you'll get the information you asked for at the same time as the rest of the planet."

"We've isolated and blocked your server, Son. No one's going to see anything," the Agent said.

Greg laughed. "We have an AI, do you really think you can isolate or block anything?"

Prometheus Base

Shermandale, Utah

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

The United States Government did indeed continue the siege on the compound while also waging a publicity campaign against them in the media. However, the fact that Greg and his people kept everything they did out in the public, and they even went so far as to place several live 'Web Cams' in the public areas of the moon base, which did much to counter the obvious half-truths and attempts at misunderstanding the mainstream news was trying to circulate.

The siege of Prometheus Base didn't even slow down the recruiting of people by the now self-proclaimed 'Terran Defense Initiative' or simply TDI. Greg ordered that shuttles would pick up folks at either their homes or nearby if a group was being recruited together.

Several 'applicants' had to be rejected because they had been plants by the government to get people into the organization or up to the base. Of course, all recruiting trips to the surface of the planet were broadcast over the Internet as well. Although most people asked for their identities to be hidden in the event they ever wished to return to the planet.

All the hype on the Internet created by TDI's website and the character assassination attempts by the media did get the attention of the rest of the planet. Most other countries felt the same way as the United States did; that they should have exclusive control over the resources of TDI.

Several times during a recruitment pick up, a Special Operations Team was poised to assault and capture the shuttle. Each time, the shuttle’s sensors detected them and stunned the team in order to pick up the people they were sent to retrieve. The shuttle remained in place until the stunned team regained consciousness. It had become an item of great entertainment that the shuttle pilot would break into the team's communications in order to apologize and make sure everyone was okay. However after the first attempt in the United States, this type of attack only occurred in other countries.

After a month of sitting outside the base, the government agents finally packed up and left. Nothing was said about it in the media and it seemed that the U.S. was hoping the country would simply forget about the whole thing.

A week after the siege ended, Mandi reported to Greg that all the hard lines to the outside world had been cut. Both the power and the phones had been cut in an attempt to isolate the base from the outside world. The action did not have an impact to the base since they hadn't been using either of those systems to begin with, but it did get Jared a little excited.

"Greg, please come to the Command Center. I just ordered the reactivation of the base’s defenses. I also advised Lionel to get everyone in armor and on alert."

"What? Why?" Greg asked.

"We can expect a strike team to hit us any minute now. That's why they pulled the agents out of here, they didn't want them in the way," Jarad replied.

It had been late evening when Mandi called to tell him about the utilities being disconnected. Greg had been getting ready to turn in for the night. "I'll be right there, but are you sure?"

Jarad chuckled in reply. "I'm positive now, there are six helicopters heading for us very low and very fast. None of them have their marker lights on."

"I'm on my way," Greg replied as he pulled on a pair of coveralls.

When Greg arrived at the Control Center, Jarad was on the radio. "Whisky Foxtrot Four-Niner, this is Prometheus Base. We are tracking you approaching our base in a hostile manner. State your intentions or we will be forced to fire on you."

"How many choppers?" Greg asked quietly.

"Six, usually it would be half that. It seems they are getting serious about trying to take this base away from us," Jarad replied

"What are you going to do if they don't reply?" Greg asked.

"The helicopters are a ruse. Our scanners tell us there’s no one aboard any of them," Jarad replied. “Our ground sensors show several armed men approaching the base from three different directions. That’s the real attack. As far as the helo’s are concerned, I was going to see if Abraxis could override their control signals and simply land them.”

Greg nodded. "That sounds like a good plan, but what about the folks on the ground? Are we broadcasting this?" he nodded toward the camera.

Jarad nodded. "Yep, we're live. The whole damn world knows what’s going on here. As for the soldiers, with the shield up, why do we have to do anything? I was just trying to call them so they wouldn’t crash the helicopters into the shield; those things are expensive."

Greg looked up at the Camera. "Folks, there are six American built, but as yet unidentified, helicopters heading for this base at high speed. They are very low to the ground and are flying without their navigation lights or transponders. We believe them to be unmanned and meant as a distraction. Currently, the base's defense systems are active which means the shield is also active. If they hit our shield at their current speed, it will destroy the craft. So, we’’re going to try to take control of these aircraft in order to prevent their destruction. We will then simply have them land outside the base.

There is also what appears to be three assault teams approaching the base.” Greg shrugged. “Our shield is active and if they fire their weapons, there is a good chance they will injure themselves from the bullets rebounding off. We are trying to contact them to warn them of this fact, but so far they have not replied to our calls.”

Jarad had continued to try to raise the aircraft. "Whiskey Foxtrot, you are in danger of hitting our defensive shield with your aircraft, please alter their course to prevent their destruction."

A voice was finally heard over the radio. "Whiskey Foxtrot to all units, proceed on mission. Prometheus Base, surrender now. Put down your weapons and deactivate your shield or we will kill you. This is your only warning."

"On whose authority are you ordering us to surrender? Who do you represent?" Jarad replied. "We wouldn't surrender to federal agents so why would you think we would surrender to a force we don't know? You know as well as I do that the only way you are getting in here is if we shut down our shield. That's not going to happen. You guys can sit outside the shield and do whatever you want, but I am warning you that if you fire your weapons into the shield, there is a good chance you will be injured or killed."

"You know who we represent, Danielson! Now surrender and put an end to this stupid charade or we will make you surrender!" came the hostile reply.

Jarad just shook his head. "Some people just have no common sense." He rekeyed the mic, “Whisky Foxtrot, no, I don’t know who you represent simply because there are too many choices to make a decent guess! But honestly, none of us in here want to see any of your people get hurt trying to force us to obey your will. Just keep that in mind if you continue to think you can force us to do anything.”

“If any of my men are hurt it’ll be on your head!” came the reply.

“How do you figure that? If I gave you a glass of poison, and told you not to drink or it’ll kill you, who’s the idiot if you take a drink? Me for warning you? Fine, if you don’’t want to know that the shield surrounding this base is reactive and will repel your bullets I won’t tell you, but I think maybe your men would like to know. It’ll be just like shooting a concrete wall only worse. In this case the bullets won’t slow down, just change direction. It is after all, a deflection shield!”

“Buddy, you’ve been watching too many SciFi reruns! We can’t see it, it isn’t there!” was the reply.

“Oh, is that all it’ll take to convince you? I can do that,” Jarad replied and typed in a command on his keyboard. “I made the shield visible, but still transparent. They wouldn’t see it in daylight,” he said to Greg who nodded.

“Whisky Foxtrot, how is that? Can you see it now?” Jarad asked.

“Pretty lights, Danielson. But it still doesn’t mean it’ll stop a bullet!” the man replied.

While Jarad was dealing with the assault team, Greg moved to another console and worked with Abraxis to get control of the helicopters. “How’s it going Abraxis? Can you lock on to the frequency they’re using?”

“Yes Commander, the delay is in decoding the signal. I’ll have control shortly. Where would you like them to land?” Abraxis asked.

“Put them right here,” Greg said, outlining an area on one of the monitors. “Near the road so they can get to them easily.””

Greg watched as the ‘attacking’ helicopters suddenly slowed down and changed course. “Well done, Abraxis! Thank you.”

Rural Shermandale, Utah

Prometheus Base

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

"Surface Guard to Control, we have several men attacking on the south side of the compound," Lionel called and the video feed came up on one of the monitors.

"Understood, Captain. The attack on the south side is also most likely just a distraction. The main attack will hit the front of the complex, near the gate," Jarad replied. "The force we are facing is a single unit made up of three special operations teams. Currently, we are not sure of their origin. Just remember, as long as the shield is up, there shouldn't be a problem. Just keep your eyes open in case they find a way through it."

"Understood, Sir, will do," Lionel replied. "They sure seem to want in here badly."

"We have something they want very badly, Captain; knowledge of advanced technology. They still don't realize they could have all the benefits of it simply by working with us instead of trying to stab everyone else in the back to increase their own power," Greg replied.

"Do you really think going to the U.N. would trigger a war? I mean now that we’ve gone public, won’t those countries you mentioned still do the same thing?" Lionel asked. He knew they were playing to an audience.

"They might, Captain. Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do to prevent their insane rulers from launching their nuclear weapons. We’ll do what we can to prevent it, but the bottom line is, we are not part of any nation. If they chose to use us as a reason to start world war three, they would be no different than any other blackmailing criminal on the planet.

"I really don't get it; why aren't people willing to work together, instead of having to have complete control over everything? That’s why I’m fed up with the whole government thing and have moved most of us to the moon and began dealing directly with the people. Abraxis tells me that is what most of the people visiting our site have suggested also," Greg replied.

"Whoop! That other attack is starting up, I better get over there. I'd like to hear more about this later, Commander, if you have the time," Lionel said.

"We will, if I decide to move us, I'll have a meeting beforehand so we can all discuss it, good luck up there, Captain," Greg replied. He looked up at the camera again. "It's getting pretty late here and I was intending to go to bed when this bit of fun started. I'll try to get a full report of this incident to you folks tomorrow. As things are right now, it looks like working with you folks directly really is the best way to go."

Greg turned back to his father. "How's it going up top?"

"So far, so good. They've tried missiles and a few other explosive charges to bring the shield down, but are not having any luck. I think they're getting frustrated," Jarad said grinning.

"Have any of them been hurt?" Greg asked.

Jarad shook his head. "A few bruises from bullet impacts on their armor, but nothing's drawn blood yet."

Greg nodded. "Good, I really don't want to see anybody hurt, no matter how stupid they are."

"Actually, this was a really good plan they had. Those troops out there are doing damn good work; unfortunately, the people they work for are the real idiots. I'm actually proud of those guys," Jarad said.

Greg nodded. "Yeah, you're right, the soldiers are not the bad guys here; they're just following orders. All the more reason none of them should get hurt!"

"Control, Shuttle Three is entering the atmosphere. A little birdie told me there might be a problem landing?" Sharon called.

"We’ve had a few folks show up to try to talk us into surrendering again," Jarad replied. “Proceed on current course. Surprisingly, the skies over us are clear for the time being. Gee, I wonder how that happened.”

"Do you need me to stun any of the more excitable visitors?" Sharon called back.

Jarad looked at Greg, who shook his head. "Isn't it getting a little cold out there for them to be sleeping on the ground unprotected?"

"Honestly, it shouldn't hurt them at all even if it was below freezing, but I think you might be right, we shouldn't risk it." He turned back to the comm unit. "Negative, Shuttle Three. Just come on in for a landing."

"Understood, we're inbound." Sharon called.

"Activating shuttle landing pads. Marker lights on, you’re clear to land," Greg replied as he took over the landing control console.

"Thanks, we'll be home in a few minutes," Sharon replied.

"Greg, look at this," Jared said a few moments later. "The team hitting the south side has shifted its attack closer to the shuttle pads. I bet they think we have to lower the shield to let the shuttles land," Jarad said.

"Maybe, or they're getting into position to fire those missiles you mentioned before," Greg said and pointed to one of the solders that carried a long tube on his back.

Jarad nodded. "Good catch; that is definitely an anti-aircraft missile launcher."

Jarad and Greg watched as the soldiers fired several missiles at the landing shuttle, only to see them explode against the shuttle's shields. The shuttles were very easy, slow moving targets since they had to merge their shields with the one covering the base while they landed. It didn't hamper the landing of the shuttles, but it did provide for a bumpy ride.

Sharon and the other pilot she had with her, a man named John Borden that was the father of one of the Marines, and had been a pilot for a small charter service, joined the two men in the control center.

"That was fun!" John said sarcastically.

"It could have been worse, John. They could have had fighters out there too," Sharon replied grinning at him.

"Well, if something doesn't get figured out soon, they are just going to keep trying to get in here one way or another. How far are they willing to take their attacks on us? The next thing they'll do is evacuate the surrounding area just so they can drop a nuke on us!" Greg said.

"Don't give these idiots any ideas! They're watching us, too," Jarad said and indicated the camera.

"They might try to evac Shermandale, but it's going to be more difficult than it was when we started all this," Sharon said grinning.

"How so?" Greg asked.

She chuckled, "You've been too busy to notice, but once we started broadcasting everything we do, people from all over the country have been coming here. The population all but tripled overnight! I haven't checked in the last couple of days, but there were people living out of tents and campers all over the place! One guy's making a killing renting out as much of his property as he can to these people."

"Why are they all coming here? That doesn't make any sense," Greg said.

"Mostly they want to join us," Sharon said. "A good share of them are UFO enthusiasts, but there are people out there from all walks of life. We've been picking up a few as we can, but we have no place to screen them, nor can they bring their stuff with them. I don't think any of them have considered that. We've been trying to tell them to go home and apply to us through our web site, but more seem to be arriving every day."

Greg looked thoughtful. "That's not good, if the Drellians attacked they'd nuke the place. That pretty much seals it, we've gotta move the base. If we don't, those people are in horrific danger."

Prometheus Base

North American Continent

Earth, Sol System

The decision to move the base to the moon was actually far easier than actually doing it. Instead of simply getting out of their way and letting the people go; the American government did everything it could to try to keep them there.

Ground troops completely surrounded the complex and would not let anyone or anything in or out. Fighter craft patrolled the skies over the complex and attempted to shoot down any and all craft leaving the complex, ordering any such craft to land at one of their airfields and surrender. Of course the shuttle pilots just laughed at the fighter planes. None of the shuttles returned fire or did anything that could be considered hostile, other than refusing to comply with the grounding order. Every craft was fired on at least four times before it left the atmosphere.

When it finally came time for the Ranger team to depart in the hypersleds, Greg was wondering just what the American pilots thought was going on. Why waste all that ammunition when it is well known that it had no effect?

The Rangers were actually the very last people to leave the complex. Everything had been removed from the complex, including the lifts to raise and lower the sleds. The only things remaining were the shield generator on the surface, which Jolene would be deactivating and retrieving after takeoff, and the deep underground vault housing the back-up of Abraxis. Knowledge of that vault was restricted to six people. The Ranger team, Mandi, since she had helped design it, Sharon, and Jarad.

The vault itself was very deep and heavily shielded. There was simply no way that the people of Earth could find it. Once the facility had been completed, the passage to it had been reconstructed by the construction drone using the exact same materiel as when the passage was dug out. No trace of its existence was left behind.

After the last of the shuttles left, Greg and the girls climbed into their sleds and powered up. The silo doors had been left open so they could get out, and would remain that way once they departed, as the base no longer had power since the reactors had been removed. The shield generator was operating on its own internal emergency power core that could last up to a week. It would still have three days remaining when Jolene disengaged it.

The three very lethal looking craft rose out of the ground and moved over to the shield generator that was sitting in plain sight from the gate. Jolene hovered over the generator and told Greg she was ready.

"Whiskey Foxtrot Commander, this is Prometheus Commander, over," Greg said on the troop’s radio frequency.

"So, are you ready to surrender, Mister Albright?" a voice replied.

"What is it with you folks? Nope, we're not surrendering; we're leaving. Where have you been for the last week? Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that we have removed everything from the base. In a moment, we'll take the last of our technology and depart. I want you to know that we hold no ill will toward you or any of your troops. Every moment of our loading and departure has been filmed and broadcast to the world, and no hidden traps or devices of any kind were left behind. We truly hope that your government, as well as the rest of the governments of the world, come to their senses soon and end this lunacy. When the Drellians return, we will do our best to respond as quickly as possible, you have my word on that."

"You still believe all that bullshit, Son? There is no such thing as aliens! Now just set that nice, shiny ship of yours down, and I'll make sure you get the help you need." Greg had to admit, the man sounded sincere.

"I honestly believe you meant every word of that, Sir. Unfortunately, I've already fought the enemy and know they are all too real. I hope that someday we can meet under less hostile conditions. On behalf of my team and all those that are supporting our efforts, we wish you and your men a good day," Greg replied. "Okay, Jolene, do your thing and let's get out of Dodge."

"Thank you Mister Albright, I do hope that you will get the help you need before someone gets hurt," the man replied.

The ship had found the man speaking, and Greg had zoomed in on him. "Major Green, I know you meant it another way, but I hope you are correct; we still need a great deal of help in order to defend ourselves from what’s coming. I truly hope we get it in time. Good bye, Major."

"Good bye, Commander," the officer replied and saluted.

"Shield generator is deactivated and secured. The Base is yours Major Green," Jolene replied over the radio so the man would know it was safe to enter. "I'd open the gate for you, but there is no power. However, the personnel gate on the left is unlocked. You may enter at any time."

"Thank you, miss, have a good flight," the Major replied.

"He was certainly polite," Bella commented as the team turned and rose away from their former home.

"He got what he wanted without any loss of life, I'm sure he appreciates that," Greg replied.

"Attention unidentified craft, you are in violation of…" a voice sounded over the radio.

"Why don't you guys have that recorded so you don't have to keep repeating yourselves?" Greg asked.

"Excuse me?" the pilot replied

"Well, think about this, how many times in the last week have you guys had to say that whole litany? Twenty? Thirty times? Has it had any effect?" Greg asked. "Why would you assume it would have an effect now? You folks know who we are and what we're doing, so the whole 'unidentified craft' stuff is bull anyway."

"Look, you will follow us to our base where you will land and surrender to the troops waiting there for you…"

Greg interrupted him again. "Why are you guys even up here? I mean, okay, I know you have your orders and all that, but none of your weapons have had any effect on us; you can't stop us, you can't follow us, so what are you really doing up here? It has to cost a fortune to keep that plane in the air, not to mention the missiles and ammo you've already expended. How will your bosses explain that to the people?"

"Look kid, I'm here to make sure you land that craft and surrender! If you don't I will fire on you!" the pilot replied.

"There! That's what I mean! You know as well as I do that you can fire every weapon that fighter has and all you’ll do is waste a lot of money. Your threat is empty, we won't surrender; so what's the point? You know, I've always wondered something, if we actually were 'real' UFOs, what makes you guys think they would use an amplitude or frequency modulated radio for communications? Those are no good for even inter-planetary communications, so why would they even use them?"

Greg knew that both Jolene and Bella were laughing at his conversation with the flustered pilot.

"Look are you going to comply or do I fire on you?" the pilot replied.

"I mean no disrespect to you or your craft, Sir, but you are so out-classed that my computer won't even acknowledge you as a threat. So, I think the answer to your question is 'neither'. Ladies, full power ascent if you please."

Greg heard the pilot say "Holy sh…" before the sleds were out of radio range and in orbit.

Grimaldi Ridge Base

Ocean of Storms

Selene, Earth's Moon

"Grimaldi Ridge, this is Ranger One on final. We are requesting approach vector and landing instructions, over," Greg called.

"Good to hear from you Ranger One, we were getting worried about you," an unfamiliar voice replied. "The lanes are clear; maintain heading and descend to one thousand feet. Reduce speed to one hundred MPS. We'll open the dome when you pass the outer marker. Navigation beacon is active. Welcome home, Rangers."

For speeds slower than point-zero-one, Abraxis told Greg that the separate race used whatever unit of measure they were most familiar with. Greg chose to us the metric system since he had planned the base to be as diverse as possible. In this instance, 'MPS' stood for meters per second.

"We have the beacon, Grimaldi. ETA to outer marker zero-one minutes," Greg replied as his controls registered the information. "Thanks for leaving a light on for us."

"Not an issue, Rangers. I have been asked to pass along an invitation for you to dine with Governor Hollister this evening after you have settled into your quarters," the man replied.

"Thank you, control. Please relay to him that we would be honored to join him for dinner," Greg replied.

As they passed over the point marked as the outer marker, Greg and the girls saw the dome beginning to open as they sped towards it. Greg grinned as the computer took over the landing procedure and guided them into the bay prepared for them. Even before the sleds had softly touched down, the big dome was already closing.

When their sleds reported a safe atmosphere outside, they opened their canopies and got out. They were on an elevator that was lowering them under the floor of the dome into a large hanger area. The elevator turned out to be an anti-gravity platform that moved them and the sleds over to an area that was specially built for them. As they approached a large balcony, they saw Mandi waiting for them, smiling.

"Isn't this place fucking awesome?" Mandi asked excitedly. "It's way bigger than we had originally designed. Abraxis has been in contact with the other races in the Alliance, and we have been adjusting the base to accommodate the ships they'll be sending. Look over there, on the far side of the bay is where the big bulk freighters will come in to move cargo; we can handle three of them at a time! Off to the left is a huge passenger area for liners and our shuttles from Earth. But this whole side is for the servicing and maintenance of hypersleds and any other smaller combat craft we might build!"

"Whoa Sweet-Pea, take a breath or you'll hyper-ventilate!" Bella said, but she was smiling.

"Sorry, but it's all just so exciting! Just wait until you see the civilian stuff! It's way bigger than this place and it’s so pretty! They have water falls, trees and grass, it certainly doesn't feel like we're on the moon!" Mandi replied. "How was the flight up? Anything I need to look at on the sleds?"

"Nope, smooth as silk. Greg did give one of those fighter jocks a heart attack though!" Jolene said, grinning.

"Oh no! What did he do?" Mandi asked.

"Just before the pilot got frustrated with us and opened fire, he ordered a full power ascent. We left those planes so far in the dust it was like we teleported!" Bella answered. "But even before that, he was messing with that poor pilot something fierce! You'll have to replay the logs; trust me, it's worth it!"

"Mandi, there seems to be more shuttles here than I knew of; how many do they have here?" Greg asked.

"Honestly Greg, I don't know, I've really only been here for two hours myself. I can tell you that I have seen larger shuttles landing over in the cargo area that weren't from Prometheus. Those monsters wouldn't have fit!" Mandi said smiling. "I think Carl might be working very hard in the background here."

Activating his comm implant, Greg called for Abraxis.

"What can I do for you Greg?" Abraxis replied like he knew a secret that he thought would surprise Greg.

"Okay, give! What’s going on here?" Greg asked. "You're way to smug sounding!"

"To be honest Greg, Governor Hollister wanted to tell you all about everything he's been doing. If you order me to, I will of course comply, but he would like to be the one to tell you about it," Abraxis replied.

"Okay Abraxis, I won't force it out of you, but all of this does concern me a little bit," Greg replied.

"To help put your mind at ease, nothing that has happened or been built is out of line with what you had planned," Abraxis answered.

"Okay, so Mandi told us about the cargo dock, the civilian and military area, but what is over to our right?" Greg asked looking to the right of the military area.

"That is a ship building facility, currently, they are building mining ships. Several ore shuttles have already been completed and are parked in the storage hanger on the level below this one," Abraxis replied. "This is part of what Governor Hollister wants to tell you."

Greg grinned and shook his head. "Okay, I'll leave it alone. Thanks Abraxis."

"I will be very happy to answer any questions you might have either during or after your meeting with Governor Hollister," Abraxis replied. "I'm certain that you will approve of everything that has been done. Greg, we are doing extremely well."

"It sure looks like it. Can you tell me how recruiting is going, or did Carl want to surprise me with that as well?" Greg asked.

"He might, but hasn't asked me not to tell you. Recruitment is going very well. In point of fact, we have more applicants than we can process and are running three shuttles a day to pick people up. I believe the Governor is currently considering allocating another shuttle to that effort.

"The current base population is over ten thousand, two-hundred and forty-one. Many of them are studying to be freighter pilots and miners. There are some that are getting involved in the construction efforts, while others are investigating private enterprises such as clothing stores and entertainment facilities. We have twelve individuals that would like to have larger freighters built so they can assist in the long distance transportation of goods.

"There have also been several people volunteer for the military; but as we do not have the facilities to house or train them yet, they are assisting with the construction efforts.

"Several others have joined together to plan another base on Mars with an eye toward mineral exploitation and research. The people that have joined us are all very excited about the possibilities now available to them."

"That seems really strange to me," Mandi said. "Most of the people here are from the US. They had the same opportunities there as they do here."

Jolene shook her head. "Not true, in this environment, we still enjoy the freedoms of the United States and most other countries, but there is far less competition. Being a part of a freighter crew and meeting new beings is not available to most people on Earth, neither are a good share of the other jobs now available. Not only that, this is the Moon, not Earth; we are in space. I'm sure a good portion of these folks will change their minds once the 'new' wears off or they discover just how dangerous it really is out here."

"One final thing I will tell you Rangers," Abraxis added. "On this base, Fighter Greg is the Military leader, but Governor Hollister is the Civilian one. He is very well liked and respected, too. He has formed an advisory panel that currently has four members randomly selected from the population. They will still work their normal jobs and maintain their normal social contacts, but for now they are scheduled to meet once a week to discuss any issues that the people might have. This was a very popular move on his part and seems to have given many people hope for a better future."

"It seems that Carl is doing an even better job than I thought he would!" Greg replied. "I'm glad it’s all working out, it would be a real problem if the people up here weren't happy."

"One moment, please," Abraxis said with an urgent tone in his voice. "Fixer, I need you to take my terminal device over to the new arrival area immediately, please."

"Why? What's wrong, Abraxis?" Greg asked as Mandi rushed off to find the small device.

"One of our recruiting teams thinks they might have located another Ranger team among the group they just picked up in Australia. Initial medical scans have identified Ranger specific genetic markers in three individuals. Since it is difficult to differentiate between a Fixer and a Pilot without a more direct and thorough scan, I am unable to accurately identify the third person, however, the other two appear to be a Fighter and a Finder," Abraxis replied. ““Which is odd in that Fixer is the most common manifestation and second most common is Pilot.”

Greg nodded his understanding, but was still in shock that there actually was a second team.

"Perhaps we should be there as well. A second human Ranger team!" Bella said excitedly. "That's great!"

"Any extra Rangers would be a great help to us," Greg said, "Even if they were from one of the other races."

Bella blushed, "I didn't mean…I meant no disrespect to the other teams or races!"

Greg chuckled. "Relax Bella, I was only teasing you!"

"Actually, it does present an interesting theory for study; of all the races in this sector, most of which are peaceful, the most warlike of them produces two ranger teams. Does the aggressive nature of the society pose a determining factor in the creation and formation of a team?" Abraxis said thoughtfully.

"I don't know, but like you said, it might be something for the scientists to think over once we get an Alliance formed. First things first though, let's make sure this is actually a team," Greg replied. "Uh, how do we get there?"

Passenger Debarkation Area

Grimaldi Ridge Base

Ocean of Storms

Selene, Earth's Moon

Using the comm and with a little help from Mandi, Greg and the girls made it to the receiving area before the shuttle arrived. Carl had also gotten the message and met them there.

"What do you make of this report of the possibility of another team, Greg?" Carl asked.

Greg grinned. "I'm excited as hell. Having another team would be a great help. It does make me wonder just how many others are out there that we simply haven't found yet."

"The Greynus and the Harclen have already done what the Onarians are now in the process of doing; they are checking their entire population for the genetic markers of Rangers," Abraxis replied. "However, I do not know how it would be possible to undertake a similar project on your planet at this time."

"We'd need to create a device that most everyone will want to touch, that is capable of reporting its findings but still be created from standard Earth-based technology in case one of them gets discovered," Mandi suggested. "Something like a cell phone or tablet style computer. We could also have Abraxis hack into the genetic database the United States maintains. That might be even better since most of the people in that have military training already."

"That is not entirely accurate young lady, however, the point is still valid," a wizened older gentlemen said as he approached.

Carl grinned. "Rangers, may I introduce our Senior Medical Officer, Doctor Hans Dahl. Doctor Dahl, it is my honor to present our primary protectors; Ranger Fighter, Commander Greg Albright." The two men shook hands, and Carl continued. "Ranger Pilot Isabella Grien and Ranger Finder Jolene Blane. Finally, this very bright young woman is Amanda Small, the chief engineer for the Ranger's equipment; she's called a Ranger Fixer. According to Abraxis, since a Ranger Fixer is a non-combatant, they are not considered part of the Ranger Team. However, Greg considers her to be part of the team simply because they couldn’t do their job without her help.”

After shaking hands, Mandi asked. "What did you mean by not accurate, Doctor?"

The man smiled. "The database you are referring to is the Military's advanced genetic identification database correct?"

When Mandi nodded her confirmation, he nodded and continued. "For the most part, you are correct and it would be a good place to begin a genetic search for the profiles in question. However, I believe you will find that the database has far more than just the nation's military in it.

"For security purposes, the database is closely guarded. However, there is a part of it that has been hidden from the general population. Unless you have a written order in your file to prevent it, a portion of every biological sample, or the data generated from it, gets added to that database along with every scrap of information known about the person providing the sample," the Doctor explained.

"That's not creepy as hell!" Bella replied sarcastically. "Talk about 'Big Brother'!"

"What about the person's right to privacy? Aren't we supposed to be told what is done with that information?" Jolene asked.

"Actually, in a lot of cases, you were; it just didn't look like it at the time," Mandi said, thoughtfully. "The privacy statement the lab has you sign when you give a blood sample or if you donate blood has a clause in it that says they will share the results of your tests, in a limited capacity, with other medical research facilities. It goes on to state that none of your personal information will be given to the general public. It also says that you have the right to refuse this service and have all of your samples destroyed immediately after the initial tests have been run. You actually have to initial that part of the form granting them permission."

Doctor Dahl nodded his agreement. "Yes, that is the place. However, most people are simply told 'Please initial here, here, and here, and sign here'. No one actually reads those forms. We are prohibited from speaking about it, as that would violate the privacy act for the tests. I would guess about sixty to eighty percent of the people that have been treated in the United States and Canada are listed in that database. I don't know about the other countries policies, but it would surprise me if most of them didn't have something similar."

"I don’t know what resources you have yet, but would you object to performing such a search on behalf of our military, Doctor? We don't need to know anything about the people in that database, just if they are Rangers or not. That way their information is still kept medically restricted," Greg asked. "While I don't agree with the existence of the database in that form, it's there, so we might as well take advantage of it."

"No, I don't mind. I would also like to say that I appreciate your willingness to protect those people's privacy. If I may ask, what form would you approve of such a database?" Dahl asked.

"For the originally intended purpose; that of creating a database for the identification of soldiers. However, once a soldier is discharged, I feel that their information should be purged," Greg explained. "I could understand an argument for extending that to cover government employees and contractors in potentially dangerous positions, but again I feel it should be extremely restricted and controlled."

"What about the locator's implanted into all the citizens living here?" Dahl asked. "Don't you feel that's a violation of their right of privacy?"

Greg nodded. "I do, but in our case I feel it's a necessary evil. We live in a dangerous place. We have to be able to locate everyone in the event of an emergency." He shrugged. "Maybe later we can relax that policy, but for now, I'd like to see it kept in place."

"I don't mean to interrupt," Carl began. "But there are a couple of things I'd like you to think about, Greg, so we can discuss them later. We have had a formal request sent to us from CNN and Fox News to assign an affiliate news service up here. There have also been a few requests for landing privileges by a couple of private corporations from Earth. One of them is from Virgin Galactic Passenger Service and the other is a commercial corporation looking to begin the exploitation of off-planet resources. It would seem that while the governments of the planet have no desire to assist us without taking control, the civilian and commercial sides are more than willing to work with us."

Greg chuckled. "It's amazing isn't it? Just out of curiosity, those are civilian matters, why do you want or need my opinion on them?"

"Security," Carl said. "I may be the guy in charge up here for now, but I'll be damned if I'm going to ignore our security for the sake of business. For the time being, you and Jarad are our security people. I did forward all those requests to Jarad as well for his consideration. I let him know that we would be bringing them up for discussion at the next council meeting."

"Ah, okay. Please send the requests to me as well, and I'll look them over. When is the next meeting?" Greg asked.

"Three days from now. We are trying to keep them on weekends for now so it doesn't mess with people's lives very much, so our meetings are always on Fridays after the close of business for the day. We meet at Florence's Diner and talk over dinner. She agreed to provide the meals free of charge as long as we kept the place open." Carl grinned. "She's a smart lady, that one. With our meetings taking place there, it ensures that the diner is usually packed every Friday night.  Not everyone gets to attend, but so far, there haven't been any issues over it. We are considering holding the meetings in the main concourse atrium so more folks can attend and still get their meals from the vendors if they wish, or they can simply bring their own."

"I was going to ask you how that worked. Where are the restaurants and other stores getting their supplies? I'm not above helping get a business started, but I don't think people should be charged for a replicated meal," Bella asked, for once she was serious.

"We do help the business with any start up inventory of supplies in order for them to get their doors open. However, after that initial shot, they have to secure their own source of supply on Earth. For example, Florence has an account with a restaurant supplier out of a place in upper Minnesota that allows our shuttle to land and load up at night. We did grant her the equipment she uses, but only because of the fact that it had to be specially built for use in the base. We have done the same for the other eating establishments that have decided to open their doors as well. They have agreed to pay an 'equipping tax' to us of not more than five percent of their gross profits until the price of their equipment has been repaid. After that, they're pretty much on their own," Carl explained.

"Hey, look, the shuttle's landing!" Mandi said, interrupting the conversation.

Medical Screening Facility

Passenger Debarkation Area

Grimaldi Ridge Base

Ocean of Storms

Selene, Earth's Moon

When they arrived, Abraxis tested the three people identified as potential Rangers. They were Rangers although they did not form a complete team. They were two women and one male, although the male was the Fixer and the women, twins, were the Fighter and the Finder. The Fixer, one Arless Smythe and his new wife, the Finder Helen had only recently gotten married when they had been recruited. They had actually asked the recruiters to speak to Helen's twin sister, Joyce Herent, about joining them. The women were very beautiful and Greg was very taken with Joyce, much to Bella and Jolene's vexation.

When they had been told of their genetic legacy and given the opportunity to take Ranger training, they accepted.

"Can any of you think of someone that was very important to you that is no longer in your lives?" Abraxis asked.

Joyce nodded sadly and answered. "Yeah, my Wally was killed a couple of years back in an auto accident. Some drunken sot pulled his lorry out in front of their car. He and his mum were killed instantly."

"Did he seem to have the ability to never get lost? I mean, he always knew how to get somewhere easily?" Bella asked.

"How the bloody hell did you know that?" Helen asked. "That was the reason he was with his Mum. She took him along because she was afraid she'd get turned around finding the airport."

"It's the gift of a Pilot. Bella has it as well. He was the fourth member of your team," Greg said sadly. "I'm truly sorry for your loss."

"Thanks, we all still miss him, but are past it for the most part. If he was the missing member of our team, what do we do for a Pilot then? As I understand it, we're going to need one, right?" Joyce asked.

Greg nodded. "For now, one of us will have to fill in for the missing person in order for the three of you to get trained. In the meantime, we will be looking for a Pilot for you."

"You are all clear to enter the base; however, you will need to come and see us in the medical section for your Ranger enhancements. We'll also detox you then," Doctor Dahl said to the three individuals. "Welcome to Grimaldi, Rangers."

"It is a good thing we constructed the Ranger barracks as large as we did," Carl said grinning. "Although, we should probably look at expanding them."

"Governor, the odds of finding yet another team on the planet are extremely low. The decision is yours of course, but I do not see the need for it'" Abraxis replied.

"Wait a second," Greg said. "Abraxis, didn't you once tell me you suspected Sharon and Jarad of being Rangers that simply never formed a team?"

"You are correct, Commander. Sharon is a Pilot and Jarad is a Fighter," Abraxis replied. "It is truly a shame they are too old to receive the training."

"Abraxis, in what way are they too old?" Greg asked. "Sharon could be the missing Pilot for this new team?"

"In type three humanoid beings; the category humans belong to, it is documented that initial ranger training places too much of a mental and physiological stress on the individual being trained after a certain physical age. Specifically, the stress of hyperspace transit must be gradually conditioned in the candidate via the simulators prior to an actual transit. In type three humanoids, it was discovered that older minds simply cannot deal with the stress of warped space. They develop non-recoverable mental aberrations that render them unsuited to performing their duties as Rangers."

"What are you talking about? Hyperspace didn't feel any different to me than normal space does!" Bella replied.

Jolene nodded her agreement. "If what you say is true, then how will our people be able to be freighter pilots? How will the older people travel through hyperspace?"

"It is a condition unique to the hypersleds and the form of hyperspace propulsion they use. A freighter is much larger and uses a different, slower, form of hyperspace travel. However, I do not understand what you mean about what you experienced during your hyperjumps. Did you not experience mental stress during the transits you made?"

Greg shook his head. "No, neither in the simulator nor during the real thing. I was excited, but other than that, nothing. Were we supposed to?"

"Yes, actually you were. I thought your failure to mention it was simply you not wishing to appear weak in front of the girls and the girls didn't want to seem to complain about it. It is a very traumatic experience for most type three humanoids the Alliance has encountered," Abraxis explained.

"Abraxis, with your permission, I would like to investigate this. If I may?" Doctor Dahl asked. "Would it be possible for me to review the original case files for that study? Perhaps I can find something to explain this. As for The Danielson's, they are two of the healthiest people on this base. Might I suggest placing them into a hypersled simulator while wearing appropriate monitoring equipment to see if they are affected by a simulated jump? If not, then I would recommend the same test be performed during a real jump."

"Of course Doctor, this is most interesting and I must say I am very interested in the outcome," Abraxis replied.

"Be that as it may, we will need a larger barracks simply for the fact of finding other isolated team members that could form a team once they arrive here. It seems to me once we bring such a group together, nature may play a hand in forming new teams," Carl explained. "That was my reasoning behind wanting to expand the barracks facility."

"Well, I for one would like to see where we'll be living. The rest of this conversation can wait for another time, I'd like a shower before I join you for dinner, Carl," Greg said.

"It would be good to get some rest, the shuttle picked us up in the middle of the bloody night!" Arless said.

Chuckling at his comment, Mandi waved to the group. "Come on guys, I'll show you where you’ll be staying."

Temporary Ranger Housing

Grimaldi Ridge Base

Ocean of Storms

Selene, Earth's Moon

While the area Mandi had showed them was only temporary, it had the same basic design of their original quarters at Prometheus. It had several small apartments surrounding a common area, although it was larger than their old accommodations.

Since Greg still had some time to kill before he and the rest of his team needed to join Carl for dinner, freshly showered and clean-shaven, he sat in one of the loungers and turned on the television to see what the world was up to.

CNN had only one small item about Prometheus. They reported that the government said law enforcement officials had been successful in forcing the terrorist-traitors to abandon the base, but reported that no arrests had been possible. They continued with a small follow up taken from the TDI website that listed the reason for the group to leave had been their concerns for the safety of the thousands of civilians that had flocked to the small town of Shermandale with hopes of joining the Terran Defense Initiative. Law enforcement officials were now interviewing those people to weed out the curious from the real potential terrorists. They reported that several arrests had already been made.

When the talking head moved on to another story, Greg changed the channel. The damn government was so pissed that they hadn't gotten what they wanted that they were turning on the people that had shown up to support and join TDI.

“Land of the free!” Greg snorted, talking to himself.

He almost jumped out of his skin when someone spoke from behind him. "The idiots have to do something after the drubbing you lot gave them on the Internet. They're just trying to save face with the people by claiming some kind of victory," Joyce said.

"Jesus! You scared me! I swear I'm gonna hang bells on all of you!" Greg countered. "What do you mean? We haven't attacked them in any way have we? I admit I haven't actually been to the website since it was built, but no one reported something like that."

She came around the chair and took a seat on the couch. "No, you didn't attack them; you didn't have to. They did it themselves, you simply made it possible for the people of the world to see them as the idiots they really are. By broadcasting everything you did all the time, the people got to know and see that you were really doing exactly what you said you were doing. So all of the lies and half-truths they’ve tried to spread about you were shown to be false from the very beginning. The drubbing stems from that. You gave them the opportunity to not only show how stupid they are, but you also showed the whole world just how much all those touted American Civil Rights are respected by those in power. I dare say that even the real terrorists have a better understanding of the situation in the United States now.

"On your website, they made themselves look like the corrupt, power-hungry, megalomaniacs they are. That's why none of the other nations have done anything overtly against you. I would imagine there are many that would dearly love to get the opportunity, but would never do it since you made sure to televise everything.

"I would expect that you will soon be getting a bit more respect and offers of cooperation from the world leaders now. Although, I would be very careful about trusting them, they will always want what you have. That will never change. Not until the people of the planet force them to," she finished and sipped her drink. She sighed after the sip. "Damn, even the tea is better up here."

"Actually, as far as I'm concerned, the governments can all go to hell in a shuttlecraft. They had their chance and blew it. We're dealing with the people directly now. I honestly wonder if we shouldn't have simply done that from the beginning," Greg replied.

"Possibly, but there might come a point where that might not be the best thing to do. People are fickle creatures, they're on your side for the time being, but that could easily change with one little mistake the governments could exploit. For example, the alliance you are forming with the other races you mentioned. By and large, the people of our planet are still wary of the term ‘alien’’ I wouldn’t call it xenophobia, but more like a serious lack of unbiased information. All the government would have to do is create an incident and that would do it," Joyce explained. "There was something I wanted to talk to you about, though."

"What is it? I'll answer if I can," Greg replied.

"It's about this Code business. What exactly is this Abraxis Code?" she asked.

"As I understand it, one of the original designers of the Abraxis Construct built in a ‘kill code’ of some kind. He then hid that code on a far away, obscure planet no one had ever heard of. We have no idea what that code is, or even what it looks like since it could be encoded," Greg explained.

"So we need to keep our eyes open for this code as well huh?" Joyce asked. "Have you checked with the oldest peoples? Like the aboriginals or the Maori back home?"

Greg shook his head. "Honestly, I've been so busy getting all of this going, I haven't had the time to look for anything."

"It would have to be something that would survive the ages. So that pretty much eliminates anything written and most things carved in stone since that stuff weathers and wears away. What else is left?" Joyce asked rhetorically.

"I have no idea. It could be anything from DNA encoding to the molecular structure of a specific rock on any given planet. We don't even know what system the designer put it in. To be honest though, I have no idea what we would do with it if we found it. We sure couldn't use it at this point," Greg replied sighing.

"Why not?" Joyce asked. "I'd think putting an end to this mess would be your biggest priority?"

"Oh it is, but you have to look at it from a tactical point of view. If we had the code, how would we get it to the place it was needed? It would have to be input manually because the Abraxis system is fast enough to catch a transmission and cancel it. Besides, where could we send it from? They literally have thousands of Ranger teams and if the Prime Nexus knew we had the code to shut it down, it would do everything in its power to destroy us and the code along with it. We couldn't simply jump in our sleds and fly out there because we’d never make it. Even if we did, we have no way to know just what is at the end of that jump. Prime is a decentralized AI, how would we get the code into him in such a way as to ensure it works?" Greg shook his head. "No, the Abraxis Code is a nice dream, but not a very realistic one I'm afraid. We're just going to have to do this the hard way; and that's finding a way to stay alive long enough to defeat the Drellians the old fashion way. It will probably take centuries, but as long as we work together and don't lose heart, we can do it."

Alpha Team Residence

Grimaldi Ridge Base

Ocean of Storms

Selene, Earth's Moon

Since it was getting close to the time he and the girls were supposed to go to Carl's for dinner, Greg excused himself to see if the girls were ready.

The design of the quarters being used for the Rangers was based on a residential unit, which meant that each team had an apartment to themselves and each apartment shared the common area where Greg had been speaking to Joyce. When Greg returned to his apartment, he found that Jolene and Mandi were ready and Bella was just getting out of the shower.

"Excuse me Greg, but my I ask you a question?" Abraxis said via the room's speaker system.

"Of course, Abraxis," Greg replied.

"May I ask when you discovered Mandi carried the Abraxis Code?" the old AI asked. "I was monitoring your conversation with Ranger Fighter Joyce."

Greg was silent a moment. "For me, it was shortly after you told me about how Mandi and you discovered a way to prevent you from becoming infected. There was really only one way you could have done that."

"I must say I am impressed with your deductive reasoning. I also hope you understand why I did not inform you of it as soon as we discovered it," Abraxis replied.

"Actually, that took me a while longer," Greg replied. "At the time, we would have tried to use the code to end the conflict once and for all. Since I have the ability to over-rule you, I probably would not have understood your disagreement with the mission."

"I still don't get that part. If you knew about the code, why are we still here?" Bella asked from the door to the shared bathroom.

"It's simple really, how close do you think we could actually get? How long do you think we would survive once we exited hyper? We're talking about the Prime Nexus here, not a node like Abraxis. That's only if we could actually find the damn thing to begin with!" Greg replied.

"What do you mean, we know where the Prime is! We only need to fly in there, input the code and that's it. Game over for the Drellian Empire!" Bella said angrily.

"No, we don't know where the Prime Nexus is located; the main Alliance system was destroyed, remember? As a decentralized AI, the Prime Nexus could literally be anywhere. But for the sake of argument, let's just say we located it. How would we get close enough to it, for a long enough period to enter the code?" Greg asked.

"We jump in, destroy the guardian team, land and input the code. It seems pretty simple to me," Bella replied.

"The Prime Nexus would not have a single team guarding its location. In addition to that, it is very likely that there are more than just Ranger teams as guards. One single team would stand no chance at all of infiltrating the system and applying the code manually into a terminal directly connected to the Prime Nexus," Abraxis replied. "Even if the location was known to us, the odds of such a mission achieving success are zero. There are simply too many unknown variables to even consider that type of mission at this point."

"So what you're telling us is that you withheld the information about the code because you were protecting us?" Bella asked. "Don't we have the right to make that decision ourselves?"

"Abraxis acted correctly, Bella," Greg replied. "His primary function is our protection and to assist us to ensure our continued ability to perform our duties. Giving us that information at that time would have been the same as killing us himself, plus it had the added effect of the potential loss of the code itself."

"Do you honestly feel we wouldn't stand a chance, Greg?" Bella asked.

"Bella, I agree with him. There is simply too much we don't know; if we tried to do this now, we'd be dead long before we ever found the Prime Nexus," Jolene added. "At this point, I think it would be suicide to even try."

"To answer your question, Bella, no, I don't think we stand any chance at all right now, which is why I am officially instructing Abraxis to consider this information classified under a need to know restriction. No one is to be given this information without my knowledge and agreement," Greg replied. "That being said, other than Mandi, who else has either figured it out, or was in on it from the beginning?"

"Jarad and Sharon Danielson, Colony Governor Carl Hollister, NSA Director Gerry Whiteshield, Colonel Susan Florence USAF and director of intelligence operations, Mr. John Stapleton. I do not believe the last three remember it though as the information has not appeared in any official reports or documentation," Abraxis replied.

Greg nodded. "Okay, from now on, it's one of the most highly guarded secrets we have. No one is to discuss this with anyone outside of a controlled area."

"Why do we need to keep it a secret? Shouldn't we at least tell our allies?" Jolene asked.

"The less people that know about it, the less the chance of the Drellians learning we have it. I'll consider letting our allies in on the secret, but only after we have actually formed the Alliance and we have a council or a ruling body for it. Until then, we have to keep this knowledge to ourselves or we won't get the time to defend ourselves; the Prime Nexus will order every fighting unit it has here immediately."

Governor's Residence

Grimaldi Ridge Base

Ocean of Storms

Selene, Earth's Moon

Greg could tell Bella wasn't happy with the situation, but he hoped she would come to understand his reasoning. Regardless, she dropped the subject and went into her room to get dressed for dinner. Jolene, went with her to try to calm her down and explain better. Leaving Greg and Mandi alone together.

"That's not the only thing bothering Bella, Greg," Mandi said quietly.

"What else is bothering her? We really need to talk about all of this, it could really hurt us as a team if we don't," he replied.

"Well, this isn't very easy to talk about, Greg. But I can safely tell you the same thing is bothering Jolene as well, although she is less likely to let it get to her," Mandi added. "But, it will become a problem if it isn't fixed soon."

"What's the problem? If they are having a hard time talking to me about it, can you? At least if I know of the issue I can try to fix it," Greg reasoned.

Mandi chuckled. "You're a wonder, Greg. I've known you for a long time, and in all that time, I have never seen you have a girlfriend, or even go out on a date. Can I ask why?"

Greg was taken by surprise for a moment. "Uh, I never found anyone I was that interested in. What does all that have to do with this?"

"Because, you dork, there are two girls that are very interested in you, and your attention seems to be taken by another girl," Mandi replied.

"Bella and Jolly are interested in me?  I had no idea, I thought we were all just friends!" Greg said, surprised and confused. "What the hell am I supposed to do to fix this? I can't date either one of them or the other will be offended. This is one of those impossible situations girls always put boys in! What the hell am I supposed to do?"

Mandi shrugged. "I think just being aware of it will help. It might just take care of itself given enough time. The question then becomes how do you feel about them?"

"I care about them obviously, but I've just never considered either of them… Not that way, we always got along so well as friends they’re almost like sisters!" Greg replied.

"Well don't tell them that! I was pissed at you for two months when you told me that!" Mandi admitted, grinning.

"Well, you are my sister, Imp!" Greg countered.

Mandi shook her head. "At the time I wasn't and technically, I'm still not. However, I did get over my crush on you and I understand you a lot better now. But Jolly and Bella share most of our history. While they do see you as a friend, to them, that actually helps them see you as possibly something more. Of course, Delion's comment during your last battle didn't help either; it got both of them thinking about it."

"Huh? What comment?" Greg asked.

"Ranger Fighter Delion referred to them as your mates. Both Jolly and Bella teased you horribly over it, but it also got them thinking about it. Whether you can return their feelings or not, Greg, this is going to be something you guys are going to have to figure out. Since you are our only protection against the Drellians, I think you three need to figure it out sooner, rather than later," Mandi said. "Now, I'll butt out and let you handle it. Just don't break their hearts or I'll bust your nose."

Greg was still deep in thought when the other two girls rejoined them. As a group they all left for Carl's, neither Jolene nor Bella asked Greg what he was thinking so hard about.

By the time they arrived at Carl's the group of friends were acting almost normal. "Welcome to my home, Rangers! Please come in!" Carl said happily. "Greg, before we get started, I just wanted to thank you for moving me up here and giving me this job. I'm really a lot happier here."

"Actually, I think it was Jarad that suggested it, Sir. I just agreed with him," Greg replied grinning. "But I have to say, I'm glad I did. I don't think anyone else could have accomplished everything you have in so short amount of time."

"That wasn't me," Carl replied waving it off. "That's all the people up here. Come on in, and have a seat so I can tell you all about it. Dinner won't be ready for a little while yet."

Carl's apartment wasn't overly huge, but it was pretty big. Greg would find out later that it was a standard two-bedroom unit no different than those available to the public. He had opted for the two bedroom unit and used the second bedroom as a home office. However, he guided his guests into the living area.

After they all got drinks and took seats, Carl began. "Jarad and Sharon will be joining us shortly, but they already know most of what's been going on up here. Now, before we begin, I want you all to know, everything we've done up here is mostly in accordance with your original plan, Greg. However, due mostly to the influx of personnel, it's been upgraded quite a bit."

Greg nodded. "That much I could see when we landed. I was stunned that so much has gotten accomplished in such a short amount of time."

Carl nodded. "I am too, but like I said, it's the people we've recruited. One of the first things I started working on when I got here was the trade commodity issue; basically how will we get all that food stuff gathered and shipped out to where it needs to go. We had recruited a couple of people that worked as shipping managers for some pretty big outfits so I asked them for suggestions.

"The main issue would be landing the big freighters and getting them loaded while protecting them from planetary officials trying to capture them. The answer, don't have them land on Earth. It's by far faster and easier to load a bulk cargo shuttle than it is a freighter. So, we built the main facility here and have been buying the supplies by the train-car load. We make contact with the company that has the product and ask them where they want us to pick it up. We land the shuttle beside the grain terminal, right on the tracks used by trains. They can load us up in about thirty minutes. We haul it up here, off-load it into our storage area and when the big freighters start coming, we'll be ready to load them.

"I sent a request to Fighter Delion for the specifications of the bulk freighters, so we could build the appropriate facility for them. She had the information back to me in less than ten minutes, and the facility got built really quickly as it was a priority. So for that aspect, we're set and ready to go. In fact, we're going to need the freighters to start running soon; we're getting pretty full."

Greg nodded. "Okay, I'll get on the comms tomorrow and get it going. We already know the Greynus are ready and willing, but are we ready for them? They were pretty anxious to get started."

"As far as residential areas, we built what Abraxis recommended for them, so they should have a place to live. However, we don't really have anything for them to do yet once they get here. We're getting the ore ships built, but have been having difficulty deciding on a design for the processing facilities. Also, we have no real idea what sort of commercial facilities to build for them, so when you speak to them again, please ask what sort of mercantile needs they will have."

Greg nodded. "I will, but I need to back up for a moment. The first shipment to the Greynus; we're going to need a few specialists willing to go to their home world to teach them how to grow this stuff… What?" Greg asked because Carl was grinning.

"We have a team already formed and they've been studying Greynus culture and mannerisms. A large shuttle has been built so it's more like an RV for them to live in for an extended period of time while they assist the Greynus. They're just waiting for permission to go."

"Permission from who?" Greg asked.

Carl smiled. "Security. You have to approve all missions out of our solar system. Well, your 'office' does."

"I have an office?" Greg asked.

Carl nodded. "At least for the time being, 'Security' falls under the military's jurisdiction. I had thought of forming the office and listing Jarad as the head of that office, but I hadn't actually had a chance to speak to either of you about it. That's one of the reasons I wanted them here tonight."

"Both Jarad and Sharon might be going through Ranger training…" Greg shook his head. "Even with everything that's been done, there is still so much more than needs to be done! It's mind blowing!"

"That's what the rest of us are here for, Greg. Since I had a general idea of what you wanted up here, we've been working to make it happen. We're almost to the point where you won't have to worry about the civilian side of things anymore. That's our immediate goal right now; to free you up to focus solely on getting the Alliance built and getting us ready to defend ourselves."

The door chime had rung while Carl had been speaking, so he got up to answer it. Very shortly, he escorted Jarad and Sharon into the living area as well. Luckily, Carl had two large couches, a love seat, and a large recliner.

After everyone greeted each other. Carl told the newcomers what they had been discussing. Greg grinned at his father. "It looks like you might get a new job, Dad!"

Smiling, Jarad replied. "I'm not so sure I like the sound of this!"

"Actually, it's right up your alley. We need someone to take charge of security, separate from the military," Greg said.

"Didn't you guys want us for Ranger training or something?" Sharon asked.

Greg nodded. "Actually, we would like one of you to fly one of the simulators while the medical folks test a theory. Abraxis discounted you both as potential Rangers because of your age based on information he had on 'type three humanoids'. However, we didn’t experience the same effects as those in his data stores. If you can fly a sled simulator through a hyperjump, then we'd like to see if you can do it for real. If you can, then Abraxis' data on us is incorrect and you can both become Rangers."

"Okay, but if we become Rangers, then what about the security thing?" Jarad asked.

Greg smiled. "Can you think of anyone better suited for it? Besides, you don't have a complete team yet, so using our abilities and skill to keep us secure would be good duty don't you think?"

"Actually, that sounds pretty smart," Sharon said, proud of her son. "Does that mean we'll get the use of the Rangers that have not made a team?"

"It might be a good addition to training. However, if this works out, we might need Sharon to fly as a member of the new team - temporarily. In fact, I'd like to get the tests out of the way as soon as possible so you can go through training with them," Greg replied. "That being said, I'd feel better if Jarad remained as Security Chief, at least for the time being."

"Okay, but since we're eventually going to become Rangers, I'd like to make Lionel my second instead of Sharon. That way I can train him to take over when the time comes. He has all the instincts for the job and would have made a damn good agent. Is that okay with you, Sweetheart?" Jarad asked his wife.

"Yeah, I was going to suggest it anyway, especially if I need to help out the other team," Sharon said. "It makes sense, but I should warn you, Jarad and I do work best when we're together."

Greg nodded. "That's fine, Mom. It may well be that you and the new Rangers won't even get along. I am only asking for you to go through training with them, not to serve as their Pilot unless you do decide to remain with them."

"What will happen if we do find another pilot for them? Part of training is building the bonds a team needs for combat," Jolene asked.

"The same thing that would happen if one of us was killed. The team would as a whole would go through a type of refresher in order to bond with each other," Greg said. "The Onarians will be going through that very soon. Which reminds me, we need to figure out a way to help patrol their area while they are out."

"With respect Greg, that is not necessary, my sensors will inform us if there is any activity in the sector," Abraxis replied.

"I understand that, Abraxis. But what we are facing now has never happened before. This is a unique situation, and I don't want to take any chances with anyone's safety," Greg replied. "We can't afford to assume we know what's going to happen. We're going to have to be as vigilant as we are going to have to support and stand together, or the Drellians will roll right over us."

"I understand," Abraxis replied thoughtfully. "You really are growing into your responsibilities, Fighter. Your dedication to the safety of those you are sworn to protect will be an inspiration to the other races. I'm very pleased that I have been given the opportunity to work with you."

Greg smiled. "Thank you Abraxis. But it isn't just me; this is a group effort. It's all of us - you included."

"I'm proud of you too, Greg. You've come a long way in a very short amount of time; all of you have," Jarad said. "I'm certain that your biological father would be proud of you as well. I know Mandi's mother would be."

Sharon nodded her head. "We all are. Even Bella and Jolene's parents are so proud of you all. You should hear them tell stories about you!"

All four Rangers were blushing. "Okay, okay, we got sidetracked!" Bella said. "So what needs to happen next?"

"Well," Greg said thoughtfully. "Carl, did we get anyone that could serve in a diplomatic roll?"

"Yes and no, we haven't gotten anyone that actually was a diplomat, but we do have people that would be good at it. I'll have to speak to them and see if they're interested in the job," Carl replied.

"Please do, we're going to need to get this Alliance started before everything gets out of hand. In order to do that, we're going to need ambassadors and diplomats. I seem to have a pretty good rapport going with the other teams, but I haven't spoken to anyone in their governments. If we're going to build a military that consists of more than just the Ranger teams, we're going to have to work that out with the governments, not just the other teams," Greg replied. "I will speak to the other Rangers about getting recruitment started, but it will have to be something handled by each planet."

"So, how do we handle that then? We don't have the support of our governments," Jolene asked.

"The same way we'll handle everything else, Jolly. We'll appeal directly to the people of the planet. We'll recruit soldiers and naval personnel the same way we have been recruiting everyone else. We'll post the notice for employment on our web site," Carl replied. "Security will check them out, our recruiters will interview them, and arrange transportation to the base."

"Speaking of the base, when will construction begin on it?" Greg asked.

"The Design is still being finalized, but once that's done, the drones will get to work," Carl replied, but paused. "You know, we could ask the Greynus to build it. If they need to get their hives off planet, this just might help them."

Greg nodded. "I'll speak to them first thing in the morning. If they agree, I'll call Delion and get transportation for them. I need to call Delion anyway so she can get the cargo ships moving. I've been told that some of our people have expressed an interest in that sort of thing. Have you considered building the freighters for them?"

"We have, but for now, the mining and mining support ships have priority. We just don't have the capacity for multiple projects yet. Speaking of building ships, what are you going to do about Hypersleds?" Carl asked.

"I have the schematics and will be starting their assembly in the Ranger area. At present, we have our team's sleds as well as three extra. However, I will begin construction on three more as soon as I finish updating the new sleds," Mandi replied. "I'll get with Abraxis tomorrow and work up a training schedule for Arless as well."

Greg nodded. "Okay, we're going to need to build the military from the ground up. We're going to need a training command as well as Marine and Naval command sections. We also need designs to be submitted for the fleet; everything from fighters to Dreadnoughts."

Jarad nodded. "You're going to need a training cadre; drill instructors for the Marines, flight instructors, tech and support personnel; the whole enchilada."

"Well, it's not enchilada's, but dinner is served," A smiling woman replied from the door into the kitchen.

When everyone just looked at Carl, he grinned. "Everyone, I'd like you to meet Florence Henderson; no, she is no relation to the other Florence Henderson. Flo, I'd like you to meet our protectors and my friends." Carl proceeded with introductions, and Greg got the distinct impression there was more going on between the restaurant owner and the Governor than being just friends. She was, however, an exceptional cook and the food was really excellent. The serious discussions were set aside for the time being in order to share the wonderful meal in the company of good friends.

Alpha Team Residence

Grimaldi Ridge Base

Ocean of Storms

Selene, Earth's Moon

When Greg spoke to the Greynus Fighter, he discovered two things; first, that he was actually a she and second, that they were very excited and would be more than happy to come immediately and assist the Terrans in constructing the new Military base. She informed Greg that if it would be allowed, they could also design and begin construction on the ore processing facilities.

Greg got Carl involved in the call and he discussed any special needs they might have and also asked if the facilities they had already built would be large enough as well as comfortable enough for her people.

She was overjoyed and impressed that so much work and thoughtfulness had been given to her people's comfort. She thanked both men for their hard work and consideration. She assured them that a hive cluster would be ready for relocation as soon as transportation could be arranged. Carl also asked for at least one individual to be sent as well in order to serve on his staff to make sure their people had everything they would need.

The Fighter bowed to him and said she would make sure of it. When the call ended, Carl was not only impressed, but looking forward to meeting the new race, even though he was intimidated by the thought of large insects joining their colony. When Greg asked if it was going to cause a problem with the people, Carl shook his head.

"No, we've been working hard on a publicity campaign that has been informing our folks of the different races and their customs. We even had Abraxis project holographic Greynus and other races into the common areas so people would get used to seeing them around as well as interacting with them. At first, there was some initial shock and fear, but people adjusted pretty quickly. I think some of them even forgot they were actually talking to Abraxis instead of a real Greynus or Onarian," Carl explained.

"That was smart thinking, most of the other races do have experience dealing with other races, but not all of them do. I might just suggest the same method be offered to them if it looks like interaction might be possible," Greg replied. "So, now all I have to do is call Fighter Delion and see if we can get the Greynus a ride here and see if they can start moving cargo for us. I'll try to get all of this handled before we leave."

"You know, this patrol you and the girls are going on is pretty poorly timed; we need you here," Carl said.

"I know there is a lot to be done Carl, but the patrols are just as important. Besides, there really isn't a lot for us to do here until we get the mining operations up and running and have the people we need to get the training going. More than anything, though, I'm trying to set a precedent and show the other teams that we need to help each other just as much as we need to help our own people. The Onarians can't patrol yet, and they are in a very bad position, spatially. We're deeper in the sector, but they are right on the edge," Greg explained.

"Yeah, I know and agree with you. It's just that having you gone for a week or more is going to be a real pain in the butt," Carl said.

"Well, it'll get easier, Governor," Greg grinned as he used the older man's title. "We're getting more Rangers trained, and pretty soon doing patrols will be just another mundane, boring duty."

Carl grinned back but nodded in agreement with Greg. "Don't forget to ask for a transportation coordinator as well. Abraxis said they live just like we do, so they wouldn't need anything special as far as living quarters and the like."

"I will,” Greg replied. "Last time I spoke to her, she said her government was excited at the prospect of opening trade with another race, so we might be getting more than just the coordinator."

"That's fine, as long as they don't invade us," Carl replied. "If they want to send a couple of extra people, that shouldn't be a problem. In fact, I'll talk to Abraxis about getting set up to host folks from the other races as well. Getting the trade goods might be an issue to begin with, but once the money starts flowing, I think the governments down there will get with the program, at least economically."

Greg nodded. "Just make sure no one makes a deal to transfer any advanced tech to Earth. I don't like the need for it, but the planet would pretty much kill itself if it had the tech to do so."

Carl snorted, "I don't think they’re going to need the help. They seem to be doing a pretty good job of it now!"

Greg sighed. "What did I miss now?"

Carl shook his head. "North Korea is building up their forces at the DMZ and claiming that the US has built a military base on the moon as a first step to taking over the rest of the world. The U.N. is trying to calm them down, but this is North Korea we're talking about.

"China has also accused the United States of invading its sovereign territory, as this portion of the moon was claimed by them, which it wasn't. It had been claimed by the former Soviet Union before it fell, but no one claimed this area afterward. I've been expecting a call from the Secretary General any time. Then of course there are the religious nuts in the Middle East; Pakistan and India are back to their old rivalries - which at least they are not blaming on us," Carl said. "But most of South America is supportive of us; Peru even went so far as to officially recognize us as a nation. You know, you really should watch CNN more."

Greg shook his head. "Five minutes of that, and I either want to cry or puke. It’s crazy how stupid those governments can be. Everyone knows we have nothing to do with the United States Government!" Greg replied. "So, are you planning to do anything about it?"

Carl shrugged. "We're increasing recruitment in the other nations. We have been granted 'safe' landing rights in Brazil, Peru, Columbia, and all of the rest of the South American countries except for Panama, Venezuela and Guyana. In fact, Argentina has asked what they can do to assist us. I handed it over to Jarad, since I thought it might just be a ploy to get their hands on some of our tech, but at least they offered."

"You know, I seem to remember seeing some advanced geological stuff in Abraxis' database. You might want to see if any of the bright boys down in the labs would be willing to offer them advanced warning on Earthquakes and such. Honestly, I don’t know if that's even possible, but it sure can't hurt to look. If we can help them like that, without actually giving them any technology, that could really help folks down there," Greg suggested.

"Damn good idea!" Carl said and made note of it. "I'd bet my left nut there is a lot of stuff like that we could start doing for folks. Even more accurate weather forecasting would help. Say, you never told me what you thought about letting the newsies up here."

"If Jarad says they're clean, I don't mind as long as they agree to behave themselves. One screw up though, and they're gone. Be careful, the U.S. is notorious for getting spies in place as news correspondents," Greg replied.

"That isn't just a U.S. trick, Greg," Carl replied. "Okay, I'll let you go so you can finish your calls. Let me know what you find out."

After talking to Carl, Greg got a refill of coffee and called Ranger Fighter Delion.

"Fighter Greg, it is an honor to speak to you again," Delion said by way of greeting.

"The honor is mine, Delion. How are your people?" Greg asked.

"We are well, my friend. Thank you." She smiled at him. "Abraxis tells me you have been very busy. You will be leaving this day for a patrol of Onarian space?"

Greg nodded and explained his thoughts to her about the need to increase their vigilance and the need for patrols.

"Yes, this has been of great concern to me as well. I believe we should speak to the rest of our comrades about this. All of us should be as vigilant and assist each other as much as possible. The Drellians can be far too clever, and as you said, this is a new situation we have found ourselves in. I feel we should also be thinking about a method of making contact with other sectors close to ours to determine if they are Drellian or not. If we are surrounded by enemies, we may have more to worry about than originally believed. Even if we had the sacred code spoken of by Abraxis, our survival might be in the balance," Delion replied.

"I agree. But surrounded or not, we can't let them win. We will find a way to hold them back, then we will find a way to defeat them. The Drellians have had their way for far too long in this galaxy. It's time for the people to determine their own destinies once again," Greg replied.

She smiled at him. "That's what I like about you; for a male, you have some serious fangs on you."

Greg grinned back at her. "Before we get into that, I have a couple of requests to pass on to you."

She looked surprised. "Requests? From who?"

"Our Governor, Carl Hollister. I believe you've met him?" Greg asked.

"Ah, no, I did not meet him, but I did communicate with him about the requirements of our freighters," Delion replied. "As you have called him your governor, may I assume you got the issues with your leaders corrected?"

Greg shook his head. "No, the planet's leaders are still too immature to work with us. We moved our base to the planet's natural satellite and appealed directly to the people of the planet. That appears to have been the right thing to do since we are making a lot of progress.

"Governor Hollister has asked me to pass on to you an invitation for your freighters to begin moving the foodstuffs we spoke of to the Greynus homeworld. I have also received a request from the people of Greynus for the transportation of a hive cluster to our location. Both requests are at your earliest convenience.

"Governor Hollister has also told me that he would welcome a small trade envoy from your people, although we might have difficulty obtaining trade items in large quantities for the time being," Greg finished.

Delion chuckled. "You have been making progress. I will of course send the ships for the Greynus immediately. It may well be that those same ships will be used to transport the goods back to their home world.”

Greg nodded his understanding. “We will be sending the first shipment ourselves, along with a small team of specialists to instruct the Greynus on how to grow the food themselves, underground. However, we do not have the capacity of your ships so that first shipment will be small in comparison. Which reminds me, several of our people have expressed interest in becoming freighter pilots and crew themselves, would it be agreeable if we built some of our own freighters for this purpose? We don't want to offend anyone."

"Considering how much cargo will be flying around this sector in the next two cycles, I believe we will need all the assistance as we can find. No, that will not offend anyone; in fact it may be a great relief to many here. We have begun to feel the pinch in our efforts. Our ship yards cannot build ships fast enough for the crews being trained for them," Delion admitted. Which reminds me, two of our trade partners would also like to assist us. They have offered to assist with shipping as well as provide some raw materials in the form of metals as well as food stuffs. One of them, the Ferilli, are already undertaking a massive expansion of their farming efforts. I believe they would be very interested in your hydroponic farming method as well."

"Wow, we are growing faster than we can manage from the sound of it. I'll mention that the Ferilli might be interested, but I can’t make that decision on my own. I'm certain someone will want to speak to them about it." Greg made a note for himself to let Carl know before he left. "Have you considered speaking to the Greynus about assistance in expanding your facilities?" Greg asked. "I am certain they would be glad of the chance to relocate another hive cluster off-world temporarily. Not to mention that you will be providing transportation of the food we are giving them."

"I hadn't thought to ask yet, no, we were waiting until we had a better idea of what facilities were going to be built and where they would be built," Delion replied.

Greg nodded. "Yes, all of us are going to have to get together and work out how to pull this off. I will speak to the Governor about hosting such a meeting. But we will need to convince our leaders of the need to attend as well as attend ourselves."

"That will mean we won't be able to run patrols during that time," Delion replied.

"I know, but it can't be helped. The Rangers will need to be part of that meeting as representatives for the defense of our people. It will be up to the diplomats to hammer out the details, but it will be up to us to make sure our people are defended," Greg replied. Which brings me to yet another thing I wanted to speak to you about. It seems we are discovering individuals with the correct make up to become Rangers. As yet none of them have formed complete teams, but we are planning on bringing as many as we can here for training and see if that won’t help them to become complete teams."

"Great Breeder! How many have you found?" Delion asked.

“Well, so far, it has been discovered that my parents, I believe you would call them my Dame and Sire, are a Pilot and Fighter, respectively. And we have also found three new people that have a Fighter, Finder and Fixer. We are taking steps to see what we can do to look for more. Abraxis has told us that this is an unusually high percentage for a race to have."

Delion nodded her agreement. "It is very unusual. We have screened our entire population, and have even begun screening at birth. So far we have only found three others that have the genes; one pilot and two fixers."

"Some of our scientists have a theory that the occurrence of the genetic markers may be linked to how violent our nature is, a couple of them are going to be looking into it and comparing it with all the information that Abraxis has in his database," Greg replied.

"That would indeed be an interesting study. In our distant past, we too were a very violent race, however, we grew away from that and began focusing our energies elsewhere. As much as I hate to say it, if violence turns out to be an indicator for the occurrence of Rangers, then we are very fortunate your race has not yet matured. We will need as many Rangers as we can locate in the coming cycles," Delion replied.

"As much as it pains me to admit it, you might very well be correct. Still, those same violent tendencies make my people very difficult to work with and even harder to trust." Greg said, and told her of what he overheard in the meeting with the President.

"They sound very suspicious of those around them. I find it hard to believe that, even though they believed you, they refused to see the truth of what you told them. It simply makes no sense to me," Delion replied. "Now I have a better understanding of the problems of which you spoke. Are all the separate leaderships of your world like that?"

Greg nodded. "Unfortunately. Some of them are even worse. I approached the United States first because I felt they would be the easiest to convince and work with. I was wrong."

"It is amazing such beings could be allowed to gain power on your world. Then again, considering your history, I think I can understand at least part of it," Delion replied.

"Our history?"

Delion smiled. "I have always had an interest in history. As a hobby during our off-times, I like to learn as much as I can. You awakened my curiosity so I asked Abraxis for historical information pertaining to your world." She noticed Greg was grinning. "This amuses you?"

Greg shook his head. "No, no, it's just that, we have a species on our world that could be considered a very distant genetic cousin to your race. We call them Cats. The domesticated breeds are very endearing animals that many of us have taken into our homes. One of the hallmarks of the species is an almost insatiable curiosity about pretty much everything."

"I see," Delion said noncommittally.

"Delion, I think you might be misunderstanding me, the majority of our felines are small semi-intelligent beings. They are not really that much like you or your people. Abraxis, could you please show us an image of a domestic feline?" Greg asked.

Abraxis complied and Greg saw an image of a standard house cat show up on the screen as an inset. "Doesn't your race keep pets?"

He could see Delion looking closely at the image. "We have those! Our scientists say that they are the ancestors of our race!"

Greg nodded. "We are descended from primates." Greg said as Abraxis inserted the image of a Chimpanzee into the screen. "In point of fact, there is a very small difference between our own genetic make-up and that of this animal."

"I owe you a great apology, Fighter Greg. When you spoke of this, I believed you might be keeping my kind as pets. I understand much better now, thank you for explaining it to me," Delion replied, much relieved.

"That would be slavery, Delion. Although I cannot speak for my entire race; that is one thing I will never tolerate," Greg said seriously.

"That term; slavery, is not one that translated to my language. Until I reviewed your history, I had no idea what it was. This is what you are afraid will happen to our people if your race is allowed control of your technology?" Delion asked.

Greg nodded. "I know they would do it. That is why I have vowed to destroy everything if I have to in order to keep them from taking control. They would conquer as many of the other races as possible in order to force them to work the way they feel they should. As much as I hate to admit it, many of my people are incapable of seeing any non-human as an equal. Some of them cannot even see other members of our race as equals simply because they come from a different nation."

Main Hanger

Hypersled Maintenance Area

Grimaldi Ridge Base

Ocean of Storms

Selene, Earth's Moon

"The Onarian Rangers will be on alert for your call if you need them, Fighter. Ranger Fighter Delion and Ranger Fighter Thrasixt will also be available and are preparing for their own patrols," Abraxis said.

"Thank you, Abraxis. That's good to know." Greg replied. He turned to Carl and Jarad, who had both turned out to see the team off. "If you have something you really need to ask me, Abraxis can relay it for us. There's a lot to do, and I wish I could stay and help, but this really needs to be done. At least until we can find a better way of detecting these assholes."

"I understand that now," Carl said. He had argued over the need for a patrol until Greg had showed him the current sensor ranges of Abraxis’ network. There were huge holes that would need sensor drones capable of covering those areas. But those drones could not be sent out until the materials had been mined, processed, and the devices built. This would be the first project of the fledgling Alliance.

"Just don't be surprised when you get back here. Things have been happening pretty fast lately, and I don't see that trend changing anytime soon," Jarad replied.

Greg gave a rueful chuckle. "At least with the two of you in charge, I know the changes will be for the best. I wish you both luck."

"I wish you a long and boring flight," Jarad replied.

Greg shook both men's hands and climbed aboard his hypersled. Bella and Jolene had already mounted up and had gotten ready.

Across the big hanger, all work stopped as a horn sounded the departure of a ship. Everyone knew that the Rangers were leaving today. As one, all the people stood and watched as the platform carrying the sleds ascended up into the dome.

"They're going to be gone a long time this trip aren't they?" Carl asked.

Jarad nodded. "It'll be just over a week for us. Only about ten or so hours for them."

"Relativity sure sucks," Mandi said as she watched her teammates leave. "I hope they don't find anything out there," she said worriedly and walked off.

"With the loss of the teams in the last battle, I doubt the Prime Nexus has been able to respond quite this rapidly," Abraxis said. "If they do find enemies during this patrol, they would have to be from sectors adjacent to this one."

"That would tell us if the sectors near us have been captured or not. Abraxis, what are the Drellian duties in sectors that have been pacified?" Carl asked.

"I don't have hard data on that, Governor. However, before my staff expired, it was rumored that they were used to quell uprisings and punish populations that had failed the empire. Details of what that punishment might entail are unknown. However, forced labor, or what you would call slavery was the most talked about," Abraxis replied.

"It would be good to know what the Drellians have done to the planets it has had control of. But we have no way to gather that type of information at this point either," Carl said thoughtfully.

"Governor, there is an incoming communications request for you from the Harclen Consortium," Abraxis said.

"Thank you Abraxis, I'll take it in my office." He nodded to Jarad, turned and left.

Jarad looked back up at the now closed floor of the dome. "Good luck, team. Come back to us safely."

Shortly after they joined the ships into one and made the jump to hyperspace, Greg looked at the girls. "Ladies, we need to have a talk."

"About what?" Bella asked neutrally.

Jolene looked a little more apprehensive. "Is something wrong?"

Greg nodded. "Yeah, there is something very wrong between us, and we need to fix it before one of us gets killed. We have to talk to each other about everything; every little problem we have, otherwise we can't function in harmony with each other. There is a problem forming between us, and we need to deal with it."

When Mandi got back to her empty apartment that night, she found two domestic drones waiting for her to allow them entrance. When she did, she figured out what was going on as the drones began work in Greg's room. They made a larger bed and added storage to the room.

As she got ready for bed, she saw that the drones had begun moving Bella and Jolene's personal effects into Greg's now larger bedroom. She smiled to herself, happy that her friends had finally figured out their relationship. Briefly, she felt sorry for Joyce who was a genuinely nice person, but at the same time, felt that perhaps Joyce might not be that hurt, since she and Greg had only just met.

Governor's Office

Colony Administration block

Grimaldi Ridge Base

Ocean of Storms

Selene, Earth's Moon

Carl had just finished reading a report from Jarad on the preparations the separate nations of Earth were making to send armed missions to the moon. He shook his head in wonder at the stupidity of the human animal when his aide beeped him.

"What's up Helen?" Carl asked. Helen Gentry and her husband had chosen to follow Carl to the moon when he left. She had been an excellent aide to him running StealthCon and he had worried that she and her husband might be targeted for interrogation after he left. So, he spoke to the recruiters and had an invitation extended to the family. Helen's husband, George, was working as a cargo coordinator for the Earth shuttles and was doing a very good job.

"Sir, the President of the United States is calling for you, her assistant said it was an urgent matter," the woman replied.

After reading the report he just had, he couldn't help but wonder if she was calling to give him an ultimatum. "I see, could you ask either Jarad or Lionel to come to my office please, I have a feeling we might need them."

"Both men just entered the office, Sir. I'll send them right in," Helen said smugly.

"You are a scary smart woman, Helen and I'm glad you work for me. Please do, then I'll take the President's call," Carl replied.

The Presidential Seal of the United States of America came up on the video screen as Jarad and Lionel entered the office and quietly took seats out of the pick-up range of the camera. Carl nodded agreement with the choice and waited for the President to come on the line. When she did, she was mildly surprised.

"General Hollister, I asked to speak with Mister Albright," she said.

"I'm afraid he is on a mission at the moment, Madam President. I am the civilian leader of the Lunar Colony. We have named it Grimaldi Base. What can we do for you today?" Carl replied in a friendly manner.

The woman nodded. "I'd been told you'd turned traitor and gone to the moon. I demand an explanation of all the activity we've been monitoring up there. Just what the hell are you people doing?"

Carl smiled at the woman. "Firstly, Madam President, I am not a traitor as I am not acting against anyone on the planet. Secondly, you are in no position to demand anything. I will, however, be happy to tell you of our activities if you simply ask. Although, I believe you've already been told what we're doing up here. Everything we have undertaken has been broadcast to the entire world. Is there a specific event that you are not understanding? Come to think of it, you should have known that Ranger Albright left this base two days ago."

"Don't play coy with me, Hollister. You know damn good and well no one here authorized you to enter into trade agreements with alien worlds. All those ships coming and going up there are making the world a very nervous place. We're on the brink of war down here because of you people! Now tell me what you think you’re doing?" President Wilma Daily almost screamed.

Carl shook his head and sighed. "We are undertaking the protection of our world by allying ourselves with the other free races in our sector of space. We are undertaking a joint effort to build the facilities and military to accomplish that single task. We have made it very clear to the entire world that they have nothing to fear from any of us, the Alliance races, or our activities. In point of fact, we have been getting a lot of assistance from the people of Earth as well as many members of the economic community. It would seem, Madam President, that the only ones on the planet actually having any sort of problem with any of this are those in power.

"As for the ships you have seen arriving and departing this base, there is a shipping schedule posted on our website. The only flights not posted there are military ones, and there hasn't been any of those since the Rangers departed. So I ask you again, is there something you are not understanding?" Carl asked.

"Fine, if you want to play it that way, I'll ask you one more time Hollister. Since that kid isn't there anymore, maybe you'll have a better grasp of the situation you’re in. Will you surrender yourselves, your base, and all of you technology to the people of the United States or will we have to take it by force?" the President said.

"Madam President, you had no luck getting us to surrender when we were on the planet, what makes you think we would do it now? Oh! If you're referring to the soon to be launched secret assault mission you have ready in Florida, you might want to talk to a few of the other nations, they are also ready to launch. Maybe you guys can pool your resources and at least save some money on fuel. I won't bother to warn you, yet again, about the base's defenses.

"We have no interest in harming you or anyone else, but we also have no interest in submitting to your will. If you attempt to attack this base, we will defend it. Frankly Wilma, you don't really stand a chance, no matter what modifications you made to that old NASA shuttle. If you send soldiers up here in a ship with hostile intent, you will be getting them back in body bags. We've played this game with you for too long. We simply don't have the time to do it anymore. That goes for any and all nations of Earth, if you plan on attacking this base, you will fail. You will have spent the lives of your soldiers for nothing.

"You know, considering the opinion polls about your actions toward us, it's really a wonder you haven't figured all this out yet," Carl replied.

"Fine, you want to know the truth about all of this Hollister? I'll tell you; not one of our military and intelligence analysts down here believe for a minute that three, untrained, civilian kids in tiny, alien produced ships stand a chance in hell of defending this entire planet from anyone! We are trying to get control of you so we can make damn sure that we can get the job done before the Drellians come back. Yes, we believe young mister Albright, but we do not believe he has the knowledge or the training to protect us! We feel time is running out and we need to take control of the situation before it’s too late!" the woman replied.

Carl chuckled and nodded. "I understand now! You think that Greg and the team are untrained civilians because they didn't attend and graduate from one of your military institutions. Madam President, you concern is a valid one, but it is very far from the truth.

"Rangers, by definition are not civilians. In fact, on all the planets that have them, they are treated as the most elite military. After the initial team is discovered on a planet, a search begins to find others; the younger the better, in order to begin Ranger training. Potential Rangers usually begin training around the age of sixteen. They are not allowed to participate in a mission until they have met certain critical requirements.

"Now, I will grant you that our current team started training late, however, they have met every single requirement. In most cases, they have surpassed them. Wilma, you have seen my record, I'm sure. Believe me when I tell you that not one of your current pilots, that includes the astronauts, could pass this training.

"There is also one other small matter that I'm sure Mr. Whiteshield forgot to tell you about; there are genetic requirements to becoming a Ranger. The potential pilot has to have a certain genetic make-up in order for the hypersled to even work for them. If a normal human attempted it, it is almost certain the attempt would destroy their mind as well as their body. You would also lose the ship. So before your ghouls out in Nevada start trying to reproduce this, keep that in mind.

"If you believe that Commander Albright and his team are not trained, you are very much mistaken," Carl replied.

"Carl, we still don't believe three small ships, no matter how well trained the pilots are, can defend us. We need to be mass producing them and finding the pilots we'll need! You simply can't do that, not in the time we have left," Wilma said. "You need us to control and regulate what goes on up there. We will also not allow you to leave us at the mercy of these other, supposedly 'friendly' races you're allying yourselves with. What happens if they turn on you?"

He couldn't help it, he actually laughed. "I'm sorry, you have no way of knowing. But what you just said is so far out of the realm of possibility that it is hilarious! Madam President, none of the other races even have a military! Their sole defense is their Ranger teams! Those same individual beings that are sworn to protect the lives entrusted to them. Which by the way has always included us, even before we had a team!"

"What do you mean by that? How can they not have militaries? How do they defend themselves from each other?" Wilma asked.

"They don't!" Carl said. "No has any interest in attacking anyone else; there is simply no reason for them to want to!"

"What about resources? Commander Albright mentioned he needed food for a trade agreement…" she asked.

"Unknown to us, the Greynus, that's the race that needs the food, had already prepared their people to assist us as well as the rest of the races. Even getting some of their people off world would have helped not only ease the food problems, but helped the rest of us prepare for what's coming. No agreement was ever reached with them, they called all the other races, through the Rangers, and offered their assistance without even asking for anything themselves. Incidentally, the first shipment of Soybeans along with our hydroponics team left for their homeworld yesterday.

"Madam President, not one of the other races of our Alliance has hostile intent toward anyone. In point of fact, they will go out of their way to assist the others in time of need with no thought to repayment or any form of restitution. All of those societies are more agrarian than militaristic. They have far more to fear from us, because they know how violent a species we are, than we do of them." Carl replied.

"You have certainly given me a lot to think about, General," Wilma replied.

"Madam President. Please call off your attacks, we really don't want to hurt anyone," Carl asked.

"Attacks? We had only the one planned," Wilma admitted.

"You might not be aware of the other, Madam President. Four Special Operations teams are currently in New Mexico commandeering one of Virgin Galactic's ships. Since we granted them landing privileges, we wouldn't have fired on that ship. However, we do know every person that is supposed to get aboard," Carl replied.

"Ahh, No, I was unaware of that attack. I'll see what I can do about it. However, that leads me to another bone of contention; you gave Virgin Galactic technological assistance in the building of their new fleet. Why? You professed that you would not share any of your technology with the planet. Was that a lie?" the President asked.

"No, it wasn't. We did not give them any technology that wasn't already developed by Earth scientists. I am afraid that your version of the technology, as it is with the other nations of the planet, is still classified, however, so I would not like to discuss this any further as this conversation is also being broadcast to the world. I hope that is acceptable, Madam President," Carl replied.

She chuckled. "I'm sure I don't have any idea what you’re talking about, Hollister. You are a crafty old bastard, I'll give you that. I see that you have given permission for several world news agencies to station correspondents there. Is that correct?"

Carl nodded. "It is, as long as they follow our laws, I could see no reason for not allowing it. This is a civilian colony after all."

"But aren't you going to have military there as well?" she asked.

"They will have separate facilities from this one. The reporters won't be allowed over there without special permission just like any other civilian," Carl explained. "Just so you know, we do plan on releasing other technologies as well, but we plan to do so slowly, so as not to overwhelm anyone's economy. But I imagine the oil industry is in for a bumpy ride."

"That's a lot of people to be putting out of work, Hollister. What do you expect them to do; join you?" the President asked.

"They will be free to apply, just like everyone else, but no, what we release should create enough new jobs for them to be okay. Like I said, we're going to do it with care, we don't plan on dumping it all on you at once," Carl replied. "With respect, Madam President, I need to cut this call short, I have a meeting with the Harclerian Trade Ambassador soon and need to prepare for it."

The president nodded. "Would you let me send a diplomatic mission up there so I can see for myself exactly what's going on?"

"If I did that, I would have to allow all the other nations to do that same thing. I would triple the size of the base while reducing its efficiency by an order of magnitude. I would consider a U.N. Mission, but remember, we will not give control to anyone. We will work with you, but not for you," Carl replied.

"Not unexpected. I'll speak to our U.N. Ambassador and get the ball rolling. I'll have them call you to work out the details. Good Day, Governor."

Carl nodded. "And to you, Madam President." After which the call ended. Carl turned to his two guests. "Well, it looks like at least the U.S. is starting to figure out the real picture. What are your thoughts?"

Jarad nodded. "On the surface, it would seem so, but I still wouldn't put it past them to try to get spies up here at least. Force of arms has failed them so far, now we're going to see the clandestine stuff. Let's just hope the other countries follow suit. There are still four other nations getting ready to launch assault missions up here."

"I don't think anything will stop China's mission. They are still saying that we are on their 'land' and are demanding our immediate surrender," Lionel replied. "However, the Russian Federation is saying that they never relinquished their claim and that this base is theirs. They’re like children throwing a fit!"

"Well, let's hope we can still keep them all pacified so no one gets killed up here. I don’t like the idea of firing those weapons on manned ships from Earth, but if we have to…" Carl let the rest hang.

"Let's just hope that never happens, Governor," Jarad replied.




About the Author

Ben Winston (1965 - ?) was born in Iowa and grew up in Minnesota on the family dairy farm. Upon reaching adulthood, he joined the United States Army as a communications technician. Before getting out of the military, he decided to go to school for computer electronics.



Shortly after getting out of the military, and after getting a new job with an over-seas company, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. A month after beginning the new job, he was laid off due to budget over-runs on the project he was hired for. Upon returning to the United States, he had difficulty maintaining employment because of the chronic illness.



He began writing as a form of stress release, from being home bound and not being able to work, and found he liked writing erotica. Ben wrote a trilogy called the Talosian Chronicles (Currently in rewrite to remove the graphic sex and finalized his vision of the story). The first book, Star Dancer, won awards and was nominated for many others by the online communities where it was posted.



Ben Winston returned to school for literature, after completion, he began writing professionally. Being an avid fan of science fiction he focused on this genre. He was, and still is, influenced and inspired by Gene Roddenberry, Anne McCaffery, David Weber, Isaac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury. Some of his favorite movies and TV shows are; Battlestar Galactica (both versions), Andromeda, Star Trek, Firefly, Star Wars, and many of the B-rated movies that were actually box-office bombs.




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Books Published by Blue Space Publications, LLC.

by Ben Winston

Pollux Paradox

Tides of Mars

Tides of Mars (Omnibus)

Ascension

Conflict

Talosian Chronicles

Olympus

Star Dancer

Talosian Alliance

*Neptune’s Massif (Dec 2015, on presale now!)

*Raptor Squadron (First Quarter of 2016)

Novellas

Abraxis Complex

Origin of Prometheus

Sword of Damocles

Abraxis Code

Book of the Guardian

Home – Part One

Pest Control – Part Two

The Last Mission – Part Three

Resolution – Part Four

Bedouin’s Travels

Twilight Earth

A Long, Dark Night

*Terra Dawning (Pre-Sale now Dec 2015)

*New Day (First Quarter of 2016)

Series

Temple of S.A.R.A.H.

Prototype – Episode I

Subroutines – Episode II

Base Functions – Episode III

Hard Wired – Episode IV

Debug Mode – Episode V

*Beta Test – Episode VI (Pre-Sale now First Quarter of 2016)

by Michael McClain

Chronicles of Atlantis Series

Chronicles of Atlantis (Omnibus)

Atlantis Rising – Book I

Euthara – Book II



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