A/N: I do not own the Thunderbirds. All rights are exclusively owned by their respective authors.
Chapter 5: Forced Reunion
Dr. Byron D. Kimble, the head researcher, administrator, and director of the Tracy Enterprises Pittsburgh R&D building was a man that I had met only once or twice whenever he was called up to Tracy Towers in New York whenever my Dad would bring me along. I did know that he was a close colleague and friend of Brains, and he was aware of who were the true operatives of International Rescue. Because of this, as soon as he came down to the entrance lobby, he recognized me, and immediately brought me and Gabe up to the executive floor, no questions asked. He contacted my father, and he asked if I would like to speak to him.
A momentary flashback to World War III and that it was a conversation that happened over the phone caused me to shake my head negatively. In fact, I rarely used the telephone anymore, except in real emergencies, because of that reason. If Dad wanted to talk to me, he had to speak to me in person.
Dr. Kimble understood my reluctance given the fact that I had run away, and notified that I was waiting for him here in Pittsburgh. Dad and my brothers were all Earth-side, including John, but Brains was doing a rotation on Thunderbird 5, so apparently Fermat would be coming in Brain's place. That was the bright side. However, that being said, as I waited in the executive lobby for my family to arrive, I was going nuts. It would take a couple of hours for my Dad to even get here, and I still had no idea how I was going to face my family.
After a good hour of this, Gabe got up and approached me and exclaimed in irritation, "Alright, that's it!" and grabbing me by the back of my shirt he turned to Dr. Kimble and asked, "Dr. Kimble...is it possible for us to take a tour of the building? I promise that we won't run away!"
"Most certainly!" the man replied, understanding exactly what Gabe was trying to do. He looked flustered that he didn't think of that I would get nervous or bored while waiting for my Dad to arrive. He directed his administrative assistant (secretary) to show us around, and exploring this particular office was something I actually enjoyed. There were a lot of different engineering projects that had been in the works, including stuff that I knew was being specifically used for International Rescue. We killed the time wandering several hours in understanding the various projects that were going on.
It was around three thirty when we finished the tour, and fifteen minutes later Security notified us of the arrivals of my father, all of my brothers, and my old best friend and former roommate. Gabe and I immediately back tracked to the conference room near Dr. Kimble's office.
Dad was the first to see me, then Scott, followed by John, then Virgil, Gordon, and finally Fermat, but they didn't recognize me at first, until Dad saw my eyes.
"Allie?" His voice shook, scarcely able to believe what he was seeing. Dr. Kimble had left us alone, to give us some privacy, but I didn't want this to be an emotional reunion. I really didn't want to be here in the first place.
Dad calling me Allie immediately caught the attention of all the other newcomers in the room, and I searched desperately around for an exit. I didn't want to do this. All of the pain, all the anger, all the memories, and all the disappointment welled up into my throat. I immediately forced it down, and as my family started to rush towards me, I shouted, "Stop!"
I heard Gabe sigh sadly next to me as everyone froze. He saw the pain that I still held, and knew that I wasn't ready to let go. My Dad looked heartbroken, as I stared him down showing that me coming back was the last thing I wanted to do, but circumstances had forced my hand.
"I'm sorry, but the only reason I am here is because the Hood has forced my hand," I spoke, my voice quiet but firm, although I have no idea how that was possible given my inner turmoil, "I know I left her behind when I..." and I took a breath to get my emotions under control before I continued, "...left, but Tin-Tin doesn't deserve being hurt anymore by me because the Hood had decided to kidnap her. Our issues right now are secondary."
Gabe sighed again realizing that I still blamed myself, "Alan, I already told you, it's not your fault..."
I looked off to the side, not wanting to show the overwhelming fear and emotions in front of my family, "Yeah, I know that, but believing it is another matter." Taking another deep breath, I looked my dad in the eye, and desperately asked him, "The whole world saw that the Hood is after me, that means if I don't get involved in this, Tin-Tin will get hurt. He'll use her against me. I need to be a part of whatever you're planning." silently begging him that I had to be able to help. I couldn't leave this alone.
I don't know if Dad sensed my desperation, or that he wondered if me asking for help would be the first step of forgiving them, or if it was a little of both, because as I spoke his expression was completely unreadable. My brothers on the other hand were silently emotional. Scott was glaring at me, obviously ballistic with me running away and then pushing him away when I came back. Virgil and Gordon looked equally troubled and conflicted for the same reason. Only John and Fermat looked somewhat resigned and yet also relieved that I had come back, even though it wasn't to make amends.
After a minute, my Dad sighed and nodded consenting his permission to help Tin-Tin. "Alright son, you can help."
"But Dad!" my oldest brother protested, but he was silenced with a single look that I had been on the receiving end many times growing up.
"No Scott! This is our chance to make up for what we did...if I don't do this...he'll do it on his own...and that would be much more risky than if we do this together." His tone was filled with regret, and something ached within me, the desire to talk to him about...what happened was becoming annoying, and I quickly quashed the emotion. Rubbing his forehead slightly, I could tell that he had a headache, the stress really must have been getting to him.
He looked at me, a serious mask on his face exacerbating the tension regarding the situation with the Hood, "We just discovered ourselves that she had been taken as we flew over."
I looked at him surprised. They should have been the first to know!"Wait, you just found out? How is that possible? The takeover was around 9:50 this morning, it's now almost four in the afternoon! Do Kyrano and Ohana even know?" Knowing them, if they knew at all, I knew that Kyrano and Onaha would probably be uncharacteristically frantic right now, which made me slightly guilty that someone from the family wasn't with them right now, considering that I had pulled everyone so far apart.
At this, John answered, my older blond brother looked particularly bothered that all of this had happened, "They do, and as ashamed as I am to admit it, our entire system was hacked at the same time as the Global Airwave takeover. It knocked out our communications with the exception of our cell phones, so we didn't find out about her being kidnapped until after we were flying over here. We didn't even realize that we had lost contact with Brains on Thunderbird Five for a good four hours, and we didn't find out what had happened until Brains was able to reroute communications back to us on Tracy One mid-flight. That's why we were so surprised when you came back at first. It was so sudden and unexpected."
That certainly explained it...John, along with Brains, probably felt violated that the Tracy systems had been able to be taken over by the same man who nearly killed all of us five years ago. I would feel the same, had it been my system, which made me think of my own security system. I wasn't necessarily worried that it was in danger of being hacked, but my company did have a reputation in the security market that had important records of a lot different clients as well as blueprints for my locks and security systems, and bypass instructions for my cyber-security programs. It was a good thing, that I went over and updated all of my security protocols to prevent any hacking just yesterday in fact.
Deciding to wisely change the subject, I asked, "Where was Tin-Tin when she was kidnapped?"
My dad answered, his voice laced with regret, "She was finishing up her summer classes at MIT. Scott and Virgil were going to go pick her up next week. She pressured us to finish her studies when the breakout happened, and we agreed to let her finish under the condition that she take precautions." and I knew that he felt guilty for not forcing her to come home.
"What have the police found?" It was here when Gabe asked, his eyes narrowed in concern. He looked over at me, obviously worried about me in more ways than one, considering that I had been worried about Tin-Tin this entire time.
Dad answered him, but continued to look at me. There were a lot of emotions that he was holding back that I knew I would burst sooner rather than later, but my insistence in making him wait was the only thing keeping him from dealing with that right now, "We will hear more from Kyrano and Onoha when they get to Massachusetts. I contacted them, and they are absolutely devastated, which reminds me that I should send someone to be with them right now to go check and see if they're okay."
Virgil, his voice soft and thoughtful, put in, "Anne-Marie would be more than willing to do it, and it's about forty minutes to MIT from Manhattan anyway, so I say send her." Dad looked surprised that he hadn't thought of it. I guess he really wasn't thinking clearly as I thought with all the stress he was under. Dad looked at my third oldest brother and nodded giving him permission to call Tracy Towers. Before leaving the room, Virgil stared at me showing undisguised hurt that caused me to flinch slightly, but I shook my head. I almost didn't hear what John had to say next.
"What we do know is that Tin-Tin was kidnapped from her dorm room, and that they most likely drugged her or knocked her out, as there was little sign of a struggle. This was done expertly and efficiently. They estimate that she had only been gone for less than twelve hours before the GAT* happened."
I frowned, this was becoming more and more complicated, "That's not good. That's enough time to go pretty much anywhere, no matter what type of transportation you're using. You can get all the way to Pittsburgh in that amount of time by driving!"
Turning away from glaring away, Scott slipped into field commander mode, laying out what we needed to do, "Exactly...so we need to find her fast. The sooner we find her, the sooner we can find the Hood."
Nodding at Scott, I turned to John and Fermat, "I'm assuming that Brains is going over everything regarding the hacking of Thunderbird Five and Tracy Island's systems?" They nodded, serious expressions masking their concern for Tin-Tin, and I continued, "I'd really like to talk to him about what was accessed during the takeover. As much as I would like to trust this to the authorities, the Hood has already proven himself to be a much greater threat than what they can currently handle. With such a widespread worldwide attack and yet unable to pinpoint his location means that they have been masked and rerouted through at least a dozen or more different signals. He's confident that he won't be found unless he wants to be found."
At me saying this, my family looked on surprised, with the exception of Fermat. They still had no idea at all regarding my cyber-security abilities. I honestly thought they would have figured out by now how I managed to stay below the radar was largely due to my hacking abilities. Creating an almost legitimate false ID, untraceable bank accounts, legal records, social security, and everything else was all part of my month and half of preparation before I ran away.
Deciding to get right to it, Gabe asked, "Mr. Tracy, what do you know about the Hood and his followers? Do they know anything specific regarding those with him?" That's what Gabe always did, he always wanted to know what we were dealing with before jumping into things. Him coming to help me was turning to be more than a usual situation for him.
Actually acknowledging my pastor's grandson this time, my dad examined him closely eying him and wondering how we knew each other before answering, "You're name is Gabe, isn't it?" Dad looked hesitant about explaining anything about International Rescue before I stepped in and explained.
"Don't worry about keeping International Rescue a secret, he already knows about that." and my Dad looked at me annoyed, given I had told someone without his permission, "Don't give me that look Dad. I wouldn't have told him about it if I didn't absolutely trust him. My issues with you had nothing to do with International Rescue. Besides he already knows about what really happened with the Hood, so it's kinda of pointless to keep International Rescue a secret."
My Dad sighed in frustration, and I glared back at him, his lack of trust in me was still quite apparent and was getting incredibly irritating, but before we could erupt in another fight he let it go and continued explaining, "Did Alan tell you about International Rescue's agents?"
The brown haired, brown eyed twenty year old shrugged before replying,"Somewhat...Alan told me mostly everything, but I promise you what Alan has told me about International Rescue are things that I haven't told anyone, not even my mother and grandfather which can be a challenge sometimes." Causing my Dad to relax a bit, but I snorted at what Gabe said, giving my own opinion on his, I wouldn't say they were gossipy, but definitely nosy mother and grandfather. They always knew when people were up to no good, or hiding something.
I muttered under my breath, "He's certainly right about that, especially with his mother."
Mock glaring at me, Gabe growled,"Can it Alan! She's not that bad..."
Rolling my eyes at him,"Really? You get it from her..." My brothers and Fermat looked upon us as we joked around during the meeting. Scott, Virgil, and Gordon looked jealous. Fermat looked quiet and shy for some reason, and John and my Dad smiled slightly at our antics.
Laughing, my Dad then became serious again and continued explaining , "One of our agents is Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, an English Noblewoman, who, along with her chauffeur, bodyguard, and servant Parker, are our main informants regarding things like this. We have had her on the case since the Hood broke out of prison. Her investigation has been most enlightening regarding the men who escaped Belmarsh with the Hood."
Gordon looked at Dad, my fish of a brother scratching at his head,"They're certain of that? Couldn't they have escaped unnoticed during the confusion and gone separately?"
Dad shook his head, "No, it was confirmed that all those who escaped, escaped with the Hood."
I sighed gripping the bridge of my nose, "Who are we exactly dealing with here?"
My father, world famous astronaut and billionaire, continued, "Approximately fifteen prisoners escaped with the Hood. Of those fifteen, the most dangerous are Mark McDuke and Riki Abdullah. Mark McDuke has been called the most dangerous man in Europe, and before his incarceration he was involved in everything from terrorism, drug trafficking, armed robbery, and arson. It is believed he is directly responsible for over a hundred and fifty murders within the United Kingdom alone, but those have never been proven, and he was wanted in over thirty five different nations, including the United States, Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, and Switzerland. Apparently, he has some connections with Mullion, which explains why he has joined the Hood."
At the mention of Mullion, the Hood's enforcer, I shivered and I looked over to Fermat who nodded at me, equally worried. The two of us had faced him with Tin-Tin, and dealing with a much more dangerous and probably psychopathic villain like this man was not something I hoped to do on my vacation. Why was it always during my vacations that the bad guys decided to do what they do?
After a moment, I sighed and gained control of my inward turmoil and nodded at my Dad to continue, which he did because he looked like he wanted to get this over with as quick as possible, "Riki Abdullah is just as fanatical about violence. He's an explosives expert, and was responsible for the hijacking of a transcontinental flight that was set to attack New York City, although he is not with any known radical Islamic organization. His history shows that he has close association with criminal activities now believed to be orchestrated by the Hood." It was then a horrible thought came to me, and I couldn't believe that no one made this connection before.
"Alan...are you okay?" Gabe asked me as I looked into space, my face probably was white from the horror that dawned on me. My family looked at me extremely concerned as this realization caused me to breathe rapidly, as if I was about to hyperventilate. Gabe got up to shake me out of my stupor, but I held up my hand as I took several deep breaths and calmed myself down.
When I was able to finally answer after a moment, I spoke in an almost whisper, but it was audible enough that my volume didn't matter, "Do you think that he might have been targeting Tracy Towers back then?"
The shock and horror that I presented everyone in the room deeply unsettled them. The death and destruction that the Hood was willing to cause, not just to my family because of International Rescue failing to save him, but to Tracy Enterprises, the thousands of innocent employees who worked in one of our biggest offices. It would have been 9/11 all over again. I couldn't believe that's how much he hated our family. He was truly a sociopath who cared for nothing but causing of death and destruction.
Virgil, who came back in the room to hear this realization and was the only one to reign in his emotions enough to get us to continue, "What about Transom and Mullion?"
Dad shook his head and answered, "Unfortunately, we have found that they had also escaped from prison several months ago. It was a less well known incident because they were in lower security, but..." The silence afterward made it difficult to really speak up. We were dealing with a global level threat that needed to be dealt with immediately...and the world governments couldn't do a single thing about them!
My oldest brother summarized what we finally concluded, "All of this was planned...planned far too well for all of this to just be a one time thing! The Hood is preparing for something big, not just for us, but for the whole world!" We all nodded at this in agreement. Personal issues would have to wait.
I asked, ready to get down to business, "Can we get Brains online? John, Fermat, and I can get started on going over the data and tracking the Hood. I have a few programs that I have developed that might clear up the interference preventing us from finding him." and my dad nodded, turning to Dr. Kimble who reentered the room as the same time as Virgil. His face was equally serious and disturbed by what the Hood had probably planned to do.
"Byron, can begin the link up to Thunderbird 5 from here?"
The administrator immediately nodded, knowing that Pittsburgh R&D was about to become headquarters for dealing with this catastophe, "Certainly, I'll take you down to the Communications Room on the thirteenth floor, and we can get started, and we have news..." and as he said this a bad feeling formed in the pit of my stomach.
I asked, my voice hesitant not wanting any more bomb shells, "What sort of news?"
The man looked nervous, his shoulders shaking slightly, but he gave the news report that he had just received, "The hacking of Tracy Island's systems was only the beginning. The cyber-attacks are happening worldwide. From China, to the United States, to South Africa, to Israel, the Hood is attacking major corporations, banks, and government computers alike, disrupting and accessing private information of millions if not billions of people, classified documents and programs, and bank accounts. Whatever he's looking for, it will only be a matter of time before he finds it."
At this I stood up in anger, "And they can't track him with him doing so much damage?!" but then something occurred to me, as I had formed a hypothesis on how this was possible, "But that's...no that's impossible...unless..."
My second oldest brother looked at me, his face filled with worry, "Alan, is there something you want to share?"
I took a deep breath, hoping that I what I thought wasn't true, but there really was no other explanation regarding how the Hood could be hacking into so many systems without even getting caught, "I...I don't know...I need to get started right away to be sure. I just...I just hope I'm wrong."
I hoped I was wrong, because I had a gut feeling that the Hood wasn't just looking for me as Alan Tracy, but also me as Adam Casey. Again, later I would really think I had the gift of prophecy because I didn't know how right I was going to be.