A/N: I do not own the Thunderbirds. All rights are owned by their respective authors. This is a fan-made story for the purpose of entertainment. All original characters are mine. The plot in general is mine. The concepts in this story are a combination of being mine and their respective owners.
Nothing is Ever Simple Chapter 5
After our reunion, and subsequent meeting, my family, Fermat, and myself followed Dr. Kimble down to the communications room where several other Tracy Enterprises computer techs were all working and coordinating on protecting Tracy Enterprises computer database from another hacking attempt. When we arrived, the whole room was in organized chaos, and it was obvious that the techs had no idea what they were dealing with.
John, Fermat, and I immediately took control of the situation, and began going over a massive system check. We called up Brains, and within minutes split up the tasks of going over what was accessed, what was stolen, what was corrupted, and the total damage to the network. My Dad, Scott, Gordon, and Virgil weren't nearly up to the task of going over everything regarding the computers, so they handled contacting the other offices around the world and making sure they were okay in regards to the hacking of our systems.
When things finally settled down after about two hours of going over system, I called out to John and Brains who was projected on a large computer screen near the consoles that John, Fermat, and I were working at,"How are we doing on the data accessed?"
My blond haired brother shook his head, my earlier fears regarding what I suspected remaining in the back of my mind, "Nothing yet, I'm afraid. There really isn't a lot to go by here...thankfully we had installed an AT-19 firewall, so much of our most important stuff remained inaccessible."
At John's mention of the AT-19 firewall, I had to hold back a smirk because it was one of mine. I still found it hysterical that my brothers and father still had no idea regarding most of my skills, particularly my cybersecurity, mechanical engineering, and hacking abilities. I was glad that I didn't have to worry about my own system, as the Tracy systems acted as the perfect guinea pig without having to check it myself. Looking over John's data, it looked like that it even held during the GAT, but that was a bittersweet realization that was more worrying than assuring, confirming what I feared earlier to be true.
I frowned at my own conclusions, realizing that this was going to be a lot more problematic than anyone probably realized, even as bad as it was already, "Alright, instead of focusing on trying to make a connection, let's just focus on what was accessed."
John looking over his list of data on his computer screen,"Okay. Some International Rescue stuff, but thankfully not the Thunderbird blueprints, as that stuff is kept off of the database, as you know it's not connected to any of our online systems making it impossible to hack remotely." I nodded, considering that was the ultimate protection for Thunderbird tech. The hard copy blueprints were kept in a safe in Dad's office on Tracy Island, while the electronic data was kept on an offline computer in a secure bunker room that required both Dad's and Brain's thumbprint recognition to even access it. It would make sense that the Hood would make that his first target.
"What did they access?"
Rubbing his eyes, John paused before answering, "As far as we can tell, mostly mission debriefings and stuff mainly about you Alan. Looks like attacking Thunderbird Five's systems was to see if we had any luck in finding you, which we didn't." His tone caused me to roll my eyes. Seriously, I couldn't get away from this at all today!
I responded in sharp annoyance, "John...focus...I'm not dealing with this now." When John sighed again, I knew I was very close to actually getting into an argument with the most level headed of my brothers, so I turned to Brains instead, desperately trying to avoid an argument.
Thankfully, Brains didn't persist in the issue, "N-no...I've t-t-triple checked the entire s-system. W-we've not been a-able to find anything else."
Great. Gripping the bridge of my nose, I hoped me putting pressure would deal with the stress headache that was beginning to build, "Brains, how exactly did they shut down communications with Tracy Island?"
International Rescue's chief engineer, inventor, and scientist stuttered out his answer, "A-at f-f-first I t-thought i-i-it w-was a virus in the s-s-s computers, but I d-d-didn't f-f-ind anything when I did the overview. I-I-I w-was shocked to f-find that i-i-it was like they short circuited the system remotely!"
A cold feeling entered the pit of my stomach, my fears becoming confirmed one by one, but there was still one last thing I needed to know before I knew exactly how the Hood was doing so much damage without anyone being able to stop him, "And you tried tracking him through the Trace-E program?"
"Y-yes, but I wasn't a-a-a successful. It kept changing w-when I t-t-tried tracing it. I don't k-k-k understand how it's possible!"
John and Fermat became concerned, looking panicked when I put my head in my hands, as the thing I hoped that wasn't true, I knew without a doubt was, "Let me guess...every time you started to track it, it switched to a different signal after about thirty seconds?"
I didn't need to see the look of surprise on Brain's face to know that I guessed correctly, "Y-y-yes, h-h-how d-did you know?"
I let out a long sigh, in annoyance at my own stupidity for being partially responsible for creating this mess, "Well this makes things much more complicated...It's completely impossible to track him through all our normal means. No wonder he's been able to go pretty much anywhere online without being caught."
"How do you know that?" Johnny looked at me in confusion, the Trace-E program was designed to pretty much trace anything connected to the internet, and the fact that the Hood was able to hide himself was nearly impossible, except for the simple fact of the certain device that I had created that had basically allowed me to hide from the entire world and my family.
There was no way that I could hide this so I told the truth,"Simple, the Hood's using an IP scrambler."
"A what?" Brains, Fermat, and Johnny looked at me, completely clueless about the device that I spoke of.
I smiled, though my tone as I spoke was grim as I explained, "An IP scrambler is exactly what it sounds like. By piggybacking on different wireless networks through a remote access channel and satellite uplink, it is able to scramble one's wireless signal making it impossible to track. As you already know, the IP address is one's entrance to the Internet, the doorway that they're using to get online. What the scrambler does is switch randomly between signals that they're using so when somebody is trying to trace them, they can't find the location."
John looked at me confused, after all what I just explained would be pointless, "That's essentially spoofing the IP address, and you wouldn't be even be able to access anything! Wouldn't it be much easier just to fake the IP address?"
Spoofing the IP address was used to basically deny someone's access to the internet and therefore their computer, but not so much to download data. I nodded anyway, acknowledging what he said was true, "That's essentially what they are doing, but they're not using the earth bound networks for collecting data. That's the satellite's disguise, using the earth bound networks as a distraction preventing them from tracing the satellite. The satellite is doing the data collecting and transferring that data to wherever the Hood is, and switches between the signals as soon as someone tries tracing it."
"H-how c-can you be so sure that it's based out of s-satellite?" Fermat spoke up for the first time during this discussion.
Looking at my old roommate and best friend, I explained, "Two reasons really. One, they were able to take over the air waves. That alone requires satellite technology as there is less interference in orbit than there is on the ground, and second because that's not all that the scrambler does. The second characteristic in terms of powers can only be so because it is through a satellite uplink." and I gazed with serious eyes describing the last and most problematic feature of the device in question, "The scrambler also has the ability to scramble firewall data. Unlike other hacking methods that simply try to bypass a firewall, this targets the firewall specifically so that it basically destroys all form of security that a system would have and allow the hacker to have unlimited access to it. That short circuiting of the Thunderbird 5's communications array that Brain's described is a side effect. Essentially, the scrambler is the HIV to computers."
The only other blond in my family looked at me, a thoughtful expression on his face, "Then why did our firewall hold in place for the most part?"
"The scrambler isn't perfect. As you can imagine, it takes a LOT of processing power for it to do what it does...hence the reason for the satellite," I explained smirking,"and Thunderbird 5 has an AT-19 firewall which was basically designed with the scrambler in mind. It's a good thing you had it in place, or else the damage would have been a lot worse." John, Fermat, and Brains looked on surprised, probably not even knowing that my firewall had such capabilities. I knew after today this information would get out, and would put my company on the world stage to prevent this from happening again.
Before anyone could say anything more, my father, Scott, Gordon, Virgil, and Gabe entered the room again, and upon explaining our conversation, Dad asked, "So we need to find the satellite that the wireless connections are linked up to so we can find the Hood?"
Acknowledging his presence, I nodded, "Essentially yes, but because of the scrambler, we can't do that virtually. It just changes the location of the IP address, essentially every thirty seconds or so when tracing measures are initiated, which is no where near enough time for us to find the satellite."
My red haired, fish of a brother sighed, clearly frustrated with the situation, "Then what can we do?"
Closing my eyes and wishing I could cover my ears, I knew there was no way they would agree to this, "There is really only one way for us to find the Hood. I am going to have to be bait."
As expected, everyone in the room, including Gabe exclaimed, "WHAT? NO!"
Putting a finger into my ear, I glared at every single person in the room, "We can't trace it. No matter what John, Brains, Fermat, and I do, there is no possible way for us to locate the Hood through tracing him!" Their uncomfortable looks caused me sigh in frustration, "He wants me. I would even say he needs me! I think we can all hamper a couple of guesses why, and not just the obvious ones! If I'm right, he needs me because he knows I am the only one who can stop him. This whole attack is not just for him to destroy the Thunderbirds and the economy like he originally planned when he attacked five years ago, but also to draw me out. That's why he kidnapped Tin-Tin. If I don't reveal myself, Tin-Tin will get hurt. He has leverage over me. Over all of us."
Throwing up his hands, Scott shouted, "Alan, this absolutely crazy! The Hood will see right through that!"
Rolling my eyes in annoyance, I replied "And you're right, but there is no other choice. It is the only way for us to find the Hood. As much as I don't like this, we have to play by his rules."
"Alan, you know more about this than you're telling. How do you know so much about the scrambler?"
Knowing that lying was more trouble than it's worth, I decided to tell them the truth, "Because I created the scrambler three years ago, or at least came up with a workable theory behind it...and created a prototype..."
"Alan, what in the world were you thinking?!"
"How could you be so irresponsible?!"
Then again, maybe lying about this would have been a better option. My family would never change. I clenched my fist in anger. The painful memories of constantly being reprimanded for everything that I did wrong, the judgment, and them always never believing me or allowing me to explain. I stood silent letting them all rant while Gabe, Brains, and Fermat watched silently.
"Alan, you seriously need to grow up..."and he shook his head, "Mom would be so disappointed with you!"
At that, I lost it. That one final comment from Scott made me lose my temper that resulted in my punching him in the face sending him sprawling backwards. Gabe grabbed me from behind, but that did not stop me from glaring at my family with unadulterated volcanic fury, which alone silenced them.
Breathing heavily, I ground out words dripping with sarcasm and anger,"You know if you really want me to run away again, and I can and I will, I would highly suggest for you all to keep going on as you have because as far as I can tell nothing has changed!" Shrugging off Gabe's hold off of me, I pierced my dad with my glare, "That's strike one! Two more and then I am done with this family, done with International Rescue, and will disappear once again, and will never come back! And next time, no world crisis or disaster, which includes your funerals," Virgil, Gordon, John, and Scott looking at me dumbfounded and heartbroken at my words, "will cause me to return!"
Looking at my family, my eyes filled with years of pain and emotional abuse,"I have had it with you assuming the worst about me! I have stood here for five minutes, not speaking at all, and letting you rant and rage about my apparent irresponsibility for creating this device, but you never even asked why I created it in the first place, never considering that I did it for the sake of preventing something like this! So shut the hell up because you have no right to judge me for anything that I do because I learned how to stand on my own a long time ago without any help from the Tracy family name!"
It was then like a dam had broken inside me, and I laid out all of the things that I blamed them for, "Forgotten birthdays, forgotten school events, being bullied and teased every single damn time I came home! Dumping me at Wharton's after the chemistry incident which you still blamed me for even though it wasn't my fault! Never listening to my side of the story whenever anything happened, whether if I got a detention, a bad grade, which if I recall correctly led to our family's proverbial World War III! And I bet you don't even know that I was allergic to walnuts and have diabetes! It's lucky that Wharton's had medical authorization because I called you all six times when I was at the hospital when I was diagnosed and NO ONE BOTHERED TO ANSWER!"
I breathed heavily, and tears were running down my face, my hurricane of emotions were completely uncontrollable and I knew I had to get out of the room fast before I wound up doing something I regretted, "You never were around when I needed you most and because of that you ALL lost the right to judge me a long time ago! I told you I didn't want to come back, and the only reason I am doing this is for Tin-Tin's sake because she doesn't deserve being hurt because of my mistakes!"
I ignored their devastated and guilty expressions, and I proceeded to walk towards the double doors of the communications room, I needed some air. Looking over my shoulder, I looked at Gabe who looked pained and sad for me, and through so many unspoken words that he would handle things from here. "You should really thank Gabe for me coming here at all because he has done everything he can to get me to forgive you! I came, and you all act like this! I may forgive you, but I will never forget! You all lost my trust, and you are very close to losing all of my respect! This is your last chance. Don't waste it." and with that I stormed out of the room.
I know I make references to a lot of hacking terms in this chapter. Please note that my knowledge of computer hacking is surface deep. I did a basic online crash course of Wikipedia and surfing the internet to get the basics of how hacking works. I wanted to include technical information to show that Alan knows what he is talking about rather than speaking in terms of generalities. My understanding of computer and cyber tech is that of the average general person, despite all the time I spend on my laptop, so I don't know if the situation that I created is realistic enough to be convincing for any serious computer nerds out there.
And bring on the angst...and a lot of unresolved anger from Alan! And yes, the diabetes and allergy to walnuts was kind of an on the spot thing, but hey, I really needed to develop the plot a bit more, so are we cool?
Sorry about this chapter for taking so long...ideas for this story have slowed a bit, and this chapter was difficult to write. I had to rewrite it three times until I was satisfied. This story is my test story for novel writing. The goal is to complete it and by completing it I know I have the ability to actually finish a novel! Again my brain is slow and easily distracted...I see a shiny!