PART THIRTYONE

"Oh wow!" Annie said with astonishment. "Director Walsh worked security at Winding Oaks Laboratories back in the early eighties, and it says he was eventually promoted to ... to Chief of Security for Paradise Valley Chemical!".

Annie spun around in the desk chair towards Alex and Grace.

"Wait a minute" she said, her eyes sparkling with intensity. "I remember Dad telling me once that the GC-161 project originated in the Winding Oaks testing facility fifteen years ago, while the PV Chemical Plant was still under construction here in Paradise Valley. If Director Walsh worked security in Winding Oaks and then took over as Security Chief of PV Chemical when it opened, he must have known about the GC-161 project".

Grace sighed loudly. "Connecting Director Walsh directly to the GC-161 project is a pretty damning piece of evidence. I knew he was protecting something the way he took all the field agents out of Paradise Valley and wouldn't let us put a warrant out on Vince Carter".

Grace cocked her head at what she just said and decided to play a hunch.

"Director Walsh was in the military once..." she pointed out. "Annie, look up any records on his military service". Annie turned back to the computer and deftly brought up the information Grace requested. "It says he was Special Forces, Navy Seals, from 1977 to 1979...".

"...And I'll bet he served in the 122nd Special Ops Battalion, didn't he?". Annie's eyes squinted at the screen. "Yes, he did. How'd you know that?".

"Because Vince served in the same battalion during the same time. I know that from my case file on him".

"So Director Walsh wouldn't allow Vince to be arrested because they were Army buddies; that explains it" Alex moaned. "Those scumbags have a history together".

"O.k., back to his employment history" said Annie, clicking backwards.

"What else does it say?" pressed Alex, placing her hand on Annie's shoulder.

The illumination in Annie's eyes seemed almost as bright as the computer monitor as she read with increasing anticipation. Alex sensed the anxiety emitting from both her older sister and Grace, but quickly filtered it out.

"It says Director Walsh left PV Chemical for a job in the Bureau in May, 1986, and I know for a fact that was the same time Danielle Atron was hired as CEO. She had authority over both facilities when PV Chemical first opened the year before in '85".

Over the last four years, Annie had done her research on Danielle Atron when Alex had first been saturated by GC-161. She wanted to have every advantage available to her to protect her little sister. Studying up on everything about Mrs. Atron and PV Chemical was the only way. "...And she appointed Vince as the new Chief of Security when she was hired" continued Annie. Grace was genuinely impressed.

As Annie's report sank in, Alex blinked in instant realization. "May 1986?! Oh my gosh! That was the same time Hunter's dad disappeared!".

Alex now had no doubt in her mind Danielle probably had Vince eliminate Hunter's father when he threatened the new CEO that he would go to the FDA about the dangerous GC-161 if she didn't.

Though she still felt angry towards Hunter for his betrayal over a week ago, Alex couldn't help but feel sorry for him now. Then the image of Brad Patterson appeared in her mind. She felt a mild flush in her face as she thought of the shy, handsome boy who she kissed in the school hallways days ago when she was overwhelmed by her GC-161 controlled emotions.

"And the plot thickens even more..." Grace commented as Alex instinctively held her hand up to cover the ever-so-light golden glow on her face. Thankfully, it only lasted a few seconds. Not noticing Alex's dilemma, Grace's beautiful, dark Asian eyes seemed to glow themselves as another thought struck her.

"So PV Chemical was completed in 1985? Then who was the CEO before Danielle?" asked Grace. "Annie, go back and see who Director Walsh's boss was before Danielle took over".

Annie did as Grace instructed, scrolling back into Director Walsh's work files. "A Mr. Walter Fuchida it says here" answered Annie. "He was director at Winding Oaks and then CEO over both facilities when PV Chemical opened".

"Walter Fuchida..." Grace pondered as she stood erect. "That's what we were looking for guys".

"Walter Fuchida?" asked Alex, puzzled. Annie listened intently.

"Yes, Walter Fuchida. He's the vice-president of 'International Chemicals', the company that owns Paradise Chemical. He's suspected of being one of the main financers of the GC-161 research. This means Walter Fuchida himself appointed Director Walsh to head security at PV Chemical, no doubt to protect the integrity of the GC-161 project".

"After all this, Director Walsh was just another 'Vince' working for another 'Danielle'..." scoffed Alex.

"One more thing Annie. Go to his personal files and let's take a look at his family tree". The screen blinked to another window at Annie's command. They looked through a list of family members, scanning past his parents' names and an older sister. "A sister..." pondered Grace. "Is she married?".

"Yes" answered Annie. "To... oh my God... to a Samuel Cook. His brother-in-law is Danielle Atron's attorney!".

"This is unbelievable!" exclaimed Alex.

"Yeah" Grace agreed with a disgusted tone. "All of them are interlinked with the origins of GC-161. Director Walsh, Vince Carter, Walter Fuchida, Samuel Cook... They were all looking after each one's intrests".

"...And Samuel Cook was there to bail out Danielle Atron and PV Chemical whenever he was needed" Alex chimed in. "You scratch my back and I'll scratch your's. It's a freakin' GC-161 family reunion!".

"'Family reunion' my butt" huffed Grace. "It's like an episode of the Addams family".

"Now that we know this was all a cover-up by the Director to hide his involvement in the GC-161 project and this network of conspirators, we have a terrific case against all of them" Annie elaborated.

"And the half-hearted investigation into the bombing of Dave's trailer was nothing more than an attempt to satisfy the local authorities" Alex added. "Director Walsh knew Vince was responsible, but protected him because he could have eliminated Dave as a witness who could eventually expose him".

"Exactly..." said Grace. "...And if we can get this information to the right people, we could blow the lid off of this. We could not only keep Danielle behind bars, but put the rest of the people who helped her in prison with her".

"Uh oh!" interrupted Annie, suddenly reaching down and cramming her hand into the small satchel she had slung over her shoulder.

"What?" Alex and Grace asked in unison. Annie motioned to a red, square, blinking light in the upper left-hand corner of the monitor screen. "The Director's files! Someone's detected us! He's on to us!", Annie exclaimed, finally pulling a floppy out of her satchel and cramming it into the hard drive. She hurriedly hit "download' as she began to type furiously and prevent the Director's personal information from being lost. "Somebody's trying to delete his files!".

Grace and Alex watched frantically as Annie waged a computer battle with her unknown nemesis for almost a full minute until the word 'File Downloaded' appeared on the screen. "Whew!" Annie sighed as she stopped typing and bowed her head.

"What? What?!" asked Alex impatiently as she watched the rest of the Director's files disappear from the screen. Annie reached down and ejected the floppy from the CPU, and held it up in front of their faces.

"I got it..!" Annie said with a mile-wide grin. "I have it all right here".

"Yes!" said Alex, punching the air in front of her. Grace took the floppy from Annie's hand and held it up for inspection. "Mission accomplished".

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"Damnit Ray! Neither one of these walkie talkies will work!" exclaimed Robyn from the passenger side of Alex's jeep, slapping the device with the palm of her hand. Just moments ago, Gino had arrived at the rubble which was once the Paradise Valley Chemical Plant and entered the small utility trailer being used on the site as an office after the evidence storage shed was burned down.

But before Ray and Robyn were able to find a place to park and observe the FDA agent's activities, he hurriedly exited the trailer with a fellow agent. Both got into his car and sped off of plant property heading back towards town. Ray and Robyn realized something was up and immediately followed. When Gino turned onto Main Street, they realized they must be heading back to the hotel. Ray was going fifteen miles an hour over the speed limit just to keep up with the FDA agents.

Robyn immediately tried to contact Annie, Grace, and Alex on one of Louis' walkie talkies, but it didn't work! When she tried to use the spare, it didn't work either! Ray cussed aloud at the shoddy merchandise Louis' father sold from his electronics company.

"Use the cell phone Robyn!" ordered Ray excitedly. "Hit five, that's Grace's number on the speed dial and tell them to get out of there because Gino's on his way back!". Ray turned a corner off Main Street trying to keep Gino Lawless' speeding car in his sights.

Robyn fumbled with the glove box door where the cell phone was, finally opening it. Once she took it out, she tried to press the speed dial before Ray swung the jeep around another corner which was less than a mile from the hotel. The sudden change of direction caused Robyn to grasp the hand rail built into the dash to stay upright, and she dropped the cell phone onto the floorboard as a result. She watched helplessly as the phone slide under her seat when Ray accelerated the jeep to gain speed again.

"Oh no!" said Robyn, reaching beneath her seat trying to feel for the phone.

"Geez Robyn! They'll be at the hotel any second! Find the damn phone and call and warn them!" Ray exclaimed. "I think I got it!" she said, but her hand didn't come out from under the seat yet. Ray kept glancing at his friend's progress in retrieving the lost cell phone.

Without warning, blue lights flickered in Ray's rear-view mirror and a high-pitched siren chirped behind them. A Paradise Valley Police car was pulling them over. "I can't believe this!" he moaned angrily. "Robyn, find the phone and call them!".

Robyn leaned up and looked back at the police car, then back at Ray with eyes tearing up from frustration. "I can't get it out Ray! The strap on the cell phone is hung on something under the seat!" she cried. The police car's siren chirped again, and this time, Ray threw his arms up in exasperation and slowed the jeep, pulling over to the curb. They both watched Gino's car pass through the next intersection one block ahead, still on it's way to the hotel where an unsuspecting Alex, Annie, and Grace were waiting.

After stopping, Ray spied the police officer get out of his car and begin walking towards the driver's side. He buried his face in his hands and groaned.

"We're busted".

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Alex saw a flurry of blurred images suddenly flash before her eyes, causing her to wobble off balance. The image of a speeding car, the front of the Paradise Arms Hotel, and Gino Lawless flickered through Alex's mind in the blink of an eye.

Instantly noticing Alex's dizziness, Grace grabbed her by the arm and stabled her.

"Alex?" she asked. "Are you alright?". Alex placed one hand on the computer table beside Annie as her older sister stood to see if she could help. "Alex, what's wrong?"

"I'm not sure Annie..." she said shakily. "But I think we need to get out of here... now".

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"Hurry up!" Gino ordered fellow FDA agent Bill Simmons as their car came to a screeching halt in the front service drive of the Paradise Arms Hotel. The two agents launched themselves from the car and dashed inside. "They might still be in the room!".

Only moments ago after Gino arrived on the investigation scene at the old PV Chemical, Gino received a call on his cell phone from FBI Field Director Walsh that a hacker had illegally broken into the FBI's main data banks, and the phone trace led right back to Gino's apartment at the Paradise Arms Hotel!

They promptly raced back to the hotel in an attempt to catch whoever it was, but what mystified him is when Director Walsh told him not to involve any local authorities in this matter.

Gino and his partner raced through the front lobby and down the hall to the far right of the reception area. Several guests mulling about watched with astonishment as the two men ran by.

They stormed into the hotel room seconds later. Nothing, no one.

The computer was still on just as the intruder had left it. Gino felt the seat of the desk chair. It was still warm where someone was sitting in it only seconds ago. Agent Simmons had already checked the rest of the suite and hurried back into the living room where Gino was.

"Nobody Gino. Whoever it was, he's gone now". Gino glanced at Simmons. "It had to be more than one person Bill. They couldn't have known we were coming unless they had a lookout". The memory of seeing a movement out of the corner of his eye before he left the apartment earlier suddenly occurred to him.

Dismissing the thought for now, Gino sat in the desk chair in front of the computer and saw the FBI site on the screen. The first thing he noticed was the title 'Walsh, Herbert E., Federal Bureau of Investigation's Director of Field Operations: California Theater'. The rest of the file was completely deleted, but Gino could tell it was the FBI Director's personal file.

He squinted at the screen, his mind racing. "No wonder Director Walsh was so upset about someone scanning the FBI files from my computer, they were scanning his personal records" he said aloud to Simmons. Simmons leaned in behind Gino and surveyed the screen. "They deleted his files?"

"No" responded Gino suspiciously, leaning back in the chair.

"They couldn't have done that from here. Copied them maybe, but the only person who could have deleted them... would be Director Walsh himself".

A thought raced through Gino's mind, "Why would Director Walsh be so afraid of someone seeing his personal files?"

It didn't seem to Gino that personal records would be so important, even for a hacker. "Why would Director Walsh feel the need to delete his own personnel records?".

"Simmons, I have a feeling someone has been jerking me around for the last couple of weeks, and I'm starting to get an idea who".

"Gino.." Simmons said, bending down to retrieve something he noticed on the floor beside the computer desk.

"Is this your's?". Simmons held up one of Louis' father's walkie talkies.

Alex had forgotten to take it with her when she, Annie, and Grace fled the apartment. Gino's eyebrow rose in wonderment.

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The silver puddle flowed out of the drain pipe behind the front hedge of the Paradise Arms, and raced across the lawn into the convenience store parking lot adjacent to the hotel where Grace's car was parked. Covered by Grace's car and a dumpster, Alex rematerialized herself, Annie, and Grace back into human form.

"Wow" Annie gasped, still feeling a little dizzy from the sudden transformation. "That was close".

"Tell me about it. I don't think I've morphed so fast so many times in my life!" replied Alex, who leaned against Grace's rental car and exhaled exhaustedly from her exertions. Alex could still feel the familiar warm tingling of morphing flowing throughout her body. She held her right arm up and saw that it was still rippling furiously. "Geez, I'm still not solid yet".

Annie diagnosed it immediately. "Alex, you've morphed so much and so fast that you're too tired to turn your molecular structure all the way human right now. Just morph into the back seat of Grace's car until you've gotten your strength back and we can get out of here".

"Whatever you say Doctor Frankenstein". Alex let herself go, and felt her morphing power take over and completely engulf her. In the blink of an eye, her body faded from human appearance back into the silvery, gelatinous ooze it was only seconds before, and she sloshed through the half-opened rear window of Grace's car and into the backseat where she could recuperate.

"Grace" Annie said, turning to the former FBI agent. "We have to get going and call the others back so we can...". Annie stopped in mid-sentence when she saw Grace knelt down near the front of her car, vomiting.

"In... a sec, Annie" she gasped, waving her hand behind her. Annie kneeled down beside her, knowing Grace wasn't yet used to the near-vertigo type effect Alex's incredibly fast morphing could have on someone.

Of course, Alex didn't have a choice when she grabbed both Annie and Grace by their wrists in Gino's apartment and instantaneously morphed them to escape being caught by the FDA agents storming through the door. They had barely managed to escape down the shower drain when Agent Simmons ran into the bathroom looking for the intruder!

"It's debilitating, I know" Annie told Grace understandingly. "It won't be so bad next time". Grace vomited again at the thought.

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