They had to wait for a few minutes while Anderson handled an important phone call, but as soon as he was done, he ushered them into his office.
Meanwhile at GalSec headquarters, there was another meeting going on, and it was about the two people currently sitting in Chief Anderson's office.
"Well, Preston, have you heard from that G-Force brat or his wife. Can't believe a real woman would take up with someone like him, still less marry him. She must either have been desperate or there's something more wrong with her than the reports show."
"No, Sir, I haven't heard a word from them. But I know this much; there's no way that they'll show up for that appointment. They're not just going to walk in and hand over those children to us. We'll have to take drastic steps if we want to get them."
"Preston, please remember that the children are only part of what I want. It is more important that we have that thing that passes himself off as human removed from the picture. They can't be allowed to keep recreating a mistake that was made a quarter century ago and forcing more of these human-seeming creatures on a new generation."
"Sir, am I to understand that you want him eliminated completely?"
"If necessary. His death will not cause me any sorrow, but if he is permanently broken and forced upon the mercy of G-Force, then that would be acceptable."
Preston looked at nothing for a long moment while he contemplated what would be needed to fulfill his boss's request. "Sir," he finally said, "I believe there is a way to bring this about. We will need to find a reason to have his damnable cerebonic implant removed."
"Make it happen. That's why I keep you around."
At Neptune Base, Keyop and Garnet sat nervously facing Chief Anderson.
"What is it that brings the two of you here?" He asked them. "There are people I expect to see in my office and then there are those I expect to almost never see. You two are in the latter group. As a matter of fact, I believe all your visits to me have had to do with rules infractions. I don't think either of you have come here of your own choosing."
"...Need your help," said Keyop, cutting directly to the heart of the matter. He handed Anderson the e-mail printout.
"We got this yesterday," Garnet explained. "It seems almost routine, but there's something not right about it. First, we never made any appointment to have the kids tested for anything. Second, the last time I checked, no one could force us to submit ourselves or our children to any medical tests or experiments without our full understanding, consent and cooperation. Third, there is something in the tone of that e-mail that we both found," here she paused for emphasis, "unsettling."
The Chief looked over the e-mail. He had to agree with Garnet's assessment. Something definitely did not seem right about this. He looked up at them. "Let me do some checking," he said. "I'll let you know as soon as I find out anything. It's not like they're demanding you show up tomorrow. We've got three weeks. Let's use that time to get to the bottom of this and get it resolved."
"...Thanks, Chief," said Keyop.
"Yes," agreed Garnet, "Thank you, Sir."
Over the course of the next several days, Security Chief Anderson got in touch with any and all of his contacts in GalSec and it's attached branches. According to them, this Preston was indeed the director of GalSec's Genetic Research Division, but that division was currently being overhauled to save the organization money, make the department more efficient and prevent any future unauthorized research. It seemed that there had been some questionable practices occurring that the Security Council itself wanted stopped.
However, it had also come to light that there was more than one member of the Security Council that supported the direction the Genetic Research Division was taking. They had radical views about what constituted each of the races and cultures within the IFPP and were determined that each race and culture remain pure and true to it's heritage. These people had, at various times, raised issues about interplanetary marriage, the exchange of mass entertainment between worlds and even the trading of fads and fashions. In short, they were racists, and they hailed from every part of the Federation. Now, how prevalent they were was still not known.
At first, Anderson couldn't figure out why these people had apparently targeted the youngest member of G-Force's Prime Team, then he got to thinking more deeply on it and realized that they saw an opportunity to bring they're agenda to the forefront and to use someone who was well regarded in the Federation as a whole, but who was less likely than some--say the Eagle for example--to fully be able to defend himself against their accusations. After all, Keyop didn't even know his racial heritage. Only a select few knew the truth about the source material that had been used to create him, and they weren't going to give that information up easily. Even Anderson's knowledge in that area was very limited.
Anderson continued to dig into the background of this whole situation right up to the last possible moment, and he called in several favors to try to get to the proper people on the Security Council to get this railroading of two G-Force members, not to mention that they were officially listed as his son and daughter-in-law, stopped. Yes, his title was Security Chief, but his powers were not infinite. He was in charge of Earth's security and the protection of other planets that came under attach from forces outside the Federation, but he had no greater say in how the Federation and its councils conducted its business or its internal affairs.
It was with a heavy heart and a sense of impending dread that he called Keyop and Garnet back to his office on June 14.
"I've done all I can," he told them. "I've checked the backgrounds of everyone I can think of, I've spoken to both those who are in favor of and those who are apposed to what is happening; hell, I've even brought this to the Federation President, but nothing is working. Unfortunately, you two are now at the center of a situation that could change the whole direction of the Federation. Up to now, the IFPP has encouraged free exchange of culture and ideas between its members. Now, however, there are more and more representatives that feel that there has been too much exchange and that their own worlds' cultures are being eroded. They fear that, eventually, the more dominant planets, such as Earth, will swallow them whole and the Federation will be nothing but a bunch of Earth-clone worlds."
"...But what does that...have to do with us?" asked Keyop. He could kind of see the point that the smaller worlds were trying to make, but he couldn't see why they were so fearful and he certainly couldn't understand how he, his wife and his children had anything to do with this.
"They're paranoid," was Anderson's first comment. He then went on to explain, as best as he could, what the connection was between a small group of radicals and one genetic construct. "They view you as an ultimate example of what could be done to them. They know that somewhere within the Federation is the knowledge to create and grow a human--or humanoid--in the lab. They fear that we, meaning the people of Earth, are trying to create a race and perpetuate its growth, through you. They see your children as the next step in this 'grand plan' and want it stopped. There have been some very outlandish things said by many of these people. I won't repeat them to you because we know they are not true and they are very hurtful. I only hope you never hear them.
"Unfortunately, this all means that my hands have, effectively, been tied. I can only use the resources of G-Force to protect you, and against the Federation Council, that is limited. They have their own Security Force that has authorization to go just about anywhere and do just about anything. My advice is, since I know you are not going to comply with their demand, stay on base and surround yourselves with as many birds as possible. Every G-Force member has been apprised of what is going on and requested to give you their support."
Keyop and Garnet both nodded. As they rose to leave, Anderson couldn't help but notice how tightly they each held onto the other's hand. For a fleeting moment, his mind went back three years to words he'd spoken over those two joined hands. "What has been joined let nothing divide." He hoped that the Federation, in its internal strife never forced these two apart.
June 16 came, even though both Garnet and Keyop somehow wished that the calendar would just skip that date. 0700 hours passed and the world continued turning. By 1100 hours they were starting to breath a little easier. Maybe they would be left in peace after all. Maybe Anderson asking questions had let the perpetrators know not to mess with members of G-Force.
It was a few minutes after noon when Federation Security arrived at their door.
Keyop took Garnet's right hand in his left and opened the door with his right. He was nearly knocked down by the force of four guards rushing in.
The leader of the guards held a written warrant in his hand. He proceeded to read it aloud.
"By order of the Intergalactic Federation of Peaceful Planets Security Council, Keyop Anderson is hereby ordered to surrender to Security Council Special Forces on charges of contempt of a direct order issued by a legitimate division of Galactic Security and conduct unbecoming an officer of Galactic Security. You are also ordered to surrender your communicator bracelet.
"Also, by order of the Intergalactic Federation of Peaceful Planets Security Council, Garnet Anderson is hereby ordered to surrender the following children, Kadin Anderson and Kyla Anderson, to representatives of Interplanetary Child Welfare. She is also ordered to surrender her communicator bracelet and vacate the quarters issued to she and her husband on Neptune Base."
The couple just stood there motionless and speechless, still holding hands, for several seconds. Keyop was the first to find the ability to both move and speak. "...Don't think so," he said, bringing his left hand up to trace the arc and begin the transmutation process.
He never got a chance to say the word.
He was forcefully grabbed and thrown to the floor, his left arm pulled behind his back. The guard pulled a set of handcuffs off his belt and locked one half onto Keyop's left wrist. The guard then caught his flailing right hand and cuffed it to the other. He then removed Keyop's bracelet and pocketed it.
As soon as the guard had grabbed Keyop, Garnet hit her communicator and sent a scramble to all birds. Hopefully someone would show up soon and this insanity would end.
The guard hauled Keyop to his feet but continued to keep a tight grip on his left arm. He held out his left hand toward Garnet. "Your bracelet, please."
She shook her head. These bracelets are exclusive property of G-Force. No other branch of GalSec may take them, for any purpose. I request that you return my husband's bracelet to me. I'd also request that you free him and leave, but I know I won't win on that count, so I'll have to settle for one out of three.
The guard knew she had him there. He really couldn't take a G-Force wristband even though his superiors had strongly requested it. Reluctantly, he handed it back to her.
"Now," he said, turning to the other members of his team, "lets get this one to our holding facility in Center City before we have any more problems. He turned to Garnet. "By the way, don't try to hide those kids of yours. When child welfare gets here, they'll tear the place apart till they find them. You two are facing some pretty serious charges." Here he gave Keyop a shake for emphasis.
By the time about half the Aviary arrived, they found Garnet sitting on the couch sobbing and barely coherent. Once they got the story out of her, Mark immediately called Anderson.
"Chief," said Mark, "we need you down at Keyop and Garnet's quarters; and you might want to bring Keyop's adoption papers." There was a pause while the Chief spoke into the phone. "It's a long story. Suffice to say, you may need to exercise some Grandparents' Rights here soon. Oh, and by the way, your youngest son has been arrested; on some pretty flimsy charges too, I might add."
Anderson arrived more quickly than most thought he would. He even had the requested papers with him.
Everyone stayed to support Garnet when the welfare workers came to take the children. They didn't have long to wait.
When the man and woman arrived, Garnet asked them simply, "Why are you doing this. We're good parents. Our children are healthy and happy. The only thing we've ever done is not take them to that appointment this morning. That should have been our right as citizens of Earth and the Federation. The last time I checked parents still had final say in the care of their children."
"Oh, there's much more to it than that," said the woman. She was a stereotypical welfare worker; conservative business suit, styled hair and a syrupy voice that made a people want to suck a lemon to the get the taste out of their mouths. "We're taking these children for their own protection and we're charging you with neglect of a dependent and child endangerment. Once we get the children somewhere where we can have them thoroughly examined, we may be adding abuse of a dependent to those charges."
"What!" said several voices at once. Anderson quickly stepped up and took charge. "My guess," he said, "is that the neglect charge is based on this morning's failure to bring the twins in for that test; but where does child endangerment come into it?"
"It has come to our attention that at least one of the people that this couple has allowed to watch their children is a knife-whelding psychopath."
"That would be me," said Green, stepping forward and holding up a neatly sharpened and polished blade. "I would advise you not to refer to me as a psychopath again, if you value your anatomy all being in its proper place. I love Kadin and Kyla, as well as all the kids of G-Force and would kill to protect them."
The social worker took a step back. "Point made," she said. It did not go past anyone that that statement could be taken two ways.
"Now, surely," said Anderson, trying to maintain the peace and get the discussion back on-topic, "I have some rights here. I am the children's Grandfather after all."
The woman's eyes opened wide for a split second before she regained her composure. "That is not possible. This woman has no living family, and that--person--she's married to never had a family. The way she had said the word person made it sound like she thought calling Keyop one was disgusting to her.
Anderson produced the adoption papers. "Keyop is my son," he said, "and has been since he was two years old."
She went through the papers. They were legitimate and in order. "I must speak with my supervisor," she said.
When she came back, she shook her head. "My supervisor says that in this situation, we need to take these children completely off the base. We cannot risk parental contact."
"What about getting Keyop out of jail?" Mark asked.
"I know nothing about that," the woman answered.
While Garnet sobbed against Princess, the welfare worker and her partner collected the children and a few of their things. "When we are gone," she said, just before leaving, " these quarters will be sealed. They are now evidence. Nothing is to be taken from them."
"What about my personal items?" Garnet asked tearily. "You mean I can't even take the pictures of my husband and children to comfort me?"
"Nothing," the woman repeated and left.
At IFPP Security Council headquarters, Preston was being advised of the situation.
"Good," said Preston into his cellphone. "You know what we want from him, right? We want genetic samples and we want that implant." He paused while the person on the other end of the call spoke. "We've never had one of them to study. If that technology could be made available to all the Federation planets, then there would be no reason for them to be dependent on an Earth-based organization and their Rigan backup for protection." There was another pause. "No. We don't care what shape he's left in. That is irrelevant. What matters is the technology. Besides, wouldn't you take a bit of perverse pleasure in G-Force suffering the loss, or permanent damage, of one of it's Prime members. I know I would. Let justice be served on the vengeful."
Keyop sat in the cell they had placed him in. He had looked around carefully when he'd first been put there. It was a maximum security cell and had special shielding that would have prevented communications had he even had his bracelet. Without access to tools or a computer interface, he was as completely trapped as any non-G-Force prisoner would be.
He had lost track of time but figured he'd been there a good five hours or more before anyone bothered to even come and speak with him. When someone did show up, the man was not at all what Keyop had expected. He was used to loud, tough-talking goon-types. This guy was little and mousy and wouldn't have scared a five-year-old. His voice even reminded Keyop of a mouse.
"So," said the newcomer, "the mighty Swallow of G-Force reduced to sitting in a cell at the mercy of the Federation he claims to serve. How does it feel to be the small, defenseless one for a change?"
"...Always small," was Keyop's comeback. "Never defenseless."
The man just smirked at him. "We'll see if you still have that same attitude when we're finished. In a minute, one of our genetic technicians will be here to obtain some samples from you. You will cooperate or we will use force against you."
"When...I get out of here,...you're going to regret it."
"Save it for someone who cares," said the man as he stepped away from the cell to speak with someone who had just arrived.
Within a few minutes, the technician was shown into the cell. Keyop could tell that there were about eight guards standing at the ready. He had often been described as foolhardy, but he wasn't stupid. There was no way he was going to try to take on eight trained Security Council guards without his weapon or the ability to transmute. He became even more downcast when the tech approached him.
The tech was young and seemed very apprehensive about this whole thing. "You're going to cooperate with me, aren't you?" he asked. Keyop just folded his arms and clamped his mouth shut.
In the end, the guards had to step in so that the tech could get his samples. One scraping of cells from inside his mouth and five vials of blood cost them two black eyes, one broken nose and one set of injured gonads. All eight guards panicked when they saw where the tech was eyeing their prisoner.
"You can forget it," said the least injured of the guards. "If they want one of those samples, they can either come down here and get it themselves or wait till they take him to get that damned implant out of his head. Either way, leave me and my boys out of it."
Mark and Princess had taken charge of Garnet. The poor girl was inconsolable. All she could do was sit and sob and whisper the names of her husband and kids over and over. Finally, John ordered a sedative for her in hopes that sleep would help calm her. They were going to need her clear-headed to face whatever it was these people were up to.
It was late when Anderson's cellphone rang. He looked at the number worriedly. When it registered in his mind who it was, he quickly flipped the phone open and answered.
"Rafael, what has you calling me at this hour?"
"I wanted to let you know that I got a call from the Security Council a while ago. They've ordered me to head over to their prison facility in Center City. They said they have a 'former' G-Force member there and they want me to remove his implant. I had no idea that we had any more rogues running around with our hardware still in their heads. So, I figured I'd call and give a heads-up before I left."
"Thanks," said Anderson, and the shock and strain were obvious in his voice. "Rafael, do me a huge favor. Be as gentle with him as you can and let him know we're doing all we can to get him back."
"Who is it?" Rafael could not hide his curiosity.
"Keyop," Anderson said brokenly.
When the call ended, Anderson dropped the phone on the table and put his head in his hands.