Chapter One: The Hidden
Paige looked around the field. She knew she had heard it come down somewhere around here, now where was it? She pushed her way through the bushes and splashed across the river she usually swam in and up onto the other bank. As she entered the field she stopped dead. In the field there sat a ship. She had never seen anything like it before. She got slowly closer, pushing her long brown hair behind her ears. Where had this ship come from? Some far off planet? Why was it here, in this field in Kansas? She watched as two men came into view. Humans. She had probably stumbled onto some movie set. She heard the two men talking in some odd language as they walked about the ship. Suddenly one looked over at the bushes. He was young, maybe sixteen at the most and he smiled and walked over to where she was hiding. She noticed his eyes and that they were kind and very blue. “Hello.” He said in accented English. “What are you doing down there?” “Hiding.” Paige replied matter-of-factly. The man grinned and held out a hand to help her up. He turned to the other man. “Neci look what I found.” He said with a grin. The man Neci walked over. “Well hello there, who are you?” “Paige Fardreamer.” Paige replied. The men grinned. “Nice to meet you Paige.” Suddenly there was a noise and from low over the trees a helicopter burst into view. Neci said something to the other man and he smiled kindly at Paige and leaned over, giving her a light kiss on the cheek. “Be a good girl, mind your manners.” The young man said, then they both hurried onto the ship as men in dark suits jumped out of the helicopter. Several of the men went over to the strange ship but were knocked back as it took off. The others came over to Paige. “What did they say to you child?” One of them inquired curtly. “To be a good girl and mind my manners…” She replied, frightened. “Hmmm, come with us.” He said, placing a hand on her shoulder and leading her off to the helicopter. Paige followed quietly.

Paige woke with in a sweat. Why had she remembered that day so long ago tonight? She looked at her pager. Three o’clock in the morning. With a sigh she lay back going over the events of the past few days in her mind. Only recently, she had come to this new base with the few surviving members from the Thunder Birds Aerial Demonstration Squadron. The United States had been taken down, from the inside. Now she and the few loyal patriots left had had to flee to a remote base in the back dessert of Arizona. She lay on her bed thinking for a little bit as the scenes from her dream played through her mind yet again. Why had she remembered that day so vividly? She had only been five at the time it had taken place. There was something about the man that she needed to remember…but she couldn’t. She sighed shaking her head. Tomorrow would be a long day she figured. So far the only ones to arrive at the base were Jester, her commanding officer, and a few mechanics. She closed her eyes and quickly fell asleep.

Paige woke to her pager going off. She wiped a hand across her eyes blearily and looked at her pager. 6:30 am. She clicked over to the message screen. “Come to the hanger- Jester” She groaned and rolled out of bed, pulling on a flight suit and stamping into her boots as she walked out the door and jogged up the steps to the hanger. When she had arrived the day before she had been afraid that the base was going to make her claustrophobic as it was all housed under ground. Once inside she had found it quiet roomy however. She jogged through the large mess hall and down another short hallway into the hanger. Jester stood waiting on her by a tank. “Hello Captain. We’re going to pick up some friends in town. You’re gunner.” With that he climbed into the tank. Paige followed and settled herself into the gunners seat. “If it moves, shoot it.” He said as he started up the tank. Slowly they rumbled up the incline and out onto the runway. He turned off into the dessert and soon they came to a small road that they followed for a while. Paige saw something ahead and squinted against the glare of the rising sun off the sand. Finally she could make out the forms of two jeeps blocking the road. “Shoot them damnit!” Jester yelled at her. Paige bristled. “Well they’re not moving!” She cried back as she quickly dispatched the jeeps. As they drove past the remains Paige caught the star sign on the side of one. “Communists?” “Yea, no shit Sherlock!” Jester said caustically. Paige fell silent, dispatching several move jeeps as they rumbled into a small desert town. And Jester turned suddenly into a parking lot. Paige saw several of their own jeeps parked there and a helicopter started to descend out of the sky. Paige fired up at them. “Not them! Jester cried. “Well they’re moving damnitall, make up your mind!” She screamed back, but held her fire.” Finally the helicopter landed and nine people jumped out and hopped into the jeeps. Jester whipped the tank about and slowly the caravan headed back into the dessert. When they reached the base Jester jumped quickly out but Paige lingered a moment, letting the adrenaline drain out of her a bit. As she climbed out of the tank it all rushed back. Jester was standing with the new pilots, all with weapons drawn. “For not following orders I sentence you to death, Paige Fardreamer! Ready! AIM!” Paige dove off the tank and under it. Jester laughed manically and climbed back in the tank, starting it up again and driving it off of her. Paige had to lie still for fear of being crushed. As she lay in the open, he turned off the tank and yelled out the open hatch. “FIRE!” In the sudden silence in the garage the click of nine empty chambers was heard. As Jester jumped down grinning broadly, Paige rose quickly from the floor as the other pilots shared a chuckle. She recognized them all though only one she recognized from the Thunderbirds squadron, Christina. Jester stood in front of her and Paige walked over, punching him hard enough in the jaw to cause him to stumble back into her arms. Then she turned on her heel, and stormed out.

Paige had just sat down with her meal when Christina walked in. The elder woman smiled and shook her head as she walked into the kitchen. She returned shortly with a standard microwave meal and a coke and sat down across from Paige. “Did I hurt him permanently?” Paige asked after a moment. Christina chuckled, “No just his pride. He’ll be fine.” Paige grinned. “Damn, should of hit low!” Christina chuckled at her rejoinder then became serious suddenly. “Have you seen Tris?” Paige tried to think if she had seen Jester’s fiancée. “I don’t think she’s here. She should show up soon though I figure.” Paige shrugged as she stood and walked over to throw her plate away. As she headed up the stairs she nearly ran into an infamous pilot. Helga was an officially authorized US citizen, formerly from Germany. She was the only pilot Paige knew who could fly into battle intoxicated and live to tell about it. With her was a young blond man with spiked hair. Paige didn’t recognize him right off hand but he looked familiar.  They were both drunk and Paige pushed past them disgustedly. She walked into her hall and opened the door to her room. She stopped as she noticed that sitting on her bed was a young man. She recognized him as one of the pilots from the Cowboys squadron from their old base. “Howdy.” He said with a grin. “What are you doing on my bed?” Paige queried. The man grinned. “Just wanting to be friendly.” Paige frowned. “Coming into someone’s room without permission is being friendly?” “It’ll be fun if you let me stay,” the man insisted. Paige just shook her head. “Aww come on, my name’s John, what’s yours?” Paige sighed in annoyance. “Look John, I’m sure you’re a really nice person but I’m very tired so maybe you can try me another time without breaking and entering?” “Fine!” John snapped, pushing himself roughly from the bed and stalking across the hall. He left her door open and slammed his vociferously. Paige just sighed and closed the door to her room. She lay down on her bed, kicking off her boots ready to sleep. Just before the fell asleep piercing music shattered the silence and caused her to just straight upright in the bed. She heaved a sigh and got up, stamping her boots back on. It was coming from the room next door. Hopefully she could put a stop to it. As she opened her door she saw John already halfway across the hall, his M-16 in his hand. He raised it and pointed it at the offending rooms door and Paige barely had time to shut her door before she head the sound of it going off. She heard the door open and the sound of one returning shot and John’s scream. The door closed. Paige opened her door to see if she could help but Jester was already coming down the hall, his medical kit in his hand. As he walked toward where John lay groaning and clasping his leg Paige closed her door, shaking her head. This was definitely different from their old base. She yawned and stretched, sitting down on the edge of her bed to pull her boots off. She fell back onto the mattress and curled up around a pillow, quickly falling sound asleep.

Paige woke to her pager going on. She sleepily hit the light switch and looked at it. “Be in the hanger ready to fly at six this evening- Jester.” Paige switched over to the clock on her pager and checked the time. Six thirty am. She just treasured her commanding officer. Paige got up and dressed quickly in a fresh flight suit and headed out towards the bathroom. As she passed through the mess hall she spotted the blond drunk from the day before, passed out on a table, smashed. She recognized him by his hair and just shook her head and kept on walking. When she reached the bathroom she knocked. No one answered so she opened the door and went inside, locking it behind her. She showered quickly, not wanting to tie up the bathroom. She slipped on her fresh clothing and unlocked the door, pulling her hair back as she walked out. Christina smiled at her, walking in after her. Paige turned and walked down the steps, back into the mess hall. As she walked through Helga was supporting her blond haired friend, who Paige could tell was already inebriated again. As she walked past the noticed that Helga too was already under the influence. “Paige!” Helga slurred drunkenly. Paige hesitated, then stopped, turning back to the large woman. “Yes Helga?” “You want him?” Helga asked grinning. “What do you mean?”  “When drunk he very good!” Helga slurred, her accent very noticeable. She patted him lewdly. “Uhmm, no thanks.” Paige replied. Helga shrugged. “Your loss.” The man just looked up at her. Paige was startled to find herself looking into bright blue-violet eyes. He looked away abruptly and Paige turned quickly and walked back to her room. She opened the door and sat down at her computer. His eyes haunted her. They were such a deep blue that it seemed unnatural. She felt like she had seen them before. But she did not recognize those eerie eyes from anywhere. There was so much pain in them too. She wondered what in his past had forced him to become what he was now. Paige shrugged then, pushing the strange man out of her mind. He was none of her business. She turned on her computer and concentrated on killing time until it was time to take to the air.

Paige stood at the hanger, ready to fly. She had already located her plane; gassed up and waiting near the access ramp to the runway. Jester walked in at six o’clock on the dot.  He turned to her. “Take off after I do. I’ll be waiting.” Paige nodded and Jester walked over to his jet, climbing inside.  As the doors to the hanger opened and Jester taxied out onto the runway Paige clambered into her own aircraft and strapped in. As she looked out her canopy she was surprised to spot the fair-haired man, sober for the first time since she had first seen him. He was watching her, his arms crossed, standing near the door that lead back into the base. She turned back forward quickly and powered up her plane, taxiing out onto the runway and following Jester into the sky. She fell in on his right wing. “Took your own sweet time, didn’t you.” He snapped caustically. Paige bit her lip. Jester had changed since arriving but what could she do? “Lets just get going.” Jester rolled off to the east without a reply, putting his back to the sun. Paige followed quietly, falling back in, a little behind him. Finally after several long minutes Jester spoke again, calmer this time. “We’ll be coming up on a group of SAM launchers in a minute. Be ready to destroy the launchers, we don’t need them messing up our airspace.” Will they be firing radar or heat seekers?” Paige questioned. “Both.” “Goody.” Paige replied blandly. “Nothing you can’t handle Captain.” Jester said, a little of his old self showing through. “So when should we see these launchers?” Paige asked. “Now.” He replied as her missile warning started beeping at her earnestly. She looked, finally spotting the camouflaged launcher off to her right. Screaming in she quickly dispatched it with the nose guns of her F-16. It had already launched a missile, however and the projectile was locked onto her. She turned as she launched a flare and watched, pleased, as the missile exploded off to her left. As she looked back she saw another launcher in front of her and took it out with a quick burst from her guns, grinning as it exploded. The tone went full again and she looked around, looking for both missile and launcher. Paige spotted the missile and launched a flare but it kept coming. “Chafe quickly girl!” Jester said almost inaudibly in her ear. Paige finally saw the launcher off to her left and swung her plane around that direction, firing a burst from her guns to scatter anyone manning the launcher. She flew low over it then launching several chafe canisters as she flew over it. The missile hit the chafe and exploded, taking the launcher with it. As Paige fell back into Jester’s wing he growled. “Don’t pull stunts girl, this isn’t the t-birds-“ His voice broke and he cleared his throat, trying to cover it up. After he had taken a deep breath he continued. “This isn’t the Thunderbirds anymore.” “Sorry sir…” Paige responded softly. “Get back to base.” Jester ordered and Paige turned, submissively, heading back toward their base. Paige looked back behind her. Jester was headed in the opposite direction. “Aren’t you coming home, Will?” Paige questioned, knowing the use of his real name would seize his notice. When Jester replied his voice was as cold as ice and pain filled. Paige knew then that Tris had not shown up and he was going to find her. She had been the only one who ever called him Will around their old base and Paige suddenly regretted using his name. “I’ll be back.” He promised unemotionally. “Now go home Captain.” He finished, putting emphasis on her lower rank. “Yes sir.“ Paige said unenthusiastically and reluctantly continued on to the base, landing on the runway and jumping out of her plane. The impact of her feet on the runway helped to dissipate some of her anger. As she landed Christina walked up. “Where’s Jester?” The older woman asked, her green eyes searching Paige’s gold ones. Paige looked at the ground. “He went to find Tris.” Christina shook her head and sighed, looking off to the west. “He’ll be back, I hope. God knows we need him. Jackass or not he’s one hell of a pilot and the only one crazy enough to keep this group from killing each other.” “What about my plane?” Paige asked. “Leave it. The monkeys are already taking it in.” As Paige glanced back she could see that this was true. “Am I dismissed then?” Christina nodded and Paige headed back into the base, out of the desert heat. As she walked through the mess hall she spotted the blonde man alone at a back table. He was clear-headed still and had not a bottle of alcohol, but a bottle of water. A group of cowboys sat closer to the walkway though and as she walked by they whistled and hooted loudly. Paige remembered then the list of reasons she hated that squadron. One stood up and caught her around the waist as she walked by. His name was Jake she remembered. “Why don’t you come back to my quarters tonight little girl?” He asked, grinning lewdly at her. “Why Jake I always thought Helga was more your type, she doesn’t care about size.” This elicited hoots of laughter from his fellows at the table but Jake kept pressing. “Aww come on, it’ll be fun. Just you and me, alone, some candle light, a little wine.” Paige shrugged off the arm. “No, Jake.” “I’ll make it fun for you!” he promised, trying to put his arm about her again, grinning and looking her up and down. Paige frowned and pulled her nine-millimeter out, pointing it unswervingly at his crotch. “I can turn you from a rooster to a hen with one shot, want to try me?” She snapped. Jake stepped back, his hands raised and set back down at the table with his now hushed partners. Paige noticed John, with a set of crutches for his leg turn and say something to Jake. “I told you she was not your type.” He whispered. Paige glanced around as she walked out, her eyes falling over the blond man again. He was smiling and his indigo eyes caught hers. Paige looked back forward quickly, startled at the tingly feeling his laughing gaze had started in the pit of her stomach. She continued out the door, risking one last quick glance over her shoulder. The cowboys were carrying on, her rebuttal already forgotten. The blond man she spotted walking into the hanger, verve in his step. Paige walked down the steps, nearly stumbling once until she realized how exhausted she was. She yawned as she opened her door, shutting it and locking it behind her and sitting down on the bed only long enough to take her boots off before falling back into her pillow. She smiled slightly and curled up, quickly falling asleep.