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"We have to cover all that ourselves?" Brent gasped in surprise.
"Not all by yourselves. Other divisions will be helping out as well. For example, the Pacific Rim division that we just finished setting up in Hawaii will be helping you with the the west coast states. Also, all divisions will always be available to lend a hand if you ever feel you're getting in over your head." Adam couldn't help but laugh at the shocked look on all their faces. Obviously they hadn't considered just how large of an area they would be covering. However, Adam was impressed by Justin. He sat in his chair and, while he was relaxed, he didn't let on to how he was feeling.
"The reason I wanted you here Justin is because I want to put you in charge of the Desert Division's Military Forces." Adam again was impressed, the only reaction that Justin gave was a slight raise of his eyes brows.
"I would be honored Sir." Justin said leaning forward in his chair. "What exactly would I be responsible for?"
Adam leaned back in his chair and for the next half hour went over the details of what Justin would be responsible for, what his standard operating procedures would be, and exactly what the relationship between Justin and the division directors would be. By the end of it, Justin was sent off to inform those that would create his command staff, and get everything ready to head over there in the morning.
With their heads swimming with all the information they had learned, a very worn out Brent, Lance and Maurice said their good-bye's to Adam and Logan, and had Daileass teleport them back home.
Tyce carried Rene as he walked next to Jory while they weaved their way though various hallways. Every now and then he would glance behind him just to make sure the large group of kids they had were still with them.
"So, Jerry, is it?" Rick called out as he caught up to walk a step or two behind Jory.
"It's Jory," the blond haired, blue eyed ten yearold smiled back.
"Jory," Rick corrected. "Are you sure these bears are safe? We have some pretty young kids in our group."
"That depends on what you mean by safe," Jory answered with a grin. "They can be pretty deadly for anyone who might try to harm any kid they are protecting."
Rick swallowed, "Actually, I was talking more about for the kids themselves."
Jory nodded, "In that case, they are perfectly safe. Don't worry, I'll give you a live demonstration as soon as we get to the den."
"The den?" Rick asked.
"Yup, that's where all the unclaimed bears stay, waiting for kids to come by so they can bond to them." Jory turned a corner and stopped in front of two, arch-shaped, brown doors.
Rick looked toward the doors, which almost resembled an entrance to a cave. "Is this the..." he began to ask before Jory stopped him by putting a finger up to his month.
Jory waited a few moments for the entire group to catch up and assemble in front of the door. "Okay guys, listen up. In a few minutes, we are going to head inside and see if we can find each of you your own bear. But, before we do that, there are a few things that I need to go over, and I need each of you to pay real close attention, okay?"
Jory paused for a few seconds as he watched most of the kids in the group nod their heads, while the small murmur of talking that was going on completely stopped. "This is what we call 'the den', it's where all the new bears live before they find the right boy or girl to adopt them. When we go inside, you're going to see a lot of bears lined up on the sides of the walls, as well as small play areas in the middle of the room. Everyone will get a chance to play with the bears, but before we do that, there is a small white stage setup in the very center of the room that I would like everyone to gather around first. That's where I'm going to give you guys a little demonstration about the bears first. After that, then I'll explain how you can each pick your own bear, okay?"
Again, Jory waited for the nods to come from all the kids. Once he was satisfied that everyone in the group seemed to understand, he smiled. "Okay, then in we go!" With that, he spun himself around, and knocked three times on the door. A few moments later, both doors swung open, and the group followed Jory inside.
The room that they entered was large and rectangular with the sides being about twice as long as the front and back. It also appeared that the room had two floors at one point, since there were large slightly angled one-way windows about 10 feet from the floor. And, just as Jory promised, the back and side walls of the room were lined with large 2 to 3 foot tall teddy-bears of all different colors and textures.
As Rick walked in and began to look around, he was almost certain that he saw one or two of the bears turn their heads slightly, looking at the different kids. "This room is incredible. Was it built just for the bears?"
"Nah," Jory answered as he lead everyone to the small white stage in the center of the room. "It use to be one of our test labs. That's what those windows up there were for, so people could look down and watch whatever was being tested. But my brothers and I converted it to the den since we have so many kids that come to get bears."
"Makes sense," Rick agreed as he gathered with the rest of the kids around the stage to see what Jory would do for his presentation.
Once everyone was gathered around the stage, Jory walked up and stood in the center of it. "Okay guys, as you can see there are a lot of bears here, but as I already told you, there are a few things you need to know first. To help me with that, I'm going to have my own bear come up and help me. His name is Kaboom."
As if on cue, one of the brown bears closest to the stairs leading up to the stage stood up, jumped down from the small shelf it was on, and made his way up to the stage.
"Everyone say 'hi' to Kaboom." Jory said while the bear was walking up the steps.
"Hi Kaboom!" about 30 different kids all called out at once.
Once Kaboom made it up on stage, Jory reached down and picked him up. "The first thing you will notice is that Kaboom is the only bear that is wearing a yellow 'staff' hat. That's because he's a special bear in that he not only helps me tell people about the bears, but he also helps to keep an eye on all the other bears here until they get adopted by kids. If you have any questions about the bears, if you don't feel comfortable asking me or one of the other UNIT guys around here, you can also ask Kaboom, and he will be happy to help. Isn't that right Kaboom?"
The bear looked up at Jory's face, and then nodded his head. "That's right Jory. Now, if you don't mind, could you put me back down? I'm not a baby bear, you know?"
A few of the kids giggled as Jory set the bear down. "Right, sorry about that. Anyway, as you guys can see, Kaboom is about 2 1/2 feet tall, that's right about average for most of the bears here. Although, some are a few inches shorter, and some are a few inches taller."
As Jory was giving his speech and describing some of the basics of the bears, and how they were different colors and sizes, Kaboom walked over to the side of the stage and motioned for Jace, one of the 6-year-old clone kids to come up to the stage.
A rather shy Jace hesitantly walked up the stairs to the raised platform that was the stage, and followed Kaboom to stand right next to Jory just as he was finishing talking about the different textures of fur that some of the bears have.
"This one." Kaboom stated as he pointed to Jace.
Jory stopped and looked down at Kaboom and then at Jace before he shook his head. "Well guys, Kaboom has helped me give this speech a few times, and already knows what part is coming next, so it looks like he's already found the volunteer that we will need. Um, do you know what his name is, Kaboom?"
Kaboom shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. He just looked cute."
More giggles came from the rest of the kids watching.
Jory shook his head again, "Honestly, I don't know what I'm going to do with you." He then knelt down next to the boy. "Um, what was your name?"
"Jace." The boy answered shyly.
Jory nodded, "Okay Jace. You're not afraid of Kaboom here, are you?"
Jace shook his head, "He's kinda funny."
Jory agreed, "Yeah, he is a little. Okay good, because although Kaboom is my bear, he's special in that, for now, he's going to protect you instead of me. Okay?"
"Right then," Jory said as he stood back up, "One of the first things you guys need to know about the bears is that even though they look cute and cuddly, they can also be very deadly to anyone that tries to hurt any kid they are protecting. To demonstrate that, I'm going to pretend that I'm going to try to hurt Jace, and Kaboom here is going to protect him. Okay?"
Jace nodded his head.
"Ready Kaboom?" Jory asked as he looked toward his bear, who also nodded.
Jory took out a black ski mask from inside his jacket, and put it on. "Now, the first thing to know is that the bears are pretty smart bears. They are able to assess threat levels really good. To help with the demonstration, Kaboom has been setup so that when I'm wearing this ski mask, it will greatly increase the threat level that he perceives me at."
Kaboom looked up toward Jory as he talked. "You're getting too close to Jace, step back."
"As you can see, one of the things the bears will do is issue a verbal warning if a threatening person starts to get too close," Jory continued.
Kaboom took a single step closer to Jory. "This is your final warning, if you do not step away from Jace, I'll use force."
"The bears will also tailor their warnings to the situation. Like here, Kaboom feels that I'm getting too close to the kid he's protecting, so he... OOMPH!" Jory didn't get to finish what he was saying before Kaboom did a roundhouse kick and knocked Jory completely off the stage and into a large beanbag chair.
"Kaboom!" Jory called out a bit annoyed. "I wasn't ready yet."
Kaboom looked down toward Jory, "I tried to warn you that you were too close, and you had the ski-mask on."
"I know!" Jory said in mock anger as he brushed himself off and walked back up to the stage, "but I wasn't ready yet."
"Then listen to me next time," Kaboom replied, which caused more kids to giggle.
Jory sighed. "Anyway, as I was saying, the bears will be very protective, and are trained in several different forms of martial arts."
To demonstrate this, as Jory continued to walk closer toward Jace, Kaboom jumped up, and using his momentum as he was coming back down, grabbed a hold of Jory's hand, and flung him onto the beanbag.
"Kaboom!" Jory called out, making more kids giggle, "Okay, that's it. Sorry about this guys, but I need to deal with something real quick." The ten year old then picked up the beanbag and brought it up on stage, positioned directly in front of him so it was between him and the bear. "Okay, this should keep you quiet long enough so I can finish explaining things."
As soon as Jory finished talking, three, three-inch metal claws popped out of each of the bear's hands. With a single swipe, Kaboom was able to easily slice open the beanbag. Within moments, all the beans poured out of the bag until Jory was left holding a deflated piece of material. Once again, the kids roared with laughter.
As soon as the laughter began, Jory took off the ski mask, and flung it along with what was left of the beanbag to the side. "Thanks Jace, thanks Kaboom, that was a great demonstration!"
Seeming a bit confused, but still happy to have been the center of attention, Jace hesitantly climbed off the stage and went to stand next to Rick.
"Hey Daileass?" Jory called out.
"I know, I know, you want me to clean up the beans again!" Daileass's voice rang out from speakers in the ceiling. Moments after that, all the beans that had flooded out of the beanbag disappeared.
"Thanks Daileass!" Jory called out and then waited for the laughing and cheering to die down a bit before he began to speak in a much more serious tone. "Okay guys, I know that was fun to watch, but in all seriousness, although these bears can be great friends, they are also powerful weapons, which means you shouldn't joke or play around when they go into defense mode. Otherwise, someone can get hurt or even killed."
Instantly, all the talking and giggling stopped, and all eyes focused on Jory. "If the bears do have to go into defense mode, they also have communicators built into them, and they will let Daileass know, who will make sure that others are sent out to help with whatever is going on. So you need to be sure to listen to your bears when they tell you to do something to keep you safe. Any questions?"
One of the eight year old clones near the front raised his hand. "Does that mean the bears are alive like Daileass?"
"Wow, that's a great first question." Jory smiled. "Daileass is what we called A.I. or Artificial Intelligence, which means he can learn and think and grow just like a real person. The bears are smart and have their own personalities, but they are V.I. or Virtual Intelligence, which means they are limited in how far they can grow and learn, and then can only grow in the areas they are programmed to grow in. So to answer your question, they may seem to act a lot like Daileass but there are a few differences that will prevent them from growing as much as him."
Avery, one of the older clone kids, raised his hand next. "Is there an age limit for who can have a bear?"
Jory grinned. "Well, generally, it's only the younger kids that want them, but no, there is no age limit. I know a lot of you guys fall into a unique category as far as age goes, so any of you will be welcome to adopt a bear if you want. Also, just so you know, there are a couple of 14 and 15 year olds that live here at the UNIT base that also have bears. So it won't be an issue."
"What do they eat?" One of the younger six year olds asked.
"Huh?" Jory was a bit taken off guard by the question, "Oh, well they have the ability to eat, and electrostatically break down any organic compound into a basic fuel source if needed. But usually, they will just plug themselves into a wall outlet at night. Or, if there are a bunch of bears in a single area, like if you have a nest area that you build at night, we have special recharge panels where the bears can stand on, and recharge that way."
"Cool," the boy replied.
"Does anyone else have any questions?" Jory waited a few moments to see if any hands went up. Seeing none, he continued. "Okay, then the very last thing I need to tell you guys before we start is this; the bears are really good at protecting you and keeping you safe. However, they also need someone who will be their friend, talk with them, and keep them company."
Jory smiled as everyone seemed to take what he said seriously. "With that in mind, it's time for you guys to start meeting the bears. The way we will do this is that in a few minutes, me and some of the adult helpers here will start to take some of the bears off of the shelves. Then, you guys and the bears will be able to walk around the room, play with the toys and other stuff in the various play areas, or just talk and get to know each other. Okay?"
After seeing everyone nod, Jory continued. "Once you think you found a bear that you like and that you get along good with, you will need to think of a name for him or her and then come up to either me, or one of the adult helpers. We will ask you if you will be the bear's friend, and we will ask the bear if he or she will be your friend. If you both say yes, then the bear will officially be bound to you. If anyone has any questions, you guys can ask me, or Kaboom, or one of the adult helpers, okay?"
After another set of nods, Jory smiled. "Cool, let's find you guys some bears then!"
With that, Jory, and about four other older kids and adults dressed in UNIT uniforms began to walk around the room, carefully lowering bears down from their shelf so that they could walk around. As they did this, the group of kids that were around the stage slowly began to wander around the room.
As soon as everyone started to go in separate directions, Kaboom walked over to Jace, who was still standing close to Rick. "Hello Jace, thanks for helping me earlier."
"You're welcome," Jace replied hesitantly.
Kaboom spent a few moments looking the boy up and down before he continued, "There is a really friendly bear that I think you might like. Do you want to meet him?"
Jace looked up toward Rick, and after getting a nod, looked back toward Kaboom, "Okay."
With that, Kaboom led Jace across the room, past a few of the play areas that had slides, and trucks, and coloring books, to a play area that had blocks and legos. Standing next to the blocks, trying to balance one block on another was a soft, short grey furred bear who had slightly darker patches on his paws.
"Hello," the bear said as Jace and Kaboom got closer. "Do you like blocks?"
Jace smiled as he looked toward Kaboom, and then back toward the grey bear, "I love building blocks."
"Will you help me with building a house?" the bear asked back.
"Sure!" Jace said as he ran over to the block pile, completely forgetting about Kaboom.
At first, Evan was skeptical at how receptive some of the younger kids would be to the bears, but as he stood there looking around the room, he quickly changed his mind. He was a bit surprised at how friendly the bears were, and how different some of their personalities were. It was almost as if there was a bear to fit each personality that any particular kid might have.
As he stood there, lost in thought, Evan almost did not notice the light tugging on his pants. Looking down, he saw a small, short furred, light brown bear looking back up at him. The bear had a rather interesting looking dark brown patch around it's right eye. "Yes?" Evan asked, as he was already trying to think of ways to say he was not interested in a bear.
"Are you Evan Rothwood?" the bear asked calmly.
Slightly surprised that the bear knew his name, Evan nodded, "Yeah."
"Are you Haden Rothwood's brother?" the bear seemed to have an almost hopeful expression on him.
Evan blinked, and glanced around to see if anyone was standing near-by with a remote control device. "Yes," he replied, looking back toward the bear.
The bear lifted both of his arms up toward Evan, "Will you take me home to him? I heard he likes electronics, and I like electronics too."
Evan grinned as he lifted the bear up, "It sounds like you two might get along good together then."
Forth and Stan were working on their 3rd trip around the room, "You know, you'll never find a bear by moping around with your head down," Stan said softly.
Forth shrugged, "You go find one if you want."
"Why have you been so sad all night? Is it because it will be bed time soon?" Stan asked with concern.
Forth shook his head, "Nah. Eric said that I couldn't call our newest brother Fifth. Even though Fifth would be a cool name."
"Oh," Stan replied as he started giggling.
Forth looked up toward Stan, slightly annoyed. "What's so funny?"
Stan pointed toward the side of the room. "All the bears seem to be playing with toys and are talking with kids, but that bear over there is just walking in circles next to the wall, moping around kinda like you were."
"Huh?" Forth asked as he looked over to where Stan was pointing, "Oh."
Stan was a bit surprised when Forth suddenly made a B-Line for where the bear was at, "Hey, wait for me!"
Jory smiled as looked around the room and saw how well most of the kids were taking to the bears. Nearly every kid in the room seemed to have found one, and those that didn't appeared to be getting close. He was so caught up in his thoughts that he almost didn't feel the light tapping on his back. Turning around, he saw Miles, the youngest and smallest member of the gang kids.
Looking up at Jory, Miles asked a simple question, "Do the teddy bears ever need to sleep?"
Jory pondered the smaller boy for a moment and then squatted down as Kaboom walked up next to him. "No they don't. They stay awake and chase away all your bad dreams."
Miles stood there for a few moments, unable to make words form, although the tears that began to fall said far more than words ever could. Shortly after that, the boy ran off to find his protection.
A few moments later, Andrew walked closer to Jory. "Ever since Maurice brought him into our gang, he's been having nightmares almost every night. I think this is really going to mean a lot to him."
Jory looked up toward Andrew and gave him a knowing smile as he nodded his head.
About half an hour later, with every kid having found a bear that they liked and bonded with, kids were starting to line up near the door with their bears to leave. Jory and Kaboom were making their way down the line to make sure each bear and kid pair was all set.
As Jory reached Evan, he looked up and smiled, "I guess you found a bear you liked as well, Evan?"
"Huh? What?" Evan replied slightly surprised, "Oh, no. This is for Haden."
"Oh," Jory replied. "I don't know if that would work. Normally the kids come here to find the bear that fits them best."
Evan nodded, "Yeah, but this little guy seemed fairly insistent. He asked me if I was Haden's brother, and then asked me to take him home."
Jory scratched his head and shrugged, "Okay, that's weird, but I guess that works. Must be some new software updates Daileass threw in or something."
Jory spent a few more minutes working his way down the line until he was satisfied that every kid that wanted one had a bear, and that everyone was happy with the bears they had picked. When that was finished, he led everyone out of 'the den', and into a small lobby area where he had Daileass teleport them all back to their Las Vegas home.
Captain Elliot Ross smiled peacefully as he was making his way along with the rest of a rather large group of kids through one of the central corridors in the UNIT base which lead back to the residential pods. With Rascal Flatt tunes still swirling around in his head from the concert he had attended a few short hours ago, for the first time that he could remember, he allowed himself to be the 12 year old kid that people claimed he was, instead of the Strike Team commander he had trained as hard as he could, to become.
'Being a kid'... to be honest, Elliot didn't really know what that meant. The military lifestyle had always been a part of him for as long as he could remember, and being genetically enhanced, that was a pretty long time ago. But if he had to, he would guess that part of being a kid meant enjoying concerts like he did this evening. He had even gone as far as skillfully dodging the second in command of his team, and instead of doing the performance reviews of each member of his team like he should have done, he instead managed to have a quiet and relaxing dinner by himself.
Now, if things went his way, he would manage to get back to his apartment, sneak into his room where he could listen to some music, maybe watch a vid or two before hitting the sack, and not worrying about being a strike team commander until tomorrow. Unfortunately, things rarely went his way.
"Captain?" Jessica Flanko, Elliot's second, called out from behind him.
'So much for things working out my way', Elliot thought to himself as he turned toward the voice, "Hey Jess," Elliot made sure to use her name to make it clear that he wasn't really up for formal right now.
Seeing the slight look of disappointment in her commander's eyes, Jessica grinned, "If I didn't know any better, I would say that you've been trying to avoid me."
"Now why would I do a thing like that?" Elliot teased.
"Oh, I don't know," Jessica began to play along, "Maybe we are just not good enough for you anymore, and you're out hunting for a new team?"
"You got me," Elliot put his hands up in surrender. Even though Jess was a year older than he was, with them both being genetically altered 'genesis kids', they were both in the same boat as far as never really having had a chance to learn what it meant to be a kid. So, they both would do this dance where they each pretended to be kids, but things would always end up back to business.
"So, your place to go over the reviews?" Jessica asked, bringing things back to business.
Elliot nodded, "Yeah, that sounds good. That's actually where I'm headed now."
"Elliot! Elliot!" another kid called out from further behind them.
Elliot sighed, as yet another of his guys had managed to find him. He didn't even need to turn around to see who it was as he could easily tell the voice of his youngest strike team member, Martin Pollard.
"Hey Elliot, did you hear?" Martin asked, as he slithered his way through the crowd to get to where Elliot and Jessica were at. Even as a normal, or squishy as most of the altered kids referred to them as, Martin was incredibly flexible. Between that and his smaller eleven year old size, he was easily able to make his way to where he wanted to be.
"Whoa, slow down Martin, hear what?" Elliot asked as the boy made it to his side.
Martin did his best to calm down a little, "Did you know a bunch of those clone kids from Vegas were at the concert tonight?"
Elliot thought for a moment before nodding, "Yeah, I think I saw them sitting toward the back."
"I hear that they are becoming an official Clan division now, and that General Casey is going to be deploying a bunch of us to help them out," Martin continued.
Jessica agreed, "I heard there was some talk about doing that, but I didn't know a decision had been made yet. Personally, I think that's for the best, since none of those guys look like they could stand up to anyone."
"Yeah," Martin continued, "and word has it, that our team is up to be tapped for deployment."
Elliot thought about the prospect for a few moments. Although he knew Martin was one of the best Intel officers he could hope for, there were just some times where he could not possibly come to the same conclusions as he did. "We are so far down the totem pole, I don't really see us getting picked."
"But don't you think that would be really cool if we got to go?" Martin asked, starting to feel a bit deflated.
"Of course I do, and if General Casey wants us there, we will be there. I just really don't see it happening." Elliot replied.
Before Martin had a chance to reply, Elliot's comm badge went off, "Longfellow to Captain Ross."
Elliot tapped his badge, "This is Captain Ross."
"Captain, I realize that it's late, but if you have a few minutes, could you join me in conference room five?" Captain Longfellow's voice asked.
"On my way Sir, Ross out." With that Elliot closed the call and looked toward his second in command, "I guess the review will have to be put off a bit after all."
Jessica nodded as Elliot made his way for the turbo-lift. The last thing he saw before the doors closed was the shit eating grin on Martin's face that screamed that once again, he knew something before his captain did.
Once the doors to the turbo-lift opened, Elliot made his way down the long hall toward conference room five.
"Hey Elliot," Darren Jackson, another strike team commander said as he passed him in the hall.
Seeing that the door to the conference room was already open, and Captain Anthony Longfellow was sitting on the other side of the conference table, he stepped through the door and immediately snapped to attention, "Sir, Captain Elliot Ross reporting as ordered."
"At ease Captain," Anthony replied, motioning toward one of the empty conference room chairs.
Elliot nodded and made his way for the offered chair.
"So," Anthony began, "how has your team been shaping up?"
Elliot thought for a moment, "Cole is still getting settled in, but he seems to be picking up on things pretty well, and he is integrating into the team nicely."
Anthony nodded, "So, in your honest opinion, do you feel your guys are ready?"
"Sir?" Elliot was a bit confused.
Anthony smiled, "Twenty minutes ago, General Casey requested that Colonel West prepare a detachment to be deployed to a new Clan base stationed out of Nevada. I've been asked by Colonel West to function as Overall Strike Team Commander of the five strike teams to be deployed there."
Elliot smiled, "Congratulations, Sir."
"Thanks," Captain Longfellow nodded, "but what I really need to know is if Strike Team Thunder is ready for long term deployment. Because if it is, I would like you as one of those five teams."
Even though Martin had warned him ahead of time, Elliot was still shocked when the offer was made to him. "Sir, may I ask why? I know there are a lot of other teams that are a lot higher on the list to be deployed next."
Anthony nodded, "You're right, there are teams closer to the top. However, given the briefing that Colonel West gave me, this is going to be somewhat of a unique deployment for a few reasons. First, a number of their guys are special needs. Something your team has already proven that you can work well with. Second, some of the other guys there are making use of some improvised munitions, again something that your team has demonstrated that they are able to adapt well to. So even though there might be teams higher up on the list, in my opinion, Thunder is one of the best suited for this."
Elliot nodded, "Sir, Strike Team Thunder stands ready to serve in any capacity necessary."
"Very good," Captain Longfellow nodded, "Then here are your official orders Captain," he then handed a small piece of paper to Elliot, "Prepare your Team, we deploy at 0500."
"Yes Sir!" With a salute, Elliot made his way out of the room and back toward the turbo-lift, already deep in thought about everything that would need to be done over the next few hours as he prepared his team for their first long term deployment.
Haden had one of the side panels of the System 27 open as he was comparing what he was seeing in the actual mainframe computer and comparing it to the section that he was reading in the owners manual.
"Okay Daileass, now we need to re-run the level three diagnostics on core forty-five." Haden read and double checked in the manual to make sure his instructions were correct.
"Running," Daileass replied, "Test successful. Nice job Haden, that brings all cores to 100% status. I guess that means I can cancel the service call to Wayne Industries."
Just as Daileass said this, Evan walked through the door into the temporary CIC, "What did my genius little brother accomplish now?"
"Hey Evan," Haden said cheerfully as he watched his brother enter.
"Haden has been helping me run through some of the initial diagnostics with the System 27. I located a potentially bad element in one of the processor cores, and Haden just successfully helped me with a manual reset of that core, which fixed the problem."
"Nice job, bro," Evan said as he gave his younger brother a hug, "I have a surprise for you."
Haden broke the hug, and looked up toward Evan's face, "What is it?"
"A new friend for you to meet," Evan said carefully as he immediately saw Haden taking a step backward at the thought of having to meet someone new.
"Okay," Haden said carefully.
Evan walked over to the door and opened it.
A few moments later, a three foot tall, short light brown-haired teddy bear with a darker brown patch around it's right eye timidly walked through the door.
Haden tilted his head as he tried to figure out what to think of what he was seeing. It wasn't a real person, so he didn't immediately feel like running and hiding, as he normally felt. "What is it?"
"He's a special bear," Evan answered, knowing that the answers he gave would be very important to how well Haden would be able to take this, "I thought that you two could become friends."
Haden took a hesitant step forward as he continued to size up the bear.
"Hello Haden," The bear said which caused Haden to take a step back in surprise.
"He can talk?" Haden asked as he watched the bear closely.
"Of course he can," Daileass answered, "I helped to created him."
"You did?" Haden was a bit surprised as he looked toward the terminal, "So he's like you?"
"Not exactly," Daileass stated, "but he has virtual intelligence, so he is similar."
"What kind of things can you say?" Haden asked as he slowly started to circle the bear, still trying to decide what to make of it.
"What ever I want, I guess," The bear answered.
"Is he like the other bears that the others went to get tonight?" Haden asked.
"Not exactly," Daileass admitted. "This one is a special one that is slightly different from the others."
"How?" Haden asked, keeping his attention focused on the bear.
"Unlike most of the other bears which start out with little to no knowledge about their protectors, this one already has a good understanding about electronics," Daileass replied.
"He knows electronics?" Haden seemed a bit skeptical.
"I know a little bit," the bear answered. "But I would like to learn more. Will you help teach me?"
Evan saw a small spark in Haden's eyes, which, to his disappointment, quickly went away.
"What did you mean by protector?" Haden changed the subject.
Evan felt that it was his turn to answer, "You have to understand Haden, this bear is special in a number of ways. If you accept to be his friend, he'll bond to you, and he will be able to protect you, he knows a lot of fighting skills, and a lot of other stuff. But at the same time, he'll need someone to keep him company, to talk to him, and teach him things, and to give him lots of hugs."
"He won't let anyone hurt me? Hurt me like... like....what HE did?" Haden stopped circling the bear, but instead looked very seriously toward his brother.
Evan shook his head, "This bear would kill anyone who ever tried to do anything like that to you."
"Are you lying?" Haden asked with tears starting for form in his eyes.
"I protect my friends," the bear said drawing Haden's attention.
As soon as the bear answered and he had Haden's attention, several three inchlong razor sharp blades slowly extended from the bear's claws, and then quickly retracted back into them.
Haden turned around and took a few more steps toward the bear, "Do you really want to learn about electronics? Everyone else I try to talk to about it get headaches."
The bear nodded, "Yes."
"What do I have to do?" Haden asked as he looked back toward Evan.
Evan smiled knowing that Haden had been convinced and would be willing to give this a try, "All you need to do is agree to be his friend."
Haden seemed a bit puzzled, "What do you mean?"
The bear took a step forward which caused Haden to jerk his head back toward it. Once the bear had Haden's attention, it looked up directly into Haden's eyes, "Will you be my friend?"
Haden blinked a few times, then slowly nodded his head, "Yes."
With that, the bear took a step forward and then stopped and held it's arms up, which caused Haden to walk the rest of the way, and lift the bear up into a hug.
"He's soft," Haden commented as he snuggled his new friend.
Evan smiled, "You know, you will need to come up with a name for him, right?"
Haden thought for a moment, "Gyro," he finally replied, "his name is Gyro."
"I like that name," Gyro said as Haden continued to snuggle him.
Just about all the clone kids, gang kids, and other kids associated with the Las Vegas group, other than Brent, Lance, Maurice, and Haden, were in the large conference room on the first floor of building two, which had since been converted into an entertainment room.
The main topic of discussion centered around the new bears that many of the younger kids, and a few of the older clone kids now had. Although a lot of discussion about the Rascal Flatt concert was also being made. Since most of the kids there had never seen the movie 'Cars', a decision was made that it would be the next movie that they watched.
"Hey guys, everything going okay in here?" Neal said as he poked his head through the door.
"Hey Neal!" many of the kids cheerfully called out.
"Neal?" ten yearold Daniel Keen asked, "A bunch of us want to watch 'Cars' if that's okay?"
Neal thought for a moment. "Well, if you want to, I'm sure Daileass can hook you up with a picture of the parking lot, or of one of the highways."
"What?" Daniel asked, until it finally hit him what Neal was saying. "No! Not those cars! I meant the movie called 'Cars'."
"Oh!" Neal said in understanding. "I guess you can do that if you want, but then you won't be able to see the surprise all the adults have been working on for you."
"You guys have been working on that all day, when are we going to get to see it?" Doug asked.
"Right now," Neal answered causing several more eyes to turn toward him. "That's actually why I came over here, to take anyone who is interested over to see the it. I don't suppose anyone here is interested?"
Immediately, the hands of every younger kid and clone kid went up followed by several "Me's!" Even the older kids were showing an interest.
"Well, what are you waiting for then? Come on!" Neal called out as he ducked out of the room, only to be immediately followed by nearly fifty kids and thirty bears.
Neal lead the group out of the building, and down the small walkway to building one. Instead of going through the main doors, however, he took them through a smaller door that lead into the stairwell, and then proceeded to walk up to the third floor.
On the third floor, he walked down the hallway a little, and stopped in front of two large wooden doors and waited for the rest of the group to catch up. Once everyone was there, he opened up one of the doors. Immediately, spooky sounding music could be heard coming out from the room.
As the kids began to make their way through the door, they entered another of the large meeting rooms. However, it would have been difficult to tell what the room was with all of the spider webs, and other Halloween decorations that were lining the walls. Going across the top of the ceiling was a large banner which read 'Happy Halloween' written in large orange and brown letters.
"Wow!" several of the kids said out loud as they started to look around the room.
"Happy Halloween!" several adults called out. In addition to the adults that many of the kids were used to seeing, several of the remaining office staff that still worked at Cynthitech had also volunteered to help out, and were there.
Many of the kids had no clue what they were looking at. A few of the older gang kids gave the clone kids a crash course in what a 'Halloween Party' was. In one corner of the room, several tables were set up with an assortment of cookies, drinks and other foods. The rest of the room appeared to be split up in a number of different stations, with each station having some type of activity setup. For example, at one station, a large metal tub was setup that was filled with water, and had a number of bright red apples floating around in it.
"You guys set all this up for us?" Andrew, one of the older gang kids asked Neal, "This is way cool!"
Neal nodded and smiled, "I think you'll see a lot of things are different now that you're not on the streets anymore."
Andrew nodded as well, but before he could reply, Carlos dragged him away toward one of the games that involved trying to pop balloons with darts.
Moments later, Rick walked up next to Neal and wrapped his arm around his husband. "Forget what I said earlier about this being a lot of work. Just seeing some of their faces makes it all worth it."
Neal gave Rick a quick kiss. "Isn't it though? Just look around. For the first time, many of them are getting to act like kids."
Rick nodded as he looked around the room. Everywhere he looked, he saw kids enjoying themselves, either eating snacks, playing games, or eating some of the candy that was being handed out as prizes at the various games. "You realize, that there are going to be kids bouncing off the walls tonight, right?"
Neal shrugged, "Fortunately, that's not our problem. They are all sleeping in the other building. But I'm sure Daileass will be able to handle them without a problem."
"Actually, you're right Neal, I am good at dealing with overly hyper kids. However, I'm also really good at paybacks." Daileass's voice came out from Neal's comm badge.
Rick, not sure what to expect, slowly began to back away from Neal.
The festivities went on for another half hour, until everyone got to sample a very healthy share of goodies, ingest plenty of sugar filled candies, and play each of their favorite games at least three or four times.
Saying their 'good nights' and 'thank yous' to Neal and the other adults, the kids made their way out of building one back toward building two, but not before Daileass decided that this was a perfect time to teach everyone how to play night-time freeze-tag in the lighted parking lot. This resulted in most of the kids running around for another fifteen to twenty minutes to start using up some of that extra energy they had.
By the time they were done, made it back inside, and up to the room that they had their nest setup in, most of kids were more than ready to begin settling down for the night.
Brent poked his head through the door of their 'temporary' C.I.C., where he found Haden still awake, and running through information on both of the new computer terminals at the same time. "Hi Haden, what are you still doing up?"
Haden looked up toward the door, "About time you guys got back. Daileass said I could stay up until you got home."
"That was nice of Daileass," Lance commented as he walked in behind Brent and immediately saw the light brown, soft furred bear carefully watching them from a chair on the other side of the room, "You have a new friend now?"
Haden glanced toward the bear, and then back toward his screens, "Yeah, Evan brought him from the UNIT base for me. His name is Gyro. How did the meeting go? Daileass wouldn't tell me any details, just that it wasn't going badly."
Brent grinned, "I think it went well. If half of what General Casey said is true, I think there are going to be a lot of really cool changes that are going to be happening pretty quickly around here."
"Like what?" Haden asked as he allowed Lance to lift him up into his arms.
"You will have to wait until tomorrow morning when we can tell all your brothers at the same time," Lance answered, giving Haden a squeeze.
"Why can't you tell me tonight?" Haden half-cried causing Lance to give him another hug.
Before Lance could answer, Brent spoke up. "Daileass, can you safely close out and save whatever Haden was working on?"
"Of course I can," Daileass immediately answered.
"Brent!" Haden called out a bit annoyed, "Why?"
Brent smiled, "I'll give you a small hint about our meeting," Seeing Haden's eyes immediately brighten up, Brent continued, "Let's just say that if Adam was right, this will be the last night you are going to be using the computers here."
Haden blinked, as he tried to figure out what Brent's statement meant.
"Come on big guy, let's get some sleep, tomorrow is going to be wild I think." Lance looked toward Brent to make sure he agreed. "Is everyone else asleep?"
"Evan is," Haden turned his direction back toward Lance. "Everyone else is upstairs, they did one of those nest things I think after the party was over."
"No nest for you tonight?" Brent teased.
Taking the question very seriously, Haden furiously shook his head, "No!"
"Okay, come on, I'll drop you off in your room," Lance said with a smile as he started to walk out the door.
"Wait!" Haden said as he tried to struggle out of Lance's arms to be let down.
Letting Haden down, Lance, along with Brent, watched the boy quickly rush walk half way toward the chair where Gyro was sitting in, and then stop. Although his back was toward both of the older boys, there was no doubt in either of their heads that Haden's face was scrunched as he was wrestling with some decision he had to make.
While this was going on, Gyro decided to climb down from the chair and then waited along with Brent and Lance.
Finally, Haden appeared to make up his mind as he walked over and hesitantly picked up the bear, "Come on Gyro."
The boys made their way out of the room, down the long hall, and to the right near the bedrooms that were set up where the non-clone kids had been sleeping the last week.
"Hey guys," Evan said from his bed as Brent, Lance, and Haden walked in, "How did it go?"
"It's a secret," Haden answered as he put Gyro on the bed and quickly started to strip out of his clothes to get his pajamas on. "We don't get to find out until everyone else does in the morning."
"Oh," Evan's tiredness was clear in his voice. "That works I guess."
"Don't worry, I think you will like it," Lance added as he made a mental note that this was the first time Haden had been willing to get changed without asking them to turn around first.
Pulling up his his pants, Haden turned his attention back to Gyro. "Hey Gyro, do you need to sleep?"
"No," Gyro sat himself up so he could see his friend better, "but I like to cuddle if you want, otherwise I'll keep an eye on the door from over on the chair."
Haden sighed and looked toward the floor, "Not tonight, maybe tomorrow, I'm sorry Gyro."
Gyro's little head bobbed up and down, "That's okay Haden, I'm not sad. Evan told me a little about you, and how special you are. I don't mind waiting a few days until we get to know each other better."
A small smile crept across Haden's face at just how well his new friend seemed to understand him. "Thanks Gyro." Haden lifted the bear up, and brought him over to the chair that was on the other side of the room, closest to the door.
"I think you and Gyro are going to be really good friends," Lance commented as he lifted Haden up, and brought him over to his own bed so he could tuck him in.
Once Lance was done and walking out of the room, Brent looked back toward both Evan and Haden, "Sleep well you two, and we will see you in the morning."
"Night guys," Evan said as his head hit his pillow.
"Good night Lance, Good night Brent," Haden called out as the two boys left.
By the time Brent and Lance had made it up two floors, and to the inner waiting room, now converted to nest-room, both boys had completely stripped. It had been a very long day, and following their meeting with Adam, they both knew that tomorrow would probably be longer.
Brent couldn't stop himself from smiling as his eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness of the room, and he could see that despite all the bickering and complaining from earlier, Maurice and every one of his gang were sprawled out in the nest just as nude as all the rest of their guys were.
"Brent!" Greg's voice whispered as his hand waved around from where he was laying, "Over here, I saved you guys a spot."
Both boys tip-toed their way across the nest to where Greg and Doug were resting. As they did, they noticed the eyes of several of the gang kids glancing up toward them. On the other side of the room, the eyes of a large number of bears, that seemed to have their own nest of fur from where they were camped out on the couch, were also looking toward them. To his surprise, only a couple of the kids had their arms wrapped around their bears.
"You should be asleep," Lance whispered as he and Brent started to get comfortable with each of the older boys wrapping their arms around one of the younger boys.
"I was, but we were telling ghost stories, and I was waiting for you to get here so you could find your spot." Greg whispered back.
"Okay," Lance softly whispered back, giving Greg a kiss on the back of his head in the process, "You should try to get some sleep though, we are going to have a long day tomorrow."
Greg nodded, and wiggled around a bit to get comfy in Lance's arms before he closed his eyes, and allowed himself to drift back to sleep.
It wasn't long until everyone, other than the bears, were asleep. For many of Maurice's kids, it was the first night any of them would get a real good night's sleep, no longer having to worry about being jumped, or have some other situation pop up.
Evan woke up to the sound of mumbling. It barely registered at first, and he was just about to drift back off to sleep when a soft 'noooo' came out from the mumbles. "Haden?" Evan asked sleepily as he looked up at the time to see that it was 3:10am.
There was no answer, but Evan could hear the sounds of movement, and in the dim light, could see the shadow of his younger brother tossing in his sleep in the other bed.
Evan sat listening in his bed for a few moments. When he heard another light whimper from his younger brother, followed by more tossing, he sighed as he reached over to turn on the light on the night stand. As soon as he saw how sweaty his brother's hair and face were, he jumped out of bed.
"Haden," Evan called out softly as he gently touched his shoulder.
"Too many!" Haden yelled as he bolted up to a sitting position causing Evan to jump back in shock. Haden was breathing heavy, and his eyes were wide open, but he just sat there looking forward.
"It's okay," Evan said softly as he reached out to touch him again.
Evan's fingers had barely made contact with Haden's shoulder when the smaller boy yanked his shoulder away and glared toward him, "Don't hurt me, I'm not one of them," he said frantically, as he tried to back up to start pushing himself backward.
"It's just a dream, Haden," Evan's voice was filled with concern, "You're okay, no one will hurt you."
Still breathing heavily, Haden squinted his eyes, as his older brother's voice started to register, with his mind slowly separating the dream from reality. "Evan?" Haden cried as he lunged forward into his brother's arms, "They hurt, Evan."
"Who does?" Evan asked softly, as he did his best to comfort his younger brother, and ignore how damp his night-shirt was.
"There are so many," Haden cried as he struggled to get his breathing under control, "All in chains and hurting."
"Shhh," Evan said softly as he gently rocked his younger brother. "It was just a bad dream. You're okay now."
"No, it wasn't," Haden cried as he pushed himself away slightly to look at Evan's face. "This was real. It had to be," Haden sniffed and his face grew more alarmed. "Some of 'em are kids Evan, younger than me!"
Evan wasn't sure how to respond until he heard Daileass's voice come from the computer terminal on the other side of the room. "I think I might be able to help."
"Daileass? Do you know what's going on with Haden?" Evan asked as he was getting more confused.
"Sadly, I believe I do," Daileass answered. "Keep a good hold on him, we are going to pull him into the mental-scape for a bit."
Evan nodded and turned his gaze back toward his still crying little brother, just in time to see his eyes starting to flutter, and close as his head slowly fell onto Evan's shoulder. Almost immediately, the sniffles stopped, and Haden's breathing became more regular.
The seconds ticked by, as Haden's head continued to rest on Evan's shoulder without moving. Nearly fifteen seconds had passed before Evan began to get concerned about how long it was taking. "Daileass?" he asked, just as he felt his brother's head begin to move.
"I think we have things worked out now," Daileass replied.
Evan nodded as he felt Haden's grip on him increase, "Anything that you can share?"
"Yes," Daileass replied. "There is some stuff that for security reasons I won't be able to share yet. But I will tell you what I can. First, you should know that Haden was not simply having a bad dream."
"He wasn't?" Evan asked as he felt his younger brother tremble in his arms briefly.
"No," Daileass answered. "There is an operation that is currently in progress in Russia that the UNIT, including me and my brothers, are involved in. Due to the sensitive nature of this operation, everything about it is currently classified. Other than your new base commander that you will get to meet in the morning, who is almost as bad as Adam at not sleeping, no one else here will even know anything in Russia is going on. Haden knows a lot of the details because of our link, but I need to ask you to please not question him about them. At least not yet."
Evan felt Haden's head nodding as he tightened his hug on him even more. "Just from my brother's reactions, I can tell this is something pretty serious. That's good enough for me."
"Thanks Evan," Daileass replied, his tone clearly indicating a degree of relief. "What I can tell you, is that not long ago, we discovered a shipment of human slaves. They were chained up, many of them in very poor health, and several of them injured. This is something we are still dealing with, and to put it mildly, it's having a significant emotional impact on me and my brothers."
"Oh damn," Evan answered in surprise.
"Instead of getting into all the technical details about what we figured out, I'll just say that we learned something new tonight. You already know that other than Logan, all of my other brother's have Positronic brains. And Logan, well, with all the time he has spent with me and the rest of our brothers, his mind is fairly disciplined, so we were not really, and in some ways, still are not completely sure, how Haden's brain is going to handle information from the link. What we learned tonight is that, at least for highly emotional stuff that he gets from the link, his mind will interpret it into his dreams."
Evan nodded, "That makes sense. So this is something we are going to have to deal with a lot?"
"No," Daileass answered. "First, we are hoping that over time, Haden's mind will organize itself better on its own. But, in the meantime, now that we know what's going on, we can easily filter some of the stuff Haden is getting, especially when he's trying to sleep, that way it will not effect him like it did tonight."
Evan sat down on the bed with Haden still firmly attached to him, "That's good to know at least. Thanks Daileass. I know this link means a lot to him, and to you." Evan patted Haden's still damp hair, "But seeing him like I did earlier tonight started to scare me a bit."
"In a way that is partially my fault. I'm afraid I may have let myself get a bit more emotionally involved than perhaps I should have. Haden didn't start getting really worked up until a few moments before you woke up, and..."
"Daileass," Evan interrupted, "Please don't worry about it. What happens shows beyond a doubt that you are more than just a machine. In a way, seeing that you really have feelings and emotions makes me feel a lot better about Haden being part of your link. It shows that you will also treat Haden as more than just a calculated element in the link, but will also be able to keep an eye on his interaction with the link on an emotional level."
"Evan, I... Well... Thanks, that means a lot," Daileass replied.
Evan was about to reply when he felt Haden's body stiffen.
"Haden?" Daileass asked over the terminal speakers to keep Evan in the loop on what was being discussed, "We can filter some of the emotions and information you're getting now if you want."
Haden shook his head in Evan's shoulder, "No, I want to know."
"What's going on?" Evan asked as he looked between Haden and the terminal.
"One moment, Evan," Daileass replied.
After several long moments of silence, Haden's body relaxed, and he let out a very short giggle.
"What?" Evan asked again.
Haden looked up into his brother's eyes. "Adam needs to learn to trust Daileass more."
Evan grinned and gave his younger brother another hug, once again becoming aware of his wet shirt. "What do you say about us getting you a drier shirt?"
Haden nodded and lifted his arms up so Evan could slip his shirt off. As soon as it was off, Evan left Haden on the bed as he threw the mostly wet night shirt into the clothes basket and grabbed a clean one. Within moments, Haden's arms were once again in the air in preparation for the new shirt.
"You ready to go back to sleep?" Evan asked.
Haden shook his head, "but you can."
"We were able to calm Haden down emotionally in the mental-scape, but it's still going to take real time for his body to physically calm down and re-balance itself to the point that he'll be able to fall back asleep on his own. Although, I could help push you into sleep Haden."
Haden shook his head again.
"That's okay, Daileass," Evan answered for him as he turned the light off and climbed into Haden's bed to hold onto his younger brother. "Haden and I will stay awake for a bit, until he's ready to go back to sleep on his own."
Haden looked at his brother as he was moving to sit behind him and hold him the way he used to for as long as he could remember,"You don't have to."
"I know," Evan answered. "But I want to. Even though I might not know the specifics, I know you're probably feeling and learning stuff you have never had to deal with before, and I want to be here for you as best as I can."
Haden leaned back and melted into his older brother's chest, as he felt his hands drape around his own chest, "Thanks Ev," Haden answered contently.
Evan put his arms over Haden's, and covered up as much of Haden as he could, in such a way that he knew would make Haden feel the safest, "You're welcome, bro."
After the two boys had been sitting there for about 10 minutes, Daileass's voice came back over the terminal, "Haden?"
"Yes?" Haden asked, still clearly wide awake.
"Please remember what I told you in the mental-scape tonight. The choice will always be yours in regards to how much information you get. But, please don't try to push yourself too hard, and when you finally do fall asleep, I'm going to filter some of the information out, because I agree with Evan, I don't like seeing you all worked up in your dreams like you were earlier."
"Okay," Haden replied.
Fifteen minutes later, Evan could feel Haden relaxing more, and his breathing starting to become more regular. With a slight shift in his weight, both he and Haden tipped over and their heads fell onto Haden's pillow. With one of his arms still draped over his younger brother, he began to let himself drift back to sleep as well.
'You're one of the best big brothers anyone could ever hope to have,' Evan heard Daileass say in his head before sleep overcame him. 'Haden is very lucky to have you. Never underestimate how important you are to him.'
Morrison made his way through the center of the abandoned warehouse. Already a number of the men were up and sulking around, and as usual, they were giving him their ever-so-cheerful looks. He didn't mind, however, since if they wished to be paid, none of them would lay a finger on him.
As he approached a battered door on the other side of the warehouse, an intimidatingly large man wearing only jeans and a wife beater t-shirt stood guard outside of it. "Bossman's in a meeting, and not to be disturbed," he nearly growled.
Morrison stopped and sized up the man as he straightened his business suit jacket slightly as he reached for the door handle, "Yes, I'm sure he is."
The large man placed his oversized hand on the door keeping it shut, "Not to be disturbed."
Morrison grinned, "Fine, then perhaps you would like to be the one to explain to him why none of you will be getting a dime for what you have done over the last week?"
The guard growled at the considerably smaller man, reluctantly removed his hand, and stood to the side.
As Morrison walked through the door and entered a rather run down break room, he saw two other men hovering over a laptop computer.
"What are you doing here?" One of the men asked, looking somewhat displeased.
"I don't know boss," the second one said to the first, "Maybe he should see this too?"
"See what?" Morrison asked as the first man, the boss man, shot a rather dirty look toward the second.
Morrison walked around the table to see what the other two were looking at.
Seeing that he had no choice, the one referred to as the boss man filled Morrison in, "Grives was just showing me some of the latest surveillance images he had taken this morning at the site."
Morrison leaned over and began to look at the pictures on the screen for a few moments before his face scrunched up, "What the hell is this? What are those buildings? And... and that, those look like fucking helicopter hangers?"
"It's nothing we can't handle," the man tried to say.
Morrison sighed heavily and walked back around the table and walked to the center of the room, "You assured me that they were only installing cameras Saturday."
"Saturday, that's all they were installing," the man reassured.
"Then what the fuck is all of that? Are you going to sit there and try to tell me that all of those new buildings just popped up over night?"
"They weren't there last night before the sun went down, I can show you the pictures I took from last night if you want," Grives replied in his own defense.
"There is only so much incompetence I can take," Morrison paced.
"Mr. Morrison," the boss man interrupted, "I told you that at the end of the two weeks, you will have your property back, and that is what you will get."
"I told you that Saturday we should have moved," Morrison said as he continued to pace, "You talked me out of it assuring me that they were only cameras. Now, they are starting to add military buildings. No offense to you and your men, but, if they keep fortifying this place, by Friday four hundred men will not be able to get in there, let alone forty."
"I believe that will be for me to decide," boss man responded.
"No," Morrison stopped and shook his head, "We need to move now."
"Mr. Morrison..." the man started to say before he was interrupted.
"Now, or I walk," Morrison interrupted seriously.
The boss man considered Morrison for several moments before responding, "We get paid in full plus twenty percent hazard pay for the early assault."
Morrison nodded, "Get me my building back and get rid of the brats as we agreed, and it's yours."
The man continued to look at Morrison for a long moment before he finally nodded, "Grives, tell the guys to get geared up. We're moving the time line up."
Greg was the first to wake up in the morning by a sound he couldn't place. It sounded like a deep thudding sound in the distance. Although, that shouldn't have been right, since they were in the basement of a rather huge building. Unless whatever was making the sound was fairly large, and fairly close, they shouldn't have been hearing anything.
He could still feel Lance's arm wrapped around him, so he knew he wasn't alone. "Hey guys?" he whispered softly, but heard no response.
Hearing the sound getting closer, and starting to get a bit concerned, Greg's mind began to reach out looking for any of the triple-t's that might be awake that he could pull sight from, or at the least, get a better idea of what was going on.
"Ouch," Titus, one of the youngest triplets who also happened to be sleeping the closest to Greg, called out, "Greg, what gives?"
"Sorry Ty, but I hear something, it's something big and I think it's close," Greg could feel Lance starting to stir.
"I don't hear anything. Go back to sleep," Ty replied rather groggily.
"Oh man. Greg, don't pull so hard dude," Phil, another of the eight year old triplets called out from where he was sleeping.
"Guys, if you listen really closely, you should be able to hear it." Greg suddenly saw a flesh of color go through his mind, and an image of the room coming to his head. Phil had stopped blocking him, and he was now able to see through his eyes. Moments later, he could feel a tickling feeling in the back of his head.
"He's right," Phil's voice called out with a bit of concern, "Greg has better hearing than most of us to offset his vision, so I just brushed his mind, and he's definitely hearing something."
With Lance now fully awake, Greg sat up, and combined the sight vision he was getting from Ty as well as one of the other older triplets to let his mind create a 3D view of the room, "What do you guys think it is? A counter attack?"
By now, most of the kids that had been sleeping in the nest were now waking up, including several of the gang kids, a few of whom also thought they could hear the sounds.
"Good morning guys," Neal said as he poked his head through the waiting room door, only to see four teddy bears barely restrain themselves from jumping on him, before they were able to recognize who he was, "You guys are up pretty early this morning."
"Greg, and a few others, think there might be something going on outside," Phil answered. "Do you know anything about it?"
Neal grinned in such a way that let every kid in the room know that he not only knew what it was, but wasn't going to tell any of them. "You guys should take a look out back once you are dressed,"
"What's happening out back?" Another kid tried to ask before Neal's head disappeared behind the corner.
Brent and Lance gave each other a knowing smile, as they each had a pretty good idea what it was.
"Okay guys," Brent's voice was loud enough to get everyone's attention. "Lance and I have a good guess what it might be, and if we're right, it might be something that is going to keep all of us busy for a bit. So, everyone go ahead and get dressed and help stack up the pillows and sheets on the side of the wall, and then we can all go check it out together. We'll worry about showers later as well."
"Come on Muffin," Greg called out toward his bear, as he started to scramble as well to get dressed.
"We better make sure some of the older guys have GEAR equipped, just in case it's not what we think it is." Lance whispered loud enough for only Brent to hear, and getting a nod of agreement in response.
"I'm going to go check on Haden and Evan," Lee, who was already dressed, called out.
"Good idea," Brent agreed, "go ahead and check on Forth and the others that didn't sleep in the nest last night, as well."
"Okay," Lee called back as he ran out of the room.
Moments later, Haden and Evan, who was still in Haden's bed, both woke up at the sound of knocking at their door. This caused Haden's bear, Gyro, to turn toward the door as well.
"Who is it?" Evan grumbly called out as he looked over Haden, toward the clock, "and why are you waking us up at six in the morning?"
The door opened, and Lee's head popped in, "Hey guys, oh..."
Evan looked toward Lee, wondering why he stopped, and then realized, "Haden had a rough night last night with some bad dreams."
Lee nodded, "Um, something is going on outside, we think Neal knows what it is, but he won't tell us. So a bunch of us are getting dressed, and are going to go check it out ourselves."
Evan nodded and answered in a tone that was a bit more civil, "Thanks Lee, we'll be out in a few minutes."
Lee nodded and closed the door.
Evan was just about to ask Haden if he wanted to go, when he saw the nine year old already out of bed, and looking around for some clothes to wear. "You going to be okay with this?"
Haden glanced toward Evan and gave him a serious nod, before returning to the task of stripping off his PJ's, "All of our brothers will be there, and I'll also have Gyro with me."
"Okay," Evan answered as he started to get dressed as well, somewhat surprised that Haden seemed to be in as high spirits as he was.
As Haden threw a shirt over his head, he continued explaining, "I'm not going to get caught off guard again, not like last week. Besides, I'll also have this..." Haden spun around toward Evan, and made an over-exaggerated effort of slipping his GEAR device onto his arm.
Evan laughed, "You know, you are insane sometimes little bro."
Five minutes later, Haden and Evan met up with the rest of the kids in the west stairwell. With there being too many of them to fit in the elevator, they decided that using the stairs would be faster. Evan also noticed that all the younger kids were either carrying their bears, or had them walking next to them, and several of the older kids had their GEAR equipped. It didn't seem like anyone was going to take any chances.
As the kids got closer to the main floor, the sound of the thumping outside continued to grow. When they reached the fire exit, everyone headed through it, with the older boys with GEAR's going first. What they saw outside surprised even Brent and Lance.
Outside of the door, where just the night before the few setup picnic tables were all that stood between them and the mountains to the west, the view had changed. Now, a number of new buildings of various sizes had popped up. Some as small as town houses, while others were considerably larger.
That, however, was not what grabbed the attention of most of the kids. Hovering above one of the larger buildings, to the northwest of them, was a rather large helicopter, it's huge spinning blades making the deep thumping sounds that they had all heard inside. It looked like there was some type of crate attached to the bottom of it, but what it was specifically was impossible to see since it had already lowered too far below the top of the buildings.
"Oh damn," Maurice commented. "he actually pulled it off."
Andrew play punched Maurice in the arm. "You knew about this and were holding out on us?"
Maurice grinned. "Your lazy ass was asleep by the time we got back last night."
"What is all this, Brent?" Doug asked.
"Can we go check it out?" Cooper looked toward Lance expectantly.
"Daileass?" Brent called out as he tapped his communicator, "Are the new buildings okay to be explored?"
"Ready and waiting, Brent," Daileass immediately replied. "Except for the big round building. They are not quite ready for you yet, even though I tried to tell them that you guys would probably end up waking up early."
"Cool!" A few of the kids shouted as they bounced up and down a few times in excitement.
Brent raised his hand to get everyone's attention. "First, before we go anywhere, I need everyone to gather around real quick. There are a few things we need to cover."
All the kids gathered up in a semi-circle, while Brent and Lance stood out in front of them. Several of them were a bit surprised to see Maurice standing right next to Brent as well.
After giving everyone a few moments to settle down, Brent began his speech, "I know that most of you have heard me say this first part several times now, but I can't really think of anywhere else to start. This whole thing started two months ago when Lance and I, along with Greg first ran into Eric, and were rescued by the Clan. While we were staying with them, we learned about all the crap most of them had to live through, and we agreed to become part of the Clan."
Several of the kids nodded.
"Since then, we have been working on trying to learn about where Eric came from, and help rescue his brothers. During this time, the size of our little group has grown." Brent waved his hands around to indicate everyone that was there. "Each time someone new has joined us, when they agreed to be a part of us, they were agreeing to be a part of the Clan. I don't know about you guys, but while I was focused on trying to help Eric, I never really got to think a whole lot on just what it meant to be part of the Clan."
More nods from most of the kids.
"Last Saturday, with all of us working together, we were able to accomplish that goal. Because of that, twenty of Eric's brothers no longer need to worry about being cut up as spare parts, or sold into slavery or prostitution."
Several kids cheered in triumph, with most of the gang kids noticeably remaining silent.
"Over the last week, everyone here was really good in helping to chip in and get things cleaned up and fixed, but I know several of you had mentioned not knowing what we would be doing next, or where we would go from here." Several kids nodded as Brent continued, "Last night, we learned where that direction will be going. I'm sure all you guys know what the rest of the Clan was involved in last Saturday in Montana while we were trying to help Eric's brothers, and I know all of you that went with us to the funeral will probably never forget all that was said there. But that doesn't really scratch the surface of all the work that still needs to be done."
Brent stopped for a few moments to see what kind of reaction there would be. Although a few kids nodded, most of them remained silent.
"Basically, for the last two months, we have been reluctant to accept becoming an official Clan Short Division. But I don't really think that it can be avoided any longer, especially with everything that the rest of our Clan brothers and sisters are going through. As such, when General Adam Casey asked to talk with us after the concert last night, he offered and we accepted becoming an official Clan Division, along with all the benefits and responsibilities that go along with it."
Brent was partially expecting some of the kids to cheer. Instead, there was dead silence.
"This is something that Lance and I strongly feel we need to do, and given how much the Twain Street Boys have helped us over the last month, we asked Maurice to join us as part of the leadership of the division. Starting today, as you can probably already tell, things are going to start changing pretty quickly. Right now, there are about fifty of us kids here. Within a week, there will probably be five hundred or more kids here. I know this is not what any of you guys agreed to when you decided to team up with us, so now all of you have a choice that you will need to make."
Still complete silence as everyone listened intensely to what Brent was saying.
"As I said, when you agreed to team up with us, you became part of the Clan. That will never change. However, being a part of the Clan does not mean you have to subject yourself to possible dangers, or put all of your effort toward trying to help other kids. So, if any of you guys want to step back, and not get involved in this new direction Maurice, Lance, and I will be going in, no one will think any less of you. We will all still be friends, and all of you guys will be welcome here whenever you want. If you do decide to become an active member of the new Clan Short Desert Division, then you will need to get ready to work like you have never worked before, and be pushed in ways you never thought you could be pushed. I can almost guarantee, that with as many kids as Adam suggested we might get, just about anyone here that remains a part of this, will end up having some type of leadership position."
Brent finally started to get nods from most of the guys there.
"I know this is a pretty huge choice to dump on you guys all at once, so I don't really expect any of you to make it immediately. What I would suggest is that all of you think about it over today, and by dinner tonight, let one of the three of us know either way what your decision is, or that you need more time."
Evan immediately stepped forward, "Thanks Brent, but I, for one, do not need any time to think about it. Over the last six weeks, since you guys have become a part of Haden and my life, I've seen my little brother grow and change in ways I never would have thought possible. Before you guys rescued us, Haden was literally afraid to let himself touch a tree, or a rock. If anyone that he was not familiar with stepped within ten feet of him, he would lock up. But now, he's following his dream, learning to not only be around others, but actually interacting with them, and has gained more self confidence in a month than I've been able to help him get in a year. If this is what it means to be Clan, and if this is the type of difference we can make in the lives of those we rescue. Then I don't care how many other kids you throw at us, Haden and I are with you all the way."
Haden, who was holding onto his brother with one hand, and gripping Gyro with the other took a step forward, and nervously glanced around at everyone else before looking toward Brent, "Evan's right," he said in a soft voice that slowly gained strength as he spoke. "It's still hard for me to be around so many of you sometimes, but I think I'm getting better at it, and none of you have ever teased me or were mean to me. I want to be part of your division and help too."
Brent blinked a few times, not really sure how to react to what Evan and Haden had said. Looking toward Lance, he could see that his lover was effected the same way he was, "Thanks guys. That really means a lot, especially coming from you two."
As Evan and Haden took a step back, Doug took a step forward, "Greg and I don't need any time either. Most of what Evan said is true for us too. I don't even want to think where Greg or I would be if it weren't for you two. We would love to be able to return the favor and help other kids like we were helped."
Greg nodded in agreement with Doug, "Yup, you can count both of us in."
Hania was next to speak, "The great spirits have pushed me in your direction, and I have been rewarded by learning more about myself and the world around me than I ever though possible. Far be it for me to doubt them and to leave your side now. You can count me in."
Lee grinned, "My dad is the lead geneticist here, so I think you're kind of stuck with me." Seeing that Brent was about to say something, Lee quickly continued. "But, even if he wasn't, I would still choose to be a part of this."
Daniel glanced around, and spoke up next, "I don't really see how I could be a leader of anyone. But then, I didn't think that half of the stuff you have said could ever be possible. So the only thing I have to say is, you ain't getting rid of me that easy. I'm in!"
As Brent glanced around the group, his eyes next fell on Jude, and his other eight brothers who had become the telepaths that he had come to depend so much on. "What?" Jude said with a touch of sarcasm, "I already told you the day that we moved here that we all knew you would become an official division one day. We just want to know what took you so long." All the rest of Jude's brothers grinned and nodded.
Darren, the most recent of Eric's clones to be rescued and reunited with his brothers, who was still working through understanding all of the new language skills he had been given two days ago, spoke up next, "I help."
Eric stood by and wrapped an arm around Darren, "I think Darren speaks for all of us Brent. None of this would have been possible without you. Me and my brothers owe you a debt that can't possibly be repaid. We are with you."
Brent shook his head, "You guys don't owe us anything. You certainly don't owe us being a part of the division. I already told you, the biggest repayment you could give us is for you and your brothers to grow up and have good futures caring and supporting each other."
"I know," Eric agreed, "but this is still something we want to do. We've known for awhile now that becoming an official part of the Clan might be an option, and all of us that are able to understand what that means have all agreed that should you give us the offer, that we would want to be a part of it."
"Well, I for one can't believe the nerve of you," Andrew, Maurice's second in command spoke out with his voice filled with anger, "Not only did you go off and have this secret meeting with some pansy ass kid who wants to be a General, but you also went and committed all of us to follow these two whimps!"
Andrew stomped from where he was standing and stood in front of Brent and glared up toward him, "You didn't even ask your own second in command if he would be willing to take orders from someone he could easily give an ass kicking to."
Brent was not sure he was liking the direction this was going in. He wanted to look toward Maurice for support, but Andrew held his gaze. Just as he was about to take a step back, Andrew unexpectedly began to smile as he looked toward Maurice, "The only thing I have to say to all that, is you did exactly what I would have expected you to, which just reinforces why I've been willing to follow your lead for the last two years."
Andrew looked back toward Brent, and held his hand out, "Brent, after seeing what you guys can pull off, and getting an idea of the rest of the Clan from last night's concert, it would be an honor to be a part of you guys."
With that, all the kids, gang and clones a like began to jump up and down cheering, while Lance gave Brent a strong hug.
"Thanks guys," Brent finally managed to say a few moments later after the cheering died down, and he had a chance to wipe his eyes. "I can't tell you how much this means to me. I know I've been acting as your leader for awhile now, but until last week, I only saw it as that, acting. I was only doing it because there was no one else around to do it, so I saw myself as filling in until one of the other Clan leaders came to take over. Over the last week, I began to see that perhaps I really can be a leader. And what you guys have all just done has reenforced that in ways I can't even believe yet. I'm not really sure what else to say, so just thanks."
Another round of cheering and jumping up and down started, until Carlos spoke up, "Hey boss man! It looks like we have company."
Brent, Lance, and Maurice looked toward where Carlos was pointing. Coming from the direction of the large round building, a number of kids dressed in full military gear were quickly approaching them. Leading the group were six boys and a girl all walking next to each other. Walking a few feet behind them were nine others. Five of them were boys, one was a girl, and three of them... well... no one could see what they were because they wore hooded cloaks that made seeing their faces impossible. However, one of the cloaked figured was huge, standing easily six and half feet tall, while the other two were much smaller.
As the large group of kids approached, Brent noticed some of the smaller clones starting to hide behind the larger kids. "Don't worry guys," Brent tried to reassure them as he glanced back toward the approaching group, "that boy in front is actually the base commander for all of these new buildings. Lance, Maurice, and I met him last night."
Justin West and his troops reached the group, stopped, and all of them saluted at once. They held the salute for a few moments while Justin spoke. "Director Knocks... It's good to see you again sir." Justin dropped his salute, and extended his hand for Brent to shake. When Justin dropped his salute, so did the rest. After he and Brent dropped their hand shake, Justin smiled and started talking to everyone. "Well as you can see, we've already started the build up and move in of your military personnel as well as the support teams for them. On top of that, I am sure you noticed the several different buildings that have been installed. If you wish, after the introductions, I would be happy to give you a tour. By then, I do believe your new CIC building will be completed."
"Sure, that sounds great." Brent said with a smile.
"Great! Well first, let me introduce the command staff. These will be the people responsible for all the different aspects of the day to day operations of this base. Before I go any further..." Justin said, making sure that everyone could here him, as what he was about to say was important for everyone to hear. "While this place may be being used as a military base, we are very much aware that this place is also your home. It will be a bit difficult at times, but we will do everything we can to not make it feel like a military base. We're here simply to be your 'muscle' when it comes time to rescue kids, as well as to protect them and you. But, lets face it, we're all kids too. I really hope that when my guys are off duty, they will be playing and relaxing right next to you guys. However, when they are on duty, I would really ask that you allow them to do their jobs, and if needed, listen to them in the case of an emergency. Sound fair?"
Brent nodded as he looked toward Lance, and then back to Justin, "Thanks Justin, on behalf of all of us here, we would like to thank you for all the help and support you will be providing us. What you mentioned actually sounds fairly close to some of the things that Lance and I were discussing last night after we had met Adam and yourself. Neither of us know much about the military other than what we've seen on T.V., and the knowledge dump that Logan was kind enough to give us, but regardless of what the general stereotypes are supposed to be, I'm really hoping that your guys and my guys can at some point integrate together to become our guys, a single family working together, and having fun together."
Brent was happy to see most of the UNIT kids smiling and nodding. "That sounds really great Brent." Justin said with his own smile. "We'll have to talk more about that later, because to be honest, I am sure that some of my guys could not only help your clones, but be helped by them. I don't know how much Adam told you, and I am not sure how much you told your guys, but most of our troops don't really know anything other than military. I know it might sound weird, but almost half of the kids I brought with me have no idea what it means to be kids." He paused for a moment to let that sink in, then kept speaking. "I'm sure we'll talk more about this later, but I really wanted your guys to know about that." When Brent nodded, Justin started the introductions.
"Okay, now, let me tell you who I have with me. As I said, these guys will be the ones running the day to day operations here, and all of you should feel comfortable coming to any of them or myself if you have any questions. First, let me introduce myself to everyone. I am Colonel Justin West, and my job is the base commander. In other words, I am the one responsible for everything that goes on here. Now, I don't want any of you to think that I want to, or need to control everything that you guys do, so please don't think that. It's just my job to make sure that everything runs smoothly here."
"Now I think it would be nice for you guys to know a little bit about me. I'm sixteen years old, and was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. When I was eight, my parents died in an automobile accident, and I was sent to a group home, that was not a very nice place to live. Less then a year later, I ran away, and tried to survive on the streets. I lasted for all of three weeks before I was picked up by a man who told me he was going to take me to a good home for kids who lived on the streets." Justin actually gave a lopsided grin as he said the next part. "Unfortunately for me... he lied."
"Without going into many of the details, I was taken to a military base where I was genetically altered and then trained to be a soldier. The genetic alterations included things like making me roughly four times stronger then a normal kid my age, about three times faster, and I heal almost five times as fast. The alterations didn't stop there though, they also gave me a eidetic memory, also known as a photographic memory, and also made it so my senses were greatly enhanced. The reason I bring all this up is because all of, what we call the Genesis project kids, or G-kids for short, are like me. We all have different levels of alterations, but basically the standard G-Kid is roughly three times stronger, and faster then a normal human our age. Everyone with me so far?"
Greeted by nods from almost everyone, Justin finished up his little introduction of himself. "During the last two years of training, before we escaped and joined up with the UNIT, I was being trained for a command role, and then on top of that I received three more years worth of training under General Casey himself. The reason I brought all of this up now, is so that you all know who I am, and what my qualifications are. Just so you all know, however, I will not be going into that kind of detail for the rest of my team. The reason for that is simple. One of the main rules for the UNIT and also for Clan Short is that we allow each person to tell his or her own story when they feel comfortable doing so, and only to those they want to. In other words, we do not force anyone to tell us what they have gone through in the past unless there is a need to. If that were to happen, the person who is asking will never share what you tell them with anyone else, without your permission. I hope that makes sense, and makes some of you guys feel better."
Devin, one of the ten year old clones, raised his hand, once Justin was looking in his direction, he asked his question, "Me and most of my brothers are clones and were genetically altered too, does that mean we will become super strong too?"
Lance sighed as he was afraid the conversation would go in this direction, "I don't think it's the same kind of genetic alterations, Dev, so probably not."
Devin thought for a moment, "Okay, well, can we get cool guns like they have at least?"
"Yeah!" several of the clone kids started cheering.
"Guys," Brent spoke up before things got too much out of hand, "Those people that you see with the guns, they have had years of training in being able to use those guns. They are not toys."
Lance jumped in as well, "Brent is right guys, remember how we talked yesterday about there being dangerous stuff to touch? Well, those guns are on that list. They are dangerous to touch, so if you ever see one laying around, let one of the older guys know, okay?"
Most of the kids nodded.
"Where would we sign up if we wanted to train to use those guns?" Micha, one of the street gang kids asked seriously.
Justin, seeing both Brent and Lance look at him, stepped in and answered the question. "You're Micha, right?"
Micha looked toward Maurice and the rest of the gang that were standing together before he stepped forward, "That's right."
"Tell you what. From what I know about you guys, and the looks in more than a few of your guys eyes, I have a feeling there is more than just you that wants to know about the guns. So, here's what we'll do. Sometime over the next few days, why don't you and anyone else who is interested, come to my office and we'll sit down and talk about what you guys would have to do to get the proper training in firearms safety. Once you guys have that, we'll start training you on the use of hand guns, rifles, and if you guys want, phasers." Seeing all their eyes go wide, Justin jumped in before they started to all try and talk at once. "The thing is... anyone who is trained and certified to handle weapons MUST hold themselves to a higher standard of behavior. Those standards are set by one of the strictest people I have ever met when it comes to fire arms safety... General Juan Casey. So the long and the short answer to your question is, yes, you can eventually be certified to carry a weapon, but the training is not easy."
Micha nodded and took a step back to stand with the rest of his crew. From this point forward, in addition to keeping a close eye on Maurice, many of the street kids would also keep a close eye on Justin.
Seeing that Micha stepped back, and no one else was about to ask anything else, Justin spoke up again. "Okay, back to the introductions. First off, I have my second in command, Lt. Colonel Chase Longing. He is the one who will be running things if for some reason I am not around, or I'm off duty, or things like that."
"Next to him is the Chief Intelligence Officer Major Roberto Fandino, his main duties include information gathering, and figuring out what is going on before we do an operation."
"Next is First Lieutenant Emily Marroquin. Her job is running the security of the base. If anyone has questions about what the procedures are regarding bringing people onto the base or what you're supposed to do if we go to alert, she's the one to ask. Now remember me saying we're all kids here. I am sure some of you guys have friends or family who don't live here. They are, of course, welcome to come for a visit, the only thing that you need to do is talk to her before hand so she can get things set up... okay?" Seeing everyone nod in acceptance, Justin continued.
"Our Strike Team Commander is Captain Anthony Longfellow. The strike teams are the people that will be doing the actual rescue of anybody who needs it. Just to give you guys an idea of how things work. Starting tomorrow at zero eight hundred hours, or eight in the morning, this base will go fully operational... unless something comes up. What that means is that we will start taking the calls for rescues that fall within this Divisions area of operations. When that happens, the strike team on duty will be dispatched to deal with it, along with any of you guys that want, or need to go along. Understand there had better be a good reason for any of you to go along on a rescue." Seeing that everyone understood, Just moved onto the one that he was sure was going to get a reaction.
:The second to last member of the command staff is Captain Jeremy Eager. He is the Air Wing commander for the Desert Division. In other words, he's the guy that is in command of our small fleet of helicopters." Seeing the excitement in many of their faces, Justin decided to add to it a bit. "The Desert Division has been assigned five Black Hawk helicopters, that are used to move the strike teams into places that Daileass can't, as well as to evacuate people if needed. On top of the Black Hawks, we also have two Hind-F Gunships, which will arrive a little bit later today. They're used to escort and protect the Black Hawks as well as intimidate the shit out of anyone who might think about attacking us. His job is to make sure they are ready to go if needed."
Cooper raised his hand, "So, does that mean they will scare away those black vans that keep parking outside the gates taking pictures of us?"
Brent and Lance looked at each other, "What Black vans Cooper? When did you see them?"
"We've been seeing them the last couple of days when we were on the top floor helping with the hard drives," Cooper answered.
Justin just looked at Emily and nodded. She looked at the group then spoke up. "Sir. If it wouldn't be a problem, I think I should go and look into this. If you will excuse me."
"No problem at all Lieutenant. Let me know what you come up with." Justin said, then looked back to Cooper and the rest as Emily rushed off. "Don't worry about them Cooper, we'll take care of them."
"Now, for the last member of the commander staff," Justin said while indicating the youngest of the six others. "Second Lieutenant Tristen Fleming. His job is kind of unique. He is the one who will be working with all of you to help you all figure out how this military thing works. In other words, if you have any questions about why things are being done, or who to speak to about something, he's your man. He's also the guy to go to if you have any problems with something or someone on the military side of things." Justin finished up and then looked around at the people he was addressing. "Okay.. that's the command staff and what they do. Any questions?"
Nearly everyone shook their heads no. The ones that didn't, just seemed to be starring at Justin in amazement. Just smiled and looked at the three leaders of the Division. "Okay, well that takes care of that... now how about something a bit more interesting. I am sure General Casey neglected to mention this... since you guys are Division heads, you each get personal security."
As Justin paused, Brent spoke up correcting him. "Actually he did mention that, but he didn't go into any specifics."
"Ahhh.. okay.. I'm actually surprised. Adam likes to forget certain things like that. He says it keeps people on their toes. Personally, I think it's just cause he likes annoying people." The gleam in Justin's eye and the wide grin let everyone know that he was just kidding. "Anyways. Just letting you guys know, while you were there, Logan did a bit of a surface scan of your minds just to get a feel for your personalities. He then went through those trained for personal security to match you guys up. So far, he's running a hundred percent success rate. So unless you have an objection, why don't I introduce you to them."
Getting nods from the three boys, Justin motioned for the first three to step forward, this group included the huge robed figure. "Okay, Brent, the first group is yours. Heading up the group is Staff Sergeant Ryan Casey." Justin indicated the thirteen year old boy that was first in line. He reached out and shook Brent's hand, then stepped back as Justin continued.
"Next is Sergeant Lincoln Hayes." The smallish twelve year old boy stepped up shaking Brent's hand, then stepped back and behind the massive figure who took a step forward waiting his turn to be introduced. "And finally we have Sergeant Jolin." Justin's grin made everyone know that something interesting was about to happen, as the huge figure reached up, it's fur covered hands gripping the edge of the hood, and slowly pulling it back to reveal an elongated muzzle with rather large teeth, as the hood came down completely, everyone could see the feline type face and head of a very large human Tiger Hybrid.
"It's pleasure to meet you sir." Jolin said with a very deep and rumbling voice as he extended a large fur covered paw towards Brent.
Brent looked up and up and up, until he finally managed to see the face of the rather huge cat, "Um, hi!" Brent said somewhat timidly as he took the offered paw, "Well, I guess this should address any personal security concerns that might exist."
Brent was not the only one that seemed somewhat surprised, as there were several 'ooo's and 'wow's coming from various kids in the crowd.
"Hey Maurice," Carlos nudged, "You GOT to talk to him about signing up," This caused several of the other gang members to enthusiastically nod in agreement.
Jolin looked over at Maurice and grinned a very toothy grin. "No offense intended sir, but I have much more important things to worry about then the problems of a small time street gang. And unless I miss my guess, so do you now."
Every member of the gang immediately shut up, and looked toward Maurice. For his part, Maurice took a step forward looking at Jolin, "And just what is that suppose to mean?"
Jolin looked at all the members of the gang, with a shake of his head before speaking. "Perhaps it is because I was raised in a laboratory, and then a military facility... however, when I was assigned this position, I took some time to look into and research who would be among the leadership of this new division. While you are not my assignment, I was intrigued when I learned that you were the leader of a gang. Please correct me if I am wrong, but from what I have been able to learn, a gang is a group of people who band together to not only protect themselves, but to also control the activities of a small portion of land, usually within the bounds of a large city. Is this accurate?"
Maurice glanced toward his guys, and then back to Jolin, "Well, um, something like that. I guess a bunch of gangs are like that actually. But sometimes gangs join together for protection and stuff."
Jolin nodded thoughtfully before speaking again. "I see. So tell me, are all of you still a gang?"
Each boy in the group nodded, while a few said 'yes'.
Jolin nodded again before looking at them totally confused. "Why? I mean I may of course be missing something because of the fact that I have had very limited contact with normal humans, but... why would you all still consider yourselves part of a small time gang that really has no future and no real impact on the world around them, when you are all now members of Clan Short, and able to help make a big difference for so many kids? I mean, from what little I have seen in the last three and a half days, Clan Short is working at making a huge difference, not just for a few people, but for kids world wide. I mean when I really think about that, it takes my breath away and just fills me with pride to know that I... some freak that was created in a laboratory, could really be part of something that is taking on the world, and tell all those people that are willingly abusing kids that they had better watch out. That they had better stop what they are doing, because if they do not, then we will find them, and in many cases we will be the ones that end their lives. When I think about that, and compare it to what I know about street gangs, well... again no offense intended, but it kind of makes being a member of a street gang seem... not that important."
After Jolin finished speaking, there was silence. Maurice glanced toward 'his' guys to see what their reaction would be, the rest of the street kids watched Maurice for his reaction, Brent and Lance and the other core group watched all of the street kids, while the newly introduced military guys waited to see how the other kids would handle this first conflict among themselves. Even the clone kids had something to watch, although for most of them, it was the massively huge figure called Jolin.
"What is this?" Maurice started after seeing that no one else was saying anything, "I thought we were just meeting some new guys and going on a tour. I didn't know that I was going to have to stand here and be lectured by some big... big... whatever you are."
"Maurice, maybe we should listen to...", Gaiden started to say before Maurice interrupted him.
"No," Maurice answered forcefully spun around to look at Gaiden, "You guys listen. Can't you see what they're doing? We haven't been here an entire day yet, and already they're trying to drive a wedge between us."
"No one is trying to drive anything between you guys," Lance commented.
Ignoring Lance for the moment, Maurice looked toward Justin and the new military guys, "Divide and conquer, is that it? Send out your biggest, most intimidating guy and use him to try to split us apart? You guys are going to need someone a lot taller, maybe 8 or 9 feet tall, because let me tell you what. You want to talk about saving kids? I've been saving kids for the last 2 years. Every one of my guys that you see here is someone that I've saved, that I've protected. Twain Street Boys isn't just a gang, we don't go around pimping and smacking and trashing things like your average doped up, drugged up gangs do. TSB... It's about family, about safety, about trying to make something of yourself."
"They do that," one of the younger clone kids commented.
Maurice turned to try to find who made the comment, but couldn't. "You know what," a rather frustrated Maurice went on, "We don't need this shit. Brent, you said it was our choice if we wanted to stay, right? Unless you were just lying to me about that, we want to leave, now."
Brent thought for a few moments and sighed, "If that's what all of your guys want, then you're free to go."
"Good," Maurice took a step back from the crowd, "Daileass, teleport me and my guys back to the Royal Palms."
"Daileass, disregard and hold," Brent jumped in.
"What gives Brent?" Maurice walked right up to Brent's face, which caused Brent to reflexively move his GEAR arm up to his chest, "You just told us we can leave."
With a barely noticeable tremble, Brent nodded, "I said if that is what all of you guys want, I didn't say if that's what you wanted for all your guys. If you want to leave, you can leave, but each of your guys will have to decide for themselves if they want to leave or not."
Maurice glared down toward Brent, "Stabbed me in the back again?"
Brent shook his head.
"Then what the fuck do you call it?" The anger and hurt was now very apparent in Maurice's voice, "Yesterday you said you wanted us to come work with you as equals, and now you treat us as slaves? What is that? Huh?"
Brent looked toward the ground as he thought for a few seconds, then looked back to Maurice, "You're right," he admitted, "Yesterday I did ask you to come work with us as equals, together in a group. But the only thing you've done since you have been here has been to stick to yourselves as a gang. This can't be sub-groups within groups, it has to be a united group to work. I've seen that, Lance has seen that, I'm sure a bunch of others have seen that, but to be honest, most of us have been afraid to say anything because you or any of your guys could easily kick any of our asses if you really wanted to. But...", Brent paused a few moments to collect his thoughts, "but now that this is out in the open, it has to be something that get's resolved one way or the other, right here, and right now."
Maurice blinked as he sized up Brent, "Fine, you guys solve it, We're out of here," Maurice turned and walked several feet away from the rest of the group, and then turned back around, "TSB, everyone who's ready to 'make the choice' to get away from this dump, get over here. We're leaving."
Two of the youngest members of the gang took a few steps toward Maurice, but when they looked back and saw none of their other friends were moving, they each stepped back into place as well.
"What the hell?" Maurice said, now more bewildered and hurt than angry, "So this is the thanks I get?"
Esteban, the short black-haired nine year old member of the gang, took a step forward, "How many times have you told us, that one day we will find a way to get off the streets? That one day we won't have to worry about the older gangs coming at night to try to rape us? This is what you have been telling us that we would have one day, and now you're wanting to throw it away? They have warm beds here, yummy food, cool friends, and the only thing they want us to do for all of that is to be nice to others, and make ourselves better."
"But to do it, they want to destroy our family, and split us all up, and take away everything we've worked for," Maurice defended while the tone of defeat was slowly growing in his voice.
"Clan Short does not destroy families," Matt, one of the twelve year old triple-t's, corrected. "If anything, Clan Short expands families."
"He's right, Maurice," Carlos, one of the senior gang members agreed, "You weren't at the UNIT concert last night, so you didn't see what Gaiden, Micha, and I saw. I can't speak for the other two, but for me personally, I didn't see a bunch of broken individuals last night. I saw one huge giant family of kids just like us, all laughing together, crying together, hurting together, sharing a concert together. I saw a group of kids that were all part of something huge, something that went way beyond what any one of them could have possibly done on their own. And some of the crap that I heard that some of the kids had lived through would make our lives seem like a walk down the strip."
Gaiden and Micha both agreed.
Although Maurice said nothing in reply, he only shook his head in disappointment, until he saw Andrew, his second in command, step forward to speak.
"Maurice? Bro?" Andrew started, "Ever since you saved my ass from that gang rape four years ago, I followed you because I thought what you stood for was right. When you wanted to break away from that crap of a gang we use to hang with, I stood next to you because I thought what you stood for was right. When that asshole Dax tried to take over TSB last year, all the seniors that are here right now stood next to you, because we thought you were right. Dude, it's not that any of us are ungrateful for everything you've done for us, because I don't think there is one of us who is. But, what does it say when you would ask us to give up, a warm bed, to give up having good meals and knowing we won't have to go days without eating anymore, to give up being able to learn things and have opportunities open to us that we could never have dreamed of... what's it say when you would ask us to give up all of that, and to return to a life on the streets, just for your own pride?"
Maurice, with his legs now trembling and his eyes starting to water, "It says," his voice shaking, "I've failed," With that, his legs gave out, and he fell to the ground on his ass. Covering his face with his hands, he started crying.
Jolin had been watching the exchange silently. He had said what he had wanted to say, but now it was time to say something else. With a grace and silence that betrayed his size, Jolin moved over and squatted down in front of the broken boy. "Sir..." When Maurice didn't respond to him, Jolin reached out and gently pulled the boys hands from his face making the boy see that Jolin himself had tears in his eyes. "Sir... I think you have missed what I was trying to say."
All the bravado in Maurice was gone, and he couldn't do anything other than just stare into the big golden eyes of Jolin and listen to what he had to say. "You may not realize it, but you and I are exactly alike. I used to be the leader of all the Cats on the base... they all answered to me, not because I was the biggest and toughest, although I was. They followed me for the exact same reason that all of these boys," Jolin motioned towards where the gang was, "follow you. You care about them. They mean more to you than your own self." Jolin paused making sure he had the boy's attention.
"But the time for leading a small street gang is over. You are an Assistant Division Director in Clan Short. Do you have any real idea what that means?" Seeing Maurice shake his head, Jolin sighed and sat down fully on the ground in front of him. "It means, you are responsible for more than just these boys. You are responsible for EVERY SINGLE CLAN member. No matter where you go in the Clan, people will look to you for leadership. You know why?" Not waiting for Maurice to answer, Jolin went on.
"Because you have shown, by your actions with the TSB, that you care about others. That you are willing to fight for other people, and most importantly, that you have a big heart and are willing to do what ever it takes to not only protect them, but to also help them learn and grow and maybe, someday, become more than they ever could become on the streets. THAT is what you have given to these boys, and what I personally hope, you will give to the ones that we rescue."
Reaching up to wipe the tears away from Maurice's eyes, Jolin continued in his deep rumbling, but somehow soft voice. "You did not fail. You gave them exactly what you promised and then some. Do not let them down now."
Jolin raised to his feet bringing Maurice with him. "General Casey saw something in you when he made you a director. I know what that is, and I believe that Brent and Lance know what that is. I can guarantee that your boys know what that is. Now YOU need to figure out what that was. But one thing I can guarantee to you, just like the cats still come to me when they have problems, your boys will still come to you. However, they are not the only ones that you will be looking out for anymore... everyone here is someone that is a part of your gang... it's just now your gang is Clan Short. Does that make sense?"
Almost as if on cue, Forth, one of the younger clones, began to walk toward Maurice and Jolin. As the boy approached, his bear, Fifth, was close behind. "Maurice?" The boy asked shyly, "I don't know much about gangs and streets except that people drive cars on the streets, but I think you're cool and I want you to stay here with Brent and Lance to help protect us."
Glancing toward Brent and Lance, and seeing both boys nod, he picked up Forth. Once he had a good hold on the small boy, he turned to Jolin, "I think so."
What followed could only be described as a mass hug. None of the UNIT guys, save for Jolin, were involved, but one by one, almost every member of the division joined in, and without any words being said at all, told one of their own that they were there for him. When the hugs started to break, everyone heard Jolin say in a soft rumbling voice. "Sir, I know you were not at the concert, but there was something that was said at the concert... something that has become our motto to our brethren in the Clan. 'I won't let go'."
More than a few tears were shed, until Justin spoke up trying to get things back on track. "I am sorry to do this guys, but there is much that needs to be done today. So I will make this next part as fast as I can. Lance.." Justin paused till he knew he had the boy's attention. "Your personal security team is also three members. They are lead by Staff Sergeant Ken Marri," Justin placed his hand on the shoulder of the rather small twelve year old as he started to chuckle. "Don't let his size fool you. He is one of the very few normal humans who Chang personally trained. Hell he's the only one that I've personally seen that has spared with Juan, and actually managed to win once."
Most of the Divisions members didn't know why that was a big deal, but they knew by the low whistle that came from Maurice that it must have meant something. Blushing slightly, Ken spoke in a voice untouched by puberty, "He just wasn't expecting someone to fight dirtier then he does. Trust me though... I paid for it afterwards." Saying that last part with a visible wince, once again the crowd laughed, now truly letting the tension of the last few minutes go totally.
"Anyways, Lance, the other two members of your team are Sergeants Joshua Flint, who also happens to be a telepath, and Ozrick, who as you can see is a Cheetah hybrid." Justin lowered his voice, and even though everyone could still hear what he was saying, he made it sound like a secret. "You and I need to get together later, so I can give you some detail on how to deal with the Cheetah Hybrids. Just to give you a hint, imagine a normal nine year old, which is what Ozrick is in equivalent age... give them a severe case of ADHD... and then multiply it by about ten!"
"HEY! I'm not that bad!" The indignant boy cried out, all the while shifting his weight from one leg to the other, almost as if he was ready to run away. After a few moments of people sniggering... he sheepishly said, "Well... okay.. maybe it is." That prompted the sniggers to go to outright laughter.
Once Justin stopped laughing, he turned to Maurice. "Now for your team. Again, it's a three person team headed by Staff Sergeant Bruce Highwater, with him are Sergeants Wendy Hayes, and Gharr. Justin said, as he indicated a dark haired thirteen year old girl, and a pure black Panther hybrid.
Maurice looked over the three individuals that Justin introduced to him, and his eyes stopped on Wendy. For a moment it looked like he was going to say something, but in the end he decided that he had been through the wringer enough for now, and would deal with this new development later.
Justin, seeing the look in Maurice's eyes decided to speak up and maybe save Maurice some problems in the future. "Hey Maurice... just a warning. There are very few people in the UNIT that are better with guns, nor love their guns better then Wendy. Not to mention, she is renowned for her short temper, and.. at times, excessive violence against those who hurt kids or her family. Which makes her a perfect fit for you." Justin laughed at the look on Maurice's face. "In other words, sir... she don't take no shit from no one!"
"Guns, eh?" Maurice grinned, "That might work."
Several of the other kids, especially those that knew Maurice, giggled at the expression that was on his face.
Wendy grinned as she looked him up and down with a bit of a leer. "Yes sir... I am fully trained in the use of many 'different' types of guns. I'm also certified to teach you how to use any of them... but I doubt someone like you needs much education in using ONE type of gun."
"I don't know how to..." Maurice started to say before it really dawned on him what Wendy had said. The blush on his face that appeared next was beyond priceless. Even some of the UNIT guys who had managed to keep a straight face up to this point started to loose it.
"Oh, you're good," Maurice commented as the laughter started to die down, "Who knows, I might just have to take a refresher course." This, of course, caused some more laughter and cat calls among some of the older kids.
Wendy grinned. "Who knows, you might even be able to handle it. Maybe..."
Justin thought now would be a good time to move on to the next stage of things, so between his laughing, he said. "Okay everyone... if you'll follow me, I'll give you a bit of a tour. if you have any questions during the tour, please feel free to speak up." Getting nods from almost everyone, Justin turned and started to walk off, looking back to make sure everyone followed him.
As Justin lead the large group toward their first destination, a rather wide three story building to the South-West, Chase took Roberto, Anthony, and Jeremy to help finish getting the C.I.C. building ready, leaving Tristen as the only other member of the military command staff with them.
Justin lead the guys between two of the buildings so that there were doors on each side. As soon as the procession of kids and bears managed to catch up and were paying as much attention as they could with so much new stuff to look at, he began, "Okay guys, first up on our tour are the quads. Before I start telling you about them, there are a few important things that relate to all of the new buildings you guys have here, which you will need to know about."
"First," Justin looked around the group with a smile on his face, "last night you guys were given comm badges, and looking around, I see most of you have them on, which is a good thing."
"Yup," Ben jumped in, "they are really cool, they let us talk to Daileass whenever we want."
Justin grinned, "That they do. They also have another really important function, which is to act as keys to safely get you into any of the new areas here." Seeing all the confused looks, Justin had to ask. "You guys know what keys are, right?"
Although most of the street kids and core kids nodded their heads, just about every clone kid shook their heads.
"Right, this is going to be fun," Justin clapped his hands together. "Usually, a key is a very small object that you slide into a door, car, or other type of lock to open it."
"What's a car?" one of the younger clones asked.
"What's a lock?" another asked.
Justin sighed as some of the other kids giggled, "Okay, let's forget about all that for now. Your comm badges let Daileass's sensors monitor to make sure that the people that are in an area should be there. If you guys try to go somewhere but you don't have your comm badge, the security team will be informed about it, and someone will be sent over to make sure you should actually be there."
This seemed to address the confusion as many of the kids were now nodding their heads.
"Okay," Justin continued, "The next thing you guys need to know, is that although your comm badges will let you in the general areas, as we will see in a few minutes, there will be some doors that will have small black boxes attached to the walls next to them. These are special hand scanners. They are used to make sure that only the people that should be allowed through the door can get in." As he said this, he opened the door to the building and started to lead them all inside.
After walking past a set of stairs going up, he went through a second door that lead them into a long hallway filled with many more doors on both sides of the hall. Stopping at the very first door, he continued, "Just about every door you guys see in this hallway leads to a dorm style bedroom. We've entered building two of quad one. Basically, you guys have two quads to start out with. Each quad is made up of four buildings, each building has three floors, and each floor has two wings, a small wing with ten rooms, and a long wing with fifteen rooms. Each of these rooms are large enough to hold either two older kids or adults, or four younger kids."
Justin smiled as he knew this next part would really mess with their heads, "That means that each floor can hold between fifty to a hundred kids, and with three floors, each building can hold a hundred fifty to three hundred kids, and with four buildings, each quad can hold six hundred to twelve hundred kids, and since you guys have two quads, that means right now you guys can house twelve hundred to twenty-four hundred kids. Of course, if needed, there is enough room around here to put down a third or forth quad if needed."
"Um," Lance cleared his throat as the numbers started to sink in, "Justin, that's really cool and all, but we have maybe sixty kids, thirty of which will probably need to continue to stay in the Cynthitech buildings for the next week or two, at the least, what's all the extra space for?"
Justin nodded, "Good question. Well, to start with, between the strike teams, security forces, helicopter crews, and other support crews, there are about one hundred twenty kids here on the military side of things. We are all setting up in building four of quad two, so you guys will notice that building will have a bit more security than the others. Beyond that, I think General Casey knows what it means to be a Clan division and has been doing a little preemptive planning."
"What it means to be a Clan division?" Lance asked curiously.
Tristen, who had been fairly quiet up to now, jumped in, "Yeah, let's just say that Clan Short divisions seem to have a knack for collecting kids very rapidly."
Brent and Lance looked at each other, as Brent shook his head, "I'm not sure about all the other divisions, but beside the fact that we are not even officially a division yet, other than the thirty or so unborn clones we are keeping an eye on, I don't think we are really planning on adding anyone else."
Tristen and Justin both gave knowing smiles, as Justin replied with a chuckle, "Keep deluding yourselves, Sir," seeing that both boys were still confused, he continued in a more serious tone, "Let's see how the next week or so goes, and I'm sure if you guys really will not need the space, we can make arrangements to have the buildings sent elsewhere."
Seeing that Brent and Lance appeared to be satisfied, Justin continued, "Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, next to this door, as well as all the other dorm room doors, is one of the hand scanner devices. To get into the room, you will need to put your hand on this glass surface, like this. If it's your room, the door will open, if it's not..."
Before Justin could finish what he was saying, the panel his hand was on turned red, and a buzzing sound could be heard, which not only caused several of the kids to jump back in surprise, but also seemed to surprise Justin. "Intruder Alert," Daileass's voice came over the speakers.
"Um, Daileass?" Justin asked slightly confused, "I'm the base commander, I should have access to all doors."
"I'm sorry Justin, but you do not have access to this room. I'm afraid I have to take you to jail now," Daileass answered.
"What?" Justin responded with surprise.
Several of the smaller kids started to giggle, but then gasped when the buzzing sound stopped and Justin disappeared right before their eyes.
"Actually guys," Daileass's voice said in a more normal tone, "I wanted to give all of you a demonstration of one of the ways security can be handled."
"Yes, Daileass gives very good demonstrations," Justin said from the back of the group, where Daileass teleported him to. "He also makes a very good point. Although we try to keep things as safe as possible for you guys here, there are a few places that have things that are not that safe. So please do not go into the places that you're asked not to go. If you are not sure if you should be somewhere or not, just ask one of the older kids, or one of the kids you see wearing military clothes."
"Or ask me," Daileass offered.
Justin nodded as he made his way through the group back to the front, "Or Daileass."
As soon as Justin finished saying that, all the bears that were with the group started jumping up and down and waving their arms around.
Justin grinned, "And of course, those of you that have them, can also ask your bears. So there are lots of different people you can ask," Once the bears and kids settled back down, Justin continued by placing his hand on the scanner again, "Okay, let's try this one more time."
This time, the piece of glass that Justin's hand was on turned green, and with a click, the door opened an inch or two, "In here is what one of the dorm rooms looks like."
Nearly every kid ran into the large room as Justin continued his explanation, "As you can see, each room is rather large with four hundred twenty square feet of space. In addition to either the two queen sized beds, for rooms that have two people staying in them, or two bunk beds for rooms having four people staying in them, you have night stands and dressers for each person. There are two desks, a computer terminal, a TV, and a play station for video games."
"You have to be kidding us, man," Carlos commented. "Every room can't be like this, this is huge."
"If you don't believe me, why don't you go check some of the others out for yourself?" Justin grinned toward Carlos and some of the other street kids, "Daileass, please allow open access to all the dorm rooms in this wing."
Moments later, lots of clicking sounds could be heard from the hall, as all the doors to all the other rooms snapped open.
Justin watched with a smile as all the street kids started going from room to room checking each one out. What impressed him the most was how methodical the group did it's checking. It reminded him very closely to how a strike team would have secured the building, had it been a training exercise.
While the street kids did their room search, most of the other kids were content with continuing to poke around in the room they were in.
"What's this?" One of the kids asked as he was trying to slide something out from the foot of the bed.
"Ah, I almost forgot about that," Justin said as he saw most of the street kids returning back to the room as well, "in addition to the small drawers that are at the bottom of each bed, there is also a lap top computer that is assigned to whoever sleeps in the bed."
"Wow," several kids replied.
"Okay, come on guys," Justin said as he lead the group out of the room, and down the hall, "Something else that each floor in each building has is a common room. As you can see, in addition to the big screen T.V.'s there are a lot of other things here that you can do, such as all the board games over there. This is also where you guys will probably have most of your floor meetings here."
After giving all the kids a few minutes to look around at the different stuff in the room, and to test out the comfy couches and chairs, Justin continued, "The last thing I'm going to show you guys here is the fire exists. You will notice there are two doors in this room with big red bars on them that lead outside. You can only open them from inside the building, and normally, unless there is a fire or some other emergency, you will never use them, because they make an alarm go off, like this."
As Justin opened one of the doors, another alarm went off for a few moments and then stopped, "Today, since this way takes us toward where we are going next, we'll go out the fire exit, but just remember normally you should not use it."
Once everyone had made it outside, Justin lead them across the grass toward their next destination.
"I think you guys will like this next building," Justin stated as they approached a slightly smaller building that was about three hundred feet across on the side they could see. The middle third of the building was made almost completely of glass and extended out about twenty feet from the rest of the structure.
As the group walked closer to the building, they could see that the glass-like enclosure was a front lobby area that had a bunch of display cases of various sizes, all of which were empty. On the wall opposite to the entrance where several sets of large double doors. When Justin lead the group through one of the sets, they found themselves standing in front of a large Olympic sized pool.
"Welcome to the pool center, guys," Justin continued once everyone was through the doors. "As you can see, directly in front of us you have a full sized Olympic pool, changing rooms and such are at the back of the building on the other side of the pool. Over to the right, where all those diving boards are at, is your diving pool, which is also deep enough to do scuba-diving lessons in. And over to the left, you have a few different smaller pools, including a splash pool, wading pool, and a hot tub."
"Careful guys," Lance called out as several of the younger kids were starting to get rather close to the main pool.
"Lance brought up a good point," Justin stated as the kids started to back up a bit, "How many of you guys know how to swim?"
A few of the older kids raised their hands.
Justin nodded, "Okay, one thing you guys will need to be aware of is that over the next few days we will start having swim tests. Only those of you who are able to swim will be allowed in the pool areas without having a buddy with you that knows how. We will also have swimming lessons that any of you guys will be able to sign up for to learn how to swim."
Cooper raised his hand, after Justin recognized him, he asked his question, "Do we have to wear all our clothes when swimming?"
Justin blinked, "Um, no. Why would you think you had to?"
Cooper fumbled around with his comm badge, "If we didn't have our clothes on, how else would we be able to wear our comm badges?"
Justin and a few others giggled, "Very good observation Cooper, and normally you would be right. However, these are special comm badges, you can get them wet and even take them swimming with you, and they will still work. If you are wearing a swimsuit, you can connect it to that, otherwise, it will also attach to your skin."
"Cool," Cooper replied.
Rene raised his hand next, as he held onto his bear with his other hand, "Can our bears go swimming too?"
Justin smiled and nodded, "They sure can, they are actually pretty good swimmers. Not only that, but your bears can also function as floatation devices."
"Hear that Softy?" Rene told his bear, "you can go swimming with us too!"
"Yay!" Softy's young robotic voice said as the bear raised his hands up in the air which caused a few of the other kids to giggle.
"Any other questions?" Justin asked as he looked around the group. Seeing none, he lead the group out of the building, "Off to our next stop then."
This time, Justin led the group on a sidewalk that ran from the pool building toward another building that seemed a little larger than the pool center, but was also shaped funny. From the angle that they were approaching it, the first half of the building was square, while the second have branched out diagonally.
"All of you guys will probably want to make sure you remember where this building is at, since I have a feeling you will be visiting it a lot," Justin said as he lead the group through a set of doors in the center of the building, and into a large hallway that seemed to run all the way through the building to another door on the other side, "This is the event center. It has two main parts to it, which we will see when we get to the middle of the hall."
As they walked, several of the kids noticed that there were very few doors in the hallway. In fact, the only doors they could see were in the middle of the hall that they were approaching. The walls also seemed to be different in that they were made up of large square blocks that were about eight feet wide to match their eight feet height.
Once they had walked half way down the hall, Justin stopped and opened the doors on one side to allow everyone to look in. "Here we have your auditorium. This is where you guys can have meetings, watch movies, have concerts, or anything else you guys can think of."
Micha poked his head through the door. "It doesn't look as big as the one we saw at the UNIT base last night."
Justin nodded, "Yeah, UNIT's is a bit larger, since they have about ten thousand kids there. But this one is a lot more modern, equipped with the latest electronics, computer systems, and digital sound mixing. If you guys ever do any type of drama or stage plays, part of the stage also functions as a huge elevator that can be raised and lowered to a storage area in the basement."
Many of the kids nodded and 'ooo'ed at Justin's description.
"Now, if you guys would like to turn your attention to the door on the other side of the hall," Justin smiled, "I think you guys are going to like this part the best."
As Justin opened up the doors on the other side of the hall, many of the kids walked over to look in. There were several noticeable gasps as nearly every kid saw one of the largest cafeterias they had ever seen. There were easily seven to eight rows worth of tables that filled up the entire center portion of the room. The other side of the room was set up in a heart-like design where the left and right sides of the back walls were in half-circles. Along all the walls were food stations.
As most of the kids looked around the room, Justin started to describe things more for them, "This is the main cafeteria. It can seat over eight hundred people at once in the center area. The reason the walls in the hallway we walked down looked weird, is because they are a special type of wall that can be fully retracted. So, for special events, both walls on each side of the hall can be retracted, which can link the cafeteria area to the auditorium area."
As he talked, Justin walked down the center of the room, causing all the kids to follow, "You guys probably won't need to use all the food stations for as few people as you have right now, but when you get fully staffed, there are twelve different food stations on each of the twelve different walls that make up the front and sides of the cafeteria, in addition to the two dish washing stations. Each food station can be set up to have a different type of food, like having a Mexican station, or an Italian station, so everything can be set up as a large buffet."
"This place is huge," Jude mentioned in awe as he looked around. "There is no way we will ever fill it all, or be able to use all the different food stations."
"Maybe not now," Justin agreed, "but, as I mentioned with the quads earlier, you never know what the future will bring."
Donnie and a few of the other street kids were at one of the counters looking back into the kitchen area. "Some of this equipment is sweet," Donnie stated. "It looks a lot better than some of the kitchens I've seen in some of the larger hotels in the city."
Justin smiled as he nodded, "You're right. Actually, we patterned a lot of the equipment and layout of the kitchen area to resemble the layout that some of the top restaurants use. We figured that since you guys would probably be rescuing kids from the Vegas area, many of the people that would be staying here would already be familiar with buffet style cafeterias."
As Justin finished, he got a puzzled look on his face, "Donnie? How is it that you guys are familiar with these types of kitchens?"
Donnie glanced back toward Justin to consider the intent behind the question. Seeing that Justin seemed to be more curious than accusatory, he answered, "Sometimes some of the hotels would get a bit short handed in their kitchen staff, so we could pick up an odd job here and there. It gave us a way to make a little money for the gang, and at the same time, get some free food to feed the rest of us. Usually, it would just be helping out with the dishes or stuff. But I've also done some food prep from time to time."
Justin nodded his acceptance, "Nice. Although we are planning to have a few of our UNIT support guys help out with the kitchen area initially, if you're interested, especially while things are getting organized around here, I bet they would be very appreciative if any of you wanted to help out from time to time. That is, if you wanted to use some of the equipment here."
"Oh yeah," Donnie answered looking back toward the kitchen, "that would be sweet."
Justin gave everyone a few more minutes to explore the building a bit before he gathered everyone up to continue their tour. "Okay guys, if you will follow me, we have one more building to check out."
As the group walked down another sidewalk that lead toward the large circular building, Justin continued his speech, "Okay. This last building is a little different from the other buildings around here. It's called the Command and Control building, or C.I.C. for short. Security to get inside of it is a bit more strict. Usually, unless you are working here, or have a reason to be here, you will not be allowed inside it."
Glancing back to make sure that no one was too confused, Justin continued, "This is the building where most of the military operations are carried out. There are a bunch of offices here, as well as conference rooms, and the main core control room."
As Justin finished talking, a rather loud explosion could be heard coming in the general direction of the quads. Moments later, as a small poof of smoke could be seen starting to rise from the furthest quad building, alarms started going off.
"Daileass, report?" Just ordered as he tapped his comm badge.
Daileass immediately replied, "A large explosive device, possibly an R.P.G., impacted the west side of quad one, building three."
Justin nodded, "Place the base at condition red, initiate lockdown, and get all strike teams on standby."
"Acknowledged", Daileass answered.
"Slight change of plans, guys," Justin said to the concerned and scared looks of most of the kids in his group, "Oh, fuck it. Daileass, transport our entire group into the core."
Instantly, all sixty kids and their bears disappeared.
The kids appeared spread out across the back of a rather large room. Large, meaning that the curved back of the room had to be at least one hundred feet across with the sides sloping inward so that the curved front of the room was closer to around forty feet across. The main part of the room was filled with several different computer terminal stations all pointing toward the front of the room which had three very large screens, each stretching eight or nine feet across.
The center screen in the room was already showing an image of what looked like the side of one of the Quad buildings they visited earlier. A small section of it was slightly blackened, presumably from whatever exploded. Not only were none of the windows in the blackened area damaged, but other than the blackness, there was no other visible damage. The left screen was showing an image of the mountains that were to the west of them. The right screen was showing another view of the buildings, but from a wider angle.
"Tristen, keep an eye on everyone," Justin said as soon as the transport was complete as he started to walk to one of the near by computer terminals and spoke slightly louder, "Report."
Besides the three stations at the front of the room which were not yet fully assembled, one of which had two kids quickly working on installing the terminal equipment, all the other stations had kids at them. Most of them were the base command staff that had been introduced to them less than an hour ago. Although, a few of the kids that were there, they had not met yet.
Fifteen year old Chase, Justin's second in command, was quick to answer. "A rocket launched from a ground launcher was fired from a concealed location in the mountains to the west of us, which impacted one of the quad buildings. Other than needing to re-paint the wall, no other damage was done. The launch site has been neutralized."
"Why didn't we detect the site?" Justin asked as he started to log into his own terminal, pulling up what little status information he could.
"The sensor suites are not fully installed and online yet," Roberto, the base's intelligence officer, called out in reply. "They are at least two hours away from being completed."
As Justin was interacting with his team, the rest of the kids watched in awe. Many of them were still trying to comprehend that this was part of 'their' house now, while others were still trying to figure out why people would want to try to hurt them in the first place. Tristen did his best to keep everyone calm and re-assured that Justin and the others would be able to easily handle whatever is going on.
"Justin?" Daileass's voice came over the main room speakers, "Front cameras are picking up a number of SUV's approaching toward the front entrance."
"Screen three." Justin called out in response. Moments later, the right-most large screen in the front of the room changed to a camera view showing the main road leading toward Cynthitech. Sure enough, there were seven black SUV's that were quickly making their way toward them.
"That's them!" Rene jumped up and down desperately. "Those are the van's we saw."
"Yeah, they are," Cooper agreed, "but we never saw that many of them. We've never seen more than one at a time."
"Emily, you come up with anything on them?" Justin asked.
The only girl working at one of the stations shook her head. "Daileass and I went through the front camera views since they came online Saturday afternoon, but we didn't find any black vans that passed by, let alone stopped."
"Look," Rene called out as he lifted up his bear to hug, "the vans are driving off the road."
Justin looked up. Sure enough, one by one, the vans were turning off the road, apparently planning on bypassing the concrete barrier that had been set up at the gate. Moments later, the first one easily broke through the chain link fence that was surrounding the property. At the same time, the middle large screen changed to show a close-up view of one of the vans, from which you could already see the sides being opened up, showing heavily armed men inside.
Justin sighed, "Okay, I've seen enough. Daileass, where are my HIND's?"
"Still in route, Justin, about twenty minutes out," Daileass answered.
"That's way too long, how quickly can you teleport them here?" Justin asked.
"How's five seconds sound?" Daileass asked.
"About ten seconds too slow," Justin answered. "Jeremy, let the HIND pilots know what's going on, and that Daileass will teleport them in hot as soon as they are ready."
"Yes, sir." Jeremy replied.
On the large front screen, the center view changed again showing all the vans driving closer toward the parking lot and main Cynthitech buildings. At this point, all the SUV's had opened their sides up, and men were hanging out ready to jump out at a moments notice.
A few seconds later, two very large MI-35 HIND attack helicopters appeared between the buildings and the vans. The first HIND who was moving much faster than the second, fired several rounds of it's mounted machine guns, blowing out the tires and causing one of the vans to flip on it's side. The second HIND fired a missile at the lead van causing it to not only explode but causing the second van to run into it, and the others behind it to swerve in various directions.
Several of the kids that were watching gasped, and backed up in surprise, as the explosion of the first van could not only be seen on the monitor, but also felt in the vibrations of the building.
Almost instantly, a large number of armed men poured out of the rest of the vans, and began spreading out and making their way toward the buildings on foot.
"Anthony?" Justin called over to his strike team commander, "Have your strike teams ready to be teleported, we're going to give these clowns a little surprise."
"You got it, Justin," Anthony replied with a smile as he forwarded the information.
"Daileass, are these guys close enough for you to have good scans on all of them?" Justin asked.
"They are close enough that I could tell you what kind of boxers they are wearing if needed." Daileass replied.
"Eww," Justin answered on instinct, "Um no. I'll pass on that."
"You want me to teleport them out?" Daileass asked.
Justin shook his head, "No, I have a better idea. Can you just teleport any weapons or electronics any of them have?"
"I can do that no problem," Daileass replied.
"Cool," Justin smiled, "and as soon as you do that teleport the strike teams in around them."
The end result that could be seen on the screen was priceless. Many of the advancing men stopped in their tracks as the weapons they were holding in their hands were no longer there. Several of them started looking behind them to see if they might have dropped them. A second or two after that, not only did all the men stop, but a few fell on their ass when they realized that in addition to having no weapons, they were now surrounded by fifty heavily armed kids dressed in full military gear, all with guns pointed at them.
Some of the men started feeling on their sides, apparently looking for secondary weapons which also were not there. One of the men tried to rush one of the smaller kids. Instead of shooting the man, the kid kicked the man squarely in the chest, and sent him flying backward about ten yards, slamming into two other men, knocking them to the ground as well.
"That would be Pablo of Strike Team Thunder," Tristen grinned as he informed the other kids, "He's one of the genesis kids, and that's one of the reasons you don't want to piss them off."
"Director Knocks?" Justin turned toward Brent with a large smile on his face, "Would you and your command team care to join me outside to have a quick chat with our guests?"
Before Brent had a chance to look at Lance, Maurice was already nodding his head and answered for them, "Oh yea."
After getting Brent's nod of agreement, Justin raised his voice, "Daileass? Please teleport myself, Chase, Emily, the directors and their security outside a little behind Strike Team Eagle."
"You got it, Justin," Daileass answered.
Moments later, Brent was squinting his eyes while he waited for them to adjust to the increased light. Ahead of them, the strike teams had enclosed their circle a little, herding all the invaders closer together. Apparently, after getting a demonstration of what some of these kids were capable of, no one else seemed to want to test their luck.
"Good morning, gentlemen," Justin began in what seemed to be a rather inappropriately cheerful voice. "Welcome to the Nevada Division of Clan Short. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Colonel Justin West, I'm the base commander of the UNIT detachment assigned to help protect this facility."
A few groans could be heard from the group of men.
"Since you guys seemed to want to come visit us so badly, I don't suppose any of you would care to share why you're here?" Justin asked as he looked around the group.
"Stuff it, kid!" One of the largest men called out.
Justin tilted his head slightly, and started to make his way into the circle, "You're their leader?"
"Don't get too close, kid, you might get hurt." The man commented as he took a step forward.
"Such hostility," Justin commented walking closer. "I just figured we could have a friendly commander to commander chat."
The man glared done at the smaller commander with a grin as Justin easily walked within arms reach of the man. "What?"
In a quieter voice, Justin replied, "I know you guys are hired mercs. What I want to know is who hired you, and why."
The man's smile increased as he looked down at the kid, "I have a better idea."
As soon as he said this, one of the man's arm's lunged out toward Justin, which the boy easily caught with one hand. At the same time, the man put all his force into a swift swing toward Justin's face with the other hand, which Justin also easily caught, and then twisted backward so that bones could be heard breaking. Within moments, Justin had the man twisted around and on the ground wincing in pain.
A few of the men that were behind the larger one began to move forward to rush Justin, just as the boy looked up and shook his head, which caused the men to notice the armed kids raising and aiming their guns. This caused the men to quickly change their minds, and take a step back.
Justin released the man who remained motionless on the ground, and walked back out of the circle, "I have a better idea," Justin continued. "Since you guys seem to be wanting to view our facilities so badly, I think I'll arrange for a personal tour of our holding cells at our main UNIT base. Then you can chat with the telepaths in our intelligence division, and let them know all about yourselves."
Perhaps it was the fact that a kid who could not have been more than fifteen years old had laid their leader down so easily, or perhaps it was the mention of telepaths, but for whatever reason, the faces of many of the men began to pale.
"Daileass?" Justin called out, "Please teleport our friends to the UNIT brig, and be sure to let me know any information that the intel guys manage to find out."
A hint of confusion could be seen on the faces of several of the men moments before they all disappeared.
With the unwanted guests gone, Justin looked around at all the members of the strike force, "Great job on the quick response guys. Especially in handling the hot teleport. I think we are off to a great start."
Several of the kids nodded, and a few cheered.
"Brent?" Justin asked, "How about we go check on the rest of your guys, and see how they liked the show."
Brent smiled and nodded.
"Daileass?" Justin asked, but before he could finish, him, along with the those of his command team that were outside, and the division leadership and their security were gone, leaving only the members of the strike teams to start cleaning things up.
Fearing the worst as they teleported back inside, both Brent and Lance were pleasantly surprised to see most of the kids not only in high spirits, but eagerly talking about the show they had just watched on the giant screens.
"Okay guys," Brent tried calling out over everyone's excited voices. "Let's head back to building two and hit the showers, then we will see about finding some breakfast."
At the mention of food, everyone became quiet, eagerly waiting for Daileass to teleport them out of the building.
"Much better," Brent grinned. "Daileass, would you mind teleporting us over to building two so we can hit the showers?"
"You got it." Daileass replied with a slightly mischievous voice as the group of unsuspecting kids vanished from the core center.