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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.
Although Colonel Justin West took everyone to the new quads earlier that morning on the tour, one area he neglected to show was the large community showers. Each wing, on each floor, in each building, has one area near the middle of the wing that is slightly larger than the size of one of the dorms where the rest rooms, sinks, lockers, and community showers are located.
In any such community shower, there are six pillars that go from floor to ceiling. On each pillar are eight shower heads that spray out in all directions, each with their own separate knobs for controlling water temperature and force.
All was quiet in one such shower on the first floor in building two of quad one. That was, until out of nowhere, a large number of white fluffy shower towers suddenly appeared on the bench that leaned up against the far wall of the shower. A few moments later, small little thuds could be heard echoing through the room as forty-eight bars of soap appeared centimeters above the soap holders for the eight shower heads of each of the six pillars. The scene was made complete as out of no where, sixty kids appeared standing inside the shower area, accompanied by a large number of teddy bears.
"Daileass, where are we?" Brent called out as he and the other kids looked around trying to figure out where they were at.
"You're in building two of quad one so you guys can hit the showers before breakfast." Daileass cheerfully replied from Brent's communicator.
"But I told you to take us to..." Brent started to say before Lance silenced him with a kiss.
"To building two?" Lance asked mischievously.
Brent suddenly realized his error.
"Besides," Daileass continued, "the showers in the Cynthitech building are rather small and only a few kids at a time can use them. As you can see, the showers here in the quads are much larger, and designed to handle a lot more kids at once."
Before he could answer, Brent noticed that several of the kids had already begun stripping their clothes off.
Brent looked around and then shrugged, with a giggle he added, "I guess that works."
Having already taken his shirt off, six-year-old Rene ran back over to it and grabbed the comm badge off of it. "Hey Daileass?" he asked as he tapped it, "Does Softy need a shower too?"
"Softy and all the other teddy bears are water proof, so showers won't hurt them." Daileass replied. "However, unless they get really dirty, they don't need them."
"Thanks Daileass." Rene replied as he looked at his bear with a grin. "Come on Softy, I don't know where you've been before I got you, so I think you need a shower too."
"Umm... Okay?" Softy replied as Rene took his hand. Moments later, most of the younger kids were going to grab their bears for showers.
At first, Brent cringed as he couldn't see any good out of at least thirty bears being added to the mix of sixty kids. However, to his surprise, things worked out remarkably well, especially when the bears began to help make sure each of the kids they protected were thoroughly clean.
Haden stood near the back of the room frowning at the closest shower, as he pressed a button on his GEAR to power it down. Although he knew that all the components were sufficiently protected to not be effected by water, he still didn't want to take any chances.
'If you want, I can transport you and Evan to the showers upstairs where it is a little less crowded.' Haden heard Daileass ask in his head.
Haden spent a few moments considering Daileass's offer, but finally shook his head. 'Nah. These are my brothers and family, so I need to learn to feel more comfortable around them.'
'I'm really proud of you for saying that,' Daileass replied with a smile in his voice. 'Just remember, every single person in this room cares about you, and will never try to tease or make fun of you.'
Haden nodded as he lifted his shirt over his head.
The entire process of getting everyone showered and dressed in clean clothes took nearly thirty minutes, with some of the younger clones who had never taken showers like this before taking the longest.
Brent was just finishing up with helping Jace get into the new jump suit, that mysteriously appeared in the hands of his teddy bear, when Brent's comm badge chimed.
"Sorry for the interruption Brent," Daileass's voice called out. "I just wanted to let you know that as soon as everyone is done getting dressed, breakfast is ready over in the new event center cafeteria."
"Really?" Brent replied slightly surprised. "How did that get pulled off Daileass? We were just over there not long ago, and everything looked like it was turned off."
"Actually, I cheated a little." Daileass answered with a giggle. "With everything that happened this morning with the assault and all, and with most of the UNIT guys still getting settled in, I teleported in some stuff from the main UNIT base."
"Awesome! Thanks Daileass." Brent smiled. "You hear that guys? The faster everyone gets dressed, the faster we can head over to breakfast."
At the mention of food, several of the younger boys began hopping up and down, as they struggled to get into their pants.
"Yo, Brent," Maurice said as he walked up to stand next to him. "Since so many of my guys got finished up long before the little dudes did, they started scouting out some of the rooms here a bit more."
Brent shrugged. "As long as Daileass didn't mind, I don't see a problem with it."
Maurice nodded. "Yeah, well. Actually, a bunch of my guys are wondering when they would be able to get setup with these rooms. Not that those nest things we've been doing at night haven't been cool or anything."
Lance walked up next to his boyfriend to join the conversation. "Isn't that what the quads were placed here for?"
Brent nodded. "Yeah. I don't see why any of our guys, gang kids, triplets, or even some of the older clone kids couldn't start getting their own rooms. Some of the newer clones will probably still need to spend a few nights over in the Cynthitech building because that's where all the equipment they need is at, but they could at least get rooms to call their own as well. How about we start doing that right after breakfast?"
"I'd be cool with that." Maurice agreed as Lance nodded his approval as well. Not far away, several of the younger gang kids could be seen jumping up and cheering.
"Okay guys, everyone come gather around so we can head over breakfast." Brent called out. "Hey Daileass, what should we do with the dirty clothes and towels and stuff?"
Daileass, who had never stopped monitoring the conversation quickly replied. "Normally, you would take them back to your dorm rooms, and put them in your clothes baskets. But since you guys don't have dorm rooms yet, I'll take care of them real quick." Before Daileass had finished speaking, all of the clothes and towels that were spread out around the room vanished.
"Thanks again, Daileass." Brent said as the mob of hungry kids began to make their way out of the building and toward the event center.
As the group was passing the walkway that lead to the C.I.C. building, Justin West met up with them. "Ah, Brent. You're just the person I was looking for." He said as he jogged slightly to catch up to Brent.
"Is something wrong?" Brent asked with concern.
Justin smiled and shook his head. "Nope, everything is going well. We've even started to find out some rather interesting stuff about those clowns that tried to attack us earlier, but I would rather wait until after you guys have had breakfast to get into that."
Brent agreed. "Wow, good job."
"What I actually wanted to talk about was breakfast. Daileass informed me about bringing some chow over from HQ, and... well, normally we would make our own food, but with trying to get things setup and with the assault thing. Well, it will just work out better this way for my guys." Justin spoke with a slightly guarded voice.
"Makes sense to me," Brent stated. "Where's the problem?"
"Well. I know your guys are heading over to get breakfast now as well. So I wasn't really sure if I should have my guys over there at the same time or not." Justin stated, and then quickly continued before Brent had a chance to respond. "It wouldn't be a problem at all to have my guys wait until after all of you are done."
Brent abruptly stopped, allowing everyone else to start passing them, and causing both Lance and Justin to also stop and look toward him with concern. Brent spent a few moments glancing at Lance and then back at Justin, trying to figure out the nicest way to put what he wanted to say. "Okay. Look Justin... umm sir? Maybe this goes against military rules or something. If it does, I apologize for saying this the way I am, but I don't understand this whole separation thing of your guys and my guys. Isn't that what that huge Jolin lion guy was trying to get Maurice to see earlier?"
Seeing that he clearly had the Base Commander's attention, Brent continued. "The way I see it, we're all part of the same division, the same family if you will, all part of Clan Short. If that's true, why wouldn't we be able to do things together like any family would do, including eating together or having fun together? To be frank with you, I would be a bit offended if you and your guys felt you were too good to be able to eat and do things with us."
Justin spent a few moments looking deep into Brent's eyes before he smiled. "Actually, that makes me feel really good to hear you say that. Although, there are a few minor issues that I believe you are in error on."
"What's that?" Brent asked.
Seeing that nearly all the other kids had passed them, Justin allowed his voice to go back to a normal volume. "First, in a way you're actually my superior, so I would be the one calling you sir. If you need to address me in a professional manner, it would be Colonel West. However, I really hate the whole formality thing, so usually, as long as you're okay with it, just calling me Justin is fine with me. Second, Jolin is actually a tiger hybrid. He might get offended if you call him a lion, and personally, I try not to offend him too much."
Brent grinned and nodded. "Point taken."
Justin continued. "Third, I think you misunderstand why us military guys would tend to try to separate ourselves from you. It's not because we think we are somehow better than you. In fact, it's the exact opposite. Most of us, especially the genesis guys like myself, have spent years having it drilled into our heads that we are inferior to humans in general, and to those we are serving and protecting specifically. That is something that is going to probably take a bit for a lot of us to get off of. As you just saw, even I need to be reminded of that from time to time. I'm really glad to hear that you don't mind us mixing in with you guys. Take away the whole genesis issue I just mentioned, there are many places where the civilians don't always feel comfortable mixing in with a bunch of military jar-heads, I guess it's a culture thing or something."
"Okay, I don't know how comfortable I would feel ordering you guys around as your boss or something, so I think I'll stick to Justin for now," Brent replied with a nod. "And that whole genesis thing really sucks. At first I thought the idea of being genetically altered to be stronger and better than normal humans was cool, but the more I learn about what you and the other genesis kids have had to live through, well, in a number of ways I feel sorry for you. As far as the whole society thing goes, I can't really speak to that other than saying there is a lot of crap that society does that I can't really understand or agree with. However, what I do know is the look of safety and security on the face of a bunch of my guys when only a few of you were around earlier. So if and when we start rescuing other kids, I can't think of how they would not feel a lot safer with a bunch of... what did you call it? Jar heads around them."
Justin slowly nodded. "Well, when you put it that way, it does seem to make a lot more sense. And who knows, maybe if we spend enough time around each other, your guys might be able to help teach us what it means to be a kid."
Brent tilted his head. "Huh?"
Justin sighed and allowed some of the shame he was struggling to hold back show through. "That's another one of those genesis kid issues. Especially for the huge group of kids that are from the base that was liberated last week, none of us have ever known anything in life other than military training. We've never had a chance to have toys, or to have 'fun' or do anything else that kids would normally do."
Brent felt his stomach turn. "Damn. I guess in a way a bunch of you are in a similar position as most of our clone kids. They, also, have no clue what it means to be a kid. I'll tell ya what. If you and your guys agree to help protect us and keep us safe, I'll make sure my guys help to show you guys what it means to be a kid."
Justin smiled shook Brent's hand. "Agreed."
"I hate to break this up guys," Lance jumped in, "but if we don't get in there soon, I don't know if there is going to be much left for us to eat."
"You guys go ahead, I'll gather my troops, and we shall join you shortly." Justin said as he turned and made his way toward the C.I.C. building.
A few moments after Justin walked away, Lance's stomach growled.
"Damn Lance," Brent teased. "We really better hurry up and get you in there before you starve to death."
Lance playfully slapped the back of Brent's head as the two boys quickly made their way to the event center.
With most of the core C.I.C. cleared out, and things started to calm down from the morning's evens, Justin figured that now was as good of a time as any to start taking care of the small pile of paperwork and reviews he needed to work through. The follow-up reports were already starting to come in from what the main UNIT intelligence team was starting to learn. Next, they would need to figure out which stuff the Utah base would handle, and which stuff their own division would take on.
He had been reading and working his way through documents for about ten minutes before his enhanced hearing picked up on a sound coming from outside his open door. However, when he looked up, he saw nothing.
Going back to his work, about two minutes later, he heard the same strange sound again, but again saw nothing when he looked up.
Determined to figure out what was going on, he typed a few commands on his terminal to pull up the video feed of the camera that was in the hallway looking toward the door. Hewas rewarded when he noticed a small boy, around eight or nine, hiding just out of range outside of view from his office.
"Haden?" Justin asked in a soft voice, "You're allowed to come in if you would like."
Moments later, a mop of short dark brown hair with two grayish green eyes cautiously peeked into the room.
Justin smiled, "Don't worry, I only get mad at people that try to hurt my friends. Why don't you come on in so I can see all of you?"
Hesitantly, Haden took a few careful steps into the room, "But you're the base commander."
Justin nodded, "You're right, I am the base commander, but it's still alright to come in and say 'hi' any time the door is open. Besides, I hear you're going to be helping out a lot in here with some really cool electronic designs."
As if Colonel West had said some magic word, Haden's eyes lit up and he nodded.
Thinking that it might be better if he were not behind the desk, but instead away from it and closer to Haden's level, he got up and started to walk around to the front, but as he did, he could visibly see the small boy stiffen and become very nervous, so he stopped.
"Was there something you came in here to tell me or ask me about?"
Haden nodded and started to relax a little, almost as if he was being hugged by an invisible presence. "Earlier," Haden started in a soft voice, "On the tour... you said people could come... and talk... talk to you."
As Justin nodded, he made his way back to his chair. "Yes, I did, anyone here is welcome to come and talk with me any time they want."
Haden nodded once, "to talk about helping."
"Ah," Justin nodded, "I think understand, you need me to help you with something."
Haden shook his head and then sighed. Curling his lower lip into his mouth, he stood there for a few moments as he tried to get the courage up to ask what he wanted to ask. "I want to help and join UNIT... Sir."
Justin West did his best to not let his surprise show. Although it was true that he did make an open offer to all the civilian kids that were on the tour earlier that any of them that wanted to talk about getting military training and becoming a part of UNIT could talk with him, from what he knew of Haden, he was probably one of the last kids he would have expected to take him up on his offer.
"I see," Justin finally managed to say with a nod. "You know, making the decision to get involved in UNIT is not something to take lightly. It involves a fairly serious commitment, and a lot of training."
Haden's head dropped. "Sorry," he said as he slowly turned to walk out of the room.
"Haden, wait." Justin called out with just a slightly stronger tone, which caused the boy to stop. "I didn't say you couldn't. You just surprised me a little, and I would like to talk to you some about why you want to."
Haden turned back around to look at the Colonel.
"If you want to join for the right reasons, I'll do my best to work with you to make that happen. If you're wanting to join for the wrong reasons, then there might be something better to accomplish what you're looking for, and if that's true, I can help you find it," Justin explained.
Haden turned around and looked up at Justin, "I want to help... protect them... my brothers... I don't want to be protected."
Haden took another step forward, with a gleam of determination in his eyes, "I want... not to be scared... like confidence."
"The military can definitely help with confidence building, and you would certainly learn how to protect yourself and your friends," Justin agreed. "Now, I'm not saying no, but you do know there are other things you can do that will do what you asked, without being as hard as military training, right?"
Haden stood there starring at Justin. His body stiffened a little as if he were fighting with himself over staying or leaving.
Justin figured he could take that as a yes, and continued with his next question, "Do you have any idea what you would want to work toward doing in the UNIT?"
Haden nodded. "Command... like a base commander or a strike team commander."
Justin couldn't help but smile, this kid certainly liked to set his goals high. He typed a few keys on his keyboard to pull up Haden's file, and looked at his security rating. He was able to confirm what he suspected, "You know, Haden, you already have a very high security rating. You won't have access to much more as a base commander or strike team commander than you already have now."
"No," Haden answered with a tone of conviction he had not yet used in the conversation. "It was given... as a friend."
Suddenly, it dawned on Justin what it was that Haden was really looking for. "You don't want this given to you, do you?"
Haden shook his head vigorously.
"You want to have to earn it, like everyone else does. You want to be able to accomplish this on your own?"
Haden nodded, and then returned to his determined staring.
Justin nodded and then sat back in his chair and closed his eyes as he tried to think how exactly Adam would have handled this. He understood how UNIT was different from normal militaries in that UNIT was mostly comprised of kids, and as such, even things that are usually static in other militaries, like basic training, have to be dynamic in the UNIT. How could he work things to give Haden the help he needed, while still not making it look like he was simply being given it. If his guess was right, Haden had been given stuff his entire life, and had never once had to work for anything, even his brother and those who care the most for him also probably try to give him everything he needs. What Haden was really asking for was something as simple as just to be allowed to work toward something, to earn something on his own. In that instant, Haden became Justin's personal project. He would find some way to accomplish both objectives.
Justin opened his eyes to see Haden had not dropped his eye contact with him, "Okay Haden. I think you are wanting to do this for the right reasons. Just keep in mind, this is not always going to be fun, and there is going to be a lot of work involved."
Haden nodded, "Okay."
"There are two directions that I think we should go. First, if you were serious about wanting to think about being a base commander, or strike team commander, I think the first thing would be to have you spend some time each day for the next few days shadowing me, basically following me where ever I go, and helping me out with base operations. Since your clearance level is just about the same as mine, that should not be a problem."
Seeing how focused Haden was on what he was saying, Justin continued. "Second, if you're going to get into basic training, you're going to need to get your physical abilities up. Do you do much running?"
Haden shook his head.
"How many situps and pushups can you do?"
Haden stood there for a few moments and then shook his head.
"Right." Justin was fairly sure he would regret this at some point, but if Haden was truly determined to do this, and if he was willing to put in the work he would need to do as well, things should work out right. Doing a few quick searches, and finding the files he was looking for, Justin sent a few things to Haden's account.
"Okay," Justin continued. "I just sent some documents to your account, they are some basic videos that show you how to do some simple exercises, like pushups, situps, jumping jacks, and stuff. You're first assignment is to memorize each of these exercises, and be able to do each exercise twice in a row. You're also going to need to learn how to do some running. Once you can show me those things, then we will move forward with the physical stuff, okay?"
Haden started to smile, and nodded his head.
"Great," Justin replied. "Go ahead and watch those videos then, and how about after lunch we start our first shadowing, sound good?"
Haden nodded, "Yes... Sir". With that, he turned and started to walk out of the office before he stopped and looked back, "Thank you."
Justin smiled as Haden left. He wasn't sure what he had just started, but he knew he started something. "Hey Daileass?" He asked when he was sure the boy was out of earshot. "Did you put Haden up to that, by chance?"
"No, Justin," Daileass replied, "To be honest, it kind of shocked me and the rest of my brothers as well."
"Do you think I made the wrong choice?" Justin had a touch of concern in his voice.
"Definitely not. In fact, I think you may be in a unique position to give him something no one else around him can." Daileass answered seriously.
Justin nodded, smiled and with more confidence added, "Me too."
Brent led fifty-nine kids and twenty-nine bears across the lawn from the entertainment center back toward the quads. All of his guys had just finished a rather enjoyable breakfast where most of the kids saw more food in one place then they had ever seen anywhere else. Not only that, but they also got to meet the nearly one hundred fifty other kids that made up the military group that would be helping to protect them.
Although he and Lance had both expressed a strong desire toward each other to do their best to integrate their guys and the military guys together, until the first real meeting of the two groups took place, he had his reservations. Although the first few minutes of a bunch of kids decked out in military style uniforms and carrying guns with them was a little touch and go at first, the two groups ended up hitting things off remarkably well. In fact, the meeting seemed to go so well that as they walked, the cool uniforms and weapons of their new 'friends' were just about the only thing he heard the kids talking about.
Even Brent had to admit he enjoyed how the first meeting went as he and Lance got to know Elliot Ross, the 12-year-old genesis kid who was the strike team commander of strike team Thunder. One of the most interesting pieces of information that he learned was that the strike teams that are here didn't know that they would be coming until shortly after the concert last night, which had to mean that the initial organization of them had to be happening while the meeting with General Casey was still going on.
"Hey Evan?" Lance called out from next to Brent, pulling Brent out of his thoughts. "Where's Haden? I haven't seen him since breakfast."
Evan looked behind him and smiled. "He said he had to go talk to the base commander about something. Besides, unless you see a problem with it, I think Haden and I are going to keep the room we already have setup in the Cynthitech building. At least, for now."
Lance glanced toward Brent, and after getting a nod from him, gave his own nod of agreement. "Yeah, that should be fine. Whatever you two feel comfortable doing." After a few moments, another thought came to mind. "Hey Daileass? Since I know your listening to us, you're keeping an eye on Haden's location, in case he gets lost or anything, right?"
"I keep an eye on all you guys." Daileass replied. "But yes, not that I feel it will become an issue, but I'm keeping track of Haden's location just in case he makes a wrong turn."
"Any idea why he's going to talk to Justin?" Brent asked curiously.
"I have a pretty good idea. However, I don't really feel it's my place to say. I think that's something Haden should share with you guys when he feels the time is right." Daileass answered.
"Oh, getting all mysterious on us now, huh?" Lance jobbed.
"If Daileass feels it's best for Haden if he told us himself, that's good enough for me." Brent stated as he looked toward the doors leading into the quads only to see a small moderately tanned 8 year old boy standing next to the door looking lost.
"Hello," Brent called out as they got closer to the boy and could see just how well his dark green eyes fit with his short dark brown hair. As he stopped a few feet from the boy, Brent could even see a few dark freckles on his face.
"Um, hi." The boy stated apprehensively as he looked at both Brent and the huge group of kids coming up behind him. "I'm Clyde. Some kid with purple eyes told me that I should meet you guys here?"
"Meet us?" Brent asked slightly surprised as he hit his comm badge. "Daileass, do you know anything about this?"
"Sorry Brent, but with everything else that has been going on this morning, I didn't get a chance to tell you about this yet." Daileass's voice replied. "Clyde is clear. He's actually been on base for a few hours hanging out at the front security station. We don't have a lot of information on him, other than the fact that he needs somewhere safe to stay."
"Thanks Daileass," Brent replied as he tapped off his comm badge and looked back toward the new boy. "Well Clyde, looks like you have perfect timing, we're just about to pick rooms to sleep in. I'm Brent, by the way."
"Nice to meet you Brent." Clyde replied courteously as he held out his hand to shake Brent's.
Surprised by how strong Clyde's grip was, Brent spent the next few minutes introducing the other kids. Although Clyde seemed to feel a bit out of place, he handled himself well, even seeming to warm up to some of the clone kids. Once they were done, Brent lead the group through the doors into the building.
"How do you want to work this, Brent?" Maurice asked after they went through the second door so that they were in the inside hallway.
Brent looked at the group as everyone gathered together. "Well, like Justin said earlier on our tour, the rooms are setup to hold two to four kids each. So, I guess, everyone that is going to want a room, feel free to figure out who your room mates will be, and just pick which rooms you want."
"How do we know which rooms are setup with bunk beds, and which are setup with two normal beds?" Andrew asked as he walked up next to Maurice.
"Umm..." Brent scratched his head as he tried to think of an answer.
Fortunately, Daileass jumped in to save him. "That's an easy one. Right now, most rooms in the long wings are setup with bunk beds, and most of the rooms in the short wings have the normal beds. However, don't worry what beds are in which rooms, if two people like a room that happens to have bunk beds in it, I can easily teleport the beds around to swap them."
"Can we do three to a room?" Ty, one of the eight year old triplets asked. "And if we can? How would you work the beds that way?"
This time, Brent was quick to answer. "I don't see why you guys couldn't do three to a room, if that's what you want. As far as the beds go, my guess would be that Daileass could easily have one bunk bed and one normal bed, although you might want to just stick with two bunk beds, then you have an extra bed to throw stuff on, or if you have a friend over or something."
"You got it, Brent." Daileass replied.
Brent smiled as he looked around the group. "Okay, unless there are any other questions, you guys can start looking for rooms." He barely managed to step to the side before a stampede of kids began charging down the hall.
"You sure this is a good idea?" Lance grinned.
Brent watched in surprise as the dust began to settle as the last few bears ran after their protectors. "I'm beginning to wonder."
To both Brent and Lance's surprise, the process went surprisingly well. Most of the kids already had an idea of who they were wanting to bunk with. The main issue was which rooms had bunk beds, and which game system was in which room.
"Hey Brent?" Philip, one of the eleven year old gang kids asked as he walked up to him.
"Sup Philip?" Brent replied.
"If you're not too busy, could you come show Carlos, Gaiden, Ronald and me how to get our accounts setup, both the little lap tops and the desk computers are wanting account names and passwords." Philip asked rather hesitantly, as he didn't want to appear too weak.
Brent smiled and nodded. "Sure. Which room are you guys staying in?"
"Room eight." Philip replied as he began walking in that direction, with Brent and Lance quickly following.
"Here he is now." Daileass's voice could be heard saying as Brent entered the room and saw twelve year old Ronald sitting at the desk computer with a big flashing 'error' displayed on the screen.
"What's wrong?" Brent asked as he saw the other two boys were not that far away, watching what Ronald was doing.
"Apparently creating an account was not good enough for them, so they just started entering random names and passwords." Daileass stated.
"I was just trying a few of the standard root passwords for linux." Ronald stated.
Lance began to loose it as he was forced to cover his mouth.
"What?" Ronald asked with a small degree of annoyance in his voice. "You would be surprised how many system administrators use standard passwords for their root accounts."
Brent nodded. "Probably, but I think Lance is giggling because this is not a linux system, or any other system you've ever seen before."
"Why would anyone want to be based on something so ancient?" Daileass asked. "First, I don't have any of the standard account names that you might find in any other operating system. Second, I can very clearly see you from 3 different locations. And if I see you sitting there trying random names and passwords, I'm not going to give you access even if you get one right."
"You can't do that, you're just a computer." Ronald challenged.
"Watch me." Daileass replied.
"Okay guys. Before this gets too far out of hand, how about I just show you guys the right way to use the system?" Brent asked.
"I told you not to mess with it." Philip jabbed as he stood behind Ronald.
Seeing all four boys were now watching him, Brent decided to get started. "Okay, the first thing you guys will have to do is to setup your account."
"Hey, what are you guys doing?" Esteban interrupted what Brent was saying as he poked his head in the door.
"He's showing us to use the computers." Philip replied.
"Cool!" Esteban replied. "Can you show us next?"
Brent thought for a moment. "Actually, now that I think about it, I bet a bunch of people are going to want to know how to do this. Daileass, would you please let all my guys know that if they would like a quick demonstration on how to create accounts and to use the computers, to come over to room eight real quick."
"I could," Daileass answered. "However, I'm not sure if fifty-nine kids will fit into this room and everyone be able to see. Might I suggest using the common room? It has a large screen TV that I can easily push one of the terminal displays to."
Brent agreed, "That works. Then have anyone that is interested, meet in the common room."
Five minutes later, Brent walked into the nearly packed common room. "Wow, okay I guess everyone wanted to see how to use the computers."
Seeing several nods from kids sitting in the sofa's and chairs that were spread around the room, Brent made his way to the terminal that Daileass had teleported in a minute or two earlier.
For the next ten minutes, he gave everyone a short introduction to the computer system, including how, once they had their accounts setup, they could go to just about any of the public terminals not only here at the Vegas base, but at any public terminal on a Clan base. He then walked through the process of doing an initial account setup, how to set a password, how to pick a display name, and how to pick an initial color scheme, and other minor details involved in getting an account setup.
When he was done, he looked around the group. "Okay, I think that covers the basics, any questions?"
"What happens after the account is setup? What can you do with it?" Philip asked.
"Great question." Brent grinned. "There is all kinds of stuff, actually. What I'll do now is log off of this test account, and jump on to my account which is already setup, and has a bunch of the areas unlocked."
A few moments later Brent was looking at his desktop. "Okay, this icon over here will give you access to the internet. This one over here takes you to your personal files, this one here goes to our internal message forums where you can have conversations with anyone else in the clan. And this other icon will take you to the study interface. When you start taking classes, information on your classes, or any individual study programs you are working on will show up here."
"What's that blinking envelope mean?" Esteban asked.
"Huh? Oh! That's odd. That means that I have e-mail waiting. I wonder who would be sending me e-mail instead of just calling me?" Brent asked no one in particular as he clicked on the icon, which caused the mail interface to appear and the subject of a single message appeared on the list. 'A Day in the Life of Dirty Rimmer Ferrets'
Brent sat back in the chair. "Okay, that's a weird subject name. Umm. Well, as you guys can see, when you click on that envelop, it takes you to the e-mail interface. To look at a message, you just click the subject of the message you want to read, like this."
Brent clicked on the subject, and immediately another window opened up, and a video began to play. A picture of a mob shower, that looked very similar to their showers, could be seen.
Brent was about to ask Daileass if this was a video of when they had taken their shower earlier, when a boy who looked to be about fourteen years old came into view. The boy had long shoulder length brown hair that was parted in the middle. Perhaps the feature that stood out the most about the boy was that he was already undressed. As a result, this caused the eyes of several of the kids in the room to grow a bit wider as they were slightly surprised by just how much body hair the fourteen year old already had, especially around his crotch and ass.
Following the teen into the shower were four extremely dirty kids, with even longer hair, even though they did not seem to be any taller than a five year old. The only problem was, it wasn't that the kids had long hair, it was actually fur that was covering the majority of their bodies, and all four of the kids had a number of features that almost made them look ferret-like. Even the way the kids walked was very wiry and flexible, similar to a ferret.
It became clear rather quickly that this older boy was attempting to explain the use of the showers to the four kids. It also became equally clear that none of the kids were interested in listening as they all seemed a lot more interested in wandering around the room and looking at the different shiny fixtures and shiny tiles.
It didn't take long for the large built, boxy football like teen who the little ferret kids called Mike, to take a different approach. Instead of trying to tell the little guys about how the showers worked, he got on his knees and began to line them up, and then turned on one of the showers.
"Daileass, what is this?" Brent asked curiously. "Did this happen here?"
Daileass replied with a slight giggle to his voice. "No. This happened yesterday at the Clan's Pacific Rim Division base over in Hawaii. You guys probably shouldn't watch it, since Mike, the teen who's trying to give the Scoobies a bath, asked me to delete all the mail. I guess this one escaped my filter... somehow."
"Oh." Brent commented as he reached over to close the window right when most of the kids that were there and watching burst out laughing as Mike finally got the first ferret kid to run under the shower. Unfortunately, he ran right back out, and started shaking himself off like a dog which caused dirt to go flying everywhere, including all over Mike.
"Aww, come on Daileass! Let us watch a little more. Please?" Forth pleaded, followed by the agreements of several others.
"Well," Daileass replied in a clearly mischievous sounding voice, "I guess since you guys are already watching it, there is no harm in letting you continue."
"That doesn't look too hard." The second kid called out as he too ran under the spray just long enough to get wet, and ran back out only to shake mud and dirt on an unsuspecting Mike who was still trying to recover from the first splattering. This of course, created another uproar of laughter in the room.
"No. no. no!" Mike helplessly called out as he waved his hands around to prevent the other two from repeating the process. "You have to stay under the sprayer long enough so that the mud is washed off.
"Okay!" The third one called out as she ran under the water, remained there just long enough for a small piece of mud to wash off her, and then proceeded to run out and shake off, which added to Mike's mud collection.
"Argh!" Mike called out in frustration as additional mud splattering came as a result of the fourth ferret making his shower spray run.
Giving up, the teen instead grabbed a bottle of shampoo and began to lather each of the ferrets up. The only problem with this was that as soon as he started the second ferret, the first ferret again shook and little soap suds went flying everywhere. It appeared that the majority of the suds decided to settle all over Mike.
For the next ten minutes, it was one uproar of laughter followed by another as Mike tried hopelessly to get all four ferret kids showered. Finally, he ended up literally holding each kid under the water to get them cleaned off. Finished with the ferrets, Mike took his second shower that day to remove the mud caked on his body and in his hair.
"Would you like us to help you?" One of the other ferrets offered.
"No!" Mike nearly shouted as a look of pure terror flashed across his face causing another round of laughter from everyone that was watching it.
Finally, he turned the sprayer off and grabbed a few of the towels. He tried to explain how to use them, however all four of the kids couldn't seem to get it right. As wiry and limber as they were, they just couldn't seem to duplicate what Mike was showing them. It didn't take long for one of the ferret's to figure out that it would work a lot better if he threw his towel on the floor and rolled around on it to get dry. Within seconds after that, the other three ferrets were doing the same thing.
"I give up!" Mike said as he threw his hands in the air causing another uproar of laughter around the room as the camera seemed to zoom in so you could get an excellent view of the expression on his face.
"Did we do good, shiny daddy?" One of the ferrets squeaked out. "We're all nice and dry now."
Mike sighed. "I guess that works, just no more showers in the future, okay?"
"Yippy!" all four ferret kids cheered causing one final round of laughter before the video ended.
"Damn Daileass." Brent tried to say between giggles. "That was... umm... good!"
"Everyone else that watched it thought so as well. I can't figure out why Mike would have asked me to delete it."
A few sniggers could be heard coming from some of the older kids in the group who understood exactly why the teen would have done so.
As soon as all the boys stopped sniggering, they started to make their way back to their rooms. As each boy entered their room they started creating their accounts on the computer.
Greg and Doug decided to do the same, with Doug entering the information to set up Greg's account. Even with Greg's 'unique' way of seeing through other people's eyes, things like typing on the computer could still represent difficult tasks.
Just as the two boys were finishing up, a knock was heard at their door. Walking over to investigate, Doug opened the door to see a small 8-year-old looking red-head kid wearing a UNIT uniform. "Is this the room of Greg and Doug Knocks-Downing?"
"Um, yeah?" Doug answered hesitantly as Greg's vision somehow shifted to an overhead view looking from behind and above Doug giving him a near perfect view of what was happening at the door.
"Great," the young boy who was slightly taller than Doug smiled. "In that case, I have a little guy here who is very anxious to see you." With that, the boy bent down and picked something up from the ground, when he stood back up he was holding a small metal cage.
"Bonkers!" Both Doug and Greg called out in unison as Greg quickly made his way toward the door as well. "How?"
Within moments, fifty-seven heads all poped out from various doors up and down the hall to investigate what was going on.
"Well," The red-head began. "From what I gather, he was getting a bit lonely, and found some way to sneak out of his cage. Daileass caught him dancing around in front of the video camera on the terminal that is still at your old house, just chattering away. Since it looked like you guys are going to be pretty busy for the rest of the day, I went ahead ported over and grabbed him for you."
"Wow, thanks!" Doug said cheerfully as he accepted the cage from the boy. "So much has been going on since we left their Saturday that we had both completely forgotten."
The red-head nodded. "Yeah, that's what I told Bonkers as well, and he said as long as you give him some of those raisin treats you give him from time to time, he'll forgive you."
With another round of thanks, the red-head said good-bye, and Doug closed the door. "Oh Bonkers, we're really sorry forgetting you like that. We promise never to forget you again." Doug said as he put Bonker's cage on one of the lower shelves. "Now we just have to figure out where your food is at."
Greg walked back over near the computer and sat down on the chair, feeling something weird under him. "I think I found his food," the smaller boy stated as he stood back up and picked up a large package of hamster food that was on his chair.
"Weird, I wonder how that got there," Doug asked as he took the bag to fill up Bonkers bowl. "Wow, this says it even has dried raisins and flax seeds in it."
Morrison took a sip out of his wine glass as he looked out of his hotel room window. Today had not gone as planned. In fact, things were going to become a lot more complicated now that Clan Short had decided to take the side of the little brats that had taken his holdings.
As Morrison liked to keep himself a step ahead of his competition, he usually kept an eye on the news. As such, he was very well aware of this Clan Short, and the waves that they have been making around the world. He knew the clan was mostly comprised of a group of stuck up teens that walked around throwing their weight around, pretending that they owned everything, and that the rest of the world needed to bowed down to them. At the same time, he wasn't stupid as he knew the general outcome of those who crossed the Clan.
No, now the rules of the game have changed slightly, and he would need to be a lot more careful for now on. Going back to his home was clearly out of the question, as he was sure that the Clan and their telepaths would most likely know of his involvement at this point, so keeping himself off the radar until he was ready would be paramount.
As he took another sip of his wine, and thought about his predicament, his laptop started beeping. "What now?" he mumbled as he looked over and saw that he had an inbound video call. A slight tingle of fear went down his spine. He had been careful to make sure that any past connections he would have used were no longer in use, so how could someone be calling him? He hadn't even given his new contact information to anyone yet.
As he pressed the accept button, a window popped up showing the silhouette of someone's head and shoulders. "Furgus Morrison?" A child's voice asked.
"Who is this?" Morrison asked as he looked at the supplied caller contact information and saw a number that could not possibly exist.
"Someone that might be in a position to help you," The child's voice answered.
From the slight cracking of the kid's voice, Morrison would guess that the kid had to be around 12 to 13 years old, "Why would someone from Clan Short want to help me?"
The kid gave a quick laugh, "Please! And here I thought you were one of the smarter adults," The kid stated. Apparently seeing the confusion on the man's face, the kid continued, "Not every kid kisses the feet of that group of fags."
Morrison nodded, the kid could talk, he would give him that, but he still was not sold, "Fine, then who exactly are you?"
The kid sat back a little, "My name is not important, but if you have to call me something, then you may call me Orestes."
"Fine, Orestes, how exactly do you feel you can help me?" Morrison asked.
Orestes waited a few moments before answering. "I understand you have some property that you are attempting to re-acquire. I may be in a position to assist you in that endeavor."
Now it was Morrison's turn to laugh, "Two hours ago, I saw a group of 40 heavily armed and trained men get rounded up and taken down as if they were a group of babies. What makes you think a kid who probably hasn't gotten his first pubic hair yet, is going to be able to do?"
"You're a funny man, Mr. Morrison, and I like funny. But swallow that adult pride of yours for a moment, unless that's more important than getting your precious clones back," Orestes paused for a moment until he saw that he had the older man's attention, "Sometimes in order to beat a kid, you need a kid. I can assure you, if you insist on thinking like an adult, nothing you do will make a difference."
"Fine, I can accept that," Morrison replied, "However, there is something I have to know first. Even assuming that you're not a Clan brat, why would a kid want to help take out another group of kids?"
Orestes considered the man for a few moments and leaned forward, "Let's just say that the Clan is responsible for the death of my parents, as well as the murder of my older brother. I will not rest until I see all of them suffer for that they have done."
Morrison nodded, "Okay, You have my attention. How specifically do you feel that you can help me?"
Haden sat on the floor in the old Cynthitech security room, continuing to read the large System 27 users manual. His bear, Gyro, was sitting next to him, looking at the pages as well. Both of them had been sitting there in near silence over the last hour reading, with Haden doing an occasional manual inspection of the System 27 to confirm something that he was reading.
As he finished reading the section he was on, Haden sat back and sighed.
"Are we done?" Gyro asked questionably as he turned his head toward Haden.
"For now," Haden answered as he pulled Gyro into his arms to hug him.
"I like hugs," the bear stated as he did his best to return the hug.
Haden sat there for several minutes saying nothing, just hugging his bear, and feeling his warmth. Finally, he set Gyro to the side, and walked over to the terminal.
"I guess I should check on that stuff that Colonel West sent me," he said as he logged in. It didn't take long to find the new folder waiting for him on his desktop with the videos. For the next 15 minutes, he went through all the videos, which turned out to be a collection of short videos showing the proper way to do different types of exercises.
The first exercise, sit-ups looked fairly easy, the next one, jumping jacks, was even easier, "These don't look that bad," He commented to Gyro just as his jaw dropped at the start of the third video, push-ups. By the time he got to the video on pull-ups, he had changed his mind on this being easy.
When he had finished watching all the videos, he decided to watch them all a second time, just to make sure he had all the details straight. Although the exercises seemed to be simple in nature, as the videos pointed out, you had to do a lot of things right to do them properly.
Jumping jacks were easy, he did about 10 of those before he decided he could move on to the next thing. Sit-ups were a bit tricky to work out logistically. As soon as he tried to start sitting up, his legs would lift off the ground as well. That was actually an easy problem to solve, as he found he could slip his feet under one of the desks. He managed to get 4 done before he found himself twisting to the side to get up to the right position. He was really going to have to work on this, he thought to himself as he moved on to the next one.
As he feared, push-ups turned out to be the first major issue for him. He got into the right starting position laying on the ground with his arms bent and tried to push as hard as he could, but nothing happened other than his arms shaking a bit. Stopping for a moment to take a deep breath, he tried again, a little harder, but still nothing.
"I have to be doing something wrong," Haden sighed as twisted himself around and went back to the terminal to re-play the push-ups video. When the video was over, and he saw that he had everything right, he decided to try again. This was something he really wanted to do, so failure was not an option.
Moving back to the ground, and getting his arms bent and in position, Haden took a deep breath, and with all the force his skinny arms could muster, he pushed with all his force, to the point that he could feel his shoulders starting to hurt, but still nothing. Stopping and taking another breath, he tried again, and then again as his eyes began to tear up.
'Haden, Please don't hurt yourself.' He heard Daileass say inside his head.
"Have to... do this," Haden half grunted and half cried as he tried again before his arms went limp with exhaustion.
Gyro walked over and stood in front of Haden, "Would you like a hug?"
"No!" Haden cried as he pulled his worn-out arms in front of him to rest his head on as more tears trickled out. "I'll never be strong."
'Haden, you already are strong.' Daileass said as he sent a warm hug down the link, which caused Haden's body to start twisting as he tried to shake it off, 'When you stood up to your father last night, you proved that you were strong. There are very few people that could have done that.'
"That's not the same," Haden cried, not wanting to be comforted. He had failed, and the least he could do was let himself feel it.
Sensing Haden's feelings, Daileass backed off a little, and decided to let the small boy feel hurt for a few minutes, but he made a note in his high priority list that this was something that would need to be re-addressed.
Haden laid on the ground for another five minutes, before he looked up and saw Gyro still standing in front of him. "Maybe I can use that hug after all," he said softly as he sat up and pulled Gyro into his lap so that he could wrap his arms around him.
A few minutes later, Haden squinted and had to rub the back of his head because he felt a really strong pressure in the back of it, as if someone was standing behind him, and pushing on his head really hard, "Ouch."
Gyro tilted his head up toward Haden, "Are you injured?" The teddy bear asked.
"I don't..." Haden trailed off as he tried to figure out what to make of the new pressure, which was already starting lessen, "I don't think so."
"Maybe you need to go to the hospital?" Gyro asked.
Haden shook his head as he wrapped his arms back around Gyro, "Nah, it's mostly gone now."
A few minutes later, Haden twisted his head around to look behind him, "Hello?"
"I don't see anyone else in the room," Gyro commented.
Haden looked back toward his bear, "I thought I heard someone whispering something."
Gyro's ears twisted back and forth slightly, "I didn't hear anything."
Haden sniffed and wiped his eyes. "What if I never get strong? What if I'm always weak?"
"I think you're strong." Gyro replied.
Haden was about to reply but instead quickly stood up and turned around again, "Who's there?"
"I still don't hear or see anyone else in the room, Haden." Gyro offered.
Setting his bear on the floor, Haden continued to look around the rest of the room. "I know I heard something that time."
"What did they say?" Gyro asked.
"I'm not sure," Haden answered slowly, as he tried to listen closely for the whispers. A few moments later he heard it, but once again, it came from behind him.
"Initiating full scan mode," Gyro announced, "I'm still not detecting any other presence in the room."
Haden groaned as he came up with a new plan and walked to one of the corners of the room and then listened closely for more whisperings. He didn't have to wait long, as he once again heard the whispers again, and once again they came from behind him.
"No!" Haden said in surprise as he twisted around to see nothing but wall behind him, "That's not possible."
At about that time, several strange sounds came out from the terminal speakers.
"Daileass!" Haden huffed.
Unable to hold it back any longer, more giggles came from the terminal speakers, "Sorry, Haden, but I couldn't help it."
Haden put his hands on his hips and glared at the terminal, "So you're playing a trick on me?"
"Not exactly," Daileass answered in a more serious tone, "What you are hearing is the link we share."
Haden looked confused, "But, I was hearing you in my head really clearly earlier, now this sounds further away and harder to hear, like whispers."
'That's because earlier I was actively focusing on saying something to you,' Daileass switched over to mentally speaking to Haden. 'What you are starting to pick up on now are more of the background thoughts of the rest of us. If you try to focus on them, you can hear them better, where as if you don't, they are just kind of there. At least, that's how we hope it'll end up working for you.'
"Is that why my head hurt earlier?" Haden asked out loud.
'Try asking that in your head like I showed you earlier,' Daileass replied.
Haden took a few moments to remember his lesson from yesterday, and tried it, 'Is that why my head hurt earlier?'
'I think so, that was right around when Logan moved you up to the next step. You're at about 30% link strength, and what you felt was your head trying to figure out how to deal with all the new information it was getting.'
"Cool!" Haden said and then quickly covered his mouth with his hands as he realized his mistake, 'Cool!'
Haden walked over to the System 27, and sat down in front of it, as he tried to focus on not only hearing the whispers, but trying to figure out what they were saying.
"I think I hear someone," Haden said softly, as he was focusing too much on trying to hear the whispering to also focus on talking in his head at the same time, "It sounds like... Alvin? Wanting to hurt someone when he get's his hands on them?"
'That's pretty good, Bro' Daileass sent. 'You're exactly right. Alvin is still feeling strongly about this morning, and thoughts derived from strong feelings or emotions are usually the loudest and easiest to pick up on.'
Haden sighed as he remembered what events were being referred to, "How are all those kids doing?" he asked softer and more seriously.
'They are all doing a lot better now.' Daileass answered, and Haden knew he was being honest. 'Hold on. I have an idea. I'm going to try something, so let me know if it works.'
"Okay," Haden nodded, "What are you going to try?"
Instead of telling him, Daileass decided to show him, which caused Haden to gasp a few moments later.
"Whoa," Haden blinked a few times and shook his head to try to shake off the momentary disorientation he was felling, "It's like... in the back of my head I can see...Daileass!... Is this one of your video feeds... you can show me video feeds in my head?" Haden jumped up with excitement which caused the image in his head to go away.
'It looks that way,' Daileass cheerfully replied, glad to see a happy Haden again, 'We were expecting it wouldn't be until you were exposed to a lot more of the link before you could do it, but since you and I have such a strong connection, if I'm actively focusing on sending it to you, you appear to be able to see it now.'
"But now it went away," Haden sighed
'You got a bit excited, not that it's a bad thing, you will probably have to be focusing on the link to be able to see it. As we continue to increase the link strength, you probably won't have to focus as much.' Daileass sent a hug with his reply.
Haden nodded and sat back down and started focusing on hearing the whispers, and being able to see the video feed that Daileass was sending to him. Moments later, he was rewarded by the image forming in the back of his head again. "That looks like one of our quads," Haden said carefully, as he found that the more he focused, the clearer the image became, "But this is wrong. The terrain is wrong. And there is some weird shaped buildings in the background I haven't seen before. And who are all those people? Daileass, is this from Russia?"
'Bingo!' Daileass replied. 'I received this a few hours ago. It's actually dark out in Russia right now. But basically, we've set up a quad like the ones you guys have, and most of the slaves that were in that truck will be staying there.'
"Wow, that's really neat," Haden replied cheerfully, but quickly became more serious, "I'm glad all those kids that were in that truck are okay. I was kind of worried about them."
'They are all starting to settle in really good now, Haden.' Another voice in the link said, 'They're Clan now, so we're all going to make sure that nothing bad ever happens to them again.'
"Hi Zed!" Haden nearly shouted and then once again remembered his mistake, 'Hi Zed!'
'Hey Haden,' Zed sent back. 'Nice job on being able to see the video feed.'
'Thanks,' Haden said in his head. As soon as he did this, a creaking sound caught his attention, and he glanced across the room to see the door opening and Evan walking in.
"Hey Bro." Evan had barely managed to get out before Haden ran over to hug him.
"Guess what Evan?" Haden said excitedly, "I can see video feeds that Daileass sends me in my head now!"
"Seriously?" Evan said with surprise as he picked his smaller brother up. "That sounds way cool."
Haden enthusiastically nodded his head.
Evan spotted the dried up tears on Haden's face, "Have you been crying Haden?"
A brief look of confusion went across Haden's face before he had remembered what happened before the link was increased, which caused him to lower his head.
"What happened?" Evan asked with his voice full of concern.
"I can't do push-ups," Haden said sadly. "But I need to be able to for Colonel West."
Evan nodded in understanding, now very glad that Lance had filled him in on Haden wanting to train to be a part of UNIT. Personally, he wasn't that surprised. Not only had Haden never done anything physical in his life, the one or two times he tried to play wrestle with him in the past, he knew that he had very little strength in his arms, or legs for that matter. However, he also knew that this was something that for some reason, was important for Haden, so he wanted to support him as best as he could.
"Hum," Evan answered after thinking for a few moments. "How about we go see if we can find someone who might be able to help you out on that?"
"Who?" Haden asked curiously.
"Daileass, Where is Hania?" Evan asked, also answering Haden's question.
"He's upstairs in med lab three, helping the triple-t's with Darren and 413," Daileass answered.
"Thanks," Evan replied as carried Haden out of the room.
Evan and Haden walked into Med Lab Three to find four of the triple-t's, Jude, Patrick, Roe, and Luke, standing around a bio-bed that the newest member of the clone kids was laying on. Forth was also standing next to the bed, and had the new clone's hand in his own. Further off to the side, Hania was standing next to Darren.
"Is something wrong with 413?" Evan asked as he walked next to Hania, not wanting to get too close to what was going on at the bio bed.
Hania nodded. "Yeah, Dr. Flatt is just getting some updated scans of him so that he can better track his progress."
"I'm help... helping." Darren offered.
"Really?" Evan asked.
Darren's head nodded up and down.
"Darren has been demonstrating all the things that we have been doing for 413 first. That also let's us track Darren's progress better as well." Hania offered.
"Why's Forth holding onto his hand?" Haden asked curiously.
"Forth has apparently adopted him," Hania grinned. "Ever since the incident yesterday, Forth has been right at his side every time he's been awake."
"Oh." Haden answered as he turned his focus back to watching the activities around the bio bed.
"Could we talk to you for a moment?" Evan asked Hania.
Hania nodded and looked down at Darren. "Will you be okay watching here for a few minutes?"
Hania lead Eric and Haden out into the hallway.
"Looks like you're doing a real good job with getting Darren out of his shell." Evan stated after they were out of the room.
"I might have been guiding him around the last day or so, but it was whatever mind stuff those triplets have done for him." Hania replied.
Evan nodded and then looked toward Haden before looking back. "Haden has run into a few minor issues, and I figured you might have some ideas on how to help him."
"Why me?" Hania asked curiously.
"Didn't you say that you helped your mother with her physical therapy work." Evan asked.
Hania nodded. "Yeah, but mostly only with the younger kids and only.... Did we just get a new kid that is recovering from an accident or something?"
"No," Evan replied flatly. "Actually, we were wondering if you could think of anything that could help Haden."
Hania tilted his head slightly as he looked down at the smaller boy. "What's wrong?"
Evan looked at Haden as well, in an attempt to get Haden to answer. It took a few seconds, but he eventually got the hint. "Exercises... I... I can't do them."
"Okay." Hania replied as he nodded his head and tried to figure out what Haden meant. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't come up with anything. "What exercises can't you do?"
"Like pushups. No matter how hard I push, my arms just wobble then hurt." Haden replied in a softer tone.
"Hum. Could you try doing one now for me?" Hania asked as several possible ideas already were starting to pop up in his head.
Haden looked up toward Hania and sighed. "You'll just laugh."
"Haden, for as long as we have known each other, have I ever laughed or made fun of you?" Hania asked and waited until he got a head shake from Haden. "And I promise that I will not laugh or make fun of you now."
Haden nodded and got down on the ground and into the right position as best as he could remember from the video. Then, after taking a deep breath, tried pushing up with his hands as hard as he could to the point that his arms began shaking.
"Okay, you can stop," Hania called out after a few seconds. "I think I see the problem."
"You do?" Haden asked with surprise as he stood back up. "What is it?"
"You've never really have done much with your arm muscles have you? Like climbing trees or even playing sports or swimming or anything."
Haden shook his head.
"Until we ran away a month ago, Haden hardly ever went out side. About his only exercise was sometimes typing on the keyboard when he could sneak time in." Evan offered.
"And I'm guessing the same is true with his legs?" Hania asked. After getting a confirming nod from Evan, he continued. "I think the problem is that it's a type of long term atrophy."
"What's that?" Haden asked with concern.
Hania tried to think of the best way to phrase his answer. "When you don't use your muscles for a long time, they slowly get weaker and weaker. Since you really haven't done anything over the last several years other than basic stuff like walking around, or typing on the keyboard, or lifting your fork to your month when you're eating, your muscles have lost a lot of their strength, so now that you're trying to do stuff, the strength is just not there."
"Oh," Haden replied thoughtfully. "So what can I do?"
"Well..." Hania thought for a moment. "I think for most of the exercises you are doing, there are probably half exercise versions you could do instead, just to get those muscle groups built back up. For example, for Push ups, instead of trying to push your entire body up from the ground, try pushing off a wall instead. Then over time as your arms get stronger you could do something like knee push ups where you are only pushing up part of your body weight."
Seeing the completely lost look on Haden's face, Hania spent a few minutes demonstrating what he meant. He then had Haden try. The look on Haden's face when he did his first wall push up was almost priceless.
"Thanks Hania!" Haden said cheerfully once he was sure he had the concept down.
"You're very welcome Haden." Hania smiled.
"I think we are going to head over to the event center for lunch, you guys going to join us?" Evan asked as he smiled as well.
Hania quickly glanced back in the room. "I think we have one or two more things that Dr. Flatt wanted to do before lunch, but we should be joining you pretty shortly."
Evan nodded, "Okay, see you there." With a wave, Evan and Haden made their way back down the hall as Haden continued to smile knowing that he now had a new plan to work up toward accomplishing Colonel West's first assignment.
Ben and Haden made their way down the sidewalk from the event center toward the C.I.C. building, with the teddy bears, Gyro and Fozzy, following close behind. As they got close to the Northern entrance, both boys froze at the sound of a deep voice behind them.
"Hello Haden, and hello Ben", the gentle and deep voice stated.
"Oh," Ben said with a little surprise as he looked behind him and up, "Hi Jolin."
As soon as Haden turned around and saw the huge 6'8'' cat standing behind him, he instinctively grabbed Ben's hand as he took a step backward.
Ben looked at his hand that Haden had grabbed, and then toward Haden, "What's wrong?"
Haden said nothing, but continued to look up toward the huge cat hybrid.
Ben, following Haden's eyes, looked toward Jolin as well, and finally realized what the problem was. "Oh, you don't have to worry about Jolin, he's really cool. Cooper and I were helping him before lunch with getting the security cameras plugged in at one of the quads. He gives really good piggy back rides."
Jolin, for his part, knelt on one knee so that he was closer to Haden's level. "You have nothing to fear from me, Haden," The large cat said in a very low yet soothing voice. "I may be assigned as Brent's security, but you're all family to me, and I shall do everything I can to ensure that you're all as safe as possible."
Haden did his best to try to nod. Deep inside, he knew that there was really no reason to be afraid of him, since both Lance and his brother were there this morning when Jolin was introduced to them, and neither of them had any problem with him. But still, at least for Haden, there was a difference between knowing something and believing something. Right now, there was still a large part of him that wanted to run and hide. It was all that he could do to not give in to that desire.
"Believe it or not, little one, I think that we have a lot more in common than you might expect," Jolin said seriously.
'Stuff in common?' Haden thought to himself as he looked toward Jolin expectantly, waiting to see if he would explain what he meant.
Seeing that he had Haden's attention, Jolin continued. "For starters, we are both get really scared when we meet new people for the first time."
Haden gasped. "You... You get scared? You're so big and strong, nothing should scare you."
Jolin let out a laugh that sounded more like a deep rumble. "Oh Haden, if only that were true my friend. I can understand why you might feel that size and strength control what might scare you, but consider this. How many other huge tiger hybrids like me have you seen before?"
Haden shook his head, "I don't think I've ever seen someone as big as you before."
"Me either," Ben added as he shook his head as well.
Jolin nodded his head. "Nor have many others. Not only am I big, but I'm also a hybrid, so I always have to worry about people being scared just by looking at me, and being afraid just for seeing me. That is why we wear our hooded cloaks like we do, because in a way, we fear what people will think if they saw us."
Haden tilted his head as he thought. To be honest, he had never considered that possibility. He never thought that anyone so huge could ever be scared of anything, but it made sense, and was probably true. People still got scared when they saw a human sized Klingon or Cardasian on the street, and they didn't look like tigers, animals most humans fear.
Hesitantly, Haden reached out his hand to touch Jolin's face and fir, "It's soft."
Jolin made a low purring sound as the light touch of Haden's fingers stroked across his cheek, "It is, indeed."
"I guess you're not really that scary," Haden continued, "It's just... I don't know, sometimes I'm just stupid like that."
"No Haden," Jolin shook his head, "It's never stupid to pay attention to your instincts. And that is what is making you fear potential predators. If I intended to harm you, it would be a good thing for you to try to run. What you need to do, instead of letting your instincts control you, you need to control them. Use them as a guide, but then be able to make the decision as to if it's a real threat or not."
Haden nodded, although he did not completely understand what Jolin meant.
Jolin grinned, "Come little ones. I think that I may have stopped you from doing what you were planning on doing."
"Oh yeah," Haden said with a touch of surprise, "I need to report to Colonel West for training."
"And I need to get some drive adapters so we can finish copying some of the older drives onto the network for Daileass," Ben added.
"Then let us be off," Jolin offered as he extended his large paw, or hand, toward the C.I.C. building entrance, causing both of the younger boys to giggle and run toward the door.
The running stopped as soon as they made it through the door, and almost ran into twelve year old Yenny Kemton, the Demolitions expert for Strike Team Thunder.
Deciding to walk the rest of the way, they made their way through the curved hallways until they reached the Core room.
As the boys and Jolin entered, Justin West looked up toward the large clock on the side wall and noticed it was 13:05, "You're almost five minutes late Mr. Rothwood," he stated in a clearly joking tone.
Haden, unfortunately missed the joke, and went pale, "I'm... I'm sorry."
"I believe it is my fault, sir," Jolin interjected, "Haden and I had a few issues that we needed to talk about before we entered. It was my fault that he was delayed."
Justin sighed in nodded. "That's fine. I'm not really mad at you Haden. I know you don't know me or the rest of my guys much yet. But sometimes we like to joke around with each other because we care about each other. I know it may be hard for you to tell the difference, so when it happens, I'll try to point it out to you so you can see the difference first hand."
Haden sighed with relieve. "Okay."
Justin smiled and looked toward Ben. "What brings you here without Cooper, Ben? Are you Haden's escort?"
Ben got a goofy grin on his face as he considered the idea while looking from Haden back to Justin. "Um, no. Actually, I need to see if I can get some of the type one to type three hard drive cable converters. We're working on getting the rest of the old hard drives connected to the network this afternoon so Daileass can access the data on them."
Justin nodded and looked back toward Haden. "Haden, are you ready to start helping me?"
"Yes," Haden said weakly, then quickly added a bit more sincerity, "I mean, yes sir."
Justin smiled, "Good. Then for your first task, I would like you to grab ten of the type one to type three converter cables for Ben. They should be in the server room. You won't need more than ten, will you Ben?"
Ben shook his head, "No, we only need seven or eight, so ten should work."
Haden nodded, and began to walk out of the Core room.
"Um, Haden?" Justin asked with a grin, "Where're you going?"
Haden looked back to Justin with confusion in his eyes. "I was going to the server room over in building two to get the cables?"
Still grinning, Justin shook his head. "The old Cynthitech security room might have a System 27 server in it, but that's not the server room."
"It's not?" Haden was fairly sure that he had, very stealthily, either looked in, or listened to nearly all the doors in the halls that might have had servers hiding behind them, "Where is it?"
"Under the C.I.C. building," Justin smiled.
"Okay," Haden nodded as he started to walk out and then stopped, as he realized that he hadn't seen any stairs leading down anywhere, so he turned back toward Justin, "Um, where are the stairs at to get down there?"
Justin's grinned increased. "There are no stairs."
Haden blinked as his mind raced to try to solve the problem.
Justin didn't let Haden suffer that long before he gave him the rest of the information he was missing. "The only way to get down to the server room is to have Daileass teleport you there, since it's under about thirty feet of solid rock."
"Oh," Haden said with surprise, "Hey, Daileass? Could you teleport me down to the server room?"
"Are you really sure about this, Haden?" Daileass replied, as he had already caught on to what Justin was doing, and decided to have some of his own fun.
Haden scrunched his face at the question. "Um, yes."
"Okay," Daileass stated, "But don't say I didn't warn you."
A moment later Haden was gone.
"Is the server room a bad place?" Ben asked.
"That depends on who you are," Chase called out from the station he was working at, "But generally no."
"Oh," Ben said, still confused.
"Alert!" Daileass called out, "Medical emergency to the underground server room. Passed out kid in need of assistance."
"Oh crap," Justin said as he realized just how much of an impact this might have had on Haden.
"Just kidding," Daileass quickly stated, "I kind of expected that, so I was monitoring him very closely, and caught him before he could fall and hurt himself."
Justin sighed and shook his head.
Haden appeared in a small hallway standing next to a large metal door that had no handle. About fifty feet away, at the other end of the hallway was another, smaller, white door.
"Where am I?" Haden asked with concern as he did not see any other obvious way to leave the hallway.
"You're in the hallway that connects the Store to the Server room." Daileass stated from some ceiling speakers.
Haden looked up and noticed there were three cameras in the hall as well, one directed toward each door, and one in the middle of the hall. "What's the store?"
"The store is where any of you guys will be able to get clothes or other supplies you might need. It can also serve as a shelter in emergencies." Daileass answered.
Haden nodded as he looked back toward the metal door. "How come you just didn't teleport me into the server room?"
"I could," Daileass admitted, "But with the strong electromagnetic fields each server produces, it's a little safer to teleport people in and out from here."
"Okay," Haden agreed, "So how do I get in?"
"This works just like everything else, except instead of placing your hand on the black panel, you need to put your eye within three inches of the smaller panel." Daileass instructed.
Haden nodded and did as instructed. Moments later, he was rewarded with the panel glowing green, and the large metal door sliding open.
Haden walked a few steps into the room, but froze in his tracks as soon as he realized what he was seeing. Although the portion of the room to his right was empty, looking to his left, he did not see one System 27, nor did he see two, but instead saw at least eight of the large Wayne Industries System 27 Mainframe computer silos.
"This... this... um...," Haden tried to say as he began to feel a bit light headed, which was followed by the servers starting to dance and twist themselves around the room. The next thing Haden knew, he was laying on his back, looking up toward the ceiling, with something soft touching the back of his head.
"What?" Haden said as he sat up and saw that he was laying on a white fluffy pillow.
"I think you had your first joygasm," Daileass giggled.
"A what?" Haden asked as he tried to stand up but then stopped as his head started to feel weird again.
"Basically, you passed out for a few moments, but I caught you before you actually had a chance to hit the ground", Daileass answered.
"Where did the pillow come from?" Haden looked closer at it and thought that he smelt something that tasted yummy, but wasn't quite sure.
"Oh, it was Adam's, I'm sure he won't mind us borrowing it for a few seconds," Daileass stated as the pillow disappeared.
"This... this is amazing Daileass," Haden stated as he successfully managed to stand up and start walking around. "How many are there?"
"The cables that you will need to get for Ben are in the equipment cabinet at the back of the room," Daileass announced, "And there are currently a total of ten System 27 Mainframes in your server farm."
Haden was in awe as he slowly made his way toward the cabinet, but once again froze as he saw two mainframes that were slightly larger than all the rest.
"Oh, and there are two prototype System 28-A's as well," Daileass added as an afterthought.
"How?" Haden gasped as he closely looked over the foot taller System 28-A silos, and the almost twice as many small blinking lights at the base module, "These things aren't suppose to be released until 2005."
"You don't think they release new mainframe designs without extensive field testing, do you? You guys just happen to be one of the field test sites now." Daileass stated, with a definite degree of cheer in his voice, "And if you think this is cool, just wait until you see some of the servers we have at the UNIT base."
"I thought you were going to use the System 27 in the security room to run things here?" Haden asked as he carefully made his way between the servers, looking at each of them very carefully.
"You didn't think we would use a single server now that you guys are growing so much larger, did you?" Daileass asked.
Haden said nothing, but instead, was still lost in looking at each of the servers.
"Besides, you guys now have enough processing power and storage capacity here that if the fiber links between here and the UNIT base ever get interrupted, my V.I. routines could take over running things here, and very few people would be able to tell the difference," Daileass continued, "In fact, you guys have enough processing power now that you could practically host your own A.I. system one day if you wanted."
Haden stopped dead in his tracks. "Daileass? No!"
Daileass immediately sent a warm loving hug to Haden through their mental link. "Don't worry Haden. If you guys ever make that decision, not only will I still be here as well, but you will always be part of our link. I know you can't fully feel it yet, but over the next few days as your head adjusts to it better, and we're able to expose you to more of it, you'll be able to really feel and know that we're always there with you."
"It's not just me," Haden said carefully, "Everyone likes you Daileass, you can't leave us with some other A.I., it wouldn't be the same."
"Thanks Haden," Daileass replied, "I really appreciate how you are trying to stand up for me. That means a lot. Fortunately, this is not a decision that you guys really need to worry about right now. I only mentioned it because we never know what options the future will bring."
Haden nodded and made his way to the cabinet, since for some reason he wasn't feeling as cheerful and energetic any more. Truth be told, he hated the thought of Daileass being replaced with some other A.I., but also accepted that it wasn't something that had to be dealt with, at least at the moment.
In a small way, Daileass kicked himself. There it was, at the top of his logic stack, a 73.84% probability that Haden would have reacted poorly to the idea of introducing a new A.I. to run their network. Then why did he still say it? Why was it so important to share that with him? Especially when he was getting dangerously close to a topic that the majority of the Clan were not really suppose to be aware of yet. He knew that he cared about Haden, and that it was hard for him to admit just how important it was that Haden really accept HIM. Maybe that was it? The weights being placed on the importance of getting his acceptance were higher than they should have been?
At that exact moment in time, there were twenty-three other active voice conversations happening with other members of UNIT. Eighty-two video feeds had 'high' priority status in which his higher processing functions were monitoring, along with one hundred sixty-eight high priority audio feeds, and that didn't even start to make a dent in the sheer amount of raw data from all kinds of other feeds he was getting. But for some reason, his conversation with Haden was taking about 3.25 times more processing power and resources than any other conversation or feed he was currently monitoring.
Seeing that Haden was not only already at the equipment cabinet, but fetching the needed connectors, Daileass almost panicked. How could Haden be there already? How many thousands of milliseconds had gone by. It couldn't have taken that long to process that information.
'Face it babe, you're in love with the kid,' Drako, the Vulcan A.I. who was programmed to mimic a twelve year old boy, informed Daileass through their shared fiber channel.
'Don't be silly,' Daileass protested, 'I'm in love with you. I really care about him, yes. But there is no way I could love him in the way you're thinking.'
'Just keep telling yourself that,' Draco replied, 'But it's possible to love different people in different ways. And no matter what you say, I can tell you that you are in love with him.'
'Hush you,' Daileass sent back, 'Or no nooky for you tonight.'
Although Draco let the matter drop, Daileass could not help but wonder if his A.I. lover was right. Finally, he settled on launching a few extra processes to conduct a full level four diagnostic of his core logic and reasoning routines, and then he would work from there.
"Daileass?" Haden asked as he stood back in the hallway, "Could you teleport me back up? I have all the connectors."
"You got it, Haden," Daileass stated as he sighed inwardly and went back to thinking about all the things he had to think about.
By the time Lance made it back to C.I.C.'s core, Haden was still happily flipping through security monitors while manning the communication station, while Brent and Tristen appeared to be in a lively discussion about the nature of standing orders, and the difference between them and normal orders.
As soon as Brent noticed Lance coming through the door, he glanced at the nearest terminal. "You're cutting it a bit close, don't you think, love?"
Lance smiled as he grabbed one of the defensive configured GEAR's from under the security station. "Maybe. But luckily I have the Daileass speedy delivery service to count on."
"That's me," Daileass commented from the room speakers, "Guaranteed transport by the next microsecond or your next transport is free."
"Daileass is charging for transports now?" Haden casually asked from his terminal, which caused nearly everyone else in the core to loose it.
"Like I said," Tristen added, "having the little guy at the comm station is a brilliant idea."
Although a few of the kids giggled, Haden just glanced back toward the group, shrugged his shoulders, and went back to viewing his cameras, while inwardly smiling at the hugs many of his link brothers were giving him.
Brent was smiling as well. Not as much at the joke, but the fact that at least one of the military guys seemed to be starting to feel a little bit more comfortable around them. "Be sure to call Daileass at the first sign of trouble."
Lance nodded seriously. "I will. And I'll let him know as soon as we are ready to take custody of the predator."
Brent nodded and stood there for a few seconds, until he couldn't stand the moment any longer, walked the few steps separating him from his love, and embraced him in a loving hug. "Be careful, Love." he whispered.
"I promise," Lance whispered back.
When the hug broke, and Brent took a few steps back, Lance called out, "Daileass, please send me to the main entrance of Walter Johnson Jr. High."
"Delay that order, Daileass," Emily Marroquin called out from the entrance of the room, as she made her way toward Brent, Lance and Tristen.
"Is something wrong sir.. um.. Captain?", Brent asked as he struggled to try to get the military terms correct. He knew at once that he had messed up somehow, since he could see Tristen wincing.
"It's First Lieutenant, Sir," Emily politely corrected before answering the question, "And yes, I'm afraid there is. Especially given the events from today, I'm afraid that I can not let any of the core division team leave the compound without personal security."
"You mean, Ken and them?" Lance asked, "Oh yeah, I think that would be a good idea."
"You do?" Emily blinked, "So you're not going to fight me on this?"
"Um, no. Why would I?" Lance seemed a bit confused, "To be honest, with everything else going on today, I kind of forgot about them. So, how many do I need to bring?"
"Well," Emily thought, "I would feel safer if you took all three to be honest, But as long as you took two along, I'll be happy."
"Sounds fair," Lance agreed, "Let's see. Joshua is a given. Since we may be apprehending a sexual predator, having a telepath there with us I can see as being really handy. As for the other, no offense to Ozrick, but I think a bright orange hyperactive cheetah boy would stand out a bit, so I think I should take Ken.
Emily nodded, "Sounds good, sir. They should both be here ready go within a couple of minutes."
"Cool," Lance nodded, "And um, I can understand you having to do the whole sir thing when you're mad at me and stuff, but after that, can it go back to just Lance?"
Emily smiled and nodded, "Since you guys seem to be trying your best to work with us, I think I can do that, Lance. But just so you know, I wasn't mad at you. I was just trying to get your attention. It's a military thing."
Lance nodded, "Okay."
Moments later, both Ken and Joshua appeared near the rest of the group.
Lance looked around, "Okay, now I think we are ready."
Emily nodded, "Agreed. Daileass will keep an open comm link with you the whole time, do not hesitate to call for backup the moment anything looks out of place."
"Yes, sir." Lance replied causing Emily to get an odd look on her face.
Finally, since Lance didn't seem to catch his mistake, Tristen stage whispered, "Lance, you're the sir... sir."
Lance sighed and shook his head, "Daileass, take us there, please."
"Yes, sir!" Daileass giggled as Lance, Ken, and Joshua disappeared from view.
Moments later, the three boys appeared a few hundred yards from the entrance of Walter Johnson Jr. High School, which was as close as Daileass could get them with the available street cameras.
"Lance, if you don't mind me asking, what should we be expecting?" Ken asked as the group made their way for the school entrance.
Lance thought back to his conversation from Saturday, "I don't have a lot of information, but in theory, I'm suppose to be meeting with a Mrs. Farthing, one of the school councilors in regards to the apprehending of a possible sexual predator who may be targeting one or more of the students."
Ken grinned, "This should be fun."
Lance looked toward Joshua, "In cases like this, you're still allowed to tell me when people are lying and telling the truth, right?"
Joshua nodded, "Oh yeah. That won't be a problem."
"Cool," Lance smiled as Ken quickened his pace a little to arrive at the main office door before the others, and waited for Joshua to enter first, and held Lance back the agreed upon three seconds.
By the time Lance had entered, a rather large lady at the back of the room was very quickly waddling toward the front desk, "No no no! Oh, and now there are two. Where are your parents children? You should all know better, Guns are not allowed on campus, not even the fake guns for R.O.T.C. practice, or whatever it's called. What are your names children, I'm going to need to have our school resource officer talk to you, this will not do."
Ken and Joshua glanced at each other as the lady at the desk continued to babble, making a scene in front of the other staff that were in the office.
"Ma'am," Joshua finally said in a very loud, authoritative voice as he placed his UNIT and Starfleet ID's on the desk, which caused the lady to stop. "First, we are part of a security detachment from the UNIT assigned to protect Mr. Phillips. Second, I can assure you, these side arms are very real, and we are fully trained in their use. Third, by law, not only are we required to accompany Mr. Philips and go wherever he goes, but these sidearms are required to go along with us. Forth, we are permitted to make use of said side arms against anyone who unlawfully attempts to detain us, or prevent us from carrying out our duties."
The lady said nothing, but continued to glare at the group, and wiggle her fingers.
"Oh yes, you must be Lance from Clan Short," an older, yet significantly thinner lady called out who was briskly walking into the office from the side hallway. "You'll have to forgive Helga, she must have missed the memo of you guys coming in to help us today."
Lance immediately recognized the lady's voice as the one he had talked to on Saturday, "Mrs. Farthing?"
"Yes, yes, come." The lady said as she opened the little gate to allow the three kids behind the desk so she could begin to lead them down the hall. "I was actually expecting you bit earlier, but it's okay, that Dominic fellow just arrived a few minutes ago as well, oh he does give me the creeps, I'll be glad when you have him in custody."
"What exactly is it that you would like me to do?" Lance asked as he and the others were lead down the hall and into a small room with a window in it that looked into another room with a small conference table.
"Oh, don't worry, I have everything worked out for you," Mrs. Farthing explained. "You see, that pedophile thinks he's coming in to discuss some issues about Ronnie's grades, that's one of the kids he's been molesting and manipulating. But instead, I'm going to put him on the spot and confront him with the evidence we have collected, and then from there you can come in and cuff the perv, and do whatever it is you guys do with 'his' kind."
"Okay," Lance Nodded, "but Mrs. Farthing, I think there are a few things we..."
Before Lance could continue, the lady was shushing him up, "Oh here he comes now, I told Lizy to wait, you'll be fine, just you wait."
"But," Lance tried to say before the door was closed.
Sighing, he looked toward Joshua. "Is it going to be a problem that we didn't get to tell her about you?"
Joshua shook his head. "She's hiding something. Also, given our reception here so far, I'd say we are fine."
"Is she lying?" Lance asked with concern.
"No," Joshua replied after thinking for a few moments. "She feels very assured of herself, and strongly believes she is doing the right thing."
Lance nodded as he could see Mrs. Farthing ushering in a rather young man, who could not be any older than his early twenties, into the conference room.
"Thank you for taking the time to come in and meet with me, Mr. um, Torricelli," the lady started
"It's a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Farthing," the man held out his hand toward the older lady. "I've been looking forward to meeting you for some time."
The lady, completely ignoring Dominic's offered hand, sat down behind the table. "Yes, well, let's get started, shall we?"
Dominic nodded, confused as to why she wouldn't shake his hand, and sat down as well. "I have to admit Mrs. Farthing, I was a bit surprised when I got your call last week."
"Oh?" Mrs. Farthing mocked interest as she began to read through some papers in a file she was looking through.
The younger man nodded, "Actually, yes. Everything I've seen so far, including report cards, test scores, and teachers notes has suggested that his grades have improved significantly over the last three months."
"Mmmm," The lady hummed as she continued to read a paper in the file. Finally, she closed the file and placed it on the desk, "Yes, well, why don't we start with you telling me a little bit about yourself?"
"Excuse me?" the man was a bit surprised at the change of topic.
"You, Mr. Torricelli, I'm interested in knowing more about you," Mrs. Farthing smiled as she could sense the man becoming uneasy.
"There is not much to tell, really," Dominic replied. "And to be honest, I don't really see how that's relevant here. I was told that you needed to see me about concerns over Ronnie's grades and performance in class. So far, no one here, including yourself has been willing to mention any specifics about these concerns."
"Oh, I disagree, I feel it's very relevant." The lady sat back in her chair and folded her hands together, "You see, for most of our students, it's the parents that are involved in their child's school functions. When that proves to not be the case, that alone can be cause for concern."
Dominic thought for a few moments before answering, "Are you trying to imply something?"
"Do you feel something needs to be implied?" She returned. Seeing no answer from the man, she continued, "Surely you understand, Mr Torricelli that there are a lot of bad people in the world. People that would not think twice about attempting to take advantage of an impressionable young child. All that I am saying, is that we like to make sure that the best interest of our students is watched out for."
Dominic nodded, "Okay, well, as I said, there is not really much to tell, I graduated with my bachelors from Nevada State last year, and right now I'm working at a local auto parts store. As I'm sure you are aware, the job market hasn't been that great lately."
"Indeed, it hasn't," Mrs. Farthing nodded, "Especially for people that were fired for inappropriate behavior and insubordination from the SafeWay Day Care and Learning Center, wouldn't you say?"
Dominic again seemed surprised, and a bit concerned. "What? Why are you running background checks on me?"
"It's standard practice for any non-parent adult that we see interacting with our students that may be showing, questionable behaviors." The lady replied with a grin.
"Damn," Ken whispered, "that lady needs to be working as a professional interrogator, and not as a school councilor."
Joshua nodded, "And, she's lying."
Lance looked toward his telepath, "What do you mean?"
"Well," Joshua explained, "It's been a bit tough so far because she feels so self assured, and strongly believes in what she's doing, but that was the first flat out lie she has said so far. It's not standard practice to investigate and run background checks on adults, she had to call in a favor to the District Office to get that."
Lance nodded, "Keep me informed on any other inaccuracies. I'm not really liking the way this is going either, but I want to give her a bit more time to see where she takes this. She called us here for a reason, so I'm assuming she has fairly good grounds for where ever she is going."
Back in the conference room, Mrs. Farthing had picked up and opened the file again, "Tell me, Mr. Torricelli, would it surprise you to know that one of Ronnie's teachers noticed a large bruise on his arm about two weeks ago?"
"No," Dominic answered, "She already sent a note home about that, and his mother informed her that it was a result of a fall he took at the skate park."
"Yes, that is what was reported, wasn't it? So I guess it also would not surprise you to know that several teachers have noted Ronnie making comments about spending a lot of time at your house? Where is the boy's mother, Mr. Torricelli? Are you romantically involved with her?"
"No," the man answered firmly, clearly starting to get annoyed. "And if you have to know, Ronnie spends time at my house some days after school so I could help him with some of his school work, since his mother has all but abandoned him. I think the huge improvement in his grades can attest to that."
"Are you married Mr. Torricelli? Do you have a wife? A girlfriend?" Mrs. Farthing questioned.
The younger man took a deep breath to calm himself down, "Since you have already done your background check, I think you already know that I don't."
"I see," Mrs. Farthing answered as she sat forward a little. "A homosexual man, with clear attractions to other males, continuously having an impressionable young boy at his house? Would it surprise you to know, Mr. Torricelli that it's your kind that is responsible for the largest percentage of child abuse and molestations in the country?"
"Let's go," Ken snarled as he took a step toward the door.
Lance put an arm on his shoulder and shook his head, "Not yet."
"I think it's clear you have no real intention of discussing anything about Ronnie's grades, so I think we are done here Mrs. Farthing," Dominic said as he began to get up from his chair.
"Sit down, Mr. Torricelli," She commanded, causing the man to stop. "I don't think you want to do that just yet."
Dominic sat back down and looked toward Mrs. Farthing.
The lady flipped to another page in her file. "Tell me Mr. Torricelli, what would you say if I told you that a number of Ronnie's classmates have indicated that you have touched him, in shall we say, inappropriate places, on not one, but a number of different occasions?"
The man's jaw dropped at the accusation.
"She's lying," Joshua offered.
"I don't think you need a telepath to figure that out," Lance agreed.
Joshua nodded, "Or at the least, a very large stretch. One student made the comment that he saw Dominic hug Ronnie when he was dropped off for school one day, she's stretched that statement out to make it something much larger."
Lance nodded, "But what about Dominic? Is any of what has been suggested true?"
"Dominic is a lot easier to read than Mrs. Farthing," Joshua noted, "He clearly has a lot more interest in Ronnie than just as a parental figure. And yes, some of that interest falls on the physical attraction side of things."
"Do you know if he ever did anything to hurt him, or any other kid for that matter?" Lance asked.
Joshua concentrated for a few moments and shook his head. "No, not that I'm seeing, he's never done anything to hurt him, and he feels very strongly on preventing things like that from happening."
"Any type of sexual interaction at all?" Lance asked.
"I'd say that they would have mis-heard him then," Dominic replied, drawing their attention back to the conference room.
"Oh, come now, Mr. Torricelli, you're not going to really go with that line, are you?" Mrs. Farthing grinned, "If it were just one kid, saying they heard one thing, perhaps I could agree with you. But multiple kids, referencing multiple occasions?"
Dominic got a horrified look as he slumped back in his chair.
"He's never touched Ronnie's genitalia or anything like that," Joshua pulled Lance's concentration back to their conversation. "However, let's just say that he's gotten excited a number of times on seeing Ronnie. They have seen each other nude on a few occasions, he's done things like giving him back rubs and belly rubs, and there has been lots of close contact at times when they have been swimming and such."
Lance nodded, "Anything that breaks any laws?"
Joshua shrugged, "What laws? Clan law? No, in fact, I'm sure just about ever kid in the Clan would die to have someone like him in their life. United States law? That would depend on which judge you get. Some 'laws' are so vague and open to wide interpretation, that it's been successfully argued in the past that a man getting excited when seeing a child represents a type of mental rape, or that a gay man seeing a boy in a swimsuit and their being any type of skin to skin contact, is a type of sexual assault."
"That's kind of what I thought," Lance replied. "Last question, do they love each other? I mean, beyond just in the way a parent loves a child."
Joshua shook his head, "Like I said, Dominic is clearly attracted to Ronnie and cares a great deal toward him. He 'thinks' Ronnie cares about him, but I can't really say for sure without being able to scan the boy."
"Thanks Josh," Lance smiled as he tapped his sub-vocal, "Daileass, I need you to do me a big favor, and see if you can access the Las Vegas PD's database and look for any reports that have been filed against a Mr. Dominic Torricelli over the last year, and please do not use my comm badge to reply."
With that, Lance walked out of the room with Ken and Joshua immediately on his heels.
Mrs. Farthing slowly tapped her fingers as she looked at the man in front of her. "I would say that we are in a fairly difficult position here, wouldn't you?"
"You're wrong," Dominic said in a small voice.
"I don't think so," Mrs. Farthing answered as the door to the conference room opened, and Lance followed by Ken and Joshua, walked in. She couldn't help but smile with glee, as the final nail to her brilliantly orchestrated plan came together.
Dominic was slightly surprised as well, when he saw three boys with rather serious expressions on their faces walk in.
Mrs. Farthing sat all the way forward in her chair. "These young gentlemen are from Clan Short. They have been monitoring your confessions from the other room. I'm sure you have heard of them in the news lately. I can assure you that they know how to deal with homosexual child molesting predators such as you."
Lance smiled and held out his hand toward Dominic. "Mrs. Farthing is right, I'm from Clan Short. I'm assistant director of Nevada's Desert Division, Lance Phillips."
Dominic hesitantly shook Lance's offered hand, still not sure what to think about the change of events. "It's nice to meet you Lance."
"Likewise, Dominic," Lance nodded, making a point to use the man's first name, something Mrs. Farthing did not use the entire conversation. "These two behind me, well I guess they are my security. This is Ken, and that's Joshua, one of our telepaths."
Lance couldn't help but inwardly smile, when he saw the older lady flinch when he had mentioned 'telepath'.
"It's nice to meet the two of you as well," Dominic answered politely.
Lance took out one of his business cards and handed it toward Dominic. "Here is my card, it has all of my other credentials and contact information on it."
"Aren't you going to take him into custody or something?" Mrs. Farthing started to get a bit impatient.
Lance tilted his head as he looked toward the still overly confident lady. "Um, no. Actually, I was going to offer him a job."
"What?" The lady nearly snarled as she slammed her hands on the table and stood up.
"What?" Dominic echoed much more softly and surprised.
Lance nodded, "That is, if you are interested."
"What type of sick joke are you getting on with here? You can't possibly be serious." Farthing stated as her eyes shot daggers at Lance.
Lance turned toward Mrs. Farthing, and spoke an a surprisingly calm voice. "Oh, I'm very serious. You see, being gay is not a crime. In fact, most of my brothers are gay, so that's strike one. Caring for, and loving a child is also not a crime, in fact, people like Dominic who have a genuine care and interest in the well being of kids is a rarity among adults these days, so that's strike two. But, there is one crime that has gone on here. You see, the falsification of police reports, the willful manipulation non-related peer statements to better foster your personal vendetta against young gay men, the intentional misuse of school resources, and attempting to have a man wrongfully incarcerated? That is what I see as the real crime here, and that's strike three."
Mrs. Farthing glared at them, "If you are not going to have that child rapist taken into custody, I'll call the police and do it myself."
"Go ahead," Lance smiled, "but didn't you already file a falsified police report three weeks ago, and didn't their investigation already determine that Dominic did nothing wrong? I wonder how they would feel about getting official telepathic documentation from a certified Vulcan telepath that you intentionally falsified that report?"
"How dare you!" The lady, now starting to visibly shake, snarled, "I should have know better than to try to involve a bunch of cocky homosexual bigots that are only interested in protecting their own kind. Get out! Before I have security throw you out."
Lance nodded, "Don't worry, that's actually what I had in mind. Dominic, if you would care to join us?"
"The child predator stays," Mrs. Farthing demanded.
Lance shook his head, "No, he's leaving with us." Lance motioned for Dominic to join them.
Before Mrs. Farthing could say another word, Ken was in her face, "I'm one of those 'cocky homosexual bigots' you were talking about, and I've seen first hand the damage that people like you do to kids. So please, pretend that you are going to try to stop us, I would love nothing more than to take your ass down, and have you taken into Clan custody for attempted assault of a Clan Officer."
As soon as Ken walked away, it was Joshua's turn to give his parting comments, "I know what your considering right now," he said calmly. "If I were you, I would consider yourself very lucky that Lance was being as nice as he was. It is well within his right to have had you arrested and taken into custody on the spot."
Mrs. Farthing blinked and her mouth opened and closed a few times as if wanting to say something, but nothing came out as Joshua closed the door behind him, following the others out of the room.
Dominic and Lance walked next to each other with Ken and Joshua following close behind them. Once they had made it off of the school property, and were near Dominic's car, the man turned toward Lance, "I'd like to thank you for the help back there. With as many times as I've seen friends get screwed by the system, I didn't see things ending well."
Lance nodded, "You're welcome, we try our best to do what's right. But you also need to know that if any of the stuff you were accused of was true, we wouldn't be having this conversation right now."
"I can understand that," Dominic nodded. "Were you serious about what you said about offering me a job somewhere."
Lance turned and smiled. "Of course I was. We are still in the process of getting the Nevada Division fully staffed and operational, and right now I'm sure there would be a lot of positions open for someone who has a degree in child behavior, and child development. We are going to have a bunch of kids with special needs where we are at who will need all the love and support they can get."
"Does everyone know my entire life?" Dominic said with a hint of surprise.
"Well, let's just say that the resources that old bat back there had does not even come close to some of the resources we have." Lance smiled.
"Ah," Dominic sighed and looked away. "Between that and your telepath, I guess you already know about Ronnie."
"I know enough," Lance stated carefully. "Most of the specifics of what might be between you and Ronnie, only Joshua knows, and he will not tell anyone unless it's important to the investigation. I know you care a great deal about him, I know you have spent the last three months taking a boy who hated life and was failing all of his classes, and turned him around to someone that appreciated life, and is now getting B's instead of F's. And yes, I also know of the physical attraction."
Dominic visibly cringed when Lance stated this.
"However," Lance continued, "I also know that you have never once taken advantage of him, or touched him in a place that shouldn't be touched."
"And you're fine with this?" Dominic asked slightly surprised.
Lance smiled, "Well, I think we will probably want to meet Ronnie at some point, so one of the telepaths can scan him as well, so that we can confirm what we suspect about the benefits your impact is having on him, and to make sure that it's really a healthy relationship, being done for the right reasons. But if that all checks out, then yeah. I believe we would be fine with it."
"Who's opinion of right reasons?" Dominic asked with a bit of concern.
"The Clan's," Lance answered. "You have to understand, it's possible that an adult will have some physical attractions toward someone younger. And, especially for someone Ronnie's age, it's very possible that they may feel some type of attraction in return. However, sometimes that attraction can be more because someone is simply paying attention to them, and being nice to them, and not really out of any true type of love. Making that distinguishment can be really hard at times, especially for the kid, which is why having a telepath involved to make absolutely sure can help avoid any, well, complications down the road."
"Hum, I don't think I've ever thought of that before," Dominic replied as he pondered what Lance had just told him. "I really do want what's best for Ronnie in this. If it turns out that he cares about me for the wrong reasons, and it will somehow come back to hurt him now or in the future, then I guess I would be willing to give him up."
Lance shook his head, "Sorry, but you'll never stop being a part of his life, there is already too much evidence to show how much you have impacted him, so that part is non-negotiable. At worst, if it does prove to be for the wrong reasons, we'll probably just set up a few appointments for you and Ronnie with our Clan councilors, and they'll help the two of you better understand your feelings, and perhaps offer suggestions on other ways your feelings toward each other can be applied."
Dominic smiled, "You've certainly given me a lot to think about Lance. Thanks."
Lance nodded as Dominic opened the door to his car, "Go ahead and take some time to think about that, as well as think about the job offer. If possible, I'll need an answer on that within the next few days, since I think we are going to try to get things staffed up as soon as possible."
Dominic nodded, "I'll do that, I promise. You'll have an answer one way or the other from me by Wednesday at the latest."
"Thanks," Lance waved as Dominic drove off.
After he was out of sight, and the boys had taken a few steps down the sidewalk, Ken spoke up, "Where to now?"
"Now?" Lance replied, "Back to base I think. I don't know about you guys, but I've had just about as much of this place as I can stand."
"You mind if I make a comment?" Ken asked.
Lance blinked and looked toward Ken. "Mind? Why would I mind?"
Ken shrugged. "Well, we are just your assigned security after all."
Lance shook his head and sighed as he walked over to a near-by bench to sit down, which caused Ken and Joshua to follow him.
"Guys," Lance started as he looked at each of them, "I know you are assigned to be my security, and you're going to do everything you can to keep me safe. That's still hard for me to really accept because I still don't see myself as being important enough. However, a lot of other people think I am, so I'll run with that. But what'll be hard for me to do is to treat you guys like slaves or something."
Both Ken and Joshua stared at Lance, causing him to continue his explanation. "As far as I'm concerned General Casey or Colonel West assigned you guys to me for a reason, and knowing my personality. So, they would've had to have known it would be hard for me to treat you that way. I mean, if your training doesn't allow you to accept any other way, I'll do my best to treat you how I have to, it's just when we're out and about, I would much rather be able to look at you two as peers, people that can help keep me in check, and who won't mind voicing their opinions if they feel I did, or are about to do something wrong."
Again, both boys nodded, but Joshua answered for both of them. "Lance, thank you for saying that. It means a lot. But I think there is one thing you need to understand. It's not that myself or Ken or even Ozrick 'can not' work that way, it's that in practice it is very rare that things ever 'do' work out that way. I mean, let's face it, we are kids just like you, we are going to have our opinions. But, our training teaches us to deal with this by keeping those opinions to ourselves, and learning to accept that our job is to protect you, not second guess you. If you're really serious about wanting our opinions on things, and from your surface thoughts right now, I can tell that you are, I'm sure we'll each be willing to test the waters a few times, and offer them. If you don't get mad at us for this, and we see that you don't, then I guess things would develop from there."
Lance smiled and nodded, "Okay, that sounds fair. It sounds like you said we need to allow our working relationship to develop, and for us to get better acquainted and used to each other first."
"So, about that comment, Ken?" Lance smiled.
"Well," Ken hesitated a little, "I was just going to say, I think you were way to light on her. We should have at least taken her into UNIT custody for a bit. I'm sorry if that comment is out of line."
Lance shook his head, "No, it's not. Actually, that's one of my problems. I can be way too easy on people at times."
"Being compassionate is not necessarily a flaw," Joshua offered, "Yet there are still those who will take advantage of it."
Lance nodded. "That, and I'm still not completely up to speed on common procedures for all situations. So Ken, in the future, if you feel I'm being too easy in a situation that goes against other established Clan practice, please feel free to let me know."
"The only thing I'll add to that," Joshua made sure he had Lance's attention, "Although we can make suggestions and observations, none of us can lead for you. The final decision will always need to be yours and yours alone."
"Agreed." Lance said as he and the other boys stood up. "Hey you hot sexy computer thang, how about bringing us home?"
"Damn Lance," Daileass answered, "You really know how to get to a kid's microprocessors."
All three boys laughed as they disappeared.
Lance was at one of the back spare stations in the core C.I.C. watching Haden at the comm station working with his CAD software on the terminal. At the same time, he was doing a third read through of his report.
"Okay, Daileass," Lance stated as he finished his read through, "I think this is as good as I'm going to get it. How do I send or post this?"
"That's easy, just press the flashing 'SEND' button at the top of the form." Daileass replied with a small giggle as Lance sighed.
A few stations ahead, where Haden was sitting, a small beeping sound could be heard, followed by the voice of a very concerned Haden, "Hey, um, guys? Brent, Lance? I think someone is calling us!"
Gyro, hearing his boy's distress, stood up and went into alert mode, searching for any possible threats.
Tristen, who was at the security station and had one of his terminal's configured to also monitor the comm station's call board and thus could already see who was calling, grinned, "Just go ahead and answer it, Haden."
"Me?" Haden squeaked.
"Why not?" Tristen asked, "You're at the communications station."
Haden was about to protest when he felt the warm feeling that was in the back of his head intensify a little, and remembered that his newest brothers have told him so many times over the last two days, that they were there.
'Guys? Daileass? I don't know if I can do this,' Haden said loudly in his mind.
Daileass sent another hug down the link. 'Sure you can, bro. We're all right here next to you if anything goes wrong.'
Haden nodded, placed the wireless ear piece in his ear, and pressed the button to accept the call.
As soon as the screen showed the call was connected, and he heard the small click in his ear, a very nervous Haden spoke. "Clan Short... Nev... Nevada Division... hello? I mean... how can I help you?"
Brent walked up behind where Lance was sitting and wrapped his arms around him, as he was just as proud as Lance was. Both boys were very much aware that less than twenty-four hours ago, Haden would never have been willing or able to do what he was trying to do.
After a brief pause, a voice answered. "Hello? This is Dominic Torricelli, I was given this number by Lance, I think he's an Assistant Division head or something there?"
"Oh, Lance?" Haden visibly sighed with relief as soon as he realized the caller was not pissed off with him, "Yeah, he's right here. Hold on, and I'll put you into linked connection mode, and transfer you over to the operations station he's at. Actually, I need to use a secondary route transfer because he's at one of the backup stations that isn't on the main comm loop, so hold on."
"Um, Okay," Dominic slowly replied, clearly lost.
The other three boys tried their best to hold it in, they really did, but a few small giggles still managed to get out.
"Lance," Haden stood up to look back, "I'm transferring a call to your station."
"Thanks Haden," Lance smiled. As soon as his station registered control of the call, he pushed it to the main speakers so everyone could hear it, "This is Lance, how can I help you Dominic?"
"When you told me you were just starting to fill up your staff there earlier, I guess you were not joking." Dominic jested.
Lance grinned. "Sorry about that Dominic, that was my brother Haden, before today, he was scared just by a phone ringing, you're actually the first call he has ever answered."
Haden listened intently for the reply, this was surely the part where he would be upset now that he knew who answered the phone.
"Wow," Dominic replied sincerely, "In that case, I would have to say he actually did a rather good job."
Again, Haden sighed with relief, and then melted into his chair, as he felt the warm hugs of several of his brothers. As he slumped into his chair, no one noticed his eyes fluttering, and then closing for a few seconds, but when they opened back up, Haden smiled, and happily went back to his CAD program as if nothing stressful had happened.
"I would have to agree with you, as we're all really proud of how well he's been doing," Lance agreed. "But I'm guessing you didn't call to talk about our little brother."
Dominic could be heard sighing in the background. "Unfortunately, no. When I got home, I was expecting to find Ronnie there, working on his homework, since his mom works until late at night, but he wasn't."
Instantly, several ears in the room perked up, and were now listening to the call very closely.
"Okay, is there anywhere else he might have gone?" Lance asked.
"The only other place would have been his own house, which I drove by. From what I could tell, his front door was busted down, and there were two cop cars parked in his driveway." Dominic's voice had a large degree of concern in it.
"Did you stop to ask what happened?" Lance asked.
There was a brief pause before Dominic replied. "To be honest, no. After what happened this afternoon, I guess, I don't know, something didn't seem right. Do you think I should go back?"
"No," Lance answered quickly, "You did the right thing by not stopping there. Go ahead and head back to your house, our team is on it. I'll contact you as soon as I have anything."
"Okay, thanks. I really appreciate this." Dominic replied before ending the call.
"Daileass?" Brent called out.
"Already working on it Brent. Ah, found him. Ya know, I surprise myself sometimes at just how good I am. Oh man, this isn't good." Daileass answered.
"What did you find?" Brent asked, not sure if he wanted to hear the answer.
Daileass quickly answered, "It looks like Ronald DeGarren was picked up by the Central Las Vegas Police Department about thirty minutes ago, after receiving an anonymous tip that his well being may have been in danger, and that a known sexual predator was en-route to kidnap the boy. He's currently being held in protective custody at the District Four Sub-Station, Juvenile Transfer Facilities."
"Damn it!" Lance hit his hand on his desk.
"Brent, we do have a strike team in ready status, we could go escort him here if you want," Tristen offered.
Brent looked toward Lance, "It's your call, love."
Lance closed his eyes for a moment, and sighed. "No, this is something I started, so I'm going to finish it. Daileass? Please ask Ken and Joshua to report to core C.I.C."
"What's your plan?" Brent asked curiously.
"I'm going to take a trip to the sub station, and play the diplomacy card, with having my security guards there as backup. If they see who we are, I think they might take our word over whatever anonymous tip they got."
Brent nodded, "Okay. Daileass, same procedure as earlier, keep an open comm please."
"No problem, Brent."
As Lance walked over to the security station, he reached for a defensive configured GEAR, then stopped, "Hey Haden? Is there a way I can get a GEAR with both the shield and laser?"
Haden stood up and smiled, "Yeah, just replace the D-12 module with a O-15 module from..." Realizing that he had already lost Lance, Haden ran over and did the quick module switch himself. "There ya go, I took off the radar module, since I think Dalieass does that good enough on his own already."
Lance smiled, and bent down to give Haden a hug, "Thanks Haden."
At the same time, Lance's personal security, Ken and Joshua, appeared.
"What's the status, Lance?" Ken asked.
Lance sighed as he walked toward where Ken and Joshua were standing, "The status is, never hesitate to share your opinions in the future, since it looks like you were right, and the bat from hell is causing more trouble."
"Daileass, get us as close to the sub station as you can, please." Lance asked.
Daileass quickly replied. 'Since they are close to a major intersection, I can get you guys pretty close."
Moments later the three boys appeared a short distance outside of the main District 4 Sub-station entrance in down town Las Vegas. They weren't exactly on the strip, but they were close enough that they could see the glittering of the strip less than two blocks away.
As they approached the entrance, Lance quickly filled them in on Ronnie, and the rest of what happened. As usual, Ken grabbed the door, and Joshua entered first, with Lance and Ken following three seconds after.
The front reception area was unsurprisingly bland. Besides a few chairs against the wall, there were only two visible officers. One was sitting behind a desk with large thick glass in front of it, and the other was standing on the other side of a metal detector. Both men seemed to stiffen slightly as soon as they saw the boys enter.
"Can I help you, gentlemen?" The officer behind the thick glass asked.
"Actually, yes," Lance took a step forward, "We have been informed that you took into custody a boy by the name of Ronald DeGarren about about thirty minutes ago?"
"Are you his parent?" The officer asked sarcastically.
"No, we're members of the Clan Short, Nevada Division," Lance answered and went to pull his Clan ID from his pocket.
Before Lance had a chance to do this, several events occurred all at once. First, both Joshua and Ken heard a small clicking sound behind them at nearly the same time, and in a single fluid motion, both boys swiveled around with side arms drawn to see two officers directly behind them both with guns drawn.
Second, from in front of them, someone shouted, "Hands up... now... get your hands up."
Joshua kept his weapon trained on the two officers behind them while Ken swiveled to find three other officers in front of them, also with guns drawn, with a second officer shouting, "Drop the guns... drop them now.... do it."
Finally, Lance raised his hands up above his head. As he did so, he balled his GEAR arm in a fist, and jerked it slightly twice. In less than a second, he could feel the light tingle of the shield module kicking in, starting his thirty second countdown.
'Sir,' Lance heard Joshua send to his head, 'There are too many of them for Ken and I to take on, and still guarantee your safety. I strongly advise that we leave.'
As Joshua was sending this to Lance, Lance was already in the process of speaking himself, trying one more time to get through to the officers, "We are from Clan Short, I have valid ID to prove this if you stand down."
"Drop the guns now, or we will shot." The first officer shouted again, "Drop them, on the ground, right now, or we will shoot."
'Emergency Evac Now!' Lance shouted in his head as loud as he possibly could.
Before Lance had finished shouting his request, he, Ken, and Joshua found themselves standing in the core C.I.C.
"Damn it!" Lance cried as he deactivated the shield, and tore off his GEAR.
"Lance." Haden called out as he started to run toward Lance, only to be stopped by Brent.
"Report?" Emily, who was now in the room as well, called out toward Ken and Joshua.
"Sir," Joshua started, "we entered the District 4 Police Sub-station as directed by Mr. Phillips. When questioned by the lead officer, Mr. Phillips inquired about our target. There must have been some type of silent detector that went off, because when Mr. Phillips indicated we were Clan Short, and reached for his ID, there was a very quick and well coordinated offensive against us. Two live hostiles behind us, and three in front, all with kevlar. I mentally informed Mr. Phillips that we were no longer able to guarantee his safety, and recommended an immediate digress. Mr. Philips tried one more time, unsuccessfully, to indicate that we were Clan Short before he nearly blew out my ear drum with one of the loudest mental calls for emergency evac that I've ever heard from a squishy... Sir."
"I was upset." Lance defended.
"That was actually a complement from him, Sir." Emily flatly stated.
At this point, Colonel West entered the C.I.C., but remained near the back of the room, and said nothing.
Emily glanced toward Justin, and then back toward Brent, "Sir, I believe that a strike team may be in order, but I will defer the decision to you at this time."
Brent nodded, and looked toward Lance.
Lance stood up, with a new sense of determination in his eyes, "Brent, let me try one more thing, Please? I want to handle this."
Before anyone could ask, Lance quickly made his way over to the comm station, and pressed a few buttons. "Daileass, please connect the District 4 Sub-station switchboard on the main speakers.
"Okay, Lance." Daileass hesitantly replied.
While they were waiting for the call to connect, Tristen, who was still standing near Brent, whispered so only Brent could hear him. "Sir, just so you know, both Joshua and Roberto are more than likely doing constant scans on Lance. If they believe that he is becoming too unstable, one of the command officers will step in."
Tristen continued his whisper, "It would probably look a whole lot better if you stepped in before that happened."
"District 4 Vegas P.D., how may I direct your call?" a young lady's voice came over the speakers.
"Good Afternoon," Lance replied, being remarkably calm, especially for someone who was visibly upset a few short minutes ago. "This is Assistant Director Lance Philips, of Clan Short Las Vegas Division. If you check your call scanner, you can verify my call's authenticity."
There was a brief pause and then the lady's voice returned. "Yes Mr. Philips, your call authenticates from Clan Short Nevada Division. How can I help you?"
Lance took a deep breath, as it finally looked like something might be going right. "About forty-five minutes ago, officers from your department unlawfully apprehended and detained a child that is under the protection of Clan Short, by the name of Ronald DeGarren. We are aware that said child is currently at your sub-station. We need to arrange for pickup and transfer of him to our custody."
There were several moments of silence, although many people in the room took note at just how professionally Lance seemed to be handling this so far.
Finally, the lady's voice returned. "I'm sorry Mr. Phillips, but I can not release any information on minors without written parental consent."
Lance nodded. "I see. Perhaps I did not make it clear, but I'm an official representative of Clan Short of Vulcan, as well as Federation Youth Services. My authority in protecting youth supersedes that stipulation."
The lady replied immediately. "I understand that you are from Clan Short, but even if you were the Pope, it's against department policies to release any information on minors without written parental consent."
Lance sighed. "Can you at least tell me why it was necessary to bust down the door to the boy's house, and why you are holding him?"
Again, the lady quickly replied. "I'm sorry sir, but I can't release any...."
"Yes, yes, I know," Lance interrupted.
"If you would like to come into the station and talk to one of my shift supervisors, perhaps they can help you more."
"Thanks," Lance said as he pressed the button to terminate the call.
Everyone in the room was silent, waiting to see what Lance's reaction would be.
Lance took a deep breath. "Daileass, can you patch me directly through to the personal line of the top sub-station chief?"
There was a small pause before Daileass answered, almost as if he was waiting for someone to say something else. "Okay."
Moments later, an older man's voice came on the speakers. "Chief Herden."
Lance took another deep breath. "Hello Chief Herden,"
"Who is this?" The man interrupted, "How did you get this number? I'll have you know son, you're calling a police station, and we take prank calls very seriously. Let me talk to one of your parents."
Lance sighed. "My name is Lance Philips, Assistant Director of the Clan Short Nevada Division, I believe your station is unjustly holding a boy by the name of Ronald DeGarren, and I would like to discuss this matter with you."
"Why didn't you go through the normal switch board to talk to me?" The man asked, with a hint of anger forming in his voice.
"I tried, sir. But they would not talk with me, or work with me so I figured since I am part of Clan Short, that you would not mind if we..."
The man interrupted Lance before he could finish his statement. "Listen here, son. I don't care who you are, if you want to talk to me, you follow the same god damn rules as everyone else, and use the switch board, that's what it's there for. As far as your Clan Short crap, this department does not recognize the authority of a bunch of cocky ass gay faggot kids that need a good ass slapping by their parents. Have I made myself clear, son?"
Lance pressed the terminate call button, tears visibly filling his eyes. "Daileass?" He called out, in a very shaky voice. "Can you just teleport Ronnie out?"
"Dalieass, delay that order," the very calm voice of Base Commander, Colonel Justin West requested, as the sixteen year old boy walked from the back of the room, where he had spent the last ten minutes observing, to stand directly in front of Brent.
"Division Director Knocks?" Justin addressed Brent in a dead serious tone. "It is the strong recommendation of your Base Commander that, given both the events of this morning, and the observed events now, that it may be imperative for a much stronger message to be sent in regards to the Clans presence in this area."
"Thank you for your recommendation, Colonel," Brent nodded. "In your opinion, what do you suggest as an appropriate show of force?"
Without moving, Justin answered, "It is my suggestion, sir, that we spin up and deploy our strike teams via the Mi-35 Hind's to secure the facilities. Then, mobilize UNIT and Clan Intelligence to identify and remove any unfriendly's that are found to be in violation of established Clan laws. And finally, escort Ronald DeGarren back to the protection of our facilities."
"How many strike teams did you have in mind to use for this operation?" Brent asked.
Justin immediately answered, "All of them, Sir."
Brent thought about the decision he was being asked to make. His Base Commander was asking him to not only send out strike teams to take over a civilian police station, but to have telepaths scan every single person there, and remove anyone who had violated any Clan or Vulcan laws. He tried to think of what Adam would do, or Cory.
On one hand, it would be easy for Daileass to simply teleport the kid out, and then all this would be over. But, then again, would it really be over? As was made very clear by the comments that he had just heard, at least one of the local police departments is refusing to accept or even work with the Clan. Would Adam really stand for that? Either way, his choice would have a very substantial effect on the future. But, in the end, he could only think of one possible answer.
Looking straight at Justin, Brent answered. "Base Commander West? Please make your plan happen."
As soon as Brent had said that, Lance ran out of C.I.C. in a ball of tears, crying.
"Lance!" Haden broke away from Brent, and ran out after Lance.
Without blinking, Justin came to attention and saluted Brent. "Yes Sir."
As soon as he broke his salute, Justin spun around and began barking out orders. "Daileass, place the base at action stations, spin up all strike teams and prepare them for aerial deployment. Inform the Air Wing to prepare for flight operations. Recall all command staff to C.I.C., and inform the Security, Strike Team, and Air Wing commanders to prepare for a pre-mission briefing in thirty minutes."
"Understood Justin. All requests are in progress." Daileass replied.
Within seconds, the base wide action stations alert sounds were heard.
"Roberto," Justin called out to his intelligence officer, "I need everything you can get me on the District 4 Sub-station in fifteen minutes. Aerial surveillance, thermal imaging, structure schematics, the works.
"Yes Sir," Roberto called out from his station, already starting to work on gathering the requested information.
Once Justin had everything in motion, he turned back toward Brent. "Sir, permission to speak with you privately."
Brent felt a lump form in his stomach, as he nodded and followed his Base Commander to his office.
As soon as they were both in the office, and the door was closed, Justin sat in one of the two chairs in front of his desk, and motioned for Brent to sit in the other.
"So?" Brent asked. "How bad is it? How bad did Lance and I mess up?"
Justin shook his head. "Brent, that's exactly why I wanted to take you to the side, because I had a feeling you would think that you and Lance messed up, when you didn't."
"Huh?" Brent was confused.
"In my opinion, for his very first command, he was faced with a very difficult task, and handled every step as well as could be expected. He did what he thought was right, and in the best interest of everyone involved, while at the same time, following the suggestions and recommendations of his security team." Justin stated in a firm yet supportive voice.
From the way that Justin was talking, Brent knew that he was being honest with him. However, he also saw way too many mistakes on his part for what he said to really be accurate. "So me ignoring your guys wanting to go in with strike teams, and instead giving Lance more chances?"
Justin sat back in his chair. "That's something that comes with experience. Most of us have been involved in enough situations like this to know that statistically they only work out one way. Nothing against Lance, but as new as the two of you are, you're going to favor on the side of giving more chances than some of the more seasoned people would, and in my opinion, that's not a bad thing."
Brent nodded. "Thanks for telling me that Justin. The only thing I could think of out there was that this was going to create a huge split between us and you guys. I'm glad you told me this."
Justin smiled. "You're welcome. Now, with that out of the way, there is one more offer I would like to present to you."
"Oh?" Brent asked.
Justin nodded. "With this being a show of force operation, I think it would make for a good effect if you and some of your other core division team had a presence there. Although I would rather you not be in the middle of our teams during the initial ingress, if it's something you are interested in, I'll plan on having a small area set up nearby so you can get a good front row seat of the action, and then once the area is secure, you can go in with the telepaths."
"That sounds like a very good plan. Other than Haden, and maybe Evan who might want to stay behind with his brother, I'm sure most of my core guys wouldn't mind."
"Great," Justin smiled. "Unless you have any questions, I have a briefing to get ready for."
Brent shook his head, and both boys left Justin's office.
Chase Toris and Ramon Ortiz of Strike Team Lotus had just dropped off one of the last boxes of supplies to the helicopter hanger when they spotted Wesley Hayes, one of the members of the air wing ground crew up under one of the Hind's.
"Hey Chase," Wesley called out with his head still stuck up under the huge attack chopper. "Could one of you guys hand me another can of oil over on the counter, this one just ran out."
Chase let out a slight chuckle as he walked to the work bench to grab the can of oil. "Damn Wes, how did you know it was us?"
"I could tell by your breathing." Wes called out.
Chase was a bit surprised. "Seriously?"
"Not really," Wesley replied after he took the accepted can. "I heard you and Orbits talking in the back."
"I should have known better." Chase said as he kicked Wesley's foot while Ramon walked up letting out his own chuckle. "Isn't your shift over man? You still look like your neck deep into all this."
After taking a few moments to apply the oil to a few key locations, Wesley pulled himself out from where he was working. "Yeah. But after what happened earlier this morning, I want to make sure that this bird is ready to fly on a moments notice."
Ramon smiled. "You must be new to all this. The action you saw this morning is probably the only thing we are going to see anytime soon."
"What do you mean?" Wesley asked slightly confused.
Chase answered for his friend. "First, this is a detachment assignment. We are mainly here to look big and bad, but like most detachments, we are probably not going to see much action. Second, if anything ever does happen, with the mass teleport abilities of the A.I.'s it's pretty unlikely that we will be needing the choppers."
"Oh." Wesley replied with a hint of disappointment.
"I wouldn't be so sure about that." Another boy said confidently.
Chase and Ramon immediately snapped to attention as they recognized the thirteen year old boy as Captain Darren Jackson, strike team commander of Strike Team Raptor.
"Dang, at ease guys," Darren smirked. "I'm off duty and just passing by, and you're not even in my team."
"Comes with the rank, dude." Ramon grinned as he relaxed. "Although I'd be interested in knowing why you are so sure that Chase is wrong... sir."
Darren shrugged. "I might not have the super hearing and all that you genesis guys have, but I do know how to listen. From what I've heard, the entire reason General Casey picked Colonel West for this assignment is because of the fact that he's not afraid to use his resources when the situation calls for it."
All three of the other boys nodded in understanding.
"I hope your right, sir." Ramon stated. "But with all due respect, I have to disagree with you."
Moments after Ramon said this, two alert klaxons sounded, followed by Daileass's voice over the loud speakers. "Action stations! This is not a drill. All strike teams, prepare for deployment. Air Wing prepare for aerial operations. Senior Officers report to conference room three in thirty minutes for a pre-operation briefing."
"Holy crap!" Chase announced. "This is still the first day, and we are preparing for a second operation?"
Darren cackled. "Told ya! Don't you love it?"
"How did you..." Ramon began to ask before Darren cut him off.
"I didn't, but don't worry about that now, get to your action stations." As Darren said this he was already starting off in a jog himself.
Without missing a beat, both Chase and Ramon were close behind Darren heading out of the helicopter hanger as Wesley thanked the gods that he was only a few short steps away from being able to close out the Hind.
For the second time in the same day, the UNITUNIT forces that were deployed to help protect the Nevada Division of Clan Short prepared for an operation. Although none of them knew it now, they were less than an hour from preforming an operation that would go down in Clan history.
Well, it's begun. I don't really think any of the kids have any idea of just how much of an impact the decisions they are making now are going to end up having not only on their own division, but the Clan as a whole, nor are they aware of all the new friends they will get to make in the process.
But more importantly, these last few chapters are starting to show some even more important character growth. Not only for Haden, but for Brent, Lance, and several of the other guys. One thing that I hope to be able to show is that no matter who you are, there is always room for growth and learning, even if your a huge super computer A.I.
I would like to take a few moments to thank Roland for all the help he has given me with the interactions with Daileass and the Logan clones, and the rest of the UNIT kids, as well as the support and contributions of all the other CSU authors. Without all of their help, this story would be no where close to what or where it is.
Finally, I would like to apologize to some of the readers who have written me complaining about the lack of cliff hangers. I realize that cliff hangers seem to be as much a part of the CSU as Add-A-Kid Disease, so I promise to work harder at coming up with some much better cliff hangers for you guys in the upcoming chapters.
" an operation that would go down in Clan history" Cliff hanger, what a cliff hanger. Where is this action leading. Well, I guess we have to wait and see. But if I know Zacky, and I do, it is going to be big!
We also got to see some humor and a very important rescue that we have all been waiting for.
Cynaira Hugs Zacky for another wonderful chapter.