Adam was actually glad that Logan had convinced him to get out of the base for a bit. It had been just over a week since Joe's accident, and he just couldn't get himself out of his funk. He couldn't help but feel guilty about what happened, and no matter what anyone said, it wasn't helping. So Logan insisted that he join them to go into town for a bit. Janet had wanted to get some shopping done, and Logan was looking at purchasing a new warehouse for getting supplies into the base.
First stop was at the mall, and Adam couldn't help but chuckle at some of the things that had happened. He knew that his brothers weren't all that experienced with “normal” society, but it became very apparent, very quickly, just how bad it was. They weren't in there for more than five minutes, when Juan started wanting to kill people. All because someone didn't see him there and bumped into him. Adam thought to himself that there has to be something that can be done about Juan's temper, and his lack of control of it, but that was something for later.
Then they went into a store that Janet wanted to go into so she could get some clothes for everyone. She was trying to find some jeans for Chang to wear, when she handed him a pair and told him to try them on. When she looked back a few seconds later, Chang had his pants around his ankles and was getting ready to take them all the way off.
“CHANG?!?!?! What are you doing?” Janet shouted before lowering her voice and looking around. Thankfully there was no one around to see what was going on.
“Mother? I was just doing as you requested.” Chang said obviously bewildered by her reaction.
It took Janet a minute or two to understand what was going on, and realize that Chang had never been to a store before hence never knew about changing rooms. Add the fact that he didn't have any modesty, he couldn't after growing up in a lab his whole life, and you couldn't expect him to behave in a conventional manner.
“I am sure that doing it here will be much quicker and easier. I do not see what the problem is.” Chang said still not understanding.
She finally explained to him about the changing rooms, and he went off to try on the jeans. When he got back, he handed the jeans to her with a nod, and said “These do fit properly, however, it would have been far more expedient if I were to have just tried them on here.” Janet was about to reply, but was interrupted, when, Jory came up with a shirt that he wanted to get. When Janet had asked him why, he grinned, and held the shirt up so she could read the back. “I am a Bomb Technician, if you see me running, try to keep up.”
Janet stood there for a second trying to make coherent words come out of her mouth while the rest of the kids just cracked up laughing. Jack tried hard not to laugh, but couldn't help it, and soon joined the rest of the kids. Janet tried to be serious but even she had a smile on her face as she took the shirt and added it to the pile. Adam knew instantly that Jory would be wearing the shirt often.
Logan had convinced his mom to allow them to go to the food court to get something to eat. Logan just couldn't believe that none of the Unit boys had ever eaten pizza, or had McDonald's. 'I mean that is like sacrilegious to a kid' he thought to himself. So Logan had dragged the whole group, Janet, Jack, Bill, Ronnie, Adam, Juan, Chang, Jory and Will, into the food court.
There they split into four different groups. Bill took Will, and Chang, while Ronnie took Jory and Juan, leaving Logan and Adam by themselves, and Jack and Janet by themselves. Each one of the “tour guides” took their group around to each of the different food stores and told them what was in each.
Bill was shocked when they got to the Chinese food stand, and Chang walked right up, and started to converse with the person behind the counter in fluent Chinese. He explained afterwards that he was very familiar with Chinese food as that was his primary diet in the lab.
Adam had chosen to eat pizza with Logan, and after a bit of awkwardness, he finally got the hang of eating with his fingers. He sort of remembered eating pizza when he was younger... before the lab, but he wasn't really sure.
Logan groaned out loud, and Adam turned to look at what he was worried about, only to see both Juan and Jory coming to the table laden down with food from McDonald's. “What's wrong?” Adam asked, and Logan just shook his head. “Do you have any idea how much sugar is in those big assed sodas they got?” Adam just chuckled and shook his head, this was definitely going to be a memorable day.
After they were all done eating, Janet walked over and gave Logan a couple twenty dollar bills. “Why don't you take the kids over to the arcade for a bit, then we can go and finish our shopping.”
Logan gave his mom a look that clearly stated 'are you nuts?!?!' She, meanwhile, gave him a look that said 'don't argue with me.'
“Okay, is this one of those conversations that don't have any words?” Adam asked. Both Janet and Logan busted out laughing.
“Yeah Adam it was, and Mom won.” Logan said while shaking his head.
“Well of course she did,” Adam said, “I learned along time ago that she ALWAYS wins.” that sent everyone else to laughing, and Logan took them all off to the arcade.
Anyone that knew Juan, knew what games he would go to first. They had this really neat game that had a sniper rifle and you needed to kill people using the scope. Juan immediately went to it, a few seconds later he came back to Logan. “Logan, it says I need a dollar, can you give me one?” The little guy practically begged.
Logan just chuckled, “Sure Juan, hold on a minute,” he then went over, changed one of the twenties for quarters, and handed Juan four of them.
Juan let out a cry of joy and ran over to the game. “Damnit!” he exclaimed, “I can't reach the thing!” Logan couldn't help but laugh as he drug a stool over for Juan to stand on. “This is so not funny Logan... why can't they make these games for someone our size?”
“Because, that game's not made for babies... why don't you step back and let someone who should play that game have a chance.” Came a voice from behind them, followed by some laughter. Juan and Logan turned around to see three older kids standing there with smug looks on their faces.
'Oh no!' Logan thought to himself, but Juan really surprised him with his response. “Tell ya what... I got twenty bucks saying I can beat you on this game.” Juan said to the older kid. Logan was sure that Adam must have been talking to Juan cause that's exactly what he could imagine Adam saying.
The older kids laughed, and the one Juan challenged spoke up, “sure, I'll take your money, but first, I wanna see that you got it. I mean twenty bucks is a lot of money for a little boy like you.”
Logan was sure that Juan was going to loose it any second, but the younger boy just plastered a smile on his face and looked over to Logan. “Hey Logan, can I borrow twenty, I'll give it back to you after I teach this punk a lesson.”
Logan laughed a bit, and reached into his pocket and pulled out the other twenty Janet had given him. He took a look around and saw that everyone he knew was standing around somewhere in the arcade watching them. Logan was actually really glad for the training that Adam had given him because with out it, he never would have noticed that they were being watched. He should have known that, at least, Adam and his brothers would know what was going on due to their link, but it was reassuring.
Logan decided to play along a little bit as he handed the money to Juan. “Sure thing little brother, but, do me a favor, and don't beat them too badly. I'd hate to see big boys like this crying.” Logan was really glad to see that the other boys looked like they were enjoying the banter back and forth, and it seemed that all of this was in good fun. That made Logan a lot more at ease.
Juan let the older boy go first, and just stood back and watched. The older boy was good, but Juan wasn't really worried.
The kid put up a good score, then stood back. “There you go shorty, why don't you just give me my money now?” He said with a laugh.
Juan actually put on a worried look, and looked back and forth between Logan and the older kid. “Umm... damn... that was a high score. Umm... well I guess I better at least try.” He then put the stool in place, inserted his quarters, gave a nervous little laugh, then started to play.
The older kids stood there with the jaws falling further and further from their faces as Juan played. Juan played for almost twenty straight minutes. Not only had be beat the other kid, he had put up a new top score, and he finished the game... all with out loosing a single life.
“DAMN!!!! you mean there's no more?!?!” Juan said as he stepped back off the stool. The other kids just stared at him, as the arcade employee came up to him. “Son, you can't use that language in here!” the guy said to Juan.
Juan noticed that he worked there, and turned to face him fully. “You work here?” he asked, but went on before the guy could answer. “I wanna log a complaint about this game. The scope is off target by two degrees to the left. No wonder most people can't beat the game... it's rigged!”
The guy just stood there staring at Juan. Logan decided now would be a good time to leave, so he grabbed Juan and started to drag him off. Juan wouldn't budge till he got the twenty from the other kid, but then let Logan drag him off.
They finally met up with Janet and Jack to continue their shopping, and everyone was laughing to hard to really tell the adults what had happened. Neither Janet nor Jack were really sure they wanted to, and were just glad that all the boys came back in one piece, and from the looks of things, none of them had killed or maimed anyone else.
Finally they left the mall in fear that security was going to kick them out. Someone had made a rude comment about Bill being in a wheel chair, and Will took exception to it. Will had taken Bill into the bathroom to help him into one of the stalls. A few older boys were already in there, and started to pick on Bill for being a “helpless gimp.” Bill just shrugged it off, but Will got into their faces. One of them was stupid and actually took a swing at the lanky eleven year old, and Will had left them all in a heap on the floor. He then helped Bill do what he needed to, and they left the bathroom. After relating what happened to Janet and Jack, it was decided that maybe they should go to take a look at the warehouse the Logan was looking at, and they left the mall. Juan just really didn't understand why Janet was so uptight about the fight Will was in.
'Mom just doesn't get it! Be this. Be that. Don't do this. Don't do that. I mean can't she realize that we're NOT the perfect little normal “human” boys she wants us to be? Jeez. You can't bring any weapons to the mall. Adam you frisk all your brothers and promise me that they do not have any guns on them. It was just small ones in the boots and little Glock 9mm in the small of my back.
Juan is so wrapped up in his thoughts that he doesn't realize that he is moving away from the rest of his group and heading down a different row of cars.
'I mean if we had taken guns the thing with Will and Bill in the bathroom would never have happened. DUH! I mean no one would have fucked with us if Mom would have let us go like I wanted to. You strap a gun under each arm, one on each hip, one in each boot, one at the small of my back, and Barret M95 slung across your back. No one would have ever messed with us. Will would have not had any problems if he was packing like that. Why can't mom see that. They would have been all. “Damn. Look at those guns. I ain't messin' with him.” Hell No! That's Right! You won't be messin' with me. You want a piece of me punk!'
Juan did a little dance at his last thought, and giggled to himself.
'See mom guns woulda helped. Problem solved. I just don't get it.'
'I mean my God, I was even drooling over the fucking b-b guns... If Jory ever heard me thinking that he'd never let me live it down. I mean my GOD... a FUCKING b-b GUN!!!! What have I been brought down to. Oh God! If I don't stop thinking about b-b guns Jory'll pick it up. Gotta stop. No that's not working. No b-b guns. Damn. I did it again. Okay. Just calm down and don't think about b-b guns. Oh shit I did it again. Damn stupid b-b guns. They won't leave me alone! AHHHHHHHH! See Mom. Look what you've made me sink too. Bet you're sorry now huh?'
Somewhere across town:
“Come on Jeremy let’s go.” Toby called to the lagging older boy.
“Alright,” Jeremy sighed, he really didn’t see what the big hurry was to get back to that place.
I still can’t believe I’m stuck there I thought as I jogged to catch up to Toby.
He was a cute kid but always seemed so happy about everything that it got me down sometimes.
“Come on guys.” I called back to Tyler, Mark, Eric and Keith who were behind me.
The little ones had gotten home earlier so it was only us left.
As Dad would say another day in paradise although I kinda woulda said hell.
“The Barnholm Children’s Home,” or as the kids had named it “The Butt Hole Children’s Home,” although we usually just called it the hole.
Everyone knew what we meant.
It was a large farmhouse that had been converted into a home for children.
It had seven bedrooms that usually held ten kids and the houseparent.
It was supposed to be some new thing to make all the kids lives’ better, yeah right.
“Hey Jer, you okay?” Tyler asked as he caught up to me and put an arm around my shoulders.
“Yeah,” was all I answered as I kept walking.
They all knew the story, the whole story, but it didn’t make it any easier when I got reminded of it.
We got back to the house and the little ones all came over to get some hugs although Tom was staring at us from the porch and clearly didn’t like it.
Tom was the houseparent at least until five when the next one came on but he was the head dick of the place and even more was the one responsible for most of the hell we lived in.
He glared at me and I glared right back.
I had found out that the reputation I had actually came in useful for something after all when I got here.
He didn’t mess with me as long as I didn’t mess with him too much but the bad part was he made it clear he would hurt or worse the little ones if I interfered too much with his program.
I hated what he and the others did but didn’t have much choice in letting it happen or much worse would instead.
He had tried once and only once to make me do the stuff and when he could speak again we came to an understanding that I hated but didn’t have any choice about.
I couldn’t be there all the time and he knew it.
He or one of his asshole buddies could get to the others anytime they wanted and there would be nothing I could do about it.
Him being afraid of what I would do to him was about the only thing that kept him from doing more.
The one good thing was that I was able to get him to agree to some things that he didn’t want to like the kids not coming back bruised and bloody anymore.
At least that was something if not much, that and he left me alone.
I couldn’t resist as I walked by him with pissing him off some more.
“Hey Tom, where’s Dick and Harry?” and then as he look lost added “Oh sorry that’s right you’re hairy and a dick so never mind” as I smiled and walked on inside leaving him standing there with his face turning red while some of the others snickered at him.
What I wasn’t expecting was to find him suddenly behind me slamming the door shut just as I entered my room grabbing onto my shoulder and swinging me around.
“You keep that mouth shut you hear me?” he yelled.
I just looked at his hand and calmly said “Would you like it broken or permanently disabled?”
“You think you’re hot shit don’t you boy?” he snarled.
Tom had this disgusting habit of spitting when he talked.
“I guess I get to choose” I said as I brought my hand up and grabbed onto him twisting his hand and placing him in a control hold that put him on the floor crying out in pain.
“Don’t fucking ever touch me you understand?” I whispered in his ear.
“Let me go or one of them is going to get hurt, bad.” He told me which instantly shot fear through me and I released him to sit there cradling his hand.
“Don’t ever do that again.” He said.
“Then don’t ever touch me again or it’ll be worse.” I replied.
“One of these days you little….” He started but I interrupted him “Maybe... but until then you know our bargain.”
“I’m getting tired of our bargain” he told me.
“Really well just remember one thing, if any of them get hurt, I’ll kill you” I said looking him right in the eye just like daddy always said to.
He looked away first and got up walking to the door.
When he got there he turned and said “One of these days you might be surprised on that score,” and walked out slamming the door behind him.
How long could I keep this up I thought as I sank down on the bed shaking with what had happened.
He was right, one of these days he would get me and there was nothing I could do about it because I knew he was way too scared to take me in an open fight where it would be the other way around.
What was I going to do?
Things couldn’t keep going on like this.
I just didn’t know what to do.
I had thought of going to the police once but as if he could read my mind the next day when I got home from school I found a police car in the drive and the chief of the town cops sitting in the living room getting blown by Jimmy while Tom just smiled at me.
The son of a bitch actually asked if I wanted a turn next.
So we lived in an uneasy truce.
He got to keep selling the kids but not as much as he used to and he couldn’t sell em to the ones who wanted to hurt them and I kept my mouth shut and didn’t cause him any trouble.
Tyler came in then and took one look at me and ran over pulling me to him and hugging me and that was all it took before I was crying into his shoulder.
I had been here about eight months now and Tyler had become very close to me.
All the kids were like family cause each other was all we had but Tyler was special and I just held onto him until I could regain some control.
While we were all close and loved each other, Tyler was the one kid here who I could talk to, I mean really talk to.
I could tell him anything and did.
I had told him about my life before and about that night and he told me everything too.
It was like he was a part of me or something and I always felt better when he was near me.
When I had calmed down he asked “What happened?”
“Oh Ty, he’s gonna kill me one of these days, I just know it and then what’ll happen to all of you?” I said.
“He can’t take you and you know it” Tyler said laughing trying to cheer me up.
“He won’t. He’ll stick a knife in me in my sleep or something, it won’t be a fair fight” I told him.
Tyler gasped and said “Then you gotta run away Jer”
“No! I won’t leave all of you here with that” I replied
“Tyler, if he’s gonna kill you then you got no choice” he told me.
“I won’t leave you guys, ever. You’re family now” I said back to him.
“Jer, you gotta. I…I can’t lose you too” he said softly.
“Tyler you know the minute I left what would happen” I replied.
“We got by before we’ll just have to do it again” he said
I was shaking my head before he had finished and finally said “You know how bad some of the kids were getting hurt, especially the little ones, I can’t let it happen again, I can’t.”
He just hugged me tighter and we didn’t say anything else for some time until the door burst open and the only houseparent we loved stood there asking “Jer, honey, are you alright?”
He came into the room and sat down next to me pulling me and Ty into his arms and holding us.
Why couldn’t they all be like this?
Adults were supposed to love us and take care of us like daddy and like Dave, not hurt us.
Dave had come to work here shortly after I came here and within days saw what was going on but like me they got him by the balls and he had to remain silent about what was happening.
They wouldn’t even let him quit and go somewhere else.
Dave had come to the area thinking he had a job teaching but the job hadn’t happened so he took one here instead.
They had known somehow that he was going to stop all this and one day Tom showed up with pictures of Dave’s little boy tied up somewhere to a chair with a knife against his throat pressing in just enough to cut and show some blood.
Tom had told him that if he said anything at all then it didn’t matter where they went, Tom or his friends would find him and the boy and kill the boy real slow in front of Dave.
He also threatened Dave with hurting the kids here and Dave didn’t want that to happen.
The final thing though was Tom drugged Dave or something and sent a couple of kids into his room that night while he video taped what happened next.
We came home from school the next day and Tom had us all sit down in the living room where Dave and his son were sitting and said he had a movie for us to watch.
I could tell Dave didn’t know what was coming as he seemed surprised at hearing this and when the video started playing he looked sick.
The video was of Andy and Mark doing all sorts of things with a laughing and very happy Dave.
It was quite detailed and clear and pretty much covered everything two guys could do together.
Tom made us watch the whole thing and then told us “Dave won’t be saving any of you so give up that bright idea cause not only will this be given to the cops but his son won’t live to see daddy’s trial” and walked out of the room.
Dave just put his head in his hands and cried along with his son.
Since that day Dave had become a dad to us and we all loved him while Kenny had become a brother.
He did everything he could for us and took care of us but we still were stuck living in this hell.
We talked about that video and both Mark and Andy told Dave how sorry they were but that they didn’t have any choice in the matter.
Dave told them it wasn’t their fault and just wanted to make sure he hadn’t hurt them.
Mark said “You ain’t that big” which got everyone laughing.
Dave was what grown-ups were supposed to be and he was as close to having a dad again as I could allow myself to think.
My dad would have liked him.
Some of us did wonder about Dave and after we all spent some months getting to know one another and finding out that we now had a dad who loved us Keith went to find out one night.
He told us the next day what had happened.
He went in asked if he could sleep with Dave after lights out and like many of us before had done was told alright.
This time though he put his hand down there on Dave and began touching.
Keith said that Dave simply moved his hand away and told him “I’ll love you sweetheart but I won’t in that way,” and even though Keith protested that he could tell Dave liked it all they did was cuddle up together and sleep.
That’s the way it had been ever since too.
Since then we had all decided that Dave would like it but wouldn’t do it, we just didn’t know if it was because we were in this place or something else.
I got him alone one night and asked him why he wouldn’t if we wanted to but all he would say was “You don’t need that kind of love right now,” and with that we had to kinda be okay.
Dave was one grown up that I would have liked to do things with I think but he never would and so we just kept to ourselves for that.
Finally Dave asked what had happened and I told him which just caused him to hold us tighter.
“You can’t keep antagonizing him, or you are going to get hurt” he finally said.
“I know but he’s so mean. He hated that the little kids got hugs from us when we came home from school” I replied.
“That’s because there is no love in his heart and he can’t stand to see it anywhere else” Dave said
We were quiet until he finally said “Come on guys, you can help with dinner” which got us groaning even though I did like to cook.
We said “Okaaaaaay” and slowly got up making like it was the worst chore in the world.
He just laughed at us and we smiled up at him before he turned all serious and asked “You have those weapons still right?”
“Yeah I do” I replied as we walked out of the room towards the kitchen thinking about some of the things I had been able to make or get with his help. It wasn't much, but ten shurikan, and a Tanto, would have to do if I was faced with Tom and his friends.
Meanwhile, back at the Mall.
Juan was distracted from his ranting by a sound coming from behind a van. He turned his attention in the direction of the Van. He didn't need to do anymore investigating. He already knew what was happening on the other side of the the security fence behind the van.
“Let's kill him. We know what he's gonna do to that kid. We gotta stop him!” Juan stopped dead in his tracks as he heard the voice of the “bad kid” in his head.
“Ahhh! No! Don't touch me there!” Juan is temporarily distracted from the conversation in his head.
'Damn that sounded loud.'
'See. He's trying to rip the kids shorts off. We can't let it happen. Six blows, thats all it'll take. Four blows to the chest, and two to the throat. That's all it will take.'
'Okay jerkwad! Guess what. You get to meet “Him.”'
The nine year old's eyes suddenly turned yellow.
Juan charged the man letting out a terrifying war whoop. The startled man looked up and couldn't believe what he was seeing. A nine year old Hispanic kid with yellow eyes and the look of a predator was barreling straight for him. He barely had time to shove the little boy whose shorts he was just ripping off away before Juan collided with him. In almost the same moment Juan delivered six precise blows.
Four landed on the man's chest completely shattering the man's sternum and ribs with a loud snapping sound not unlike dry kindling being snapped in half to be placed in a fire. The last two blows landed on the man's throat crushing the windpipe and spine. The man died gurgling, drowning in his own blood, before he could even fully comprehend what was happening.
Janet came running to where Juan had gone. Everyone but Ronnie and Billy reached the van at about the same time. Billy being in the chair had slowed him and Ronnie down a bit. What she saw made her stop dead in her tracks. A young boy, maybe eight or nine, who's ripped shorts were hanging down around his knees was laying on the ground, and was watching Juan literally beat a man to a pulp.
“What the Fuck?!?” Juan screamed!
He was staring at Dr. Drake. The man who had raped and tortured him in the lab.
“I killed you already you son of a bitch!”
Janet made her way quickly to the young boy Juan had rescued and pulled his pants back up as she pulled him into her arms. Her eyes hadn't left Juan. She was horrified by the scene in front of her. As soon as she had the boys shorts back on she gave the frightened child a reassuring hug, and passed him off to Chang.
Juan began to pummel the dead man's face into a paste. Everyone was stunned and just stared at the bloodbath in front of them.
“Lets see how you like having your balls removed Doc.”
With the ferocity of a tiger he grasped the dead man between his legs and ripped the contents of his groin from his body.
“I'm not frightened of you. You arrogant son of a bitch. How do like it when it is done to you?!? Huh? You having fun Doc? HUH!?! I'm not scared anymore!”
Janet made to put her hand on Juan. Adam realized suddenly through his link that Juan was out of control and about to kill Janet. “No,” he screamed as he moved quickly to intercept the blow that Juan was aiming at Janet. He almost didn't make it. He caught the younger boys fist in the palm of his hand just inches from Janet's face. The ferocity of Juan's attack was making Adam exert himself.
Juan's eyes locked with Janet's. She had never seen such ferocity before. Those eyes scared her more deeply then anything she had ever seen. There was nothing but blood thirsty rage behind them. There was no recognition of her, just the desire to kill. She was acutely aware of the fist just inches from her head and the struggle that Adam was putting up to keep Juan at bay.
This was not the fun loving little boy she had gotten to know. These eyes belonged to a cold, hard killer, that wanted nothing more than to destroy everything he could touch.
Janet had never been more afraid than she was right then staring into the eyes of this boy. She watched as Juan started to blink a few times, and she could almost see a struggle going on behind those eyes.
Finally Juan closed his eyes for a few seconds, and when he opened them again, his eyes were back to the brown that he usually had. He stared at Janet in horror for a few seconds, then broke down and collapsed to the ground sobbing.
“No! I'm sorry Mommy. Please don't be mad at us.”
He was sure he had lost his mom. She would just toss him away like the broken piece of shit he was. “He” had ruined everything. Juan felt like a piece of his very soul had been ripped from him. He wanted his mom to hug him, but he could see that she was trying to get as far from him as she could.
Janet stumbled backwards, and almost fell on her butt, but Jack was there to catch her. Adam was now on the ground trying to comfort Juan. Everyone else was just standing there staring in shock and disbelief at the scene before them.
Adam was the first to regain his senses. He lifted the still sobbing Juan into his arms. “Will, you and Jory, hide the body, we gotta get out of here. Now. What are you all standing around for? Get moving! That's an order!”
That seemed to snap everyone out of it. Will and Jory quickly did as Adam told them, and dumped the body of the guy into a dumpster. Chang was holding onto the boy that had been attacked by the man. “The boy”, as he was now thinking of the boy Juan had saved, had passed out at some point. Adam was thankful for small favors.
“Okay lets get back to the helicopter and get home.” Adam said as they made their way to the vehicle. Janet was still out of it a bit, but at least wasn't needing to be carried. Suddenly Juan launched himself out of Adam's arms and threw his arms around Janet's legs at ankle height. This caused Janet to gasp. She was about to pull away but Juan's tears and anguished voice froze her in place.
“I'm sorry Mommy. Please don't hate me. Don't throw me away!”
Juan began to beat his head against the pavement. Adam made to stop Juan, but Janet waved him off.
“I'm bad. I know it. I'm no good. I'm sorry mommy. Don't get rid of me. I won't let the bad boy out again, just don't hate me!” How he was managing to say this while bashing his face into the pavement was beyond understanding.
Janet knelt. She placed a hand under Juan's face. Her emotions were a jumble. She was feeling horror and fear. She was feeling guilt for her part in the experiments that had done this to these boys. She was feeling rage at the people who had hurt Juan so badly. Juan's head slammed into her hand. She could feel the bones break and she let out a cry of pain. Juan froze instantly at the sound.
“No. MOMMY! I didn't mean too.”
“Shhh now mister. You just calm down. Take some deep breaths. I want you to look at me. Right in the eyes, so you know I am telling the truth okay?”
Juan was still breathing raggedly and was struggling to suppress his sobs. It was making him take gulping breaths. Finally he managed to get out a reply.
“Yes Mommy.” Juan sounded like a four year old instead of the nine years he had. He looked her in the eyes.
“I am very frightened of you right now, but I want you to know that I still love you. What you did to that man scared me, but when you tried... Well I have never been so frightened in my life.”
Juan began to sob again, but his eyes never left Janet's. He could see she was telling the truth and he knew he didn't deserve her love.
“Juan.” She gently touched his cheek as she urged him to stand with her.
Logan, Jack, Adam, and the rest could not believe what they were seeing. Logan was terribly angry at Juan and horrified by what had happened. He could not believe that she was reacting like this. The more he thought about it though, the more he felt a compassion for Juan. He seemed like such a tough little prick most of the time. However, he was also a very hurt and scared little boy. Logan decided that his mom had to be the most amazing person in the world. She was so brave. He hoped that he could live up to the example she was setting. Logan's thoughts were generally shared by his companions.
The trip back to the base was solemn and quiet. Janet had held Juan all the way back, while he cried on and off, even held him while Chang splinted her hand, and gave her a shot of pain killer. She had carried him to his pod despite her broken hand, and removed his clothing, then placed him in his bed. She stood up and looked down at Juan.
“Mommy. Will you stay with me?” Juan's eyes found Janet's. This frightened terrified little boy she was seeing was not the same as the one in the parking lot. His eyes were pleading with her. She was certain that Juan was suffering from a “Depersonalization Disorder” at the very least, if not from a full blown case of “Dissociative Identity Disorder.” She was in over her head. They needed a fully trained psychologist, or psychiatrist. Someone with a lot of experience working with kids and the more severe types of disorders. If she was going to help Juan she would have to find someone. Her expression softened slightly. She hated to admit it, but she was scared of him. You had to be. He was a killer, but at the same time he was a scared little boy. She had trouble wrapping her head around it. Somehow he was surviving these two sides in conflict. How do you resolve something like that?
“Of course I will honey,” she responded. She lay down with him, and put her arms around him. She was still terrified by what happened, but her conscience would not allow her to abandon these children. Juan began to relax as she stroked his cheek. Soon he closed his eyes and his breathing became heavy. Suddenly his hand started fumbling around under his pillow. He pulled an enormous handgun from under his pillow. Juan stuck his thumb in his mouth and began to suck it while he cuddled the enormous handgun like a small child would a teddy bear. Janet was shocked. It was both alarming and funny at the same time. Finally Juan fell into a deep sleep. She gently disentangled herself from the boy after carefully moving the muzzle of the gun away from her face.
Adam and Logan were waiting outside of Juan's room with concerned looking faces. Janet put her finger to her lips and winced. Her broken hand had not been attended to yet, except for the temporary splint. Logan and Adam looked at each other and a silent understanding passed between them. Mom was one Hell of a lady. They made their way to the hospital pod. Janet was cradling her broken hand to her chest. For some reason they didn't say a word. They each remained in their own little worlds.
Once they reached the hospital pod it was like a floodgate opened and Janet let it out. She began to sob. It was wrenched from somewhere deep in her soul. Adam and Logan wrapped their arms around her as she shook from the intensity of her sobs. Soon all three were crying. Janet was the first to speak.
“I can't believe how we have ignored Juan's problems. He is such a hurt little boy inside. He doesn't have any idea about how he should act in 'normal' society. I kept telling him to behave like a 'normal' kid and he doesn't even know what that means, because the way he is, is normal to him. It is all he knows, and I ignored it. I failed as his mother.”
Adam and Logan were about to respond when they realized that they weren't alone. Chang and a very scared looking eight year old were staring at them and whispering to each other quietly. Chang had a hand supportively on the boys shoulder and would gently squeeze the boy's shoulder when he spoke to him.
“Hi Chang,” Janet said as she made her way over to him. The boy looked at them fearfully and gripped Chang's hand tightly with his and pressed himself against the older boy.
“Do you think you can do something about this broken hand son?”
“I will do my best Mother.”
“Can't ask anymore than that. Now who is this little guy that has a death grip on your hand?”
“This is Jamie, Mother. Jamie this is Mother, Adam my brother, and commanding officer, and another brother of mine, Logan who is our intelligence officer.” The boy jerked his head and looked up at Chang. He saw sincerity in Chang's eyes. He trusted Chang. So if Chang trusted these people, that was good enough for him.
“Hi everyone,” was all Jamie could get out. He was still somewhat in shock.
“Jamie, could you release my hand so that I may look at Mother's injury?” Jamie looked back and forth from his death grip on Chang's hand and the three newcomers.
“You may stay at my side and assist me.” Jamie's body relaxed visibly when Chang said this. He slowly released Chang's hand.
Once Chang was done tending to Janet's hand, he looked up to the three assembled there. “I am forced to report that we must return to town shortly.” He looked over at Jamie and smiled trying to reassure him that everything was alright. “Jamie is very insistent that we help his “family.” They are a group of homeless kids that have banded together for mutual protection. I believe that we must invite them to live here if they so wish.”
Jamie's head shot around and he looked hard at Chang. “Are... are you serious? You're gonna invite the rest to come out here?”
Adam moved over towards Jamie slowly. He knew the younger boy was still scared after almost getting raped. Having to watch as Juan had his breakdown could not have helped matters either. Adam was being very slow and deliberate in his motions. He squatted down to be on eye level with Jamie.
“If that is what they want then yes. I'm sure you've noticed that things work a bit differently here, so it will take some getting used to, but I promise you, if they come here, we will teach them what they need to know to defend themselves, and just maybe have a better life than they do now.”
Jamie locked eyes on Adam, and searched for some type of deception there, but couldn't find any. Finally he nodded, and hugged Adam.
Janet was walking through the hallway with Jack, Logan, and Adam. She had a lot of things to go over with them. The first one she needed to address was the gun that Juan was sleeping with.
“Adam. Did you know that your little brother sleeps with a gun?”
“If You mean the colt .44 Anaconda that he cuddles with at night, then the answer is yes.” Adam was able to suppress his laughter. He knew what was coming next.
“Well, at least tell me that thing is not loaded.” Janet said in exasperation.
Adam stopped walking, and looked intently at Janet. “Actually Mom, it is. As Juan would say, what's the use of having a gun if it's not loaded?”
Janet shook her head in disbelief. She just couldn't understand Juan sleeping with a gun, I mean what could be worse than that?!
“Oh God, Jory... PLEASE tell me Jory doesn't cuddle with some sort of explosive!” Janet said emphatically. Adam knew he had to deal with this situation carefully.
“Mom, you know how back in the lab you sometimes told me that it might be necessary to lie to someone... is this one of those times?” Adam asked with an innocent smile.
Both Janet and Jack were stunned into silence, imagining the sight of Jory cuddled up to some type of bomb. It was not a picture that comforted either of them. Suddenly Janet's eyes go wide open. The color drains from her face. Without a word she bolts away. Jack hollers at her to explain, but the only words she seems to be capable of making are, “Jory... little... kids... boom!”
Jack suddenly understood Janet's cryptic words. He experienced a moment of panic, but years of discipline kicked in and he acted. He races toward the little kids pod. If his suspicions proved to be correct something would have to be done quickly and with as little excitement as possible. The thought of a five year old sleeping with a hand grenade was enough to upset his stomach. He had seen what a grenade could do to an adult. He did not want to learn what one could do to a child.
Jory had recently taken all the youngest members under his wing, and was trying to look out for them as much as possible. He really seemed to like, and care for the little kids, and they absolutely adored him. So much so that lately, Jory spent most nights in their rooms, cuddled up with at least one of them
Soon everyone found Janet frantically punching the button for the elevator. We all took the elevator down to the level where the kids slept. They entered the pod and found that the kids were all huddled up in a pile in the center of the common room. Janet was relieved to find that Jory was not in the pod with the kids like usual. Then to Janet's horror she realized that every last one of the little kids including the five year old Kent, were cuddling with teddy bears. Each of the “teddy bears” was holding a grenade in its paws. Janet eyed the “teddy bears” suspiciously, then mouthed her concern to Jack. “Is that what I think it is?” Jack just nodded. The “teddy bears” were molded out of C-4. Janet looked as if she was having a seizure of some kind while she tried to collect her thoughts. She was looking wildly from the kids to Jack and back again. Her panic was interrupted by a comment from the doorway.
“At least I was able to convince him to let me take the detonators off the bears and the grenades he gave to the other kids to sleeps with. None of theirs are live.” Adam said this lightly as he turned and walked out of the pod and down the hall, leaving both adults slack jawed.
Once Janet was able to breathe again, she went to Juan's room. She knew that he was really hurting right now. She knew that she was more than a bit scared of him. All this did was make her even more determined to over come it. She had to if she was going to help the boy, and that was a certainty in her mind.
She quietly crept into Juan's room, and sat down on the edge of the bed. She almost had to laugh at the sight. Juan was still cuddled up to the gun as if it were a little kids teddy bear. She sat there and stroked his forehead for a few hours while she thought about everything that had happened since the day she had gone to work for Dr. Marcus. That was the day she had become part of the Genesis Project. She hadn't known what she was becoming involved in at the time. She felt that because it had been placed in front of her, that she was capable of doing something about it, and that the opportunity had given to her, and she had chosen to take it, that she must finish what she started. She had made a commitment not only by her words, but by her actions.
She had let those boys call her Mom. As a mom you try to do your best things for your kid. She took this responsibility very seriously. She had always tried to engage Logan and help him to understand things. These boys needed someone to teach them the meaning of social interactions. Things that most people were being taught when they were one year, two, three... five, etc. were absent from their experience. How was she to deal with stuff that was so basic with these intelligent and precocious children without harming their sense of self esteem. That was her basic rule. She always had tried to make sure that Logan had enough room to screw up and come to her with it. She had always made it about solving the problem and accepting the consequences of your actions. How was this going to work when a screw up could be so deadly? She wasn't sure. Doubt plagued her mind on this subject.
Janet knew she had invited that scared and lonely little boy she had met in the lab on the day she had discovered the true face of “Project Genesis” into her family. Every day she told a story to Adam about Logan it had been reaffirmed. Every time she had shown Adam a picture of Logan it had become that much more concrete. It had only been a matter of time. She had committed herself to help Adam. It was not something that she had done lightly. She intended to be their Mother.
Sometime later, she felt Juan start to stir. Slowly his eyes fluttered open, and he smiled when he saw Janet sitting on the edge of the bed. “Hi Mommy.” Juan said. He then seemed to remember about the gun, cursed silently, and shoved it under his pillow.
He was blushing slightly as he looked back at Janet. “Sorry Mom. I know how much you don't like guns.”
“Shhh... It's okay Juan, I don't mind. From now on, I just want you to be yourself, and IF you want to learn how other kids act, then I'll try and teach you. But it's up to you, I won't push you to be what you're not. Okay?” She was speaking softly, and saw Juan almost immediately start to tear up.
“Okay Mommy,” was all he got out before throwing himself at her in a hug again. A few minutes later Janet convinced him it was time to get up, and that she had other things to attend to. Before she left, she heard him say in a very small voice. “I love you Mommy.”
“I love you too my little guy.”
It wasn’t much but I had ten small shuriken that I usually kept hidden on me somewhere and one Tanto that was in my room also hidden.
If Tom came at me with some of his buddies it would help even the odds a bit.
Kenny immediately came up to us and hugged us asking if I was alright and then the others were there too.
We kept having to reassure them that I was okay and he hadn’t hurt me any before they would let us start on dinner.
I think threatening them with not eating did the trick more than anything else.
After dinner we went in and watched TV until Tom showed up to take Toby and Paul for fun and games.
After that we just couldn’t bring ourselves to keep having fun and laughing as we thought about the two boys and what fun and games they were going to be doing.
At least now each kid didn’t have to do it more than twice a week and usually not more than once.
That was part of the deal, because when I got there they were pretty much all going out every night.
We all waited up till they came back at ten to make sure they were alright before we headed to bed.
Tyler and I slept in the same room so one of us crawling into the other’s bed was easy not that any of the kids had a problem with it anyway.
We all had fun together although since Dave was here it was more for fun I thought when we did stuff than what it had been before.
As our hands touched each other that night and then our mouths I was able to forget the problems we all faced and the threat to me and by the time we had that most wonderful of feelings slam into our bodies I didn’t care either as I slipped into sleep with Ty snuggled up in my arms to dream of past events.
And then came the nightmare.
I woke up in the middle of the night screaming out in pain, as I remembered that day in the showers. With in a few moments, I had both Tyler and Dave cuddling me, trying to calm me down.
Now I had a dad again and a family but it seemed like every time someone brought it up I would have “The nightmare” as Dave called it for it was never ‘a’ nightmare but always ‘the’ nightmare.
“You okay sweetheart?” Dave asked as I came back to the here and now and I simply nodded hugging him tighter.
“I love you Dave” I said softly
“I love you too honey” he replied as I let him go and settled back down with Ty in my arms.
He lent over and kissed both of us goodnight and told us to come get him if we needed him.
After we told him we would he left and I went back to sleep, this time without any memories.
Two hours later my life changed again.
I woke up suddenly knowing something was very, very wrong but at first couldn’t figure out what it was.
I stayed real quiet and still as I felt around grabbing my shuriken and tanto from where they were hidden, waiting, waiting and listening.
Then suddenly I heard noises and Dave came running quietly into the room to Jimmy’s bed and looking behind him all the while.
He was waking Jimmy up and telling him something urgently when another figure walked into the room.
I couldn’t see well in the dark but the figure was small, dressed darkly and there was something glinting in his hand.
At that moment all I could see was dad and that boy from McHenry's Market, again as the figure crept silently up to Dave.
I slid out of bed and onto the floor coming to my knees as I saw the figure raise the knife and suddenly Dave stiffened up as I heard a voice say “Time to die fucker.”