Eric 382

Book 2


Near the end of Chapter 9 ...

'I guess,' Haden said as he did his best to send a mental shrug. 'But it still doesn't seem right that all of the rest of you have tasks that you are doing to help people out with. While I... I just kind of hide all the time.'

Haden could sense some really fast thoughts bouncing around in the link between different people, but they were going way too fast for him to have any chance of figuring out what was being said.

A few moments later, Haden heard Daileass in his head, 'Personally, I would feel a lot better if you would spend some time letting your mind recover a bit more. However, the general feeling is that you're stable enough for the time being, and that just sitting around letting this continue to eat at you could end up doing more harm then good. So... If you are really interested in doing something to help out, I think we have come up with something you might be able to pull off. I'll warn you now though, you might not like it.'

'What is it?' Haden sent back eagerly.


Chapter 10

9:00am RST - Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004 (10:00pm PST - Monday, November 1st, 2004)

'Basically, most of the kids and adults that we got off the slave truck earlier have been processed such that they have been medically checked out, have gotten some food, and clean clothes, etc. However, one thing you will notice is that a bunch of them are still lingering around inside the palace courtyards, especially some of the younger guys. Right now we are running a bit short on people that can show them around a little, take them to their dorm, and help them get settled in. Since the quads that we are using here are the same that you guys have back in Vegas, that means you're already familiar with them.'

Haden blinked as he thought about what Daileass had just said, 'You want me... to show people around... people I've never seen before?'

'I told you that you might not like it,' Daileass replied. 'Don't worry dude, it's not something you really need to do, eventually someone will get around to it.'

"I'll do it," Haden whispered out loud.

'You sure, Haden?' Daileass sent back. 'You don't need to do this.'

Haden sighed, 'Everyone else is doing stuff to help. You trusted me to be a part of your link. I can help too. But, um... Daileass? I've never been here before. How am I suppose to be able to find my way around this place?'

'Have you already forgotten who you're linked to?' Daileass sent back with a grin. As soon as he sent that, somewhere in the back of Haden's mind, a map of the area appeared, along with small labels above key locations.

Between being momentarily disoriented by the sudden appearance of the image and it somehow getting mixed up in his normal vision, and the surprise of what he was seeing, Haden lost his balance and fell backward. "Cool!" Haden said out loud, again forgetting to send his thoughts through the link.

Moments later, the map began to reorient itself, and turned into something that looked more like a 3D holographic map, partially suspended somewhere in his vision yet not really there.

'Oh cool, I like how you're changing it from a 2D to 3D map, Daileass.' Haden sent.

'Huh?' Daileass asked slightly confused. 'Actually, I'm not doing anything to the map image data I'm sending you. Your mind is just adapting to make use of the information your getting better. And with as quickly as that seems to be happening for you, that's fairly impressive.'

Haden remained on the ground for a bit, as he looked at the map. If he concentrated a little bit, he could make the map rotate around in his head, almost as if he were the one that was thinking about it. A short while after that, he also learned how to make the map zoom in and out. 'This is way cool Daileass.'

'I'm glad your head can make sense of all the different sources of data that go into making it. For now, anything like this you need, I'll probably need to send you. But eventually, I'm sure you will learn how to get whatever information you want from the link on your own. Ready for your first customer?'

Haden stood up, brushed off his shorts, and looked at his older brother still sleeping on the couch. 'Yeah, I think I have time to help someone while Evan is still asleep.'

'Okay,' Daileass replied. 'This first one should be easy for you. His name is Viktor Kozlov, he's a seven years old boy, and should be in the northern part of the courtyard.'

Haden nodded and picked up his bear into his arms, "Come on Gyro, our brothers need us to go help out some of the other kids here."

As Haden left the room and stepped into the large hallway, he was momentarily taken back by not only how large the hall itself was, but also the architecture that was used in it. Everything from the large pillars on the sides of the hall to the ornate light fixtures that were between those pillars and over the decorative archways were all elements that Haden had only previously seen in online pictures.

Using the map that was in his head, Haden carefully made his way in the direction he was needing to go. Expecting to see lots of Russians running around, he was mildly relived to see that most of them were UNIT kids, so perhaps this place would not be as scary as he feared.

As he stepped out of the hall, and into the sunlight, Haden was once again impressed by the exterior architecture of the Russian palace, as he looked across the well landscaped courtyard. To his right, he saw a large group of kids along with a few adults gathered on the far side of the yard, along with several small tents setup. Many of the kids were sitting on the ground quietly talking amongst themselves. A few were kicking balls back and forth between each other, while others were playing in the snow that was in the grass areas, while still more were getting things from tables that were setup under the tents. As he stood there watching them, Haden could already feel his body starting to tighten up.

'It's okay Haden, we are all right here with you.' Daileass sent.

Haden blinked in surprise, as for the first time, he was almost sure that Daileass, Logan, and all his other new brothers were standing behind him. When he spun himself around to look, he was surprised even more to see no one was there. "Huh?" he said in surprise.

'It's the link, Haden.' Daileass answered Haden's unasked question. 'Now that you are getting the link at it's full intensity, you can literally feel what I promised you would when you were first added, that you will never be alone again.'

Still convinced that everyone was standing behind him, he turned around again, and then again, and yet again. 'It feels so real,' Haden finally sent down the link. 'It's like you guys are standing right behind me, but if I turn to look you're not there.'

'Yup, that's the link. We love and care about you Haden, so you will never need to be alone again.' Daileass sent Haden a hug.

Haden nodded and hugged Gyro, who he still held in his arms, as he looked back out toward the large group of kids and adults. 'Daileass? There are so many kids over there, how do I know which one is Viktor?'

'Easy,' Daileass sent back. As he sent this, the 3D map disappeared, and in its place, a picture of a small seven year old russian boy appeared, along with a small amount of information next to the picture, such as his name, date of birth, height, weight, etc.

'Thanks Daileass, This might not be as hard as I thought after all.' Haden sent as he started to make his way toward the large group, with all of Haden's brothers from the mental link standing right behind him.

A small boy with very short brown hair sat alone with his arms wrapped around his legs. He was watching a group of older boys play stones a few feet away from him. The boy wore a puffed out, warm looking green UNIT jacket, and matching slightly darker green pants, both of which looked like they were brand new. If it weren't for the pained expression on his face, one might easily mistake him for any other Russian boy.

"Viktor Kozlov?" Haden asked as he approached the boy.

Viktor looked up toward the approaching voice to see a boy that might only have been an inch or two taller than him. The boy clearly seemed out of place. His pale, smooth complexion, mopy dark brown hair, and green-grey eyes clearly indicated that he wasn't Russian, but at the same time, he didn't look at all like the other non-Russian kids who had been helping him so far. For starters, he wore a very thin looking dark blue shirt which could not possibly have been warm enough for being out side. And, his arms were wrapped around a large, over-sized teddy bear. Finally, there was the odd looking gadget that he wore on his right arm.

"Yes?" Viktor answered after he realized the boy not only stopped, but had been looking down at him for several seconds.

"Um, hi?" Haden started as he tried to figure out what to say next. "I mean, I'm Haden. I need to take you places. Erm, I mean, show you around... to your places... so you can settle in your places."

'I can't do this, Daileass!' Haden nearly shouted in his head as he could feel tears starting to form in his eyes.

Almost immediately, Haden not only felt a warm hug embracing him from Daileass, but from several other of his new brothers as well. 'You're doing fine, Haden.' Daileass reassured him. 'This is the first time you have ever tried doing something like this, so the words might be a little hard at first.'

'I'm going to mess everything up, and he's going to hate me.' Haden sent as the hugs helped him to calm down and organize his thoughts better.

'I don't think he's going to hate you, Haden.' Gabe offered. 'As far as messing up goes... So what, if you do? That's how we learn things.'

'Haden, we are all here to help you. We won't let you do anything that is really bad. You just need to believe in yourself more, because all the rest of us do.' Daileass replied.

"Okay," Viktor said as he stood up. Something definitely seemed different about this kid, but at the same time, Viktor couldn't help but feel that he didn't really have anything to fear from him. If anything, the slightly taller boy that stood in front of him almost looked like he was more scared of him.

Haden blinked, "Okay? So you don't hate me?"

Viktor scrunched up his face a little in confusion. "No. Why would I?"

Haden shivered and shrugged at the same time. "Never mind I guess. Well, let's go."

"Aren't you cold?" Viktor asked before Haden had a chance to go anywhere.

Haden shrugged. "I guess maybe a little. I kind of got called here in a hurry, and forgot to bring a jacket with me."

"Those older kids were handing out jackets and other clothes to anyone who needed them. Maybe you could get one from them?" Viktor asked as he pointed toward one of the tents.

Haden was about to say no until he realized just how cold it was, and that he had been unconsciously holding Gyro close in an attempt to keep warm. "Maybe, but I wasn't... I'm not... well, you know."

"You weren't a slave like we were?" The smaller boy asked.

Haden nodded, "Yeah, so I don't know if I get one."

Viktor looked toward Haden, and then back toward the tent. "They seem like nice guys. I think they will. Let's go ask."

Before Haden could say anything else, Viktor was already walking toward the tent. Shrugging his shoulders, Haden quickly followed.

"Excuse me," Viktor stated to catch the attention of the two older teens in full UNIT uniforms that were standing behind the table. "Do you have any more of those jackets for my friend?"

One of the teens looked down at Haden. "Didn't you go through processing earlier?"

The other teen jabbed his friend in the side. "Geez Reeves, don't you recognize him? That's Haden."

"Seriously?" the first teen asked as he leaned down to get a better look, which caused Haden to reflexively take a step back.

"Haden, what are you doing here? Did all of the Vegas guys get called here as well?" The second teen asked as he pulled Reeves back.

Haden shook his head. "Just Evan and me. They needed me to... um... I was helping Dalieass with some stuff."

The second teen nodded. "Well, if you're going to be sticking around, you should probably have one of the UNIT Staff jackets. The only problem is, we just have the green civilian jackets here." The teen thought for a moment then tapped his comm badge. "Hey Daileass? I have Haden here at provisioning tent 3, he looks a bit under dressed for the weather here. How hard would it be to teleport one of the brown UNIT staff jackets over?"

"Hold on Jared, It's just about done being made." Daileass's voice replied over the comm badge, "Okay, here it comes." A few moments later, a brown jacket, and a matching pair of brown pants appeared on the table next to Jared. Attached to the jacket was one of the white ID badges that all the rest of the UNIT guys appeared to be wearing on their jackets or uniforms.

Jared picked up the jacket, and looked at the ID card which already had Haden's picture on it. "Why do I get the feeling you already knew what I was going to ask for, before I called?"

"Because I did." Daileass giggled.

Jared shook his head and tapped his comm badge to close the conversation before he handed the jacket and pants down to Haden. "Here you go, big guy. This should keep you a bit warmer."

Haden smiled as he set Gyro down, and accepted the clothes. It fit perfectly, almost as if it were made specifically for him. Which, knowing Daileass, it probably was.

"Wow, your bear can stand on it's own?" Viktor said in surprise.

Before Haden could answer, Gyro looked toward Viktor and nodded. "Of course I can. Why wouldn't I?"

"Whoa!" Viktor took a few steps back in surprise, "It can talk too?"

Haden smiled. "Yeah. That's Gyro, he's my friend and he protects me."

"Does he bite?" Viktor asked as he took a hesitant step toward Gyro.

"Only if you try to hurt me." Haden answered as he watched Viktor reach out to touch the bear. "I bet you will get to have one too, if you want."

Viktor looked at Haden with surprise. "Really?"

Haden nodded. "Yup. All the kids at the main UNIT base, and at our base that wanted one, got to have one. So I'm sure you guys will too."

"Cool!" Viktor smiled as he carefully pet Gyro's head.

Haden watched as Viktor spent a few minutes looking Gyro over. He was slightly surprised at how happy it seemed to make the kid. Seeing a smile on his face was a lot better than the haunted expression he remembered seeing when he first walked up to him.

"Um, weren't you going to take me somewhere?" Viktor asked after he had managed to look over every part of Gyro that he could think of.

"Oh yeah." Haden replied as the jacket and bear time had caused him to forget about why he was with this kid in the first place. 'Daileass, could you send that map again that showed the different places we need to see?'

Moments later, the 3D map of the area had reappeared in the back of Haden's head, or at least that was where he now imagined it to be. "Hum, Okay, I think the first place we need to go to is the dining hall. That's where you guys are going to be getting most of your meals at."

"Okay," Viktor agreed as he began to follow Haden. Hearing a soft squeaking sound behind him, the smaller boy was once again surprised to see Gyro quickly following behind them as well. "He walks fast for a teddy bear."

Haden looked and nodded. "Yeah, they all can walk pretty fast. They have to be able to keep up with us."

"Cool," Viktor replied as he noticed Haden looking around a lot. "Have you ever been here before?"

Haden shook his head. "Nope, this is my first time. Before today, I've never been out of my country."

"I meant the palace, but I guess that answers my question as well." Viktor replied. "How do you know where you are supposed to take me, if you have never been here before?"

Haden grinned. "I have a good map to follow. I think we can cut through this hall."

Viktor gasped as he looked at where Haden was pointing toward. "We can't go there. That's one of the Tzar's personal royal halls. We would be arrested if we went in there without being invited."

"Oh," Haden scratched his head. "That must be what that darker shading on the map meant. Guess we will have to go around. But that also means we get to go past the swimming pool."

"Swimming pool?" Viktor asked curiously as he followed Haden.

Haden nodded. "Yeah, a big blue ring shaped area around the corner."

Viktor began to giggle until Haden looked toward him. "That's not a swimming pool. That's the palace fountains."

Before Haden had a chance to say anything else, they rounded the corner. There, in front of both boys, was the large palace fountains with ornately designed statues, and decorative fixtures which shot water out of them.

"Okay, so it's a fountain and not a pool. Either way, that building behind them is where we are going." Haden pointed to a large pavilion like structure which looked like it was a cross between a tent and an actual building.

As they walked, Haden continued to steal glances toward the fountains.

"You like them?" Viktor asked.

Haden nodded. "Yeah, they remind me of the fountains we have in Las Vegas. You should come see them some time."

"Go to America?" Viktor sadly shook his head. "I never learned to read or speak English that well."

"What do you mean? You're speaking great english." Haden looked curiously toward the smaller boy.

"You're funny, friend." Viktor giggled, "We've been speaking in russian the whole time."

"We have?" As Haden thought about it more, he realized that they really had been speaking in russian without him even realizing it. How could that have happened? It didn't take long for Daileass's voice to appear in his head and remind him about the language dump they had gotten from the clan a few weeks ago, and how this was probably the first time he was really about to make use of that knowledge. "Wow, I guess we have."

Viktor giggled again, "How could you be speaking in a language you didn't know you were speaking in?"

"It's a long story." Haden sighed as he opened the door to the dining hall and waited for Viktor and Gyro to go through.

"Maybe you could tell it to me sometime?" Viktor asked as he saw the very strange expression on Haden's face. "Um, you okay?"

Haden looked around the mostly empty cafeteria. "What's that smell? I think they might be having problems here or something."

Viktor drew in a large sniff. "Mmm... Doesn't that smell wonderful?"

"Wonderful?" Haden asked with surprise.

Viktor nodded. "Yeah. Smells like fresh ukha."

"Right," Haden replied as he quickly turned around and headed back out the door.

"Haden? Where you going?" Viktor followed Haden outside. "I think you would like ukha. It's a really yummy soup made with different kinds of fish and roots."

"Fish and roots?" Haden asked as he took in several deep breaths of the outside air. "You guys have some weird food here."

"It's not weird," Viktor protested. "We have it a lot here. It goes really good with kholodets."

"What's holodets?" Haden asked cautiously, as he wasn't really sure he wanted to know the answer.

"You might call it studen. It's a really good kind of jellied meat that is made with calves feet or pig heads." Viktor answered.

"Umm... right." Haden replied as his stomach started doing flip flops just at the thought of someone trying to eat a pig head. "You guys need to get some real food over here, like pizza."

"Pee zah?" Viktor sounded out. "What's that?"

Haden looked at Viktor in shock. "You've never heard of pizza? It's only like one of the most yummiest foods ever."

Viktor shook his head and looked down toward his feet. "My mom and I didn't have that much money. And when she died, my aunt didn't have enough money to support me either. So, they sold me, so I could live. And the food we got, well it probably wasn't that good."

"That makes no sense. Selling you so that you could live?" Haden tried to make sense of what Viktor had said, but it wasn't happening.

Viktor nodded. "My aunt didn't have any money, so I would have starved. I could have tried to live on the streets, but I probably would have starved there too. At least as a slave, I would have been fed, and would have a roof over my head."

Haden shook his head and sighed. "Well you're part of Clan Short now, and you will never have to be a slave again."

Viktor nodded.

"Come on, the quads aren't that far from here. I think you will like them." Haden stated as he did his best to change the subject, and move forward.

"Were you a slave too?" Viktor asked as they made their way around the cafeteria building toward the quad.

Haden shook his head. "No. I just had a really mean dad. But then, I also had a special big brother that looked out for me, at least as much as he could."

"Oh," Viktor thought, "I've never had a big brother, or any brothers for that matter. Are they nice?"

"Are what nice?" Haden asked.

"Big brothers." Viktor watched Haden's reaction very carefully.

Haden shrugged. "Mine is. But not all big brothers are. Some big brothers don't care about their little brothers, and others try to hurt or tease them. I guess I got lucky with mine."

"Wow. You think one day I can meet him?" Viktor asked seriously.

"Hum, he's here now. But he was sleeping. He had a pretty long day today. Come to think of it, I have too. But, I'm not really tired yet, but I did sleep for a little bit after I helped... umm... never mind."

"Helped what?" Viktor asked. "And how could you have a long day, it's still pretty early in the morning."

"Because before we came here, we were over in Las Vegas, which is near the west coast of the United States, and it was night there." Haden said as he tried to figure out just what he was allowed to tell people.

Almost as soon as the thought crossed his mind, Haden heard Daileass in his head. 'Anyone that is in the clan, like Viktor, you're allowed to tell anything that is not classified. So telling him about me and teleporting is fine. The only thing I ask that you not talk to others, even other clan members, is the specifics behind what happened with Logan earlier. At least not for now.'

'Okay, thanks Daileass.' Haden sent back.

"Wasn't it a long plane trip here?" Viktor asked, drawing Haden's attention back to him.

Haden smiled and shook his head. "Do you remember how the kid that gave me this jacket talked to someone called Daileass?"

Viktor nodded. "I've heard a bunch of the UNIT guys talking about that kid."

"Well, that's because he's a really powerful and smart A.I. In fact, when you get to know him, it would be hard to think of him as anything other than a real person." Haden felt a warm hug flow over him from Daileass, as he tried his best to say what he wanted to say without saying any of the top secret stuff he had learned about Daileass yesterday. "Anyway, one of the really cool things that Daileass can do is teleport people and objects instantly to almost anywhere on the planet."

"Really?" Viktor asked as he looked into Haden's eyes to see if he was lying.

Haden nodded and then pointed ahead of them. "There is your quad. What's cool about quads is that each quad is made up of 4 buildings. Um, do you have that card they gave you when they were checking you in?"

Viktor reached into his pocket, and pulled out a small piece of paper. "This?"

Haden looked at it, and next to residence, saw; 'Quad 1-C-267'. "Yup, that's the one. Right there is where they have you staying right now. That means you are in Building C of Quad 1, and you are staying in room 267. The very first number of the room means what floor your on...so 267 means we will be looking for your room on the second floor."

"Cool, you really do know a lot about quads, don't you?" Viktor asked as they passed a group of older teens and adults making their way from one of the quad buildings.

"A little. But only because we just got two of these quads in Las Vegas," Haden shrugged as they came to the outside door of building C, and he saw one of the black hand scan devices on it, "Um, did they scan your hand print earlier?"

Viktor nodded. "They had me put my hand on something that looked like that thing next to the door, if that's what you mean."

"Yeah, that's it," Haden replied. "That's how you open doors around here. Just put your hand on the device, and if you should be allowed to go through the door, it will click open for you."

Viktor did has Haden described, and was pleasantly surprised when the door clicked open, just as Haden had said it would.

It didn't take long for the two boys and one bear to make their way up the stairs, and down the hall to find room 267. Instead of using the hand scanner to go in, Haden figured he would try knocking first. When he did this, an 8 year old boy slightly taller than Viktor hesitantly opened the door. "Yes?"

"Hi... Um... Is this room 267?" Haden asked as he tried to figure out what else to say.

The boy nodded.

"Okay... Well... I'm Haden... and I brought Viktor... he's going to stay here... with you." Haden stumbled his way through the introduction.

The boy looked closer at the photo ID badge on Haden's jacket, and then at Viktor before he opened the door wider. "Oh cool. The computer thing told us another kid called Viktor would be rooming with us."

Viktor's eyes went wide as he looked inside at the huge room. In addition to the two bunk beds that were on each side of the room, He saw four small desks, some dressers, shelfs, and toward the front of the room, not far from the door, was a TV and two other boys sitting in front of it, holding game controllers in their hands.

"By the way," The boy that answered the door stated. "I'm Georgy, and over there is Boris and Andrey. You don't mind sleeping on the top bunk, do you? We already picked which beds we want."

Viktor nodded. "Yeah, that's fine. I like the top bunk. Only four of us are staying here?"

"Yup," Georgy replied. "Some of the older kids only have two to a room. But the smaller kids like us have four to a room. Either way, it still beats 20 to a much smaller room."

Viktor agreed, "Where I was at, it was four or five of us to a single bed."

"Same," Georgy sighed.

"Well, I guess I should go now," Haden said after a pause in the conversation. "Just be sure to get your account setup on the laptop Viktor, I'm sure Georgy and the others can show you how."

"Laptop?" Georgy seemed a bit confused.

"What's that?" Viktor was equally as confused.

"Your laptops. Book sized computers? Didn't they show them to you when they showed you your room?" Haden asked as he walked over to the foot of one of the bunk beds, and slid out the laptop for the top bunk from it's docking tray.

"Whoa," Georgy replied as Boris and Andrey paused their game and walked over to investigate. "We saw the computer over on the desk, but no one said anything about little computers."

"Weird. Maybe they just didn't get around to telling you about them yet," Haden shrugged. "But yeah, at the foot of each bed there is a docking tray that charges the laptop when your not using it, and it's assigned to whoever is sleeping on that bed. You turn it on like this, and then after you setup your account, anything you setup on it will be able to follow you around to any other terminal on the base."

"How does it follow you around?" Boris seemed a bit confused. "Do these things have little legs in them or something?"

Haden giggled, "Um, no. But maybe that's not a bad idea. Laptop computers with legs might be cool. But, um, what I meant was that once you get an account setup, if you go to any other computer here or at any other UNIT location, you will be able to access the same account."

"Oh, okay." Boris replied.

Feeling more in his element, Haden spent a few minutes showing the other kids about the laptops, and then helped each of them get their accounts setup. After everyone was logged in, he started to show them around the network a little. To his surprise, there were very few options available. Perhaps because they were still setting the network up over here, or something.

Just for fun, Haden decided to try to log into his account, and was surprised even more when his desktop appeared with everything that would normally be there when he would log in from any of the new Cynthitech terminals.

Finally, he spent a few minutes showing them some of the things they could do with the laptops. How to turn them on and off, charge them in the docking stations, how to tell when the battery was charged by the blinking light on the front of it. He was having so much fun explaining things to the kids that he didn't realize that he had totally lost them until he saw their blank expressions when he was half way through explaining how to setup an infrared bridged relay link between two laptops to transfer large files back and forth if the main network was down.

"So um, yeah. Those are your laptops." Haden smiled as he handed Viktor's laptop back to him.

All 4 boys continued to stare at Haden.

"I guess I should be going now," Haden said as he started to back up toward the door.

Haden sighed as he walked back into the hallway and started down the hall. He didn't get far, however, before he heard Viktor's voice calling out to him.

"Haden, wait," Viktor said as he waited for Haden to stop and look toward him. "Thanks. For showing me around and stuff."

Haden nodded, picked up Gyro, and made his way down the hall, and out of the building.

The chilly mid-day air slammed Haden in the face as he began to retrace his steps walking across the grass toward the fountains. He was rather surprised at just how cold it was here, and was glad that Viktor had suggested getting a jacket earlier.

Haden stopped at the fountains and watched the water splashing for a bit. These fountains were not as impressive as the fountains that they had back home, but the sculptures were still cool. What wasn't cool was how badly Haden was sure that he had messed up the first new friends in a new country he might have had. But then again, why was he even worried about new friends in the first place? Didn't all of this start when he came here to help Logan?

Thinking about helping Logan brought another set of thoughts to mind. Perhaps this had nothing to do with himself, but more to do with whatever that entity thing is that is in his head, which he still wasn't completely sure about. He was glad that whatever it is, was able to help his brothers, but he had no clue what this would mean for the future, or how it would change him, or any number of other things. Mainly, Haden just had a lot to think about with everything that has happened over the last two days.

He wasn't sure how long he was standing there before his comm badge chirped, drawing him back to the real world. "Sorry to bother you Haden," Daileass began, "But I just received a request from four kids in quad 267 for you to show them pizza."

Haden sighed. "Thanks Daileass. But I really doubt they will want me around there much anymore."

Before he was able to finish speaking, a mental video feed appeared in Haden's head showing Viktor and two of the other boys that were in his room. Given the angle of the shot, Haden figured it was most likely from the camera on the desktop computer. The three boys appeared to all be looking at one of the laptop computers, but it was not possible to see what they were looking at from this angle.

"Those are all pizzas?" Boris asked.

"They sure are." Daileass's voice could be heard saying.

"Hey Daileass?" Viktor asked. "When do you think Haden will be able to come back?"

"I'm not sure Viktor. To be honest, a lot of what Haden will be doing here is still up in the air." Daileass answered.

"Oh," Viktor replied. "Well, when he is able to come back, do you think he will have time to tell us more about these pizzas?"

"Yeah, that would be cool," Andrey added as he walked into camera view, and looked over the other boys shoulders at the screen they were watching.

Haden stood there as the image faded from his head. 'Daileass, you saw how much I confused them earlier. Why would they even think about wanting me around?'

'Oh, oh! I can answer that one.' Haden heard Zed's voice in his head. 'Remember when you first moved in with Neal, Brent, Lance, and the other guys? How many times did you confuse them with electronic stuff?'

'A lot,' Haden mentally replied.

'Exactly, and they never tried to get rid of you or stopped liking you. Just because you confuse someone doesn't mean they are going to hate you,' Daileass sent back along with a hug.

Haden sighed and looked back toward the quad building that he had just left. "What do you think, Gyro?"

Gyro rotated his head back and forth a few times. "They seem nice."

"Okay." Haden nodded as he began to walk back toward building C.

Haden, along with Gyro only a few steps behind him, stood outside of room 267 trying to think of the best thing to say, and trying to figure out what he would do if they started laughing at him or told him they didn't want to be around him. As he started to think of more and more things that could go wrong, he decided that it would be best to just get this over with, and deal with whatever happened. Finally, after taking a deep breath, he knocked on the door.

"Haden?" Viktor asked with surprise as he opened the door.

Several moments of silence went by as Haden could see the other 3 boys behind Viktor looking toward him. "Sorry I left so fast earlier," Haden began as he looked toward his feet. "But... I... Umm...", Haden's voice went down to a near whisper, "I thought... you guys would hate me."

"That's okay," Viktor replied. "Why would we hate you?"

Not being able to think of any good answers, Haden shyly shrugged.

"Well," Viktor continued, "I'm glad you came back. Maybe you can help us?"

Haden looked back up at Viktor, "What's wrong?"

Viktor walked into the room motioning for Haden to follow, "After you left, Daileass started to tell us a little more about how the computers work, and how we can do stuff like search for things. Then, I asked about getting information on pizza, and we found all kinds of pictures, and Daileass says it's the favorite food of a lot of Clan kids, but he really couldn't help us much on how it tastes. He said we would have to find someone else to answer that."

"Hum," Haden thought out loud as he walked to where the other 3 boys were looking at the laptop screen at a picture of a thin crust peperoni pizza, "It kinda tastes like cheesy sauce... well not really it's more crusty and cheesy, but with sauce and..."

"You're describing the ingredients," Boris jumped in, "but what about the combined taste?"

Haden sighed, "I'm not really sure how to describe the taste, it tastes like pizza, and it's kind of unique from other foods because there are so many different kinds and toppings, it doesn't really have just one taste."

"What kind of pizza do you like?" Viktor asked.

"Usually thin crust pepperoni, "Haden answered, "although sometimes I'll get regular."

"What does that taste like?" Andrey asked.

Haden sighed. "It's hard to describe, you kind of have to taste it. Oh wait, I know." Haden tapped his comm badge, "Hey Daileass? You know how you were able to teleport that jacket here earlier? Could you do the same with pizza?"

"Easily," Daileass replied.

"Great," Haden smiled as a plan began to form in his head. "Do you think you could find a slice of pepperoni pizza from somewhere and teleport it here?"

"I could," Daileass answered, "but why only a slice? It would be a little hard for four people to share a single slice."

"Oh yeah," Haden deflated. "Okay, never mind."

"If I could offer a suggestion?" Daileass continued, "Instead of getting just a slice, why don't you order a pizza or three? It's just about meal time here, so you guys could have pizza for lunch."

"Really? We could do that?" Haden instantly perked up. "But.. but.. I don't know any good pizza places in Russia."

"I know you're probably pretty tired from being up all day, so I won't pick on you that much," Daileass's voice clearly had a slight giggle to it. "But you keep forgetting... world wide teleporters."

"I'm not tired," Haden protested, "but that's a good point. Okay guys? What kind of pizza would you like to try? thin crust or deep dish?"

Four confused pairs of eyes looked at Haden until Georgy spoke up. "What's the difference?"

"Thin crust is very thin, and well... Deep dish as a lot thicker crust and more stuff inside and.... well, that's kind of hard to describe too." Haden rambled.

"Maybe we can try both?" Viktor asked.

Haden nodded. "I guess that will work. Hum... The best thin crust pizza is in New York City, but for Deep dish, you really want Chicago pizza. Hey Daileass? Do you know a good place to get both thin crust and deep dish pizza?"

"Actually, I know of a few great 24 hour places in both New York and Chicago which have been getting a bunch of orders from Clan kids from all the various divisions. However, you should also keep in mind, Chef Dave at the Utah base is said to make some of the best pizzas anywhere. So I would suggest not leaving him out. And don't forget there is a pizza shop in Des Moines that is run by the Clan. The only thing I need to know is what toppings you would like on which pizzas."

Haden thought for a few moments. "Since this is their first time, I think it would be a good idea to only get single topping pizzas, that way they can get a better idea of how each topping tastes. So, for the thin crust let's go with half pepperoni and half mushrooms. Make the deep dish half pepperoni and half sausage. The one from Dave can be half ham and half pineapple. And for Des Moines, how about half bacon and half chicken?"

"You got it Haden. Give me a few minutes to get the orders placed and collected." Daileass replied.

"That sounds like an awful lot of pizzas, Haden. Are you sure we won't get in trouble for this?" Viktor asked.

Before Haden could answer, Daileass replied, "After what all of you have been through up to this point, it's one of the least things that we can do. If anyone has a problem with it, tell them to talk to me personally."

The boys questionably looked at each other for a few moments until they finally decided that since Daileass seemed to control everything that was going on around them, that it should be fine.

While they were waiting on the pizzas, Boris and Andrey went back to the game they were playing, which Haden began to watch from the bed. They were playing some type of fighting game, where they had to fight against each other. Neither of them seemed that good, which in itself made it interesting to watch.

"I meant to ask you this earlier," Viktor said from Haden's side, which caused him to jump a little, "but what is that thing on your arm?"

Looking at what Viktor was pointing at, Haden lifted up his GEAR arm. "What? This? Oh, it's nothing, just something I made."

"You made that?" Georgy asked from the other side of Viktor.

"Can I touch it?" Viktor leaned in closer to get a better look at it.

Haden shrugged, "I guess. Just don't press any of the buttons."

"What's it do?" Georgy pondered.

Haden titled his head, "A lot of stuff, actually. See these little square cubes, these are modules. Each one can make a GEAR do a different thing, like this one here can be used to make a physical projectile energy shield around you.

"Seriously?" Georgy's curiosity quickly changed to surprise. "That sounds like it would be real helpful."

"It is," Haden agreed. "But it only has a limited power cell, so assuming it's fully charged, the shield can only last for 30 seconds before it runs out of power."

"That still sound like it would help out a lot." Viktor countered.

Haden shrugged, "I guess."

"Is it water proof?" Georgy asked.

Haden took a few moments to think. "You should be able to get it wet, but I probably wouldn't go swimming with it."

"No, I mean the shield." Georgy replied.

Haden shook his head. "No, I don't think so. Why?"

Georgy shrugged his shoulders, "I just figured if it were water poof, the shield could be used if someone fell through the ice or something, to give them enough time to get out before they froze to death."

"Hum," Haden scratched his head. "I never thought of that before. We don't get much ice in the desert. The positive ion inversion I'm using to magnetize and repel fast-moving objects would probably not work that well, but, oh... yeah, that could work... thanks Georgy, you just gave me another module idea."

"I have no clue what you just said, but you're welcome, I guess." Georgy replied.

"Okay guys," Daileass's voice came over the room speakers. "30 seconds until pizza."

"What's that mean?" Georgy asked as he jumped down from the top bunk.

Viktor got off the bed and started to look around. "Do we need to go somewhere to get it?"

"I don't think so," Haden answered. "Daileass normally doesn't give countdowns."

Andrey and Boris turned off the game, and began to look around as well.

"Excuse me Georgy," Daileass's voice came out from the speakers again. "but could you back up a few steps?"

Georgy did as he was asked. A few moments later a small table appeared in the center of the room. A few moments after that, one right after another, 4 steaming hot pizza's appeared on the table. After that, a cooler full of ice appeared. To finish things off, some paper plates and napkins appeared in the center.

Finally, Daileass did his best announcer's impersonation. "Thank you for using Daileass delivery. Your pizza sampler meal is now ready."

All 5 boys stood around the table looking at the pizzas.

"Um, guys?" Daileass asked after several seconds, "You do know it's safe to start eating, right?"

"How do you eat them?" Boris asked.

"Easy," Haden grinned as he grabbed a slice of the New York thin crust pepperoni. "Just grab a piece, and dig in."

Viktor was the next to move as he grabbed a slice of the deep dish pizza. It didn't take long until each boy had a different slice of pizza.

"Wow! This is yum!" Andrey said with surprise as he happily chomped into a slice of Dave's ham pizza.

Viktor nodded as he chewed a bite of the thin crust mushroom. "How could something this good exist without us knowing about it?"

Once Haden finished his first slice of pizza, he investigated the cooler full of ice. Seeing something shiny, he reached in and pulled out a can of coke. "What's the coke for, Daileass?"

Daileass's voice quickly replied. "What pizza meal would be complete without ice-cold Coca Cola?"

"Now that, I've heard of," Georgy stated as he grabbed his own can and was quickly followed by the other.

"This is awesome, Daileass, Thanks!" Boris commented as he started his second slice.

"You guys are very welcome," Daileass cheerfully replied.

A few moments later, a knock came from the door. As soon as Georgy went over to answer it, an older boy with sandy blond hair, possibly around 13 years old, poked his head in. His sparkling blue eyes glimmered as he sniffed and looked around the room until he spotted what his nose informed him about.

"Hey guys," the older boy stated as he walked further into the room, "I thought I smelt pizza."

All four of the russian boys froze in their tracks and looked toward the older boy.

The older boy smiled. "Don't worry guys, you're not in trouble. I was just wondering where you got the pizza from. It smells really good."

"Viktor's friend, Haden, told us about it." Georgy offered.

"Yeah, and then since he didn't know how to explain it well, Haden got Daileass to teleport some here so we could try it." Andrey added.

The older boy nodded. "I'm glad Viktor made it here alright, but who is Haden, I don't remember seeing his name on the list Daileass gave me." As the boy looked around the room more, he spotted the fifth boy who was about the same size as the other four, crouched on the other side of Viktor on the bed. Besides noticing that this boy did not look at all Russian, he saw that he was wearing one of the brown UNIT staff jackets.

Haden cringed as soon as he saw the older boy's eyes spot him. He did his best to try to merge with the bed, but he didn't have that much luck.

Boris noticed the fear in Haden's eyes. "Don't worry Haden, that's Peter. He checked up on us earlier. He's kind of cool."

After taking a few moments to attempt to size up the small boy, and try to figure out why someone so small and frail looking would be on UNIT staff when all the other UNIT boys seemed to be so well built, and coming up with nothing, he inwardly shrugged before giving a reassuring nod. "Don't worry Haden, you're not in trouble either. I just didn't expect to find you here, and was a bit surprised to see your UNIT staff jacket."

"He was giving me a tour." Viktor stated cheerfully.

"Really?" Peter asked stepping further into the room so he could allow the door to close.

Haden swallowed hard. "Yeah, um... me and my brother got called in... so I could help one of my other brothers... with a... problem... and then Daileass said I could give Viktor a tour... and then... well... I'm sorry... I'll go now."

While the other boys looked at Haden in surprise, Peter shook his head. "I already told you, you're not in any trouble Haden. Besides, it's actually a good thing that you are here. All the kids you see in here were kind of the odd balls out. They are some of the smallest guys that got rescued and didn't really pair off with any other groups that well. To be honest, I wasn't really sure how I would be able to help them. But, you seem to have already done that better than I ever could."

"Huh?" Haden was a bit surprised, "But... I didn't... I didn't do anything."

"Sometimes just being yourself can make a big difference." Peter replied. "Say, do you guys think you could spare a slice of that deep dish pizza? It's been forever since I've had pizza."

As Haden sat and reflected on the older boy's words, Andrey cheerfully offered the box with the deep dish pizza toward Peter.

"Did Daileass tell you that we had pizza?" Georgy asked as he took a slice of the home-made pizza.

Peter shook his head, and did his best to swallow as quickly as he could. "I was just making another pass to all the rooms, making sure everyone was getting settled in alright. But as soon as you opened the door, I could smell it."

"Oh." Georgy replied as another knock came from the door, and he jumped up to answer it.

A few moments later, Georgy looked back toward the others. "Hey guys, you think it would be okay for Ivan and his roommates from next door to try some of our pizza?"

The other boys looked at each other, then the pizza that was still left, and then back toward Georgy and the 10-year-old boy who was standing behind him. "We still have pizza." Viktor offered. "So, I don't see why not."

"Cool!" Ivan called out as he disappeared from the doorway. Moments later, he and two other 10-year-old boys arrived in the room, and were quickly being introduced to the various types of pizza's that they had.

"Wow, this is really good." Ivan commented as he chomped down a slice of Dave's pizza. "This isn't Russian food, is it?"

Viktor shook his head. "Nope, it came from the United States. I don't think I've tasted any Russian food like this."

Just as the new arrivals began to reach for their second pieces, another knock came from the door, which Georgy, apparently being the official door opener, jumped up to check.

"Is their some weird smell coming from here?" A voice asked when the door was opened.

Georgy nodded toward the 11-year-old that was still standing in the hallway. "It's called pizza."

"What's that?" The boy asked.

"Hey guys?" Georgy called out again.

Haden looked at the nearly empty boxes of pizza. "Um, Daileass?" he cautiously asked. "I don't suppose you could get any more pizza and maybe more drinks?"

"Can I?" Daileass's voice immediately replied from Haden's comm badge. "Does a System 27 contain 64 independent processor cores?"

Haden grinned at Daileass's joke, as everyone else looked toward him in confusion. "Basically, Daileass means yes." Haden proudly answered.

"Yup," Daileass replied. "In fact, I'm getting the orders placed as we speak. I'll just need 5-10 minutes for them to get cooked for you guys."

"Cool!" All the kids in the room cheered.

"Wait a minute." Peter jumped in as he finished his third slice. "Um, Daileass? Just how many of these pizzas are you able to get?"

"I can get as many as needed Peter, it just might mean getting them from a few additional places." Daileass replied. "Why, what did you have in mind?"

"Well," Peter thought out loud, "We are already starting to get pretty cramped in here, and that common room at the end of the hall looked pretty big, so if it isn't too much of a problem for you, I was thinking that we could move this down there, and invite everyone who is interested on the floor to it."

Daileass remained quiet for several moments before he replied. "I really like how you think, Peter. That sounds like a great idea. I've just placed orders for 30 more pizzas. But it's probably going to take a little longer to get them all here."

"Not a problem," Peter smiled. "That will give us enough time to go to the other rooms, and let people know about it."

"Sounds like a plan." Daileass replied.

"What do you think, guys?" Peter looked toward Haden and the 8 year olds. "You guys start letting people know, while Ivan, myself, and the rest of us see if we can get some tables and chairs setup in the common room.

Although Haden was slightly reluctant to saying anything, Viktor agreed, grabbed Haden's arm, and began pulling him toward the door with Gyro quickly following.

As Andrey and Georgy began to work their way down the left side of the hall, Boris and Viktor with Haden in tow, covered the right.

After the first two rooms, Haden looked toward Viktor. "Do you really know all these people?"

"No." Viktor answered. "Why?"

"If you don't know them, how are you able to talk to them so easily?" Haden asked with a serious voice.

Viktor shrugged. "I just do. It's not that hard."

"Maybe not for you." Haden replied in a much lower voice.

Viktor shook his head. "You could do it too. Just pretend that the people you are talking to are people you already know."

Haden shrugged, but remained content to let Viktor and Boris do the talking. It didn't take long for them to get through all the rooms and end back up in the large common room. Not only had a number of tables been setup, but a bunch of kids of various ages were already starting to gather. Not long after that, the first set of hot, fresh pizzas began to appear on the tables, along with a few more coolers of ice cold drinks, paper plates, and napkins.

The entire time Haden, Gyro, Viktor, and the other three smaller boys were the star of the show, as almost everyone had questions either about Haden's bear or more importantly, about pizza; what the best kind to try was, what the difference between them were, and so forth.

It wasn't until a half hour later that the 5 younger boys made it back to quad 267 after everyone had their fill of pizzas, and they helped break down the tables and clean up any of the left over trash.

"That was really awesome Haden." Viktor stated. "WIll you let Daileass know we really appreciated that too?"

"Yeah." The other boys added.

"You're welcome," Haden said as he flopped on one of the bunk beds. "But Daileass is everywhere, so he probably already heard you."

"How can he have heard us? None of us called him." Georgy asked.

"I'm just that good." Daileass replied from all of their comm badges at the same time. "And, you guys are welcome. I'm glad Haden and I were able to help each of you experience something new."

"What other cool food do you know about, Haden?" Viktor asked as he looked toward Haden, who was still flopped on the bed.

Haden didn't answer.

"Haden?" Viktor asked with concern.

"Don't worry about Haden, Viktor." Daileass stated from Viktor's comm badge. "He's just asleep. He's had a very long day today, and is still on American time. So I think he's rather exhausted."

"Oh." Viktor replied as he looked at the clock. "But it's not even 10am yet."

Daileass quickly replied. "It may only be 10am here, but where he was at, it's nearly 11pm. He's been up almost since we rescued you guys yesterday."

"Oh, okay. We'll be quiet then so he can get some rest." Viktor stated.

"If you want, I can teleport him somewhere else so he won't be in the way." Daileass offered.

"Does he have any other friends here?" Andrey asked.

"Not really, you guys are the first ones he has really met since he got here." Daileass answered.

"Okay, then," Andrey replied, "in that case, he can stay here, that way when he wakes up, he'll be around friends."

The other the boys all agreed with Andrey.

"Thanks guys." Daileass stated. "I don't think you guys realize just how much you have helped him by accepting him for who he is, like you have done."

All the boys nodded, and then went to the task of starting a quiet game of cards while they discussed which kinds of pizza were their favorite.


Although the last thirty minutes had been somewhat touch and go as far as getting everyone together and on the same page, things were finally starting to settle down enough so that Brent could lay down and get comfortable next to Lance.

One of the lessons that Brent had learned that night is that you couldn't always throw just anyone together and expect them to automatically work out well in a clan environment. Shortly after they had started getting the nest built, one of the new kids decided that they wanted to start gathering and keeping many of the blankets and pillows to themselves. Another kid decided they wanted one of the street gang kids to be their play thing without asking. Both of these had turned out to be largely due to misunderstandings, but they were misunderstandings that could have been cleared up sooner had Brent gone over the ground rules earlier in the evening.

In the end, however, things got worked out while Brent, Lance and Hanai were able to go over the ground rules with everyone. In addition to that, those that wanted to, which was almost everyone, had a chance to give a brief introduction of themselves which allowed both the new and old kids to get a much better idea of where others were coming from. Brent was sure that there would still be a lot more that would need to be worked out over the coming days, but at least it was a start. Even Neal and Rick stopped by to meet all the new arrivals for a bit.

Now, things had settled down enough so that only a few of the clone kids were having quiet conversations with Daileass while some of the other kids were showing off their bears to the newer kids.

"Is it over yet?" Lance whispered.

"Huh?" Brent asked as he shifted himself to look toward his boyfriend.

"This day. I think it has to have been one of the longest ones I've ever had." Lance replied as he draped one of his arms around Brent's bare chest.

Brent let out a light moan at Lance's warm embrace. "I think so. I just hope tomorrow is not as... um... exciting as today was."

Lance nodded in agreement.

A few moments later Brent's comm badge chirped, causing him to sigh.

"Sorry to bother you, Brent. But Colonel West wanted me to let you know that they are just about ready to start the teleconference with the Governor and wanted to know if you were still interested in attending or not. He said that given how late it was, he would understand if you didn't want to."

As much as Brent was ready for the day to be over, and wanted to tell Daileass that he wouldn't be attending, he inwardly sighed as he took a deep breath. "Okay Daileass, I'll be right there."

Lance looked up toward Brent. "Want me to come too?"

Brent shook his head. "Nah, no sense of both of us getting up. But you get to handle the next emergency." Even if Lance hadn't looked as dead tired as he was, Brent was already planning on doing this on his own. But as it turned out, Lance was tired enough that he didn't put up a fight, but instead gave Brent a warm kiss on the lips, and then rolled off of him so that he could stand up.

"Okay Daileass, go ahead and teleport me to..." Brent stated before he disappeared.

A moment later, Brent reappeared in one of the conference rooms where Justin, Emily, and Tristen were also in. "... my room so I can...." he continued to say before he had a chance to realize where he was at and who was staring at him.

Reflexively, Brent went to cover his most prized possessions, but as he did, he felt that he was somehow fully clothed, which caused him to immediately sigh with relief.

"Is their a problem, Sir?" Emily asked with concern as she watched Brent's odd behavior.

Justin, on the other hand, only grinned. "Lemme guess, Daileass neglected to tell you that he was going to do that?"

"Oh come on, Justin. Do you honestly think that I would ever do something like that?" Daileass's voice challenged over the room's intercom.

"Yes!" Justin, Tristen, and Emily replied in unison.

"Actually, I didn't even know that Daileass could do that," Brent replied as he took a moment to feel his clothes. Realizing that they didn't fit like what he normally wore, he looked down at himself to see that he was dressed in the official clan ceremonial robes.

"Given the nature of the meeting you will be taking part in Brent, I figured these clothes would be more appropriate." Daileass replied to Brent's unasked question.

Brent gave a nod of agreement. "Thanks Daileass, but I'm still going to find a way to get you back for this."

"I hate to break this up, but I think everyone is waiting for us," Justin brought everyone's attention back to the task at hand as he motioned toward three chairs. "Brent, it will be you, Tristen and myself in the actual conference. Emily will be off to the side, and only brought in as needed. "

Brent nodded as he took the offered chair to Justin's right as Tristen took the chair on Justin's left.

"I know Sammy filled you in a bit in regards to what to expect in the meeting when you two talked after the trail earlier, but just keep in mind that you are not expected to say anything, you can talk as little or as much as you feel appropriate," Justin stated. After getting a nod from Brent, he turned toward the the large screen that was in the center of the table which was divided into 5 smaller sections with 5 different people on them. "Okay Daileass, I believe we are ready to be added in."

"Adding you guys in now," Daileass stated. "Okay gentlemen, joining the conference from Family Clan Short's North American West Division Headquarters is Division Director Brent Knocks, Base Commander Colonel Justin West, and Public Relations Officer Tristan Fleming."

All 5 men on the screen nodded as Daileass continued. "Since I'm sure each of your offices will be keeping an official record of this conversation, let me start by introducing the rest of those in attendance. On the line with us we have Nevada Governer Kenny Guinn, Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller, along with Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, Las Vegas Chief of Police Bill Young, and finally Clark County's State District Attorney Steven Wolfson. At this time, I would like to turn the meeting over to Governor Guinn."

The governor nodded slightly before he began speaking. "Thanks, um, Daileass, was it? First, I would like to start out by thanking each of you for being willing to participate in this impromptu meeting on such short notice and so late at night. As I've spoken directly with most of you or your offices over the course of the night, I know that like myself, each of you have been working on putting out your own fires."

"Fires?" Mayor Goodman asked with a tone of sarcasm. "My god, Ken. This little stunt that Clan Short pulled tonight has really caused a shit storm here. The entire city is in an uproar over this. A para-military assault on one of our police stations, and then a public execution all in the same day. I don't know how long we'll be able to keep the lid on things here."

Police chief Young began shaking his head. "I'm not sure where you are getting all this from Oscar, but other than a few isolated incidents, the streets have been surprisingly quiet."

"When your city is in the intergalactic spot light, people usually don't call the police station, it's the Mayor's office which get's all the calls." Mayer Goodman challenged.

"Sirs," Justin broke in as politely as he could. "I think it's important for me to point out that the assault on your station was taken only as a last resort after all other attempts to talk to talk to officers of the station, and the sub-station Chief himself failed."

"There are established procedures for dealing with that, son. There are a number of other places that you could have called to deal with the situation." Mayor Goodman protested.

Justin shook his head. "Not when the life of a child that is under the protection of the Clan is at stake."

"So tell me this? Who died and put Clan Short in charge?" Goodman mouthed back.

"Calm down, Oscar," the state's district attorney jumped in. "You know as well as I that there are at least a half dozen different acts that give them that authority, not to mention the Safe Haven Act, and all the various Federation rules and regulations that exist."

The Mayor nodded. "Your right. I appologize Mr. West. Tonight has just been very frustrating and difficult to work though."

Justin nodded as well. "No apologies needed Mayor Goodman. Today has been hard on all of us. To be honest, I would probably be asking some of the same questions that you are, if I were in your shoes."

"So," Secretary of State Heller spoke up after a few moments of awkward silence. "Just how long should we expect Clan Short to continue to occupy the District 4 Sub-Station?"

Justin thought for a few moments but before he could say anything, Tristen spoke up first. "I believe I might be able to answer that one," he stated as he clearly grabbed the attention of all participants. "As both Governor Guinn and the State D.A. Should be able to confirm, shortly before the start of this conference, each of your offices should have received the preliminary findings report from the Vulcan embassy for the telepathic scans that were conducted on the first and second shift personnel of the sub-station in question."

"We have," Governor Guinn acknowledged as D.A. Wolfson nodded in agreement as well.

Seeing no opposition, Tristen continued. "As you can see from those reports, it is our finding that over three fourths of those individuals were not only unsuited to be in any type of authority position over children, but were in violation of one or more laws that govern law enforcement personnel, and are either being held in UNIT or Starfleet holding facilities."

"So, do you plan on publicly executing them as well?" Mayor Goodman asked.

Tristen tilted his head slightly. "Where would the logic in that be? No, they will be handled through the proper earth-side law enforcement channels."

Before Tristen could continue, the D.A. Jumped in. "For the record, I would like to note that the State of Nevada's District Attorney's office is completely appalled at these findings, and also intends to prosecute as many of these individuals that we are given the opportunity to the maximum extent of the law."

Tristen nodded. "That sounds more than acceptable Mr. Wolfson. In that case, I'm sure that we will be working a lot together in the coming weeks. As far as the 31 officers that make up the third shift of the station, I have been told that about half of them have been tracked down and scanned. We expect to have the rest scanned by morning. So far, the numbers are not looking that good. You can expect a much more thorough report at each of your offices by tomorrow evening."

"I would like to request that Clan Short send a copy of those reports, as well as any other reports to my office as well." Mayor Goodman stated.

"I'm sorry," Tristin replied, "but I am legally not allowed to do that. However, I'm sure that the Governor or the D.A. can provide you... unofficial... copies if they see fit."

"No offense, Oscar, but with as leaky as your office has constantly proven to be over the last few years, I hope you can understand why I can't do that. Especially with as detailed of a report as this," Governor Guinn stated. "My god, if this is just the preliminary findings, I don't even think I will want to see the detailed report."

"Damn it, Ken. What's that supposed to mean?" Goodman shot back as he allowed a bit of his temper to show through and stood up from his desk.

"I think you know exactly what I mean," the governor calmly answered. "However, if you need a reminder, I would be willing to talk with you privately after this conference is over."

"Whatever," the mayor replied as he sat back down.

"Excuse me," the secretary of state jumped in, "but you still haven't answered my question. How long does Clan Short plan on occupying the station?"

"It's our intent to get the station back to normal operation and under the control of it's rightful owner as quickly as possible," Tristen continued. "But as I'm sure you can understand, with over seventy-five percent of the former officers of the station that will most likely never step foot in it again, it's going to take a little bit of time to get things back in order. Given it's primary function as a juvenile transfer point, the Clan has a vested interest in making sure that any new staff that is assigned to the station will have the appropriate credentials for providing correctional services toward youth. In the mean time, a combination of Clan and Starfleet security personal will ensure that by tomorrow morning, the station is operational for providing minimal services."

"Please excuse me when I say this," secretary Heller commented, "But that sounds like a load of crap. I'm sure that Chief Young will agree with me that he has more than enough officers in the LVPD to be able to get the station re-staffed immediately."

Chief Young nodded slowly. "Although this is certainly true, given how rough of a town this is, I think you would agree with me in that I have no way to guarantee that the general force officers that would be re-assigned there would not have just as many issues, and to be honest, we simply do not have the resources to perform the degree of telepathic scans that the Clan is able to do. That's why as LVPD Chief, I fully sign off on Clan Short's presented plan for dealing with this, and will go as far as saying that the PD will offer any support it can in this process."

"Thank you, Chief Young, that is very much appreciated. Inform your secretary that you can expect a call tomorrow morning so that we can begin the coordination efforts." Tristen replied.

Chief Young nodded.

"Any other concerns, Dean?" Mayor Guinn asked.

Mr. Heller took a few moments to flip through some paperwork that was on the desk in front of him. "Actually, there is," He began. "According to the internal documentation we have in regards to the juveniles that were in the custody of the officers of the sub-station, there were 25 youth at the time of Clan Short's assault on the station. However, to the best of my knowledge, only 3 of those youth have been turned back over to LVPD authorities. Do you have any information on the other 22?"

Tristen glanced briefly at Brent to see if he wanted to answer, which he did. "The 22 kids in question, in addition to the 5-year-old son of Officer Bouchard who was probably not on the list, but who had been held there for the last 4 days, and had been beaten an inch from death, have all been placed under the care of Family Clan Short. They are currently sleeping a few hundred meters away from me."

"I see," The secretary of state replied after taking a few moments to recover from the bombshell dropped in regards to the 5-year-old. "So should we read this as Clan Short ignoring the law, and the charges that those youth are guilty of?"

"No sir," Brent replied as he tried his best to keep his temper in check. "The youth that were actually guilty of crimes, and actually deserved to be where they were at have been returned to you."

"But, that was only 3 youth," Mr. Heller commented.

Brent nodded. "That's right. The majority of the youth that were there were being held because of their sexual orientation, or because of the sexual orientation of their older brothers. And, last time I checked, neither of those were a crime."

Mr. Heller flipped through a few more pages. "According to our paperwork, the youth in question have been found guilty of crimes a lot more severe than their sexual orientation."

Before Brent could answer, Tristen jumped in. "If you look at Appendix A and Appendix B of the preliminary findings report that we have compiled, you will see both the non-personal telepathic evidence from the youth in question, as well as the cross-referenced telepathic evidence from the officers at the station that confirm that the majority of those charges were intentionally falsified. And for some of the lesser charges, punishments that in no way fit the infraction were associated with. That is, unless you feel a year's incarceration is an appropriate punishment for the first time offense of skipping school."

"Of course not," Mr. Heller stated as he flipped through more paperwork.

"I think what Dean is trying, yet failing to get at, is to ask what is the Clan's intentions toward those youth now that you have them?" Governor Guinn asked.

"As of now, they have all had a medical checkup at our medical facilities, have been given a warm meal, and a safe place to sleep tonight," Brent answered. "Beginning first thing tomorrow morning, we will begin contacting their families. Any of them who have loving parents that are willing to take them back, will be returned to them. The rest will be given the option of either officially joining the Clan, or being handed over to the state's foster care program, or other similar accredited program of their choosing."

"No offense to any of you guys, but how do we know that all the youth will be safe at your facilities? Las Vegas is not exactly known for being a quiet town." Secretary Heller asked.

"I can personally guarantee that they will be safe," Justin stated flatly. "If you don't believe me, you are welcome to stop by and try to take them. However, as you might have read, we already had a 40-man para-military group try to storm our compound earlier this morning, and they did not fair that well."

Mr. Heller seemed like he was planning to reply, but apparently decided against it at the last moment.

After a brief pause of no one else talking, Governor Guinn spoke up. "I think that's just about everything that we had planned to discuss. Does anyone else have anything that they would like to say."

"Just as a side note," Steven Wolfson, the state's D.A. spoke up, "Although I am fairly confident in regards to Clan Short's legal standing and authority, I think it should be pointed out that already there is a lot of national and international chatter in regards to the events that have occurred this evening. Some of the groups involved may not be as knowledgable in the finer points of those laws. Right now, I feel it is impossible to predict what the fallout will be."

"I appreciate the heads up. We are more than prepared to deal with anyone that chooses to make poor choices in regards to their actions," Justin stated.

"The LVPD is more than willing to help with security by stationing a few officers here for the next few days, if for no other reason to provide the appearance of additional legitimacy." Chief Young offered.

"That's a generous offer Bill, I like it," Governor Guinn added.

Justin nodded. "It is a kind offer which we will keep under consideration, however at this time I believe we are good."

Chief Young was clearly trying to decide if he wanted to force the issue or not. In the end, he apparently decided not to as he remained quiet.

Mayor Goodman spoke up next. "Although I understand the clan is in no way obligated to do this. I feel it would be a very strong measure of good faith if you would be willing to provide us with the follow-up reports and decisions that you take in regards to the placement of the youth you have taken tonight."

"We haven't tried to hide anything from you as of yet, so I think it will be safe for you to count on getting those reports as well," Tristen replied.

"Thanks," The Mayor stated.

"Anything else from anyone?" Governor Guinn asked. He then waited a few moments to see if anyone would speak up.

Just as it appeared that no one was going to say anything, and the Governor was about to close the meeting, Justin needed to add one last comment to those involved. "Gentlemen..." he began as he sat forward in his chair. "While I am sure that some of you may take this next statement as a threat, please understand that it is not. It is simply the policy that Clan Short follows, and will continue to do so with or without your cooperation. We will take any and all measures necessary to ensure the well-being of ALL children within our operational mandate. Your assistance is welcome, but do not do anything to hinder our efforts. Currently the Commander of the combined UNIT forces is in the country of Russia doing exactly what we are doing here. In other words, we are dealing with people who have a lot more influence and power then you do. Do not stand in the way of our operations, for you will not fare any better then those who have in the past. However, if you, as a group, decide to do what is right and aid us... well the benefits will be much greater for you."

All five men sat in stunned silence for several long moments, no one seemed to be able to figure out how to answer or respond to what was just said. Finally, Governor Guinn broke the silence. "Well, I believe that's everything. I would like to thank all of you for attending. I hope all of you have a good remainder of your evening."

After getting nods from the other men involved, the teleconference ended.

"Well, that went better than I expected," Justin commented as he and Tristen stood up. "You okay Brent?"

Brent had a concerned look on his face. "Were you serious about what's going on in Russia? That's where Haden was taken to by Daileass earlier."

Justin nodded. "Adam is really over there, as is a very large portion of our forces. However, I'm sure everyone there will be extra careful to make sure Haden and Evan are safe."

"Colonel West is right," Daileass stated from the conference room speakers. "Haden and Evan are currently at the Tzar's palace which is probably one of the safest places in the world right now with as much firepower and troops that is currently protecting it. Don't worry Brent, at the first hint of the situation becoming unstable there, I'll have Haden out of there in an instant."

Brent nodded. "Okay, thanks Daileass, and thanks Justin."

Justin smiled and patted Brent on the back. "You're welcome. Oh, and if I might say, sir. I think you did very well in the meeting tonight. I know it's late and you didn't have to attend, so thanks."

Brent smiled back. "You're welcome."

With that, the lights in the conference room dimmed as all three boys walked out and headed their separate directions.


Evan was woken up by the sound of a door closing. As the sun shown through one of the windows and hit him on the face, he figured he must have been more tired than he thought since although it was light out, his body was screaming that it should still have been night.

He was just about to close his eyes and drift back to sleep when it finally clicked that the other couch that he was staring at was empty. "Haden?" Evan sleepily asked as he glanced around the room. Moments later, the sound that woke him up in the first place finally registered as well.

Thinking that Haden may have decided to wander off, and that it was probably the sound of Haden leaving that woke him up, Evan jumped to his feet and ran to the door. Looking out in the palace hallway and seeing no one other than an older teen in a brown UNIT suit walking away from the room, Evan ran toward him.

"Excuse me." Evan called out causing the older boy to swivel around with his hand resting on his side-arm. "Were you just in the room back there?"

The boy sized up Evan for a few moments and nodded. "I'm just doing a security sweep, sir. I didn't realize that anyone was in there. Sorry for disturbing you like that."

Evan nodded. "That's okay. Actually, I'm wondering if you saw a smaller kid about 8 or 9 with think kind-of-curly black hair go out of the room?"

"You mean Haden?" The older boy asked, and waited until he saw Evan nod. "Sorry Sir, but I haven't. Although, if he's out and about, I wouldn't be surprised if he made his way to the mess hall that we've setup."

Evan thought back to how Haden had mentioned that he was hungry earlier, but passed out after only taking a few bites of his sandwich, so going to the food area would probably make sense. "Yeah, I bet you're right. Um, how do I get there?"

The older boy smiled and pointed toward the end of the hall. "Head out the building, and go left. It's across the lawn from the fountains."

"Thanks!" Evan called out as he waved and made his way toward the door to follow the older boy's instructions. To his surprise, it wasn't really that hard to find. As soon as he made it outside, he could see the covered pavilion that the older boy was talking about.

Making his way to the main door of the mess hall, Evan stepped inside and looked around at the large, mostly empty room. A few adults and older teens were sitting at the far end of the room, but that was it. No one close to Haden's size could be seen in the room.

Slightly deflated, Evan made his way back outside and was trying to figure out where to look next. As he thought, he made his way to the edge of the closest fountain. As he saw a few other people standing around the fountains, as he realized just how nice they looked. While glancing around, back toward the palace, he saw a black haired boy dressed in a full UNIT uniform who looked very similar to Adam, making his way toward the entrance.

Thinking that Adam would probably know where Haden was at, since Adam's boyfriend was the reason they were here in the first place, he quickly made his way toward him.

"Adam?" Evan called out as he approached the boy. Just as the boy stopped to turn around, Evan realized that he was a little to short to be Adam. In fact, the boy was just about his size. "Sorry, I thought you were Adam Casey."

The boy smiled, "That's okay. Actually, I'm Jimmy Casey, Adam's younger brother."

"Ah," Evan said, slightly surprised, but was now close enough to see the resemblance between Jimmy and his older brother. "I didn't know that Adam had a younger brother, and from a distance, you looked very similar to him."

"I don't think a lot of people really know yet, since we just found each other last week," Jimmy replied as he held out his hand. "Anyway, it's nice to meet you... um..."

"Oh, I'm Evan," Evan answered as he shook Jimmy's hand, not expecting anyone to have been this outgoing.

"What were you needing my older brother for?" Jimmy asked as the two made their way into the hall.

"Your brother?" Evan asked momentarily confused. "Oh, Adam. Yeah, I'm actually looking for my little brother, Haden. I figured Adam might know where he was at."

"And of course, no one ever thinks about asking me," Daileass's disappointed-sounding voice came out from both Jimmy's and Evan's comm badges.

Evan slapped his forehead causing Jimmy to grin. "Sorry Daileass, I keep forgetting you are everywhere. Um, do you know where Haden is at?"

"Apology accepted," Daileass stated in his usual, more cheerful sounding voice. "Haden just finished teaching a bunch of the slave kids about pizza by throwing them a pizza party."

"What?" Evan asked with surprise. "Haden? Pizza party?"

"It's good to see the cooler weather here hasn't effected your hearing too much." Daileass replied which caused Jimmy's grin to turn to a smile. "And yes, a pizza party that they had in one of the quad common rooms. Right now, however, Haden is asleep in Viktor's room."

"Viktor?" Evan asked as his still shocked mind raced to try to make sense of everything Daileass was telling him. "Who's Viktor?"

"Viktor is the boy that Haden was giving a tour to earlier. They seem to get along together fairly well." Daileass calmly replied, knowing full well what effect this was having on Evan.

"Haden giving tours?" Evan's mind was now starting to go beyond confused. "Um, Daileass, just how long was I asleep?"

"Due to not having any sensors close enough to you that could take EEG measurements from you, I can't really give you an accurate time. However, I would have to guess that you were asleep for a little under 95 minutes," Daileass cheerfully replied. "If you would like to step into the room that you are about to walk past on your right, I can show you where Haden is at right now, on the computer terminal."

Evan said nothing as he still tried to make sense of things.

"Is something wrong?" Jimmy asked with a degree of concern.

Evan started to say something, but stopped himself and instead shook his head and went into the room. A few moments later, the terminal screen came to life, a few moments after that, a picture of a quad dorm room appeared with the camera showing a set of bunk beds, and a kid around 8 years old holding a game controller in his hand, playing some unseen game. The image zoomed in closer toward the bottom bunk where Haden could be seen laying on the bed in a brown UNIT staff jacket.

"Where is he at, Daileass? Is he okay? And what's with the UNIT staff jacket?" Evan asked.

Daileass quickly replied. "He's in quad 267, Viktor, Georgy, Boris, and Andrey's room. He's perfectly fine. The other boys have been keeping a close eye on him while he's been sleeping. As far as the Staff jacket goes, since he was giving tours, and technically could be seen as part of the staff here, it seemed appropriate."

Evan nodded and pushed the button to turn off the terminal screen as he took a step back. "Thanks Daileass," he stated still looking at the now blank terminal.

"No problem." Daileass replied. "Now that you're up, since I have a feeling you might be here for a bit, why don't you have Jimmy show you around?"

Evan nodded, but continued to look at the blank terminal.

"Is everything okay, dude?" Jimmy asked glancing toward Evan.

"I guess." Evan stated as he sighed. "It just seems that things move so fast around here."

"You're telling me," Jimmy replied. "Since the moment I met my older brother last week, I've been trying to catch up on everything, and I'm still working on that."

Evan looked toward Jimmy and saw a sincere look of concern on his face before he turned back toward the blank terminal. "I don't know. It's just, for almost his whole life, I've been the one protecting him and being there for him. And now... now, it's like all this clan stuff has come and swept him away."

"You think the Clan is trying to take Haden away from you?" Jimmy asked with concern.

"No!" Evan quickly answered as he realized how ridiculous that sounded. "Well, maybe. I don't know. It's just, up until Saturday, everything was cool. Then Sunday when everything got turned upside down, and we got all these new buildings and UNIT troops at our place, it's like Haden got turned upside down with them. First, he get's this state of the art, super awesome System 27 thing that I still don't completely know what it's for. Then I learn that he's been added into some kind of mental link thing with Daileass and a bunch of other super smart kids. Then he's off signing up to join the UNIT, then he's getting called half way around the world during dinner to help with some kind of mental stuff I don't really understand, but it turns out that some super old entity has decided to move into his head that can protect him from everything now or something, and now he's off giving tours and pizza parties and... It's almost like over night he has all of these super awesome people protecting him now, and he doesn't... I can't really... I don't know."

Evan let out a sigh and looked toward Jimmy again. "I'm sorry man. We just met, and I must be sounding like a big cry baby right now. I just have a lot of stuff I need to work out, I guess."

"You know, I think I know what you need. Please don't be offended, but I think you need to realize just how BAD it is to have all these superpowers that you're talking about. I mean, to be 100% honest... I would give just about anything to be 'normal'."

Evan began to giggle until he looked toward Jimmy and saw his dead serious face staring back at him. "How could you possibly say something like that? Have you ever been 'normal'? Do you have any idea how it feels sometimes to care about someone, and see all this stuff happening around you, but being completely powerless to do anything about it? What can be so bad about being able to protect people better, that you wouldn't want that?"

Jimmy's eyes dropped to the floor and Evan could tell that the boy was fighting tears as he spoke. "Yeah I know what it was like to be normal. I was once." Jimmy looked up and saw the concern in Evan's eyes. "Don't worry, you couldn't have known. But one thing you have to understand that I learned very well. No higher ability comes without a big price tag. Most of the time it's pain, but it's also paid in the price of others thinking that you're nothing more then a freak. Which... I am."

Evan took a moment to look Jimmy up and down, as he assumed he must have missed something. "Um, Jimmy? I don't see anything wrong with you, in fact, I think you look rather handsome. I could see all kinds of girls, or guys, going after you. Besides, who cares if you get some ignorant snobs calling you a freak if it means that you are able to help those you care about better?"

Evan looked back toward the blank terminal as he spoke softer. "If it meant being able to be there for, and help Haden better, I know I wouldn't mind being called a freak. Besides, even when you're perfectly normal, it still doesn't always stop the name calling." Seeing a hint of confusion in Jimmy's eyes, Evan continued, "Sometimes just sticking up for your little brother who people have labeled a freak is enough for you to earn the same label. So yeah, I've learned to ignore the name calling pretty good."

Jimmy didn't say a word, just looked around the room they were in, then turned and beckoned Evan to follow him outside. Once they were outside, Jimmy turned around and looked hard at Evan. Finally he nodded to himself, took another step back, raised his arms high above his head, and suddenly the boy was engulfed in flame.

Evan took a few steps back in shock as his hand instinctively moved toward his comm badge to call for help. He stopped short as there was something that didn't make sense. Jimmy wasn't yelling and screaming in pain. In fact, the boy seemed to be fine, other than the fact that he was looking out from the flames and watching Evan very carefully.

Evan lowered his hand from his comm badge, and instead hesitantly reached it out toward the flames. He ended up pulling it back very quickly as he felt scorching heat coming off of them, which confirmed that they were real. He wasn't sure how or why, but somehow Jimmy appeared to be completely immune to the heat from the flames.

A few moments later, Jimmy lowered his arms and the flames died down until there was nothing left to show that there had ever been any fire save for the slight scorch marks on the ground. "Now do you think I'm a freak? Sure it probably sounds really cool to be able to play with fire like this, but wait until the first time you loose your temper, and... melt a person or twenty."

Before Evan had a chance to respond, Jimmy continued. He was actually looking past Evan, staring at the wall lost in his own little world. "Not to mention the amount of torture I had to go through as they fucked with my DNA to turn me into the 'Human fucking torch'." Jimmy then met eyes with Evan as he lifted his shirt and Evan couldn't help but gasp in horror at the huge amount of chis-crossing scars and burn marks that covered the young boy's chest. "Nothing comes without a price. That's what I learned."

Jimmy was so caught up in his speech that he was slightly surprised when he felt two arms wrapping around him and giving him a hug. "Jimmy?" Evan asked seriously, and waited until he was sure that he had his attention, "I'm sorry that they did all of that to you. I can't start to imagine what it must have felt like. Hell, I can't even imagine how you could have pulled off surrounding yourself in fire without being burnt. But something I've heard some of the other Clan guys say that I think might fit here, is that sometimes bad things have to happen so that the good things can happen."

Jimmy looked like he was about to protest, but before he could, Evan continued. "It sound like your life might have been hell before you found your brother, and it sounds like you have had to go through a lot of crappy things, and sure, you might have a few scrapes on you, but that doesn't change who you are here," Evan gently touched right about one of Jimmy's scares, near the location that his heart would be. "It doesn't change the fact that you stopped to help out a total stranger, and took the chance of helping to explain something about yourself even though you were sure he would hate you. That says a lot about you, and that just adds to how special of a person you are."

Evan stopped himself and paused for a few moments, and then talked a little softer. "I hope that one day you will be able to see your gifts as a good thing. You might have had to pay a lot for them, but now that you have them, now that they have been paid for, maybe you can use them to help protect those that are special to you."

Jimmy blinked a few seconds, then blinked harder trying to fight back the tears. "Thanks... you... you have no idea what it means to hear that coming from someone like you." Jimmy saw the confused look on Evan's face so he explained.

"Adam said pretty much the same thing, but... well he's my brother, so he's kinda gotta say that. But you.. you don't know me. You don't have to say nice things to me, but you did. I.. I guess... well thanks."

"Actually, I kind of call things as I see them," Evan admitted as he blushed slightly and scratched the back of his head. "That's gotten me in trouble in the past more times than I can count. Maybe it's just because I'm... what do you UNIT guys call us... squishy? Maybe it's just because I'm just a squishy and don't really know any better, but I couldn't see letting something good go to waste. Besides, you want to talk different? We had some huge cat kids show up at our base earlier today. Now those guys are different, and if anyone is going to be called freaks, they would be. But I didn't hear one person make one bad comment about them. So I certainly doubt anyone would say anything bad about you. At least, no one worth listening to."

Jimmy grinned and pulled Evan into a hard hug. At least it was a hard hug for Evan. Jimmy barely remembered to hold back so as to not hurt the boy that had been so nice to him. "Thanks man, that really means a lot to me." Jimmy broke the hug and took a step back. "Now how about that tour, and back to something you said earlier... I don't think anyone's actually taken the time to explain things to you. Perhaps I can answer some of your questions, and make things a bit easier on you. What do you say?"

"Tour?" Evan asked as he was momentarily caught off guard. "Oh, that. I'd think you would have more important things to do than wasting your time showing a squishy around. But if you are sure you don't mind, I think I would like that."

Jimmy smiled again as he reached out and put his arm over Evan's shoulder. "Well to be honest, I don't really have anything to do right now since Adam's having a long talk with the Tsar. Not to mention, what could be more important than spending time with a friend?" For a moment Jimmy's smile slipped, and his normal insecurities came back to the forefront. "At least... I hope we're friends?"

Evan quickly nodded. "I'd like that. The friends thing." Evan looked away for a moment as some of his own insecurities began to surface. "But, I guess I should warn you now. I've been so focused on protecting my little bro over the past few years, I'm not sure how good of a friend I'll be. I mean, the guys at the base all say I'm their friend, but that get's back to the whole family thing again and..." Evan caught his rambling and after pausing for a few moments, wrapped his own around Jimmy's shoulder. "Friends? I like that."

Just as the two boys began to walk out of the room, Evan stopped them and looked toward Jimmy with a grin. "Would it be inappropriate for me to say that I think you're really cool?"

Jimmy laughed as he lit his arm on fire and waved it around. Most people just call me a flamer.. but." He shook his arm, and the flames went out. "But seriously, you know something. You and I are just about in the same boat. See until last week I lived in a lab for like 4 years. I don't really remember much before that. So I kinda gotta learn what it's like to be a 'real' person again. Not to mention learning how to be friends with someone again too, so why don't we learn together?" Jimmy blushed brightly, but didn't look away. "Plus, while I might be the flamer, I really think you're cool too."

"Four years, huh?" Evan asked as he kept a close eye on Jimmy's other arm that had caught on fire, "That sounds about how long I've been having to look out for Haden, trying to keep our father from beating on him all the time. I mean, heck, I haven't even really had a chance to figure out if I like guys or girls better yet, although from the way I'm starting to feel just being around you, I think I have an idea which it is." Evan slapped his hand to his mouth, shocked that he had just said what he did as it was now his turn to start glowing red with his own blush.

"Um, what I mean is..." Evan struggled to find something to change the topic with. "Um, I have to ask... How in the world do you do that without burning yourself? Do you use like SPF 1 million sunblock or something?"

"Okay... First off you know how fire is created right. By moving molecules so fast that they combust?"

Evan nodded. "Yeah."

Jimmy continued. "Well imagine you can see those molecules and with just a thought, you can make them move faster." Making sure Evan was with him, Jimmy moved on. "Well what I do is excite all the molecules around me till they all start to burn. But then I make sure the flames are far enough away from me so I can grab other molecules, mainly the air below me, and move it quickly, but not quickly enough to catch on fire, and circulate that out the top, and keep doing that. So basically there's a small space between me and the fire, and I keep pushing the heat up and away from me, and it also allows me to breath. Did that make sense to you?"

Evan nodded. "I think so. It sounds like basic molecular chemistry, heating and cooling air, but in a much more controlled and refined manner. If you ask me, that sounds wicked cool, definitely not anywhere close to freakish." Evan stopped and thought a few moments more about what Jimmy said. "It doesn't hurt you or use up a lot of your energy when you do that, does it? I'd hate for you to suffer just because your showing me stuff."

Jimmy smiled as he shook his head. "Nah, lighting myself on fire and doing some other 'basic' stuff I can do without even noticing it. If I'm doing harder things, or doing it for a long time, then yeah, it can get a bit stressful." As he watched Evan nod in understanding, an evil thought came to mind. "Evan, I know we just met and all, but do you trust me?"

Not really sure what to make of the question, Evan tilted his head. "I guess, why?"

Jimmy stretched out one of his hands and offered it toward Evan. "Don't be afraid... just don't let go."

Not really sure what Jimmy had in mind, Evan hesitantly took the offered hand in his own. As he did, he could almost have sworn that he felt some type of static electricity around him as the hairs on the back of his neck began to tingle slightly. A few moments after that, the place that Jimmy and Evan's hands met was suddenly engulfed in flames!

Evan let out a slight gasp at the first sight of the flames. But at the same time, he also realized that he could hardly feel anything, other than a pleasantly soothing warmth where the flames were at. A few moments later, the flames quickly began to stretch out until they had completely engulfed Jimmy, and to Evan's surprise, him as well.

Once Evan felt the warmth around his entire body, the first few seconds were a bit disconcerting for him as flames flickered in front of his eyes. He even held his breath for a few moments, not really sure how he would be able to breath through the fire. But, to his surprise, other than the air being a few degrees warmer, a found that it wasn't hard to breath at all.

After the initial shock wore off, a huge smile came over Evan's face as he looked at himself, then toward Jimmy, who was still watching him very carefully, and finally out toward the courtyard, the entire time peering through the flames.

By the time he was really starting to let himself feel comfortable, the flames began to dissipate, until they were completely gone and Jimmy finally let go of Evan's hand. For several long seconds after it was over, Evan stood there speechless, unable to find the words to describe how he felt.

Jimmy must have gotten the wrong impression, because he quickly turned away. "I'm sorry, Evan. That was a dumb stupid thing for me to have done. But at least now you don't have to worry about making the mistake of being friends with me."

"Jimmy, no," Evan replied immediately as he turned Jimmy back around so that he could see into Evan's eyes. "I'll admit that at first, I was a little scared. But once I got over seeing my arm on fire, I realized that it didn't hurt or feel bad at all, but instead felt... I don't know... almost soothing... like the flames were just giving me a warm hug or something. And well, I guess what I'm trying to say is... I think that was the most amazing, remarkable experience I have ever had. I don't think you're a freak Jimmy, I think you're just the opposite. And... I really appreciate you sharing that... with a squishy."

Jimmy spent several long moments looking deep into Evan's eyes, looking for any signs of deception. No matter how hard he looked, he couldn't find any. Finally, he smiled. "Cool, I'm glad you liked it." With that, he put his arm around Evan's shoulder again. "Come on, I found a few cool places here that I think you'll like."


Although Daileass offered to teleport him, Brent decided that he would rather walk back to the quads on his own. Whenever things would seem to get overwhelming for him, he usually liked taking a walk at night when everything was quiet. Although the November air was brisk, it was also peaceful, something that he really hadn't had much of over the last two days.

Brent couldn't help but chuckle silently as he thought about everything that had happened over the last 12-13 hours. Everything from surviving a military assault on their new home, to meeting a lot of new friends, to assaulting police stations, conducting public trials, chatting with human sized ferrets to having a late night chat with several key government officials.

"Damn, I hope every day isn't like this. That would just be totally insane." Brent said softly to himself.

[Don't worry, this is just the warm up. It will get a lot more crazy before everything is said and done.' Randy replied from behind Brent.

"Randy!" Brent called out as he spun around to see the slightly translucent body of his former boyfriend. "Bro.. Dude! It's been... ummm..."

[About a day?] Randy offered with a grin.

"Has it only been a day?" Brent asked as he found that hard to believe. "Maybe it has, but I've still missed you."

Randy gave an understanding nod. [I've been around. Keeping an eye on things here and there. But you and your quickly growing family seem to have been handling things pretty well without me.]

"No! Don't say that!" Brent stated as he turned around to look the other way.

[Brent, you know as much as I do that one day you will need to let me go.] Randy replied as he started the conversation that the two of them have had on countless occations.

Brent sighed, unwilling to put up a fight this time. "I know... one day... but not today." He continued to look out across the lighted lawn and buildings for several moments saying nothing. "Randy? Are Adam and the others right? Are we really going to fill up both of these quads one day?"

[Brent, you know I can't tell you that,] Randy stated as Brent turned to look at him. [Aw hell, what can it hurt? Yeah, you will, in fact at one point you're going to need a third quad before you guys.... well... I really can't tell you that part, but it will be cool.]

Brent shook his head and turned around. "I think they have the wrong person. There is no way I could ever be a leader for so many people."

Randy walked up to stand beside Brent. [You're right. You can't.]

Surprised that Randy agreed with him, Brent looked at him curiously.

[It's impossible for you to lead alone Brent, that's what Lance, Hania, Leroy, and all the others that you are gathering up to be around you are for, to help you with that. As a team, building off of each other's strengths, I think you will be surprised what you could accomplish.]

Brent nodded.

[Besides, haven't you been paying attention at all over the last month? There isn't a single clan leader that tries to do everything on their own. Instead, they work together with the others around them. That's one of the real strengths of the clan, people helping people. As long as you always keep that in mind, I think you will be fine.]

"I guess you're right," Brent admitted. "Okay, on a completely different note, who's this Clyde kid that just showed up today?"

Randy stood there for a few moments, as an evil grin appeared on his face. [Sorry bro, godda go.]

"No, Wait!" Brent called out, but it was too late as Randy had already faded away. "Cheater!" Brent nearly screamed.

After spending a minute or two on the sidewalk waiting, Brent sighed heavily and accepted the fact that Randy had really left. Moments after that, he resumed his walk toward the quads.

To his surprise, as he approached the entrance to building one, he saw the figure of a small boy sitting near a tree a little ways away from the entrance. As he got closer, he was able to see that it was none other than Clyde.

"Hey Clyde," Brent said softly as he sat down next to the 8-year-old. "Everything alright?"

Clyde looked toward Brent and nodded. "Yeah. I'm not in trouble for being out here, am I?"

Brent shook his head. "Not at all. I was just on my way back to the nest when I saw you over here."

Clyde nodded and returned to looking up at the sky. "The buildings are cool and interesting and all, but sometimes I just like being out doors. You know, closer to nature and all."

Brent nodded in agreement. "I think I can understand that. Lots of times I will take walks after dark and all. It helps center my thoughts."

"Exactly," Clyde smiled. "But it doesn't seem like many people like being outdoors much. The best 'nest' I think would be a bunch of friends on some soft pine bedding next to a roaring fire while sleeping under the stars."

Brent smiled as he looked up toward the sky as well. "That actually sounds pretty nice. But sadly, I don't think anyone out here has any real outdoor experience. I guess that's one of the drawbacks of a more modern culture."

"Oh, I do. I have lot's of outdoor experience. I would.... well... I would go hunting with my dad a lot, and we would spend many nights living under the stars. Building our own shelters and everything."

"You sound like you really miss your dad." Brent spoke more gently.

Clyde nodded. "Yeah, I do. He died a few weeks ago. I think... I think that's why I'm here... because there really wasn't anything else for me where I was at."

"I'm sorry," Brent offered as both boys remained silent for several long moments. "I think that's one of the cool things about the clan though... when we find kids that are hurting or alone, we can offer them hope and opportunity."

Clyde shrugged. "I guess, although from what I have seen, I don't really think there is any use for a kid with a bunch of out-dated outdoor skills here."

Brent quickly shook his head. "Dude, I think you're completely wrong on that. I think just about all the other kids here would love to learn a tenth of what you seem to know."

"Really?" the smaller boy asked as he looked up toward Brent.

"Absolutely, I know I certainly would like to learn some of it," Brent replied. "In fact... If you are willing.... maybe tomorrow night we can try doing like an outside camp out or something, and you could possibly show us a thing or two about what it means to live outside?"

Clyde's eyes immediately lit up. "Seriously? You think some of the other kids would be interested in that?"

Brent nodded. "I think so, but how about we ask them together tomorrow, and see just how many would be interested."

"That would be... um... awesome," Clyde smiled.

Brent smiled as he stood back up. "Well, I think I'm going to head inside and get some sleep. Try not to stay up too late."

Clyde stood up as well. "Actually, I think I'm ready to head back inside too. You've given me a lot to think about."

With that, both boys headed back into the quad and toward the nest that was set up in the first floor common room.


Haden's mind swirled in a jumbled mess of sights and sounds of the events that have occurred over the last few days. Not only was he experiencing his own memories, but memories from the others that were in Logan's link as well, many of which were not pleasant, and left his mind in turmoil.

One by one, nightmare after nightmare played out before him. One moment his father was looming over him with his belt. In another moment, he along with all his friends were diving for cover behind cars as the Cynthitech automated defenses shot at them. After that, several giant spiders were descending down from giant spider webs to eat him. Soon, the images began to overlap each other, and as they did, became louder and louder in his head.

Suddenly, all the sounds and all the images stopped, and Haden found himself floating in darkness. Not an empty darkness, but more of a comforting and supporting darkness. A few moments later, Haden became aware that the outline of a small room was beginning to take shape around him. In the middle of the room was a bright yellowish orange shapeless form of light. A time went by, the light that he saw began to shrink and to become dimmer. As it did this, it's shapeless form began to take a humanoid form.

Haden gasped when he saw the final form that the entity had taken. Standing a few feet in front of him, was a second Haden, one that looked very similar to the one that he saw earlier in the mental scape. This second Haden was a near perfect replica of the real Haden except for several key differences. First, the new Haden was a good six inches smaller than he was, placing him at around seven years old, instead of nine years old. Second, the new Haden's eyes had a yellowish orange glow to them. Finally, not only was he dressed in completely white clothes, but he also had no GEAR on his arm.

"Hello Haden," the smaller boy said in the high pitch voice of a seven-year old.

"Ordath?" Haden asked cautiously as he slowly began to circle the boy.

The boy nodded.

Haden stopped in front of the boy, and looked him over carefully. "You look like me, but when I was a little kid."

Again, the boy nodded. "I figured it would be easier for you to talk to someone a bit smaller than a giant shapeless form of energy, but I still wanted you to see what my true form was."

Haden grinned. "I think you're right."

"Besides," the smaller boy stated, "We have a lot to talk about."

"Like what?" Haden asked.

Ordath looked down at his feet. "I do not think I was really able to explain myself correctly earlier. What I said about wanting one last chance to live before I died was true. But you have to understand that I never would have wanted to hurt you."

"What do you mean?" Haden asked. "It was because of you that the entire link could be saved."

"You see, as a result of our blending, as your brain developed, that development was slightly altered so that my essence, or consciousness as you might call it, could be accounted for as well." Ordath spoke softly.

Haden still seemed confused. "So, you're saying that because of you, I am able to understand electronics really easily?"

"Well, maybe," Ordath replied. "But, that is not really what I meant. I was talking more about the developmental and social issues that you have experienced that are non-typical for your race. I can not be sure, but it is possible that I might have been partly to blame for that."

Haden considered what the smaller version of himself stated and then shrugged. "So? I'm not really worried about any of that other stuff. If you blending with me is what made it so I am really good at electronics, which made it so I could help out all my friends, then that is what is really important."

Ordath looked up toward Haden and gave him a small smile. "I am glad you are able to look at things that way. Perhaps it is fate that our two souls were drawn together, as I do not feel many other humans would be able to look at things like that."

Again, Haden shrugged. "That's what Daileass said as well. That I was one of the few people that could really see him for who he really was. Are you responsible for that too?"

Ordath shook his head, "No, and you need to stop that."

"Stop what?" Haden asked.

A rather serious expression crossed Ordath's seven-year-old face. "Everything you do or say is all you, Haden. You can not start second guessing yourself in regards to if something is you or me. I am just along for the ride. If you are willing, perhaps I can occasionally offer some advice or insight, but that will depend on you."

Haden became more curious. "What kind of advice?"

"All kinds," Ordath stated with a wry grin. "I have existed for nearly 100,000 years, Haden, give or take a millennium. During that time, I might have picked up a thing or two."

Haden gasped. "100,000 years? That's like forever. How do you live that long?"

"The easiest way to explain it would probably be to say that my race is energy based. We do not have physical bodies like you do, so we are able to exist a lot longer."

Haden nodded. "That's pretty cool. I bet you learned a lot about electronics over that time."

Ordath sighed. "You are right, I have. However, I can not teach any of it to you."

"Why not?" Haden protested. "With your advanced knowledge, just think of the kinds of things that I could build to help protect my friends."

"That is how it starts, is it not?" Ordath asked himself more than Haden.

"What do you mean?" Haden asked, still trying to figure out why Ordath wouldn't teach him.

Seeing that Haden was truly clueless of the dangers he spoke of, Ordath thought of a better way to explain. "Perhaps it would help better if I showed you."

"Show me?" Haden asked confused.

The younger version of Haden nodded. As he did so, the darkness around them shifted. For the most part, they were now surrounded by stars as if they were floating in space. The effect was so real that Haden no longer felt solid floor under him, but instead felt as if he were floating as the air around him became much colder.

Haden shifted uncomfortably as he tried to figure out what was going on.

"Do not worry," Ordath comforted. "It is not real. It's just a vision."

Haden nodded. As he did so, he also noticed a greenish-blue planet appeared to his left, and behind him an orange glowing star. "That doesn't look anything at all like earth."

Ordath nodded. "It is not. It's called Belder 3. It is a very long way from here. Since my people are energy based, we do not have the same limitations in traveling, so it is not uncommon for my people to visit many different worlds."

"Oh." Haden answered as the planet quickly approached them. "Um, aren't we going a bit too fast? We are going to ram right into the planet."

"Remember, none of this is real," Ordath grinned as they flew into the atmosphere and then through some clouds revealing a number of odd looking triangular structures scattered across the surface.

"Triangle buildings?" Haden asked as he carefully observed all the sights around him.

Ordath could not stop himself from letting out a small chuckle at Haden's first observation of a foreign planet. "Triangles are actually fairly architecturally strong. Especially with the types of materials that existed on the planet. Not all worlds followed the same developmental path as yours, Haden."

Haden said nothing, but made a mental note of what Ordath had told him. The first thing after that which popped into his head was how different their electronics must have been as well. But, since everything they were seeing right now was in response to him asking Ordath to teach him more about electronics, he decided to not voice his thoughts for now.

The image around them continued to get closer to the ground. They were quickly moving toward a rather large cluster of triangle structures, until finally they hit one of the structures and flew inside of it. The inside was just as strange as the outside. The walls appeared to be constructed with a bluish-grey material with thin shiny pieces of metal mixed in with it. The hallways started out square on the bottom, but about four feet off the ground, the sides of the walls again formed a triangle, such that you were walking in a slightly mis-shaped pentagon.

Finally, the view shifted into a room where a single human-like person was sitting behind an oddly shaped desk looking back and forth between a stack of papers, and a strange curved device which Haden could only assume to be their version of a computer. Haden saw the person as human-like because although he looked mostly human, he did not look like any human, or any other Federation creature that he was familiar with. For starters, he had three nostrils instead of two, and the tops of his ears had two ridged lumps instead of a smooth single lump. His skin also seemed rougher than human skin. Finally, he noticed that this person had six fingers on each of his hands instead of five.

"His people were called Belderians." Ordath answered Haden's unasked question.

"Were?" Haden asked.

Ordath nodded as a smaller Belderian entered the room.

Haden assumed it was a child, and that he was most likely related to the older one in the room, since they both shared the same bright orange curly hair.

"The young one is Ekvun, and was Filvun's son," Ordath confirmed. "Ekvun was not like the others of his race. Where as most of them tended to be fairly close minded, he was very curious as his mind was open to accepting concepts and ideas that most others would not start to consider."

"So this was someone you knew?" Haden asked.

Ordath nodded. "I got to know Ekvun rather well. As he grew up, we had many talks together. Most of those talks centered around philosophical topics, but we also occasionally talked about technological issues as well. Ekvun had become a rather good scientist among his people on his own. As such, I occasionally would offer guidance when he would reach sticking points in his work."

"When Ekvun reached age thirty, which for humans would be similar to your early 20's, his people were visited by an emissary from the Kodrag Empire, a rather vicious insect race which was focused primarily on conquest and empire expansion. To put it mildly, their first meeting did not go well. In short, the Belderian people were ordered to accept Kodrag rule, and become subjects of the Kodrag empire, or face extinction. Not only did the Belderians refuse, but one of the emissary's aids were killed when the aid became overly forceful in trying to convince them to accept their rule. As a result, the emissary left and vowed that retribution would be paid."

"Wow." Haden stated, as he got lost in Ordath's story, and the changing images that went along with it.

Ordath nodded and sighed. "I was aware of the Kodrag's myself, and knew just how devastating their assault fleets could be. I told Ekvun much of what I knew of them, and he in turn did his best to warn his people, but they would not listen. A few days later, the Kodrag emissary returned along with a small group of assault ships. The Belderians, with their comparatively primitive defenses were able to repel the assault, but only after taking heavy casualties. When the Beldrians were celebrating their victory in the streets, I knew just how small the assault group was that attacked them, compared to the battle fleet that would be sent next. It was then that I decided to share my knowledge more openly with Ekvun, and a small group of other Belderians that he had built up over the years that were also open minded as he was."

"So you helped them, but you don't want to help me?" Haden asked.

Instead of answering, Ordath continued with his story. "My intent was to help Ekvun, and the small group of others like him, to develop a series of defensive shields and protective screens so that they at least would be protected in the assault to come. I also gave them the knowledge to tap into forms of powerful, renewable energy that would be needed to power these devices. Technologies that were hundreds, if not thousands of years ahead of where they were currently at. As time went on, and signs of the approaching invasion became more apparent, Ekvun and his friends begged me to allow them to approach their government with these technologies. Regrettably, I gave into them, and allowed them to teach the rest of their scientists what I taught them."

"So what happened?" Haden was now completely caught up in the story. "Were they able to protect themselves?"

Ordath slowly nodded as a single tear fell from his eye. "Even before the attack fleet arrived, there were some among his people that were already talking about developing ways to pervert the technology I had given them into a weapon. If they had just used the technology I gave them for the it's intended purpose, their major cities would have been protected such that the Kodrag fleet would not have been able to do any damage to them, and the fleet would have moved on to easier targets. But for some, that was not good enough. Before I fully knew what was going on, hybrid devices were being created. Devices that, instead of making shiny blue shields, would create powerful explosions."

"So, to answer your question. Yes, they were able to protect themselves from the attack. When the fleet arrived, they were not only able to protect themselves from the attack, but they were also able to seriously cripple their fleet in the process."

"Cool," Haden stated.

As dozens of ships exploded in blue flashes of energy around them, Ordath looked toward Haden with sad eyes. "Why would you say that?"

Haden thought for a few moments before answering. "It sounds like the Kodrag are a bunch of bullies. So, I think it was a good thing that they were given a dose of their own medicine. Maybe now they won't go around and attack people as much."

Ordath sighed as two more tears fell from his eyes. "Perhaps it was that type of simple logic that they were using as well. But you see, although it was the Kodrag's nature to attempt to build empires by force, they were still a highly honorable race. The races of the planets they took over were still treated very well. And, although their legal system was harsh at times, it was still fair. But some of the Belderians were out for blood, intent on killing any other race for the sole reason that they were different. Also, things did not stop with the defeat of the Kodrag fleet. After the battle was over, much debate and disagreement occurred within their government in regards to what to do with the technologies they had. In a matter of months, a people that were once united became heavily torn and divided.

After Ordath said this, the images disappeared and they were once again in darkness.

"Why did you stop?" Haden asked just as any child watching an interesting T.V. show that was turned off near the end would have.

Ordath stood in silence for several moments without speaking. Finally, after looking up at Haden and realizing that he would not understand without seeing the outcome of the story, he nodded.

When the images reappeared, they were once again slowly flying above the planet's surface. Only this time, the crisp blue-green sky was replaced with a dark brown sky. The lush forests that made up a large part of the planet's surface were gone, some still smoldered with smoke. Finally, as they approached some of the large cities, Haden could see that nearly every building now laid in ruins.

Haden gasped. "What happened? Did the Kodrag come back?"

Ordath shook his head. "No, the Kodrag never came back. You see, after the Kodrag threat was gone, they began to turn the technology I had given them against each other. This is what their planet looked like less than 10 years after the Kodrag fleet was defeated. Not a single Belderian survived."

"How?" Haden asked still horrified, "At least a small group of people should always survive a war."

Ordath sighed, "In a normal war, perhaps. But you see, the technology that I gave them, the power sources that they were using were not meant to be used as weapons. When used as weapons, they had terrible effects on the mass and magnetics of the planet, not to mention that they would cause the fabrics of sub-space around them to weaken and tear. As a result, in addition to a multitude of natural disasters that were caused as a result of using the technology as a weapon, the axis and orbit of the planet was thrown off just enough that it could no longer support life."

"They didn't know?" Haden asked sadly.

"They knew," Ordath corrected. "The evidence was very clear after they defeated the Kodrag fleet, and in the early days of the faction wars. But most of them refused to look at the data that was right in front of them, did not care, or blamed the other factions for what they were seeing."

"That's... that's... terrible." Haden stated, not able to think of anything else to say.

Ordath agreed as the images once again disappeared. "In addition to that, because of the mass sub-space and gravitational distortions that were created while the Belderians were busy killing themselves. Belder 4, which was the nearest planet to them, and was also able to support life, was also effected. Sentient life forms were just starting to appear on that planet, but they too along with all other life on the planet was destroyed when that planet's orbit was also shifted, making it no longer able to support life."

Haden stood in stunned silence, saying nothing.

"You know of the Vulcans, right Haden?" Ordath asked.

Haden nodded.

"They are fairly well advanced compared to humans. But when they first met your people, they didn't just hand over all of their technology, since they too knew the dangers of allowing a race to advance technologically too quickly."

"They've been introducing that technology slowly over time?" Haden asked.

Ordath nodded. "That's right. Slow enough so that as newer generations of Humans were born, they could not only better understand the use of those technologies, but also understand the ramifications of their use."

Haden nodded. "Okay."

Ordath took a step closer to Haden, and spoke in a more soothing voice. "I am sorry I had to show that to you Haden. But I thought it was important that you understand the dangers of what I am trying to prevent when I tell you that I simply can not teach you everything that I haveve learned."

Haden again nodded. "So if you can't help me with anything, why did you help me and my brothers with the link earlier?"

Ordath shrugged. "First, I never said I would not be able to help you with anything. I just said I would not help you with everything. Over time, we will work out what I can and can not help you with. Right now, I just want to make sure you can fully understand where I am coming from when I say I can not teach you something, and what I am trying to prevent from happening again."

After getting another nod of understanding from Haden, Ordath continued. "As far as helping with the link that you share with Logan and the others. That is different. It is actually an oddity that caught me by surprise."

"An oddity?" Haden half asked, still clearly effected by what he had seen.

Ordath nodded, "I would not have expected something like that to have been able to exist among your people at your current stage of development, especially among children. I believe there might be elements at work here that are unfamiliar to even myself. But that is another topic. The reason I did not have as much of an issue helping your friend is that I was not providing any type of new technology, but was instead only augmenting your own natural mental talents to allow you to hold the link together long enough for Logan's other brothers to give him the help he needed."

Haden looked down toward the floor. "I don't have any mental abilities. I'm not like any of the telepaths that are part of our Clan."

"You are wrong, Haden." Ordath said with a slightly stronger degree of force. "If you did not have any mental potential, if it was not in your genetics already, they never would have been able to add you to the link. Although nearly all humans carry the needed genes to create that potential, for most of them, those genes are inactive or recessive. For a select few, such as yourself, those genes are active. It is only those people with active genes which could be part of a link to the degree that you are."

"But I've tried," Haden protested. "I tried to mind talk to Evan and others, but it doesn't work. I can only mind talk to Daileass and the others in the link."

Ordath nodded. "There are a few reasons for that. First, just because you might have active genes does not mean you know how to use them, or are even aware of them. You have had a pretty rough childhood, and were not really in an environment which would foster such discoveries. However, they were still there. For example, all of those times when you just seemed to 'know' when your Father would be getting home, and that it was time to find somewhere to try to hide. Those were not just lucky guesses. Second, your mind has not really found the technique that works best for it yet. That is something that can change over time and with practice, and is something that I could possibly help you with, if you are willing. However, the most important element is that you do not believe that you can do it, and that is not something that I can teach you, but is instead something you will have to learn on your own."

"And when I do that, I could learn to mind talk to others?" Haden asked cautiously.

"Yes," Ordath answered. "That, and more. It all depends on what is important to you, and how much your mind is willing to accept. You have the potential to travel to completely different planes of existence, or to literally make things combust into flames with a thought. All of that potential and more exists in members of your race. What you will actually manage to achieve is another question."

Haden took a step back. "Visiting new places might be cool. But I don't think I like the idea of making things catch on fire, just by thinking about it. That sounds too much like being a weapon."

Ordath agreed. "I'm glad that you feel that way. If you did wish to use your mental abilities as a weapon, I would be much less inclined to ever consider teaching you anything. But as it stands for now, we will leave that door open and see where the future brings us. You still have much growing to do between now and then."

Haden nodded lost in thought.

Seeing this, Ordath grinned. "I think I haveve given you enough to think about for the time being. We shall talk again, but for now, I think it would be best to let you get back to your rest."

Haden absently nodded as already he was lost in thought, thinking about everything that he had seen and heard in his talk with Ordath. It wasn't long until his thoughts became more disorganized, and his mind drifted off into a deeper sleep. Only this time, the horrible images were no longer there.


Nearly 4 hours had passed since Haden had fallen asleep in Viktor's room. Although Viktor and his 3 roommates had occasionally stepped out of the room for various reasons from time to time, there was always at least one of them there to keep an eye on Haden. That is, in addition to Gyro who crawled up onto one of the chairs and spent the entire time keeping watch.

As it was starting to get later in the afternoon, Boris decided that he would go and see if he could find some snacks for all of them to eat. While he was gone, Andrey and Georgy were quietly playing a game against each other on the Play Station while Viktor was spending some time looking over the large teddy bear that was standing in the chair.

He knew the bear had to be on, because several times over the last few hours, whenever there would be any type of unexpected loud noise, Gyro would turn his head slightly to investigate. "I wonder if he can do anything other than just stand there while Haden is sleeping," Viktor quietly asked outloud.

"I stand here because that is what I choose to do," Gyro replied which caused Viktor to jump backward as he was not expecting a reply.

"Oh," Viktor replied as he tried to figure out how to respond. "Are you hungry? Do you need anything? Or maybe you would like to play on the Play Station with us?"

Gyro slowly shook his head. "I am fine, thank you."

"Whoa, you got him to talk," Andrey commented as he put the game controller down and walked over to where Viktor and Gyro were at. "How did you do that?"

Viktor shrugged. "I don't know, it just started talking."

"I wonder why it waited so long to say anything?" Andrey wondered out-loud.

Gyro turned his head to look toward the other boy. "Each of you seemed busy with other things over the course of the afternoon, and I had nothing that I needed to say."

"Oh," Andrey replied. "I guess that makes sense."

"Do you know how much longer Haden is going to be sleeping?" Viktor asked seriously.

Gyro tilted his head as he formulated an answer. "I'm not sure," the bear began. "We are currently in a different time zone than we are normally in. Although it is early afternoon here, it is very early in the morning where we were previously at. Given Haden's large activity schedule up to this point, it is very possible that he may sleep for a few more hours."

Viktor nodded. "Okay, thanks Gyro. If you need anything, just let one of us know."

"Thank you, I shall do that," The bear replied.

Andrey had just returned back to his chair to resume his game with Georgy, and Viktor had just sat down in front of the computer terminal with the intent of trying to learn more about it when all three boys heard a deafening high pitch scream.

"Argh!" Haden screamed as he quickly sat up in bed. "D-49... No! Not all of them!"

Gyro went into alert mode while Andrey and Georgy nearly fell out of their chairs. At the same time, Viktor was at Haden's side in a flash. "Haden, what's wrong?"

"Dead! They're all dead! Every one of them. It was a trap! An ambush!" Haden babbled as he face filled with fear.

"It's okay Haden, your safe," Viktor did his best to try to reassure him. "You were asleep. You were just having a bad dream, a nightmare. That's all."

Haden violently shook his head. "No, it wasn't a dream! I can see them... I can see all of them... even the one that's..." Haden stopped briefly as his dread filled face paled. "Daileass! One is still alive. Can you get them Daileass? Can you hurry?"

Almost instantly, Daileass's voice replied through Haden's comm badge. "I have them, Haden. I have all of them."

Haden nodded as he pushed himself back against the wall and wrapped his arms around his legs so that he was in a tight ball.

Viktor looked around confused. "Daileass? Was Haden having a nightmare?"

"No Viktor, what has scared Haden is unfortunately really happening," Daileass replied. "Please don't be afraid, I'll try to explain everything in a few minutes. There is a lot happening at the moment."

Viktor nodded. "Really happening? Okay. I'm not afraid, I'm just worried about Haden."

As Haden's body balled up to protect itself, Haden's mind was racing trying to search for answers. The link itself was in an uproar as everyone was trying to figure out how things could have gone so terribly wrong that nearly everyone on an entire 10 person strike team could have been so easily wiped out. Who was behind it? How could they pull it off? So much information flying around, it was rather overloading for him. At the same time, in addition to the mini-flyer whose camera was still centered viewing the location of where the bodies of the strike team were at only moments before, but Haden could also feel at least three other mini-fliers were in the near by area focusing their cameras in other areas just outside the compound.

Although all the chatter that was flying through the link was easily overwhelming Haden, he liked video feeds, so that is what his mind began to gravitate toward. The four feeds of the area that were coming in. As he focused on them, he began to see small green dots along with yellow and green squares begin to appear and disappear on the images.

'Daileass, what's with the dots and squares that I'm seeing on the video feeds?' Haden sent through the link.

A few moments later he could feel the surprise in Daileass's voice as he replied. 'I'm not sure how you are seeing those, Haden. But I believe you are seeing my targeting vector points that I'm internally processing in preparation to teleport additional strike teams in.'

As Haden continued to focus on the images, he managed to switch over to viewing the infrared data that was coming in. 'Daileass, it looks like there are a lot of bad guys there, be careful with sending more strike teams.'

Again, there was a slight delay before Daileass was able to answer him. By the time he did, Haden was already starting to see strike teams appearing. 'It's okay Haden, we are sending in a whole lot of strike teams.'

Haden was about to reply when he instead jumped as he felt a small hand touch his back, which also broke his concentration on watching the cameras.

"Haden, are you alright?" Viktor, who had crawled up onto the bed and was only a few inches away from Haden, asked with concern.

"Huh?" Haden asked as he realized he had completely lost track of what was happening around him. "Yes? No? The strike team..." As he spoke, Haden began trembling slightly.

As Andrey and Georgy walked over to investigate as well, Viktor wrapped his arms around Haden, which caused Haden to reflexively tighten his entire body up. "Daileass? I'm getting really worried about Haden, what's wrong with him?"

"Sorry Viktor, I'll try to help you understand as quickly as I can." Daileass replied. "But first, please trust me and let go of Haden. He is very touch sensitive and you're holding him is actually hurting him more right now."

Before Daileass had finished his explanation, Viktor had already released Haden, and had pushed himself a few inches away from him.

As soon as Haden could start to recover, he looked up toward Viktor with a pained confused expression as his mind momentarily raced to determine if the person who had just grabbed him was a friend or foe.

"I'm sorry Haden, I didn't mean to hurt you," Viktor said in a voice that was full of concern.

Haden slowly nodded as he began to put the pieces together and realized who it was. "S'okay," he managed to reply before his eyes went wide in shock.

Inside Haden's head, the conversation and chatter that was still quickly flying around all the sudden became very silent, almost as if some other vastly more powerful force was preparing to speak, and was drowning all the other voices out. A few moments later, Haden learned the source of that strong presence as Logan's voice could be heard like a booming loud speaker. 'Have the strike teams hold their ground, and make sure some are left alive. I want them,' Logan stated in a tone that literally scared the crap out of Haden. 'Death Knights... Assemble... Now!'

'Daileass? What...' was all that Haden was able to broadcast as he tried to figure out why Logan was so pissed and what Death Knights were.

'Oh fuck... damn, damn, damn' Daileass sent back through the link. 'Haden, I'm sorry about I completely forgot about how much you have access to now that you are fully a part of the link that you were not aware of... Haden, I promise I will explain everything to you shortly, but I need to ask that you please trust me and stop pulling the video feeds.'

Before Haden could think of a reply, he heard Logan's voice echo through the link again. Although it was still very strong, it was not as blinding powerful as the first time. 'The time for the Knights to strike is now. I swear to all, before this night is done, none of those who in any way knew of this will draw breath, unless I allow them to.'

Although he was beyond confused, it was Haden's trust toward Daileass that allowed him to reply. 'Okay Daileass, I trust you, but I don't know how to stop from looking at them.'

'Thanks Haden,' Daileass replied. 'I'll stop the feed from going to you from over here, just don't fight against me to get the feeds back, and it will be fine.'

Haden nodded as the four images slowly faded away from inside his head. Once they were gone, he realized that Viktor and the other two kids were still staring directly toward him.

"Okay guys, I think I owe all of you a few explanations," Daileass stated for all 4 boys to hear. "But first, Haden, would you mind opening the door to the room?"

Although he thought it was a rather odd request, Haden crawled off the bed, and walked toward the door.


Evan looked out of one of the palace windows at the beautiful snow-covered rolling countryside. "Okay, now that's what I call a view."

Jimmy grinned. "Now you know why this is one of my favorite spots in the palace."

"Yeah," Evan nodded before he turned to look directly toward Jimmy. "Thanks Jimmy... For everything."

Jimmy's grin quickly turned into a smile. "You're welcome Evan. And thanks for treating me like a real person and not some kind of freak. Oh! I almost forgot... There is still one other place I haven't shown you that I think you might like... that is, if you want to."

Evan was just about to answer when alert klaxons started sounding inside the palace. "Base wide alert!" Daileass's voice rang out from the intercom speakers. "All active strike teams report to ready stations. All other strike teams report to general quarters. This is not a drill."

"That doesn't sound good." Evan commented.

Jimmy shook his head, "I think I should probably go."

"Oh crap, I should probably figure out where Haden is at." Evan replied.

"Okay, will catch up with ya later man!" Jimmy called back as he ran out the door.

Evan tapped his comm badge. "Daileass if Haden is still in quad 267, could you teleport me there?"

There was a few second delay before Daileass answered. "Sure thing Evan, but it will need to be outside of the quad building."

"That's fine," Evan replied. A moment later he found himself standing a few feet away from the entrance to one of the quad buildings as the cold outside air slammed into his face.

Just as Evan was moving to open the door, he felt something slam into the back of him with an 'umph'. Turning around, he saw a light blond haired young russian boy who couldn't have been more than eight years old. The boy was looking back up at him through tear filled dark blue eyes. In one of his hands he held a small plastic bag.

"You okay?" Evan asked with concern.

The boy whimpered and nodded his head. "I was getting me and my friends some snacks to eat, and all these alarms started sounding. The older kids started running all around which scared me, but another kid said I should just go back to the quads. I don't want to get captured again, but I know they are coming after me!"

Although not everything the smaller boy was saying was making sense to him, Evan could tell something had him more scared than he should have been. Out of instinct, he reached down and lifted the boy up, which was not that difficult since he was just about the same size and weight as Haden was. "Don't worry bud, there are a lot of really good people here, and I know for a fact that none of them will let anyone try to take you somewhere you don't want to go."

The small boy looked through his tear filled eyes at Evan, trying to see if the older boy was lying. "How can you be sure? I'm only a slave, I ain't worth fight'n over."

Evan shook his head. "I've been a part of this clan for several weeks now, and I can tell you for sure that it doesn't matter who you are, or what you had to go through. Once you are under the protection of the clan, there isn't anyone that is going to get a hold of you."

Although the boy didn't seem to buy it, he at least appeared to be willing to accept the older boy's comfort for the moment.

"If you don't mind me asking, what's your name? My name's Evan." Evan asked in a calm voice.

The smaller boy was quiet for a few seconds as he tried to decide if it was safe to tell him or not. In the end, he decided it would be better to take a chance. "Boris."

Evan nodded with a smile. "Okay Boris, are you going to one of the dorms in this quad?"

Boris pointed toward the door. "Yeah, to my friends. I have some snacks for us."

"Okay," Evan replied as he opened the door with his other hand and started walking down the hall. "Do you know which room number you're going to?"

"267," Boris replied.

"Really?" Evan asked. "That's where I'm going. I'm Haden's brother."

"Haden?" Boris asked with surprise. "He's been sleeping in our room since after he showed us pizza earlier. He's really lucky to have such a nice big brother."

Evan only smiled, not really sure how to reply. Instead, once they got to the stairs to go up to the second floor, Evan let Boris down and the two walked side by side until they got right in front of the door to room 267.

Just as Evan was about to knock on the door, the door flew open with Haden standing right behind it.

"Evan!" Haden called out with surprise as he threw his arms around his older brother. At the same time Boris walked into the room. As soon as the others saw the fresh tears on his face, they immediately moved to investigate.

"Are you okay, Boris?" Andrey asked.

Boris looked toward Andrey and hesitated only briefly before answering. "I got a little scared when all the alarms started going off, that's all."

"Alarms?" Georgy asked.

Boris nodded. "Didn't you hear them?"

The other boys shook their heads. "No, but Haden woke up really scared just a minute or two ago," Viktor offered.

"Did you have a bad dream?" Evan asked with concern as he looked down toward Haden.

Haden shook his head in Evan's chest. "It wasn't a dream, it was real."

"As soon as everyone is back in the room and sitting down, I'll start the explanations," Daileass's voice stated from the computer speakers.

As Evan walked into the room so he could close the door and find somewhere to sit with Haden, Boris looked at Andrey and Georgy questioningly. It was Viktor, however, that answered the unasked question. "Daileass mentioned that whatever bad thing Haden was dreaming about was real, and he said he would tell us more about that."

Accepting this for now, Boris made his way to the bottom bunk so he could sit with the other kids.

Once everyone had a place to sit, Daileass began. "Okay guys, some of what I'm about to tell you may seem a little weird, but I promise you that I'm not joking or teasing about this." Once Daileass saw each of the boys nod from a combination of the camera on the computer, and from Gyro's eyes, he continued. "First, I'm going to address a few things for Andrey, Boris, Georgy, and Viktor. Since you guys are probably going to be hanging around Haden a lot, there are a few things you guys should probably know."

Seeing that he had their undivided attention, Daileass continued. "You guys are already aware that you have been rescued by and are now under the protection of the UNIT and a group known as Clan Short, right? Well, what you guys might not know is that there are a lot of very special people that are a part of these two groups. A few of these people have special gifts such as being able to use their minds to talk back and forth with each other."

"You mean like telepathy?" Georgy asked.

"That's exactly what I'm talking about," Daileass answered. "Haden is one of those special kids. Actually, in some ways he's more special than most. But all that you really need to know is that he is a part of a very special mental link with myself and several of my brothers. Because of this, he has access to all the information that we have. Does that make sense?"

All four boys slowly nodded. Seeing this, Daileass continued. "Good. What I'm going to tell you guys, I'm sure you will hear about later this evening. But please do not say anything about it to anyone else until that happens. A few minutes ago, one of our ten person strike teams was in the process of trying to rescue some other slaves. When they did this, a group of russian special forces had setup an ambush for them, and had killed 9 of the 10 members of that team before we could react. What frightened Haden is that he was able to see and hear what was going on in his mind at the point that me and the rest of my brothers first learned about it."

"Daileass, aren't you a computer?" Viktor asked.

"It's a little more complicated than that, but from a basic perspective, you can say that," Daileass replied.

Viktor nodded and then looked toward Haden. "You're able to use telepathy to talk with a computer?"

Not sure what Viktor's point was, Haden became a bit defensive. "Daileass is a lot more than just a computer. He's even a lot more than what most people see him as, which is an A.I. He's just as alive and real as anyone else."

Viktor put his hands up and shook his head. "Okay, I didn't mean that as an insult. All I really wanted to say is that I thought that was really cool and awesome. When I was younger, I use to pretend that I could talk to plants and trees and almost anything else in my head and hear what they said back. To be able to really do that with other people and computers.. erm.. A.I.'s sounds really super cool."

"Oh," Haden replied once he realized that Viktor was not trying to be mean. "They actually added me because I am not a telepath myself... but... yeah... it's really cool... Daileass is... well, he's cool."

Viktor only smiled in response as his head continued to try to make sense of the other details he had learned.

"Okay, that brings us to you, Haden," Daileass stated which caused the nine-year-old to turn his attention toward the computer terminal. "I'll let the comment you just made putting yourself down slide for now. However, what you need to be aware of is that given your security clearance, and the fact that you now have 100% access to the link and the fact that we can't really hide anything from you even if we wanted to, you are going to sometimes hear and see things that you have never heard about before. That's because there are a few things that are going on that if people found out about them, it could cause a bunch of people to get hurt, or worse. Does that make sense?"

Haden nodded. "I think so, but if that's true, why did you just say that out loud so everyone else could hear you?"

"Good observation," Daileass replied. "First, I didn't actually say what any of the sensitive information was. Second, I wanted to make sure Evan and your new friends knew this as well, because sometimes something might happen, and you won't be able to give them an answer or tell them about it. This way, they know ahead of time that something like that might happen, and will hopefully be able to have a better chance of understanding and dealing with that if and when it happens."

"Are you guys like secret agents, or spies or something?" Andrey asked which caused Haden to smile.

"No, we are not secret agents or spies or anything like that," Daileass replied. "We are just trying to make sure we can keep everyone safe. Okay, this is not real, but let's pretend that one of the kids in the clan had the ability to make money appear out of thin air, okay?"

"Oh, that would be really cool!" Georgy stated while getting nods of agreement from the other kids.

"It would be really cool," Daileass replied. "In fact, it would be so cool, what do you think would happen to that kid if people started learning about what he could do?"

"They would try to kidnap him and make him a slave," Boris answered gravely.

"That's very possible," Daileass replied carefully. "In fact, don't you think that would make him a pretty big target for any major government or military or other large group around the world? Well, we don't have anyone that can really make money like that, but the concept is the same. There is some information that if it were to get out, it could lead to a lot of good people getting hurt."

All the kids in the room nodded in understanding.

"Wow Daileass, I think that's one of the best explanations I've heard for that," Evan commented.

"What can I say," Daileass replied, "When you give that talk as many times as I have, you get good at it."

"Hey Boris, what's in the bag?" Georgy asked.

"Oh!" Boris replied with surprise. "I almost forgot, I got us a bunch of snacks. I don't know what a lot of these things are, but the older kids that were handing them out said they were pretty yummy." He than emptied his bag out on the bed to reveal a bunch of small packages of cookies, crackers, and pastries.

Within moments, the tension that had been building up over the course of Daileass's explanation had completely disappeared as everyone began to pick different snacks to try.

TO BE CONTINUED