Eric 382

Book 2

Near the end of Chapter 10 ...

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.

Chapter 11

3:30pm RST - Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004 (4:30am PST)

A small red-headed, purple-eyed seven-year-old briskly walked down one of the quad hallways softly singing to himself, "C is for cookie, that's good enough for me... C is for cookie, that's good enough for me!"

As the the boy walked, he occasionally glanced at the numbers on the doors that he passed. "Cookie, cookie, cookie starts with C!"

As soon as he finished his little tune, he turned to stand in front of the door that was labeled 267. Just as he reached up to knock on the door, he quickly stopped himself. "Oops, almost forget," the boy whispered to himself. Moments later the boy's features shifted slightly as he not only grew a few inches to look more like he was nine instead of seven, his hair also changed from red to purple.

"There we go, much better," the boy giggled to himself.

Evan looked down at his half-eaten cinnamon bun and then at the five younger boys before he sighed. "Geez, I thought teens could put down food, but that's nothing compared to how many snacks you guys have eaten. How do you do it?"

"We can't help it if they were yummy," Boris commented as he finished off his brownie.

Andrey nodded in agreement as he reached for a Twinkies. "Yeah, this stuff is almost as good as that pizza stuff we had earlier."

"Just be careful you don't make yourselves sick eating all this," Evan replied as he gave up on his cinnamon bun and set it down.

"So Haden, how long are you going to get to stay here?" Viktor asked. "Not that I'm complaining or anything, you seem like a really cool friend."

Haden shrugged as he nibbled on crackers. "Daileass suggested that I could help with some tours, but I kind of got side tracked with my first one. I'll probably have to go soon to give some more."

"That's pretty cool that you're giving people tours," Georgy commented.

Haden shrugged. "I guess. I just wish there was more that I could be doing."

"That sounds like a lot already," Andrey commented.

As soon as Andrey mentioned this, a knock came from the door which caused Georgy to walk over to answer it.

"Hello?" he asked as he opened the door slightly to see a nine-year-old purple-eyed boy standing there.

"Hi Georgy," the boy stated as he pushed open the door and walked into the room. "Are those Oreo cookies I smell? And Crackers? And Pastries?"

"Dilly?" Haden asked with surprise, "What are you doing here?"

"Do you know him?" Georgy asked as he followed the boy toward the small pile of remaining snacks.

"Do you guys mind if I have that package of Oreos? They are one of my favorite," Dilly asked as he grabbed the package and began to open it.

Haden nodded, "Yeah, that's Dilly, he's a Mikyvis."

"Um, what's a Mikyvis?" Andrey asked.

As Haden tried to figure out the best way to explain it, the little urchin grinned. "I'm a cookie-powered, cuddle fueled hug collector that can be anywhere I wanna be any time I wanna be ... just as long as there are lots of cookies and cuddles nearby."

"What?" Andrey asked in surprise.

"I think they are a new type of high race evolved species," Haden answered. "Kyle was the first, and he made Tyler into one, and Dilly was one of their kids."

"Right," Andrew replied, now regretting that he had asked.

Viktor grinned. "Actually, I think Dilly is pretty cool. Those purple eyes and purple hair go great together."

"You really think so?", Dilly blushed slightly before he turned toward Haden. "So, Uncle Haden, I couldn't help but overhear you saying something about wishing you could do more to help out? Just how much more do you wish to do?"

Haden looked at the slightly taller boy. Seeing how serious the boy looked, he thought for a few moments. "Whatever I can, I guess. But I'm not really good at anything else."

The boy shook his head. "Sorry uncle Haden. That excuse might work with others, but you forget I'm a Mikyvis. I know for a fact that you have the potential to be a lot more than what you think you are. The only real question that has to be answered is, how hard are you willing to work for it?"

"What do you mean?" Haden asked.

"For example, if you wanted to be trained for combat as a part of UNIT, that can be some pretty hard stuff." Dilly answered.

"Oh, yeah that. I already know about that. Colonel West is going to be helping me to get started. Well, he was, before we had to come here to help, um.. I can't really say." Haden said as he tried to figure out how to best avoid the real reason he had been pulled here.

"It's okay uncle Haden, I already know about how you helped Logan," Dilly grinned as he watched Haden's expression change. "And I also know about what you and Justin talked about as far as training. But what you don't know is that very soon, I'm going to be taking Maurice and the rest of the street gang, along with a bunch of other kids from the UNIT to a special place so they can go through their UNIT basic training. Seeing how you have already told Justin about how much you were wanting to do training, I figured that if you wanted, I could take you and uncle Evan there as well, if it's something both of you want."

Haden's face momentarily lit up, before it went away. "It sounds like a cool idea and all, but I already told Daileass that I would help him and his brothers here in Russia."

"Oh, don't worry, we won't be gone that long, so you will still be able to help." Dilly grinned.

"Really? How long is the training?" Haden asked, starting to get more hopeful.

"Well, just basic training itself would probably be about 12 weeks. But if we add in advanced training or command training after that, and maybe even getting you your high school diploma, in all, about 3 years." Dilly stated.

Viktor scratched the back of his head. "Um, Dilly? I don't know much about Mikyvis, but three years sounds like a pretty long time."

"That's because you're thinking too linearly," Dilly grinned. "I've found another dimension where time there is much faster relative to time in this dimension, so when a lot of time passes by there, only a small amount of time would go by there."

"Another dimension? That's not possible." Georgy commented.

Dilly shook his head. "Just because you don't know how to do something doesn't mean it's not possible."

"How much faster?" Haden asked curiously.

Dilly thought for a moment. "Well, a rough estimate is that 3 years there, would only be about 3 hours here."

Haden tilted his head. "So, if I go to this training when I come back, I'll be 12?"

Dilly shook his head. "Nope, that's the other cool thing about this dimension. I wouldn't bore you with all the technical gibberish, but in short, you will continue to age as if you were still in this dimension, so spending three years there would mean you would only age 3 hours."

Haden blinked. "Okay, now that doesn't sound possible."

"Ye' of little faith," Dilly said jokingly before he became serious. "Trust me, it is."

"How long do we have to decide?" Evan asked.

Dilly looked at his arm for a few moments and scratched his head. "Hum... Oh yeah!" A few moments later, a purple wrist-watch appeared on his arm. "About 10 minutes?"

Evan sighed. "Don't you think that's a little unfair Dilly? Only giving Haden 10 minutes to decide on such a huge question?"

Before Dilly could answer, Haden jumped in. "I'll do it."

Evan turned and looked seriously toward Haden. "Are you sure about this, bro? This isn't a decision that you would want to take lightly."

Haden took a deep breath and nodded. "I think so. Before today, I knew the world was pretty crappy. But today, when we helped Logan, and I got full access to the link, I've learned a lot more. Some stuff I don't want to remember, but some people have been through a lot worse than what I've been through, or what anyone else we have met has been through. And well... the clan has helped me out... us out... so much over the last few months... I want to be able to help too."

"You do Haden," Evan replied. "All the electronics stuff you've been doing? That's something very few people have a gift for. You help out a lot just by being yourself."

Haden nodded. "I know. But if I do this, then I can be strong, and I won't have to hide all the time." As Haden said this, his head tilted down toward the ground.

Evan was about to reply, since he knew Haden's reasoning wasn't really valid in that there is more to being strong than physical strength. However, he also realized that this was something Haden was going to need to learn on his own. "Okay, I guess we're going to be going to basic training then."

Haden swallowed hard. "You don't have to do this with me if you wan't want to, you know?"

Evan nodded. "Five years ago I made a promise to you that I would always be there for you, and I don't intend on breaking that promise now. Besides, you're not the only one who could benefit from basic training."

Haden wrapped his arms around Evan. "Thanks bro."

Viktor looked down toward the ground. "Well, have fun you guys."

Dilly tilted his head. "You can come too if you want, Uncle Viktor. All of you can actually."

Viktor looked up toward Dilly. "Really? But, I'm not a soldier. Actually, I don't even like the idea of killing people."

"Then don't be a soldier," Dilly giggled. "There are lots of civilian things that you can learn. For example, If you like cooking you could train with some of the top chefs in UNIT to be a cook."

"Oh, I love cooking!" Boris stated cheerfully.

Dilly nodded. "Or you could learn to be a mechanic or all kinds of other things."

"Mechanic? You mean like working on car and truck engines?" Viktor asked.

"Yup, or tank engines, or even helicopter or jet engines," Dilly replied. "Oh, and did I mention that you would also be able to work on getting further ahead in your schooling if you wanted? Maybe even get your diploma if you worked really hard at it."

"I've been a slave my entire life," Georgy stated sadly. "Other than a few little things that some friends taught me, I've never been to school."

"Me either," Andrey admitted.

"Well, this is a perfect opportunity," Dilly offered.

Seeing his new friends strongly considering the possibility, Haden jumped as well. "Plus, we will get to explore a new planet in a totally different dimension. How cool is that?"

"Okay, If you're for real about all this, then I'm sold. Count me in." Viktor firmly stated as all the other kids nodded in agreement.

Evan squeezed Haden as he looked toward Dilly. "Well, I guess the only question that remains is when do we leave, and what do we need to bring?"

"As far as what to bring, that's easy. You don't need to bring anything. Everything that you will need will be provided for you." Luke replied. "As far as when we would leave... we can go now, or as soon as you are ready."

"I'm ready now." Haden stated as he broke his hug with Evan and took a few steps toward Dilly. "Oh, what about Gyro, can he come too?"

"Hum," Dilly thought for a few moments. "Actually, it would probably be best if Gyro stayed here. Don't worry, I'm sure he'll be fine while you're gone."

Haden reluctantly nodded.

"Another dimension, huh?" Evan asked.

Dilly nodded as he grinned.

Evan shrugged. "What the heck, I guess now is as good a time as any."

"Woohoo!" Viktor, Andrey, Boris, and Georgy all cheered.

Dilly took a quick look around the room to make sure everyone was ready. "Okay everyone, gather around. The cookie express is about to depart in three... two... one..."

A brief flicker later, other than Gyro, the room was empty. Another moment after that, the remaining pile of snacks disappeared as well.

As Carl quietly made his way into the first floor common room of quad building A, he could see over fifty kids sprawled out and sleeping peacefully in the mounds of blankets and pillows that made up their nest. In one corner of the room, several three-foot tall teddy bears all turned their heads in Carl's direction as he entered. He didn't even notice two bears that were standing guard just behind the door until he heard the small gears in their heads turning as they too looked toward the possible intruder that was entering the room. It was times like this that he was glad that he had arranged things ahead of time with Daileass so that he could stop by without risking an accidental aggro of any of the guards.

With his hand on the light switch, he took one final look across the room. With as peaceful as many of the kids looked, he almost regretted having to do what he had planned.

"Don't they just look so cute?" a voice whispered behind Carl causing him to spin around to see a purple haired, purple eyed nine year old looking back at him.

"Have I mentioned how I really hate how you guys can just pop out of nowhere like that?" Carl asked with a grumble.

Dilly grinned. "That's all part of the fun."

Carl sighed and turned his attention back to the light switch. With a final glance into the room, he flipped the switch turning on all the overhead lights.

Almost immediately, moans could be heard from around the room as kids began to hide their heads under pillows.

"Good morning guys," Carl cheerfully called out.

"Carl?" Maurice groaned. "What are you doing here?"

Carl grinned. "It's 4:45am guys. Anyone that has decided that they want to take me up on my offer to take part in UNIT training needs to meet me outside the long wing door of this building in 10 minutes."

Although most of the kids in the room started shooting confused looks at each other, the gang kids knew exactly what was going on.

"Dude," Andrew tiredly called out, "It's not even 5am yet, couldn't you have waited for a bit?"

Carl shook his head. "If any of you guys are really serious about wanting to do the training, you need to start getting used to waking up this early. Nine minutes and thirty seconds guys." With that, Carl turned and walked out of the room, leaving behind the purple haired boy who was still standing near the entrance that Carl walked out of.

"Dilly?" Brent sleepily asked, having recognized the Mikyvis. "What are you doing here?"

"What? I can't come for a visit?" Dilly replied looking hurt briefly. "Actually, I'm playing taxi."

Before Brent had a chance to reply, several kids around the room could be heard asking questions like "What is UNIT training?" and, "Does everyone have to go?"

"I think the training stuff that guy was talking about was just for Maurice and the gang kids," Brent spoke loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear as one of the other boys managed to stand up and turn the lights back off.

"So we can go back to sleep?" One of the younger kids asked.

"All the rest of you can go back to sleep, yeah." Brent answered.

"Actually, that's not necessarily true," The Mikyvis smiled toward Brent.

Brent sent a tired, questioning look toward Dilly. "What do you mean?"

"Well, for example, Haden and Evan will also be going through the training," Dilly answered.

At hearing this, Lance's ears perked up. "Haden is going to be going through UNIT basic training?"

"Well, at least we know your hearing is working, Uncle Lance," Dilly giggled.

"Just who all is allowed to go?" Brent asked seriously.

Dilly tilted his head as if giving a lot of thought to the question. "Hum, I would guess anyone that wants to. All of you are part of the Clan, and Captain Long said that the training is open to anyone that wants to go, but it's going to be a lot of really hard work."

Lance nodded in agreement. "I don't think many of our other guys would be too interested in UNIT basic training, however..." Lance allowed his sentence to trail off as he looked toward Brent.

Already knowing what Lance was thinking, Brent nodded as well. "Would it be possible for Lance and I to take part in this?"

Dilly shrugged. "Maybe, but you two are already Division and assistant Division Directors. Why would you want to go through military training?"

Brent thought for a few moments. "A few reasons actually. First, Lance and I had already talked with each other about wanting to learn more about the military side of things, and were strongly considering taking Colonel West up on his offer for training. Also, well, if this is something Haden is doing, I think both Lance and I would also like to be there to help support him."

Dilly smiled. "Those sound like pretty good reasons to me. So if you are sure about this, Uncle Brent, go ahead and get dressed and meet out front with the others."

Brent and Lance both nodded and went searching for their clothes. Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Maurice and the rest of the gang kids were nearly dressed and starting to make their way down the hall.

"Devin, no." Eric whispered.

"I have to at least try," Devin whispered back as he walked over to where Brent and Lance were getting dressed.

"What's up, Devin?" Brent asked as he looked toward the ten-year-old clone.

"Um, well," Devin started out hesitantly. "I was kind of wondering if I could do this UNIT basic training as well."

"Why would you want to do that? You know you're already pretty well protected here, right?" Brent asked as Dilly walked over to listen as well.

Devin glanced down toward his bare feet. "That's kind of the problem," he began. "Since we have become part of the clan, everyone has been protecting us to the point that we've been completely dependent on everyone. And well... I was just thinking that it might be good if at least a few of us had a little bit of training so we could help defend our other brothers if needed."

Brent looked toward Lance, and then toward Eric. "What do you think, Eric? You know your guys the best right now, and you probably have a good understanding of what UNIT basic training would involve. Do you think this is something Devin would be up to doing?"

Eric thought for a few moments and slowly nodded. "I think so, but only if you let me come along as well, since I kind of feel the same way Devin does, and I think it would be cool for there to be two representatives of the cyclones there."

Brent inwardly moaned at the mention of the nickname that the clone kids had come up with for themselves as he turned toward Dilly. "I guess it's up to Dilly, then."

Dilly nodded. "I already told you Captain Long said it was an open training. So if they feel they are up for it, and you two feel they are, that's more than enough for me."

Brent agreed. "Okay, I guess you two need to get dressed as well."

Eric and Devin both nodded excitedly as they went off to search for their own clothes.

Once Brent and Lance were both dressed, Lance took a final look around the room at all the kids that were trying to go back to sleep and who would be staying behind. "Well, I guess we best get going."

Brent nodded but then suddenly remembered the final answer that Kyle had given him the night before about putting someone else in charge over the three hour period that they would be gone, since all three members of the division leadership would be gone. "Hold on, there is one other thing I need to do."

"Hey, Hania?" Brent asked as he walked over to where the twelve-year-old native american boy was resting.

"Yeah, Brent?" Hania replied as he sat up.

"Would you mind serving as acting division director while me, Lance, and Maurice are away for the next three hours?" Brent asked.

Hania glanced curiously toward Brent. "Are you expecting something to happen during that time other than the rest of us catching up on our sleep?"

Brent shrugged. "Not really, but given everything that happened yesterday, I don't think it's safe to make assumptions around this place."

Hania nodded in agreement as he bowed slightly. "Since you put it that way, then sure."

"Cool, thanks man," Brent replied as he tapped his comm badge. "Daileass, is there anything special I need to do to make Hania acting division director while Lance, Maurice, and I are at the UNIT training?"

"Nope," Daileass quickly replied. "I already recorded you making the offer, and Hania accepting it, so that's all that I need from this end."

"Great," Brent stated as he stood back up and Hania laid back down.

Seeing that Eric and Devin were now dressed, and all the gang kids had already left, Brent made a final nod toward the room as he, Lance, and the two clone kids headed down the hallway.

Once Brent and the other three made it outside, they found Carl, Dilly, and the twelve gang kids outside waiting. Almost immediately, Carl checked his watch.

"4:55am," Carl smiled as he looked back up. "I have to say, I'm glad to see Maurice and the rest of your guys all here. I'm also a bit surprised but glad to see Brent and you three."

After getting nods from everyone, Carl continued in a more serious tone. "Okay guys, this is your last chance to back out before we leave. Any of you can head back inside to the common room, and get a few more hours of sleep and no one will think any less of you. The training you guys are about to subject yourselves to will be some of the hardest stuff you have ever faced."

Carl waited a few moments to see if anyone would back out. Seeing that no one as much as flinched, he smiled. "Well, I had to try. Okay, in that case this is where we part ways for a bit as I guess I get to go spend a few weeks helping to get everything ready at Camp Casey while you guys take a brief visit to the Utah base to meet up with the rest of the guys who will be taking part in training." As he finished saying this, he glanced uncertainly toward the purple-haired Mikyvis standing next to him.

Dilly smiled and nodded. "You got it right Uncle Captain Long. Sir, you get to spend two weeks at Camp Casey while everyone else has about a two and a half minute layover in Utah before we all join you."

Carl shook his head in disbelief. "Just remember guys, the next time we meet, I will not be your friend. My job will be to train each of you to the best of your abilities." With that, Carl gave a nod toward Dilly, and moments later briefly flicked before disappearing completely.

Once Carl was gone, the Mikyvis turned to the rest of the kids. "And off we go!" A moment later Dilly and the other 16 kids that were standing there were gone.

Although a few of the kids that remained behind in the nest managed to fall back to sleep, many of them found that they could not. For many of the kids that were rescued from the police station yesterday afternoon, they were still trying to figure out if everything they had been hearing was for real, or if the new day would find them back behind bars, or worse. For the rest of the kids, the events of yesterday, specifically yesterday morning's assault, continued to play in their heads. Although the way that the assault went down ended up being more like a TV show where the bad guys were seriously out classed, and out gunned, the question of if that would happen again couldn't be ignored.

Many of the clone kids spent the time quietly trying to talk to Daileass. Unfortunately, the conversations didn't seem to go that well as Daileass seemed to be overly preoccupied. As a result, this gave many of the kids a chance to learn just how conversational the bears could be. Although they were created with positronic matrixes just like the human form androids they were not quite as complex and were somewhat more limited by their programing. They still had very sophisticated programming and unique personalities that grew with their child and allowed them to function as great conversationalists and companions.

Five-year-old Dwight had spent the night sleeping between Herbert and Leroy. Although both older boys had been told yesterday that it might be possible for them to officially 'adopt' the little imp that was between them, they both feared that at any moment someone might come by to snatch him away, so they each kept themselves fairly close to him so that they could hold on to him at a moments notice. Dwight, for his part, seemed overly fidgety. Any time there would be movement somewhere else in the room, Dwight's head would pop up to investigate. But more than anything, Dwight kept a close eye on the two doors that lead into the room as he was fully expecting his old dad to walk through one of them at any moment, and take him back to the bad men that hurt him.

"Dwight, you need to try to stay still so you can get a little more sleep," Herbert said softly after Dwight's head plopped back down on his pillow after checking out a sound in the room for the tenth time.

"I can't, I'm hungry," Dwight pleaded. "When do we get to eat?"

Herbert looked at his watch. "That's a good question. It's almost 6am, so I'm guessing it will still be a bit."

"But I'm hungry now," Dwight sighed as his belly let out a little rumble of agreement.

Not far away, Lee crawled closer toward Hania who had his eyes closed. "Hania, you asleep?"

Hania shook his head. "Just resting."

"I think the natives are getting restless," Lee commented. "I don't suppose anyone mentioned anything about when breakfast would be ready?"

Hania shook his head. "Not really, but how can they be hungry this early? We had a huge dinner last night."

Lee shrugged as he quickly glanced around the room. "I don't know, but from what I've heard, what most of the kids that we rescued yesterday get as far as food when they were being held at that police station didn't really amount to much."

Hania sighed. "I have no clue how Brent and Lance do it sometimes. They always seem to know everything that is going on and always have all the answers."

Cooper, along with Ben following close behind, made their way over to Hania and Lee. "Did I hear someone say breakfast?"

"Is food the only thing you ever think about?" Hania asked the six-year-old.

Cooper shook his head. "No, I just like thinking about yummy food." Ben nodded his head in agreement with Cooper.

"Oh? Is that it?" Hania gave a nod of understanding.

Ignoring Hania's jab, Cooper continued. "Ben and I could take Brownie and Fozzy with us and scout out the kitchen for you."

"And then we could report back any intel we gather on what kinds of breakfast foods we can find," Ben added.

"You guys realize that we could just ask Daileass, don't you?" Lee offered.

"Are you guys going to look for food?" Dwight asked as he popped his head up for the eleventh time. "Can I go with you?" He then looked down toward Herbert and then Leroy, "Can I go with them?"

"Can I come too?" A seven-year-old with short chestnut brown hair and hard green eyes asked as he too crawled over.

"Aron, right?" Hania asked as he looked toward the second youngest boy to have been rescued from the station yesterday.

Aron nodded. "Yes sir, Aron Valentine."

"You don't have to call me sir, Aron, I'm only a few years older than you," Hania stated and waited until Aron nodded in understanding. He then looked toward Lee to answer his question. "I don't know, I think it might be good to let some of the little guys go out on a scouting mission. That could also help them feel a bit more useful and part of the family."

Lee nodded in agreement. "Since you put it that way, yeah."

"Hey Daileass?" Hania asked as he tapped his comm badge. "Do you see an issue with a few of the little guys going on a scouting mission to the cafeteria?"

"Nope," Daileass replied.

Hania nodded and looked back toward the smaller kids. "Okay guys, you can go, but you need to have clothes on first."

Instantly, all four kids quickly scampered off to find their clothes.

"Hania?" Daileass continued. "While I have you, since you are currently listed as acting division director, there is another minor issue that needs to be addressed."

"What issue is that?" Hania asked as he watched Dwight nearly fall into Aron as they rushed as quickly as possible to get their clothes on.

"Last night, the officers that were left after the intel guys got done going through the police sub-station were told that they would get additional information today as to their job status," Daileass stated.

"Let me guess, they are calling and looking for answers?" Hania asked.

"Yes," Daileass answered.

Hania sighed. "Daileass, I have no clue what Brent or Lance were planning in regards to that. I don't suppose this could wait until they return?"

"I don't think that would be a good idea," Daileass stated flatly. "First shift is usually reporting for roll call around 7am. Brent and Lance are not scheduled to return until after 8am."

"Right," Hania stated. "I don't suppose we have anyone in the clan that has any experience running police stations?"

"Funny you should ask," Daileass replied. "It just so happens that following JJ's assault on a police station in Kokomo, Indiana about two weeks ago, we actually had a few survivors. As such, we now have some clan members that might be able to help. If this is something you agree to, I can contact Ryan and Fredrick White along with Jack Watson. Currently they function as the main liaisons between Terran and Clan police forces."

"That sounds fine to me," Hania commented. "But is three people enough?"

"I wouldn't worry about that," Daileass replied after a few seconds delay. "I'm sure they will be able to put together a pretty good team to help manage things in no time at all."

"That works for me. Go ahead and make it happen," Hania requested. "Just make sure they understand that things might change a little when Brent and Lance return."

"Right," Daileass reported following a short pause

"You okay, Daileass?" Hania asked with concern. "You don't seem to be... well... your usual self."

There was a brief delay before Daileass answered. "Sorry Hania, but I guess you can say I'm a little pre-occupied. I'm doing my best to try to keep up with all the new data that is coming in from Camp Casey."

"Ah," Hania replied. "How are all of our guys doing?"

"From what I can tell, they are doing pretty well. All of them managed to complete basic training. They are just wrapping up their eleventh month."

Hania slowly shook his head. "That's good to hear, Daileass. Thanks. I still find it hard to believe that they have lived eleven months in less than an hour. It seems they were just here not that long ago."

"You're welcome," Daileass replied. "And I know what you mean."

Neal and Rick stepped outside of the back door of Cynthitech Building Two only to be greeted by a sun that was just starting to peek over the eastern mountain range. The air was crisp and the sky was dark blue with not a cloud visible. All in all, it was a typical desert morning.

"Well, so far, so good," Neal commented as he quickly surveyed the grounds. "As far as I can tell, there are no new buildings."

"You goof," Rick commented as he wrapped his arm around his husband. "Just because a few little buildings popped up yesterday morning, you're not expecting more to pop up every morning, are you?"

"Look, when you've read as many of the reports, and talked to as many of the other clan parents as I have, you will learn to expect the unexpected around here."

"In that case, I better get this in now while I still have the chance," Rick replied. Before Neal had a chance to say anything, he gave him a warm passionate kiss.

"What was that for?" Neal asked curiously after it was over.

Rick shrugged. "Like you said, you never know what might happen around here. Come on, let's get over to the break room and see if they have any coffee left."

Neal nodded with a smile as he followed his lover. As the two rounded the corner that contained the walkway between the two buildings, they saw Dominic Torricelli pacing back and forth.

"Good morning, Dominic," Neal called out as they approached the other man. "Nervous about something?"

Dominic stopped and looked toward the other two. "Oh, good morning Neal, good morning Rick. Nervous? No... well.. maybe... It's just so much has happened over the past day, and after what Ronnie had been through yesterday, nearly being killed and all, now he's off with a ton of other kids neither of us really know and... I'm rambling."

Neal walked over and patted Dominic on the back. "Don't worry about it. I think all of us feel a bit overwhelmed at first. This whole clan thing can be a bit crazy at times. But if there is one thing that I've learned, it's that Ronnie couldn't be any safer than where he's at right now."

Dominic nodded. "I know, but it still doesn't stop me from worrying. Is that so wrong?"

"Not at all," Rick replied as he walked up behind Neal. "Hell, I don't think there is anyone in the clan that worries more than Neal or myself do sometimes. I guess it's just that we've had a month to be shown over and over how well these guys can work together and protect each other."

Neal nodded. "Come on, Rick and I are going to grab some coffee. I think this might be a good time for you to get to meet some of the other adults that you might be seeing around here."

Dominic shrugged, and followed the other two men into the other building.

"So, Clan Short just gave you guys all of this?" Dominic asked as they stepped out of the elevator on the third floor.

"More or less," Neal commented. "I think it's more that the boys didn't like how the clones here were being treated, decided to do something about it, and when the dust settled, were put in charge of it since they didn't want anything to happen to the clones that haven't been born yet."

Dominic nodded. "It must cost a small fortune to run all of this."

"Probably," Neal agreed. "But that's something else you will learn about the clan pretty quickly..." Neal stopped suddenly as he and the others could hear some banging around coming from from an open door ahead that lead into their medical center.

Pulling out his Starfleet issued phaser, Neal carefully approached the door and looked in. "Dr. Green?" Neal asked with surprise as he saw the female doctor he had assumed worked at the Utah UNIT base taking a lot of equipment out of a number of boxes.

The doctor looked up toward Neal to see the man in the process of putting his phaser back in it's holster. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize anyone else would be up this early."

"Not a problem, Doctor," Neal stated as he and the other two men stepped into the room. "Although, seeing you here is a bit of a surprise. I thought you would be at the Utah base."

The doctor nodded as she stopped what she was working on, and walked over to the three men. "Please, call me Linda. Dr. Green is a bit too formal for me, and it seems that we will probably be seeing each other a lot more." Seeing the confused look on Neal's face, she continued. "I'm sorry, I guess you haven't heard yet. As of around 10pm last night, I'm the head doctor for your division."

Neal smiled as he shook the doctor's hand. "You're right, I haven't heard. However, that's great news. I've heard how highly some of the kids have talked about you yesterday."

Linda gave a small smile, "Thanks."

"We're heading to the break room at the end of the hall to grab some coffee, would you like to join us?" Neal asked.

"More coffee drinkers, huh?" Linda frowned for a few moments. "I try not to drink much coffee, but I will gladly grab some tea with you."

"I'm sure we have some of that as well," Neal commented as the group left the medical center.

There was a slight chill in the air as Cooper and Ben, along with their bears Brownie and Fozzy, briskly made their way down the sidewalk toward the event center with both Dwight and Aron not far behind. Both of the new boys seemed to be captivated by the bears.

"You two coming?" Cooper asked as he looked behind him.

"Yeah," Aron called back. "We're just watching the bears, they're cool."

"Uh huh, will we get cool bears like that?" Dwight added.

Cooper shrugged. "We got ours Sunday night when we went to the huge UNIT base. I bet next time we go there, you guys will be able to get your own bears so you can add them to our bear force."

"When will we be going there?" Dwight asked.

"What's a bear force?" Aron followed.

"I don't know when we will be going back," Cooper admitted. "Did you see a bunch of the bears grouping together last night off to the side? Well, that's the bear force. When we have nests, everyone that has bears that are not cuddling with them, the bears work together to watch over and protect us."

"Wow, that's really cool!" Aron stated while getting a firm nod of agreement from Dwight.

"Guys, be quiet!" Ben jumped as a glared toward the other three boys, "We're just about there, and we don't want anyone to see us."

Cooper immediately became serious. "Yeah, Ben's right. This is a covered operation."

Aron tilted his head slightly in confusion. "You mean, covert?"

"Yeah, that." Cooper replied as Ben reached the door and began to open it as slowly and careful as possible as to make as little noise as possible.

After sticking his head inside, Ben quietly whispered back to the others, "Okay, I think the coast is clear."

Once all four boys, and both bears were inside, Cooper made sure the door closed behind them as carefully as when it had been opened.

As they carefully crept down the short thirty foot hallway that would lead into the main food court, Dwight made several loud sniffing sounds. "I think I smell pancakes," he whispered.

Aron shook his head, "No, that definitely smells like bacon."

Cooper nodded his head in agreement as he and Ben were the first to reach the corner that would lead into the huge room. Peering around it, they were surprised to see the room was completely empty. "Okay," he whispered back. "No one is here, I think it's safe to start phase two of our plan."

"What's phase two?" Aron asked.

"Sneaking into the kitchen, and trying to figure out why it smells so yummy," Cooper grinned.

"I like the sound of that," Ben nodded.

"Won't we get in trouble?" Dwight asked with a strong degree of concern in his voice.

Although Aron didn't seem to be that sure about the plan, both Cooper and Ben shook their heads. "We can only get in trouble if we get caught. Besides, this is 'our' base, so it's okay."

Dwight looked toward Aron, who for his part sniffed the air again. "Something really does smell good. It can't hurt in figuring out what it is, can it?"

Dwight shrugged. "Okay."

Without another word being spoken, Cooper motioned for everyone to follow him as he lead them back toward the door they had entered from, but instead of going back outside, he opened a different door on the right. When he looked in, he was rewarded by seeing a long walkway that lead deep into the kitchen. Again, he quickly motioned for everyone to follow him.

A slight humming sound could be heard all around them as the boys looked around in awe at all the large cooking equipment. Suddenly Ben stopped which caused everyone else to stop. "Is that what I think it is?"

Cooper looked ahead and nodded in agreement. "Uh huh, those are pizza ovens!" Cooper offered as he pointed toward two double stack professional pizza ovens that were almost directly in front of them.

After spending a few more moments looking at the impressive ovens, the group continued to follow the walkway which took a slight left turn.

A short time later, the group found themselves standing in front of a large food preparation table. Although none of the boys were tall enough to look over the table, the sides of the table had two shelves which they could easily look at. On one of the shelves, there was a huge square oven pan filled with bacon.

"Wow, I don't think I've ever seen so much bacon before," Aron commented as the other three boys agreed by making similar comments.

"Oy! Good morning, boys!" A tall, middle aged, oriental looking man said excitedly as he leaned over the table so that all four boys could see him. He was wearing a tall white chef's hat, and had a matching white apron. The surprise of the man seeming to appear out of nowhere, and the cheer of his voice not only caused all four boys to jump, but also caused Cooper to stagger and fall backward knocking both himself and Dwight down in the process.

"Who... who are you?" Ben asked as soon as he had recovered.

"Oy!" The man called out. "Where are my manners? I'm Head Chef Songchai Puckdee, although you can call my Chef Puck for short. And you four must be my Prep Chefs?"

As Cooper and Dwight stood back up, all four boys looked at each other in confusion. "Prep Chefs?" Cooper asked for all of them.

Chef Puck nodded. "Yes, yes. I was begining to fear you might be late. As it stands, you are just in time to help me get breakfast ready for everyone."

"Cool... um... really?" Cooper asked. "Uh, what do Prep Chefs do?"

"Ah, that's the easy part. You see over there in the large cleared out area and yellow circle that has a large letter 'A' inside it?" The man stopped briefly to make sure all four boys had looked where he was pointing. "That is receiving point A. In just a few moments, several large cartons of eggs are going to appear. It will be your job to bring the eggs over to the table, and start cracking them and putting them into this large bowl so we can start to cook the scrambled eggs for breakfast."

"But, there are no eggs over there," Dwight started to say just before several 48-egg cartons appeared sitting on a small wooden pallet. "Wow, how did you do that?"

Cooper grinned at the surprised looks that were on both Dwight and Aron's faces. "Daileass did it!"

"Go, go," The man said waving the boys toward the eggs, "Start bringing the cases over."

As the boys did this, Chef Puck pulled out a small 'step-up' bench that the boys would be able to use to easily reach the top of the prep table. As soon as each boy brought back their first carton, he gave them each a child sized pair of plastic gloves to wear, and began showing them how to properly crack the eggs.

"These eggs feel warm," Aron stated as he began working on his first egg.

"I hope so," Chef Puck replied. "They were just transported in from one of our farms. There were probably chickens still sitting on them 5 minutes before they arrived."

"I thought eggs came from stores," Dwight commented.

This, of course, caused Songchai to smile. "That is actually one of the many things I greatly admire about this clan. When it comes to food and cooking, everything is made from scratch and all the ingredients are as fresh as possible to keep them as healthy as possible."

"Is that why the eggs are not white like the ones we get in stores, because they are fresh?" Cooper asked as he started on his third egg, now in an egg breaking race with Ben.

"That's part of it," Chef replied as he used a small net scooper to fish out a piece of shell that Dwight had allowed to fall in. "Unless you get the more expensive ones, the eggs you usually get in the stores have been chemically treated and colored to all look the same shade of white.

In less than 10 minutes, Chef, along with the help of his four assistants. had 6 cases of eggs cracked and in large bowls, which looked more like tubs. "Thanks guys, you were all a great help. The last two cartons of eggs will be used to make the french toast, as well as to go in the cake that we will be serving for lunch."

"So what happens now?" Ben asked.

"Now?" Chef thought out loud. "Now, I start cooking the eggs to turn them into scrambled eggs, and you guys can start peeling the potatoes for the hash browns."

"Potatoes?" Aron asked.

"Um, I don't know if we know how to do that," Cooper added.

Just as Cooper said this, three fourteen to fifteen year old boys walked into the kitchen, wearing white kitchen aprons. "Morning Chef," one of the boys cheerfully called out. "Who are your little helpers?"

"Oh my," Chef Puck dramatically replied. "I thought they were my prep chefs."

Immediately, the faces of all four of the younger boys began to pale. "Um, Mr. Puck, sir?" Cooper hesitantly spoke up. "Actually, we are not really prep chefs, we are just kids."

"Oh? I see," Songchai stated as he sent a thoughtful gaze toward the boys. "Well that's too bad, because you all would have made very good prep chefs."

"Really?" All four boys asked in surprise.

"Absolutely," Chef Puck replied. "In fact, if any of you ever feel like helping out more in the kitchen, you are more than welcome to come back. But in the mean time, I have another job for you." Songchai then waited a few moments until he was sure he had their full attention. "Since you are not my prep chefs, perhaps instead you could go and tell the rest of your friends that they are welcome to come over for breakfast as soon as they are ready. I already have the first set of food that I made earlier, ready to be served."

"Okay, we will!" The boys called back as they excitedly walked out of the kitchen area chatting about their first real adventure at their new home. Brownie and Fozzy quickly ran after their charges, having been almost completely forgotten about in the excitement.

By the time that Neal and Rick along with Dominic and Dr. Linda made it to the former cafeteria, now turned adult break room, several other adults were already there. Although many of them were Cynthitech office workers and staff who had agreed to stay on after passing clan telepathic scans, one person immediately stood out to both Neal and Rick.

"Fredric, glad you could make it," Neal called out as he walked over to shake hands with the other man.

"Neal?" The young man smiled back. "Your message made it sound like it was pretty important that I showed up this morning, and after seeing the trial last night, well... all I can really say is that your boy is really something."

"He certainly is, isn't he?" Neal agreed. "Oh, before I forget, I would like you to meet Dominic Torricelli. Dominic, this is Fredric Bowman."

"Dominic, I was really impressed with what you said last night," Fredric stated as he shook the other man's hand. "I'm glad to see that you're going to be sticking around."

"Thanks," Dominic replied somewhat timidly.

"Is Ronnie doing okay?" Fredric asked sincerely.

Dominic nodded. "Thanks to the clan, he seems to be doing great. In fact, he is feeling comfortable enough around them that he is over sleeping with the others."

Fredric grinned slightly, "From a purely psychological perspective, I continue to be amazed by the degree of emotional healing and support these guys are able to provide each other."

Neal shook his head, "Fredric is a local social worker for the state, gone psychologist. He actually found one of our clone kids for us, and is going to be helping us search for more."

Dominic nodded.

"Oh, and before I forget, Fredrick, I would also like you to meet the head of our medical department, Doctor Linda Green."

The two shook hands in greeting.

"Mr. Neal, you're just the person I've been looking for," an older man in a white lab coat called out from the other side of the room.

"And that would be our lead geneticist, Dr. Rodney Flatt," Neal stated as he poured himself a cup of coffee.

By the Dr. Flatt made it to the other side of the room, Neal and the others had all manged to get their drinks and found a table to sit at. "Is everything alright, Rodney?" Rick asked once he saw the doctor was going to remain standing instead of sitting with the rest of them.

Dr. Flatt bobbed his head up and down. "Oh yes, very nice indeed. Thanks to that super computer of yours, I've been running through a bunch of new gene sequences and comparing them to the neonatal pairs of the three final stage pre-emergent clones, and well. I believe we have come up with something close to a break through which may help greatly address several of the normal post-emergent complication significantly ahead of time."

Neal looked toward Rick in an attempt to see if he was as lost as he was. It was Dr. Green, however, who jumped in before anyone else could answer. "You wouldn't be referring to the issues surrounding bone density and solidification?"

Dr. Flatt looked toward the younger woman as if seeing her for the first time. "Indeed, I am. You are familiar with Accelerated Growth Endpoint cloning?"

Linda nodded, "I've read a number of papers on the subject, but by all accounts, I thought that A.G.E. methods were considered to be flawed, with no practical application."

"Perhaps limited, but not any more flawed than any other procedure." Rodney defended.

"Very interesting, I wouldn't mind taking a look at how you solved some of the issues that A.G.E. seemed to be plagued with," Dr. Linda replied. With that, both doctors made their way to other part of the room where they could engage in their medical talk without putting off anyone else.

"You seem to have a rather lively bunch here," Dominic commented.

Rick tilted his head slightly. "Are you referring to the kids, or the adults?"

"Yes," Dominic replied which pulled a few chuckles out of everyone in ear shot.

"That we do," Neal agreed. "Believe it or not, this is just the start of it. Over the next few days, we will probably be seeing a lot more new faces."

"Well, I'm really impressed by everything and everyone that I've met so far. The only thing I really haven't been able to figure out yet is where exactly do I fit into this madness?" Dominic asked a bit more seriously.

Neal nodded. "That's a fair question, and that's partly what I was hoping that a bunch of us could sit down and discuss this morning. Brent, Lance and the other kids may run the clan, but regardless of how much power or authority fate has given them, at the end of the day they are still children, and I think it's up to us to come up with ways that we can support them as best as possible."

Several nods were made by all those near by as several adults from other tables began turning their chairs toward Neal's table so that they could listen and participate better in what was about to be discussed.

"Herbert, Herbert!" Dwight squealed as he ran into the common room, and made a bee-line for one of the two boys he hoped would be his new dads. "Guess what?"

Herbert had just finished folding one of the blankets up and managed to turn just in time to catch a small five-year-old who was in the process of leaping toward him. "Hey big guy, you sound excited."

Dwight bobbed his head up and down. "Uh huh! We went to the mostest biggest dinning room I've ever seen, and we got to meet Chef Puck who's really nice, he let us help get the eggs cracked and ready to cook and everything."

"Wow, that sounds like a lot," Herbert replied as he gave Dwight a hug. At the same time Leroy walked over to join in the hug as well.

While Dwight was talking with Herbert and Leroy, Cooper and Ben walked over to where Hania and Lee were at.

"How did the scouting mission go?" Hania asked.

Cooper smiled. "Two things. First, we have a really awesome head chef. He reminds me of that one guy I saw on T.V. Second, and most importantly, He already has breakfast ready for us, and we can go over to eat as soon as we're ready."

"He has breakfast ready this early?" Lee asked. "That's pretty cool."

"I'm glad we started getting things picked up as soon as you guys left then," Hania agreed, and then raised his voice so everyone could hear him. "Okay guys, looks like they already have breakfast ready, so anyone that is hungry, let's head out."

Almost immediately, there was a mass exodus of hungry teens and pre-teens toward the door followed very shortly by a large group of bears.

By the time the group made it to the event center cafeteria, they found it bustling with activity. Near the front, there was already a large group of kids dressed in UNIT uniforms in the process of eating.

"Geez, how early to those guys get up?" Daniel commented. "Haven't they heard of sleeping in?"

"What do you mean?" Clyde asked as he walked up next to Daniel. "I'm use to getting up at the crack of dawn to start working on my chores. I bet those gents do the same."

"Crack of dawn?" Daniel replied as he felt a shiver go down his spine.

"I small something yummy," Fourth commented as he quickly made his way down toward the front. "Actually, I smell lots of things that are yummy."

To say that there was only a few things there would have been a severe understatement. In true buffet tradition, just about every breakfast food item you could think of was available. That included: eggs, beacon, sausage, ham, grits, hash browns, toast, pancakes, french toast, waffles, fruit, all kinds of hot and cold cereal, and more. In addition to all of that, there was one place where one of the chefs would custom cook any type of omelet you could ask for.

As Dwight made his way through the line standing next to Leroy so he could point out things he wanted on his plate, he began jumping up on down. "There he is, Leroy! There's Chef Puck!"

Just as Leroy looked up, he saw the Thai chef walk over. "Hello Dwight, are you going to try some of the eggs?"

Dwight was a little surprised that the chef knew him by name. "Are these the eggs we helped with?"

Songchai nodded. "They sure are."

Dwight looked at the large bowl of scrambled eggs and then back up at the chef. "But, they look a lot different."

Chef Puck smiled. "That's because I added a few other things like milk and a few fresh herbs. I'll tell you what, next time you stop by my kitchen for a visit, I'll show you how I make scrambled eggs after we have all the eggs cracked, okay?"

Dwight bobbed his head up and down. "Cool!"

For the most part, breakfast went rather well. The largest topic of discussion was centered around how huge of a selection they had, and how just about everyone was able to find something that was their favorite.

Just as everyone was finishing their plates, Lee took a seat next to Hania. "Here anything else from Brent or Lance yet?"

Hania shook his head. "Not yet."

Lee took a look around the room. "Well, at least things seem to be going pretty good."

Hania nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I'm actually surprised how smoothly things are going."

As if on cue, Hania's comm badge chirped. "Colonel West to Hania."

Hania tapped his comm badge in response. "This is Hania."

"Sir, we have a possible situation developing here, and as acting division director, I figured you might want to check this out." Justin stated.

"I knew I shouldn't have said anything," Hania sighed as he looked toward Lee after putting his comm badge on mute. "I need you to keep an eye on everyone while I go check this out."

"Me?" Lee asked in response. "I'm not a leader."

"Nor was anyone the first time they were put in a leadership position. I'm sure you'll do great. Just take everyone out to one of the large fields so they can hang out for a bit," Hania replied before re-opening the comm link. "Okay Justin, I'm ready to be teleported over."

Within moments, Hania was gone, which left several pairs of eyes looking directly toward Lee.

"Um," Lee started hesitantly as he stood up. "I guess if we are all done, we can head out to one of the fields or something."

Colonel Justin West smiled as he read over the latest set of reports from the training planet that Daileass had managed to put together.

"Any new developments?" Emily asked as she walked over to her station, carrying a cup of coffee.

Justin shook his head. "Not really. Other than still being impressed at how well Haden seems to be progressing. The little shit was serious when he said he wanted some type of command position, and by all accounts he has a pretty good knack for it."

"And you doubted him?" Emily asked.

"I doubt everything," Justin replied. "It's part of my job."

Emily shrugged. "You were still planning on taking him under your wing, so you must have seen something."

"Maybe," Justin admitted. "But I was just trying to be nice while trying to find ways to help boost his self esteem. I had no clue that this could have happened. I mean, hell. Just a few minutes ago, which I guess would be a few weeks ago by now, all the strike team commanders got together and decided they wanted to stick together as a company post training, and even asked to spend the last 6 months of training working to function as a company with Haden as company commander."

"The little guy's really that good, huh?" Emily asked in disblief.

"That's what Carl and the rest of the DI's seem to think. Guess we will see what happens when they get back," Justin replied as he pressed a few buttons on his terminal to get a new set of information to appear on his screen. "So how's my base, Chase? Everything ready for today?" he asked, turning his attention toward his XO.

"About as ready as we could hope for, and then some," Chase replied from his own station.

"Excuse me, Colonel West?" Daileass's voice came over a few of the speakers. "You have an inbound call coming in from the state's district attorney's office."

"Really?" Justin asked as he stood up, not really sure why he would be calling unless there was something he had forgotten to mention at last night's meeting. "Put him on the main speakers please."

"You got it, connecting now," Daileass replied.

"Good morning Mr. Wolfson, to what do I owe the honor of being able to talk with you so soon after our meeting last night?" Justin spoke as he watched the call credentials scroll by confirming the location of the call.

"Colonel West?" Steven Wolfson began. "Is Director Knocks there?"

Justin thought for a few moments before answering. "He's not available at the moment, but I can make sure he gets any message you might have for him."

"Oh, well that doesn't really matter I guess," The D.A. continued. "I just called to apologize to both of you. I only just found out about it a few minutes ago myself."

Justin glanced toward Chase and Emily, the only two members of his command team that were in the Core C.I.C. with him at the time. Seeing that they both appeared to be as clueless as he was, he turned his focus back to the call. "I'm sorry. Apologize for what?"

"If what I just heard is correct, there should be a large number of vehicles consisting of state police, national guard, A.T.F., and other various agencies en-route from a staging location just outside of Vegas toward your location." Mr. Wolfson informed.

Before the D.A. had finished his sentence, Daileass had not only managed to locate the large group of vehicles that had been mentioned, but managed to pull up one of the highway cameras showing their approach.

"We're just pulling that up over here as well," Justin commented as he curiously watched the video feed. "I don't suppose you know what their intent is?"

"From what I have just been told, they are out for blood. Officially, Brent Knocks has been named as a person-of-interest in the murder of Glenda Farthing, and their intent is to take him to a secure location for questioning." As Steven spoke, papers could be heard rustling around in the background.

"The trial was conducted under Vulcan law and Vulcan jurisdiction, Earth-side Law Enforcement has no say in the matter." Justin shot back.

"I understand that, as does the Governor. We are all aware of the legal status of Clan Short. However, well, things went so fast yesterday that we are starting to see some knee jerk reactions." The D.A. replied.

"You do realize that I will not be able to release Director Knocks, or anyone else for that matter to them, right?" Justin asked.

There was a brief pause as more paper rustling sounds could be heard as well as the sound of door closing. "I'm aware of that. And, as you can probably tell from the number of vehicles and the different agencies involved, my guess is they know that as well."

Justin sighed. "Okay, Thanks for the heads up Mr. Wolfson."

"Please, call me Steven," the man replied. "I'm leaving my office now, I should be at your location in thirty minutes."

"Okay, Steven it is. I'll try to leave a few of them alive for when you get here." Justin replied.

There was another brief pause. "On second thought, I'll be there in twenty." Moments after that, the line went dead.

Justin sighed again as he spent a few moments watching the video feed showing the approaching armada of vehicles. Finally, he looked down toward his terminal. "Daileass, please advise Roberto, Anthony, Jeremy, and Tristen of the situation and have them report to C.I.C. Also, put all strike teams on ready status."

"You got it, Justin." Daileass quickly replied.

A few moments later he tapped his comm badge. "Colonel West to Hania."

A few moments later, Hania answered. "This is Hania."

Justin did his best to try to figure out the best way to word what he needed to say, knowing that Hania would probably be around a bunch of the other kids. "Sir, we have a possible situation developing here, and as acting division director, I figured you might want to check this out."

Their was a brief pause for a few seconds, but Hania's voice soon returned. "Okay Justin, I'm ready to be teleported over."

Justin nodded. "Daileass, could you teleport Hania here please?"

Without a word, Hania appeared a few feet away from Justin. The first thing he noticed was the video feed showing the approaching vehicles. "Okay, that's a bunch of cars," he commented.

Justin agreed. "It is, and they are all heading this way."

Hania looked toward Justin with surprise. "Any idea as to why?"

Justin gave a single nod. "We believe that they intend on taking Brent into custody to question him in regards to the murder of Glenda Farthing."

"That was fast," Hania replied under his breath, unaware of just how good of hearing Justin had being a genesis kid.

"With the trial just having happened last night, I would agree with you," Justin replied, causing Hania to look surprised in Justin having heard him. "My guess is that they have had our compound on their radar for awhile and were just waiting for a good excuse to stop by."

"Well, Brent's not even here right now, so I guess they are going to end up wasting a trip." Hania offered.

"Would you like to be the person that tries to explain to them that Brent is in another universe? Besides, within the next half hour or so, they should be back." Justin stated as he punched a few more buttons on his terminal and a small countdown clock appeared.

"Good point, I doubt they would believe us even if we did try," Hania admitted. "So what do we do? Or more appropriately, what do I do? Brent didn't mention any of this when he made me acting director for the three hours he was going to be gone."

Justin nodded in understanding. "Well, my first duty is to the safety of this base, and the protection of everyone in it. That includes my guys as well as all of your guys. Technically, you don't really have to do or say anything. However, as the current division director, acting or otherwise, you at least need to be aware of the situation, and have the right to be involved in the matter as much as you feel appropriate."

Hania slowly nodded.

"If I may, sir?" Tristen asked as he walked toward Justin and Hania, having overheard most of the conversation. After getting a nod from Justin, he turned toward Hania. "Hania, you may only see yourself as an acting division director. However, you need to keep in mind that Brent and Lance could have asked anyone, including Justin or any of the other UNIT guys here to function as acting director. Instead, he choose you because he felt that your ideals and beliefs best reflect that of what they feel is best for the division."

Hania thought for a few moments, and then gave a slightly more up-beat nod. "Well, when you put it that way, I can't really argue with that. I guess I'm just a little surprised that Brent and Lance had as much faith and respect for me as they do sometimes."

Tristen and Justin both nodded in understanding.

Feeling a little better, Hania looked back up at the video feed which had changed to a camera that was just outside the main gate, showing the mass of vehicles slowly approaching. "So, what happens now?"

"Now?" Justin asked. "Now we wait and see what happens. I believe the first move will be theirs."

Once Hania left, Lee did his best to try to keep things under control, but truth be told, leadership was something he never really felt that comfortable with. To his surprise, however, the remainder of breakfast went fairly well. Unfortunately, once breakfast was over, everything changed.

Once the kids began filing out of the event center, pandemonium ensued. One of the first questions that Lee was asked was what they were going to do next. Once he responded by asked them what they wanted to do, everyone seemed to have a different answer. While several kids were trying to tell Lee what they wanted to do, other kids began to start running around and screaming at each other.

"We should go swimming next," one kid suggested.

"Swimming? Not after we just ate, we should go play video games," Another commented.

"Video games? No way, we need to work on our placement tests and school work." A third mentioned.

"School work? Are you crazy? Anything would be better than school work." A forth suggested.

Things got so bad with different kids calling out different things that Lee put his hands over his ears and walked off to the side. To his surprise, no one seemed to notice as they just kept arguing with each other over what they should do next.

Leroy and Herbert were standing off to the side hugging onto Dwight as they waited for everyone else to decide what they were going to. As soon as Leroy saw how distraught Lee was, he gave Dwight a kiss on his forehead and headed over to him.

"Things don't seem to be going that well over there," Leroy began with a sympathetic voice.

Lee looked back toward the kids that were still arguing, and shook his head. "I don't even know why Hania asked me to take over. I'm not a leader."

"Sure you are, you just don't have much practice at it yet." Leroy suggested.

Lee shrugged. "Maybe."

Leroy looked at Lee for a few moments. "Hey, I know I just got here last night and all, but I actually have a little experience at this kind of stuff. If you want, I could try helping out a little."

Lee looked one more time at the kids that were still arguing and who probably had not even noticed that Lee walked away yet. Shaking his head, he looked back toward Leroy. "If you think you can help at all, go for it."

"Okay," Leroy said with a smile. He then put two fingers in his mouth and created one of the loudest ear piercing sounds any of the kids had ever heard. Immediately, all bickering and arguing stopped as all eyes turned toward Leroy and Lee.

"What are we doing here, guys?" Leroy began. "I know I'm pretty new to all this clan stuff, but is fighting and arguing with each other like this what it means to be Clan Short?"

Several heads began to slowly shake back and forth.

"That's good, because if it were, I don't think Herbert or I would want to be a part of it." Leroy looked around as several faces began to look toward the ground. "I know everyone means well, and I know the guys that normally our leaders aren't here right now, but we are all clan, and even without our normal leaders, we can still work together as clan, right?"

Many of the kids who were shaking their heads a few minutes ago switched to nodding up and down.

After waiting a few moments, Leroy continued. "Now, if I overheard things correctly, Brent and the others should be back in about a half hour. Until then, I say we all get a game or two of soccer in while we are waiting, then we can come up with something else to do when they get back. So, who's with me? Who wants to show Brent and Lance and our other leaders that we really are Clan Short?"

Almost instantly, everyone began to cheer and started to run toward the quad where the large soccer fields were at.

"Wow, thanks man," Lee commented as he looked up at Leroy. "That was pretty amazing."

Leroy shrugged as he began to walk back toward Herbert. "Just something I picked up handling the younger street kids in Brazil."

Lieutenant Sal Lowery continued to be surprised at just how many different agencies had come together to deal with their common 'hostiles', as they had been referred to. At no time over the last six years since he had joined the Las Vegas police force had he ever witnessed something like this. And now, due to an odd twist of fate, he was bringing his patrol car to a stop behind one of the ATF cars, with his Captain sitting in his passenger seat, right outside the gates of Clan Short. At least, the division of Clan Short that was based out of Las Vegas.

Were all Clan Shorts somehow linked together? Was this Clan Short that had forcefully taken over the Cynthitech pharmaceutical complex a week ago linked to the other Clan Shorts that had been in the news in other parts of the country? He realized that in fact, he knew very little about this group. But at this point, that was one of the least of his concerns. Fate had somehow thrown him into this position, but now it was up to him to make the best of it. If he played his cards right, maybe, just maybe, he could help save a bunch of lives today, and walk out of this alive.

"Drag it, Lowery," Captain Rojas said scruffily, pulling Sal out of his thoughts. The Captain had already exited the car, and was closing the door. Sal quickly followed. So far, he was not making that good of an impression.

It was fairly easy for Sal to catch up to the rather heavy set middle aged Captain. And, given that they were fairly close to the front of their convoy, they didn't have far to walk to get to the car that several of the representatives from the other departments that were taking part in this were already gathering.

"Captain Rojas," A man in an ATF jacket called out as he looked up from a large sheet of paper that was being unrolled on the hood of a car. "Agent Addison, ATF, and this is my partner Agent Bouchard. We'll be functioning as the primaries for today's operations."

As Captain Rojas reached out to shake the man's hand, he gave a brief nod toward Sal. "This is Lieutenant Lowery."

Agent Addison gave Sal a very slight nod of acknowledgement. Since he and his Captain came right from the station instead of meeting everyone at the staging point, Addison briefly introduced the other key individuals that were there. "I'm sure you are both familiar with Captain Dawson of Vegas SWAT, over there is Corporal Curry from the National Guard, and Chief Munoz of the Nevada State Police."

Of course, there were a number of other people mulling around and huddling into the group to listen to what was going to be said, but apparently those were the only people that Agent Addison thought important enough to directly point out.

"Okay, let's get this started," Addison stated after everyone had a chance to shake hands or nod toward Captain Rojas. "Agent Bouchard, would you like to give us a situation update?"

Addison's partner nodded and directed everyone's attention to the large sheet of paper which Sal now could clearly see was a detailed map of the Cynthitech compound. "As you guys can see, what we thought was a standard chain link fence yesterday appears to have been somehow replaced overnight with a much sturdier concrete wall with barbed wire at the top. In all likelihood it's heavily reenforced, which now makes the multiple ingression point plan unrealistic."

"As you can also see, at several points along the wall are small cameras," Bouchard continued. "Although it would seem unreasonable to expect that so many cameras could be hooked up so quickly, one thing we have seen time and time again is to not underestimate these clan kids. So I think it's safe to assume that they are already aware of our presence here.

Corporal Curry cleared his throat. When Agent Bouchard looked up toward him, the Corporal glanced toward the gate. "Given the fact that those five kids over near the gate are all looking toward us, as well as the two kids in each of the towers behind the wall that are standing next to the those 50 calibers, I don't think they really need to rely on cameras to know that."

"I already have snipers keeping an eye on the two hostiles in the towers," Captain Dawson stated. "As soon as they even think about reaching for those triggers, they'll be sorry that they ever woke up this morning."

Agent Bouchard nodded as he turned back to the site layout. "To be honest, I don't think any of us are really surprised by any of these new developments given our knowledge of the clan, and their connections with off-worlders. It's still my belief that our sheer size and show of force will be our strongest advantage. I don't care who these guys think they are, they are still kids, and as we all know, kids can easily be intimidated."

"From what I've seen yesterday, they don't appear to be easily intimidated," Lieutenant Lowery spoke up. This immediately caused both ATF agents to shoot him a nasty look.

"My apologizes," Captain Rojas stated immediately. "I had to grab the Lieutenant at the last moment, and didn't get a chance to reinforce to him where his place is."

"If I am looking for your opinion, Mr. Lowery, I'll ask it. Unless you are trying to say you understand this situation better than those of us who have been trained to deal with these types of terrorists?" Bouchard looked directly into the Lieutenant's eyes as he spoke.

Although he disagreed, Sal knew that if he wanted to remain a part of this operation, this was not the place to speak up, so he timidly lowered his head. "No sir, I spoke without thinking, it won't happen again."

Agent Bouchard nodded and turned back to the map. "Okay. Unless anyone else has anything to say, then I suggest we proceed with contingency plan charlie, and make a phased frontal entrance from the main gate. Once we are inside the compound, we'll secure gate area, and present our intents. If we encounter any type of hostility, we'll secure the whole damn complex and make sure they understand who not to fuck with. Any questions?"

Seeing nearly everyone shaking their heads, Agent Addison got everyone's attention. "Okay guys, let's get this show on the road." With that, the map was rolled up and put away while the group began to make their way toward the front gate.

As Sal approached the gate with the rest of the group, he could easily tell that although not one of the five kids there could have been over the age of fourteen, they were all dressed in full military gear, and all had some type of clearly visible weapon easily within reach.

Right before they reached the gate, two of the boys with M16 Rifles at their sides took a few steps toward them. "Good morning, gentlemen," one of the boys who looked to be around twelve, called out. "Is there something we can help you with?"

"Hello son," Agent Addison began as he quickly flashed his ID. "I'm Agent Addison of the ATF. That means the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. We need to speak to the adult in charge here."

The boy briefly grinned toward the second boy who had walked up with him. "Hello Agent Addison. I'm Captain Tucker of UNIT Base Security, that means the people that protect the kids here from the scumbags that might try to hurt them."

After giving his words a few moments to sink in, Captain Tucker continued. "If you would like to let me know the nature of your visit, I could possibly arrange a meeting with Colonel West or the division director."

A cold look came over Agent Addison's face which said very clearly that he did not intend to allow anyone to toy around with him. "You listen here, kid..."

Before the ATF agent could say anything else, a loud low thumping sound could be heard. Moments later, they were all hit by a sudden gust of wind as a Hind attack chopper quickly flew overhead and past them.

Seeing the surprised expressions on the faces of the adults in front of him, Captain Tucker let a slight grin slip across his face. "Oh, look at that. The Hinds must be out on their training manuevers this morning."

As Agent Addison glanced toward the helicopter, he could almost swear that he saw the young pilot waving toward him as it turned and arced around to fly toward the back of the compound.

"I'm sorry, Agent Addison, what was it that I could help you with?" Captain Tucker asked pulling the man's attention back.

Agent Addison sighed. "I have some important legal matters that I need to discuss with those in charge here."

"Okay, just a minute please," the twelve year old nodded with a smile as he tapped a small shinny circular object that was pinned to his jacket. "Captain Corey Tucker to Lt. Colonel Longing."

A few moments later a reply came out of the object which was clearly some type of communication device. "Go ahead Captain."

"Sir, I'm here at the front gate and I have a few gentlemen here from the ATF as well as a half dozen other various law enforcement agencies that would like to have a meeting with Colonel West and the Division Director if possible."

"Copy that, one moment Captain," the voice replied. After a several second pause, the voice returned. "Captain, please inform our guests that, assuming they pass the proper security procedures, I will go ahead and arrange the meeting for them."

"Acknowledged, Captain Tucker out," as the boy said this, he tapped the device again before he looked back toward the ATF agent. "Okay, as you have heard, my superiors are willing to setup the meeting for you."

"Of course he is," The man stated as he began to move forward. As soon as he did this however, in addition to Captain Tucker and the other boy next to him putting their hands on their M16's, the other three boys on the other side of the gate took a few steps forward, this caused Agent Addison to shoot a questioning look toward them.

"I'm guessing you didn't catch the entire conversation," Captain Tucker informed "That's contingent on you being able to pass proper security procedures."

"What procedures?" Agent Addison demanded. "I've already shown you my badge, now stand aside and let me in, boy."

Captain Tucker stood his ground and slowly shook his head. "Sir, if you continue to behave in this manner, I can assure you that you will not be stepping foot onto this base. Now, as I'm sure you know, there have been a number of actions taken against the clan over the last two weeks by, shall we say, less then reputable organizations. As such, security is a bit higher around here."

Addison grumbled. "And what security procedures would those be?"

"I'll need to get the names and identification numbers of you and anyone else in your group that wishes to come onto the premises. Once we have been able to contact your superiors, and confirm your identities, then you will be allowed on base." Captain Tucker informed them.

"That's insane, we demand entry now," Agent Addison said as he took a step forward and saw all five kids move their hands closer to their own weapons.

Captain Tucker tapped his comm badge again. "Daileass, please inform security team bravo to report to the main gate just in case our guests decide to choose their actions poorly."

"Acknowledged," a child-like voice replied.

"So, Agent Addison, how do you want this to play out?" Captain Tucker asked seriously.

Before the agent could respond, five other kids dressed in a manner similar to those at the gate appeared out of nowhere standing several yards behind the gate entrance. Looking back at the group that was with him, Agent Addison could see the uncertain look on their faces. That alone told him that his position, at least for now, was significantly compromised. "Fine son, we'll play along with your little games for now."

"A wise decision," Captain Tucker nodded. "But please understand Agent Addison. Neither myself nor any of my guys see any of this as a game." Once he said this, the boy that stood next to Captain Tucker took a few steps back toward the gatehouse, the entire time also keeping an eye on Addison and the other adults. When he came back, he was holding a clipboard in his hand.

The captain looked toward his friend and then back to the adults. "Now, if you gentlemen would be so kind as to provide First Lieutenant Shields here with your full names, affiliated organization, and identification numbers for all of those who will be entering our installation, we'll get this process over with as quickly and painlessly as possible."

Agent Addison glared toward the twelve-year-old Captain for several long moments before he motioned for those that were with him to follow him back toward the cars.

As they were walking, Captain Tucker called out to them. "Oh, and Agent Addison. I know I really don't need to say this, but any attempt by you or anyone else with you to provide us with fake or fraudulent information will only, at best, drag this entire process out to be a lot longer than is needed."

Addison shook his head in frustration as he and his group continued walking. As soon as he thought that they were out of ear shot from the kids at the gate, and after allowing time for the Hind to make another pass over them.

After a few minutes of discussion, it was decided that each of the five organizations that made the majority of those involved in the operation would each send in two individuals. Everyone else would remain outside on standby, and be ready to come in if there was any trouble, blowing up the gate and all those guarding it if they had to.

Hania stood a few steps behind Justin as they both watched the main video monitors showing the events that were going on outside their gates, along with the small timer in the bottom left of the screen that was slowly counting down the time until Brent and the others that had gone to the training planet should be returning home.

"Are you really going to contact all of their agencies to verify their identity?" Hania asked as he saw the boy with the clipboard carefully writing down everyone's information.

Justin grinned. "Nah, why would we? Daileass already had all of them identified the moment they stepped out of their vehicles. Some of them, he probably had ID's on before they stepped out."

"Then why..." Hania began to say before he stopped to try to figure out the best way to word his question.

"Why bother to go through all of this?" Justin offered. Once he saw Hania nod his head, he continued. "Two reasons actually. First, if I can pull it off, I would like to buy us some more time so that Brent and Lance can be here when this comes to a head. But, more importantly, the only reason so many agencies have come together with such a large show of force is for the intimidation effect. If they were really only interested in questioning Brent, they would only have had to send two, maybe four officers tops to carry that out."

"So in the end, you really are playing a game with them?" Hania asked curiously.

"Yes and no, depending on how you look at it," Justin replied. "One thing that I've come to understand about most adults, especially those adults who feel they have power, is that they tend to not learn anything unless they are able to go through the motions. So, I'm giving them the opportunity to try to intimidate us if they like, while at the same time showing how we can be just as intimidating as they are, if not more so."

Hania nodded his head in understanding.

"In the end, however," Justin continued. "The safety and security of you, all of your guys, and all of my guys is still the top priority, and with that I will never play around. That's why as we speak, all five strike teams are sitting, geared up, so that at a moments notice, Daileass can teleport them to anywhere they need to be."

"Nice," Hania smiled as he felt a bit more reassured and safe. "I'm glad you're on our side."

Agent Addison, and the others that were planning on entering the installation, were left waiting for several minutes after they had all given their information to the kid that had the clipboard. Since then, both he and Captain Tucker had disappeared into the gate house.

Just as the adults seemed like they were ready to barge in through the gate on their own, Captain Tucker walked back out holding the clip board. "Okay, I have good news, we've been able to successfully confirm the identities of most of you, and you are cleared to enter the facilities."

"It's about damn time," Agent Addison commented as he began to walk toward the gate, only to be stopped by Captain Tucker, and the three other boys behind the gate reaching toward their guns.

"I said, most of you," the captain reiterated. "it would seem that Corporals Curry and Woodard have decided that the national guard would not take this seriously, and have given us fraudulent ID's that have each been inactive for the last 5 years."

Agent Addison glared back toward the two men.

"That's a lie," Corporal Curry began. "There is no way a bunch of kids would have any access to secure records like..."

Before the Corporal could finish putting his foot in his mouth, Captain Tucker gave both men a sheet of paper showing a print out of the ID's in question, and that not only had they been inactive for the last five years, but the pictures of the men they were associated with looked nothing like the two corporals.

"Damn it, Arron," Agent Addison spat out. "Just give the kids what they want already."

With looks of both contempt and defeat, both men provided their real ID's to the twelve-year-old. Once he had them written down, he disappeared back into the gate house for several more minutes.

When he returned, Captain Tucker was no longer holding the clip board, and the boy that was with him earlier was back at his side. "Okay, Corporal Curry and Woodard's IDs have been confirmed, so you are all cleared to enter the facilities."

Addison nodded but before he could move forward, Tucker held up his hand. "Given the situation, however, I'm going to need to ask each of you to please leave any weapons you have here at the gate. They will be returned to you when you leave."

"That ain't happening, son," Agent Addison stated as anger began to fill his eyes. "We all have permits to carry them when on active duty. Permits which, last time I checked, Vulcan law recognized."

Captain Tucker nodded. "You're right. Technically I can't force you to leave them here. However, if you choose to keep them, I will need to insist that you have an armed escort with you at all times, for security reasons."

"That's not happing either, kid. You've had your fun, now let us in or I'll have you arrested for obstructing justice." the agent challenged.

Captain Tucker looked at Addison and the 9 other men that were with him, and then spoke in a very calm, pleasant voice. "I can understand your anger Agent Addison, and if it would make you feel better, you are welcome to attempt to have me arrested. However, before you do, I would suggest you look up the laws surrounding embassies. This entire compound is considered Vulcan soil, on which you have no jurisdiction."

The Captain waited a few moments to let his words sink in before he continued. "Now, the way I see it, you have three options. First, you can voluntarily surrender your firearms here at the gate. Second, you can keep your firearms and accept having an armed escort. Or third, all of you can turn around and go back home. Which will it be, Agent Addison?"

"Let them escort us, Alex," Chief Munoz from the State Police commented. "What harm will having a few kids with guns walking along with us do? It's not like any of them would really know how to use them."

Agent Addison sighed as he looked back toward the twelve-year-old captain. "Fine, we'll accept your escort."

Captain Tucker couldn't help but grin at the Chief's comment. But, since it seemed to get through the dense head of Agent Addison, he decided to let it slip by without challenge. Instead, he simply made a polite bowing gesture. "In that case, if you gentlemen will follow me, I will take you to where you can talk with Corporal West, and our division director."

As they walked, Lieutenant Lowery leaned in closer to his Captain. "Sir, the way these kids carry their side arms, I'm pretty sure they are well trained in using them."

"Can it, Lowery," his captain replied. "You're already on thin ice."

"Sir, please stay on the path and follow Captain Tucker," one of the kids that were escorting the group said toward Chief Munoz.

Munoz, for his part, had spotted a few of the kids playing soccer off in the distance and had started walking toward them. "Why aren't those kids in school? Where is their adult supervision? I demand to see the proper paperwork for this."

"Chief Munoz," Captain Tucker called out as two of the kids escorting them placed their hands on their side arms, causing the man to stop. "I can assure you that all the needed paperwork is properly accounted for, and that Colonel West will be more than happy to show it to you once you meet with him. However, if you have decided against meeting with him, we can instead escort you back off the premises."

"You're only making things worse for yourself in the end," Munoz replied. "But fine, I'll go along with this for now." With that, the man stepped back onto the sidewalk and continued walking in the direction that Captain Tucker had been taking them.

A few minutes later, the Captain lead the group into the main administration building, past the security checkpoint station, and into one of the conference rooms. "You and your men can wait in here. I'll inform Colonel West that you are here."

With a look of contempt, Agent Addison and the others with him grudgingly stepped into the conference room. Once the door was closed behind them, they immediately realized that neither the twelve-year-old prick, or any of their escorts had entered with them. This, of course, created the intended effect of making the men feel a false sense of privacy.

Haden was sitting at his desk as he looked out of his window at the green hazy sky which had become his home for the last three years. Over that time, he had often been so wrapped up in everything that was going on around him, all of his training and studies, that he often had very little time to think or worry about anything else.

In fact, it hadn't been until this last week when Captain Long had informed all of them that their training was officially over, and had ordered each of them to take the last week that they would have there to relax and unwind, that Haden had his first real chance to start thinking about everything that he had been through.

Sitting on his desk directly in front of him was a small computer terminal. For the most part, the screen was empty except for a few pieces of information such as the current time along with a small red block labeled 'Record', and a small white flashing 'Paused' icon.

Suddenly, the door to the room opened up and one of Haden's roommates, eight-year-old Bennett Casey walked in. "Hey Sir, erm. I mean Haden," The boy began as he made a b-line for his dresser. "A bunch of us are going to meet down at the pool for a going away cookout. It would be cool if you joined us."

Haden tilted his head slightly as he looked toward the boy who had not only become one of his best friends over the last three years, but also a vital part of his command team. "Thanks Bennett," he began in a soft voice. "Maybe I will, but I have to finish this silly letter first."

Bennett shrugged as he grabbed his swimsuit and towel. "Okay, well just don't stay up here too long or you will miss all the burgers."

Haden nodded as his friend left the room and closed the door behind him. As soon as the room was once again empty, he said while turning back toward the computer terminal. "Chronos, please begin recording Haden draft letter fourteen."

"Acknowledged," Chronos's voice immediately replied as the white 'Paused' icon disappeared from the screen.

Haden took a deep breath as he did his best to collect his thoughts. "Hi Daileass," he began. "I'm sorry that I haven't sent you any messages in awhile. Okay, maybe a long while, but as I'm sure you know, things have been insanely busy here with training and all."

"No no no," Haden corrected himself. "That's not really true, is it? There have been plenty of opportunities over the last six months for me to send you a message, but I didn't. I guess mainly it's because although to me it has been almost three years, to you it's been less than three hours."

"No, that's not the real reason either," Haden stated with a sigh. "Would you believe that this is my fourteenth try at making this letter for you? Kinda lame, huh? But no matter how hard I try I can't seem to get the words right. And if Chronos lied to me and didn't really delete all the other drafts, I promise I will desolder every processor in his core one by one. I don't care how many shocks he tries to give me."

Haden paused for a moment. He was just about to stop the recording and start draft fifteen when instead he took a deep breath and continued. "I guess the real reason is that I can never really figure out the right words to say. When I first came here, the memory and the closeness that we had when I was a part of the link with you was so real and vibrant, but now it's like it's becoming a distant memory slowly getting pushed further and further away with all the other stuff I've been cramming my head with."

After another short pause, a single tear began to trickle down Haden's face. "I guess... I guess that scares me, Daileass. I don't really know why, but it does. I remember laying awake for so many nights when I first got here, thinking about the link, and how good all of the support and love you and the rest of our... your brothers gave me, and using that thought to rock myself asleep, but now..."

"Ordath has helped a little, and the little link that Chronos was able to setup for me and a few of the others back when I first got here also helped, but it was nothing at all like the link and bond we shared. It was like going from swimming in an ocean, to trying to fit into a small sink with only a small trickle of water dripping over you. Okay, maybe that's a bad analogy."

"Anyway, one of the only real suggestions that Captain Long gave us this week is that we all try to write a letter to someone back home. Even though most people will never have noticed any of us gone, that we should still write the letter. And well, with me being this big important leader type person now, what kind of example would I be setting if I couldn't make a simple little letter. Well, since we are on the last day before we come home, I guess it's not that good of an example anyway."

"You see, Daileass, when I first got here, and when Captain Long first made me a recruit captain, part of me felt like he was just playing some kind of joke on me, waiting for me to fail so that he and all the other DI's could laugh in my face. But as time went on, and as we continued our training, something changed. Although I don't really know when it was, I guess at some point I slowly started to believe them myself, that maybe I could be a good leader. I'll tell you one thing, even though I came into this whole training stuff wanting to be a leader of some kind, it's nothing at all like I expected it to be. Sometimes, it can really hurt, having so much responsibility, and knowing that so many people are depending on you, sometimes depending on you with their lives."

"Their have been so many times where I wanted to go to Captain Long, and tell him to make someone else the leader, and that I didn't want to be a leader anymore, but... I don't know... for some reason, I can see things, and think of ideas that a lot of the others miss or don't think of... that, I guess I'm the best at it... and now, I've made so many new friends, I don't really want to let any of them down... so here I am."

"So, that brings me back to why I'm scared. And that's a real good question. I don't really know why. I know it's only been three hours that I've been gone and all, but at the same time so much has happened, I've learned so much, and I've changed...." Haden paused for a few moments as he realized what he was starting to say. "Maybe that's it. Maybe in a way, I'm afraid that I've changed too much? That I've become someone different now, and that I won't be the same Haden that you and Logan and the rest of your link brothers invited into your link... I guess, what I'm really scared about is that I might have changed so much that... that you won't like me anymore."

Haden sat in silence for several long moments as the realization of one of his largest building fears slowly sunk into him. "I really hope that you are still able to like me after all this, but I can't really argue it. The fact of the matter is, I have changed. I've changed a lot over the last three years, I've learned a lot about myself and what was inside of me that I never knew I was or had. I know how to fight and defend myself now, hell, I'm even actually getting pretty good at it. And... well... I guess I'm good at telling others how to hurt or even kill others."

By this point, Haden's eyes were almost completely filled with tears. "I'm sorry Daileass, I'm sorry if I let you or your other brothers down. I hope you can still like me when I get back home. But if you can't... I guess... I guess I'll understand. I agreed to throw myself into this, so I have to take responsibility for the results, huh? Both the good and bad results."

Several more long moments went by before Haden did his best to wipe the tears out of his eyes. "No matter what happens as a result of all this, there is one thing I hope you are able to remember... And that's... that's.... I love you, Daileass."

No longer able to see the terminal through his tears, and no longer able to clearly think about anything else to say, through a broken voice, Haden instructed Chronos to stop recording and save.

"Acknowledged," Chronos cheerfully replied.

Haden sat there looking at the blank terminal for several long seconds before he took another deep breath and slowly began to push back his emotions and harden himself as he had learned to do very early in his training.

Less than a minute later, Haden wiped the final tear out of one of his eyes as he slowly stood up and walked toward his dresser to fetch his swimsuit and towel. Soon Haden would be down at the pool area, and no one other than Bennett and perhaps a few of his other closest of friends that he had made over the last three years would have any hint at all at how much of an emotional breakdown he had just had. After all, they all needed to see strong, confident company commander Haden, not the weak Haden who still cries over what he might have lost.

"Chronos, please send draft fourteen," Haden stated as he was opening the door to leave his room.

"Acknowledged," Haden heard Chronos reply as he closed the door behind him.

The next day, Haden found himself standing at attention as he faced a raised platform where Captain Long and all the other Drill instructors stood. Behind him, standing in a perfect block formation were the 110 kids that had managed to make it through the full three years of training. To the surprise of nearly everyone, they had only lost 10 kids over the course of training. All those that remained were now dressed in their full dress uniforms.

Standing off to the sides were not only all the civilians that were also taking part in the training over the last 3 years, but also nearly all the rest of the staff that had worked in Camp Casey. Everyone had turned out to witness the final inspection and block maneuvers before the entire group was returned home.

"Sir," Haden called out. "The First Graduating Company of Camp Casey presents itself for final inspections, Sir!" he then ended with a crisp salute which he held for several long moments until Captain Long saluted back.

Captain Long nodded and stepped down from the platform. Once he did, he slowly began to walk around the entire group of recruits. As he did, he carefully observed everyone, looking for anything at all that he could use to call someone out on. As hard as he tried, however, he could not find a single thing wrong.

Finally, he walked back up on the platform and smiled. "Company Commander Rothwood, you're at ease."

Instantly, as loud as he could, Haden called out. "Alpha Company... At Ease!" In a single unified motion, every single member of the company moved to the 'at ease' position at the same time, including Haden himself.

Carl nodded with satisfaction as he stepped behind the small podium that had been setup, and began his speech. "Three years ago today, myself and my other drill instructors stood in front of a fresh group of kids who were hard pressed to create a shape that remotely resembled a square. Today, I stand in front of a sharp group of highly trained members of the most powerful military force not only on earth, but in the universe. I'm exceptionally pleased in the overall performance of every one of you, and I am proud to call each of you a fellow brother in UNIT."

Although it was obvious that many of the kids that were standing in the group were now beaming with pride, yet not as much as a single peep was made from any of them.

"With that being said," Carl continued, "It is with great pleasure that I announce that as of now, you are all full members and brothers of the UNIT. Congratulations to all of you."

Instantly, the group erupted in cheers as everyone jumped up and began high-five'ing, hugging, and congratulating each other.

Carl waited several minutes for the cheering to die down before he continued. "Okay guys, I know you are all really proud of yourselves, and you certainly have a right to be. But there are a few more things that I need to go over real quick." "Okay. In a few minutes, Dilly will begin teleporting us back to earth." As Carl spoke, he nodded toward the purple-haired, purple-eyed nine-year-old that was standing behind him.

"When you are transported back, you will each be transported back to your original departure points. Although all of you will be registered as full UNIT members, and we will be doing our best to keep you all together as a company as long as we can, I would suggest that each of you try to take a few days to get used to your homes and friends again. Then, in a few days we will start contacting each of you to start putting together operation schedules."

Carl spent a few moments scanning the group to see if anyone had any questions. Seeing none, he continued. "Guys, over the last three years, you have made me prouder of each of you than I ever thought possible. With that in mind, I will leave you all with these parting words.... Give 'em hell, kid!"

Once again, the group erupted in cheers. This time, however, there was no stopping them. Finally, once the cheers died down a good five minutes later, the purple-haired boy stepped up. "Okay guys, if any of you want to wave goodbye, you better do it now."

Moments later, everyone in the room began to disappear. Once everyone other than the purple-haired boy had vanished, the boy grinned. A few moments later, he began to shrink slightly, and his purple hair grew out a bit and turned red. "You see," the boy said to the empty room. "That wasn't so hard."

A few moments after that, the red-haired boy vanished as well.

Gyro stood watch in the center of the empty room. The poor bear literally jumped when 6 kids suddenly appeared out of no where.

"Whoa, we really are right back where we started three years ago," Boris commented as soon as they were able to register where they were at.

"Yeah, and the bear is still here waiting for us," Andrey observed.

The first thing that Viktor noticed while Boris and Andrey were making their initial comments, was the empty look on Haden's face. "Haden, you okay?" he asked with concern which also attracted the attention of his older brother.

Haden absently nodded his head and spoke softly. "I was really looking forward to being back in the link and all with Daileass and his brothers when I got back. But, one of the last things that Chronos sent me before Dillon sent us all back was that they would be blocking me from the link for awhile."

"Block you?" Evan asked with surprise. "Wouldn't he have known how important this was to you?"

Haden shrugged. Before he could say anything, Daileass's voice came over the terminal speakers.

"Welcome back, guys!" Daileass stated in his usual cheerful voice. "And Haden, I can see that Chronos managed to get you my message in time, but I don't think he was able to tell you why."

Haden shook his head. "No he didn't, but I already have a pretty good idea. I'm too different now."

"No, that's not the reason at all," Daileass replied. "In fact, the reason is almost the exact opposite of that. I was able to find out pretty quickly how the first few days at Camp Casey effected you without the link, so in addition to dedicating a lot of my processing power over the last 3 hours keeping up with how things were going where you were at, I also spent a lot of processing time running simulations and scenarios of how the link would effect you when you came back. Do you know what I found out?"

"What?" Haden asked, not sure if he wanted to know the answer.

"In all likelihood, if we simply allowed you to jump back into the link at it's full force, the result would have been extremely painful for you. Think about it, you remember how much information was flowing through the link, what do you think the result would be if you were away from it for three years, and suddenly thrown back in?" Daileass asked.

Haden thought for a few moments. "I guess you're right, it wouldn't have been good."

"So will it be another couple of days like it was the first time?" Evan asked.

"Days?" Daileass asked somewhat surprised. "Um, no. Actually, we were thinking minutes. In fact, Logan is going to slowly bring you back into the full link little by little. As soon as you feel any discomfort, let me know and we will slow down a little."

"Okay," Haden replied.

"And Haden?"


"None of that 'holding your pain in' crap you were taught in training," Daileass stated with a somewhat joking yet still serious tone. "This type of pain is different. If you don't let me know about it, it could really mess your brain up."

Haden swallowed hard. "Okay."

State District Attorney Steven Wolfson quickly drove up the highway toward Cynthitech, where clan's Las Vegas compound was at. As he got close, he saw the large number of vehicles that he had been told about earlier already lined up outside the compound. In addition to this, a number of various officers, guardsman, and ATF agents were mulling around getting their gear on, and observation points setup.

Another thing that he noticed is that a makeshift road block had been setup near the back of the convoy. As he approached it, two national guardsmen stepped out.

"I'm sorry sir, this road is closed for the time being, you'll need to turn around." One of the men stated.

Steven opened up his ID badge for the man to see. "State D.A. Steven Wolfson, I have official business to attend to on the Cynthitech property. Please let me pass."

The man looked at the ID for a few moments and shook his head. "I'm sorry Mr. Wolfson, but my orders are very clear. No one is to pass."

"I understand," Wolfson said as he nodded and took out a small pad of paper. "Would you mind telling me your name soldier?"

The man looked at his friend and then back toward the D.A. "My name? Specialist Gardner. Why do you need that?"

Wolfson nodded and jotted that down on his pad. "Your full name, Specialist. You see, Cynthitech is considered Vulcan territory, and thus has Vulcan diplomatic status. I'm attempting to stop an interstellar incident from happening. When the grand jury holds it's hearings because I failed to preform my job, they are going to want to know the names of the national guardsmen that obstructed me, thus preventing me from doing that."

The two guardsmen looked at each other in shock for a few moments before Specialist Gardner began to quickly shake his head. "Okay, this is way beyond my pay grade sir, you can pass."

"Thank you," Wolfson stated and then drove forward once the two guardsmen moved the barricade aside.

Steven counted at least thirty different vehicles from five different agencies before he finally reached the front of the line, as he drove toward the gate itself, one of the ATF agents approached his car.

"My god, Steven Wolfson? What the hell are you doing here?" the man asked.

"Surprised to see me Dave?" Steven asked in reply as stopped his car a few feet from the gate itself.

"The situation is already under control, there is no reason for you to be here." The man replied.

Steven tilted his head slightly. "Is that why Agent Addison broke protocol and waited until you clowns were already on the move before contacting us?"

Dave said nothing as the Captain Tucker along with another UNIT security kid walked up to to the car as well.

"Good morning, Mr. Wolfson," The twelve-year-old captain began. "My I see your ID please?"

Steven handed the boy his ID. When he did this, Captain Tucker waved a small PDA looking divice over it and waited a few seconds before handing it back. "Very good sir, please park in the main parking lot ahead, and someone will meet you there to take you to the conference room."

"Thank you," Steven replied.

"What is this?" Dave angrily protested. "You had us waiting out here for a half hour, and you're letting him right in?"

Captain Tucker looked directly into the man's eyes and nodded. "He called ahead letting us know he was coming and why, you did not. Now, I need to ask you to step back sir."

The man stared back at the boy for a few more moments before turning around and angrily storming back toward a small group of other ATF agents.

Hania might actually have been enjoying himself as he watched all the events that were unfolding from the Core C.I.C. room, if it weren't for the fact that the little count down timer that indicated when Brent and the others should be getting back had reached zero about two minutes ago. As it stood now, one of the three large monitors in the front of the room continued to show a wide-angle view of all the cars that were parked outside the main gate of their compound. The second screen had a close-up view of D.A. Wolfson's car driving up to park in the main parking lot, while the final screen had a video feed from inside the conference room where ATF Agent Addison and the others with him at.

"Shouldn't Brent be back by now?" Hania asked somewhat impatiently.

"Actually, he is." Daileass replied. "He's in the process of getting changed and will be here shortly."

"Excellent," Justin called out as he pressed a few buttons to turn off his station displays. "In that case, would you please ask him to join us in conference room two when he's ready?"

"You got it, Justin." Daileass replied.

"Conference room two?" Hania asked curiously. "I'm pretty sure the monitor was showing that those guys are in conference room one."

A slight grin came across Justin's face. "They are. But we are not going there just yet."

"Oh," Hania replied, still confused.

"Major Fandino?" Justin called out to his fourteen-year-old intelligence officer. "Would you finish up what you're working on, and join us in conference room two as well?"

"Aye sir," Roberto replied.

With a nod, Justin turned toward Hania. "Sir, if you would follow me. I need to swing by my office to pick up a few things before we meet the others in the conference room."

Hania agreed and followed Justin out the door.

Lee was doing his best to try to keep things in order and keep everyone interested in the game. If it hadn't been for Leroy's help, the task would have been next to impossible for him. As it was, the fact that a number of the kids spotted several of the UNIT security kids escorting several different kinds of army men and police officers toward the circular administration building didn't help much.

What made matters worse was that Daileass would not tell any of them what was going on either. "I'll let you guys know later, but right now I can't say," was all that he would tell them.

Slightly frustrated, Cooper walked over to his bear. "I have a perfect idea," the sandy blond haired six-year-old said as he knelt down. "Okay Brownie, I have a mission for you. I want you to go and find out why all those men are here. They are headed toward the Admin building... now go on..."

Brownie tilted it's head slightly as he looked toward the admin building and then back to Cooper. Finally, after Cooper nudged the bear forward, it began walking away. After it walked about 30 feet, however, it turned around and walked back.

"Grrr, stupid bear," Cooper stated in disappointment which caused the bear to sadly look toward the ground.

"Maybe I can get Fozzy to do better?" Ben offered as he knelt down next to his bear and gave him the same instructions. Just like Fifth, however, Fozzy only walked about thirty feet before it too turned around and came back.

"This is hopeless," Ben said as he slapped his forehead.

"Look! Here comes Lance, Eric, and Art," Daniel called out as he pointed toward the three approaching boys.

"Thank god," Lee sighed with relief.

Immediately, the game was over as everyone ran toward the three new arrivals wanting to know how their trip went, who the strange people they saw were, along with a multitude of other questions that everyone seemed to call out at once.

"Whoa guys," Lance giggled as he threw his hands up in the air.

"I think they are glad to see you," Lee offered. "I know I certainly am."

Lance nodded. "Okay guys, I know all of you have a bunch of questions, and I'll do my best to answer them all. However, it will have to wait until our meeting."

"Meeting?" Daniel asked. "What meeting?"

"The meeting we are going to have as soon as all of you can get over to the common room in quad building 2." Lance answered.

Lance's grin grew slightly as he found it rather amusing to watch the wheels start spinning in everyone's head. At first, he got a bunch of confused looks. Then, one by one, looks of realization came across a few of the boy's faces until finally, like a flock of wild birds, the group took off running toward quad building 2 leaving only Lance and Lee behind.

"How do you do that?" Lee asked with a slight degree of disappointment.

After seeing the look on Lee's face, Lance had a good idea as to what his problem was. "Do you really want to know the secret?" he asked, and waited until Lee nodded. "It's just having confidence in yourself."

"How's that?" Lee replied as his attention perked up.

"One of the things kids do the best is observe. They are always watching, observing, and reading the body language of whoever the person in charge is. When that person doesn't seem confident in themselves or what they are doing, then nine times out of ten, most of the kids you are around aren't going to be confident in you either, which means they are not going to listen to you much."

"How do you get more confidence?" Lee asked.

"Practice," Lance replied. "Now come on, we best get to the common room before it's destroyed."

Haden and Evan sat on the floor still dressed in their UNIT dress uniforms. They formed a small circle along with Viktor, Andrey, Boris, and Georgy. Although their was a clear tension in the air, they were all quietly talking with each other while at the same time, trying to keep a close eye on Haden.

"Sixty percent," Daileass announced.

The main topic of discussion was their experiences over the last three years on the training planet. Although they were all in the same camp, since Haden and Evan were going through the military side of training while the four younger boys were going through the civilian side of training, they rarely got to see each other. Then, when they did happen to bump into each other, there was almost always something else going on that seemed to be more pressing to talk about.

Haden was just about to answer a question that Georgy had asked when he rubbed his forehead and sighed. "It's starting to hurt a little again."

"Got it," Daileass replied. "Holding here for a bit."

"Why do you sound so hurt, bro?" Evan asked.

Haden shrugged. "This is the third time we had to stop."

"I don't care if we have to stop twenty times, Haden," Daileass replied. "You mean too much to me and the rest of my brothers to risk hurting for no reason."

"I guess," Haden replied, seemingly unconvinced.

"So what's it like?" Georgy asked his question again. "The link?"

Haden had almost forgotten the question that Georgy had asked him a few moments earlier. "Hum, it's kind of hard to explain." He began as he tried to figure out the best way to describe it. "I guess it's kind of like having a feeling that you are in a small room with a bunch of your friends, and you know they are right next to you, only that they really aren't next to you, in fact they may be thousands of miles away, but the link makes it feel like they are really close to you."

"Okay, that sounds kind of cool." Andrey admitted.

Haden nodded in agreement. "Uh huh. In fact, I remember one of the first times I was at 100% with the link, and I kept thinking that all my new friends were right behind me, so I would turn around to see they really weren't there."

"I think I remember that," Viktor giggled. "That was right before you came to give me my tour, wasn't it?"

"Um, actually, I think it was," Haden replied. "How did you know?"

"Easy," Viktor grinned. "I saw you come out of the palace and was watching you walk toward me, so I saw you keep turning around in circles like you lost something, only you weren't looking toward the ground."

"Oh," Haden replied as he began to blush a little. "Okay Daileass, the hurting has gone away again."

"Great," Daileass replied. "Moving forward then."

"I wonder if we will ever get to be in a link like that," Boris pondered.

"Actually, I think you guys already are, or at least you will be soon," Even commented. "I think there is a larger link the includes everyone in UNIT."

"Really?" Boris asked.

"Cool!" Georgy jumped in.

"That's not completely correct," Daileass jumped in. "Generally the link you are talking about just consists of those UNIT kids that have gone through the military side of training, as part of that includes training in being able to feel and use the link."

"Oh, Okay." Boris said in a somewhat rejected tone.

"I said, generally," Daileass continued. "There are a few non-military kids that are part of the link as well. However, it has to be something you are interested in becoming a part of, and something you are willing to spend a little time with one of our trainers so you can learn to use it when your added to it."

"So, we could join it if we wanted to?" Viktor asked hopefully.

"If that's something you are all seriously interested in becoming a part of, then yes." Daileass replied.

"Cool!" All four boys replied.

"Just keep in mind guys, the UNIT link is not the same as the link Haden shares with me and my brothers," Daileass added. "With the UNIT link, you would be able to do basic things like being able to feel the warmth and support of everyone else in the link, or being able to concentrate on someone else that is in the link, and being able to tell where they are at."

"That still sounds pretty amazing," Viktor replied as the other three boys nodded.

"Okay, then I'll make the arrangements. It might not be until tomorrow until we can arrange your first training session though," Daileass stated. "Oh, and Haden?"

"Yes?" Haden asked.

"Seventy percent."

"Cool," Haden smiled. "Only thirty more to go."

Over the next five minutes, all the boys continued to chat among themselves as Daileass continued to announce link strength increases. To Haden's surprise, his head didn't hurt again through the last thirty percent.

Once it was over, since Haden and Evan were still in their UNIT dress uniforms, they both decided to take their leave of the other four kids so that they could do back to their room and get changed into something more appropriate.

Hania was only in Justin's office for a few moments before they were off. He was amazed at how quickly Justin was able to find the two large grey binders that he was looking for out of all the shelves of different books and binders that were in his office.

"A good leader doesn't necessarily know everything, but he does have a good idea as to where to look for it," Justin stated, answering Hania's unasked question.

"Makes sense," Hania replied as they walked down the hall. "But I would have thought most clan stuff would be on computer, and not hard copy."

Justin grinned slightly. "You're right. Must clan and UNIT stuff is. However, what we are going to be dealing with this morning goes beyond just us, and many of the other agencies aren't as up to speed on their use of technologies yet."

By the time the two made it to the conference room, Roberto was already inside waiting for them, and had the large projection screen that was hanging on the opposite wall, showing the video feed from the other conference room where the agents and officers were waiting.

"So, how do you want this to play out?" Roberto asked as soon as he saw the two enter.

"Play out?" Justin replied, setting his binders on the table. "I would love for them to just go away and let us do what we do best. However, I don't really see that happening."

Roberto nodded.

"I have a few ideas, but for now I'm keeping my options open. There are still too many unknowns here, and things can change pretty quickly," Justin continued.

"Well, I don't think you need a telepath to tell you they are getting more irritated by the minute in there." Roberto offered.

Justin nodded as a knock came from the door. A moment later, one of the UNIT security team kids opened the door allowing a middle aged man with a short blackish-grey beard in. "Sir? D.A. Wolfson," the ten-year-old boy stated as a way of introduction before leaving as soon as he got a nod from Justin.

"Mr. Wolfson," Justin began as he shook the man's hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you in person."

"Please, call me Steven," The D.A. Replied. "I only wish our meeting were under better circumstances."

Justin nodded in agreement as he allowed a few moments for the Mr. Wolfson to get his bearings.

One of the first things that caught Steven's eye was the video feed from the other conference room. After looking at it for only a moment, he slowly shook his head. "I should have known that Addison would have Bouchard involved in all of this."

"You're familiar with them?" Justin asked as he walked over to a small counter.

"You could say that," Steven began. "Most of the agency guys feel they are larger than life. In Addison's case, it's way beyond that."

"Can I offer you a drink, Steven?" Justin asked as he grabbed himself a bottle of water.

"Yes, please. Anything with caffeine will be fine. I ran out of the office before I was able to get my first cup of coffee," The man replied.

Justin nodded as he sat down at the table without getting the D.A. anything. As soon as the man began to look a bit confused, Justin grinned as he tapped his comm badge. "Daileass, could you please get Mr. Wolfson a freshly brewed cup of coffee?"

"One freshly brewed cup of coffee coming up," Daileass replied. Before he had even finished, a steaming mug of coffee along with a small dish of cremes and sugars appeared next to the man.

"I'll be damned," Steven replied as took a sniff from the mug. "I might just have to stop by here more often."

Justin smiled as Steven took a few sips from the mug. A few moments later, the man glanced around the room. "I'm guessing Director Knocks will not be joining us this morning?"

Still not sure just how much he could trust Mr. Wolfson, Justin thought to himself for a few moments as he tried to figure out the best way to answer. Given the fact that Roberto hadn't said anything yet, he could safely assume the man's surface thoughts and intentions were genuine. As such, he figured this would be a great opportunity to get a better idea of the man's character. "Actually, Director Knocks has been off-world for most of the morning. However, he should be joining us fairly soon."

Steven's eyes widened in surprise as soon as he looked at Justin's face and saw that the sixteen-year-old was being completely serious. "Starfleet?"

Justin shook his head. "Actually, I can't really say much more than that. And, I would appreciate it if you didn't spread that around either."

Steven nodded. "I understand. I appreciate you trusting me with that much."

Before Justin could answer, the door opened and Brent began to walk in. "Oh, sorry," he said as soon as he saw the three boys and an adult he didn't recognize, at the table.

"You're fine," Justin called out and waved Brent in. "Director Knocks, I'm sure you remember D.A. Wolfson from last night?"

Brent nodded as Steven stood up to shake his hand. "Please, call me Steven."

"As long as you call me Brent," Brent replied before he looked toward Justin. "Sorry if I held you guys up, but I figured I should change before I came over."

"Actually, your timing is perfect," Justin said as he stood up, which in turn caused Hania and Roberto to stand up as well.

"Mr. Wolfson," Justin began formally but quickly changed his tone. "Steven, I appreciate the visit, but I'm not completely sure what it is you expected to be able to accomplish by driving out here," once he saw the D.A. nod, he continued. "I see two ways that we can work this. In a few moments myself, Brent, and my intelligence officer, Roberto, will be heading over to the other conference room. I'm pretty sure that none of the men in there know you are here yet. So, you can either watch things from here, or you may join us."

Steven thought for a few moments. "I'm pretty familiar with the clan's legal status, and it's connections to Vulcan. I see part of my job as being to try to avoid an interstellar incident if possible. I can't really do that if I'm hiding in here, so if it's all the same to you, I would like to accompany you."

"I had a feeling you would say that," Justin smiled as he nodded. "Hania, you have the same options."

Hania shook his head. "Actually, no offense to anything going on here, but now that Brent is back and can re-assume the division director position, I would like to head back over with the rest of the guys."

Justin agreed. "That's fine with me. Thanks for helping out earlier."

"You can probably catch up with everyone in the first floor common room of quad building two," Brent offered. "I think Lance is planning on getting everyone together for a short meeting."

"Okay, Thanks," Hania replied as he left the room.

Once the native american boy was gone, Justin looked between the other three that were left. Well, I think we have kept our guests waiting long enough, shall we?"

Steve's arm was lightly draped over his younger brother as the two boys peacefully slept snuggled close to each other with Steve's body protectively scooping around Kenny's. With as huge of an emotional roller coaster that the previous day had been for them, by the time the boys made it home last night, Steve put up little resistance when Kenny asked to be allowed to sleep in Steve's room like they used to do when they were younger.

The two boys barely had enough energy to strip down to their boxers and crawl into Steve's bed before they were both out like a light.

A small ray of sunlight shined through one of the windows in the room as a small muffled chirping sound could be heard. Steve moaned as his hand absently searched for an alarm clock that wasn't there, before he finally gave up and did his best to ignore it.

As the chirping sound continued, Kenny began to stir as well. "What's that noise?" the twelve-year-old mumbled only to be answered by another moan from Steve.

After a few moments, the sound stopped only to be heard again a short while later from some other location in the room.

Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, Kenny sat up and began to look around the room for the source of the chirping. Thinking that it was coming from somewhere on the floor, Kenny let himself slip out of bed. Unfortunately, like the rooms of most teenagers, the floor to Steve's room was littered with clothes and other miscellaneous things that would make tracking down the source even more difficult.

Finally, after spending a few moments absently searching around, Kenny finally woke up enough to realize the sound was coming from the pile of clothes that he had taken off the previous night, right before slipping into his older brother's bed. Almost immediately, he realized what must be causing it.

A few moments later, he ruffled through his clothes and found the small circular comm badge that Brent had given them. As expected, when the next chirping sound was heard, it came from the comm badge itself.

"Hello?" Kenny said as he fumbled around with the small device, trying to figure out how to make it stop chirping.

"Kenny?" A familiar sounding voice replied from device. "Are you okay?"

"Lance, is that you?" Kenny sleepily replied. "Um, yeah, we're fine. We were just sleeping."

"Oh crap, sorry about that man, I completely forgot how much you had been through, um, yesterday I think it was." Lance replied.

Had Kenny been more awake, he might have questioned Lance in regards to how you could have forgotten about something that happened last night. Fortunately, he was not. "S'okay," Kenny replied instead. "We needed to get up anyway, we don't usually oversleep like this." As he was talking, he could see Steve sitting up and listening to the conversation as well.

"Well, if you guys want, I can leave you alone and you can get some more sleep," Lance offered. "Or, if you are awake enough, you and Steve are invited to join us for a small divisional clan meeting."

"But we didn't officially join the clan yet, did we?" Kenny asked.

"True, however I think at this point that's more of a formality," Lance replied. "To put it another way, while you and Steve are still deciding if it's something you want to do or not, I don't see any problems with you hanging out with the rest of us if you would like. But the choice is yours."

A small smile of excitement came across Kenny's face. "If we're allowed, I would love to be there, let me ask..." Before Kenny had a chance to finish his statement, he could already see Steve nodding. "Never mind, Steve wants to go too."

"Tell Lance that we need to let mom and dad know first though," Steve said from the bed.

"That makes sense, Steve," Lance replied. "Just tap the front of the comm badge, and let Daileass know when you two are ready to come over."

"Okay, will do, thanks Lance." Kenny replied.

As soon as they heard a small click that suggested the call had been ended, both boys began the mad dash to search for clothes and get cleaned up as quickly as they could.

Less than 5 minutes later, Kenny was almost flying down the stairs with Steve close behind him.

"Where's the fire?" Desmond asked as he watched how quickly his sons were moving.

"Very funny, dad," Steve replied.

"Lance just called us," Kenny added as he gave his mother a good-morning hug. "He invited us over for a divisional clan meeting. Is that okay?"

Samantha smiled as she looked toward both of her boys. "I don't think I've seen either of you this excited in a long time. So, if this means that much to you, I certainly don't plan to stop you."

"Thanks, mom," both boys replied in unison.

"Jinx!" Kenny called out with a grin as he barely moved fast enough to avoid a playful swat from his older brother.

"How long will you be gone?" Desmond asked.

"Humm," Kenny throught for a few moments. "They didn't say."

"Here," Steve took off his comm badge and gave it to his father. "You can use this to contact us if you need anything."

Desmond looked at the small comm badge and nodded.

"You boys have fun," Samantha added.

"Okay," Kenny replied as he lightly tapped his comm badge. "Um, Daileass? Are you there?"

"I sure am, Kenny. What's up?" Daileass replied.

"Could you transport us to where the meeting is at?" Kenny asked.

"Sorry, I can't do that because you haven't clicked your heals together three times, and said 'there's no place like clan short' yet." Daileass replied.

Kenny and Steve looked at each other in shock. "Seriously?" Kenny asked.

"Nope, just kidding," Daileass replied. "One teleport coming up." A moment later, the two boys were gone.

"At least that Daileass kid seems to have a good sense of humor," Desmond commented grinning to himself.

"I hope we're doing the right thing," Samantha commented as she walked up behind her husband and wrapped her arms around him.

"Me too, dear. Me too," Desmond replied. "But just from what I've seen over the last twelve hours in regards to not only what this clan can do, but what they can do for each other, I think we have."

Haden and Evan walked down the hall of the quad toward the exit, with Gyro walking only a few steps behind them. As they approached the door, Evan stopped.

"Come to think of it, Hade, do we even have a room here?" Evan asked as he tried to remember back to what was now three years ago.

"Oh," Haden replied as he tilted his head and closed his eyes for a few moments. "Ah! Okay, Daileass moved our stuff to Quad building two, first floor, room 129," Haden stated as he continued for the door.

Evan shook his head as he and Gyro quickly followed his younger brother.

Just as Haden had promised, when the went over to the other building, and made it to room 129, they found a small chest at the foot of each of the two beds that were in their. As expected, the chests contained all of the stuff they had brought back from the training planet, including all their UNIT clothes and other supplies. In addition to the chests, when they looked in the drawers of the dressers, they found some of their normal street clothes had been teleported over as well.

Finally, sitting on the desk next to the computer terminal, Haden found his GEAR sitting there, waiting for him. For several long moments, Haden stared at it.

"What's wrong, bro?" Evan began before he saw what Haden was looking at. "Oh."

Almost at once, all the memories of the early days and weeks at the training planet flooded back into Haden's head. How much Haden had often wanted his GEAR, and how empty he felt without it through almost all of those first twelve weeks of basic training. He thought back to how, even after his GEAR was returned to him after basic, because of the unique electro-magnetic properties in the universe they were in, it never really worked right, and how he always had plans to try to upgrade it, but never really had the time that was needed.

After the first five or six months had gone by, as he became more comfortable using the conventional side-arms that he had been issued, and as his martial arts, and self defense training progressed, completely re-vamping and re-building his GEAR slowly became less of a priority in comparison to everything else that was going on. Finally, although he wasn't really sure when it was, a day came at around the end of their first year where he hardly thought much about his GEAR at all.

Looking behind him, and seeing the concerned look on his older brother's face, Haden nodded. "I'm fine." With that, he began removing his dress uniform which seemed to address Evan's concerns enough for him to do the same.

It didn't take long for both boys to get their uniforms properly hung up, and to throw on some of their street clothes before they found themselves looking at each other trying to figure out what to do next.

Haden walked over to the window, and looked at the evening sky. "It seems weird to be back here, doesn't it?"

"What'cha mean, bro?" Evan asked as he stood behind his younger brother.

Haden shrugged. "It just seemed that for the last three years, we were constantly on the go, always working on something, and then all the sudden it's over, and we are back here. It just seems... different."

"I think I know what you mean," Evan replied as he spent several long moments continuing to look out the window. "Now that I think about it, I think I'm going to grab a shower real quick."

"Okay," Haden replied as he remained where he was at.

Torn between staying and supporting his brother, and leaving for his shower, Evan hesitated for a few moments, finally deciding that this was one of those times that he should give his little brother the space he needed.

For several minutes after Evan had left, Haden remained perfectly motionless.

'Haden?' Daileass sent to him mentally. 'I'll understand if you don't feel like doing this right now, but would you be willing to join me in the mental-scape for a few minutes?'

Haden nodded. 'Okay.'

A few moments later, Haden felt a sensation that he had nearly forgotten, the sensation of his senses going dark and his consciousness being pulled into the mind-scape. A few moments later, he found himself in the now familiar room that Daileass had created in his head.

Once he had fully regained his senses, he could see Daileass standing not more than 10 feet away from him. Both boys stood their for several long moments looking at each other, neither really sure the best way to handle the situation. Finally, Haden couldn't bare the suspense any longer as he ran up and threw his arms around Daileass's waist.

"I missed you, Daileass," Haden spoke into the taller boy's chest.

"I missed you too," Daileass replied as he held tight into Haden for several long moments before he pushed him back slightly and briefly looked him over. "You're looking good."

Haden giggled a little. "How can I be looking good in the mental-scape, I should be looking the same as I always have."

"Well duh, this is the mental-scape. I'm not just looking at your physical body, but all of you," Daileass replied which caused Haden to blush slightly.

Daileass gave Haden a few moments to recover before he looked deep into his eyes and spoke in a more serious tone. "Haden, you know it's not possible to lie to each other in the link, right?" he then waited until he saw Haden's nod before he continued. "Good. Then you will be able to know that I'm not lying to you when I say this; I know that one of your largest concerns is that you feel you might have changed too much over the last three years, and that I might not like you as much anymore, right?"

"Kinda," Haden replied meekly.

Daileass nodded. "I won't lie to you, you have changed and grown a lot over the time you were at the training planet. I should know, I ended up using two servers just to keep up with all the data that I was getting. However, change is not always a bad thing. In fact, all the changes that you have gone through I think have been good changes."

"All of them?" Haden asked with a tone of surprise. "Seriously?"

"I wouldn't lie to you, Haden." Daileass answered as he gave Haden a loving squeeze.

Haden quickly returned it. "Thanks Daileass, you don't know how much that was worrying me."

"Actually, I kind of did," Daileass smiled. "Eventually, you will learn to be able to do the same with the link."

Haden smiled as well for a few moments before his face grew serious again. "Daileass, do you mind if I ask you a question?"

"Haden?" Daileass replied with the same amount of seriousness. "You can always ask me any question you would like."

Haden nodded. "The night before I came home, after I sent that letter to you, you sent me that 'count on me' song.. did you... did you really mean that?"

As soon as Haden had asked his question, two chairs appeared behind them. Daileass released his hug of Haden as he took Haden's hand into his own and lead him over to the chairs. Once the two of them were sitting down, Daileass once again looked deep into Haden's eyes, "I guess, you never really knew just how much I've loved you."

A surprised expression flashed across Haden's face as he opened his mouth to say something but stopped himself at the last moment. Going into their meeting, Haden had felt strong, and for good reason. Over the last three years as he served as recruit commander which eventually led to company commander, he had learned a lot about leadership and commanding others. At the same time, he grew stronger in his self defense classes as he learned to physically protect himself. However, at that moment in time, all of that strength that Haden felt he had collected seemed to slip away from him until he felt like a weak, small, boy who was open and exposed to the world.

"Love?" Haden finally managed to squeak out. "Me?" he shook his head slightly as if trying to disagree with something. "How? There are so many others... Lots of others... that I can feel in the link, that are stronger, smarter? How?"

"Do you know how much it has meant to have someone accept meas a person, without question?" Daileass replied seriously.

"But Daileass," Haden answered defensively. "That's just accepting someone for who they really are. Lots of other people already do that. All of your other link brothers, Adam, Chang, and everyone else. But, your talking... your talking love which is... well... it's a lot more... it's something special."

"That's where it started," Daileass continued as he clasped one of Haden's hands into both of his. "But then it grew the more I got to know you. Do you think that I would let just anyone into our link? Do you think I would let just anyone in here? Inside my mind?"

To Daileass's surprise, Haden pulled his hand away, stood up, and slowly made his way toward the one window that was in the room which looked out at the city below which was Daileass.

For a brief moment, Daileass was hurt when Haden pulled away from him. That feeling was quickly replaced with concern. Was it possible that he had pressed too hard and in effect, scared or pushed Haden further away from him? Did he just destroy the relationship he so desired to build by trying to move too quickly? Of course, it would not have been that difficult for Daileass to take a peek inside of Haden's head, and figure out exactly what he was thinking and feeling, but out of respect for Haden, he forced himself to stay out, thus leaving himself in a far worse position than he ever would have thought possible.

As Daileass watched Haden stand and stare out the window, he was forced with having to make the choice of either staying there and doing nothing, or following behind him. In the end, he decided to make his way toward Haden, while at the same time not getting too close to him just yet.

When he did it, Haden immediately realized that pulling away from Daileass might have sent the wrong message. But at that moment, he had so many thoughts racing through his head, that he needed a few moments to think, and what better way to think than to look out over the vast cyber-city-scape that was Daileass. It was also at that moment that Haden realized that other than his own brothers loving embrace, he had always felt the most comfortable when he was looking out over Daileass's city.

'But love? Daileass loved him? How could someone so... awesome possibly love someone... someone like himself? Come to think of it, what exactly was love?' All of these thoughts and more flew through Haden's head at light speed, almost to the point that he began to feel a little light headed.

Haden spent the next few minutes mulling over all the thoughts that he was having. The entire time, Daileass was standing a few feet away, hesitant to move any closer until he could get a better idea of just how bad he had messed up and hurt their relationship.

After Haden had a few minutes to let his thoughts fall into place, he was left with a single fact. It wasn't the fact that he was surprised that Daileass loved him. In many ways, part of him already knew that somehow he was filling a special place in Daileass, and that he meant a lot to Daileass, especially when Daileass had spent so many resources to try to keep tack of him, and everything he had done over the last three years on the training planet. Instead, the one fact that he was left with was that he was scared. He was afraid that he didn't really deserve the love that Daileass was offering him.

More over, when he really thought about it, Daileass had just as much, if not more of a special place in his own heart as well. In fact, he couldn't believe that he was thinking it, but in some ways, Daileass was more important to him than his own brother. That revelation shocked and surprised him, but that was also something that he could deal with at a later time.

Finally, after several minutes had passed, Haden timidly spoke. "Daileass?"

"Yes, Haden?" Daileass softly replied from behind him, still unsure of where the conversation was going to go, or how much he had hurt one of the people he truly cared about.

"I think I'm afraid... afraid that I don't really deserve to be that special to you... But... at the same time...when I think about it... you're really special and important to me too... I mean... just about the only thing I could really think about over the last week on the training planet was getting back here, to be with you again.... and that's why... that's why it took so many tries to write it... and... and... Daileass?"

"Yes, Haden?" Daileass replied with a bit more emotion.

"I think... I think I love you too," Haden replied as he turned around to reveal a small trail of tears that were falling down his face.

Daileass looked deep into Haden's eyes, took a few steps forward and wrapped his arms around the smaller boy in a loving embrace.