"Life, what is it exactly? Over the last few hundred years, we have done our best to try and define exactly what life is. From a scientific standpoint life is the property or quality that distinguishes living organisms from dead organisms and inanimate matter, manifested in functions such as metabolism, growth, reproduction, and response to stimuli or adaptation to the environment originating from within the organism. But the kind of life I am referring to though is not just this kind of life but the life of a human being. We have struggled with this issue before and I urge the council to think about exactly what you are doing. Although you have good intentions, what is the cost of seeing those goals of yours become a reality?"
"Thank you Dr. Taylor, but your request for project termination and release of the boys is denied. We will use them to help unite..."
"But what we are doing to them is unethical," Dr. Taylor interjected.
"We will be the ones defining what is and is not ethical Doctor. This project's goal is a good one and we are willing to do whatever we need to in order to see it through, the costs are not all that high anyway. We created these children so in our view they are nothing more than that, creations."
"I beg the Council to reconsider. Even though we created them that does not mean that they are not human, that does not mean that they don’t have a soul," shouted Dr. Taylor.
"That is not the issue here Doctor, you are dismissed…"
* * *
Zachary woke to the sound of Julian shouting.
"They killed him!" Julian shouted. "Why else would they rush us out of there so quickly?"
Zachary sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, "What’s going on?"
"Julian’s ranting again," Samuel said from two boxes over.
Zachary sighed and then got up out of his box. He looked over at the clock on the wall to see what time it was. "Great, I’m sure we all wanted to get up at 3 am," thought Zachary. He looked across the room to find Julian and Kollin having a heated debate about something. Kollin was trying to keep quiet but it was obvious that Julian was not.
"I don’t like not knowing what happened!" Zachary heard Julian shout.
Zachary stretched and then walked over to them.
"Jules, calm down, what’s all this about? You woke me up," Zachary said calmly as he climbed into Julian’s lap. "They would have told us if something happened to Jacob."
"Bull shit! They have no reason to tell us," shouted Julian as he pushed Zachary off of him.
Zachary was somewhat hurt; Julian had never pushed him out of his lap before. But then again Julian never use to wake everyone up at all hours of the night shouting either. He gave Julian a dejected look and then went over and sat next to Kollin.
"Dr. Taylor knows what Jacob means to us, Julian. He would tell us if something like that happened," said Samuel from the other side of the room.
"And what do you know about it Samuel, you weren’t even there. Besides, it has been two days now and we’ve heard nothing," said Julian.
"Julian that’s enough!" said Kollin. "Shut it. You’re not getting us anywhere by guessing and taking out your frustration on others."
Julian crossed his arms and glared at Samuel, "You only defend him because you’re getting…"
"Julian!" shouted Zachary.
Julian closed his mouth but did not look happy about it.
Micah and Isaac peeked out of their boxes to see what was happening.
"Well now that that’s over, what are we going to do?" asked Micah as he opened the door to his box.
"The same thing we always get to do, nothing, let's just go back to bed," said Isaac.
"I don’t like doing nothing, and although I don’t like it when I’m woken up at this hour I’m willing to do something," said Kollin as he turned to look at Zachary. "Zach, do you remember what room they said that they were taking Ari to?"
"Of course," said Zachary as he snuggled up to Kollin’s side. "I remember everything, furry."
"Furry, that’s a new one," laughed Micah.
"Well, he is a bear," giggled Samuel.
Kollin rolled his eyes, "Whatever! Now, do you know where that room is?"
"I have a guess, why?" said Zachary.
"If we got you into the air ducts do you think you could get there?" asked Kollin.
"You want to send Zachary into the air system?" asked Isaac. "That could be dangerous, we don’t know where the return fan is."
"And what if they came looking for him while he was gone?" added Micah.
"We’ll deal with it as it happens, besides its three in the morning no one will come looking for him," said Kollin. "What do you think Zach, could you do it?"
Zachary thought about it for a minute, "I think so, but there’s so much of this complex that we haven’t seen, I could get lost very easily."
"I won’t let him go," said Julian. "The last thing Jake would want is for us to send his little brother into the air ducts."
"Julian, you want answers? This is the only thing I can think of, so unless you have any better ideas," said Kollin. "The only reason I would be sending Zachary is because he remembers everything so, it would be harder for him to get lost. Plus he remembers the layout of what rooms we have and haven’t been to."
"NO, I won’t let you send him, we could lose him too," protested Julian.
"I’ll go," said Zachary. "I want to know if Jake’s ok, plus this could be helpful."
"Excellent!" said Kollin. "Sam will show you where you can get into the air ducts, it’s behind his box."
"Zachary! You can’t go," said Julian.
Zachary got up and came over to Julian, "I know you don’t want me to go Jules but don’t worry I’ll be ok."
Julian looked up at Zachary, "Zach, I already lost Jacob, I don’t want to lose you too."
"You won’t Jules," smiled Zachary as he patted Julian on the head. "I’ll be back. But while I’m gone I want you to say sorry to Sammy, you had no reason to say what you did about him."
Julian sighed, "Ok Zach, but be careful in there."
Zachary kissed Julian’s forehead and then went over to Samuel’s box where he was waiting. When he got there Samuel handed him a flashlight.
"Where did you get this from," Zachary asked.
Samuel smiled, "I took it from Domach two weeks ago when he fell asleep in here."
Zachary shook his head, "We’ll talk about your thieving ways when I get back."
Samuel laughed and punched Zachary in the arm, "Whatever you say, Zach. Help me pull my box out."
A few minutes later Zachary and Samuel had pulled the box away from the wall and had pried the vent off the wall. The hole was just big enough for Zachary to get in but he wouldn’t be able to turn around once he was in.
"Hey Samuel could you do me a favor?" asked Zachary as he got ready to go into the dark hole. "Could you watch after Julian, I don’t think he’s doing all that great."
"I don’t know Z, he scares me," said Samuel. "And he knows things about me that I don’t want him to."
"He won’t bite," said Zachary as he got down on his hands and knees. "If he does then bite back."
"Ok Z but when you get back I want to talk to you," said Samuel.
Zachary started to crawl into the air vent, "Ok Samuel, see ya then."
As he started crawling he heard Samuel put the vent cover back on and slide his box back into place. Zachary then turned on his flashlight and went on his way. He only got about five more feet before he ran into a problem, the duct now went straight up.
"Great," thought Zachary. He carefully lodged himself in the shaft, put the flashlight in his mouth and then inch by inch he made his way up. Before long he was at the top and the shaft went horizontal again. Soon he came to a three-way junction.
"Ok, from where I was I went over and then up," Zachary said to himself. "We came from the left to get back and the hospital wing is that way too."
Zachary decided to go left, he passed several vents leading into rooms he didn’t recognize and then came to a six-way junction. He decided to go left but that lead him to another junction. Soon Zachary was lost and didn’t know which way to go. He decided to stop and rest.
"This is just great," Zachary thought to himself. "I can just hear someone saying I told you so right about now. Ok Zachary, clear your mind, think. You took two lefts, a right and a straightforward, so where does that leave me?"
Just then though, Zachary heard someone talking. He slowly crawled in the direction of the voice and soon found himself looking down into someone’s office. Zachary shifted so that he could see who it was that was sitting at the desk.
"I tell you the boy is ready," Zachary heard Dr. Guise say.
"He needs time to heal and learn to use the COBIE system first," Zachary heard Dr. Taylor reply.
"The boy doesn’t need to know how to use it, he just needs to have it," said Dr. Guise. "The longer we wait, the more information he’ll collect from us. If he gets any hint of what the council wants to do with him then he’ll start doing what Jesse does. We don’t need him rebelling. Plus the COBIE system could allow him to do things we did not account for; we don’t need him discovering what else he can do."
"Paul, we can’t rush this, if he doesn’t heal…"
"It doesn’t matter Jim," said Dr. Guise. "He won’t know the difference once he’s incased!"
"What are you going to do with the other children afterward?" Dr. Taylor asked.
"Why kill them of course, we have no use for them afterward. Jacob won’t even know that they're dead."
"Paul, we don’t need to kill them," said Dr. Taylor. "Why not let them go free?"
"Because we don’t need people like them trying to overthrow the system. Besides the council backs me on this one, the only one that they don’t want dead is Jesse. They still want him for a backup."
"I won’t stand for this, you can’t just kill the other children off," said Dr. Taylor. "At least let me have Zachary."
"He’s more dangerous than all the others, that boy is too smart for his own good. The last thing we need is for him to be running around causing problems for the council. They think that he has a link with Jesse now, we don’t need our backup having distractions. Think of it like Dr. Smith would from that movie Lost in Space, ‘Lie once, cheat twice. After that everything becomes clear and understanding in the universe.’"
"I’m sorry Paul but I don’t think that way," replied Dr. Taylor.
"Then you’re in the wrong business Jim. We deal in death and judgment here, that’s part of our job as the council has defined. We do what they want us to."
"But Paul, those children are real people!"
"No, they’re not! We created them in a test tube, they are as worthless as a group of parasites and as soon as I have council permission I’ll wipe them out like I would a virus!"
"Paul, we created them using our own genetic material, which has to mean something. Just because we created them in a lab doesn’t mean that they aren’t real people."
"You only say that because you want the ones that you ‘fathered’. I don’t seem to feel that same attachment that you do."
"That’s because you’re an asshole."
"This discussion is over Jim, you may leave now," said Dr. Guise.
"I won’t let you kill them Paul," said Dr. Taylor.
"Good night Dr. Taylor, I said you may leave," replied Dr. Guise.
Suddenly there came a knock at Dr. Guise’s office door.
"Come in," said Dr. Guise. Zachary saw one of the soldiers that normally escorted them from lab to lab enter the room.
"Sir, we think something is in the air system, our sensors detected motion in this sector just a few minutes ago," said the soldier.
"Damn, one of the children must be loose! Send a Scuttle Dog into the air ducts, that should flush him out," said Dr. Guise.
"Aye sir!" said the soldier as he quickly rushed out of the room.
"A Scuttle Dog? The thing might kill whichever boy is up there!" shouted Dr. Taylor.
"If he lives then great, if he dies then oh well," smiled Dr. Guise.
Dr. Taylor rushed forward and punched Dr. Guise as hard as he could in the jaw, "You son of a bitch! If that boy dies then I’m coming after you!" Dr. Taylor then quickly left.
"Shit," thought Zachary, "I’m toast! I have to get out of here!"
He quickly started going back the way he came but then he heard something. It sounded like nails scraping on metal and it was coming from the direction he had come from.
"Oh, that can’t be good," thought Zachary as he hurried in the opposite direction. He crawled as fast as he could be the sound was getting closer. Zachary started looking for the nearest vent that he could escape through but just as he found one he heard a growl from behind.
Zachary turned to see where it was and…"Ahhh!!!!"