"Daileass?" Evan whispered, "Could you teleport us to our room please?"
Without a word, the world around Evan shifted, and in an instant he was standing between the two beds that were in the room that they shared together. Letting his brother slip from his arms, Haden sat on the side of his bed in a dreamy daze, his eyes already closed.
Evan quickly undressed his younger brother. Briefly, he toyed with the idea of just letting Haden sleep in his briefs, but he knew how hurt and upset he got the next morning the last time Evan tried something like that.
As he grabbed the PJs, from his younger brother's breathing, Evan could tell that Haden was already asleep even though he was still sitting up. Getting Haden to lift his arms up so he could get his top on was fairly easy, but getting him to stand up in his sleep so he could slip into the pants proved a bit more challenging.
Finally, Evan had his brother completely changed and tucked into bed. "Love ya, bro," Evan softly said as he kissed his brother on the forehead, before he stripped down to his boxers and crawled into his own bed.
Moments later, Evan was sound asleep was well.
Brent woke up to the light shaking of his shoulder. Slowly opening his eyes, he saw Evan standing over him, already dressed. "Brent, you awake?" He whispered.
"I am now," Brent replied sleepily. "What's wrong?"
"We can't find Forth; he's not in the med bay. Neal was getting a little worried." Eric tried to keep his voice down to not wake anyone else up. Sadly, it was not that successful, as boys around the room were beginning to stir.
"I spent the night up here last night." Brent motioned toward the far side of the nest where Forth and Stan were snuggled next to each other. "Everyone was spending time chatting with Daileass last night, and he was feeling left out, so Eric gave him one of those pills we used last week."
Evan nodded. "Okay, cool. Also, Neal and Debby are going to be out a few hours shopping. Rick's here, but he's going to be over in the other building meeting with a few of the workers, so Neal said that you could go ahead and get everyone up and do cereal and donuts for breakfast."
"Donuts?" Rene, one of the six-year-old clones, asked with a hint of excitement as he crawled onto Brent's lap for a morning hug.
"Now you've done it," Lance added as he sat up, only to find Jace crawling onto his lap. "You'll have these guys bouncing around like crazy."
"Isn't that what weekends are for?" Eric asked as he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.
"I'm not sure if that's exactly what weekends are for, but close enough, I guess." Brent grinned and spoke in a normal voice, as nearly everyone was awake now. "Okay, guys, let's get things cleaned up, then we can grab breakfast."
Without having to be told twice, everyone made short work of getting the blankets and pillows from the nest cleaned up.
"Hey, Brent?" Ty and Phil, two of the younger triplet telepaths, walked up to Brent just as the clean-up was nearly done. "Do you guys mind if all of us go to meet our parents for breakfast today? This is the last day they will be here before they head back to Iowa."
Brent looked at Phil with surprise. "Of course I don't. All you guys need to go spend some time with them; you've been helping out so much here over the last week."
"Cool, thanks. We'll follow you guys down to breakfast, then mom will pick us up out front, and we should be back in a few hours."
Brent nodded and looked over toward where Stan was at sitting next to a still-sleeping Forth. "Stan, you going to head down with us, or wait up here?"
Stan looked down at Forth, lifted up one of Forth's arms, then let it fall back down with a thud. "It looks like Forth is still going to be asleep for a bit, so I think I'll wait."
Brent slowly shook his head, "Okay, guys, everyone who's ready for breakfast, let's head out."
Brent learned a valuable lesson that morning, which was to never suggest everyone rush out of a small room at once, since both he and Lance had to literally dive out of the way from the stampede of hungry teens and pre-teens making their way out to the hall.
Brent and Lance walked into the small temporary C.I.C. room to find that Haden was already there sitting on the floor in front of the System 27 Mainframe, with his face glued to the huge owner's manual.
"Were you here all night, Haden?" Brent asked with concern as Lance took a bite from one of the bananas he was holding, and held out another toward Haden.
Haden shook his head as he got up, walked over to Lance, took the offered banana, then plopped himself down in front of his manual again as if nothing had happened. "No, I fell asleep and Evan made me go to bed."
"How terrible," Lance jested.
"Did you guys know the new molecular-bonded duotronic bridges that link the cores in the System 27 gives the entire duotronic sub-system a 15% higher rated efficiency over the System 26?" Haden asked, completely ignoring Lance's comment. This, of course, caused both Brent and Lance to wince.
"I don't know, love, but I think that might have been Haden's way of giving us the finger?" Brent grinned.
Lance nodded in agreement before he turned his attention toward the two larger terminal monitors. "How are you doing this morning, Daileass? Everything working well?"
"Oh yeah!" Daileass replied, a bit over-excited, "Sorry about that, it's morning shower time over at the UNIT base."
"Daileass! You perv!" Lance said as he nearly choked on the piece of banana he was eating before he glanced toward Brent, to see him grinning as well. "Remind me to cover the cameras whenever we are in the shower."
"I think he's messing with you, Lance. I doubt Daileass could watch every camera in the UNIT base at once," Brent giggled before his expression turned a bit more serious, "Can you?"
Several seconds went by with no response, until Daileass continued on the original topic, "What I meant to say earlier was that all the new systems that my brothers installed yesterday seem to be working rather well. I found a minor chip fault in one of the spare terminals that were set up over in building 1, but nothing that serious."
"Okay, now I'm scared; he's avoiding the question." Brent looked toward Lance and then back toward the terminal screens.
"Greg, Doug, and the other younger kids got a surprisingly good start on getting the first set of hard drives from the old non-networked computers hooked up to the adapter ports yesterday so that I could copy them. I've been reviewing the files, but so far nothing of significance has come up. I'm guessing if they keep going at the rate they are going, it will only take them another couple of days until all of the remaining drives have been hooked up and copied."
"Daileass," Lance interrupted. "How come you're not answering Brent's question?"
"Okay, you win," Daileass replied, "The answer is yes, I do have the ability to monitor all the video feeds from the unit base at the same time, and then some. But unless someone's life is in danger, or some other problem is expected, I don't actively monitor shower feeds unless I know for sure the individuals involved would not have a problem with it."
"Guys, leave Daileass alone; he's a kid too you know?" Haden called out from where he was intensely studying some rather complex diagram in his manual, and absently placed the empty banana peel at his side.
Brent and Lance looked at each other, neither really knowing how to respond, as the realization had hit both of them that some invisible line might have just been crossed. Although neither of them could figure out how Daileass could possibly be a kid, in all likelihood Haden's comment was more than likely true, if for no other reason than just meaning a relatively new A.I. that had only recently been brought online.
Finally, after a rather long period of awkward silence, Daileass interrupted their thoughts. "Haden... did you really mean that?" He said in a voice that sounded almost close to tears.
Haden blinked and turned toward the two main terminals with a very serious expression on his face, "Why wouldn't I, Daileass? I know I don't like people picking on me just because I'm a kid, so they shouldn't pick on you because you're a kid."
Brent smiled and looked down toward Haden, "Haden, I know Daileass might have a kid voice, but that doesn't mean he is a kid. He might be one of the best A.I.'s ever, but he's still an A.I."
Haden looked at Brent, and then back toward Daileass's terminal, slowly shaking his head in disagreement, but not willing to fight Brent over it.
"Thank you, Haden," Daileass said, and all three could just imagine tears falling from a boy's eyes just from the tone of voice he used. "You have no idea how much that means to me."
There was an audible hitch in his voice as Daileass continued talking. "Brent, I know you don't know me, so I don't hold what you said against you.However, let me tell you a story that does not need to go beyond this room."
Brent, hearing the seriousness and hurt in Daileass's voice, quickly agreed.
Lance walked over to pick Haden up to try to comfort him, but when he did, Haden pushed himself back and instead pulled his legs up and wrapped his arms around them while looking up toward one of the two cameras that were in the room.
"Haden... my friend... brother... please don't be upset. There's nothing for Brent or Lance to apologize for, because they didn't know. Okay?" Daileass said, trying to put as much comfort and love in his voice as he could. "I only tell this to the people I feel closest to, and after what you said, I feel like... well, I feel like I have another brother. Not like another brother in the Clan... but a real brother... like you and Evan are."
Haden nodded and sniffed. "You're hurt and I don't want you to hurt, not like I've been,"
Lance took a few steps back as he could see the emotions in Haden's face, and could remember how things turned out the last time this happened two weeks ago. He only hoped that he would not make the same mistake again.
"I won't be hurt, Haden. Never again. That's what the Clan's all about. I can talk about this now, without it hurting as much, but it still hurts some. Just like it hurts when you talk about what HE did to you. He'll never do it again, and if I don't miss my guess, neither of the two guys in this room would EVER let anyone hurt you ever again. But sometimes it helps to share what you've been through with others. Especially those you are really close to..." Daileass paused and lowered his voice slightly. "Like... like I hope you're close to me now. I hope you like me like a brother, 'cause I know I love you like a brother."
When Daileass mentioned 'HE', Haden visibly cringed for a moment, but by the time he finished, Haden seemed lost in thought, first looking toward Brent and Lance, and then back toward the terminals and then at the cameras. Finally, realizing that Daileass was right, and Brent and Lance wouldn't hurt him, Haden stood up and hesitantly walked over to Lance, and held his hands up.
Lance lovingly picked Haden up and hugged him tight. He wasn't sure how, but somehow Daileass had defused what he was almost sure would be another major emotional breakdown from Haden.
After a few moments of the hug, Haden pushed away slightly, and looked back toward the camera, "Daileass? Not even Evan can understand me when I talk about stuff. You can, you don't make fun of me. I don't care who or what or where or how you are, but I love my brother, I love Evan, but I think you're more than Evan, I don't know how."
Haden then buried his head in Lance, accepting more of his hugs.
"It's 'cause we're a lot alike, Haden. See... what only a very few people know is this. I actually was a boy once. When I call Tyce my brother, it's not just because we're in the Unit together... it's 'cause he actually IS my brother. I am the oldest of the boys that are clones of Logan."
Haden lifted his head from Lance's shoulder and looked toward the camera with curiosity.
"This will take a bit to explain, but you need to hear it all to truly understand. You guys have heard about the Genesis Project and how it genetically engineered kids to be super soldiers. But what few people know is that the Genesis Project was actually an offshoot of something that had been going on for thousands of years. It was a selective breeding program where people were intentionally mating with only certain other people to try and breed certain characteristics into their children. They actually had a great deal of success." Daileass took a breath and then continued. "By the way, before I go any further, I just increased all of your security clearances to top secret," he said with a laugh.
"Top secret? Um, okay," Brent stuttered as he swallowed. "In some ways, that sounds a little similar to what was going on here. Each new Clone revision had genetic characteristics filtered out or added from previous batches."
Lance nodded. "Yeah, but I'm sure what Daileass is talking about is at a scale much higher than what was going on here."
"What's top secret?" Haden asked.
"It means that what Daileass is going to tell us, you can't let anyone else know, ever," Lance answered.
Haden looked toward Lance, and then back toward the camera, "Why would I tell on Daileass?"
"It's not really telling on me, Haden," Daileass said with a bit of a chuckle. "It's more that, when you are allowed to know things that are top secret, it means that you can't let other people know what you know. It also means that people trust you to keep their secrets, 'cause they know you won't tell anyone else about what you know."
Haden nodded, and spoke in as serious of a voice that a nine-year-old could possibly muster, "Daileass, I promise to never tell anyone any of your secrets unless you give me permission to first."
"I know you won't, Haden," Daileass said in a voice that was soft and comforting. "Now back to my story. The selective breeding program went on for thousands of years as I said, before one of the products of it decided to take it even further. That person was someone you guys have heard of. General Adams."
"However, the Genesis project is not what I wanted to talk to you about. Because, even though General Adams took it in a different direction, the program still continued, until it produced a person that was even beyond what they ever dreamed it could. That person is Logan Hayes."
Daileass paused to allow what he said to sink in, before he continued. "See, while the Genesis project focused on the physical side of a person, the selective breeding program focused on the mental side. It of course had some physical effects, but mostly it was trying to produce people with incredible amounts of intelligence. A good example was that Logan was working on his PhD in computer sciences just after he turned twelve."
"Anyways, General Adams knew how smart Logan was, so he arranged for a genetic sample to be taken of Logan, and proceeded to clone him, hoping to get others who were just as smart as he is. The problem is that while we were really smart, we were nowhere near Logan's level. So we were considered a failed project. They were about to terminate our project... which would have meant that we all would have been killed, when they came up with another idea. Four years ago, they decided to see if they couldn't make us smarter by taking a personality imprint of all of us, and placing us into positronic matrixes... in other words, android brains."
All through Daileass's description, Haden's grip on Lance increased. "Failed? Killed?" Haden started shaking his head back and forth. "Daileass, you're not failed. I don't want them to kill you. You're my friend."
Brent and Lance looked toward each other, each knowing exactly what the other was thinking. Lance was the one that voiced their concerns in a very serious tone, "Daileass, what would the chances be of Haden being the way he is, having something to do with all the Genesis stuff?"
"First off, Haden... that will NOT happen. That was back when we were in the lab; none of the people in the UNIT would hurt us. Now Brent, Lance, as far as Haden being a result of the program, it is possible. If you guys want, I could have Momma Janet take a small sample from Haden and check it out."
Haden, seeming to accept Daileass's reassurance, visibly relaxed his grip on Lance a little.
Lance nodded. "I appreciate that, Daileass, but to be honest, that would really need to be a decision Haden would need to make. Since he has been with us, we have made it a point to not push him for any answers about his past until he was ready to share them with us."
Haden looked at Lance, then back toward the terminals, "I want to know where I belong," he answered simply.
"Okay then, I will have Momma Janet look into it," Daileass said with a smile in his voice. "But again, back to the story. After they transferred all of us into the android brains, they put my brothers back into their bodies. They kept me out and let my body die so they could do some 'other' tests. But when my brothers and the rest escaped, they brought me along where we met up with Logan and Adam. When Logan saw my brain sitting in a box, he decided that since they didn't have a body to put me in, Logan figured he would hook me into the base, in what became the first version of the Unit's Core. Which is about to get its third upgrade today."'
"Damn," Brent replied, "That's terrible, Daileass"
Lance nodded, "I don't think I would have been able to deal with something like that."
"You okay, Haden?" Lance asked as he noticed that Haden was completely motionless, with a horrified look on his face as he stared at the camera.
"Haden?" Brent was starting to get a bit concerned as well.
"They let his body die," Haden softly mumbled.
"Yes, Haden, they did. But, you know something? It's really okay," Daileass said in a voice that was full of soothing tones. "First off, I didn't die... I'm still right here. Now, if they hadn't, I wouldn't have been able to help all the kids that I have. I wouldn't have been able to help my family the way I have. See, I'm actually glad they did it, because I really like what I can do now. And who knows, maybe someday I'll be able to have a body again. But until then, my body is the the UNIT base, and now, this base. My ears are the microphones and the communicators, and my eyes are the cameras... and ohhhhh, the things I get to see." Daileass laughed out the last part, hoping to put the boy's mind at ease. He really was okay with how things turned out.
Haden blinked, sniffed, and after a few seconds, finally nodded. "I think I like your body being here, and I'm glad you're not mad, Daileass," Tears started to fill Haden's eyes as the small boy tried to deal with the emotional roller coaster that he had been on.
Lance gently guided Haden's head to his chest as he gently rocked Haden back and forth, with an occasional sob coming from Haden. After a few moments, Lance spoke up, "Thank you for trusting us with that, Daileass. And you're right, Brent and I had no idea what we were saying earlier. Had we known, neither of us would have said that."
Brent gave Lance a hug. "Yeah, Thanks, Daileass. Was there anything else you needed to go over?"
"Actually there was one more thing," Daileass replied.
Still rocking Haden, Lance jumped in. "Guys, unless you need me here as well, I think Haden is starting to fall asleep, so I think I'm going to take him to his room."
"Lance, if you would like, I can teleport you to Haden's room real quick so you can be here for this as well," Daileass offered.
Lance thought for a moment. "That would work better, thanks, Daileass, I just don't want Haden sleeping on the floor, like he was when Evan found him last night."
"No problem at all, Lance," Daileass stated as Lance disappeared.
"Any idea how long until he will be back, Daileass?" Brent asked.
"Until who's back?" Lance asked.
"Never mind." Brent blinked a few times. "So what else is going on, Daileass?"
"It seems that a number of the clone kids have really been enjoying the new commbadges we gave them yesterday," Daileass started, "As well as the ability to talk with me whenever they want. In fact, several of them were up rather late last night chatting with me. Now, before you say anything, you need to know that this alone is not a problem. My sub-systems can easily carry on over 4,000 separate conversations at the same time without breaking a sweat. Normally, at the UNIT base alone, I might be carrying on 200 conversations at any given time."
"Okay," Brent stated, paying close attention to what Daileass was saying.
Daileass continued, "However, after getting to know the guys a bit better last night, and taking into account the situation that they are in, I had a chat with a few of my brothers earlier, and they all agree that if you guys are willing and interested, we can arrange for any of your guys that want them to get some of the special teddy bears that we have at the UNIT base."
"What's so special about them?" Lance asked curiously.
"They are something that Jory and Juan originally came up with for a bunch of the younger kids at the UNIT base. Although they look like your typical cuddly teddy bear, they are actually complex automated virtual intelligence systems that are designed to be the personal friend and protector of which ever child the bear bonds with."
"So they are like you?" Brent asked.
"Not exactly," Daileass replied. "I would be considered artificial intelligence; these are virtual intelligence. Although both types of systems can learn and grow, A.I. systems are more self aware and capable of advancing well beyond the bounds of their original programming. Whereas V.I. systems are not self aware, and can not really advance too far beyond what they were originally programmed to be capable of. Don't get me wrong, each of these little guys have their own unique personalities and they do have memory and are able to learn certain things. But they won't be able to really grow, or become anything more than that they already are."
"Okay," Lance jumped in, "I think I get that part, but what did you mean when you said protector?"
The pride in Daileass's voice could easy be heard as he explained, "That's one of the cool things about these bears. Besides the fact that they have three-inch retractable steel claws that can be used in an emergency, and the fact that they are highly skilled in several forms of martial arts, they have programming in a number of other offensive and defensive tactics that they will use to ensure the safety of the child they are bonded to. The bears are also equipped with an ability to 'call-for-help' if anything really serious were to happen, which would instantly notify myself or any of the other Clan A.I.s if any type of assistance was needed."
Brent was a bit surprised, "Wow, these things sound pretty intense. You're sure they are safe?"
"I wouldn't let any kid near anything that I wasn't sure was completely safe and well tested," Daileass replied with a tone of hurt in his voice. "Like I said, they are virtual intelligence only, which means they will not do anything beyond what they are programmed to do. They will go as far as sacrificing themselves for the safety of the child that they have bonded to."
Brent nodded. "Okay, sorry to doubt you, Daileass. These things just sound incredible. Could you download more information on them to my account? I would like Neal and Rick to take a look at it as well, since I think this should be a decision that they should be involved in too."
"Sure thing, Brent; the information is there now," Daileass replied.
A few moments later, the door opened and Hania walked in, "Ho, Brent."
"Morning, Hania, how go the great spirits this morning?" Brent replied.
Hania only grinned at Brent's teasing. "Are you ready to go meet Maurice and the rest of his gang to see what they have decided on?"
"Might as well," Brent nodded before looking toward Lance, "You going to be okay here for a bit looking after everyone?"
Lance smiled. "I'm sure I'll manage without you somehow."
Brent grinned and gave Lance a quick kiss before he walked over and grabbed two of the defensively configured GEAR armbands, tossing one over to Hania, "This shouldn't take too long."
"Yeah, we should be back by, say, dinner?" Hania joked as he and Brent both strapped their GEARs on and pressed the power/self-check buttons to make sure they were each fully charged.
When they were both ready, Brent stood next to his Indian friend. "Daileass, teleport us to parking sub-level 3 of the Royal if you would."
Without another word, the two boys were gone.
With the room now empty other than himself, Lance turned to head out the door, but then stopped half way, and turned toward one of the cameras. "Daileass?"
"Yes, Lance?" Daileass replied.
"Thanks for helping Haden so much."
After a brief pause, Daileass replied, "It's my pleasure, Lance. Besides, I think Haden and I may end up being able to help each other."
Lance nodded and smiled as he turned and left the room.
As soon as Brent and Hania appeared in the third sub-level of the parking garage under the Royal Palms Hotel and Casino, they were easily able to make their way back to the grate and climb down into the tunnels that would lead to where the members of the street gang would be waiting for them.
As expected, they didn't have to go that far until they spotted Esteban, one of the gang's nine-year-old junior members, posted as a lookout waiting for them.
"Hey, Esteban," Brent said calmly, with his hands out in the open to show that he wasn't carrying anything.
"Hi, Brent," the Mexican boy said seriously, "Maurice and the others are waiting for you."
Brent nodded slightly, keeping the serious tone. "I figured they would. Lead the way."
Esteban jumped down from the small ledge he was perched on and made his way down the tunnel, with Brent and Hania following close behind. After a few minutes' walk, they came into the same dark cluttered room that they had entered the day before. This time, however, there were several candles lit, casting an eerie look throughout the room. The flickering light also made it easy to see that the eleven other gang members were already there. Maurice and Andrew were standing near the center of the room, with the other boys grouped behind them, quietly talking amongst themselves.
As soon as Brent and Hania crossed the threshold of the door, all talking stopped, and Esteban quickly made his way to the group of boys standing behind Maurice and Andrew.
Maurice wasted no time getting things started. "You showed up. I was almost expecting that you wouldn't."
Brent nodded. "I told you yesterday that I would."
"You also told said you would help us last week, and we've seen where that got us," Maurice quickly shot back.
Knowing that Maurice was intentionally intimidating him as a show of strength in front of the others, Brent remained silent.
Maurice looked back toward his group and smiled before he turned his attention back toward Brent and Hania. "Anyway, We took that silly vote."
"And?" Hania asked after seeing that Brent was not going to, and that Maurice was set on waiting until he did.
Maurice shot a quick glare at Hania, but quickly went back to Brent. "One thing me and my guys believe strongly in is family and unity. Sometimes that means beyond my better judgment, when everyone else votes to want to do something, we do it."
Brent nodded, "A lot of what the Clan stands for focuses around teamwork and family, so I can understand that."
"Yeah, well, we'll see about that. No offense, but you can't always believe everything you hear," Maurice stated and continued after getting another nod from Brent. "So, on that note. We've voted to move in with you guys, and get involved with your Clan thing, on one condition."
"What's that?" Brent asked.
Maurice grinned as if he was about to play his ace, "We'll do things your way for a few days, but if things don't work out the way you claim, and we don't like it there, you have to let us leave, no questions asked."
"I don't see a problem with that. In fact, I think I mentioned something similar to that. If you guys don't like the new life you will be starting, and prefer to live here on the streets, then that will be your call." Just from looking at the faces of the other kids, Brent could easily tell that no one liked the idea of having to live on the streets. Brent was also willing to bet that Maurice was probably the only dissenting vote in joining with them.
"I know," Maurice answered quickly. "I just wanted to make sure that was made clear and for everyone else to hear you agreeing to it."
Lance looked around the room, which was pretty well trashed. Other than the candles, there did not seem to be anything left that had much worth to it. "I guess we can head over as soon as you guys are ready."
Maurice looked toward Andrew, who took a step forward. "We have things cleared out here pretty good, but that's not saying much, since most of our stuff is at the new place."
"New place?" Brent asked with a hint of surprise.
Maurice grinned, "After you guys backstabbed us, you didn't think we were going to stick around where everyone knew where we are at, did you?" Before Brent had a chance to respond, Maurice continued. "We found a better place on the other side of the golf course over on Twain and Paradise. Most of our stuff is there."
Andrew nodded. "There is no tunnel that can get us there from here, so we'll need to go top-side, and take the long way around, so we don't go through Crypt territory."
"Daileass should be able to get us there a lot faster, if you want," Brent offered.
"Actually," Daileass replied from Brent's commbadge, "I can't get you in the tunnels themselves since there are no cameras there, but I can get you pretty close, like the corner of Paradise and Twain."
Maurice thought about the offer for a few moments. "There is a small utility shed behind the monorail station. Could this Daileass thing get us there?"
"Donno. Why don't you ask him?" Brent replied.
Maurice shrugged, "What about it? Can you, Daileass?"
"Hold on," Daileass replied. "Sorry for the delay, had to hack through the monorail's security system. Looks like you're in luck, I have a clear angle."
"Okay, so if you guys are ready, I need everyone to gather around me and Hania," Brent stated, and waited for a few minutes for everyone gather around. When everything was ready, he checked one more time to make sure there was no furniture or anything else around them before he tapped his commbadge. "Daileass, if you could teleport us to the location Maurice gave you, we are all within a five-foot diameter from my location. Everything else is cleared away."
Daileass quickly replied. "You knew exactly what I was going to ask, Brent, thanks. And off we go."
Moments later, beside a few candles that were in the process of burning themselves out, the room was empty.
Mary and Carol VonSchuyler each smiled with pride as they watched all nine of their sons interacting with each other in explaining everything that they had been helping with over the last week with Brent and the others at Cynthitech. They hardly noticed the nearly 40 minutes it took for the IHOP waitresses to get their breakfast cooked and served to them.
Things had come a long way over the last two weeks from when Carol had first taken the family to Las Vegas to work a series of Trade Shows his company was involved with. At first, dealing with the fact that all of their sons were a lot different from other kids in the mental abilities they had was trying, especially with the strong religious background they had. But over time, they came to realize that God would never have given their children such gifts if they were not meant to have them. And from what they had heard over the last 40 minutes, they were certainly putting those gifts to good use.
As Luke and Roe were finishing with explaining how they were helping with the new clone that was born yesterday, Mary looked at all her sons with a huge smile on her face as she placed one of her hands over the hand of husband's. "You have all grown so much over the last two weeks. Your father and I are very proud of each of you."
The beaming smiles on each of their faces were priceless as Carol nodded in agreement. "I guess that means that you will not want to be coming back home with us tonight?" Carol scanned the faces of each boy as he talked. "Our two weeks here is up, and your mother has to go back to work tomorrow."
Instantly, nine faces around the large table they were sitting at, deflated.
Not wanting to let them feel bad for too long, Mary grinned. "Which is why, your father and I had a long talk last night with Neal, Rick and Teri Short."
None of the boys said a word, but they all looked up toward their mother with eyes filled with anticipation. Seeing that no one was going to say anything, Mary continued. "If it's what each of you really want, we've set things up so that all of you may continue to live here with Neal and Rick, and they will temporarily share joint legal custody over each of you along with your father and me."
In their own way, each of the nine boys there cheered and thanked their parents. "Maybe you two could get jobs here in Vegas, and we could move here permanently?" Max asked.
"Actually, your mother and I had looked into that a little," Carol answered. "But with the economy as bad as it is right now, there just isn't anything there right now."
"But if it's something that God wants, I'm sure that it will happen," Mary offered as she wished to end things on a positive note.
"In the meantime," Carol spoke up a bit louder, "I suggest everyone start eating before everything get's cold."
Without needing to be told twice, nine heads went down and began the process of inhaling their food.
As soon as he woke up, Haden immediately realized two things. First, he was no longer in Lance's arms, but instead on something soft. Second, his right arm was a bit colder than it should be, which meant that his GEAR had been removed.
As he became more aware of his surroundings, he opened his eyes to find himself in his room, on his bed. Looking at the time, and seeing that it was a few minutes past 10am, he figured that he must have been asleep for almost 1 1/2 hours, and that Lance probably brought him here.
As he strapped his GEAR back on, the events from earlier in the morning started to flood back into his head. Everything that he had learned about Daileass, General Adams, and the Genesis Project. As he thought of all of this, he glanced up toward the ceiling and noticed one of the cameras in the corner of the room.
After standing there looking at the camera for a few minutes, he decided to head out of his room. At first he was planning on going back to the security room, or the C.I.C. as everyone else was calling it, so he could read his manual some more. Instead, feeling a bit thirsty, he decided to head toward the cafeteria first.
As he walked through the rather empty halls, he noticed four cameras between his room and the elevator, a camera in the elevator, and another five more cameras in the hallway from the elevator to the cafeteria.
Expecting the cafeteria to be empty, he was slightly surprised to see Forth and Stan at one of the back tables quietly talking to each other.
"Hi, Haden," Stan said as soon as he and Forth noticed Haden enter.
Haden stopped and stared at the other two boys. "How come you guys are here?"
Stan grinned, "Because Forth was a sleepy head and overslept, and I wanted to wait and have breakfast with him."
Forth glared at Stan.
"Have you tried these?" Stan quickly changed the topic as he held up a spoon with some colorful circles on it. "They are called Fruit Loops, Debby picked them up yesterday, and they're yum."
Haden shook his head, and walked over to grab himself a glass of juice. Although he wasn't really that hungry, since he was there, he went ahead and grabbed a donut. While he was standing there, he noticed two more cameras that were in the cafeteria, and another in the kitchen area behind the counter.
Both Forth and Stan were rather surprised when Haden walked over with his juice and donut, and sat down at their table, since Haden almost never sat with anyone, unless it was with his brother or with Lance.
"Has anyone ever tried to kill you?" Haden asked while Forth and Stan were both still looking toward him.
Looking toward Stan, Forth shrugged, "Dr. Mulric was going to kill us last week, before you guys stopped them."
Haden thought for a few moments. "Were you scared?"
"I was asleep, so I didn't know about it," Stan admitted.
Forth nodded, "Yeah, I think most of us were. I didn't know about it until like Monday."
Haden nodded and started to eat his doughnut.
"Is someone trying to kill you, Haden?" Forth asked seriously.
Taking another bite of his doughnut, Haden shook his head.
Forth and Stan waited a few minutes to see if Haden was going to say anything else, but when he didn't they started to talk about planets and stars. When he was done, Haden wordlessly got up, took his glass to the washer, and made his way out the door and down the hall.
Debby walked into the upstairs waiting room with laundry cart in hand, expecting to see blankets and pillows littering the entire room. She was rather surprised to see how neatly all the sheets and pillows were stacked up on the side of the wall.
She smiled as she began to load the sheets onto the cart. She still could not figure out how all the kids around here were so well-behaved. Everything she had read and heard in the past about raising children was that they were usually extremely rowdy and messy. Maybe it was a Clan thing, but ever since she first met Brent, Lance, and the first group of kids over a month ago, they never really seemed to fit into the common 'mold' of what kids were 'supposed' to be.
Just as Debby was grabbing the last set of sheets, the lights in the room went out, and a small noise was heard somewhere behind her. "Is someone there?" she called out.
With only a small amount of light coming from the hall, the majority of the room was in complete darkness. But even in the darkness, she could tell that someone or something was there.
"Greg? Doug? Is that you?" She asked with concern.
"Woooo!" a small sound was heard.
"Waaoooo!" came a second.
Moments later, two 3 1/2 foot high sheets came running out from the other side of the room. "WoooOO!" high pitched voices came out from each sheet again.
Debby's fear quickly turned to amusement as she realized that it was only two of the kids playing around. Her amusement turned to concern as the two sheets ran past her, and then ran into the wall with a thud, and then fell to the ground.
"Ouch!" both voices under the sheets said as they each sat up and tried to get the sheets off of them.
"Are you guys okay?" Debby asked as she walked over to flip the light switch back on. As she looked toward the sheets, she saw that it was Cooper and Ben under the sheets.
"That didn't work that well," Cooper said as he rubbed his head.
"What were you two doing?" Debby asked with concern.
Ben looked up toward Debby with a serious look on his face. "We were being ghosts. Isn't that what Halloween is about?"
"Yeah, that's what Doug was telling us about. He said sometimes kids would put sheets over their heads and pretend to be ghosts and scare people," Cooper added.
"Yeah, so were you scared?" Ben asked hopefully.
Debby nodded and smiled. "I was terrified. However, I think what Doug might have forgotten to mention is that the kids dressing up as ghosts would have eye holes cut in the sheet so they could see and not bump into walls."
"Oh," Both 6 year olds said as they looked toward each other.
Debby gave each boy a hug. "Okay, guys, go find your other brothers and try to stay out of trouble."
"Okay!" Both boys called back as they ran out of the room.
After the boys left, Debby watched the door as it hit her. Everyone had been so busy over the last week that everyone somehow managed to forget about one of the most important days of the year for kids: Halloween.
A few moments later, Debby made up her mind. Taking out her cell phone, she pressed a few buttons. "Neal... Hi... Yeah, everything is fine... Yup. Hey look, I think we might have forgotten something. Could you and Rick meet up with me over here when you get a chance?... Thanks."
When Haden entered the old security room, not only was it empty, but the side panel to the System 27 that he had taken off earlier was still off. Walking over to it, he put the panel back in place, and fastened the magnetic couplings that would keep the panel secure.
When he was done, Haden looked around the room, "Daileass, are you here?"
"I sure am; what's up, Haden?" Daileass replied through the terminal speakers.
Haden looked down toward the floor, and then back to the terminal as he seemed to be wrestling with what he wanted to say. "Can I give you Top Secret clearance?"
Daileass was quiet for a few moments before he answered, "Only if you feel comfortable doing it, Haden. I don't want you to feel that since I told you something personal about me, you need to do the same," After waiting for a few moments longer, Daileass continued, "But if you do, then I promise you, Haden, that I will never tell anyone else unless your life is in danger, and I believe there is a good chance that your life can be saved if someone else knows it."
Haden sat down next to the System 27 and thought about what Daileass had said as he pulled his legs up to his chest, and wrapped his arms around them. Daileass had changed the promise a little, but the way he changed it, actually made sense to him.
"My dad wants to kill me," Haden stated plainly.
"You know you're safe now, right, Haden?" Daileass replied, "You are surrounded by people who really care about you, and you never have to worry about him hurting you ever again."
Haden's eyes began to tear up as he slowly shook his head. "That's not it. You don't understand. I want him to kill me."
"Why?!" Daileass asked, his voice raising sharply in surprise and alarm.
Haden thought hard for a few moments, but could only shake his head. "I don't know, Daileass, that's part of the problem. When he would beat me, it's like, like I want him to, or my body wants him to. I want to run, but I want to stay and I want him to do it."
Haden wiped a few tears from his eyes. "Evan used to say it was because of the Asparagus, or something, but I don't think that's it. Because that's one of the reasons it's hard for me to be around people, why I don't want to take the chance, that if they try to hurt me, I'll want to stay and let them hurt me."
"Do you want me to hurt you?" Daileass asked in a soft voice
Haden furiously shook his head, "No! I don't want anyone to hurt me. That's the problem."
"Why's that a problem? Do you think you should be hurt?"
"I don't," Haden said in frustration. "My body does. I think that's what it is. Like when HE would beat me, I'd get this tingly feeling, and I would want to stay and be beaten, but at the same time I didn't want to be hurt or stay." Haden sighed. "I don't know how to explain it, Daileass; just never mind, I guess."
"No, I won't 'never mind it,'" Daileass said softly but firmly. "But let me see if I can explain it, and tell me if I'm wrong. Do you remember, during the times that your father beat you, him ever saying that, you deserved it, or that you needed it? Either to make you better, or to make you stronger, or to make you normal... or anything like that?"
Haden closed his eyes and tried to think for a few moments, until he slowly shook his head, "No, I can't remember anything he said, I can't ever remember, even when Evan asked me about it, I just remember the feeling. I can remember before, I can remember after, but I can't remember the words during."
"That's okay, Haden. It's not really that important right now. But... well... I want to ask you a question, and I want you to think about it... think real hard before you answer. Even if it takes you a few days to answer me. Okay?"
"O...okay." Haden replied with a great deal of concern evident in his voice.
"Can you imagine how it feels to have other people inside your head? To have other people so close to you, that you can hear their thoughts, know what they are doing and feeling, and to be so close to them that no matter what happens, you know that you are never alone?" Daileass asked.
Haden said nothing for several minutes as he continued to sit with his arms wrapped around his legs and his eyes closed. Finally he opened them to look toward the terminal and shook his head. "I think I'm going to have to try to think harder on this, because I can't really see how that could be possible. I mean, I know about the triple-t's and how some of the telepaths like Jamie and Jacob are telepathically linked, and can talk to each other with their minds and stuff. But even with my brother, who has always protected me, I'm still alone in my head."
Haden started to think a bit more out loud. "But if it was something I was trying to imagine, I think it would be good and bad. If it was someone you liked, and you cared about and they cared about you, and they wouldn't try to hurt you, it could be good. But if it was someone that you didn't like, or who didn't like you, or that wanted to hurt you, it would be a bad thing."
"If you were linked to someone like that, you really couldn't hurt them, because you felt what they did. When you were hurting, so would they. But at the same time, if they were happy, you would feel that." Daileass paused for a few seconds, before speaking again - this time in a voice so soft that Haden almost couldn't hear it.
"My brothers and I are bonded like that. They are always there in my head with me. I know when they are happy, and when they are sad, and they know the same about me. I always have someone to talk to, and someone to give me a hug whenever I need one. But, most importantly, I always know I'm wanted. Can you imagine how it feels to know... deep down inside... that you're wanted, and you're loved? I'm not just talking about someone telling you that, or even someone one showing that they do. But KNOWING deep down inside, because you can't lie like that. But knowing that you're loved?" Haden knew that, if possible, Daileass would have tears running down his face right then... and not tears of pain.
Before Haden could respond, Daileass spoke again. "Would you join us, Haden? Would you join in that bond with us. My brothers have not only agreed to allow you in, but want you to join... so... would you? Please."
"Daileass?" Haden replied, but had to wipe some tears from his own eyes, "Why would your brothers want me? They don't even know me, except Tyce that I met yesterday who is cool, but none of the others. How could they want...."
Haden had to stop at this point because his words were getting choked up, and he needed to take a moment to breathe as thousands of thoughts were going through his head all at once. He knew Daileass made him feel safe, and that, for the first time in his life, he found someone that he felt he could give Top Secret clearance to and who could understand him. He knew that he thought Tyce was cool, not just because he was the one that brought the way cool System 27 here, but because when Tyce looked at him, he looked at him like a person, and no just some kid that happened to be good with electronics. But at the same time, the fact that Daileass and ALL his brothers would want him, out of the millions and billions and trillions of people in the world.
When he could finally talk again, he shook his head, "I'm messed up in the head Daileass, I like you too much to want to hurt you, and I don't want you to be hurt or your brothers. I don't want to lose you as friends."
"First, Haden, my brothers do know you. They know you as much as I do. Except for this conversation, because you asked me to keep it secret, they know about everything we talked about. They are as much a part of me as I am a part of them. So they know you... and they want you." Daileass paused to allow that to sink in, then continued.
"As far as you being messed up in the head... you're no more messed up in the head than the rest of us. But that's part of the really cool thing about the link, we help each other, all the time. We're never alone... we never have to face anything by ourselves. We're all stronger cause we lean on each other when we need to. We wanna help you, and, in turn, be helped by you. Does that make sense?"
Haden nodded as he started to say something, then stopped to think, then started to say something else but had to stop himself again. With his body trembling, as nearly every emotion raced through him at once, there was only one answer he could honestly give. "Yes, I want to be a part of you."
As soon as Haden had said this, his entire world changed as several things happened all at once. First, he felt his body stop trembling as if something had wrapped around him and things had become calmer. Next, he noticed a moment where it was a bit more difficult for him to see, as his vision seemed to be losing focus on the room, and the rest of the world around him. Finally, within a few short moments of the first two things happening, he found himself in a large room.
Haden was fairly sure it was a room, because it felt like a room, it definitely had a ceiling and a floor, and he was fairly sure there were walls, although he couldn't see them. There was also warm light entering the room from above, although he wasn't sure how the light was getting in since there were no obvious lights or windows. However, the most significant thing that made him feel that he was in a room was that he saw a large group of other kids standing a few feet away from him.
Although other than for three of them, most of the kids were much older and taller than he was, probably around 11 or 12 years old, Haden did not feel the all-too-familiar impulse to run away and hide, he didn't feel the sick feeling he normally got in his stomach. In fact, he got the feeling that he had known all the kids that were in the group, and all of them cared about him, and not a single one of them wanted to hurt him.
Although somehow every kid in the group seemed familiar to him in some way, the 12-year-old boy who was the closest in the group to him, he knew at once. "Daileass!" Haden nearly shouted, as he ran toward the boy, and was immediately scooped up by a pair of warm, caring arms.
Haden had no clue how he knew that this particular boy was Daileass. It didn't even bother him that logically he knew Daileass existed in a large set of servers somewhere. The only thing that mattered is that he knew that the boy who was holding him, and hugging him tightly, was his Daileass, and that wave upon wave of caring love and warmth was flowing from him, and that he was totally and completely safe.
"Thank you," Haden whispered as he closed his eyes, and, for the very first time in his life, allowed his entire body and entire self to relax. Even when Lance or his own brother were holding him, Haden had never been able to fully relax, as there was always that doubt, that concern, that chance that something bad might happen, or that danger was not far behind. But not now, because now, he knew beyond knowing that he was somewhere that defied all logical laws that he was aware of, and that it was absolutely impossible for anything to hurt him.
For a long while, Haden kept hold of Daileass as tightly as he could, almost as if expecting all of this to be a dream, and that at any moment he might wake up, and would once again be cold and alone.
As Haden laid there, soaking up all the love and support that he could, as quickly as Daileass could give it to him, he also felt himself being hugged by the other boys, one by one. Although his eyes were closed, and his head laid on Daileass's shoulder, as each one hugged him, and shared their warmth and love with him, he knew exactly who it was. He could first feel Logan and Gabe, and then after them he felt Tyce, Todd, and Tilden. Then he felt more loving hugs from Nathan, Richard, and Kaden, followed by a rather energetic and excited hug from Zed, as well as hugs from Peter and Rainer. Just when Haden thought the hugs were done, he could feel Daileass kneel a little until he felt the smaller hands and arms of Alvin giving him a warm loving hug, followed by Theodore and Simon.
After a few more minutes of soaking up Daileass's hugs, Haden started to feel that perhaps this wasn't a dream, and that if he risked opening his eyes, they really wouldn't be gone. With that in mind, he risked sitting up and looking around.
"Welcome, Haden," Logan, the oldest boy, said gently.
Haden was pleased and surprised that he could still feel Daileass's warmth and love, even when he was sitting up. "Where am I?"
Logan smiled, "You're in our link, Haden. You're the second one me and my bothers have ever decided to let in. The first person who we felt we could... trust...."
"Why?" Haden asked. "Why me?"
"I can answer that," Daileass replied as more of his love and caring radiated toward Haden, "Besides our immediate family, you're one of the few people to ever accept me for being me, and not look at me as a collection of wires and circuit boards, but as the real person that I am. That alone gained a lot of points between myself and my brothers."
"But that wasn't the only thing," Tyce added. "It's also in how you look at the world in general, the spark and determination that is in you, and how, even though you feel you have so little to offer, you still freely give all of it to help those that you care about."
"Plus, your head is cool," Alvin grinned as Theodore nudged him.
"What Alvin means is, the way you think, and the way your mind is set up, is kind of unique," Theodore added.
Simon jumped in as well. "You have 14 positronic brains linked to your head now, not to mention our non-human friend and of course, biggest brother. Most people's heads would not be able to handle that. But because of the way you think, and how analytical and logical you are, yours is one of the few that can."
Haden nodded before he turned to look at Daileass. "How are you here?"
As Haden rested his head on Daileass's shoulder, Logan answered. "I created this mental-scape for all of us to meet you in. In the mental world, we are each seen as we perceive ourselves. Since Daileass perceives himself as the real boy that he is, and not what he was forced to become, that is how we see him. That's also why we see you with your GEAR armband, since that is part of how you see yourself.
Haden glanced at his arm, and saw his GEAR, while at the same time feeling safer than he ever had before, he knew he really didn't need his GEAR here. In fact, he knew that he would never need his GEAR here, and it was okay if it were gone. Moments later, the GEAR faded in front of his eyes, leaving behind his smooth, small arm.
As soon as the GEAR was gone, he felt a wave of pride hit him from all sides. He wasn't sure how, but he got the impression that he had just accomplished something that he wasn't expected to be able to carry out yet.
Haden rested in Daileass's arms for what seemed like several more minutes. The entire time everyone around him seemed content in giving Haden as long as he needed. Although most of them had their suspicions about how Haden was feeling before he became part of the link, it wasn't until the moment that he accepted and joined the link that they were really able to see just how empty and alone Haden was. It wasn't until they could all truly feel Haden's mind for the first time that the full effects of the years of abuse and isolation Haden had gone through became clear. At a level that Haden was far from being able to listen to or understand yet, Logan and every one of his brothers had agreed that before this day was over, the one that caused so much harm to such a special person would be dealt with. But that was something to deal with later. Right now, the more immediate concern was Haden himself.
A few of Logan's brothers smiled as they could start to feel Haden's mind wander onto topics other than soaking up as much love and comfort as he could get. A few moments later, Haden sat back up in Daileass's arms.
"You know," Haden spoke thoughtfully as he looked around himself a bit more thoroughly, "This isn't really what I expected a mental link to be like. I thought it would be more like huge amounts of information slamming against your head giving you headaches while suddenly gaining tons of new knowledge that you never knew before."
"Oh, don't worry," Zed giggled. "It can get like that at times too."
Tyce walked closer to Daileass and Haden, and brushed some of the hair out of Haden's eyes. As he did this, he spoke softly, "It's like Logan said earlier, Haden. You're the second person that we've ever allowed to be a part of this link. Whereas the first was allowed out of need, you are the first added out of want and love. Logan, well all of us actually, want to make sure that absolutely nothing bad happens to you as a result of it, so we are taking things really slowly at first."
Haden nodded his understanding, and smiled when Tyce kissed his forehead.
"Haden," Logan said seriously as he too took a step closer toward Daileass and Haden, "There are a few things you need to know about. Well, actually a lot of things, but only a few important things to begin with."
Feeling a bit curious about what Logan was talking about, Haden tried to shift himself in Daileass's arms so that he could see him better. For his part, Daileass gently let Haden slip out of his arms to the ground, as he could sense that, at least for now, Haden was feeling comfortable enough to not need that extra feeling of safety and security.
"What kind of things?" Haden finally asked while he looked up into Logan's eyes.
Logan reached out his hands toward Haden, who in turn reached out with his own hands, taking Logan's hands into his own, so that he would be able to feel Logan better as he talked. Smiling down toward Haden and at how quickly the smaller boy was starting to trust him, he began his speech. "First, the most important thing you need to know for now, is that you will never again be alone. Even when we leave this place, every one of us will still be there right beside you."
Haden smiled at the thought, and nodded.
"Second," Logan continued, "You need to know up front that because of the closeness of the link, none of us will ever be able to lie to you without you knowing it, and we will never be able to keep secrets from you that you wouldn't be able to find out about if you wanted to. We all have our private thoughts, but it's because of the trust that we have for each other that we allow those to be private, not because we can't see them. That also means that you will never be able to lie to us, and that there is nothing that you know that we wouldn't be able to see if we wanted to."
Haden's smile went away and was replaced by a feeling of concern and fear.
Sensing Haden's shift in emotions, and feeling him starting to pull his hands away, Logan held on tighter. "Haden, wait," Logan said more firmly, to get his attention. "I know why you are wanting to pull away, but you need to know that me and my brothers already know about it; we knew the second the link was created."
Haden stopped trying to pull away, and froze like a deer trapped between headlights.
In a more gentle tone, Logan continued, "We already know about the hell that your father put you through. Even though you can't remember yourself, we know the things that he said to you, the things he did to you, that made you act and feel the way that you did. That doesn't matter to us, Haden; we don't love you and want to share ourselves with you because of any of that. We love you because of what is there."
As Logan said 'there', although he wasn't sure how, Haden knew that Logan was pointing to his heart.
Seeing that he was starting to get through to Haden, Logan relaxed a little. "I know Daileass told you a little about his past earlier this morning. But, as you will see as you start to feel more comfortable with the link, that was only a very small fraction of what he and the rest of us have had to live through. There are things that have happened to some of us that not even Adam knows about yet, because.... well, because... it would hurt too much to say it. So yes, every one of us knows what you are feeling, and why you feel that way, and every one of us is okay with it."
Haden blinked, "Scared? How can you guys be scared? You guys are UNIT, like the most powerful force anywhere."
Logan's smile got larger. "That's because, just like you tried to say earlier this morning, we are all still kids, just like you. Sure, we might hide it better; to everyone else on the outside, especially those who are not that close to us, we might seem really confident and strong all the time. But in many ways, that's just an act that we put on, just as you put on an act to make everyone around you think you are stronger than you are. We just pull it off better because we always have each other for support."
What Logan was telling him was very difficult for Haden to accept, as it went against everything he had seen with his eyes up to this point. It went against how he had seen Daileass interacting with everyone, including himself, since the moment he was first introduced to him, not even a full week ago. It went against how he saw Tyce and some of his brothers acting and interacting around the others, and how they always seemed so confident and in control of the situation.
Yet, only a few short hours ago, when it seemed like Brent and Lance were picking on Daileass, it was almost as if he could see that confidence and strength falling away a little. And now, although he was not really sure how, in his heart he knew that what Logan was telling him was the truth. And, although he could not really put it into words at the time, in another place near his heart, he could feel a small amount of the fear that Logan and all his brothers shared, especially the fear that Haden might reject them, and decide that he really didn't want to be a part of this link after all.
One of the hardest things for a nine-year-old to do is to see the world in a way other than it revolving around himself. Although Haden had shown that there were times he could do this, as emotional a situation that it was for him, this was not one of those times. As such, Haden had no real way of knowing that Daileass, Logan, and the other 13 boys needed Haden's love and acceptance just as much, if not more, than Haden really needed theirs. Haden had no way to know just how vulnerable they had each made themselves by being willing to include someone else into their personal, private space. Nor did he know to what degree every one of them would have been devastated by the first person who they felt they could totally and completely trust and open themselves up to, to have rejected them.
Finally, Haden nodded his acceptance of what Logan had told him. "So, what happens now?"
"Well," Logan continued, "I think that brings us to the last thing that is important to know for now, and that's about the link itself. The link was created with another that needed it; for him it was a requirement. In your case, Haden, we want you to become part of it, because we like you, and some of us already feel like you're a brother. Anyways, because of all that, we wanted to go slow, and take things carefully. As long as you do not mind, what I would like to do is to slowly open up more and more of the link to you over the course of the next few days. You can think of it as a series of steps, or stages. At each step, we will be giving your head time to get used to it, before going to the next step, and opening up more to you."
Feeling that Haden was understanding what he was saying, Logan continued, "The reason I say that if it's something you agree to, is because it has to be something you are okay with. This link that we have is not a partial link, it's all the same link, and if you really wanted to, your head could grab as much of it as it wanted. But if you were to grab it all at once, I think there is a really big chance that it would probably kill you. So, you have to be willing to trust us to open this up to you slowly, and not try to pull too much too quickly before you know that you can handle it."
Haden thought for a few moments, and again nodded his agreement. "I think I like your idea of going slowly. I've seen way too many science fiction movies where someone would get information so fast that their head exploded, and I wouldn't want Evan or any of the others to have to deal with that."
Daileass, and most of the others couldn't stop themselves from laughing at the images that were flowing off of Haden of people walking around, and their heads literally exploding into itty bitty pieces.
Haden brought everyone back down to earth as he asked a much more serious question. "So, does that mean that at first, after I leave here that I wont be able to feel any of you guys?"
Logan shook his head. "No, Daileass already told you that you would never be alone again, and he was not lying to you. Most of the first step involves some of the emotional elements of the link. You haven't been able to feel much real love and comfort for a very long time. Evan is only one person. So just like an empty battery, it's going to take a while for you to completely recharge, if you will."
Haden nodded and smiled at Logan's analogy. Although a lot of the feeling and emotion stuff was still confusing to him, he knew that he was still really scared that he was going to be alone and cold again, and was glad when Logan told him that would not be the case.
Haden looked around the room and at his brothers a bit more. "You guys said I was the second person that was allowed to join this? Who was the first?"
Daileass smiled. "He usually doesn't interact the same as us, bro. He's not... from around here."
"Mmm?" Haden pondered with a hum as he looked up toward Daileass, trying to figure out what he meant.
Before Daileass could elaborate, a brief flicker in the landscape of Logan's mind drew everyone's attention. They all smiled at the new 'arrival', except for Haden who stared and stared.
"I came to investigate the new singer," the being stated simply, a laser sighter flickering from a black metallic face-piece that covered its left eye. A holographic ocular center to the metallic device was radiating color and patterns as the being turned to regard the small child more fully. With a slight cock of its head, the being said, "Your voice is beautiful, Haden Cornelius , Subset of Family Rothwood of Earth."
Haden, still unsure what to think of the new arrival, tilted his head. "Beautiful? Mine? Most people say it's squeaky, or just tell me to shut up, but no one has ever called it beautiful before."
The being walked over slowly, its black, form-fitting suit clearly showing the devices and tubes attached all over its body. It stopped before Haden and Daileass, and raised its left arm, upon which was a toolarm and yet more devices. "Yes. Beautiful. Your song. Your mind. Your voice. It sings. It soars. Color. Feeling. Movement. Wonder. Joy. Fear. Pain. Rapture. Stillness. Beautiful. The darkness of your past shading the colors of your life, making the whole... perfect. You are what we looked for, Haden of Earth. Perfection. Yet we looked in all the wrong places, for one such as you could never have been assimilated - but that is to my people's loss. Here, I have found that which I've always been told to seek, in a realm untouched by my race."
Haden took a step back and wrapped his arms around Daileass's waist, as he slowly shook his head, "You must have the wrong person. I'm not perfect, I can't.... can't even talk to people right," Haden then looked up to Daileass. "Tell him he's wrong, bro?"
Daileass giggled as he held Haden tightly. "We can't lie in here, can we, bro? Nine sees things that no one else does. And if he thinks you're perfect, I'm not going to argue with him."
"Oh," Haden replied with an unsteady voice, struggling to make sense of what was said by the newcomer, or Nine as Daileass called him, "He sees things no one else can? Because of that eye thing he has?"
"Yes and no," Nine smiled, drawing the boy's attention back to himself. "I am Borg. I see things as a Borg would see it. I hear your song as only a Borg can, for we have lived our whole lives listening to the Song of the Collective of our Minds. It is something I see from a perspective that none other in this place could --- they have never been Borg."
"Ah, Nine? You've done it again," Alvin giggled as Haden mulled over that latest revelation.
Nine glanced over and then down at himself. "This is how I still see myself in my head," he murmured as his black suit thing vanished, leaving him naked. Then many of the black and silver metalic items inserted in his body vanished, as well as all but one of the tubes. His skin tone changed from grey/green to human normal, and blond hair sprouted fast from his once bald head. His torso was criss-crossed with scars, his toolarm vanished to be replaced by a normalish looking lower arm and hand made of some black material, He smiled at Alvin. "Better?"
"Naked?" Alvin laughed, holding his belly as he bent over while chuckling.
Logan just grinned and shook his head.
Nine sighed. "You are about as prudish as Austin," he grouched as a pair of board shorts appeared on him.
Haden seemed to be more confused now than before, "Where did all of his cool stuff go? I was still trying to figure out if that eye thing he was using was a WI1991 sync separator to the electrolytic capacitors, like one of Daileass's new cameras that I was taking apart yesterday, or not. That's how I got it to support two simultaneous modes at once. But now they are gone?"
Nine chuckled. "Most of that 'cool stuff' you saw vanish was removed from my real body as they are redundant systems for me in this place. My toolarm and eye piece, however, were always designed to be replaced at will." He knelt down so that Haden was now looking down into his face, and into his two silver eyes. "When we meet in the flesh, I shall allow you to examine me and all my attachments fully, but what technology I use are as high above current Vulcan tech as current Earth tech is above the cavemen."
Haden thought for a moment, and then began to smile. "Kewl," he said as he reached out and wrapped his arms around Nine to get his first Nine hug.
As Nine hugged Haden, he said, "I'm glad you accept me. Many wouldn't."
As the hug broke, Haden had a huge grin on his face as he looked over toward Logan, "I think I know why you guys invited him to be first. His hugs are really warm, and feel extra nice."
"I had a lot of practice with my boyfriend," Nine said simply as he stood back up. "However, unlike him, you do not 'meep'."
"What's a meep?" Haden asked, now smiling, with all concerns of having been declared 'perfect' gone.
Nine, Logan and all the Clone Brothers – Daileass included – started howling with laughter. As they did so, Nine made his left eye vanish and his ocular attachment returned along with face-piece. From the holographic section, beams of light lanced out and a form of a fourteen-year-old boy appeared. Austin Short. It then 'meeped'.
"That is my boyfriend," Nine giggled. "An android. We were 'lost' somewhere for a long time, and got together while lost. He started meeping not long after we first made love."
Haden was giggling as well for a few moments before he became more serious, "Wow, I've never seen a real android before. Do all androids communicate by meeping?"
"No!" Logan managed to get out, laughing so hard that, had they been in their bodies, he was sure he'd have wet himself. "... n...no, they don't! Just Austin!"
Gabe giggled, "He's the 'advanced' model!"
Nine grinned, "Yes, just Austin. And yes, he's the advanced model... it is just that human designers never took into consideration what would happen when a Borg copulates with one of their creations... yes, I'm that good!"
"Oh," Haden's expression suddenly changed from one of confusion to understanding, "I think I get it now, Because you are higher technology, you've developed a way to make your electrons travel down their filament pathways faster, so when they interact with his advanced copulation components, the unexpectedly higher electron flow creates an audible meeping sound?"
Nine blinked. "Well... Most would say it is because Austin is inherently shy, but that explanation is one that my boyfriend would prefer to take as the reason. I like it... Although Austin's 'copulation components' are human standard. Going by your theory, my making love to any human would cause a similar reaction."
As Haden thought that over, Nine saw something through their linked minds. "'Copulation components' would cover penis, testicles and anus, Haden," he said gently, while Daileass was currently looking for the restroom in Logan's mind so he could refrain from pissing himself.
Once Haden understood what Nine told him, his face began to pale, "You mean... you send electrical current through his... MEEP!" Haden's hands flew up to his mouth as he winced in pain.
Nine, Logan and the others were quick to jump in at that point, although they were also trying not to laugh. Simon was the first to manage to say something. "No, bro! No electrical current was used."
"I'd never hurt Austin, Perfection," Nine said simply as he cupped the boy's cheeks with his hands. "Do you understand what happens when two people make love?"
"Okay, that's good to know," Haden visibly sighed with relief, "And yes, I have an older brother, so I know about sex between humans, but I wasn't sure if things worked the same for Nine's and Androids. And... OH NO!" Haden got a very worried look on his face.
"What's wrong, Haden?" Gabe asked with a strong degree of concern.
"I just realized," Haden's panicked voice answered, "We've had to have been here for at least an hour. By now all the others must be worried sick looking for me."
Logan laughed, "Don't worry, Haden, that's not a problem."
"What do you mean? Why not?" Haden questioned. "Did you tell them where I was at, Daileass?"
"No, he didn't," Logan answered, recapturing Haden's attention, "The reason it's not a problem is because here in the mental-scape, no matter how much time it might feel like has gone by, in the real world, only a very small number of seconds have gone by."
"Really?" Haden asked with surprise.
All the other boys nodded as Logan continued his explanation. "Think about what you know about circuit boards and electronics and computers. Electrons can flow across circuit pathways extremely fast, which allows computers to make very complex calculations and decisions very quickly, while still having a lot of idle time. Now apply that to the speed of thought and how quickly the brain works. We can think about things thousands of times faster than we could ever put them into words, and when we are here, that's the level we are working at, the speed of thought. Sometimes when me and my brothers are working out the logistics to an incredibly complicated operation which takes us hours and hours of time to work though in here, up to about 30 seconds of real world time might have gone by, but most of the time, it's only a couple of seconds."
Again, relating the explanation that Logan gave to electronics, something Haden had always been able to easily wrap his head around, what was told to him made sense. "Cool. That's good to know. I wouldn't have wanted any of my friends to be worried about me."
Logan nodded as Daileass walked up and wrapped his arms around Haden, "About that, Haden, I think the next thing we should probably do is to let Evan and Lance, and anyone else you think should know, in on the link that we have now. That way, if they know what is going on, they won't have to be as worried when you start acting different."
"Different?" Haden questioned.
"Well," Logan offered, "You are going to have 15 people in your head now that you haven't had before, who you will be able to talk with whenever you want, and who will be able to give you the love and support you need so you don't always have to feel like running away when you see someone. Don't you think that alone would make you seem to be acting a little differently, from the point of view of others that see you or care about you?"
Haden nodded and giggled a little. "Well, since you put it that way. Yeah, I guess I can see how I might act a little different. I think I would like Brent there too, he's not as huggable as Lance or Evan are, but he has always been nice to me."
Daileass nodded. "I think having Brent there would be a very good idea as well."
"One last thing," Logan interrupted, "I want you to make sure you know that, although all of us will be there with you in real-time, no matter what the reason, you need to know that you can come back to here any time you need to, and we will be here for you as well."
Haden nodded, and, with that, there was a final round of hugs from everyone there. This time, Haden was able to look into each of their eyes, and was able to wrap his arms around each of them, returning the hug as strongly as he was getting it. When he reached Nine, before he hugged him, he looked deep into his ocular attachment, as well as his silver-ish eye, and smiled.
"Ready?" Daileass asked once the hugs were done.
"I think so," Haden answered. With that, the world around him shifted once again. First into darkness, then into a blurry light which, within moments, seemed to focus back into the security room. Haden realized that he was still sitting in the exact same spot that he was in when he accepted Daileass's offer.
Haden could feel the tears that were still in his eyes from where he had been nearly crying moments ago in 'real-time'. 'Real-time', Haden thought to himself, that was something that was going to take a bit of getting used to. At that moment in time, everything seemed so surreal to him. He even still had his arms wrapped around his legs, right where they were at before he was added to the link and pulled into the 'mental-scape'. In fact, the only thing that was really different now from then was that he felt a lot calmer, and he felt warm.
Haden blinked a few times and wiped the remaining tears out of his eyes as he slowly stood up.
"Are you okay, Haden?" Daileass asked with a small hint of concern in his voice.
Haden nodded, but didn't say anything. Instead he glanced around the room. It was certainly the same room. Everything was right where he had left it. The two cameras on the ceiling were still there, the terminal screens were still there, even the System 27 was still right behind him where it should have been. However, somehow, the room seemed to have changed, and was now different.
A small hint of panic flowed through Haden. What if it was all a dream? What if it wasn't real? What was the saying about things being too good to be true? His dream certainly seemed to fit into that category. The idea of not only being close and sharing a mental link with the one person he had come to be able to talk to and who could understand him the most, but to also share a link with all his brothers? Haden knew his mind had created fantasy before, especially when he was feeling really hurt, so maybe that is what had happened now? But it felt a lot different from those other times. This time, it felt so real, especially the feeling of being wrapped in Daileass's arms.
Just as Haden was starting to think about asking Daileass if it was real, he felt a feeling of love and warmth, and comfort fill his entire body. A feeling that made him think about being hugged by a whole bunch of people all at the same time. It was at this moment that Haden knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that what had happened was really true, that he really wouldn't be alone ever again, and that a whole bunch of people he had never met before cared about him to a degree he could not even begin to imagine.
"Yes," Haden finally answered Daileass's question, "I think so."
"I'm glad, Haden," Daileass answered, "I can't start to tell you how much your acceptance of us means to not just me, but all of my brothers."
It was hard for Haden to accept the compliment, and to accept the fact that he had helped someone else, but in his heart, he knew that what Daileass said was the truth. At that very second, he could feel the love of the others. He couldn't really explain how he knew this; he just knew that it was true.
"I'm glad too," Haden answered softly, as he continued to look around the room, still feeling a bit disoriented, and that something he couldn't put his finger on had changed.
"If you think you're ready, I'll go ahead and let Evan, Lance, and Brent know to join us here for a few minutes, so we can tell them about the link."
"Yeah," Haden answered nodding, "I think it's time."
Evan was drying off his hair from the shower he had just finished taking. From his point of view, Haden was still sleeping from what Lance had described as a fairly emotional morning for him. Because of this, Evan wanted to get his shower out of the way now, so that he could be there for his brother when he woke up, something that he regrettably did not get to do as much as he wanted to over the past week.
Evan was brought out of his thinking when he heard an odd sounding three-tone chime, followed almost immediately by Daileass's voice coming out from the camera speaker. "Hey, Evan?"
"What do you want? You Perv!" Evan said with mock annoyance as he glared up toward the camera.
Daileass did not fall into his normal child-like joking voice as he normally did in times like this. Instead, his voice was very serious, "When you get finished, I would like to take you somewhere to talk for a few minutes... about Haden."
Evan's joking attitude immediately disappeared. "Sure," he answered, as he started to throw on some clothes as quickly as he could.
In the other building, Brent and Lance were in the front lobby, along with most of the clones, and all the members of the street gang, as everyone was still in the process of getting to meet each other. So far the meeting of the two groups was going well, almost too well, to the point that Brent feared that a few of the clone kids were on the verge of wanting to take to life on the streets, and to become gang members.
"Maurice, you do realize that this is about our groups meeting together and getting to know each other, not a recruiting session for you guys?" Brent joked.
Maurice grinned and jumped into the joke. "Sorry Brent, I can't help it that the Twain Street Boys are just so fucking awesome that everyone wants to join us."
This, of course, caused all the kids that could get it, to laugh.
Moments later, Lance's comm badge chirped. "Excuse me, Lance," Daileass's voice came over it. "But when you get a few free moments, could you and Brent join me somewhere? There are a few things that I think you will want to know about, concerning Haden."
Brent and Lance looked toward each other, both realizing not only the seriousness in Daileass's voice, but also the fact that it was Lance that Daileass contacted, and not Brent.
"Sure, just give us a moment Daileass," Lance finally answered.
As Lance was doing this, Brent looked toward Hania, who was already looking back at him, and had heard the brief conversation. "You two go," Hania nearly ordered. "I'll keep an eye on the monsters"
Brent nodded, "Thanks, Hania."
Meanwhile, Haden was slowly walking around the small temporary C.I.C. room, attentively scrutinizing everything he got close to, intent on figuring out what had changed.
When he got near the System 27, he had to stop and smile. He could hear the humming, and feel the slight vibrations that the mainframe made while it was running, but at the same time, it felt different. It was almost as if it felt like Daileass. In fact, now that he thought about it, he was nearly certain of it. The vibrations that he was feeling, the warmth that he felt coming off of it, reminded him almost exactly of when Daileass was holding him in the mental-scape. When Daileass had mentioned that part of him lived here now, he was not joking.
Moments later, Haden felt another presence appear in the room, and turned to see who it was. "Evan!" Haden called out as he leaped into Evan's arms, and laid his head on Evan's still slightly damp shoulder, and let some of the still wet hair of Evan fall onto his cheeks.
"Are you okay, bro?" Evan asked with concern.
Haden only nodded.
Shortly after that, Brent and Lance also appeared in the room, and immediately saw Evan holding Haden.
"I thought Haden was still sleeping?" Lance asked with concern.
"Me too," Evan replied as he hugged his brother.
"Okay, Daileass," Brent took a few steps forward, "What's going on? What's wrong with Haden?"
Daileass's voice immediately replied through the terminal speakers. "Just a moment, Brent; there is still one other person that needs to be here."
Brent looked around the room, and tried to figure out who else it was that Daileass felt needed to be there. Neal? Rick? Dr. Flatt perhaps? Finally, he decided to just ask. "Who?"
Before Brent had finished asking, another boy appeared in front of them, one that none of them would have expected.
"Tyce?" Brent, Lance, and Evan all asked at once, as Haden looked up and smiled.
"Hey guys, I liked this place so much yesterday, I figured I would come back for another visit." Tyce tried to lighten the mood a bit, but was not that successful.
"What's going on, Tyce?" Brent asked seriously, as he took a few steps closer to him, "What's wrong with Haden?"
Tyce shook his head. "Nothing is wrong with him. But this is going to take a little explaining, so you guys need to be willing to hear me out on this, okay?"
Being assured that nothing was immediately wrong with Haden, they all nodded their agreement.
"First off," Tyce asked, "What do you guys know about Haden?"
"That we love and care about him," Lance answered immediately. "What more matters?"
Tyce beamed. "Very nice answer, and you don't know how good it makes me feel to hear that as the very first thing out of your mouth. But seriously, what do you guys really know about Haden?"
All three boys glanced at each other, and then at Haden.
Brent was the first to answer. "We know that he has been diagnosed with some type of autism, and because of that and what he had to live through in the past, it's really hard for him to socially interact with people."
Lance nodded. "We know that, although a bunch of people would label him as stupid, or ignorant, that inside he is really bright, and can do beyond amazing stuff with things like electronics."
"Everything that you have said is true," Tyce agreed. "But what else do you really know about him? How often have you really had a deep conversation with him? When was the last time you tried to see the world through his eyes?"
Brent, Lance, and Evan each said nothing, as none of them knew exactly what could be said. Lance looked down toward the ground, already realizing what Tyce was getting at, and, in a way, how much they were all failing Haden, no matter how much they tried to help him.
Finally, Evan managed to answer. "I've tried, Tyce. God knows how much I tried, and how often I wanted to be there as someone Haden could talk to," As Evan continued, tears were starting to form in his eyes, "It's just, well, it's that the one thing that Haden seems to be able to relate to, the one thing his world is centered around, he is at such a high level in it, that I can't really understand a thing he's talking about. Heck, from what I've seen, some of the top researchers at Wayne Industries have a problem following Haden at times. And any other subject... well... he can't seem to grasp enough for him to understand."
"Okay, stop, guys," Tyce interrupted. "You are all looking at this wrong. I'm not trying to make all of you feel bad. In fact, you guys all need to feel good. Even with all of Haden's hurdles, you all still love him unconditionally, and you try your hardest to be there for him. That's all anyone can ever ask."
"Then what?" Lance asked, as he tried to fight with his own tears.
Tyce took a deep breath. "Evan, you were not here earlier this morning, but earlier Brent, Lance, and Haden learned a lot about Daileass, as well as me and the rest of our brothers."
Evan nodded. "Lance mentioned that there was a lot of really emotional stuff talked about that affected Haden, but he wouldn't give me any specifics."
Tyce nodded. "Good, they really couldn't, because they were honoring a promise they made to keep certain information secret. Just as Daileass had given each of them Top Secret clearance earlier, as Haden's older brother, I'm officially giving you Top Secret clearance now. So later, after this chat is done, any of those three are welcome to tell you anything else about the conversation that you want to know."
Evan blinked in surprise, not sure what to say, so he only nodded.
"Anyway," Tyce continued, "Haden learned a lot about what me and my brothers have been through, especially Daileass. As you had already seen the results, you know this hit him pretty hard. What none of you know is that when Haden woke up, about a half hour ago, after grabbing something to eat, he made his way back here, and gave Daileass his own version of Top Secret clearance."
All three boys seemed a bit surprised, so Tyce explained further. "You guys have to understand, at the time, Haden's understanding of what 'Top Secret clearance' meant was not what we understand it to be, but was closer to meaning you trusted someone enough to share some personal things that you wouldn't normally tell anyone else. So when Haden said he was giving Daileass Top Secret clearance, from his point of view, he was telling Daileass he was going to share things with him that he didn't feel he could with anyone else."
Along with the others, Lance nodded. "That makes sense, and to be honest, it's not that surprising. Over the last few days, it seemed that Haden has been talking a lot with Daileass, and what's better, Daileass could actually understand him, and talk to him at his level. That's why none of us had a problem with letting him spend so much time with him."
Tyce nodded and grinned. "Exactly, although you might come to regret that."
"What do you mean?" Brent asked with concern.
Tyce lost his grin. "All joking aside, although I won't get into the specifics of what Haden shared, I'll just say that it was another very emotional conversation. See, you have to understand that, even before the first conversation this morning, we were already talking about Haden. What Haden said and demonstrated to us in his ability to accept Daileass as the real person that he is, just reinforced that what we were all thinking was right. And well, the second conversation, only more so."
"You're not really making sense, Tyce," Evan commented.
"Sorry," Tyce, who was now visibly nervous, replied as he took a deep breath and collected his thoughts. "What I'm trying to say is this: Me and all of my brothers, including Daileass, all agreed that we wanted to do something that we have never, before today, felt comfortable enough to even consider before. Evan, I'm not sure if you know this, but I know Brent and Lance do. That each of us, my brothers and I, have a very strong link with each other, and we are always in constant communication with each other."
"Oh crap," Lance whispered, raising his hands to his face, already getting an idea of where this was going.
"Well," Tyce continued, knowing he couldn't put off saying it any longer. "What we wanted to offer Haden was to be the first human from the outside that we ever trusted and cared about enough to allow to join the link that me and my brothers share."
"Seriously?" Brent asked with surprise as he looked between Tyce and Haden.
"Wow." Lance jumped over to give Haden a hug, "That's so cool, Haden."
Evan, who had no clue how to take this, simply tightened his hug with his younger brother.
"Tyce? How can this even be possible?" Brent asked seriously, "From what Daileass told us earlier, you and all of your brothers have positronic brains. If that's true, how can Haden be a part of that link? He has a normal brain.... at least, I think he does."
"Haden does have a human brain," Daileass reassured them. "However, you are wrong about one thing. Logan is one of our brothers, and he is also part of this link, and he does not have a positronic brain either."
"Yeah," Tyce agreed. "I'll be the first to admit that this is something none of us have ever done before, since Haden is the first human we've tried this with. But you need to know that there are 16 people that care immensely for Haden, and would not do anything to ever hurt him.
"Tyce is right," Daileass added. "Haden has 16 people, 15 of which are my direct brothers, keeping a very close eye on his head right now. At the very first sign that there are any type of problem at all, he can be removed from the link."
"Thanks, Daileass and Tyce," Evan finally managed to say. "From what I've seen from you guys over the last week, I know you will not do anything that you felt could possibly hurt my little brother, so I, for one, trust you."
Brent and Lance agreed, with Lance adding, "I trust you guys as well. This is just kind of a shock, and I'm a bit concerned about Haden... although I think it's very clear that you and your brothers can help him in ways that we could never hope to, and for that, I am beyond grateful."
"Thanks, guys," Tyce replied seriously. "But you probably need to know that we are not doing this just for Haden. Although I'd appreciate it if you did not ask for details, there are still a lot of issues and growth that me and my brothers have to work through, and we all feel that Haden, in time, might be the person that can help us."
"Haden," Daileass called out to get his attention, "Please don't read too much into what Tyce said. We have asked you to be a part of our link because of who you are now, not because of what we think you might become. We don't expect anything from you beyond what you have already given. We accept you for who you are, just as you have accepted me for who I am."
Tyce jumped in quickly. "To put things as simply as I can, all of us have certain insecurities because of what's happened to us. The biggest one is people learning what happened to our brains and what we're able to do because of it. What Haden has done for us is something that cannot be measured or even really put into words. At the most simple level, he accepted us unconditionally. I am not sure if you could understand what that meant to us. That above everything else is why we love Haden like we do, and why we invited him to join us on such a deep level."
Haden nodded in understanding.
Brent smiled. "Well, that right there tells me that you guys will definitely be watching out for him. However, I do have one question for you."
"What's that, Brent?" Daileass asked.
Brent thought of his question for a few moments. "Now that Haden is part of your link, what kind of changes should we expect to see in Haden? Is there anything we should watch out for?"
"That's a great question, Brent," Daileass answered, "Unfortunately, the answer is that we really don't know. Obviously, exposing Haden to the full link all at once with 15 very active minds in it would probably be unwise. Because of this, Logan has come up with a plan to gradually expose Haden to the link in small steps, giving his mind time to adjust and get used to the link at each step."
"That sounds fairly reasonable," Lance thought.
Tyce agreed, "What none of us really know yet, is to what degree Haden will be able to interact with the link. It might only be at a very basic level like it is now, where he can just feel most of our surface feelings and emotions. Or it may be something a lot more than that."
Feeling Haden's concern, Tyce quickly added, "Don't worry, Haden. All of us feel it will be closer to the something a lot more side of things. Mainly because, although you probably didn't realize it, you've already shown us a number of little signs of the potential you might have."
"Like when I made my GEAR go away in the mental-scape?" Haden timidly asked.
"That was one of them, yes," Tyce answered.
"The other important thing," Daileass added, "If any of you ever have any questions or concerns, please never hesitate to ask."
"Actually, I do have one question." Brent waited until he got a nod from Tyce before continuing. "Are we allowed to let Neal and Rick know about this, or any of Haden's other friends?"
Tyce thought for a few moments before answering. "You can tell whoever you feel cares about Haden and needs to know. However, the only thing we ask is that you, please, do not tell anyone about anything that we have told you about the Genesis Project or our past to anyone without asking us about it first."
Brent, Lance, and Evan all agreed.
"Okay, guys, I kinda need to get going," Tyce stated.
"Thanks for everything Tyce," Brent waved.
"You bet!" he got in, before he disappeared.
"So," Lance smiled as he looked toward Haden, "What do you say we go meet some of your new brothers?"
"New brothers?" Haden asked hesitantly.
"Yup," Brent added, "The street gang agreed to move in here with us, and they are over in the other building right now, getting to know the clones and triple-t's."
A momentary glimpse of panic crossed Haden's face, which quickly disappeared. "I'll try," he finally said in a small voice.
After Haden got hugs and squeezes from the other three boys, all four made their way out the door. None of them noticed the smiley face that briefly appeared on both computer terminals before their screen savers turned on.
About 20 minutes after they were whisked away by Daileass, Brent and Lance re-entered the lobby through the large double doors that led deeper inside the building. Two other boys that none of the street kids had seen yet were with them.
"Sorry about that, guys, there were a few personal matters we had to deal with," Brent smiled as he looked around the room and saw that things were not too much different from how he had left them, "I've brought two other people for the new guys to meet. This is Evan, and his younger brother Haden."
"More clones?" Gaiden asked as several of the kids gathered around Brent, Lance, and the two new kids.
To the surprise of those that knew him, Haden barely flinched as all the new kids were gathering around.
"Nah," Maurice called out as he made his way through the small crowd. "I know that little guy. You're the dude that made those really cool arm gizmos, aren't ya?"
Haden looked up toward the considerably taller 15-year-old and stared at him for several moments, until he started to glance around at some of the other new kids.
"You okay?" Evan asked with a bit of concern, as he looked down at his younger brother, who now had his fists clenched.
Haden said nothing as he continued to look at the new kids. As the seconds ticked by, those looking toward him could see his eyes starting to tear up, and his entire body beginning to tremble.
"Guys, everyone back up a little, please," Brent asked, while Lance kneeled down in front of Haden, but was careful to not touch him. "Haden, what's wrong?"
Haden still didn't reply, but instead closed his eyes and started to slowly shake his head, mumbling something. At first no one could tell what he was saying. But as the trembling became more noticeable, his words became louder, loud enough for people to tell that he was saying 'I can't' over and over.
Lance had seen enough, and was just about to reach out to pick up Haden and take him out of the room when, to everyone's surprise, Haden vanished in front of their eyes, causing several people to gasp.
Haden, for his part, was so focused on his fight to not have to run away from all the new guys that were looming over him that he didn't feel himself get teleported away, nor did he feel himself being pulled into the mental-scape. It wasn't until he felt a warm, loving pair of arms lifting him up that it even started to register to him that he was somewhere else.
Feeling the waves of love and support coming from Daileass, and knowing that he was totally and completely safe, Haden stopped his struggle and let the tears and pain start flowing freely. "I tried, Daileass, I really did, I tried as hard as I could." The small boy cried into Daileass's shoulder, "I couldn't do it; I couldn't stop myself, I tried."
"Shhhh," Daileass soothed as he gently rocked Haden back and forth while firmly hugging him, "I know you did. You tried your hardest, you did good."
"No!" Haden cried out as his entire body tensed up, and a new, stronger round of crying began. "I didn't. I couldn't. I couldn't do it. You should kick me... kick me out of the link."
"Haden, Please don't say that," Daileass said softly.
Instead of calming down, Haden's body became more tense, and his crying become more desperate.
"Haden," Daileass said again, this time with a bit more force, "I love you. Please listen to me." At the same time Daileass said this, Haden felt the love and warmth and support of 15 people all hugging him at the same time.
Finally, soaking up as much love and comfort as he could get, Haden slowly began to gain control of himself, and the crying and tenseness began to diminish.
As Haden went through the process of calming down, Daileass continued to hold him tightly, pushing all the love and support into him that he could, while at the same time whispering encouraging words.
Finally, when Haden had managed to relax his body, and his crying had been reduced to small sniffles, Haden managed to squeak out, "I'm sorry, Daileass."
"Why, Haden?" Daileass ask softly, "Why are you sorry?"
"I let you down, and I let all of your brothers down. I tried to be strong, I tried not to be scared any more, but I couldn't do it." Haden started to softly cry again until Daileass pushed more love and warmth into him.
"Shhhh, I want to tell you something, and I want you to try to really listen, okay?" Daileass said gently.
Haden nodded his head and stopped himself from crying, but he kept his eyes closed and his head on Daileass's shoulder.
"First, they are not MY brothers, Haden. They are OUR brothers. When you became a part of our link, you also became one of OUR brothers." Daileass tried to think of a good way to better make his point. "Do you remember when we told you that you will never be alone again?"
"All of us were serious when we said that. You will never be alone again,. We will always be right next to you."
"But," Haden started to say before Daileass stopped him.
"Second," Daileass continued, "None of us expect you to act or behave a certain way, Haden. We love you for who you are. So there is nothing you will ever be able to do that will disappoint any of us. If you do something really bad, we might talk to you about it, and try to work out why you felt you had to do it, but we will never kick you out of the link, we will never abandon you. Especially when you are reacting in a way that your body has been trained to react from the years of abuse you had to suffer."
"But Daileass, that's just it." Haden opened his eyes, and finally pushed himself back just enough to be able to look up at Daileass's face. "I could feel the hugs from you and the others. And I tried to use that as strength so I wouldn't be scared of the new kids, but it didn't work."
Daileass smiled and hugged Haden again. "You did do that, but there is one small thing that you forgot."
"I forgot?" Haden repeated, with curiosity. "What?"
"Two things, actually," Daileass replied. "First, you have been alone and hurt for years; it's going to take more than a few minutes of hugs to make up for all that. Second, little bro, you've only been part of our link for less than an hour. It's going to take a little more time than that before you can expect to see lots of changes."
"Give your body a few days to get used to, and adjusted to, being part of the link. I bet, in a few days, you'll start seeing things happen that surprise you. Just don't expect too much to happen too quickly, or try to push yourself too hard, okay?"
Still feeling Daileass's love and comfort, Haden nodded, "Okay."
To drive his point home, Daileass kissed Haden on his forehead as he whispered, "I love you, Haden. All of us love you. And we are all glad you are a part of us now."
Haden felt some of his strength start to return as the feeling of pride joined the feeling of love and support that he was already getting.
"Where is everyone else?" Haden asked as he started to look around more.
"They are still here," Daileass answered, as he allowed Haden to slip out of his arms so that he could walk around. "If you think about it, you can feel them. But I'm the only one who pulled you in here."
"Is that why the room looks different?" Haden asked as he noted that the room was considerably smaller, the walls were much closer, and from what he could tell, there was a window at the other end of the room.
"That's right," Daileass agreed. "The first time you were brought in earlier, we were all inside of Logan's mind. But now, you are inside of my mind."
"Do I have a room in my mind?" Haden asked absently as he walked closer to the window.
"Probably not yet, at least not one like this. But over time I wouldn't be surprised if you created one when..." Daileass could not finish what he was saying before he was interrupted.
"Daileass!" Haden shouted with shock and surprise as he stared out the window.
Knowing what he was seeing, Daileass smiled as he walked toward Haden.
"What is it?" Haden asked.
"I told you, Haden, right now you're in my head," Daileass draped his arms over Haden's smaller shoulders, "What you are seeing is part of me."
"It's beautiful," Haden whispered as he stood captivated from what he was seeing. From his perspective, they must have been looking out the window of a rather tall building that overlooked an incredibly huge city of lights below. He could see other buildings, not as tall as the one he was in, but still good-sized, illuminated by many small windows. He could also see a multitude of small, moving lights, which he could only equate to being the headlights of cars that were whisking around on the streets around the buildings. The city spread out toward the horizon and went almost as far as the eye could see.
"Are these like all of your servers and stuff?" Haden asked curiously.
"That's right, bro," Daileass smiled as he lovingly squeezed Haden's shoulders, "right now your mind can only perceive a very small part of what you are actually seeing, but out there is every server, every process, every conversation, every data feed, every camera, every microphone, and every other source of information that flows in and through me. It's the closest anyone can get to being able to really see 'me'."
"It's wonderful," Haden commented as he grabbed Daileass's hands with his own, and the two spent several minutes standing there, looking out the window together.
"Am I keeping you from other things?" Haden asked a few minutes later.
Daileass squeezed Haden's hands. "No, you're not. Remember how we said that no matter how much time passes in here, only a few seconds pass in the real world?"
Haden nodded. "Good, because I've never seen anything like this before, and I like sharing it with you."
Haden stood there for what seemed like 15 to 20 minutes for him, watching the busy traffic and activity of the city below, as he felt the loving warmth of Daileass's arms wrapped around him. He felt so comfortable that, in some ways, he felt it would be cool to never have to leave. But at the same time, he know that would be running away from his problems, and running away never solved anything.
"Daileass?" Haden asked after a long while.
"Yes, bro?" Daileass answered.
Haden took a deep breath. "Do you really think I'll get better one day? Better at not being scared so much?"
Daileass leaned over and kissed Haden's forehead. "I think if you give yourself a little time, and believe in yourself, there will not be anything you can't accomplish that you set your mind to."
Haden sighed. "I Hope that becomes true one day."
"I know it will," Daileass answered softly.
Finally, and somewhat reluctantly, Haden turned to face Daileass. "I think it's time for me to go back now."
"Okay," Daileass replied, "One more hug?"
Instead of answering, Haden wrapped his arms around Daileass and squeezed as hard as he could. Moments later, Daileass, the room, and the city all faded from view as his eyes slowly started to refocus, and Haden found himself back in the security room, a few steps away from the System 27.
Lance had seen enough, and was just about to reach out to pick up Haden and take him out of the room when to everyone's surprise, Haden vanished in front of their eyes, causing several people to gasp.
Brent quickly tabbed his comm badge. "Daileass, we need help. Something happened to Haden, and he disappeared."
A few moments later, Daileass replied, "It's okay Brent, Haden is safe. I saw that he was starting to have a really hard time, so I teleported him to the security room."
"Is he okay?" Evan asked, still very concerned.
"I think he may need a little time to calm down," Daileass replied. "But he should be fine. He's going to spend a little time reading through his little owner's manual."
"Thanks, Daileass," Brent called out. "Please let us know if anything changes, or if there is anything that any of us can do to help."
"You got it, Brent," Daileass answered before the comm badge went silent.
As the group of kids slowly started to break up, Maurice walked a bit closer to Brent and Lance. "What was that all about? That little guy seemed to be having a crap load of problems."
"It's a long story," Lance answered.
"If you are really concerned about him, maybe we can tell it to you while we are down at the pool?" Brent added.
"Pool?" several of the kids asked.
"Oh, now you've done it," Lance joked.
Brent smiled as he spoke a bit louder, "Yeah. We have an indoor pool downstairs; is anyone interested in getting a quick swim in before lunch?"
Instantly, nearly every kid in the room started saying various forms of 'me' and 'yes', as they all started to gather around Brent, Lance, and Maurice.
"We'll need to take the stairs then, since there are so many of us, so let's go!" Brent said cheerfully as he led the horde from the lobby and toward the south stairs.
Meanwhile, in the other building, down in the security room, Haden was sitting in what had become his favorite spot on the floor, next to the System 27. He was happily reading through the technical diagrams of the mainframe; for the moment all the emotional and mental issues that he had been through that day, pushed aside. He was so caught up in his element, that which was his world, that Haden did not even realize that he was reading through the manual pages just a tad bit faster than he normally would.
For needing to go down three floors and cross half of the building to get to the locker rooms, the group made surprisingly good time. Brent had quickly changed into his swim trunks and was helping some of the younger kids get changed when he noticed Maurice and several of the street-gang kids mulling around, looking lost.
"Something wrong?" Brent asked as he walked over to Maurice.
Maurice had an odd expression on his face. "None of us have swimsuits."
Brent nodded, "That's not a problem. We can get Daileass to teleport them down here."
12-year-old Carlos stepped over to help out. "Actually, what he means to say is that none of us own swimsuits. They are not really needed when you're living on the streets."
"Oh." Brent thought for a few moments before he tapped his comm badge. "Hey, Daileass, I don't suppose you have any ideas, do you?"
Brent's question was only met by giggling coming through his comm badge.
"What's so funny?" Lance asked as he joined the small group that was gathering around Brent and Maurice.
"Sorry," Daileass replied, "It's just that it took me a bit longer than normal to find a solution."
"Why's that funny?" Brent asked.
It was clear that Daileass was struggling to hold back his giggles. "Because for most of the kids in the Clan, they don't use swimsuits when they go swimming."
"That's odd. So what do they use?" Carlos asked, clearly interested in what the answer would be. Before Daileass could answer, however, he already had a guess at what it was, just going by how red Lance was becoming.
"I keep forgetting," Brent sighed. "Most of the Clan is a bunch of nudists. When we visited the main division last month, I think they had no clothes on a lot more often than they had clothes."
Maurice looked at his guys, then back to Brent as he shrugged. "Doesn't sound like a bad idea, actually."
Brent shrugged. "If you guys want to. But I'm sure Daileass could find some..." Before Brent could finish what he was saying, Maurice had his pants down and his shirt off.
"Clothes off, guys!" Maurice called back to the rest of his gang.
Before Brent could recover, Copper and Ben were standing in front of him. "Brent, if they don't have to wear anything, does that mean we don't have to either?"
Brent stood there for several moments trying to figure out what to say, as Lance became even redder as he tried to cover his face to hide it.
"Sure," Maurice answered for them as he bent down to be closer to Cooper and Ben's level. "I don't see why any of you guys need to wear swimsuits if you don't want to. I haven't seen any girls around here, so you should be fine."
"Cool, Thanks!" Both boys said together as they ran over to the other clone kids who already had their swimsuits on and were waiting to go into the main pool area. Within moments, all of the clone kids began stripping out of their swimsuits.
Brent began to say something but was stopped when Maurice put his arm around Brent's shoulder. "Dude, you just need to lighten up a bit. They're all kids, they won't mind. Besides, It'll cut down on laundry."
At around that time, Brent saw Jude and Phil, two of the younger triplets, walk by also completely nude. "Everyone else is doing it, so why not?" Jude called out, answering Brent's question before he could ask it.
Brent sighed and gave in. "Okay, fine, swimsuits are optional for anyone. Anyone can wear them if they want, but no one has to. But only in the pool area."
Within moments, everyone else who already had a swimsuit on quickly removed them. Shrugging his shoulders, and not wanting to be the odd-men-out, Brent and Lance removed theirs as well.
Just as they were about to go into the main pool area, Brent's commbadge chimed, and Daileass's voice came out of it. "Hey Brent, you have an incoming communication from Kaleo over at the CSPRD division."
"Um," Brent replied as he looked at Lance to see that he was just as confused as he was. "Okay. Put him through, I guess?"
Moments later, the voice of a slightly older teen with a nice island accent came over the commbadge, "Hey, Brent, this is Kaleo. I don't think we met yet, but I just figured I would offer some friendly advice real quick if you didn't mind."
"Um, okay," Brent replied, still rather confused.
"Great," Kaleo cheerfully replied. "I just figured I would let you know that our group over here only wear clothes in the C.I.C. dining room. All other times, clothing is optional."
"Ah... Okay, Thanks," Brent replied.
"No problem, dude. Anyway, need to run, will chat with ya some other time," Kaleo replied as the comm badge went dead.
"That was odd," Lance commented.
"Yeah, it was," Brent agreed. "Okay, guys, let's head into the..."
Once again, Brent was stopped by his comm badge going off. "Sorry, Brent," Daileass said as he tried to hold back more giggles. "But you have another call, from Alvin from over at the Utah UNIT base."
Brent sighed. "At least I know who this one is. Go ahead and put him through as well."
"Hiya, Brent, Hope you guys are liking your new upgrades over there." Alvin's cheerful voice called out from Brent's comm badge.
"Yeah, they are pretty cool so far," Brent carefully replied.
"Great. Anyway, dude, just wanted to say that what Kaleo called you about is fine, but not wearing clothes in the dinning room saves time, as no one will have to remove their shorts when they serve whipped cream for dessert," Alvin replied in a surprisingly serious voice.
"What?!" Brent asked, not really sure if he had heard Alvin correctly.
"Or BBQ sauce in Logan's case." This time Alvin couldn't keep the giggles in and began to burst out laughing, "Um, anyway, gotta run!" He managed to get in quickly before closing the conversation.
"Daileass!" Brent called out, "How the heck does everyone in the Clan seem to know what's going on here?"
Daileass replied, still trying to keep his own giggles in, "Everyone in the Clan doesn't know... Brent... But... that's not a bad idea."
Brent sighed and shook his head. If there was one good thing that seemed to come out of this, nearly every kid in the room was laughing at this point.
With the issue of swimsuits now completely addressed, and floaty wings on all the younger kids who didn't know how to swim yet, the task at hand turned to having fun in the pool. Even with the larger than normal group there, they still seemed to have plenty of room.
It didn't take long for the first intra-group game to start, a contest to see who could create the largest cannonball. However, since most of the clone kids had no clue what cannonballs were, things began with a quick lesson and a number of live demonstrations from each of the gang kids.
Fortunately, nearly every clone kid seemed to be a natural at cannonballs, which meant that the contest quickly turned into a contest to see how much water they could get out of the pool at any one time, which of course turned into how low could they get the water level of the pool.
For once, Brent was glad that Neal and none of the other adults were around, since he was sure they would have been screaming, had any of them seen what they were doing. However, everyone seemed to be having fun getting to know each other, so he wasn't worried about it much. Besides, truth be told, he was having a lot of fun as well.
The only person that didn't seem to be enjoying himself as much as everyone else was Evan, and Brent had a pretty good idea why that was. As such, it wasn't that big of a surprise when Evan decided to get out of the pool and dry off after they had been there for about 15 minutes.
Evan walked down the hall from the indoor pool where most of the other kids were still playing, with no real destination in mind. He needed some time to think, as most of his thoughts at this point were jumbled up.
A lot had happened in the past few days, and today was turning out to be no exception. Not to mention that some of the comments that the new kids made really hit home. Combine that, with some of the events from this morning, with the whole thing about Haden joining this link.
As he walked, many of his thoughts seemed to settle into one main theme... Haden.
Walking into one of the offices, he spotted one of the new terminals and sat down. After logging into his account and checking his e-mail, of which he had none, he sat there staring at the screen for several minutes. "Daileass?" he asked finally.
"Yeah, Evan?" Daileass's boyish voice replied.
"Can you show me one of the video feeds from the temp C.I.C. room?"
"Sure thing," Daileass replied. Moments later, a large portion of the terminal screen flickered into a new video window showing a portion of the small room, which included the System 27, and Haden sitting on the floor next to it reading, occasionally glancing at something behind the mainframe that Evan could not see.
"How's he doing?" Evan asked.
"He's doing pretty good," Daileass answered. "He's been reading from his manual for the last hour or so."
Evan nodded, and watched the video feed of his brother.
"Evan?" Daileass asked a bit hesitantly.
"If you are concerned about him, why don't you go talk with him?" Daileass's soft voice asked.
"Because," Evan started as he struggled to answer that question himself, "I don't know anything about mental links, or positronic brains, or anything else. I don't know how I can help him."
"But you do know about autism and Aspergers?" Daileass replied.
Evan shook his head. "No, not really, but that's different. I didn't really need to know anything, Just being there for him was enough."
"Why would this be any different?" Daileass asked, and then continued in a much gentler, serious voice,"Evan, you understand that I would never try to take your brother away from you, right?"
Evan sighed. Was that it? Was that what he was really worried about? To be honest, Evan didn't really know himself, "I guess, well, I don't know."
Daileass gave Evan a few moments to collect his thoughts before he continued, "Evan, how much do you know about Clan Short?"
"A lot, actually. Haden and I have been a part of them since Brent and Lance rescued us a month ago," Evan answered, "But I don't see what that has to do with anything."
"Do you remember how it started?" Daileass asked.
"Of course, everyone in the Clan does," Evan replied, still unsure of where this was going. "It started with Cory, Sean, and Kyle, getting a bunch of other kids together."
"Kids with problems helping other kids with problems? Working together to solve their problems, and become something better?" Daileass offered.
Evan nodded as is started to get a feeling that he knew where this was going. "Yeah."
"Haden is not the only person that has problems," Daileass replied much more softly.
Evan sighed, "So you think this link thing will help him?"
"I don't know. None of my brothers know for sure. Haden is the first normal that we have tried to make a part of this. There is a chance that it might not work, there is a chance it will only partially work. We have to wait and see how well his mind can adapt to it. But I can tell you one thing, If he loses his brother, the one friend he has had for the last nine years, there is no link that will be able to help him."
Evan sat in the chair thinking for several minutes until finally he nodded, "I think you're right, Daileass. Maybe I was trying to read too much into this. I should be up there with him, not spying in him."
Daileass said nothing as Evan logged out of the terminal and stood up.
"Can I ask you a personal question, Daileass?" Evan asked.
"Is it true?" Evan asked solemnly, "Is what Haden said true, that you were a real boy, I mean a real human?"
Silence filled the room for several seconds, until Daileass answered, "Yes."
Evan nodded. "Could you teleport me to my brother, please?"
Before he had time to blink, Evan found himself outside the door to the temp C.I.C. room. Opening it gently, he walked in, and found his brother exactly where the camera was showing him to be, on the other side of the room, sitting next to the huge mainframe computer, reading the owner's manual.
As he entered, Haden glanced up at him briefly, and then went back to his reading.
"Hey, Hade," Evan said as he walked across the room.
"Hi," Haden answered, this time not bothering to look up.
Evan stood against the wall that was near the large computer and Haden, and then allowed himself to slide down so that he was sitting up against it. Neither boy said anything for several minutes as Haden contentedly read his book and Evan watched him.
"How goes the reading?" Evan asked as Haden turned the page.
Haden's head bobbed up and down. "Great. I'm on the section covering the S.D.B..s Did you know that this thing has three different designs for the module core linking secondary duotronic bridges? They are set up in low, medium, and high current states in an alternating pattern around the entire inner ring on the upper level. That lets the fiber channels weave through them more easily."
Evan blinked. "I think I can honestly say I did not know that."
Several more minutes of silence went by, until Haden surprised Evan by crawling over and into his arms, something he normally didn't do unless he was scared or hurting. "Are you okay, bro?"
"Yeah," Haden nodded as he twisted himself around so that his head was resting on Evan's arm, and he could be looking up toward Evan face, which made it easier for Evan to wrap his other arm around Haden's chest. "Evan?" Haden asked once he was comfortable.
"Yeah?" Evan answered.
"What's it like to be addicted to something?" Haden asked with a smile.
Evan sputtered, "Huh? What?"
"I think I'm addicted to hugs," Haden replied, which created the desired effect of Evan tightening his hug.
"Then I guess I'll have to make sure you get a lot of them," Evan answered.
Although Evan thought it was a bit odd for his brother to try to make a joke like that, he figured that it might be a link thing. The only thing he knew for sure is that he was glad it wasn't anything more serious.
After spending a few moments enjoying each others warmth, Evan brushed some dangling hair away from Haden's eyes. "You know that no matter what, I'll always be your brother, and I'll always love you."
"I know," Haden answered, "Me too."
Evan could feel Haden starting to relax as his breathing started to become more regular. He was almost ready to think that Haden might fall asleep in his arms before he was surprised by Haden's entire body tensing up, and Haden letting out a small squeal.
Before Evan could react, the squeal stopped and Haden's body relaxed for a few moments before he sat up and started looking around the room.
"Haden, what's wrong" Evan asked with concern.
From Haden's perspective, he felt something change, he wasn't sure what it was, but it was something big. The surprise of something changing, and having no clue what it was, is actually what caused him to squeal. When the change stopped and felt himself relaxing, it was only then that he could manage to sit up. He wasn't really sure, but Evan might have said something, but it didn't matter. Looking around the room, the room was different again, he was certain of it.
'Haden, Don't be afraid. You're okay,' Haden heard Logan's voice in his head.
"Logan?" Haden asked out loud.
"Logan what?" Evan replied.
"I heard Logan's voice in my head." Haden continued to look around the room as he tried to brush the invisible arms off him that were hugging him.
'Yeah, It's me Haden,' Logan replied in Haden's head, 'Try and answer me in your mind, not with your mouth.'
"I don't know how to mind talk," Haden said out loud again as he turned to see why Evan wouldn't let go of him, only to notice that Evan wasn't near him.
Starting to get concerned, Evan looked up toward the terminals. "Daileass! I think something might be wrong with Haden."
Daileass replied immediately, "Just a moment, Evan."
'Haden?' This time it was Daileass's voice inside of his head. 'I know you don't know how to mind talk yet. That's okay. We are going to pull you into the mental-scape and explain it.'
"Wait! Not yet," Haden said out loud.
"Can you tell me what's going on, bro?" Evan asked, with his voice filled with fear and concern.
Haden nodded. "I think they have to teach me some stuff."
"What do you mean?"
Instead of answering right away, Haden first laid back down on Evan's arm, and moved himself into the same place he was laying in earlier. "I'm going to go back to the mental-scape and they are going to teach me some things."
"Oookay," Evan replied hesitantly, not really sure what Haden meant, but trying to be as strong as he could for his little brother.
"Evan?" Haden asked hesitantly. "Could you... Could you hug me while I'm there?"
As concerned as Evan was, he couldn't stop himself from smiling as he wrapped his free arm over Haden's chest and held him tight. "Of course, little bro."
Haden wiggled a little in Evan's arms, until he felt comfortable. Seeing that his older brother was smiling down at him, Haden smiled too. "Okay. Ready, Daileass."
Like the two times earlier that day, the world around him seemed to stretch and go out of focus, until everything went dark, and finally Haden found himself in Logan's room, with Logan, Daileass, and Rainer standing nearby.
Before anyone could say anything, Haden ran over and gave Daileass a hug, and then he did the same to Logan, and to Rainer, since that seemed to be standard way of starting mental-scape visits.
"Haden, I'm curious." Logan got Haden's attention, as soon as he had finished his final hug. "Why did you ask Evan to hold you like that? You already know that no matter how much time you spend here, it's only going to seem like a few seconds in real time, right?"
Haden smiled, "I know. I just wanted to see what it would be like if someone was hugging me when I was pulled in and out of the here."
Rainer giggled. "I think I like some of the ideas that Haden is coming up with. Maybe all of us need to try that sometime." This caused all the boys to laugh as a result of the images that were popping into their heads.
"Actually," Logan replied finally, "I don't think we need to give Daileass any more ammo than he already has in his video archive."
This caused everyone other than Haden to laugh again.
While Logan and Rainer were still giggling, Daileass leaned down and explained to Haden, "They just don't like the fact that sometimes when they do crazy stuff, my cameras are watching, and sometimes I accidentally send the video to everyone in the Clan." This caused Haden to smile as well.
When things calmed down, Logan started to speak a bit more seriously. "Okay, guys, we still have a concerned older brother outside, so let's see if we can help Haden."
The others nodded, and Rainer started the questions. "Haden? What happened; it felt like you got scared of something?"
Haden's smile faded, and I tried to think back and nodded. "Something felt different in my body. I wasn't sure what it was, but it felt a lot different."
"Did it feel like something surrounding you?" Logan asked.
Haden nodded. "Yeah. Like something squishing in all around me for a bit, then when it stopped, something was wrong with the room."
Rainer and Daileass both looked toward Logan, who only nodded along with Haden.
"Okay, I think I got it then," Logan smiled after a few moments. "If you guys remember, this happened right when I said I was going to send a little more of the link to Haden."
"Right." Both Daileass and Rainer agreed.
"I think from the abuse he has been through, Haden's body is in some ways extremely hyper-sensitive to any change in its environment. Anything that might be a possible source of hurt," Logan continued.
"What.... never mind." Haden looked down.
Daileass picked Haden up and positioned them so that the way he was hugging him, they were still at eye level to each other. "Haden, I know this is going to take you awhile to accept, and we won't mind reminding you as often as you need us to, but please try to remember that you are our brother now. You have the right to be involved in our conversations just as much as any of the rest of us."
Haden sighed. "Other than electronics, I don't really understand things that good anyway, so what's the use?"
Daileass was about to answer, but Rainer spoke first. "A lot of use," The 11-year-old spoke seriously, "The only way you can understand something is to ask questions. So if you never ask questions, there is no way you will ever understand it. None of us will ever have a problem with explaining something for as long as it takes to help you understand."
Daileass smiled. "So now, brother, what question were you going to ask?"
Haden took a deep breath. "I wanted to know what hyper-sensation was."
Nodding, Daileass did his best to answer. "When you are hyper-sensitive, it means that things that you feel seem a lot bigger than they are. For example, if I were to pat your shoulder gently, like this, and if you were hyper-sensitive there, you might think that I was slamming your shoulder really hard."
"Oh, okay," Haden smiled a little, feeling that he might have actually understood what Daileass had explained. "So, that means that my body was feeling little feelings, but it made me think they were big feelings instead."
"Exactly, you got it!" Logan replied. "I had stepped up the link for you, and since that was the first time we had done it, you were not expecting it, and so your body freaked out a little at the new feelings it was getting."
"So will that happen ever time the link gets stronger?" Haden asked with a bit of concern.
"I don't think so," Logan thought as he spoke. "To simplify things a little, let's say that I started you at 10% link strength, and am going to step you up 10% each time. So, the first step up would be to 20%, although that's only 10% difference overall, the way your body sees it, the link strength doubled, going from 10% to 20%. However, the next time we do the step up going from 20% to 30%, that's only a 50% net change, and each time we do another step, the net change will be smaller."
"Kind of like stepping up through a series of capacitors?" Haden asked.
Logan grinned. "Exactly like that; each capacitor after the first in the series contributes less and less to the overall capacitance of the system."
"Cool, that makes sense." Haden smiled.
"Great," Daileass grinned. "Then you will get to explain it to Evan."
Haden's expression instantly turned from smiling to scared.
"Just kidding, little brother, I wouldn't do that to you." Daileass gave Haden a hug to let him know he was only joking.
Logan took a step closer to Daileass and Haden. "Okay, that only leaves one more little thing we need to cover before we go back to real time."
Haden turned his head to look better at Logan.
"Oh," Haden turned back to rest on Daileass.
"Haden?" Logan asked softly. "Why do you feel you can't mind talk?"
"I'm not a telepath," Haden answered simply.
"You don't need to be," Daileass replied. "The rest of us in the link are telepaths, so it doesn't matter."
Haden looked toward Daileass with disbelief.
"It's true," Logan nodded. "Here is a little trick about telepaths. You know they can read minds, right? So if you are ever near a telepath, if you think something loud enough, generally they will be able to hear you. With us, we are linked so closely, you only need to think something a little bit, and we will be able to hear you."
"Really?" Haden asked.
"Yup," Daileass replied. "Let's test it. Keep your mouth closed, and don't say any words, but instead, try to think of something you want to say, and pretend you are saying it inside your head."
Haden blinked and thought for a few moments before looking up toward Daileass. Moments later, Logan and Rainer's hearts melted and Daileass gave Haden another hug as all three boys very clearly heard Haden's mind literally scream, 'I love you.'
"I love you too, bro," Daileass finally said, "although next time, you don't have to scream in your head 'that' loud."
Haden started to smile. "You mean you really heard me?"
"Oh yeah." Rainer pretended to cover his ears,
Haden's excitement continued to build as he looked toward Logan trying to say his next thought. 'Can you hear me now?'
"Yes, we can hear you now," Logan smiled.
Haden nearly leaped out of Daileass's arms, "I did it, Daileass, I can really mind talk."
"Yes, you can," Daileass giggled.
"Just remember, since you're not a telepath, only other telepaths are going to be able to hear you," Logan said as he reached over to give Haden a hug as well.
"Okay," Haden enthusiastically nodded.
After Logan stepped back, Rainer stepped forward to offer his hugs as well.
"I think that covers everything, so if you want, we can go back to real time now," Logan stated.
Haden smiled., "Okay, I can't wait to try this in real time, so I'll be able to mind talk to you guys any time I want?"
"Any time." Daileass gave Haden a final hug before setting him back down. "You are never alone, Haden. As the link gets stronger, I think you will be able to start feeling us all the time as well, so you will KNOW you're never alone."
Haden nodded as the world around him once again shifted.
As concerned as Evan was, he couldn't stop himself from smiling as he wrapped his free arm over Haden's chest and held him tight. "Of course, little bro."
Haden wiggled a little in Evan's arms until he felt comfortable. Seeing that his older brother was smiling down at him, Haden smiled too. "Okay. Ready, Daileass."
Moments later, Evan saw Haden's eyes flutter for a few moments, and then close. It was almost the same way it looked when the programming beds would force one of the clone kids to sleep.
Before he had enough time to wonder how long this mental-scape thing would take, Haden's eyes opened back up, and the small boy smiled. "Yeah, I'm definitely addicted to hugs."
"Was that it?" Evan asked, a bit confused, "Was that the whole mental-scape thing?"
"Uh huh," Haden grinned. "I learned how to mind talk now."
Evan sighed. "But your eyes weren't closed for more than five seconds."
"That's because everything happens a lot faster when we are in each others minds, Evan," Daileass offered.
Evan glanced back up toward the terminal. "Okay, so what happened?"
"I'm extremely hyper-seductive," Haden stated seriously.
"What?" Evan gasped, completely caught off guard by Haden's comment.
"I think what Haden meant to say," Daileass spoke while at the same time clearly struggling to prevent himself from breaking out in laughter as well, "is that he is hyper-sensitive."
"Hyper-sensitive to what?" Evan asked as he started to get his own giggles under control,
"From what we can tell, to some of the physical components of the link. Logan increased the link strength to Haden to the next step, which involved some of the last physical feeling elements. Haden's body was in a way able to start physically sensing us all the time, instead of just as a result of strong emotions, and we think his body freaked out for a few seconds, not expecting all the new information, because it had become a bit 'skittish' from all the physical abuse he had gone through."
Haden looked up and smiled toward Evan and then thought in his mind. 'Hey Evan, can you hear me? I love you, Evan.'
Moments later, Evan heard Daileass's voice in his head. 'Hey Evan, Haden just learned how to mind talk to the rest of us telepaths. He knows he can't mind talk to non-telepaths, but he just tried to mind talk to you.'
As soon as Daileass had finished telling Evan what Haden had tried to send him, he smiled and gave Haden a loving kiss on his forehead. "I always have, and always will, love you too, bro."
Haden's eyes went wide in surprise. "You heard that?!"
This time, there was no way for Daileass to hold in his laughter, as laughter erupted from at least three different speakers in the room.
"Not really," Evan admitted as he gave Haden another hug. "But it seems that Daileass can talk in my head, and he told me what you tried to say."
"Daileass!" Haden shouted, and then started giggling as well. For the first time, he had a joke played on him, and it didn't hurt. It was actually rather cool. Maybe having a bunch more brothers would work out after all.
"Guys," Daileass spoke more seriously, "The hot dogs are done cooking in the cafeteria, and the way some of Maurice's guys are going at them, I'm not sure how much longer they will stick around."
Evan nodded and looked down toward Haden. "Would you like me to go grab you one and bring it back for you?"
Haden thought for a moment. "If you hold me, I think I will be okay."
Seeing that his brother was serious, Evan nodded and stood them both up. "Daileass, could you put us a bit outside of the cafeteria, away from everyone?"
"Sure thing, Evan" was the last thing they heard Daileass say before Evan and Haden disappeared.
Lance couldn't stop himself from smiling as he glanced around the cafeteria at the new size of the first major expansion to their family. With all their core kids, all the new gang kids, and most of the clone kids, for the first time their small cafeteria was nearly full.
"Maybe shifts?" Daniel offered.
"Huh?" Lance asked as he was pulled from his thoughts.
"Weren't you just thinking about the small size of the cafeteria, and how many kids we are getting?" Daniel asked. "I figured we might have to start eating in shifts if we start getting too much larger."
Lance smiled as the small 10 year old looked up toward him. He was impressed at how far Daniel had come over the past 4 weeks since they first found him abandoned by his parents at the buffet in the Camelot hotel. At first, he wouldn't say anything to anyone unless spoken to first. But now, the little guy was taking the initiative to offer his opinion on just about everything.
"Oh, I was just thinking about how our family is growing again. But, I guess your right that we have to think about the cafeteria size as well." Lance began to think of a number of different little things that would have to be taken into account now that there were so many of them.
"I have to hand it to ya, Brent," Maurice commented as he took a bite out of his jumbo hotdog, "This place isn't that bad."
Brent grinned. "Regret your decision yet?"
Maurice glared at him for a moment, then went back to his hotdog. "Not yet. Give me time, though, and I'm sure I will come up with a list for ya."
"Gee, Thanks," Brent sighed, which made the other kids at the table giggle.
Suddenly, the entire room became quiet. As soon as Brent looked toward the door, he could see why. Slowly walking in from the hallway was Evan, and attached as closely to his side as he could possibly get was Haden.
Thinking that something must have been wrong, both Brent and Lance started to get up, but the look Evan shot them quickly caused them to sit back down.
"Are we too late for lunch?" Evan tried saying in as cheerful of a voice as he could.
"Nope, I think there are still a few hot dogs left," Lance said, as he got up and started to head for the counter. "You guys set down and I'll grab some for you."
Evan leaned down a little so he could whisper to Haden, "You want your own chair, or...," He didn't a chance to finish before Haden was already shaking his head. To be honest, Evan wasn't expecting him to want his own chair, since he knew how terrified he must be, and how the only thing keeping his little brother calm right now was probably this new link that he had with Daileass and his brothers. But on the other hand, this entire situation was new, so he wasn't sure just how far his little brother was wanting to push himself.
By the time Evan had managed to get them both seated so that they were both somewhat comfortable and both had relatively good access to the table, Lance had brought over two plates, each with two jumbo hot dogs, chips, and potato salad, while one of the younger kids from the other table brought over two glasses of iced tea.
The first minute or two seemed rather touch and go, especially for Brent and the other kids that were sitting at the same table as Evan and Haden, as they could see the absolutely horrified look on Haden's face. Haden tried to take a bite of his hotdog, but with his hand as shaky as it was, it took a moment to get the hotdog to the right place. Had everyone at the table not known the importance and seriousness of the moment for Haden, they would have laughed.
Evan, who hadn't even bothered to try to eat anything yet since he was hugging his younger brother with both hands, knew, better than anyone else at the table, how bad things were starting to go, since he could feel his brother's entire body starting to tremble, "It's okay, I've got you, I'm right here, bro," Evan tried to re-assure his younger brother.
With the trembling starting to get worse, Evan was very close to calling for Daileass to get them out of there, since he couldn't stand his brother suffering like this. However, at around the same time, he felt Haden lean further back in his arms. His body didn't only stop trembling, but Evan could feel him going completely limp.
Evan's suspicion as to what had just happened was confirmed, when a few seconds later, Haden started to sit back up. "Feel better now, little bro?" Evan whispered as he kissed Haden near his ear.
Haden reached out to grab his hotdog for another bite, this time with hands that were much more steady, as he nodded his head up and down slightly.
From the looks in the other guys' eyes, Evan knew that they had all just seen what he had seen earlier, with Haden's eyes fluttering for a few moments, and then closing as his entire body relaxed, and then a few seconds later, for him to 'wake' back up, a lot better than he was. He only hoped that they knew enough to not ask until later, which so far they seemed to be.
Brent had guessed pretty closely what had just happened with Haden. He had been around the triple-t's and some of the other Clan telepaths long enough to know that when they were talking minds, that they often got distant looks on their faces and for a brief moment would become oblivious to the world around them. Of course, some telepaths seemed to hide that better than others. Since, as far as he knew, Haden wasn't a telepath at all, perhaps this was something that affected him a lot more.
Either way, whatever had just happened seemed to help him a lot, as Brent feared that they were close to seeing another repeat of what happened earlier that morning. However, there was still a lot of fear and concern in Haden's eyes. There was still a lot of struggling going on in that head of his, and Brent knew he had to come up with something that would help things a bit more.
"So Maurice," Brent started, "Did you get a chance to check out our computer terminals yet? We just got them yesterday."
Maurice had a funny expression on his face as he looked back toward Brent,."Um, no. Why would I? A computer is a computer, isn't it?"
"Uh oh," Lance sighed as he had a bad feeling that he knew what Brent's plan was.
"No way," Brent continued, ignoring Lance, "The terminals we have here are way better than any other personal computer you might have seen elsewhere. To start with, each terminal has a lot more memory than your average system. The terminals alone have 16 Megabytes, and that's not even mentioning the mainframe they all connect to."
"Gigabytes," Haden said so softly that almost no one could hear him.
Brent looked toward Haden. "Huh?"
"You said 16 Megabytes," Haden answered a little louder. "It's actually 16 Gigabytes."
"Oh yeah," Brent nodded as he looked back toward Maurice. "They each have 16 Gigabytes of memory, and they each have 9020 co-processors."
Haden shook his head, "No, the 9020's are for hand-held calculators, The terminals have WIC-4010 localized co-processors for client processing, and WIG-2010 graphic processors for terminal display processing."
"Is that good?" Maurice asked as he looked first at Brent and then at Haden with a confused expression.
What happened next later caused Maurice to wish he had never asked that question. For the next 20 minutes, Haden gave a brilliant technical comparison of the differences between most normal home computers, and the terminals that were installed by the guys from the UNIT yesterday. At least, most of the people there assumed it must have been brilliant, since none of them really understood what he was saying, other than the fact that PCs seemed to have really small numbers and the terminals seemed to have much larger numbers in whatever he was comparing. The entire time, Haden was happily munching down on his lunch.
After he finished with the terminal comparisons, he then launched into an explanation of how the System 27 interfaced with the terminals and provided even more computing power.
After about five minutes of the System 27 description, right when Brent was afraid that Maurice would not be able to last any longer without passing out, Brent interrupted him. "Um, sorry, bro, but you mind if you finish telling Maurice about the System 27 later? I need to have him fill out some paperwork."
"Oh," Haden blinked, "Okay, yeah, I guess, because I didn't even get to the cool part about how the parallel packet optimizer combines quad-chains into kiloquads."
Maurice's eyes twirled around in his head. "Uh huh."
"Come on, Maurice, I'll show you where they are at." Brent smiled as he helped the dazed 15-year-old out of his seat and toward the door.
"Um, I best go check on the little guys," Daniel said, as he took this opportunity to gracefully leave as well.
Haden watched Daniel as he headed out the door following Brent and Maurice, while at the same time noticing that the rest of the room was already empty.
"Where did everyone go?" Haden asked, looking toward Lance.
"Probably down stairs, they all finished their lunches. You've been here for almost a half hour," Lance answered.
"I have?" Haden asked with surprise as he looked down at his empty plate.
Evan gave his little brother a squeeze. "You sure have. After you finished eating all your stuff, you even ate the rest of the potato salad that was on my plate."
"I did?" Haden asked with even more surprise, which caused both Lance and Evan to laugh as they had watched Haden doing it less than a minute or two before Brent stopped the conversation.
"I'm so proud of you, Haden," Lance said as he lifted Haden up out of Evan's lap to give him a hug, "With all of those new kids here, you made it all the way through lunch."
"I did...I really did," Haden said softly as he hugged Lance back and rested his head on Lance's shoulder.
"Maybe that's something you can remember for the future?" Evan asked as he cleared off the last few plates on the table, taking them to the washer.
"Remember what?" Haden asked as he sat back up and started watching his older brother.
"Whenever you start feeling like you need to run away or feeling hurt in your stomach but you don't want to run, just think about some of the electronics stuff you're working on," Evan said.
Haden blinked, "Okay. Can I go work on the System 27 some more?"
Lance grinned as he set Haden down. "Sure, have at it."
"Thanks!" Haden yelled as he ran out of the room.
Brent decided to give Maurice a few minutes to recover as he logged in to the office's terminal to check his e-mail. "Feeling any better?" he asked when he finished.
Maurice nodded slowly. "I think so. Damn, man, what did that little guy do to me?"
Brent giggle., "In short, you got go'ed."
"What?" Maurice asked with a bit of concern.
"Go'ed," Brent replied. "Geek Overload'ed. Haden does that to most of us. When you get him talking about electronics, some of the stuff he talks about goes so far over our heads, it starts to make your brain melt."
"Seriously?" Maurice asked as he concern began to turn to panic.
"He's kidding you," Lance said with a smile as he and Evan entered the corner office room that Brent had taken Maurice into, "It might give you a headache, but nothing more than that. Eventually you get use to it more."
"Damn, and you guys weren't even phased by it," Maurice mused as he looked at the other guys with a new level of respect. "Does that happen every meal?"
Brent shook his head, "Nah, normally Haden doesn't eat in the cafeteria, especially when there are a lot of others there. I think this was a first for him."
Lance agreed, "It was. Mainly I think he was trying to prove to himself that he could do it. Um, not to get anyone too concerned, but did anyone notice what happened to him right when he started eating?"
"You mean the thing with his eyes, and falling asleep for a few seconds?" Evan asked, and continued after getting a nod from Lance, "Yeah, That actually happened once earlier when I was downstairs with him before lunch. It's some mental mind-scape thing that he can do with Daileass and his brothers. It's nothing serious."
Brent nodded, "I figured that's what it was. I've seen some of the triple-t's space out sometimes when they are mind talking with each other, so I figured it was something similar."
"Hey, Daileass?" Lance spoke out loud as he knew the A.I. was listening to them, "Are you sure that's safe? What happens if he's outside walking around or something and that happens?"
"Yes, Lance, it's safe. But I think I need to give you guys a bit more explanation than that," Daileass answered from the terminal. "First off, that's not the 'link' that we share. Haden is always linked with us, and as the link gets stronger, he'll become more aware of it always being there. What you guys were seeing is a very special element of the link. It allows ourselves to pull one another inside one of our heads, where we can have conversations literally at the speed of thought. So, something in the mind-scape that might take 20 minutes to discuss, only a second or two in real-time will have passed. Secondly, the only reason Haden's body relaxed as much as it did was because he was being held by someone he had a large degree of love and trust and caring toward. If there was an emergency, and he had to be pulled into a mental-scape while he was walking or something, he might just stop walking for a few seconds. But with that being said, I can't really think of any reason why we would not be able to give him a warning ahead of time, and wait until he's somewhere that it's safe for him to jump in for a few seconds. At least such a time has never come up in the past with any of my brothers."
Lance nodded. "Okay, that's good to know. Thanks."
"Yeah, thanks for explaining that to us," Brent agreed.
"No problem, guys," Daileass replied, "Trust me, my bros and I are just as concerned about Haden as you guys are. So always feel free to ask when you see anything you think is odd, or are not sure about anything."
"So Brent," Lance changed the subject, "Do you really have paperwork for Maurice, or were you just trying to save him from Haden?"
Everyone laughed, until Brent answered seriously, "Actually I kind of do. Now that Maurice and his guys have made it official that they are going to stay with us, I was going to have Maurice work with me so we can get him and the rest of his guys into the Clan database."
Lance nodded, "Okay, well, I think I'll go try to track down where everyone ran off to after lunch."
"Actually Lance," Daileass interrupted, "with the cool new upgrades that the intel guys installed yesterday, I've been able to keep track of where everyone is at."
"Really?" Lance asked.
To answer his question, the Terminal on the desk behind where Brent was sitting turned into a 3D image of the two Cynthitech structures, several red dots appeared in the upper floor, second-lowest floor, and outside the first building, and a few green dots appeared in the middle of the other building, "A few of the younger kids have taken Miles and two of the younger guys from Maurice's group to the top floor to show them the hard drive copying work they have been doing, some of the older kids are hanging outside. I think Donnie and Micha are trying to teach some of the older clone kids about soccer. Then another group have gone down to the mid-bays on the lower level to check on 413."
"Uh oh," Lance grinned, "I best head down to the med bay."
"I'll check out how soccer lessons are going," Evan commented.
"Hey, Daileass," Brent asked as he was now turned in his seat looking at the image, "What are the green dots in the other building?"
"Those would be the adults," Daileass answered. "They've asked me to keep what they are working on a secret for the next few hours. But I think you guys will like it."
Brent shrugged. "Okay."
As Lance and Evan left the room to head in separate directions, Brent started to work with Maurice to get all of his guys entered into the database.