Brett and Jamie settled down in their new home. As with the other families, the couples took turns staying at each other’s house on the weekends. On weekend nights, the boys usually stayed up a late, not watching TV or anything like that, but other recreation kept them up till very late. This of course cemented their connections to their boyfriends and the boys were very much in love with their respective boyfriends. Their training continued on every other weekend with their mentors up at the mountain compound. Brett was gone on a business trip for one week during this time and Jamie spent the week with Josh while he was gone.
The boys continued to increase their ability with their gifts plus the martial arts training. Many weekends when they weren’t coming up to the compound, George Nim and one or two of the other men would come down and spend some time on the weekend with all of the boys, teaching them martial arts and more complicated Tai Chi forms. This extra work was definitely causing the boy’s muscles to be more defined; even Sean wasn’t quite as scrawny looking as he had been at the start of the year. The evidence came one day in early June towards the end of the school year. Sean’s old nemesis, Calvin Grantham, the person that they thought had caused Sean’s injury when he’d met Ian and Logan, started picking on him at the end of the school day. Dakota was at an appointment that day and wasn’t with Sean.
"Hey runt, where’s that long haired boyfriend who looks like an Indian squaw with all that hair? Is he the girl in your relationship?"
Sean turned around and saw Calvin and a couple of his buddies next to him. He looked at Calvin and cocked his eyebrow. "Why Calvin, does he turn you on or something?"
"What! You little shit, I’ll fuck you up!"
"You’ve been threatening me all year. What was the matter, does Dakota scare you and since he isn’t here right now, you’ve finally got the balls to stand up to me, especially since you’ve got me by a several inches and fifty pounds...of fat!"
"Fuck you, you’re dead meat."
"I don’t want any trouble Calvin and I don’t want to fight. Just back off and leave me alone, before something bad happens to you."
"Hah, from who, you? Your squaw doesn’t scare me either. If he was here, me and my boys would fuck him up too. Where are your other faggot friends? You bunch of fairies wouldn’t scare anyone. Everyone knows that you’re just a bunch of nerd faggots."
Sean just shook his head and turned to walk away.
"Where do you think you’re going Runt, I’m not done talking to you. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll do what I say."
A group of other kids had gathered as the confrontation escalated. Sean stopped and looked at Calvin. He saw that leering face that used to haunt him at the beginning of the year. It didn’t scare him at all now. His voice was steady as he spoke to Calvin.
"If you know what’s good for you Calvin, '''you’ll''' leave it alone. I told you I don’t want to fight you."
"Ha, like I care." He looked at his friends by his side. "Get the little shit."
When he turned around Sean had shifted his stance a little to give him a strong base. What Calvin didn’t know was that Sean could see Jamie and Josh walking up to the group. Calvin and his cronies charged Sean trying to get him down on the ground. Calvin had raised his fist to hit Sean in the face. Sean turned and ducked down sweeping one of his legs behind him, tripping one of the cronies as he grabbed Calvin’s wrist and pulled, while his other hand grabbed his shirt and pushed him off balance so that he ran into his other friend, where they got tangled up and tripped each other. Sean heard the other boy gasp for breath as Calvin’s one hundred and sixty pounds landed on him, knocking the breath out of him. Sean stood back up and looked down on the boys, who were lying on the ground, as his two friends joined him.
"What’s going on here?" Everyone turned as the assistant principal pushed his way through the crowd that had gathered. He saw the three boys standing there, and Calvin starting to get up with a snarl on his face.
Sean turned to face the teacher. "Oh, Mister Reed. Calvin and his friends were wrestling around with each other and as my friends and I got here they had tripped over each other."
"Is that what happened Mister Grantham?"
Calvin looked at the frown on the Assistant Principal’s face and then at Sean and his friends who were standing there doing their best to look innocent. Calvin almost snarled the answer. "Yes, sir."
His friends were picking themselves off the ground by that time and after glancing at Calvin as if getting his permission, they nodded as well.
"As long as there was no fighting. You three have heard about what I think of fighting in school. Are any of you hurt and need to see a nurse?"
"Next time, if you want to roughhouse you should do it on the grass it’s a little more forgiving than a hard tile floor."
Mister Reed looked at Calvin and his friends. They got the message and turned to leave. Calvin glared at Sean, with a look full of promised retribution. Before he turned around to walk away, Mister Reed glanced at Sean and gave him a small wink before walking away. Sean and his friends smiled to each other and headed to the next class.
Calvin’s promise did not wait long. Sean, Ian, Logan, Jamie and Josh were riding slowly and talking as they headed to their homes. They had already said goodbye to Dylan and Ethan who had already headed home in the opposite direction. They had just gotten to the north end of the school and were near the corner of Eaton and Cawston, where, Ian, Logan and Sean were going to split from Josh and Jamie to cross the street and head to their homes, when Calvin and a few of his friends stepped out in front of the boys. Besides Calvin there was Tom, Greg, Don and Ben, the others who hung out with him. They were of the same type of person as Calvin. They were average students at best who preferred to have people afraid of them and Calvin welcomed their allegiance to his way of thinking. They followed Calvin because he was the biggest of them.
"There’s no teacher to save your faggot ass now Runt."
"I told you I don’t want to fight and neither do my friends. We don’t want any trouble and just want to go home."
Calvin glanced at his companions and sneered. "Did you hear him? He wants to go home. Boo hoo. Sure you can, after you get on your knees and beg my forgiveness. If I feel that you mean it, then I’ll let you go home."
Sean looked at him for a few moments, before getting off his bike and laying it down carefully. Calvin grinned in triumph and got a couple of high fives from his buddies. He then turned back to Sean who stood in front of him. Some of the other kids from school had stopped in anticipation of a fight.
"Calvin, I said I don’t want to fight."
Sean glanced back at his friends before turning his attention back to Calvin.
"Calvin, you’re a bully. You prey on smaller kids and usually with one of your bonehead sycophants. No one likes you. The boneheads probably don’t either, they’re just afraid of you. At times, I am surprised that you have enough brain cells among you to make your bodies move around in some sort of coordinated manner. I said it earlier and I’ll say it now. I don’t want to fight you and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll walk away."
A flash of uncertainty crossed Calvin’s face. This was not the same boy that he used to bully at the beginning of the year, before Sean became friends with Dakota. But he was still the same runty little kid, so Calvin didn’t let the uncertainty bother him much. The change in Calvin’s expression was all the warning Sean had. As Calvin swung, Sean stepped to the side as he grabbed the incoming wrist and yanked Calvin further off balance. He swept his foot at Calvin’s ankle causing him to fall forward. The suddenness of Calvin’s attack caught everyone but Sean by surprise. Before anyone could do anything, Calvin had turned and launched himself at Sean’s midsection. After Sean had defended himself, he had automatically gone into a defensive stance and when he saw Calvin coming at him with his arms outstretched, Sean ducked under them, grabbed his shirt and fall backward while curling up and setting his feet into Calvin’s stomach. As he rolled, he pushed out as hard as he could and Calvin went flying over his head, to land hard on his back, knocking the wind out of him. Sean got up and faced Calvin, still in a defensive stance facing the gasping boy.
"I told you to walk away. I do not want to fight."
"SEAN, LOOK OUT!"
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw someone moving toward him and as he turned to face him, he saw Tom suddenly get pushed away and out of the line of attack. Tom stumbled and then looked around to see who pushed him. Sean glanced at Jamie and gave him a grateful smile. Calvin was up again and advancing on Sean, but this time he was a little more careful as he approached Sean than he did before.
"You guys get those fuckers."
His cronies were galvanized to action and they rushed Sean and his friends. The boys had to drop their bikes and jump away, so that they wouldn’t get tangled in them. A couple of the attackers stumbled as a bike fell in front of them and they leaped over it to get to the boy behind it, but they still came in swinging. Up to now Sean had been totally defensive, but all of them needed to stop this quickly without causing any serious or permanent damage.
Tom stumbled over Logan’s bike. Logan stepped back and assumed the defensive stance that he had been taught. Tom got his balance back and then lunged at Logan. He took a couple of swings at Logan, who ducked under the swings and drove a punch deep into Tom’s stomach doubling him over. Logan then stepped to the side and hit him behind the knee with his elbow, causing Tom to collapse to the ground. Logan jumped on his back driving his face into the ground. He punched him twice in the side and Tom started coughing. Logan grabbed his ear and twisted as he leaned down close.
"Run and don’t come back. It’s not worth it. I’m not even trying hard yet."
Logan got off Tom and waited. Tom got up, he was holding his stomach with one hand, his ear was red and he had his other hand covering that. His face was a bit scraped up where his cheek had been pressed into the ground. Logan scowled at him and he took off.
Ben tackled Ian to the ground and got one shot to the side. Ian grabbed onto him and two boys rolled around trying to gain the upper hand. There was a lot of swinging of fists, but because they were each able to block the punches, no good shots were taken. Ian suddenly wrapped his legs and arms around Ben and locked his ankles. He had thought about how to do this, but had never done it yet. He thought his control was good enough and it wouldn’t cause permanent damage. He closed his eyes and dropped one hand down to the back of Ben’s thigh and forced the muscle to spasm. Ben cried out in pain, let go of Ian, and grabbed his thigh, trying to knead out the Charlie horse in his leg. Ian stood there looking down on him and Ben scrambled back and hobbled away.
Greg dodged around Josh’s bike and came at him swinging. Josh turned the wrist aside and stepped in. He brought his hand down on Greg’s collarbone area, normally this strike would do two things, it would break the collarbone and the allow the attacker to grab onto the collar of the shirt, Josh pulled the blow so as not to break Greg’s collarbone. He grabbed Greg’s shirt collar and stepped forward. As he stepped, he put his leg behind Greg’s leg and pushed forward causing him to trip over Josh’s leg and fall to his back. Josh continued the move by grabbing his wrist and turning him on his front and locking his arm behind him.
"If you continue this, you will the one that will be hurt, not me. I’m taking it easy on you, because I don’t want to hurt you. Leave my friends and me alone or I’m going to hurt you. We’ve all had martial arts training and I could easily break your arm or dislocate your shoulder, but I won’t if you leave."
"Okay, I give."
Josh stepped back and Greg stumbled away, holding his arm.
As soon as Don stumbled over his bike Jamie didn’t wait, he stepped forward and stamped down on Don’s instep as hard as he could. As Don cried out and went to grab for his foot, Jamie grabbed his arm and twisted it and with a little help from his gift he threw Don into a fence nearby. Don landed against it dazed.
Sean had given Calvin enough chances to back away, so he wasted no time. He sidestepped and elbowed Calvin in the kidney and then kicked him behind the knee to bring him down to his knees. He got behind him and wrapped his arm around Calvin’s neck and locked his arm around his neck. Calvin struggled as he tried to break Sean’s grip. Even though he was bigger than any of the boys, most of it was excess fat, not muscle, and Sean had been working out, so he had no problem keeping the hold. When Sean spoke, he kept his voice even and steady.
"I told you...I don’t want to fight. I don’t want any trouble and I told you to go away and leave us alone. I gave you plenty of chances. I could kill you right now and there’s nothing you could do to stop me. In fact, you probably are starting to feel a little dizzy, that’s because I’m slowly cutting off the oxygen to your brain. If I keep doing it, you will die. Look around you."
Sean loosened the choke hold slightly, but still kept it tight. Calvin saw his friends running away or in the case of Don, dazed and groaning against the fence. Sean kept his voice low as he tightened his grip once again.
"We’ve all had martial arts training and we are still training, so we are only going to get better and you will only get worse. We are no longer prey for your kind. And if any of us see you bullying other kids, we will do everything we can to make your life miserable. For the last time, Calvin, leave.....me.....and my friends.....alone. Understand?"
By this time the others had run their opponents off and were standing and watching the smaller red haired boy behind the bigger boy. There was fear on Calvin’s face and tears were running down his cheeks.
"I asked if you understand?"
Calvin was crying in fear now and trying to nod his head, but Sean’s grip was too tight.
"Sean, it’s done. Let him up."
Sean nodded and let him go, stood up and joined his friends. Calvin was on his hands and knees coughing.
"Calvin, I never did anything to you, but you made it your job to try to make my life miserable. That’s over with now and I have only one question. Are we done?"
Calvin looked at Sean and nodded through his tears. They turned their backs on him and retrieved their bikes. There was a stunned silence from the other kids who had seen it. The whole fight had taken about a minute. They were shocked at how quick Calvin and his friends had been taken down by the slightly smaller boys. Sean, Ian and Logan said goodbye to Jamie and Josh. The small crowd parted to let them pass and watched in awe as they rode away.
That evening after talking to each other over Skype about what happened, they told their parents what had happened, so that they knew about the fight, in case there were any complaints by any of the boy’s parents. If there was a complaint it would come on Monday when they returned to school. When Dakota heard about what had happened, Sean expected him to want to confront Calvin, but he just said good job and the conversation continued.
The weekend came around and it was time for a trip up to Brett’s compound to continue their training. Saturday afternoon they were in the training room and the five boys told George what had happened. He told them that they had done well, although he was a little concerned about what Ian had done and cautioned him about using his gift like that, because he might actually do worse damage than he intended. Doc explained the reasoning and Ian understood and said he wouldn’t do it again, unless absolutely necessary to save a life. They accepted that promise.
This was to be the last weekend that they would be going up until after school was out. Brett had a business trip coming up and would be gone until eighth grade graduation week, so they planned to wait until school was out and then the boys would be coming up for a week’s time at the end of June.
The boys were doing well in their martial arts training. With the few hours every weekend that they went up to the compound and the every other week lessons down at home, their proficiency with self-defense continued to increase. The style taught to them was closely related to the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program that was taught to US Marines. This type of style included elements from boxing, jujitsu, judo, sambo, krav maga, karate, aikido, escrima, arnis, hapkido, taekwondo, kung fu and kick boxing. It was a form of Mixed Martial Arts, but there was no cage involved and when the boys sparred they were always in protective gear.
The boys were actually tested and awarded belts in this style. By the time of the recent altercation with Calvin and his friends, the boys had been awarded their Tan Belts and were almost ready to test for their gray belts. Their mentors had incorporated weight lifting and endurance training as part of their overall training. So the boys were progressing well. They were also doing better with their gifts. All of the boys could quickly center and bring their abilities to bear very quickly.
Josh was no longer afraid of his gift. He and Aldo had continued working on his trying to melt metals. The best he could do so far was zinc which melted around 750 degrees. He could light a candle, a fuse, or a match which took between 1100 and 1400 degrees, but he said that for some reason metal was harder for him to affect.
The total weight Jamie could lift was a little higher, but he seemed to not be able to push it much more, when he did, it gave him a bit of a headache. His precision was much better. Stacking the nails end to end to reach the twenty foot high roof was relatively easy now. And being able to throw items as projectiles was also very strong. Patrick had started to work on a different precision set and that was using his TK to unlock things. Door locks, padlocks, even handcuffs. He hadn’t quite mastered that skill yet. He felt he could move some of the tumblers of the lock, but didn’t have the feel of it yet. When he said that, Jim Peterson came up with the idea of teaching Jamie how to use lock picks. Maybe if he learned how to do it, since at least part of that skill involved feeling the tumblers being moved, it might help him with using his TK to emulate it. When Jim was asked where he learned that, he merely replied that it was a skill he had picked up over the years.
Ian’s training mostly consisted of furthering his medical education. By this time he could have taken the test to be an EMT or Paramedic and would have passed easily. One thing he and Doc did discuss was what the consequences could be if he used his ability as a weapon as he had used it against Ben when he was attacked. Doc stressed to him that he could easily go too far because of the adrenaline, fear and what have you, running through him if he used it during a fight. The example he used was that instead of just causing a muscle spasm was that if he pushed too hard, he could possibly cause a tear in the muscle or perhaps detach the muscle from one of its anchor points. This would cause enough damage that the victim would need to see a doctor. Also what if he had done something like that to Ben’s heart and caused damage to his heart. That scared him enough to decide to use it for helping people unless there was no choice and it was an innocent’s life that was in danger if he didn’t do anything.
They still had not figured out how to get Logan’s precognition any practice. They would just play it by ear when it happened. They hoped that since his object reading was getting better it would also help the precognition work better, but without an actual vision though it was hard to tell. His object reading was clearer than before and he noticed more details about what he saw when he held an object.
Ethan’s range also increased. When he was trying to sense Dylan, he could focus on him fairly quickly even out to a mile or so. With his friends and family, he could reach out nearly as far, but for everyone else it was about half that. He didn’t have to see them, but when he went looking for others, it was more difficult depending on how many people were around. If it wasn’t too crowded he could reach close to the half mile range with those who were not family or friends. The more crowded it was, the more interference as he called it, that there was. But even with interference, his range stayed about the same for his closest friends and family.
Dylan could feel emotions about the same distance as Ethan could hear thoughts. The problem with doing that, was that it was hard to focus on a single person who was exhibiting those emotions if he couldn’t see them. He could pick up the emotions, but couldn’t always tell who was exhibiting those emotions. If they were in sight, he found it easier to focus on the person. That was also the same with the pushing out a feeling to a person. He had to see them to send that feeling to the person. When he widened his search he ran into the similar problem that Ethan had, interference. As he widened his search, more people with their emotions got between him and his target. He had gotten to where he automatically filtered out other peoples feelings, but when he was searching, he had to open up himself more and that allowed more of those other person’s feelings and it caused things to get all jumbled up. However, he was working on being able to quickly filter everything out but what he wanted to find, the same as Ethan was doing.
The two of them also worked with the other couples on their twin telepathy, since they had the most experience with it. There were small improvements. All of the couples no longer needed contact to talk each other clearly. It was still easier if they did. The hardest couple to get this was Sean and Dakota. Sean thought it was because both of their gifts were mechanical or technology related, but they had gotten to the point where they could talk clearly to each other from across a room, but it seemed that being in at least line of sight was necessary.
Dakota only got better with his gift. He had honed it to the point that he did not have to use an item for very long before he became proficient with it as long as someone with some proficiency with the item had used the item. He said that if a person had not used it, then he could use the item well enough, but if it had been used by someone who had some skill with it, he could pull that level of ability into his use of the item. He also seemed to retain at least some of that skill when switching to another similar item. He and George took to sparring with Kendo shinai and although Dakota could not beat him, he gave a good accounting of himself. George gave him one of the katanas from his collection. It wasn’t the oldest, but it was about one hundred years old and Dakota could tap into the ability of the former users. He and George practiced various Kendo katas with the shinai (bamboo sword) and the bokuto (hard wooded sword) daily. With weapons, Gabe was the only one who could outshoot him though it was close even then. Gabe was sure that as Dakota continued to practice, there would come a time that as long as Dakota could see his target and it was in range, he would hit it.
Sean showed Brett what he had done concerning the porn sites. He then explained what he presently was doing. Both of them went over the results of the programs that he had running the in the servers and Brett was impressed. He watched as Sean effortlessly moved through websites even fairly heavily protected ones. Brett found that Sean was being very careful and subtle concerning the information he was siphoning off from the sites. They started to work together on profiling some of the organizations that were behind some of the sites. With that they found links to bank accounts for some of these sites. Brett told him that they should make note of them for when they turned evidence over to the police. Sean agreed and they made notes in the folders that he was building on each organization. They were able to pick out the ones that were part of a larger organization versus those that were solitary.
They believed that the solitary ones were the easiest ones to take down as they were mainly distributors without the financial backing to make movies. Many of them however did have access to or owned their own photography equipment and did use kids to make child porn photo spreads that they sold to their customers. After some discussion, he and Brett decided to not take the atom bomb approach, and hit everyone at once, but do it a little at a time. Like putting a frog in boiling water, if you put the frog in already boiling water it will jump right out, but if you put it in water and slowly bring up the heat, it will stay in until it is boiled. So they planned to slowly bring up the heat. Hit a solitary site or two and take it down, while sending information to the police. This was going to be long term thing, because there were just too many sites, but Sean was willing to do what he could to make it so that it would be very expensive to get in and stay in the business. Brett stood by to assist Sean on one of the first operations using Sean’s new plan that caused a website to be shut down. The police arrested the person and found a lot of child porn in his possession. They were trying to track down the children that were in the pictures. From what they had gathered, this person was just a distributor of images that he acquired from other sources overseas, such as the larger criminal organizations overseas. Afterwards Brett did a search, trying to see if there was anyone looking for who had done it. What he did find was that the suspicions were that either a watchdog group or the police had shut down the site.
Finally, Brett told Sean that when he came up for the planned week or two after school, then he was satisfied that Sean could help him with his investigation into the activities of the GRA. Brett made a Skype call to Mac and introduced Sean to him so that he and Mac could get to know each other, so that when they started working together they could put a face to each other’s name. They discussed getting together sometime during the summer either at Mac’s or Brett’s place. Brett did not tell Mac that Sean was the super hacker who had taken down the porn sites. He wanted to keep that information closer to the vest for now. Eventually Mac would find out, but not yet.
One other thing that Sean did that he didn’t tell Brett, was that he already had made note of those bank accounts and he had begun to make small withdrawals from the bank accounts that were attached to the porn sites and hide them in an offshore account under an dummy corporation that he had set up, that he called SeaDak Consulting. He of course did not disclose the existence of SeaDak Consulting since what he was doing was not legal, but neither were the organizations making the money, so he didn’t worry about the legalities of it. Besides, what were they going to do, call the police? He knew if they could catch him, then he could be in trouble, but he didn’t worry about that, since they didn’t have anyone who could track what he was doing, especially as careful as he was being about it.
All the large criminal organizations had multiple bank accounts that different parts of their organization funneled money through. He only took from the accounts that were attached to the porn sites. He thought that those withdrawals would not be noticed as easily and might be dismissed as operating expenses. He set it up so that when a transaction was sent from a porn site to the account, a small percentage was siphoned off into SeaDak Consulting’s account. Not directly, but through several redirected links before it was actually deposited in the account. He soon had a fair amount of money in the account and he needed to do something with it, so he began to teach himself about the stock market. SeaDak Consulting began to invest in the market and they were doing well at it. He made no big investments, but spread the money around, covering many sectors of the business world. Sean knew that this was the most dangerous part, but he covered his tracks well and no one looked into his company.
Back at home the boys were looking forward to summer. There was not too much time left in the school year and although they did like school, they were just like many other kids who enjoyed having the summer off. They knew that they would be spending a lot of time up at the compound. Sean was a little excited that he might be taking a trip back east. When Dakota heard about the possible trip, he and Sean started working on arguments about why Dakota should go along.
At school, they noticed something as well. They noticed that they were getting a lot of attention. Sometimes it was just some looks and whispered conversations. They saw Calvin and a couple of his cronies, but when Calvin saw them, he didn’t scowl or anything like he usually had seen. He just walked away from them. It was obvious that the story of what had happened the week before had spread throughout the student population over the weekend while they had been up at the compound. It seemed that more people smiled and greeted them. Not that they had never made friends with anyone else. They were all well liked at school and they had friends in school. But outside of school, they didn’t have the same connection that they did with each other than they did in school, so they stayed within their circle of friends and family. They received confirmation when a younger and smaller seventh grader wearing glasses stopped by their table at lunch.
"Um, hi. You guys don’t know me. My name is Karl Kuhn. Um, I want to thank you for what you did."
The boy looked a little nervous as he stood there near to Sean.
"Hi Karl. I’m Sean. What do you mean?"
"Um, I heard about what you did to Calvin."
"Why, has he been bothering you?"
The boy nodded and looked around as if looking to make sure Calvin wasn’t nearby before continuing. "Yeah, since the beginning of school."
"Has he said or done anything to you today?"
"No. He even walked by me and didn’t do anything. Usually he’s always pushing me into the lockers or knocking things out of my hands or flicking my ear or calling me names. He just walked by without doing anything. So I just wanted to say, um, thanks."
"You’re welcome and if he gives you any trouble, let any of us know. He knows not to do anything."
"Okay, I will. Thanks again."
The boy smiled and left to go sit with his friends. Dakota was looking around and Sean saw his eyes narrow. Sean turned around to look and saw Calvin and couple of other boys getting up from a table. Dakota started to get up and Sean reached over and placed his hand on top of Dakota’s. "It’s done Dakota."
Dakota was still half way up when he looked at Sean. "I know. I just want to make sure he knows it."
Sean was going to say something more, but from the look on Dakota’s face and a quick conversation through their connection. He nodded. "I’ll go with you."
They both got up and headed in the direction that Calvin had headed. Soon enough they spotted the three boys and caught up to them.
The three stopped and looked over their shoulders. Their eyes widened when they saw who it was. Calvin’s "friends" started to back away. They had already been on the receiving end and wanted no part of it. They could see that Calvin was thinking he was in for another ass whipping only this time Dakota was there and he would probably hurt him worse than Sean did. He could see Dakota looking at him with unfriendly eyes.
"Leave me alone or I’ll tell a teacher and have you arrested. We’re on school property."
"Calvin! I just wanted to tell you that we just met a boy named Karl Kuhn. He told us that you had been bullying him since the beginning of the year."
"I didn’t do nuthin’ to him. If he says I did, he’s lying."
"No Calvin, that is not what he said. He told us that you didn’t say or do anything to him. I just wanted to come over and thank you for being decent."
Both Calvin and Dakota said it at the same time. They were both confused by what Sean said. Sean looked at Dakota.
I got this. Just chill.
Sean looked back at Calvin.
"That’s it Calvin. I just wanted to thank you for being decent to him. It’s hard enough in school for some people, especially younger and smaller guys or girls, even without someone picking on them. When they get bullied, it makes their life miserable and sometimes those people do something that they can’t take back. They kill themselves or they kill others. Maybe you haven’t heard, but some of those school shootings happened because the victim couldn’t stand being bullied anymore and they wanted to get back at the people who bullied them and the ones who did nothing to help them. A lot of kids who kill themselves or attempt to kill themselves do it because they can’t stand being bullied. Just remember that, if you bully someone, you could be the cause of someone dying or killing other people. It’s better to be liked, than to be feared and hated. I don’t know why you act the way you do, but if you want a better life, you need to change. For your sake, I hope you do. If you need help to change then get it. I’m sure the counselors here at school would help you. All you have to do is ask. That’s it. Good luck Calvin."
Sean then turned around and grabbed Dakota’s arm to pull him away. Dakota shrugged and turned to follow. Calvin watched their retreating forms before he turned and went the other way. If anyone looked he appeared to be thinking about something. As Sean and Dakota passed a nearby building they heard someone speak from behind them.
"Well said, Sean. Well said."
They turned and saw Mister Reed leaning against the building wall with one foot up to brace himself. He smiled at the two boys and pushed himself away from the wall.
"I heard about what happened last week and when I saw the two of you following Calvin and his friends, I thought there was going to be trouble. I thought I might have to step in. I’m glad I didn’t have to do that. You and your friends are some of the best students in the school and I’d hate to have to kick you out of school for fighting."
"I just wanted him to be clear on some things, that’s all."
"I see that. I think everything you said was right. Now we’ll see what he chooses to do. It’s all up to him."
Mister Reed nodded to them in thanks and walked away. They caught up with their friends before the end of lunch time.
There were no more problems with Calvin or his friends. A couple times, the boys saw a smaller kid getting bullied by another kid and they would start in that direction, but when the bully caught sight of any of them, he stopped what he was doing and hurried away. The kid who was being bullied always smiled his thanks to them.
Eighth grade graduation day arrived. All of the families were there. Their mentors came down for it as well. A graduation party was planned at Eric’s house because he had the pool and the hot tub. Brett hired Lucille’s in Temecula to cater the party, so no one would have to do any cooking or cleanup. At the ceremony, Sean was given an award for highest GPA. It was not much of a surprise to any of his friends and they all cheered when he was called up to receive his award. If you looked at the scores of other students, the other seven were just below him in their scores along with a few other students. After the ceremony, they said goodbye to their school friends. They headed home first to change before they headed over to Eric’s house for the party. Everyone loved the barbeque food and they wished that there was one closer to home, so that they could go there more often. The boys were going to stay the night and then go home the next day. About nine, the parents said goodbye and went home while the boys put in a movie to watch. By the end of the movie they were all asleep cuddled up with their boyfriends. They were looking forward to a great summer.
He entered the National Academy of Sciences building and went through to the door that was marked private. There was an electronic card reader at the side of the door. He pulled a card from his coat and swiped it, the red light changed to green and he pushed the door open when he heard the door click. At the end of the hallway he came to where the guards were sitting behind the Plexiglas partition. He greeted them as he showed his card and then stood in front of a retinal scanner. When his identity was confirmed the door buzzed and he opened it. He walked over to the elevator and headed down to his office. His secretary greeted him as he arrived.
"Good morning Mister Kelly. How was your vacation?"
"It was great Meredith, thanks. That month traveling through Europe was fantastic. Beth loved it. It wasn’t too crowded since school was still in session, but there was still some great weather. Beth really enjoyed the shopping of course, but she’s worth it. We had to send packages home from time to time because there was no way we were going to carry it with us. Do you have anything pressing for me to know?"
"Nothing pressing. Mister Archer knew you would be back today and he wanted you to call him when you got a chance either today or tomorrow. He said there was no rush."
"Thanks Meredith. Can you bring me a coffee?"
"Sure. I’ll bring it in."
Marcus smiled and went through his office door. He set his briefcase down on the counter table behind his desk and turned his computer on. While he sifted through some papers on his desk, Meredith brought his coffee in to him. He glanced up and smiled his thanks. He finished with the papers, put them aside and turned his attention to his email. He groaned when he saw how many had accumulated while he was gone. He got started wading through it. There were a few from Hank Archer, just keeping him updated on the Alistair’s work and a few other minor items. A lot of the emails were easily handled. Some of them needed more research before he could answer them so he passed them to be answered later. He got up for a refill and continued once he sat down again. Once he was done, he logged into another program and started sifting through the information and reports that were gathered there. As he read through the information, he was reading an obituary and was frowning wondering why it was in here. Suddenly he realized what he was reading, and he started to cough as the swallow of coffee that he’d just taken went down the wrong pipe.
He quickly opened a file on his computer and scanned through it.
"No fucking way! Shit!"
He picked up his phone and made a call.
"This is Marcus Kelly......thanks...yeah, I was just looking through the monitoring reports and I saw the obituary on a Derrick Stuart. I want you to get me more information on him. Check everything, I want everything you can find.....I want to know about his family, wherever he has lived...everything. Every job he’s worked, all of his schooling. I want to know how often he takes a shit per day, every single thing. I want to know everything that you can find out. I want it done yesterday.....yes, call me anytime, day or night.....I’ll be waiting....yes, bye."
After he hung up, he looked at the obituary and read through it once again. He couldn’t believe it, Derrick Stuart alive. He opened his old file and found the file on the scientists that had worked at Hunt Labs. He found Derrick’s file and opened it up. He looked at the picture and remembered Derrick. Too bad the obituary didn’t have a picture attached, but he knew that he should have more information soon. He debated about calling Hank at the facility, but decided against it until he had confirmation.
He was anxious most of the day and had a difficult time focusing on day to day operational issues. He spent a lot of time looking through the old Hunt Labs files. He read through each of the files again, trying to pick any information out of them that he could. He thought back to the night of the fire and the aftermath. It took some time to sift through the rubble of the lab. The fire department was told that the government was taking over the investigation because it was a government sponsored facility and there may be sensitive data. They searched through the computer security monitoring files and found nothing; some sort of electronic short circuit that had wiped out any video files that might shed more light on what had happened.
The found the body of Doctor Hunt in the hallway near the labs. His body was crushed by a piece of the wall, which seemed to have blown on top of him. Inside the labs, they found some small remains of human bodies. There was no evidence of anyone escaping the fire. The fire had been very intense and at an extremely high temperature. That was the reason found to explain the lack of human remains. The parts of bodies that they did find in the labs were too badly burnt to match them to the scientists, but it appeared that they had all perished.
The GRA interviewed the families, and searched the homes of the scientists. Nothing seemed to be missing from the homes, all of their clothes and possessions were in the home. Their cars were in the parking lot of the labs. The families were all either Oscar winning actors or they were as shocked as they seemed to be. The surveillance on the families continued for a few years. When some of the parents died, they had agents nearby, just in case any of the missing people showed up, but nothing was found, so they moved the investigation on the back burner while they concentrated on getting their main lab facility up to speed on the information that they did recover and put Alistair Merrick in charge of the scientists at the new facility as they tried to emulate MacLeod’s experiment.
They had hopes that their current experiment would bear fruit. So far they hadn’t seen any clear successes as yet, but according to Alistair’s report, they were on the right track for the most part. When they started their work ten years ago, there had been failures as there had been in the original PRI experiments with no successes. Only Martin Swift was the only one to survive and be of any use from that time. They used the original work augmented by MacLeod’s research to restart the work.
Because Archer wanted their agents ready in the shortest possible time frame, they chose their subjects much like the original subjects had been chosen, homeless older teens off the street. They did a more thorough investigation into each subject than they had in the first experiment. They looked for obvious signs of intelligence to start with. Also, the subject needed to be disease free and not hooked on drugs, or at least not so hooked that they couldn’t be weaned from the drugs. This narrowed down their subject pool, but with all of the failures from their earlier work, they thought that if they were more selective, they would have better luck. All of the subjects failed to survive intact. However this time instead of parking the living failures in mental institutions, they simply euthanized them and buried the bodies, erasing all evidence of the person’s existence.
Their next step was to look for younger teens on the street. They had agents in the major cities looking for young runaways, who had not been on the streets long enough to have not gotten too heavily involved in drugs and the street life. This pool was much smaller, because if the agent didn’t find them soon after their arrival, the kids soon were swallowed up by life on the street.
Because of the small size of the pool, they came up with a scheme to get kids from group homes. This was a more workable solution because it was easier to get information about the kids through the Child Services departments. The problem was that they couldn’t just come in and take the kid that they wanted, so they recruited some of the GRA’s people to pose as possible adoptive parents to the young teens. When they found a child that they wanted to procure, they contacted the Child Services department and began the process. They used their computer people to cut through red tape and sped up the adoption process all the way through to having a judge’s approval for the adoption. They worked at finding something that they could hold over on a judge to get him to play along with them in expediting the process. They were very careful to only procure a very small number of kids from any one area that a particular Child Services Department had jurisdiction over so as not to arouse suspicions. Once all the "adoptions" in a particular area were finalized, the judge that they used would have an "accident" of some kind. Their agents were very good at arranging these accidents and the investigators never suspected anything other than an accident.
Part of their process was also to remove any record of the child from the departments that handled the adoptions. The GRA computer people erased electronic evidence from the systems, while other agents broke into the offices and removed any physical files on the subjects in questions, until it was as if the child had never been in the system. They made sure that nearly all of the subjects had no parent or other relation who might come back for them, such as cleaning their act up so that they could reclaim their child at some time. However, there were a few kids that due to their suitability, the GRA really wanted them. So what usually happened, was that the possibility of a parent coming back to reclaim their child was removed, by arranging an "accident" for the parent. For those whose problems were drug related, a drug overdose was easy to arrange. In a couple of cases they even arranged for a legal termination of parental rights to appear in the child’s chart before the accident happened.
Once everything was arranged and finalized, the parents with their new child moved away from the area and the child was transported to the GRA’s facility. At which point the child was turned over to the scientists and the experiment was begun. What they were put through was very hard on the children and once again they met with no success.
While they were working on these younger teens, they skimmed through every little thing that they could find about MacLeod’s experiment. None of the computers in the lab had survived enough to get data from them. They used what Alistair had stolen and read over every article and presentation that had been written by MacLeod and finally one of the younger members of the team started to find a pattern in some of the things that MacLeod had put out early on in some of his articles. A few times he hypothesized that if they could find something in a baby’s genes that governed certain things then, maybe, they could control or limit its affect. He had also mentioned that if the gene for intelligence could be changed in some way, they could give a child a better chance at having higher intelligence. What that young researcher found was that MacLeod was talking more and more about genetic changes and then he suddenly stopped mentioning it in any further articles or presentations. During the search they also found that MacLeod had done a lot of research and had attended some conferences that had to do with ESP and other mental powers, whether they were real or not. They found references to research into mental powers and whether a person’s brain could be enhanced in some way to bring about mental powers. The most important article that they found regarding all of this was that MacLeod had written an article that put forth the idea that with the right changes in a person’s genetic code, perhaps the person could develop some sort of ESP, or something like that. In his article, he had talked about visiting with people that claimed to have certain mental gifts and interviewing them. The timing for when he stopped writing anything about mental powers and other similar research seemed to be right about the time when MacLeod really started to ramp up his experiment. This led them to deduce that he had made a breakthrough in his research and it became the focus of his experiment, which of course led them to wishing that the children that had died in the fire at Hunt Labs had survived, so that they could study them and see what changes if any that MacLeod had made in their genetic code.
Their current experiment had started right after the failure of the young teens. After that failure they were putting together a plan to use even younger children, thinking that by the time of puberty, perhaps, their genetics were too set for them to have a chance at making any changes in their genetic structure. Once the younger researcher found the pattern of MacLeod’s articles, they switched their focus to newborns and this time, they found some surrogates that were completely vetted and they paid them double what the going rate for a surrogate was. Before implantation into the surrogates, they made what they believed was the correct changes to affect the embryo’s genetics. There were some of the surrogates who had problems with their pregnancy. The results were some miscarriages, a few were stillborn, of those children who were born, a few had apparent disabilities. As they were not children in the eyes of the GRA, they were regarded as failures and were euthanized and the bodies destroyed.
There were presently seven boys who were about five years old. They were cautiously optimistic because of the apparent intelligence that the children were currently showing. The children lived in a part of the lab, which had been built as living accommodations; it was all they really knew. So to them it was how life was. They were allowed to play outside every day, so the boys got a chance to be out in the fresh air. The future plans were that when the child reached ten years old, the real training would start. Archer thought that by studying these children as they grew to this age, that they would be able to use what they learned to use it to make changes in older teens or twenty year olds, who would then become their real GRA agents.
It was at the end of the day when Marcus finally got a call he was waiting for.
"This is Kelly...you did, excellent.....give me a quick rundown.....uh huh....okay.....what were the names?.....good.....okay send me everything you have by courier when it’s ready and keep searching. If you find anything else, then send that along as well.....yes, bye."
Marcus made some notes on a legal pad and waited for the information to be transmitted to his computer. While he waited for the courier to arrive, he made a call to his home, to let his wife know that he would not be home until late, because of some important work things that he had to take care of right away. An hour later, Meredith came in his office with a sealed manila envelope. He thanked her and told her that he would be in the office for a while yet and that she should head home for the evening. She thanked him and left. Once she was gone, he opened the envelope and took everything out of it.
He looked through everything. They had everything that he had asked for. There was a picture from Derrik’s faculty ID from the college he had been working at for the last couple of years. As he read through everything, he made notes about everything. They had copies of the police report. Marcus looked at a file that had a scan of a piece of lined paper on it with eight names, one of them was, Joshua Stuart. He checked the birth certificate in the old file and then checked the copy of the birth certificate in the delivered file. Joshua Eric Barrett Stuart, the names matched, the birthday’s matched. He was starting to get more excited than he had before receiving the envelope. He saw that the wife had died of cancer, and that the boy had survived the attack by his father. What happened to the boy? If he was a ward of the state, then it would easy to get custody of him. Marcus searched through the paperwork and found the school record. He saw that he had just graduated eighth grade and he had very high marks. It looked like Macleod had been correct at least as far as intelligence. Had he been successful with the other part, giving mental powers? He spent two hours poring over everything, cross referencing with the old files that they had and making notes. There was a note with the paper from the investigator that pointed out that the information that he found on Derrick Stuart and his family seemed to start about ten years ago, but he had found references to a Derrick Barrett and family that seemed to appear go back thirteen years ago and then ten years ago, there was nothing else on the Barrett’s and the Stuart’s appeared on the scene. They had kept a very low profile and had done nothing to cause any notice of them, until the attack on his son, followed by his suicide. They had stayed well below the radar. He found in the files that Joshua was living with his uncle in Hemet, California. Since the uncle was a policeman that might cause some complications. They needed to get the uncle out of the way, before they could do anything about the boy.
At the end of the two hours, he sat back and just shook his head at the implications. They needed to get that kid and test his DNA against the sample that they had from the hospital where he had been born. If he turned out to be the Joshua Stuart that Marcus thought he was, then that could mean that some or all of the others could be out there somewhere. If they could find MacLeod and his family, they could use his family as leverage to force him to give them all of his research. Of course after they got everything they needed, MacLeod would be expendable along with his wife. They’d keep any of the kids that they found, but the parents were expendable.
First things first, they needed to get the kid. He picked up the phone and ordered a small team to head out to California to stake the kid out and see if they could figure out a way to get him. He closed the connection and then punched in another number.
"Hi Hank....yeah it was a nice vacation.....she of course tried to see if she could burn out the credit card....I know that the call could wait until tomorrow, Meredith told me, but that’s not what I’m calling about.....I think I may have found one of the kids...you know the ones from MacLeod’s experiment, the one’s that supposedly died in the fire....No, I’m not sure yet.....Joshua Stuart, yeah, Derrick and Christine’s son....Apparently Derrick tried to kill his son recently because he found out that he was gay and then killed himself.....Yes, apparently all three of them survived....He shot the boy.....No, the boy survived that attack by his dad.....Christine appears to have died of cancer a couple of years ago.....He’s living with his uncle, Christine’s younger brother.....It seems that he donated bone marrow for his sister to help her fight the cancer, so I don’t know how long he’s known about them being in hiding, but he has the boy now....He’s a cop in Hemet, California where they live.....I’ve already sent a team there with orders to try to get the kid and bring him here where we’ll compare his DNA and if he is.....Yes, sir, as soon as I confirm it, I’ll bring him out to the facility.....No, I haven’t found anything on the others.....I’ll get someone on it....Yes, sir, I’ll see you tomorrow with the information.....Yes sir, goodbye."
After he hung up, Marcus went to the small bar behind his desk and poured himself a glass of MacAllan Single Malt. If one of the kids survived, maybe more survived or maybe all of them are out there somewhere. If they could find them, he was sure that they would finally succeed in what they were trying to do. He made one more call as he finished the glass. He ordered the investigators to begin searching for any evidence that the others were around as well. He gave them what he had and told them to use every resource that they could to find anything. Once that was done, he picked up his briefcase and headed home.