Castle Roland

Geek Squad

by Kyle Aarons

In Progress

Chapter 3

Posted: N/A

Geek Squad

Copyright © 2012 - 2014 by Kyle Aarons and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.

All Rights Reserved

Geek Squad LogoFredric pulled his armored SUV out into traffic before he glanced over to Scott, "So, mind if I ask why you spent almost no time with any of the other kids?"

"They formed into two groups and I wasn't really interested in either." Scott answered with a shrug.

"Look, Scott," I have no intension of forcing you to do anything you don't want to do, but there are seven other very intelligent kids who will be around for you to talk to. I am willing to bet you could find some common ground."

"You're right. I'll make it a point to talk to all of them." Scott spoke with an almost diplomatic ease.

Fredric snickered, "Spoken like a true politician, saying something that sounds good on the surface, but has no real meaning. You could keep the promise of talking to all of them by simply saying 'Hi, I'm Scott'!

Scott couldn't help but snicker, "Yeah, well, mom, aunt, and my grandfather made sure I know exactly how to say absolutely nothing in a very friendly and adult sounding way. It was required before I could start attending events with people like the Prince of England, the Ambassador to China, the President of Poland, the Deputy Prime Minister of England, the Director of Mexican Counter Intelligence, the Chancellor of Germany, the Military Attaché of the UAE, and a whole host of Saudi princes, just to name a few."

Fredric raised an eyebrow at the impressive list while, at the same time, alarm bells went off at hearing any political figure had met with someone with the title of Director of Mexican Counter Intelligence. High level talks between Mexico and the US were not known to be happening since the war a few years back had smashed the Mexican military and wiped out several drug cartels. This had lead to a rather nasty and unstable border with Mexico. Fredric took a deep breath and glanced out the driver's side window to hide his expression. "Sounds to me like you have spent way too much time in some very boring parties."

"Not boring… well not in the purest sense of the word boring," Scott admitted with a long sigh. "There are some very interesting things said, and deals made…" Scott gulped as he realized he was saying too much. "But yeah, they aren't exactly kid friendly events. The problem is, I have to attend because mom says having her perfectly groomed and well behaved children around and being ultra nice to these people is a way to show trust and gain favor. Plus, there are some who like being able to boss kids of powerful Americans around. I have done everything from put a coat on a very drunk government head and helping her down to her car, only to get puked on, to washing the feet of a Saudi prince, to sitting in the lap of an Egyptian ambassador. As my mom puts it, deal with it because, in the long run, you'll have a better inheritance."

Fredric's jaw dropped at hearing this. He glanced over, hoping to see some sign of what he had just heard being a joke, but it was clear by the clenched jaw and deep breathing of the boy what had been said only scratched the surface. "And your mom allows this?"

"Allows it?" Scott scoffed, "NO, she demands it! All of us kids are nothing more than servants at big events. I'm just not very good at hiding my displeasure sometimes and I tend to ask a few too many questions which is why I seem to suddenly have scouting outings when certain people come into town. The same thing happens almost every time my mom goes to Washington with the rest of my brothers cause those parties are really cut-throat, only with people pretending to be nice to those they are trying to cut into ribbons. Besides, there are people in the administration who don't want me around.

"But I still can't get out of all of events. In particular, the Egyptian Ambassador and the Germen Chancellor seem to like to have me around, so when they are at any event, so am I. The Egyptian Ambassador really seems to like me and can even tell the difference between me and Grant, something my mom and dad can't even do most of the time. To a lesser extent, the Military Attaché to the UAE enjoys having me around because he says he likes the way I make and serve him his drinks. He has even told me to my face, I am quite the looker in a tux and says girls should be draped on me all the time." The mad blush blasting onto his cheeks stood as testament to the words being totally truthful, but he once again pushed on without showing any further discomfort.

"Anyway, when he is around I am designated as his server and was even detailed to the UAE yacht for four days while he was here on a military arms talk with President Ashwood. It was four days of almost no sleep since having an American serving boy on board was seen as a big deal by a few others in the UAE government and gained the Military Attaché some serious favor with those above him. It was during those four days I screwed up somehow. I guess President Ashwood decided he didn't care for me since I was somehow nicer to the Attaché then I was to President Ashwood's wife, so I never go to the White House anymore. Still, I must have served two hundred cases of various liquors, some of them so rare and old one bottle would pretty much buy this vehicle and managed to do so without breaking a glass or bottle."

Scott glanced over at Fredric with a bit of a smirk. "I slept for like two full days when I finally got back home. I even managed to get out of an event with the German Chancellor because I was like totally wiped out and pretended to be ill."

Fredric had to force his voice to remain calm. To deflect some of his anger he came up with a semi-related observation. "I thought Muslims couldn't consume alcoholic drinks."

Scott snorted in outright disgust, "What is said and what is done by all of them are two totally different things. One thing I found and I hate is the people in power can do and say things normal people can't hope to get away with. It's not my thing and mom knows it. I'll be amazed if I am not written out of the will by the time I am fifteen. Even Dad, who hates some of the big wigs, says it's my job, as their son, to play my part. One of the reasons I worked so hard on this fish attractor was because I figure I am going to need to find another line of work than politics; plus being a scientist would be a good way to keep me in my family's good graces while staying as far away from elected offices as possible.

Scott managed a grin as his voice changed over to a more joking tone, showing just how quickly he could turn on a new facade, "I guess if I ever get disowned, I could go be a servant in the UAE, Germany, Egypt, or a dozen other places across the globe."

Scott giggled nervously, "You know, the Prime Minister of Greece's daughter is cute and only two years older than me. Plus, she kind of has the hots for me; maybe I could hook up with her. Her mom likes me, too, and is about the nicest person I have met at any of the events. They even invited me out to see their country this next summer. I am trying to convince my mom it would be a good way to get rid of me for a while, all the while showing her political buddies how awesome I am for playing ball."

Fredric forced a snicker while purposefully changing lanes and passing a truck he didn't really need or want to pass. His attempt at hiding his true feelings totally failed.

Scott glanced over, "It's OK, Mr. Triumph, really. It is all part of the game in and around Washington and for those who want to get there. I have seen dozens of other kids do the same things and almost nothing over the top happens because there is an element of political necessity surrounding all of the events."

"So, are you really trying to tell me there is an unspoken limit for what can happen to kids of politicians?"

"Pretty much," Steven nodded. He knew in his heart his parents would explode if they knew what he was telling the man next to him, but it felt beyond good to open up to someone and be honest. Maybe it was because Scott had spent most of his life learning to read others who were expert at hiding the truth and saw nothing but total concern in Fredric. Or, maybe, it was the fact he was out of his mom's control for the first time in his life, but whatever the reason, he decided to open up a bit more. "If one of us got hurt, the potential embarrassment to the politician or foreign government would ruin careers and, in some cases, could even start wars. Almost none of them are going to risk something so extreme. Some see how far they can go and others get some back door permissions to push the envelope, but it's real rare for anyone to go too far. If they do, and… well… I can tell you already guessed it has happened, things are made right in back rooms, much to the benefit of the country, the parent, and the kid. I have seen it once and have heard about a few others."

"But not to you?" Fredric asked with a massive amount of concern.

"Nothing like I have seen or heard of." Scott both shrugged and sighed at the same time. "Can I tell you something, though, sir?"

"Anything, Scott." Fredric reached over and patted the boy tenderly on the shoulder. "If something did happen, maybe I can help make it right."

"Not to me. I'm good, but…" Scott paused and glanced out the passenger side window wondering if this was such a good idea, but he badly needed help from someone. The problem was, the help he needed was next to impossible to find, since it needed to come from a source who had the kind of money and power his mom and aunt did. This was not simply the top two percent of the rich and powerful, it had to go much higher up the societal food chain to the truly elite. In simple terms, the list of people with resources like his mom and aunt had were exceptionally small. The fact he was with someone who might have the kind of influence Scott felt he needed made taking this chance a necessity. "I think something happened to Grant in Washington when he went to the party at the White House…"

This caused Fredric to look over with raised eyebrows, "So, you think his running away…"

"Grant didn't run away!" Scott barked, then hung his head and let out a sob, "Sorry… maybe I should just go home… or I could make up for yelling at you by being a server for you at a corporate party or something… I really am good at it and I might be able to find some information on your competitors for you…"

Fredric let out a long breath and put his arm around Scott. "First off, I want you here. I want all eight of you here. Second, the chance of me even thinking about taking you up on your suggestion of using you as a servant is nauseating to me. Although, I have no doubt you could be a big help on the corporate espionage front. Until now, I have never even thought about someone using a child for such dirty work, and I will be keeping my eyes open for it in the future. Should I find anyone doing so, I will crush them in the most devastating way I can think of because no one should use kids as stepping stones, no one!"

Fredric used his hand to wipe away tears off Scott's cheeks and pulled off the interstate and into a 7-11. "Let's get you a candy bar and an OJ or something, calm you down, and then we'll start over, OK?"

"What about the last two coming in from Denver?"

A true smirk crossed Fredric's face, "My chaperones will be there. Besides, I think I can afford a speeding ticket or two. Finally, should a member of Austin's finest get behind me and demand to actually pull me over, I have some rather interesting people on speed dial."

This got a laugh out of Scott who once again showed an incredible ability to return to a calm, strangely neutral, state where emotions were neatly locked up. All hint of him being upset vanished and his face showed no sign of the turmoil Fredric knew was going on inside the boy. It kind of reminded the man of someone flipping a switch, but the speed at which Scott had done so was quite troubling.

At the same time, a deep satisfaction had actually crept into Scott's core, since it was clear he was dealing with someone right on the same power level as his mom. The remark about the cops was almost right on line with how his mom thought. The only difference was, he could tell by the man's expression, Mr. Triumph didn't like to use his influence while those in Scott's family flatly enjoyed flaunting it.

With a very large bag of beef jerky in one hand, and a bottle of apple juice in the other, Scott returned to the SUV and glanced over at Fredric as he slipped his seat belt back on. "Thanks, Mr. Triumph. I'm sorry for acting like a baby."

"Your actions are anything but childlike and you have nothing to apologize for, nothing." Fredric stated firmly and with a great deal of conviction as he pulled back into traffic. He quickly pushed the powerful SUV to speeds well over the posted limit.

Once back on the interstate, Fredric pushed the peddle down a little more before glancing over at Scott. "OK, look, I don't know one millionth of what you do about your brother or the political landscape in DC. I tend to pay for lobbyists to maneuver the political minefields of both the state and federal governments. Because of this, all I can do is go on what I have heard."

Making sure he had Scott's attention, he took a deep breath. "So, let's just say you are right and your brother didn't run away. Something happened to him; something or someone caused him to… well… I guess vanish would be as good a word as any for now."

Scott glanced over, "I know it sounds super crazy, especially with how many government agencies said they were trying to find him, but I know he wouldn't run! Besides, even if he did, some camera would have caught him leaving the school. When he got back from Washington, he was badly shook up and he was scared of something, but he wouldn't tell me what, which was something neither one of us ever did. Plus, there is no way anyone could walk in or out of our school without being seen. Some of the wealthiest kids in the US attend Backlight Academy and there is a secret service detachment there when the kids are!"

This information caused Fredric the cough. "The secret Service is on site at your school?"

"Yeah, and they check everyone who goes in or out. Every truck is fully inspected and every vendor has to send security vetted people or they don't get in. We even have our car randomly inspected sometimes when getting dropped off, so mom started dropping us off out front. We have to go their metal detectors and a couple of times a week I end up getting shuffled over to go though the random bomb sniffing dog line. Grant couldn't have run away during the middle of the school day, there is no way! You have to believe me!"

"Hey, relax; like I said, I am going to proceed with what you're telling me and I will accept your supposition at face value. However, money alone isn't going to be enough. If we are going to try to find any kind of proof something underhanded happened to your brother, we are going to need more. We need to find some sort of initial starting link. Once we do find something, we are going to have to find others who will help us. There is no way two of us are going to do this alone."

"So I have to find something on my own first?"

"No," Fredric shook his head while making sure his voice became very firm. "not you, we do; but you have to really think, because this is your area of expertise. In simple straight forward terms, Scott, I need you to point me in the right direction. I can't just hack into some super secure White House central computer, if there is even such an animal. I need you to get me a list of possible angles to find out what happened at the party. Once we find the initial situation Grant had to deal with, then we will be able to bring in others and spread out feelers from there."

Steven let out a long breath, "But I am only supposed to be here for a week…"

"So are the others, but did you read the contract your parents signed?"

"No." Scott admitted, "if I had, I would have already picked out some of the things you said were listed for us to be able to do and made sure they were signed off on." He grinned, "Fortunately, I don't have to worry, since dad scribbled his name wherever there was a line after reading the instructions. Why?"

"Because there is a clause in the contract allowing me to have you stay longer and attend school here in Austin at EEL's expense should we find it useful to get your inventions to market. I also added a separate clause allowing me to keep you longer should any of you come up with other ideas worth putting some R&D into. We even have spots in a very prestigious boarding school held for all of you should the need arise. This was not something any parent could just initial or sign on. They had to actually fax over a power of attorney and paperwork saying this was acceptable. There was actually one young man who had to be replaced because his parents refused to sign the form. The only one who put any kind of restriction on this was Alexander.

"Should we need him to stay, we have to make sure he has bi-weekly access to a small R&D complex owned by the company his parents work for. The details almost caused my lawyers to demand we scrub him from the list of winners, but his parents bent just enough to make it reasonable. If he stays, I have to get him into the local tech college so he can continue to take college level classes. In return, EEL can use any inventions he comes up with, but the technology and patents have to be shared with their company, who, in turn, agreed to pay me a sizable chunk should it happen."

"The robot vacuum kid?" Scott asked with some skepticism. "Anyone one can make a robot vacuum! There are several on the market. I don't get why he is even one of us."

Fredric raised an eyebrow, surprised by two things. First, the boy was actually distracted by something other than his brother. Second, and far more interesting, was how unimpressed he was at the idea of something robotic. "Scott, what was the first and most important thing about this science contest?"

Scott frowned, "Um, we couldn't be under 11 or over 13 by September 30th, 2012?"

"OK, yeah, you have me there. The age requirement rule was set in stone. What was number two then?"

"The project had to be fully built and understood by the builder… or maybe it had to be unique."

"There you go," Fredric responded with a nod, "it had to be unique. In simple terms, I didn't even consider something I had seen before. Eighty eight percent of the submitted projects failed this test. Alexander's didn't. So, before you dismiss him or his project, you need to take a very close look and readjust your attitude. There is a reason I spent several extra thousand dollars to come up with a specialized contract for him. He may be the youngest one here, but don't underestimate him; above all else, do not dismiss his project. With a little effort on EEL's part and his, he very well may come out of this beyond wealthy."

Fredric snickered, "Well, wealthier than he already is, and I am not talking about his parent's money, either. He paid more taxes the last two years than the vast majority of adults in this country."

Fredric paused for several seconds, letting his words soak into the boy next to him. Finally, he navigated his way through the airport and found a parking spot. As he killed the ignition, he glanced over. "There are three projects here that stand to make the kids involved and EEL a vast amount of money. One is on the market already, yours, and Alexander's. The others are awesome, to be sure, and all have huge money making potential. However, the others have a more specialized nitch. Millions of people go fishing, so, if we can get yours out to market with any kind of reasonable price, yours is an easy sell. The water extractor-purifier is portable and there are hundreds of thousands of hikers and campers out there, plus the Department of Defense has already given me serious money to design larger ones for military units. This means Craig's is a sure fire money maker.

Most of the others are harder sells. The camera stabilizer may be the easiest, but it will retail for close to a grand, maybe more. The multi-channel hand held radio with HAM base station capability will sell. The problem is, the interest in it will be very specialized and it's expensive. Of course, HAM radio people tend to want the best, so they will pay. There may even be some military applications for it. If there is, then it will be right up there with the Craig's and yours for profit potential.

"The metal detector is something I will buy as will many others, but it's going to retail for close to two grand, putting it outside the reach of many. This is especially the case since you can buy a halfway decent regular bland one for fifteen hundred less. Now, if we can make it to work underwater, then we will be taking a bigger ball game, but that remains to be seen.

"Glenn came up with the most amazing project and by far the most complicated, but his hover chair is really expensive. Plus it has some serious limitations which I fully intend to work on with him while he is here. The truth is, though, of all of the projects, his is the one I don't see getting out into the world with any real profit to be made. On the other hand, it was, quite simply, too incredible to not bring him down here.

"At the other end of the spectrum, I already have a company ready to start production on Ricky's role playing game add-on, but three D technology is in its infancy. Few people have three D TV's and I have no clue how many role playing gamers do, but it's an awful big expense for a kid who likes D&D. This will make the invention limited…"

"Kids?" Scott nearly choked as he interrupted Mr. Triumph, "There are a lot of adults who play all sorts of different role playing games. If it can create futuristic monsters, men with armored suits and lasers, as well as dragons and orcs…" Scott whistled softly, "I bet I could point to a couple hundred politician-types I could sell it to and, once it got out there, it would become a hot ticket item since no one in those circles likes to be outdone! Those units would end up in embassies, diplomatic missions, and in the homes of the ultra rich all over the world!"

Fredric's left eyebrow shot up at this, "Then you need to get with Ricky and see if the two of you can come up with an upgrade software package for it. You help, you get part of the cut."

This got Scott's interest, "So… we can, like, work with others and improve all our stuff?"

"Of course you can!" Fredric nodded vigorously. "One of the reasons I wanted you all to come down here is so you could network, make fiends and maybe even blow the minds of my R&D department with new and exciting ideas. Science for the common man in this country is becoming a bit stagnated. Somewhere along the line it became how to make people's lives easier, not more exciting. It is my belief this contest and future ones like it will help correct this. Just look at your fish attractor! If we can get it out on the market, it may cause a few people to combine science with the outdoors. People may even get some sun and enjoy the outdoors with the help of your technological breakthrough! Even better, if I can show some of you kids making real money, it may kick off a new interest by those who see scientific creation as something for a bunch of people wearing white lab coats."

Scott cocked his head to the side and grinned, "I think it's already working. Since I got named as a winner, there are dozens of kids at my academy who want to enter your contest for next year. Some are already working on things. Plus, I actually started getting picked on less once I was confirmed as a winner. But I still don't get it, if a project has to be unique, how does a robotic vacuum make the cut?"

"You make it sound SOOOOOO mundane, Scott," Fredric snickered. "Well, let me tell you, it isn't; not by a long shot. Now, let's go find Alexander so he can prove it to you."

Scott took a deep breath, "What about Grant?"

"Over the next day or so, I want you to think, really think, about ways to show something other than he ran away happened. You know him, you know your school, you know the political landscape and the type of party he attended before he came home upset. You get me some angels to work, and we'll see what we can find, promise."

While they were walking toward the terminal, another idea crossed Fredric's mind. "You know, Scott, there are seven of the brightest young minds in the US here with you. Now, I don't want to endanger any one of them, but you may find the kind of allies we will need eating, swimming, and sleeping right next to you."

Scott rubbed his hand through his hair and let out a long breath, "You really do want me to make friends with these guys, don't you?"

The left side of Fredric's mouth twisted upwards, "I guess I'm not as sneaky as I thought I was."

Scott couldn't help but laugh, "I live around people who lie, cheat, and backstab as part of their morning routine just to get warmed up for the day! It'll take more than a hint to trick me into something…" He paused as the grin faded, "But you may be right. No one else can help, why not the biggest bunch of geeks ever assembled?"

Fredric raised his eyebrow at this comment, as he suddenly realized there was a chance, no matter how slim, Scott may be right about his brother. If he was, then he may be putting everything in jeopardy; yet, at the same time, he might have finally found a link into a world he could dig into and help kids he didn't even realize were in danger.

This line of thinking was quickly pushed to the side as he stepped in and saw the last two kids to arrive. They were not what he expected. Steven was at the baggage claim chatting with Alexander like they were long time friends. As he watched, he was somewhat astonished to see the two even get into a playful, giggle filled, pushing and wrestling contest. Suddenly, Steven put Alexander into a rather painful looking headlock, but before Fredric or his two men could move to break it up, the younger boy managed to totally reverse things and put the older and much taller boy into an arm lock. Then, with almost no effort, Alexander put Steven down to his knees.

While Alexander quickly let the older boy up and started to show him how he had managed to do it, one of the men form EEL moved up next to Fredric, "Boss, the smaller one has some serious training. The way he slapped the hold on was no accident and it was administered with near perfection. I have seen Army Rangers do the exact same thing."

"Navy SEALS use the same technique to drop a high value target without doing any life threatening injuries." The second chaperone stated with a bit of a bemused grin. "Someone with some serious military training has spent countless hours with him."

Next to the three men, Scott responded in total awe. "That was wicked cool!"

Fredric glanced down and nodded with a strange satisfied expression. "It sure looks like he is already teaching Steven how he did it. Maybe he will do the same for you."

Scott gulped, but nodded and quickly moved over to the other two.

Fredric held up his hand, stopping the two who had come to pick up Steven and Alexander. "Let's see how this goes, guys. So far, Scott has been the odd one out. Let's see if either Steven or Alexander can break the ice some before we take them back to the resort. He paused and glanced down at the senior man, "And do me a favor and ask if they need anything on the way there. The last group arrived needing to pee and eat. Not cool."

"No problem, boss." The man responded. "Besides, after what the pipsqueak just did, I don't think protecting him is a huge priority, so we can give him some extra room."

"Was it really as impressive as you two are making it sound?"

"Yes!" both men spoke in unison.

The senior man then expounded, "Boss, he didn't just suddenly slip out of a head lock and grab the arm. He used pressure points he could not even see to cause painful nerve impulses though the entire arm. It was done without him fumbling around trying to find them, too. The quick switch over to the arm bar also showed extensive knowledge of pressure points. He had the bigger kid in his total control and if he had not let go, he could have done almost anything he wanted to the kid. If the other kid did the wrong thing and the smaller one wanted to, the arm would now be broken and the shoulder dislocated. What you saw was a devastating hold few can get out of and fewer still can escape from without serious injury."

Fredric cringed and whistled softly, "Let's make it a point to tell the others not to test Alexander, then. I don't want to know what type of medical bills and lawsuits could come out of such an altercation."

"Understood, boss."

While Fredric stood next to his people, Scott moved up, "Hey, Steve and Alex, I'm Scott!"

While Alexander's eyes narrowed dangerously, Steven quickly patted the smaller boy on the shoulder, "I made the same mistake, Alexander. Give him a chance."

The look Scott got from Alexander caused him to stop in his tracks. Fortunately, Steven moved up and extended his hand, "Good to meet you, Scott. So, how is Austin?"

"Hot and humid." Scott stated while keeping his eyes on Alexander. "But Mr. Triumph is awesome and the hotel looks pretty cool, but I haven't seen much of it yet. I actually volunteered to come to help get you guys because it was kind of freaky for me to see two big guys waiting to pick me up with my name on a sign."

This got a nod out of Alexander who loosened up some, but his eyes told everyone watching he was still not happy. "Really cool of you, thanks. But don't call me Alex. My name is Alexander. I don't even let my teachers call me Alex. Steven is kind of the same way as me, he just deals with it. I don't."

The diplomatic side of Scott took over, once again showing just how smooth a transition he could make. "My bad, Alexander, it won't happen again and I'll make sure to tell the others so they won't make the same mistake."

This got a genuine smile out of Alexander. "Then, no hard feelings. So you are from the east coast, right?"

"Delaware," Scott confirmed while taking an inward sigh of relief. "So, did you two know each other before this?"

"No, and if you want, you can call me 'Geo'; it's a nick name, but one I like." Steven snickered, "As to fully answer your question, a nine hour layover in Denver with a couple of hovering gate attendants making sure we didn't wander off, meant we got to know each other really well out of desperation and boredom. Besides, Alexander is awesome and just wait till he talks you through his robot. Man, he has me like totally smoked. I'm surprised I even made it after hearing what he came up with."

Alexander grinned at the compliment, but nodded in Steven's direction. "Don't let Geo, here, talk me up; his detector is ingenious and, in many ways, more technical than my vacuum. You are the one with the sonic fish thing, right?"

"Yeah, but mine is nothing compared to the hover chair." Scott sighed, outwardly, this time, "I took one look at it and knew I was out of my league."

"I really want to talk to the hover chair kid," Alexander admitted, "but I have never dealt with a handicapped person before. Anything I need to know about what to say or not to say?"

"Not really." Scott shrugged. "I haven't talked to Glenn too much, but he's pretty independent and he isn't like totally crippled. He can move everything, he just can't walk. I kind of feel sorry for him, but he doesn't really act like most handicapped kids I have met. He is willing to get help, but you got to let him kind of ask for it, or at the very least skirt the subject and see how he responds. On the other hand, from what I have heard and seen, he's way smarter than I'll ever be. His chair has all sorts of stuff in it to make it work and he knows all of it.

"As far as talking to him, once you show interest get ready for overload. Craig asked if he could see it and was still on the floor over an hour and a half later. Before I left the pizza place to come help get you guys he and Glenn were still taking over it and I heard Craig say he wanted to get to the technical part of it. I don't think either of them played a single game. When I left, Craig was wedged half under it with a piece of pizza stuck in his mouth."

Steven changed subjects at the mention of Pizza. "Real food would be great. There wasn't a single decent place to eat in the area of the terminal we got stuck in and the stupid gate attendant didn't let us go looking for anything better. We both ate a Quiznos sub and lots of junk food, but I'm not much of a sandwich person."

Scott nodded in fake understanding since he actually liked sub sandwiches, but his diplomatic upbringing once again took over. "As soon as your bags come through, I'm sure Mr. Triumph will send us to wherever you want to go. What do you like?"

"Pizza would be good with me," Steven stated with no hesitation, "but any real food is fine. No sandwich places or fast food. I get enough of those places at home."

"I'll eat just about anything," Alexander chimed in. "But if I am really going to get my choice, I'd like something like a good cordon bleu."

This caused Scott's eyes to light up, "Oh, man, you like cordon bleu, too? How awesome!"

"Oh yeah, nothing better, although, I like chicken better than beef." Alexander smiled warming up to Scott more by the moment. "There is this German restaurant not far from where my parents work. It has the best bratwurst and Cordon bleu I have ever had!"

This time Scott grinned with enthusiasm. "You have great taste if food, Alexander! A brat would be good as well."

Steven eyed the two boys with some bewilderment, "OK… I guess I am game, but I have never eaten either and I have never even heard of this cordon bleu before."

"Oh, you'll love it." Alexander assured Steven then turned back to Scott, "Are you sure it would be OK to ask… I mean we aren't talking about a cheap meal…"

"Trust me, Mr. Triumph will actually be happy to hear I found out what you guys want." He then glanced back over to Steven who didn't look thrilled, but was curious enough to play along. "Hey, if you decide you don't want brats or cordon Bleu, I'm sure you'll like a good schnitzel."

Steven glanced back and forth between the two boys for a second, "Like I said, I'm game, but you do know you may as well been speaking ancient Egyptian to me since I have no clue what the heck any of those things are… Well, I mean I know a bratwurst is kind of like a hotdog or something, but the other two, well, I have never even heard of them before."

"Nothing like German food, Steven," Alexander assured the boy. "You'll love it. If not, I'll eat yours!"

This got a good laugh out of both Steven and Scott who quickly started talking about other subjects as they waited for the bags to appear.

The man next to Fredric watched the exchange with a great deal of surprise. "They seem like normal boys to me, boss."

Fredric nodded in agreement, "This meeting seems to be going much better than the last two did. Maybe Alexander and Steven aren't quite as shy as the rest of the kids or something. One way or another, it is nice to see Scott interacting with them. He didn't do anything with the other five at the pizza place."

Before more could be said, Scott brought the two new arrivals over, carrying a bag from each. "Mr. Triumph, this is Alexander, and the taller one is Steven. They like to be addressed by their full names."

Fredric nodded his thanks and stepped up to the two boys, "Welcome to Austin, Steven and Alexander. I'll make it a point to text all my staff to call you by your full first names." He then motioned to his two men to grab the bags Scott was holding. "Sorry this got off to such a rough start for the two of you. I sure didn't expect you to have to sit for a transfer flight for so long. I bet you got tired of sitting in Denver, huh?"

Steven let out a long breath, "It was way too long!" He playfully gave Alexander a light shove, "If it hadn't been for him and his note pad, I would have been bored to death!"

Alexander grinned, "It worked out pretty good, though. We are trying to figure out how to convince our parents to visit each other so we can work on stuff together!"

Scott shot a quick glance over at each of them, trying to figure out how they could be such good friends so quickly, but pushed aside his bewilderment as he addressed Fredric. "Sir, they are kind of hungry and Alexander wondered if there was a German place to get some good Cordon Bleu."

Fredric glanced down at Alexander, "I'm quite sure we can find such a place for you." He then turned to Steven, "What about you, though?"

"Never had any of the things these two were talking about, but I'll sure give it a shot. I'm about junk fooded out. The gate attendants didn't let us wander so we were stuck with a couple of snack shops and a Quiznos." His head kind of dropped, "I would have used up about a third of the cash mom gave me already, but Alexander paid for me…"

Alexander shrugged, "I told you not to worry about it, Geo. Mom gave me plenty and she didn't expect me to come back with any. Besides, I have plenty of my own and have a debit card if needed."

Fredric shook his head, "Neither of you should have had to spend a dime." He reached out and patted Steven on the back. He was actually quite surprised the boy didn't back up, flinch or seem even slightly uncomfortable by the gesture. It was becoming clearer by the moment the last two boys were far more outgoing and far less afraid than the other six. "I'll also text my lawyers to make sure future winners start out with some travel money." He then turned so he could look at all three boys. "By the end of the week, I hope we can work out a contract so we can get your inventions to market. If we can, then pocket money will not be a problem for any of you for the foreseeable future."

Steven glanced over to Alexander, "Give us a few days and some spare parts to work with and we may come up with something even better."

Fredric grinned and nodded, but held up a finger as he spoke into his phone, "Yeah, I know you don't take same day reservations, but something tells me a few hundreds put in to the guest registry when I arrive may allow a table to become available."

Fredric shot a smirk at the three boys, "Yes, I am sure my boys will be well behaved."

"Good, we'll be there in forty five minutes."

As Fredric hung up the phone, Scott glanced over, "My mom would have threatened him with the IRS or something."

Fredric snickered. "I prefer cash. It tends to get better service than threats!"


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