Castle Roland

Geek Squad

by Kyle Aarons

In Progress

Chapter 11

Posted: N/A

Geek Squad

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

All Rights Reserved

Geek Squad LogoNo one said a word for several seconds, as a matter of fact there was no sound, other than the cracking of flames from the ruined Homeland SUV. Even those wounded didn't say anything. It wasn't until Kermit moved down the hill with Levi, were any words exchanged. Kermit glanced down at Paul and over to Fredric, "Boss…"

Fredric glanced over from behind the rock he had ducked behind only to see Kermit standing over an unmoving Paul. He felt his heart sink as he saw the gruesome pool of blood around his lead chaperone and second in charge of security for his entire company. He stood and took two steps before he noticed a large section of the back of Paul's head was missing. He dropped to a knee and puked.

At the same time Steven moved over to Everet and clamped his hands over the bullet wound, noticing the bullet had gone in one side and out the other. Bleeding was heavy, but at least it had missed the artery. "I need a first aid kit!"

Levi moved over and knelt while Alexander looked over with wide eyes as he realized his own shirt was covered with quite a bit of Everet's blood. "He tried to protect us…"

"I tried," The man winced as Levi ripped a section of his shirt off to tie around the through and through wound, "but Keith just pulled off the throw of a life time! What an arm!"

Keith gulped and glanced down at his hands, "I didn't even think… it was just like baseball practice. Uh, I mean I am the all-star shortstop, but…"

"But nothing," Levi cut Keith off. "Men, trained in combat, get military honors for the kind of reaction and bravery you showed, even if you didn't mean to. Don't go second guessing yourself!"

Below the main group, Craig moved around and started collecting weapons covered by Justin and Alexander who was torn between worshiping Craig or Keith. However, the training with the Special Forces guys told him he needed to keep Craig covered so he moved down the hill and did so.

Craig quickly found a full magazine for the weapon he was holding, reloaded it and handed the AR -15 over to Justin. He then secured an M-4 clutched in the hands of an agent who was missing half his face, a sure sign of a 12 gauge hit. He forced back some bile as he looked over the military weapon and nodded in satisfaction. He then moved up to the surviving, extended length, SUV with the rifle ready. He cringed as he saw the remains of the man who shot the oldest boy splattered all over the side and several dents where rounds had impacted the armored side. "OK, I am skipping dinner tonight," he muttered with a shiver.

He almost turned away, but he stopped as he heard a cry. Reacting out of instinct, he spun and dropped to a knee, aiming the rifle inside the still open SUV door. "Who's there?"

Justin moved forward as only a panicked cry came in reply. As he got close, Alexander moved down, "Dude, cover me, I am small and fast."

Justin glanced over, but upon seeing Craig nod he relented. However, he still eyed Craig as he backed off close to the boy, "Do you think he is better or are you protecting me?"

The smirk on Craig's face told Justin the answer was both. While this actually made him feel good, it still bothered him some. It didn't seem right for Craig to willingly risk someone else partially based on friendship. The only thing he took some comfort in, was the fact his new friend clearly felt Alexander was the better choice.

His musings were shattered as Alexander suddenly pulled open the back door and yanked a taller and older, yet clearly child-sized figure, out of the back.

Down at the SUV, Alexander's eyes went wide and he reacted out of instinct. He yanked the back door open, saw who was inside and pulled the nearest kid out with a martial arts throw. He let the boy hit the ground, "Where is your brother?"

As Craig saw the figure hit the dirt next to the SUV he jumped up and ran down while shouting, "Is Nate in there?"

Up on the hill, Zenon turned sharply only to get stopped by a strong hand on his shoulder. From behind Zenon, Levi's voice was so forceful, it seemed to pierce into his skull, "Something tells me you need to leave this one alone and let them handle it. This could get really bad, and from what I have seen Justin may be the only one who will be able to talk them down."

Zenon turned sharply, "What the hell are you…" before more could be said angry shouts erupted from Craig as he poked his head in the SUV and then moved on the smallish figure Alexander had tossed out of the SUV.

Craig saw David's face and sprinted to the SUV. He looked in only to see two other boys and one girl, all handcuffed, hands and feet, with gags in their mouths. None of them were Nathanial. He turned sharply as me moved on David, "Where is he?"

Alexander's eyes narrowed as he glanced in the SUV, then down at David. "Why are they handcuffed and gagged and not you?"

David said nothing as he glanced back and forth between the two kids with terror in his eyes. He suddenly tried to get up and dart away, but a quickly extended foot by Alexander caused him to fall face first into some of what was left of the driver. He rolled out of the gore and puked before he looked up with both anger and frustration in his voice. "I turned the little gay-wad in, and tried to tell them who you were but couldn't remember your name!"

Before anyone could blink, Craig's fist crashed down into David's right eye, dropping him right back into the pool of blood.

David screeched and rolled away from Craig and Alexander while attempting to get up to run. He only made it to a knee before Craig's foot connected with David's chin, which flipped him back toward Alexander who was only too happy to slam his fist into the panicked boy's left eye as the now badly battered boy tried to get back up.

David shrieked in pain as he curled into a ball, only to feel Craig's hand wrap around his hair and yank him up to his feet. He tried to kick, but this proved to be a very bad idea. Craig dropped the boy, grabbed the extended leg, and slammed his elbow into it, badly hyper extending the knee. This time David fell screaming uncontrollably while gripping his leg.

Craig advanced on David, "Next time I'll break it! Now where is Nate?"

Before Craig could wrap his hand around David's hair a second time, Justin moved up and put himself between the bawling boy and Craig, "Dude, come on… Stop."

Alexander glared at Justin, "Stop? Are you insane? Didn't you hear him? The bastard turned his brother in!"

"And if you both beat him to death then you are no better than Paulson!" Justin stated with a great deal of conviction, then his voice softened as he added, "Besides, I know I wouldn't be able to answer if I had been beaten on like you two just did to this kid! Maybe you haven't been beaten down, but I have and it sucks. You two are acting more like those who picked on me by the second."

Rage filled eyes pierced into Justin from both Craig and Alexander, but Craig backed down after only a few seconds. Still breathing hard he pointed a finger at David, "You move and I swear I will break your leg in a way so you will never be able to walk properly again!"

Alexander moved forward to kick David once more but an extended arm with the palm out from Craig stopped him. "Chill, Justin is right. Just because we can turn the tables doesn't make beating him to a pulp right. Besides, we need him to be able to answer questions and he isn't going anywhere! If he tries, I'll cripple him for life!" The tone alone left no doubt of not only his ability, but his desire to do it.

Even with the agony David Teller was in, the message got across. With one hand still gripping his knee, he held up the other and waved it franticly above his head even as tears poured out of his two already swelling eyes.

Alexander shot Justin another glare but backed away from him at the same time. His eyes flashed confusion for a moment as he tried to figure out why Justin seemed to have such a hold on Craig… and admittedly himself. He then dropped the weird thought just as quickly. Finally, Alexander let out a breath, nodded, and turned his attention to those still inside the SUV. He reached in and removed the gag from the girl. "The kid out there," he pointed to David, "had a younger brother. Do you know what happened to him?"

The girl simply stared with wide eyes at Alexander, clearly in shock over whatever she had been through.

Justin made sure Craig was not going to jump on David before he moved over to the SUV while wrinkling his nose and cringing at the same time as he took in the fact the whole side was coated in the dead man's blood and brains. He shivered, but quickly refocused his attention to the others. "Alexander, the darker haired boy is nodding, maybe he knows something."

Alexander blinked a couple of times and shook his head as if trying to clear it for some reason before crawling in over the girl and other boy. He reached over and pulled the gag out and over the slightly older boy's chin, "Do you know what happened to Nate?"

The boy took a couple of deep breaths as he nodded, clearly relieved to be able to breathe a little better. After a few seconds, the kid glanced over to Justin, all but ignoring Alexander. "They dropped him and five others off at some buildings… they were in the middle of nowhere, but the guy in charge called it 'the Temple'. They were going to drop off us too, but this guy in a robe said they could only take five more because the transports wouldn't be able to make it if they overloaded them."

The kid looked over at Justin, as if sensing he was the nicest of the three kids he was seeing, "These cuffs are killing me and I need to pee!"

Alexander glanced out the door to make sure Craig had heard, not really caring about the boy's predicament. He didn't have to even get his head fully turned before Craig responded, however.

Craig turned to face the open door, "Do you know where they were taking them?"

Justin moved out of the way so Craig could look in and see who he was talking to. As Justin slid out of the way he noticed a key ring still clutched in the dead man's left hand. With some rising bile he reached down and pried the dead fingers off. Once he secured the keys, he turned and puked in earnest, then gave a few more dry heaves.

Inside the SUV, the kid shook his head as he answered the question, "I really got to go soon… um, but no. They didn't say. But they took my dad and older brother to Sheppard Air Force Base, where they are taking those they are calling 'Dissenters of Prominence'. The lead guy who took me called them DOPs and told what is left of the guy splattered all over the side of the truck to do the same, since most would not know what DOP would mean, but I don't even know what Dissenters of Prominence means…"

Alexander almost started to explain but a nudge from Justin, along with offered hand cuff keys, stopped him. Even though he got the point of this not being the time, he still gave Justin a sharp shove and followed it up with a bit of glare before turning his attention back to the kids in the back of the SUV. A slight smirk crossed his face as he showed the handcuff keys as if offering an incentive to answer. "How many did they take to the airbase?"

The kid eyed the key with a great deal of hope as he quickly retorted, "Not really sure. We were taken to this place just outside of Austin where there were a whole bunch of others who had been arrested and junk, but before we could figure out what was happening the lead guy, the one who got away, took me out of the processing line and shoved me over to this truck. Dad tried to stop him but got a rifle in the gut. Now please, I don't want to pee my pants."

Outside the SUV Craig ran his fingernails though his short hair with a snarl, "So we lost them… Get 'em loose, Destructicon. Once you do, toss me some cuffs so I can make sure jackass, here, doesn't go anywhere."

Before more could be said, the last kid in the SUV shook his head and jerked his head as if he was trying to point something out.

Justin quickly reached over Alexander and pulled down the boy's gag, "You know something?"

The smaller, long brown haired boy nodded as he took a few deep breaths, a testament as to how tight and restrictive the gags had been on all three kids, "Up front… they had a hard time finding the place… the driver… he put it into the GPS… I don't think they cleared it!"

Before Justin could extricate himself from the back, Craig gave David a shove to send him fully to the ground before leaping over to the SUV and jumping in the front seat. He quickly pulled up the GPS history and pumped his fist. "Got it! We need to go now!"

Alexander tossed Justin the cuffs off the kid who badly need to go and pointed out the door, "Let's get them out and safe first, Recon. As it is, it's a good thing this thing was bullet-proofed or we would have killed all of them with the amount of lead and steel we pumped into the jerk who killed the one running kid. Plus, I am low on ammo."

The older boy pointed to the back of the large SUV. "They have extra guns and bullets and junk in the back. I saw the open cases when they were beating on my dad."

Craig wasted no time in helping to pull the three captives out of the SUV and checking the back. True to the boy's words, the back held both a gun and an ammo case. Craig quickly switched out Justin's AR-15 with his M-4 while he hefted up a weird M-4/M-26 combo with a bit of a gleam in his eyes. He then handed the last M-4 in the case over to Alexander before tossing each of them a couple handfuls of loaded magazines for the captured weapons. He dug in the ammo box with a bit of a frown, only finding one box of twenty five rounds for the M-26 shotgun. With a shrug, he quickly loaded the lower add-on 12 gauge shotgun before slapping in a fresh clip into the M-4 part of the combination weapon.

By the time the cuffs had been removed from the captives, Craig had secured M-1911 pistols and had managed to adjust the shoulder holsters for the pistols down to their sizes… well almost down to their sizes, but definitely usable. He then wasted no time adding magazine holders to the shoulder harnesses for both the .45 pistols and the assault weapons. Just as he was explaining the basics of the military weapons to Justin, and the one boy had relieved himself on the back tire, Levi, Dennis, Zenon and Kermit could be seen quickly moving down to the boys and the armored SUV.

The four kept their distance, other than to secure and protect David, who was handcuffed with his left foot to his right hand and right foot to left hand.

Zenon started to ask for the keys only to see Craig shake his head. "No way, he's lucky I couldn't figure out how to do worse."

Zenon started to argue, but was once again stopped by Levi, "Craig, if you are planning on keeping him as a captive… Well, he is full of blood and we need to get him cleaned up and looked over."

Dennis turned sharply, "We can't just take a kid…"

Levi turned sharply and shot Dennis, then Zenon a very hard look. "In this case we can, unless you want to let him go and have him find someone to tell what we just did we will. We have dead and wounded to take care of…" He stopped as he saw Craig toss the handcuff key, which had been pulled off the key ring, over to Zenon and insert the car key into the ignition. "Craig, you can't hope to assault a government held compound alone."

"He won't be alone." Justin stated with complete conviction. "Alexander and I are going and it looks like so are most of the others." He paused as confusion crossed his face, "How did you know…?"

"I heard enough coming down the hill to know what is going on," Levi responded almost too quickly. "However," He glanced over his shoulder and noted Steven, Keith, and Ricky were right behind them. He rolled his eyes, "Ricky…"

Ricky shook his head, "If they took Craig's friend to where those others ran from, then I have to go. I already know the layout of the computer, the locks, and all of it. The only other one would be Mr. Triumph, and he is dealing with Mr. Zion and the two… we… you guys were able to save. Some of those awful things we saw on the cameras may kill if we don't deactivate them right."

"And after seeing what happened to those kids and what those other two were put through, I am going." Steven stated, "even if we do it alone, without you guys, we are going to try to get those kids out of there!"

"Ditto," Keith stated harshly. "I just killed like five people, and if we don't finish this, then what was it all for? Those guys up there are like my age and so are those who are still in that… horror movie…"

"Ah, shit!" Zenon growled, "OK! Fine! But stay behind us. Craig, get the GPS coordinates and give them to Dennis. He can take the boat and get it as close to our destination as possible. This will give us an escape route. I'll go tell the boss, who will totally freak out on me…"

Fredric's voice came from just up the hill. "No… No I won't, but Scott was nicked so he is staying behind. I also want one healthy Chaperone here. I sure as hell can't watch over Glenn, Scott, two badly abused kids, and… hell, I don't even know what the hell I am doing right now, but I know, in my heart, my parents would never forgive me if we didn't try to get the rest of those kids out of there…"

He paused and looked skyward, "If I end up having to call any of your parents saying you were badly injured, or far worse…killed, in some kind of gun battle…"

"They shot first," Justin countered as he hefted up the assault rifle, "and they killed that kid in cold blood. My dad and I don't get along great, but one thing I know he would understand is this. We have to do this. To not try… it would be as bad as what they are doing to those kids, and we saw it."

Seeing Steven, Ricky, Craig, Keith, and Alexander all nod, Mr. Triumph clenched his fists and looked back up the hill, "I should be there…"

"No, you need to stay here," Levi countered harshly. "Use Steven's metal detector and get every piece of our brass so there aren't any finger prints of any of us and get out of here. Go to the cabin and take care of our wounded and those poor kids."

"Besides, sir," Steven glanced over, "We have Ricky to get us into the computers and without you, we are all screwed. Your money is what is going to keep us safe and hidden, if that is even possible now."

Zenon glanced over to Kermit then Levi, "you two are probably best to lay out some kind of plan…"

Kermit nodded over to Levi. "This is all you. I am the action guy, not the planner."

Levi let out a long sigh, "First off, I would feel a lot better if you kids would agree to stay back, but I am not even going to try since it would be a waste of time… and time is something those kids may not have a lot of. Eight of us are going to pile into this vehicle and I will talk you through what I expect… what I demand… and once we hit the place, we go for kill shots. If you aren't willing to kill, kill without hesitation, stay back or stay out of the way from the rest of us. Dennis, take George and get the boss' house boat to the closest point you can then text me the coordinates as two phone numbers including area codes. Do it with the first five digits in reverse then next five in reverse. Do long then lat, tell me to call Uncle Ned and Aunt Kris with the news, nothing more. If for some reason this puts a zero first digit, then put the number four in the spot and if it is a one put a three in the first spot. If you need to do this, simply change the names. Also, get a bunch of those emergency space blankets out and ready. We will wrap all the kids in them so they don't put out a heat signature from any airborne assets. Got it?"

Dennis gave a hard nod, got the coordinates of the 'Temple', nodded to George, and took off at a dead run toward the larger boat.

Levi didn't hesitate to continue to give orders, "Kermit, follow us on the other ATV and when we get close I will signal you. Break off and take up a sniper position. Your first priority is the protection of our boys, then us; the hostages are absolutely last on the list. If we fall they are screwed anyway.

Kermit gave a single hard nod and moved over to secure the ATV. As soon as it started up, he gave a thumbs up.

Levi let out a short sigh before giving a sharp nod to the SUV. As the kids all piled in with weapons Levi turned to look at Fredric. "Well, you wanted these kids to make a difference in the world. You are getting your wish. Now get our wounded out of here and get all our stuff, all of it, out of the area as fast as you can. I know those two kids we rescued are not in the greatest shape, but use them. Make them help, give them lots to do. They are used to taking orders and doing things this way will keep their minds off what they have been through for now. Also, get the bodies of the boy and Paul out, but forget the rest. The government can come clean them up. But Scott's prints are all over the boy's body, and if they get Paul's, it'll lead them straight to you."

Not waiting to see if his commands would be followed, he jumped into the driver's seat, put the massive vehicle into drive and glanced over at Zenon. "Any chance we can ask for combat pay?"

"Then we should, too," Craig tried to joke.

Zenon glanced into the back of the large SUV and smirked, "We already were, just for having to deal with you all."

"Then ask for double," Steven managed to state with a grin despite the situation. "Because something tells me we are getting drawn deeper and deeper into a real mess."

"How much more of a mess can there be?" Ricky squeaked out as fear took hold of him again.

Zenon and Levi exchanged glances, before Zenon spoke. "Guys, you caused the sitting President of the U.S. to lose when it is now crystal clear he had no intention of doing so. Even if the transition to the next administration goes off smoothly, which is not likely, President Ashwood still has three months in office. These next few months are going to be…"

"Let's just say interesting," Levi cut in. "But for now, you all need to do is concentrate on staying safe. Let us adults take the lead. Still, you all need to be ready to shoot, to kill, and to protect us adults and each other. There is no way these animals are going to give up this compound without a fight. Also, Justin, we need everything, and I do mean everything on video. If we are ever going to clear ourselves, and justify to the world what we have done and are about to do, we will need a mountain of documented reasons, and you are the right person for the job."

After nearly twenty minutes and the sky getting dark, Zenon frowned deeply, "Looks like a helicopter is taking off from right about where we are going, guys."

Craig leaned forward and watched as blinking lights lifted off into the twilight and banked hard to the south as it gained altitude. "Man, I hope we didn't just lose everyone we came here to save."

Alexander made a growling sound, "If we did, I am going to kick the crap out of David when we get back."

Levi reached back and flipped Alexander hard in the forehead, "Boy, kicking him is being no better than those we are fighting. I hear you say anything along those lines again, I don't give a crap what Fredric says, I am beating your butt until you can't sit down, got me?"

Alexander's eyes went wide but he held up both hands and nodded, "Got it, but…"

Another finger flip smacked into the boy's forehead, this time hard enough for the others to hear, "No ifs, ands, or buts, none. Until you have been where those kids, and now David is, you knock it off, because you don't get it… can't fathom what being held against your will is like."

The pain from the second flip caused Alexander to cringe and fire back with a challenge of his own, "And you do?"

"Don't go there, boy," Levi hissed in reply. "You don't know me near well enough."

At the same time Ricky spoke so softly only Steven heard him, "Yeah, Alexander, you have no clue."

The tone of Levi's voice alone was enough to cause Craig, who had no clue Ricky had said anything, to pull Alexander back, "Drop it and get ready, I see lights just over the next hill and it's right where we are heading."

"Indeed it is," Zenon nodded as he lowered the window and signaled for Kermit to break off and find a sniping spot. "Again, guys, you all are back up. Let us handle this…"

Steven leaned forward, "Hold up, Mr. Yarrow… I think I have an idea."

Zenon started to speak but was cut off by Levi, "Let's hear him out, Zenon; it can't hurt to get a fresh idea from a kid we know has an IQ somewhere well above what should be allowed."

Zenon let out a long breath and gave a slight nod. "OK, Steven, let's hear it."

Steven leaned forward, "Sir, we could pull right up to the place as long as you keep the damaged side away from the buildings. You could act like agents who were told by Paulson to drop us off until he can get us. This will bring more of them out and we can hit them as they try to grab us."

Zenon slowly glanced into the back. "You are back up, not front line distractions…"

Levi nodded, but quickly countered, "Yeah, but Steven is right. We have six kids right about the same age as what they seem to be collecting. We are in a government SUV and we know the name of the lead agent. If we play this right, we pull them out of the buildings and hit them in the open, fast, before they have a chance to lock it down on us."

Alexander nodded, "We keep our guns hidden and we drop to the ground when you open up, then we hit them before they can get back inside. It's a great idea!"

"I'll get the whole conversation on video, too." Justin eagerly added to the plan even as it scared the tar out of him. "All I have to do is mount my low light lenses and stick my auto-stabilizer so it points out the open window. We can get it all done before they even realize they are in danger."

Zenon punched the dashboard hard enough to crack it, expressing his anger at endangering the kids he was responsible for much more than he intended, yet realizing the plan was flatly brilliant. "OK, then adjust your stuff and keep your sidearms well concealed. As soon as we take out the most dangerous ones, dive out of the way and take the nearest targets and move to get behind the SUV. This beast will put some armor between you and them.

"What about Mr. Kjell?" Keith asked with a great deal of concern. "He isn't going to know what we are doing…"

"He'll know," Levi stated with total confidence. "He and I have worked together enough to where I am sure he'll get the message, probably before we even pull to a stop next to the buildings. Now, put your long arms on the floorboards and behind the seats, well out of sight. You can work back to them once the fighting starts. Since the back doors only open from the outside, I will crack the one on my side so you can get out on this side and or get to the long arms if things go bad."

Zenon shot Levi a dirty look, which was all but ignored. Finally, after gritting his teeth and trying to figure out a way to keep the kids out of the line of fire, he relented totally to the plan. He took a few deep breaths and composed himself while glancing back. "Kill shots, guys; overkill is just fine. Pump in rounds until the target you select stops moving. Just make sure it isn't one of us."

Levi kept the headlights off as he went around the hill so he could pull up to the two buildings with the driver's side on the far side of the structures. As he did so Zenon rolled down the window as a pair of men dressed in brown robe came out of the larger of the buildings, while a rather petite woman watched on with a bit of a smirk. "Paulson told us to drop these little shit's off."

The smaller of the two men came up to the vehicle, "We already told him we are pulling out. We can't…"

Levi opened the driver door and stepped out while putting a great deal of indignation into his voice, "You can't? Are you really wanting me to get on the radio and tell Paulson you can't help him out after the screw-up of letting some escape on you?"

"Son of a bitch," the other man snarled. "What part of we are pulling out doesn't he get? They're already sending us what is needed to get the rest out, but we can't take more than one or two more!"

Levi's eyes bored into the guy, "Look, we already lost our chopper support to search for those you let go, and these six are hand-picked by Paulson himself. If we didn't have to chase down the ones you let escape, then he'd deal with them! Now get them out of our hair until Paulson can find someone to grab them and take them to wherever the hell you guys are pulling back to! I personally think we have enough, but not Paulson, and I am not about to go against the newly appointed Austin sector lead agent with everything else which is about to go down."

The woman snorted, showing she was actually far more in command than the two men. "You guys want to go live in Argentina like we have planned or the back deserts of Iran where you started? You sure seem to be pushing for Iran…"

The first guy to speak let out a long sigh as he glared at the woman, cutting of the rest of what she was about to say. "Don't go putting in your report on us just yet. I'll go grab some help, but you need to get on the radio and let him know, we can shove in two or three more… hell, maybe four max, so some will have to stay behind."

The woman eyed to two men, "You two can fall back to the ranch and get pulled out with the others later. If Senior Field Agent Paulson wants these six, he gets them or I let it be known you two were more interested is saving your own asses than obeying the top agent in Texas and now lead man for this whole op."

The first guy clenched his fist, "Our orders were to guarantee this second shipment gets off the coast…"

Levi hardened and glared at both men, "And leaving two who were handpicked by Paulson is a great way to piss him off. Why don't you just stick your middle finger in his face?"

The woman glanced over as her hand came to rest on a weapon beneath her suit jacket, telling everyone who didn't notice the shoulder rigging she was packing. "Just think of it as a bonus. You have six more to play with for a couple of hours before the birds come back."

The man spoke with a resigned voice, "Fine, Mellissa is right, we'll leave Donny and Gail to go back to the ranch. We have a few hours to start the process and get them ready for what is to come. Do you know which direction he wants the rest of them to go?"

"Didn't say," Zenon fired back while locking eyes with the man who was clearly the lead guy. It took everything he had not to pull his Asp nine millimeter and put a bullet into the guy's skull. Instead of doing what he really wanted he decided to probe for more information. "My guess is wherever you are sending the others."

The female agent frowned, "You don't know where he wants them?"

Levi spoke up quickly to cover for Zenon while wanting to get more information as well, "Not really. He said to take them off the coast, but he was hot on the trail of three of your runaways; he must have figured you would know what he meant. The good thing is his squad, along with your dogs, should have them by now. That should leave only a handful left."

"Five of 'em, and at least one of them managed to kill two of my guys and is now armed," the guy grumbled. "We'll send them to the ship with the others. Any word come down yet on who hacked us and locked us in the lounge?"

Levi shook his head, "No, but Paulson still wants to know how all of you ended up locked down in the same spot while the kids got out. Who the hell was supposed to be on guard duty?"

A second woman came out of the building and spat off to the side. "Gail and Donny were showing Agent Cassidy the process." The brown robed woman glanced over to the other woman. "This was her trial run with the go-betweens since she is training as a negotiator to our South American friends. Not as prestigious as those who go to the Middle East, but those folks don't deal well with women. They then took her to meet with a client who has shown some interest, so they were caught inside the lounge when the bastards took the control room."

Three more men and one woman came out of the building, each wearing robes and carrying dog catcher poles. The last guy tossed the robed man and robed woman extra poles as he moved toward the SUV.

The man who was first to speak glanced over to the guy who tossed him the pole, "You and Gail get them secured and get your asses back on guard duty."

The woman, who was clearly Gail, yanked open the side door, dropped the loop over Ricky's neck and yanked him out, getting a started cry from the thrashing boy. It was clear she had done this countless times before. The next guy moved up to the far back door and did the same to Steven. As the lead man saw them hit the ground he smiled rather lewdly, "Yeah, I can see why Paulson wanted these two! While Gail and Donny keep watch, the rest of us will give them a quick dressing down and see who is the best looking. The best two we'll get out on the lead chopper since we know some of those we have are not real high on anyone's interest list."

Zenon had heard enough, too much. He pulled his pistol and put a single round right into the guy's mouth, blowing out the back of his head and dropping him.

Levi didn't hesitate to put a pair of rounds into Gail who had pulled Ricky out of the SUV. The first round hit her in the neck, the second in the chest. The hollow point rounds in his Jericho nine millimeter sprayed those behind the woman with her blood.

Before any of the others could react, a high powered round ripped into the guy holding the dog catcher around Steven's neck. His head all but exploded as the rifle round split it like a melon. A few moments later, the gunshot echoed off the surrounding landscape, giving proof to how far away it had been fired from.

From the direction of the lake, another gunshot sounded at almost the same time as a robed figure, who had been holding open the door, dropped. His scream of pain told everyone he was not dead, but was certainly out of the fight.

Alexander rolled out and fired his pistol, ending the guy's cries while putting a dead body in the door so it didn't close. Alexander then moved forward with startling speed and grace. He took a knife off the belt of the guy he shot, slashed the neck of the next nearest man and started to move to pull the loop from around Ricky's neck but didn't make it more than half a step toward the choking boy. A taser, fired from the female agent, caught him in the right shoulder. The jolt of electrical energy flipped him back.

At the same time, four more robbed figures came out of the second building and opened up with pistols. A fifth man, not in a robe, came out took a knee, and fired an AR-15 toward the lake. Even as he watched one of his target falls, a high powered round ripped into his back and out his front. He fell forward, dead before he hit the ground.

Keith and Justin rolled out the back side of the SUV, grabbed long arms, and sighted in on one of the pistol armed robed figures who was shooting at Craig even as the boy tried to get to Alexander. Both kids fired at pretty much the same instant. The figure dropped, revealing long dark hair and feminine features as it collapsed.

Unfortunately, the woman managed to get off a single shot, which grazed Craig's hip. He let out yelp, but still managed to roll and fire three pistol rounds into a man who had managed to grab the dog capture stick before Steven could get his head out of it. The guy staggered back, gravely wounded, but refused to let go.

Steven felt the rope close around his neck and struggled to breathe.

Justin saw this and moved around the SUV while chambering another round into his shotgun. He fired at close to point blank range, blowing off the man's right arm at the elbow. This time the guy let go as he pulled up the stump and screamed as blood pumped out in spurts covering his face and shirt.

This didn't last long. Craig quickly put two rounds into the guy's face ending the squealing for good.

Steven, still gasping for air, saw movement off to Justin's side from another robed figure. He pulled up his pistol and unloaded just like he had been told. Six of the fifteen shots hit and riddled the figure, a couple of them hit well after they guy had already fallen.

While Zenon and Levi each took out two more, the female agent delivered a hard kick to Alexander's face and started to drag him back toward the building while she fired a small handgun at Zenon, forcing the man to duck.

A third high powered round took her small form off the ground and dropped it right next to Ricky, who was still trying to get the dog catcher loop off his own neck. As the woman fell, the small .38 fell onto Ricky's chest. He eyed the gun with wide eyes, but terror turned into rage as he saw a machete armed man move toward a totally unconscious Alexander. Without really thinking, he grabbed the weapon and fired it upward at the man, striking him in the chest.

The man's eyes went wide as he looked at the hole in his chest. At the same time the machete's blade angled toward Ricky and the man took a wobbly step forward.

Ricky fired again. This time the bullet went into the man's abdomen which forced the huge man back a full step. The machete fell out of his hand as he staggered to his left while his hands moved to cover the wounds.

Ricky's eyes were wide with terror at this point, never figuring anyone would be able to actually stand after being shot twice. He fired again. This shot ended up between the first two. Finally the man fell twitching and trying to crawl away.

By this time Ricky was having none of this. He fired a fourth time. The bullet entered the man's right side and finally the massive robed man stopped moving. By this time Ricky no longer cared about the rope thing around his neck. He rolled under the SUV and brought the dog catcher with him.

Craig saw full auto fire lance into the SUV, which forced Keith and Levi to dive for cover. Even though his hip was bleeding, he reached back, grabbed the captured M4 out of the back of the SUV and sent a trio of rounds into the window the gunfire was coming from. While he didn't see the gunman get hit, the fact the Uzi fell out of the window was all the proof he needed. He rolled and fired again, this time taking the legs out of another robe wearing, pistol armed, man. Before he could fire a kill shot and end the threat, however, another high powered round slammed into the guy's back shattering the backbone.

Levi rolled from around the front of the SUV, put a bullet into the face of yet another robed man, then moved up to the final machete armed guard, twisted the guy's arm till it broke, then grappled the man so he could flip him. Before the man could even think about what to do, Levi secured the long blade and shoved it into the man's neck hard enough to send it out the back while cutting the spinal cord. He shoved the man's corpse off to the side, which removed the head altogether. With a snarl, he then panned the area with his pistol. Nothing else moved and the only sounds came from those who came with him.

Zenon jumped to his feet and sprinted in the direction of the lake while shouting. "Get the kids and pull back to the boat! I am going to see how bad George was hit!"

Levi nodded and pulled the dog catcher from around Steven's neck, "You heard Zenon, move!"

It took only thirty minutes to get those who were left in the building of horrors out and to the boat.

During this time, Justin took both stills and video of both buildings. At times tears rolled down his cheeks as he filmed kids right around his own age pulled off of tables meant to shock, cut out of straitjackets, and took several pictures of thermostats in the control room showing the temperatures in some of the rooms hovering close to one hundred degrees while others were set as low as forty.

Some of the rooms were as small as five foot squares with a door and a bucket to go to the bathroom in, while others were huge and held all sorts of electronic gadgets and restraining items, which Justin quickly realized he didn't want to know what they were used for. The smaller building was actually worse and held a massive basement complex, but proved to hold no kids. Evidence of a hasty evacuation told him there had been kids there recently, while thicker doors and more extravagant security measures told him this place was far more secure than the larger building, which still held fourteen kids, ten boys and four girls all between eight and fourteen years of age.

Craig spent the first ten minutes going through each place looking for Nathanial, but the youngster wasn't there. However, a school backpack, with Nate's name stenciled on it, was located by Steven along with the shirt and pants the boy had been wearing at the restaurant. Both garments were badly torn.

Craig took the items out of the building, saying nothing. He came back in a few seconds later and sprayed the lounge area with a full thirty round clip before coming back out and glancing over to Zenon. "I don't want a dime until we find Nate. Everything I earn needs to go to help find him."

Zenon grabbed Craig by the shoulders and stared into his eyes. "Trust me, the boss is not going to let this go. Now, screw your head back on straight and help these other kids. They have been through too much and the extra shooting, no matter how good it felt for you, didn't do any of them any good."

"Fine, but if I see Paulson, I am going to kill him," Craig snarled in response while reluctantly accepting what he being told

"Given the chance, I'll give you the shot, Craig. Now, let's get these kids to the boat and wrapped in space blankets."

Because of the number of kids, Levi stayed behind with Justin, Keith, and Ricky. They took time to get as much brass as they could find, take all the weapons, and get all the computer equipment and devices they could find. As a final act of rage, Levi set the SUV on fire and slammed it into the larger building while Justin sent the flaming ATV into the smaller one.

By the time they got to the cabin, all the kids were exhausted and the injuries were evaluated. Some of the kids didn't look good at all and several of the rescued kids had some dehydration issues and were weak. The only good part of the whole thing was the hip wound to Craig turned out to be a grazing flesh wound which was easily patched up. For over an hour nothing was said unless it was to ask for a hand in dealing with one of the kids or assorted injuries, the worst of which was George who had taken a single gunshot to the chest.

Keith leaned against the back corner of Fredric's small private cabin trying desperately to come to grips with the last few hours. Everything had changed… in the blink of an eye the world Keith thought he lived in had come face to face with the world he really lived in. The fantasy filled world of making the all-star baseball team and making a game winning catch was gone. Those dreams were replaced with the nightmare of using those same skills to catch and return a live grenade. Like it or not, he now knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, he lived in a world filled with incredible violence, terrible cruelty, and horrible pain.

Pain, yes there was the physical pain, but not the normal type a kid should have to deal with. This was not the scraped knee of falling off a skate board, it was not stinging pain of accidentally sticking a fish hook into a finger, nor was it even the breath taking pain of a broken bone from falling out of a tree. No, the physical agony he was looking at, seeing, and had been thrust into participating in was the injuries of combat. These were bullet pierced bodies, shrapnel shredded flesh, blood coming out of eyes, noses and ears from concussion damage, and burned bubbled skin. This was the stuff out of movies with action heroes, not kids: at least not real ones like himself and his new friends.

However, the physical paled when compared to the mental anguish Keith was seeing and feeling.

Fredric was probably the worst off, and for several good reasons. The man was on the couch, holding Joey, both of whom were doing their best not to cry. Fredric felt he was directly responsible for what had happened, and the results were terrifyingly bad. One of his men was dead, three others seriously wounded. All had been picked to help chaperone because they had families. This meant at least one family was now without a father and three others could follow shortly. Joey was hit equally as hard, since he looked up to all the men and Paul, in particular, had always gone out of his way to be ultra nice to the boy.

Just as bad, in Fredric's way of thinking, was the fact the boys he had brought down for a week of fun and learning and had sought to protect had all been shot at. In Craig's case, the young teen had been clipped by flying glass and grazed by a bullet, but was still armed and ready to protect the others. The difference was, he was armed with captured federal agent weapons. He had a ten millimeter pistol in a hip holster and an M-4 assault rifle was within easy reach of where he sat.

Alexander was slightly worse off, at least in the short term, since he had taken a taser followed by a kick to the face. The entire right side of Alexander's face was swollen and two of his baby teeth in the back of his mouth were now in his stomach, or at least so he thought. Yet, like Craig, Alexander was very much ready should someone come bursting in. The difference was, Alexander had throwing knives, found in the complex. The six blades had been on a belt, but with Levi's help, the belt had been converted into a bandoleer. While there was still some serious concern over the boy's temper, he had proven to be a very good shot, so a captured AR-15 semi-auto rifle leaned up against the table he was sitting at, also within easy reach.

Keith glanced down at his hands for about the fiftieth time, swearing he could feel the grenade still pressing against his flesh before he threw it back. It had been reflex and had saved the lives of several, but ugly the truth was his actions had killed six and allowed two others to be easily gunned down. Quite simply, his mind was fighting an internal battle trying to justify what he had done with the end result. It didn't help matters to see the nine millimeter pistol, in the shoulder rigging as he looked down at his hands. Yes, he had proven he could use it, and had even shot it at a man when they took the compound and rescued the other kids scattered pretty much everywhere in the massive cabin, but it felt wrong. The worst part was, until today, the idea of carrying a pistol, like he was now, was a dream. Now, however, it was part of a nightmare, yet he took comfort in having it. This only made his brain wrap around to having killed while saving lives of others all over again.

Turning his gaze away from his pistol and his hands, he looked over at the twin tables, formally the living room and dining room tables of the cabin where Scott and Steven worked with Levi to stop the bleeding on the wounds of George and Ethan. Both boys had weapons next to them. Steven had a twelve gauge shotgun, and Scott a .22. While Scott knew only the basics of first aid, Steven seemed to have a much greater knowledge base. From what Keith had been able to glean from the conversation, Steven had taken a direct interest in medical stuff since his mom had cancer. Steven had then had spent so much time in the hospital he had picked up enough to be pretty good, at least according to Levi.

Next to the two badly injured men, Everet once again adjusted the bandage around his leg and put an extra gauze pad over each side of his thigh. The bullet had gone straight through, and while the bleeding had drastically slowed, it had not stopped. Even though Everet was clearly a bit woozy from blood loss and pain, he kept his weapons at the ready.

Off to the side of the injured men, Paul's body was laid out wrapped in a pair of plastic picnic table cloths. Next to him was the body of the teen shot by the federal agent, also wrapped in plastic. Opposite of the door, Justin and Alexander were doing their best to talk to the eight kids rescued from the detention facility who were cognizant enough to be able to give their names and other basic information, although in Keith's mind it had been nothing more than a horror-filled torture chamber.

As Keith thought of the assault on the compound, his mind once again pictured the scene of him shooting at the man who had opened up on Craig. The man had fallen, but both he and Justin had shot at the guy within milliseconds of each other. One of them had hit, maybe both. Had he shot the man? Was it his bullet? For some reason not knowing was both comforting and troubling. It was weird to want to know, while at the same time happy he didn't. He returned his gaze outward again, trying to think about something else, anything else.

Directly across from Joey and Fredric, Glenn tried to get the two kids from the lake-side firefight to open up a little more while three of the four kids found in the back of Agent Paulson's SUV sat around a kitchen table gazing out the window, looking at the moon shimmering off the lake. All of them could see Kermit with his rifle out and ready, looking down toward the water. While this was scary, it was also reassuring for all the kids to see they had a guard at the ready.

Craig, even though nicked up and bloodied from the pair of firefights, also stood guard, the captured M-4 assault rifle within easy reach as he gazed out the smallest of the back windows, looking for any sign of trouble. Next to him, with his hands cuffed behind him, David Teller kept his head down and mouth tightly clamped shut, which wasn't difficult considering both his upper and lower lips were split and fattened, his left top front tooth wiggled with the slightest touch of his badly bitten tongue, and both his eyes were all but swollen shut.

Finally, Ricky remained silent as he worked on the pair of damaged laptops, a trio of PDA's taken off the dead, and four hard drives recovered from the small detention complex. Out of all of the kids, he and he alone seemed to be handling the situation the best, probably because he was able to focus all his attention on what he loved the most, computers. Unfortunately, he too had tasted combat.

The boy, who had been forbidden to learn to shoot, had picked up a revolver dropped by one of the women working in the compound and had fired it point blank into another man's chest as the guy came at him, Alexander, and one of the fleeing kids with a machete. While it had only been a .38, it had been more than enough to drop the guy. As of yet, no one had mentioned he was not supposed to handle any kind of firearm. In fact, quite the opposite had happened. Kermit took the boy out and taught him proper firing techniques, gun safety, cleaning, and how to use a speed loader. The small .38 was secured in a hip holster and the three speed loaders were in pouches on the opposite side. The interesting thing was it actually fit him pretty well since it had been worn by a very petite woman before this.

Fredric started to say something, but dropped it before words ever came out of his mouth once he saw the looks of all the other boys and a few of the chaperones. It had been Joey who had pointed out the obvious, however. Like it or not, Ricky had used a gun, needed to use it to protect his own life and someone else's, so he had earned the right to learn how to properly use it. Of course Joey's words had been tempered by his own need to shoot someone with one of the .22s. The same rifle which now leaned up against the edge of the couch he was sitting on.

Keith took one more deep breath and looked over to where the two boys and one adult were working on the two worst injured, "How is it looking?"

Scott shrugged, "Until today, my medical knowledge was first aid in scouts and the Red Cross CPR course I got to take as part of getting my merit badge." He chewed on his bottom lip for a second. "I'm pretty sure we are good on Mr. Hewie, other than needing antibiotics and a tetanus shot, but without Mr. Tobin and Steven, I think Mr. Westley would already be dead."

"Don't sell yourself short, son." Levi responded with as much comfort as he could put into his voice. You did great. As a matter of fact, I can safely say I am in the presence of nine of the finest young men this country has to offer."

Levi backed off and wiped blood off his hands before he turned to look over at Keith, "And you… I want to talk to your parents at some point… Just so I can get permission to wrap you in a bear-hug and kiss the top of your head. Without you, most of the people in this room would be dead or still in the clutches of those animals."

Seeing a flash of a grin before Keith's face returned to a stony mask of no outward emotions, Levi moved over and patted the boy on the back. "When all of this is over, I am going to see you play baseball, promise."

"I sure hope I get to play again…" Keith's voice broke up some as he realized this may be nothing more than a dream. "But what about Mr. Westley and Mr. Hewie?"

Levi glanced back over to the table where George's chest was raggedly rising and falling and cringed, but seeing the blue eyes staring at him, he decided to be honest. "Unfortunately, Scott's right. George has a punctured lung, and we don't have proper medical equipment to handle it. Even if we could transport safely, which we can't, going to a hospital is out of the question. Those were federal agents, and until we can expose all this… well…"

At this Fredric let out another light sob, knowing he might very well have to tell two families their husbands and fathers would not be coming back. At least his pain was helped by Joey, who only held onto the man tighter.

Keith glanced back at his radio, "Dmitry… the man who got us the satellite up-link, said he could send us some help…"

Zenon glanced over, "If they tell the wrong people…"

Levi glanced over, "I find it extremely unlikely. They did as much, if not more, than our boys did and are still at it> At least I think they are, judging by the radio news."

Everet snorted, "Without these kids, they would have never gotten in. Hell, without these kids, we would all be looking at another term of Ashwood and these other kids would still be locked in… whatever the hell that place was."

"The Temple," Troy stated with a voice devoid of all emotions.

"Bullshit!" Dennis snarled, "It was nothing more than a monument to the most sick and twisted people in this world, and our government knew about it! It makes me sick!" Seeing Troy cringe and several of the rescued kids look over at him with wide and fear filled eyes, he softened considerably, "Whatever they called it, made you all call it, it is nothing more than rubble at this point and I will die before they try to take any of you all to another place like it."

He took a deep breath wondering about his own family as he glanced over at the terrified faces scattered around the cabin, "But, at the moment, my vote is to trust Keith's friend and father. The man was true to his words, and we need as many of us healthy as possible if we are going to protect these kids over the next several days."

"Boss," Zenon stated as he moved up to Fredric, "This has to be your decision."

Fredric wiped tears out of his eyes for about the fifth time as he gazed around the room. The thought of any of the kids in the cabin getting taken and put back in the clutches of the evil he had witnessed made him physically ill. Finally, he managed to focus on Zenon, "Without Paul, the lead security… it's up to you. I'm not the right one to… to make this kind of call…"

Zenon patted Fredric on the shoulder, "Understood, boss…" He then looked over to Keith, "Make the call, but only if you can do so securely. If the feds find us, we are in no shape to run."

Keith's eyes narrowed, "The only thing we didn't get to is Department of Defense, but we managed to cripple some of their satellites because other agencies started piggybacking on them once we took down their primary communication grids. Anything east of the Missouri-Mississippi river line is still in danger of being traced, but west of there is a mess, and getting worse. They can barely talk to each other, let alone trace a signal piggybacked over a Russian Mil-Sat. Besides, I was able to link with Sergei and he got me secure codes into Ricky's Mass-Hack. Even if they manage, by some miracle, to get a piece; it will be scrambled and it sure can't be traced since I have a directional on where their Mil-Sat is. The nice thing about having a small lab in the basement here is I was able to craft a directional antenna, so we can go point to point."

Everet glanced over with a raised eyebrow, "I almost understood what you just said."

This got a few chuckles out of all the science contest winners and even a few of the rescued kids, which in turn pulled Fredric a little further out of his self-pity. "Keith… if they can find us some medicine or some kind of Russian mafia doctor, then… yeah, let's give it a try. I will pay whoever they can find."

Keith nodded and started setting up the portable HAM radio with his newly devised directional antenna. At the same time Ricky glanced over, "Do any of you know what Operation Starshine is?"

Seeing nothing but blank looks across the whole room, Levi shook his head, "Apparently not. Did you find something?"

Ricky nodded, "The PDA the Homeland Security guy had on him… The one Alexander cut the throat of before he was tasered… Um, it has an encrypted memory card, but with the help of Mass-Hack, I was able to break the encryption. The problem is… well this is just weird, the guy had access to something called Operation Starshine, but only bits and pieces of it, and they were being downloaded to him as he needed them. All I have at the moment is to stand by for orders from the Attorney General with regards to countering the undermining of President Ashwood by what it is calling still unknown pro-Bryce hackers and a prior file telling him of the need to transfer those being held at the Temple Compound to a Coast Guard HH-60 Jayhawk then over to the USS Franklin Buchanan."

Craig's head jerked up at the mention of the ship's name, "My Dad was just transferred off of the Buchanan a month and a half ago with over fifty others! He was pretty angry since the ship's captain, Commander Vortalis, said it was needed to shake up the crew after a bad sea-trial inspection, but the inspection got the highest grade possible, except for helicopter and aerial ASW readiness, partially because my dad made sure it did, and my dad had nothing to do with the helicopter side of the sea-trial. He really disliked Commander Vortalis and said the guy was promoted way to fast over the last four years and wanted to blame someone for his failing, but dad came out looking pretty good since Vortalis had assigned a lieutenant to oversee all aerial ops since my dad was new to destroyers with onboard helicopters."

Levi's eyes narrowed, "So, someone shuffles crew off one ship and brings in fresh blood… the Navy and the Coast Guard are part of…. OH, CRAP! What we hit wasn't some sort of cult compound! It is all part of the Ashwood Administration and he, or someone inside it, is using Homeland Security, Coast Guard, and naval assets! Keith, make the call and let them know all of this. We can't handle this on our own!"

Dennis winced as he stood on his bullet damaged leg, but the look on his face told everyone how scared he was as he looked at Levi, "What does this sound like to you…"

Levi took a deep breath, "If this wasn't the United States, I would say a Coup-d'état…"

"So would I," Dennis stated as he felt a shiver run up his spine.

Keith got on the radio with a pounding heart while Glenn glanced over at the two men, "No one can take over the US!"

"Normally, I'd agree, Glenn." Levi responded carefully, "But with people in key places they could strike and create enough chaos to allow someone to try."

Suddenly a young voice came over the radio, "Comrade Keith, do you need speak to Papa or can we… um… make talk small."

Keith managed a smile even as talk of a possible government takeover was going on behind him. "Sorry, Sergei, no time for small talk now. I really need to speak to your Papa."

Dmitri's voice came over the radio a split second later speaking surprisingly good English, "Young Keith, your voice sounds troubled. What can I do for you?"

Keith raised an eyebrow, "How come you never spoke English to me before?"

"I will explain more later." Dmitry responded, "Is there a problem?"

"At the moment, more than I can count, but you said you could find us some help… Um, do you have a doctor somewhere around Breckenridge Texas who can help us without telling the government?"

"Are you hurt?" Dmitri demanded to know.

"Not me, but we have serious injuries and one of our chaperones is dead. Another will be before daybreak if we can't get a real doctor and some medicine."

"What in the hell happened?" a voice shouted from behind Dmitri.

Keith glanced over his shoulder and softly spoke the words, "Am I crazy or did that sound like President Bryce's voice?"

Seeing a couple cringe and a few others give a half nod, Keith quickly returned to speaking into the radio, "Um… We had a shoot out with federal agents… They killed a kid in cold blood… and we tracked them back to a… um… this uh… Compound… they… well this cult like group were kidnapping kids for some reason. We are still trying to figure out why, but it is all tied together with something called Operation Starshine."

There was a pause at the other end, but when Dmitri's voice returned, it sounded different, "Keith, I… We are with someone who badly needs to find out what you know about this… um… Starshine. While I figure out how to get you help, please tell us."

Keith glanced over to Ricky, "This is all you. You are the only one who has the info."

Ricky gulped, but moved forward with the PDA in hand.

Keith quickly spoke into the radio, "I am handing the radio over to one of my new friends. Without him the hack would not have happened and he is holding onto what information we have. His name is Ricky, and he is the best computer guy ever!"

"Understood, Keith." Dmitri managed a snicker, "Since Keith called you his friend, am I to gather you are about his age, Ricky?"

"Yes sir." Ricky squeaked out, "Um, what do you… well I have a PDA… it only has some stuff on it…"

"Relax, young man," an authoritative voice spoke in the background, "Take a breath and tell us what you have."

Ricky glanced over, forgetting to not key the radio, "If this is who I think it is, my mom is going to be sooooo mad at me for helping him…"

The voice at the other end spoke with compassion mixed with a forcefulness Ricky had never heard before. "Son, I know you probably don't want to do something to upset your mother, but this is vitally important."

The words and the way they were spoken all but compelled the youngster to relay the information. "Well, um… this is coming off a guy's PDA, but he has extensive instructions… they were being relayed from something called Alpha Omega… maybe someone… anyway… um… he had orders to transfer the kids we took… um rescued… to a ship one of the other guys here knows about, but with help of the Coast Guard… Um…" Ricky couldn't stand it any longer, "Is this really President Bryce?"

Bryce's voice came over the radio again, a bit softer this time. "Yes, son, it is. It's fine, though. Whatever you can do to help us is great." There was a chuckle on the other end, but it still came with a serious undertone, "I'll make you a deal, though. If you don't tell your mother your talking to me, I won't tell her either. Sound good?"

Ricky nodded, which caused Craig to snicker, "He can't hear a nod, Skynet."

Ricky's face turned bright red, "Oh, shoot… um, sorry… is it Mr. President or Sir?

"Son, you can call me anything you want, including Jack. With what you boys have done for us, and what you have gone through, there is no need for formalities." The voice was not a presidential one at this point instead it held more of a fatherly tone.

Ricky again nodded and blushed as he realized he was doing the same thing again. "Well, uh… the ship they are taking the kids to is called the USS Franklin Buchanan… One of the guys here says his dad was taken off the ship and moved to a different one not long ago… if that matters… um… yeah…"

"Ricky, could you please hold on for a moment? I need to ask a few people here a question or four." President Bryce's voice made it clear this was not really a question.

Scott spoke up from behind Ricky, not giving the younger boy a chance to reply, "Sir, with all due respect, we will wait as long as you need but there is a guy here who can't. Please, if there is any way to get us some help… I don't want to lose any more people today!"

Bryce's response was quick and forceful. "I agree, young man. Before I discuss anything else with my staff, I will figure out how to get you the help that you need. Okay?"

"Mr. President," Scott spoke up again, "As long as we know we are getting some help, we are all yours and it sounds like you need it since at least part of the DoD, HS, and NSA are not on your side at the moment."

There were several seconds of uneasy silence before Bryce's voice came back over the radio. "Okay guys, here's what we got." President Bryce's voice did its best to convey compassion but it was clearly coming out of a man under stress. "We will have two helicopters leaving here shortly, and they will be there in…" there was a brief pause then President Bryce resumed talking. "…In about three hours. There will be some Russian military troops there to help keep you guys safe, as well as a doctor and a medic to help take care of your injured. They will let us know what else you need, and then tomorrow we'll send down whatever else you guys might need. How does that sound?"

Scott moved up to the radio, "Sir, we will welcome them with open arms if you are saying they are friendly, but does this mean… are we really at a state of civil war?"

The voice of the duly elected President spoke with a heavy hearted voice, "At the moment, no. But I don't think it's far off."

Craig moved up to the radio, "Sir, if this is our fault…" His voice broke.

Levi moved over and patted Craig on the back. "No, Craig, we started a shit storm, but some of this looks like it was in the works for months, especially with your dad being moved off the Buchanan. This was going to happen no matter what. All you guys did is put a person into power, or at least helped to, who could do something about it. Now Ricky needs to finish telling Mr. Bryce what else he found."

Ricky handed the PDA over to Scott as he found himself unable to speak.

Scott took it and scanned what was on the hand held device, "Mr. President, It looks like Skynet has told you most of it, but there is something really weird here. It is telling the agent we killed, and yeah, we killed him, to send resisters and major undesirables to Orlando, and to move them over to the custody of the ATF agents that are taking part in a sub operation, it is called, Funland. No other information on it, but the ATF field office in Orlando has been put under Homeland for whatever this sub-op is."

President Bryce took a moment to digest the information before speaking again. "Son, I am going to have someone else ask you a few things, if that is okay?"

"Mr. President, this is your ballgame, and we pretty much put ourselves on your team, so you get to call the shots." Scott spoke with a diplomatic ease none of the others in the cabin could fathom.

A young sounding male voice suddenly came over the radio, "My name is Logan Hayes. Is there any way you have to connect the PDA to something that has internet access?"

At this, Ricky found his voice again as computer talk activated his brain on a level only someone with a deep love of computers could do, "If you give me a place to send it, I can binary encrypt, condense, zip and send in the next thirty seconds. This way you can use the same encryption code we used to contact you with to decode."

"That should do." Logan's young voice responded with enthusiasm. "Go ahead and send it to Logan at oraclenet dot com." He paused for a moment before he got an evil grin on his face. "I take it you're the one responsible for the little hack yesterday?"

"My home-built toys, but we were all part of it." Ricky responded with a renewed ease, partially because he was doing something he loved and partially because he was talking to a kid who clearly understood. "You should have the download in about 40 seconds, but beware, there is a virus hidden in the bits, so you will need to extract the data by taking out the thirty third to the fortieth bit out of each 128 bit string. It is real high level, so don't open unless you can do it on the fly."

Logan's voice told those in the cabin he was almost giddy at talking to someone who really got it. "Not bad… Don't worry, I won't have a problem with it. But, you just made my decision rather easy. When our guys get down there, I want you to find Juan. He will have a present for you. He will walk you through setting it up; just make sure you follow his directions exactly. The laptop I am sending down there will self destruct madly if someone tries to access it who isn't supposed to."

Ricky actually giggled at this, "Oh, when can we sit down and talk, Logan? I bet we could be friends!"

Behind Ricky, Steven snickered, "I think we found a way to get Skynet to pull out of his shell!"

Logan also laughed. "Yes, I think we could be. Juan will explain how we can connect, and then I will show you a few things that will either make you fall over from a joygasm, or make your heart explode. One of the two."

"I'd prefer to find a way to make others explode so I wasn't such a wimp." Ricky responded with a sigh.

Behind Ricky, Alexander spoke, "Man, what are you talking about? If it hadn't been for you putting a bullet in that moron's chest, I'd have a lot more than two missing teeth!"

A slightly older sounding, but still clearly young voice came back over the radio. "Speaking of which, how are you guys sitting as far as weapons go?"

Craig moved up to the radio, "We have all sorts of captured weapons, but only a couple of high caliber ones. The chaperone who was killed had a .50 rifle, but it took a shot to the receiver and is out of commission. We are also low on .308 and twelve gauge rounds."

Levi nodded and spoke from behind Craig, "If you happen to have armor piecing 7.62 rounds, I wouldn't mind having another box of them, but the idea is to keep these kids out of combat. However, something tells me it is going to be much easier said then done, so if you have any kid sized flack vests then bring 'em."

"I didn't bring them down here to get involved in a war!" Fredric shouted in horror.

"Too late, Mr. Triumph," Scott responded grimly, "We already are."

President Bryce's voice sounded grim but determined as he responded. "Sir, Mr. Triumph, I know how you feel." There was a light sighing sound but the voice stayed strong, "I wouldn't want kids to be involved in this either. However, if what comes to pass is as bad as I fear, they, and kids much younger than they are, are going to be in the middle of it. At least you are giving them the chance to survive, or at least be better able to protect themselves. I will be instructing people to send down enough weapons and protective equipment as we can spare. I have a feeling it may be enough to help you guys out. I want you guys to stay as safe as you can, and when this is over, I want to visit every single one of you so that I can shake each and every one of your hands. Be prepared for a long drawn out time, but hopefully we will all be able to make it out of this."

Before more could be said, Craig grabbed the radio, "Mr. Bryce, um President, sir… I hate to ask any kind of favor, but… well, if there is any way you can stop the helicopter from getting to the Buchanan… without like shooting it down… there is a friend of mine they took and I really don't want what we saw happen to the others we rescued to happen to him, sir."

"Son, I cannot make any promises, but I will tell you this much. If it is possible, I will make it happen. Now, it sounds like you guys have had a long day, and we have a bunch of things to get ready here. However, I will make sure that Sergei has his radio with him at all times. If you guys need anything, and I do mean anything, you pick up the radio and ask. Okay?"

Levi eyed Craig with a great deal of annoyance, "We will take care of them sir, and I bet you have better things to do than find some helicopter carrying a group of kids. If there is anything we can do for you, we are at your beck and call. Look forward to seeing you all shortly."

"And I look forward to seeing all of you," Jackson Bryce, stated firmly, "President Bryce out."

After several seconds of silence, Levi glanced over at Craig who was glaring at him. "Look, I get it. You want to get to Nathanial before too much bad happens to him, but you have to look at the bigger picture."

Craig stared back unflinching, "The bigger picture is I left him and this jackass…" Craig moved over to David and started to kick him, but forced himself not to, even though no one made a move to stop him. "Don't you get it? I left him there even though I knew how much danger he was in."

"Knock it off, Craig." Fredric stated forcefully, surprising everyone in the cabin and cutting off all other conversations. The CEO stood and moved to where he could see each and every person in the massive cabin. He then focused back on Craig, "First off, you did nothing wrong, nothing. You got me?"

Craig frowned, "But…"

"But nothing! Now stop wishing you had done something different. I went down the 'I wish' road when I was your age, actually a few years younger than you are now. You did what you could at the time. You warned them. You even offered them an escort out of the city with us. You didn't turn them in," Fredric pointed down at David Teller, "He did."

Fredric then shot a stern look over to Levi, "And you need to cut Craig some slack on this. He is trying to do what we all want to do. He is trying to save those who were taken before you all got to the compound. He took a shot at asking a question, hoping someone could do something we can't. It sure didn't hurt to ask and who knows, maybe they have some resources or contacts to get to those other kids before they disappear."

Fredric took a deep breath while holding up his hand to indicate he was not done talking. After taking a few seconds to compose his thoughts, he stood a little straighter, "I think we all have an idea of what is coming, even though Scott is the only one who asked the question… Like it or not, it is on most of our minds right now."

Fredric put his arm around Joey and let out a long uneasy breath, "Now we have about three hours before we get some help. Keith, you know Russian so you need to be awake to meet them, we need guards and sleep. The house is stocked with food, but one of you needs to go for a run and empty an all night store, preferably away from here and get the food back so we can feed whoever the guy we just got elected is sending down here.

"Zenon and Levi, figure it out. I am going to bed and I expect most of the kids to do the same. If any of you have nightmares, come see me or one of the chaperones; do not try to take them on alone. It doesn't work. I know."

Without further words he entered the large side room and closed the door.

As the night deepened, a pair of blacked out Huey helicopters maneuvered with eerie silence across central Texas. They avoided population centers as best they could, even with all the advancements, whisper operation mode, stealth coating, and anti heat technology. The copilot of the lead bird glanced at the commandos in the back and gave the signal for five minutes to target.

The men in the back, all highly trained Spetsnaz, readied their gear then took a moment to check their assigned partner. By the time the three minute out from target signal was given all the men in the back were combat ready and wide awake. The sergeant in charge of the team spoke, "You know the drill, from here on out all conversations will be in English. Our primary objective is to provide relief and aid to a group of kids and an unknown number of their chaperones, but you heard what I did. They have all tasted combat and have wounded.

"The minute this bird sets down I want this team to push the perimeter out to five hundred meters. At daybreak, I want it out to a full kilometer. If it walks on two legs it doesn't get past us. Remember полко́вник Dmitry Zolotov and his family are going to be here soon. We use lethal force only if warranted, but radio I expect wide spectrum monitoring and jamming as soon as anyone even possibly hostile gets within two kilometers of us."

Keith didn't even notice the helicopters until the dust they kicked up blocked out some of the moonlight. Still, he glanced down at his watch, noting it was just after three in the morning. He could see by the look in both Kermit's and Zenon's eyes they were equally amazed at how quiet the aircraft were, but at least Kermit had seen them coming and had his rifle leveled at them from inside the small outbuilding the three of them were waiting in.

A man, with an assault rifle over his back, hopped out of the second helicopter before it even landed and made his way over to the shack flashing his red lensed flashlight in a pre-arranged pattern.

Zenon responded and stepped out, followed by Keith and Kermit. The two men were beyond edgy as they watched men pour out of the two craft and fan out over the area. But his focus quickly had to center on the man who had signaled them and the trio of even heavier armed men surrounding a woman and a kid.

"Keith, Keith Shelly?" the flashlight toting man spoke softly.

Zenon moved forward keeping himself between the Russian spokesman and Keith, but Keith surprised many by moving out into the open and speaking in very fluent Russian for several seconds, which quickly became a two way conversation with only the Russians and Keith knowing what was being said.

Finally Keith let out a long breath and glanced over to Zenon, "They have had a long flight and not much down time over the past twenty-four hours. They have military rations, but we should try to get them fed. The ста́рший лейтена́нт… I mean Senior Lieutenant, should get with Levi to assign patrols and watches. Per orders, two of them are to stay with the female doctor at all times. They have two good medics which will help her and keep her protected."

Zenon nodded and eyed the Russian officer while nodding at the small boy behind them, "What's with the rugrat with the MP-5?"

The armed and armored boy smiled warmly, but still with a hard edge in his eyes, took a step forward and extended his hand. "My name's Juan. Me and Adrian are mom's protection and help."

Before more could be said, Keith shot Zenon a strange glance, "It isn't like there aren't nine of us kids who are armed to the teeth."

The look on Juan's face went through a quick change as he did his utmost to try to hide what he was thinking. Still it was clear to all looking on, he couldn't totally ignore what he was looking at. "I hope you're not counting the .22 as 'armed to the teeth'?"

Keith started to say something but was cut short by a tap on the shoulder from Kermit. "Let them attend to our injured. There is time for talk more inside." With this, he rotated his arm in a pair of circles while keeping his fist clenched.

The Russian officer, Yuri Komencho, grinned. "Your people are well positioned, but we had them all covered."

"I would have been disappointed if you hadn't." Kermit admitted, "But we have to stay alert. We have hit U.S. federal agents twice already and they have to be out around here looking for who did it."

The Russian Senior Sergeant, Arseni Kochev, nodded to three of his men. "They will only look here if they want to loose more. We can take over security."

Kermit nodded, "The word you want is lose, not loose. Anyway, we look forward to some rest, let me get you over to our onsite commander. Keith, go with Zenon and take their doctor to George."

Juan seemed to think over what he wanted to do, as if torn between two or three options, but he quickly settled on trying to get to know those he had flown down to protect a bit better. "So, you guys have had some action today, huh?"

As Zenon eyed the youngster, Justin moved up from his position while slinging the .308 over his shoulder. "Way more than I ever wanted to see, pretty sure way more than any of us wanted to see, but here we are." Justin ignored the MP-5 and stuck out his hand, "I'm Justin and this is Keith, Mr. Yarrow, and Mr. Kjell."

Juan took the offered hand with a comfortable looking smile. "I'm Juan, this is Adrian, and the doctor is my mom, Janet."

The boys spent a very brief moment shaking hands, but were interrupted by Janet as she spoke up. "If you guys could lead the way, I would really like to get to the patients as soon as I can."

Keith yawned as he slung the .22 over his shoulder. "About half of us are getting some sleep, but the kids we pulled out of the compound are all awake, almost like they expect this all to be some kind of horrible trick. What do you guys need?"

Juan seemed to nervously scan the area for a few seconds, falling a couple of steps behind the others, before quickly catching back up.

Janet was totally focused on her reason for coming, "Honestly, I just want to see the patients, and then we can go from there."

Justin nodded, "Oh, us too, but what about all the guys and stuff, do any need food or water… We have plenty of soda…" He stopped as he saw the look of the military guy, "I'll shut up now."

Juan let out a rather sharp sounding laugh. "Once we get the injured stabilized, I'd love a soda. That and I want to know more about the kids you rescued."

"So would we," Zenon stated firmly as he led the group over to the main building. "But this is the weirdest thing I have ever seen… And the place was…" Zenon shuddered.

"Trust me sir," Juan said in a deadly serious tone. "I have seen and dealt with worse."

"We can discuss that later, Juan," Janet all but commanded as they reached the main house. She allowed one of the men to open the door before she turned back to Juan and made a slashing motion with her hand cutting off any comment from the boy. "Let's get the patients sorted out first, then we can deal with the kids."

Juan gave a simply sideways nod as he followed the woman into the house. It was clear to those watching the woman was seen as an authority figure by Juan

As the door opened, one of the older boys directly across from the door froze as if in place, the glass of apple juice stopping centimeters from his lips while the tilt of the glass caused a trickle to run down his shirt.

The rest of the place was set up as a rustic cabin, but was the size of a large house. The main room dominated the structure with a combination living and dining room. Across from the large couch a ninety six inch plasma TV subjugated the far wall and a fireplace with antique bookshelves took pretty much the entire back wall. There were two doors and one archway. The archway led to the kitchen. There was one small boy who had three PDAs and a pair of laptops open but his head was lying on the table between the laptops. His fluttering eyes told of him being in deep REM sleep.

There was a group of four kids with their backs against the wall, all wide awake, and looking with the same fear seen in the eyes of the boy with the glass of juice. Three others looked less terrified, but appeared absolutely defeated. They sat around a card table with food in front of them, but their plates remained largely untouched, but all the glasses around the table were empty.

Finally, there were two boys and a girl on the big couch. All appeared to have been sleeping up to the time the door opened, but were now wide awake and looking at the door with pure terror in their eyes.

Almost unseen, there was another boy; this one was cuffed with metal handcuffs around his feet. His hands were also cuffed, but out in front of him so he could feed himself and hop around to the bathroom if needed. He looked much like a human punching bag with both eyes swelled nearly shut, a badly fattened lip and his torn shirt showed a massive bruise right at the left collar bone that looked a whole lot like a foot print from a small foot.

Before anyone could do more than take in the surroundings, a small, sandy haired, blue eyed boy appeared in the kitchen archway with a 20 gauge pointed at the door. "Keith, are they your friends?"

"We're good," Keith said with a soft sigh of relief, "and the lady is a doctor from what I was told, so show her to George."

The woman glanced down at Keith, smiled as warmly as she could while simply saying, "Thanks." She didn't hesitate further. Instead she took the duffel bag off her back and carried it one handed over toward the boy.

Alexander eyed the woman with suspicion, but showed he was used to handling weapons. He pushed the shotgun up, making sure it was pointed safely at the ceiling. "This way," Alexander nodded toward the table where George's raggedly breathing form was lying. He didn't say anything further. Instead, he moved over to the kitchen window and glanced out, noting he could see the heavily armed Russians spreading out to put a strong ring of protection around the building.

Back in the main room, Juan looked over at one of the other adults and gave a strange nod of understanding. The MP-5 armed boy quickly motioned for Adrian to follow Janet while he closed his eyes.

Nothing was said for several seconds, but everyone in the room felt the tension levels lessen noticeably. Most figured it was the fact they were no longer alone, others took some comfort at seeing the Russian officer being so cool and collected, and yet others found some solace in hearing the woman was a doctor. The strange part was all but a couple couldn't pinpoint this nor could they figure out why they took as much comfort in the thoughts as they did. Only Justin, and a gently stirring Ricky, realized there was an outside source to these thoughts, but their brains couldn't grasp the subtleties around this.

After several seconds, Juan then looked over at Keith with a smile, but there was nothing happy about it, instead it was clearly a pain filled one. "Mom'll let me know if she needs me. But… well… what the hell happened to these kids?" His voice alone indicated he was a bit taken aback by what he was seeing.

Zenon glanced down at Juan, "Aren't you a bit young…"

The woman doctor spoke up, "Only in looks, just pretend he is not a kid, 'cause he sure will pretend he is an adult."

Zenon shrugged. It wasn't like the other kids he was responsible for hadn't had to deal with this already; besides, the kid standing in front of him was close to the same age, probably a bit younger, and was armed, heavily armed. This whole situation was to the point of being surreal. With nothing to lose, Zenon eyed the boy for a moment before speaking. "They were shocked, beaten, and we believe raped over and over. We only have some details, but what we have is beyond horrible. They all call it the 'Temple', but it was more than a cult. In fact, it was related to some kind of government op. We know at least one Coast Guard chopper took some kids out before we got there.

"Some of these kids have ranks, or were told they had been promoted too, but it is all so sick and twisted, it makes me want to vomit."

Even while Zenon was speaking, the Russian officer was making rounds, checking the weapons held by those in the room. This was an inspection, and the look in his eyes as he pointed to each weapon and held out his hand, made it clear he was not taking 'no' for an answer.

Juan glanced over at the Russian as if somewhat relieved someone was doing a basic weapon inspection, but the boy quickly turned away from this. Instead he looked up at Zenon with a bit of smugness. "Well, I wanted it to be a surprise, but I guess I should tell you now. In about thirty minutes the Coast Guard chopper will land here, and off load their cargo. Then they will take back off. About twenty minutes later, they'll run out of fuel, crash, and we won't have to worry about them anymore."

Craig came in behind the small group, "Do you know who was on it? Was Nate… Um Nathanial Teller on board?

Juan tilted his head for a moment the look on his face changed from one of concentration, to disgust, then to disappointment. "No… Sorry, but he wasn't. The helicopter we found was the second one in, we're still trying to track the first one though. With any luck we'll be able to."

Craig snarled and let out a few angry mutterings as he turned made a bee-line for David Teller who immediately started to roll and squirm to get as far away from Craig as possible. It didn't take a mind reader to tell what the boy had on his mind.

"CRAIG!" Juan barked in a voice of someone used to commanding others.

Startled by the force of the shout, Craig paused and turned shapely to face Juan. The rage in Craig's eyes was nearly palatable and caused both the Russian officer and Zenon to tense.

Juan surprised everyone in the room as he stared back unflinching, "Trust me. From someone who knows from experience. Hurting him any more won't make you feel better."

"Screw you!" Craig snarled while ducking under Zenon's arm to get at the secured kid. "It'll make ME feel better!" He then leapt up while tucking his elbow in. This was a move meant to inflict real harm, and anyone with any martial arts skills could see it.

The Russian officer moved forward, knowing he would be too late to stop it, but had to try.

"Oh hell," Juan muttered as he reacted with the reflexes of some kind of predatory cat, only faster. Before most in the room could even blink, Juan closed the distance between himself and Craig to striking range, then put himself in harm's way, eliminating the chance Craig's blow would hit its intended target.

With speed, strength, and grace Juan seemed to miraculously get between Craig and David all the while motioning for others to 'stand down." The newcomer then pulled off a superhuman feat. He rotated in mid air, while his hand caught the descending elbow; at nearly the same instant, the other hand wrapped Craig's chest and pinned Craig's other arm to his side. Still, the small youngster was not done. He somehow managed to spin both himself and Craig so they landed hard, but safely well away from the others.

Before Craig had a chance to do anything other than look at Juan with wide eyes, the smaller boy twisted yet again and latched on by first straddling Craig then hooked his feet in under the boy's waist to lock himself down. The Hispanic looking boy then looked down at Craig while speaking softly, yet forcefully, "Don't…"

Zenon stopped dead in his tracks and his jaw fell open.

Next to him the Russian officer took another couple of steps closer in case he needed to break up a full fledged fight, but before he could close, Craig was already shaking off his astonishment.

The gymnast side of Craig took over on pure instinct. He did a hand spring with everything he had, fully expecting to toss the kid off like a rag doll, even though the boy weighed considerably more than he looked. Still, between the strength and the rage he was feeling, he managed to bound to his feet, but much to his surprise, Juan stayed firmly latched on. "Get off you little shit!"

All around the cabin jaws dropped and gasps came out of wide open mouths. With his eyes rapidly blinking, Ricky glanced up, "How did you know his name?"

At the same time Keith let out a cough, "Man, you two are insane, stop!"

"Insane, nothing…" Kermit snorted softly, "Amazing, and more than a bit terrifying."

Juan ignored the others as he dropped to his feet while pushing Craig a few feet away from both himself and David. He used this space to sidestep around so he could take a protective position between Craig and the near helpless boy on the floor. He glanced over at the boy who had spoken, and then back to Craig. His stance made it clear he would not allow Craig to take him off guard again. At the same time his eyes darted across the room as if doing an ultra fast sweep of looking for other threats.

Kermit held up a hand showing he was going to make sure this altercation stayed between Craig and Juan, but he was keeping his hand close to his sidearm. It was clear by the look in his eyes he saw Juan as a dangerous opponent and was hoping things would calm, while not counting on it.

Zenon also reacted; nodding at Kermit's unspoken signal, he quickly stepped between the two boys and faced Craig. Tensions further eased in the room as the Russian officer did the same while turning to face Juan. The Russian eyed Juan, "I suspect you know nothing as to what is going on, so back off."

Zenon wasted no time getting himself involved. He pointed a finger at Craig, "Knock it off, or so help me I will tan your hide right here if front of everyone! You are being a jackass!"

From the other room, they heard the female doctor's voice. "Juan! I'm trying to deal with a sucking chest wound here… I don't have time for this shit! Behave or so help me God…"

"Yes, Mom," Juan stated with a bit of a cringe while changing to more of a defensive stance. It was clear to everyone in the room he had no intention of letting anyone get to the kid behind him, but at the same time the woman's words had gotten through far more than anyone else's.

At this, Craig snarled, but softened his stance from offensive to defensive as well. This allowed Justin to move up beside Craig and put a hand on the furious boy's shoulder.

Justin then eyed Juan with a great deal of suspicion, "What are you? Cause there is no way you are human!"

Juan returned the stare for a couple of seconds, before nodding slightly. It was almost as if the nod was to himself, or some unseen entity and not meant for those in the room, but Justin still caught it and raised a curious eyebrow.

However, Justin let it go since he was far more interested in calming Craig down than anything else. To this end, Justin tried to use force of will along with his hand on Craig's shoulder to cool his friend off. He was pretty happy to feel the boy's muscles lose some tension.

Juan's jaw showed just a tinge of surprise as he met Justin's eyes and spoke softly. "Are you sure you want to know the answer to that question?"

A hover chair came out of one of the doors and the boy controlling it eyed Juan, "Yeah, and if you don't tell us, you might find what new toy I got help installing on my chair!"

Juan sighed with a degree of resignation. It struck several watching and listening as if Juan was fighting the urge to reveal too much. "Fine, but don't tell me later that I didn't warn you." Juan made one last scan of the room to make sure the chance of a full fledged fight had abated before he took a step back, so he could stand close to the handcuffed boy. "Am I human? Sort of. Since most of you are geeks like one of my older brothers, you'll probably be able to understand this. I was genetically engineered, then placed in vetro till I was born, then aged to the age of four, where my training began."

Keith raised an eyebrow, "So you are a super duper test tube baby? Why bother?"

While others glanced over Keith a little confused, the question seemed to be perfectly clear to Juan.

"Because…. a kid can get into places that an older kid or an adult wouldn't be able to. I mean, come on, I thought you were smart. Who would think of a kid like me being able to do something like this?"

Before the others could react, Juan's eyes took a bit of a glint of satisfaction. Without warning, he reached down to the wriggling cuffed boy and secured the squirming youngster. He then looked up at Craig and grinned while pulling the hands apart, breaking the cuff's chain all without hurting the kid. "Do I need to explain more?"

While most in the room eyed the display of unheard of strength with shock, fear, awe, and astonishment, Glenn's eyes went wide, "Is there some kind of serum that can make my muscles as strong as yours, on a genetic shot or something?"

Juan spun to look at Glenn with pure shock written on his face, "What?"

However, before anyone could say anything, Juan managed to recover quickly enough to kind of answer the question. "Well, depending on what sort of damage you have, there may be something that we can do, but… well… perhaps we should talk about that some other time?"

Glenn had no intention of backing down. In fact, the effort to brush him off only made him push the issue harder. "Well sign me up for testing. Just tell me where to find who did this to you! There has to be a way to genetically manipulate me to walk again if they could age you!"

Juan stared deep into Glenn's eyes while his voice took on a semi-hostile tone. "Thankfully, the people that did this to me are dead. I killed them. What I went through to become like I am is worse than what those kids over there went through." Juan angrily pointed over at the terrified kids who were sitting and watching with astonishment and fear in their eyes.

Glenn met the stare dead on, surprising himself as much, if not more, than most of the others looking on, "For a chance to walk again, I'd strip myself and get onto one of those shock tables and turn the juice all the way up. If you killed them, fine; then show me the lab, show me the paperwork, and I will reverse engineer it and put myself in the dammed fake womb!"

Zenon started to say something but was stopped by the Russian officer with a shake of his head. "This is now between them."

Zenon made a soft growling sound but bit down on his lower lip to prevent saying what was on his mind.

Juan sighed heavily as he softened some, again. It was apparent to many this was forced, as there was something the youngster didn't want to deal with, ever. "Trust me Glenn, there are a lot better ways to be able to walk again, than to go through some of the shit I did. Give me a day or two, and I may be able to come up with something that's a lot less painful then what I went through."

Ricky finally stood, "OK, so you know all our names, too, which means you had a video briefing or you can read our minds, my guess is both. If you got all that, then, I'd jump in a tube right next to Glenn. It'd be worth the pain, agony and whatever else you went through to never get picked on… used… again."

Juan started to respond but stopped as if the words got caught in his throat. At the same time his whole posture hardened and for an instant he shook almost like he was containing an inner explosion. He fired a glance at Ricky, but just as quickly closed his eyes. It was too late, however. Ricky had seen the shift from normal human-looking to animalistic eyes.

When Juan reopened his eyes, all trace of the internal shift were gone, but he could tell Ricky had seen it. At the same time the inner rage caused him to totally focus in on Ricky. Juan peered square into the eyes and spoke in a very soft, yet deadly voice. "I don't know how, yet… but I can guarantee you this much. The people you were just thinking about will meet justice… my way."

To those watching, it appeared Juan made a visible effort to release some of his fury which allowed his voice to have a great deal less of a fiery edge to it. "Yes, I am telepathic, as well as a few other things. No, there is no way we can re-create that in any of you. However, there are other things we can do."

He moved his eyes to Justin. "Like teach you how to use your own mental abilities." His eyes then went back to Ricky's. "And you too, although yours will be more fun to play with."

Juan then sighed again. "But for now, let's drop this. There are more important things to worry about… like how to make sure all of you stay alive to worry about shit like this."

The Russian officer started to speak, but was cut off by Craig. "Look, I don't even know who you are, yet, but if you were genetically manipulated, then there has to be a way to re-create it. If you were aged, like you say, then some of that is also in you. Now is the time to talk about this. It's not like we are being shot at and we can't go anywhere while the one you call mom is working on Mr. Westley."

Craig's voice picked up speed as he saw others trying to cut him off, "That also means she isn't your mom or there is the possibility her genetics are part of you so it makes her mom, but, and I am still not saying I believe you, but if you are telling the truth, then your blood may hold the key to making Captain America-like super soldiers, and if it does, I am in at finding a way to give me a shot like the others are wanting. So, how about a blood sample so we can give it a shot?"

"First off…" Juan countered with a smirking grin. "Ain't none of you got the equipment here to even begin to scratch the surface. Second, Janet is my mom because she loves me. Genetics don't mean shit when you find someone who is your real mom. Third, the chances of you guys getting a sample of my blood is slim to none, and slim just walked outta town. Now, we play nice, and I will make sure that none of you have to worry about the shit from your past, WITHOUT having to turn you guys into genetic guinea pigs. If we've got the tech to make things like me… what else do you think we got?"

Glenn openly laughed, "Oh, come on! Mr. Big and tough afraid of a little needle to the point where he pulls out the lame distraction card? I expected so much more out of a supposed Genetic Super Boy!"

Justin couldn't help but snicker, "My mom tries the same thing on me every time a conversation gets into the uncomfortable zone, dude, give us a bit more credit! All we are asking for is a bit of blood!"

Juan laughed as well, this time not totally forced, yet it was clear this whole conversation was not a comfortable one for him. "Hey, I had to try. But seriously, what do you have here that you could use to really get down to the genetic level of my blood? Then, assuming you could somehow map out all the DNA sequences, then you would have to figure out how to combine your genetics with that of a large predatory animal. Then, if you were able to figure all of that out, you would then need to deal with changing yourselves, which, frankly, even with the tech level that we have, only holds about a 1 in 20 survival rate. So… if you want a vial or ten of my blood, go for it, but you guys ain't got a prayer of figuring everything out in time to do anything for you guys."

"Maybe not," Ricky stated cautiously, "but we'll give it a shot, especially after I saw your eyes change. What do you have in you, Tiger blood?"

"Eagle," Juan responded without any hesitation. "I was breed to be a sniper, trained to be a cold blooded killer, and frankly, it's not something I would allow anyone else to go through. Now, there are other things that we can do."

Juan quickly focused in on Glenn, "Your issue should be fairly easy to fix, but Mom would need to look into that more. The rest of you…" He stated slowly so he could make eye contact with all of them before continuing, "Being genetically enhanced is not everything you might think it is. Trust me, focus your attention on other areas, and you'll do a lot better. We'll help you, but I will tell you right now, there is no way I, or anyone else will allow you guys to become augments like we are."

Juan saw Craig about to object, but cut him off before he could say anything. "It ain't because we wanna keep all the cool shit to ourselves. It ain't because we don't want to help you guys out. It's because we know what we had to go through, and until we reach a point where someone will not have to go through that, and there is a much better survival rate, we just will not allow it."

Ricky spoke up, sounding way less fearful than normal, "So you are still playing God, by not wanting others to try it. Maybe it was forced on you, or you weren't given a choice because you were a test tube baby. But we, at least I am a willing subject, and there are safe ways to experiment outside our bodies on some of this with computer generated models, models I can build."

Glenn piloted his chair further into the room while shaking his head at Zenon, clearly telling the man not to bother to interrupt. It was well past the point of stopping this train of thought and he made it clear by the look in his eyes this was just too important to him to let go. Glenn's actions forced Zenon to back off even as Ricky was finishing talking.

This gave Glenn an opening. "Besides, if it unlocks some kind of mental ability, then we can run simulations of it by taking our own blood and trying it outside our bodies first." Glenn stated as he thought over what he was hearing verbally while adding in his own ideas. "There has to be a stable mutagen and if we can find out what it is in your blood, then we can use the same chain reaction in ours."

Juan shook his head. "Call it playing God if you want, but it doesn't change the facts. There is no mutagen… genetically we are less than fifty percent human. Just imagine how that would have to work."

Juan's tone took on a sad note as he continued, "Now, if you guys really wanna play with this, I would be more than willing to give you some of my blood. Hell, I would even help you try and figure some of it out. But I doubt you guys have access to the tech that made us, since every lab that we were created in has been destroyed, all the doctors, except for one, are dead, and all records destroyed. But, as I said before, we have other ways of doing things, so if you are interested, we can discuss it. But I will tell you right now, putting yourselves through the alteration process is not going to happen, at least not anytime soon."

"If you are less than fifty percent human, but look the way you do, there is a mutagen, it is there and we will isolate it. What we do with it from there, who knows. But we can find it." Justin stated with total conviction. "Now, if you are willing to help, and there are others like you then the more samples we have the better.

"We get it, this isn't an overnight thing, a quick fix, but you have to see our point of views; there are reasons to figure this out and develop it."

Keith nodded, "Yeah, I'd be able to do way more than throw back a live grenade if we could do this, and man, I bet my team could go way past state champions if I could figure it out. Besides, I want to find the people who did this and hurt them… hurt them bad, and, no insult intended, but I don't want to have to rely on you the rest of my life."

"And I want it so I can rip apart everyone behind whoever took Nathanial!" Craig growled.

"And what happens when the government finds out about you guys? Do you REALLY think they will just let you guys be? Do you really think the military will not scoop you guys up and force you to do what they want?" Juan countered forcefully.

"And before you think you could never be forced if you are like us, think again. There are people out there that would find out what it takes to make you do what they want. Trust me. If you guys would stop for a few minutes, and look at the big picture, you'll figure out there is a HUGE down side to this shit. I know you guys only have good intentions with this shit, but are you all really naive enough to think that there are others who wouldn't take it and turn it into shit that you never would have dreamed of. Then you'll be stuck, for the rest of your lives, trying to undo what you created. Have any of you thought about that?"

With this, Justin laughed hard, "We'll just have to team up with you all and since we are already known by President Bryce, it really doesn't matter what else we do to ourselves, we will be on a watch list. Hell, we hacked well over half the U.S. in less than eight hours!"

Juan laughed just as hard as Justin did. "And are you all really stupid enough to think that even someone like the President of the United States actually runs things? Come on, I thought you guys were smarter than that."

Craig glared at Juan, "Actually, after seeing the 'Temple', I am sure there are forces way deeper and darker than any horror movie I have ever woken up in a cold sweat from watching. Since we have to fight the nasties on par with zombies, vampires, werewolves, and aliens… then being genetically altered is exactly what I want to be, 'cause, by God, I am going to fight them!"

Juan let out a long deep sigh, "You think the only way to fight them is by changing yourselves? You think that the only way to fight them is by being physically stronger. Why not use the gifts that God fucking gave you, and outsmart the assholes. Let those of us who are already freaks kick ass up close and personal. We need guys like you to tell us where they are at, and what the fuck they are trying to do. I mean. Hell, I don't know if any of you are religious or anything, but don't you think that perhaps, just perhaps, you guys were made the way you were for a freaking purpose?" The conversation appeared to be taking a toll on Juan as he started pacing.

"I'm gonna level with you all, and if you don't believe me when I tell you this, I have ways to prove it. We didn't come from 'this' earth. We only showed up here a few days ago, and we got no idea why. Even if there is a why. But on the 'Earth' we came from, we had thousands of troops, most of them kids. And barely a quarter of them were augmented. The rest used what God gave them, busted their asses, and LEARNED how to take the fight to the bad guys, using the strengths they had, not coveting someone else's. So, are you guys really so unsure of your own skills that you NEED to have mine to fight the assholes, or are you gonna focus on what you CAN do, and take the fight to them in ways that I CAN'T?"

"Hey," Glenn fired back, "you going to go all ballistic on us because we might just be able to make a stable mutagen? Look at this! I am in a hover chair I designed, Ricky put together the Mass-hack which allowed us to cripple a good portion of the U.S. and uncover what was going on, Craig and I have already given this chair a way to be powered almost continually, all we have to do is add Justin's gyro, and we already have plans on how to do so.

"What is to say our GOD GIVEN TALLENTS aren't to make a stable mutagen so we can fight toe to toe with these morons. Besides, if you came from somewhere else, and for some strange reason I actually believe you, then you don't have your army any more, and you need to start to build another one, and we might be the key to doing so. Now put that in your foul mouth and chew on it!"

"Plus, if we are on the government watch list and others are running it, then we are going to be on their list too." Justin sighed, "So I'd prefer to give them a reason to watch us other than just a high IQ. Let us prove we need to be on the list and put a hurting on them the likes of which will send whatever or whoever they are running back to their own labs to try to outdo us. Dad always said the best defense is a good offense, so let's try to make it as offensive as possible!"

Juan's shoulders dropped as he let out another sigh, "You guys are offensive alright." He sighed yet again. "Fine, you guys wanna try, I ain't gonna stop you. Who knows, you just might be able to do what you want. Just realize that you guys have no fucking clue what it means yet. Maybe you will, maybe you won't. Who knows. But go for it. Now, can we get off this shit and talk about something that's a bit more important right now, like how you plan to survive long enough to see if you can make this shit work?"

Keith snickered, "Gee, I thought we called you to do just that!"

"Hey!" Juan chuckled loudly, "I'm here to make sure Mom stays safe, you guys got the Russians for everything else. Although I did bring you guys some of my favorite toys to help with that… like three .50 cal machineguns, some surface to air rocket launchers, a handful of light rockets, and a shit load of smaller arms."

"Nice. No more shooting at things with crap weapons." Kermit stated with a strongly contented look.

"Damn straight," the Russian commander spoke up, finally being able to get a word in edgewise. "But, let me tell you, after hearing everything I have heard, I want to know one thing… What did you install in the chair…?"

Glenn shrugged, "It doesn't blow up half the universe like your boy Juan sounds like he wants to do, but hey, shutting down all voluntary synapses in the body is a start!"

The Russian officer's eyes went wide, "You are talking nerve gas?"

Glenn shook his head, "No, nerve gas inhibits the impulses between the synapses, this chemical triggers a body wide signal to make all muscles go as tight as possible while stopping other commands from the brain."

"When…" Craig asked in some shock, "I mean, how… We've only been here for a few hours…"

"Steven," Glenn answered with a grin. "He has a hobby none of us knew about, chemistry, in particular, Bio-chemistry. He was studying ways to trick the body into shutting off all impulses to cancer cells, but came up with a series of chemicals that override what the brain is telling the body to do. He has four of them, but one is too dangerous, since it works like the one he installed in the darts on my chair, but according to him, they take it to an extreme, and the body continues to tighten muscles until bones start to snap. I guess he field tested them on rats and other animals before he, and a couple of scientists at the cancer place his mom was at moved four of the most promising up to field tests on themselves. One guy ended up with a pair of broken bones before they injected him with the opposite effect and made him go all slack.

"According to Steven, they burned all the notes and pretended the whole thing didn't happen, but Steven kept his and then memorized the chemical formulas."

Keith glanced over to Juan with a bit of a smirk, "So you really think we can't figure this out?"

Juan shrugged while speaking in a very serious voice, "You just might, who knows. But there is something I want you guys to think about, and trust me when I say it. Listen closely, cause you'll probably never hear me talk like this again, okay?"

He waited till he got nods from the boys before he sighed. He closed his eyes and spoke softly. "I've peaked into each and every one of your minds while we've talked. I stayed out of private areas, but there is one thing that all of you share. The feeling of being an outcast of society. Of being a freak. Being different and afraid. I know those feelings. I know them very well."

He sighed again as his head dropped. "Less than a year ago, I was a lab experiment. Never knowing anyone other than the doctors and military officers that were allowed to know about me. I never learned anything that was not something they wanted me to learn. Never did anything that was not for a reason, and authorized."

He paused again while doing his best to force the emotions out of his voice. "When Adam saved me, and then the others, we made a promise to ourselves. We weren't going to let what those people did to us turn us into what they wanted. We were going to take everything that they gave us, and use it to help others. To rescue those that need it, and punish those who would prey on kids. The methods we use are, to put it mildly, extreme. We believe in Justice, U.N.I.T. Justice."

He raised his eyes and spent a moment meeting each of the others' eyes. "We were brainwashed to believe that we were created to make it so that normal humans wouldn't have to do the dangerous things we were created to do. We were taught that we are less than humans." He met eyes with Glenn and held the boy's gaze hard. "Hell, our blood was designed to be transferable to ANYONE, and to help them heal quicker. What they didn't know was that it does a hell of a lot more than that, but I will NOT speak about that right now."

After a few seconds, Glenn nodded, and Juan continued. "I guess what I wanted to say is, we all got our own problems, and maybe, together we can help each other out."

Justin eyed Juan for several uneasy seconds before he cleared his throat, "I wish we could have been the ones to help break you out, but look around. I think we have kind of the same goals, only we aren't very good at it. We want to get better, and protect our own backsides while we are at it, but to be honest I can't even get out from under being the walking wedgie boy and worse, so…"

Glenn took over, "Most of us are pretty pathetic, so give us a bit of a break."

"Yeah," Ricky sighed, "I guess you saw something in my head, but I don't want others to do the sticking up for me. I just want to stop being afraid and I don't want to have to come running to someone like you, a kid younger than me, for protection every time I turn around."

Craig glanced over at Juan, "See, we want the same thing you do, but we would like to include ourselves in it, OK?

Juan nodded and smiled. "One of the biggest things that Mom had to teach me is that I don't need to do everything. I need to be willing to allow others to do things for me sometimes. I still think the idea of you guys trying to turn yourselves into what I am is not needed, but I am not going to try to talk you out of it. In the meantime, if you want someone to help teach you how to fight… THAT I can do easily."

"I've kind of started already," Craig admitted, "but I am no teacher, hell, I am not even a good friend…"

"Bull!" Glenn countered, "You're the best friend I have."

"Same," Justin jumped in. "Stop already, Craig. Working out with you was the most fun I think I have ever had."

"Craig… " Juan said softly. "Learning to be a friend is hard work, but it looks like you got the worst part already dealt with, finding people that are willing to put up with you while you learn." Juan then looked at Ricky and grinned, before he looked to back at Justin. "You remember that soda?" When Justin nodded, Juan really grinned. "Any chance I could have some. Warm, if you have it."

Justin shot a glance over to Juan, "I could grab one out of the box, it is as warm as we have them. Do you want some ice at least?"

"Nah… the warmer, the better?" Juan said with a grin that made everyone else wonder what he was up to.

Keith shrugged, "Gross, but whatever, I'll grab one warm and a whole bunch of cold ones."

The grin on Juan's face was one of a kid about to do something he really knew he shouldn't. The gleam in his eyes only verified the smile.

It took Keith only a minute or two to come back with a load of Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, and Grape soda. He put them all on the table before grabbing one of the grape sodas. He then pulled four warmish ones out of his jacket pocket and set them in front of Juan. "You didn't say what flavor."

He paused as he glanced over to one of the kids off to the side, "Hey, Marshal, see if you can pass these out and get the others to drink something. Maybe if someone from the 'Temple' gives them something, then they will eat or drink."

Juan watched as the boy, Marshal, tentatively grabbed a couple sodas and tried to hand them out, to varying degrees of success. Juan shook his head sadly as he saw the responses from the former captives. It was clear these kids had been though hell. "Hey, Ricky, come here." He said as he grabbed one of the warm sodas.

Ricky frowned at the sodas for a few seconds and while he came over with a Pepsi, he thrust it out to Juan. "Unless you make me, I'm not drinking a nasty warm soda."

"So make it cold," Juan stated with a completely serious voice.

Ricky looked at him like some kind of awful prank was about to be played on him, "Huh?"

"You believed me when I said I had mental powers, right?" Juan asked

"Well yeah, I am really smart, so I know I have good mental powers. But I am no D&D wizard, I can't just make things cold."

"No… no D&D Wizard… more like Mr. Freeze. But, if you trust me enough I'll show you how to start using your mental powers, however, how good you get and how strong you become will be up to you. So, what do you say?"

Off to the side Keith snorted, "Oh, man, DC comics suck."

This got a snicker out of Ricky, "Agreed…" He then glanced back at Juan, "Now Ice Man… but anyway, even if by some major miracle I can, the real question is how, cause if I could all this time, I should have done it by accident or something."

"Not necessarily. Psyonics are kinda tricky like that. Take Justin, for instance. He's a pretty strong Empath; at least pretty strong for this world. However, he has no clue about how to use it. Empathy can be both passive and active. An active empath can make people feel whatever it is that they want them to, while a passive one can sometimes dampen feelings, or calm people down. Much like what Justin did right after Craig and I got into our little… scuffle." Juan shot Craig a quick grin and nod before he returned his focus back at Ricky.

"What you have though is completely active which means there are two things that have to happen before you can use it. The first, and most difficult, is for you to believe that you can do it. The second is actually doing it. That part I can help you with, and it's actually rather easy. The difficult part will be making yourself believe it's possible."

Juan paused to look around at everyone who was staring at him intently. "Does that make sense?" He asked Ricky specifically, but everyone else was included if they wanted to ask any questions.

"Yeah," Justin snorted, "and trig is pretty darned easy, but someone had to show me the basics first."

Keith grinned and nodded, "Ditto on building circuit boards and learning electronics, so is Justin really a mind dude?"

Ricky glanced back and forth and shook his head, "Do you have any idea how many times I have wished, dreamed of special powers? Surely, something would have popped up by now!"

"Dreaming is not believing," Juan responded as if he had taken over as a teacher, not a kid talking to another boy. "You won't be able to do anything if you doubt yourself." He walked up next to Ricky and placed his hand over top of the one that was holding the soda. "Will you trust me?" He asked softly.

"First off, do I have a choice? And second, as bad as I want to do this, even if I don't trust you I am going to try this, OK?"

Justin moved over to Ricky, "After what he did to Craig he could twist you into a pretzel shape and use me as the twisty in the middle, so relax and go with it. What harm can it do?"

"It'd be pretty cool if it could do a lot of harm," Glenn snickered.

Juan giggled. "Of course you have a choice, but it sounds like your mind is made up, so here is what I am going to do. I am going to enter your mind, and walk you through how to chill the soda. While I am in there I am going to drown out all of your doubt. It'll still be there, but you just won't have to deal with it till after you do it. At which point, most of the doubt will go away. Now, once you know how to do it, it'll be up to you to practice so you get better. One last warning, at the start it'll really tire you out to do it. Be ready for it, and know that it's okay. It's like using a muscle that has never been used before. At first it will exhaust you quickly, but as you build it up, it will get stronger." Juan glanced over all the others in the room one more time before he zeroed back in on Ricky. "This is your show now; you tell me when you're ready."

"Well, since I was sound asleep on the table before you came in, no better time like the present. So what do I do and how do I do it?"

Off to the side, Kermit shot Juan a stern look, "If this hurts him in any way, the two of us will have a wall to wall discussion and the walls will be doing all the talking, get me?"

Juan just rolled his eyes and let out a short snicker at Kermit before he turned his attention back to Ricky. "Okay, first thing I am going to do is to remove the doubt. As soon as they come up, I'll be pushing them away. You'll know something is happening, but won't know what it is really. Okay?"

"Fine, but how can there be doubt when I really want this?"

"Just because you want to do something, doesn't mean that you really believe that you CAN do it." Juan said softly, yet loud enough for everyone to hear. "Now, what I want you to do is close your eyes. I'm coming at this from the scientific stand point, since I think you will understand that the best. So I want you to think about the molecules in the soda, see them moving around, bouncing off each other, and going in another direction. See all the different atoms, all the different electrons, and neutrons. Imagine everything that makes up the soda in your hand. Once you have that in your mind, imagine everything starting to slow down. The atoms slow, when they bounce they lose some of their energy, draw that energy into yourself. Slow everything down to where it becomes colder." Juan's voice started taking on an almost meditative tone and slowly, very slowly at first, so Ricky was able to do what Juan was telling him.

The scientific explanation of how things freeze made total sense to Ricky; in fact it made too much sense. Without so much as a second thought Ricky concentrated on the soda, what it was made out of, the chemical formula, the hydrogen, the oxygen, the carbonation, the corn syrup sweetener, even the added flavorings. With each part of the chemical make up he simply thought 'make them stop'. Then, once he put all of them together in his brain, his mind simply formed a picture of all molecular motion stopping at the same time. A moment later the can swelled and violently broke open as the contents expanded as it froze sending bits and pieces of aluminum over a wide area, cutting both Juan and Ricky in several places.

"Oh hell…" Juan cringed as he looked at his hand, then Ricky's, then over at Kermit.

"Holy crap…" Keith stammered out with total astonishment while the can of pop in his had slipped out and clattered to the floor.

At the same time Justin dropped his can of pop and moved forward to look at Ricky's bleeding hand.

Their pops were not the only ones to hit the floor. Glenn's slipped out of his hand as he spit out, "Too cool!"

Craig didn't drop his can, but squeezed it so hard the contents spilled out all over his hand on onto the floor. "Hell, Yeah!"

Kermit started to move forward, only to find himself on his butt as he slid on the patch of no longer liquid grape soda that had spilled on the floor where Justin's can had hit only moments before. "Damn-it! Make him stop he is freezing everything!"

Even as he spoke the other warm cans on the table started to explode outward.

"Fuck!" Juan barked out. A split second later he had to catch Ricky as the boy went unconscious. "He's okay… that was me doing it." Even though the damage wasn't bad, Juan's hands were still bloody and slippery as he lay Ricky down, and immediately took the boy's damaged hand into his own. He looked at Kermit who was trying to get back to his feet. "Get my bag, open it up, and inside of it is my medical bag. It's the one with the big red cross on the outside. His hand will be fine, but I gotta remove the shrapnel."

Kermit wasn't able to move much but Justin immediately ran to get Juan's bag. While he was doing that, Juan spoke more to himself than anyone else. "Note to self… don't use a scientific explanation with a fucking geek! They get it too easily!"

Off to the side, Craig started cussing and shaking his hand as the liquid he had squeezed over the top of his can froze locking his hand around the extremely cold can. "Shit! My hand is freezing!"

Justin glanced over to the Russian officer who was doing his best to pull Craig's fingers off the can. "Run some lukewarm water over it and get it off before he gets frost bite!" He then paused as he noted almost every soda in the room had an icy coating on the outside of the can where the condensation had frozen, and most of the cans were swollen. He tossed over the kit to Juan with wide eyes. "If he really did this, what in the name of God will he be able to do when he gets stronger and more control?"

Juan glanced up at Justin as he started to pull pieces of aluminum can out of Ricky's hand. Even as he did so, the cringe on his face and the flush in his cheeks told those who were looking at Juan, rather than the looking at the bulging cans of soda all over the cabin, the boy was a bit shocked. Those looking on also couldn't help but see some embarrassment within Juan. Still, he recovered remarkably quickly. "Who knows… Honestly I didn't think he would be able to do THIS, but I guess his scientific knowledge helped him out. So bluntly, I have no idea what he'll be able to do."

The Russian Sergeant shot Juan a smirk, "My men would pay a whole lot of rubles and would find a way to get him Russian citizenship if he would be willing to go on our next desert deployment."

This got some giggles out of several, including Kermit who finally managed to stand.

Back in the kitchen Craig let out another stream of curse words as bits and pieces of ice came out of the faucet before the water from the heater below took over and started putting some warm water into the pipes which happened to run almost right under where Ricky had been standing.

With his hand free, he came back in opening and closing his hand while looking around the room, "Is there anything he didn't freeze?"

"Don't think so." The Russian Sergeant answered and he dropped his rock hard canteen on the table. "After seeing action on four continents, I thought I had seen everything, but this is some really сумасшедшее дерьмо!"

"Mad shit…" The Lieutenant nodded in total agreement. He then eyed Juan sternly, "Now, how do we contain it so it doesn't get this bad again, young one?"

"That will depend on him. I could put blocks in his mind, but that would retard his growth. Personally, I would hope that we could make him see reason while he is learning, and only 'play' outside. However, if that doesn't work… then I may have to block him." Juan said as he got the final piece of can out of Ricky's hand, then started to wrap it in gauze. As he picked up Ricky, with little to no effort, he shot Kermit another look as if to say, 'my bad', he glanced around at the others, "Now where is he sleeping?"

"Well, at the table before you came in and decided to turn him into a human ice machine." Glenn snickered as he started a diagnostic on his chair. "Hey, Craig, the drain tubes are a bit frozen, maybe we should add some heating elements in so this doesn't happen in really cold weather."

Craig gave his hand a final shake and pointed to the second door. "Most of us were setting up sleeping bags down in the cellar area; it's through there and to the left." He then turned to Glenn, "You know a heating element in my water extractor would be a good idea for cold weather survival. We should draw something up on it while it is fresh in our minds."

The others watched as Juan gave a shake of his head before he took Ricky down to the basement, laying him down on the closest, unoccupied sleeping bag."

While Juan was downstairs, Glenn looked over at Craig, then over to Keith. "So do you think he did the freezing or was it really Ricky?"

"Pretty sure it was Ricky," Craig shrugged, "but whatever, it was really weird. All the water froze around him, but none of us did and we are mostly water. Why didn't we get hurt?"

"We could always ask Juan." Justin pointed out the obvious, "I find it hard to believe he thinks I have any abilities, though."

"You having mental powers to calm people makes a whole lot more sense than Ricky making water freeze." Levi broke in rather unexpectedly. "After all, I have seen how you are a natural at knowing how to talk others down, including some of the captives at the complex. You have some unique gifts and if Juan can help you unlock them, then I recommend taking him up on the offer.

"As far as Ricky, I am sure it was him. I have seen some things and investigated cases of mental powers, but most who show potential tend to be scooped up and or disappear. So all of us need to teach him control, and if that little shit, Juan, can teach you, then you can help him to control his cold thing. One way or the other, we can't let it get out or be known, understood?"

Before more could be said, Juan reappeared looking a lot more relaxed and had a devious glint in his eyes, "Hey… what do you guys know about Artificial Intelligence?"

Seeing all the boys perk up, Juan giggled. Seconds later all the kids in the room were sound asleep. Those who were lying down simply curled up. Others who were not in a good spot to sleep right where they were quickly found a place to bed down and did so. Juan glanced around the room before giving a satisfied nod then met Kermit's stare and gave him an evil grin. "I know, that was mean of me, but… honestly, they all needed some sleep."

Kermit glanced around the room, and eyed Juan, "So you really are some kind of comic book style mutant… Give me one reason we should trust you."

The Russian Sergeant glanced over to Kermit, "Because, at the moment, we are all on the same side and you all need all the help you can get, 'cause these pups would have a hard time fighting their way out of a wet paper sack. Only a couple of them have any skill and while they have tasted combat, they have not really been impacted by it. They lost a guy they barely knew, so they get the basics, but when they lose someone close and still have to fight, then, maybe, they will get it. Problem is, I have seen this in the lab coat guys, intelligence and wisdom are two wildly different things and these kids need the later before they can fully use the former."

"Give them a chance," Zenon countered. "They are green, but they are committed to each other and they care. We didn't want to go after the facility, but they refused to take no for an answer. Then, when we got there a couple of them took the lead and paid for it, but not one of them is unhappy we did it, and truth be told, neither are we… We aren't telling our boss, but nonetheless, we are still satisfied by what we ended up doing today. Losing Paul… well, if he hadn't been killed on the hill, he would have been the first to demand we go after that god forsaken 'temple'. We have some damned good kids here."

"Good kids…" The Russian Lieutenant sighed, "I hope they will be by the time all of this is over. The problem, however, is this is only getting warmed up and the first real shots have not been fired yet. Let's just hope they don't."

Off to the side the Russian Sergeant glanced out the window then back toward the chaperones, "Our men are in a good position to handle things. You all should take some down time now since your charges are sleeping."

Levi glanced over to Kermit and Zenon. "He's right, but I can also tell you guys aren't ready to fully trust this, even though I am. You two should take some time and get to know our new friends." He then glanced over at Juan, "And you may be some kind of super human creation, but every living thing needs some sleep, so once you get my guys more comfortable, get some. I don't think this is over yet."

The night passed relatively peacefully. There were a few stirs from the former captives, but Juan showed his abilities over and over, never going to sleep. It didn't take long for both Zenon and Kermit to realize every time a kid seemed to get restless, Juan would simply focus in on the child in question and the within seconds peaceful sleep seemed to return.

At one point things got a bit more interesting as a Coast Guard helicopter flew in, dropped out eight kids then headed back up. The pilots and crew, according to the Russians, looked like they were in a trance, never saying a word. In fact, they never even landed. Instead, they hovered at about five feet off the ground and all but pushed the kids out and took back off again. The craft disappeared heading southeast, but nine minutes later there was a fireball in the sky in the same direction the craft had gone.

The kids were equally out of it. Many fell pretty hard, but then got up and walked toward the cabin asking for Juan.

Juan had to come out and order the kids to grab a light meal and drink, get cleaned up and showed them to the basement area. None of them argued, but it was clear Juan had to 'push' them with his mind, even to those who were not totally convinced he had any true mental powers.

Because of this and the need to help Janet a couple of times, Juan stayed up all night. This, in turn allowed both Kermit and Zenon to get to know the boy a bit better and build some kind to trust, although Kermit's idea of trust was to stop having his hand on his pistol at all times. As other chaperones woke, they, too, were encouraged to talk to the boy and the Russians.

By the time the darkness started to fade on the eastern horizon, George was stabilized, all bullet injuries were patched up, and those with serious medical issues were given proper treatment. This left the female doctor, her helper, and two of the Russian medics exhausted. So, while they went to the outer building to find a quiet place to sleep, the day was just getting started for the rest.

Those who where awake, including Juan, couldn't help but snicker as the Russians started digging around to see what food was available. Once they found the place fully stocked, the sergeant totally changed up perimeter security so the one the guys called 'Chef' could be pulled back to cook.

Since most of the kids were still asleep, and Juan wanted to make sure their much needed rest remained peaceful, he decided to find some busy work. To this end he decided to check out the weapons, give them a thorough cleaning, and general inspection. The look he gave some of the smaller caliber guns was humorous, even to the chaperones who watched him, but the small boy still carried out the work with the professionalism of a gunsmith.

Juan's last stop was Ricky's stuff, he looked down with a frown and slid the small .38 out of the still sleeping boy's shoulder rigging. The look, and the subsequent groan, told everyone he found this particular firearm as one step up from useless. He looked down at the small, dainty, .38 handgun, then glanced over to Kermit who was just starting to move around after sleeping on the floor only a few feet from where Juan had set up his 'gun cleaning station'. Juan held up the piece with the shake of his head as he spoke softly, "What's up with the pussy gun?"

The left side of Kermit's lips twisted up into a half grin, "You see, Ricky, the computer boy you took down stairs… he was not supposed to even touch a gun, but he did and…" Kermit shrugged, "To be honest, after giving it some thought, we selectively 'forgot' said stipulation. Besides we couldn't let him not be proud of what he had done, especially after he actually said it was a 'big gun'. It was more me and Levi, but as a group, we decided to keep our mouths shut, teach him to properly use it, clean it and ignore the whole 'big gun' thing. He did kill a guy with it, by the way, so be nice."

Juan looked at the gun, then back at Kermit with a bemused yet thoughtful expression. "You mean this thing actually fires…. and the bullet would actually penetrate someone? I'm impressed." He then made a small giggling sound. "Actually, I'm not, but good for Ricky. He had the balls to pick up a gun and use it. That's more than I can say for a lot of people I've seen. Hell, most people would probably just look the other way when they saw someone getting hurt. Or, at the most, try and get someone else to do something about it."

Juan walked back over to his table, and started to take the gun apart while he spoke. "You know, even though last night was not something I was prepared for, and they did piss me off a bit, I got nothing but respect for these young men." He looked up from the gun, and met eyes with Kermit. "Yes, I think of them as men. The moment they decided to take it onto themselves to throw themselves into the line of fire to help people they don't even know, they became men… at least in my book."

Kermit snorted, clearly amused, "We actually had the same conversation with our boss before you all got here. We called them young men, and he called them boys. He finally relented, but wasn't happy about it. Of course, he is nothing more than a kid at heart, who loves to play with tech stuff, so he's a bit eclectic. But before you ask, he pumped in a couple of 12 gauge rounds into the fight yesterday, didn't hit a thing, but he tried.

"Fredric is actually very good at killing air whenever he shoots at something, but he knows it, which is half the battle with anyone who should never pick up a firearm."

Juan gave a real grin and snickered. "I've seen a few of them. Some of them I even had to banish from my firing range. However, I found laser sights can somewhat help with that. I got a few with me if you want them."

Zenon rubbed the crusties out of his eyes as he looked over and shook his head, "So we could all watch the laser wobble all over the target then cringe as we watch him pull the trigger instead of squeeze it? Nope, best he never go down that road. Besides, he closes his eyes just before he pulls the trigger every time… yeah, don't give me the look, kid… every time."

Kermit snickered, "How can a guy have the hands of steel when it comes to shaving microns off a new invention, yet his hands shake like palms in a hurricane the second he aims a rifle, and a pistol is even worse… It is truly as much of a mystery as why you are here."

Levi nodded in agreement as he made a motion with his head to give him and Juan some space. He quickly slid into a chair next to Juan, "I know we are just getting to know each other, and some of us don't trust you. And, if you can really read minds like I think you can, then you know I am one of them, I don't want you to take this the wrong way…" He paused and waited to get a response from the boy before continuing

"Say what's on your mind. I think we'll all be better knowing where we stand, since we all have the same mission right now." Juan stated without showing any real emotion.

Levi nodded, "So anyway, no, I don't fully trust you. Truth be told, I trust the Russians far more than you, cause them I get and they have loyalties to their homeland and their homeland will be much better off with Bryce as the leader here.

"You, and those with you, I am starting to respect. Your female doctor is top notch, so we owe you all, but why jump into this mess? Why not simply go back home or try to find a way back home and stay out of the affairs of a world you don't belong to?

"If I was in your shoes, I'd be being all mouse quiet, 'cause the attention you are brining on yourselves… and trust me there are darker forces than Ashwood who will take notice and come after you, your tech, and just like the boys here, will want your chemistry to recreate what you are… You are playing a hell of a dangerous game by even sticking your nose out of whatever rock you found yourself under when you got here."

Juan seemed to eye Levi way too carefully for a moment before nodding, "You're right… entirely right. What we should have done was hide out in our base, and try and figure a way to get back home. I'm actually pretty sure with the geeks we have, and I hate to say it like this, but these kids don't hold a candle to our main geek, we could have found a way home pretty quickly. But there is a major problem with that." Juan said, and knowing he had everyone's full attention he went for broke.

"What I am about to say, none of you will probably believe until after you get to know us better." Juan stood up, and started to pace. Before he resumed speaking he let out a heavy sigh. "When we were in training, there was a man that was our hand to hand combat instructor. His name was Master Takamura. Understanding him would take a lot longer than I have to explain, but the short side is, he was not a part of the Genesis Project… the project that created us. He was brought in simply to train us to fight."

Juan paused and looked around as if uncomfortable for a few seconds before the turned back to Levi, "He trained us in a lot more than that though. He gave each of us a Code of Honor. A code that each of us took and developed in our own way after he taught us the basics. But… well, simply put, that code does not allow us to sit back and watch as other people get hurt. Yeah, we don't have the resources or ability to help everyone, but we will help where we can. It's who we are."

There was another round of brief silence as Juan's face told the others of an internal debate going on inside the boy before he continued. "You also have to know that Jack Bryce is a special person to us. In the world we come from, he was a part of our group; he was a General in the UNIT, acting as our base commander. But more than that, he helped take a bunch of kids that knew nothing other than military life, well, military and lab life, and helped to teach us what it meant to be people. To have interests outside of our training, and how to reach out and help others in more ways than just rushing in and taking them out of bad situations. Jack was one of the few adults that we trusted one hundred percent. So when we heard he was in trouble, and was running for his life, we had to help. The rest… well it's just what we do. We're not the kind of people that really can sit back and hide."

Levi rolled his eyes, "Then let me warn you, this world has elements that work behind the scenes, elements we at the Mossad could never fully identify, but we knew… know they are there. These groups… these organizations… they operate within their own rules and they have goals we cannot fathom. Some are more powerful and have more money than any country. Truth be told, we suspect they hold much of the debt behind the smoke and mirrors of international debt.

"After what you pulled off with Bryce and what these boys did in support of Bryce… Well, I am certain, beyond any shadow of a doubt, they will send operatives to find out what this new power base is, and they will try to draw you… us… into the open. They will test and they will actually hope we can pull off the test, whatever it will be, because if you do… we do… then they will know there is finally an adversary worthy of their attention. Are you ready for that? Cause I assure you the rest of the world probably isn't."

Juan studied Levi, not just the eyes but the facial expression and the tone the body was giving off. It was as if he was looking for some kind of hint the man was not really as well informed as he was sounding, or something. Finally, however, Juan gave a slight shrug and nodded again. "Well, I could give you some bullshit answer like, 'bring it on', or 'we're ready for anything', but that would just be a crock of shit. Honestly, I don't know if we're ready for it. What I can say is this: My family and I will give it 110%, and if that's not enough, then we'll figure out how to give more. I've lost family members in battle before. While I hate that fact, I comfort myself knowing that they died trying to do something good. Does it help, a bit, maybe… but it's all I got."

Juan sighed and met the man's stare. "Will we win? I hope so, but only God knows what the future will bring."

Levi shook his head, clearly a bit frustrated his message didn't come across the way he had intended. With a hard sigh, he poked a finger into Juan's chest, "Son, listen to what I am saying. For some reason I believe you; why, I don't even know. Maybe you are pulling some mind shit on me, if you are and I find out I will rip your backbone out, but somehow, I just think you are being honest, which is great.

"All of that means nothing, though… So I want you to really listen to what I am telling you. OK?"

"I'm all ears." Juan said. His tone of voice tried to relay that he was really listening and wanting to hear what the man had to say. His body tone, however, said what his voice didn't. The finger in his chest bothered him badly, and he saw this as a challenge from someone he saw as inferior.

Levi shot Juan a smirk that flatly said, 'bullshit', but he covered it quickly. "Kid, don't try me. You may not like the road it sends us down. We need to be on the same side here, because these kids, these eight geeks are going to try to stop whatever is coming and there is no way they are ready. Now with that said, are you really listening to me, 'cause I don't think you are.

"Now drop the bravado shit, and really listen. And that finger, you could break it, but man would we have to go and it would get fucking ugly, got me?"

Juan smirked at the man, although unexpected, Juan was beyond being surprised by much of anything and this showed both in his tone and facial expression. At the same time his mental abilities found a rather interesting brick wall as all source thoughts were blocked by one purposefully put there. "Cranberry juice huh? Now you're making me thirsty. Finding out you're a telepath is rather interesting, and if you ever wanna learn how to use it better just let me know." Juan grinned and he held the man's eyes. "Now as far as the rest of it goes, I have no intention of playing, 'who's dicks bigger'. Frankly it's not needed here, and will only make this a much more dangerous situation. However, I can't help who I am, and what I was made to be. Unfortunately, for most other people, they don't and won't understand who we really are, and why we do what we do, so I don't bother."

"With that being said, I also realize that you know more about this world than I do, and it would be stupid of me to think that just because I am what I am, I know everything, and am ready for anything. So… please tell me what it is that you wanted to tell me." Juan ended it with fully pulling himself out of Levi's mind, and doing it in such a way that Levi felt it."

Levi gave a noticeable and clearly purposeful jitter, "Easiest trick in the book is to think of something so strongly that it forces the other's hand, and you didn't bite, so I know you are better than I am, and I will take you up on your offer because I am not stupid enough to think I can't learn from a kid.

"The real problem is this: if we allow ourselves to get drawn out into this fight then these other entities will emerge a little bit more, and this world cannot handle it, is not ready for it and we will be starting a storm… those of us in the Mossad called this brewing storm the next Dark Age, and it will be. Once people realize what all is really out here, walking among them, and they hold no power… the power they thought they had is nothing but illusionary, this world and its economy could tip. A nudge makes it a recession, a tiny tip makes it a depression, and a spill makes it a world government ending event and we all start over. What I am trying desperately to drill into your mind is this: we are about to play with this cup and the wrong type of move and it will spill. Are you ready for…" the word was not spoken aloud, but it was shouted into his brain 'Armageddon!'

Juan nodded slightly while at the same time mulled over what words best fit this new information. "I honestly have no clue what the state of this world is, other than what little we have been able to find out since we arrived the day before yesterday. So with that said, I am going to have to go with your experience in those matters. I, and my brothers are more than willing to listen to, get advice from, and follow the lead of people who know more about what's going on than we do. Anything else would be asininely foolish."

"Yeah, this is a good thing, because once this civil war starts taking shape, there will be people who will move in to take advantage of the situation of the US losing its spot in the world as a super power. Quite frankly it won't be and there will be people and organizations who will try to continue it, prolong it and make it worse. Are your people prepared to shoot kids?"

Juan reacted to the question as if he had been punched in the gut. He rocked back slightly before moving back a step. Then, without realizing what he was doing, he linked his mind with Levi's, as well as the other adults in the room as he was taken back to the battle in Montana.

Juan's mental vision was suddenly played out through his eyes: he was laying prone on the top of the house. His head jerked up and his eyes tracked the smoke trail. His heart sank as he knew what this meant. The MI-26′s which had been loaded down with kids, kids that were his family was gone. Before the explosion even happened, however, his ears picked up a second launch. Another smoke trial arced into the air. Then, a few moments later, Juan watched helplessly as another helicopter moved to take the SAM, preventing the missile from dropping another MI-26. Silent tears cascaded down his cheeks and were felt by those he was linked with. As he saw the Huey of friends, loved ones, erupt into a fireball, he knew the sacrifice had been done to save even more of their family.

It took everything Juan had in him to bring his emotions into check. Just as this was happening and he started scanning for targets the sounds of a third Sam came to his ears. This one he knew he had to take down. Even though he knew it was an impossible shot, he still had to try, and thankfully he made it. The third SAM's smoke trail ended in a violent explosion well before it reached its target.

Breathing hard and still trying to contain the bundle of anger and sadness coursing though him, his ears once again picked up the sounds of combat as some gun fire broke out. He couldn't find a target since they were hiding in the trees, but he saw a kid running towards his brothers. Juan was desperately trying to find out who was shooting at the kid when he heard a familiar voice in his radio headset. The words and panicked tone caused Juan to jerk slightly. "SHIT! Juan, drop that kid!"

Juan immediately targeted the kid. He knew the person on the other end would have never ordered him to do it, unless the need was dire. Still, it was one of the hardest things he had ever had to do. When he sighted down on the kid, he first saw his face, a face full of terror. Not wanting to see the kids face, Juan targeted lower, and when he fired, he put a bullet the kid's leg. The sight of the kid falling and gripping his wounded leg stood out as did Juan's purposefully not taking a kill shot.

Juan couldn't take the kid out no matter the circumstances, though. Memories of the family he had killed before he was rescued from the lab seeped into the vision. Clarification came only moments later as the orders to take out the entire family played from somewhere even deeper in Juan's mind. He didn't have a problem with the parents, but when he saw the pictures of the kids, two of them younger then he was, he started to balk.

This started a punishment session the likes that Juan still had nightmares from. By the time it was over, Juan would have killed anyone just to make it end, and truth be told so would a few of the adults who actually felt some of the punishments dished out on the small child.

The vision changed focus again; the entire family was wiped out, including a four year old little boy, and an infant girl. Although the vision didn't show who did it or how, there was no doubt of Juan's involvement, no matter how much the small boy wanted to deny it.

Juan angrily brushed the tears away as he came back to the present. He looked at Levi and spoke very softly, "If we have to."

Levi's eyes hardened and refused to let the link break without doing damage to both him and Juan. His use of Juan's link to the others almost wiped him out but his own memories came to the forefront and allowed him to clamp onto the link and not let it sever.

Even as Juan spoke, the boy found himself in an intensely hot desert and his throat was parched, his stomach also rumbled from too little food. The building Levi was in was pockmarked with bullet holes, some fresh, some old, some decades old, telling even the least observant this little plot of land had been fought over too many times to count. In the building six kids sat clustered together their eyes wide with fear as a man yanked a seventh boy high into the air by his hair. At this point Juan had no doubt this was Levi as he felt the roots of his own hair burn as if someone was trying to rip his hair out all in one pull. The man spoke; the language was foreign, but because of the link, Juan understood it was poorly spoken Hebrew. "Sons of David," the man laughed evilly as he pushed his cigarette into the back of the held up boy's neck, Levi's neck, "you are servants of Allah, all of you and you will die today, gloriously! But Allah is kind, he want even the Sons of David to be given a chance."

Even as the man spoke, two others came forward and grabbed each of the other six children in turn, strapping fragmentation mines welded onto vests onto each boy. The vests were then locked into place with padlocks. As soon as the last vest was secured to the oldest boy, the man tossed the held up boy off to the side hard enough to audibly break bones, one of them poked through the small child's arm. Levi screamed and looked at the bone poking through his skin only to hear more laughter."

The man then reached over to a remote control and hit a button. "You all have one hour to get back into the West Bank and have those taken off before they explode. There is an Israeli outpost only nineteen hundred meters to the west; just run toward the sun! May Allah go with you."

The three men then each tossed down knives into the dirt floor and left.

While five of the six boys started feverishly cutting the ropes holding them to the wall the sixth one looked over. "If we try to go home they will blow us up and kill others. It is what they do."

"We have to try!" one of the others shouted as he managed to finally cut the bonds off his bare feet.

The boy who didn't cut the bonds off himself looked over to the boy with the broken arm, "Levi, go, run get one of the army, tell them…"

The boy, Levi, cradled the broken arm stood, and wobbled while clutching his compound arm fracture. "Samuel, they will not come… you know this…"

"They may try, but if we go back… we know what we are. We are suicide bombers. They want to blame us, and if we don't go to the outpost and kill all those there. They may even detonate us as we make it through the Arab sections so they can say Jews are using children to bomb the Muslims: we can't let this happen. Now run, go to the military check point and get help… at least let others know what has been done to us!"

As the boy ran, still clutching his arm, his cries became even more pronounced as the flaming hot sands started to burn his bare feet, still he ran toward the closest outpost as the boys watched, but he didn't make it. Instead, an Israeli soldier saw the boy and fired a rubber bullet. The boy fell screaming.

The other five had seen enough. They bolted out the door holding up their hands as they made their way to the checkpoint, begging for help, but the bombs strapped to their chests told the three men out on the perimeter of the outpost what had to be done, all five were shot down in cold blood. The last boy shook his head, looked down at the vest which was now down to fifty three minutes and glared as he heard a truck fire up from behind the building. He slashed at the rope holding his feet together and moved at a run toward it. As he got close he ripped the timer off and exploded, taking the truck and the three men out with him.

Only yards from the outpost's outer perimeter, Levi screamed as he watched his brother go up in a large fireball.

Levi let the vision fade as he turned his neck and showed the scar of a cigarette burn.

Juan looked at the man, as tears were forming in his eyes. However, when he spoke, the young boy's voice was gone; in its place was a cold emotionless voice of someone who seemed much older. "Words mean nothing after that. If you are the same sort that I am, then me saying I am sorry you went through that would only infuriate you. I believe we want the same thing, not pity for what we have been through, but the power to try and stop others from having to go through it."

"Indeed, but I do not want to take the world down in the process. I lived through that, and what came before that, the days and weeks before… it was beyond awful, but I lived through it and the shock is what unlocked my gift… I don't want to take down this world and we are right on the edge of doing so. If you all aren't careful, those like who did what I let you see… they will all come out to play, here in the US, to try to keep this war going for as long as possible. If they succeed, the hidden forces will come out to play and life here in this world falls into the second dark ages of recorded history.

"You and your ilk are a key which may be able to turn the lock and keep the door shut or pop the lock and unleash the Furies. You, Juan, bring with you the power of damming Revelations or of rebuilding Revolutions. Unfortunately I do not know how to prevent the former and create the later. But the crossroads for this world is now on your shoulders and we are right there with you. We jumped in, and as much as I thought it was a good idea then, now… well here we are at the crossroads of two competing histories and frankly I am not sure what more to say, other than ask you one more time, do you really get it now?

"I believe I am beginning to." Juan stated evenly and with a great deal of sincerity. "You seem to understand what is at stake here better than most. Later today when the rest of the supplies come in, some of my brothers will be with them. They will want to have a long talk with you if that's okay?"

"Yeah, but I have dealt with these underlying forces, and they will not wait long to test you… test us… Unless I miss my guess, they are already moving their pawns into place, probably have been for hours. It will not be long… not long at all… prepare your friends and tell your people Bryce is a key target, not just from Ashwood, but from others, others I don't know by name. They are only known to me by rumors and hints plus encounters from past experience… But there are others who are not known here and need to stay unknown…"

Levi was about to say more but stopped as Kermit cleared his throat.

Steven stumbled into view, clearly being drawn to the smell of bacon and eggs; he moved up from the basement and stopped short as he saw numerous, fatigue wearing, heavily armed, men mulling around. He blinked twice at the small Hispanic looking boy who was sitting at a table with half a dozen weapons around him, having a conversation with Levi, with Kermit listening in with a raised eyebrow.

Before he could make up his mind to either move forward or retreat, Zenon glanced over from trying to feed some of those rescued with a nod, "So the dead rise."

"Um…" Steven eyed the others who were all now looking at him, "I smell bacon."

Juan couldn't help but laugh. "See, I knew it… no matter how smart they are… they're still normal kids when it comes to food!"

Justin moved up behind Steven, "Juan, you may say he is normal now, but you have not seen him eat!"


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