Castle Roland


by Kyle Aarons

In Progress

Chapter 12

Posted: 18 Feb 16


Kyle Aarons

Bryan rubbed his hand through what was left of the hair on his head, then looked around the suite. Just a few days ago he was the father of one; content to spend untold hours in a lab deep in the bowels of his ship. He was looked up to for his knowledge and abilities in the lab, and some as a dad, but for the most part he was very content to let the rest of the world deal with itself. As he looked into the faces of the five boys, two women, and one man now fixated on him and him alone, he wondered if he had it in him to be a real leader.

With a deep breath he pointed to a half dozen pizzas on the suite's bar before lowering himself into the nice lounge chair. "There is plenty of food for everyone; there is also some lunchmeat and bread if you would prefer sandwiches. If you want something else, we'll call for room service. It's all on me."

As the five boys next to attacked the bar, snatching multiple slices of pizza, Bryan managed a bit of a smile. At least the kids had shaken off some of the events of the past few hours. With some of his concerns about the boys eased, he focused on Craig's mom and Lyle's parents. "Before we formally start, I just want you to know, we, meaning my boys and I, don't know much, if any, more about this than you do. The only reason we are having this impromptu meeting is we have all seen what these boys can do, and they clearly like each other and work well together."

Lyle's father shook his head, "As much as I am thrilled to see my boy have some real friends, and as much as I want to thank you for arranging to get me and my wife back here from the hospital with heavy armed escort, I have very little to add. I didn't see any of it, I have only heard about it. My wife, Sara, says she saw one of the boys do something to me to stop the bleeding, but I don't remember anything other than trying to slam my foot on the brake, only to have the car speed up!"

Sara glanced at her husband, "And I was still seeing stars, so I can't say I saw much either. If it wasn't for the long, thin scars on Vince's neck and the blood all over his shirt, I'm not sure I would believe what little I remember. The doctors thought he had smashed his nose and all the blood was from a bloody nose, but they didn't find any damage and he doesn't appear to have a concussion, even though his head hit the steering controls. So as crazy as it sounds, what I saw might have actually happened."

Craig's mom frowned deeply, "Well, I did see it; at least up to the time some… beast… some monster… whatever it was, came after my boy! I don't think I will be able to sleep for a week!" She pointed over at Bryan. "Your boys know how to do all sorts of crazy stuff!" She forced herself to calm some, "Don't get me wrong. I mean they saved many lives tonight, including my boy, but what they did is impossible!"

Bryan took a deep breath, "What they did was astonishing, amazing, and even unheard of, yes. However, they didn't act alone. Every young man in this room played a part. We are pretty sure this is only the start, but we are hoping the rest of you all can help fill in some holes, because what we are doing is just slightly more than guessing at what is going on at the moment."

"Oh, come on!" Craig's mom shouted. "Your boy," she pointed at Ryan, "knew exactly what to have my son do and say up in my room. There is a hole in the wall because of it! I'll never be able to pay…"

"Mom," Craig interrupted, "if he hadn't taught me, whatever came out of the car would have gotten to me!"

Bryan held up his hand. "Young man, your mom was talking. I know you are still a bit pumped up on adrenaline, we all still are, but you still need to respect your mom."

Craig swallowed hard. "Sorry."

"Believe me, I am every bit as anxious about this as you are, so I understand." Bryan then turned back to the boy's mother. "The hole is my problem. Don't worry about it."

"Look, I can see by the room you are staying in and the food you ordered from room service you have a great deal of money, but the hole is not small! It'll cost a…"

Bryan help up his hand, "Ma'am, I think introductions are in order. You have already met my adopted son, Ryan, and my other boy is Alex. I am Bryan, Bryan Caldwell."

Even as Lyle's parents' eyes went wide, it was clear Craig's mom didn't realize who she was talking to. "Bryan, I am Rebecca Cooper, Becky is fine, and my boy is Craig. As much as it does not seem to bother you and may not, I used what little extra I had left in the bank for this trip. It had been my hope, by getting Craig away from Liverpool, he may be able to put some of his troubles to rest for a week. So a hole in a hotel room wall is a very real issue for me."

"Becky," Bryan spoke forcefully, "the damage is my problem, or should I say my company's. Rest assured, COSAM's can afford to fix a hole… any hole, any size, in anything."

"COSAM?" Becky's eyes suddenly went wide in shock as her mind suddenly made the connection between the name Bryan Caldwell and the mega-corp.

"Dad?" Alex spoke up.

Bryan glanced over to his son as he let the information process in the stunned woman's brain, "Yes?"

"I bet I can fix the hole with what I already know, but I'm not sure how much more I can do. I used up a lot of energy today."

"With the mess in the lobby, a hole in a room wall is the least of this place's problems, son. It'll wait. We need to see how this ability manifests. We don't know how much you can do or when or even if it recharges."

Lyle gulped but figured he better join in. "Sir, it recharges. At least it does for me. When I have done things, I am always weaker after… well, not really weaker as in…" Lyle shook his head in frustration, "I mean… well I am kind-a like more empty inside." He tapped his chest, "Like in here. But, the next morning, right after sunup, I can feel it back in me."

"So you have some control?" Bryan asked.

"Well, kind-a." Lyle shrugged. "I mean I have learned how to make my hearing and eyesight better, and when I get really mad and do something… like bend a metal door… I can feel a weird drain. Over the past year or so, I have been working at it and there is a… um… well it's like a 'pool of water' inside me, at least it kind of feels like one." He paused and glanced over at his parents and cringed, clearly not wanting to say more.

"Son, if you have more insight into this, then by all means…" His father paused, "Bend a metal door, huh? So, are you implying you are the one that bent the door of my first gun safe?"

Lyle gulped, "Yeah…"

"Seriously?" His mother looked at her son skeptically, "It was solid steel!"

Lyle glanced around the room before going over to the large king-sized bed, then glanced back at the adults. "I have been working really hard on being able to force myself to tap into my 'inner pool' and have gotten pretty good at it." He knelt down and took a few deep breaths, then clenched his fists. After only a few seconds he reached out and lifted the massive wood framed bed. He then stood and hefted it over his head.

"This takes a lot of my 'pool'; the fire thing I threw not so much, but I still felt a drain. But when I tap into it to say…um… let me see what someone else is answering on a test on the other side of the room…" He cringed as he got and deep scowl from his clearly nervous and amazed father, "The 'pool' doesn't hardly drop at all. But no matter what I do the amount in me seems to go down, like there is less there. The more I use it, the lower the 'pool' gets, but the second the sun comes up the next day, it fills back up."

He lowered the bed and rolled his boyishly thin shoulders, showing the weight had cause only some minor discomfort. "I'll have to be careful for the next ten minutes or so, otherwise I'll break something, then what I used to help me lift the bed will start to fade pretty fast…"

Bryan watched the display almost not believing what he was seeing. "Very impressive!"

Lyle shrugged. "It has gotten lots easier over the last couple of days to use the 'pool' inside me and it seems to have gotten bigger too. Anyway, on the days where I use a lot, it almost burns when it fills back up, but if I don't use any, it causes my gut to hurt some as what was there drains away and is refilled…" Lyle stopped speaking as he saw the jaws of the other four boys suddenly all drop open in total astonishment over what he had just said, not done. "What?"

Alex was the first to speak. "I feel sick, just like you, only mine refills right after dark, and it is way worse on a full moon night and a bit less on a new moon night! The more I think about it, the more I realize I have been doing small things for a couple of years too… but didn't think much of it."

"Like what?" Bryan was quick to ask.

Alex took a deep breath, "Like at the soccer game, I used some of the pool in me to trip one of the kids who got me from behind with the slide tackle! I made the heel of his shoe come off like I had stepped on it, but I did it from my back, just before the whistle blew on his foul. I have felt it in martial arts training quite a few times too, and when I do use some, the instructors are always surprised I managed to do some things they didn't think I could. The first time I broke bricks I used some of the 'pool,' and even though no one else saw it, I could have sworn the bricks broke before my hand hit them!

"I mean, now it is really my hand, and if I hit it wrong it hurts, but it wasn't the first time… My hand never touched the bricks…"

Evan joined in, "This is crazy, but I can totally relate to Lyle, too! It's almost the same for me. I have used my 'pool' to help me around animals in scouts. I can track better than the others and see things others don't, but I use some of 'the pool' to get help from nearby animals. I can kind of hear them pointing the way or something… It is really hard to describe. I think I used some when I called for help earlier too, because I felt something come out of me, then the skinny kid showed up.

"Mom and Dad always are saying I should get a job at a zoo or something because I can befriend all kinds of animals, and as I think about it, I think I even hurt a few kids I saw teasing a stray cat once! It leapt up and clawed one kid's face, even though its tail was being held by one of the others… Anyway, for me 'the pool' always refills at night like Alex's. Sometimes, if I don't use any of 'the pool', it hurts so bad I have to belch, and full moons are the worst cause I have to fart too!"

Ryan snickered as Evan's cheeks flared a bit red. "Mine is like Lyle's. It happens in the morning, and like Alex and Evan, I think I have been using some of 'the pool' for a long time. The first time I can really point to something, though, was when the pirates attacked our yacht. I think I did something to one of their guns cause it exploded as he pointed it at me; I felt like something inside me was used up after, but the feeling was strangely familiar, like I had used some of my 'pool' many times before."

Bryan glanced over to Craig, "How about you?"

"Night, mine refills at night." Craig spoke with total certainty, "The more I use during the day, the more powerful the dreams are too. When I don't use any, my gut feels like it knots up and it is hard for me to get any sleep." He paused for a minute, then lowered his shoulders, "And, if I don't use much of 'my pool', I also have to wake up and pee more at night."

Bryan reached over and ruffled the embarrassed boy's hair, "All of this is good information. The more we all know, the better we will understand this ability you are all linked in having. Is there anything else any of you can tell us?"

"Well," Craig started with a deep breath, "the haunted dreams are worse when I use more of my 'pool' too, and on full moon nights I think I slip into some kind of weird other world where I can move really fast all over the place. Even though I have never been there, I can tell you what the Mayan pyramids look like, and I also know what the inside of them look like. I can force myself to go to these places, but only during a full moon. I have never paid any attention to new moon though, so I don't know if it is different then."

Ryan's head bobbed up and down. "Me too. I think Craig and me are basically the same!"

Craig responded, "You are way stronger than me!"

"Maybe, but I got some help, and Alex and I think our bloodline has always had an extra large pool to draw from. The weird thing is, I didn't even realize I had it, or at least thought everyone else could do the same as me."

"This is so weird; I didn't even realize any of this," Craig confessed. "I just thought I was a weirdo. The 'pool', as you guys are calling it, usually refills a couple of hours before bedtime. But until today I don't think I could feel it strong enough to realize it even existed. Are you sure everyone doesn't have a pool of their own?"

Becky finally pushed back the fact she was sitting in a room with one of the richest individuals in the world as she at last rejoined the conversation. "I know I don't!"

Lyle's dad kind of shrugged. "As crazy as this sounds, I think I did, maybe still do, but it used to be a lot stronger when I was younger."

Evan frowned. "The thing Ryan blew up said something like it was your fault Lyle was like he is, so maybe you do."

"I definitely do," Bryan spoke weakly. "Mine is not like a powerful energy release though. Mine is more like brain power in the lab. I use it all the time, and I can feel mine refill at night. I can be stumped on something all day, then go back at it at night and there is the answer. My ability seems to drain away until it is gone, then it is right back again the next night!"

"Maybe it's a guy thing." Sara spoke up again. "Because I know I don't have any kind of pool in me! The real question is, what is this weird 'pool' you are all talking about?"

Ryan glanced over to Bryan. Getting a shrug, he turned back to the group. "We think it is magic."

"Magic?" Becky spat out in total disbelief while looking over to Bryan to see what his reaction was.

Alex stood, "We are not joking about this ma'am." He then turned back to his dad. "Can I try to make the griffin thing wake up again?"

Bryan took a deep breath, "As long as you don't use too much of this… I guess we stick to calling it a 'pool' for now. Remember, you may need more soon. There is no telling what may show up next."

"Mr. Caldwell… Dad… If we are right," Ryan spoke up, "he will be getting it all back real soon anyway, and for me it didn't take much if any of my 'pool' to make it happen."

Becky's eyes went wide. "You mean there are more of those things out there?"

Bryan turned to her. "If I am right, tonight is just the start. Alex, go ahead and show her."

Alex held out his hand so everyone could see the outline of the griffin image on it, then used his other to cover the necklace. Within a few moments the branded-like image seemed to pulse out of Alex's hand. For a few moments it was nothing more than a glow, but then, as the wings seemed to emerge from Alex's hand, it took shape.

As before, it looked around and nodded. Only this time it didn't pull back. Instead it fully manifested in front of Alex and carefully eyed each boy. Its eyes then flared three times, sending a slight burst of energy into the other three boys in the room before it pulled back.

Alex let go of his necklace and grabbed his hand with the griffin mark, wincing slightly.

Bryan moved over and wrapped his arm around him. "Alex, you OK?"

Alex lightly shook his hand and took a couple of deep breaths before nodding. "It used some of my 'pool' to check Lyle, Craig and Evan. I don't even know what this means, but I know Evan has Druidic magic, Craig is the same as Ryan, both having Shamanistic magic, and Lyle is some kind of a hybrid called a Warrior Adept, also known as a Sentinel. It also told me I am a Wizard, a Warlock!"

Ryan moved over to Alex, "It spoke to you?"

Alex shook his head to clear it. "Um, yeah… it did through the necklace and the Griffin Stone as he called it. He, it, whatever you want to call it, was one of those who helped forge the Griffin Stones. It then went into what it called a forever slumber, but part of its very magical essence remained in the stones. It said it will wake soon, and it and its kind would help to fight for us. The power is not strong enough yet, though, so it's not able to totally wake yet. It also said it would put out the call and find us a teacher, but magic has not equalized enough for it to send someone and may not for awhile. We will be on our own for at least a month, and things are only going to get worse until enough human supporting creatures can manifest to help us fight. In the meantime, we need to do what we can to gather what magic-capable beings are out there now.

"He also says the power fades in most adults because they didn't know how to use the energies inside them, and without use it fades away until it is all but gone. It says we need to look for kids, boys and girls, who are about our age who have the ability to tap into magic. Older kids' powers are on the downward slide, but can be brought back up as long as they haven't stopped growing yet. If we learn to harness our abilities now, at our age, the power will not fade, and will only get stronger once we become adults.

"Dad, you're right, you do have a large 'pool'. It says you have been using it your whole life. Back in the time before magic lock, you would have been known as an Alchemist. It's why you are such a good scientist; but you can use the 'pool' to do some things like you did at the other hotel. You just need to be taught how."

Alex's voice stayed high-pitched and excited as he finished telling the others what he had just learned. "Finally, it said there aren't many of our kind left, but we will have to hold the line until some of the creatures of old can come back and help us."

"Hold the line against what?" Becky asked

Bryan took a deep breath and pulled up the images of the fight with the winged creatures with the spiked tails. "Stuff like this."

As everyone watched, Becky felt her body go cold. "Those are real?"

"Yes, they are the reason the air raid sirens were activated, and as you can see they are a match for some of the best military aircraft made."

She shook her head. "How are a group of five boys supposed to fight the likes of those? We have to run and hide!"

"Run where, hide where, mom?" Craig asked as he continued to watch the fight between the winged beasts and the attack helicopters. "The creature found me within a day of coming here on vacation. How can we hide from something able to get into my dreams?"

Lyle chewed on his lip for a moment, then nodded. "And the horned thing came after me, like it knew I was able to do this stuff. What if those things can tell we have this pool?"

"I'm sure they do; at least whatever it was Ryan blew up did." Evan spoke with a shaking voice. "If there are more things out there like the horned thing, then more stuff will come after us!"

Ryan clenched his fist. "We can't run if they can appear and disappear at will, and I am sure they can sense us. I was able to feel it before I saw it, and these stones," Ryan tapped his ring, "seem to be able to give us warning too. But I think Craig's mom is right, we can't fight creatures like those for long with what we have now! We have to find more like us fast. And Mr. Caldwell, we have got to find Zachery!"

Even as Alex, Craig and Evan exchanged glances and announced their 'pools' had just refilled, Bryan snatched his cell phone and hit his speed dial.

"Here, boss," came an instant reply from Stan.

Bryan put the phone on speaker. "Stan, I have all five of the boys and the parents of two of them in my suite. Mark the time of my call and get Cynthia's computers to tell us what just happened."

"Something happened? What?"

"I don't know, but whatever it was has something to do with Alex's and a couple of the other boys' abilities who are with us… possibly even me. We need to know what it was."

"Boss, you do realize you are asking me to search through basically endless possibilities, right?"

Bryan took a deep breath. "OK, let's try to narrow the parameters. Alex?"

Alex shrugged. "Not sure, but my pool is full."

"Your pool?" Stan asked.

Evan spoke up. "Sir, both Alex and me plus one of the others can somehow tell we feel more… I guess the best word is full… anyway, we think it has something to do with full moons. See if there is anything to do with darkness, night, or the moon."

Bryan quickly nodded. "Start there, it may have something to do with a planetary alignment as well. Explore the solar system, starting with Earth and the moon; star alignment is a possibility as well. We are researching this on the fly, so you will have to deal with some strange and unexpected requests from me over the next few days, maybe longer. The more we know about this phenomenon, the better.

"Also, I know it is on your radar, but finding Zachery is becoming more necessary by the minute. What have you found on him?"

"Nothing in the past two years," Stan grumbled with an aggravated response. "It is like they vanished shortly after you bumped into them. I just started a worldwide trace to see where they went after leaving Hawaii. I should have more information shortly. But you were dead on about the birthdates and times. I am looking for others who match. Also at least one of their parents of each had rather interesting birthdays, all of them were born right about the same time of day on February 29th, 1984."

"Wow, Cynthia's birthday?…" Bryan rubbed his chin in thought for a moment. "OK, start a back trace on lineage. See if there are similar links going back as far as you can find them."

"Boss, I am going to need to pull some others into this if you want me to stay focused on any one task. Even my highly overpaid butt has to admit my ability to juggle things has its limits."

"What do you need?"

"I know we want to keep knowledge limited at the moment, but I need someone, preferably a few someones, who can work the history angle while I deal with current stuff. Your earlier guess was right on the mark. Already we are getting some broken reports of supernatural activity around Devil's Tower and some of the Mayan ruins in Central America. If it wasn't for your communication patch, no one outside of those areas would know squat. The interference has started to take out landline communications over long distances, and those distances are shrinking. Our computer projections suggest the energy waves are spreading out further and as they cross, it is creating havoc to everything but hard lines, and UB just asked if we had a way to help stabilize their hardened communication lines because they are showing static. Some areas in the overlap are also reporting power failures further out than fifty to seventy kilometers from the power stations, and we think those distance will continue to shrink as well."

Craig spoke up. "My mom does computer research stuff for her company."

Bryan glanced over to Becky with a great deal of concern on his face. "Things are getting worse quickly. Care for a new job?"

"Um, well, I guess. How much would I make?"

Bryan snickered despite the situation. "Enough to where should our boys decide to put a hole in a fancy hotel room wall again, you won't worry about it, plus full benefits. You would have to live on my ship, though."

"A ship?"

Alex nodded. "It's a big ship, ma'am, and you would see most of the world, from North America, to South America, to Asia, to the Antarctic. Craig would be one of the guys on Cynthia too."

"We have ports of call all over the world with one of the best schools known," Stan added in.

She paused. "If I agree, what happens with Craig?"

Bryan's hands rolled outwards to expose his palms. "Up to you, but I would like to get you out to the ship to help Stan, and I think Craig would be better with us, so we can explore what is going on and develop his abilities as a group. I will get him a bodyguard just like I am getting for my boys."

"I don't know…"

"Come on, Mom! I finally have friends who understand…"

"Craig, we don't even really know these people."

Ryan smiled and pointed to Bryan's cell phone. "How many have a cell phone like his… as a matter of fact how many have a working cell phone at the moment?"

Alex held up his phone, "Me."

Evan rolled his eyes, "Ma'am, right at the moment you know more about what is going on than almost anyone else in the world. Besides, I have seen pictures of Alex on the web…" He paused, "How come you were able to get the web over the air before you made the patch?"

Bryan shrugged, "Alex's and my phones already had some advanced uplink capabilities as does my satellite. The whole reason we were able to link with Cynthia in the first place is we were going through COSAM communication channels. The only reason the RAF was able to get the word out is we quietly linked their signal to ours, so they could get help to my assault teams handling those who have harmed your family. I don't think they even realized we sub-channeled their communications to a COSAM network."

"You can hijack military communications?" Lyle's dad asked in some shock.

Stan spoke up. "We can, but COSAM built almost the entire UB defense network, so it was very easy for me to patch their transmissions enough to get help where it was needed. Other parts of the world are not going to be so lucky, and I am stretched way too thin on this. I need someone who understands the need to keep things quiet, yet has a reason for really wanting to help."

Lyle's dad glanced around the room, "Well, if you have a couple more open slots in your company Mr. Caldwell, my wife and I both work in the IT field and we could help. I was shopping around for a new job anyway."

Bryan didn't hesitate. "Stan, get all three of their information and double what each are currently making." He turned back and smiled. "Welcome to COSAM."

Sara paused, "I should give two weeks…"

Stan interrupted. "Ma'am, I'll have COSAM shoot them some cash to smooth it over once I get all your info. Your son being part of this, coupled with you and your husband's abilities with IT, tells me you could be a great asset in helping piece all this together. Combine your skills with Rebecca's and you'll all be the core of a brand new emerging department within COSAM, and as such the pay rates will be beyond excellent."

"What about UB military communications?" Vince asked. "Are you going to help them?"

Bryan spoke up, "Stan, get them a patch for their hard lines. Their defense networks needs to be able to talk across the whole country to respond to threats as they appear. Tell them our people can help with broadcast abilities as well, but it won't be free. Also let them know we think we can get their emergency response systems hardened against this, but they will have to convert to COSAM equipment. Cut them a deal, and if they say yes, get a team here from Vancouver on one of our RAM jets.

"While you're at it, get a hold of Unified North as well, since their military telecom system is almost all COSAM built. See if they want our help. Any other nation who has bought our stuff should get the same offer. Military force will have to be humanity's first line of defense while we work to find others who can do what these five boys can do and get them all trained enough to help fight back.

"It also sounds like we will get some help for other non-human beasts, but creatures will not be trusted at first, so they will have to make sure they don't get shot at by those they want to protect. The second we start shooting at friendly creatures, humanity will only make it worse on itself.

"Also, activate all our security people and get them to our facilities. Finally, pull all dependents in who want somewhere somewhat safe to go.

"If friendly creatures start to show up, COSAM should try working with them. Maybe we can set the example." Bryan took a breath. "And Stan?"

"Yeah, boss?"

"If you know any other former military friends who need or even might want a job, now is the time to contact them. As of now, and until we are sure we can hold back what has come and is yet to come, COSAM needs as much security forces as possible."

"I'll start making calls. The assault team will have friends they trust too."

"Then get one of our RAM jets back down there. Our Vancouver facility and our Antarctic research stations take priority at the moment. As of now those two facilities should link with _Cynthia_; combined, those are best suited to take the lead on this phenomenon."

"Already on it. But once again I need some help to keep this all organized."

Bryan glanced over to Becky, Vince, and Sara. "So?"

Craig's mom clenched her fists and closed her eyes, hating the pleading look she was getting from her son. "You will get security for my boy and protect him as best as possible?"

"Absolutely." Bryan and Stan said at the same time.

Alex also looked over to her "The five of us will be together, and you have seen we will cover each other. We will be a lot safer if you can help find us some of the information Uncle Stan is trying to get us too."

"All right." She said with a long sigh. "But I want to stay close to my boy. I don't go to your ship until he does."

"Us too." Sara next to demanded.

"Done." Bryan stated without any argument. "Stan, I am going to get them set up to link in from here. Give all three full security access to everything they need, and get us more phones so all of us have secure and reliable commutations. Also, check and make sure this hotel has independent power. If it doesn't, find a way to make sure it does before power starts to fail. We cannot be on the front lines of protecting mankind without power to run everything."

"The first free moment you have, I want you to send me what you can on the power outages. Maybe I can find a way to bypass the problem. Restoration of power should also be a main goal of all our science teams as well. Vancouver should take the lead there since our wave generator research facility is up there. Let them know the more power available, the safer people will be. We will not gouge any country for communications patches, but we are still a corporation and will need the money to stay on the front lines. To this end we still need to make a profit."

Stan snorted, "Simply selling a basic hard line patch to countries with our systems will give us a great war coffer, boss."

"Good," Bryan responded. "Get a couple of our most security vetted accountants to get to work on keeping the funds surrounding this separate, so we can keep rates reasonable while still running everything in the black."

"Got it." Stan stated firmly, "Anything else?"

Ryan glanced around the room at the others, "Uncle Stan, if there are more like us out there, we need to find them. Can we get someone looking for kids our age doing weird things, and do a back trace to see if we can locate others who may have appeared in the news over the last few years? I mean, Alex said he was told older kids who have not stopped growing yet could learn to tap back into their 'pools' and even get stronger again. Alex won the UNA rifle championship, I was the top rated Australian swimmer in my age group, Lyle says he is one of the best in UB youth motocross, and it sounds like Evan was really good in his scouting program. Maybe we should start looking for other kids our age who are right at the top of something."

Sara nodded slightly, then spoke up. "Good thought. I can get started on those kinds of searches once I get access to the net."

"I'll get you everything you need and more," Stan responded, then snapped his fingers. "Boys, I have reviewed what you all did in the lobby and just had a sudden idea. If I understand you all correctly, you have all been kind of drawn together. The sudden energy release may have helped you all find each other, but in the case of Alex and Ryan, it started well before any of this mess. Can any of you pinpoint other times you have been similarly drawn to some other kid before this? If you can, it may be a starting point to finding more of you."

Lyle took a deep breath and glanced over to his mom. "Last month, when I took second on the motocross circuit, the girl who beat me might be one of us. Over the last year we have been able to feel when each of us are close by and have helped each other out on the courses, even though we weren't in eyeshot of each other. I have seen her head turn my direction when I come into the safety meetings and I have done the same, even though we had our backs to each other. She is also very good, and the only girl who can hold her own on the circuit with the boys."

Lyle's dad raised an eyebrow, "The redhead?"

Lyle just blushed badly.

Sara snickered. "Dad and I have seen the two of you exchange a few glances. We even discussed needing to give you the boy and girl talk. But thinking back, I'd have to agree with you. When the two of you are out there, you do seem to make a weird natural team, blocking off others to the benefit of each other."

Lyle lowered his head, trying to hide his face. "I know, I heard you talking about it."

"How?" Vince next to shouted. "We were very careful…" His voice faded away as he stared at his son.

"The same way I can lift a bed or see what someone is writing all the way across a room." Lyle gulped slightly, "Just like I heard you talking about wanting me to have a baby brother or sister."

Sara and Vince exchanged glances then stared back at their son. Finally Sara stood and started pacing, "What else can you do, and why haven't you told us about this?"

Lyle clenched his hand into a fist, "I don't know! I guess I didn't want you to hate me too!"

Vince's eyes went wide, "We would never hate you! Why would you even think that?"

"Everyone else does!" Lyle snarled as he slammed his fist into the table he had set his pizza on, snapping it in half like it was made of balsa wood. He jumped up with wide terrified eyes, knocking over the chair and shattering it totally as he did so, "Oh crap!"

Bryan moved to get into Lyle's field of view just as the boy was getting ready to run toward the door of the suite. "Relax, son, no one here hates you, and just like the hole in the other room, COSAM can make this right. It's OK."

Lyle briefly thought of making a break for the door, but sank to his knees and started to cry instead. "I'm such a freak!"

Craig quickly moved over to the sobbing and shaking boy. "I have said the same thing about myself every day since my dad left." He knelt and put his hand over Lyle's shoulder. "Mom tells me a thousand times a week I'm special, not a freak. Until tonight, I didn't really believe her. Now I do… So should you."

"I hate this! I just want to be normal!"

Stan spoke up, his voice very strong over the speaker on Bryan's phone. "Young man, normal is the last thing we want you being. As a matter of fact, I don't want any of the five of you calling yourself anything other than highly gifted! We lost over half the population of this planet to war in only a decade and a half, and without you five, and others like you, we stand to lose a great deal more. COSAM is about to embark on a project to find more kids just like you, and will probably spend billions on doing so. YOU ARE ALL EXTREMELY SPECIAL AND SHOULD BE PROUD OF IT!"

Alex moved up and knelt down next to Lyle. "Come on, we need you!"

Lyle looked up, tears still streaming down his face. "Why? I almost got you killed tonight!"

"No, you didn't." Ryan seemed to harden as he stood and kicked what was left of the table out of his way so he could move to be next to his new friend. "Besides, Alex is right. We need you. Out of the five of us, it seems you have the most control and realized things the rest of us hadn't. You and you alone had decent control before the rest of even realized we could do anything cool."

"Boys," Stan spoke up, "I think it would be a good idea if you all pulled up some games on the holoplayer and unwind. The security company sent me a list of possible bodyguards and I managed to cut the member down to ten highly qualified candidates of the type I am comfortable with. I am going to hire all ten and get them to the hotel. Once there, I want each of you kids to pick one to be your personal guard. Once you have had your pick, Sara, Rebecca, and Vince, you should each pick one for your protection. The last two will stay with you, boss. As a backup, I am going to send the team we sent in to deal with Evan's problem to stay in the rooms around you all. It'll take a day or two to get them armed permits, but if we make it part of the requirement to start patching UB's communication network, the paperwork will fly through."

"Sounds good." Bryan took a deep breath. "One last thing, Stan."

"Name it boss."

"Let's start booking rooms here at COSAM expense so we can bring kids and their families who may have similar abilities as Alex and the others here. Our best bet is to consolidate and let them all teach each other what they can and cannot do as quickly as possible. At the same time, see if you can find us a property just outside of London to make ourselves a semi-permanent base we can protect. Once you do, use your contacts so we can start fortifying it."

Zachery woke as the first vestiges of daylight crept through the long-ago-shattered windows of the small mansion he had slept in. Wiping the dry crusty junk out from under his eyes he rolled his head, thinking about the crazy dreams of the prior night.

As he stood, however, his foot kicked the petrified wood staff. He almost stopped breathing as his gaze fell on the other items scattered around the floor around him and Renegade. Slowly, with trembling hands he reached down and grabbed the shaft of the axe. Almost as soon as his hands gripped the handle, it somehow felt very familiar. Motioning for Renegade to stay back, he moved into the middle of the room and started swinging the archaic weapon. It didn't take long for him to realize he knew exactly how to use it.

Perplexed, he placed the axe on the table and moved back to the assembled pile of medieval era equipment. His frown deepened as he hefted up the heavy chain shirt and put it over the clothing he was wearing. The weight of it almost took his breath away, yet at the same time he realized he was somehow stronger than he had been the day before, and could deal with it.

Glancing down at Renegade, Zachery noticed his beloved animal's tail was wagging at an astonishing pace. Taking this as a good sign, he shrugged and slipped on his backpack, then reached down and secured the sword sheath and belt so it was behind the backpack with the handle poking up over the left shoulder. He took a couple of practice grabs, finding his small hand easily found the grip on the proper part of the hilt with no real effort.

Pulling it, he found the chain shirt was flexible enough to allow for easy pulling and re-sheathing. In fact, it was also all but effortless. Finally, Zachery walked around and tested everything. He was astonished to find he not only could carry everything, but was comfortable and proficient with it as well.

Moving over to a puddle of water left from the horrible storm the day before, he gazed at his reflection. As he did so, he realized just how thin he was and how ragged his clothing was. Part of him was embarrassed by the fact some of what he wore had been made for a girl, but he had long ago stopped worrying about style or intended gender of the clothing he wore. The only important things for him surrounded it being somewhat comfortable and warm enough. Everything else was secondary.

After a few minutes he walked back over to the axe and heavy petrified wood staff. He tried picking them up and adding them to his gear, but it was just too heavy. Shaking his head he slowly took everything back off and put it on the large dining room table, somewhat surprised it didn't collapse under the weight of it all.

He stepped back and ran his hand through his long hair, before turning to his dog. "Ren, since all of this is here, then we must have really been in London and it must still have people. Maybe the whole world didn't blow up after all!"

Renegade barked loudly, as if agreeing with its master.

Zachery took a deep breath as he pulled a chair away from the table and sat down, using his elbows on his knees to support his head as he pondered on what had happened the day before. Finally he sat back up and looked into the eyes of his dog, "Ren, we can't stay here long. There is no fresh water and the water in the hole is bad. We'll eat good for a couple of days and take as much as we can and do our best to cover up everything else so we can come back if needed."

He paused as he looked out the window, "We have to find a way to get out of this place and over to the Isle of England. Maybe we can even find the kid we helped and live with him or something."

Thoughts of the dream came back with him on the ship. Suddenly a bit of a smile crept across his lips. "We have to go back into the main city and find a boat! I can sail us over to England!" His eyes hardened, "Maybe we can even steal a raider's boat!"

Renegade snarled at the mention of the men who hunted the survivors of Dublin.

"Yeah, you're right, Ren." Zachery spoke, not realizing he fully understood what his pet wanted to do. "Stealing is not good enough. If we find them, we'll kill them! Then we take their boat."

Edited by D&B

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