Castle Roland

Book I

by MultiMapper


Chapter 3

Posted: N/A

Copyright © 2012 - 2015 by MultiMapper and The Revolutions Universe Partnership
All Rights Reserved


Metamorphosis LogoCarson sighed in frustration as he took the headset off and looked at his father. "Sorry, Dad…. the calibration's still not right. I'm off by at least a half degree with the right hand, and a third of a degree with the left."

"It's okay, Car." Ryan Brown said as he reached over and ruffled his thirteen year old son's hair. "You're real close, just a little while longer, and I'm sure we'll get this figured out."

"I know, Dad, it's just so frustrating being this close, but still not being able to make it work." Carson said in annoyance. He was working on a 3-D rendering of a keyboard that would be able to be used in a virtual reality environment, but even more so, he was trying to make it so that the keyboard would move with the hands, so the hands did not have to be in one area to use it.

Ryan stood up from the side of Carson's bed, where he'd been sitting, and laughed. "You do realize you've only been working on this for a few months, and you're already further than I ever dreamed possible. Now come on, let's get you dressed so we can get dinner. You know how your mother gets when we're not down in time for dinner."

"Fine!" Carson grumbled, but allowed his father to help him out of bed, and gently set him in the wheelchair, next to the bed. He hissed in pain as his creaking bones protested to the movement.

"You okay?" Ryan asked with concern.

"Yeah… it just fucking hurts." Carson said as his eyes were squeezed shut, a single tear leaking out the corner of one.

Normally, Ryan would have said something about his son's language, but in this case, he really couldn't bring himself to. Once Carson was set in the chair, his father grabbed the back of it, and pushed him into the en suite bathroom to help him clean up. "You've been overdoing it again." Ryan said peacefully. "You remember what happened the last time you pushed this hard. You ended up not being able to move for a week."

"Yeah, I know." Carson said miserably. "I just hate being this close, but not being able to figure out why it's glitching so bad."

"Well… I will only offer one bit of advice. You have a lot of other projects in the works… move to one of them for a bit, and see if things become clearer after giving this one a break for a bit." Carson's father responded again, with a very peaceful tone.

Once Carson was in the bathroom, he looked at his dad, and the unspoken message was passed. 'I got this.' His father, nodded and smiled, then left the room, closing the door behind him.

When the door was shut, Ryan sighed as he leaned against the wall and looked around his son's bedroom. It had been a rough three years for the Brown family, and truth be known, even rougher on Ryan. Even though everyone said it wasn't his fault, Ryan still blamed himself for the accident that crushed Carson's legs, from mid thigh down.

It was Carson's tenth birthday, and Ryan was supposed to take him to the local soccer field, where all his friends were waiting to play a few games, and then have cake and ice cream. Earlier in the day, Ryan and his team of researchers had a major breakthrough on their project.

Ryan, being the owner, broke out several old bottles of champagne, and they had passed the bottles around all afternoon, being as there were eight other people in his team, they each only had like two glasses each. He knew he wasn't drunk, but he always thought that maybe he could have avoided the truck, had he not been drinking.

They were lucky on one front, they had money… They had a lot of money, not to mention that the accident was blamed on the driver of the Shell Oil truck. Of course, since Ryan's company was one of the main Research and Development contractors for Shell, and the upper management wanted to do everything in their power to keep Ryan happy, they had paid out a LOT of money for the accident. What Carson had done since then, though, was nothing short of miraculous.

Carson had spent just over three weeks in the hospital, and then the rehab facility. When he got out, and back to the house, Carson was a different boy. He was withdrawn, sullen, and angry. Not to mention the fact that he was in constant pain that seemed to get better and worse with no rhyme or reason. The family rallied around him, and slowly they were able to bring him out of it, at least mostly. They had a lot of help from doctors and psychologists, but it really was the family coming together to help, even Carson's brothers had a big part in it.

Tommy, who was only twelve at the time of the accident, was very insistent that he learn what was needed to help Carson out. Everything that his parents were taught at the hospital, to care for Carson, and his legs, he learned. As Tommy has said. "I know I wouldn't want 'Mommy' or 'Daddy' to have to help me in the bathtub, and I know Carson wouldn't want it either." So, from day one, Tommy was right there helping Carson any way he needed it.

Mikey was eight at the time, he couldn't really help the same way Tommy did, but he was always right there to help push Carson's wheelchair, or run to grab something for his brother. Probably the biggest thing that the brothers did to help Carson was to simply accept Carson's biggest worry… the way his legs looked now. He was worried people would think they were as disgusting as he did. But his brothers never said a word about it, never shied away from having to touch or move them for Carson, Mikey even kissed his legs one time, telling Carson that 'Mom always kisses my boo boos to make them feel better.' That simple act drew the two boys closer than anything the parents could have tried to make happen.

That did a lot to help Carson to come out of his depression, but the biggest thing happened about a month before he turned eleven. Ryan had seen that Carson was slipping back into his depression. He still wasn't able to go to school, and was on a bad spell for the pain. Ryan was getting ready to go to the lab, so he decided to take Carson with him. He was the boss, so he could do that. So he loaded Carson up into the van, and pulled out of the garage. Instead of going down the driveway towards the road, he drove around the house, and down the small lane that led to the back part of their property. The Brown family owned a huge parcel of land, which is where Ryan had built his facilities. In the back, over the rise, were several large buildings, one, even bigger one, that was in the middle of being built, and even several 'housing units' for those people that worked for Ryan, and their families. The building they were headed to, housed the main offices and laboratory for 'Brown Consulting'.

Carson had been here a few times before the accident, but never went into the lab. Today, he would, and what happened that day would change all of their lives forever.

Ryan was interrupted from his thoughts by his wife calling everyone for dinner. He pushed off the wall he had been leaning against and wiped away the tears that had been falling. He never wanted Carson to see him cry, at least not sad tears.

Meanwhile, in the bathroom, Carson sighed as he rolled himself over to the sink, and washed his hands and face. He backed his chair up slightly, and reached into the medicine cabinet below it, and pulled out his bottle of painkillers. He sighed as he looked at it. Hydrocodone… 10-325. He knew these things were bad, but he also knew he needed them, especially when the pain was real bad.

He took out a pill, and the filled a cup with water, before swallowing it down. He put the cup down and tilted his head back and just sat there. He tried to drown out the pain that radiated from his mid thigh down, doing everything he had been taught in the hospital about mentally controlling pain. Thinking back on it, he still couldn't help but chuckle over the fact that nothing the doctors tried for him there would work. None of the mental tricks they tried to teach him helped at all.

It wasn't till an old man, one of the hospital volunteers, came by to chat with him, that he found something that actually worked. The man taught him how to meditate, how to center himself, and push the pain away. At first, it was hard to do, but after some practice, he found the pain lessening quicker. He could never drive it all away, but he could make it bearable.

"Yo! Cars!" A younger voice shouted through the closed door. "Dinner's just about ready. You need any help?"

"Nah… I'll be right out." Carson called out to his youngest brother Mikey. He smiled slightly to himself as he turned his chair, and wheeled himself over to the door. He turned the handle and pushed it open, only to see his eleven year old brother waiting there with a smile.

"Come on, let's go. Mom made chicken tonight!" The boy said excitedly as he jumped behind the chair, and started to push Carson to the dining room. "So, d'you get your computer thing figured out?" Mikey asked as they went through the living room, heading towards the kitchen.

"No, we're still off, and it's really bugging me." Carson said, sighing out in frustration, one more time. When they got into the dining room, Mikey pushed Carson to where he normally sat, and then took his own seat next to him.

After they all sat down, and had their prayer, Tommy, Carson's fifteen year old brother, looked at Carson and asked. "Any luck?"

"No… not yet." Carson sighed miserably.

"Don't worry about it, Man, it'll come to ya." Tommy said

"Yeah, I know.. it's just.. we're soo close." Carson almost whined.

"Well, just don't stay up all night working on it again." Debra, Carson's mom, said softly. "You have school tomorrow, and you don't wanna fall asleep in class again."

"That only happened once!" Carson whined out. "And it was the night I brought Dizzy online for the first time. It just wasn't working right, and I had to do it then or I would have lost a bunch of work!"

Mom just gave him one of her 'looks', although the slight smile on her face said even more. "That's fine, hun, just don't do it again tonight, okay?"

Tommy saw that Carson was really uncomfortable, and like any really good older brother, changed the topic. "So, Carson, what the heck happened earlier? I heard most of Texas was without power for a long time."

"Yeah… it was some massive hacker attack." Carson said, trying not to say too much.

It was his mother that surprised everyone though. "You should see some of the information that has been put out there since it happened. Some of the things that President Ashwood has done, and tried to cover up, is nothing short of criminal!" The vehemence in her voice was something that the boys hadn't heard many times before.

Ryan figured he'd better lighten the mood, and change the subject, the Brown adults rarely talked about politics in front of the kids, they just weren't old enough to understand it… so they thought. He looked at Carson who was slack jawed, staring at his mother. "What's the matter, Carson… did you forget your mother knows how to surf the net, as well?"

Carson blushed, and his brothers just laughed. Thinking he'd picked on Carson enough, he looked to his eldest son and asked. "Tommy, how's soccer looking for this session."

Carson tuned out the rest of the conversation, preferring to concentrate on the food, his mothers odd behavior, and his own mental schematics, rather than listen to his family talk about sports.

Before the accident, all three brothers were very big into playing soccer. They played every chance they got, and loved every minute of it. Now, though, it was just another reminder of what he couldn't do, but more so, a reason to push what he was doing.

When dinner was over, Carson made his way back to his room. He was starting to really feel the effects of the drug, and was happy that the pain was pushed even further into the background. He stopped when he rolled into his room, and looked around. This was his domain, and he loved it. Of course, since he had helped design it, he should love it.

The room was huge, mostly open, with a large queen sized bed against one wall. He had a few posters of soccer players, the normal dresser, desk and closet. But the main thing was his computer area. It was a work of art, costing a whole lot of money, and even more work to make it the way Carson wanted it.

Carson was what a lot of people would call a geek, and since the accident he'd grown even more geeky. When he was only six, his father had brought home a computer to fix, and found Carson playing around with it. Ryan decided to take the time to explain to Carson what he was doing. To Ryan's surprise, Carson picked things up a lot quicker than he would have expected. From that point forward, Carson was playing with computers as often as he could. When he wasn't outside playing, of course.

When the accident happened, Carson was ten, and was already well past the high school computer programming books. After spending three weeks in the hospital, Carson spent the first four months home, sleeping in the dining room which had been converted for his use. During that time, his parents had his addition made. He thought it was kinda cool that they made sure that he was as involved with it as they were. When he drew up the plans for how he wanted his computer 'desk' to be, at first, his mother balked. His father, though, thought it looked really cool, and convinced his mom to let them build it. Of course, he tweaked a few things, but mostly it was all Carson's brain child.

It was called 'the alcove', and Carson loved it. It truly was made just for him. He smiled as he pushed himself over to, and into it. He hoped that the net wasn't still acting funny, as he reached down, and locked his chair onto the rollers in the floor, sitting back up, he grabbed a little joy stick that was sitting on the desk, and attached it to his right chair handle. He reached forward again, and this time, pulled the keyboard plate toward him.

This activated a system which moved four monitors around him, two on the right, two on the left, leaving two in front of him. Next he grabbed the 'hat'. This was a wireless piece of equipment meant to help him navigate the 6 different monitors he now had around him. Instead of having to use either different mice for each monitor, or having to move the mouse from each individual screen, the 'hat' made it so that what ever monitor he was looking at, the mouse appeared there, and he was able to use the pointer normally.

Another feature of the hat was that it would move the track he was sitting on so that he was actually facing that screen. All in all, it was a very sweet set up that his father and he had developed, and Carson was currently waiting on his first patent for.

"Dizzy… wake up, please." Carson said somewhat softly, and all of a sudden, all six monitors came to life. Behind the desk, two Mac Pros, both with two 3.06 GHz 6 core Intel Xeon processors, giving each of them 12 cores, along with each having 64 GB of Ram, and each with specially designed 8GB ATI Video cards, came to life. Moments later, the 12 Mac Minis that were spread around, spun up out of sleep mode.

A digitized face of a boy his age was displayed on the main monitor in front of him, appeared to look around, until it's eyes 'focused' on Carson. "Hey, Carson. How are you doing this evening?"

"I'm good, how are you?" Carson asked back.

The face seemed to consider for a moment before a smile spread on it's face. "I'm good, thanks. Everything is running at peak performance."

"That's good. Is there anything new going on?" Carson asked as different windows started to pop up. On the main window was a system performance display. Next to that, on the other main screen, his email client came up. On the two right side screens, two different technical news sites came up. That way, he could keep up with the different advancements. The two left ones stayed blank. They would only come up if Carson asked for something else.

"Well," Dizzy answered, even though his 'face' was gone. "Out of the thirty seven emails you got, only three of them weren't trying to sell you something, or some other sort of spam. One is from Mrs. Cartwright, reminding you of the test tomorrow in class. One is from Katie, she's wondering if you're going to the dance next Friday. And the last one is from Doug. He wants to know if you can come over sometime and fix his… well, I had better not repeat the words he said, as your mother would not like them. He would like you to fix his computer."

Carson couldn't help but grin. Dizzy was coming along very well. He still had a long ways to go with him, but he was starting to act more and more like an actual person. Out of the 8 terabytes that his two machines held, one full 2 terabyte drive was dedicated to just the code to give Dizzy a personality.

"Oh, by the way…" Dizzy continued. "You can tell Mikey that Arsenal won 5-2 against Fulham, Tommy will not want to hear that Everton beat Manchester United, and you, my young friend, will be happy to know that Manchester City killed Newcastle, 4 to nothing."

"YES!" Carson cried out while pumping his fist. "HAH! I knew they would do it."

"Would you like me to put together the youtube videos of the key plays?" Dizzy asked, and Carson nodded enthusiastically. It's not like Dizzy actually saw the nod, but the 'hat' he wore, transmitted the motion, and Dizzy was able to interpret it as an affirmative.

The left front screen suddenly came to life, and Carson looked that way. Automatically, his chair began to slowly turn so that he was facing the screen full on. Carson sat back with a grin on his face as he watched his favorite football (soccer for those Americans who aren't cool enough to call it by it's real name) team devastated their opponent.

After the videos were done, Carson sighed again… this time in contentment. Yeah, the accident sucked, being in a wheelchair sucked. But life was good, in most ways. He was still getting used to the changes. Most people would say that two years is more than enough time to get used to something, but when you're talking about not being able to walk, and having to live life with constant pain, well… he was still getting used to it.

He glanced at the clock and saw it was only eight thirty, plenty of time to get a little bit more coding in. Smiling broadly, he spoke out. "Okay, Dizzy… Let's go to code mode."

"You got it, boss man." Dizzy responded, and the configuration around Carson changed again. The two monitors in the front dropped down a few inches. The front monitors on both the right and left side lifted up and moved to sit right on top of the monitors in the front. The right and left back monitors moved back to their docking positions, leaving just the four monitors up front. They then moved into large screen mode, meaning that the four monitors now worked as one large one. "What do you wish to work on?" Dizzy asked, the monitors now blank.

"Let's look at the VR Calibrations. I still wanna try and figure out why you're glitching on the VR keyboard." Code filled the large screen. In no time at all, Carson was lost in his own little world.

Carson had no idea how long he was buried in the code, but he was brought out of it by Dizzy's voice. "Carson. Sorry to bother you, but I knew you would want to know when Roris came online."

Carson sat back, and shook his head, trying to pull his mind out of the code he was in, and back into the real world. After a moment, he sighed and spoke. "Yeah.. thanks Dizzy. Can you pull up the conversation for me? Also, please compress the program I finished up last night for him, and get it ready to send."

Dizzy didn't answer, but the monitors moved back to their 'normal work mode' and a window opened up, displaying a text conversation. Carson reached forward and started typing on the keyboard. "Hey Roris. How are you tonight?"

It took a while, but he finally got a response. "I'm fine, how are you?"

Carson grinned evilly. This was a moment he'd been waiting for, for a while. "I'm great. I made a major breakthrough, last night, and I think I got the program ready for it's first real test. You ready to try?"

Again it took longer than it should have, but finally the single word 'YES!' appears on the screen.

"Okay. Open up the remote access program, and I will install it, and let you know when we're ready to test it." Carson waited a few moments, then spoke. "Okay Dizzy, go ahead and connect to Roris's computer. Download and install the patches, and let me know when it's done."

Carson knew it would take several minutes for Dizzy to complete it, so he leaned back in his chair, and thought back over the last several months working with Roris, and how everything had started for him.

"Okay, Boss… You're all set." Dizzy said, breaking him out of his thoughts.

"Cool!" Carson said, as he leaned forward again to type. "Cross your fingers, Dizzy. If this works…" He said that out loud, while typing to Roris.

"Okay. Please connect the headset to the computer, and when you are ready, press the 'start' button on the screen. Then… just start talking normally." Carson got his head set on, and made sure it was connected, then waited.

He knew Roris had a neuromuscular disorder that made it very difficult for him to move, let alone talk in a way that was easily understood. That's why it took longer for him to type a reply back to Carson. If this worked, though, Roris would be talking up a storm in a few minutes.

"Hello? Can you hear me?" A computerized voice came across the speakers, and Carson almost jumped for joy.

"Yes I can!" He replied excitedly. Carson had heard Roris speak several times, as the twenty two year old had read paragraph after paragraph of text that Carson had sent him, meant to capture his voice, how he spoke, and all the different sounds that he made while speaking. It was the same stuff that voice programmers used, but Carson came up with the idea of using it to program a system that would take how Roris normally spoke, and translate it to something much more easily understood.

"Oh my God!" Roris cried over the speakers, even though Carson couldn't hear any emotion in the computer voice, he could just imagine the tears running down Roris's face. The next thing he heard was the computerized voice come through his speakers again. "Mom, Dad, you gotta come here."

Carson reached over to the mouse, and used it to turn the volume up on his speakers, so that he could hear what was going on. He heard a door slam open, and a man's voice say, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing! I can speak! Normally!" The computer voice said, and Carson knew the next phase of the project was figuring out how to give the voice emotional inflection.

"Oh my!" He heard a woman's voice cry out. "How…"

"Carson finally figured it out. He's on voice with me." Roris said and Carson perked up.

"Carson?" He heard the man, Roris's father ask.

Suddenly Carson was self conscious. This would be the first people outside his family to know who he was. He took a deep breath and spoke. Of course, this was when his voice decided to break slightly. "Yes, Sir."

There was silence for several moments, and Carson was getting more and more nervous. "Are you Carson Ryan Brown?" The man asked again, his voice more guarded this time.

"Yes sir, I am." He said a bit more sheepishly.

"How old are you?" Marcus, Roris's father, asked.

"I'm thirteen, sir."

"Thirteen?!" He said followed up by, "and you are the one who's been working with Rory for the last year?"

"Yes, sir." Carson replied, trying to keep the quivering out of his voice.

After a few more awkward moments, Marcus spoke again. "Son, I don't care how old you are. Seeing my son and his mother this happy… well, I just don't care." Carson breathed a sigh of relief, that was short lived. "But, well, I am wondering… 'Carson Medical Research'… all the contracts we signed, all the equipment that was sent to us. How is that possible."

This time it was Carson who was quiet for a few moments, trying to decide how much to say. He'd 'spoken' at length with both Marcus and Roris, but that had always been in text chat. All calls had been handled by Mr. Cronin, Carson's business manager. Finally he came to a decision, he'd asked Roris a whole lot of personal questions, mostly dealing with his disorder, but… well fair is fair.

"Sir, that is a long and involved story…" Carson said hesitantly.

"Son… after seeing my son speaking clearly, even if it is through a computer speaker, I'll sit here all night long if I have to. However, it is your story to tell if you want to. While I am very interested, just seeing my son like this is more than enough for me. I don't care if you're thirteen or three hundred."

"Yeah, I thought you were like my dad's age." Rory said, and Carson couldn't help but laugh, thankfully he was joined by both Marcus and his wife.

That was the icebreaker that Carson needed. He sat back in his chair and sighed. "To understand all of this, you need to know who my father is. His name is Ryan Brown…"

After several moments of silence, Roris's voice came over the speakers. "Oh, come on, Dad, you don't know Ryan Brown? He was one of the founders of Intel. Now he owns Brown Consulting. The leader in Virtual Intelligence, and Virtual Reality hardware." Even though his voice was simply computerized, Carson could almost tell just how excited he was, simply by how fast he spoke.

Normally Roris had to speak slowly, and really work and forming his words so they could be understood. But the program that Carson wrote, took his normal speech, which would have been almost completely unrecognizable, and converted it into speech that was just like everyone else's. They had worked on it for over a year, and were pretty close. Then last night, Carson figured out why it was glitching every two or three words. Now, Roris was talking up a storm, and it would probably be a while to get him to shut up.

"Exactly. Well… a little over three years ago, my father and I were in an accident. My legs got crushed, from mid thigh down…" He heard all three of them gasp in shock. Before any of them could say they were sorry or whatever else people say when they hear what happened, Carson pushed on.

"I was in the hospital for a while, and when I got out, things were real bad. I mean my family is great, and they helped me out a lot, but here I was, suddenly not able to do the things I loved." Carson paused as he tried to stop his voice from breaking.

He wiped away a few stray tears, and sighed. Before he could speak, Roris did. "I know what that's like. It really sucks."

"Yeah, it does." Carson agreed. "Well, one day, my father decided to take me to the lab with him. I've always loved computers, and started playing with them when I was six." He chuckled. "My first real computer was one I hand built… when I was seven.

Anyways, so there I was, sitting in my wheelchair, being pushed by my dad, into his robotics lab. I was feeling really bad about myself, and in a lot of pain. My father was working on this huge, hulking, man-like machine that looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. He explained that it was meant to house a person, and allow that person to be at the bottom of the ocean and do whatever was needed to repair an oil pipeline. It stood about fifteen feet tall, the bottom half looked like a mini sub, while the top half looked like a person. He was trying to make it so that the top half would do what the person inside did, but give the person a lot more strength, while keeping him as dexterous as possible."

"You mean like an exoskeleton." Roris cut in.

"Yes… that's exactly what it is. Meant to help people do things that they normally couldn't do." Carson said, starting to get into what they were talking about, but also remembering that there were people listening who he couldn't get all geeky on.

"Well, after about an hour of hanging around, I was starting to feel really bad. One of the doctors working with dad offered to let me lay down on the couch she had in her office. I took her up on the offer, and she wheeled me into her office. I told her I could get on the couch myself, and she left the room. I sat there looking around the office, and saw a poster. A poster that really changed my life." By this point, Carson was openly crying, but he didn't even notice.

"It looked like a kid's finger painted heart. Under the heart were the words, 'Remember to play after every storm'. It was signed by Mattie J.T. Stepanek." He paused for a moment, but neither Roris, Marcus, or Roris's mom said anything, all three of them were caught up in Carson's story. What he didn't know, was that both his own mother and father were standing in the doorway listening. Carson hadn't shared this story with them, and they were both listening raptly.

"I had no idea who that was, but the words… well they really touched me. Instead of laying down, I wheeled myself over to her computer, and looked up Mattie. What I found made me realize that, yeah, what I am going through is bad, it's nothing compared to some others. Mattie was the youngest of four children. Each of them inherited a rare and fatal neuromuscular disease called Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy. His mother, Jeni, didn't know she carried the gene. She was diagnosed as an adult, after all four of the children were born. Mattie's siblings, Katie, Stevie, and Jamie all died before age four." He choked up as he told the story he'd read about, maybe millions of times.

When Mattie was three, he wrote his first poem, trying to cope with the death of his brother. By the time he died, a few weeks before he turned fourteen, he'd written six books of poetry, and one of essays. All of them reaching the new york times bestseller list. All of them were about peace, and life. About what it means to live, and how to be the best person you can be. All of the books talked about the 'Heartsong.' He said that a Heartsong is a person's special gift to be shared with others, or their reason for being.

So, there I was, ten years old, almost eleven, and reading these poems by a kid my age… a kid who knew he was going to die. That watched his brother die, and two sisters, who he never got to know, but he knew they died. His mother was suffering from the same thing. He spent most of the time in a hospital. I mean his life had to be terrible. Yet, though all of it, he was writing poems about love, about life, peace, and happiness." Carson laughed a bitter laugh, as he wiped away more tears. "Kinda made what I was going through not really all that bad, you know what I mean?"

"Yeah, it does." Roris agreed.

A moment later, Marcus spoke, although his voice was thick with emotion. "Carson, that was beautiful. Thank you for sharing that with us. I can't speak for Roris, but I plan on looking for those books."

"I really suggest it. Any time I am feeling bad about what I'm going through, all I have to do is pick one of them up, and… well, things don't seem so bad anymore. His words are just so full of inspiration and love."

Carson paused for a few moments, before he continued his story. "Well after a bit of time, I got this idea. Instead of wallowing in self pity, I was gonna try and be like Mattie." He laughed as he spoke. "Now I ain't no poet, but I do know computers, and I got a dad who is a genius. I started going to the lab with him every day, and an idea started to form. Why not take what dad is working on, and figure out how to use it to help people with disabilities. People like me, and Mattie."

"Wow." Marcus said. "That's a pretty lofty goal."

Carson again laughed out loud. "No sir. Thats not a lofty goal. This is. When I finally decided to do this. My goal was, and still is, to make it so that someone who has no arms, no legs, can't talk, can't move on their own, can live a normal life just like anyone else. Roris is just the first step in that."

It was several moments while everyone digested what he had just said. Finally Marcus spoke again. "That still doesn't explain how you got everything you did for Roris. I mean a top of the line computer, the headset, the insurance, and everything else."

Carson sat back and laughed. "Well, that was the easy part. At least for me. See, my mom's a lawyer. When I started working on stuff, she had me talk to her old boss, Mr. Cronin. When I outlined what I wanted to do, he 'retired' from the practice he was a partner in, and came over to work for me as my 'business manager'. Part of the settlement with the company who's truck hit me, was they had to fund medical research. Well, Mr. Cronin contacted them, after setting up Carson Medical Research, and pressured them to give us money. My father gave me part of his lab to work in. Mr. Cronin handles all the business stuff, and all I have to do is let him know what I need to make what I am doing work."

"Okay, that makes sense." Marcus said. "But… well, I need to know. Everything you've done for us. That wasn't some sort of charity was it?"

"Marcus!" His wife gasped out.

"No.. it's okay." Carson said. "I've heard from Roris how you feel about charity, and I fully understand. However, let me explain a few things." Carson was sitting forward in his chair, now fully into what he was talking about. "I needed Roris to help me on this part of the project. And I still need him. We've gotten this far, but as you hear, there's no emotion to the voice. By the time I consider this finished, it will not only be able to mimic his emotional inflections, but also sound like his own voice. However, in order to do that, I need him to have a computer that can handle the software, a microphone that can pick up his normal speech patterns, while cutting out the background noise.

Even more than that, though, I needed him in a home. I mean what good is all the equipment if you guys lose your home due to paying all his medical expenses. I needed him focused on this project, rather than worrying about all that other stuff. So yes, everything we have done for you guys has been related to the project in some way. But also, think about this. Just with what we have done so far, how much do you think we're gonna make?"

It was silent for a few seconds, before Roris spoke up. "What do you mean we?"

Carson got an evil smile on his face. "Let me guess, you never read the contract fully, did you?" He was also typing on the computer, asking Dizzy to pull up that section of the contract.


Reading of the screen in front of him, Carson spoke while smiling broadly. "Page 16, section 49, paragraph 4, subsection F. 'In the event that this project bears a commercially profitable product, 'project participants'… that would be you, Roris, as well as a few others… will receive an equal share of 35% of the profits."

Carson sat back in his chair, and looked at the clock. It was almost midnight, and he was tired, although it was a good tired. After he got done talking to Roris and his parents about the business side of things, he had Roris put the new program through it's paces. Both he and Rory were really happy with it. Instead of the glitch every couple words, this one hadn't glitched till over fifteen hundred words.

However, Roris wasn't used to talking that much, and pretty soon, his throat started to ache. After assuring him that he was going to start working on a mini version of it, one where he wouldn't need to be connected to the computer to use it, they signed off, both intent on bed.

Carson wheeled himself into the bathroom, intent on washing up. It was way too late for him to get a bath, even though he would really like one. Even though they had the equipment so he could do it himself, he rarely used it. Tommy was always there whenever he wanted to take a bath, and it was a time for the two of them to spend together. At first, Carson was embarrassed about it, but Tommy made it very clear that there was nothing to be embarrassed about. They had some long conversations during the baths, and Carson cherished those times.

Most of the time, Tommy would strip right down and get into the bath with him. It was a time of close bonding that Carson would always cherish. It didn't hurt that Tommy was more than willing to talk to Carson about puberty, and the changes that would happen. He might not be able to walk, but certain things were not affected by the accident, and it was Tommy who first showed him that the thing hanging between his legs could be used for more than just peeing.

Smiling while thinking of those baths, he went over to the cabinet, and washed his face and hands. He then reached under it, and grabbed his bottle of pain pills. He wasn't in a lot of pain right then, but he knew if he didn't take one now, he might wake up in the middle of the night. That and he really did like the way it made him not care about the pain, or anything else that he was worried about at the time.

After popping one in his mouth, we washed it down, then moved back into his room, and over to his bed. He eased himself into the bed, with more then a bit of popping on his lower legs, and sighed as he finally stopped moving and just lay there. He looked over to the alcove, and spoke softly. "Good night, Dizzy."

"Good night, Carson. Sleep well." The computer responded to him. Then all the screens retracted to their 'resting place' and all but one turned off. One of the center screens changed to a fireplace scene, bathing the room in gentle fire light.

Dizzy was quickly becoming more than just a program he came up with. He was becoming a real friend. That was part of what Carson was looking for. Dizzy wasn't just something that made life easier for Carson, he was a prototype VI that would be part of his dream project. He would be someone that a kid could become friends with, someone who could help with whatever the kid needed, help to explain what was going on, and what the device would be doing. He was meant to help and guide someone through getting their 'device' and maybe help them emotionally as well.

When he fell asleep, he dreamed of a day when he might be able to use his own projects to help him kick a soccer ball again.

Carson woke to the sound of an alert klaxon going off in his room. "Okay, Dizzy…." He mumbled out, and the klaxon immediately stopped. He lay there for a moment, trying desperately to shake the effects of the painkiller. He knew that if Dizzy set off that alarm, something major was going on.

He finally got his wits about him enough to scoot over and into his chair. Dizzy had already turned his 'alcove' into what he called 'war mode'. There were now eight screens lit up, the normal two in front, but now, two above them. Plus the two to the left and two to the right of where he parks his chair. "What's going on, Dizzy?" He asked as he pushed into the alcove, and reached down to lock his chair in place.

"There's a military strike underway, in Texas." Dizzy said, as the screens started to light up. When Dizzy first came online, Carson had set him up to monitor as many things as Carson could figure out how to monitor. He then set up specific protocols on how to deal with what Dizzy 'found'. For Dizzy to have woken him up like this, meant that Dizzy found something on the 'oh shit' list. And topping the list was a military strike on US soil.

"The Mexicans?" Carson asked, as he started to look at the incoming info. "They don't have the capabilities…" He said more to himself than to Dizzy.

"No, this in an American strike on an American base!" Dizzy said excitedly.

"What?" Carson exclaimed as he frantically started to take in the information coming on the screen.

"Okay, Dizzy, get me eyes in the area. Initiate project 'Take Over' if you need to." While Dizzy was doing that, Carson was busy securing his connection, and uploading his pass keys to get into a section of the internet that not many people knew about. It took him nearly three minutes to get everything in place, before he opened his secure browser.

When he was done, though, the four side monitors lit up with life, showing him many different chat rooms. He scanned them all, and found out that shit was happening fast. "I've got it!" Dizzy said triumphantly. The four monitors in front changed to a satellite view of the area. For almost a minute, Carson just sat there in shock. There was a huge air battle going on underneath his view. Dizzy was busy loading profiles of the different planes into the bottom of the screen, they were all fighter planes, and troop transports.

"Carson… I was able to crack the communications encryption. It sounds like they found where President Jackson Bryce was hiding, and they're trying to take him out." Dizzy said and Carson cursed under his breath.

He moved himself over to the chat rooms, and started talking to the people he knew. This was not something that could be swept under the rug, although he knew people were gonna try.

"Is that his plane?" Carson asked as he saw a large black plane take off, like it's tail was on fire, and suddenly, everything revolved around that plane. The attackers focused on getting to the plane, while the defenders were trying to stop them.

"I don't know… I can't find anything that matches it. It's gotta be a top secret plane of some sort. I'd say your guess is a good one." Dizzy said through the speakers.

"Okay, make sure your recording this, and stay with that plane!" Carson said, his fingers flying across the keyboard as he was logging everything he was seeing on the 'underground net'.

Carson was well known on the underground net, since he spent a lot of time there, and often tried to help people out, there. It was a collection of chat rooms, databases, and other sites dedicated to making sure that information, no matter what it was, was accessible to people. Lately, they had been in a bit of a war with the Ashwood administration as it tried to block certain information from getting out.

The 'underground net' was created about ten years ago, as far as Carson knew, and was, amusingly, set up much like a medieval kingdom. Unlike a kingdom, though, there really wasn't one person in charge, although the person everyone called 'Queen B', would be as close to a leader as they would come. Carson assumed by the name 'Queen' that Queen B was a woman, but on the net, you can never be too sure.

Saying that the 'underground net' was created, is a bit misleading. There were always hackers and others lurking around, but Queen B was able to get them to come together, and work towards a common goal. It wasn't easy, but, by the time Carson got involved, there was a very clear group of people that were working together.

Carson had risen in the ranks rather quickly. When he found his first chat room, and heard about certain things going on in the country, he was rather vocally adamant about what he thought. Some people were quick to pull him off to the side and explain to him that this was not a secure room, and he had to be careful about what he said. And more importantly, how he said it.

After a bit, he was given access to some of the more secure servers, and in short order, people found out just how good he was at hacking, and programming. He found a security hole on one of the servers, and fixed it. He even went so far as to set up a network, using already existing servers, taking over only a bit of them, so as to be unnoticed, and opened up a lot more area for the 'Kingdom'.

Within a year of being part of the underground net, Carson found himself named a Duke. He was responsible for the security of a large area of the country. Security of the servers, that is. He had a list of contacts, and quickly got a reputation of someone who 'can get things done'.

Which led him to where he was right now. Dizzy had alerted him as to what was going on, since he had set it up so Dizzy monitored a whole lot of different areas, one of them being military actions in the US. When one of the triggers happened, Dizzy knew to do whatever it took to get Carson's attention, even if it meant calling him on his cell phone, or texting him. Whatever it took. He'd never had to do it before, and bluntly, Cason was scared as hell, but doing what he thought he had to.

Now, he was taking the information as fast as he could get it, and putting it out there to the 'Kingdom'. Only part of him was watching the plane as it ducked and weaved, trying to get away. Carson had to really push down the thoughts of how many people he was watching, that were getting hurt and killed. All because of an insane wannabe dictator. After some of the things he'd seen dropped onto the net earlier, and what had really happened to try and shut it down, Carson was scared shitless of what a country run by Ashwood, would be like.

The thought of that many people dieing trying to either kill President Bryce, or trying to protect him, almost made Carson physically ill. He wasn't opposed to violence, really. But the thought of people killing and being killed, just so one person could stay in power… This was the United States, not some third world nation…. this shit shouldn't be happening here!

Carson knew a lot more than most, about the man in office, and most of it he kinda wished he didn't know. He knew a lot about the former president as well. Obviously there were things that Bryce did that he didn't like, but overall, he thought Bryce was a good man. Much more than he could say for Ashwood.

What he knew that very few other people did is that Ashwood was responsible for the deaths of a whole lot of people. Most of whom were people who tried to disagree with him. In some cases, Ashwood had entire families 'wiped out', including kids. Of course, it always looked like an accident, but Carson knew better. And with the dump of information earlier… hopefully a lot of other people knew it. He really wanted to know who did it, and how. He'd been trying to do something like that for a long time, and couldn't even figure out how to start. Whoever did it was good, and had to have a whole lot of help.

Another thing that he did know, was that the man in the plane, former President Bryce, was the only chance they had to get rid of Ashwood, and right now, that man was fighting for his life. There wasn't much Carson could do, except one big thing.

If Ashwood succeeded, and Jack was killed, he would try and say this never happened, or that it was something else. Carson had been working long and hard on a secret project, that he hoped would never have to be used. He was almost positive he would be able to get out any information he wanted, to most of the country.

The downside was really bad, though. Doing it would probably lead Ashwood's people right to him. He'd seen some pictures of what Ashwood's men had done to others that defied his will. It wasn't pretty, and he didn't want to end up like that. He didn't want his family to end up like that. Most of the kids he'd heard about either were killed outright, or had just disappeared. Carson really had to wonder which would be better. He almost thought getting killed would be better.

Hopefully, it wouldn't come to that, but if President Bryce were to get killed, and Ashwood won another term in office, Carson would have to really think about breaking down all the walls. He was sure that Ashwood would collapse the entire internet to stop it. That would be the end of the Kingdom. The end to a lot of things, but maybe.. just maybe, it would be worth it.

"They're HIT!" Dizzy called out, and Carson gasped as he focused on the screen, and the battle raging on it. It wasn't much of a battle anymore… a few bad guys, but only the one plane left, and it just got hit. There was no one left to protect the former president, and Carson felt a big knot form in his stomach.

"A helicopter just showed up out of nowhere!" Dizzy said suddenly, "He's heading right for the battle!" Dizzy paused for a few seconds. "The helicopter is radioing the jets!" Before Carson could say anything, Dizzy began playing the transmission.

"Pursuing fighters, this is General Casey, back off and retreat, or WE WILL take you out." A man's voice said, and Carson couldn't help but gasp. There was no way a single helicopter could fight off that many jet fighters.

"Unidentified Aircraft," a voice replied. "This is United States Airspace; we are attempting to apprehend a wanted fugitive. Disengage immediately, or we will be forced to fire upon you."

"I warned you…" The General replied, and before Carson could take a breath, one of the fighters blipped off the screen.

"He's got one, and just flew right by the President's plane, heading right into the bad guys!" Dizzy excitedly cried out. Carson quickly glanced over to one of the other screens, and saw that more than five hundred people were tuned into the video feed he had set up. 'At least others will be able to see what's going on.' Carson thought to himself.

"Another helicopter just showed up… out of nowhere!" Dizzy called out, just as Carson was going over the info on the first helicopter. It was a Hind-D Gunship. One of the most heavily armed and armored attack helicopters in the Russian military. What it was doing here though, and being flown by someone who had a very distinct American accent was something that Carson would love to know.

"It's heading right towards where the plane just crashed." Dizzy reported, and Carson was again shocked when he saw that this helicopter was a US made Chinook transport helicopter, although this one had a fair amount of modifications, based on the amount of guns on the thing.

Dizzy split the screen in two so that Carson could watch both areas, although where the plane crashed, Carson couldn't see much, since the plane crashed in a canyon, but he did see the helicopter fly in, turn so its back was close to the downed plane, and some people rush out of it.

He focused on the air battle that was going on, and was just amazed at the helicopter pilot. The battle raged on for only a few minutes, but it was such an intense few minutes, that Carson thought it had taken hours. Carson knew nothing about planes and helicopters, or air battles or anything like that, but what he was watching was something that was so intense, he couldn't tear his eyes off of it. What he could see, though, was that the helicopter was doing everything it could to keep the planes from getting to the crash site. One slipped by real early, but Carson saw it taken out by a missile. The other five, though, the helicopter was somehow managing to keep them away, and even was able to take a few of them out, although Carson saw it was getting hit by gunfire as well.

"The other helicopter is taking off." Dizzy said, and Carson looked just in time to see the helicopter flying real fast out of the canyon and away from where the dog fight was wrapping up. Somehow, the helicopter had taken out all but one of the jets, and that one was leaving the area.

Carson stopped himself just before he gave a loud shout of victory. He didn't want to wake anyone else up in the house, so he was trying to be as quiet as possible. He did, however, pump his fist a few times. "Take that, Ashwood!" he cried out as quietly as he could.

He was just about to go back to updating the chat room when Dizzy cried out over the speakers. "The helicopters… They're gone! The just vanished!"

"Were they shot down?" Carson asked, worried that it might have all been in vane.

"I don't think so…." Dizzy said, as Carson saw the screen scanning the area. "They literally just disappeared… I.. I don't know how. I can't see them anywhere."

They spent the next twenty minutes trying to find any trace of the helicopters, but they couldn't find anything. On the plus side, they didn't see any debris anywhere near by, so they were probably not shot down, but they simply disappeared.

"Well, hell. The only thing I can think of is some type of stealth or jammers." Carson said finally as he sat back, and rolled his shoulders, trying to relieve a bit of tension.

"It would have to be, but if it is, it's nothing I have ever even heard of before, and you programmed me to keep track of all that stuff." Dizzy sounded apologetic, and Carson was forced to try and reassure his computer.

"It's okay, Dizzy. We're good, but there's still stuff out there better then us. Not much, but I think we just found something that was. I've already put out a request to see if anyone's ever heard of something like this, and so far, no one has. Just think about it, we may have been the first ones to discover some new super top secret military stuff."

"That would be neat!" Dizzy said, now sounding excited.

"Okay, do me a favor," Carson started, and he reached down and unlocked his chair. "Can you start compiling all the data we were able to find out. How many planes, how many attackers, defenders, how many went down, how many we think are dead, all that sort of stuff. I wanna try and get it out to the Kingdom as quick as we can."

"Sure thing, boss. That'll take me a while though." Dizzy said, already starting to process things.

"No problem. I have to go take care of something in the bathroom for a bit, then I got a lot of work to do. I don't think either of us will get any sleep, tonight." Carson said all that while wheeling himself over to the bathroom. He stopped before going in, and looked over his shoulder. "Also, try and find out who that 'General Casey' is."

Once he was in the large bathroom, he transferred himself over onto the toilet, without much difficulty, he was really beginning to learn how to deal with the pain. It was there, all right, but between the effects of the pain killers and his own mental training it was becoming easier to deal with.

While he sat there, he was thinking about Dizzy. It was so hard to forget that Dizzy really was only a really good computer program. Most of the time, Carson really just thought of him as his friend. But then again, that's what Carson wanted, and why he first decided to create Dizzy.

Yes, Dizzy had become a very big part of his work with handicapped people, but at first, Dizzy was a dream for him. He couldn't get out much, and honestly, he didn't want his old friends seeing what his legs looked like now, see the fact that he can't even walk, can't even bathe himself. He also didn't think that his friends would still want to be friends with a cripple.

Of course, it didn't take long for all his friends to correct his thoughts on that, but by then, Dizzy had already become an obsession of his. He kept going on it, spending days and weeks simply obsessing with it. His parents and family tolerated it, since they were still not really sure how to deal with the changes, and what was going on inside Carson's head, but whatever he was working on was keeping him happy, if a bit withdrawn.

However, there were times when Carson thought that he may have actually done too good of a job. When he could forget so easily that Dizzy wasn't actually alive, and was simply a computer program, well he wondered if he should be worried.

But then again, no matter what, Dizzy had become his friend, his companion, and his helper in a lot of things. He's developed a personality, and one that Carson really liked. Dizzy was very much like an active puppy, trying very hard to please everyone. Honestly, Carson couldn't be happier about things.

He finished up what he needed to do, then went back into the bedroom, rolling close to his bed. "Dizzy, I gotta get back to sleep, mom'll kill me if I fall asleep in class again. Let me know if you come up with anything in the morning, okay?"

"You got it, boss." Dizzy said as the computer screens retracted, and the fireplace scene came back up on the screen. "However, I did find something out that you may be interested in. The Chinook helicopter that helped to rescue Bryce, was also seen the yesterday in an attack in Las Vegas."

"Okay.. get me all the information you can about that." Carson said his mind already starting to spin a bit. Dizzy dimmed the lights with out responding, all while Carson moved himself over onto the bed. Minutes later, he was sound asleep again. Had it not been for the pill that was still coursing through him, he might not have been able to sleep. But once the adrenaline stopped flowing, the pill took back over, and Carson was dead to the world before he knew it.

When he woke up, Carson was surprised to see the sun was already out. He had to get up earlier than most, because it took him awhile to get ready for school. So most days he was up a good hour before his brothers. This time of year, that meant he got up while it was still dark out. Now, though, the sun was shining brightly through the window. "Dizzy?" Carson called out groggily. "What time is it?"

"It's currently 11:47 in the morning." Dizzy answered.

"HOLY SHIT!" Carson exclaimed as he quickly shuffled to the side of his bed, pulling his legs after him, and almost throwing himself into his chair. "I can't believe I overslept! Mom's gonna kill me!"

"I wouldn't worry about that…" Dizzy said, causing Carson to stop trying to put his legs in the leg rests, and look towards the computer.

"Why not?" He asked suspiciously.

"You're mother left you a message…." Came Dizzy's voice from the speakers surrounding the computer.

"Oh hell…" Carson muttered. "Well, I guess you'd better play it."

Instead of Dizzy's voice playing, it was his mother's. "Carson, I know my son well enough to know that you were up most of the night, first dealing with Roris, and then with the attack on President Bryce's plane. Don't let it become a habit, but I'm giving you today off. Your father has already informed your staff that you won't be at the lab today. Your mother is ordering you to have a day of rest. Call it a hunch, but I have a feeling you're going to be a very busy boy over the next few days." Carson sat there with his jaw on the floor. He just couldn't believe that his mother knew what he was doing, and how late he was up.

"Also, when you do finally wake up…" The recording continued. "Feel free to come on out to the kitchen, I made up some sandwiches, and thought you might like them for brunch. Also, it will give us time to have a bit of a… chat." His mother's voice faded out with a giggle, and Carson couldn't help but feel a bit of dread creep into his soul at the tone of her voice.

Carson went into the bathroom and washed up as best he could, then back out into the main room. Dressing himself was one of the hardest things he had to learn how to do, since he was stuck in the chair. It had gotten easier and faster, but it still took him a bit to change his boxers, put on his 'running' pants, and slide a T-shirt on. He ran a brush through his hair, brushed his teeth, then took a deep breath, and began to wheel himself out into the kitchen.

"Hi, honey." His mother said in a rather sweet voice as he wheeled into the kitchen. Instantly his guard was up. Something was certainly wrong with her, acting like this. "Grab your spot at the table, I'll bring you some sandwiches."

She turned right around, and he stared at her back in terror. 'Who are you, and what have you done with my mother?' He thought to himself as he moved over and took his place at the table.

She brought over a tray of sandwiches, then went back, opened the refrigerator, pulled out a large jug of homemade lemonade, grabbed two glasses, and took them over to the table. She poured two glasses, and set one in front of Carson, before she sat down across the table from him, and watched as he ate his first sandwich.

"So… what did you find out last night?" She asked, and Carson almost choked on his sandwich.

It was almost 3:30 before Carson made it back to his room. His father just got home, with his brothers, and it forced the conversation with his mother to stop. His mind was going in a thousand different directions. After the discussion with his mother, Carson really had no idea what to think. He learned a lot of different things, but he had no real clue what to make of it all.

He did what he always did when he had a lot on his mind… he woke Dizzy up, and started to surf the web. The internet was absolutely a buzz with everything that was going on. The election was going poorly for Ashwood, even though he had somehow managed to keep the east coast from being able to learn a lot of what was brought out the day before in the Texas Hack Massacre. That was the unofficial name it had been given on the underground net. The Massacre part was in reference to what those hackers did to the government hardware, firewalls, and all the other security measures, they seemed to just blow right through.

Carson was really trying to decide if he should get involved. Part of him thought he should, but another part of him thought that the damage was already done, and him getting involved would only increase the risk that he would get found out.

He spent twenty minutes watching everything that was going on, seriously thinking about going into full 'war mode', when Dizzy's voice came through the speakers. "Carson. There is someone looking for olliefriend, and gooseburger…" Those were two members of the underground that Carson knew well…. well, at least as well as he knew anyone.

"Put it on the main screen, please." A second later, one of the chatrooms that he lurked in came up on his main screen, the four screens linked together in front of him. He saw the name of the person that was looking for others, and got concerned.

"Switch to vocal shorthand mode…" Carson said out loud, and got a single beep instead of a response. The mode he just activated would take what he said vocally, and Dizzy would turn that into shorthand text. "Buggie, is that you?" On the screen though, he saw 'Buggie? Dat B U?'

A few seconds later, he got his response. 'You got a minute, Stud?' Carson couldn't help but smile. When he first joined this room, he used a name he thought was rather funny… StudMffn. That was last year, and the name kinda stuck to him.

"Is there a problem?" Carson asked, and saw Dizzy translate that to, 'Prblm?'

'Maybe. Private?" Buggie asked, and Carson sat back. The only time someone asked to go private was when they needed to chat about something important, that they did not want anyone else to know about.

"Dizzy… High encryption protocols." Carson said, and a moment later, the screen blinked. He was now as secure as he could make himself. "Open up a private window with Buggie, and ask 'what's up'."

A moment later, a new screen appeared, with the words, 'Wt up?'

'I think I may need help. Bryce/Ashwood situation stirring things up here. Could get real bad.' Carson saw, and immediately cursed under his breath.

'Where RU?'

'Orlando. Fla.'


'Yeah. U know any1 who can help?'

'Help how?'

'Don't know. Need to get out. Brother=Gay AND Brain Damaged. Grandmother=Old, old. 2 kids, maybe gay and possibly their two gay fathers.'

'U don't ask much.'

'You don't get, if you don't ask. Am I overreacting? Is it not as bad as it sounds?'

'Prbly worse.'

'Ashwood rules here. We need out before we're stuck.'

'Need 2 minutes to check on things. BRB'


Carson sat back, a light sheen of sweat on his forehead. While he was talking to Buggie, he'd been really looking at Florida, and things were quickly moving from bad to worse, there. What very few people knew was that certain elements of the military had been called up, and major preparations were underway for… something. Polls were getting ready to close, and Ashwood had lost, badly. Of course, most news outlets were saying that the race was way too close to call at this point, but in reality they were stalling… for some reason. Carson had a few ideas about why, but he was hoping THAT would never happen.

He unlocked himself, and quickly wheeled himself out to the kitchen where his mother and father were working. Mom was working on some legal files, and his father was cooking. When ever his father was cooking, it meant he was trying to let some crazy idea seep into something workable in his head. Of course, his father was a damned good cook, anyways, so Carson was happy to see his father cooking.

His mother looked up and was starting to smile, until she saw the worried look on his face. "Carson… what's wrong?" That got Ryan to turn around, and look at Carson. When Ryan saw the look, he immediately went around the little island stove they had, and walked close.

Carson looked over at his father, then to his mother. "It's started." Was all he said, and she put her pen down with a long sigh.

"That was quick." She said as she started to put her papers away.

"What's going on?" Ryan asked, as he looked back and forth between his wife and his son.

Ignoring Ryan for the moment, although she did glance his way, with a look that said 'I will explain in a minute'… she asked Carson. "How many?"

"Seven so far… but probably more." Carson said quietly, and looked down with a fearful look on his face.

"Okay…" Debra Brown said with a sigh. "You go get your brothers, and wait in the living room until I call you in. Your father and I need to talk."

Carson didn't say a word, he simply turned his chair around, and wheeled himself out of the room.

When he was in the living room, he saw Tommy was on the phone, and Mikey was watching TV, before he did his homework. That was the normal routine that always happened as soon as they got home.

"Hey, guys… we have an issue we need to talk about… a family meeting." He said, which caused both brothers to look up in surprise. A family meeting was something that did not happen often, but when it did, it was important.

"Hey Beth… I'm gonna have to call you back." Tommy said into the phone, while Mikey shut off the TV, looking at Carson with a worried look on his face.

"Okay, I'll talk to you tomorrow in school." Tommy said into the phone, then hung it up, and turned towards Carson. "What's going on?"

Carson moved his chair into the normal spot he would be at when the family was watching TV together. Both Tommy and Mikey moved to their spots, both of them looking intently at Carson. Carson sighed and thought about how to explain what was going on.

He ran a hand through his hair, and sighed. "You remember back before the accident, how I started playing around with computers?"

"Yeah.." They both said.

"Well, after the accident, I really got into computers, and hanging out on the net.. as you guys know." They both nodded, and Carson sighed before continuing. "Well, one of the things I found was something called the 'Underground Net'. It's a place for hackers and the like to chat about things…"

"Wait. You're a hacker?" Tommy exclaimed, a big smile on his face. "Can you get into the school's computers and change my English grade… I don't want mom killing me for getting a 'C'!"

Mikey broke out laughing, and Carson couldn't help but join in. That was Tommy, though… always trying to bring the tension down, and usually knowing how to do it rather well.

When they all finished laughing, Carson started again. "The UN… Underground Net, really focuses on getting information out to people, trying to stop the government from blocking all sorts of things, and generally do what we can to make information open to everyone."

"Okay, so are the feds coming or something?" Mikey asked looking a little scared. However, just the thought of that made Carson shudder hard.

"No… they don't know about me, yet, and hopefully they never will. However, there's a lot of bad shit going on today, and the government's starting to do some really bad stuff. I don't know if you heard, but Jack Bryce was attacked this morning, and almost killed. The military actually attacked a base in Texas where Bryce was hiding. They shot down his plane, but some other people, no one knows who they are, rescued them."

"Yeah, I heard some of the teachers talking about it. Mrs. Hernandez doesn't really like Bryce, because of the Mexican war, but she said that she couldn't even imagine voting for someone like Ashwood." Tommy said, then kept going. "But Mr. Gregs said he couldn't believe that any president would actually try to attack and kill another Candidate."

"Well, he should, and I got the proof… well a lot of other people have it now." Carson said vehemently.

"Proof?" Tommy exclaimed. "How?"

"I watched it happen… I watched the planes both attacking and defending Bryce's plane. I watched as a bunch of people got killed all because Ashwood wanted to kill off Bryce. I HEARD them on the radios as they were talking to each other." Carson said, the more he thought about the whole situation, the more upset he got.

"Oh shit…" Tommy said, and then Mikey asked his first question.

"So, what does this have to do with us? Why the meeting?"

Carson sighed as he calmed down some. "There someone I know, that lives in Orlando. He's asking for help to get out of there as soon as he can. He just doesn't have any way of getting out. I told mom and dad about it, and mom said to wait with you guys out here till they could talk about it, and then we would all discuss it."

"There's nothing to discuss…" Tommy said, leaning forward in his chair. "If there's someone that needs help, we gotta help 'em. I mean isn't that what Dad always tells us?"

"You're exactly right." Ryan's voice came from the doorway to the kitchen. All three boys looked over to see Ryan and Deb watching them. "Unless any of you boys can think of a reason that we shouldn't help them, we will."

All three boys shook their heads negatively, without saying a word. "Okay.. then we have a lot of work to do. Thankfully, I hadn't gotten to far into my cooking, cause we're gonna order in some pizzas. Carson, go contact your friend and tell him to be at the Bent Willies Airfield south of Orlando at 10pm local time. I've already sent word to the pilots in KC, and they're fueling up as we speak. I told them this is an emergency."

Carson got a big smile on his face and started to wheel away, when Deb stopped him. "Hold on, Carson. You may want to think about calling Roris and getting his family out of there as well. While it hasn't started yet, I've heard that they are getting ready to start rounding up the 'undesirables' soon."

"Oh sh…oot" Carson said, as he nodded rapidly, and quickly went back into his room. Before he got in there, he heard his mother talking to the other boys. "While he's doing that, we need to get the guest house ready, as well as the spare bedrooms cleaned and ready. They may not get here till late tonight, or maybe even sometime tomorrow, but I think we got a lot of work to do."


Editor's notes:

Ok, there are a couple of things to think about, here. If you have read chapters one and two, and why would you be reading this chapter if you haven't read chapters one and two, you already have a few ideas of what is going on.

Actually, you really wouldn't need to have read chapter two, yet, to be able to realize there is some serious fertilizer impacting the rotating air movement device.

Chapter two gives you some details of a second group of people that Carson received information about. I already know he won't let them down, either.

One other thing we now know is that Carson has some pretty interesting friends, and acquaintances, not to mention one great, fully supportive family.

I sure am glad they are working on helping Carson's friends, and that Carson's mom thought of getting in contact with Roris, and getting him and his family out of harm's way.

Obviously, there is still a lot more work for Carson to do, before he can get the various people to a safe place, and out of the terrible situations that they are in.

Chapters four and five will hopefully explain a few things and put some things into perspective.

As you can see by reading the first three chapters, we are slowly seeing the pieces of a very interesting puzzle fitting into place.

As of now, we know who Carson is, in terms of the Underground Net.

If we have been paying attention, we know a few other things, too.

We will, however, have to wait for chapter four, to get more information, and I, for one, can hardly wait to read it.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

Author's notes:

Hey all. I am sometimes known for putting in authors notes, and I really hope that you will read these words.

In the chapter, Carson spoke of a boy named Mattie J.T. Stepanek. I have waited for years to be able to bring him into one of my stories, because honestly, he has been a hero of mine for many many years. His philosophy on life is one that I could only wish to aspire to, "Remember to play after every storm."

Just think about those words for a moment. Do you get the same indescribable feeling inside that I do?

At Mattie's funeral Former President Jimmy Carter gave the eulogy. Now, understand I am not a big fan or Mr. Carter, but damn it if the man didn't bring me to tears. "And we have known kings and queens, and we've known presidents and prime ministers, but the most extraordinary person whom I have ever known in my life is Mattie Stepanek."

I first heard about Mattie when I purchased a musical CD by one of the singers I enjoy, his name is Billy Gilman. The title of the CD was 'Music through the Heartsongs.' I had no idea what it meant, but I liked Billy's music, so I started to listen to it. Then I read the insert, and thats when I found out about Mattie, and the fact that all the songs on the album were Mattie's poems put to music.

I would like to share one of those songs with you all, and hope that you find it as inspirational as I have: Billy Gilman MDA 2010 Shades of Life

Thank you.


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