New Beginnings Book II: Dogs of War
Copyright © 2016 by Roland and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.
All Rights Reserved
Janet sighed as she logged off her computer, then rose from her desk, and began to get ready for the day. She had just run yet another simulation on the surgery she was about to lead. She was mostly convinced that everything would work out perfectly, assuming the people that were assisting her were as good as she thought they were. When she reached the ground floor, she was met by Chang, Sabrina, Jamie and Ian, along with Ian's mother. "We all ready?" She asked the group getting solemn nods.
Outside, the sun had not even turned the horizon lighter, but she knew they had much to prepare for the scheduled six A.M. start. The ride to the hospital was mostly silent, Janet mentally going through all the preparations that had been made the day before. Dr. Murten's influence certainly was needed, as he was able to restrict access to the main operating theater since yesterday morning, even going so far as to have security placed outside to make sure no unauthorized people were able to get a look at the large amount of equipment that was there. The most futuristic being the unit that held Carson's new legs.
It wasn't until they were walking towards the building that Janet noticed the large case that Chang was carrying. She didn't have to ask, since she knew of only one thing that was carried in a locked cooler case like that. Blood. Not just any blood, but Genesis blood. Ever since Juan had been hurt, the Core Unit, as well as the Unit members that were higher on the scale, had been donating blood to be held in storage until it was needed. Being Genesis blood, it lasted a few days longer than human blood, but it still had a shelf life. Janet had to make them stop, or else it would just go to waste. She really hoped that she would not need to use it for Carson, but it was good to have.
The cloned legs already had their own blood supply running through them, so they didn't need to worry about replacing the amount of volume that the legs would need, but if something went wrong, the best chance that Carson had may well be an infusion of Genesis blood. Hell, she may order one or two units to be used just to speed up the healing process, and help drop the chance of infection. Since they were cloned, she didn't need to worry about rejection, but infection was always a possibility.
They rode the elevator in silence till they got to the floor they wanted, turned right, and through the doors to the wing that held the operating theater they would be using. They split up once they were near, with the ladies going to the woman's prep room. Chang led Ian and Jamie into another room, where there were a few other people getting ready. Dr. Murten and the nurses were already prepared, Dr. Murten working with the anesthesiologist, who was going to be monitoring Carson's vitals during the surgery.
"You know, I've never had to do this before." Jamie said with a grin, to which Chang smiled back.
"I will make sure you are both dressed properly." He said as he walked over and took a set of scrubs from a rack. He then showed the boys how to properly don them, then assisted as they did the same. "Since there is a chance that we will actually come in contact with the patient, we will need to scrub as well."
Jamie looked up at Chang with a concerned look before he spoke. "Why is it that you always refer to him as 'the patient'? His name's Carson I thought."
"It is." Came the reply, but it was Ian that was speaking. "It took me asking to understand it, but now I do. When docs and medics are working on someone, or preparing to work on someone, they often just speak of 'the patient'. It makes it less personal, and if something goes wrong, it allows the docs to think rationally, since it's not really someone they know, it's just 'the patient'."
"Ian is correct." Chang said as he moved over to the scrubbing sink. The others moved over, and began to mimic what he was doing, as Chang continued to explain. "Often times, I am working on someone I consider a family member. The official term is called 'clinical detachment'. It would be much more difficult for me to operate on someone I love if I was not able to detach the person I know, from the person I am working on."
"I guess that makes sense." Jamie said softly as he continued to scrub his hands and lower arms with the soap.
"It is the same reason why Dr. Murten has been relegated to a monitoring position. It is not because Mother doubts his abilities, it is simply because we are operating on his grandson. When it is possible, neither Mother nor I will operate on or treat a family member. Often times though, we do not get that luxury." Chang stepped back, removing his foot from the pedal that controlled the water. "From this point forward, your hands and lower arms cannot come into contact with anything other than the sterile gloves, or something that has been sterilized. The nurses will help you with the surgical gown. If you do touch anything, you will need to re-scrub, and re-glove. It will happen during any surgery, so do not be ashamed if you have to step back and re-scrub."
The other boys nodded and copied Chang's hand position, arms bent with the hands out in front, keeping them away from everything. He shouldered his way through a door, and was immediately met by a nurse who was holding a gown for him to slip into. The nurse then tied it in the back for Chang, then helped both Ian and Jamie.
Next they moved into a brightly lit surgical room where Carson was already lying flat on a table. Jamie had never seen a table like this, since it was attached to arms, and seemed to be free floating. Carson's upper body was strapped down, but everything from mid-stomach down was open except for the thin parts of the table that extended down past his feet. Chang seemed to understand what Jamie was thinking, and explained. "While we are working, Carson will not be able to move at all. However, we will need to work on both the front of his legs, near his hips, as well as the back. We will not be able to roll him, so this table, originally used for burn patients, will allow him to be turned 180 degrees so that we do not have to move him."
Jamie nodded then asked his next question. "Why is it so cold in here?"
"Mainly it's to help fight infection. Bugs like it warm, so the colder it is, the less likely an infection can set in. Of course we have to run a fine line between keeping the infection causing bacteria down, and keeping the patient warm enough."
"I see." Jamie said as they moved to the head of the table, where everyone else was already waiting in their pre-assigned teams. Jamie moved over to stand with Sabrina on Carson's left side, while Chang stayed on the right side. Ian simply stood by Janet.
"Okay, we are all here." Janet said forcing everyone's attention onto her. "This will be a long and involved procedure." She motioned to two Unit members who were standing by the door. "I asked a few of our medics to come in and aid. They will be the ones that assist us during the procedure. If you need to have sweat wiped from your brow, they will do it. If you need a sip of water, they will hold the straw for you. Remember, once you are scrubbed in, you can not touch anything but the patient or sterilized equipment, if you do, step back and let us know you need to re-scrub. They will assist with that as well."
Janet then moved down Carson's side till she was standing by his hips. "As you can see, the surgical lines have already been drawn." She pointed to where the line was furthest away from his hips. "We will start here, and move at a gentle arch inwards separating the soft tissue as gently as possible. When we reach the groin area, we will have to be very careful. We have taped his penis and testicles as tightly away as possible, but we still need to be very careful as we will not have much room to work with."
She paused and looked directly at Ian. "Ian, you will need to hold off using any of your abilities till we are reconnecting everything. You will need to concentrate on the nerves, and re-connecting them. Allow Chang and Jamie to deal with the other soft tissue areas. Since you, Jamie, and Chang will be using a lot of your abilities during this procedure, the Unit medics have special high calorie concentrated drinks. This will still leave you wiped out, but those drinks may be the difference between you walking out of here, and having to be carried out. As soon as you feel the need for more energy, let them know, do not wait."
She got a nod from all three of the boys, then she moved her eyes to everyone else. "Are there any questions before we begin?" When no one spoke up, Janet glanced to Dr. Murten, who took a look at all the monitoring equipment that Carson was hooked up to, then nodded. "Let's begin."
In the background Phil Collins' 'Against All Odds' began to play, as Janet's surgical playlist started.
"So, to sum up." Logan said with a sigh as he shifted his sore legs in his chair. "While this universe does not have the ability to create Genesis Augments, they are trying hard to, and now have a sample of Juan's blood to use as a pattern. What I don't want anyone outside of this room to talk about is the fact that we all now have huge targets painted on our backs."
"Yeah." Alvin said with disgust in his voice. "Now that they know about us, they want to find out as much as they can. Can anyone say…. Dissection?"
"Let's not even go there…" Daileass said with a visible shudder. Everyone looked at him with sympathy knowing what he had gone through before Logan had rescued him, and stopped the tests of having his android brain placed into different fighting machines. "I'm telling you right now," Daileass added with steel in his voice. "I will overload this body if it looks like they're gonna take me… And I'll make sure I take a whole bunch of them with me."
Before anyone had a chance to respond though, Daisy's face popped up on the screen. "You guys got two helicopters coming in… They have Unit markings. Two Hueys."
Daileass's face lit up, the seriousness of a moment before slipping away. "That's gotta be Keith and the other Texas boys." He said as he got out of his seat, and rushed for the door, the rest of the boys hot on his heels.
All except Logan who sighed, struggled to his feet, and went after them as quickly as he could. "I guess it's time to get this production underway."
"Mr. Vice President." Logan said as he slowly moved up to the group. "I want to thank you again for doing this."
"No problem." Mike said as he extended his hand for Logan to shake. "With everything these kids have done, the least I could do is put on a bit of a dog and pony show."
Logan looked around at the group that was waiting there, and nodded. "We've done everything I can think of. Hopefully it will be enough."
They all turned and watched as the first of the helicopters came in for a landing, while the other one hovered a good distance away. Once it was on the ground, the side door opened, and the crew chief jumped out, turned and helped the first person down. "That would be Brenda Shelly, Keith's mom." Logan said to the assembled group. "That's Tyler, Keith's twin brother. However, from what I've heard, they are nothing alike. Keith describes his brother as, quote, 'utterly average'." That got a few snickers from the chipmunks and Daileass, though most of the adults were nice enough to only smile. "Keith's mom is not able to figure out how much the world has changed. Also can't stand the thought of her baby using a gun. Again those are quotes from Keith."
The Russian crew chief then helped a middle-aged man down, who turned to help a woman down, who had a bandage wrapped around her lower arm. "Those would be Glenn's parents, Jose and Bethony." Logan said, and then again quoted from the messages that Ricky had sent him. "For those that didn't know it, they just lost their youngest son, Jose Jr. He got hit with a thermite grenade when they were being rescued. Juan tried to cover the boy with his own body, but it wasn't enough. Both parents also got some splash damage, but not bad. The boys think Jose is starting to understand what has happened, but mom is being overly protective… understandably so."
"Yeah…" Claire Peterson said while wiping away a stray tear. She had lost her youngest son, and husband in California, so had a good idea of what the family was going through.
"That would be Kris, Glenn's older sister, and her boy friend Quade Stoughtenger, and his parents, Perry and Irene. Last is Braxton Grider, who was Jose Jr's best friend, and his parents, Macy and Millie."
They all watched as the group made their way over to them, as the first Huey took off. Mike plastered a smile on his face as he stepped forward towards Jose, offering the stunned man his hand. "Mr. Olivarez. Allow me to welcome you to Kettle Falls."
"Mr. Vice President." Jose stuttered as he shook the man's hand. "I… Uhhh… I'm not sure what to say." He looked around in total confusion as to why this man was greeting him.
Mike smiled a knowing smile than spoke. "I really just wanted to meet the parents of the young men who have helped their country so much."
"You mean they weren't exaggerating?" Brenda asked in a shocked voice.
Mike couldn't help but laugh. "Hardly. If anything, from what I have seen, they probably understated the importance of what they've done. What I will say is this. If it hadn't been for your sons and their friends, we would probably be behind enemy lines right now. That's assuming there was anything left to try and fight over."
Mike paused for a second, then moved to stand in front of Bethony. "Ma'am, I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am for your loss. I can't even imagine what you are going through." He pointed back to where Sammy was standing, his arm still in the cast. "Sammy here got hurt during the earthquakes. I know how hard that was to deal with, but to lose a child…" Mike let his voice trail off as he gently embraced the woman who was trying hard not to break down.
"Thank you sir." She said in a soft voice.
"Please, call me Mike. All of you. If it weren't for your boys, all of mine might be…" He again let his voice trail off, and she only nodded.
He stepped back and they all turned as the second helicopter landed a short distance away. Keith was first off the helicopter. He jumped off wearing the armor, and scanning the area with his MP5. Even as he moved away from the down draft, a Russian soldier jumped off, wincing badly as his feet hit the ground, "Keith! This is my job!"
Keith looked back, "When they fix your shoulder, Mark, you can have your job back. You protected us, now it's my turn."
Two other men jumped off, one moved up next to Keith and smacked the boy hard in the back of his head, "Well, Kermit and I are not hurt, and you are under our protection. Now get behind us before I ground you for... from all tech and firearms for a week!"
Keith's eyes went wide as he quickly stepped behind Levi.
Mark gave Levi a smirk as he moved up and popped Keith on the back of the head much more lightly, "Next time put your helmet on. Now go help Glenn."
Once Glenn was down, and the other boys were out of the helicopter, they all turned towards the group waiting for them. "Well it looks like Logan was able to come through. Think it'll be enough?"
"Let's hope so." Keith said as he looked at the group. "Hey. Logan didn't say he had an older brother."
"Not sure." Joey said, then sighed. "Well, we better get this over with." With that he started towards the group, the other boys falling right in line, with the adults behind them.
As they approached, Mike took a few steps forward, extending his hand to the first of the kids who happened to be Keith. "Thank you all for coming." He said as he moved down the line, shaking hands with everyone, including the adults. When he was done, he stepped back and addressed them all. "First off, as I said to your parents, I need to thank you, all of America needs to thank you, for everything you have done to help us, and to hinder Ashwood."
"It was our pleasure." Keith said, being the most diplomatic of the group.
Mike looked behind him, and motioned for a young boy to come forward. "This is Aaron," Mike started as he looked at the injured Mark. "We were warned that you had an injury. Aaron here will escort you to the hospital." Seeing the man about to protest, Mike smiled then motioned around him. "I will personally guarantee the safety of the boys." Finally Mark nodded, and Aaron led him away to a waiting ATV.
Mike then turned and looked at the assembled parents. "I know this is hard, but I really need to get to a few meetings, all of which your sons need to be a part of." He pointed off to where General Adams stood with two other men in military uniforms. "I will try to make sure we don't keep them for too long. As soon as they are done briefing us on the state of affairs in the Gulf, I will make sure they are escorted to where you are all staying." Mike paused, than indicated Eric. "My husband Eric, as well as the other adults here have volunteered to show you around, and to the houses that you will be staying at. If you need anything… anything at all, please feel free to ask. Eric will make sure you know how to get a hold of me directly."
"I'm not really sure..." Brenda started, looking between Keith and Mike, then trailed off.
"I know this is a lot to ask, especially after everything that has happened, but your country still needs the services of these boys… excuse me, young men. Right now they know more about what is going on, than we do. They have dealt directly with enemies that we know nothing about. I wish I could say more, but… Well, I will try to return them to you as soon as I possibly can."
Mrs. Olivarez looked like she was about to protest when her husband put an arm over her shoulder. "That is okay Mr. Vice President. We're just happy Glenn can help."
"Come on guys." Mike said as he turned, and headed towards the base. They were only a few feet away when Mike looked down at Ricky. "I still can't believe you guys STOLE one of Ashwood's fleets!"
Ricky couldn't help but giggle at Mike's emphasis on the word 'stole'. "I still can't believe I got to fire one of the cruise missiles! That was soo cool!" The rest was lost as the group got too far away from the parents. The one thing they did see though was Kermit reaching up and smacking Ricky on the back of the head.
"Ummm… What did they mean?" Jose asked as he looked at Eric.
"To be honest sir, I am not privy to all the details. What I do know is that your boys were directly responsible for capturing an entire fleet of ships sent to re-supply and reinforce the Ashwood troops. That single act may end up being one of the major turning points for this war."
Eric then glanced at Sammy, who moved forward, putting on his best innocent kid look. "Hey Papa. Can I show the kids the snow fort we've been building?"
"That's up to their parents." Eric said with a smile, as all eyes turned towards the kids' parents.
Brenda immediately put a hand on Tyler's shoulder, pulling him closer to her side. "Ahh Mom!" Tyler whined out. "You let Keith go, and he's got a gun!"
Jose knew he needed to step in, so he spoke up. "You stay with the Vice President's son." Jose said to Kris, while the other parents just nodded. Jose then looked pointedly at Brenda, when she didn't say anything. Finally she nodded, since she wasn't going to say no after everyone else said yes, and she certainly wasn't going to offend the Vice President or his husband.
As the kids trotted off, Eric motioned for the adults to head to where a small group of ATVs waited. "If you will follow me, I'll show you where you can get settled in, and answer as many questions as I can."
As they walked away, Glenn looked up at Logan and smiled. "Thanks. Logan didn't say he had an older brother though."
"I don't…" Logan said with a grin.
"But…" Keith said as he stopped and looked Logan up and down.
"But nothing!" Ricky stated with clear concern in his voice as he made his way over and looked up at Logan, "Is the extra-dimensional rift between your world and ours causing you to age real fast? If it is, maybe we can set up an opposing magnetic polarization to stop it, or at least slow it!"
Logan held up his hand, "No, it's not the rift, it's a matter of time." He forced away some of his discomfort and put a grin on his face. "Remember me saying that fucking with time can sometimes suck? Well this is one of those times. Time seemed to catch up with us, once we came into alignment with this universe."
Glenn winced, "Which explains why you are walking all screwy. You've had the world's fastest growth spurt and there is no way in this world or yours a body, even your super body, can handle such changes."
"So you're really Logan, just all older and junk?" Joey asked, not yet realizing that Daileass and the Chipmunks were staring at him.
Since they had just gotten inside the building, Mike held up his hand and spoke. "You boys are more than welcome for the little distraction, but I really need to get back. If there's anything you need, just ask Logan."
The boys nodded, and Keith once again, acted as spokesman. "Thank you very much Mister Vice President."
As Mike walked away, the other military officers joined him, and were soon out a different door, where the parents couldn't see him leave.
"He really does look like Adam!" Alvin breathed softly to Simon, hoping that no one would hear him.
"Why do you guys keep calling me Adam? I'm Joey!" Joey stated with a nervous voice, while staring at Alvin and backing away slowly.
Even as this was occurring, Logan reached out and slapped Alvin on the back of the head.
"HEY!" The now thirteen-year-old boy cried out indignantly.
At the same time Alvin was glaring at Logan, Glenn turned back to look at Joey, "Dude, what is going on with you? This is the second time you have met Logan and you look like you are seeing a ghost or something..."
"I... I think... maybe I am... It's..." Joey shrugged after a second, "just me being scared again."
"Look…I'm still the same person you met back in Texas, older, but the same kid." Logan said slowly. "Now, there's a lot we need to talk about. Let's head into my office, and we can clear the air on a LOT of issues." Logan started to turn, then paused, and motioned to Levi. "You too… you know some things that you don't even realize you do, that is if Juan was correct in what he told me."
"Kermit comes with," Levi stated, leaving no room for arguments, "and it is as much for my peace of mind and me making sure I don't stop them or you from doing something, than it is about their protection. Fredric is already in a great deal of hot water from the parents."
"Oh, bother..." Alvin grumbled, "how protective are they?"
"You really don't want to know," Keith responded with a sigh. "If you could have seen the look on my mom's face when I got out on the deck of the Read holding my MP5, carrying a sidearm, and wearing your armor... Yeah, let's just say it didn't go over real well."
"Are we going to need to do any mental manip?" Alvin wondered aloud.
"If my mom ever finds out you did anything to her, she'll make you wish you had never been born, then remind me she's mom," Glenn shouted, "so please don't."
This got a hint of a grin and nod of understanding out of Logan who couldn't help but reach down and rub his legs.
Glenn shook his head, "You may be ten of me, but I know pain and muscle cramps. Don't rub down, squeeze the muscle and wiggle your fingers. It hurts more when you do it, but it forces more blood flow into the deeper muscles. Also, drink more. Drink until going to the bathroom gets in the way of doing other things. It will cut down on the amino acids at work in your body. Your body is telling you to rest, so you should."
Logan looked at Glenn with a somewhat hard look then sighed. "I always tell people that we tell our bodies what we want them to do, our bodies don't tell us what we can and can't do. Maybe… in certain areas, I'm wrong."
Joey listened to the exchange and felt a tremor suddenly shake every fiber of his being. Those words... We tell our bodies what we want them to do, our bodies don't tell us what we can and can't do... They may have come out of Logan's mouth, but to Joey, it was as if he was hearing and seeing them come out of someone else's... someone from... Where? Why did he suddenly have beads of sweat popping up even as a cold chill ran down his spine?
Once inside the office area, Logan let out a long breath and winced badly as he fell back in a chair, rolled his shoulders and stretched out his legs. Popping sounds could be heard by all.
Glenn shook his head, knowing what the kid sitting across from him was going through, at least he knew better than most. He pulled a sports drink out of the chair's built in cooler and rolled it across the desk, but otherwise said nothing. He figured, by this point, Logan was probably just as stubborn and proud as Glenn tried to be, so saying anything wouldn't be helpful, even kind words of understanding or concern.
Still, it was evident Logan needed a moment so everyone was silent as they waited for Logan to catch his breath, and re-center himself. Finally, Logan opened his eyes, and looked around at the four boys, Levi and Kermit. "Thank you for letting me compose myself." He started, everyone answering with simple nods. "We're still not sure why or what happened, but during the aging process…" Logan paused and he wiped his hands over his face. "Let me back up a bit. First though, I know you all well enough to know you can keep secrets." He got nods from them all and continued.
"As you are all aware, we came from a different universe. As you've probably figured out, that universe had a greater level of psionic abilities than this one does. When we first got here, we all noticed that our abilities were different… lesser… and they took a physical toll on us that was never something we ever experienced before."
Glenn looked over with an inquisitive expression, "Any stronger than what I've seen some of you do?"
Alvin responded, "Much more than you have seen, since we are used to Logan, Juan, and the others doing the things they do here with no strain. This world, or universe, or whatever... It takes everything they got to do half of what they did back home."
Logan sighed again, "Alvin, stop deflecting off of what you and the others can do." Seeing Alvin shrug, he shook his head. "In the universe we came from, there was close to ten thousand Unit members. Not all of them were fighters, but every single one of them was family. Every single one of them were connected via a telepathic link. They always knew, deep in their minds, that they were a part of the Unit, part of the family. They could also easily talk to each other, through the link. Distance was not a factor, as far as we knew, although we never tried anything further away than the other side of the planet." Logan paused for a second, meeting each of the boys' eyes. "I was the holder of that link."
He let that sink in for a moment, noticing the wide eyes of both the boys, and the chaperones. "However, when the aging happened, something else happened, and that link violently snapped. I'm not sure why, but the… feedback loop from the link failing, snapping, caused me to pass out. Hell, it caused everyone that was a part of the link to pass out. When I woke up, several hours had passed, but to my body, it was as if several years had passed, since I was still in the middle of the aging process."
"So you weren't actually injured, physically, you just grew without being able to use any of your muscles?" Ricky asked.
"Which is why he is having to fight his body to make it do what he wants," Glenn added. "I go through it every day. It sucks. But he is getting a megalithic set of growing pains. With any luck they will ease as his skeleton and muscles firm up and adjust."
"Exactly." Logan said with a small smile. "But enough of my problems, and please let me apologize for being rude, and not introducing you to my brothers. First is the second oldest, Daileass. Then we have the Chipmunks… Alvin, Simon, and yes… Theodore."
The boys couldn't help but snicker. Levi, however, never even cracked a smile. And while Kermit did at first, he quickly fell into a more stoic face. For even as the boys snickered at the names, Levi and Kermit were too busy looking the four younger boys over.
Levi panned across all the introduced boys for several seconds, causing an uneasy silence, as the other noted the man's jaw moving back and forth. Once he was certain of his observations, and got a nod of confirmation from Kermit, Levi took a deep breath and spoke in a voice just above a whisper. "They're not just brothers are they?"
"Very good." Logan said in the sudden quiet. He looked at his brothers, one at a time, each of them nodding back to him, before Logan fixed his gaze on Levi again. "They are not brothers, at least not the way that most people would think. See, when the military realized just how smart I was, they tried to duplicate it... by cloning me."
"What a bunch of morons." Joey spoke softly. Seeing his words were instantly accepted by the clones, he looked down at his shoes and continued to speak. "Genetics may give a person a good brain, but it takes more than a brain to develop intelligence, and each body, no matter how closely alike, handles the same stimuli differently. It's why identical twins who have the same of everything, can turn out totally different from one another. There are so many critical chemical reactions that happen while someone is experiencing life, there is no way even cloned beings would ever be able to match…" He trailed off, seeing a grinning Logan nodding with him. Yet at the same time another bolt of locked up memories cascaded through him.
"Unfortunately," Alvin spoke up not realizing the timid kid looking down at his shoes was just a step away from bursting out in tears, "or fortunately, those that did it, will never be able to learn from their mistake. They all died when we escaped."
"Not before the damage was done though." Daileass said somewhat bitterly.
Seeing questions plainly on the boys' faces, Theodore sighed deeply. "Before we go any further…. NO! You cannot have one."
"Huh?" Keith asked in complete confusion, while the Unit boys chuckled.
"Sorry Keith, sort of an inside joke with us." Logan said, then his grin faded. "See, when the docs that cloned me, and made my brothers, realized they failed... they decided to cut their losses, and change their approach. They scanned their brains, then transferred all that into a positronic matrix, and installed that into their heads."
"Wait a minute…" Ricky said scooting forward in his chair. "Are you saying that you four are androids?"
"No." Logan said before any of the others could respond. "They're actually cyborgs… if you go by the strict science fiction definition."
"Our bodies are the same bodies that were birthed." Simon said softly. "They did augment our spinal column to handle the slightly heavier brain, but other than that… we're still human."
"Except me…" Daileass said softly, causing the three younger brothers to look at him sharply.
"Daileass… you don't have to tell them." Theodore said in a hushed whisper.
"Yes I do." Daileass said in a stronger voice. "With as smart as these kids are, and with what we're gonna tell them about Daisy, they need to know what traps not to fall into."
Logan thought for a moment, then nodded, and sat back, giving the floor to Daileass.
Daileass sighed, then stood up, and began pacing, a habit that everyone seemed to have picked up from Adam. "I was the oldest of the clones." He began in a monotone voice. "When the decision was made to transfer our personalities into the matrixes, they also decided not to install one back into the original body. Instead they kept one, me, out and used it in other experiments. Experiments that included hooking my brain into specially modified military vehicles to see if a single brain could be used to pilot the vehicle, and have it fight effectively. They also tested just how much damage the vehicle could sustain without losing efficiency."
"You... You're talking fully integrated... I am soooooo sorry!" Ricky breathed out, horrified.
"What?" Glenn asked, not fully grasping what his fellow science contest member was so appalled and deeply troubled by.
Ricky let out a long breath and looked at his friends, "In some of the papers I've read about artificial intelligence, it's been theorized that an AI would come to 'feel' whatever was housing it, like we would feel a body... Judging on the reactions of Logan and the others... those theories didn't go quite far enough... I have wondered..." Seeing everyone eyeing him, Ricky shuffled his feet and looked up with a very forced grin. "As part of this research, and with my mom's help, I tracked down a kid who had been in a bad accident which left his brain pain receptors damaged. He couldn't feel pain, I asked him how he dealt with it.""OK, I'm game," Keith looked over at Ricky, "why?"
"Because I wondered what would happen to a fully integrated AI system. In other words, can an AI develop feelings when there are no nerves to transmit pain? I figured talking to someone who could not feel pain, but could still get damaged, would be the closest I could come to an AI getting damaged but not really being able to feel it."
Ricky could tell by looks alone, those in the science contest were grasping the basics, while the other extra-dimensional kids were giving him their undivided attention. So he decided on giving an example, "OK, think about some of the new computerized cars. They can tell you when all sorts of things are wrong because of sensors... Take one of those cars with built in sensors to detect problems, put in a total AI system... I mean fully too, like it would know when anything was wrong, right down to the tire going flat... It could not feel pain, but, just like a kid who couldn't feel, it would know something is wrong. I wanted to know how a real AI system would react to damage it could not feel but still knew about."
Noticing he was starting to get through, and none of the others were stopping him, he continued, "This kid told me it was horrible. He could fall off his bike and scrape his knee. He would not feel the pain, but he knew he was hurt. He had to worry about getting it fixed so it didn't continue to bleed or get infected. He couldn't feel blood running down his leg, but could see it. He couldn't automatically pull his hand back from a hot stove because nothing warned him. He would burn until he smelled it... He had to check himself over every day, several times a day, and to him it was like living inside a shell that was constantly getting cracked, and knowing one day one of those cracks would probably kill him. His brain told him there was a problem, he could see the problem, and he could try to do something about it, but he was still only in partial control. Physically he didn't feel pain, but mentally every bump, cut and bruise took a toll..."
Ricky paused and looked back over. He cringed as he saw Daileass closing his eyes as if fighting back tears. He fought an internal battle within himself, before deciding to ask a follow-up question worded as a statement, so no answer was needed. "So when they hooked him up to the vehicles, they made him go through being destroyed, over and over again. There may not have been a physical pain, but the mental... it must have been like dying over and over."
Daileass nodded, then abruptly stood up and left the room. But not before everyone saw the pain on his face, and the tears leaking from his eyes. The room was deathly silent for several seconds before Logan cleared his throat. "He rarely speaks of it, even to us." Logan said, indicating the Chipmunks. "However, he felt you needed to know, since you also need to know that one of our rules was broken here, in your world, accidentally, but still..."
"What rule?" Joey asked.
"The Unit has vowed never to create an AI, unless it was fully mobile, and could escape if a base came under attack." Logan said softly, then reached forward, and turned the small screen on his desk to face the boys. On the screen was Daisy's face.
"Hello there." She said in a sad sounding voice. "Normally I would be more cheerful when meeting others, especially people like you guys. However, given what you were just told, I don't really think it would be appropriate to be upbeat."
"Is she…" Ricky breathed out while scooting closer still in his chair.
"Yes I am." Daisy said, her eyes focusing on Ricky. "I'm one of the main reasons why you were asked to come up here. First we'll need to sync up Tiger Prime, but then, well we need your help in setting my hacking protocols."
"Hacking? You're a computer! Why would you need help to hack?"
"Because the computers in their realm are not the same, and you are one of the best this world has to offer for computers here. They need to be taught by one who started the hack of the biggest and best computer security this world has to offer, in other words, you, Ricky."
"So do you want to start with IP addresses and how to use them to get into server ports, the overall net, the transient nature of mobile hotspots, the principles of IP masking, the deep web..."
"Oh, boy. Computer overload coming..." Keith breathed out as he saw Ricky about to go into full geek mode.
Moments later, Logan stood up and motioned for Glenn, Joey, Keith, Levi and Kermit to follow him. They walked out the door with Ricky, the Chipmunks, and Daisy already deep into 'geekateuds'.
They followed Logan to the next office over, and gave him a chance to deal with his own discomfort. Once he was seated again, Joey looked around, then looked at Logan. "What did Alvin mean about me looking like Adam? It's like one of the first things any of you all focus on when you see me. Why is it so important?"
Logan sighed then grinned at Joey. "I was kinda hoping you'd forget about that."
"Not likely." Levi snorted. "First day I met him, I mentioned I needed to get out on his surfboard, didn't see him for four months and the first words he asked, was if I had tried it. He remembers everything."
"No, I forget some things, but it's kind of hard to forget this. Everyone from your group keeps staring at me like I am a mutant or something."
Logan shook his head, not able to hide the smile on his face… this was gonna either be fun, or really, really bad. "Adam is my husband, and the overall commander of all Unit forces." Logan leaned forward and struck a couple of keys on the desktop computer. A moment later he sighed, before turning the screen towards Joey. "This is what he looked like before he aged."
Joey sat back hard, as if he'd been punched in the gut. Glenn was the first one to find his voice. "He… he looks just like you Joey."
"That's because he IS Joey… Joseph Casey IV. But in the Genesis Project, in the universe we came from, they re-named him Adam. As in the first." Logan said softly.
Joey sat there stunned for a few seconds before Logan struggled to his feet. "Would you allow me to take a blood sample. I know we would want to see the differences between your DNA, and Adam's."
Seeing Joey balk, Levi moved over, "Come on, kiddo, it's not every day you get to have your genetic markers compared to a duplicate you."
Absently, and with zero enthusiasm, Joey nodded and they followed Logan out of the room, over to where Janet had established a small clinic. Logan motioned for Joey to take a seat. As he entered the medical area, he tightened up and got a befuddled look on his face.
Joey looked around the high tech equipment even as his hands moved up to his temples. He rubbed them for a moment while staring at a monitor which was hooked up to the bed. With a shake of his head, as if to clear it he moved robot-like over to the bed and put his hand on it while glancing back at the monitors. He was not surprised in the slightest when it all but instantly gave him his pulse rate and body temperature. As normal, both numbers were low. His pulse was forty-eight and his temperature was 95.9 F, 35.5 C. This had actually been a concern of a few doctors, but after careful monitoring over a few weeks, even the best doctors Fredric could find decided his low body temperature was simply an anomaly and nothing to worry about. In fact, by every physical indicator Joey was in remarkably good shape and health.
Yet this medical room seemed to spark something within him. It was more advanced, like something out of some Sci-fi movie he had been to. He tried to remember which one, but it simply wouldn't come. He started to shrug it off, then something deep within sent him a flash, a memory of the bed. Emotional response to this sent a noticeable shiver down his spine. He moved over to the lab bed again and ran his hand down it, even as Logan busied himself with getting the testing equipment ready and the sample tray set up. "I don't know if I can do this..."
Logan didn't even look back, "Sure you can, it's just a bit of blood so I can run the genetic marker test and a comparison to Adam's."
"No, no I can't!"
"I know lots of people who are afraid of getting blood drawn, Joey. It's no big deal. Besides, as I like to say, 'Fear can control you if you let it. After all, we tell our bodies what we want them to do, our bodies don't tell us what we can and can't do…'"
Joey's eyes went wide as the words all but hammered into him for a second time. He took several steps back putting the bed between himself and Logan while holding onto it for support. As soon as his hand touched the bed, the numbers again lit up. While the temperature remained the same the pulse rate had shot up to over seventy.
Behind Joey, Levi noticed a change in demeanor and the display hooked to the bed. He quickly put his hand out to stop Kermit and the other boys. He then turned while putting a finger up to his lips, cutting off any conversation.
Still, Keith leaned way to the side so he could look around the man blocking the door. As soon as he saw the look on Joey's face he knew something was off. He whispered, "He looks real scared."
Levi glanced down at Keith and gave the boy a single nod while once again putting his fingers up to his lips.
Joey didn't even notice the others at the door, instead he took a step back from the bed while rubbing the back of his neck. At the same time a full memory took shape. He turned with large eyes threatening to spill tears and a quavering voice, "You... you aren't going to stick a needle into my back again are you Marcus?"
Logan spun, dropping the tray he was preparing, "No one calls me..." He stopped short as he saw the look on the boy's face. "Whoa..." Logan held up both hands, "What are you talking about Joey?"
"I remember... you... Marcus... You gave all of us in the lab a shot into the back of our necks!"
"Joey, I'm Logan, Logan Hayes..."
"Yeah, Logan Marcus Hayes, LM or Marcus, cause you hate the name Logan!"
"No... Actually, I dislike the name Marcus, always have... Wait... how in the hell do you know my middle name? No one uses it!"
"You made us call you Marcus, and once you accepted us you let us call you Marc... You... you were the Alpha! You..."
"Joey, hold on a sec, here. I sense you are halfway between living in a flashback and here. I am not from here. Look at me. I have never touched you..."
"YES YOU DID! BACK IN CALIFORNIA!"
Logan kept up both hands trying to reassure the boy. He blinked as he took a step back, "Joey, hold on! Come on, think! To me you are my brother, a duplicate of Adam. I would never hurt you!"
Joey shook his head while he put the pen between his middle fingers as if getting ready to use it as a weapon, "No! You are Marcus Hayes, test subject Alpha! They made us go up against you in all the tests, but you always won, cause you were bigger and older!" He then moved around the bed while glaring at Logan.
At this point Levi gave a hand motion to stay put toward Kermit and the other boys as he stepped into the room, "Joseph Eagleton! Stop!"
The jarring yet familiar voice froze Joey. He looked back at Levi with a mixture of anger and shock. A moment later his eyes glazed over for a second. He reached up and grabbed his temples while dropping the pen.
Levi had to move quickly to catch the staggering boy, "Joey!"
Kermit bolted into the room and shot a glare over at Logan, "Did you do your mental shit to him or something?"
"No!" Logan shook his head back and forth. "I still don't have the ability no matter how hard I tried."
"Yeah, well he was totally blocked to me, but he is now back open. However, whatever he was talking about is gone! I've never seen or felt anything like this!" He glanced back over his shoulder, "Kermit, got anything?"
"Fear, panic, then a brick wall, now just Joey and normal scared. But I just do emotion when not hooked to you."
Joey recovered quickly, and looked over at Levi with confusion. "Wait... How come... What happened?"
"Not sure kiddo." Levi stroked the boy's hair. "You kind of went a bit wild there for a second."
Joey reached down at his breast pocket and started frantically patting it, "My pen..."
Keith darted under Kermit's arm and grabbed the dropped pen from under the bed, "You dropped it Joey. Here."
Joey let out a noticeable breath of relief as he grabbed it and stuck it back into his pocket with a relieved smile. "Thanks Keith."
"Happy to help. Um, what do you remember?"
"Yeah, you came in and you looked like you were about to attack Logan, but you called him Marcus and Marc."
Levi nodded, "You came real close, kiddo. Had I not shouted at you..."
"You shouted at me? When?"
Levi looked up and over to Logan, "To my ability he seems to be telling the truth, but you are stronger..."
Logan shook his head, "Like I said, I'm not really able to do that right now."
"Oh," Levi stared at Joey and concentrated, "it's like it didn't happen... This is really strange, he is not blocking me, it just isn't there."
Suddenly a thought occurred to Logan, "Oh, shit... Joey, before you were taken in by the Eagleton's, where were you?"
Confusion was written across Joey's face, as he responded, "Um, mostly California... Why?"
"How long ago did you leave California?"
Joey shrugged, "Um... Three years... I was there until I was eleven... twelve before I got out of California... but ran away the last time when I was eleven... Why?"
"Before this, when you were at home..."
"I don't like to talk about home. Mom got all bad after Dad died..."
"When did this happen?"
"I was six, almost seven. I came home and Mom was crying over a letter... It said my dad had been killed in action."
"Where were you coming back from?"
Levi looked over to Logan, "Where are you going with this?"
"Give me a minute," Logan managed to get out as he felt a new cramp roll down his back he bit back the discomfort and the need to stretch. "Joey, where were you coming back from when you found your mom with the letter?"
Joey looked down. He hated to remember the bad things and this was the start of them. Yet, he could tell by the tone of voice alone, Logan was nervous about something, "Um, I had a surfboard with me so I guess I had been surfing..."
"OK, who was with you?"
Joey shrugged, "No one. I went to surf alone. I always have."
"At age six?" Levi asked with a skeptical tone.
Joey's whole face took on a frown, "I know I had a surfboard in my hands... I walked into the door and dropped it when I found Mom... No wait, that isn't right... that was one of her drug overdoses... I am all messed up... I remember the letter... there was a man in a Marine uniform... He told me... No... He came to take me... why was he taking me?"
Behind Joey, Kermit spoke up from the door, "Joey, you not forget anything since I know you. You cannot remember day you told you lost your father?"
"I remember!" Joey snarled, "It was a letter... Mom was crying... no... wait... that was when the social worker was taking me... he said it was a court date... there were so many of them... but she was crying about Dad... The Marine took me..." Joey looked up with absolute fear and confusion on his face, "It is all jumbled..."
"Your father was in the Army, Joey." Levi spoke softly and evenly. "There would have been no reason for a Marine to show up to tell you or take you somewhere."
"It was a Marine, I am sure... USMC pin on his collar... It was gold, the dress blues with red stripe... Bubbles and water... I remember bubbles and water..."
Glenn piloted his chair into the room, "Like a soda?"
Joey shook his head, "No, big bubbles like boiling water, but the water wasn't hot or cold, the bubbles kept tickling me."
"You were in the bubbling water?" Keith questioned as he cocked his head to the side.
This time Joey nodded as he found a piece of something he could definitely remember, "It was one of the testing chambers in the lab. It took readings off me after they gave me vitamins. They promised Dad it would make me stronger. Dad took me to the lab twice a week... He got real mad at them when he came back early and found me in the tank with electrodes hooked up to me. He said I was out, done... Gee... um, there is a big hole or something in me, cause I remember the fight and us heading to the car, but... then Mom was crying over a letter and a Marine, big guy... I can see his name tag... Hopkins... He had first Lieutenant bars on."
"Oh, fuck me!" Logan roared! He then looked down at his feet, "Son of a bitch... Lt. Greg Hopkins... Damn-it to Hell!"
Levi looked over to a clearly distraught Logan, "I gather you know this individual?"
"From my universe I sure as hell do. He was responsible for making us..." Logan's face suddenly turned sheet white, "Son-of-a... That's how you know my middle name, Joey! My double here was with you at some point and you were part of a lab experiment!"
Glenn's eyes suddenly went wide, "If this is true then... Joey, the computer guy who keeps tracking us and almost had us in Austin... He said he was made to be the best... At the time we thought it was bragging, but what if... what if he wasn't lying... I mean, after all, he was one of us... is one of us... a geek! The best Ricky has ever dealt with... Any chance we just found out who we are really fighting?"
Keith shook his head, "No, we got his name on the ship when he was taunting us. That guy's name is Trevor Longway, not Logan or Marcus."
Joey shrugged, "So, maybe he got a name change. I mean, my last name got changed when I was adopted by my parents."
Keith's left eyebrow shot up as a thought occurred to him. He moved to the door and shouted down the hall, "Hey, Ricky, any chance you can find a picture of that guy who taunted us, trying to get us to reveal our locations while we were on Craig's dad's ship?"
Daisy's voice spoke up, "What is the name? I can try to find it."
"Trevor Longway," Ricky snarled, "the guy didn't sound real old, but older than us. He said it was time for the kiddy patrol to go back to our mommies before the person who was the best, was made to be the best, took us behind the woodshed for an old fashioned butt whoopin' of monumental proportions. I'm going to hack his butt so bad one of these days...."
Logan couldn't help but grin at the pure defiance in Ricky's tone. The kid had certainly gotten more self-confident since the last time he had seen the boy. Still, he had a bad feeling and needed to find out if it would play out. He moved to the door as well and hollered out, "Daisy, if you find something send it to my computer..."
"Oh, I found him." Daisy responded before Logan had taken two steps back toward his desk. " He is like all over the web," Daisy responded. "He is a super multi-millionaire! Oh, and he looks so much like you. Sending to your monitor now, Logan!"
Logan moved up to the computer and staggered back as if he had just been gut punched. "Are you Fucking kidding me? ... oh... no, no, no, no... Holy crap... Glenn, are you guys sure this is who we are fighting? If it is, you're right! It's me!"
Glenn took a deep breath as Logan turned the monitor around. After a second he nodded, "Yeah, it makes sense. No one has the computer skills of Trevor, and he has mental skills right on par with what I have seen out of you. I don't know if it goes to the telekinetics and mind reading or not, but he is every bit as smart."
"Which means," Keith spoke up, "getting a blood sample out of you, Joey, just got way more important, because if you were in the same program as Logan's double here, you probably weren't getting vitamins..."
Logan took over a minute to get over the shock of what, of who, he was certainly going to end up battling. Once he calmed he looked over at the boys. "No, vitamins was the last thing he was getting if Lt. Hopkins was part of it. He was behind some of the genetic alterations on Adam... which is Joey here... Holy shit it is all starting to fit! FUCK ME!"
Keith cringed, "Um, Logan, as much as I hate bad language, saying that.... um, you know you are talking about another you, and... um, in this case it's actually possible."
While Kermit busted up in snickers, Levi lightly cuffed Keith on the back of the head, "Oh, thanks for a vision I really will never be able to get out of my head!"
Keith rubbed the back of his head and turned with a smirk, "You are most welcome."
Joey looked over, trying hard not to snicker, but had a pressing question, "Then shouldn't I be older than fourteen?"
Glenn fought back a giggle fit as he gave Keith a playful shove, "Maybe you are, Joey. Logan aged after he got here. What if something stopped you from aging?"
"But my birth certificate..."
"Do you have the original?" Levi demanded to know.
"I doubt it. You would have to ask Uncle Triumph."
Logan grabbed a new tray while flipping off Keith, getting another round of giggles, "Probably a duplicate of a faked one or something... Joey, give me your arm, I need to do a blood work-up now!"
Joey extended his arm, "So I knew your... the other you? Is that why some of the things you say trigger weird memories and why I am so afraid of you?"
"Maybe. I just wish you could remember more."
"So do I; there is a big gap, and I almost never forget anything!"
Logan took the drawn blood and put it in the processor. "Let's see if this will give us any clues."
Less than a minute later a readout, in red, showed up on the monitor, Genetic sample not viable.
Logan forced the cramp out of his back, and put another sample in. Once again, the computer blinked out, Genetic sample not viable. "What the hell?" He moved back over to his keyboard and typed in a new command before dropping yet another blood sample in. This time it gave a little more information, Genetic sample not viable: unknown proteins blocking proper genetic screening.
Logan glanced over at Joey with wide eyes, "Well, shit, I am going to have to let Mom take a look at this... But I think I better take some more blood for her..."
Joey stuck out his arm again with a resigned sigh, "Vampire!"
Keith chuckled, "Watch the name calling, Joey, he could fire back Mutant."
"Which may also explain why Joey was able to move the air purification unit in the bunker and help Ranger Guthry with the rusted door." Glenn noted aloud.
"You strong or something?" Logan asked.
Levi and Kermit both nodded, even as Joey shrugged.
Logan rubbed his chin, and walked over to the exam table. "Joey come here, for a second. Have a seat on this side of the table." He then moved out into the hall, "Hey, someone get me Gemini!"
"Who's Gemini?" Keith and Glenn both asked at the same time.
Logan shot the boys a smirk, "Give me a minute and you'll find out".
Daisy's voice responded, "I am getting him for you Logan."
A couple of minutes later a dirty blond and black spotted furry looking thing appeared at the door in a wheelchair, it's dirty blond and black spotted tail slowly whipping back and forth, so it appeared intermittently behind the chair. A boy in his early teen's with grey eyes and brown hair continued to push the chair into the room, even as the furry looking creature cocked his head to the side in confusion, "Adam?"
This got the full attention of the youngster pushing the chair, "Adam, I thought you got older with Logan..."
"Not Adam, guys," Logan stated with a bit of a grin. "Gemini, Kenny, let me introduce you. This is Joey, Joey Eagleton, formerly Joey Casey: He is from this world. His two young friends are Keith and Glenn and..."
Kenny interrupted, "Glenn, this is the Glenn Juan talks so much about?"
"Awesome, nice to get to meet, let alone know, anyone Juan is impressed with!" Kenny stated eagerly as he moved up to offer his hand to Glenn.
Glenn accepted the offered hand, while staying focused on Gemini, "Um, panther, leopard... um..."
"Cheetah," Gemini responded, somewhat surprised the kid in the hovering chair didn't look anything but interested. It was certainly not what he expected to find out of a person from the universe he found himself in. "I think I can see what Juan is talking about. You got a certain... air... around you, a... well, I don't even know what, but you have it and I like it. Good to meet you Glenn."
Glenn's mouth scrunched up for a few seconds, "Um, not like I am trying to put you down, but I am really surprised you can talk so well with a mouth full of sharp teeth and all."
Kenny busted up laughing, "And here you thought they would be scared of you, Gemini, all they are is curious."
"I'm impressed!" Gemini snickered, then his voice took on a teasing tone, "If I try real hard, I can purr for you."
Glenn and Keith both laughed even as Joey glanced over at Logan, "Um, what does calling him in here have to do with how strong people think I am."
"Oh, you're strong!" Keith noted. "You buried a pen all the way into the back of the neck on that AoG jerk at the capitol and lifted a crate two of us could barely budge in the upper bunker."
Logan took a deep breath, "We are about to find out. Gemini, I want you to test Joey. Let's start with an arm wrestling match."
Gemini looked over at Logan like he was delusional, "Seriously? I don't want to hurt, Adam... um, Joey..."
"I'm not sure you can." Logan stated in a challenging tone. He then turned to Joey. "Come on, put your arm on the table. Let's see what you got."
Joey looked over at Gemini, "I, ah... you aren't going to like extend claws are you?"
"No!" Gemini laughed as he put his furry arm up on the table. "Come on. I'll just hold you back and see how much resistance I have to give."
Joey let out a long breath, "Can I..." his face turned red, but he forced himself to finish his thought, "um, stroke your fur first?"
Logan and Kenny looked at each other even as Gemini cocked his head around and stared at Joey for a few seconds. Finally Gemini shrugged, "OK, but do it right. I am part cheetah, and a scratching behind the ear always feels good."
While Kermit and Levi looked at each other with a shake of their heads Keith and Glenn both busted up in giggles at the intensely red cheeks on Joey's face. But Joey forced himself forward and tentatively did as asked after a few seconds and, did it a little harder before backing off, "I'm sorry, I just..."
Gemini patted the boy on the shoulder, "Oh, come on, nothing to apologize over. Have to say, being asked if it is OK to be petted by someone from this world never even crossed my mind. You're pretty kick ass, Joey. Now let's do this. I promise I will just hold you back."
Joey took a deep breath, took a seat across from Gemini, took his hand or paw, he wasn't sure what to call it exactly, then looked over into the cat-like eyes, "You ready?"
"Go for it." Gemini stated as he loosely braced his arm for the boy. Kenny made sure the arms were even before he let go. Almost instantly Gemini's arm was slammed down on the table. Gemini's eyes went wide, "Holy crap! OK, screw that! Again, and I'm not going to brace I'm going after you!"
Joey took a deep breath and the second Kenny let go put everything he had into pushing. After a near stalemate for twenty seconds, Gemini's arm started to go downward. He started breathing hard and his arm started shaking. Thirty seconds later he gave one hard push, but it did no good. He could tell he was outmatched but wasn't about to go down without a serious battle. He even made a few growling sounds from exertion as his hand moved inevitably toward the table. A full minute later his hand hit and he let out a true snarl, "No way!"
"Oh, wow!" Kenny stated, "The Adam of this world is no pushover! Well done Joey!"
Joey backed off from the table and jiggled his arm. "You had to let me..."
Gemini shook his head, "No, Ada... um, Joey, I gave it everything I had, everything. What happened to you?"
"Good question, Gemini," Logan stated with a grim expression, "but there is no question he was altered and he has control, full control over his strength. Joey shake it off for a minute, Kenny, you're up next."
"I'm rated higher on raw power than Gemini..."
"Yeah, well, Gemini is rubbing his arm and shoulder, so let's see what he does against the next step up. Joey, Kenny can dead-lift right at six hundred pounds, so don't take him lightly."
Joey cringed and looked back at Levi and Kermit, but any thoughts he had about backing out were cut off by Glenn, "Joey, you lifted at least five hundred when you picked up the air purifying unit, don't back down. I bet you can take him."
"Or he'll break my arm!"
"No, no he won't." Gemini retorted, "I would have snapped most people's arms with what I exerted against you and lost. He may beat you, but he'll be needing a shoulder rub. I know I sure do."
Keith glanced over and wiggled his fingers, "My turn to pet you, then?"
Gemini chuckled, "Oh, hell, why not. Dig in over the right shoulder."
Kenny looked over at Joey, "Don't worry, I'm left handed so you will be going up against my weaker arm."
Joey took a deep breath and put his left hand up on the table, "I just gave him the same hand he put up. I am left handed too."
"What?" Gemini stated with a look of disbelief, "You beat me with your off hand?"
"I really don't have much of an off-hand. I can write and draw with either, but I do throw better with my left. Uncle Triumph makes me use both when we go to the archery range, since I can. He even bought me two bows. He thinks it's funny when I change while standing next to others. It always makes people stop and look at me. It's embarrassing, but kind of fun to see them change from getting ready to mock me, to jaws dropping after I fire a few and hit the target from the other hand than what I started with."
"Bow hunting is about the eye more than the hand," Keith interjected.
"I don't seem to have a targeting eye. They both are the same. The trick of holding up my hands and making a hole and bringing it back doesn't really work. Sometimes it's the right, other times it's the left eye. It confused the range instructors at first, but now it's just accepted and junk."
"I didn't know you shot a bow, Joey." Keith stated with instant interest.
"If any of you picked archery, I was going to be the instructor... Uncle Triumph figured someone would do it. Actually, he figured it would be Ricky, since it was the only weapon-like thing his mom signed off on, but Uncle Triumph hoped someone else would agree to do it with him so I could make a friend. But anyway, the mass-hack worked pretty good and man, was it fun."
Kenny put his left elbow down, on the table, "Looks like you are going to make some friends around here, especially when word gets out you bested Gemini." He nodded at his hand, "Whenever you are ready, Joey."
Joey took the hand. Logan moved up to make sure they were both ready and only then let go. He then tapped a button on the computer causing a timer to come up. He then rolled his neck as Kenny went in for a quick victory, but only moved Joey's hand back a few inches. Kenny's eyes went wide as he balked for a moment, which allowed Joey to gain a slight advantage. Before he realized what was happening it was Kenny's hand leaning back toward the table by a couple of inches.
The battle continued with beads of sweat popping up on both. This was followed by a gritting of teeth and a tightening up of neck and shoulder muscles. Five minutes in, both boys were huffing and puffing, but neither had gained a clear advantage.
Logan looked back at the computer with a raised eyebrow, "I think we have our answer, guys, you can stop now."
Both Joey and Kenny shot a glare at Logan. As one they hissed, "NO!" before turning to stare at each other.
Logan backed off and did a few stretches, forcing his body to make some popping sounds. While everyone else in the room looked over at him with some sympathy, the two at the table didn't even seem to notice. The timer was at ten minutes and forty seconds, and their arms were pretty much straight up and down.
Logan moved up to the table to examine both boys. All he saw was a mask of pain mixed with unrelenting stubbornness on both. "Guys, this is getting silly."
"He ain't beating my ass!" Kenny snarled.
"Yes I am!" Joey growled.
Six more minutes and both boys huffing and puffing, Kenny finally spoke. "I'm getting a cramp!"
"I've had one!" Joey responded without backing down in the slightest. "But I guess those vitamins at that Luna-Gen lab were not what they told Dad."
"OK, I am marking down equal power and stamina..." Logan managed to chuckle. "When you two knuckleheads are done, I want you to take him to the gym, Kenny, and give him a full physical rundown and then a mental... um, on second thought mental first. You both will need time to recover!"
"Oh, screw you!" Both kids spoke as one.
Logan moved slowly to the door, and called out, "Ricky, Daisy, get me what you can on a company called Luna-Gen!"
Four minutes later and tears starting to run down the cheeks of both kids, Levi finally moved up to the table and popped both boys on the back of the head hard, "Enough you two. You are going to do serious damage to yourselves or each other! Now knock it off!"
Both boys stopped but found they couldn't pull their hands apart. This got some laughter out of everyone, even as Gemini moved his chair forward and helped them pull their hands apart. "You two, hit the showers and get something to drink. You're both drenched in sweat!"
"I'm a medic," Kenny responded as he put his arm against a wall and forced it straight while motioning for Joey to do the same since it was obvious Joey couldn't without some kind of assistance. "I know what we need and a rematch is one of them! Come on, Joey, let's get some grub and some electrolytes."
Joey cringed as he forced his arm straight, but did manage a grin, "Sure, but it was fun! You're right, we are going to have to do it again."
Kenny nodded, "Damn straight. We can't let this go as a stalemate! Let's go! I'll introduce you to the rest of the guys!"
As the pair walked out, Ricky entered with a few pieces of paper, "Luna-Gen was based out of California and operated a lab on a military base, but something happened. The company went bankrupt, and there was talk of the lab being destroyed. Then the conspiracy theorists went crazy, because the whole area around the lab was cordoned off, and it's a blacklisted site. Like right on par with Area 51. Here is everything I got, but it does say they managed to get new funding and have a couple of small labs in operation again. It sure looks like whatever happened really set them back, though, because they are nothing like they used to be."
Logan nodded his thanks as he took the file. He then shook his head with a combination of astonishment and bewilderment over the arm wrestling dual, then marked down some of his observations in the computer before he thumbed through the information. "If this is right, they are trying to rebuild what they had, so they lost almost everything. Our world and yours seems to have some amazing likenesses..."
"I'll continue to dig, as I try more hacking techniques, but they are a real secretive group and have really faded into the background since whatever happened just over seven years ago."
"Keep looking, but this may be all there is," Logan sighed.
Once Ricky left the room, Logan turned towards Glenn with a contemplative look.
"What?" Glenn asked seriously, not liking the look Logan was giving him.
"I was just trying to figure out what it is that Juan sees in you." Logan said seriously as he sat back down. Noting Glenn's eyes go wide and the smile on the boys face fade, Logan cringed. "That didn't come out right." Logan started shaking his head, as Keith moved up and put a hand on Glenn's shoulder while glaring at Logan.
"It better not be the way it sounded, or any help you need me for just evaporated," Keith snarled.
Levi stuck a hand out to put a physical barrier between Keith and Logan, "Hear him out Keith. He's not feeling well, and we all just witnessed the most amazingly crazy arm wrestling match ever... besides, we have all said things we wish we would have worded differently."
Kermit also moved up, but to give Glenn support. He squeezed the boy's shoulder. "Glenn, take in air. I think we need to redo this and start over."
Logan nodded at this, "Good Idea. Glenn, I have a great deal of respect for you, we all do. However, Juan is a hard ass, but for some reason, Glenn, Juan has taken a very personal interest in you. He cares in a way I have seldom seen, at least for those outside of our core group, and even then, he has made you his personal mission."
Glenn's obviously hurt feelings still showed, but he was looking past the original words, "A mission? In what way?"
"He sees some kind of hidden potential or something in you, Glenn." Logan rolled his neck as he made sure to carefully choose his next words. "Juan is a tough bastard and has the strangest personal code out of any of us. Yet, his concern for you transcends what any of us have seen out of him... ever... In fact, Juan's gone to a lot of trouble to figure out how to bend a lot of rules, without outright breaking them, to get you help."
Seeing everyone calm and Keith no longer clenching his fist, Levi moved forward to focus full attention on himself while positioning himself to make it clear he wasn't going along blindly with what Logan seemed to be hinting at. "What do you mean, Juan has a different code?"
Glenn put some power into the chair and bumped Levi, "I don't need your protection, and Keith, thanks, but one of the things Craig has made me realize is I'm crippled but not helpless. Yeah, what Logan said hurt, but it was directed at me, and thanks to Craig, I know I can handle it. Now, Logan basically apologized, and I'll take it as such. You two need to get out of the way. Besides, I am getting a bit annoyed. Juan seemed pretty decent and he just saved my family... most of them... and I am going to make Ashwood pay so bad for my brother..."
Glenn wiped a tear out of his eye, "I owe Juan, and I bet he'd be a great friend if he would clean up his mouth... but Logan seems to be implying Juan isn't normal. Well, from what I can tell none of them are... none of US are, either. So Logan, I want to know what your problem is with me and Juan!"
This really wasn't what Logan wanted to get into and it showed, however, he also realized honesty would be the best way to handle those in the room with him. "I don't..."
"Oh, come on." Glenn interrupted, "You had no problem saying you didn't see what Juan saw in me, no matter what you meant by it, so out with it already!"
This got a snort and a smirk out of Logan, "OK, fine, you are just as fucking stubborn as Juan! So let me give you some background. First off, you need to appreciate Juan is probably the most complicated of my brothers to figure out, to truly understand. He keeps his own council on a lot of things, yet wears his heart on his sleeve." Logan sighed, then sat back and rubbed his temples. "Imagine what it would take to make a kid into a cold-blooded killer. One who would kill anyone he was told to. Yes, anyone, man, woman, child, hell, a family pet being held by a fucking kid... Well, that's the way Juan was when he was rescued. He had no morals, no compunction in killing people, and when Mom asked him about it, he really didn't understand why he shouldn't kill anyone and everyone that stood in our way. To him a dead foe was one he would never have to deal with or worry about again."
"Since then though, he's adopted a very… interesting set of moral codes. One of which is he respects strength above almost anything else. Not just physical strength, but mental as well." Logan paused as he looked Glenn in the eyes. "So for him to push Mom as hard as he did, as well as charge out after your family mere hours after one of the hardest battles we've ever faced… well I was just trying to figure out how you impressed him so much. And I think I see it now, you don't even like him, don't see him as a friend, and you are still loyal and aren't letting others fight your battles for you. This puts you as a kindred spirit with Juan."
"Yeah, well I owe him big, owe all of you. My family was a hair away from being in the company of Ashhole or the AoG. Now I want to know what has you so bent out of shape, you look like you are about to, oh, I don't even know, jump out of your skin... or... um, smash your head on the desk, which, from what I've seen out of you all, would be very unkind to the desk."
Logan shot Glenn a smirk, while flipping him off. He paused as a cramp rolled across his back forcing him to lower his head to stretch out. As he did so, he held up a hand to give himself a few seconds. Once the latest twinges faded to tolerable levels, he quickly started typing away at the computer. Gritting his teeth to fight off his fingers wanting to cramp up, he turned the screen to show it to Glenn. "Juan was the one who convinced Mom, after he was injured, to have those that could, donate blood to store in case it was needed later on. He was also the one that came up with the procedure that will heal your legs."
Glenn sat back stunned, but Levi wasn't. "What procedure is that?" He asked, anger barely controlled in his voice. "Frederic has consulted with some of the best doctors in the country, and they all agree nothing can be done for Glenn until he reaches full growth."
"I am sure what you are saying is accurate with the technology you people have at your disposal. You're a few years behind us though: We have both knowledge and tools beyond what doctors here have; we also have something most of our own doctors in our world don't... But more of our uniqueness adds to this. Instead, let me point out something you may find astonishing. As it stands, right now, my mother, and a team of other doctors, and psionics are in a procedure where they are removing a boys twisted legs, and replacing them with cloned, perfect copies. Something that this universe is still decades away from being able to do, but we can."
"So you're going to clone Glenn's hip and replace it?" Levi asked with a cautious optimism. "What risks is he looking at?"
"I wish we could do it the simple way, but we can't." Logan said shaking his head. "Limb replacement wouldn't work for Glenn. With Carson, the hips were fully intact, so Mom had somewhere stable to start from. With Glenn we don't have that."
"So you have to like do a hip change-out too, or something first?" Keith asked.
Glenn stared right at Logan, "Look, I already told Juan, I don't want to go through a whole bunch of surgeries. If you can't do it all at once, I'm not interested."
Logan moved his eyes to meet Glenn's. "The procedure Juan came up with is a multi-stage process, but it will all be done in one long session. However, many of us are against it because the pain level goes beyond what anyone here wants to see you have to deal with."
"As long as I end up completely healed, I'm in." Glenn glanced back over to Levi and Kermit. "Don't bother to talk me out of this."
"It's not the two of us you will need to convince, Glenn, your parents and Mr. Triumph are. Your mom and dad just lost one son after seeing him endure horrible pain. Do you want to put them through seeing you back in a hospital bed?"
"They did for more months and more times than I want to remember already, and I want... need to get fully mobile so I can take out those who killed Jose! Pain I can take, sitting in a chair while Ashwood does what he did to my brother and to countless others, I can't!"
Keith looked over, "Glenn, you still have us to help you..."
"Help, fine, but I want in and I am hindered from doing so in this chair, even with some of the weapon systems we have or will soon be adding. But I will not be able to talk my mom into this, dad, probably, but not mom. I'll need help with her!"
Kermit let out a long breath, "Glenn, me and Levi will help talk your family into this if you really want, but you need to open your ears so your brain can hear and you must close your heart. Making choice based on heart is not as good as with brain."
Logan noticed Levi nod, which told him the two men were either very close or had some kind of link, probably both. He filed this away for future reference, but needed to stay task focused. He forced his shoulders to stretch and bit back a hiss of pain, as his body sent out yet another protest of accelerated growth and aging. Once the pain returned to more or less tolerable levels, he turned his full attention back to Glenn. "Juan is banking a great deal on your ability to tolerate the agony associated with this solution. Seeing you sitting here and being unwavering after what you have already been through tells me he is probably correct, however, let me say this one more time as clearly as I can make it: We are not talking about simple after surgery pain. The first part caused me to shudder, and the second... gave me a true nightmare. Stage one will be very painful, but the second part will be even worse, beyond what words can do justice. Pain meds will not do much if anything to dull what you'll be dealing with, either. The first couple of weeks will be akin to having a fire burning inside your hip region, and you will be immobilized from the waist down for those two weeks, maybe as long as four. Yes, in the end, you will be fully healed, but even after the first few weeks the healing will continue and what it will be like can only be guessed at. Mom thinks within two to four months, you will be back to 100% mobility. However," Logan rushed on before Glenn could interject, "you would not be the same person you are now, if you do this."
"What do you mean?" Glenn asked softly. "I'll be fully healed, right?"
"Oh, yeah, the solution Juan came up with is as close to being fool-proof as anyone can get as long as you can deal with the misery over the full duration. What I mean is this," Logan said as he let out a hiss of pain as he stood and used the desk to support himself as he edged around the desk. He then motioned to the monitor. "The only way we have found to heal you completely, is to replace all of your blood with Genesis blood, effectively changing you into a Genesis Augment. This means a full transfusion too. Even before we get into the meat of what would have to be done, you will find our blood will go to work on tissue damage around the damaged area and it will work to repair anything done from the surgeries you have already been through. It will also quickly diminish the effectiveness of any pain relieving drugs. Once this is done, the part I get physically and emotionally squeamish over, comes center stage." A computer simulation came up on the monitor showing a quick series of crushing blows being delivered to a hip. The image looked much like an x-ray, so the bones were also visible in the simulation. It showed the entire pelvic bone being shattered.
Kermit spun away and had to force down some bile, while Keith went down to a knee and gagged.
At the same time, Levi interlocked his fingers and clenched down while muttering "Holy Shit! No way... Glenn I can't let you..."
Glenn's hands gripped the sides of his chair and he shook from a great deal of fear, but responded with a near snarl, "It's not like I haven't had the same thing done already. Only this time... it will then heal, like it is supposed to... the way it was before the accident... Right?"
"It will..." Logan let out a long breath and let the simulation continue, showing how the transfused blood would then take over and start to rebuild the shattered remains. "As you are now seeing, we'd have to re-break your hip completely... shatter it... both sides, not just the injured side, and allow it to reform as one solid piece and finally heal properly."
"Come on, Glenn… this is too much..." Keith stated from his spot down on the ground next to the desk.
Levi quickly agreed, "Way too much! If he is correct and pain meds won't do much if any good... you will be under pain beyond normal human abilities to handle..." Levi started only to get cut off by Logan.
"And there is the next catch, once he is fully infused with Genesis Blood, he will no longer be a normal human, he will be augmented. He will be like us, and it will not just be for a few months. The blood will penetrate down through the rest of his bones and change the marrow at a genetic level. He will gain some abilities, mental, physical, reflexes... but what they will be or at what level I cannot say. No one can. The other thing is, after the first couple of weeks, his body will slowly be able to handle a higher level of pain. By the time this is over, he will be one of us... However, those first few weeks our blood will attack the pain killers given, while not giving him the benefits of the tolerances we have. Mom has some things we know work, but as you can tell with me, they don't work very well."
"So he will become one of you... and will be in danger of being hunted for having a changed genetic code... and don't say it Glenn, I know you are already on a hunted list, but it still matters for what you are being hunted for... so what exactly do you consider yourselves, Logan?" Levi demanded to know.
"A genetically enhanced human. Another Joey, another.... um, me in this world... any others who went through what Luna-Gen did before the lab went dark, something I am willing to bet the alternate me was behind. In this world, Luna-Gen was, or is, the same type of entity as what got a hold of us, only our enhancements are a bit more advanced, or at least more universal. Luna-Gen didn't seem to transform the genetic codes in a way to be able to augment others or each other the way our mad scientists did. Anyway, Glenn, you would become one of us, not a Luna-Gen project, but a Unit venture."
Kermit regained some composure, "Young one, this need to be thought about... You cannot just jump in with two feet..." He stopped and covered his face as he noticed Glenn eying Logan with an anticipation, bordering on lust.
Glenn glanced back at the monitor, nodded and pushed Kermit's hand off his shoulder, "When do we start?"
Logan boarded the Scireian transport with a lot on his mind. After the briefing he'd had with the Texas boys, and then the attack that Adam and his family had been involved in, in which both Juan and Jory were seriously injured. When Sabrina heard about this, she quickly contacted Marko and requested transport to Maine for Janet, Ian and Jamie, as it would be quicker than anything the Outsiders had. Logan decided he needed to go to, and let Norris and Bryce know what he found out.
He was having difficulty concentrating on anything other than the bombshell that the Texas boys had dropped on him. So much information about this Army of God, and even more upsetting, Trevor Longway. Logan had to shut that train of thought down before he got so pissed that he forgot about everything else.
He barely registered the trip to Maine, he was so intent with trying to put all the tidbits together into something that others could make sense of. He continued working even in the Chinook, that took them from the field where the transport dropped them off, to the deck of the Ronald Reagan. He was putting the finishing touches on the file while he followed his mother down to the infirmary. Doctor McCray headed for Janet, but before he could say anything Logan stepped forward. "Please excuse my rudeness Doctor, but… I have some intel that the President and Admiral Norris need to see right away, but I need to get it printed out. Can you point me to where I could get that done?"
McCray nodded, then looked around before he barked out to a junior corpsman. The man jogged over, and McCray wasted no time. "Please escort this young man to the ops center. When he's done there, find out where Admiral Norris and President Bryce are, and escort him directly there. Until further notice, you are to be this man's escort."
The man nodded then motioned for Logan to follow him.
In the Captain's Wardroom, Adam looked over the assembled people, and sighed. How he wished Logan would be here to do this briefing. Adam always detested politics, and even if he liked Jack, the man was still a politician. Aggy he understood, and even liked. He was a military man, just like Adam was. Thankfully, the other men in the room, General Rose, Secretary Larkin, and Lieutenant Paine, were all military people. Jack used to be military, so he was better than most. All in all, Adam was okay with what he was about to do, even if it wasn't something he liked doing.
"Gentlemen, what I am about to go into will delve into secrets that my family and I keep, about how we were created, and what we can do. The reason I am doing this, is we have hard intel on the fact that the Army of God is attempting to create genetically augmented humans."
"We're aware of this already." Norris said in an even tone. "The three children from Orlando are proof."
"Yes they are," Adam agreed. "However, we did not know how close they were until recently." Adam stood up and then moved to the map of the United States that was on the wall. "Mr. President, I know you are familiar with Brett MacLeod, but for those that are not…" He broke off, then located Coeur d'Alene, Idaho on the map. "Mr. MacLeod, besides being a major supporter of President Bryce, he is also a brilliant man, dabbling in computer technologies, human genetics, as well as several other areas. At his property in Coeur d'Alene, he had a genetics lab set up there. Earlier in the week, when some of my troops escorted Mr. MacLeod to his lab, they encountered Army of God operatives that were stealing the equipment for their own use. Most of it was gone by the time we got there, but we were able to capture a high ranking doctor. After some intense questioning, we've found out that they are much closer to a breakthrough than we previously imagined."
"How close are they?" Jack asked softly.
Adam sighed, and shook his head slightly. "They were close to a small breakthrough even before we arrived. They would not have been able to create anyone like what we are, but they could have augmented humans. However, and we are still not sure how it happened, but... when UNIT troops were in Breckenridge Texas, trying to save as many as we could, one of my brothers, Juan got severely injured."
"I remember that." Jack said softly. "He took a large caliber round to the chest, if I recall correctly."
"Yes he did." Adam confirmed. "What we found out from the doctor we captured was that the Army of God was able to find some of the blood from where Juan got shot. They were able to analyze it, and are very close to decoding the key to Genesis Augmentation."
The room was silent for a moment, before Adam said in a very soft voice. "My deepest apologies for allowing this to happen."
"General Casey?" Norris asked in a somewhat irritated voice, causing Adam's head to snap up and look the man in the eyes. "Your soldier got wounded saving many, many children. There is NOTHING to be ashamed of there. So the AoG managed to get some of your blood, and are trying to use it to perfect their processes. That's a small price to pay for the lives of all the children Juan saved."
"Thank you sir." Adam said, gratitude evident in his voice. Before he could continue though, a knock came from the door, which opened up almost immediately. "Logan?" Adam said as he quickly moved over to the boy who entered the room. "What are you doing here?"
"We got a lot more to discuss than just what you know Adam." Logan said in a grave voice, then looked around the room. "I am sorry to interrupt, but this is information that you all need to have, and have now."
"Please." Jack said as he motioned to where Adam had been standing. Logan handed Adam the packets he'd had made up, and asked him to hand them out. Once he was done, Adam moved back to his own seat, and looked at Logan expectantly.
"First off, the file that you have all been given holds the names, faces where we could, and the description of what that person is doing for the Ashwood administration, as well as some of the very few Army of God operatives we could pin down." Everyone looked at the folder and began to leaf through it. "Those are yours to have, so you can refer back to it at anytime. Of course, you all realize that we have the upper hand, only because the AoG doesn't know that we know about them."
Logan got nods from everyone, who turned their attention back to him. "Now, please understand that this information comes from a source that, while not a part of the AoG, knows a great deal about them, since he was trusted by Ashwood."
Getting nods, Logan once again spoke off the cuff. "I came into this information only a few hours ago, and spent most of that time putting together the packets you have in your hands. Meaning I have not had a chance to really put this information into any sort of order, I'm just going to have to wing it."
He smiled, and got a nod from Bryce, so he continued. "First thing is that we know who the foreign powers that are assisting Ashwood are. From South America we have Venezuela and Argentina. Some of the other countries are assisting in other minor ways, but those are the two that are supplying troops and material. The idea is to have the prisoners wreak havoc, and then Ashwood would step in and restore order, being seen as the savior, even though he is using foreign troops. You already know this part, but what you may not know is that Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, among others are also supplying troops. Also, we know that many of the troops have been here for a while, others though are still being brought in. The worst part is that they are being shipped in actual shipping containers on ships. They're being locked in, most of the time with little extra room, and most of the time, the food and water runs out before they are let out. One of the rescued talked about how they had to resort to drinking their own urine, and cannibalism to survive."
"Jesus…" General Rose breathed out in horror.
"It only gets worse General." Logan said gravely. "We are currently trying to find out information about those from the undesirable camps being shipped back down to South America. The men for work camps, the woman for sex slaves, and the young children… well they are being shunted off to the AoG's genetics labs… or sold to the highest bidder..."
"When I get my hands on that…" Admiral Norris said under his breath before he stopped himself. "Sorry Logan, please continue."
"Believe me Admiral, I fully agree. As soon as we have information on the method and destination of those being shipped south, we will let you know so a rescue can be effected." Logan said, to which Norris nodded hard.
"Next, and again, I know you are aware of part of this, but to make sense I need to go over it again. Ashwood needs to collapse the US economy for everything to work. Now, many foreign countries, as well as several large corporations are stopping the collapse, but Ashwood needs to have it all fall apart, so be prepared for him to do anything and everything he can do to make it all fall apart. To this end though, over the last several years, he has turned most of his wealth, and the wealth of his friends into hard gold. It's being stored in Venezuela. And yes, we know exactly where. However, we've already been told that it will be well guarded since it is also likely a hold for the AoG itself."
"Sounds like a ripe target." Norris said with a malicious grin. He than turned and looked at Adam. "I assume you and yours wouldn't mind a little trip."
"Not at all sir. And if you don't mind, I may ask Bucky and his team to tag along. They look like they could use a bit of R&R in a tropical country." Adam said with a grin that caused everyone else in the room to break up laughing.
"Next…" Logan said when the laughing stopped. "Over the next few days, you may start getting reports that New Orleans is a major shipping point for Ashwood, and that it may be a prime target for us to take out. Do not, it's a trap, meant to draw us in, and then crush us."
"Colonel Shelton sent me some intel earlier that pointed to the need to shut down the New Orleans port." Norris said, letting his voice trail off.
"Yeah… don't. This way we keep the troops pinned down, since they want to use them for a trap, they can't be used elsewhere." Logan said, to which the men in the room nodded.
General Rose stood up. "I am going to need to commit some troops. Maybe a battalion to start moving aggressively towards New Orleans. That should make them think I am sending an advance guard. Texas National Guard can move a couple heavy companies to the Louisiana Border to add to the feint."
Admiral Norris nodded. "Trap or Not, we are going to have to shut down New Orleans at some point. My group in Florida is seriously bogged down and most of the reinforcements are coming from New Orleans. We could…."
"Admiral, General, New Orleans is important but I can count on you two to figure it out. Let's not lose track of the more important issue, Army of God."
General Rose sat down. "Admiral we will get together and come up with a plan for New Orleans."
Norris was leafing through the file again. "Cut off the head and the snake dies."
Adam looked at Norris with a puzzled expression. "Excuse me Admiral?"
"Operation Moonlight, take out Ashwood, 'The Exalted One'. We don't know if he is the leader of the Army of God or just a figurehead but it shows they are vulnerable, if we can get to the most protected person in the world, we can get to anyone."
General Rose smiled, "I like it but I am concerned about how we pull it off."
Admiral Norris rose and went to the map on the wall. "By running the most comprehensive manhunt ever attempted. All intelligence assets will work together channeled through my intel team."
Bryce looked up. "Where do we begin?"
Lieutenant Payne practically jumped out of his seat. "That's easy, communication signals. We start tracking every communication signal we can find. Radios, satellite, fiber optic, cell phones, land lines. Whatever is still up and running. We gauge the amount of activity coming from individual locations. We rule out friendly locations and known enemy military locations. That should give us a short list of possible locations, then we will need to get dirty. Ground Recon with the SEALs..." he paused and looked at Adam and Logan. "Or the UNIT, is an option but we may need to find a way into the location or recruit someone on the inside. I can tell you this, Ashwood is not hiding in plain sight. I am going to get a list of all underground bunkers the US military has ever made and overlay the communications map that should really narrow it down."
Jack stood up and walked over beside him. "Sounds doable. The part about getting someone inside is a little shaky but we can prepare for that as we start the hunt. The big question is what do we do with him when we find him."
"Put him on trial." Everyone turned to Secretary Larkin. "The biggest trial in American history. Let the people see that the system works for everyone. Show the world we stand by our founding concepts."
Norris nodded. "I agree with Secretary Larkin. A trial is the right thing to do."
President Bryce sat down and rubbed his hands together. "No United States President has ever been tried for treason."
Norris leaned in "No one is above the law. Set the damn precedent so this doesn't happen again."
Secretary Larken leaned back. "It's a huge deal and I think the Supreme Court should hold the trial."
Norris shook his head. "No there is no room for the appeals process. We cannot fast track this. Federal court and then let him appeal to the Appellate court and then take it to the Supreme Court."
Bryce pushed back his chair. "Agreed. Now find him. Lieutenant Payne use whatever intel assets you need. If anyone does not cooperate let the Admiral know and if his boot cannot shake them loose, MINE will. Adam your people are tasked with hunting down all known and unknown Army of God operatives. Shut that shit down. Logan I need you to channel all of it to Payne. If there are no more questions I am starving and from the sound of the Admiral's stomach so his he. I expect regular updates. Let's go eat."
Kenny led Joey into a small dining room. He looked over at one of the cooks, "Any chance we can get some pasta or something else with lots of carbs and some electrolytes?"
"Not a problem... I thought Adam got older..."
"Not Adam, well it is, but from this world..." Kenny let out a long breath, "He's pretty much one of us too, so call him Joey, or he might just pick you up and toss you out the front window from here."
"Oh, come on..."
"Dude, he just held me deadlocked in an arm wrestling match for over twenty minutes."
"Holy shit, I wish I could have seen it!"
"Once we get some carbs and replenish some liquid we are going to the gym if you want to see for yourself. In the meantime..." Kenny pulled out a computer notepad and pulled up a program, "Joey, this is a memory and speed test. Stage one you just have to repeat back what it plays for you. Stage two it will start out with two. You give the first one back, and it will give you another, then you repeat the second one back, so you are always one behind. Stage three you will be two behind, so it gives you three, and you give back the first then it gives you another before you give back the second and so on. Stage four is three playbacks removed, but there are only five or six here who can get to level four."
Joey grabbed the notepad and hit the 'play' button. Stage one wasn't even a slight challenge, even when it did a sequence of twenty-five characters on the phone-like key pad. Stage two took some getting used to, but after the three practice ones, Joey got a good feel, and hit 'play'. Even as a large helping of lasagna was served, and as he ate, he breezed through the twenty-five sequences.
The cook and two others moved from their duties to watch halfway through Stage three, as they saw Kenny's eyes going wide. Joey's eyes stayed totally focused on the sequences, each one getting slightly faster. He snarled as he missed the twenty-fourth, but nailed the twenty-fifth sequence, which was at this point two removed and thirty characters long.
"Son-of-a bitch!" Kenny sputtered out as the computer showed Stage three complete with a 96%.
Joey shook his head, "It was a pound sign and I hit the seven. I messed up, sorry."
One of the others let out a grunt, "Sorry, my ass, I've never gotten more than a 72% on Stage three and we all use this program for memory testing and focus training a couple times a week! It takes an eighty or better to qualify for the next stage so I've never been allowed to try four!"
"Yeah, well, he just qualified to try Stage four on his first try..." Kenny stated, while shaking his head in disbelief. "You ready, Joey?"
Joey finished the bottled sports drink and downed the last bite of lasagna, "Sure, let's do this, but all the blinking is causing some spots in my eyes."
Joey shook his head and shut his eyes tightly for a few seconds forcing them to tear up some. He wiped the excess moisture, "No, I am in the groove, so let's go!"
Fifteen minutes later, and having missed five, Joey pushed the pad back over, "OK, forty character strings three steps removed, is a bit much and I am really starting to see spots. I probably could have gotten one or two more, but..."
"But nothin'!" The cook shouted, "You just got an 80%! You could move on to Stage five if you wanted!"
Joey shook his head, "No, I'm good. Um, I mean, I'd love to try, but I need to do something else; my eyes are still seeing dots!"
Kenny pulled up the report, "You actually got twenty-two right, but were deemed too slow on two of them, so it timed you out on them, which is part of the reflexes test. You're fucking fast as hell to get a pass through to Stage five!"
Joey grinned, "It is kind of fun, but I bet I could nail it with a bit of practice."
"Practice is the last thing you need," one of the others spoke up. "You just made several of us look really bad!"
"I have a really good memory. Uncle Triumph says I've basically got an eidetic memory."
"But it takes more than memory on this." Kenny held up the pad, "It also takes accuracy and speed. You have to be within a half a second on speed of playback as well as accuracy and you were all but perfect. Let's test you on physical stuff in the gym!"
Joey stood and followed Kenny, while a few others followed the pair and moved to the bleachers. Joey looked over at the small group, some of which had been told what was going on and had joined, so by the time they entered, there was a bit of a crowd. "Oh, come on!" Joey stated as he saw the group forming.
"Oh, ignore them, Joey." Kenny snickered. "I need you to put on this face mask, leg, groin, and chest protection. Oh, and you will want the gloves."
Joey did as he was told, basically dressing in what he saw baseball umpires wear, only he noticed it was made out of the same thing the armor was made out of, so it was very lightweight and strong. Once he had it on, Kenny double-checked to make sure it was on properly, then pointed to a series of boxes outlined on the floor in colored tape. The furthest one away was white, then each meter was another color closer to the far wall, but they were at an angle since the boxes were three meters square and none were overlapping. The order reminded Joey of the ranking system of martial arts Craig had worked with all of them on. After white was yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, red, black, and finally a black with a red line in the middle. The last one was only seventeen meters from the wall.
"Go stand in the white box while I get things ready."
One of the youngest ones in the stands shouted out, "If you get to the blue box, I'll be your slave for a day!"
This got some laughter even as Joey's face turned red. With total embarrassment flowing through him, he purposefully turned his back to the group and moved up to the white line. "OK, so now what?"
Kenny got some help from one of the others to wheel out a large box with two dozen tubes sticking out of it. The front of the box was three meters across, meaning it was the same distance across as the taped out boxes.
Joey didn't like the looks of the thing at all, "OK, Kenny, what is that?!"
"This is the launcher. It holds two-hundred and twenty tennis balls, and fires them at anywhere between eighty and two-hundred and forty kilometers per hour. It also shoots anywhere from one to five at a time. With anywhere between a one and four seconds delay before shooting again. You get two points for each one you catch and one for each that misses you. It also tracks you, so if you stand perfectly still, you will get hit a hundred percent of the time. If you step out of the box, you lose five points. Two hundred points is passing for a new-bee. Two twenty for those of us who do it all the time. Let me warn you though, catching one fired at over two hundred kilometers per hour, even with the armored gloves, stings like a bitch."
"Aw, crud..." Joey stated as he tested his movement in the protective covering. It moved really well, but he couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to see a tennis ball ripping at him at well over a hundred miles an hour, closing in on a hundred and fifty miles per hour at the top speed.
"We'll do one practice round, so you can get a feel for it... Unless you happen to pass the first time!"
This got some laughter out of everyone on the stands, which caused Joey's anger to flare. "Let's get to shooting at me then!"
Kenny moved behind the machine and hit a button. A split second later a tennis ball was launched out with condensed air at a hundred and eighty kilometers per hour at the dead center of Joey's chest.
Joey was caught off guard since it was so quiet, but he managed to spin to the side just in the nick of time. Before he could even set his feet to prepare for another, however, two more were already headed at him, one high, one low. The high one was slower than the low one, which made getting out of the way even harder. Still he managed to jump and duck his head at the same time, causing both to miss. The next volley of three was an even spread. One hit him in the right leg even as he managed to avoid the other two.
However, he was already getting a feel for the game and was starting to pick up the tennis balls sooner. The next time it fired two, Joey spun out of the way of the harder one and caught the second. He then found three more coming right at him before he realized he needed to drop the ball. Two hit him. He growled and managed to snag two of the next three, grabbing one in each hand.
This got a few gasps of surprise out of the onlookers, since they had been fired at vastly different speeds. However, the next round caused one to hit him square in the facemask and it stung. A new burst of anger ignited within him. Instinct suddenly took over, even as the machine seemed to get angry with him, firing five in rapid succession. He threw the ball in his left hand back knocking one out of the way, giving him an opening to avoid the others. With an open spot, he was able to catch another.
The young kid who joked about being a slave sputtered out in shock as he saw Joey throw and knock yet another tennis ball out of the way, "Is that even allowed?"
One of the others shrugged, "Nothing in the rules against it, but shit, hitting one of them coming at you is like impossible!"
At this point the machine picked up the pace, firing seemingly indiscriminately. No matter how hard he tried, Joey found he couldn't avoid them all, however, he could catch some, and as long as he kept moving, the machine couldn't get a firm lock on him. He could also throw a caught ball back, and knock a few certain hits out of the way. While the whole round only took two and a half minutes, it felt much longer.
The scoreboard lit up showing 29 hits, 29 catches and he stepped out of the box a single time for a five point penalty for a score of 215.
Joey pulled off the mask and glared at the scoreboard, "I can do better! Let's go again!"
"You passed for a new-bee!" Kenny stated with astonishment in his voice, "You want to move up to the yellow box, or go again in the white?"
Joey let out a long sigh, "I'll do yellow, but I should have done better!"
"I've never seen anyone throw one back and knock one out of the way before..." Gemini noted, "I think there ought to be extra points for that!"
"Me too," Kenny admitted, "but we'll let Adam or Logan figure it out. Until then, someone give me a hand reloading. Joey, while we refill, get some water."
Joey took a long drink and moved into the yellow box. He took the rest of the setup time moving back and forth, making sure how far he could move and what he could do without stepping out of the box. He wanted those five points back. He would have gotten 220, and passed as an experienced player if he hadn't stepped out of bounds.
Kenny watched Joey for a few seconds before speaking up, "Almost ready back here. Passing at the yellow line is 195 for a new-bee and 215 for anyone who has done this ten or more times at yellow level. You ready?"
"Yeah." Joey stated as he got a little lower and moved back and forth, his eyes focused on the machine which was now a meter closer. He dodged the first five and caught two of the next seven before taking two hits. Anger flared again, only more intensely. He snagged two of the next three, knocked two out of the air, throwing one of the balls back with each hand before ducking and spinning out of the way of the next nine which were fired in very rapid succession. He managed to catch another two while avoiding several, before the machine cycled very quickly. He managed to catch five more, and avoided most, but he knew he had been hit at least seven more times. He then realized, the machine was also predicting his movements, since he was hit duplicating the same dodging maneuvers. This meant he had to change from the normal jumps, and spins. He had to go low, turn to the side, jump, duck and do different moves to avoid the fired balls, or the machine would guess with remarkable accuracy where he would end up. Two and a half minutes later he went down to a knee, dropping the last two tennis balls still clutched in his hands. "Wow! What a workout!"
Kenny and those in the stands all glanced up at the board with wide eyes, 31 had hit, 27 had been caught, and he had not stepped out for a score of 216.
"Damn…" one of the others managed to gasp out, "he passed at veteran level!"
One of the others handed Joey a wet towel and yet another got him a large sports drink. Joey nodded thanks as he wiped the sweat off, guzzled the bottle down and moved into the orange box, "210 to pass this round?"
"190 for a new-bee, but yeah, normally, 210," Gemini responded. "You have shown to be at least a three on reflex, and with a bit of practice, I am sure you are closer to a five or six."
"You do realize, I have no clue what you are talking about."
Gemini pointed to the boxes, "An average person should, with practice, and being in really good health, the white box about half the time, each color up, from there, puts you one higher on the scale. Without practice you have moved into level three, so you are way up there."
Joey shrugged, clearly not understanding the full impression he was making as he stepped into the orange box. He tossed the towel well off to the side and pulled down the facemask, "Ready when you are!"
Even as he dodged four of the first five and caught the fifth, Gemini pushed himself back to the bleachers, "In case some of you haven't figured this out, he is also showing remarkable stamina. He isn't even taking a real rest."
"No one told him he could." One of the others remarked.
Gemini snickered as he watched Joey catch one in each hand and throw them both back, knocking two oncoming balls out of the way, giving him an easy crease to stand in to avoid the other three of the five shot volley. "I'm thinking it really won't matter, cause Joey's going to have a slave for a day!"
This caused a round of laughter out of the group, while the kid who made the offer looked horrified.
For Joey's part, he didn't even realize he was being talked about. This was really starting to be fun! He ducked, dodged, weaved and even managed to purposefully knee one up so he could catch it. He wasn't sure if it would count as a hit or a catch, but it was amusing nonetheless.
As the boy who offered to be a slave saw this his eyes went even wider, "Oh, man, now he's just showing off!"
"He's getting a feel for it." Gemini snickered as he pointed up to the scoreboard, showing 170 balls fired and Joey with a score of 177.
A minute later the buzzer went off even as Joey snagged the last ball shot out of the air, then dropped it and shook his hand, "Oyouch!"
"229 kilometers an hour, Joey." Kenny snickered, "I warned you, those hurt!"
Kenny then glanced up at the scoreboard, "229! Hell, yeah! You smoked it!"
Joey took another offered towel and didn't even hesitate to move into the green square. Three minutes later with a score of 209, he let out a long breath and took a knee. "Sorry, I'm toast!"
"Most of us are toasted way before we make it to level blue, Joey," Gemini stated seriously. "Take a breather... Oh, and whatever you need, you have Luke for the next twenty-four hours to get it for you."
Another boy came in, "Hey, Kenny, Chang says he has isolated the proteins blocking this world's Adam's genetics. He can reverse it..." The kid stopped as he looked at those in the stands and a kid that looked exactly like the young version of Adam down on one knee in the orange square with the score of 209 on the board, "Holy crap! Is that his orange score?"
"Sure as hell is!" Gemini snickered, "He's fucking one of us!"
Joey looked over, "Um, I want to try Blue first, then I better talk to Levi before I decide what I want to do about the protein blockers."
"Okay." Kenny said as he started to load the balls into the machine. Luke came over and offered Joey his hand so the boy could stand up.
When Joey was standing Luke grinned and handed him a sports drink. "To bad Juan's not here. He would be setting up betting pools. I'd make a bunch of money off you."
"And why would that be?" Another voice said from behind them. Joey turned and saw an older boy, obviously of oriental descent. Behind him, though, were Glenn, Keith, Levi, and Kermit.
"Chang!" Luke said in a hyper voice. "You should have seen what Joey here was able to do."
Chang nodded, but his face revealed nothing of what he was thinking. "I see from the scoreboard that Joey is proving that he truly is one of us. Although not created in the same way, he is an augment."
Chang turned and looked Joey in the eyes for several seconds. Joey couldn't help himself as he lowered his eyes to the floor. "Joey." Chang said softly. It took a few moments but then Joey raised his eyes to meet Chang's. "There is no need for you to be afraid." He said, seeing that it did not cause Joey's fear to ease. Raising an eyebrow, he looked back at the scoreboard then back to Joey. "There is another level that only those of us that rank above a seven, use to train. Would you like to see it, then perhaps try?"
Joey looked back at the tennis ball shooter, then back at Chang. "Sure." He said with a shrug.
Chang gave a rare smile and nodded. "Good. It has been several days since I have been able to train. I shall return." With that he turned and walked towards the locker room.
"Holy shit!" Luke breathed out, almost vibrating with excitement. "I wonder if he'll let us watch."
"What's he gonna do?" Glenn asked from his chair.
"Oh hell no!" Luke said with a grin. "I ain't spoiling it!" He than turned. "Kenny! Get ready! Chang's gonna take a turn!"
"Oh hell." Kenny said, then turned and ran for a side room, coming back with a huge bag of balls. "I hope we have enough."
"Do not worry, I will not be going all the way." Chang said as he walked back into the room. Joey cocked his head as he saw the way the boy was dressed. He was wearing what looked like large flowing pants, and a shirt that tied in front. On his side were two swords, one smaller than the other. He walked to the white area, then turned towards Joey. "Watch what it is that I do, then I would like you to try."
"Okay…" Joey said softly, then watched as Chang turned and nodded to Kenny. Kenny sighed as he turned on the machine. Less than a second later, the machine spat out three balls. Chang stood still for only a moment, then, with lighting speed, drew the first and longer sword. The sword sang through the air as the first three balls were neatly cut in half.
Chang stood still, which Joey knew meant that the machine was able to throw all the balls at him with perfect accuracy, yet not one touched Chang. Joey didn't know which one of the men behind him said it, but he couldn't help agreeing with the "Sweet Jesus…" that was spoken.
When the balls stopped, Chang neatly pushed his sword back into the scabbard that was at his side, than turned. "Do you wish to give it a try?"
"Yeah Joey!" Luke said from beside him. "You'll kill it man!"
"Umm… I guess." Joey said as he stepped into the white area. He saw Kenny starting to load the machine again as several of the others were running around picking up pieces of tennis balls. Chang drew his sword and handed it to Joey.
"The most important thing to remember is to have fun." Chang said with a small smile. "You have already bested this level. This is just adding one more measure of difficulty. I will say this though. You may not want to stand in one place. That makes it more difficult."
Joey nodded and took a deep breath as Chang stepped out of the colored area. Joey closed his eyes and remembered how much fun this was last time. He knew he could do it, and doing it with a sword… that was like wicked kewl. He couldn't help the grin that came to his face as he opened his eyes and nodded to Kenny who was waiting for the signal.
The first ball was cut neatly in half, as was the second and third. Then Joey started to move around, still slashing at the tennis balls, but also giving himself some breathing room. It was at ball number sixty that things went wrong.
Joey had just made a mighty downward swing on the sword when he saw a ball coming at him that he had missed. He tried to reverse the sword, to get it, and felt the blade slide across his upper thigh. Immediately his leg dropped out from under him as fire enveloped his right leg.
Distantly he heard several people cry out, and the machine stopped whirling. He dropped the sword and cried out as he grasped his leg. He looked down and saw blood, lots of blood flowing from around his hands. "JOEY!" He heard Glenn scream out, and then felt hands over top of his. He looked up into the worried eyes of Levi.
"Let me see." The man said softly, but urgently. Joey dropped his head back and loosened his hands. He didn't want to see. "I don't think he hit the artery…" He heard Levi say, then felt something press down on his leg again. The pressure caused him to scream out in pain. He felt someone grab his hands. Looking up he saw both Keith and Glenn there, holding on to his hands.
"It'll be okay." Glenn said looking towards where Chang and Levi were. "Right?"
Chang nodded then looked towards Joey who was still looking away. "Joey, please look at me."
Joey hesitantly looked over at Chang. "You will be just fine. Remember that you also have advanced healing." Chang then looked down at the bandage, and pulled it away. Already the blood was slowed down to a simple seepage. "Why don't you lie here for a few more minutes, till your leg heals enough, then we'll move you back up to the treatment room. I'll get a good look at that, and then we'll need to discuss when you want us to remove those chemical blocks."