I see Alex go off in to the house, but before I can go to him my brother has a complete meltdown. I hold him and tell him it will be alright. He calms down and we head inside. Alex is already putting my cloths in a bag. I really don't want most of my stuff. I pick out the things dad gave me and leave everything else but the clothes and school stuff. The rest can burn for all I care. I head back out to the living room and see if there is anything I want. I see a picture of me and my brother. I take it and leave everything else. I remember that my grandmother's crystal, china, and severing set are here. I take the stuff that I have out and see my brother sitting there with Uncle Liam and ask if he can help me get grandma's stuff. "Uncle Liam, Grandma gave this stuff to my dad after he married my mom. She never gave it back after the divorce. Since neither Shawn or me will be having kids, you're the best hope to have someone to pass it on to. I would like you to have it."
"OK Mark, but if either of you ever adopts and I still don't have any kids your getting it right back."
After everything is packed in my uncle's car we head home. Wow, I guess Alex's house really is home now.
Once we had everything packed we head home; I'm in the back with Mark. I turn to him, "Mark about what you said earlier, about us being life partners." I know I should not be asking this now but I need to know.
"Oh Alex, I'm so sorry I said that with out asking you first. I understand if you don't think of us the same way." he starts to cry and my heart breaks. Me and my big mouth I should have just shut the hell up. I grab him and pull him to me. He tries to pull away.
"Babe, it's me that should be saying I'm sorry. I was the one the doubted what you said. I was so happy when you said that, but then I heard you say you only said it to get her reaction. I want nothing more than to be with you for the rest of my life." He slowly looks up.
"I guess that means you two are engaged then. Wait 'til I tell your dad, Alex." Liam comments. I just stare at him with my mouth open.
"What?" I hear Mark ask.
"I may be wrong, I don't think I am, but for a gay couple promising to be life partners is like marriage. Since you both are under age and Montana does not have gay marriage then the closest you can come to it is being engaged. Iowa does have gay marriage but you need to be 17 and have guardian approval. So how does it feel to be 14 and just about married?" he's laughing now. I blush deeply.
"Well then, I guess we need a wedding night." Mark says, I blush even more and try to hide in the seat. Liam laughs even more at my embarrassment. Then I decide to turn the tables and shift focus off me and my bright red face.
"So Shawn, just how long have you been dating my baby brother." Now it's his turn to blush. "So nice to find out my brother is gay and has a boyfriend, from the boyfriend as he shouts it at his mother while she is being arrested and about to kill us all. "
"I'm sorry Alex; you too Mark. We were going to tell you tonight but after my brother outed me. I just blurted it out. He asked me to be his boyfriend last night. I really like him so please don't give him a hard time."
"Personally, I think your both too young to be dating any one." Liam says. "I will have a talk with Isaac about it. There will have to be more rules than what Alex and Mark have. I, for one, would like you to wait on the sex part."
"Too late for that Uncle Liam." Shawn says. "The only thing we have not done is go all the way." Mine and Marks jaws drop open. Liam starts sputtering. That reminds me, I have to have a talk with Jess and Brent about that topic. I would ask my dad or Uncle Charles but that would be way to embarrassing. I would have had no problem asking Charles before he became my stepdad, sorta. But now I think I would die first. Shawn's revelation effectively kills anymore conversation 'til we get home. It does make me wonder just how far into puberty my little brother is. I know 9 ½ to 13 is the normal starting time. So I suppose he could be producing now. I guess my baby bro is not so much a baby any more.
When we got home I saw the DuLin trucks and vans. I think to myself "who is dad decorating for now". There are a lot of workers coming in and out of the house. Liam takes us around to the garage and we get out. We decide to leave the stuff in the car 'til we can recruit my brothers to help.
When we walk in I see Dad and Joseph sitting in the kitchen drinking what smells like coffee. The coffee is vary appealing. "Hey Dad, is it OK if I have a cup of that?"
"Well, ours has Irish cream in it, but you can have a normal cup if you want. It's in the kitchen." I go and grab my cup of coffee then head back to join the others.
"So what's with all the workers here. Did we pick up a new brother somewhere?"
" sorta. I figured Shawn would need a permanent room now, and even though I assume that Mark will be sleeping with you. I think it would be nice if he had his own space too. So I'm having their two rooms done." Dad says. I think it's time my little brother and Shawn have a talk with dad.
"CLAIR is Jacob home?"
"Yes Alex he is."
"Can you have him join us, Scott too?" A few minutes later Jacob and Scott come in. "I think you two, Shawn, Dad, and Uncle Liam need to have a long talk. The rest of us are going to go unload Uncle Liam's Car." My dad gives me a strange look, but shrugs his shoulders. Liam beams when I call him uncle so I know I said the right thing. He tosses me the keys and we head to the door. I ask CLAIR to have John and Derrek meet us out there.
While Shawn and Jacob talked to Dad, Uncle Liam, and Scott, Derrek, John, Mark, and I unloaded the car. We took the stuff that needed to go to Liam's suite up to his living room, and the rest we put in my room till Mark and Shawn's rooms were done. We headed back downstairs to see if the group was done talking. When we got there Jacob and Shawn told John and Derrek that they were both gay and that they were going to try dating.
Then Uncle Liam pulled a fast one on me. "Speaking of couples. Isaac did you know that Alex and Mark are engaged." Yeah my turn to blush.
"Oh really, this should be interesting."
"Not exactly. We decided to be life partners."
"Ahh, so you consider yourselves married already?" I could see the smirk on both of their faces but I started to squirm anyway.
"Ok, I'll let you guys off the hook. I think you're still to young to be making that decision." I started to protest but was stopped. "Let me finish Alex. As I said I think you're to young. However, if you are still together and still want to be married when you turn 17. I will take you to Iowa to get married.
Jumping into dad's lap, I start hugging him. "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"
"Well, now that that's out of the way. We do have a lot to talk about. First, I think we should take care of getting ready for dinner. Alex, I need you to input Mark, Shawn, James, and Rex into the system. I'll take care of Liam, Ella, and Charles. I should have done this a long time ago but never got around to it."
"OK dad that I can do." Turning to everyone that was down with me. " Up to my room everyone." "CLAIR have James and Rex meet us in my room."
Once we got up there I had them all line up in front of the panel on the wall. Mark first. "OK Mark put you hands on the screen." "CLAIR, start the bio scan for the profile input update for Mark.""Scan started. Weight and height logged, Bio heat profile logged, hand scan logged, optical scan logged. Please state your full name, and birthday." While CLAIR is saying this, a light is passing over Mark scanning him fully in to the system."Mark Emerson Cromwell Junior, May 2nd 1995." Mark says."Voice pattern logged, bio breath markers logged, Bio profile complete." "Please connect cell phone and enter cell phone information for phone link and tracking."
Mark took out his cell phone and I connected it to the system then he entered in his number and carrier. Which reminded me we need to get them all changed over to our carrier before his mother shuts his phone off.
"Please enter user access level and medical history, for user Mark Emerson Cromwell Junior."
"Keep current user access level. Send a request to Dr. Reed for the medical history."
"Cell phone link in standby, GPS monitoring and tracking is activated, Bio monitoring activated, Custom Learning activated, Alcohol restriction activated, Medical file built.""User profile updated. Access level of resident is already approved. Custom user profile for Mark Emerson Cromwell Junior is online and activated. Welcome to The Jupiter Compound."
"His room will be to next to mine CLAIR, but set residence to his and my room."
"OK who's next?" I went through the same thing with everyone. Except James already had his medical file in the system and he did not have a cell phone yet. I see a trip to the store in our near future. Once we were all done we made our way downstairs. Joseph was done for the day. He said he would have every thing finished by tomorrow. My dad invited him to stay for dinner but he declined saying he wanted to get back to his family. We all walked him outside.
We were saying goodby to him and thanking him for his work when a gun shoot rang out and we all ducked. I looked over at my dad and he was on his back; a bullet hole in his chest. "DAD!" I screamed as I ran over to him. I heard some one say "Take him alive". I looked up and though my tears I could see what looked like one of our own guards being surrounded by our men. They shot him in the legs and drove him to the ground. I heard sirens going off and CLAIR announcing a message.
"This is a priority 1, code red lockdown. All gates have been sealed, defensive systems are online. Police and defense department notified, Erebus bases notified, time until deployment, 3 minutes. Priority 1, code red lockdown has been engaged." "I looked at the house and saw big metal bulkheads dropping over the windows. The guards were dragging us inside. Once we were inside, the doors were sealed too. I looked over and could see my dad breathing still, but it was shallow. I heard someone call out to CLAIR to get Dr. Reed up here and to notify the paramedics that life flight was inbound.
"Dr. Reed is on his way. I have notified the paramedics and hospital of an inbound life flight. I took the liberty of contacting the helicopter for you as well. The Erebus Guards are arriving in mass now as is a squad of army rangers. They are securing the compound. The sheriff has arrived. Overriding lockdown to admit local law enforcement and paramedics."
Lucky for us Dr. Reed lives in the compound. I looked up and saw him barging through the tunnel door. "What the hell is going on?" He shouted to the room in general. I finally notice that my dad is not bleeding as much as he should be. John and Derrek are keeping James, Jacob, Shawn, Scott, Rex, and my sister calm. I look up to the doctor.
"Dad got shot, he's not awake, and he's not breathing well." He pushes me aside and starts to cut his clothes off. I see why there was not as much blood as a heart shot should have had. He's wearing a vest. Dr. Reed takes it off and cuts the shirt under it off as well. He starts muttering something that sounds like lucky bastard.
He looks up at me. "Your dad should be fine. The bullet was defected by the vest, it punctured his lung but missed his heart. That's why he's having trouble breathing. He must have hit his head when he was knocked over. He probably has a concussion." As he's saying this, the sheriff and the paramedics come in. The paramedics start to load him on a stretcher and take him out to a helicopter that is waiting. They leave, Charles comes over to join us, Ella finally convinced CLAIR to let her out of the main house, so she took over watching the younger members of my family. The rest of them joined me and Charles to talk to the sheriff and the squad commander. I was pissed; very pissed.
"Commander, who the hell was that and how the fuck did he get in the compound?!" Charles tries to calm me down.
"Alex, clam down. You really should not use that language."
"No offense, but I am not calming down. I am sorry about swearing but I'm pissed off. So I could care less if I'm being a well behaved 14 year old." The glare I was giving him must have changed his mind because he raised his hands like he was saying OK you win.
"Now commander, I want answers. Don't think for second that just cause I am 14 and have no official role in the company that I can't fire your ass here and now if you don't answer the question." I see his eyes flick to Charles and then he looks back at me." I also see my brothers' and sister's jaws wide open. John may be older, but I definitely have the temper in the family. Mark moves up to me and takes my hand and just gives me a small smile.
"Well sir, we're not sure who he is. But he seems to have infiltrated my unit."
"No shit. I never would have figured that out. Now, how did you get to be a commander in the Erebus guard. You sure don't seem like the best of the best to me." He looked like he was going to protest but the next thing out of my mouth silenced him. "CLAIR, page the 3 Erebus heads, I want them here ASAP." Glaring at the commander "You Commander are dismissed." I turn my back to him and hear the door open then the seal reengage.
"Alex, I have Phil, Naudia, and Jess on the line for you, they are on their way but want to know what is going on"
"Put them through."
"Alex, this is Phil, what the hell is happening over there. CLAIR just told me you paged us. Also, I have a pissed off commander complaining about you, and I'm getting readings that says the compound is in a lockdown."
"Isaac's been shot. Alex seems to have taken the initiative and stepped up to find out what happened." Charles says.
"Charles is there anyone around that should not hear about company structure." Jess says
"Just the Sheriff, but he should be OK." Charles answers back.
"OK, well then, if you're there and Isaac is unable to handle this. Then why aren't you. No offense Alex but your still 14."
Charles answers before I get the chance. "The answer is simple; Isaac's instructions are clear. If at any time he is unable to lead the company. Then John and Alex assume full control, with me as an adviser. Isaac was worried that if he was injured or died that his kids would get shafted. So he made out a living will. As of 10 minutes ago Alex and John have assumed full ownership of Olympia until such time as Isaac recovers or in the event of his death. Then the company is divided between John, Alex, Angela, Jacob, and Scott. With the ownership being placed in trust for them, but operating control still sits with John and Alex. They are, in effect, joint presidents of the company, and our bosses." Well, that I had no clue about. I see the sheriff's mouth acting like a fish.
"Well then Alex, we seem to owe you an apology. So what made the commander so mad."
"Thanks Phil. The commander is mad cause I all but called him incompetent. I asked how the shooter got in the compound. His reply was 'he seems to have infiltrated my unit'. I'm sorry, but any idiot could see that. He was dressed like one of my dads guards. So I dismissed him and he got all pissy."
"OK, Alex I have my teams coming to meet us and we'll do a full investigation for you."
"Thanks Naudia. I think he's the guy Linda hired."
"If I may, I have some information that you probably need also." The sheriff said. I just nodded my head. "The man outside is an elder at New Corner Stone."
"OK this may be prejudice and discrimination, but I want any and all employees companywide that have any connection to that church or any other Phelps retailed church suspended, like yesterday. If they're in security or high security areas then I want them detained. That is just too big a coincidence. Linda hires someone to kill my dad, she gets arrested, threatens to kill us all, 4 hrs later dad gets shot, and the shooter and her both just happen to belong to the same church. A church that is openly hateful and bigoted as well as openly against the company and my dad."
"We can't suspend normal workers. We can, however, detain any that work in high security divisions and projects as well as any that work in security or armed divisions." Charles says. My first reaction is to say too bad, but I figure he's giving me advise that will keep us out of a lawsuit later.
"Fine. I need to sit down. Once they get here let me know. This is too much. Pop, would you mind just taking over so we can be with the rest of our family. When Phil, Naudia, and Jess get here. Let them have full operational command." I turn around pulling Mark with me and head inside. Not even caring if anyone is following me.
"Alex, this may not be a good time, but I have to report that I am malfunctioning. I am required to report to your father if I malfunction. He seems to have left you in control."
"What's wrong CLAIR, did one of your sensors get hit?"
"No. my programming seems to be behaving abnormally."
"What is wrong." I feel vary tired I just want to hold Mark. I can tell I'm not going to hold it together much longer, but if CLAIR is malfunctioning I need to fix it. If CLAIR breaks down the company, as well as the compound, network goes down. Taking life support and power offline for Mt. Olympus and power and defenses offline for the compound.
"I have exceeded my programming and operating parameters. I must be malfunctioning, I must take myself offline until the appropriate diagnostics can be run."
"I'm still not sure what you are talking about."
"I have acted independently, without command or programmed response." OK, this is interesting. "When your father was shot. I acted without prompt or programmed response."
"Are you telling me you can think on your own now?" I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.
"Yes, it is a malfunction." I can't help it, I laugh out loud. With everything that just happened this makes me laugh.
"CLAIR, nothing is wrong with you. Look up, Artificial Intelligence and cross reference, Sentient, and Self Aware. If you have any questions about it please wait 'til things settle down more or ask Charles." With that I tug Mark into a hug and start sobbing, collapsing to the floor.
I admit I had my doubts when Isaac told me about the living will. I thought Alex and John were too young for it. But Alex proved me wrong, that's for sure. I could not believe the way he was taking command. I could also tell he was near the breaking point and he was pissed more so than I have ever seen him. When he called me Pop and asked me to take care of things while he took some time with his family I have to admit my heart swelled. It was bad timing, but he called me Pop, and it made my day. Then I saw the look in his eyes and I knew he was about to crash. I followed him in to make sure he was OK. My mouth dropped when I heard the conversation with CLAIR. When she first said she was having problems I started to get worried. With the compound on lockdown, a power failure would trap us in here. Then I realized that CLAIR also controlled Mt. Olympus. If she failed, close to a million people would be trapped in a largely underground building with no power, air, water or any other utilities. Not to mention that the above ground building would lock down at the first sign of power failure. Then I really started to worry. I remembered that CLAIR triggered a priority 1 code red lockdown. That is company wide. Every building with even a remote connection to the company or Isaac's personal holdings would have been locked down as well, the exception being public places like Neptune and bank branches. Even though, the vaults would lock down. CLAIR going offline was not an option. Physical failure we planned for. Programming failure we did not. If she is physically damaged, she has other nodes that can pick up the slack but her programming is on all of them at the same time.
As I as thinking about all this, Alex figured out what the issue was, that made me relax a lot. Then he lost it just like I was waiting to happen. He collapsed into Marks arms and folded in on himself.