Copyright © 2012 - 2014 by Zackron and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.
All Rights Reserved
Near the end of Chapter 3 …
Less than ten minutes later, Haden and Barrett finally made it to their rooms. Sighing heavily as two boys sopped outside of Haden's door, Barrett glanced toward his twin. "I don't know about you, but I'm ready for today to be over."
Haden tiredly nodded in agreement. "Yeah. Today was certainly a roller coaster. I hope it's not a sign of things to come."
"Haden?" Barrett asked seriously. "You think we will ever get back home?"
Haden was silent for several moments before answering. "To be honest, I don't really know," he began. "But I'll say this much. If a way exists, you can bet that Adam and Logan will find it."
Barrett nodded in agreement. "Yeah, it's pretty clear they are both highly dedicated to UNIT, and very determined."
The two boys held each other's glance for a few more moments until, at the same time, they both decided it was time to go to bed, and stepped into their separate rooms for a well deserved rest.
11:00am MST – Tuesday, November 6th, 2012
The first thing Glenn remembered after falling asleep was a knocking sound coming from somewhere. At first, he thought it was something from his dream, but the dream slowly faded away, and the knocking sound didn't.
"Go away, Chad," Glenn mumbled as his hand instinctively reached out of bed in search of the alarm clock that wasn't there.
KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK
Hearing a moan from Robert, Glen finally woke up enough to roll over and sit up in bed. "Who is it?" he called out, as he glared at the door.
The door to the room opened up and Robert's mother, Sarah, stepped into the room wearing a chef's apron. "Good morning, boys!" she said in a crisp, cheerful voice. "It's almost eleven o'clock. How late were you boys planning on sleeping in today?"
"Mom?" Robert sleepily asked as he rubbed his eyes and started feeling around for his glasses.
"Is something wrong?" Glenn asked, still trying to wake up.
"That depends on how you look at it," Mrs. Jenkins replied. "I just finished making breakfast for everyone up in the conference room. Those UNIT boys certainly look like they have some decent appetites. I would hate for them to eat everything before my boys had a chance to get some."
"We'll be there in a minute," Robert grumpily answered.
"Alright," Sarah continued. "It's up in the conference room. You remember how to get there, right?"
"Yes," Robert sighed.
"Okay, okay, just checking," the woman smiled before walking backward out of the room and closing the door behind her.
"Dude, is your mom always that… cheery in the morning?" Glenn asked seriously as he handed Robert his glasses.
"Yeah," Robert admitted.
"Dad?" Andy asked as he rolled over, still half asleep.
"We'll check on your dad as well, after breakfast, okay Andy?" Glenn asked.
"Huh?" Andy asked as he struggled to sit up. "Oh yeah, that works."
"Come on," Glenn stated as he dragged himself out of bed. "Rob's mom made breakfast, and we need to get up to the conference room before it all gets eaten?"
"Breakfast?" Andy asked as his belly rumbled in agreement. "Sounds good to me."
Barrett walked up to the door, and softly knocked. "Come in," a young voice called out in response. Opening the door, Barrett was surprised to see Haden dressed only in his briefs on the floor doing sit-ups.
"Just doing a little morning P.T.," Haden stated as he felt his twin's curiosity. "It's habit I guess."
"Seems like it might be a good habit to get into," Barrett shrugged as he stepped further into the room. "You'll have to show me your routine sometime."
Haden stopped his sit-ups and looked up at his twin. "You mean you guys didn't do something like this in all the time you've been doing military stuff in KLAUS?"
"Not really," Barrett answered. "The military guys had their huge workouts they would do to keep in shape and all, but I was never much for the military side of things. But what you're doing seems different. I can feel how good it makes you feel, and it isn't something that tires and wears you out."
Haden shrugged as he stood up and grabbed his GEAR. "Morning P.T. isn't meant to wear you out, it's more to get your blood flowing, and help you wake up and get ready to face the day. At least that's how we, or rather UNIT, looked at it when we were going through our training."
Barrett nodded in agreement.
"Was there something you needed?" Haden asked as he slipped his shirt on.
"Oh yeah," Barrett grinned. "Have you seen Forth or Stan? They aren't in their room."
Haden nodded, "Yeah, I think they went to help Mrs. Jenkins with breakfast."
"Okay, that's cool," Barrett stated as he sat down on the bed.
Haden stopped putting his clothes on, and looked toward his twin with concern. "Something else is bothering you?"
Barrett shrugged. "It's nothing that important."
"Okay," Haden hesitantly answered, not wanting to push his twin. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but something I learned a long time ago is that usually just telling someone else about something that is bugging you can help a little, even if they can't do anything else to help, other than listen."
"It's just…" Barrett began as he tried to collect his thoughts. "Well, everyone here, all the other UNIT guys I mean, seems to be able to accept that we're stuck in this universe now, and going on like everything is normal."
Haden nodded in understanding. "It might look that way, but I bet they are just as eager to find a way back as you and I are. Maybe even more so. A bunch of them have family, or even kids that they left behind."
"I guess," Barrett admitted.
"So, are you sure you've tried all the different KLAUS frequencies with your sub-vocal?" Haden asked as he went back to getting dressed.
"Tried and retried," Barrett sighed. "And then tried some more. Sometimes I get a little crackle of static, but nothing more. The only thing I haven't tried… no, that wouldn't work."
"What?" Haden asked curiously.
"Well, a long time ago… I mean, a real long time ago, back in pre-fall times, we had a set of emergency frequencies setup, they were at a much higher band, because overall global technology at the time was higher, and a lot of the lower frequency ranges were being used." Barrett could see the look in Haden's eyes, so he shook his head. "It's not really an option, though. When the sub-vocals were modified to remove any potentially sensitive tech before passing the schematics over to the Clan, the ability to transmit at those ultra-high emergency frequencies was removed."
"Do you remember what frequencies they were?" Haden asked curiously. "The base transmitters here might be able to broadcast on them."
"I doubt it," Barrett replied. "It would be up around the fifteen thousand click range, which I think would translate to around nine hundred gigahertz."
"Ouch, yeah that's pretty high," Haden agreed. "We'll ask Logan or one of the chipmunks about it at breakfast."
Just as Barrett was nodding in agreement, Hac walked in.
"What's taking you guys so long?" Hac asked impatiently.
"Haden was just finishing up some morning exercises," Barrett informed him.
"Really?" Hac grinned. "I should show you my morning workout some time."
"I don't think he's going to be interested in lifting four hundred pound assault drones as part of his work out," Barrett threw back.
Hac sighed. "How many times do I have to tell you that I only did that when they had the weight room closed."
"Because it's funny to think about," Barrett answered. "Plus, it's one of the safer ways I've found to tease you."
"Why you little…" Hac began to say, before Haden interrupted him.
"Well, I'm certainly ready for some breakfast, what about you guys?" Haden asked as he finished tying his shoes up.
"Works for me," Barrett answered quickly before slipping out of the room.
"We're not done with this, you know?" Hac called out before he glanced toward Haden with a smile.
Glenn, Robert, and Andy walked into the conference room to find nearly all of the UNIT kids, as well as their parents were already there, grabbing food to eat.
"Whobert!" Chad cried out from across the room where he immediately started running toward the older boy. "I saved you yummy foods!" As soon as he reached him, Chad grabbed his hand and started pulling him toward the conference table.
"Great," Robert stated, as he allowed himself to be dragged. "I'm starving."
Glenn walked up to the table and saw the trays full of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with another tray containing sliced ham. "Where are the eggs, and pancakes and stuff?"
"They didn't seem to have any of that," Sarah answered, as she set down another tray of mixed fruits. "But the hydroponics garden they have here is unlike anything I've ever seen before. "Everything here has been picked fresh, less than an hour ago."
"Don't worry, Glenn, eating a few meals of healthy foods won't hurt ya," Andy joked as he grabbed a plate and started piling things onto it.
"If you say so," Glenn replied as he grabbed his own plate and followed behind Andy.
"Whobert," Chad called out again as soon as he saw Robert was done adding food to his own plate. "I saved you a seat nexh do me, whight heyah."
"Thanks, buddy," Robert sighed as he took the offered seat.
"I think I'm in agreement with Glenn," Haden commented as he chomped on a carrot. "This is good and all, but it's not the same as having bacon and eggs."
"Hush and eat your cantaloup," Barrett grinned.
"Actually, Haden, It's good that you think that way," Logan smiled from across the room as he walked toward where Haden was sitting. "That means that you shouldn't mind the little mission I've come up with for you, today."
"Mission?" Haden asked as he accepted a piece of paper from Logan, and stared at it. "What's this?"
"It's a piece of paper with writing on it from a pen," Logan answered. "It's what was used before we had PADD devices to store all of our notes on."
Haden shot Logan an odd look as he tried to figure out if the older boy was being serious or not. The grin on his face clearly indicated that he wasn't.
"Actually, it's a shopping list," Logan started over. "I've already talked to the adults about it. Basically I was thinking you, Barrett, and maybe one or two others could accompany them in two of the SUV's and pick up some food, clothes, and a few other basic supplies that we are going to need. The closest major city is probably Salt Lake City, which is about an hour's drive from here."
"Yeah, sure. I don't mind," Haden answered. "However, I have something for you as well."
"Oh?" Logan asked curiously.
"Actually, it's more of a request," Haden continued. "Before breakfast, Barrett remembered about the KLAUS emergency frequencies, but he said the modified sub-vocals they were using were not able to access them. Do you think we could let them use the base radios for that?"
"Emergency frequencies, huh?" Logan replied as he looked toward Barrett. "Do you know the specific frequencies needed?"
Barrett nodded. "Yeah, the first has a baseline frequency that translates out to 905.45515 gigahertz, with a 6 Hertz attenuation."
"Not going to happen," Simon jumped in. "The transmitters here cap out at around 100 gigahertz, which itself is beyond intra-atmosphere usage."
Logan nodded in agreement. "Something that high would require extreme line-of-sight pin-point accuracy."
"I don't understand all the physics behind it," Barrett admitted, "But I believe that's where the 6 Hertz attenuation comes in, by artificially extending the wave front of the signal to behave as a very low frequency wave, and follow the curvature of the earth."
"I've never tried something like that, but the science behind it might be valid," Logan admitted. "There is still the problem of the hardware here not being capable of transmitting at that range, nor creating the needed attenuation."
"If we are going shopping today, I could probably pick up the parts we would need to upgrade the radio and the antenna," Haden offered. "Barrett and I can work out the schematics on the trip over."
Logan shrugged. "If you can work out a viable solution, using the available tech that you would find in a consumer store, go for it."
"Shouldn't be a problem," Haden replied. "the fundamental components are pretty similar at a base level. We'll just have to tweak a few things here and there."
Logan nodded in agreement. "In that case, go for it. Let me know how things turn out."
Haden nodded as well, as he went back to eating.
"Um, how exactly are we going to work out the schematics for this thing on the trip over? It can't take that long to get to Salt Lake City by SUV." Barrett noted with concern.
"The trip will take about an hour," Haden commented. "That will be more than enough time."
"Haden? May I see that list?" Chang asked seriously as he walked over to Haden. As soon as Haden handed it to him, he glanced at it for a few moments and frowned. "It is as I feared. No consideration has been given to our medical needs. With most of the medication we have here being nearly twenty years expired, I will need you to pick up a few additional supplies." Taking the pen offered by Logan, he began to add more items to it.
"Okay, so some food, clothes, and a few pills," Haden commented. "Shouldn't be that hard."
"You mind if I look at that list next?" Simon asked. "If we are going to get base security setup properly, we're going to need to get some cameras and other stuff installed and wired up. You can probably get most of what we will need at a Best Buy or something," he stated as he began adding things to the last as well.
"That's a good point," Logan agreed. "Now that I think of it. You guys should probably take all three SUV's instead of two. Your probably going to need them to transport everything back."
"Okay, that works," Haden stated as he glanced at the slightly expanded list.
"Are you guys making a shopping list?" Jory asked. "You think you could run by a Home Depot and pick up a few… erm.. household cleaning supplies for me?"
"If you guys are taking orders, I have a few requests, too," Will piped up.
"Are you sure three SUV's will be enough?" Haden asked with concern as the 'list' continued to grow.
"If it's not, we could always send the Chinook to pick you guys up," Adam offered
Logan nodded in agreement. "Yeah, it isn't like we haven't done that before."
Several sniggers could be heard echoing around the room from all the guys who had been around long enough to remember back when a very similar event occurred back when the original UNIT base was being setup.
"Stand back… stand back…" Ronnie announced as he walked up to where everyone was hovering over the shopping list which had now grown to two sheets of paper. "You guys realize I already started on a list last night, right?"
Ronnie took several long moments to read the list that had been started, before sighing. "Yeah, that's exactly what I thought. This is only about half of what we are actually going to need. Here, let me get the other stuff added."
"Maybe you could just go with them?" Adam suggested.
Ronnie shrugged. "That works for me."
"Maybe we could pick up a few computers, laptops, and hand-helds?" Haden offered.
"That sounds like a good idea," Logan agreed.
"You know, now that I think about it," Adam jumped in. "As big as that list is getting, why not save ourselves the trouble, and just start out with the Chinook? You guys can load the SUV's in the back, Will and Billy can find a safe spot to land a bit away from the town, and you can make however many trips you need back and forth to the Chinook."
"Works for me," Will stated.
"Yeah, that's probably a good idea," Logan admitted.
"Not so fast," Janet quickly jumped in, as she made her way over to where Will was sitting. "You are still on medical leave, Mister."
Will was just about to protest before Janet held up a single finger to stop him. Taking out her tricorder, then did a quick scan of the boy. "It looks like you've already started healing pretty decently. As long as you try to stay out of trouble, I'll go ahead and clear you for flight."
Will nodded with a smile.
"You guys have money to pay for all this, right?" Glenn asked.
In an instant, all talking in the room stopped as everyone realized they no longer were in there old universe, and their Starfleet and Vulcan credit cards would no longer work.
"Geez, relax, guys," Alvin spoke as he typed on his laptop. "You don't think I would have overlooked something that important, do you? I have everything set up. Basically, you need to make a quick stop at the Salt Lake City train station, and use this key to get into locker 20897, and you'll find everything you need right there."
"I don't suppose I could tag along, could I?" Robert asked hopefully.
Haden thought for a moment. "Robert does seem to be pretty knowledgable with all the latest computer tech here. I think he would be pretty useful, especially with helping me on getting the right electronics."
Logan shrugged. "Since we are taking the Chinook, and given how Robert's dad, and Glenn's grandparents will be going, I don't have a problem with it."
"What do you say, Andy? You feel like going shopping in Salt Lake City?" Glenn asked.
Andy quickly shook his head. "Not really, not if it means going in that huge plane again."
"Oh damn, yeah, I almost forgot about that," Glenn commented. "In that case, I think I'll stay back with Andy. We still have a bunch of exploring to do that we didn't get to finish last night. Speaking of which, where is the President and all his kids?"
"Sure, you guys can stay back with the rest of us, if you want," Logan stated. "As far as the President and everyone that came with him, I'm pretty sure most of them are still sleeping. Depending on how things go when they wake up, I bet some of the kids wouldn't mind exploring with you guys as well. Just remember that all the kids lived through a situation far worse than what Andy lived through. So don't feel too discouraged if many of them don't feel like doing much of anything today."
Glenn and Andy both nodded.
"I can still go, right?" Robert asked hopefully.
"Doesn't matter to me," Glenn answered. You'll probably have a lot more fun geeking out with Haden, than staying here."
"If you want to go, your welcome to," Logan agreed. "Anyway, how about we finish up with breakfast, and then we can work out the specifics."
Given that food was mentioned, not a single kid in the room decided to argue with Logon, and once again silence fell as the mass consumption of food resumed.
As soon as breakfast was over, and everyone pitched in to help with the clean up, things kicked into high gear to prepare for the shopping trip. As the preparations continued, it seemed that every few minutes someone else was adding another item or three to the list. Before everything was said and done, Ronnie ended up splitting the list into three separate lists, each with a different area of focus.
In the end, with Theodore deciding at the last minute that he needed to go along, a total of eleven boys, and three adults would be going, with each of the adults driving one of the SUV's. The people in Ernest's SUV, which included Theodore, Robert, and Haden, would focus on electronics and computer equipment. Desmond would drive another SUV with Ronnie, Barrett, and Hac, and focus on food and clothing. Finally, Margret would take Tommy, Runt, and Daileass in her SUV and focus on medical supplies and a few larger items that would need to be picked up from Home Depot. Of course, Will and Billy also ended up going along, since they would be piloting the Chinook.
By the time noon came around, Amur Khan and Hac had the huge 50 caliber guns removed from the back of the Chinook, so that the SUV's could be backed into it. Seeing the large tiger hybrid lifting one of the heavy guns was impressive, but seeing little eleven-year-old looking Hac picking up something that easily looked to be two or three times his weight was something that neither the Brooks nor the Jenkins could prevent themselves from gawking at.
Just as everyone that would be going on the afternoon excursion to Salt Lake City was about to climb into the back of the Chinook, Simon ran out to them with a box full of radios.
"Hold up,guys!" Simon called out to get everyone's attention. "We found a bunch of long range radios that we are going to hand out for everyone to use."
As he started handing the radios out, Simon continued. "Only some of the radios were properly programmed, so I only have seven to hand out to you guys right now, so each SUV will get two, one for the driver and one for the kids, and Will and Billy will keep one. On the back, you will find a list of the different channel assignments that we will be using. Each area will have it's own assigned channel. You guys will probably want to use the Operations channel 4 for your trip. By the time you get back, we should have the rest programmed so that everyone will be able to have one."
"Thanks son, these should come in handy," Ernest commented as he accepted his radio.
Simon nodded in agreement as he finished handing the rest of the radios out, while glancing around to see if there were any questions. Seeing none, he finished up his little speech. "Even with their extended range, the handhelds only have about a fifteen to twenty mile range, so if you have to get ahold of anyone back here at base, you will have to contact Will or Billy and they can use the base station in the Chinook to radio us."
Seeing that Simon was done, Will spoke up, getting everyone's attention. "Okay, everyone heading to Salt Lake City best get on, unless you want to be left behind."
Once everyone was on, Will fired up the engines. Within a few short minutes, the Chinook was airborne, quickly leaving the UNIT base behind.
As he glanced out one of the small windows, Robert couldn't help but feel that today's helicopter ride was far more enjoyable and exciting than yesterday's. Then again, that's not hard to say, given that they were not running for their lives from people set on killing them. Everything over the last twenty-four hours seemed so surreal, almost like he had been thrown into the middle of a dream. An android kid, government agents trying to kill them, a secret base with one of the best computers he had ever seen, new friends from some far off universe, even riding in the back of a Chinook with three SUV's he could very easily see as being part of a movie somehow.
If you had asked him yesterday, Robert would have told you that he was ready for anything with all the sci-fi movies and books he had read. If mutant ninja zombie pirates from space were to attack, he would know the best way to destroy them. Truth be told, nothing could have prepared him for the real thing. When the bullets and blood started flying around, and there were times that you were sure you were going to die… well, he didn't think there was any movie ever made that could prepare you for that.
Across from Robert, Barrett was lost in his own set of thoughts, most of which were centered on whether or not they would ever manage to find a way back home. Even though he tried his best to not think about it as much, it seemed like almost everything they did reminded him of not being where they should be. For example, the long helicopter ride would not have been necessary, since KLAUS could have just teleported them to where they needed to go. Heck, the entire shopping trip would not have been needed, because their replicator technology could make just about anything anyone might have wanted.
Barrett was caught by surprise when everything around him started to go dark, and the loud roaring sounds of the Chinook's powerful engines slowly faded away into the distance. The next thing Barrett knew, there was complete silence as he found himself standing in the middle of a large drafting room. The room had an overall bright white theme with a white tiled floor, slightly off-white walls, and bright white florescent lights in the ceiling. The large drafting boards seemed to be based off of some type of modern technology, but it didn't look like normal Clan technology, and it certainly wasn't KLAUS technology.
"Kinda cool, huh?" Haden called out from behind Barrett, causing him to jump in surprise.
"I don't think I'm ever going to get used to that," Barrett sighed. "Where are we, this doesn't look like your head, or at least what things have looked like before."
"This is one of the Wayne Enterprise's drafting rooms. This was basically where I learned 'real' drafting. Where I was able to first start applying everything that I had been thinking of when I was younger, before Evan and I met the Clan," Haden started, as he walked over to one of the large white panels and flipped a switch on it's side, causing it to flicker to life. "Even though as time went on, and I got access to newer, and better equipment and technology, this is still the place I go in my head to work design problems out. Kinda silly, huh?"
Barrett took a few moments to look around the room before he shook his head. "Not really. It's common for our first experiences to have significantly more impact on us than future experiences. Whenever I think of KLAUS, I still think of him as the three cored computer system that he was when I first met him, thousands of years ago, and how much I loved standing in one of the cores, watching the softly glowing crystal rods, and how safe and protected being in that base made me feel. As time went on, and we moved to bigger, more secure installations… Well, it just never seemed quite the same, and I don't think I ever truly felt as safe anywhere else."
Haden was captivated as he watched and listened to everything that Barrett was saying. "It almost sounds like KLAUS made you feel similar to how Daileass makes me feel."
Barrett shrugged. "I would be lying if I didn't say that in the early days, I didn't have day dreams of KLAUS being a real person, and us being together. But nothing ever really happened, KLAUS was pretty good at keeping himself distanced, just enough so that no real intimate relationships ever developed."
"Hey, guys, I'm not interrupting anything, am I?" Daileass asked as he appeared in the room. Seeing the odd expression on Haden's face, he took a step back. "I didn't mean to intrude if I am."
At first Haden was concerned that Barrett was saying something he would rather Daileass not hear, but as he got the feeling that wasn't the case, he shook his head. "It's cool, we were just talking a little bit about the past, before I got started on the schematics."
Daileass nodded as he looked toward Barrett. "Barrett, I'm sorry, but when our minds are linked like this, it's almost impossible to hide what your thinking about."
Barrett nodded in understanding. "It's cool. At this point, it's nothing more than a school girl's crush, I guess. I'm just glad things have worked out so well between you and Haden."
"I know KLAUS never told you this directly, but he did think very highly of you," Daileass stated. Seeing the surprised and confused look on Barrett's face, he continued. "Before the first official meeting between your guys and the Clan, KLAUS and I talked a lot. Although nothing confidential or classified was shared, I think you can say that we were on pretty good speaking terms, since we appeared to share a lot of the same underlying virtues and morals."
Barrett nodded in understanding. "Yeah, I remember KLAUS mentioning that he had established a good working relationship with the UNIT's A.I., which I guess would have been you."
"Yeah," Daileass admitted. "What you probably don't know is that after you chose to reveal yourself to Haden as his twin, KLAUS gave me a lot more details about you. Nothing overly personal I don't think, but a quick summary of what you have accomplished, and what you have been up to over the last forty thousand years. In that summary, it was very obvious that you were one of the few people that KLAUS cared about the most. As such, he always did his best to make sure that you were safe especially after Father Hertus died. If things had been different, I think KLAUS would have liked to pursue a relationship of some sort with you. But…"
"But we both had important roles to play in our fledgling society, and a relationship at the time wouldn't have been proper…" Barrett finished. "Yeah, he mentioned that to me once, a long time ago."
"Yes," Daileass nodded. "In some ways, I think he regretted putting things to you in that specific way. But yes, in many ways he was afraid, or rather concerned that if he were to start a relationship between you or anyone else, that could end up hurting you, and that was not something he was willing to risk."
"I understand," Barrett replied with a heavy sigh as he felt a pair of arms wrap around him. In surprise, he looked up into Daileass's eyes.
"Haden and I might be boyfriends, but you are Haden's twin," Daileass spoke softly. "That means there will always be a special place in my heart for you. If you want, you can think of me as a brother or something. If you ever need a hug, a shoulder to cry on, I'll always be there for you."
Knowing deep down inside that Daileass was being completely honest, and telling him the truth, Barrett began to softly cry on Daileass's shoulder. "Thanks, Daileass. That… That really means a lot to me."
Haden smiled warmly as he could feel the love and concern literally radiating off of Daileass. He could remember how comforting Daileass's warm hands had been for him so many times in the past. Now, hopefully, Daileass could bring some comfort and support to his twin brother as well.
After a few minutes, the hug broke, and Daileass looked over toward Haden. "So, did you get those schematics finished, yet?"
"Huh?" Haden asked, still lost in his own thoughts. "No, I haven't even started on them yet."
"Well, what are you waiting for?" Daileass smiled. "Just because we have all the time in the world in here, doesn't actually mean we have to use it all."
"Sheesh, aren't we the slave driver today," Haden grinned as he turned to the drafting board, and used it to open up one of the schematic files. "I've already done a little work on this by starting with the basic transmitter board, and logic board layouts, and adding an in-line cycle splitter to artificially cut the cycle time in half while doubling the transmission frequency. I didn't want to go too much further until we knew more about the six hertz modulation."
"Makes sense," Daileass agreed. "From a logic stand-point, your going to also want to adjust your high pass signal filters to account for the increased cycle speed. I'm thinking around plus one hundred ohms of resistance should be sufficient."
"Yeah, I've already accounted for that, here, and here," Haden replied as he pointed to different spots in the diagram.
"How do you even do that?" Barrett asked, drawing Haden and Daileass's attention. "I mean, you're not a computer like Daileass, so how can you have all of this working in your head?"
Haden shrugged, "I don't know. I just do."
"He has a really good head," Daileass grinned. "Seriously though, you have a pretty decent knowledge of genetics, so you should already know that the human brain itself functions in many ways as a massive computer."
"Yeah," Barrett agreed. "A lot of KLAUS tech was based on biochemistry, and cellular storage. But to be able to accomplish something like this, and actually have a work environment inside your head?"
"My brothers and I might have helped give his mind a little nudge in the right direction," Daileass grinned. "But a lot of this is Haden, and his love of electronics. Can you really say that you've never mentally envisioned strands of DNA fragments and blocks of genetic coding in your mind?" Daileass took the blush that was appearing in Barrett's face as a yes. "Well, this isn't much different. It's just a more direct way for him to consciously interact with those elements."
"Well, since you put it that way, I guess it makes sense," Barrett admitted.
"I'm glad you think so," Haden grinned evilly. "Because now it's your turn."
"Me?" Barrett gasped.
Haden nodded. "Yeah. I'm not familiar with KLAUS tech, and KLAUS didn't share it with Daileass. So if we are going to be able to properly design the needed transmitter, we're going to need your help."
"But I don't know the first thing about electronics," Barrett replied with concern. "I wouldn't even know where to begin."
"You don't need to," Daileass joined as he walked a few steps closer to Barrett. "You're Haden's twin, which means your memory is probably just as good, if not better than his. Surely, there must have been some point in which you were shown the schematics for the sub-vocals."
"I don't think so," Barrett replied as he slowly shook his head. "Oh wait. Actually, there might have been one time. There was one meeting we had right before we started doing joint operations with the Clan… They were talking about some of the differences in design specs of the equipment that those who would be directly working with the Clan would be using, and the impact of those differences. I think on one of the screens they showed a comparison of the normal schematics and the stripped down schematics. But I have no clue what any of it meant. I wasn't even paying attention to that part of the meeting that much."
"That's not a problem," Daileass stated as a small sphere of mist began to form between the two boys. "Try to think back to that meeting, try to remember everything you can that happened in that meeting, and I should be able to grab those memories as you push them to the surface."
Barrett nodded and did as Daileass asked. In the mist, small flickers of images began to appear. Disjointed shadows of blurred people. Several people standing around in an office of some type. A large screen on one side of the room would occasionally show different images.
"That's it, you're doing great," Daileass continued. "Try to remember every detail you can about that meeting… let it play back in your head."
Barrett closed his eyes and focused harder. As he did, the image in the mist smoothed out, and the blurred images of people came into focus. Voices could be heard. They were clearly having a meeting about the technical elements of KLAUS and Clan interaction. The topic of communications came up, one of the tech kids was talking about the sub-vocals, and the communication options that KLAUS would have. Then, in a flash, they saw it. On the main screen, while glancing around the room, Barrett saw the set of comparison schematics.
"Got it!" Daileass stated with delight causing Barrett to open his eyes on the sphere of mist to vanish.
"Was it clear enough?" Haden asked hopefully.
"Give me a second, I'm trying to clear it up a bit," Daileass replied. "Okay, I think I have it, although I'm not sure if your going to like this." As he said this, a second large drafting board came to life, and a new schematic appeared.
"Oh man," Haden replied as he studied the new diagram. "Quad state transistors? Dual phase resistors? And I have no clue what that symbol there might mean."
"That's amazing," Barrett stated as he walked over to the drafting table. "You were able to reconstruct all of this just from my memory? I don't even remember remembering this level of detail."
"You might not have consciously," Daileass answered. "But again, the human mind is a very powerful thing. Just because something might not have been consciously important to you doesn't mean that your brain didn't record it."
"I guess that makes sense," Barrett nodded in understanding. "So will this help?"
Haden slowly shook his head. "I don't know yet. On Archnania, I think we accomplished something similar to the dual state resistor with a coupled inverted resistor. The good thing is, we don't need all of this, just the elements responsible for transmitting, and the modulation, which I think is this area over here. Hey Daileass, you feel like running a few logic simulations for me?"
"I always feel up to running any kind of simulations for you, Haden." Daileass replied with a huge grin, causing Haden to blush.
"Um, okay," Haden did his best to recover.
Over what felt like twenty to thirty minutes, Barrett quietly watched, as Daileass and Haden worked on slowly improving Haden's base schematic with abstract elements of the schematic Barrett provided them. Apparently, it wasn't an easy process, since several times they ended up backing out large sets of changes as Daileass would run a simulation on the design, and report how it failed. Finally, Haden took a step back from the board and smiled.
"I think you've done it," Daileass replied as he wrapped his arms around Haden.
"Your going to be able to make it work?" Barrett asked hopefully.
"I think so," Haden answered. "Actually, we have two different solutions, an easy solution and a hard solution, depending on what controller chips we're able to find. Radio Shack has a dynamic range two to twelve gigahertz high pass programmable filter MC2018-LX chip, but there is not a lot of demand for that, and a bunch of stores don't stock it. So if we can't get ahold of one, we will have to manually create the filter. But either way, yeah, I think we've figured out how to built a transceiver that will be able to send and receive at the needed frequencies."
"Cool!" Barrett jumped. "That's amazing!"
Haden smiled as he rubbed his hand over his forehead. "Yeah, but for now I think I need to jump out of here. I'm starting to get a headache."
"I don't think your head is used to doing such intense, non-stop processing at this rate of speed," Daileass commented.
"Probably not," Haden agreed.
"Okay, see you guys out there," Daileass waved before he faded away.
"Ready?" Haden asked as he looked toward his twin.
Just as Barrett nodded in agreement, the world was already growing dark around him. It didn't take long after that for the roaring sound of the Chinook's motors to fill Barrett's hearing, as the view of one of the SUV's that was strapped down in front of him, came into focus.
Five minutes later, the Chinook was in the process of landing. Will found a nice open area that had very few people near it, about ten miles away from the city, which means the SUV's would still have a ten to fifteen minute ride into the city from there, but it still beat an hour drive.
"Kinda reminds you of old times, huh Tommy?" Ronnie smiled as he helped to unhook a strap that was locking down one of the SUV's.
"He he, yea, it does. Doesn't it?" Tommy giggled.
"Old times?" Robert asked, slightly confused. "You mean you guys have done this before?"
"Kind of. Back when the UNIT first found and moved into the bunker back in our original universe, we ended up having to do something very similar to this. Taking the Chinook out to pick up a whole crap load of supplies," Tommy explained. "Come to think of it, that's also when I became the UNIT's official quartermaster, because everyone said I was so good at organizing things."
"Actually, they just said that because they couldn't find anyone else to take the job," Runt giggled.
"Shush, you!" Tommy fired back with a smile.
Just as the third SUV was being off-loaded, Theodore walked outside with his laptop to where everyone else had been gathering up. "Okay guys, I think we're just about ready to head out. Everyone remember to bring your radios. The batteries in them should be good to go for at least twelve hours, but each SUV has a car charger if needed. Also, everyone is going to need to follow our SUV to the train station before you go anywhere else."
"The train station?" Hac asked with surprise. "You mean flying and driving isn't enough?"
"The way things have been going around here, we're probably going to be meeting the Pope or some other really important person," Robert offered.
"Our appointment with the pope isn't until tomorrow," Theodore replied.
"Seriously?" Robert gasped.
"No, just kidding," Theodore grinned. "However, that's where the credit cards will be at for the adults. Since we don't have Star Fleet, or the Clan here, we're going to have to rely on the adults to handle the money and do the actual purchasing. Any questions?"
Robert raised his hand, "Which SUV are Will and Billy going in?"
"Sorry, but I don't do roads," Billy deadpanned causing Robert and the adults to look at him curiously.
"Actually, Billy and I have a bunch of… tweaks… we need to work on for the Chinook while you guys are out."
"So you're staying here?" Robert asked slightly confused. "That doesn't seem too fair."
"Oh, trust me, they prefer it that way," Theodore grinned.
"Yeah," Runt piped up. "It's their next favorite thing to sex!"
"Watch it, Runt," Billy called out.
"That's Mr. Runt to you." Runt shot back grabbing some chuckles from the other guys.
Theodore glanced around the group. "Okay, if no one else has any questions, let's load 'em up, and head out. I don't know about you guys, but I'd love to be back home in time for dinner."
After nodding in agreement, everyone piled into their assigned SUV's, and the progression of trucks was underway.
The trip to the train station was relatively uneventful. Very few people noticed the small progression of SUV's as they entered the Salt Lake City limits, and made their way toward the train station.
In the SUV that Ernest was driving, Robert was constantly stealing glances at Theodore's lap top. Of course, being telepathic like his other brothers, Theodore knew exactly what Robert was doing, but did his best to pretend that he didn't notice.
Haden, however, was not as discrete when he saw Robert's stares. "Is something wrong, Robert?" he finally asked.
"Nah," Robert shook his head, "I was just checking out that sweet looking laptop that Theodore is holding."
"Really? Well, all you had to do was ask," Theodore grinned as he looked back at Robert and handed him the laptop.
"Whoa, cool!" Robert smiled as he reverently accepted the computer, and began a very detailed inspection of it.
Haden looked over at the laptop as well. "Yeah, Theodore. I've been meaning to ask you about that since I saw you using that earlier. That looks like one of our laptops, I mean from our own universe."
"It is," Theodore's grin grew. "I always sleep with my laptop. So I guess it ended up coming with me when we ended up here."
Robert chuckled. "When I was a little younger, I thought about sleeping with my laptop, but I was usually too afraid that I would break it or something while I was sleeping."
"Ah, well, that laptop is pretty rugged." Theodore informed. "You could throw the thing on the ground, and it would still be fine."
"You can't do that with the laptops in this world," Robert gasped. "At least, not many of them."
"Is this the train station you were wanting to go to, son?" Ernest asked as he pulled into the parking lot of the Union Pacific Depot. Haden and Robert both looked out the window to see the large French styled, three story building.
Theodore nodded as he, too, looked out the window. "Yup, this is the one. It's not really used as a train station anymore, since Amtrak moved to a more modern station a few blocks away. But, it still has exactly what we need."
"Lockers?" Haden asked as he took out the key Alvin had given him earlier.
"Exactly," Theodore replied as he took the key from Haden. "You guys wait here, I'll be right back. It might look a bit suspicious if a whole group of us go in at once."
"And it won't look suspicious if an eight-year-old kid goes in alone?" Robert questioned as the other two SUV's pulled up next to them.
"Nah," Theodore answered as he jumped out of the truck. "I'm too cute and adorable to look suspicious.
"Okay, now I know you guys have to be from another universe." Robert commented once Theodore was safely out of earshot, causing Haden to smile and Ernest so slowly shake his head in disbelief.
Theodore had disappeared into the front entrance of the station for several minutes. When he walked back out, he was holding six small envelops in his hand. By the time he got back to the SUV, he saw Margret standing next to the driver's door of Ernest's SUV, talking to her husband.
"Oh good, both of you are here. That will make this easier," Theodore commented with a huge smile as he waved toward Desmond to get out of his SUV and join them as well. Once Desmond walked up, Theodore took three of the small envelopes and handed one to each of the adults.
While each adult began to inspect the contents of the envelop that they had been given, Theodore explained further. "As we talked about earlier, inside, you will find the credit card that you guys can use for shopping today, as well as anything that might be needed in the future."
Desmond looked curiously at the cards in his envelop. "This card says Derrick Jones, and is this other card suppose to be a license?"
Theodore nodded. "Given how interested the current government seems to be in having you guys killed, we figured it would make sense to give each of you new identities as well, so you will also find a license in the same name as the name on your card. Whenever you guys are out in public, these are the identities you should use."
"That's pretty sharp thinking, son," Ernest nodded in agreement. "Do I even want to know how you pulled that off in less than twenty-four hours?"
"Probably not," Theodore grinned. "Don't worry, as you can see, your descriptive information and picture match up perfectly to you. Margret's license is even a Class-E license just as her old one was. The only thing that has different is the names, addresses, and dates of birth."
"How did you know…" Margret began to ask, before she stopped herself.
Listening from inside the SUV, Haden could tell that Theodore was thoroughly enjoying himself.
"Anyway, the credit cards have pretty high limits, so you shouldn't have to worry about hitting them," Theodore continued. "Oh, and each of you also has new social security numbers, but we won't have the new cards for you until tomorrow."
"I'm not sure if I should be impressed, or scared shitless that a small group of kids can pull something like this off," Desmond commented as he continued to look at his new credit card and license.
"Oh, you guys haven't seen anything yet," Theodore smiled. "So, shall we go shopping?"
With everyone nodding in agreement, Desmond and Margret went back to their SUV's. Moments later, all three trucks left the parking lot, heading toward their own separate destinations.
As Desmond turned the SUV onto North Temple Street, he briefly glanced at the three boys sitting behind him. "So, where do you guys want to go first?"
Ronnie looked at the three different sheets of paper that he was carrying. "With so much stuff to get, I don't think it really matters."
"We don't have teleporters, right?" Barrett asked.
Ronnie shook his head. "I wish we did, that would make this so much easier."
Barrett nodded in agreement. "Yeah it would. But since we don't, we'll probably need to take that into account." Seeing the curious look on Ronnie's face, he continued. "Since some of the stuff we get is going to need to be kept at a colder temperature to properly preserve it, maybe we should get those items last?"
Ronnie smiled as he nodded in agreement. "That's good thinking."
"Target it is, then," Desmond agreed as he took a quick right turn onto 300 West.
"Target?" Hac asked curiously. "Has this turned into a seek and destroy mission that someone forgot to tell me about?"
"What?" Desmond laughed, figuring the eleven-year-old was trying to make a joke. Barrett, however, knew better.
"No," Ronnie threw in quickly. "Target is the name of a store where we can find clothes and a bunch of other stuff at."
"Oh," Hac replied, slightly disappointed.
No sooner had Desmond managed to turn into the Target parking lot, and find a place to park, the boys were out of the SUV and quickly making their way toward the front entrance of the store to begin their assault. With lists in hand, Ronnie pulled out a shopping cart for each boy, and another for Desmond.
"I know you have a lot stuff you want to buy," Desmond commented. "But do you really think we need four shopping carts?"
Ronnie glanced down at his list for a few moments before he nodded his head. "Yup. Actually, we'll probably end up needing more, but I think this should be a good start."
"Right," Desmond replied as the group made their way past the electronics section where a single boy with scraggly black hair was playing on one of the demo game consoles there, and into the Boy's Clothing Department.
Without thinking twice, the first thing Ronnie did was to walk over to the underwear and socks area, and start grabbing everything he could find, throwing it into the cart. As he did this, he instructed the others to start grabbing one or two of each different style of shirt, jacket, pants, and shorts that they could find.
"I'm guessing you already have everyone's size figured out?" Desmond asked, as the second shopping cart was quickly filling up.
"Nope," Ronnie replied as he started grabbing two of every size and color of t-shirt and gym shorts that the place had. "We pretty much want anything for age four and up. We don't just have to shop for the guys we have on base now, but also for any new guys we might end up picking up."
"Just how many new guys do you plan on getting?" Desmond asked with concern.
Instead of answering, Ronnie simply smiled, shrugged, and went back to piling more clothes into the cart.
By the time they had finished with the Boys' Department, three of their four shopping carts had been completely filled. At the same time, more than one employee glanced in their direction. If it weren't for the fact that Desmond was there with them, they would have almost certainly said something. As it turned out, one of the braver employees walked over and asked if they needed any help, which they politely declined.
Following their assault on the boys' clothing, next they headed over to the personal care isles where Ronnie began to fill the forth cart up with a wide assortment of various soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, tooth brushes, and other personal care items. Finally, the cart was topped out in the office supply isle with a bunch of magazines as well as note pads, a few coloring books, and accompanying pens, pencils, crayons, and markers.
With the forth cart filled, Ronnie looked behind him to see one of the store security employees lingering a little ways behind them. "Oh good," Ronnie smiled toward him. "Since you're there, would you mind grabbing this cart and taking it to the front for me, so I can start checking off all the items in this and our other carts?"
The security guy, who couldn't have been much older than your typical college student, seemed taken aback by the idea. "You guys do plan on paying for all this stuff, right?"
"Oh yeah," Ronnie replied as everyone else nodded. "In fact, we're heading to the checkout, now."
"Right," the man replied before he spoke into the radio he was holding. "Manager to the front, please."
By the time the boys and the security guy made it to the front register, the store manager, along with two or three other employees were already there waiting for them.
"Sir?" the only man wearing a white business shirt instead of a red 'Target' polo shirt stepped forward. "Before we get started, may I ask how you plan on paying for all this, today?"
Desmond reached into his pocket and pulled out the credit card he had been given earlier. "By Credit Card, assuming that's not going to be a problem."
"It won't be a problem at all," the manager replied. "If you don't mind, I would like to run a quick check on your card, just so we can try to avoid any unexpected issues. I'm sure you can understand that it's not a normal occurrence for people to purchase as much as this."
Desmond nodded in agreement as he gave the man the card. "Of course."
The manager walked over to the customer service desk and began to run the card through their computer system. A few minutes later, he walked back over with a smile on his face. "Do you mind if I also see your drivers license, sir?" Taking the offered license, the man looked carefully at it for several long moments before handing both the license and the card back to Desmond. "Thank you Mr. Jones. It would seem that everything is in order here, as you appear to have a sufficiently high credit limit."
"Thanks," Desmond replied, accepting back both items.
With that, the process of ringing everything up began. Even with two other employee's helping, it still took nearly a half hour to get through everything in all four carts, and ended up costing well over three-thousand dollars.
"Thank you, please have a nice day," the cashier smiled toward Desmond, as the payment finished going through.
"Thanks," Ronnie answered for the older man. "But this is just our first pass. As soon as we get these unloaded, in our SUV, we'll be back."
"Right," the cashier chuckled, clearly not believing the small boy. Imagine the look on her face when less than 10 minutes after the progression of carts left the store, the same group of people walked back in with four freshly emptied carts.
This time around, the group started in the girls department, and grabbed a good amount of clothes. Since they weren't expecting to have nearly as many girls running around as boys, they didn't clear out the entire department nearly as bad. In fact, only about half of the first cart was filled.
From there, the group made their way to the men's department, followed by the women's department. The general plan was to have a good supply of clothing available to be able to provide to anyone that might show up. And, given the UNIT's past history, that could be just about anyone.
With the first two carts filled up, and all the clothing gathered, the next target for the trip was the home furnishings department where they picked up a number of small nick-nacks that could be used to help personalize rooms. After that, it was off to the toy department where almost an entire cart was filled with one or two of nearly every board game and boxed puzzle set the store had. A good amount of room was taken by arts and crafts supplies. Even a few models were thrown in for good measure.
With almost an entire cart still empty, the boys walked out of the toy department and into the electronics department. Since the geek group (Haden, Theodore, and Robert) were going to be handling all of the computers and personal electronics, they didn't need to worry about the majority of the stuff in that department. What they did need to worry about, however, was game consoles.
To everyone's surprise, the same nine-year-old boy with the scraggly hair that they had seen when they first arrived almost two hours ago, was still standing in front of the Play Station 3, playing some type of race car game. Wearing a ragged green army-style jacket, over a blue sweater, it was fairly obvious that the kid's parents more than likely didn't have the money to buy any of games that were being displayed, let alone pay for the game console to play them on.
As soon as the boy saw Ronnie and the others approaching, he immediately paused the game, and held the controller out toward Barrett. "You wanna try?" he asked politely.
Barrett looked at the controller and shook his head. "No thanks. I'm not really that good."
"I'll try," Ronnie spoke up, accepting the controller. The boy took a step back as Ronnie began to play.
"That was nice of you to share like that," Barrett commented. "I'm Barrett, by the way."
"I'm Edward," the boy smiled back. "And it's nothing. I've been playing awhile, so I don't mind letting someone else have a turn."
"Yeah, we saw you when we first came in the store an hour or two ago," Barrett observed.
Edward nodded in agreement. "My parents can be pretty slow shoppers sometimes."
Everyone watched in awe as Ronnie zoomed his race car around the track, waving in and out between other cars while avoiding obstacles at the same time. As time went on, no one seemed to notice Edward slowly edging his way back behind everyone else. No one, that is, except for Hac. Given the smells that were coming off the boy, Hac was keeping a very close eye on him. As such, as soon as Edward gently brushed against Desmond's back, grabbing the man's wallet in the process, Hac was already turning in his direction.
The boy let out a surprised yelp as he didn't get more than six or seven feet away before a small hand grabbed hold of him, and held him in place with a force that was far greater than should have been possible. "Let go of me!" he squealed as he looked in surprise at the slightly taller boy who seemed to be holding him with ease.
"I don't think that was very nice, do you?" Hac asked calmly as he held out one of his hands to accept something, while still firmly keeping hold of the boy with the other.
"What?" the boy called out, doing his best to play ignorant. At the same time, drawing the attention of Desmond and the other kids.
With a sigh, Hac reached into one of the large front pockets on the boy's jacket, and pulled out a dark-tan leather wallet, and made a point to show it in front of the boy's eyes.
"That's my wallet!" Desmond announced with surprise, as he felt his back pocket. "How did you get that?"
Although the boy had stopped struggling, and simply stood there looking pitiful, he said nothing.
"Do your parents know about your little hobby?" Barrett asked, once he realized what was going on.
"More than likely, they support it," Ronnie sighed. "He's probably pretty good at it, if Mr. Jones. didn't even feel it being taken."
By this point, a few of the store employee's had taken notice of the commotion, and one of the security guys was walking over to them. "I'm sorry, is this kid bothering you?" the man asked as he looked down at the boy with contempt. "We get little brats in here all the time that think they own the place."
To Hac's surprise, instead of trying to get away, the boy pushed himself closer to Hac, as he shook his head. "No, I'm with them."
"I seriously doubt that. You've been in here the last two hours playing that video game," the man stated. "I would have called the cops on you sooner, but we were busy helping these fine people."
"I am!" the boy protested.
Going by the boy's smell, and his behavior, Hac could tell that something was very wrong with this picture. If he really had parents here in the store, why didn't he try to call out to them, or go to them. No, the smells on this kid were all wrong for a kid sheltered by parents. Yet, if he were your typical street kid, he should know the police would more than likely take him to a shelter where he would at least have food and a bed, but that seemed to terrify the kid even more. Finally, he made a judgement call as he pulled Edward in closer to him, and wrapped an arm around his chest. "Why wouldn't he be with us?" he asked. "Ed doesn't like shopping much, so we told him he could mess around with the video games until we were done."
A suspicious look crept across the man's face as he looked up toward Desmond for confirmation.
Desmond, of course, knew the boy wasn't theirs, and he wasn't really sure why Hac was trying to stick up for the kid. With that being said, in the very short time he had gotten to know these guys, one thing that was clear was that they were able to perceive things that many adults could not. If Hac felt it was necessary to claim the kid as theirs, and neither Barrett nor Ronnie were showing any sign of objecting, it would probably be best to go along with the idea, at least for now. "Of course he's with us," Desmond replied firmly. "And frankly, I'm a bit concerned by the tone you're using toward him."
The attitude of the security guard immediately shifted. "Oh, I'm sorry, sir. I didn't realize he was with you. You have to understand we get street kids in here all the time trying to cause trouble."
Desmond nodded, "That's understandable. Your efforts are commendable."
"If you guys need any further assistance with anything, please let either myself or one of my other associates know," the man stated with a slight bow before he turned and quickly walked away.
Desmond looked toward Hac, who in turn talked softly so that only the boy and their small group could hear him. "Okay, kid, first things first. I don't know your story, but here's the deal. The first time I start to think that you're lying to me, I'll march you up to the security station myself and hand you off to them, got it?"
"Trust me," Barrett jumped in. "Hac is really good at telling when someone's lying."
It was unclear as to whether it was the fear of being turned back over to the security guy, on the fact that the unnaturally strong and fast kid who had ahold on him was named 'Hac', but Edward hesitantly nodded.
"Good. First, am I right that you live on the streets, and you don't have any other family here?" Hac asked.
"Okay, me and my friends might be able to help you, but this isn't the place to talk," Hac explained. "We need to finish shopping and get checked out. Once we get outside to the van, we'll talk more. Until then, you stand with me. If you try to take anything that isn't yours, or you get more than twenty-four inches away from me, we'll be taking a walk back to the security station, clear?"
Edward took a moment to look at the serious expression on Hac's face, as well as the expressions of the other boys, and the adult, that were also looking at him. Fear was clearly on the boy's face as he nodded in understanding.
Feeling somewhat assured that the boy both understood the seriousness of his situation, and that he would honor his side of the agreement as long as Hac didn't appear to let his guard drop, which Hac had no intention of doing, he released him.
"Okay, first question," Hac asked, speaking a bit louder. "What game were you just playing. And do you think other kids your age would like playing it?"
Although Edward thought the question a bit odd, he nodded. "It's called Indi-Racer 2012, and yeah, It's one of the best race games that have ever come out for the PS3."
"Great," Hac smiled as he found the display case where the game was being held and grabbed two copies of it.
"What's a PS3?" Barrett asked.
Ignoring the fact that he could not see how another kid his age could possibly not know what a PS3 was, he pointed to a large box on one of the shelves behind him. "That thing. You need that to play PS3 games."
"We should get a couple of those, as well, then," Hac stated as he placed a few in the fourth cart.
Over the next 10 minutes, they ended up grabbing two Game Cubes, and two X-Box 360s, in addition to a rather large assortment of games that Edward claimed were popular for each.
Once they were done in electronics, it was back to the front registers with four more loaded carts. This time, the employees seemed to have smartened up a little, and used two different registers to ring them up at the same time. Thus, the process only took about fifteen minutes. The entire time this was going on, Edward stayed surprisingly close to Hac. At the same time, however, Hac made a point to ensure that he always had the smaller boy in eye-sight. Once or twice when he began to get a feeling that the kid might try to bolt, he let out a soft grunt just to let him know that he was still there.
"Okay, that's a lot of stuff," Edward commented as they loaded the SUV up to the point that they could barely fit anything else into it.
Hac nodded in agreement as he patted Ronnie, who had figured out how to best organize everything to efficiently pack it into the SUV. "You did pretty good. I honestly was not expecting all of that to fit."
"Thanks," Ronnie beamed with pride. "Adam didn't make me U.N.I.T.'s head quartermaster for nothing, you know?"
"What's U.N.I.T.?" Edward asked curiously.
Ronnie was about to answer, but Hac jumped in first. "It's not something you need to know about, yet," he stated as he motioned toward one of the SUV doors. "Jump in, we still need to have that little chat."
Edward swallowed hard as he nearly forgot about the agreement he made with Hac earlier. Although he was sure he should know better, there was something about this group of kids, and the way that they interacted, supported, and encouraged each other that made him want to trust them. Even the adult that was with them seemed fairly decent.
Once Edward and the others were inside, Hac turned his full attention toward him. "Thanks for holding up your side of the deal. You had a few chances to bolt, which you didn't take."
Edward nodded. "Yeah, I doubt I would have gotten that far if I tried."
"You wouldn't," Hac agreed. "I'm a little quicker and stronger than I look."
"Yeah, thanks, I think I figured that part out already," Edward replied, as he rubbed his still sore shoulder from where Hac had grabbed onto him earlier.
"Okay, first question," Hac began. "And remember, I am pretty good at telling if you are lying. The first time I feel you are, this is over. How long have you lived on the streets?"
"Two years," Edward answered truthfully.
Hac nodded. "Okay, and how long ago did you loose your older brother?"
Edward, as well as everyone else in the SUV gasped in surprise. "How did you…" he began, before he stopped himself.
"Okay, you can't tell me your sense of smell could tell you that," Ronnie stated in surprise.
"Have I mentioned that Hac has a very good sense of smell?" Barrett asked.
"It's simple, really," Hac continued. "It's obvious the kid has a strong degree of street smarts, as well as a lot of survival skills. At the same time, there is a hesitation there, a hint of insecurity that suggests he's uncomfortable working alone, and that there is someone else missing that he trusts."
"Couldn't that have also been like a pimp or someone?" Ronnie asked curiously. "Why specifically an older brother?"
"It could have been," Hac agreed. "However, most street pimps are into a lot of drugs and such. I don't smell any of that on the kid. Further, I get a sense of not only strong loyalty, but a strong bond with whoever he lost. You usually don't see that in a street pimp. The only logical possibility would have been someone really close, like a brother, and it's far more likely that he would have looked up toward an older brother than a younger brother."
"Damn," Ronnie commented.
"Told ya, he was good," Barrett smiled.
Edward nodded in agreement. "My older brother, yeah. About six weeks ago, they got him."
"They?" Desmond asked softly.
Hac held up his hand toward Desmond, indicating that he didn't want to go in that direction just yet. "If you had been picked up by the police, they would more than likely have taken you to a shelter. But that seemed to scare the crap out of you. What I want to know is, why? Did they catch you stealing from them or something?"
"No," Edward shook his head. "We're in the North Central zone of the city."
"And that should mean something?" Hac asked, after he and everyone else shared confused glances with each other.
"The temple district?" Edward continued. "Mormons?"
"Oh them," Ronnie sighed.
"You know of them?" Barrett asked looking toward Ronnie.
Ronnie nodded. "You could say that. We have some history with them from back at our… erm… old house, or rather, their results."
"They, Mormons, they try to hurt you?" Hac continued.
"No," Edward replied. "As long as you are the way they expect you to be, they can be really nice and kind to you."
"The way they expect you to be?" Barrett asked.
Hac could tell the question made the boy feel very uneasy, and that he was looking for a lie to respond with. "Remember what I told you about lying," Hac reminded.
"Fine, I'll tell you the truth; once you know, you'll probably want to take me there anyway, so what's it matter?" Edward sighed heavily. "They feel that being gay goes against god's desires and purposes for you. And that those who might feel they are gay are actually sick and in need of… extended spiritual guidance."
"And you feel you're gay?" Hac asked seriously.
Edward shrugged. "Honestly, I don't know one way or the other. But Sid was, my brother."
"What do Mormons have to do with the police or the homeless shelters?" Desmond asked, clearly not able to put things together.
"The Mormons run a huge shelter off of Temple Square, they see it as one of their missions or something," Edward replied.
"Can't you ask to be taken to another shelter?" Barrett jumped in.
Edward shook his head. "They have an agreement with the police or something. So anyone that has to be taken to a shelter in the North Central part of the city is taken there."
"Okay, next question," Hac continued. "When you said 'they' got your brother. Do you mean the Mormons?"
Edward slowly nodded his head. "When we stay at the shelter, our beds are always next to each other. About two weeks ago, a bunch of people came in the middle of the night and took Sid away. The next morning, I asked them about it, and they said they didn't know anything about it. But I'm sure I recognized the voice of one of them as one of the Elders that helps out at the shelter a lot, and I've never seen him since."
"I don't sense any deception," Hac announced, following the curious looks from the others. "He believes that what he is saying is true."
"Well, I guess it's safe to say that going back to that shelter isn't really that good of an idea," Ronnie stated flatly. "Could we take him to a shelter in another part of town?"
"Tried that," Edward shook his head. "They are all networked together or something. As soon as they put my name in the computer, they saw that I was registered to the Temple District, and they sent me back there."
"Ouch," Ronnie sighed.
"You know," Desmond spoke up. "I know I'm just one of the lowly adults around here, and that I'm pretty new to all this, but I'm pretty sure my hearing is still good. Didn't I hear correctly that back at your old 'home', you guys fairly regularly rescued other kids from bad situations like this? Something about a Safe-Haven Act or something?"
"Wow, your ears really do work, don't they?" Ronnie grinned. "What you heard is true, the problem is, in this universe… erm… place… the Safe Haven Act doesn't exist. And, we don't have the same authority here that we use to have."
"Like that's going to stop you guys from doing what's right," Barrett shot back.
Ronnie grinned and pulled out one of the radios. "I could probably radio in and ask Will to ask Adam or something, but do we even know the kid wants to go with us?"
Barrett shrugged as Hac turned back toward him. "Okay Edward, you've been pretty straight-forward with us, and other than your little hobby, you seem like a pretty decent kid."
"I only do that so I can eat," Edward defended.
"I know what has to be done to survive on the streets," Hac nodded in agreement. "Let me ask you this. What if we could take you from here, take you away from the city completely, and bring you somewhere else where… well, I guess where you might have a chance to do something else for yourself. Would you be interested in going?"
"I don't know," Edward replied after several seconds of hard thought. "I know Sid has to be out there somewhere, he just has to be. And I don't want to give up looking for him."
"No one is saying you would have to," Barrett jumped in. "In fact, I bet if it's possible for him to be found, some of the new friends you would be meeting would know how to find him."
"What would those 'friends' want in return?" Edward asked with concern.
"Nothing like you're probably thinking," Hac replied. "You would never be asked to do anything you're not willing or feel comfortable doing. The only thing that would be asked is that you are true to yourself, and try the hardest that you can to be the best you can be."
"That sounds almost too good to be true," Edward replied coldly. "But then again, there is something odd about you guys that I can't really put me finger on. I know if Sidney were here, he would tell me to run like hell away from you, but… I'm not stupid, I know how bad the odds are for a kid my age surviving on his own on the streets, especially without a gang or pimp to run with… so what the hell, if what you say is true, then yes, I would."
Hac nodded as he glanced toward Ronnie, who was already putting the radio up to his mouth. "Check List to Viper Lead."
"Viper Lead here. What's wrong, get lost already Check List?" Will's voice replied.
"Ha ha, very funny," Ronnie answered. "Actually, we've run into a bit of a situation that I think I'm going to need you to contact Commando about."
"What kind of situation?" Will replied.
"Well, you see," Ronnie continued. "We kinda found this nine-year-old kid here at Target."
Before Ronnie could finish, Will's voice rang out from the radio in laughter. "Sorry dude, but you're about an hour late."
"Huh?" Ronnie replied, a bit confused.
"Gyro already beat you in the rescue department. Commando has cleared possible rescues, if the situation warrants it. However, one of the Sages will need to scan whoever you found before we are able to take them to the Castle."
"Yeah, roger that," Ronnie smiled. "We pretty much have a full load, so we will be heading back to the nest soon anyway."
"See ya when you get here then, Viper Lead out." Will stated before the radio went dead.
"What did he mean by already beating you in the rescue department?" Desmond asked curiously.
Ronnie grinned. "Well, apparently we're not the only group who is bringing home a new friend."
Desmond shook his head, smiling. "So, shall we head back to Viper Nest?"
"You sure you're up for this, Edward?" Barrett asked seriously.
"I think so," he replied hesitantly. "But what did that guy mean about having someone scan me? You mean for weapons and stuff?"
"No," Hac shook his head. "A few of our friends are… well, you can call them telepaths, and they are able to read the minds of others. One of them will have to take a peak in your head to make sure that you can really be trusted, and aren't secretly planning on hurting us or anything."
"Oh," Edward replied with concern.
"You don't have to worry about anything you've had to do to survive on the streets, or anything like that," Barrett quickly jumped in. "They are not going to be looking for anything little like that, just… well… there are some other really important secrets we are protecting, and before too much is said to you… well…"
"Okay, I think I get the idea," Edward replied. "Not that I really believe mind readers exist, but if it makes you guys feel more comfortable, I don't mind."
Hac and Barrett both nodded as Desmond started the engine. A minute later they were pulling out of the parking lot, on their way back to where the Chinook was waiting for them.
"You guys know where we're going, right?" Ernest asked as he followed Desmond's SUV out of the train station parking lot.
"I'm pretty sure Haden knows," Robert offered. "Since he's the one with the list."
"Me?" Haden asked with surprise. "I'm not the one with the laptop."
"Hey! It's not my fault there are like a thousand computer and electronics stores in Salt Lake City," Theodore commented as he frivolously tapped away on the laptop. "Who would call a computer store Crazy Cindy's Computers, anyway?"
"Sounds like a cool name to me," Robert replied.
"Remarkable. You boys can figure out how to mount a rescue for the former and soon-to-be President of the United States, you can get new Credit Cards and ID's shipped somewhere overnight, but you can't figure out what store you want to go shopping at?" Ernest stated as he watched Desmond's SUV make a quick right turn down another street. "Well, he certainly seems to know where he's wanting to go."
"I know exactly where I want to go," Theodore defended. "The problem is, there are so many of them, I have to calculate a route that best optimizes our available time and resources."
"I don't know about you guys, But that's one of the best excuses I've heard in awhile," Robert grinned.
"It's not an excuse," Theodore shot back. "If you think it's so easy, you decide where we should go first."
"It's simple," Robert began. "The way I see it, there are really only two choices. If you are looking for electronic components, or commercial electronics like security cameras, scanners, radios or stuff, then you would want to go to somewhere like a Radio Shack. If you are looking for high end consumer electronics, like Computers and stuff, you would want to go to somewhere like Best Buy. From what I saw of the list, our biggest issue is going to be grabbing components and commercial electronics, so I would suggest hitting Radio Shack first."
"That was exactly what I was thinking," Theodore nodded in agreement as he turned the laptop screen so robert could see it, revealing a map of the city with nine different markers on it labeled A thru I. "The problem is, which ones in which order to create the most optimal route?"
"Oh, there are nine different Radio Shacks in the city? Wow," Robert commented as he studied the map for a few moments. "It's a simple find-the-shortest-route problem. I'm going to guess that blue star is us, so I would think B-E-G-A-C-D-I-H-F, in that order."
Theodore smiled with satisfaction in the fact that in only a few seconds, Robert was able to correctly calculate the best route in his head. Of course, with the speed of his posatronic matrix, Theodore had the best route calculated ages ago. He had actually been stalling since he was having a quick conference with the other chipmunks on a completely different matter. "Not bad, Robert. I think you nailed it perfectly."
Earnest looked toward Theodore. "Son, if someone doesn't give me a clue pretty quickly in regards to where we are going, I'm going to stop this SUV right here in the middle of the highway, and it ain't going to be pretty."
"Oh yeah," Theodore turned the laptop back toward him. "Sorry about that. You'll want to make a left at the next light."
It only took a few minutes for Ernest to reach the first Radio Shack, and for the group of four to make their way out of the SUV toward the store. Ernest ended up chuckling to himself at the dead serious expressions on the faces of all three boys. They clearly appeared to be set on their mission.
"That's it?" Haden asked as they approached the small store in the strip mall. "I kind of expected it to be a little bigger."
"You would be surprised at how much they can pack into a small little store, like this, especially when you're talking small components." Robert offered back.
Haden simply shrugged as the group reached the door and walked inside.
The store itself was organized in two main sections. The front of the store featured a number of small displays and tables featuring cell phones, phone components, toys, radios, and other small components. The back of the store consisted of four isles containing shelves that were filled with an assortment of other electronics that ranged from everything between car stereos to small digital T.V. satellite receivers. In the center, to the right side side wall was a long counter where a man wearing a business shirt stood talking on the phone to someone.
"Remote control cars? Flashing Alarm Clocks? Laser Tag guns?" Theodore commented as he looked around the front area. "This looks more like a toy store than an electronics store."
Robert shrugged. "It's getting close to christmas, so they have a bunch of their toys out. The area you guys are probably going to be interested in is back here." Robert led the way to one of the isles in the back of the store. There, he motioned toward a large number of color coded cabinets that lined both sides of the isle. As Haden and Theodore quickly found out, the cabinets were filled with a wide assortment of various electronic components, including transistors, resistors, diodes, LED's, some Integrated logic circuit chips and more, while above, the cabinets had a good selection of books, breadboards, circuit test kits, and other larger items.
"Okay, now we are starting to get closer to what I was expecting," Haden smiled as he started to cheerfully look through the various cabinets.
"You boys actually understand what all that stuff is?" Ernest asked with surprise as he looked over Haden and Theodore's shoulders.
All three boys looked back and nodded with huge grins on their faces.
"Okay, well you buys get what you need, I'm going to look at the stuff up front," Ernest replied as he left the boys to their work. The salesman behind the counter, however, was not as willing to just let the boys rummage through the cabinets.
"May I help you boys?" the man asked after ending his call and rushing over to the isle the boys were standing in. "The remote control cars and other toys are at the front of the store."
"Yeah, probably right next to the digital pacifiers," Robert commented.
"Look kids, this isn't really an area for you guys to be rummaging around in," the man went on, ignoring Robert's jab. "this area is more for adult hobbyists who know what they're doing."
Haden picked up a small package containing a tiny Integrated Circuit chip, as he turned toward the man. "Excuse me, sir, since you seem to work here, would you mind telling me what the millisecond propagation delay time is when going from logical one to zero for this NTE74C04 Hex Inverter IC chip with a control current of seven point five volts applied to VCC pin fourteen? I can't seem to find it listed on the packaging here."
"What?" the man asked as he looked toward Haden.
"The propagation delay time from an on to off state for this chip," Haden restated. "I need it to be less than 20 milliseconds. Does the internal architecture of this support that? Actually, if you can give me the industry standard delay times for five and ten volts, I can do the conversion to seven and a half volts."
"You're just spewing off a bunch of gibberish," the man stated as he snatched the package out of Haden's hands. "Come back in a few years when you actually know what you're talking about, and then we'll talk."
"I hate to say it, son, but that boy there is smarter than you and I put together," Ernest stated with irritation as he walked up behind the man. "Now, do you know the answer to Haden's question or not?"
The man spun around toward Ernest and then quickly backed away once he saw the look on the older man's face. After spending a few seconds figuring out how to best handle the situation, he swallowed hard. "Everything that you could possibly need to know about the chip is printed on the labeling," as the man said this, he pushed the package into Ernest's hands. "Now, do you want to buy it for the kid or not?"
Ernest scowled at the man for a few seconds, as if trying to decide what the best way to cause the man the most amount of physical harm might be. A few moments after that, however, his attitude softened as he looked toward Theodore. "What did you say the dollar value of the stuff we were needing to pick up was going to be?"
Not missing a beat, Theodore glanced at his list. "Well, it's hard to say. Just with the fiberoptic cabling and full color security cameras alone, we're looking at thousands of dollars worth."
Ernest nodded. "And you said there were nine Radio Shacks in Salt Lake City,"
"In the immediate area of the city, yes. More if you consider the areas outside of the city," Theodore replied.
Ernest nodded as he allowed the package the salesman shoved in his hands, to fall to the ground. "Come on, boys, we'll go to one of those other stores. I happen to know for a fact that the sales reps at these Radio Shacks get paid by commissions, and I'll be damned if that man is going to get one cent of our money."
Haden, Theodore, and Robert all nodded in agreement as they followed Ernest out of the store.
"Sir, you need to pay for that chip that you let fall to the floor," the sales man called out as they were leaving.
"Like hell I do," Ernest replied without looking back as he and the boys walked out the door.
Since the next closest Radio Shack was only a few blocks up the street, it only took a few minutes of driving to get there. "I apologize if I overstepped myself back there, boys," Ernest commented as they drove.
"You don't need to apologize," Haden replied. "That guy was a real jerk. When you mentioned they get paid based on commission, I don't think I would have wanted any of our money to go to him either."
"I agree," Theodore commented as he checked something on his laptop. "I think you did exactly what the rest of us were thinking."
"That's good to hear," Ernest stated as he put the SUV in park, and turned off the engine. "In that case, I think we're going to get along just fine."
Like the first, this Radio Shack was also located in a small strip mall, nestled between a Bill's Barber shop, and a small mexican taco shop. Unlike the first store, this one had two employee's in it. A man in his mid thirties dressed in a business suit, and a college-age boy in his late teens dressed in a white business shirt.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen," The man in the business suit, who was most likely the store manager, said as the group entered. "Is there anything that I can help you with today."
"Good afternoon," Ernest replied as he stopped in the front portion of the store, and allowed the boys to continue past to the back. "There is nothing off hand, but I appreciate the offer. I just brought my boys in to look around a bit."
"Great, just let me know if you need anything," The man nodded as he walked back over to the counter to address the sandy-blond haired college-age boy. "As you can see, Richie, not everyone is going to know exactly what they need. So sometimes you just need to let them browse around a bit, and make it clear that you are here to help them if they need it."
The teen nodded as he motioned with his head toward where the three boys were headed. "Got it, but didn't you say most of the kids that come in here are more interested in the toys in the front of the store?"
Since the layout of this store was very similar to the first store they had gone in, Haden and the other two boys made a Bee-line straight for where the isle of color-coded drawers was located, and as such, the vast assortment of components they contained within them.
Taking the older teen's cue, and seeing where the younger boys were headed, the store manager was close behind them. "Is there something I can help you buys find?" he asked politely, yet with a small degree of concern.
"Not really, so far everything seems to be organized the same as it was in the first store we went to," Haden commented as he pulled out the same small chip package that he had previously. "I do have a question for you, though." Seeing the man nod slightly, he continued. "Could you tell me what the millisecond propagation delay time is when going from logical one to zero for this NTE74C04 Hex Inverter IC chip with a control current of seven point five volts applied to VCC pin fourteen? It doesn't seem to be listed on the packaging, and I need to figure out if it's below twenty milliseconds or not."
The manager blinked a few times before he slowly shook his head. "I don't think I even understand what you just asked me, let alone the answer to it."
"Oh, I can figure that out," the college boy, Richie, called out as he walked over to the computer. "All of the technical specs on everything we sell should be on our intranet. Give me a second to look that up. That's the NTE74C04, right?"
The manager seemed a bit surprised at how quickly his trainee had jumped in, but he took a step back to allow the interaction to continue.
"Yeah, that's the one," Haden replied.
"Okay, here we go… the NTE74C04 by NTE Electronics… I don't see a seven and a half volt propagation time listed here. However, it lists a five volt typical time of fifty milliseconds and a ten volt typical time of thirty milliseconds," Richie called out.
"That kid's question made sense to you?" the manager asked in surprise, "I mean, good job, Richie."
"Yeah, it was just a basic fundamental characteristic question," Richie answered. "I'm studying for an electronics major in school, which is one of the reasons I wanted to work at a Radio Shack."
"I don't suppose you have any inverter IC's with less than a twenty millisecond delay?" Haden asked. "A large part of the project design we are working on depends on that."
"Oh man, for an inverter, that's going to be pretty tight, lemme poke around in here real quick and see what I can come up with," Richie answered. "No… not that… not that either,"
'Haden, you know we could easily have Alvin or Simon check the net for the proper components, right?' Theodore sent to Haden mentally through the link.
Haden looked toward Theodore and smiled as he sent back. 'I know, but this seems to work out as a good test.'
"Ah, here we go," Richie stated as he walked from behind the counter, past Haden and the manager, and to the drawer with the chips in them. "Yeah, this should work. It's an Inverter IC from Renesas, HD74LS04. It's fifty cents more than the NTE one, but it's propagation times are ten and fifteen milliseconds."
Haden smiled cheerfully as he accepted the package from the teen. "Thanks. We'll take every one you have in stock."
"Okay," the teen replied, slightly surprised. "We should have eleven or twelve of them here."
"We'll also take every other 74 series logic chip you have from Renesas, assuming that they meet the same standards."
"Really?" Richie asked with even more surprise as he first looked toward his manager, and then toward Ernest.
Ernest, for his part, nodded his head. "Son, if that's what the boy says we need, then that's what we'll be taking."
"Yes sir," Richie replied as he started pulling out chips from the cabinet, and taking them over to the counter to look them up and verify their propagation times. In all, 36 different chips met Haden's requirements, such such he bought out their complete stock of each chip, which wasn't really that much, since for some chips they only had 2 or 3, and the chips cost between one to two dollars each.
Next came the assortment of other components, including transistors, resistors, LED's, diodes, capacitors, and more. Each time Haden or Theodore would have specific requirements in regards to what they needed, and each time Richie did his best to look the information up for them.
As Richie worked, the manager walked up behind him, and talked low enough that he thought no one else would hear him. "Something else you need to take into consideration. You've been helping these kids for about an hour now, and you might have come up with a hundred or two dollars worth of stuff. While you've been doing that, I've helped three other customers with over three hundred dollars worth of stuff."
Richie looked up toward the manager, not sure what to say. He didn't like the idea of blowing customers off, especially this group of kids which somehow seemed different from your typical kid. At the same time, he knew his pay was commission based, and his manager had a valid point.
"Oh, that's okay," Haden jumped in as a put a box of high-end remote control security cameras on the counter. "We haven't even started to get into the big things on our list."
Both the manager and Richie watched in surprise as Theodore and Robert brought up several boxes of other higher end radios, scanners, and security equipment and started piling it up on the front counter next to the box of smaller components they had been gathering.
"Oh, what do you guys have in the area of CAT-5 Network Cable, and Fiberoptic Cable?" Haden smiled as the boxes in the front counter continued to pile up.
"Which kind of Fiberoptic cable do you need?" Richie asked curiously, "We have your standard 9 by 125, 50 by 125, or 62.5 by 125 core diameter cable."
"Great, we'll take all of it," Theodore stated as he added a few iPad's to the pile of boxes.
The Manager's mouth nearly fell off as Richie quickly walked to the back to get all the Fiber cable they had. By the time everything was said and done, the boys ended up purchasing close to 10,000 dollars worth of stuff. The manager never again mentioned anything to Richie about wasting his time with kids.
"Do you guys have a phone number or e-mail address?" Richie asked after he finished scanning everything they were buying into the computer."
"What do you need those for?" Haden asked after he and Theodor shared a concerned look with each other.
"It's something we have to ask for," Richie replied. "It's how the system tracks all the orders and such."
Theodore closed his eyes for a few moments. "Sure, go ahead and use the phone number (164)554-1300 and e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org."
'Are those real?' Haden asked mentally through the link.
'Yup,' Theodore replied. 'The phone number goes to one of the cell phones we just activated, and the e-mail address goes to a double blind drop box that we can check from time to time, but no one can figure out where we are at from the address.'
"Thanks guys, you've definitely made my day on this," Richie smiled as he printed the final receipt and handed it to Ernest, "Do you guys need some help out with all this? It's the least I could do."
"You've earned it with how helpful you've been," Theodore stated. "And if you want to help carry some of this, that would be cool. Our SUV is right outside.
Richie nodded and helped carry everything out. When they were done, he handed Haden one of his business cards. "If you guys have any problems with any of this, or need help with anything else, just give me a ring."
"We will, thanks," Haden smiled as he accepted the card. With a final wave to Richie and the still shocked looking manager, Ernest and the boys loaded up into the SUV and pulled out of the parking lot.
"Where to next, boys?" Ernest asked as they drove down the road.
Haden glanced in the back of the truck. "We still have a good amount of room. You guys want to hit a Best Buy, or another Radio Shack?"
"Best Buy," Robert quickly answered. "I'm not sure if I can handle another Radio Shack just yet."
Theodore looked up from his laptop and grinned. "Best Buy works for me. You'll want to turn left after we pass two more lights."
Five minutes later, the SUV was pulling into the parking lot of Best Buy. "Okay, now this is a bit closer to what I was expecting," Haden commented as he saw the much larger store. Once the boys walked inside, Haden smiled. "Yeah, I definitely think I'm going to like this place."
"Just remember, we want to at least try to stick to the items on our list," Theodore grinned as he too looked around.
"If you guys like this place, just wait until we get to visit a city that has a Frys in it. You guys will probably never want to leave it." Robert smiled.
"Frys, huh?" Theodore thought out loud. "I'll have to talk to my brothers about us buying that place sometime."
"Yeah, right," Robert giggled. "And it's not just one store, it's a whole chain of them."
"Chains are even better," Theodore grinned as he walked over to the stereo and radio area.
For the next half hour, the boys walked around slowly, collecting items from their list, but for the most part they were looking around at stuff. Robert was looking around mainly because he thought everything was really cool, while Haden and Theodore were focusing more on trying to get a better idea of the differences in what civilian tech here was like, and how to best apply it.
While Theodore and Haden were off in the Home Office department, Robert had gravitated into the stereo section, and then into the the television section where all kinds of large screen TV's were setup on display. All of the images being displayed were of the same station, showing one of those day time court drama shows, Judge Wendy, or something like that.
Robert was just about to move on when the program went off, and a local news announcer came on. "Over a million Utah citizens are expected to go to the polls this election day, while many state and federal agencies continue to deal with the aftermath of yesterday's cyber attacks," the announcer stated, immediately catching Robert's attention.
"Good Afternoon, I'm Vanessa Kingston, and here are some of the top stories we're preparing for you on Eye-Witness News at Five," the lady continued. "Already today, accusations have been flying around from both the Ashwood and Bryce camps regarding possible instances of voter fraud, as citizens around the country go out to vote in what may turn out to be one of the most controversial elections in modern history. But who's the real looser in all this? We'll have that answer and more, coming up in tonight's newscast."
The entire country is a looser if Ashwood get's re-elected, Robert thought to himself.
"Also, the FBI and NSA are calling it one of the worst cyber terrorist attacks seen to date," the anchorwoman stated as the scene changed to one of the sorriest looking low-end server computers Robert had ever seen. "Hundreds of State and Local agencies throughout Texas and connecting states were literally shut down for hours yesterday during a large scale collaborative cyber terrorist attack. Police stations, schools, banks, and credit card companies were only a few of the many targeted institutions that are still working on picking up the pieces today. What might international cyber terrorists hope to gain by their cyber attacks against the United States? And what can you do to help protect yourself against identity theft? We'll have answers to those questions and more for you tonight on Eye-Witness News at Five, right here on channel 28."
Robert slowly shook his head as the news went off and a commercial came on. He couldn't help but wonder what might have really been going on yesterday. He would have to make a point to see if he could get onto the underground net later tonight, at least there he would have a better chance of getting the real news stories.
Having had enough of TV's and radios, Robert made his way into the computer department, or more accurately, the laptop and tablet section where he was checking out one of the new iPad 4G tablets.
"They look pretty cool, don't they?" Robert heard a young voice say. "Technology here is slowly getting closer to the technology that was on my home world."
"Huh?" Robert asked with surprise as he looked up to see a light-brown haired boy about his age looking back at him from across the display table.
"Sorry, forget that I've said anything," The boy said as he shyly looked away. "I didn't mean to frighten you."
Robert quickly made his way around the table to stand closer to the boy. "Your home world? So you're not from this world, either?"
The boy looked into Robert's eyes as if to try to tell if Robert was planning on teasing him, before he slowly shook his head. "No. I was raised on a planet called Ribarous, a world populated by giant intelligent rabbits. We were passing this planet when our ship crashed, and I've been stranded here ever since."
"Wow, that's amazing," Robert gasped. "Why do you look like a human? Are you using a hologram or something?"
The boy shook his head. "I was genetically altered to look like one of your species before we left, just in case something bad happened."
"That sounds like some pretty sweet technology," Robert commented.
"Yeah, it has it's uses," the boy agreed.
"Um, would you like to meet some friends of mine?" Robert asked curiously. "I think they would love to meet you."
The boy tensed up a little. "They're not police or social workers, are they?"
"Nah," Robert shook his head. "They are some other friends I just met which are in a very similar position that you're in."
"I don't know, I really shouldn't have too much contact with Earthlings," the boy stated as he continued to watch Robert's face closely.
"Oh, I guess I can understand that," Robert sighed.
"But… Perhaps I can make an exception just this once," the boy continued.
"Cool," Robert grinned. "I'm Robert by the way."
"My true name is not pronounceable in your language," the boy stated. "However, you may call me Arthose."
"Great, just follow me Arthose, I think you're going to like them a bunch," Robert stated as he motioned for the boy to follow. Hesitantly at first, the boy did.
"Hey, guys! You're not going to believe this," Robert said excitedly causing both Haden and Theodore to glance up, "I think I found another of your guys."
"Our guys?" Theodore asked as he noticed the boy following behind Robert.
"Yup," Robert stated as he lowered his voice when he was closer to Theodore and Haden. "I would like you two to meet Arthose. He's from Ribarous."
"From where?" Haden asked as he couldn't quite place the name.
"From Ribarous, you know, the planet of giant intelligent rabbit people. He got stranded here just like you guys," Robert stated.
Both Haden and Theodore glanced toward the boy, who nodded in response. "My real name is not pronounceable in your language. But Arthose is close enough."
"A planet of intelligent rabbits?" Haden asked as Theodore allowed his mind to brush up against the boy's "You must have very good eyesight."
Arthose tilted his head, "You don't believe me, do you?"
Haden shook his head. "Not really, I've never heard of a planet of giant intelligent rabbits anywhere in the federation."
Theodore looked sharply at Haden. "That's not a nice thing to say."
Haden looked back at Theodore. 'You don't really think he's from a planet with giant rabbits, do you?' he sent mentally.
'Of course not,' Theodore sent back. 'I did a quick mental scan on him just to be sure. He's as close to a human boy as one could be, all be it a very scared human boy that may need our help.'
'What do you mean?' Haden asked as he quickly glanced toward Arthose to confirm that he didn't see any signs of fright on his face.
'Simon, Alvin, you guys listening?' Theodore sent, ignoring Haden's question.
'When are we ever NOT listening?' Simon replied.
'Yeah, stupid question, I know,' Theodore admitted. 'We might have run across a minor issue here.'
'You mean a fluffy white issue with big floppy ears?' Alvin asked.
Theodore sighed. 'I did a quick scan on him and it looks like both of his parents were killed by Ashwood. He's been living on the streets for the last week or two on his own. I'm pretty sure that when he get's picked up and put in the system, Ashwood might decide to finish his work. I'm sending you guys a summary of everything I found in his head.'
As Haden stood there listening to the mental conversation, and then getting portions of the mental dump that Theodore sent out, his heart sank.
'Theodore, go ahead and bring the kid back with you guys,' Logan jumped in. 'I'll deal with informing Adam about it.'
'Got it,' Theodore sent.
'What do we do about the rabbit planet?' Haden sent.
'You give it time,' Logan answered. 'I know you caught enough of the dump to have a general idea of what the kid has been through. Right now, that's how he is coping with what has happened. So for now, as long as it doesn't get too far out of hand, I don't see any reason to go against it.'
"You're right," Haden spoke aloud and nodded toward Theodore before turning toward Arthose. "The galaxy is pretty big, there is no way I could know about all the planets, so I shouldn't have been so quick to judge you."
Arthose blinked at Haden's quick change of attitude, but nodded none the less.
"You look like someone who is good at keeping secrets," Theodore stated as he too turned back toward the new kid. On seeing the boy nod, he continued. "We're not exactly from this planet, either."
"You're not?" Arthose asked in surprise.
Theodore shook his head. "No, but we can't really say much about it in public like this. I'll tell you what. How about we pool our resources together. You could come stay with us for a bit, it will help get you off the streets, and to a place of safety."
"Oh sweet, you mean he can come back with us?" Robert asked.
Arthose looked back and forth between the serious faces of Theodore and Haden for several moments. "I don't know about that. You guys are just normal human kids."
"Appearances can be deceiving," Theodore offered.
"Do normal human kids walk around with these?" Haden asked as he pulled back his sleeve a little, revealing a portion of his GEAR.
"Wicked," Arthose gasped. "What… what is it?"
"It's called a GEAR, it helps to protect me," Haden stated as he put his sleeve back down.
"Who are you guys, why are you telling me all this?" Arthose asked with concern.
"I already told you, we're out of place here, like you," Theodore answered. "The reason we're telling you this is that you seem like someone we can trust. If you don't want to come with us, you don't have to. But if you do come with us, it will be in a nice safe dry place, with warm food and a clean bed."
Arthos thought about his life on the streets over the last few weeks. Although he still wasn't completely sure what to think about his new friends, if they could take him somewhere that was better than the streets, he was willing to give it a shot. "Okay, I'm in. I want to go with you."
"Great," Theodore smiled as he offered his hand to Arthose. "We have to finish a little shopping, but then we can leave after that."
"Why would you bother with earth tech?" Arthos asked shaking Theodore's offered hand. "It can be so primitive at times."
"You would be surprised what you can do with primitive tech," Theodore grinned slyly as he saw Ernest walking up. "Ah, and here is someone else for you to meet."
Arthose tensed up as he spun around and saw intimidating look of the older man.
"It's okay Arthose, he won't hurt you, I promise," Theodore did his best to reassure his new friend. "Ernest, I would like you to meet Arthose. Arthose, this is our good friend Ernest."
"Well, don't you look like a fine young lad," Ernest said warmly as he held out his hand. "It's nice to meet you, son."
Arthose hesitantly nodded as he cautiously accepted Ernest's hand.
"Arthose is going to be going home with us," Theodore added.
"Is that so?" Ernest replied, being thrown off guard for only a few moments. "He must be pretty special, if he's going to be coming back with us."
"He is," Theodore replied as he noticed Arthose beam with pride a little.
It took another twenty minutes before the boys were able to finish collecting everything they were wanting to buy, including a few new high end computers. During nearly all of that time, Arthose stayed rather close to Robert, as Robert was asking about, and eating up everything Arthose had to say about Ribarous. Theodore and Haden were both impressed at how much thought and detail Arthose had put in about the planet he was from. If anything, the boy clearly had a very strong and vivid imagination.
It wasn't until they had made it through the checkout line, loaded everything into the SUV, and were on their way out of the parking lot before anything else of any importance was mentioned.
"Wow, you guys sure bought a lot of stuff," Arthose commented as he looked at the huge amount of stuff in the back. "Are we going to your spaceship now?"
"It's not exactly a spaceship," Theodore smiled. "But it's probably the next best thing."
All the boys sat in silence as Ernest drove the SUV down the highway, and toward the city limits. After they had driven about ten miles down the road, Arthose was starting to get a bit concerned as to what he might have gotten himself into. When they pulled off the highway onto a small dirt road that went through a small group of trees, he became even more concerned.
"Um, maybe I should get out," Arthose stated hesitantly.
"It's okay Arthose, no one is going to hurt you, I promise," Theodore stated seriously, as he started to pick up on some of the thoughts and concerns Arthose was having. "You'll see why we had to pull off the road in a few moments."
Arthose nodded hesitantly, as Theodore's words didn't do a whole lot to calm his fears. However, a few moments later when they pulled out of the trees and into a huge open field, it no longer mattered. There, on the other side of the field was one of the hugest helicopters he had ever seen. "Whoa, is that yours?" he asked in wonder.
"That's our ride home, yup." Theodore smiled as he watched the excitement build in the boy's face. "It's called a Chinook."
Once Ernest drove the SUV up the ramp and into the back of the huge helicopter, the boys jumped out. While Haden and Robert began to unload stuff, Theodore took Arthose toward the front of the Chinook where Will and Billy were hanging out.
"Will, Billy, I would like to introduce you to Arthose," Theodore announced, grabbing the attention of the two boys. "Arthose, these are the pilots that will be taking us home later, Will and his boyfriend Billy."
"Pilots? Seriously?" Arthose asked. "But they are kids just like us."
"That's right, they are," Theodore smiled.
"Ambassador," Will stated as both he and Billy gave a slight bow.
"Ambassador?" Arthose asked as he tilted his head.
Will nodded. "If you are the only Ribaran here on Earth, then that must make you an Ambassador for your people."
"Oh," Arthose smiled. "But I'm no one special. I'm just a normal Ribaran citizen who is stranded here."
"Still, that makes you an Ambassador," Billy jumped in.
"Also, how special you are depends on how special you believe yourself to be," Theodore jumped in. "Just because you might look like a kid doesn't mean you can't accomplish whatever you set your mind to. Just look at us."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Arthose agreed, although he still wasn't convinced.
"Would you like to look in the cockpit?" Will asked.
"Sure," Arthose replied. Moments later, Will was showing him the proper way to climb inside. "This is really cool."
"It is indeed," Will smiled fondly. "Although, I guess it wouldn't compare to the ships from your planet."
"Oh, um… yeah," Arthose stuttered as his enthusiasm quickly vanished. "It's certainly a lot more primitive than what I would be used to. But thanks for showing me," he stated as he climbed out.
"Anytime," Will called out as he watched Arthose walk back over to where Robert and the others were at. Moments after that, the radio crackled to life.
Arthose found Robert, Haden, and Theodore standing next to the now-empty SUV. "Wow, you guys got that unloaded fast."
Theodore nodded in agreement as he looked down at his shopping list. "Yeah, that was only our first load. We have at least another load of stuff we need to pick up."
"Another?" Arthos asked in surprise as he looked first at the empty SUV, and then inside the chinook where all the stuff had been stacked up. "What are you buying all this for, an army or something?"
"You could say that," Robert replied seriously.
Before Arthose had a chance to reply, another SUV pulled up causing him to take a few steps back.
"It's okay, Arthose," Haden stated, seeing the boy's concern. "These are more of our friends."
"Looks like they found themselves a new friend as well," Robert grinned as he watched four boys and an older adult step out of the SUV and start walking toward them.
"Hey guys," one of the new arrivals who looked almost exactly like Haden called out.
"Arthose?" Theodore made a point of getting the boy's attention. "I would like you to meet Ernest, Ronnie, Hac, and Haden's twin brother, Barrett. Along with their new friend…"
"Edward," Barrett filled in as he held his hand out toward Arthose, "and it's good to meet you, Arthose."
Arthose hesitantly accepted Barrett's hand as he glanced around at the cheerful faces of the others that were in his group. "So, why are you guys being so nice to me anyway?"
"That's what I've been trying to figure out," Edward agreed. "Everything in me shouts that these guys are too good to be true."
"Yet, here you are," Hac added. "You didn't have to come back with us, you know."
"It's what we do," Ronnie commented. "Helping other kids who need it, just like all the rest of us have been helped at one time or another in the past, and just like you guys will probably end up doing, if you stick around long enough."
Edward shrugged while Arthose had a strange look on his face. It was clear that both boys were having a hard time accepting that.
"Ernest?" Haden called out getting the older man's attention. "We're getting ready to head back out, if you want to pull your SUV closer to unload it."
"Thanks, son. That would be appreciated," Ernest replied.
"Actually, hold up on that," Will called out as he came running out of the Chinook. "Slight change of plans. You guys need to stay here, and we need to head back to HQ as soon as Daileass's group gets back."
"Why, is something wrong?" Haden asked with concern.
"Not really wrong wrong, but we're going to need the chinook to head toward Texas to pick up a few more visitors. From what it looks like, you guys have gotten a good amount of supplies already."
Ronnie quickly looked down his list, slowly shaking his head. "The biggest thing that we're going to miss out on is the food. That was on our list for our second trip."
Almost instantly, nearly every eye turned toward Will. The mere thought of not getting food was enough to make any teen or pre-teen concerned.
"Actually, that will probably work out better," Desmond spoke up, causing all the eyes to turn toward him. "Sarah, or I guess I should say Shannon? Prefers to be involved in the purchasing of her own food. Earlier this morning she commented that unless you guys decide to add a few hundred more mouths to feed, she should have enough food on hand to last a day or two without problems."
"Are you sure she fully understands just how much food hungry teenagers can eat?" Barrett asked with concern.
"Don't look at me," Desmond replied. "I'm just passing on her comments."
"First, unless we are in public, you don't have to use the aliases, so Sarah is fine. Second, I doubt it would be a problem for her and maybe one or two others to grab one of the SUV's and sneak away for a few hours either tonight or tomorrow morning to go food shopping."
"How long do we have until Daileass's group gets back?" Barrett asked next. "Do we have time to unload our SUV or should we leave everything packed in it?"
"They should be here in a few minutes. But why don't you leave it loaded," Will suggested. "That way it can get unloaded faster when we get back to the base, which will mean we'll be able to turn around and get off the ground faster."
"That works," Barrett agreed.
"What about me?" Edward asked hesitantly, causing several of the kids to look toward him. "Doesn't someone have to mind scan me or something, to decide if I can stay with you guys or not."
"That would be my department," Theodore answered seriously as he closed his laptop. "But I guess the first question is, are you really sure you want to stay with us. As you can probably see, things can get a bit crazy at times, and that's on our slow days."
A small smile briefly appeared on Edward's face before disappearing. "Y'all are more than crazy, all of you are nutters," he stated. "But, I like nutters, and it beats living on the streets, so yeah, I think I would like to."
Theodore nodded. "Are you willing to allow me to scan your surface thoughts? Anything that you are thinking about, or any thoughts that are important to you I'll know about."
Edward remained silent, lost in thought.
Having a good idea what the boy's largest concern was, Theodore continued. "Before you answer, you should know that I'm not doing this to judge you, most of us know what it's like to have to fight to survive on the streets, and some of the things you sometimes have to do. Where we would be taking you… well, it's really important that the wrong people don't find out about it, so basically, I will just be checking to make sure that you can be trusted, and that you will not try to hurt anyone else."
After several more seconds of thought, Edward slowly nodded. "I still don't know if I buy all of this mind scanning stuff, but at the same time, I don't really have anything to hide. So if you really can do what you say, go for it."
Theodore nodded and closed his eyes for a few moments. When he opened them back up, a weak smile crept across his face. "Okay, Edward's good."
"Wait, that was it? I didn't feel anything," Edward commented.
"Yeah, that was it. I only did a light surface scan. Trust me, if I did any deep probing, you would have felt it," Theodore stated as he walked over and put his hand on Edward's shoulder and talked softer so that only Edward could hear. "By the way, there were a few details about Sidney you missed. My other brothers are already starting an investigation on him. One way or another, we'll get you and your brother back together."
Edward looked at Theodore with shock and surprise. "Thanks," he stated, not really sure what else to say.
"Hey, guys, is that the group you're waiting for?" Arthose called out as he pointed toward the other end of the field toward an SUV that was just breaking through the tree line.
"That would be them," Ronnie replied before his expression changed to one of concern. He, along with the other boys that were there watched as the SUV started swerving back and forth as if whowever was driving it was loosing control.
"Lemme guess, you have a five-year-old driving it?" Arthose asked as the SUV tipped on it's side slightly, nearly ready to tip over.
"No," Ernest stated with concern. "My wife should be driving. Something's not right here at all."
TO BE CONTINUED…
Where have I heard those words before? "Something's not right here!"
I see that AAKD (Add a Kid Disease is in full operation. We have two new kids, being added, from just one short shopping trip. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. I am just observing and commenting on the situation at hand.
I am ready for the next chapter.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher