Castle Roland

Geek Squad

by Kyle Aarons

In Progress

Chapter 12

Published: 8 Apr 14

Geek Squad

Copyright © 2012 - 2014 by Kyle Aarons and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.

All Rights Reserved

Geek Squad LogoIn a totally secure location in Kansas, a meeting was called to order. The main players wore the best suits, but didn't show them off. Instead white and purple vestment robes covered their high end business attire. The pair of guards outside the central meeting room bowed deeply as the leader of the group entered, but their hands never wavered from their side arms.

The next twelve who came in moved around to take their places around the central table. The twelve waited for their leader to take a seat in the throne-like chair before they all bowed as one. They waited for acknowledgement, which took longer than normal, a sure sign their leader was not happy. Once the man nodded and took his chair the other twelve spoke in unison, "As God's Bishop commands, we follow." Then, as one, they took a seat.

Each pulled out a paper notebook, pen, and mechanical pencil. Everything here was done by memory or in hand written notes; no electronics were allowed in the room. They all placed their notebooks to the left of the etched in cross on the table and their writing implements went on the right. Nothing touched the inlayed silver crosses.

With a wave of his hand, the lights dimmed and the group of thirteen verbally recalled their Primary Vow to the goal at hand, "To establish His Kingdom, regardless of cost or sacrifice."

With the last word, the lights regained their normal illumination showing the huge silver cross behind the leader with a gold figure of the savior. The nails in the hands and feet were ruby to signify his blood. Around the rest of the room's upper shelf were urns of all the former leaders and on the shelf below were all the urns of those directly under the former leader, save two. One was the body of the former Bishop, who was lost before he could be properly interned. The second, the heir to the Bishops seat, refused to allow his predecessor to be interned. The shame of failure was too great, no matter how many of his previous triumphs secured his final resting place. The rest of the room was not without its religious overtones. The redwood and oak woodwork told of the top notch hand carving efforts to make this the meeting room, temple, of the truly elite.

After a long uneasy pause, the leader spoke, "Bishop Henderson, I will let you take the lead since you have a witness to come before us!"

"Bring him in," Bishop Henderson ordered as he motioned at the Priest who was standing in front of the door.

Moving into the room calmly, Priest Inquisitor Adams stared straight ahead as he entered the room. Eyes taking in everyone's position automatically, even though he did not move his head. Stopping the required eight feet from the head table he went to one knee, arms outstretched to each side, palms facing forward, pinky fingers touching the ground. With his head bowed he waited to be acknowledged.

"Priest Inquisitor," Bishop Charles waited until God's Bishop gave a slight nod that he was satisfied with the genuflection. "Please repeat what you reported to me this morning."

"As God's voice commands," Priest Adams bowed his head lower as he responded. Not looking up he repeated his disturbing news from the field agent in Texas. "One of our handlers reported that Federal Agent in Charge, Paulson, and his team has failed to carry out Puppet Ashwood's orders. Our handler also reported he has found evidence that Federal Agent Paulson is involved in a blasphemous organization masquerading as a church of God. This so called church is heavily involved in trafficking of the unclean. They train them to perform acts against nature, before selling them to a Middle Eastern regime as pleasure workers."

"If I may," Bishop Charles interjected. "Clergy Paulson is a deep undercover agent assigned to the FBI from the intelligence division. He was recently transferred to the operative division."

God's Bishop, Robert Henderson nodded and waved a hand for Priest Adams to continue. "Allowances have to be made for those doing God's work while hidden among the unclean."

Priest Adams filed the information away, at the same time he moved Paulson from the 'terminate with extreme pain' to the 'watch closely to see if he was worthy' list. "As of this morning it was reported back through one of our handlers, that Clergy member Paulson's team had a confrontation with a small group of armed individuals. His team was decimated, with only Clergy Paulson surviving. It was reported that one of the opposing force was able to not only intercept a live grenade, but to catch and return it to devastating effect."

"It would be interesting to see if the ability was something we could train our recruits into mimicking," Bishop Richfield interjected, "Or if it is an innate gift which, if the person could be shown reason, there is a possibility we could convince the subject in question to work for us."

Considering Bishop Richfield's speculation, God's Bishop finally nodded his head. "If the opportunity provides, approaching the person is authorized. Though, if they are one of the unclean, they shall be eliminated after their usefulness is at an end." Looking at the priest who had not moved once he genuflected, he told him, "You may leave us. Await your orders from Bishop Charles in the antechamber."

Staring Bishop Charles in the eyes after the door had closed behind the priest he told him coldly, "I also have received reports from my contacts and the various handlers who report to me. I am not pleased with the unclean ways Clergy Paulson has adopted. While I have not made any ruling on the operation he is involved in, mainly due to the fact of how much profit it generates, I am disturbed by the methods Clergy Paulson employs in the field.

"As an operative he is to be held to a higher standard than his days as a spy," God's Bishop Henderson stated as fact, as he noted the slight widening of Bishop Charles eyes. "Since he has come to our attention, and the reports indicate he has failed to uphold the devote ways he has sworn to, I will be dispatching one of my Servants of God to question him. If he is as devoted as he states he is to our cause, he will be re-educated on the one true path. If not…" he left off, because they all knew, if Paulson was not as faithful to their way of life as he should be there would not be very many pieces large enough to identify, let alone bury in a normal casket.

The topic of conversation changed in the blink of an eye, "I have read through the reports our handlers have sent in on the Puppet who was allowed to take up office as president," God's Bishop told the others as he let his gaze fall on each of them. "They have reported that the puppet is growing unstable. Indications are he is making rash and spurious decisions; decisions counter to all advice by his advisers. He also, it has been reported, refused to listen to explanations which would allow an educated man to come to the correct path. As such we will test him. Depending on if he succeeds, or to what degree he fails, will determine what further action we will take in regards to Ashwood."

"Bishop Carlson," God's Bishop Robert Henderson looked over his notes before directing his attention to his intelligence adviser. "This new player our Utah operatives have reported spotting, the one who used unknown military craft to rescue those who our puppet had scheduled for termination, what information do you have on them?"

Looking decidedly uncomfortable, Bishop Carlson glanced down at the field agent reports in front of him, "We know absolutely nothing. On the surface the aircraft looked similar enough to active duty United States and Russian craft. Unfortunately, for those sent to terminate the opposition, appearance seems to be where the similarities end. From eye witness accounts, and what photos our agents were able to remove from the FBI's office, those aircraft have been heavily modified." Frowning as he glared at the reports he told his leader, "This new group is heavily armed, well trained, and not afraid to take on the U.S. federal government."

Tapping the table as he contemplated what it meant, he looked over at Bishop Richfield, the head of his military. Not letting the uncomfortable silence deter him, he came up with a plan, "We need to draw this new unknown out. Do so in a manner where we can identify them; and plan how to best neutralize the disruption they could cause us." Pulling one of the maps from the middle of the pile, he eyed the Texas map with distain. He glanced at the nearly unlimited targets for several seconds before his eyes fell on the perfect place. "We need a target which will draw out this unknown, and at the same time inflame the peasants. This will be a test of our puppet's ability to control the peasant class; if he fails we can revisit the vote which was put off to rectify the possible mistake of allowing him to sire extra children for our cause."

Letting a finger circle the map, God's Bishop let his finger rest on the name of a town. "Let our agents instigate a scenario; make it a place where we show our presidential puppet we are still on his side, but are growing weary of his arrogance. This will also give the newly promoted operative, Paulson, a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of God."

"I decree it be one where all the peasant offspring are eliminated. Tell our agents to quietly orchestrate the destruction of Breckenridge, Texas." Looking over at his intelligence adviser, his voice became deadly calm and cold, "Make sure your agents are prepared to identify this unknown. If they are so altruistic to rescue those who are beneath the righteous, make sure our agents plan an appropriate scenario to draw them out." Standing up, God's Bishop on Earth ended the meeting.

Seeing their leader stand, all the bishops stood and bowed as he walked away from the table, chanting almost as one, "As God commands, thy will shall be done."

Agent Paulson shifted uncomfortably on the hospital bed in Eastland, Texas. He had been lucky; at least the doctor had said he had been lucky. The bullet had hit him in his wallet, which had slowed it down and prevented it from penetrating too deeply, but it had still taken a forty minute surgery to get it and the small pieces of credit cards, his debit card, bits of the leather wallet, and even a couple of pieces of cash pulled out from his butt cheek.

The problem was he had been shot with a fast traveling small caliber round out of a rifle that caused the rounds shot out of it to tumble some. This meant, when it impacted his wallet, it didn't go straight though, but tumbled taking pieces of what was in his wallet into the skin and beyond. So not only was he shot in the butt, everything in his wallet was pretty much useless, including the two hundred and fifty-six dollars in cash.

He clicked through the TV stations with his good hand. His other had a pair of broken fingers after getting his hand-held radio shot out of it. The fingers were splinted together, and would heal just fine; the problem was shooting. In simple terms he didn't have use of pinky or ring finger to properly grip a rifle. It would make long-range shooting beyond difficult and he guessed it would hurt a great deal as well.

He sighed as he moved on from one channel to another, hoping for any kind of encouragement or at the very least an escape from the pain. However, other than a couple of very bad movies, everything else was news, bad news, about the Ashwood Administration. Not only had Ashwood been crushed in both popular vote, but also in the electoral vote as well. At the same time even more news was coming out about a seemingly never ending list of questionable and outright illegal things done by members of the Administration. In fact, the news was so bad, Paulson wondered if he would end up on some wanted list by the time all was said and done simply because he was so closely tied to the Attorney General. Even as he pondered if he should make a run for it and disappear, the phone in his private room rang. He eyed it for a couple of seconds then glanced at the time, 0132 in the morning.

Shaking his head he grabbed the phone on the fourth ring and winced as his splinted fingers hit the edge of the table. "Hello?"

There was a beep and series of clicks followed by a chilling mono-tone message: "To establish His Kingdom, regardless of cost or sacrifice. The standard has been broken. There is but one true path. Return to the ways of the righteous. Look to your funds for a message from the council!"

The break-in message faded as a normal connection was finally established.

"Paulson, it's O' Henry, are we connected?"

Paulson wiped the sudden sweat from his brow as he forced his breathing to calm his suddenly swiftly beating heart.

The voice on the other end repeated itself, "Paulson, wake your ass up! This is O'Henry!"

Agent Paulson forced the breath he let out to be silent and rolled his eyes realizing those really above him were giving him a second chance and it would certainly be the last. The problem at hand was the moron on the other end of the connection at the moment. Burl O'Henry was his boss, and worked directly under the Director of the FBI. Burl was also the biggest pencil pushing weasel Paulson had ever met. He pulled the mouth piece away which allowed him to exhale loudly before putting it back up to his mouth. With a great deal of disgust, he forced his voice to sound well tempered before he responded; "I'll live sir."

"Yeah, I have the report sitting in front of me," the voice stated with total disinterest as to Paulson's health. "The doctor there clearly says you cannot do any heavy activity for a least a week, and will need sutures out in ten days, but you are cleared for light duty."

Paulson snarled softly; there was no way a gunshot of any kind would get him light duty. It should put him on bed rest and he knew it. The problem was, he also knew O' Henry well enough to know the jack-wad had pulled strings and probably dug up enough dirt on the doc to force the man to sign off on 'light duty'. Realizing he was on thin ice for losing several kids and a helicopter, he gritted his teeth as he shifted, "OK, is the line secure and if it is, what do you need?"

"Line isn't secure, but there will be a bird on the pad in twenty. I expect you on it. You will find an electronic file waiting for you. Open it up with your fallback password." The line then went dead as the man on the other end slammed the phone down.

Paulson glared at the receiver for a second before muttering, "When this breaks out into a shooting war, I'll have a round with your name on it waiting. I'll put it in your gut so you bleed out and take your kids while you watch!" Inner anger gave him enough energy to bite back the pain as he pulled himself out of bed.

Although he could barely walk, and only do so with the aid of a cane, Paulson secured his sidearm and put on some used clothing he got out of the donated clothing bin. With only a minute or two to spare, he then made his way out to the parking lot. He stopped and watched with a raised eyebrow as a V-22 Osprey came in, adjusted its tilt rotors to do its helicopter-like landing, and lowered its back ramp.

Before it had a chance to bounce once, a pair of heavily armed men wearing combat armor jumped out and ran over to Agent Paulson. The smaller of the two men flashed a light into Paulson's face, nodded at the other, and jerked his head in the direction of the aircraft.

Paulson nodded at the second man and even managed a smile, "Kurt! Long time no see!"

"Damn, man," Kurt shook his head as he motioned for Paulson to put an arm over his shoulder so he could help him to the aircraft, "you look like shit."

"Ever been shot in the ass?"

Kurt snickered while shaking his head, "Three bullets have been removed from me, but never from my backside. What the hell were you doing sticking your butt up in the air to begin with?"

"Screw you!" Paulson stated with a snort, "I was trying to moon the jackasses who killed off everyone else, OK?"

"You would!" Kurt busted up laughing as he wrapped his arm around Paulson and lifted him up onto the lowered ramp, "Are you able to sit?"

Paulson looked into the back of the aircraft and noted ten of the twenty four seats were taken by men wearing the FBI's HRT patch. Not even slightly looking forward to sitting on one of the hard seats, he cringed, "Not on metal."

Kurt pointed to one of the men in the far back. The man quickly jumped up and pulled out a cot while two others moved to assist Paulson onto the bed. Even before he was lying on his side, the powerful props picked up speed, lifting the VTOL craft back into the air. Once it was back into the relative safety of the sky, Kurt moved up and knelt while waving the medic back to his seat. He quickly handed Paulson a replacement wallet complete with new Homeland Security ID, Driver's License, and a credit card. It also contained five hundred in cash.

Kurt eyed Paulson, "I was told to say fingers are to remain clean, my friend. If not, the offending appendages are to be mailed back as the only recognizable things left. A higher standard must be met with your new position."

"Consider the message understood, but it will be difficult to maintain my integrity with those I am getting paid by. They like the lack of subtlety they see in my methods."

"I will convey your concern, my friend, but until you hear differently…" Kurt made a slashing motion with his hand. "As a final message I was told you need to log into your new credit card to activate it."

Paulson nodded in complete understanding before switching the subject, "Where do I stand with the lower powers that be?"

Kurt patted Paulson on the back, "Homeland was able to pull the primary out along with ten others just in time, but the facility was hit before we could reinforce it. The bastards even left your SUV there as a message and torched one of the ATV's and sent it straight into the larger building. On the other hand, Ashwood is thrilled we were able to get his brat out before hand, and is crediting you for delaying the assault. We still lost at least two agents and seven members of the Burroughs Church who were still on site waiting for the second pick-up. Nice thing is, it all points to them, so Recore is pretty happy, too. However, he is still really pissed about losing the former VA Secretary's kid; since, should he reemerge, he will be implicated."

"We haven't found Aaron yet?"

"Nope, only two more Burroughs member bodies stripped of gear, then the trail goes cold. If the kid killed them, he is armed and has some supplies, but we don't know how much. Still, he could be thirty miles from here, even if he stayed on foot."

Paulson rubbed his hand across his face, realizing he needed a shave. He pushed the weird thought out of his head as quickly as it came, "Is his father angry or pleased by this turn of events?"

"Strongly neutral, but some suggest he is pleased, which is one of the reasons you are being given such an easy pass on your transgressions."

Paulson gave this some thought before finally shrugging, "What about where we were ambushed?"

"Someone did a damned good cleanup," Kurt admitted as he motioned for a couple of the other team members to come over to brief Paulson. "Your team is splattered all over the place and there was not enough left of the junior field agent to pick up with a fork and a spoon. They must have shot him like a dozen times… Anyway, his splattered blood was all over the side of your SUV, so it was real clear he was between them and the SUV when you were hit. There is evidence you got a couple of those who attacked you, but they used bleach on the blood and we couldn't find a single piece of brass. They also grabbed all the weapons your guys had except the badly damaged ones. All in all they were well set up above you and had good cover. You were screwed from the start."

An angry looking woman nodded and added, "Most of the others died from blast related injuries or gunshot wounds. You are the only survivor. What can you tell us?"

"Not much," Agent Paulson admitted with a great deal of disgust, "I was behind the SUV when all hell broke loose, or I would be lying in a pool of my own blood. The said former junior field agent managed to shoot one of the escapee's, but like you said, we were being watched. As soon as the kid fell, we got blitzed. It was a professional ambush, and they knew exactly where to strike first. The two dogs went down at the same time my driver did, then… Well, they seemed to mow down everyone. Those who were first to draw weapons were first to fall.

"Since we were in the open, I ordered the lead armored SUV up the hill toward the bastards. One of them tossed a grenade, but some little shit caught the damned thing and threw it back. I couldn't see exactly what happened next, but it had to go back into the window, 'cause the next thing I knew the doors all popped open then the whole thing blew. Those who didn't die outright were shot as they struggled to get off the ground. Seeing they had no intention of taking prisoners, I booked it, but one of those SOB's still shot me, and it was a hell of a shot. I must have been at three hundred yards, probably further, and was on the back of an ATV. The real question is, how did they take down the bird?"

"It may be a week or more before we know," a man behind Kurt answered. "We recovered the black box but one second it was headed toward you to give you fire support and the next it was out of control. There is nothing from either pilot to indicate what the hell happened nor is there anything obvious in the wreckage. The resulting explosion, combined with the onboard ordinance going up, is going to make finding the cause beyond difficult. The worst part is we lost our most loyal Homeland Strike team in Texas; after everything the hackers exposed on the Administration, loyalty of many agents is being tested. We are monitoring, but so far, we have dozens we can't really trust."

"Well, shit!" Agent Paulson spat, "So I was told there is some kind of briefing or file?"

Kurt handed Paulson a tablet, "This comes directly from Quantico and has a secure link through the Defense Department communication system, which has been damaged but not compromised. Whatever you decide, we are your primary and we can pull as many agents in as you want. Just be aware, the loyalty of many members of the DoD is also questionable, so we still need to use secondary scramblers."

Paulson nodded his understanding as he turned on the tablet, "So where are we headed?"

"Forward staging area at some farm we took about an hour ago, which is why the bird is so empty. The place sits at a place called Crystal Falls, although there is nothing there. It is one of those stupid historical site things. The family proved to be a bit resistant to us using their place, so I dealt with it. There is some extra merchandise there if you want to take it."

"It won't hurt. But I think you just answered my next questions. Since you took the FOB and was able to keep merchandise, I gather your unit is fully vetted and steadfast to the cause?"

"Unquestionably," Kurt nodded. "These guys are all handpicked by me. We actually broke up the four HRTs available so this one could be formed. I got all the men and women I wanted, so we are slightly stronger than a normal HRT. The most questionable, as far as loyalty goes, were then dispatched to Detroit to take out a weapon trafficking group bringing in guns from Canada. Word is one of the AG's people then tipped off the smugglers, so chances are good we'll be down an HRT before sun-up."

"Good," Agent Paulson nodded in approval. "The more Bryce leaning highly trained field operators we can get rid of, the easier this will get. I still can't believe anyone would vote for Jackson Bryce after all we exposed and fabricated about him."

One of the women rolled her eyes, "It would have been tight, but Ashwood would have won without this massive hack. They got the news out just in time to totally screw us."

"Any word on who dicked us?"

"You were the closest to finding out," Kurt responded. "Ashwood's Cyber Security Advisor pulled the plug just as some new hotshot was closing in on their signals, but once we lost power, it exposed our mobile assets and they were wiped. It still sounds like the new guy, whoever the hell he is, wasn't going to actually get to them, but between you and his analysis, we had a chance to at least box them in. Agents in place with key Administration members are saying President Ashwood directly ordered people to deal with the old Cyber Security Advisor and handed over her kids to Vice President Recore. So any doubts of him getting his hands dirty in this, instead of using others, is gone."

"About time," Paulson managed to state while eyeing Kurt. Getting the slightest of nods from his friend told him he needed to continue the thought to convince those around them he was really one of them. The lie slid easily off his lips. "This is all his doing, so he needed to jump in the muck with us. What can you tell me about your team here?"

"Damn straight, I am tired of Ashwood's hands staying squeaky clean!" one of the females stated strongly.

Kurt grinned and nodded. "Like I said, I handpicked them, and they have a good idea of what is going on. Those on the bird at the moment are all cleared up to, but not directly briefed in on, Starshine. They also got a briefing on the way down here directly from Secretary Horney and the Director of the FBI, so they know you are in command."

"Do we have a goal?"

"The V.P. says he wants you to do something to determine loyalties of those sitting on the fence while still maintaining some focus on finding Aaron. He also wants to punish this god-forsaken state. Secretary Horney wants you to get to the bottom of who took control and still has control of our hub. The AG wants information on who ambushed you. Finally, and probably most importantly, President Ashwood… well, you pretty much know the way he thinks; he wants a big distraction so he can finalize Starshine."

"Then we need to do something and get the hell out of here," Paulson stated with a shiver. "He is really going forward with it?"

"Yeah," Kurt stated with a great deal of concern. "And here we are on the front lines."

"Front line my ass, we are probably five hundred miles behind what will be the front lines." Paulson paused and took a deep breath, "I know you trust your team, but what about after Starshine goes live?"

"Relax, I only picked people I was absolutely sure of and they are some of the best in the business. Furthermore, each and every one of them has helped in smearing Bryce's name, so if this falls apart, there is the chance they will face time. I did my homework. Besides, Secretary Horney gave them enough information to where they know what is coming."

"This is your unit, Carter," Kurtis Mondale stated with total conviction, "and I am your second. We have stashes of weapons, cash and even fake ID's in half a dozen fallback locations in six different states and two more in foreign countries, but the VP is not going to give us those locations until we strike the first blow and focus attention away from Starshine long enough for the pieces to get moved into final positions without those hacking us finding out."

"Fine, but half of my trusted team was taken out when a kid tossed a grenade back at them, so the rest of my people will want some form of justice. This needs to be local and it has to send a strong message, both to Jackson Bryce, and to other states who dare to go against Ashwood. Do we have any militia groups around here?"

"You have to be shitting me; we are in Texas! Half of the ass-wipes in this state are militia or at the very least borderline radicals."

"OK, give me a few to look over the files they sent me and then I will come up with a plan of action."

Without waiting any further, Carter Paulson pulled out the new notepad and logged into the website of his credit card. The new user agreement was there, as promised. However, Carter glanced through it, using his PIN as a guide. He read the fourth word followed by the word after the seventh then the second word after the fourth then the second word after the seventh and the ninth word after. He repeated this throughout the whole document, which gave him direct orders from his Bishop.

He then glanced through the files the FBI sent for him before powering down the notebook. It didn't take him long to come up with a plan of action which would satisfy both his current masters. "Kurt, I want to make an example out of Breckenridge. Once we land, give me a few to read over the full briefing then we will talk over the best way to punish these backwater hicks."

Two hours later, Agent Paulson slid a power cable into the notebook to recharge it before glancing over at Kurt, "I'm not used to having no limits other than nuclear and biological; any recommendations?"

The HRT team leader shrugged as he sat at the dining room table, "Well, we all need some rest, so I'd say whatever you decide on should be this afternoon. This will also give us time to get some agents up here. For some reason, they don't want to pull too many from Dallas-Fort Worth. Instead, there is a much greater interest in pulling agents out of Austin, so it will take a couple of hours to get them here. I suggest, if you really want a show of force, we basically take Breckenridge. Pull in the National Guard to surround the town… say it is a virus outbreak, and move in. We do a house, to house, to house of the most likely targets for being able to hack us and we take as many guns as we can."

"The Texas guards are the ones who protected Bryce," Paulson countered. "We can't trust them worth a shit."

"Nope, but all we need is an initial perimeter. Even if they bail, or even turn on us, who really cares as long as the twenty five of us aren't there when it happens."

This caused Paulson to nod with some reluctance. "Can we get another Osprey?"

"Hell, I can get you two or three, but it will take them some time to get here. The Defense Area Corridors have pretty much taken sides already, so I will have to pull from bases in Florida to get reliable pilots."

"Then get them coming. They already took down one of our birds, and I don't want to be stuck here if they manage to do the same to yours."

Kurt nodded to his radioman, "You heard the man, and while you are at it get us another couple dozen highly motivated and trustworthy types to come with so we have a secure perimeter here. This is our fallback base."

The man nodded and moved into a side room.

Paulson winced as he shifted. "OK, we cordon off the town and do a search of those highest on the list of being able to hack while taking as many guns as we can. I like the basics. But we need a way to show we mean business."

"We put out an emergency message to stay inside, make it mandatory. This will also play into the quarantine scheme. Once they are stuck wherever they are at the time of the broadcast, then we can start our search. This will also mean most of the guns will be in their homes while they are at work. We will have to take the sheriff's office and round up any cops on patrol."

Paulson rubbed his chin, "OK, work up some plans along those lines for me. I am going to take a different track."

"What are you thinking?"

"You made a very good point. Controlling people is the key. The best way to control people is their families. If we have loved ones, they will be a whole lot less likely to give us problems. I am going to do some work on taking control of the schools. With their kids under our lockdown, we can do a great deal more, and maybe I can find the little prick who threw my guy's grenade back. His face is burned into my memory."

A female HRT member glanced over, "You take the schools, the National Guard will try to stop you sir."

Paulson frowned, "Good point, unless we do stuff like Kurt recommended first, and give the National Guard a reason to turn on us early, and we will be ready for them to do so, or they pull out. Either way, we get what we need out of them. Just make sure we have those Ospreys up and a couple of gunships. We wait until the buses pull up to take the kids back out into the sticks and secure them. This will also allow parents getting ready to pick up kids to see who is in control of the schools."

"Some will come after us," another agent stated.

"And they will be cut down," Paulson responded with a great deal of satisfaction.

"Why not just call a town meeting at the high school and hold everyone who shows up?" another agent asked. "Those who don't, we deal with the hard way. No one is going to bring a gun into a school."

Agent Paulson sighed, "OK, I want three teams, one on each of those scenarios. Rotate so you can all get some decent sleep. One way or another we will need the National Guard to cordon off the town. Let's set it for a 0800 call up, this will get them into position for a total quarantine by no later than noon, probably by 1030 to 1100. In the mean time, call up every agent we can get our hands on from Austin, and pull in others to get our numbers up to a hundred and fifty agents, not including us. Make damned sure some are ATF and Border Patrol. Those guys are almost as bad as the average moron Texan. Sooner or later shots will get exchanged and we can pull out while Breckenridge becomes a giant killing field."

Paulson rolled on to his stomach and glanced up at the team medic, "Give me a shot of something for this pain so I can get some sleep but no more than three or four hours. I can rest more once this op goes down and we are getting as far away from Texas as possible."

The woman moved up and jabbed a needle of morphine into his arm. "Get some rest, sir."

While Paulson slept, three separate plans were drawn up.

All three had common elements. First, Breckenridge Texas was the designated target. Second, the National Guard would be used and abused to help cordon off the town. Finally, third, there would be extensive searches of the town for hackers and weapons.

The first plan was the easiest to come up with. It was to do an emergency broadcast, telling people to stay inside and away from others for medical reasons. Anyone on the street would be arrested and detained. This would give them free reign of the town until people got suspicious.

The second was to announce a town meeting at the high school gym, get everyone together and do mass arrests which would open the town up for searches while people could easily be interrogated.

The last was to take the schools by force, and use the kids as leverage. Of the three options this was clearly the most difficult, but it also held the highest chance of the town turning on law enforcement, and one of the key briefing points, was to create a scenario where agents were attacked en masse. It would also allow for the deaths of many kids, which was a key element in the orders from his Bishop. All he had to do was time it right to get the most casualties both inside and outside the school.

Carter Paulson opened his eyes and stifled a yelp as he shifted onto his wounded butt cheek. He blinked a couple of times as the sounds of semi-panic yanked the last vestiges of sleep out of him. He clenched his good hand into a fist as he forced himself to rotate off the cot he had fallen asleep on then bit back a curse as he forced himself to take a few steps over to where his cane was leaning against a wall.

Finally, he stood as straight as he could and moved into the kitchen of the ranch-style house. Carter let out a long breath as he saw several HRT members around the large kitchen table with a map. Not liking the looks or the edgy sounding voices, he didn't even bother to listen to the back and forth. Instead he cleared his throat, "Problem gentlemen?"

The female medic glanced over her shoulder, "Yeah, the Governor all but told us to go pound sand when we ordered the guard to surround the town."

Agent Paulson felt his jaw drop, "Even with us telling him this was an outbreak protocol?"

Kurt shot Carter a disgusted glare, "He said, and I quote, 'Texas has already lost too many good men to Ashwood's flunkies. You need to contain a town in my state do it yourself and deal with the consequences'."

"Do we have a response from President Ashwood on this?"

"Not directly, but the Attorney General gave us this," the radio operator nodded while looking like he wanted to jump out of his own skin as he unfolded a small piece of paper. "The AG's exact words were: 'Make sure the first battle sets the proper tone,' sir."

Kurt glanced over to Agent Paulson, "He then said you would know what he means."

"I do. It means whatever we do needs to show the rest of the country what will happen if they oppose the Ashwood Administration. Problem is, we still need to cordon off the town for this to work."

"We are getting reserve equipment directly from NAS-JRB, but it will have to be our people," Kurt stated grimly, "which will pull a good fifty more into this. We are assessing the manpower and giving the blockade to agents we have on our questionable list, but not those we have black listed. Our people should be in a position to close off access to the target by 1300, which is later than we wanted. With what we are bringing up here, the only thing Austin will have left is Bryce supporting federal agents, or at least those we can't trust, which will give them total control of the state capitol. For some reason, this doesn't seem to bother the AG, though."

"Not our problem," Paulson countered with a shrug. "Our problem is right here. Now, do we have the three plans?"

"Yeah," Kurt glanced over, "but something occurred to us after you went to sleep."

"Which is?"

"The local law enforcement is going to want to know why we are cordoning off their town…"

Paulson sneered over at Kurt as he pointed back over to the briefcase he was given when he came aboard the Osprey, "I was told I couldn't go nuclear or biological, nothing was said about chemical. They gave me a few containers of ultra strong and processed Magnesium Phosphide packs with pull out tabs between the water and the tablets. All we have to do is get a couple of them into the town hall and get out within fifteen minutes; it'll make them sick as hell, which will play into our bio hazard rational. Once the word goes out, we'll use the first responder network to find these who don't respond and take them out one way or another. "

Steven moved up to the serving line established by the Russians while glancing around nervously. All of the armed men looked serious and, quite frankly, more than a bit scary. His watch said it was just after seven in the morning, but none of the military men looked to be trying to wake up. In fact, most of them looked like they were wide awake and ready for a fight to break out at any second. As Steven grabbed a heaping plate of food, the Russian Sergeant eyed the boy, "We don't waste food. If you are really going to eat it fine, but…"

Justin shook his head, "Oh, he'll eat it and look for seconds, trust me."

The Russian shrugged and jerked his head so the next kid in line could get food. As he dropped three pieces of bacon on Glenn's tray, he glanced over to one of his guys, "Get the rescued kids fed. They have not eaten since we arrived and judging by the plates in front of them when we got here they didn't eat much last night."

"They'll eat when they get hungry enough." Ethan sighed, as he limped over to grab an offered plate. "Forcing them after what they have been through ain't right…"

Juan spoke up from where he was eating at the table. His voice stayed monotone as he spoke, "No they won't."

"Oh, come on, kid," Ethan snorted, "hunger will get the best of them and they will eat. Besides, you need to let us men take care of things."

Off to the side Levi lowered his head, "Ah, crap."

Juan shook his head slowly before he spoke, "Sir, I would suggest that you have a conversation with Levi, about who, and what I am. Until then I will not take your comments as an insult. Frankly you have something bigger to worry about than what you don't know yet." Juan glanced over to some of the former 'Temple' captives while he munched on a blueberry bagel. "Most of those kids have been beaten down so badly that they cannot think for themselves. The consequences of such actions are worse than most of you guys could imagine. They will allow themselves to starve to death because they are more worried about what will happen to them if they do something that their 'masters' don't want them to."

Juan had been eating rather peacefully, but at this point, he stopped and looked at the table where most of the most fearful rescued kids were sitting. "Like it or not, until they learn otherwise… you guys are their masters, and if you don't treat them as they need to be treated, they will die."

Juan jumped up and took a pair of loaded down plates and walked over to the kids around the table. All of them started to tremble as he approached. He bent down and handed the first kid a plate. When the kid didn't move to take it Juan spoke in a very harsh voice, "Take the plate, and eat. If you don't eat as much as you can without getting sick… I will be VERY displeased. I will be even more displeased if you eat more than you can handle and throw up. Do I make myself clear?"

The boy was now violently trembling, but nodded and took the plate. "Are you one of the Adepts?"

Off to the side, Levi made a deep growling sound and looked over at Marshall, "Boy, what punishment is handed down in temple for not doing as instructed with regards to eating?"

Marshall's eyes went wide, "Keeling on the holy wood… with weights added for each time we moved…"

Levi gave Juan a nod even as Ethan tried to interrupt.

The Russian officer glanced over at Ethan, "You are out of the loop. Just…"

Ethan glared over at Levi then turned to the Russian, "Are you all out of your minds? These kids need love…"

Slowly Juan turned on Ethan and gave the man a sharp glare with enough intensity to force the chaperone to take a step back. The fact that Juan had allowed his eyes to shift into the Eyes of the Eagle's added to his body language and took Ethan totally off guard. "Sir… when you have a single clue as to what these kids need, I will ask for your advice. However, since you have obviously never dealt with people who have been turned into slaves, I would ask that you keep your fucking mouth shut."

Juan then turned back to the boy who was ready to break down and cry, and got right into the boy's face, "No… I am not an Adept. What I am is your new master. Now, we can do this the easy way, and you accept that fact, or we can do this the hard way. Which will it be?"

All around the main room, the Russians and the chaperones who had gotten to know Juan over the last few hours shook their heads and glanced at each other. A silent line of communication seemed to happen as everyone, other than Ethan, decided to let this be between the wounded chaperone and the strangely tough kid.

Off to the side, the science contest winners who had likewise gotten to know a bit about Juan snickered between themselves and Glenn even stuck his tongue out at Juan and made a scissor like motion with his fingers as if to say 'watch your tongue'.

At the same time, Justin put his hand on Steven's shoulder and shook his head, "Stay out of this and eat; this is going to get interestingly ugly."

Ethan, who was too shocked to notice the looks, took a step toward Juan, "No little shit-faced, gang want-a-be, two bit punk is going to talk to me with that much disrespect. Now apologize for your language and your tone or I will beat the living shit out of you until you find it hard to sit down until Christmas. Also, put the gang-banger contact lenses back in your Hip-Hop loving pockets. Got me?"

Juan didn't bother turning around as he kept his eyes glued to the boy in front of him. When the boy uttered a very soft, 'Yes Brother…' Juan nodded, sighed, stood up, and turned around.

He made eye contact with a very pissed off Ethan and couldn't help but put on a ridiculously corny grin coupled with the puppy dog eye look. "I know you are injured and I wouldn't want to upset my mom by hurting you more…." He stopped talking while he narrowed his eyes. Juan then moved faster than anyone could watch, grabbed Ethan by the balls and lifted him up until he hit his head on the ceiling. He let the man come down a bit, then did it again until the man was incoherent with pain and shock of being so easily manhandled. He then walked, with the man still held up in the air by his balls to a chair, and sat him down, making sure not to injure the man's leg any more. When he was fully seated, Juan got into his face and spoke softly, "Law enforcement training in this world must really suck. Weren't you taught to know who you're going up against BEFORE you shoot off at the mouth?"

The combined pain and blood loss of the leg injury, coupled with this new assault caused Ethan's eyes to roll up in his head as he passed out.

While many of the former captives looked on with terror in their eyes, the science contest winners who had been awake the night before simply rolled their eyes while Steven found himself putting his hands over his nuts and shivering.

At the same time one of the Russians glanced over at Levi, "I did try to warn him."

Levi glanced over at the boy Juan had put the plate in front of, "Now which would you prefer, a session with him or eating the food on your plate."

Without further hesitation the boy started eating.

This got a smirk from the Russian Sergeant as he quickly dropped plates in front of the others. "Eat or deal with Juan, make your choice now!"

It didn't take long before all the kids were eating without any hesitation or complaint.

Juan sighed as he made sure that Ethan wasn't going to fall over before he stepped away and sighed again. "Sorry guys."

Justin focused in on Juan and stared at him intently, at the same time he sent over his first thought, 'We aren't; he is the mean one.'

Juan smiled and gave Justin a slight nod while sending to him, 'Very good, you don't need to push so hard, unless you're trying to talk to someone who isn't a telepath. I'll work with you later to show you a few tricks.'

Breakfast passed quickly, with no sign of Mr. Triumph or Joey. The two had taken over the master bedroom of the mansion which had been made to look like a cabin and had not come out since retiring for the night.

Noticing most of the kids were finished eating, Juan grinned broadly while jerking his head in the direction of the main table. "Okay… now that all of you are done eating… I'm sure you saw the table with all the guns on them. I spent most of the night cleaning them in case any of you actually wanted to use them again. But first, why don't I show you guys what I brought for you." Juan walked over to the front door, "So if you guys wanna come with me, I'll show you what we brought down for you guys to use."

The Russian Sergeant snorted, "The kid with the .38… um, you may want to just hand him it back and… well, you know what I am saying Juan."

Juan just shook his head. "Nah… I think I got something he can handle that is a bit better. But realize this, he will ALWAYS have the .38 and it will be special to him. It's his first trophy, and the first gun he used in combat… the first gun HE took. It will always be his." He then looked to all the kids. "Come on… I wanna show you some neat stuff."

Craig stood and glanced over to Glenn, who looked down, clearly dejected. "Come on, you proved you can shoot."

Justin nodded, "Yeah, and maybe we can figure out a way to install some of it on your chair. We just have to get you some extra power."

"I still want to get some of his blood. I'm just a stupid cripple."

Juan moved while using his genetically altered body to propel him over to Glenn before anyone could react. Juan then held nothing back as his eyes bored into Glenn's. "I never wanna hear that shit out of you again!" His voice took on a commanding tone which was on the edge of shouting as he continued, "One of my brothers has a boy friend who was stuck in a wheelchair. All Billy ever wanted to do was fly a helicopter. Guess what, he didn't let the chair stop him, and proved that someone in a chair is anything but JUST a cripple. Get off the pity party, pick yourself up by the balls I KNOW you got, and go out there and kick some ass. Don't let the chair stop you, 'cause you're the only one letting it."

Before Glenn could reply, Levi glanced over, "Now that's what I am talking about. Still, you ought to give them some blood, Juan, give them a shot to see they don't know everything."

Craig shot Levi a sharp glare as he moved to stand next to Glenn, "Unless you are going to help stretch his legs and help get the cramps out, back off, Juan. You proved you could probably kick my butt, but I will get a shot or two in and you try to pick on Glenn, or any of the others here, You pick on me too."

Steven glanced over, "I must have missed a lot last night, but how about us just pretending we are on the same team and go with the kid who just made a starting linebacker in a nice college look like a division II third string scrub?" He shot a glance over to a still unconscious Ethan then nodded in Juan's direction, "He scares me, by the way, and I am not afraid to admit it. But still, if there are more agents out there then we need better guns and training."

"Yeah, let's get to the guns!" Alexander grinned nervously.

Juan sighed as he backed up a bit from Glenn. "You guys don't get me at all. I ain't picking on Glenn… Hell, I think he's got the balls to be one of the best of you." He locked eyes with Glenn and spoke again, "But you gotta get off the cripple kick. It'll hold you back more than anything else."

He turned and walked over to the door, before he opened it he stopped and turned back to look at Glenn. "IF you are willing, and IF we can convince my mom to do it; I'll give you enough of my blood to probably fix you up. It'll come out of me, and go right into you… It'll change you… change you into what I am. I have no idea how much advantage you'll get out of it, or how long it'll take or anything like that… you would have to ask Mom. But understand one thing before you agree. IF I give you my blood, you will have to do things my way." Not waiting for a response, Juan turned again, yanked open the door and walked out.

"What the hell?" Craig growled at Juan's back. "What about the rest of us, and how about getting a sample to see what we can improve?"

Juan turned around and grinned wickedly. "You know… I thought you were smarter than that. Why don't you sneak a bit off of what's going into Glenn. Or better yet… maybe you guys could actually figure out how my blood will change Glenn, and then you might figure out how to duplicate it without having to give up more of my blood. Jeezzz… I thought you guys were smart." He then spun and made a beeline for the out building where all the extra equipment they had brought with them had been stored.

"Sure." Steven looked around with some confusion, having not been part of the conversation the night before, but having picked up on just enough of what was going on to be dangerous. "And why don't we each take a sample of our blood, put it into a cloned egg and see what comes out? Maybe we will end up with an eight headed geek that will argue with itself and shoot everything that it can't blow up?"

As Juan opened the doors to the shed he shouted over his shoulder, "Now THAT sounds like a cool idea." Juan then walked into the out building while calling out, "You guys coming?"

Ricky shrugged, "Sure, but if your blood will change us, why not just say that last night… um, would I keep my freeze thing if I got your blood?"

Juan giggled from inside the building, "We gonna talk about blood or guns?"

Levi glanced over at the kids he was responsible for, "Guys, let me remind you, the blood may be important to you, but there are federal agents out there who don't like you guys and they have guns… So, why don't we take a look at what Juan has to offer before I let him do to you all what he just did to Mr. Hewie?"

Kermit snickered at the expression, "So what do you say to looking at some guns, guys?"

All six boys spoke as one, "Absolutely!"

"Okay… so which first… guns or other fun things?" Juan wondered aloud as the six kids moved into the building with Levi and Zenon bringing up the rear.

"Fun stuff," Steven responded before anyone could get a word in edgewise. "I got to know guns pretty well over the last twenty hours or so. They kill, which I am just beginning to understand is necessary sometimes, However…" he sighed, "How about something to take my mind off the death and destruction for a few minutes before getting ready for the next round with Ashwood's assholes."

"Okay… let's start with the 'not as fun' fun stuff, then move on to the really fun stuff, which I think you guys will have a lot of fun making even funner. Sound good?" Juan said with a grin.

Glenn shot Juan a cautious eye, "What can I use on my chair?"

"Well after some modification… which I don't think you will mind… I am sure you can put a bunch of stuff on there," Juan said as he broke open the first crate. He reached in and pulled out a set of child sized fatigues. "Ok… I got twenty of these, as well as ten for the adults to use. The only patch on them is our crest." Juan tossed the first set to Glenn who looked down and saw the UNIT crest on the shoulder.

"Skull and crossbones, with twin golden arrows crossed underneath." He looked up at Juan, "I take it the symbols have some meaning?"

"All patches have meaning, Glenn," Craig stated as he glanced down at it. "But it has meaning to Juan and his people, not us. We will have to come up with our own in time. Hell, by the time we get done with Ashwood, maybe we will need to find his family crest and put a flaming slash through it or something. In the mean time, I am more curious as to why they left that on one patch and nothing else."

"Because we are on the same side," Justin countered, "no matter how poorly we are getting along at the moment. Besides, at this point more than Bryce is counting on us. So is the entire U.S., maybe more…"

"Definitely more," Levi sighed, "and like it or not, you all, with some minor help, have put yourselves on the front lines, so let's see these toys and make sure you all know how to use them."

"Okay." Juan glanced over the group with a grin. "Hmm… start big or small?" he asked himself aloud. "Oh, who the hell am I kidding… let's start big!" He moved over to one large crate, picked it up, and brought it over in front of the group. He then ripped off the top and picked up what was inside. The fact the crate creaked and groaned once again showed the genetically altered strength of a boy who was younger than any of the others in the room.

"Okay, I brought you five of these," he grunted out as he showed the group. "This is a Fourth Generation Stinger Block Two Surface to Air Missile launcher. They are Fire and Forget, so basically… if you have to use them, point them in the direction of the enemy aircraft, make sure no one is anywhere near you, wait for the tone, and fire."

Levi shot a sideways glance at Juan, "You know you could get ten to thirty years for each one of these right?"

At the same time, Glenn piloted his chair closer and studied the missile, "Can I take one apart, see how it works and see if I can come up with a smaller version to put on my chair?"

Steven eyed the missile, "Yeah, there has to be a way to make one smaller and lighter than some sort of World War II bazooka!"

Levi shook his head and rolled his eyes, "Is there anything you guys don't look at and think you can make better, smaller, nastier, meaner, or just more advanced in some way?"

Steven shook his head, "Nothing I have ever seen."

"Me neither," Glenn shrugged. "What's the problem?"

Levi slapped his head and groaned, "Forget I said anything; I know how to use them and so does Kermit, so we'll deal with these. What else do you have?"

Juan shook his head and snickered. "Next… and you got twenty of these babies…" Juan said as he brought out the next crate, opened it up, and pulled out what was inside to show everyone. "This is an AT4-CS Rocket Launcher System. These things can be used for anti vehicle, anti armor, and even used for close in combat. Again, try and make sure no one is behind you, or else you'll burn them up."

Craig snorted, "Learned about back blast areas in JM, but never seen anything that has one fired, let alone shot one. You need to find us a few more of those so I can practice."

Kermit shot a rather evil eye over at Craig, "Let's see what realistic kid weapons he has. The last thing we need is you all being able to take out buildings, tanks, and aircraft."

"IF we are in a civil war, we will need to," Keith countered.

Zenon looked over at the boys, with a low growl, "Our job is to keep you out of the fighting…"

At this, Ricky even snorted, "I think you got an F on that and I have never gotten an F on anything…" His face suddenly went bright red as the others started howling in laughter at the look of shock on Zenon's face.

Juan rolled his eyes and grabbed another crate and brought it over. "Okay, Glenn… this is where we get to see if you are as geeky as you say. You want something for your chair, here it is." Juan shot Glenn a smirk as he pulled out a large belt fed machinegun. "This is your standard .50 cal machinegun, with everything needed to make this an emplacement, should you wish to do so."

Glenn eyed the weapon and shook his head, "Way too heavy. I'd have to build a hover tank to hold a machinegun."

Both Steven and Craig glanced over. Neither boy had to say a word, since the looks on their faces gave away how much they would love to assist Glenn with building a hover tank.

Juan ignored the looks as best as he could. "Okay, I am sure these will be more for the adults, but I just couldn't help but bring them down." Juan quickly yanked open yet another crate. Inside were two hardened sided massive gun cases. He opened one up and lifted it out for everyone to see. "This is a TAC 50 A1-R2 .50 cal sniper rifle." Juan saw Levi smile, so he walked over and handed it to the man. "You only got a hundred rounds each, but… well, if you go through all of it… then the shit has really hit the fan."

Levi shrugged, 'We can always pull rounds off the belts of .50 ammo if we need more. Kermit and I are each taking one of those."

"Okay…. so who likes shotguns?" Juan demanded to know as he moved over to the next stack of boxes.

Justin's eyes lit up and he took a step forward, not even realizing he was doing so.

Juan grinned and motioned for Justin to come closer as the boy smiled widely. "Okay, Justin, I think you will like this." Juan lifted up a rifle with a pistol stock, and a large barrel drum attached to the underside. "This is called a 'street sweeper'. It's an automatic twelve gauge shotgun…" Juan was cut off by Justin's excited pump of a fist.

"Oh, yeah!" Justin's eyes became wide, "Hand that baby right over here!"

"Now, is anyone gonna get as excited about this as Justin did about the shotgun?" Juan asked as he dug further into the second stack of equipment. He shot the adults a glance, sensing their growing discomfort at letting the kids handle so much firepower. This feeling only made unveiling this next toy even more difficult, so he decided to play it up as an Adult oriented weapon.

"Understand, you only have two of these, and each only has a hundred rounds," Juan stated as he lifted up a rather large piece of machinery.

The moment it came into view, Levi cursed under his breath, making Juan giggle before he explained what he was holding, "This is an Mk47 Striker 40mm automatic grenade launcher. It's capable of programming and firing 'smart grenades', as well as more typical ordinance." Juan watched as one of the younger boys, Alexander, dropped his jaw in shock. Juan was sure he saw the boy twitch slightly, and have to readjust himself, before he stepped forward wanting to hold the thing. Juan put it down in the case, before he spoke to the excited youngster, "Just so you know, this is fired from a tripod, and can't be fired by holding it. The thing weighs over 40 pounds, without any ammo."

Alexander barely nodded as he reached down and stroked the barrel of the weapon.

Levi glanced over to Juan, "That… no… never mind, just push it over off to the side. I'll figure out what to do with it eventually."

Glenn's eyes narrowed, "No way, one of those is getting torn apart so I can put it on this chair. Smart grenades, there is the place to start making this chair into something cool."

"It already is cool," Levi argued. "It got you here!"

"Yeah, well, it's about to get a whole lot cooler. Alexander, you know how to put weapons onto robots, you need to help me put one of those in this chair, even if we have to up the power to keep the lift.

Alexander grinned widely, "I bet I can have some idea's drawn up by lunch!"

Kermit let out a long sigh as he pushed one of the two launchers off to the side, "Fine, but only on the chair EEL built for you Glenn, you need to keep the other one school and public safe."

Levi and Zenon each shot Kermit a sharp glare, but quickly gave up upon seeing their friend wasn't budging. Zenon finally glanced upward and with open hands made a motion of strangling someone. "Fine… Glenn, one of those is yours; you break it, too bad. It only gets loaded once we know it is properly working and when we expect trouble."

"We'll fix it if he breaks it," Steven stated with total confidence.

Juan rolled his eyes and shook his head as he felt Justin using his metal powers to 'push' Kermit into making the decision he had. He realized he badly needed to spend a few hours with the kid before he pushed too hard and did damage to himself or someone else on accident. Now was not the time, however, "Okay, now all of the really fun shit is out of the way, let's get down to the nuts and bolts of weaponry." Juan opened up another crate and lifted out a standard looking MP5. "This is a slightly modified MP5 sub machinegun. The only thing different about this one than one you could get elsewhere is that the kick is less, making it more easily operated by smaller, lighter people… in other words, kids."

"Automatics?" Zenon stated in horror. "You brought fully automatic weapons to hand over to a bunch of kids, like it should be standard carry? Are you nuts? Why would anyone make a kid sized auto weapon to begin with?"

Kermit glanced over at Zenon, "They have all been shot at with automatic weapons and if Ashwood finds them, they will again. Let's be happy it is sized for them and focus on teaching them how to use them."

Levi nodded in reluctant agreement, "We need to set up a series of friend and foe courses so they get very used to identifying who or what they are shooting at before they pull the triggers. Until then we need them with semi-autos only. Preferably rifles or pistols with handgrips they can hold properly."

Juan held up a finger to stop the conversation. "Now, for the last of the guns, you guys have fifteen of these," Juan said as he opened up the last container of firearms. "These are my favorite 9mm pistol, the CZ 75."

Kermit smiled widely as he pulled his CZ 75 out and nodded, "Nice choice. Maybe there is something inside you worth liking, after all."

Juan grinned at Kermit, and hooked a thumb to the last few crates. "Those are all full of ammo, everything from High Explosive .50 rounds, to paint ball rounds, and even a bunch of blanks. If you guys want, or need anything else, let me know soon. All the other equipment is being loaded now, and they will be going wheels up in a little while to come down here with more stuff." Juan paused for a moment, before he started again, "Okay, I saved this for last since I figured once you guys got your hands on these, I wouldn't be able to get you back to the rest of the stuff."

"First thing, though, I need my lovely assistant…" As if on cue Adrian walked out of the house in his full Standard UNIT Battle Armor.

While Adrian, a man in his early to mid thirties, either ignored the way Juan spoke about him or didn't hear it. The others did. This caused almost everyone to eye Juan oddly for a few seconds before turning their attention to the armored figure.

Alexander ignored the armored individual; instead, he moved over and ran his hands, almost lovingly, over several of the items still saying nothing. Finally he looked over at Juan then back over at all the hardware, "OK, so what do I need to do to get another shipment just like this one so I can really make the next robot wars fun to watch."

Juan grinned at Alexander and shook his head. "Nah… We were looking into your robot wars, and frankly… The stuff here is not what we're gonna give you for your next robot. Logan and the Chipmunks have a few things they wanna talk with you about at some point. From the way they were talking… well… they got some ideas for you."

Alexander frowned deeply then glanced up, "After everything I have seen, hearing you have talking chipmunks does not surprise me… much…"

Juan couldn't help but laugh as Adrian walked up next to him. "No… The chipmunks aren't actual chipmunks… that's just the nickname they took. They're triplets who the doctors thought it would be amusing to name them Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. Now, the Ferrets…. they would be very interesting to work with on your robots. Of course… you would have to take the shiny pledge, or else anything that you had on the robot that was shiny… well… it wouldn't be there anymore."

With this, Craig slapped his head, "You mean to tell me those annoying high pitched whiny cartoon rodents are in your universe too? Man, there is no way to get away from them!"

At the same time Alexander's left eye arched upwards, "Ferrets?"

"Alexander," Levi spoke firmly, "don't ask, don't go through said open door, just don't. I really don't want to know and we have far more important things to worry about, like keeping you alive. And if what we are looking at isn't some kind of plastic Halloween get-up, which even if it is, I want some for my kids, cause they would have the best costumes next year… Anyway, just keep on track here. We need to stay focused, OK?"

"Oh, like how cool your kids would look next Halloween?" Craig snickered as he moved up to the armored figure and flipped the breast area, "Feels pretty strong to me."

"If you would like…" Juan said with a grin. "I could always shoot him to prove that it works."

"Oh hell…" Adrian said as he gently moved Craig out of the way.

Alexander pumped his fist, "Yeah! Shoot him! I want to see if I can develop this kind of armor for my next bot!"

Juan walked up to Alexander and threw his arm over the older boy's shoulder. "You know something… I think I'm gonna like you."

Both Levi's and Kermit's hands crashed into their foreheads at almost the exact same moment.

Levi just let out a long sigh. "Ok, that does it. I need a pay raise… A big one."

"You know… the shrink we had on base said that one time… he didn't get one though. Oh well… you guys wanna learn about what fun shit this armor can do. Cause I'll tell you right now… this suit is one step short of being intelligent."

"Well, why is it short of being intelligent?" Glenn demanded to know. "The least you could do is give us some real AI since you blasted our brains to sleep with the same question last night. Thanks to you, all I dreamed about last night was AI."

Juan's face hardened as he turned on Glenn, ignoring the quip. "Because… this armor is designed to get hit and keep you alive. Why would you want something that is intelligent, can feel, can think, is alive, being forced to deal with being shot. My brother Daileass, who is an AI, was put into tanks and helicopters and other things, just to see if they could save human lives by putting something they decided wasn't 'alive' in there. Well, guess what? He is alive, and every time they blew his 'body' up, he felt it, he remembered it… and it hurt like hell." Juan's eyes softened as he shook his head sadly. "Sorry…. I know that's not what you meant… but we've had to deal with that sort of shit before."

"So give it damage sensors based on the same tech, and take out the ability to feel pain, just register damage," Ricky stated firmly. "If you can't figure it out, then show me what you have and I'll come up with the programming."

Juan shook his head sadly. "I think we have a different idea of what intelligent is. When Logan gets down here, I'm sure you guys can chat all about that shit if you want. He's the one that came up with most of the AI shit. Now… shall we get back to this armor, so we can get it programmed to you guys quickly?"

Before Ricky could counter, he found Kermit's hand clamped over his mouth. "While interesting and extremely teckie, this whole conversation needs to be held in a room where my brain will not have to endure being talked over for hour upon hour. Now, Juan, take your friend outside, shoot him a couple of times, prove to us it works, then get these kids suited up and explain it before I end up beating the asses of all the kids I am responsible for and probably get fired for it, OK?"

"Boy…" Juan said as he started to walk outside. "I think someone needs some anger management classes."

Kermit snorted, "I am not the one who brought a bunch of eleven to thirteen-year-olds major explosives and missiles to play with. Besides, I manage my anger just fine. Just ask the pricks I took out at the temple. I found a great deal of anger abatement in putting rounds into their bodies at just over a kilometer."

Juan grinned. "Nice! Personally, when the shrink offered me anger management classes, I simply showed him one of my favorite T-Shirts. 'I don't need to manage my anger better… I just need stupid idiots to stop pissing me off all the time!' He didn't find it as funny as I did." He then jerked his head to get everyone outside. Once he was sure Adrian was far enough away to where there was no chance of a ricochet, Juan glanced over at Adrian. "You ready for this?"

"Yeah, I guess…" the man said somewhat nervously.

"Good. Everyone cover your ears!" Juan demanded as he pulled out his 9mm, looked to make sure everyone was ready. He then shouted loudly. "FIRING FOR DEMONSTRATION!" He waited about three seconds, then put three rounds right into Adrian's chest. While the man took a step back as each shot hit him, he never fell.

"Damn!' Adrian said as he pulled his helmet off and looked down at the slugs sitting in his chest plate. "It felt like I was getting pushed backwards, but it didn't hurt at all."

"That's because part of what the armor does is distribute the kinetic force over a large area. The really cool part is… since they were only 9mm rounds, we don't even have to fix up the armor at all. If they were bigger rounds, then we might have to do some touch ups to it."

Craig moved forward and looked over the armor, "Oh, me next! Get me in one of those suits!"

"Then me!" Alexander stated while jumping up and down at the prospect.

Zenon cringed, shook his head, and turned to Levi, "OK, I am going to go tell the boss the kids he flew down here only pretended to be smart, since some of them are now volunteering to get shot."

"Actually… I think we should let the chaperones do the shooting. It will help them pay you guys back a little bit for all the shit you guys have put them through." Juan snickered as he led the way back into the outbuilding.

"Hey, Mr. Tobin can shoot me all he wants," Ricky stated seriously, "as long as he teaches me how to fight like he can…. Um, then adopt me, since my mom isn't going to want me back after she finds out I shot someone."

Justin glanced over and nodded, "Yeah, him and Mr. Kjell could make picking on me a whole lot harder. But I think what Craig is teaching me will help just as much and I don't have to volunteer being shot first."

Craig snickered, "I want to be able to say I was shot in the chest. There is something none of the guys in my J.M. unit can say!" He paused for a moment, "Oh, speaking of my J.M. unit, Um… Juan, is there any chance you can get me a gun I only fired once but loved it?"

"Maybe… what was it?" Juan wondered with a raised eyebrow as he started to pull large duffle bags out of the outbuilding. Before he could get an answer, he spoke in a commanding tone. "Take these outside, unload them, and then we'll start getting you guys into the armor. But… guys… don't do ANYTHING until I tell you to."

Craig took the first offered bag, "The best rifle I ever shot, and we only did it when the Special Forces guys came out for weapon training. It was a SR-25 enhanced combat rifle. Man, best weapon ever!"

"Over ten pounds though," Levi warned, "which makes it damned heavy."

"Yeah, but I was fifty nine of sixty without scope and sixty for sixty with scope and it is a 7.62 round and can fire .308. Plus, and even better, it has a twenty round magazine. If I could just get one of them and like six extra mags, I'd even give you a hug, Juan."

Juan closed his eyes in thought for a moment, then smiled. "One is on its way down… I just asked Logan to grab it for you."

Craig pumped his fist. "Right on, you get the hug when I get the rifle. Now, how do I put this on so I can have someone shoot me?"

Agent Paulson entered the town hall of Breckenridge, Texas, and moved straight to the mayor's office. He flashed his badge at the secretary and moved straight through the door without pausing. He cringed slightly as the door swung shut behind him slapping him in his wounded butt cheek, but he forced himself not to let out the gasp he felt trying to come out.

If anything, the pained look on his face got the attention of the man behind the desk, who looked up with a rather worried frown. "The Governor told me to expect the feds, but the look on your face says this is worse than some kind of flu outbreak."

This caught Paulson off guard. Since the governor had refused troops, it didn't occur to him the guy might actually contact the mayor. Still, his time as a deep cover agent allowed him to recover quickly. "At this point we are not sure what we are dealing with, but it is contagious. Two people who have visited here within the last three days have taken on a violent sickness and have subsequently passed it on to others. We have them in quarantine, but we are afraid there are others. They are in two totally different areas and so far only family members have come down with this bug. Two females have died and a third, a young boy, is not expected to live through the night.

"The CDC says it is the same thing in both cases and the only link we can find is them coming through here. We know one got fuel and ate here then went to Houston the other had some car trouble and stopped here for repairs then went up to Norman Oklahoma. Their paths didn't cross at any time here either."

"Why has no one here been infected?" the man behind the desk demanded to know.

Paulson shrugged, "No idea. That is why they sent investigators to see what is going on, but we can't allow anyone else to come or go until we run this down. One thing I have been told is onset is extremely rapid, then victims feel better for a while before they go back down hill. Kids and elderly are the most prone at this point, so I need to talk to school health personnel and clinics."

Paulson then dropped two photos on the mayor's desk already knowing from surveillance, credit card transactions, and phone records he was dropping the photo of a known person on the man's desk, "Have you seen either of these two men?"

The mayor went a bit pale as he looked at the second photograph. "Um, yes, he was here on Friday. He wanted to know if we were in the market for any GPS trackers for our town vehicles!"

"Then you have had direct contact with this Mr. Pacer?"

At this the mayor simply nodded, "Is he one of the sick ones?"

"He is considered case Bravo since Mr. Cooperman came down with the symptoms first." Paulson did his best to show concern on his face while he purposefully took a step back to feign nervousness. "How many others met with him?" Again he already knew part of the answer which only made this laughably easy. The AoG had found the perfect patsy for him.

The mayor picked up the photo and let out a long uneasy breath. "The sheriff, the town councilman who handles acquisitions, the principle of the senior high since we have a couple of Driver's Ed cars which also double as shop cars for the auto shop… Oh, and two of our Driver's Ed teachers. Both are substitute teachers…"

"Have either of them taught at the schools since he came through?"

"I am sure they have…" the look on the man's face suddenly realized what this meant. "Oh, god…"

"We need to get those records and find out what schools, if any, they have been to," Paulson stated while taking yet another step back. "In the mean time, I will have to block access into and out of town until we do a complete set of interviews looking for the early symptoms."

"Many of the kids who go to school here live outside of town and are bused in…" the mayor warned.

"We will have to cross each bridge as we get there. This is still in an investigative state, but we are mobilizing more resources in case we have to segregate a larger part of the population. Hopefully we will find a common source quickly and the numbers quarantined will be small."

"And if it is wide spread?"

"Then we have a major problem, because both of those men traveled a long way from here and made multiple stops along the way. In the mean time, can you recall your police and fire so they can be told, privately, what is going to happen and how we are planning on tracking this down? Let's meet in the fire house since everyone coming here may start a panic."

"Sure, but since no one else is sick, what if you don't find anything?"

"Then we are back at square one, but this is our best lead."

Paulson exited the office and glanced over at the secretary. The cold look she gave, coupled with the picture of two girls and a boy on her desk, was not a good combination for her. Before he left, Paulson had already committed the faces of the kids to memory and would make sure the whole stinking family would play a key role in the events of the coming hours.

As he turned down the hall toward the exit, he made a show of wiping his nose with a hanky before dropping it into a trashcan. He cringed slightly as it make a louder 'thunk' than he expected, but no one meandering the hall so much as took notice. He smiled widely as he slid the pull out tab into his pocket and walked out the main door.

Less than twenty minutes later the first person fell to her hands in the building then vomited before collapsing on the ground. He snickered as he watched from a nearby shop. The games had begun.

As the day wore on and the kids got used to the new strange armor, things in the distance caused everyone to pull in closer to the cabin as military aircraft, including Ospreys and Apaches, started buzzing the not too distant town. As the activity picked up, Fredric finally made an appearance and decided it was time to get a bit more information.

With the help of the Russian Mil-Sat, Ricky was able to once again hack into the hub just outside the town. What he found didn't add up. The town had been quarantined for medical reasons, but no medical teams had been brought in. Instead, most of the Homeland Security, ATF, and FBI from Austin had been pulled. Making matters even stranger, the vast majority had to first go to a Naval Air Station-Reserve base to pick up military hardware. Some of those assigned to the hardware were former military, but in the case of three of the Apache attack copters, those assigned to pilot them had not flown for years.

It didn't take long to decide this whole situation needed to be checked out with eyes on the ground. Even as a few Russians and Juan prepared gear to scope out the situation they noticed Craig, Justin, Alexander, Steven, Scott, and Keith gearing up along with Kermit and Levi.

Before the Russian officer, Yuri Komencho, started to speak, Levi shook his head and waved off the coming comment. "Unless you are going to shoot them, they are coming. They feel they are responsible since we hit the comm hub here, so they want… need to help."

Justin nodded, "Besides, we need some kind of proof as to what is going on. I can take one of my film cameras and get some shots since the negatives will be proof we aren't editing photos."

Fredric rubbed his forehead, "Even negatives can be faked, but there is tech to prove it, so you're right. It will give us some hard proof. But, guys, I didn't bring you out here for this…"

"We know, sir," Steven responded, "but this isn't just about us. This is about our families, our friends and like it or not, our country. If we can get enough information out there, for the world to see, maybe we can change Ashwood's mind, since less and less people will want to follow him."

"It is worth an attempt," Yuri Komencho acknowledged, while his voice showed he didn't find Steven's idea likely to succeed. "It is the best chance we have to prevent your country from ripping itself apart. However, this operation Starshine is in place and has been for quite some time. Do not blame yourselves if this whole thing does break into a shooting war."

"I think we get it, sir." Craig sighed deeply, "But we have to try and this may be the last shot we have to show what Ashwood's people are really doing."

Fredric held up his hand to silence the debate. "Give it a shot, guys, but do not play hero out there. This is a recon mission. If things go badly, get back here. You all have a meeting with the Governor tomorrow, and if we cancel or postpone we will draw way too much attention to ourselves."

Levi tossed one of the .50 cal rifles over to Kermit. "Nothing gets to our charges, nothing. We have already seen what they do to kids who oppose them." He gestured to the dead body of the teen shot by the agent the day before.

"It'll be over my dead body," Kermit all but snarled. "If something happens, take care of my kids…"

"EEL will take care of anyone and everyone, including Paul's family," Fredric assured the whole group. "As a matter of fact, Joey and I have been working on what to do for them pretty much all night. Joey still is. But enough talk about bad things happening to any of you. Go do your recon and let Justin get some good photos, then get back here."

The group moved to the boat in silence. The boat ride itself was done with little conversation. Instead, Adrian continued to look over the kids and frown. Finally he spoke, "Armored or not, none of you are front line fighters, so don't think you can be. Maybe one of these years you all will be, but not yet. So, if you insist on getting off this boat, stick with us and do exactly what we tell you to do." His tone alone caused everyone, even Alexander, to cringe and hold their tongues.

Zenon gave Adrian a nod then glanced over to Justin as activity over the town continued to increase. As they hit shore they could barely make out the civil defense sirens going off. "This is looking worse and worse. I don't care if that weird armor stops bullets or not. You do not go anywhere without permission and you others help keep him covered. I expect all those weapons to stay sheathed this whole trip. Leave the fighting to us and our new Russian friends."

Thirty minutes later, Craig continued to follow Juan and the four Russians down the path from the lake. All five continued to glance back, showing some aggravation about so many of the kids from the cabin joining them, but the sight of the Osprey overhead and the civil defense sirens going off in the town of Breckenridge continued to peak too much curiosity.

Finally Juan had to stop and look back. "Look guys. I know you are all smart as hell, maybe even smarter than I am. But smart people know when they're in over their heads." He saw the look that some of them were starting to get and shook his head. "No, I'm not stupid enough to try and tell you guys to stay out of this, but this looks like it may turn into being a frontal assault with no real element of surprise. I admire what you guys have done so far, and you've shown you got more balls than most adults… but in this case, you really need to listen to those of us that have done this sort of shit before. If we tell you to do something, do it without question… got it?" His voice held no malice; instead, it was just very matter of fact. "Now, go over your gear and your armor one more time, go over the person next to you, and then we'll keep going. Got it?"

Craig gave an understanding nod, totally agreeing with Juan, which was the first time he had looked at Juan without anger since being stopped from doing serious harm to David. He moved over to Justin and gave him a once over before they moved out again.

In the town of Breckenridge, Paulson watched from a roof top with four other members from the HRT assigned to him. With so many in the town hall getting violently ill, he had gained the upper hand. Still two of the deputies had refused orders to come back in. Instead they went home, telling their families to pack up.

The HRT leader, Kurtis Mondale, used his team professionally. Both houses had been assaulted at the same time and all those inside were dispatched with extreme prejudice. Even though both men had homes in the middle of their perspective blocks, none of the neighbors heard a thing. Of course the warbling sounds of the civil defense sirens helped cover up any rogue noises.

Now, however, things were getting heated as buses normally assigned to take kids home at the end of the day were being packed to the gills and all kids diverted to the high school. From his vantage point, he could see parents trying to break the lines established by a host of agents from various federal agencies. As word spread about this, more parents came out, ignoring the orders to remain home. This was the powder keg he had been hoping for. All he needed was a match.

He glanced back at his friend and HRT leader, "Where do we stand on getting the kids here?"

"Almost done," Kurt announced after speaking into his throat microphone and getting a response from one of his team members. "There are four bus loads still to come from North Elementary, but they are the older ones, mostly fourth and fifth graders. The last of the South Elementary buses are pulling in now." He pointed down at the packed yellow school transports as they made their way past some very angry parents who were shouting at the driver to stop.

A smirk appeared on Paulson's face. "Send those two up to North, but before you do have one of our people let it slip to the drivers their next job will be to transport some of those kids to a detention center in Houston. With any luck they will make a run for it."

"Huh?" Kurt gasped out with clear shock in his voice.

"Seeing one of the buses making a run for it may tip this whole thing into violence, especially if we send units out in pursuit."

Even as Kurt passed the orders down, he stared at his friend, "You have something else up your sleeve, don't you?"

"Yeah," Paulson grinned, "orders from a higher power. They want to draw out this unknown into a fight and figure whoever they are may just be altruistic enough to jump at the chance to save some surf offspring. I am not allowed to say more, but we should probably get ready to pull out."

"And if the powder keg doesn't ignite down there?" Kurt pointed toward the high school.

"Oh, it will." Paulson snickered with a nasty undertone and a glint in his eyes. "It will."

Less than fifteen minutes later the small, yet heavily armed group led by Levi and Juan, got to an opening with a small building: a whistle from somewhere off to the northeast caught their attention. While Kermit motioned for the kids to take a knee the Russians fanned out and to protect the small group. An instant later Adrian appeared seemingly out of nowhere, "Heavy dust trails coming this way, moving real fast for the dirt road."

Those who were looking at Juan saw his eyes turn from the normal brown to the bright yellow eagle's eyes, as he looked towards the dust trails. "Shit…" he said under his breath. "Two school buses full of kids… hauling ass… three SUV's chasing them… something's really fucked up here." Juan looked around then nodded to himself. "Adrian climb on top of the shack, get into position. Levi… Kermit. Take up position. On my mark I want you three to bring down the SUV's. Shoot the drivers, shoot out a tire, or hit the engine, I don't care which, just stop those vehicles."

Levi glanced over at Juan, saw the eyes and shivered, "Insane twilight zone shit going on here. Damn-it!" He glanced back, "OK, guys, you heard the kid, MOVE! Boys, the hill to the south, three of you. The hill to north, three of you. Move your asses and find cover and let us take care of this!"

Craig didn't give anyone a chance to argue. Instead he tapped Justin and Steven on the shoulder and pointed to the north. He then sent a glance over to Alexander and nodded to the south. Alexander gave a sharp nod and tapped Scott and Keith, "You are with me, let's go!"

The Russians quickly split into two groups of two and moved out to provide security to the six boys, since their mission was defense of Fredric and those with him. Before any of the kids other than Craig could figure out what to do, the Russians grabbed them and all but shoved them into the best cover spots available while they moved to take the next best spots. At the same time Kermit moved up to the building and lowered his hand for Adrian.

Adrian gave Kermit a nod and took the offered hand up. He then reached down and pulled Kermit up as soon as he was firmly on the roof. The pair readied their rifles as if the weapons were part of themselves.

Before anyone could get their rifles pointed in the proper direction, Levi disappeared into the brush.

At the same time, Juan actually moved down close to the road, and used his small body to find cover in a clump of small scrub brush near where the road was. Once set, the heavily armed group waited.

Levi had very similar thinking as Juan did; only he moved to get to higher ground. He gritted his teeth as he made his way up the sandy hill just as his ears picked up the sounds of metal on metal. He got to the hill top, just in time to see the lead SUV bounce off the side of the trailing bus, gain speed, and shoot by it. The first bus tried to cut off the surging SUV but almost lost control.

Even from where Levi was, he could hear the panicked screams of the kids in the bus. He pulled his rifle up, but found the lead bus was blocking his shot to the lead SUV. Suddenly the lead SUV came into view as it got in front of the bus. Just as he sighted in on the vehicle, a shot rang out exploding the front windshield of the front school bus.

Levi watched in horror as the bus driver's head snapped back and the bus shot sideways, went up an embankment, and rolled sending kids inside tumbling. Before he could even fire at the SUV the second bus slammed into the still rolling lead bus, sending the driver flying though the windscreen. The second bus then went off the road and flipped onto its side. The body of the second bus driver was then mangled between the two massive careening vehicles.

Before the pair of mangled buses even came to a full stop, Levi sighted on the trailing SUV and sent a Teflon round into the front window. The small hole verified the placement was right, but the vehicle didn't totally lose control as he had hoped. Instead it shot off the road, went up the hill, tilted on two wheels for a split second then came back down at the top of the hill before coming to a stop. Even as three of the four doors flew open, gunshots ripped into them from the hill Craig had taken the others to.

It didn't take a genius to figure out everyone on the hill had opened up and took all three figures down before they could get off a single shot. "So much for them staying out of the fight," Levi murmured as he looked for another target.

Juan muttered a curse as he watched the two buses crash into each other. The first one flipped on its side and the second one pushing it even further down the dirt road. Before the buses had even come to a stop, the other two SUVs had stopped, and the men inside erupted out of them, weapons ready. Most started running towards the buses while a pair fired up at the hill where the incoming fire had taken out those from the lead SUV. Juan knew there were no other adults on the buses; he had scanned them as he was waiting for them to get closer. The only people still alive on the buses were kids, most of them younger than he was, many of them badly hurt.

The buses came to a stop close to where he was waiting. Without even a thought, Juan jumped up, a pistol in each hand, and went running towards the mangled wrecks. Already there were kids starting to climb from the wreckage, while others were screaming inside, many from pain, others from fear, most from both. The way the buses came to a rest, the first bus was on its side, the roof pointing towards the SUV which was carrying the person who shot the driver. The second bus was T-boned into the underside of the first one and was on its roof. Juan knew Adrian and the rest could deal with the men behind the buses, but the buses actually blocked line of sight to the closer SUV. The only way he saw for himself to get into a firing spot was to jump up onto the side of the over turned bus, then down to the ground. His plan was pretty straight forward. He needed to get into a spot where he could try to cover the kids in the first bus.

The government agents didn't see him till he got close, but the second one of the men shouted, Juan took some fire which in turn prompted him to start blasting into them. He got four shots off, all of them finding a home, two shots each into the men coming out the front doors, both of whom fell mortally wounded.

Juan didn't pause. He continued running full tilt towards the buses. Once he got close enough, he leapt into the air. A loose rock under his foot caused him to go off balance as he made his jump. He hit the side of the bus, which in turn forced him to shinny up to the top. His left hand was actually on the top of the bus when he felt his armor snag on a piece of metal. With a mighty pull, which caused metal to screech in protest, he reached the top and climbed over. At the same time, what he didn't realize was a piece of metal had snagged one of the buckles on his right side, causing the armor to separate and loosen.

He hit the ground just as one of the men opened up with a sub machinegun trying to spray the kids who had climbed from the bus. He threw a hand out; using his telekinesis he stopped all the bullets before they hit anyone. In a fit of rage over seeing men trying to shoot little kids, Juan concentrated on the man who gave the order and clenched his hand tightly. The man let out a scream as his head slowly started to collapse in on itself.

Juan, standing in front of the kids for their protection, noticed as another agent tried to shoot him. The first shot hit his armor, and Juan took a step backwards and grunted. Because of this, Juan released the man whose head he was crushing while turning on the second man. The third man fell to the ground, blood leaking out of every opening on the skull, just as the rear passenger side agent opened up with his own MP5.

Juan turned toward the other man using all of his concentration to make sure none of the bullets made it to the kids before he opened fire with his own pistol, dropping the fourth man. Then it happened.

Juan felt the shot before he even heard it. He hadn't seen the fifth agent, who had dropped to the ground when the SUV had stopped. He never saw the end of the .50 cal rifle barely poking out from under the tire. Instead, when Juan turned towards the forth man, he had left his right side open to the SUV. The prone agent had no idea of Juan's armor failure, just took a shot into the 'softest' area of most body armor, the side under the arm. The shot found the crack in the armor as if it had been guided to it, however.

The bullet passed unhindered through the loosened armor and into Juan, right below his shoulder. It tore through his right lung, clipping the aortic artery right as it turned downwards to feed blood to the rest of the body. Then it blew through his shoulder and into the back side of the armor on his left side. Because of the bullet hitting Juan's shoulder, it changed the trajectory enough that when it hit the armor plate, instead of logging into it, it ricocheted downwards, going through his left lung, tearing a hole in his diaphragm. From there it continued its path downwards, tearing its way through Juan's liver, destroying his gallbladder, before continuing through his large intestine, then the small intestine, before lodging into his pelvic bone.

Being linked with Juan, Adrian knew what had happened as soon as Juan was hit. Normally, he would never have fired on the SUV anywhere near the gas tank, but he fired blind trying to get the guy who had hit Juan. Unfortunately for the kids outside the bus, the explosion not only killed the offending agent, but hurt several of them as well while setting four on fire.

'I'm Hit… BAD!' Juan cried out mentally. He didn't target it at any one person, so everyone within a half a mile heard the cry in their minds.

Alexander was first to react. He jumped and moved at a crouch toward the carnage before the two Russians protecting him even realized he was on the go. This allowed him to get past the men instead of them tackling him which they were under orders to do should it become necessary. "What part of let us take the lead didn't you get, kid!" the nearest soldier shouted as he jumped up in pursuit.

Seeing Alexander on the move, Craig started to move to cover, but was forced down by a sudden burst of fire from the trailing SUV. The muzzle of an M-16 poked out and fired a full clip of thirty rounds at the hill, not really aiming. At the same time, another figure rolled out of the other side and ducked holding a hand held radio and screaming for help. He only got out half a dozen words before Levi put a bullet into his temple.

Levi turned sharply as he heard a rather distinctive 'thump' sound come from the hill with Craig and the others. A few moments later an explosion ended the shooting from inside the vehicle as a grenade landed only a foot from the open door and exploded. A spray of blood coming out the far side open door bore proof to the deadliness of the launched grenade.

Levi nodded in satisfaction as he turned his attention to what other threats he could see, unfortunately, there were none. The closer SUV was tucked next to the two flipped over buses and blocked from his line of sight. While it was clearly on fire, he had no way of knowing who, if anyone, had made it out. At the same time, the last SUV had pulled around the side of the wreck away from him. Heavy gunfire told him the fighting was not as one sided as he would have liked. Even worse, he could see kids trying to move around inside the two buses.

Craig looked down the hill, fired half a dozen rounds into the group coming out of the final SUV, and rolled to his left before ducking down as the hillside was once again sprayed with 5.56 rounds. "There are all sorts of hurt kids in those buses and Juan is down! What is wrong with these people?"

"Let God worry about what is wrong with them," a Russian soldier barked back as he chambered a grenade into his launcher. "Let's arrange the meeting." Without another word he sighted in, ignoring the incoming fire, and fired the grenade. "Now, move to cover your over eager friend and as many kids as you can while we cover you!"

Craig raced down the hill and dove as a pair of men from the middle SUV came into view. Neither stayed standing for more than a split second as fire from the Russians on his hilltop, Kermit, Adrian, and Levi tore through them.

Up ahead, Alexander dropped, rolled, and whipped a throwing knife catching an astonished agent in the gut. Even as the man dropped his rifle and fell to the side, the small boy then jumped back to his feet as he continued to race toward Juan.

Craig let out a short curse as he realized he was now the only one who could cover Alexander since he had disappeared into the wreckage. Because of this, he jumped back to his feet and ran as fast as he could. He rounded the first bus, pulled his pistol and fired as he saw a gunman aiming at Alexander's back, just as the kid was tossing another knife into yet another adult. Suddenly, Juan's body came into sight and both boys raced to him.

Just as they got to him, Juan managed to yank Alexander's pistol from his holster and fire a single round, striking the last agent in the throat. "Rookie mistake," Juan managed to croak out, "don't let it happen again." Juan then passed out as a pool of blood could be seen forming around him.

Carter Paulson and Kurtis Mondale continued to watch the growing crowd becoming more and more vocal and hostile, yet nothing seemed to push things over the tipping point. Word of the fleeing buses was really riling up the locals, but nothing pushed them to violence. "So be it," he grumbled as he scanned the mass of people a block and a half away.

Paulson let out an aggravated sigh as he motioned for the female HRT medic to hand him her silenced rifle. At the same time, he nodded at his friend, "Kurt, target the young agent with the glasses manning the wooden barricade. He is the one working the hardest at keeping these backwater hicks calm."

Kurt shrugged, screwed on a silencer and took aim. "And you are targeting?"

"The mayor's secretary… She's a cunt."

He then glanced over to the HRT's sniper, "Use an incendiary round. Put it into the gas tank of the final bus. This way we take out her offspring before they can breed."

"So you had a reason for ordering the last bus to come here to pick up sixth graders and third graders from North?"

"Yeah," Paulson snickered. "Her brats are on the bus, so I end her genetic line all in one fell swoop."

Paulson counted down from three, knowing even as he spoke the word "now" his broken fingers would feel the kick of the rifle. He was not disappointed. Even as the woman in his sights fell from a bullet to her collar bone he saw nothing but white and had to fight the desire to pass out. Only the sounds of the back of the bus erupting into a fireball allowed him to keep consciousness.

Before they could even holster their weapons a full gun battle broke out as agents started shooting into the crowd while others pulled back the man Kurtis had gut shot. While many of the parents ran for it, others grabbed weapons out of their cars and started shooting back.

Paulson blinked tears out of his eyes as he saw the side door of the high school burst open. A dozen or more young men, all football players from the looks of them, tore into the agents from behind. Some grabbed guns from those they tackled and started shooting. A full fledge free for all broke out as some agents turned to shoot at the varsity team while others fired into the school. At the same time those on the outer perimeter continued to fire into the parents. Bodies fell by the score.

Paulson snorted, "Ok, people, time to pack up and get!"

The medic nodded as she took back her rifle then pointed at two other HRT members, "Carry him so he doesn't slow us down. I am not about to get caught in this shit storm!"

Only a few miles away Craig looked down with wide eyes as the sounds of a massive gun battle erupted from the direction of Breckenridge. He glanced toward the town noticing some of the distinct helicopters were exchanging fire while a lone Osprey banked hard to the northeast. With a lump in his throat he then glanced back at Juan while shouting as loud as he could, "Steven! Levi! Juan's down and there are dozens of kids hurt. We also have fire coming from the town! We need to get out of here with as many as we can save!"

Alexander ran over to the first bus and pulled open the back door, yanked the fire extinguisher off of it and moved toward the flames. At the same time the hill to the south erupted in gunfire. From up on the hill Levi shouted, "Reinforcements! Take them down!"

Adrian didn't hesitate to chamber another ramjet round. He put it into the front of the oncoming vehicle shattering the engine block. The extremely fast and high powered round caused the front of the SUV to burst into flames. The men inside quickly rolled out of the still moving vehicle but not a single one managed to stand or even get off a shot, as they were cut down without remorse.

Further back, a fifth SUV turned sharply, but not sharply or quickly enough. A Russian fired grenade hit the side and blew it into pieces.

Levi looked over to Breckenridge expecting to see aircraft heading their way, but all he saw were tracers crisscrossing the sky. "Oh, shit!"

Even as Steven made his way down to Craig, who was doing his best to put his hand over the blood spilling out of Juan, Alexander put out the flames burning a couple of the kids and threatening the lead bus. All three kids looked up as dust started to fly as a Huey suddenly appeared as if out of nowhere and came in for a hard combat landing. The stealth on the Huey making it invisible right up to the point it touched the ground. The second Huey turned off its stealth while it flew in a protective circle above the one landing.

When Steven looked over, he couldn't help but notice two more helicopters come into view, both of them flying impossibly fast for helicopters. The lead one was another Huey, while the one behind it was a much larger Chinook. The Chinook was somewhat low to the ground while the Huey was high and heading towards Breckenridge fast. When it was almost over top of them Steven saw the highest Huey let loose with a dazzling amount of rockets. He spun towards the city, and while he didn't see what blew up, something did.

Knowing he could do nothing about an air battle, he turned his full attention to Juan. "Craig, it'll hurt him but hold that wound tight while I get the armor off; we need to see what, where and how bad it is."

"It's bad. His heart is starting to beat ultra fast," Craig whispered with a great deal of dread in his voice.

Steven just got the chest plate off when someone slid in next to him. He looked over and saw a very pale Janet looking down at an unconscious Juan. "Oh Juan…" she breathed as she pulled out a weird looking device. She flipped the box open and immediately it started to beep quickly. "Oh my God…" she breathed out as she pulled something from the bag, and pressed it to Juan's neck. A hiss could barely be heard before she pulled it back, and dropped it on the ground. "We need to get him out of here now. He's… he's gonna die if…" Her voice trailed off as she looked around. She spotted Adrian as he came running around the bus, sliding to a stop as he saw Juan on the ground. "Adrian… We need to get him back to the mansion!"

Adrian nodded, dropped the rifle and scooped up Juan. Before he rose to his feet, he looked Craig in the eyes. "Do not let go… no matter what." A pale faced Craig nodded as Adrian rose up with Juan in his arms. As quickly as they dared, Adrian and Craig moved to the helicopter.

Janet looked at Steven and spoke loud enough to be heard over the spinning blades. "I need help on this. Can you…"

Before she could say more Steven gave her a hard nod while at the same time picking up one of the more seriously injured kids who had managed to get out of the bus wreck. One of the Russians moved up and stuck his arms out as he saw Steven struggling a bit. "We'll get the worst… at least those who are still savable. You help the doctor."

Steven started to say something only to get a light shove from another Russian, "Comrades first, then those you can save next. Juan is comrade, not these kids. Now go!"

Janet gave the Russian soldier a sad nod while mouthing for him and his small team to grab some of the kids who could be picked up without extra damage. She then moved quickly to the helicopter and hopped in. Steven quickly followed, climbing in right behind Adrian and Craig who got a quick hand getting into the bird by the Russians who simply shoved the four kids they were carrying into the side door with little concern over being careful so they could focus on assisting getting Juan in as safely as possible.

Before Juan was even secured, Janet smacked the back of the pilot's chair and jerked her head. Moments later the Huey was in the air. Before they were 100 feet away, the pilot hit the cloaking and the helicopter vanished from sight.

Two and a half miles away a three man team watched the fight in and around the buses with stunned expressions. Their cameras caught most of the action. Even though they had video, none were sure they had really seen what had happened. Finally, the lead man spoke as he pulled the CD out of the camera, inserted it into his small computer, burned himself a copy, then ejected the disk and handed it over to the youngest of the three, "OK, get this to the Lord Bishop's man, Mr. Paulson. If you happen to get questioned, or someone looks at it, stick with the cover story. The disk will play the heathen's music should they want to test it."

The man then stared deeply into the young teen's eyes. "And Liam, this is your first time outside of the island without one of us. Do not go against the teachings of the Lord Bishop of San Andres or you will be subjugated all the way back down to surf status with no chance of regaining lost status in the Army, understood?"

"My way is the way of God," they young teen spoke with total conviction.

"We know it is, Liam," the other man spoke. "Now get going. Ashwood's forces are getting pounded so Inquisitor Paulson will be heading back to the fallback point and getting out of the area. If you fail to get to him in time, you need to push on, since we can have no direct contact with him until he proves himself to be with us fully. His Ashwood loyalties must be proven to be second to the Army. This may mean you will be on your own for days if not longer. Succeed in this and you will become one of the infiltrators in training."

With this the youngster smiled widely, "By the glory of the Lord Bishop and God!" He then raced down the hill, jumped on an old dirt bike and tore off down the path leading away from the slaughterhouse that had once been Breckenridge Texas.

Back at the cabin Ricky sat at the main table once again and picked up one of the hard drives he had pulled from the central computer in the smaller building at what the kids they had rescued were calling the 'Temple'. Having never gone to a church in his entire life, he was not sure what one should be like, but he was beyond certain the buildings those kids had been kept in was not it.

The encryption on this disk was harder, much harder, than the one he had pulled out of the larger building, and it was frustrating him to some degree. Part of it was the fact he had really wanted to go with the others to check out what was going on in Breckenridge. At the same time, he fully admitted he was not exactly a candidate for a long hike, and the armor training with Juan had not gone well for him. In fact it had been a disaster.

He glanced down at the armor off to the side of the table for about the fiftieth time since taking it off. The internal heads up display, or HUD, while wearing the helmet, was about the only thing which made sense to him. In fact, he found it a bit underwhelming and had already downloaded the basic programming, certain he could make it better. With all the electronics in the suit he just couldn't figure out why there wasn't more information, like alternate visual modes other than the highly advanced telescopic mode. He had, with Glenn's help, already started on a positioning system based on the stars, sun, and moon coupled with date and time so they would not have to rely on GPS satellites. The idea was, if a civil war did break out, they figured crippling the GPS system was a high probability. After a quick conversation with Glenn, the two of them decided they would make the helmet better. Much to both of their surprise, this idea was jumped on by Joey, who came up with even more ideas.

As a matter of fact, Glenn and Joey were down in the lab playing with a laser sight they had found inside the shipment brought to them by Juan, even as Ricky once again tried to crack the hard drive. The idea they were playing with was to find a way to hook it up to the suit's optics to put the sight up on the HUD which would show exactly where the weapon the sight was attached to would fire. This would mean building an interface and calculating the bullet's speed, and drop over range. Because of the extra variants, Glenn was busy gathering data on not only all the different types of weapons, but also the various types of ammunition so Ricky could build a program around the weapon data to keep everything straight.

At the same time, Joey was working on the laser sight, trying to figure out how to have it give range to target then be able to convey this to the suit's helmet. Furthermore, he also noted they would need things like wind speed, altitude, and even temperature and humidity data to make the bullet's path totally accurate.

While the suit had sensors for some of this, it didn't have everything, or at least not everything was unlocked to them, and it was more of an assist based on the weapon and the way it was being held. It had made shooting easier, but it still was not easy enough. It could be done better and Ricky was determined to prove it. The funny thing was, he was by no means alone. Steven and Craig were interested in the power and the solar recharging system and, of course, Keith wanted to boost the communications abilities.

However, the HUD was something Ricky was certain would be a great deal of fun to develop. He was really looking forward to seeing the data interface Glenn was working on with Joey so he could get started.

With a long sigh, he rubbed his hand over his forehead as he glared at the 'Temple' hard drive again. The binary data off the drive was unlike anything Ricky had ever seen, and he had seen some of the best. He had, after all, hacked banks, government computers, credit card centers, and had even created fake people who were getting paid by major companies. Yet this stupid five terabyte hard drive was as safe now as when he had first tried to break it over fifteen hours ago. In simple terms, he had not made a single dent in its cyber armor.

His fist finally slammed into the table and he muttered, "Come on Ricky, it's only a hard drive, think!" he grumbled loudly as he got up and started to move to the soda fridge.

Fredric glanced over from where he had been trying to get some of the kids rescued the day before to open up some. "Hey there buddy, take a break…"

Ricky's brown eyes turned to mere slits for a moment as he glared at Fredric. He started to say something which only came out as "Don't bu…" before he stopped himself then glanced away sharply.

Dennis eyed the boy, not liking the tone or the glare. "It sure sounds like you need a break. Get your butt outside and make the rounds. See if our Russian friends need any food, water, or anything out on the perimeter."

Ricky's eyes went wide at the annoyed tone from the man. He quickly gulped and nodded, "Yes sir."

Dennis kept his voice firm, "Take Marshall and Troy with you, since they are both talking and moving around some. It will do them both some good to get away from the others."

Dennis then glanced over to the two boys who were showered, cleaned and patched up after their daylong escape attempt from the 'Temple' and the subsequent fire fight. "There was nothing in my words requesting you two boys help, now get moving!"

The two glanced at each other then over to Ricky as they stood. However, before they could make it to the door one of the Russians came in, "I have a silver colored extended length suburban coming in with EEL markings. Are you expecting someone sir?"

"Basic supplies and a way to get the kids back to Austin for a meet with the Governor tomorrow. It should be just one man, my right hand organization guy and back-up chaperone, Mitch Ryle. I told him to bring some stuff up here, and forgot all about it. Hence, why I need an organization guy, sorry."

The Lieutenant rolled his eyes, "Not a good way to keep your people safe, Mr. Triumph. Maybe you should go with me to verify his ID and explain to him why his vehicle is being pulled over with heavy weapons?"

Fredric turned a bit pale, "Uh… yeah, good idea."

The Lieutenant then glanced over to the three boys, "I believe you were given instructions to get food and water out to my men?"

Ricky nodded viperously while motioning for the others to follow him. As soon as the three exited the room, the Lieutenant glanced over at Dennis and Fredric, "There is now heavy fighting over the town and my spotters are saying some of the aircraft have turned on each other. The war may have already begun. If you have vehicles and money, you may want to get some extra supplies here before word and panic starts to spread."

Fredric let out an uneasy breath and nodded while looking at Dennis, "You're hurt…"

Dennis shrugged and stood. "I can still drive. Get Mitch back here so we can make a supply run."

Fredric moved out of the cabin as one of the smaller helicopters came screaming in for a landing, kicking up a huge amount of dust. He glanced around as he noticed, for the first time, his corporate party tent with the EEL logo was up and being readied to handle incoming wounded by the Russian medic and lead NCO.

"How in the hell are we going to hide all this activity?" he growled in an annoyed and fearful voice

Joey, who was coming out of the underground lab in the attached building, glanced up with a smirk, "Let's set up the bar-b-que grills and make it look like one of your big parties. I am sure after all we have seen the Government has plenty of those on file from their satellites. Corporate helicopters come and go from this place all the time during those and a big party will just be brushed off as you showing off again.

Fredric glanced down with a befuddled look, "Are you really suggesting pretending this is just one of my company parties?"

Joey grinned devilishly, "Sure, why not?"

Fredric stood there for a moment as it dawned on him how brilliant the idea was, "Fine, break out the big grills. Let's do this!"

He was about to climb in one of the EEL vehicles with the Lieutenant when he noticed four Russians caring off two stretchers, both with kids on them, a tube hooked the two boys together forcing the men carrying the stretchers to walk at the same pace. Between them, Steven was glancing back and forth while occasionally squeezing a rubber ball. Before his mind could fully process the whole scene, he noticed one of the two boys was Craig, "Oh no!"

Even as he moved toward the two stretchers a large Russian blocked him, "Mr. Triumph, we need to get them inside!"

"What happened to Craig!" Fredric demanded to know as he pushed against the Russian with zero effect.

Craig glanced up, "I'm fine, but Juan isn't. Steven is giving some of my blood to him!"

Steven glanced over to Fredric, "Haven't you seen a hand blood pump before?"

"No…" Fredric responded with a degree of annoyance and frustration, "and he is too young to be giving blood!"

"That is why I am hand pumping slowly. We'll get some of the others to give blood so I only pull two thirds of a pint from each of us, now move or you kill Juan!"

Fredric stepped to the side, "OK, then…"

Fredric watched the two stretches disappear into the building before he glanced around, only to get grabbed and all but tossed in the vehicle by the Lieutenant. "Sir, you are the only one who can verify the ID of your man, and he is already pulled over!"

The ride down to the pulled over Suburban allowed Fredric to calm enough to not be totally freaked out as the Russian Lieutenant pulled up next to his two men who were holding Mitch at gunpoint. The man was down on his knees with his hands behind his head.

Fredric found his voice suddenly lacking so he simply nodded at the Lieutenant.

"He's clear," the Russian officer barked out. "Mr. Triumph just forgot to tell us he had supplies coming. Get him and the driver up and get back to the property. The two of you are going to help with a larger supply run!"

Before Mitch could get out a single world, the taller Russian, who had detained him, yanked him up by the back of the shirt, "You hear the Lieutenant; let's go!"

By the time the two vehicles got back to the 'cabin' several Russians were setting up Fredric's largest tent, normally meant to host major outdoor EEL parties of corporate events. A half dozen other tents were also pulled out and in the process of getting put up. Off toward the outbuilding, several Russians quickly started pulling out other items, some of which were bought strictly for the annual big company Fourth of July event where batteries of professional fireworks were shot out over the lake and food and beer dominated. Arseni Kochev, the Russian Sergeant, pointed and gave instructions with amazing organizational skills with Joey standing right next to him showing the soldiers where everything was and where it all went. The grills were up and going within minutes, the massive speakers for outdoor music followed only a few minutes later. A couple of the younger soldiers even took some time to set up the volleyball nets and rake the court areas

Mitch stepped out of the Suburban and made a beeline for Fredric, "What in the hell…"

"There is too much for me to even know where to start," Fredric stated as Joey came running over and crashed into Mitch.

"Uncle Mitch!" Joey shouted as he wrapped his arms around the man. "Is mom and dad OK?"

"Um, yeah… why wouldn't they be, Joey?"

Joey looked up with pure relief in his eyes, "'Cause the war is starting!" He pointed off in the direction of Breckenridge where multiple lines of smoke could barely be made out coming from the once peaceful town.

Fredric glanced over to Mitch, "Why don't you take Joey and have him and the Russians fill you in. We don't have a lot of time. I also need you to get with Dennis, take the Suburban and one of the jeeps, maybe even two, and get to Albany. Load up with all the food and drinks you can stuff in them and stop off and buy out the ammo supplies. Dennis knows what types. Then get back here…" He paused and looked back over his shoulder. "It looks like we are going to try to party our way out of this."

"Fine, but the suburban is pretty full already and, um…"

Dennis limped out of the 'cabin' and glanced down at Joey, "Get a few of the kids we rescued out of the truck when we found Marshall and Troy. They are still OK to do stuff and probably need to get away from the others. Get this unloaded and finish setting up the place. We need to talk with your Uncle Mitch."

As Joey raced off, Fredric jerked his head, "There is too much to even try to catch you up on, but our hacking did more than open a hornet's nest…"

"Yeah, I have been following the news. Bryce won, in case you didn't know, and it sounds like Ashwood is beyond pissed off." Mitch glanced around and shook his head before looking back at Fredric, "So… are these military guys, and if so, are they really Russian?"

"Yes and yes," Fredric sighed. "They are on our side and more are coming. We also know who won; as a matter of fact, the winner is the one who sent us the Russians."

"What?" Mitch's shocked voice shouted out.

Before more could be said, Ricky came over flanked by two boys one older and one younger. He smiled as he looked up, "Hi, Mr. Ryle. Do you need any food or water?"

Mitch looked down, saw the .38 on the shoulder rigging and the MP5 slung over Ricky's shoulder and nearly lost it, "Boss, he isn't supposed to have any contact with guns!"

Troy glanced up, "Tell the agents who shot at him that, sir. Without him, along with the others, we would be back at the 'Temple' or dead right now."

Dennis reached over, pulled Ricky to his side, and gave him a tight squeeze. "I'll get shot again before anyone tries to take it from him, Mitch. As a matter of fact, so would the rest of the adults around here."

Mitch suddenly looked down at Dennis's leg, "Shot again?"

"Yup," Dennis nodded then pointed to the kids rescued from the SUV after the first firefight. "Kids, unload this thing and make it quick. We have another supply run to go on."

Mitch looked at the three kids with total confusion as the two boys, and one girl moved to the back of the SUV to pull off the supply boxes and three coolers, "Who are they?"

The oldest of the three looked up, "I'm Vinnie, this is Bea and Hogan. They saved us. Are you the guy Fredric told us about who will help us find our families?"

Mitch rubbed his hands down his face and blinked a couple of times, "Boss?"

Fredric let out another sigh, one of a vast quantity he had let loose over the past day or so. "Yeah, this is Mitch; he is my right hand organization guy. EEL would not run well at all without him. He is the one I was telling you about. If anyone can find your families, at this point, it will be Mitch here."

Fredric then turned and gestured over to Joey who was busy pointing out where the big speakers connected into the 'cabin's' sound system. "Mitch, let Joey fill you in. I really don't have time, nor do I even know where to begin."

Mitch rolled his eyes, knowing he actually had a better chance of getting good information out of Joey than from his boss. It was just the way Fredric was. He could build a new gadget in his sleep but outside the lab… well, to be honest, Mitch knew where his job picked up and it started the minute Fredric Triumph took off his white overcoat and put on a business suit. He glanced over at Joey, who looked rather excited to help get everything set up, "Happiest I have ever seen him, boss."

Fredric managed a smile despite the whole situation. "Yeah, if I knew it was this easy to break him out of his shell, I'd host a whole lot more company events."

Mitch snickered, "Count me in, boss."

"I will as soon as you pick up as much beef and soda as possible," Fredric sighed. "Oh, and grab a keg, too, just to make it look good."

Even as he spoke, the Huey which had brought the badly wounded Juan to the cabin took off again. It did a quick perimeter sweep before it banked hard back toward Breckenridge with a pilot, a medic and two other soldiers inside. Fredric rubbed his hands down his face, wondering just how bad things were in the not so distant town.

His question, at least in part, was answered only minutes later as the large dual rotor helicopter set down just far enough away to not knock the massive EEL tent over. Before the back ramp even came all the way down, a huge figure jumped out of the back and sprinted toward the cabin with astonishing, and quite frankly, terrifying speed and grace. Before Fredric's brain took in the fact the being didn't really look human, his mind saw who and what was in the back and felt his heart sink. Several soldiers moved to help secure dozens of injured kids, some on stretchers and others who were crying, and obviously hurt, but could be carried.

Among the chaos, two small boys walked next to one of the carried stretchers, one held the hand of the child while the other talked to the kid while making sure people got out of their way. The fact the one holding the hand was in the same kind of armor his young charges had been given was both unnerving and satisfying. While the child wearing it was even younger than Juan, it was the same so at least his charges hadn't been given some second line stuff.

With Mitch right on his heels, he shrugged off the thoughts and moved up to take an injured girl who was bawling her eyes out. The left side of her face had large burn blisters and her right arm was blackened. The medic who handed him the girl pointed to the tent, "She is a priority case; those burns need cleaned and bandaged before she gets infected. Tell Private Colichev she is his only concern!"

Joey came up next to Fredric, "I know who he is, let's go."

Fredric raised an eyebrow at the fact Joey actually knew who some of the Russians were. It was totally out of character for the boy and it made no sense, but again, this wasn't the time or the place. He had to get this child in his arms taken care of and he knew it.

Mitch, while being totally stunned and overwhelmed with that he was seeing and what was going on, did what he did best. He stepped in and grabbed a chubby girl who had most of the hair on her left side of her head burned and melted off. Even as his mind tried to wrap around the entire situation, Mitch quickly followed his boss toward the medical area.

Even before he got to the man, Joey had moved up and started talking to the young medic, who didn't hesitate to point for Fredric and Mitch to bring the girls over. He took one look at the burns and cringed, "Comrade Joey, Morphine injectors. Push a couple of CC's out of them since they are smaller than one of the men in my team."

He glanced at the girl in Mitch's arms and pointed to a second bed. "She is secondary, but stab the needle in her to dull the pain. I need to get to this one fast." He gestured to the girl Fredric had brought into the tent, "She has third degree burns and no way can I touch them without her being out."

Fredric watched in astonishment as Joey quickly did as instructed and handed the needle over to the medic before moving over to the second girl and plunged the needle firmly into the girl's arm while Mitch held on but looked away. Seconds later, the screeching girls calmed as the drugs took effect.

The medic gave Joey a smile, "I am busy now, go with Mr. Triumph and do more help."

At the same time Fredric glanced over to Mitch, "Look, this is getting worse by the minute and I need you… your organizational skills and your level head. Take a few, look around, figure out what you think we need, and pull whatever you need out of the discretionary budget. If you have to wipe it out, then move on to the much larger discretionary R & D budgets. We need to get everyone here cared for, families found where possible, and safety assured for all. The supply run can wait until you get your head fully wrapped around all of this."

Mitch glanced around, "I got two words for you, boss: Rum Cay."

Fredric's eyebrows shot up, "Not a bad suggestion. Do whatever you need to make it happen."

"First we need to deal with the situation here, but I'll get the ball rolling, discreetly, I assume?"

As the conversation continued on what to do with the kids, Joey moved around from Russian medic to Russian medic doing what he could to be helpful. After helping the medics for almost an hour, finally made his way over to Fredric and Mitch. The youngster listened and managed to find an opening then spoke up as he figured out what was being said, "Uncle Mitch, get with Colonel Dmitry Zolotov. He can get you totally secure communications and bypass any chance of Ashwood listening." The teen then pointed to a grey haired man who was talking to two of the wounded soldiers.

"Joey's right, Mitch," Fredric nodded in agreement. "We need to go through them so we stay as out of the spotlight as much as possible."

Mitch nodded understanding behind the idea while still having no clue as to the situation as a whole. Still another thought occurred to him. "We may need the yacht, too. It could easily get a couple dozen of us out, probably up to fifty, since we are looking at taking kids, all without attracting too much attention."

Fredric cocked his head to the side, "Oh, yeah, I keep forgetting about my yacht."

"Because you haven't taken it out since you bought it five months ago," Joey grumbled.

"Looks like you will be on her maiden voyage," Mitch managed to state with a bit of a nervous snicker as he moved over to where Dmitry was standing.

As Fredric moved out of the tent to get some air and try to think, a young boy who was in the same kind of armor as was given to the kids he had brought down to Austin stopped what he was doing while his eyes went wide.

The youngster moved in a straight line toward them while staring straight at Joey. His face showed a degree of surprise and possibly some relief as well as he spoke, "Adam? Sir? I didn't know you were here?"

"Huh?" Joey squeaked with concern as he took a step backward to stand behind Fredric.

The younger boy blinked a couple of times and cocked his head to the side with momentary confusion, but it passed quickly, "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were someone else."

"I'm nobody…" Joey responded in a voice filled with fear.

"You'll have to forgive Joey," Fredric spoke up while reaching back to pull Joey to his side. "He tends to be a bit shy around people he doesn't know."

"Yeah, I know the feeling," the small dark haired youngster nodded in an understanding tone.

Fredric extended his hand, "I am Fredric Triumph, judging by what you are wearing, you must be with the others. How many of you are kids and what super secret Russian military academy do you boys train at?"

The youngster eyed Fredric with a look which bordered on confusion for a few moments. Something about him seemed to instill a sense of trust. "Hello, Fredric," the lad responded with a smile as he accepted the man's hand. "I'm Haden Rothwood. The UNIT kids haven't been training at any Russian academy. Most of us trained at… well… um, somewhere that's rather far away at the moment. By the way, this is a really nice place you have here."

Fredric eyed the small boy in front of him, "There are very few places farther away than Russia… Um, and the way you spoke of this unit, what kind of unit trains kids to… kill… the way you have been trained?"

"Well…" Haden began to say as the handshake broke, but quickly stopped himself. Instead, he scrunched his face as if struggling with what to say. "That's kinda a long story, sir." Haden's voice faltered slightly as if wrestling with the answer even as he spoke it.

Yet even as Haden finished, he noticed the man's gaze intensely focused on him. At first, he thought he was looking at his sidearm, but as he followed the gaze, the man's focus was actually on a large blotch of dark red blood and the surrounding splatter which could easily be seen on his black armor.

Fredric shook his head, not in disagreement but as if trying to clear it. "Well? Well, what exactly? Are you trained to kill or are you a boy who needs a hug, because I am seeing both and it… it doesn't make any sense to me!"

"A hug? Do I know you?" Haden blinked and appeared slightly confused. "I mean, um… we're trained to kill if needed, yeah. Especially when it's the type of person that would take part in the needless slaughter of entire schools filled with kids."

"Do you need to fully know someone who thinks you need a hug?" Fredric asked with a look of compassion mixed with exasperation. "I get part of this; your words do make some sense to me. You kill to defend, but you still kill. I have never killed anything other than a bug, so I don't know. The way I shoot, as you may well find out, means I may never know and would be fine with it. However, you are what? Eight? Come on. Who is there to hug you, tuck you in… who turned you into a killer without also showing the compassion needed to still be a kid, to still get love and to wipe the tears of fear and pain?"

Fredric thought he detected a flash of surprise in Haden's eyes as the boy answered. "Now that you mention it, you're probably right. You don't need to know someone to accept an act of kindness and compassion from them. It's just not something you really expect to see that often, at least not where I came from. As far as my age, I think I'm supposed to be nine, but even that gets complicated. I've always been a bit small for my age." Haden replied with a smile that was clearly forced. Below the smile was the face of a boy who was struggling to come up with answers to the much harder components of Fredric's question.

After spending a few more moments in thought and quickly glancing back and forth around him, Haden continued, "I can understand the whole thing about only having killed a bug. A long time ago, I was in the same position you are. I guess it was a combination of need and necessity mixed in with wanting to be strong enough in order to help protect the people I loved."

Joey peaked around Fredric, "Uncle Triumph would never hurt you, really, he wouldn't."

Fredric took a knee to get down to Haden's level while turning to secure and move Joey to his side again so he wasn't trying to hide, "I don't think he was suggesting I would, Joey." He then gave Joey a light kiss on the top of his head. "But I still would like to know who you turn to at night when the lights are out, Haden. I see a face of bravery which is to be admired, deeply admired, but I would bet a vast amount of money on there still being a boy inside and hidden behind the brave exterior who badly needs not just understanding but compassion, love, and a need to be taken care of."

Haden shook his head strongly back and forth as he glanced toward Joey. "I only hurt bad guys, and only when they don't give me any other choice. I don't think your Uncle Triumph comes anywhere close to that. In fact, he kinda reminds me of someone that I used to know. His name was Neal, and he would always go out of his way to help just about any kid that he saw that needed it. In fact, Neal was the one that gave me a home when I was rescued from… well, from a pretty bad situation."

Haden then turned his attention back toward Fredric. "I don't really think I know how to answer your question. A lot of people kinda think that I'm really good at some of the stuff that I do, and kinda depend on me. Especially with us being so far away from home right now, and away from everyone else that we know, we have to depend and rely on each other. There hasn't really been any time to be a kid. But even before that…" Haden shrugged, "I guess I've just learned to deal with what life sends us."

Fredric reached out and patted Haden on the shoulder, clearly having to overcome the blood he could see not far from where his hand came to rest. "Well, something tells me we will be dealing with each other again, maybe often. If you want a place to come, be a kid, and let someone take the weights off your shoulders… You have but to ask or simply show up. My door is open to any of the kids from whatever unit you are with. If you decide you ever want that hug, need that hug, just come and take it. The return will be freely given."

Haden thought for a moment and smiled, "Thanks. I may just end up taking you up on that offer."

Haden's mood shifted as he spotted someone else from his group of armed kids. "Logan?" Haden asked curiously. "I thought you were inside helping Juan?"

Logan moved up and shrugged, "Nah…. Mom said she didn't need my help, besides, I can do my job better out here." The long haired youngster in a military flight suit and wearing a side arm then glanced over at Fredric and Joey, noting Joey had once again moved behind Fredric since Fredric had stood back up.

The twelve to thirteen year old looking kid then stuck out his hand to the man, and waited for the man to accept. Once the handshake was started, the boy introduced himself. "Hi, I'm Logan Hayes, one of Juan's older brothers, and General in charge of the Intel Division for the UNIT." Seeing the man's lost look, Logan smiled. "It does stand for something, however, it's a long and involved story. If you would like to hear it, I would be more than happy to explain it."

Fredric took the offered hand and found the grip to be tight and the youngster standing in front of him to hold an air of authority about him. He instantly guessed the boy had been brought up in a strict military family. "So, Logan, the more of you guys I meet the more outlandish this seems to become for me. You talk and act like adults, you look like kids, and you talk about coming from some kind of unit, and you wear a uniform and side arm as if you were born with it.

"I mean no insult at all, saying you are from your unit's Intel Division and you make reference of it standing for something, but you will have to excuse me. Because, I have no idea what is standing for something, nor do I get how any military prep school, anywhere, can turn boys as young as you all into what I am seeing and dealing with. Your friend, Haden, here says you are not from Russia, but further away, yet you look anglo, or to be less politically correct, white, and there are not many places with whites further away than Russia."

Fredric's voice picked up speed as he continued to talk, "I have eight boys I need to protect with every resource I have and one, next to me, I will protect with even more, so I really need to know what you all are, what military school you come from, and why you are allowed to be some kind of military unit with seemingly real ranks when you are all only kids. My nine boys, and now the…" Fredric glanced around, "countless other kids are now my responsibility… and with what is going on, may be for the foreseeable future. I will not risk their lives, cannot, without really understanding what in the h… um, blazes, is going on, who you all are, and where is your… um… adult leaders or… I guess cadre may be the best term."

As Fredric spoke, Haden glanced toward Joey. As Fredric finished, he turned to Logan, "Look at how much trust Joey puts in Fredric. That type of trust doesn't come lightly from kids. I think we can trust him as well."

Joey slid a bit further back while eyeing Haden, "Without Uncle Triumph, I would be in foster care or dead!"

Logan seemed to momentarily study Fredric, then Joey, before he smiled, "You're entirely correct Haden."

Logan then looked at Fredric and then Joey again. "Joey, could you step up here a little bit. I need to make sure you understand what I am about to say."

Hesitantly, with a slight assist from Fredric, Joey moved up and stood next to Fredric, but the man still had an arm draped protectively over the boy's shoulder. In addition, Joey seemed to be trying to merge with the man. "I assume you both know what 'Top Secret' means?"

Fredric's first inclination at hearing such a stupid question was to say something rude, but this whole situation was otherworldly he really didn't want to make waves. Because of this, he held his tongue and nodded while giving Joey a reassuring squeeze.

Logan paused briefly, then continued. "Good. What I am about to tell you is even more secret then that."

Logan waited for both of them to nod a second time, while seeing Fredric's eyes narrow, before he spoke. "When Haden said we came from somewhere much further away than Russia, he was not kidding. Even though we are still desperately trying to figure out how it happened, and how to get back. We actually come from a different Earth, a different universe, if you will."

Logan raised his hand as if detecting both of them were about to interrupt making it clear he was asking them to hold off questions. "I know it's difficult to understand, let alone accept, but it is true. The Earth that we come from was like this one, but with a lot of differences. One of them was the use of genetic engineering to create super soldiers. The UNIT, that we are a part of, stands for the Universal Next-generation Infiltration Team."

Before Joey could respond, Fredric's right hand moved around and secured Joey in a protective embrace. "Logan, while your words sound insane, so does the fact your aircraft can up and disappear, so OK, I will accept this. But this leads to dozens of questions, some are most likely irrelevant. However, why are you both eyeing Joey? This young man is under my protection and the protection of EEL, so if there is a problem, I need to know. He is my primary concern, above my own health and safety and, to be honest, the eight boys who I flew down here are rapidly moving up to be a smidge behind Joey."

While Fredric's tone didn't turn hostile as he continued to speak, it did convey the demand for an explanation. "I get the impression you are both spooked by Joey and Joey is getting the same vibes: I can tell. He doesn't like people looking at him, studying him, like you both are. It brings back memories of some horror and I do not want him to have to relive or reveal what those are until he is ready. So what is going on; what unit from some world with such high tech could possibly want kids to fight?"

Logan nodded seriously before he looked over at Haden. "Do me a favor, bro… take off the armor for a bit. You got a jumpsuit under it, right?"

Haden nodded and immediately started to strip out of the armor. "Sounds good to me, these things can really get hot"

While Haden moved slightly off to the side to remove his protective suit, Logan turned back to Fredric and Joey. "I will answer your questions in reverse order if you don't mind." Getting a nod from the man, Logan continued, "Just because a world is more advanced technologically, does not mean that they are peaceful. In the world we came from, The Genesis Project was created by the US military to create children super soldiers; ones that would be able to fight off any threat that they may face. Not all of us are Genesis Kids, though. When Adam escaped, and then started to rescue the others, they turned their focus on abused kids, and started rescuing them. Before we arrived here, The UNIT numbered slightly over ten thousand with 85% of them being younger than sixteen."

Fredric simply scowled at Logan. "What adults need kids to fight for them in your world? What, in the name of God, is wrong with the adults where you all come from?"

The moment the blood splattered armor was off of Haden, Joey's whole demeanor changed. It was almost like someone flipped a switch. The fourteen-year-old slid around, while still staying in Fredric's protective grasp and looked at the strange device on Haden's arm, "What is… I don't even care what it is, how do I get one?"

Logan laughed at Joey's sudden enthusiasm, "Hey, Haden, if you don't mind, why don't you take Joey over there and explain what you can about the GEAR?"

"Um, It's called a GEAR," Haden replied as he blinked in surprise at Joey's sudden change in character. "It's kinda like an electronic utility knife, it lets me do all kinds of different things, like scan for different types of electromagnetic signatures and stuff… As far as how to get one… this is the only one I have here with us, and from what I can tell, the technology doesn't really exist here to build more. When we get a chance to catch our breath for a bit, I will probably have to start from scratch and build new ones with the tech that we have available."

Joey glanced up to Fredric, "Maybe we could help them figure out how to make more?"

Fredric snickered, "Tell you what, kiddo, why don't you go talk with Haden, introduce him to Glenn, and talk it over. I think Logan, here, wants a one on one chat for some strange reason."

Fredric then glanced over to Logan, "Which I will indulge you on, once I get an answer to my question."

Logan kept his eyes on Fredric as the two other kids moved out of sight, with Joey asking dozens of questions, not giving Haden a chance to answer any of them. Logan sighed, "Look at it this way. What better way to get close to someone you need to kill, than to look like a defenseless child? Brutal or not, it's a valid tactic. Before you say anything, though, most of the people involved with it are already dead. We took care of that shortly after Adam escaped. Also… remember, the actions of a few do not dictate how the rest of the people feel about something. Most of the people on the world we came from were just as appalled about what created us, as you are."

Fredric found the answer totally unacceptable, yet at the same time had no desire to belittle or insult the beliefs of the youngster in front of him. This was not based out of fear. Instead, it was a desire to want to protect this poor child who had been forced into being an adult before his time. The problem was he didn't know how to approach this and it showed. "Young… um, man, I disagree, if there are thousands of you fighting, then there is indeed a problem with the adults in your society." Fredric let out a deep and troubled sigh, "These boys with me… they have fought and much to my failure and dismay have tasted combat. But it is something I am going to do my utmost to keep them out of once this whole situation is resolved. These others, those we have… rescued… Um, they will be taken care of, regardless of expense to EEL and they will not taste combat again if I have anything to say about it. Understood?"

Logan sighed, audibly, letting Fredric know he had fundamental disagreements with the whole line of reasoning. "Sir, with all due respect, I believe you will find that impossible. With what is coming, these kids will be involved, and involved in ways that I am sure you will not like. But one thing I know, and would be willing to bet more money than even you have, is this. These kids, the ones that you have brought here, are involved, and it will take a whole lot more than you to stop them. You need to get behind them, guide them, help them, but ultimately understand that they WILL be involved. The second THEY decided to try and stop something they saw as wrong, is the second they stopped being simply children. Don't get me wrong, they still need adults, they need you to help them understand what they are feeling, and why the things that are happening, are happening. But mostly, they need your support, not you fighting them at every step."

Fredric shook his head, "I am not stupid enough to think I can keep them totally out of this. It's my fault they are in it, after all. Besides, I am sure we have some kind of target on our backs or soon will. But you just avoided my question entirely. How can you call a world where kids fight and adults don't and or let the kids fight, be more advanced than this world?

"Such a thing is totally barbaric. Adults should be lining up to take those kids in and give them homes safe from battlefields. They should… you all should be given some love, a place to call home and a parent, preferably two, waiting to get you a hot meal when you come in from playing and taking you to your baseball games or whatever sports you play."

Fredric continued, not giving Logan a chance to interrupt, "Just look at Haden, the kid should have a mom and dad to tuck him in at night! He should not have to act like he is in charge of anything at his age!" He glanced into Logan's eyes, "And neither should you."

Logan sighed even more heavily, "Sir, I know you did not mean insult with what you just said, however, I feel I need to correct your perceptions on a few things. I said we were more technologically advanced, nothing else. Secondly, there are thousands of kids in this country that would love to have exactly what you are saying they need. However, are there enough people, even in this world that can and would care for them? No. We have only been here for a few days, and one thing we already know is that the conservative estimate is that there are more than one million kids in this country alone that are either homeless or being abused.

"In our world, a group of kids came together and told the world that, that was not acceptable. They had the backing of some very powerful people, and it was the kids that stepped up and started to help out other kids. Sometimes it took fighting to save the kids, and that's where we came in. We then offered the kids to either be placed somewhere with someone that would care for them the way you are saying, or they could join us, get trained, and help rescue other kids in situations like they were in.

"But something else you need to keep in mind is this; many of us are genetically engineered to be stronger, faster, and heal quicker, than your average human. We don't fit into your typical suburban life style. Ain't a single one of us Wally or Beaver Clever."

"And, just for the record, I DO have a mother and father that love me dearly. But they also know when to step in and help me, and when to get out of my way and let me do what it is that I was made for. In other words, they love me enough to NOT try and change me, just because it doesn't fit their preconceived notion of what a child should be.

"Finally, I act like I am in charge because I AM. I have worked my ass off for many years fighting against the forces that would like to cause others harm, people that have a level of evil that would make you shiver. I have EARNED my rank, and so has every other member of the UNIT. I'm sorry if that does not fit into your world view, but like it or not, that's the way it is."

Several yards away, Joey spewed out over a dozen questions before Haden could get a word in edge wise. Still, Haden took it in stride and started from the top so Joey could better get an understanding of what he was looking at. "I guess you can call this an electronic utility device," Haden began, as he tried to figure out the least geekish way to explain his GEAR. "The base unit, which is this part here," Haden lightly tapped a section of the armband-like device, "provides a basic standard interface and suite of basic services which support more specialized, interchangeable components."

"Those look like interchangeable sub-device components," Joey commented as he motioned toward the three slender cylinders that ran up and down half the length of the GEAR's armband. "I'm guessing some type of hardware level identification is used to distinguish them, since they each seem to have slightly different sizes."

Haden blinked and nodded, "Um, yeah. When I designed the initial interface, I used a static eight bit hardware identifier on each module, but now, with the extra space the Pico form factoring gave me, each has their own mini processor which acts as an intermediary between the base unit's processor, and the functionality the extension module provides."

"You designed the modules?" Joey asked curiously.

Haden shook his head, "Actually, I designed the whole thing."

"How?" Joey asked with surprise. "I mean, you can't be older than eight or nine."

"Actually, with this prototype module I'm using, I had a little help with upgrading most of my base logic board circuit layouts to the Pico-form factor. But the original version, which this is based off of, I created myself. Let's just say when I was younger, I didn't really go outside much, so most of my life was spent messing around with computers and old electronics that people threw away. Then when my brother and I were rescued by the Clan, they were able to put me in contact with people that were able to turn the designs I would imagine in my head into reality."

"That's pretty cool," Joey replied as he looked closer at the GEAR. "What's this Pico-form factoring you keep talking about. It almost sounds like you are referring to the transistor process used for your inner chips, but given the size of a single atom of Silicon is just over 0.2 nanometers, even the most optimistic of manufacturing road maps put the smallest process size at 7 or 5 nanometers."

Haden grinned. He could already tell that Joey was the type of person that he could actually talk to without having to struggle to water down and simplify whatever he wanted to communicate at the risk of giving someone a headache. "Actually, if you use a matrix of anti-barion particles, the resulting atomic compression of the electron cloud allows you to compress atoms into much smaller spaces. As an example, the standard transistor size that most of the components in here are based on clocks in at right under eighty picometers."

"Sub-atomic particle alignment?" Joey questioned as he scratched the back of his head while briefly stealing a glance back toward Fredric and Logan. "I was following ya pretty good up to that point, but that's where you started to lose me."

Haden nodded in agreement, "To be honest, I don't completely understand the whole sub-atomic stuff as well. I'm just familiar with it enough to know the electrical properties needed for creating circuits with them."

"Ya know, we should probably follow Fredric's advice and go meet Glenn. It wouldn't surprise me if he had a strong handle on the sub-atomics, he seems to be able to wrap his head around just about anything."

"Sounds like someone I would like to meet," Haden agreed, as he looked down toward the armor still at his side. "Um, would it be a problem if I went to put this stuff back in our helicopter? I probably shouldn't be lugging it around everywhere."

Joey looked at the collapsed armor with a degree of apprehension. Although he couldn't see the large blot of blood anymore, he knew it was still there. "Yeah," he timidly agreed. "I'd feel a lot better with it being elsewhere."

Haden gave another nod as he picked up his armor and led the way, doing his best to pick paths that had the least number of people since he knew that's what he would have preferred for most of his life before running into the Clan and UNIT. As they walked, he also sent a telepathic message through to Barrett to make sure he was still doing alright with Stevie, and to let him know where he was going. In return, Barrett let him know that everything was fine, and that Stevie was still out cold.

When the boys reached the large open area that the Chinook was parked in, at first the only thing Joey could see were two Russian soldiers who appeared to be positioned to guard a section of the field.

"Okay, wait here, this won't take long," Haden stated.

Assuming that Haden was going to give the armor to one of the adult Russian soldiers that were standing there, Joey was a bit surprised as Haden began to walk on air, slowly ascending upward before disappearing out of view completely. Moments later, Haden reappeared, walking back down the invisible ramp, only this time minus the large suit of armor.

"A light refraction field?" Joey asked curiously as the small nine-year-old walked back up to him.

"The physics behind it are a bit more complicated, but I guess you can call it a high-end cloaking field," Haden replied.

"Okay, now we are really talking some awesome tech!" Joey shook with excitement as his eyes seemed to peer into the 'empty' space. "With the light bending abilities you have, you should be able to go anywhere you want without being seen."

"That would be nice," Haden nodded. "The only problem is that it takes just about every scrap of power the micro-fusion generators can create. So it's not really something that can be used in-flight."

Joey cringed and chewed on his bottom lip. "You guys can't add in another power unit just for the light bending effects?"

"Not at this point," Haden shook his head, not really wanting to get into cloaking technology at the moment. "So, where would we find Glenn at?"

"Up in the cabin," Joey pointed in the general direction as he began to walk. "Knowing him, he's still downstairs in the lab working on the targeting interface we talked about earlier and/or upgrading his chair. Maybe even both."

Haden didn't remember seeing any cabin's on the property, so he followed Joey as he led the way. It didn't take long until Haden was able to figure out where they were heading as the huge main building came into view. What he had heard many of the other UNIT kids refer to as the 'mansion' is what Joey was calling a 'cabin'. To the older boy's credit, however, technically the outside of the building did resemble a cabin; an incredibly huge cabin, but still an overall rustic cabin design.

Instead of entering the main 'cabin' as Haden was expecting Joey to do, they instead made their way around the side of it. In the back there was a 'small' outbuilding, at least in comparison to the cabin itself. In reality, it was also rather large for an outbuilding. As the boys stepped inside the building, Haden was slightly surprised to see a few indications of electronics lying around. His real surprise, however, came as Joey led him down a small flight of stairs into the basement.

As Haden moved down into the basement, it was like stepping into a completely different world. Instead of the rustic feeling that everything else he had seen up to this point had, he was now in a more sterile, brighter lab environment. There were also half a dozen totally sterile rooms he could see through clear, yet very think, protective glass. For just a moment, it sort of reminded him of being back home.

Fredric looked at Logan with total exasperation. "Look, you're competent, bread for killing, and quite frankly far better at your age than I would ever be in a combat situation. I shot a couple of times yesterday, but I highly doubt I hit anything. If air wasn't around me, I'd miss it too. But you have to understand, when I hear you say you have done this for years my mind sees a thirteen to fourteen year old kid, so the whole years things just doesn't mesh with me. Sorry."

"No apology needed, since there are many things about where we come from that you don't know. I know it doesn't add up, but I can assure you that it is accurate. At some point in the future, I would not mind sitting down and sharing with you several stories that will make your mind go wild." Logan said with a grin. "Now, if you don't mind, I would really like to tell you about Joey, and why he presents an issue for us."

"Joey? Joey is harmless, loving and deeply troubled in ways I have not been able to fully understand. How could he be a problem to you all?"

Logan sighed and spoke softly. "The leader of the UNIT, my boyfriend, is named Adam. That's not the name he was given at birth, but the name they gave him, as in Adam and Eve. Adam is the first, and the pinnacle of the Genesis Project. Adam was born as a normal boy, his father was in the military; he got deployed when Adam was only six. Due to some very bad people getting involved in the life of Adam and his mother, Adam was left on the streets to care for himself. That's where he was picked up by the military, and turned into what he is now. Here is the problem. His birth name was Joseph… Joseph Casey Jr."

Fredric took a step back as if he had been punched, "Joey's last name before adoption was Casey… his dad was in the military and was KIA when Joey was six… His mom hit the bottle hard and somehow, details I still don't know fully, Joey was in and out of foster care in California by the time he was seven… He ran away because mom kept getting custody back… Then he made his way to Austin and… they are the same? As in the same kid in two different… um, multi-verses? Is such a thing really possible?"

"Yes… yes it is. We've already confirmed that several of the people that we knew are here as well. Obviously not the same person, but they share the same name and face. Another problem will come up at some point I am sure. The man I call father, since my own father died, is Joe Casey Sr. Currently he is at our base."

Fredric's hands ran down his face and he shook his head to clear it, totally unsuccessfully. "Um is it… no… is he your Joseph Casey, or Joeys' Joseph Casey? Um, I mean the reason I ask is… I know Joseph Casey worked under President Bryce… Plus, um… I did lots of checking and while the government lists him as KIA and paid the death benefit… um, there is no actual record of his death, just an after actions report saying he was KIA and the paperwork signed by someone in the Pentagon to pay the benefit."

Logan's eyes went distant for a moment, before they returned to Fredric's. "Joe, my father, was brought here with us. As far as Joey's father goes, I don't have any information, yet. But I will promise you now, I will find out for sure."

"Good luck." Fredric shook his head as if saying it wasn't going to happen. "I dug as deep as me and my people knew how. To be honest, I would be more interested in finding out if this man could break Joey out of his shell so we could find out why he locks the door to his room every night, refuses to let anyone sleep in the same room with him other than me, and carries a ball point pen with him everywhere, including the bathroom and shower"

"Honestly, sir, the person who could break him out of his shell is you," Logan assumed Fredric sadly. "However, if I don't miss my guess, he is trying to protect you from having to know what he went through."

Fredric studied Logan for several seconds, "Maybe you are right, at least partially, but something keeps him scared, and I have no idea what. All I know is he really wanted me to be the one who adopted him, but I didn't want him to be without a mom and dad, so I found a couple of EEL employees to take him in as their own. Still, he shows me more trust than he does them, but he is starting to really love them and I think him having a mom and dad he loves and love him back is what is best and, over the long run, what will do him the most good."

"Sir, please do not think that I am questioning your actions, however, I have learned, from many placements that we have done, that a single parent can be just as effective as two parents, but the MOST important thing is what the child wants. You could have placed Joey with the best parents in the world, and it still may not have amounted to very much, because he'd already chosen his father. The point is, a good adoption needs to be agreed on by all the parties involved, not just what the adults' think is best. THAT is where most of the problems come in. Now, I am not saying that you did that, I am just saying that Joey looks to you as his father, not someone else; at least as far as I have seen."

"Uncle at best… There is no way I am dad material. I am too soft on some things…" He snickered slightly. "Anyway, what, exactly, do you want or need? Anything?"

"Nope… I did what I needed to do, and that was to inform you about Joey. Other than that, the questions really, are what can we do for you? I mean, you do realize that the shit is gonna hit the fan soon, and chances are better than not that, within a few days, this country is going to erupt into a civil war. So, with that in mind, what can we do to help you guys prepare, and hopefully survive?"

Fredric glanced around, "I am hoping we can still avoid a full scale shooting war by showing the world just how corrupt and awful the Ashwood Administration actually is. But, as much as I hate to admit it, you are probably right.

"Because of this probable outcome is there any way you can get the kids we rescued from the God-forsaken thing they know as the 'Temple' some professional help and get any of these kids from Breckenridge who we can't quickly find family for to a small island in the Bahamas? Then, as soon as the eight I brought down here see the Governor and do the photo ops do the same for them?"

"One second…" Logan said as he stared off into space. Fredric didn't have any way of knowing this, of course, but Logan was chatting with Adam, Will, and Dmitry about this issue. Finally, Logan re-focused on Fredric.

"Here's what we can do. First off, the kids rescued from the temple will be taken care of. Unfortunately, we had to deal with a situation that was slightly worse than the Temple kids, so we have a good idea how to deal with them, it will be a long and hard process for them, but we should be able to de-program most, if not all of them.

"Now, as far as getting you places, the best we can do is loan you the two helicopters that brought down the Russians last night. They will be able to provide you with a lot of fire power and protection, should you need it. However, transporting a lot of people will be up to you to figure out. However, I would suggest NOT going commercial. I would also suggest that you stock up on all the supplies you can get your hands on, especially food. When things start to go south, they will go quickly and hard."

Fredric let out a long sigh, "Well, the supply side is going to be fully covered. I have just the person to make it happen. My main concern is getting the kids out before things get too bad. Do the choppers have the range to get to Freeport Texas where my never before used yacht is docked?"

Logan grinned like a Cheshire cat, "Oh yeah. There is no real range on those helicopters, only how long the pilot can fly them. They don't use normal fuel, and they can go a lot faster. Just to tweak your geek side… those things are powered by a micro fusion generator about the size of a one foot by one foot box."

Fredric's jaw dropped, "Fusion, real fusion? No… I have like twenty of the highest paid physicists in the world working non-stop on cold fusion… It is cold, not plasma hot, right?"

"Of course…" Logan said with a grin as he saw the inner child coming out to play in Fredric. The man really was like a kid in a candy store when it came to new technologies, and the idea of cold fusion was actually making him drool. "The largest one we've created is about the size of a fifty five gallon drum. We figured it should be able to power all of New York City for about five years… roughly."

Fredric clutched both sides of his head and leaned forward, almost like he was going to get sick, but he glanced up, "If this is not a joke, then just give me the basic mathematical principle so I can figure it out. I am not even asking for how, just the math behind it!"

"If I do… will you be able to concentrate on ANYTHING else… like getting your kids to safety?" Logan asked, semi-seriously.

Fredric shook his head as if trying to clear it. "Do I really look like the kind of person capable of figuring out how to keep these kids safe? I have people who can, though, and they will not let me totally zone out… much to my displeasure on occasion… Like um, the math behind cold fusion…" Fredric managed a grin which looked more like a ten-year-old who was given his first model rocket.

"Well…. let me be blunt with you here, sir. I am a geek, just like you and the rest of the kids here. My brothers are as well. But we won't have the time to re-create the tech we are used to, simply because we were a good many years ahead of the current tech here. So to re-create what we had, we would have to build the tech to build the tech to make what we want. So… how about we strike a deal? We'll do what we can to keep you guys safe, as well as give you the tools to do so, all the while, funnel certain things your way to see if you can re-create some of what we had? How does that sound to you?"

Fredric looked into Logan's eyes with stunned silence for many seconds before he nodded. A few seconds later, he fell face first toward Logan as he passed out from lack of oxygen. Quite simply, he forgot to breathe until he passed out. Logan couldn't help but burst out laughing, as he caught the man and gently lowered him to the ground.

Five minutes later, Fredric woke up as he was being helped onto a cot by two Russians, wondering if he had really had the conversation or if it had been made up.

With Fredric dealt with, and still lying on the ground, Logan wandered and took in the overall property for a bit. The place was a bee hive of activity with Fredric's organizational right hand man, Mitch, taking in everything while his fingers moved across his PDA at amazing speed.

Logan was about to grab a bite to eat when he noted Ricky, who was once again working on a hard drive. The youngster was so focused in on the task at hand; he didn't even notice Logan had moved to stand almost directly in front of him. After nearly a minute, he moved around behind the boy to get a better look at what he was doing.

Logan watched for several seconds before shaking his head. The kid was good, he just needed better equipment. "Hey there," Logan said out loud, making Ricky jump a little and spin around.

"Who are you?" Ricky asked quickly while his hand moved down to the small .38 in a shoulder holster. The fear in the boy's eyes was unmistakable.

"I'm Logan… one of Juan's brothers," he said with a smile. He didn't miss the movement towards the gun, but brushed it off, making no reference to it.

"Juan has an older brother and he is still alive with his mouth?" Ricky asked with a shake of his head as he moved his hand slightly off the revolver, "Do you cuss as much as he does?" The way the last comment was spoken, it was clear the youngster hoped not. "He's kind of a jerk, but I hope he'll be OK."

"Yeah, he'll be fine. He's tougher than he looks," Logan said with a small laugh. "Speaking of Juan, did he ever give you the laptop I sent down?"

"No…" the boy said shaking his head.

"Why doesn't that surprise me?" Logan said with a grin. "He'll show you every gun he brought down, but forgot one simple little thing that I asked him to do. I am so gonna have to have a talk with him when he wakes up. Anyways… I'll be right back, then I'll show you how to crack the security on that easily."

As Logan started to turn he felt a strange cold burst. As he turned to glance back he noticed the soda in Ricky's hand was coated in a light icy glaze. The ring of condensation left by the can was also frozen solid. Logan couldn't help but giggle. "Juan told me about that, neat trick. If you want any help learning more control, just let me know."

"It would be neater if I didn't freeze the can solid again…" Ricky let the can fall out of his hand and hit the table with a loud 'clunk' sound. "I just want to make it cold, not solid, and I froze the water close to me again!"

Logan walked over, grabbed the can, then sat down next to him. He held the can up, and he thawed it out. "It's not a game of power but precision. It's like hacking. You have your brute force attacks, and they are good for something, but when you get to the really cool stuff, you have to use a less is more approach and finesse. It's all about the finesse. You're going too fast and too hard. Slow it down a bit, and gently, slowly cool it down."

"But once Juan showed me, or talked me through it… well it is just so easy, and it really doesn't tire me out. I just see the molecular formula in my brain and have all atomic motion stop. It happens so fast there is no in between, just warm to ice." He touched the can again and it instantly bulged outward as its content returned to ice.

"That's because all you're trying to do is stop everything, not slow it down. At first, it might be harder to slow than to stop, but it'll come to you. What Juan showed you was just one way of doing it, you need to figure out what works best for you, and run with it from there." He warmed the can back up, slowly this time, then handed it back to Ricky. "Try it again while I go get the laptop. Go slowly this time." Logan then got back up and headed from the room.

Ricky glanced at the can and shook his head in annoyance, "Oh, right, slow down the molecular formula, not stop it. Sometimes I wonder why people think I am so smart." With a deep breath he picked up the can again and started to visualize the molecules slowing down. "Maybe if I make the air around it cold too it'll work better…"

By the time Logan got back in the room, the temperature of the whole room was under forty degrees and dropping while Ricky continued to study the can with deep focus.

"Hey, Ricky!" Logan barked forcefully making the kid jump a little, and immediately the room started to warm up again. "Your over thinking it man… stop trying to go for over kill, just do the small things first, okay?"

Ricky glanced around, clearly not noticing just how cold it was getting in the room. It wasn't until he looked down and noted fog had started to form at the floor did his eyes go wide. "Oh, man, what is wrong with me! This is so stupid! Fine!" With some frustration he tapped the can half a dozen times and poured the slushy contents into a glass, "There!"

He took a drink and glanced over at Logan. "So, is the computer like the armor I made a total fool of myself trying to get used to?"

"First off, mental abilities take time and practice. How long did it take you to learn to hack a really sophisticated system? Not even you're good enough to have been able to do that the first day you learned to hack, so cut yourself some slack. I got a few ways to help train your mind, I'll explain later. Now this laptop, this isn't like anything you have used before."

"Neither were your vanishing helicopters or your armor, so I have to wonder if you are all just wearing masks making it look like you are human when you are really aliens or something."

Ricky's lips twisted into a bit of a smirk as he added, "You did have a werewolf thingy with you after all."

"First off, Khan is NOT a werewolf thingy." Logan snickered at the look on Ricky's face, "He's a Human-Tiger Hybrid. Second, we actually are aliens. Technically, since we don't come from THIS earth, we fit the definition of an alien."

"Right, I get the multi-verse principles, and somehow you all crossed over, but this world sucks big time and it sounds like yours was awesome, so why did you come here?"

Logan sighed. "As I told Fredric, just because we have higher tech, doesn't mean the world was any better. We had a military of ten thousand troops, most of them kids. Ninety nine percent of them were rescued from some sort of abuse before we got them, fixed them up, and trained them to fight. We were right in the middle of a civil war in Russia, where we found out that several of us were cloned, because of our increased healing factors. They cloned us, and sold the clones to a bastard of a man that wanted them so he could hurt them and they wouldn't die from what he did. He trained them to be sex slaves, and trust me, what happened to the Temple kids, while bad, is nowhere near what those clones went through. So yeah, higher tech doesn't mean nicer people. It just means they have more toys to play with."

This caused Ricky to shake his head in disgust. "OK, so you picked one pile of poo for another. If there really is a multi-verse, why didn't you all go somewhere nice?"

"Well…. I can tell you honestly… we didn't choose to come here. Actually, we have no idea how we got here, and if we were sent here, why. All I know is that we're here and everything we have figured out to try and get back home doesn't work," Logan said with a sad shake of his head.

Ricky rubbed his chin for a second, "So… you didn't do anything special? You just appeared here?"

Seeing Logan nod, Ricky cocked his head to the side. "So any kind of transport through any kind of wormhole should leave a residual trace of energy. Back in 2001 NASA found a black hole that was releasing energy. This black hole spins and pumps energy out through cable-like magnetic field lines." Ricky stood up and moved to a drawer where an electric can opener was stashed. On the top was a magnet to grab older steel lids.

He moved closer and put the magnet close to Logan. It suddenly moved away. Ricky gave Logan a slight shrug as he let out a humor filled snort, "Magnetic after effects of going through a wormhole to this universe. Any chance we can do a magnetic spectrograph of a few of you to see how it is even possible you were transported here without getting ripped apart by the gravity well?"

Logan sat there thinking hard. He was surprised Ricky had thought of something like that, it was just too basic and simple. "Sure, if you guys want to. Do you have anything around here that could do the trick?"

"To the lab!" Ricky shouted with eager anticipation, "Glenn is going to love this!"

"Ricky… I think I better get you set up on the computer first. I think you're gonna like the Trinary system we set up for you, although I hope you aren't too attached to windows…" Logan said with a chuckle.

"Trinary! How awesome can you get, but come on! Let's get an EM scan it will only take a few minutes then we can let Glenn ponder the mysteries of the multi-verse. Maybe it will stop him from making me look so stupid when he is around for a while. Besides, I finally had an idea before he did!"

Logan sighed as he stood up. "Okay, but we do not have much time, and I still need to deal with the kids you rescued from the Temple. There is no one here that is equipped to deal with them, which means Juan or I will have to do it."

"Glenn?" Joey called out as he reached the bottom of the stairs. "Anyone down here?"

"Over here," another, younger sounding, voice called out.

Haden followed Joey to an area straight out of some very high end science fiction movies. It was a lab, to be sure, but there was so much more. The workroom environment had just about every type of electronic component and monitoring device this world had available. Computers, laptops, and miscellaneous electronic pieces were stacked along the walls, some haphazardly, with notes saying Alpha test fail, Beta test fail, Gamma test Fail, Delta test fail, and so on. One shelf went all the way down to Sigma test fail with the contents of the box having the appearance of having been driven over multiple times. The tops of just about every workspace in the room had a different project on it, some with hundreds of sticky notes all over them.

In the middle of the larger work room, near one of the bigger workspaces, was an eleven-year-old brown haired boy sitting in some type of hover chair. At first glance, the boy reminded him of Robert, the computer and sci-fi geek he had met two days ago when they first arrived in this universe. This boy didn't even glance up, his facial expression a mask of total concentration as he had his hand inside one of the UNIT helmets and was attaching a tiny lead by feel to something deep inside.

Haden blinked a couple of times as he noted there were literally hundreds of wires coming out of the helmet, most hooked up to oscilloscopes, computers, and other hardware. Off on a separate table a single weapon laser sight was on and pointed at a wall. At the same time a trio of computers displayed all sorts of data from air pressure, to temperature, to the fluctuation of wind speed as a fan moved back and forth in front of the laser.

Glenn finally looked up with his left eyebrow up, his right down and his lips exactly the opposite with the right corner up and left corner down. "Joey, unless the new kid has an IQ above 140, give him a soda and take him over to the game station in room six. I have Ricky's game unit up and running with the programming Steven, Ricky, Justin and I came up with on the ride here. He can play with it all he wants and may even find some bugs for us."

Glenn then jerked his hand back and licked his finger, clearly having gotten a light shock. "On the other hand, if he is one of us, then see if his small hands can shove the lead into the infrared visual port, so I don't have to keep getting zapped!"

Haden smiled as he walked over to Glenn's hover chair. "I think I can manage that. Having small hands has its advantages sometimes."

Glenn spent a few more moments studying the new kid before he carefully rotated the helmet around to give Haden easier access to it. "If you look down inside, there are three open panels, the one that's closest to you…"

As Glenn was explaining, Haden jumped in as he took hold of the lead. "There is a small rectangular box about two inches long which you've already taken the protective sheath off of, exposing the top layer logic board circuits."

Glenn blinked in surprise as Haden's arm wiggled its way inside the helmet, carefully avoiding the other leads that were connected to it while continuing to talk, "The problem is, the IR box was never meant to be field serviced, and as such the entire top logic layer is polarized with a positive charge for better energy flow to the lower boards, as well as keeping the reader cell focused which is why the current keeps jumping over the lead to zap you. The only safe place to connect the probe is right under the small group of jumpers just below the photo cell. That should still allow you to get the data you're looking for. There we go."

By the time Haden had finished attaching the lead and managed to remove his hand from the helmet, Glenn's facial features moved through a number of odd looking expressions. At first, he seemed a bit annoyed or upset at Haden. But then, a few moments later, something somewhere must have told the slightly older boy that the lead was in fact connected correctly since his expression changed to one of surprise.

Not wanting to keep Glenn in suspense for too long, Haden spoke a bit more timidly, "I helped oversee a number of the UPA-45 Helmet suite upgrades. In the early stages, the IR port gave us all kinds of trouble."

Glenn cocked his head to the side, "OK, so why didn't you make a separate port for the IR hook in, or better yet put in a temperature gauge so I didn't have to go through all this?"

Joey rolled his eyes, "It sounds like where they come from they have lasers and junk, so they don't care about bullets."

"Lasers?" Glenn's eyes opened wide, "IR, UV, or what?"

"Well, lasers and stuff did exist where we came from, but the more common energy weapons of choice were phase modulated since they were not only more efficient at delivering high intensity particle beams, but were more flexible in beam intensity and shape," Haden answered. "However, projectile weapons were also still used a lot. An EMP can render your energy weapons useless, but they still don't prevent gunpowder from igniting."

After getting small nods of understanding from the other two boys, Haden continued, "As far as the first part of your question goes, as I said, the helmets were not really intended to be field serviceable. If one of the helmets failed, the person would just get another helmet instead of trying to tinker with the complex circuits on the battle field. In the lab, we would just remove the entire outer casing of the helmet, which would give you a lot better access to the elements you're looking for. Kinda like how I see you have a probe connected to the atmospheric measurement array in the L-2 panel you have open. You would get a lot better readings if your probe was connected to the pins in front of the forward jumper, but again, that would require removing the entire outer casing of the helmet."

A smirk went across Glenn's face, "I sure wish I would have known there was a way to get in there deeper, but I still don't see any way to pull it open more than I already have. Still, your atmospheric data is not what I was really looking for. I need barometric pressure and adjust it for altitude since if I shoot upward the pressure will change. I want, I need, to build a full data profile of everything affecting a bullet's trajectory so we can make it totally tied to the weapon assist modular kit you already have built in. What I don't get, and believe me, I am happy about, is why you have so much available memory when it wasn't needed?"

Before Haden could answer, Glenn frowned. "Joey, the random hit location Steven and I helped Ricky build for his monsters is off. There is no way a five foot ten inch tall knight swinging a three foot long sword would be able to randomly hit the back part of a tail of a fourteen foot long snake when he is facing it like what just happened. We need to totally change the random chart to account for reach. Can you send Ricky a text to see if he can rework it?"

It took a second for Haden to realize the boy was actually looking at a monitor half way across the room and had changed topics in mid stream.

Glenn then looked back at Haden, "Oh, and why, if you built this thing with IR, didn't you tie in the IR visual mode to give air and target temperatures. Plus, we live in the U.S. so you should have put in more than just metric measurements. Some of the guys you recruit will have to be taught metric before they can fully use the suits."

Haden gave a humor filled snort as he looked over at the game monitor. "That must be universal to all dimensions. That's a common mistake game developers make where we come from as well," Haden let out a small pained sigh, "As far as the large amount of additional memory, and the two additional redundant processors that are next to that memory… the reason that doesn't make sense is there is a huge element you are missing, which is a large central AI that we had access to that would pull in and do offsite analysis of all the various sensors from the suit. We don't have access to that here, so Juan and Jory had to reconfigure the helmets to work without them. That's also why it looks like so many of the components are isolated from each other. They are all tied into the helmet's communication center allowing each of them to transmit their data out as needed."

"Still," Glenn grumbled with a great deal of annoyance, "The metric thing is going to cause you problems. If you try to recruit from the U.S. you will have problems. Someone should reconfigure to make duplicate measurements otherwise I would be about the only one in my entire school system who could use half this data. With what is going down in Breckenridge, you'll need more help and Metric isn't going to cut it here."

Joey glanced over at Glenn, "How do you know what is going on up there if you are down here?"

Glenn pointed to an ear bud. "Ricky is feeding me reports as they are sent through the hub we hacked, so I know more about what is going on topside than probably anyone else around here."

He then glanced over to the game, "Oh, Joey, there is something we didn't consider either. The type of damage done with a blunt weapon will be totally different than bladed or piercing. We need to get proper damage and blood splatter if we are going to do this right."

Joey cringed, "I'll stay clear of the whole blood splatter thing, Glenn. Why does it have to be so realistic?"

"Because people can turn it on or off, but when it is on, it needs to look real or otherwise we are just reworking the wheel, and I don't even use wheeled transport anymore."

Glenn then turned back to Haden, "So, if you guys have all this extra stuff, why didn't you build in a weapon into the armor?"

"It wouldn't be hard to change the metric measurements; that would just be an update to the HUD's firmware for display. As far as the integrated weapon goes, I actually suggested that myself once." Haden grinned, "The problem is that most of the UNIT guys that were going to be using this armor preferred the old fashioned projectile weapons. The original designs of the helmet actually did call for a phased energy discharge point, but that ended up getting used to support a third mini-cam instead."

"I guess the other issue was, do you really want to integrate a weapon into a fully automated system like that?" Haden continued as he took a few moments to look closer at Glenn's hovering chair, "That looks like a pretty cool anti-grav chair. Did you make that yourself?"

"Oh, and are you trying to link the suit into some type of VR game environment or something?" Haden asked as an afterthought.

Glenn snickered, "Just hover, not anti-grav. Don't have the slightest clue how anti-grav would work, probably because I never gave it much thought. Anyway, I built the proto-type on my own with a little help on the engine, since hydrogen internal combustion was not something I knew much about until I really got into it.

"Now getting back to the suit, Steven and I already looked at power outputs and wondered why you bothered to have an external power source that needs solar recharging. With this level of micro-technology, you don't need it. The human body, with proper power pad placements along the spine can generate enough power to run the entire suit. Once we build that add-on, then we can use the power system it already has for a weapon system of some sort."

Glenn pointed to a third table, "There is all the configuration charts on the human body power pads, but we need to understand where the power transfer systems hook into the automated subsystems or we may actually send too much power through and fry them."

He then held up a couple of the Ram jet rounds, "We could then install a small ballistic system and use the power from the suit to ignite these. Since they have their own propulsion the tube would just need to be long enough to make them accurate, and since we are going to tie it into the new weapon tracking modular plug in we are programming, it will be accurate. And the magazine feed could be hooked behind the solar recharging panels since we should not have to use the power supply to feed the suit any longer. Steven and I have the plans for the ammo feed in section Beta test Alpha. If you want to take a look, just pull it up."

"Okay, that answers the question about the game integration," Haden smiled. "Anti-grav wouldn't be all that difficult. You already seem to have most of the needed components already. The only thing you would be going with an anti-grav setup is creating a broad charged electron spread to push against the gravitational pull of the earth, kinda like when you try to put two equal polled magnets together."

"As far as a body powered interface goes, I don't think anyone has thought of that, to be honest," Haden stated as he glanced toward the table that Glenn had indicated. "The only real issue that I would see is that where I came from, it would have had to be adapted to work on species other than Human, but that wouldn't be too difficult. At best, you have a small attachment that connects into the suit depending on the species wearing it."

"Have I mentioned how cool this place looks?" Haden once again changed subjects as he looked around the room. "It almost reminds me of home a bit. And it's also cool to really be able to talk to someone without having to always worry about giving people headaches." With a sigh and a forced smile, he continued, "I don't know how long Logan plans on allowing us to stay here, but if you would like, I wouldn't mind helping you with some of this stuff for as long as we're here."

Joey glanced over with a smirk. "Well, let's get to work. When Keith gets back we can set up some kind of communication system so we can work on projects even when we are not in the same room."

Glenn snickered, "Yeah, especially if we can figure out how to get his idea for a magnetic communication system up and running. Since no one monitors for it, we would be able to talk without any interference.

"Now, if you would just be willing to sit down over there and go over the spinal column power system and make sure we are not over powering any subsystems we can move forward with this whole thing much faster than just us morons from some backwater multi-verse."

After an hour of hard work with Haden providing extra details on the suit and UNIT tech, Ricky came bounding down the stairs, "Glenn! Get the electromagnetic spectrograph set up! I think I am onto something!"

Glenn glanced up with aggravation written all over his face until he noticed another, slightly older boy following a very excited Ricky.

Ricky didn't give anyone a chance to speak, "This is Logan, and we need to give him a full Electromagnetic scan and maybe…" He stopped and saw Haden in the same kind of jumpsuit as Logan. "Hey, are you one of them from the other universe? If so, we need a scan of you too!"

Haden blinked in surprise at Ricky's request. "Um, yeah. I'm from the other universe as well," Haden admitted. "And if you want to scan me, that's fine. But Doctor Janet already did a pretty thorough checkup on all of us earlier and didn't find any problems."

"No, not a problem, maybe an answer! Just ask your older friend here! He saw it too!"

At this point Ricky was actually jumping up and down in excitement as he glanced back at Logan.

"Um, okay," Haden replied hesitantly as he glanced toward Logan

"It has to do with our electromagnetic signatures…" Logan stated while eyeing Ricky.

Ricky's eyes glinted, "Joey, toss the other kid the magnet off the table over there."

Joey shrugged, "Hey Haden, catch!"

As Haden extended his hand the small magnet stopped for a moment then as Haden scowled and tried to grab it, it flew back, away from him.

Ricky smiled, "See I was right! A wormhole powerful enough to transport you all here, left an Electromagnetic trace! We need to map it before it fully fades! Maybe we can learn how to gate to other worlds!"

"Oh, hell…." Logan muttered, "Should I even bother to warn you about the dangers of such a thing, and how it's never a good idea to go gating to other worlds without knowing what is there first?"

Glenn just stared at Ricky then glanced back at Logan, "Um, probably, but… Joey, power up the spectrograph and get as many readings and data figures as you can pull! We have to study this!"

Haden narrowed his eyes as he glanced toward the magnet which was now lying on the ground. "Okay, what kind of magnet was that? 'Cause I don't think that should have happened."

Joey moved into the hall to power up the Electromagnetic Spectrograph while talking over his shoulder. "It was just a regular magnet out of the speaker box Keith took apart earlier to start working on his idea for a magnetic way to communicate over long distances. You know, it's too bad we didn't know about this when you first got here. If we had, maybe we could have even mapped a way back to where you came from, but probably not going to happen after all this time."

"Maybe, too bad for them…" Glenn stated then realized he said it out loud, "Oh, guys I didn't mean it like it came out. I meant it like I am glad you are here!"

Ricky glanced over at Glenn, "Dude, how mean can you get! I want to try to help them, not keep them here!"

"I was just thinking how much they can help this whole world, really!" Glenn responded with tears coming out of his eyes.

"S'okay," Haden replied, although the look on his face clearly showed that the nine-year-old missed his own home.

Glenn hung his head. "And this is exactly why I can't make a friend to save my life! Yet I have the highest IQ in my entire school system."

Logan held up his hand to halt the conversation. "Guys…. take it easy on yourselves. Glenn, we knew exactly what you meant. Yeah, I wanna get home, and if you guys can help figure out a way to do it, I'm all for it. Everything I've tried has failed, and I know ways that you guys couldn't even imagine. But honestly, I know a lot about wormholes and the like. I can tell you this much. In order to make the equipment needed to punch a hole through the dimensional barriers, it will take a lot of time to develop, even if I gave you the specs on how to build one right now. So don't go hog wild and forget everything else you got going on."

Logan then moved over to squat in front of Glenn. "Juan told me that you're probably the smartest kid here, but you got this big hang up cause of the chair. Trust me; I know what it's like. I was bullied massively in school. I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of a swirly… if you guys have them in this world."

Haden looked at Logan oddly as he spoke about all the things he had tried to get home having failed. Instead of following Logan's train of thought, he focused on Glenn. "Logan's right. Besides, what do you mean, can't make a friend?" haden asked seriously as he glanced toward Glenn. "I thought that you were way cool. In fact, probably one of the coolest people that I've met since we've been here."

"And then I go and say something mean and stupid. Me being in a chair sucks, but it has nothing to do with me being mean. Besides, if I am the smartest, why is Ricky running down here with an idea I never even dreamed of, let alone thought of?" Glenn snorted and used his sleeve to wipe away some tears only to have more fall. "I just… No, there is no excuse. What I said… It can't be undone."

Haden shrugged, "Yeah, I'm a little sad that we haven't been able to find a way home, but you aren't responsible for us being here, and you couldn't have known all the details. Lance… someone who helped me learn a lot about people, one time told me that it's not always what specific words you say, but the intent behind those words. I'm pretty sure you didn't have any mean intent behind what you said, so it's okay."

Joey shook his head, "Glenn, stop it. You sound more like me, and no one wants more than one of me around. Besides, I need help to get some scans if they are still willing. The more time we waste the less information we are going to get. We may not be able to get them home, but if we can find a way to make a safe wormhole, they can at least start a search for their home.

"We'll probably all be adults before we figure out a way to make a prototype, but hey, at least it is something," Joey added as he moved into a room at the far end of the hall.

Ricky glanced over to Logan then to Haden, "Um, can we get you to go into the room with the big arch like thing and stand under it, one at a time?"

Haden watched as Logan quickly made his way to the room. As Joey began the scans, Haden walked up next to him, "Hey, Joey?"

Joey turned and spoke down toward his feet, "We really will try to get you a way to make a stable wormhole. All of us will. I am sure of it."

"Thanks," Haden replied timidly. "But that's not really what I wanted to say…" After a brief pause to collect his thoughts, he continued, "I think I know a little bit how you might feel because I kinda felt the same way for a pretty long time. But I think you are being a bit hard on yourself. Before I met the Clan, sometimes I wondered why I kept coming up with so many crazy ideas in my head, because I was sure I would never be able to make any of them… But then, they taught me that the only real limits we have are the limits we put on ourselves. If you say you will never be able to see something built, then you probably won't. But if you let yourself believe a little… well… just about anything is possible."

Joey glanced up, "I kind of realized the same thing after uncle… um… Mr. Triumph took me under his protection and found me a good mom and dad. What I want to know is how to stop being so afraid, how to forget everything before I got here other than what little I can remember of my dad."

Haden sighed and looked down toward the floor. "If you ever figure it out, could you do me a favor and let me know? I've been looking for the same answer. At first, I thought that if I went through UNIT training and became an officer, then that would make me strong, and make it so I wasn't afraid anymore. And well, now I'm an officer, now I know how to… to… kill… people when I have to, but that still hasn't made it so that I forgot what my old father did to me for the first eight years of my life, it still didn't really make me less afraid anymore. That's all still inside me… I guess…. well… I guess I just learned how to hide it better or something."

Joey chewed on his lower lip so hard it actually bled slightly before he pulled a ballpoint pen out of his pocket. "I carry this everywhere, because it was one of these… it let me escape the truck driver outside of Austin. Now I never go anywhere without one. If I realize I don't have it with me, I break into cold sweats and remember everything… I have to have one of these with me…"

Before more could be said, Glenn's voice called out from the other room, "All set here. I even tied all of the armor's helmet's visual modes into the mess so we can get visual images in every possible mode as we run the scans."

Joey turned on the scanner and glanced back at Glenn as the first images came up. He frowned. "I am getting all sorts of magnetic waves here. I can't get a good reading."

Glenn's head dropped to the left as he studied the images then hit the speaker to the other room, "The gun you are wearing and all the other metal, did it appear with you or was it already here?"

"It was already here, but it came from where we originated," Logan responded calmly

Glenn's grumbling could not easily be made out, but his next question was filled with embarrassment. "Um, I hate… I mean, the metal on you, it… any way I can have you… well I need you… can you just take all metal off?"

Logan snickered then, without any embarrassment at all, stripped completely naked. "There, that should be everything."

Ricky started to turn away from the clear glass, but stopped and stared with confusion on his face. He gulped but pointed to Logan's nude front, "Um, what is that thing hanging off your… um… thing?" Even as he asked he went bright red and turned away sharply.

Logan couldn't help but laugh, but it was a good hearted laugh. "Joey, Glenn, do either of you need to know the answer as well?"

There was an audible slapping sound as Joey's hand crashed into his head followed moments later by a spitting sound as the soda was expelled out of both Glenn's mouth and nose.

"So, I'll take that as a no. Ricky, this is gonna feel weird…" Logan noted while staring with intense concentration for a few moments; suddenly the information about circumcision filled Ricky's mind.

Ricky suddenly shook and cringed, "Ok, how gross can you get? But I can see why people do it. That skin is ugly…" As he realized he said this aloud his face turned even redder as he twisted around sharply and ran toward the stairs in embarrassment.

"RICKY!" Logan barked with a voice filled with authority. "Come back here!"

Ricky felt a strange pull as his desire his very will was over ridden. His body moved him back into the room, even though his mind wanted him to go the other way, desperately tried to flee.

Ricky moved back and looked into the room with total confusion. Every fiber of his being did not want to be around this boy, he had made a fool of himself, and sounded like he… he wanted the bad stuff to happen to him when nothing could be further than the truth.

"Please sit," Logan commanded. Ricky did so with fists clenched and arms shaking, fighting himself, and the orders shoved into his brain, the whole way. Sweat even popped up on his brow as every part of him seemed to fight what part of his brain was telling him he must do. The problem was, the motor controls were not his to command and it made him think of the time he had been under the control of Davy's dad.

Logan hadn't moved, as a matter of fact he was statue like, giving the scan the best chance to get good data. Only his lips moved as he spoke to Ricky. "I know you all can get embarrassed about things that you never were told about; things that most kids learn from their friends, or other kids. But you all must learn one thing about us. Most of the kids in the UNIT grew up in a lab, hell most of them would be uncomfortable being in this room. Most of them learned about things like masturbation from the doctors, if they learned it at all. So do not ever feel embarrassed about asking us something, because we know what it's like. Okay?"

Ricky shivered, "It's more about… I don't want people to think I am… I was not trying to look at it, I just did."

"Ricky…" Logan lowered his voice and dropped the authoritarian-like tone, "There is nothing wrong with looking. Anyone who tries to tell you that is wrong. You're young, you're curious, and there is NOTHING wrong with that. Okay?"

Ricky nodded, but it was clear he didn't totally believe it. Still he forced a smile which was made more difficult becase the thoughts of what Davy's dad had forced him to do were still very much in his thoughts. "For the record I am glad I don't have to clean in there. That is really gross, and why did you have to show me THAT part?"

Logan laughed; it was not forced at all. "You're a geek… you want to know everything about everything. So I figured I would make sure you got all the information the first time."

"Oh, I got it… Geez, after all you blasted into my mind I think I could even do the surgery!" He shook his head. "Do you like being able to force people around like you did me when you made me come back?"

"No, I don't. Actually, I find it very disturbing when I have to force people to do things that they don't want to. But there are times where not doing so could actually cause more damage than not. I am sorry I did that to you," Logan stated with complete sincerity.

"Yeah, well have you ever asked someone what it is like? Cause if you haven't, let me tell you something; it is like living outside my body, I could do nothing to stop it and it sucked big time. It was almost as bad as what… What I have been forced to do by others and it isn't right."

Logan paused for a moment before he glanced at the arch and the little scanner zipping back and forth around it, "Hey Glenn, is the machine set up to stop when the scan is done?"

Joey responded, "No, but we are at less than twenty seconds from the full image and all the data is done, just hold on."

"Okay…" He then turned his attention back to Ricky. "Ricky, I know you don't know me, and have no reason to really trust me. However, if you are willing, when the scan is done, I would like to invite all of you into what we call a mental-scape. It allows for in depth conversations, mind to mind. There is no ability to lie in there, and, since everything is happening at the speed of thought, even an hour's long conversation can happen in mere moments."

Before Ricky could answer, Glenn's voice suddenly could be heard through the entire basement area. "We got it, and it will take me weeks to really decipher this data, but it is like totally wicked!"

Ricky glanced over his shoulder and snorted, "Week's probably months." He rolled his head, "As long as I am not forced, like you just did, fine, but please don't do the mind force thing again. It was almost as bad as… Well being physically forced to do stuff."

"Okay, how about I make a deal with you? I won't do any mind control on you, unless it looks like you're about to hurt yourself, and then I will fully explain why I did it. But in return, I want you to work on something. I want you to work on releasing your fears. I know it's not easy; I had to do it as well, hell it's really frigging tough to do. But with your new found abilities, if you are afraid all the time, they may come out to protect you, without you even trying."

Getting a slight, yet uncomfortable, nod from Ricky, he let it go as he got dressed. Logan then moved into the large workroom and glanced around before speaking, "Hey guys, could everyone take a seat. I'm about to do something that you guys will think is really cool, but strange. I'm gonna pull you all into a mental-scape conversation, where I bring your minds into a manifestation that I make with mine." He waited to make sure that they understood what he was talking about.

Getting a thumb's up from Haden eased some of their trepidation, so they did as instructed while looking at Logan expectantly. Glenn, in particular, did so with a raised eyebrow, curious about what was to come.

Logan sat down himself, concentrated, then watched as all four of them closed their eyes before he closed his as well.

All the others felt a weird tug; later as they talked it over, it was the best term they could come up with. It was as if they were gently tugged but the pull was internal, not external. When they opened their eyes, they weren't in the lab any longer. Instead, they were all seated around a high tech holographic table. Spread throughout the room they could see tons of high tech, other-worldly gadgets. Several work stations with what kind of looked like computer work stations could also be seen, but their designs were more science fiction movie than real.

While the others gawked and fidgeted, it was clear to those in the room Haden was the only one who felt at home in this place of wonder. Glenn suddenly wished he could pull out a camera and start taking pictures. For him, this was a place of dreams.

At the same time, Ricky looked around with a great deal of confusion then blinked. "I don't like this…"

Glenn cut him off, "I do! Where is the place and how do I get some of this! Ricky, it is a full holographic unit. Do you know what we could do with your game unit with one of these?"

At the same time, Joey glanced around, clearly leaning more toward Ricky's view, "No windows? How far down are we and how do I get out of here?"

"Guys, relax, we didn't go anywhere, we're in my mind. This is a representation of the lab I worked in back in the universe we came from. If you want, I can create some windows, and let some sunlight in, or I can make this place look like anything you want. I figured you guys might be more comfortable being surrounded by techy toys," Logan said softly.

"How about outside?" Ricky muttered through clenched teeth.

Suddenly the walls disappeared, and they were in the wilderness, however all the work stations and tables were still there. The woods around them were normal, as far as the boys were concerned, with animal sounds, and trees that weren't huge, but were pretty old. Off in the distance they were able to see a small town with smoke rising from the chimneys. "Is this better?"

Haden grinned, "Or, for a really fun time, we could always show them the server room."

"Or we could be in a restaurant with a triple cheeseburger and a mass of steak fries sitting in front of me," Glenn only partially joked.

Logan couldn't help but giggle, "Sure, and it would taste great. However, you really wouldn't get full"

Haden licks his lips, "Okay, I change my vote to what Glenn said."

"I'll take the taste for now!" Glenn giggled.

"Okay!" Logan said rather excited. A moment later, they were all sitting in his favorite restaurant in Des Moines, Bubba 'D's. It really was a hole in the wall sort of diner, and honestly, if Logan didn't know the owner, he might have to wonder if the health department shouldn't have shut this place down a LONG time ago. Logan looked off to the left, as Bubba came walking out of the back. "Logan! How's my favorite customer today?" A huge bellied black man shouted. The guy's friendly attitude coupled with the fact he was wearing a sleeveless top, many called a 'wife beater', shorts, and a stained and dirty apron helped ease both Ricky and Joey's fears.

"Doing great Bubba," Logan proclaimed. "These are some friends of mine. They wanted some of the best food I knew about, so I brought them to you." Logan grinned widely at this point. "You know what I want, but I'm not sure what they want." Logan then looked at the rest of the boys. "This place has the best BBQ in the world, as well as some great burgers and fries. I know it doesn't look like much, but I swear to you, the food is the best you'll ever have. The BBQ sauce he makes from scratch is the absolute best ever!"

While still not enthused, Ricky finally placed an order and glanced around. Finally he stood and moved to a spot closer to the door.

Off to the side, Joey mumbled just loud enough for Glenn and Logan to hear, but not Ricky, "And here I thought I was paranoid."

Logan sighed then stood up and walked over to Ricky. "If you want, we can end this, and go back to the lab. There are reasons I wanted to do this, but not if it's gonna be hard on you. There is nothing important in here that I can't do in the real world. It would just be quicker here. But it won't do any good if you're this uncomfortable."

"Just go for it. I prefer to be closer to a door where I can see everyone."

Logan nodded then re-took his seat. "First thing you guys have to understand here. We're talking mind to mind, in other words, your minds are interfacing directly with mine. In this type of environment, lying is not really possible. If someone did lie, it would be obvious to everyone, by the feelings that they get from the person speaking. For example…" He looked over at Joey, and met his eyes. "Joey, I am going to ask you two questions, the first, I want you to outright lie about, the second, I want you to give me what you think is the correct answer. The rest of you, I want you to listen to what he says, and 'feel' the truthfulness of his words. It should be pretty obvious. You ready?"

Joey nodded his head slowly, so Logan smiled then asked his first question. "How old are you?"

Joey thought for a second, then focused, trying to sound convincing as possible, "Sixteen." However, as soon as he said the word, a feeling of wrongness about his answer seemed to permeate the air.

"Now, Joey, who's smarter, you are Ricky?"

"Ricky," Joey answered without hesitation. This time the feel was cleaner, purer. Everyone could just tell Joey truly believed Ricky was smarter than him. The only one in the room who didn't believe it as a fact, however, was Ricky.

"Okay? You okay with this now Ricky?" Logan asked as he turned to the boy by the door.

Ricky's face scrunched up and he blinked a few times, "OK, this is kind of awesome, but just keep some space from me, OK?" there was a note of pleading in his tone as he asked the question.

Logan nodded in understanding, then backed up and sat back down. "Okay, before I get into something a bit more interesting. Glenn, this all started because you made a slip of the tongue. I know what you meant, and so does everyone else. But I don't think you know or fully accept that we actually do understand. That's why I wanted to do this here, so you KNEW, deep down in your soul, that what you said was not offensive to us at all. Yes, I realize that you see all the good our tech may be able to do, and that if we go back real soon, you may never see that realized. Okay?"

Glenn let out a long breath, "OK, but it was still selfish, and it had as much to do with hoping I could get to know you better, as understanding your tech. Over the past few days, even though life in this world is going down the… um, my mom would call it the 'crapper' I have been able to do more with others than I have the last year or more combined. I don't really want it to end. Yet I don't want people to die. My mind is all screwed up!"

"There's nothing wrong with that. Trust me. We've dealt with that exact thing many times. Kids who were abused, or for whatever reason didn't fit in and were isolated, when they find a place to belong, a group of people who accept them for who they are, they don't want to lose that, even though it might mean bad things happening for others. It's not only common, but it's the only reasonable thing to have happen."

Logan paused as he looked around the room for a moment, then pointed to a clear area. "I wanna show you guys something that happened shortly after I landed. The first place I went was to check on Juan. Which by the way, he should make a full recovery in a few days. He was hurt bad, and could have died from it, but Mom was able to help him, and Khan's blood is very potent, and he's got a lot of it." Logan said with a smile.

"But one of the things I did was I 'talked to' Juan, much like we're talking now. One of the things that I always carry with me is a small med kit. What's in the med kit is something that I was working on before we were brought here. They're called Pico Bots. I'm sure you guys understand the term."

While Joey and Glenn looked at each other a bit blankly, Ricky's eyebrows shot up. "So you all have electron sized circuitry that does not overload and have found a way to give robots power sources somehow even though they are… what about the size of a red blood cell?"

Ricky didn't give Logan a chance to answer, "And if you managed to do all of this, and gave these babies enough memory to be programmed, there is no way you could build in any kind of programming that is beyond the most simple of tasks," his voice got faster, "Because no matter how small your tech can get, there is only so much memory and programming you can stick into something the size of a human cell."

He turned to Logan, "I want to see it! Do you have a way to magnify it so I can really see what it looks like?"

Joey shook his head, "Dude… Take a breath before you pass out on us!"

Glenn glanced over at Ricky as well, "Me geek, you geekier!"

Logan couldn't help but laugh. "I'll tell you what, Ricky. Once you get the laptop set up, and linked to our system, I'll download the specs of the Pico-bots. The one thing that needs to be kept in mind about the Pico-bots though, is this. While they can be programmed to do just about anything, they only really do one or two things really well. The more they are programmed to do, the less well they do everything. For example, we each have a single suit of armor that is made out of the Pico-tech. While the Pico-tech can do a lot of things, like make weapons and the like, if you have one set up to become a sword, it will make a really good sword. But if you want it to be a sword and also be able to turn into a flail, it wouldn't be great at both, since they are very different in their makeup. Make sense so far?"

Ricky nodded totally engrossed in what Logan was saying. "Good, now… take the laptop that I made for you. Yesterday it was a top of the line, off the shelf Computer Land special. Then I infected it with Pico-bots, and well… let's just say; it ain't normal no more," Logan responded with a laugh. "But seriously, I will make sure you get as much data as your geeky mind can handle. But…" He turned back to everyone else.

"Anyways, what these Pico-bots could do, and what I talked to Juan about was using them on him, to get him back on his feet faster…."

In the clear area, they suddenly saw Juan standing there; with Logan standing across from him. "So, what you're saying is that the Pico-bots will help me heal, get me back up and fighting quicker than just my own healing will?" Juan asked.

"Pretty much; instead of you being out of action for a good week, maybe a bit more, you'd be back in three or four days," Logan said sincerely.

Before Juan could answer Glenn looked straight at Juan, "So this is some kind of mental game, I get it, but are we really talking to you, and if we are how are you doing? I gave as much blood to you as they would let me…"

The images froze while Logan turned to glance at Glenn. "This is a conversation I had with him earlier. He's not actually here."

Glenn looked disappointed, "Oh, sorry, I was hoping he was really able to talk to us. I was worried he may be mad about getting some of our pathetic blood inside him."

"Dude…" Logan said while shaking his head sadly. "I guess you don't realize it yet, but. There is a very good chance that Juan wouldn't have survived if it wasn't for you guys. Your blood might not be Genesis blood, but it probably saved his life. I also know he knows that."

"Good…" Glenn nodded with a bit of a relived sigh. "But if you can let me talk to him sometime, I would still feel better… Sorry I am wasting time here… Um, when do we get to eat?"

Logan laughed. "It's okay, and I know Juan will want to talk to you as well. As far as the food goes…." on cue, Bubba came out carrying plates of food. As soon as they all had the food, the 'vision' started back up.

"What does Mom think?" Juan asked after a few moments.

"I haven't told her about this yet. It's untested, even though I have run every test imaginable on them, I've never used them in a person before, so I wanted your okay before I took it to Mom."

Juan took almost a full minute of thinking before he finally looked up at Logan and shook his head. "No. Don't use them on me."

"What?" Logan asked shocked. "Why not? I mean, we all know how you're gonna be if you're stuck on bed rest for more than an hour or two. Why wouldn't you want something that could bring you back quicker."

"You said this is the only one you have here, right?" Juan asked softly.

"Well yeah. I mean I got more growing, but there was only a few in the lab I had that got brought over here. It's gonna take a bit before I'll be comfortable using many of them. Remember, if anything happens to Daileass, or any of the chipmunks, the Pico-bots are the only thing we got that can heal them."

"Then I really don't want them," Juan declared emphatically.

"Okay, but if you change your mind…" Logan started to say, but Juan cut him off.

"I want you to use them on Glenn. If they could help heal me, then they should be able to fix his hip easily," Juan stated.

Logan stood there stunned for a few seconds. "Glenn? Why Glenn? I mean no disrespect intended to him, but he's a squishy that's not in mortal danger. Everything you've told me about him says that he's not gonna die because of it. Yeah he's stuck in a chair, but…"

"The chair's holding him back. He's brilliant, maybe even on your level; not to mention he's just like you were when Adam first rescued me. He needs friends, and he needs a break in his life. Not to mention, I think he's kinda cute!" Juan said with a grin.

Logan giggled as well, "Juan, didn't you learn anything from the last time?"

Juan immediately sobered up. "Yeah, I learned a LOT… let's just leave it at that."

"Okay, you got it bro," Logan said soberly. "But… Are you really sure about giving this up for a squishy you barely know?"

"Yeah I am. I have a feeling about him, and I just know he needs it more than I do right now," Juan assured Logan with complete sincerity.

"Okay, if you're sure," Logan finally relented, then the images faded out.

"A feeling about me?" Glenn shook his head. "I am not the one…" he took a huge bite and talked while chewing, "um, the one… wow this is really good. If I really am not going to get full, can I get another… Anyway, um, yeah… I am not the one going out there and fighting. I wish I was, but what if someone else gets hurt. Won't you need what you have for them?" It was clear to those looking on Glenn had other issues underlying what he was revealing by the look of desperation in his eyes.

"Not really. See, at the moment, the Pico-bots we have are very generalized. Using them with you would not actually do more than help aid you to heal quicker. I still need some time and a lot more resources before the Pico-bots could really be used. Here's the deal, I've only had a little bit of time to think about things, but here are the three options I've come up with. Why don't I go through what we can do, then give you some time to really think about what you want to do? Sound good?"

Glenn nodded, as Bubba brought out another round of burgers. After Logan inhaled another BBQ sauce drenched burger and fries, he began talking, outlining the options Glenn had.

"Basically, the way I see it is that we have three options for you. First, you wait for about four to eight months so that I can create all the equipment and grow all the Pico-bots I will need. Then we can do a complete reconstruction of all the damage. The actual re-growth would take several days, then you would need physical therapy for several weeks before you could begin walking while assisted. Depending on your progress, from there you could be walking unassisted several weeks to a month after that. Finally, you would regain your full strength in a month or so."

"The second option would be a Pico-bot assisted hip replacement of a sort. This procedure could be done sometime in the next several days. It would take a full twenty-four hours to complete the replacement grown and the surgery to reconnect your damaged muscles, tendons, and tissues. This procedure also relies on your body's own healing ability to repair a lot of the damage after the surgery. I would guess three to five days of healing after the surgery before you could begin physical therapy. It would be between two to four weeks of PT before you could expect to be walking unassisted on flat surfaces. For anything other than flat surfaces you would need crutches or a cane. Over time, your strength should increase and your reliance on a cane would diminish. This would need to be repeated several times until you reach your full growth. The follow-up procedures would take considerably less time. It is just a guess on my part, but I believe the follow ups would only take a quarter to a third the time for recovery. There is a good chance with this method that you will regain full motion, but I can't guarantee that."

"Now the third and final option is the one I would recommend. It is a combination of the first two. We do the Pico-bot assisted hip replacement, then in four to eight months, when I am ready, we do the full reconstruction. By doing both options, it will cut the amount of time needed for the procedure itself and to heal in about half. I would guess that your PT time as well as the time to regain your full strength would be halved as well. This would be mainly because a lot of the grunt work involving the bone and cartilage rebuilding will have taken place already. You would have already had several months to heal naturally and gain strength from the first procedure. What we would have left to do is convert it all to live bone, marrow, endosteum, periosteum, nerves, blood vessels, cartilage, and the like that will grow with you."

Glenn's shoulders sagged as he finally decided to admit what he was really thinking, "The last thing I want to hear is someone, anyone telling me to do another something for my hip just to get ready to do something else. If you can fix it, with one more something then fine, but the last thing I am going to do, no matter how high tech, is to sit through something just to get me ready for something else.

"Why can't you just tell them to grab what they need and rebuild with what I already have in me or something. I don't care if it takes months, or even years, I don't care about the pain. I just am so done with something leading to something else only to find there is yet another step. Over half of them seemed to have made things worse and I am so done with being under a knife."

Logan sighed sympathetically, "I wish I could help you the way you want, the problems lie in a few different areas. The first is this tech is only about three years old, and has never really been used on people. I developed it for other things, and realized that it could be useful for medical procedures. So we haven't had a lot of time to gear it towards medical uses, making them very limited it what they can do.

"Secondly, the tech we have available to us is not up to the standards of being able to monitor something like what you want. There are only a few computers with the programs and computational abilities to handle monitoring something like that, and only four people, besides myself, that could do it.

"It would take me a while to develop what's needed to heal you completely. I will be doing it all anyways, but this way, I'll be growing the Pico-bots specifically for you and what we need to do. The reason I suggest the two step process is because by doing the first step, it will make the second step easier. You will have already begun the process of healing and re-training your hip to be used. I know it's not what you want, and it's not the way you want, but it's the best option I can see. I figure you'll be up and walking normally in less than a year."

Ricky frowned deeply as his brain tried to grasp why something so advanced could be so limited, "Far for me to fully understand what these micro-bots can and can't do, but why not just do a full image of his good hip reverse it, flip it, and give your bots the blueprint of what to do. I get some would have to be programmed for only one type of repair, but the blueprints and what needs to be done are already part of him, right?"

Glenn glanced over, "I could be the human guinea pig for you, too. Someone has to be. And after seeing how Juan heals, you would never get an accurate anything off of him."

Logan responded to Glenn's point first. "You're right, and thank you for offering." He then looked at Ricky. "I understand what you mean, but you have to realize, these were developed with a higher standard of tech, which in this case, actually means they're pretty limited, when you don't have the tech base available. I'll tell you what. Why don't I make sure you have all the research, data, and schematics on the Pico-bots, and what we've been able to do already with them? Hell, you may have more time than I do to work on them in the near future. They've been a pet project of mine for a couple of years, but I haven't really pushed into a whole lot of different areas with them. Perhaps you can help develop something new with them."

Glenn snorted, "So use me, but let's swing for the home run. Not for a single base hit. If it ends up only being a triple, it is still better than a single you seem to want to try to do now."

Off to the side, Joey eyed Glenn, then Ricky, with a befuddled look and a shake of his head. "What if something goes wrong and it makes you worse. Just wait it out. Don't let them experiment on you!"

"What do you think the doctors have been doing on me since my bike wreck? They tried all sorts of stuff, some of it made it worse, some kind of better, but each time I was under a knife from someone who wanted to make a name for himself and publish something in some stupid medical journal."

Without warning, Glenn pulled himself up as far as he could, exposed his hip and dropped his pants and boxers down revealing his mid section totally, while also showing everyone a half a dozen crisscrossing surgical scars, one of which went most of the way around and came very close to the groin. "Each one of these was another hospital visit, normally days, and the following week or two of pain so intense I cried myself to sleep most of the time. Don't you get it, Joey? I have had enough! I will try one thing, not one and a half, not two, and certainly not four, five or six!

"If something goes wrong, then they learn from it and do a reprogramming or whatever. If it makes me hurt… So what? I hurt now, I will hurt tomorrow, and I will continue to hurt until about my twenty fifth birthday. By then I will have stopped growing and I can get a hip replacement. If I can do it now, and it lasts for the next twenty four to thirty six months, I come up with eleven years less of being in pain than what I am looking forward to now. If doing so means I face double, or even triple, the pain I have now, then I still come out way ahead. Get it?"

"I do get it," Logan responded with a great deal of compassion. It was clear by the youngster's voice he had been touched by Glenn's openness and determination. "The best I can offer you right now is to wait, with things being the way they are, and in four to eight months, when I have everything re-created, we'll hit your home run. It's all I can think of right now. Perhaps we'll come up with something else, or maybe you guys will, I don't know. But as things stand right now, that's the best I can do."

"Then I wait." Glenn pulled up his boxers and pants. "But let Juan know I think his offer was way too kind. I don't deserve anything. I didn't go out and rescue those kids. Everyone else here did."

Logan sighed and shook his head. "I doubt you know this, but I am second in command of all the UNIT forces, I hold the rank of a General, which, by the way, was recognized by the United States Government in the world we came from. I'm not saying any of this to brag, but to illustrate a point. Do you wanna guess how many 'rescue missions' I've been on?"

Joey looked over, obviously shook up after seeing the surgical scars on Glenn. Even his voice betrayed his relief at moving on to a different topic. "Fifty?"

Logan looked Joey directly in the eye, "Less than five. Yes, I have tasted combat, but that was when we got attacked. I have been to places with people that have been rescued, but that was mostly in the background. The military needs people supporting the soldiers more than it needs the soldiers, bluntly. Juan is a great soldier, and by himself he's a force to be reckoned with. But honestly, he needs me to figure out where the shit's happening, what he'll find when he gets there, and how he's gonna get out when the mission is done. The support staff is every bit as important as the people who actually go out and pull the triggers. Never sell yourself short, Glenn; you may not be able to get out there and kick ass, yet, but there is a whole lot more to do than just kick ass. The people who kick ass need someone to tell them who to kick, and where they are. Now, we've been in here for about two minutes. Shall we go back, and get back to the work that needs to be done?"

Glenn's lips twisted up into a smirk, "You just made my point for me, Logan. I don't need the limited supply you have. I can do my thing from my hover chair and Craig and the others can do what needs to be done more up close and personal. However, by the time December hits, this chair is going to have the firepower to terrify Ashwood, Paulson, and whoever else they are working with. With any luck, I will be able to put one of your gyro-jet rounds in the same place Craig put a bullet."

Logan smiled while he stood up, "Let's see what happens then. Shall we head back?"

Glenn shoved the last of the burger into his mouth, "Now we can."

By this time, everything was set and what food Fredric had on hand was being cooked over the grills. Expense didn't even enter his mind as he moved over to Joey and the others who were coming up out of the lab and patted the teen on the back, "I didn't know you guys all disappeared into the lab again. Hope you had fun, but you all need to eat so you can get with Mitch and help him get more supplies here."

Frederic paused as he saw the boy give a nervous nod, "Hey, you did great getting everything going. This way we can feed everyone, so grab some food."

Joey gave a weak smile, "The Sergeant is really cool. I don't really remember my real dad, but I bet he was a lot like Sergeant Kochev. All these guys are so awesome."

Suddenly Fredric understood, Joey's dad was military and the boy had a hero worship of soldiers, always had. Even better for the boy, these men had accepted him, brought him into their fold, so to speak. It was in this environment where Joey might be able to thrive and shatter the shell of fear he surrounded himself with.

Mitch moved over to Joey after making the rounds and getting a full idea what was needed and what would be needed. His organizational skills were kicking into high gear, proving to those around the property he was an EEL executive officer for a reason. He waited for Joey to finish chewing on a hotdog while he held a short conversation with a kid in a jumpsuit with the last name 'Rothwood' on it before speaking. "I still don't have a clue as to what is really happening and why, but it is clear we need all sorts of stuff. Let's go and you can fill me in."

Fredric watched as Dennis, two Russians and Joey jumped into the three largest vehicles and took off. He then glanced back toward the billowing smoke of Breckenridge and shook his head as the full scope of the situation really fell on him. The eight boys he had brought down for a week were now his responsibility for the foreseeable future. "Now what in the hell am I supposed to do? I can't possible send these kids home in the middle of a war even if I could get them home."

Yuri Komencho overheard the words as he was giving orders to his men. He moved up to Fredric's side, "After getting the reports from my men and Colonel Zolotov, this is not the war, Comrade. The war has not even begun yet, and hopefully after this disaster it will not, but I agree with your words. There were no military, only your national law enforcement; and they shed blood and are lying with those they killed. There is no way your sitting President will be able to keep this quiet and it should, if he has any sanity, persuade him to drop this whole takeover plot he seems to have brewing. However, your thoughts about those you have oversight of are correct. You cannot send these boys back home until things settle. You need to make plans to keep them long term and keep them safe, with this we can help, but their safety is ultimately in your hands."

Ricky took the laptop Logan gave him, recalled the massive mental download on all the information about the security, and stared at it. It was too good to be true. There was no way… Still he had seen so much from these semi-aliens. He really wasn't willing to call them human. They were too strange. A kid saying he is in his sixties, a kid who can recover from a massive bullet wound to the point where there is no need for an ICU, and a real live werewolf, and they could say whatever they wanted, but it changed shape, was huge, had claws and an animistic head. No, he hadn't seen it change shape, but he could picture the brute it changed into. He bet it was a three hundred pound, two meter tall weight lifter who lived on steroids and only ate regular food part time. He didn't care what "hybrid" they wanted to say it was. The idea of a werewolf was as best as he could describe it so, at least in his mind, he would continue to do so.

So, as he cautiously opened the laptop and touched the screen, he went down the list of what he had to do to make it his and then ran down the basic specs again. It came with full voice command interface. The processing power and speed were well over a hundred times anything anyone had out there, even top secret NSA stuff, and the storage was massive beyond massive. Logan tried to tell him he would never fill it. This only caused a grin out of Ricky. He would certainly try if indeed it was really as incredible as it was made out to be.

Of course, it had extras. According to Logan, it was even able to fully auto interface wirelessly with anything all with no drivers. It looked pretty normal with its 17' monitor but its weight was less than a third of what he expected. The touch screen, keyboard, and voice command ability would be nice, but the idea he could lock out advanced features and set it to become a regular laptop with a quick verbal command seemed almost too sneaky, but very cool.

He took a long breath and powered it up as instructed. The monitor flashed and Ricky followed with what he was told was the correct security start-up sequence. It was long, and made no sense, but hey, a super secure start-up for a reconfigure to a new primary owner should be. He was fine with it. Suddenly, however, the ultra clean sound, super graphics, and voice all came together center stage. It prompted him for full facial and retinal input which was done through the monitor, not some tiny camera, then it moved on to voice pattern ID. Once the system was his, and really only his, it ran down a few things for him to customize. First was the outer shell, it asked for a color or pattern.

Ricky smirked some as he decided to try to throw it for a loop. He verbally gave it a web page for a pouncing white tiger. Moments later the back took on the picture and actually automatically enhanced it where it found slight errors in the pixilation. The rest stayed muted black. Ricky studied it for several seconds, "Keep the back, the rest I want deep metallic blue with silver circuit board patterns."

As it changed and asked if the colors were right, Ricky's eyebrows went up. He tweaked the colors for almost five minutes before he was happy. Finally he nodded in satisfaction. "OK, so you can interface with my Mass hack, huh? Let's do it and crack this stupid 'Temple' hard drive!"

Let Kyle know what you think about Geek Squad: Kyle Aarons

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