Castle Roland


by Zackron


Chapter 1

Published: 8 Apr 14


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

All Rights Reserved

5:00pm PST – Monday, November 5th, 2012

Footprints Logo"Die!" Glenn called out with glee as he rapidly pushed the buttons on his Playstation 3 controller to direct his warrior to slice off the head of the evil skeleton lord that he was fighting. "Ha, got ya!"

A short chime sounded, and a small image of a clock flashed at the top of the screen. "Sweet!" the boy cried out as he paused the game and swiveled in his chair to face his computer screen, and quickly began to type a message into his online chat program. 'Just unlocked secret by killing the skeleton lord in under two minutes.'

A few moments later, replies began to appear;

'Sparks98 – U Suck, I still can't kill it fast enough.'

'Punisher5 – That's cause you don't know how to play.'

'Sparks98 – Then why do I always kick your ass in the arena?'

Glenn was just about to type a reply when the door to his room opened up and his grandmother's head peaked in. "Glenn dear, Chad and your grandfather are ready to go."

The boy threw his head back and sighed. "But Gran, I just unlocked the secret level."

"You also promised your little brother you would go with him to the park today," grandma retorted.

"Okay, fine," Glenn answered. "Just a few more minutes and I will."

The older woman shook her head. "You said that thirty minutes ago, now scoot! Unless you want your grandfather to have to come up here."

Remembering what happened last time the old man had to come up, Glenn let out a heavy sigh as he quickly typed 'GTG' in the chat channel and turned off the TV that was showing his paused game. The shirtless boy then walked over to his dresser to find a shirt to go with the faded jeans that he wore.

Apparently satisfied that the boy would soon be ready to go, grandma walked away from the door, but still left it open slightly.

After finding a suitable shirt, Glenn slipped on his shoes, grabbed his iPod Nano out of its charger, and walked out of his room into the hallway. He then went into the bathroom where he quickly surveyed himself in the mirror as he grabbed his comb to fix his hair.

Glenn, being your typical twelve-year-old, was at the age where he always had to look just right. This meant making sure his hair looked good, even though it was rather short since has Grandma had just taken him to get it cut last weekend. There was nothing overly remarkable about him with his light brown hair, dark green eyes. He was neither fat nor thin. If anything, he was rather lanky as his body was in the middle of puberty. Just in the last six months, his feet have gone from a size seven to a size nine.

"Brudder, you comm'n?" A very young sounding voice called out from downstairs.

"Yes, already," Glenn replied with a bit of irritation, as he made his way down the stairs. Waiting at the bottom was a small five-year-old boy looking up toward him. The boy had the same emerald green eyes that Glenn had, although his hair was a few shades lighter.

"Now Chad, you be sure to behave for your older Brother and Grandpa. Alright?"

The small boy bobbed his head up and down. "O-tay, I will." With a final glance up toward his older brother, Chad ran out the front door.

"He really appreciates it, you know," the grey haired, older woman stated as she looked toward Glenn. "He loves spending time with his brother."

Glenn nodded and walked out the door himself. Outside, the air was crisp and nippy, a far contrast to the usual weather. Living in Las Vegas, he was use to hot or hotter weather almost year round. It was usually only in December and January that it turned cooler to the point that you would sometimes need a jacket. Seeing his grandfather already in the car and getting it started, and that Chad had already claimed the front passenger seat, he slid into the back. Moments later they were pulling out of the driveway and making their way down the road.

As Chad began to happily chat with their grandfather about how cool it would be to get to the park, and test out his new kite, Glenn slid his earphone into his ear and turned on his iPod. The drive to the park wouldn't take that long, but he still couldn't stand riding anywhere without his music.

Before the first song had a chance to finish, they were already pulling into the parking lot. Chad was literally bouncing up and down in his seat with excitement. The moment that they were parked, with new kite in hand, Chad flew out of the car and quickly opened Glenn's door for him.

"Come on, brudder! Let's go!" Chad called out as he ran toward the closest picnic table he could find where he waited patiently for his brother to follow and help build the kite.

"We best not keep your brother waiting, now should we?" Grandfather smiled as he got out of the car as well.

With a heavy sigh, Glenn opened his own door silently wondering why he had made that promise. Regardless of why, he was here now so he might as well try to make the best of it.

In another universe, eight years in the past

A young boy, with moppy black hair, sat in front of a futuristic looking holographic computer terminal. Although he didn't look any older than nine, he was not playing a game, or using any other computer program that a typical nine-year-old might use. Instead, the boy was intensely focusing on a complex looking 3-D drawing of a multi-layered circuit board layout.

Standing behind the boy at the computer, stood another nine-year-old with long dark blonde hair and bright blue eyes. "You know Haden, I could think of a lot better ways to test out this new body than just standing here."

"Huh?" The focused look in Haden's greenish-grey eyes barely shifted as he recognized the voice of the person behind him. "Sorry Daileass. It's just, I thought of a few new design upgrades for the new module I'm making while we were off on Archnania."

"I'm sure you did," Daileass smiled warmly as he walked up behind Haden and placed his hands on his shoulders. "Can't you work on that later? The others are already waiting on us in the conference room."

"Okay," Haden reluctantly replied, as he pushed himself back from the terminal. "Icarus, please save and merge all open schematic files with the core sets."

"You got it, Haden," the younger sounding voice of the base's Artificial Intelligence replied. "Saving and Merging." Moments later, the holographic display turned off.

"Alright, let's go," Haden stated as he stood up only to find himself being wrapped in a hug by Daileass, causing him to instantly melt. Although Haden knew that Daileass was an android, all be-it one of the most sophisticated that had probably ever been built, it didn't matter. Long before Daileass had a body, Haden had ended up falling in love with him. While most of his other friends would probably think of Daileass as the hundreds of server silos that were protected deep within a certain mountain in Utah, Haden saw him as much more, as another person that was just as alive as anyone else. And for that matter, someone who could actually understand and follow him when he talked about computer and electronic circuit designs; one of the few things he was exceptionally good at.

"Not before I get to test out my kissing protocols," Daileass grinned. Before Haden had a chance to protest, he landed a kiss square on his lips.

Haden blinked as he was dazed for a few moments. "What was that for?"

"I missed you while you were gone," Daileass replied as he released a now blushing Haden. Daileass had developed feelings for Haden almost as much as Haden had developed feelings for him. However, he was also well aware of Haden's past and knew it would still be awhile before Haden would be able to truly feel comfortable with any close contact. Haden's mother had died while giving birth to him. As a result of that, his father blamed Haden and used Haden's autistic tendencies as an excuse to regularly beat him. If it weren't for the protection that his older brother, Evan, had given him, Daileass hated to think what might have happened to him. Deciding to push that out of his thoughts, Daileass instead focused on the fact that things worked out fine. The Clan found Haden and now Haden has a new life where he is able to let his talents for electronics shine.

"But Daileass," Haden stated, pulling Daileass' attention back to him. "I was only gone for a few microseconds."

"Technically, you were gone for 638 microseconds," Daileass corrected. "Do you know how long that is to an AI?"

Haden shook his head and smiled. "Alright, let's get over to the conference room. Are you going to teleport us, or should we let our son?"

Before Daileass had a chance to respond, Icarus's younger sounding voice came through the overhead speakers. "Oh, I can do it! I'm getting really good at teleports now. Do you know over the last six hours, thirty-nine different people have been willing to let me teleport them?"

"I think we can let Icarus do the honors," Daileass smiled.

Before Haden had a chance to protest, the two boys vanished.

Haden and Daileass appeared inside a smallish conference room. In the center of the room, was a circular table with several chairs placed around it. Two other boys were already sitting at the table. One of the boys looked almost identical to Haden, aside from the fact that Haden had a shiny silver-ish armband on his right hand which had a small keypad and three small cylinder-like objects protruding from it, lying on their sides.

The second boy at the table, who was sitting next to Haden's twin, looked to be around eleven-years-old. He had bright red hair, and a face full of red freckles. Unlike the smile that was on the face of the boy sitting next to him, this older boy had a more worn and concerned expression.

"Barrett? Hac?" Daileass stated, acknowledging the presence of both boys. "Sorry for the delay, but Haden decided he had to play with his blueprints before doing anything else."

"That couldn't wait?" Barrett, Haden's twin, asked as Haden sat down next to him.

Haden shook his head. "I told you I had a few new ideas that I wanted to get added when we got home."

Barrett smiled and shrugged.

"Well, shall we get this show on the road?" The older boy, Hack, asked.

"Right," Daileass nodded. "First, I would like to thank you guys for agreeing to meet on such short notice. There are a few things about the new task force that has been started that I would like to talk about. I'm pretty sure the four of us can work it out, but if not we can get more of your guys involved."

Hac nodded. "Haden is in charge of the task force, so why would you need me here?"

"You're right, you have appointed Haden as the head," Daileass agreed. "However, since Haden has very little knowledge of your society, and since you are his first officer, I figured you might be able to help out as well. Especially with some of the questions I have."

Hac's interest began to increase, as he tried to guess at what specific questions Daileass might have that would require a meeting like this. "Okay, go on."

Before Daileass could continue, the door to the conference room flew open and two eight-year-old boys came running in. "Forth, Stan, are you two alright?" Daileass asked with concern.

Both boys gasped when they saw who was in the room. "Oops, sorry," the brown-haired boy in front stated. "We were looking for Colonel West, and we thought he would be in here."

"You should at least knock first. It's not polite to go charging into conference rooms," Daileass scolded.

"Sorry," Both boys replied.

Daileass sighed. "It's okay, what did you need him for anyway. He's in another meeting right now, but I can interrupt him if it's really important."

"We found a rock!" Stan announced.

"You wanted to interrupt Colonel West for a rock?" Haden asked.

"Well, it's not just any rock," Forth defended. "It's all glowy and stuff."

"Yeah, we found it while we were outside playing," Stan added.

"Glowing?" Daileass asked with concern. "Icarus, do you know what they are talking about?"

"Sure do," Icarus cheerfully replied through the room speakers. "Hold on, I'll teleport it inside so you can see it."

"Um…" Hac began to say, but it was too late. Before he or anyone else could react, a small oval-shaped stone no more than six inches in length, appeared in the center of the table. Just as Forth and Stan had stated, the stone was slowly pulsing with a yellowish glow.

"Icarus!" Daileass cried out, "Quarantine procedures!"

Moments after Daileass spoke, before anything else could be said or done, the room was filled with a bright yellow light that emanated from the center of the stone.

Normal Universe, Current time

Earnest Brooks leaned up against the front of his car as he watched his two grandchildren playing in the open field. Ever since his son and daughter in law, Glenn and Chad's parents, died two years ago, they had agreed to take in the boys.

At first, things were rather rough. Two retired individuals trying to take care of a three-year-old, and an emotional ten-year-old who was mad at the world for the loss of his parents. But now, things finally seemed to be smoothing out. Now that Chad had started Kindergarten, he was finally getting to the point that they didn't feel he had to cling onto him or his wife all the time. And Glenn, he finally seemed to be letting go of some of his hate and anger.

Seeing the two boys playing together was a very welcome sight, as Glenn was finally starting to realize that there were fun things he could do with his younger brother.

"Come on, brudder!" Chad called out as he waved his hands around, "Make it fwhy!"

"I'm trying to, bud," Glenn replied as he finished tying two pieces of string together, and lifted the kite over his head, "Okay, you ready?"

"Uh huh!" Chad nodded excitedly.

With a running start, Glenn slowly let the string out allowing the kite to flap around behind him before it caught a very slight breeze and began to lift into the air.

"You did it! You did it!" Chad cheered as he jumped up and down. Unfortunately, his exuberance was short lived as the kite made a nose dive shortly after, and slammed into the ground.

"You cwashed it!" Chad cried as he ran toward the kite.

"There's just not enough wind today," Glenn replied as he walked to the kite to survey the damage. "That's what happens when you live in the dessert."

"Try again? Pwease Gwenn?" the small boy pleaded, with his eyes full of hope.

"We already tried ten times," Glenn replied. After being exposed several more seconds to his little brother's pleading eyes, he finally sighed and gave in. "Okay fine, we will try once more."

"Kewl!" Chad cheered as he backed up a few feet to give his older brother some room.

Seeing no visible damage to the kite, Glenn once again held the kite over his head and began to run. As he did on the other times, he let go of the kite and slowly allowed the string to slip out. This time, however, instead of flapping around a gust of wind came up and immediately lifted the kite high above Glenn's head. The tension against the thin string was strong as Glenn slowly let more and more of it out. Within moments, he easily had the kite flying a good twenty five to thirty feet high.

"You did it! You made it work!" Chad cheered with delight.

Glenn smiled as he looked toward his younger brother. Although he could be a pain sometimes, he really enjoyed being able to make him happy. "You wanna try?"

"Yeah!" Chad replied as he ran up and stood next to his older brother.

"Okay, you have to hold onto the ball of string really tight, okay?" Glenn instructed as he handed the small ball of string to Chad.

Accepting the string, Chad nodded. "I hold it wreal tight." Within moments of him saying this, another gust of wind hit, and the ball of string jerked out of small hands. "No!" Chad cried in shock.

Glenn lunged forward to try to grab the string. By the time he tried, however, the unusually strong wind had already lifted it high into the air. Both Glenn and Chad stood there for several long moments as they watched the kite sore up into the air.

"Ow!" Chad cried as a small stick hit the back of his leg. It was then that Glenn realized that a number sticks, pieces of trash, and other small objects were starting to swirl around. A moment after that, a small streak of blue lightning shot down to the ground. Moments after that, another shot up from the ground, a few feet away from where the other one landed.

"Glenn, Chad!" Earnest called out from the car, waving the boys toward him.

As the wind continued to pick up, Glenn immediately caught on to what his grandfather was trying to tell them. Picking up his still confused younger brother, Glenn sprinted toward the car.

"What's going on, grandfather?" Glenn asked with concern as he handed off a now scared Chad to him.

"I don't know," Earnest replied, as they all watched in awe near where the boys had been playing just a few moments earlier.

The wind had continued to pick up and swirl around. Instead of spinning in a funnel, the shape of the wind seemed to be more spherical in nature, swirling around a point about ten feet off the ground. At the same time, more blue bolts of energy danced around the area of the wind. Finally, there was a small flash of blue light and they could see an object of some sort shoot out of the center of the swirling vortex of air, and slam into the ground.

A few seconds later, there was another flash of light, followed by yet another large object materializing and shooting out of the vortex to the ground. A fraction of a second later, a third object flew out in the same manner as the first two. Then, as quickly as it had formed, the ribbons of blue energy stopped and the swirling air dissipated, leaving everything as calm and still as things had been before it had first started.

"What's happened?" Chad asked as he looked up from his grandfather's shoulder.

"I've never seen anything like that before," the older man replied.

"I saw something fly out of the center of whatever that was," Glenn called out as he quickly began to run from the car.

"Glenn, don't," the man tried to warn, but it was too late. By the time he said anything, the twelve-year-old was half way there.

It took only a few moments for Glenn to reach the place where he had seen the objects land. He stopped dead in his tracks, when he got a good look at what the objects were. Strewn out on the ground in front of him were the bodies of three kids, all of whom could not have been older than nine.

"Damn," Glenn spoke as he covered his mouth in shock. His first thought was that all three boys were dead. That thought was quickly put aside when he saw one of the boys start to move. Two of the boys had moppy jet-black hair, one of whom wore a very odd looking shiny silver armband that covered most of his forearm. The third boy had long dirty blond hair which seemed to glisten in the sunlight. It was one of the black-haired boys that was starting to move; the one that didn't have the strange armband.

"Argh," Barrett moaned, as he struggled to sit up after the wind had been knocked out of him.

"Are you alright?" Glenn asked with concern as he stepped toward the boy, but still kept a good two or three feet away from him; lest he was some kind of evil space alien that wanted to eat him.

"Where… What am I doing here?" Barrett asked as he glanced around the large open field he was sitting in, still somewhat dazed and confused.

"I was kinda hoping you could tell me," Glenn replied. "There was all this wind and lightning, and then you and your friends just kinda appeared."

"Friends?" Barrett asked, somewhat confused. As if on cue, the other boy with black hair let out a shrill cry as he grabbed the sides of his head with his hands and balled up into a fetal position. "Haden!" Barrett cried as he tried and failed to stand.

"Here, let me help," Glenn offered as he hesitantly reached out a hand to Barrett.

"Thanks," Barrett replied, accepting the older boy's hand. With Glenn's help, Barrett managed to hobble over to his twin who was still curled up, clearly in pain. "Haden? What's wrong, are you alright?"

"My head… the links…" Haden strained to get out through clenched teeth. "Gone."

"Links?" Glenn looked at Barrett in confusion. "He really sounds out of it."

"It's a long story," Barrett replied as he reached down and did his best to comfort his twin. "Haden, you've been separated from the link before, and I've never seen you in this much pain."

Haden slowly shook his head, as the intense pressure and pain in his head slowly began to subside. "Never like this," he softly cried as his body slowly began to relax. "Something's… different… I don't know."

"Yeah, I think Icarus or someone must have teleported us somewhere," Barrett agreed. "We're outside in some field or something."

"You're at the Bonnie Springs Park," Glenn offered.

"And this is still… Earth… right?" Haden asked as he struggled to sit up.

Glenn shot Haden an odd look, as if he had grown a third arm or something. "Uh, yeah… where else would we be?"

"Errr… errr… errr… errr," The third, blond-haired boy began to call out as his body began to spasm.

"Daileass!" Haden cried out with all thoughts of pain quickly being forgotten as he looked at the other boy, and quickly tapped a small circular metallic object that was attached to his shirt. "Icarus! Something is wrong with Daileass."

While Haden was waiting for a response, both Glenn and Haden carefully approached the other boy to see if there was anything that they could do to help.

Moments later, Haden tapped the small device again. "Haden to U.N.I.T. command, is anyone getting this?"

"What's wrong with him?" Glenn's voice was filled with concern.

Barrett shook his head. "I don't know."

"I think my comm badge is broken, no one is answering me," Haden stated as he walked up next to Barrett so that he could kneel down and put his hands on the blond haired boy's shoulders in an effort to stop him from jerking around. "Daileass, what's wrong? What can we do to help?"

Getting the hint from his twin, Barrett pressed a spot under his ear to activate his sub-vocal. "KLAUS, we need an emergency teleport to Central's medical center. Something is wrong with Daileass's body, and Haden's comm badge is broken."

"Errr…. errr… errr," Daileass continued to repeat before he lifted his head slightly to look toward Haden. "Errr… prob… errr… problem."

"Yeah, there's a problem," Haden replied as concern crept into his voice. "What can we do to help you?"

"KLAUS, are you there? Is anyone there?" Barrett spoke and waited a few moments for a reply. "My sub-vocal is not working either. They might have been damaged by whatever it was that caused us to appear here."

"Problem… Haden," Daileass stated as the spasms in his body stopped. "There's a problem… multiple problems."

"Daileass, your scaring me," Haden's eyes began to threaten tears as he let go of the boy's shoulders. "What's wrong with you? What's wrong with everything?"

Daileass sat up, and turned toward Haden. It seemed to take several seconds for him to really recognize the other boy. "Hold on… Haden, I'm sorry," he stated before he closed his eyes and remained silent for several seconds. When he opened them back up, there was a more confident look in them. "Okay, that should keep everything stable for now."

"Keep what stable?" Barrett asked?

"Lots of things, actually," Daileass began. "Let's see, apparently the M.W.C. doesn't like it when the micro-wormhole loses its endpoint, and has to do a hard break. It's something we never really had to account for before, since it had always remained stable even jumping back and forth between the training planet and Archnania. At the same time, it looks like every primary and backup communication link that I maintained with my server farms were broken at the same time, which happened right while I was in the middle of a data refresh, which caused all kinds of havoc with my core sub-systems."

"So, you're saying that you're…" Haden grabbed his stomach as he began to feel sick. "You're cut off from everything, too?"

"It would seem that way," Daileass nodded in agreement. "Using my built-in communication suite, not only can I not establish any link with any Clan or U.N.I.T. communications network, I can't even detect anything on standard Star-fleet channels, either."

"Daileass? I can't… I can't feel the link… with you and the others," Haden replied as his eyes began to water, as something was clearly hurting inside of him."

Daileass nodded. "That's one of the other problems; it seems I have been cut off from the link as well."

"Haden?" Barrett asked with concern as he could literally see the color fading out of his twin's face. "You don't look so good."

"I feel weird," Haden nodded in agreement before he collapsed to the ground.

"Haden? Haden!" Barrett cried out moments before his eyes grew large, and he collapsed on the ground beside his twin.

"Are they… dead?" Glenn asked with concern as both he and Daileass looked at Haden and Barrett's collapsed, motionless bodies.

With all the feelings of pain and discomfort gone, Haden opened his eyes, to find that he was in a rather small, dark room. "Hello?" he called out into the darkness.

"Haden? Is that you?" Another voice called out from somewhere behind Haden.

Haden twisted himself around to find his twin standing not far away from him. "Barrett?"

Barrett nodded and walked close to Haden. "Where are we?"

Haden shrugged. "I guess we are in a mental-scape or something. I'm thinking maybe the one in my head, but I don't ever remember it being this dark."

"Yeah," Barrett agreed. This was not the first time he had been pulled into the mind of another, or mental-scape as it has been called, since he had first met his twin a few days ago. As such, he was very much aware of how they worked and the fact that regardless of the amount of time that went by inside of them, only a fraction of that time will have gone by outside. This was the first time that everything was so dark. In all the previous trips that he had taken, or more appropriately had been pulled along on, things seemed to be so vibrant and full of life.

As Haden's eyes 'adjusted' to the darkness, he continued to look around the room. In one of the corners, he saw something small scrunched up on the floor. "Over here," he called out to get his twin's attention.

As both Haden and Barrett walked forward, they saw the scrunched up figure that was of a small boy; a six-year-old version of Haden softly weeping in the corner.

"Ordath?" Haden asked hesitantly as he approached the child.

The six-year-old version of Haden briefly looked up toward the two twins before burying his head in his arms again. "I'm sorry," he softly cried.

Barrett knew at once the entity to which Haden was speaking. An ancient being of energy, the last of its kind, had been wandering the cosmos for thousands of years. No longer wanting to continue to exist in the state that it was in, it gave up its near-immortal existence for one last chance of being truly alive. Shortly before Haden was born, it merged with Haden accepting a mortal existence. Not to dominate Haden, but to simply go along for the ride and experience the sensations that Haden experienced. In fact, it wasn't until less than a week ago, during a life-or-death crises, that the entity even made itself known to Haden.

"Sorry for what?" Haden asked with concern as he knelt down next to the smaller boy. "What's wrong, Ordath?"

The boy's otherwise solid appearance briefly flickered as he looked back up toward Haden. "I couldn't… I tried, really I did… I just couldn't… with all my knowledge, with all my experiences, there wasn't a way."

"Ordath, you're not making sense," Haden replied. "What couldn't you do?"

"The multiverse, it's so vast… so complex… your species hasn't even begun to scratch the surface of what's really out there," the small boy spoke as his body flickered once again. "But even with those complexities, with those infinite possibilities, some thing's can't be done; some things are not meant to be."

Haden felt a brief ping of something hurting inside of him. "Did you cause whatever happened to bring us here?"

"Cause? No… not cause," the boy slowly shook his head. "The rip… the rift… it shouldn't have… it should never have happened, it should not have been possible, but there was nothing I could do… I tried, but I couldn't… I'm…. I'm sorry Haden."

"Sorry for that? If you didn't cause this, you have…" Haden asked before he stopped himself short when once again as the small child flickered, and he felt another ping of pain inside of him. After that, a grave expression appeared on his face. "Ordath? Are you dying?"

"There are ways… for those with the knowledge… there are ways to navigate the threads… the streams… the links that bind the universes together," Ordath continued. "But our thread was lost… before I could follow it; it was… it was gone. I tried to find it, I tried to guide the six, to prevent the split, but I couldn't. Then I saw it… the destination… the thread was quickly unraveling itself to forever separate it from the other universe, but I saw it. And, I was able to guide us. It took everything I had… but I was able to guide the six…. I was able to save the six… but I fear, there is no way back… I'm sorry."

Haden did his best to try to wrap his head around what was being said. But there was so much that didn't make sense. The one thing that was clear was that Ordath did something to try to save them and had ended up using nearly all his energy in the process. "You don't have to apologize, Ordath," he did his best to reassure the boy, as he once again flicked, this time for slightly longer. "I don't understand everything that you have told me, but from what I can gather, if you didn't do anything, we would be dead. And it sounds like you somehow may have sacrificed yourself in the process. That is nothing to apologize for. It is something to be praised for."

A small smile crept across Ordath's face which flickered once again. "Thanks… It's just… I'm sorry I won't get to see you grow… I won't be able to see what you become… I won't know the end… the end of the story."

Haden nodded, not really sure what else to say.

"Haden?" Ordath asked as he flickered again.

"Yes?" Haden replied.

"I think… I think I'm scared…. For the first time…. That I can remember, I'm scared… I don't know what it's like… to die," Ordath replied softly.

Haden slowly shook his head as tears began to fall from his eyes. He had no words to offer, no comforting tidbits of wisdom to reply with. Instead, he just reached out and wrapped his arms around the smaller boy, and held him tight.

For what seemed like several minutes, Barrett watched in silence as Haden embraced the smaller child whose flickering seemed to increase as his body slowly became slightly transparent.

"Thank you," Ordath whispered into Haden's ear. "Thank you for understanding… Thank you… Thank you for life."

Before Haden had a chance to reply, the surge of pain, unlike any that he had felt up to this point, caused him to reflexively let go of the smaller boy. As he did, the boy's entire body began to glow brightly until it was totally engulfed in a brilliant shade of soft yellow. For several long moments, both Haden and Barrett looked at one of the most beautiful sights they had ever seen. But then, as quickly as it had started, the light faded away. When it was gone, there was no sign at all of the smaller boy.

As Haden continued to sit there, where he had been holding the boy just moments ago, he had no clue what to say or do. At the same time, the world slowly began to dissolve around him, pushing both him and Barrett out of the mental-scape.

"Are they… dead?" Glenn asked with concern as both he and Daileass looked at Haden and Barrett's collapsed, motionless bodies.

Before Daileass had a chance to reply, both boys began to stir. "Haden? Barrett? Are you two alright?"

"Ordath…" Haden mumbled.

Seeing the confused look on Daileass's face, Barrett explained further. "The entity that had merged with Haden, I think it just died," his voice was filled with sadness. "It used all of its energy to get us here safely."

"I see," Daileass replied solemnly as he lowered his head. "I'm sorry Haden. Maybe there is a chance that he's not dead?"

Haden slowly shook his head as both he and Barrett stood up. "No, I can feel it. He's gone."

"Get you guys here safely from where?" Glenn asked, drawing everyone's attention back to the fact that he had been watching and listening to all the events that had occurred over the last few minutes.

"That's a good question. I'm not really sure myself," Daileass stated before he turned and held out his hand toward the taller boy. "My name's Daileass, by the way."

"Glenn," the boy replied, accepting Daileass's hand in friendship.

"It's nice to meet you, Glenn," Daileass replied.

"I'm Barrett," Barrett followed.

"And I'm Haden," Haden added as both he and his twin shook Glenn's hand.

After the introductions, Daileass's expression became more serious. "Glenn? Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?"

Glenn nodded his head. "Go for it."

"Okay, good. Some of them might seem a little odd, but I promise you that we are not trying to play any type of trick, or anything else. Alright?"

Glenn nodded again.

"Alright, you seem like a pretty decent person, and you didn't freak out when all of us showed up," Daileass began. "So, would it be safe to say that you do a lot of reading and keep up with the current news and stuff?"

"I guess you could say I do. I mean, I have Fark as my home page and all," Glenn replied. Seeing the confused look in Daileass's eyes, he continued. "It's a news headline site that links to a bunch of other news sites across the internet."

"Internet… okay, good," Daileass replied. "Have you ever heard of a group called Clan Short?"

Glenn thought for a few moments. "I think I might have heard of a Mech Warrior clan by that name."

"No, this would be a Vulcan clan, made up mostly of kids," Daileass stated.

"What are Vulcans?" Glenn asked.

Haden sighed.

"You haven't heard of Vulcans?" Daileass asked with concern. "Or Star-fleet?"

"Oh!" Glenn's eyes lit up with recognition. "Yeah, isn't that from a TV show, or something?"

Both Haden and Barrett slapped their hands on their foreheads.

"Okay, last question," Daileass continued. "What year is it?"

"2012," Glenn answered at once. "But don't tell me, you guys are from the future, right?"

Daileass did his best to smile. "Actually, no, if what you said is true, we are technically from eight years in the past."

"But how is that possible?" Haden nearly cried. "Everything couldn't have just disappeared within the last eight years. Everyone wouldn't have just forgotten."

"I'm pretty sure there was no Star-Fleet or Vulcans running around eight years ago, either," Glenn added.

Daileass nodded in agreement. "Glenn's right. This is more than just going forward or backward in time. Somehow, we've ended up in another universe or something; one where Clan Short never existed."

"Hey, didn't Ordath mention something about that?" Barrett asked as he looked at his twin.

Haden nodded. "Yeah, something about navigating threads connecting universes, and the threads breaking or something. I didn't really understand it all."

"But he did mention something about finding the destination?" Barrett stated.

"I think so, but he probably meant our destination." Haden offered.

"Maybe," Barrett replied.

As Haden allowed his head a few moments to try to make sense of everything that had just happened, he absently looked down and did a quick system check of his GEAR device. "Hum, so far it looks like my GEAR is working fine at least," he stated as he looked back toward his twin. "Is your fuzzy alright?"

Barrett thought for a few moments. "I think so," he stated as he held his right arm out. A few moments later, an oddly shaped slimy red creature appeared attached to his forearm. "Yeah, Danus says he's fine."

"Wicked!" Glenn commented as he saw the slimy creature. "What is it?"

"It's my Phasonmorph," Barrett stated looking up toward Glenn. "It's a…"

"It's something that helps protect him," Daileass jumped in quickly, figuring it best if Barrett didn't reveal the fact that it was a biologically engineered weapon.

"Yeah," Barrett nodded, getting the hint. Moments later, the strange creature disappeared.

"Glenn?" A man called out, grabbing everyone's attention.

Standing several feet behind Daileass and Haden stood a tall middle aged man with short, slightly ruffled grey hair. Standing behind the man, and securely attached to his leg was a small five-year-old boy.

"Grandfather," Glenn stated in surprise, as he quickly realized how long they had been standing over here. "These are the kids that fell out of the sky; Haden, Barrett, and Daileass. Guys, this is my grandfather, Earnest Brooks, and the little imp trying to hide behind him is my little brother, Chad."

All three boys waved and said their hello's to the older man.

"If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes," Earnest replied as he gave a slight bow of acknowledgement. "Are you boys alright? Do you need us to call an ambulance for you?"

"Thank you, sir," Daileass replied politely, "but I believe that we are all fine." Haden and Barrett nodded in agreement.

"I see," Earnest replied thoughtfully. "So where are you boys from, exactly?"

Haden looked toward Barrett, who looked just as lost as Haden as he in turn looked toward Daileass. "A long way away," Daileass finally offered.

"Wait a minute," Barrett stated as he quickly began to look around him. "Did you guys see anyone else, um… fall from the sky?"

Glenn shook his head. "I just saw the three of you."

Barrett turned toward Haden and Daileass, "Ordath mentioned six… that he guided six."

"Maybe they ended up somewhere else? In another universe?" Haden offered.

"He was pretty weak, remember. He might not have been able to get all of us here," Daileass added.

Barrett sighed. "Maybe."

"If you guys need to find someone, maybe you can find them on the internet?" Glenn asked hopefully before turning to his grandfather. "Can we bring them home with us, gramp?"

"But brudder, what if dey are space aliens?" Chad asked with concern.

"They're not space aliens, dweeb," Glenn shot back. "Look at them; they are kids just like us."

"Well, we certainly can't leave them here," Earnest stated after spending several long moments thinking. "I don't see any problems bringing them to the house. At least there, we can call the police and see if any missing child reports have been filled or something."

"That's very kind of you, but we wouldn't want to impose on you," Daileass replied.

"Nonsense," Earnest's voice became more confident and sincere. "I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I knew that I left a bunch of kids in the middle of nowhere. Now come on, hop in the car and I'll take you to my place. At the very least, we can have Margret take a look at the bump on his head," the man pointed to a small bump on Barrett's upper right forehead.

"Come on guys, you'll love it. I have a PS3 and everything," Glenn motioned them to follow as he made his way toward the car.

"Alright," Daileass gave in.

The rest of the group followed Glenn to the car. Glenn sat in the front seat with Chad sitting in the middle so that Daileass, Haden, and Barrett could sit together in the back. Within moments, Earnest had the car started and was pulling out of the parking lot.

"That doesn't sound right," Haden stated with concern as he felt the sputtering of the engine.

"A combustion engine," Daileass observed. "They must still be using fossil fuels."

"But this is supposed to be the future," Haden whispered back.

"A future without the higher tech received from off-world races," Barrett offered. "I bet a lot of history is different from what we are used to."

"Good point," Haden agreed. "At least they still have computers."

As they pulled out of the parking lot, Barrett glanced out the back window. For a moment, he thought he saw a distorted shadowy figure on the horizon toward the other side of the field. Before he could get a better look, they had driven out of sight. "Hac, I hope you're alright," he whispered silently to himself.

Hacerth was jarred to consciousness as his body slammed hard into the ground. The impact would have easily been enough to knock any normal human out cold. But then again, he was nowhere close to being a normal human; at least not anymore. Within moments, he was on his feet looking down at the small indentation that had been made in the soft grass due to the increased mass of his body which was needed to house his beast.

Even as he stood, the wind was still circling wildly around along with small bolts of energy happily bouncing from air to ground and back again. Within moments, the wind all but died down. Whatever was going on around him was apparently over.

"Barrett?" Hac called out with concern as he looked for the one person he had sworn above all else to protect. Other than the two eight-year-old clone boys who were lying on the ground a few feet away from him, the only other thing he could see was desert grass and very small shrubs sparsely scattered around.

"KLAUS, I need a position fix please," Hac spoke after tapping his sub-vocal. Looking down at the two boys who were still unconscious, he continued. "And prepare to teleport the two children to the West of me to one of the medical centers for treatment."

Several moments went by with no response. "KLAUS confirm that you are receiving please," Hac spoke again.

Again, several more moments went by with no response, which caused Hac to tap his sub-vocal once again. "Hac to Ardell… Hac to Barrett… Hac to Central Control… Is this damn thing even working?" he finished in a tone of anger and frustration.

"Ouch," Forth moaned as he slowly began to regain consciousness. "Stan, what did ya do that for? That hurt."

"Forth? You okay, little guy?" Hac asked with concern as he knelt down next to the boy's side.

"I think so," Forth replied as he struggled to sit up. "What happened? Why are we in the middle of a field? Where is everyone else?"

"Those are all good questions. I would like to know the answers to them as well," Hac agreed.

"Stan!" Forth cried out in concern as he saw the body of his best friend strewn out on the ground, a few feet away from him. Almost instinctively, he tapped his comm badge. "Daileass! Stan is hurt, you need to help him!"

Hac slowly shook his head. "I don't think they are working. My sub-vocal isn't working either."

"Daileass? Icarus? Why won't you guys answer?" Forth cried as he tapped his comm badge several more times.

After several seconds went by with no answer, Forth crawled over to Stan and gently tried shaking him. "Stan, wake up, you can't be dead!"

"I don't think he's dead, Forth." Hac offered. At the same time, Stan began to move.

"Ouch, my head hurts," Stan mumbled.

"Stan, you're still alive!" Forth called out with glee as he hugged his best friend. "Don't do that, you had me really worried."

"Don't do what?" Stan asked with a cough, as he tried to sit up. "Why are we outside? Is Icarus playing a joke on us again?"

"I don't think so," Forth replied thoughtfully. "Our comm thingies aren't working, and Daileass said he would never ignore us."

Seeing that the two boys were fine, at least for now, Hac stood up and left them to their bantering as he walked a few steps away and took out his side arm. Checking to make sure that it was still loaded, and as functional as he could test without actually firing it, he placed it back into his holster.

"What's that?" Stan called out as a large piece of broken plastic and string slowly drifted to the ground.

"I think it's someone's paper plane?" Forth offered.

"Paper doesn't look like that," Stan protested.

"It's a kite," Hac replied after taking a moment to look at the object closer. "Or at least it was. It looks like it got broken up pretty badly."

As the two younger boys began poking and prodding the kite, Hac went back to surveying his surroundings. The kite itself looked like the type of light-weight plastic material the major surface societies would have used fifty or sixty years ago, before the lighter weight polymers were introduced, so it was possible that they had some-how gone back in time. That would explain why the comm badges the boys had were not functional. But it did nothing to explain why his sub-vocal was not working.

Given the mountain range to his West, the city nestled in a large valley to the Northeast, and the scent in the air, he was pretty sure that they were still on Earth. In fact, the city was almost in the exact spot that Las Vegas should have been from the location of the Clan's Desert Division compound, which is where they were last, just before they ended up here. The only real difference is that the city seemed to be a lot smaller than he remembered it, again supporting the possibility that they had somehow been knocked back in time. There was something else that Hac's exceptional sense of smell was able to pick up… Something that was very familiar to him, or rather, someone.

"Barrett!" Hac called out, having positively identified the smell, as a surge of adrenaline began to flow through his body. "Come on guys, we're heading out."

"But what about the kite?" Stan asked with concern.

"What? Leave the damn kite," Hac replied as he scooped up Forth under one arm and Stan under the other. "We need to move, now… before I lose the scent."

With an eight-year-old boy under each arm, Hac began dashing across the field, running at a speed that should not have been possible for an eleven-year-old boy that he appeared to be, especially not when carrying two other boys at the same time.

In less than three minutes, Hac had not only traveled across the entire field that they had started in, but he had also made it across most of the second one. As he neared the other side of the second field, he could see a car driving down a road. "They have automobiles, that helps to round down the date a little better," he thought to himself.

A few moments later, Forth and Stan found themselves being placed back on their feet.

"Why did we stop?" Forth asked as he looked around. "That was kinda fun."

"Yeah, you give cool rides," Stan agreed.

Hac did not appear to be in a joking mood as he stepped onto the gravel of the parking lot. "The trail ends here," he stated softly.

"What trail?" Forth asked curiously.

"The one I was following, Barrett's," Hac answered.

"Haden's twin?" Stan jumped in. "You mean you could smell him?"

Hac looked down at Stan and nodded before he started sniffing the air again. "My nose is a lot better than you might think."

"That's pretty cool; do you think you could teach us to smell as good as you?" Forth asked seriously.

"It's not something that can be taught," Hac replied as he continued to sniff. "Sadly, the scent stops here."

"Well," Stan thought for a few moments as he looked around him. "This is a parking lot. Maybe he drove off in a car?"

Hac narrowed his eyes. He could almost see the faint reflection of moisture of some sort on the ground. Further, there was a single set of fresh tire tracks leaving the parking lot. With as strong as the wind was blowing when they first arrived, if that same wind was here as well, that would mean the tracks would have to be fresh. "Stan? You're brilliant."

"I am?" Stan asked with surprise.

"He is?" Forth asked with almost equal surprise.

"Come on, guys, break time's over. We have ourselves an automobile to catch," Hac stated as he effortlessly picked up each of the boys into his arms again.

"Don't you mean a car?" Stan questioned.

"Automobiles are the same thing as cars," Forth replied as Hac began to quickly run out of the parking lot and down the road.

Although the trip from the park to the Brooks house only took a few minutes, nothing was said during the entire time.

From his position in the front seat, Chad would occasionally steal quick glances to look in the back just to make sure that none of their passengers started to turn into hideous monsters or anything. Glenn, for his part, tried to figure out what to make of his new friends. He had overheard a lot of their conversation. Although he didn't understand everything that was said, what he did hear seemed pretty out there. If he hadn't been there and witnessed everything with his own eyes, it would have the makings of a great practical joke. Not only that, but how would you explain the weird clothes they were wearing, and that strange silver armband the one kid was wearing. He would have to remember to ask about it at some point.

Sitting in the back, Daileass was rather busy going through and fixing hundreds of his sub-routines that were damaged as a result of being isolated from just about everything. Not only that, but in this Universe, although it seemed very similar to their own, aside from the absence of the U.N.I.T., Clan, Star-Fleet or any other higher tech, there were very subtle differences, especially as you got down to the atomic and sub-atomic properties of things. He was pretty sure no one else would notice them, but some of his components were sensitive enough that the differences created numerous segment faults and other issues that he would have to go through and adjust for.

Although Haden and Barrett could not think anywhere close to as quickly as Daileass could, they were each lost in their own little worlds as they tried to make sense of the events that had occurred that landed them in the location that they were. Just like that, in an instant their entire world had been turned upside down. While Haden worried about his older brother, Evan; Barrett worried about Hac, as well as everyone else in the KLAUS society that he had left behind. Although all the other normal links appeared to be gone, the twin link that had formed between Haden and Barrett was still there. And through that link, they could each tell that the other was thinking the same exact thing… Although neither of them knew how, they would find some way to get back home, back to where they belonged.

"Well, here we are," Earnest announced as the car pulled into the driveway of a small two story house.

"Come on," Glenn announced as they stepped out of the car. "My room is upstairs, I'll show you." Getting a nod from the older man, Haden, Barrett, and Daileass followed Glenn in through the front door while Chad stayed behind with his grandpa.

"Is that you, Glenn?" an older woman's voice called out as they entered the front door. "Your friend Robert was just here looking for you."

"Thanks, gram," Glenn replied as he began to lead the others upstairs.

"Hold it right there," Grandma spoke in such a voice that caused all four boys to stop dead in their tracks, a voice that demanded respect. "What do you think you are doing, young man? Bringing guests into the house without introducing me to them first?"

"Sorry, gram," Glenn replied. "These are some friends I met in the park."

"Well, get down here, and introduce us properly," the woman replied. "My eyesight is not as good as it used to be, you know?"

Glenn sighed and turned to walk back down, causing the others to reverse as well. They all lined up on the side of the stairs, as if lining up for inspection. As they did, Glenn introduced them. "This is Daileass, and this is Haden, and his twin brother Barrett."

Grandma walked closer, so as to better inspect them. Although she was clearly as old as her husband, the features of her face were still defined and gentle. Between the white cooking apron, and the way that she had her fine dark grey hair tied up in a bun gave her an almost textbook appearance of what you would expect a grandmother to look like.

"These boys all look like they can't be much older than nine," the woman observed as she looked toward Glenn with concern. "Aren't they a little young for you?"

"Grams," Glenn protested.

Grandma turned her attention back to the three boys. "But yes, where are my manors. My name is Margret, but all of Glenn and Chad's friends call me grandma or gram. You're welcome to do the same."

'Thanks, it's nice to meet you,' all three boys replied in their own way.

"Would these be friends you met from school?" the woman asked as she looked back toward Glenn.

Glenn shook his head. "We just met them in the park."

"The park?" the woman asked curiously.

"That's right," Earnest replied as he and Chad walked through the door. "It's a long story Marg, to be honest, I'm not sure I believe it myself, and I saw it all happen right in front of me."

Margret put her hands on her hips and glared toward her husband as if demanding a better explanation.

Earnest, for his part simply shook his head, making it clear that he was not willing to discuss it further right here. "They need to stay here for a bit. I'll be in the study; I need to call the police to see if there are any missing person reports out on them."

The older woman nodded as she watched her husband walk out of the room. She would have to wait for her better explanation, but she had no doubt she would get it. The little that Earnest had said was enough to let her know that the boys standing in front of her were not the typical playmates that Glenn would bring home from school.

Haden was slightly surprised when Margret shifted her attention from her husband to him, and lifted up his left arm, the one that he wasn't wearing his GEAR on.

"Hum, a bit thin for nine," the woman commented as she twisted it around slightly. "Are you sure you've been eating alright?"

"Yes, mama," Haden replied, not really sure what else to say.

Gently allowing Haden's arm to fall back to his side, she carefully took hold of Haden's head and twisted it back slightly. "Uh-huh. You definitely haven't been getting enough to eat. I'll need to have a few words with your mother, once I meet her."

At once, Haden's heart sank.

Seeing the look in the boy's eyes, Margret's reaction was almost immediate. "Oh, I'm sorry child. I'm so sorry. Instinctively, she wrapped her arms around Haden's back, and pulled the boy close to her stomach. "She's been gone awhile, hasn't she?"

Both Barrett and Daileass were just as surprised as Haden at just how much the woman seemed to be able to read from his body language. Haden was equally surprised at how warm and loving the woman's embrace was. "She died when… when I was born," he replied softly.

"Oh, you poor child, I'm so sorry," she replied lovingly. For several long moments, she continued to hold Haden close to her, making Haden feel safe in a way he had never felt before. After a brief period of silence, she let go of him, allowing him to stand back in his place.

Next, she turned her attention to Daileass, who happened to be standing between Haden and Barrett. Just as she had done with Haden, she began by taking hold of one of Daileass's arms, and moving it around a little.

"Now that's odd, isn't it?" she commented as she dropped that arm, and lifted up the other, bending the elbow and wrist a few times. Finally she gently took hold of his head, and carefully tilted it back and forth, before spending several moments staring deep into his eyes. "There is something that isn't quite normal about you, isn't there?"

Daileass stood there, shocked. The proportions, the weights, the muscle tensions, everything should have been perfect. Every element of his body should have perfectly mimicked that of a human nine-year-old. Even the skin that covered his exoskeleton was real living human flesh. With that being said, how could an older woman such as the one in front of him possibly be able to tell a difference?

At the same time, the millions of tiny sensors that covered Daileass's skin allowed him to conduct his own observations by easily obtaining all of the woman's biometrics. He could even detect the abnormal heart rhythm that the she had, which would more than likely result in her death within the next five years if left untreated. After combining all the available data that his sensors could grab, aside from being able to confirm that she was human, he could only detect the sincere interest and caring that she had toward them. With not wanting to lie to her, and not wanting to give her the truth either, he simply nodded.

Margret nodded as well. "I'm guessing it's not something you feel comfortable sharing with me, is it?"

Daileass slowly shook his head.

"I see," she replied. "That's fine. I don't think it's really something I need to know right now, anyway."

After spending a few more moments looking at Daileass, she moved her focus to the third person in the group, Barrett. Before she even got close to looking over Barrett's arm, however, her focus was immediately pulled to the boy's forehead. "Now that looks like a nice little gash you have there."

"I'm sure it'll be fine," Barrett did his best to try to reassure her.

"Not if we don't get that cleaned off, it won't," Margret replied as she hastily turned and left the room, only to return a few moments later holding a small white bottle and a piece of cotton gauze. "Now hold still, this might sting a little." Putting some of the liquid from the bottle onto the gauze, and then setting the bottle down, she began to carefully wipe off the bruise on the boys head. Sure enough, Barrett flinched slightly as he could feel the sting of the alcohol.

As Margret was finishing up with Barrett, a knock came from the front door. Chad, who had stayed behind after Earnest left, quickly turned to see who it was. Opening the door, the young boy spoke cheerfully. "Hi Wobbert! We have new friends; dey fell out of dah sky at dah park."

Robert, who looked to be about a year younger than Glenn, blinked in surprise not really sure how to respond to the small boy's proclamation.

Glenn, on the other hand, cringed. "Um Chad? I think it might be best if we didn't mention that part to anyone, at least for now."

"But why?" The small boy challenged. "Dat's what happened, isn't it?"

"But still, we should probably keep that a secret for now, alright?" Glenn replied.

"A secwret?" Chad asked, delighted that he was going to be entrusted with a secret. "Otay."

"There you go, dear. Good as new," Margret stated as she finished tending to Barrett's forehead.

A few moments later, Earnest walked back into the room. "Well, I've done as much checking as I can without having to give out too much information," he began. "It doesn't look like there have been any recent missing person or run-away reports filed in the last few days that match any of your descriptions."

Haden and the other two boys nodded.

"Run-aways?" Robert asked as he looked toward Glenn.

Instead of answering, Glenn looked toward his grandparents. "Is it alright if we go upstairs for a bit?"

Earnest and Margret briefly shared a look with each other before Margret nodded. "That's fine. Go ahead and play upstairs for a while. I have a fresh batch of cookies that should be done soon that you boys can have as a snack."

"Thanks," Glenn smiled. "Come on, guys."

"I'll go, too!" Chad announced as he began to follow all the other boys to the stairs.

"Actually, Chad, how about you help grandma finish making the cookies?" Margret offered.

Chad stopped and thought for a moment, before a huge smile crept across his face. "Me? Otay! I'll help with cookies!"

With everything apparently decided, Haden, Barrett, and Daileass followed Robert and Glenn upstairs while Chad headed into the kitchen with Grandma. Once everyone else had gone, Earnest sighed heavily as he took out a small key from his pocket and used it to unlock the door that was underneath the staircase. After staring into the darkened room for a few moments, he stepped inside closing the door behind him.

Glenn's room was actually a rather good sized room which took up half of the upstairs. The first half of the room had a comfy looking queen sized bed along with your traditional dressers, nightstand, and desk. The other side of the room is where Glenn's computer was setup as well as a nice looking entertainment center complete with big screen TV, a few chairs, and a sofa. At least, two different game systems could also be seen hooked up to the entertainment center.

"Wow, this is a nice room," Haden commented as all the boys filed in.

"Okay, Spill it," Robert demanded as he threw himself onto Glenn's bed and completely ignored Haden's comment. "What was lil' dude talking about when he said they fell from the sky?"

Glenn did his best to look casual as he walked over to his computer, but he didn't do that great of a job at it. "It's nothing, really. You know how imaginative kids can get."

"Yeah right, like I'm going to buy that," Robert replied as he stared intensely toward his friend.

Not sure how to respond, Glenn looked toward the other boys for some type of support. After getting a nod from Daileass, he continued. "Okay, I'll tell you, but you have to promise not to tell anyone else."

Robert smiled. "Okay, sure."

"I'm serious, Robert, you can't tell anyone," Glenn stated more forcefully.

Seeing the serious look in his friend's eyes, Robert nodded. "Alright, I promise."

"Okay," Glenn spoke in a lower voice. "Earlier this morning, Gramp took Chad and me to the park so we could test out Chad's new kite."

Robert nodded. "I know, you mentioned that last night."

"Well, while we were there, all of a sudden this wind picked up, it snatched Chad's kite right away from him and everything. So we ran back to the car and right above where we were standing you could see like a ball of swirling wind about twenty feet off the ground. It was really freaky, it had blue bolts of energy that looked like lightening bouncing around and everything," Glenn paused for a few moments to see what reaction Robert would have. Seeing nothing, he continued. "Anyway, after a few moments of that, all of a sudden we saw this large object fly out of the center and land on the ground. And then another, and finally a third. Then the wind just went away and everything was back to normal."

"Wicked," Robert replied as he was clearly eating up every word Glenn said. "So after that you ran over and saw…"

"That those big objects that came flying out were Haden, Barrett, and Daileass," Glenn finished.

Robert nodded. "So where did you guys come from?"

"That's what we're trying to figure out," Barrett replied.

"We think some an alternate Earth, in another Universe, but we are really not sure yet," Haden added.

"Oh wow, this is awesome," Robert cheered. "Maybe you came from the Xenolpha Universe which is the same universe that Lord Zed brought his evil zombie cats from to try to take over the world?"

"Zombie cats?" Haden asked curiously.

"Oh, don't listen to Robert," Glenn jumped in. "He watches way too many sci-fi shows."

"It could happen," Robert protested. "They use zombie cats because they have really sharp claws, and can claw out your brain easier."

"Get real," Glenn stated as he turned toward Haden. "You're Haden, right? You mind if I ask you a question?"

Haden nodded. "Sure."

"What's that thing on your arm? It looks pretty cool," Glenn asked.

Robert looked closer at the armband as well. "Oh well, it has a little keypad and everything. I bet it's some type of molecular distortion device that lets him walk through walls, or beam up to his mother ship or something."

"They're not aliens, duffus," Glenn scolded.

"It's just a little something that I've built," Haden answered. "But it doesn't do anything like that."

"So what can it do?" Robert asked curiously.

"I guess you could look at it as a modular electronics utility tool. The base unit has a bunch of functions; like I can use it to scan various EM frequencies, generate various pulses and stuff. And then, you can also add up to three different modules to it to do other things, which are these cylinders…. except…" Haden stopped in mid-sentence as he looked at one of the modules.

"Except what?" Glenn asked.

Haden sighed. "Except the only modules I have are the defensive modules on it. If we really are split off from home, I'll never be able to get any of the others."

"Why don't you just make new ones?" Robert asked. "There is lots of computer and electronics stuff on our planet, and maybe I can help you. I was going to mod Glenn's PS3 so it could run Linux, but he wouldn't let me."

"Yeah, there ain't no way I'm letting you take that thing apart and tinker around with it," Glenn agreed.

"Maybe," Haden sighed. "But from the looks of things, the technology level here is way lower than from where we came from."

"Oh, I get it," Robert nodded understandingly. "So you're from the future."

"Actually, they're from the past," Glenn corrected. At seeing the surprised looks on the faces of his new friends, he continued. "I overheard a lot of what you guys were saying to each other at the park. So it wasn't too hard to put two and two together."

"But how is that even possible? We didn't have higher technology in the past," Robert jumped in.

Daileass shrugged his shoulders. "Apparently history occurred differently on the Earth we came from, than it did on this one."

"So can you show us any of the cool things your arm thingy can do?" Robert asked hopefully.

Haden looked toward Daileass, who nodded in response. "Okay, but it's actually called a GEAR," he stated as he began to press a few buttons to create a very low power localized frequency pulse. "Watch what this can do with the lights in here." The moment that Haden pressed the 'execute' button, not only did the lights in the room start to blink on and off, but every other electronic device in the room also started turning on and off, including the TV, Stereo, and computer.

"Oh crap!" Haden stated as he quickly deactivated the pulse. "That wasn't supposed to happen."

"That was wicked cool!" Robert gasped.

Glenn looked in horror as he saw his computer rebooting. "Crap, there goes my game."

"I'm really sorry about that," Haden apologized. "I'm not sure what happened. It should have only affected the lights."

"I bet civilian electronics don't have to be built to the same standards as they do in our Universe, since there is no Star-fleet or any other higher technology that they have to worry about filtering out," Daileass offered.

"Star-fleet?" Robert repeated with excitement. "You mean, as in Captain Picard and Captain Kirk?"

"Oh boy, here we go," Glenn sighed.

Downstairs, Chad was standing about a foot behind Grandma Margret as the oven was carefully opened, and another tray of cookies was pulled out. "Oh, I think we did this tray almost perfect," she stated as she showed the results to the smaller boy.

Chad began to bounce. "We did good! Dey look yum!" He announced as he began to reach for one, only to have his hand lightly slapped by grandma.

"We can't eat them yet, they have to cool first," Margret stated as she placed the cookies up out of reach.

"Dey burn me?" Chad asked as he quickly hid both of his hands behind his back.

Margret nodded. "If you tried to take one now, they would."

A few moments later, all the lights in the kitchen began to turn on and off. At the same time, the radio on the counter, as well as the microwave and the garbage disposal, and all the other electronic devices in the kitchen began to do the same.

"Gwamma!" Chad cried as he latched onto Margret's leg.

"What in the lord's name is going on?" She asked just as everything stopped just as quickly as it had started. "What are those boys up to now?" Grabbing hold of a kitchen broom that wasn't too far away, she used it to strongly tap the ceiling of the kitchen. "Glenn? What are you boys doing up there?"

Getting no response, she carefully preyed Chad off of her leg, and walked out into the hallway. "You're not sticking paperclips in the electric sockets again, are you?"

Before there was a chance for any response to be made, a knock came from the door. Rushing over to open it, Margret was surprised to find what seemed to be an eleven-year-old boy with bright red hair and freckles standing there. What was more surprising, was the two other boys he seemed to be carrying in each of his arms.

"Hi!" The red head did his best to smile cheerfully at the shocked expression of the lady. "You wouldn't happen to have seen three nine-year-old kids around here, have you? Two of them would have jet black hair, and the other would have long blond."

Margret continued to stare at the boy for several moments before she could respond. "Aren't those boys that you are carrying heavy?"

"Huh?" Hack asked just as he realized the mistake he had made. "Oh yeah, they are," he replied as he set both of the boys down, causing each of them to giggle.

"Hac!" Barrett cried out in amazement as he pushed his way past Glenn who was starting to walk down the stairs. "By the gods! It's really you?"

"You can be a pain to track sometimes, you know that?" Hac replied just as Barrett slammed into him, wrapping his arms around him.

"You guys must be friends," Margret observed, backing up a few feet from the doors.

"Yeah, they're with us," Haden offered. "Forth? Stan? You guys are here as well?"

"Yeah, where-ever here is," Forth replied.

"And none of our stuff will work. Not even Daileass will answer us." Stan added.

"That's because I'm right here," Daileass replied from the stairs.

"Daileass!" the two younger boys cried out as they pushed past Hac and Barrett to wrap their arms around Daileass on the stairs.

"I don't suppose you have any clues as to what's going on?" Hac asked as he looked down at Barrett.

"We've come up with a few possibilities," Barrett answered.

"Come on guys, let's discuss this upstairs," Daileass suggested.

All the boys agreed and began to make their way back up the stairs before grandma stopped them. "Hold it right there, boys." Once she had all their attention, she continued. "Just how many more of you are there going to be?"

"Just the six of us," Barrett answered.

Margret nodded. "Alright, in that case, I need you to wait right there." Without another word, she disappeared into the kitchen. A few moments later, she re-appeared holding a plate pilled full of freshly baked cookies. "You boys will probably need a snack while you are busy plotting and scheming upstairs."

Slightly surprised at how closely his grandmother had pegged what they were doing upstairs, Glenn accepted the plate. "Thanks gram, you're the best!"

"I know, I know," she replied as she threw her hands up and headed back to the kitchen. "Now you boys run along and play. Just bring the plate back down when you're done."

"Alright," Robert replied along with several 'Thank-you' s' from everyone else as all the boys made their way back upstairs.

Once all the boys were back upstairs and in Glenn's room, Daileass quickly introduced Glenn and Robert to Hac, Forth, and Stan.

Following the introductions, Hac was the first to speak. "Are you sure that there were only six of us brought here?"

Barrett nodded. "Pretty sure, at least, that's what Ordath told us."

"Ordath?" Hac's voice filled with hope. "Perhaps he has some ideas as to how we can get back?"

Haden's head dropped as the room went silent.

"What's wrong?" Hac asked as he glanced between Haden, Barrett, and Daileass. "When we took our little field trip to the sphere, he seemed to be filled with all kinds of useful tidbits of information."

"Ordath won't be able to provide us with any information," Haden stated with a pained voice.

Still seeing the look of confusion in his old friend's eyes, Barrett continued. "Ordath didn't cause whatever happened to us in the conference room, but he did end up using every ounce of his energy to get us all here safely. He… he went away a few minutes after we arrived."

"I see," Hac replied, finally getting the picture.

Haden tried his hardest to stay strong, but he couldn't. Without intending to, the tears simply began to flow. The next thing he knew Daileass's warm arms were wrapping around him. Although Daileass might have been smaller now from the twelve-year-old Daileass that use to comfort him in the mental-scape, this Daileass still had the same gentle touch and the same sense of warmth that comforted him, making Haden feel safe.

Since he first learned of Ordath, the ancient being of energy that had been living inside of him since he was born, he never really thought much about him other than another person to talk to and learn from. Now that he was gone, he felt surprisingly empty and alone. He was amazed at how much you can miss things once you realize they are gone.

Over the next several minutes, Barrett filled Hac, Forth and Stan in on everything that had happened to them since they arrived, along with everything they had learned, while Daileass sat silently comforting Haden.

Once Barrett was done, Robert was the first to speak up. "You never answered my question earlier. Does that mean that Captain Kirk and Captain Picard really existed in the Universe you came from?"

"There is a Captain Kirk, and a Captain Spock and all," Stan answered. "But I've never heard of a Captain Picard."

"It would be Jean-Luc Picard," Robert stated.

Daileass shook his head as he held onto Haden. "No one by that name was ever registered with Star-Fleet."

"Bummer," Robert replied. "But it's still really cool that Captain Kirk was real and all. It must have been awesome to live in your Universe."

Barrett shrugged. "It was alright, but there was also a whole lot of pain and suffering as well."

"That's nothing new. There is a whole lot of pain and suffering here as well," Glenn jumped in. "Especially if that insane President of ours gets his way."

"You mean Ashwood?" Robert asked, turning toward his friend. "Why are you still worried about him? You know President Bryce is going to beat him to a pulp in tomorrow's election."

"Maybe, but you've seen all reports flying around on the net. Even if Bryce wins tomorrow, Ashwood is just going to declare the election null and void or something," Glenn retorted.

"It's all window dressing," Robert countered. "The courts will never allow those to stand."

"I have a question," Forth stated, causing everyone else to look toward him. "If we are not where we are supposed to be, does that mean we won't be able to use our comm badge things to talk to Daileass anymore?"

"Probably not, since there are no global networks for them to link into," Hac offered.

"That's going to make communications harder," Barrett sighed. "It probably means our sub-vocals won't be usable either."

"Maybe you guys could get cell phones or something? Or at least use their network?" Glenn offered.

"I can make our comm badges work," Haden stated as he lifted up his head, drawing the attention of everyone else.

"How's that?" Daileass asked. "I seriously doubt any of the computers they have here would be powerful enough to do the real time voice translation and network routing."

"Simplex," Haden answered as he started pushing buttons on his GEAR while he continued to explain. "I looked over the schematics a bit when the second generation comm badges came out. There is an internal jumper point that can be set to switch the comm badge over to simplex mode. It was intended to be used for local testing at the end of the manufacturing process, but we can make use of it here. The effect will turn the comm badge into its own localized repeater meaning that it wouldn't need any other network."

"Damn, I overlooked that little detail, good thinking Haden," Daileass smiled. "The range is going to be fairly limited though. According to my calculations, they will probably only reliably reach about 20 miles."

Haden nodded in agreement. "That sounds about right. Plus, it won't be person to person, anyone because any comm badge that is in range will be able to hear what is said. Basically, it will turn them into glorified walkie talkies." Once he finished speaking, Haden pressed a button on his GEAR, and from a hole in the front of the middle cylinder, dark golden goo began to seep out. The goo quickly took the shape of a small screw driver.

"Sweet!" Robert called out with excitement. "You have a portable matter replicator!"

Haden shook his head as he detached the small screw driver and took off his own comm badge. "It's not a matter replicator: that would take more power than I can generate with this. These are actually pico-bots."

"What's a pico-bot?" Robert asked curiously.

"Well…" Haden thought as he used the small tool to pop open the back piece of his comm badge and began tinkering inside it. "They are like ultra-small tiny little programmable machines. Basically, I programmed a few billion of the pico-bots to create this spanner tool."

"Billions?" Robert seemed awestruck as he leaned closer to Haden. "That's even cooler than a matter replicator."

"Okay, that one's done," Haden replied as he closed the back of his comm badge, and put it back on his shirt. "Forth, may I see yours please?"

Forth nodded and handed Haden his comm badge. Less than a minute later, Haden handed it back to him as he instructed for to go stand at the other end of the room, which he did.

"You activate them the same way you always do, just by quick single tap to the front," Haden explained as he tapped his comm badge causing a small chirping sound. At nearly the same time, a similar chirping sound came from Forth's. When Haden spoke, his voice instantly echoed through Forth's comm badge.

"See? It's pretty simple," Haden smiled. For the next few minutes, he used his spanner tool to switch over the comm badges of everyone else. "Barrett, may I have yours, now?"

"We use these sub-vocals, remember?" Barrett reminded him.

Haden nodded. "Uh huh, and remember KLAUS updated your sub-vocals to be compatible with Clan tech?"

Barrett grinned and handed his sub-vocal over to Haden. Although they were a little trickier since KLAUS had apparently modified the component layouts to keep the Clan and KLAUS tech components separate, within two minutes Haden had both Hac's and Barrett's sub-vocals switched over.

"So what do we do now, boss?" Hac asked once everyone was updated.

"This is a bit out of my league," Barrett shrugged as he looked toward Haden and Daileass. "You guys have any thoughts."

"I do," Daileass offered. "Glenn, you said you had internet access here, right?"

"Yup," Glenn nodded.

Daileass smiled. "Well, assuming that Glenn doesn't mind us hijacking his net connection for a bit, I think there is a good deal of research that we should probably do. Mainly, we should probably try to figure out exactly what we are dealing with here. How does technology here compare to our technology. What the current political, economic, and military environments etc."

"Why would we need to know all that?" Forth asked curiously.

"Maybe it won't be needed," Daileass agreed. "But I would rather avoid any surprises if possible. And, I can already tell that there are a few major differences aside from the technology. For example, the comments Robert and Glenn were making about that Ashwood character."

"If you guys don't have an Ashwood in your Universe, consider yourselves lucky," Glenn replied.

Daileass nodded. "Right, but that's also an example of something we are going to need to know. Otherwise, we are going to stick out like a sore thumb here. Or rather, stick out more than we already do."

"Makes sense," Haden agreed. "Maybe we could also see if we can find anyone else from our universe that is here or any signs of Clan Short or the U.N.I.T. Maybe they exist, but are just not as well known."

Not wanting to crush his hopes just yet, Daileass nodded in agreement. "Yeah, we can check that stuff, too."

"Cool, what are we waiting for? Let's get to work!" Haden stated hopefully.

WARNING: The next scene contains lots of 'geek-speak'. Those readers who wish to avoid headaches are welcome to skip down to the next horizontal line.

"What the hell is this?" Daileass asked with alarm.

"Windows 7," Glenn replied as he loaded up his Safari web browser.

"What happened to Microsoft promising to not make crap like this anymore?" Haden watched over Glenn's shoulder.

"Don't forget Haden, there was no Clan in this Universe to kick his butt," Barrett offered.

"If you guys think that's bad, just wait until you see what they did to Windows 8," Robert commented.

"I don't think I want to know," Daileass sighed. "Okay, thanks Glenn. This looks like your typical old-style browser interface. Do you know which protocols are being used as a base?"

"Protocols? You mean like HTML?" Glenn asked.

Robert's ears perked up. "Actually, I think he's referring to the underlying communications and low level packet transfer protocols."

Daileass nodded, "Those would be the ones."

"Most of the internet uses Internet Protocol version 4 'IPv4', although you have a few places starting to use version 6 of the standard. Everyone around here is probably going to be setup using Cable modems going through Cax Communications since they pretty much have a monopoly over the market here. That means at a transfer layer level, you are going to be using the Data Over Cable Interface Specifications version 3, which is the latest standard for that," Robert explained. "However, it has a pretty good implementation of BPI%2B for its security protection, so you're probably not going to be able to get much access to the physical or network layers."

"I won't?" Daileass grinned as he quickly used the web browser to do searches which pulled up the various specifications almost as quickly as Robert could list them off.

"Holy crap, dude, how do you type so fast?" Robert asked with amazement as he watched Daileass's fingers fly across the keyboard at lightning speed.

"Actually, this is kinda slow for me, I don't want to risk breaking the keyboard," Daileass grinned as he watched Robert's jaw drop. "Okay, it's not what we are used to, but I think we should be able to get basic access into the sub-channel infrastructure to allow us to do blind queries."

"The IP doesn't support any type of sub-channels, it's all point to point addressing, split by ports," Robert corrected.

"You certainly seem to have a good grasp on the network infrastructure," Daileass smiled as he looked toward Robert. "So, let me ask you this. Are you familiar with ICMP?"

Robert nodded. "Yeah, the Internet Control Message Protocol, it's used to transfer error messages across IP, as well as by diagnostic tools like Ping and Trace route."

"Exactly," Daileass nodded. "If you look close enough at the spec, it can also be used to relay query messages. More specifically, packet type 41 is reserved for mobility protocols using RFC 4065, and according to that, mobile phones have to provide for the support of sub-channels."

"But if you used blind sub-channels through ICMP instead of the normal connections via TCP or UDP, you've just bypassed 99% of the security that exists on the internet," Robert gasped in realization.

Daileass nodded as he turned back to focus on setting things up on the computer.

"Um, translation please?" Glenn asked, as his eyes were already beginning to spin.

"If Daileass can do what he just described, he's just figured out how to hack the internet," Robert smiled with glee.

"Not as much hacking it, as getting around unnoticed," Haden corrected.

"Well, whatever you call it, it's still really cool," Robert replied.

Haden nodded in agreement. "What would be a lot cooler is if we had more than one terminal to use. I don't suppose you have any other computers here, do you?"

Glenn shook his head. "Chad's still too small for one, and Gram and Gramp hate them, so no."

"I have a tower system at my place," Robert offered. "I would just have to find some way to get it down here."

"And explain to your parents why you're doing it?" Glenn added.

"Yeah," Robert nodded.

Daileass stopped for a few moments and thought. "Robert, earlier you mentioned that a PS3 could be upgraded to support Linux, right?"

Robert nodded. "Yeah, Sony withdrew official support for it last year, but it was originally designed with the intent of being able to function as a true computer system."

With that in mind, Daileass changed the focus of his searches and began to look up PS3's and Linux. Moments after that, he was on a Linux distribution site downloading one of the Linux distributions. "Glenn, could you show me you're PS3?"

"Um, yeah, it's over here," Glenn replied hesitantly. "You're not going to take it apart or anything, are you?"

"Nope," Daileass replied. "Just going to check something." As Daileass looked over the small black box, he continued his explanation. "The older versions of the PS3 were made with an older NAND flash memory which Linux can't use properly. The newer PS3 models, however, use VFLASH, which is compatible, and… yup, there we go… you have one of the newer models."

"Okay, so what do you have to do next?" Glenn asked.

Daileass moving back to Glenn's computer to see that the download he requested had finished. A moment later, pages and pages of strange characters began to display on the screen.

"Oh, you're not going to be able to use the file like that. Its zip compressed, so you will have to un-compress it first. Plus Glenn's system doesn't have a DVD burner," Robert stated.

"It'll be fine," Daileass replied. "Okay Haden, go ahead and take over using this computer while I start upgrading the PS3."

Haden nodded and took Daileass's place at the computer, while Daileass walked back over to the PS3 and turned on the TV. "To be honest, the cell processor that is in the PS3 is probably going to be able to keep up with me better. The biggest trick to installing Linux on a PS3 is to be able to bypass the HyperVisor, that will get us direct-to-kernel and device driver 'ring-0' access. Oh, perfect, this even has a wireless interface. That will make this even easier."

Robert looked at Daileass in amazement. "Okay, now you are even starting to go over my head!"

"Don't worry about it," Daileass smiled. "Just sit back and watch the fun." Daileass flipped on the power to the PS3, but instead of the normal Sony logo showing up, the system looked like it had dropped into a firmware update, similar to what it does the very first time you buy it. After that, all kinds of weird stuff started happening that Robert had never seen before. Shortly after that, a Linux login screen flashed up for a few seconds as the PS3 literally appeared to be programming and setting itself up."

"How the hell are you doing that, dude?" Robert asked with concern. "You don't even have a keyboard hooked up to that or anything."

"Easy, I reconfigured one of my internal transmitters to interface with the PS3's RF receiver," Daileass answered. Seeing the completely confused look on Robert's face, he quickly realized the minor detail that was being missed in all this. "Oh yeah… um, Robert, Glenn? There is probably something you two should know about me. But first I need you guys to promise not to tell anyone else."

All other conversations in the room stopped as Glenn joined Robert in facing Daileass. Once both boys agreed, Daileass continued. "I'm guessing that there have been movies and such made about robots, or androids that can look like humans, right?"

"Oh, no way! No fricken way!" Robert's excitement began to grow by leaps and bounds, while Glenn casually nodded.

"Well, I'm kinda one of those," Daileass tried to figure out the best way to explain it.

"You certainly don't look or sound like any android that I've ever seen before," Robert stated.

"That's because he's a lot more," Haden turned around in his seat. "Daileass has a soul and is really alive."

"But you even feel like a normal kid," Glenn protested. "I was holding onto you earlier, and you have skin and bones just like the rest of us."

"Maybe his body is real, but they just scooped out his brain and replaced it with a micro-computer, like they did to that one kid in that other movie."

Daileass flinched. "Close. The skin you see is real skin. It's just grafted over a metallic polymer exoskeleton. I can't really give you many more details about me than that. But that's why I'm able to type and interface with wireless systems the way I do. Make sense?"

Robert quickly nodded. "Yeah,"

"It doesn't make much sense to me," Glenn stated. "But that's not really important. I've never been much of a tech geek. As far as I'm concerned, you look, feel, and act just like any other kid, so that's more than real enough for me."

A small smile crept across Daileass's face. "Thanks Glenn. That means a lot to me."

Glenn nodded.

"Hey Daileass?" Haden called out next. "Where is all the packet level intercept software, or all of the security integration suite stuff?"

"None of our stuff would be compatible with this hardware or infrastructure," Daileass replied. "Just do the best you can with what you have."

"If you need to do anything with packets, you could probably download something like Wincap, or Wireshark. Those are both pretty decent freeware protocol analyzers."

"Thanks, I'll try that," Haden replied.

"Haden?" Daileass asked. "If you want to go ahead and start working on the political and economic searches, I'll go ahead and see what larger databases I can get into and start looking around for Clan or U.N.I.T. stuff that might be out there, or any signs of any of our other friends that might be here."

"Okay," Haden agreed. "Um, Glenn? Would you be interested in helping me?"

"Me?" Glenn asked with surprise. "What could I do to help?"

Haden couldn't stop himself from smiling, as he could remember a time that he was just as surprised when people asked him to help with stuff. "Well, to start with, you've lived here a lot longer than I have. So I'm thinking you would probably have a lot better idea about which key words to search for."

"Alright," Glenn agreed as he moved over to sit near Haden. "I guess you already know about Ashwood."

Haden nodded. "Yeah, but that would probably be a good place to start."

"Just be careful, guys," Daileass warned. "This might be lower tech than what we are used to, but there could still be a lot of nasty's out there waiting to trap us."

"Alright," Haden replied as he and Glenn went to work.

The next half hour was spent with everyone focusing on the various tasks at hand. Robert spent most of his time glued to Daileass, watching with amazement as Daileass used his wireless interface to jump around from database to database around the internet.

Everyone else, was more interested in the information that Haden and Glenn were searching through. Each time Haden would run across a small tid-bit of information that was different from the world they had come from, all of them would discuss it. In a way, it allowed both Robert and Glenn to learn a little bit more about their new friends, just as everyone else was able to learn more about what could very possibly end up being their new home.

From a political perspective, things had developed significantly different from how things were back in their own Universe. Besides the fact, that there were still only two significantly large political parties, most of the other details were different. A huge difference is that this world had developed nuclear weapons, something that greatly concerned Barrett. Not only that, but on several occasions, the weapons were used as political pawns to shape the world's geo-political landscape. They read about things like the Cold War, and the Cuban missile crises, and the impacts they had on society.

Another major political difference is that the Executive branch of U.S. Government seemed to have acquired a lot more power than it did in their Universe. In addition to having more direct control over the military and other government agencies, the two-term limit did not exist here as it did where they came from. In fact, President Bryce served three terms of office between 1996 and 2008 before he took a four year break, and then, just last month had been re-elected by a land-slide victory to serve a fourth term.

The issues between President Bryce and President Ashwood went into a whole other can of worms. Not only was it highly speculated that Ashwood would declare tomorrow's election invalid if former President Bryce were to win, but Haden found a number of references to all kinds of other 'shady' activity directly related to the Ashwood Administration. Most notably, were the large numbers of 'mysterious' accidents that journalists, politicians, and even some military figures had. Nearly all of whom at one point or another voiced some degree of opposition toward either Ashwood himself, or the policies and legislation that Ashwood was trying to pass.

On the economic front, things were just as different as on the political side of things. To begin with, the primary currency used was the U.S. Dollar; since there was no Star-Fleet to support Federation credits. Secondly, the world economies in general around the world seemed to be in far worse financial shape. The earth was currently in a cycle of entire countries going bankrupt, and having to be bailed out by other countries.

Socially, things didn't seem to be that better off either. The big thing that Haden's search turned up there is that people seemed to be a lot less tolerant to anything that was different, even more so than where they had come from. Over recent years, it was not uncommon for people to persecuted because of their sexual preferences, gender, and even race. In fact, less than a hundred years ago, individuals with dark colored skin were seen as inhuman, and forced to function as slaves for those that had lighter color skin.

"Hum, that's not good," Daileass stated just after Haden finished talking about how some states were just now starting to get around to allowing homosexuals to get married and have the same rights as heterosexuals.

"Why is that bad?" Glenn asked.

"Huh?" Daileass replied. "Oh sorry, I wasn't talking about that. One of my reverse tap points just went away."

"What's a reverse tap point?" Robert asked.

"Well, you know how when you do a search on something on the net and get web page results that match your search? Well, that's called forward searching," Daileass explained. "I haven't been that successful on finding anything at all Clan or U.N.I.T. related, but I did notice that the government seems to do a lot more filtering and tapping than I've ever seen happen in our world. Basically, that means that if you tried to search for something they don't want you to search for, they can limit or eliminate the results you get."

Robert nodded in understanding. "Yeah, the internet has become a lot more regulated and restricted since Ashwood came into office. Initially it was supposed to be something to combat terrorism or something, but it's pretty much grown out of control from there."

"Right," Daileass continued. "If you look at the internet's overall backbone architecture, at least here in the states, 90% of all net traffic flows through a single backbone network… ArpaNet. Basically, I've managed to hack into their back-end, and gain access to the areas used for the search filtering. I can't access any of the historical search logs that they keep, but I was able to setup a few forward tap points on certain key words. What that will do is let me know when someone tries to search for one of those keywords before their search is trimmed by the filtering system. That way I get a blind reply along with other information such as where the search is originating from, and the other keywords that were also included in the search."

At this point, Haden was starting to become interested in what Daileass was saying. "So what's wrong with a forward tap point going away?"

"The problem is, it shouldn't," Daileass replied. "The way I have the tap points set in the system, there are only two ways they could be removed. Either by a reboot of the physical router that the points are on, which would temporarily shut down major segments of the net; and I know for sure that didn't happen because the other tap points are still active. The other possibility is someone with a very high level of software architecture knowledge, such as maybe the software's programmer or something, was actively monitoring the physical memory segments of the machine, and stepped in to trim those segments out. But as poorly as all the rest of the system's security was implemented, that's pretty unlikely as well."

"So what do we do?" Haden asked.

"For now, nothing," Daileass replied. "I just set the tap point up in a slightly different location, and buried it in the stack a bit more, so it shouldn't be visible in a physical memory dump either now."

Haden nodded. "Where are all these tap points? I don't think I've run across any of them."

"Most of them are implemented on the ArpaNet back-end. You would have to be tracking the network layer sub-channel traffic to have any chance of spotting them."

"Oh," Haden replied with a slight degree of concern. "Alright, that means I need to check a few things over here as well."

"Damn it!" Daileass called out. "Who the heck is that? My tap point just got eaten again! For being lower end tech, whoever this is, is pretty damn good."

"Maybe you should jump out of the system?" Robert asked with concern. "We probably don't want to attract too much attention. From everything I've read; the government doesn't mess around with stuff like this."

"We should be fine," Daileass replied as more screens and windows began to pop-up. "I've actually been going pretty light up to this point since every other system I've encountered has been such a joke. But, I have a bunch of tricks up my sleeve that will eat there servers alive if it comes to it. Which, I doubt it will."

Robert nodded. "Just be careful, I hate losing new friends the first day I meet them."

"For starters, let's see how they deal with a 1024 bit encrypted tokenized segment. This way, before they will even be able to see what tap point I have setup, they will have to not only realize the data is encrypted, but also decrypt it," Daileass smiled.

"I don't know what all that other stuff you talked about is, but I know for a fact the strongest level of encryption that exists right now is 256 bit," Glenn commented.

"Not for the military," Robert countered. "I've read in some places that they have up to 512 bit."

"Let's just say where we come from, encryption technology is a little bit higher. I could throw in some 4096 bit encrypted trinary if I really wanted to, but that would just bring the net down to a crawl, which is not something I want to do," Daileass stated.

"Daileass, what did you use as a destination address for the ICMP control packets that get sent to ArpaNet's backbone server?" Haden called out.

"Use 10 dot 100 dot anything else, those are all locally assigned points on the back-bone network. Just don't use 10 dot 100 dot 11 dot 9, since that's what I'm using," Daileass answered.

"Thanks," Haden stated.

"No problem… SHIT!" Daileass cried out. "How is that even possible?"

"They broke the 1024 bit encoding?" Haden asked with concern.

"Not only that, but they have re-encoded the entire access point," Daileass stated. "Something isn't right about this. Everything we've learned about the current technology level suggests that no one should have that type of skill."

"Maybe you should go up to 2048 bit?" Haden offered.

"Maybe, but I'll need to decrypt the access point block first," Daileass stated. "Oh wow, they are using a 2048 cypher key… I might actually have to spend a second or two breaking this."

The room remained silent as Daileass focused on decrypting the packet. "Okay, that's just way too much of a coincidence," Daileass finally replied.

"What is?" Barrett questioned.

"I managed to decode the cypher key. The last segment of the key was '1016.430 fof 8100400550'," Daileass stated as he looked toward Haden.

Haden's eyes immediately went wide. "Are you serious? 1016.430, isn't that the section of the U.N.I.T.'s Standard Operating Procedures that covers friend or foe identification?"

Daileass nodded. "Exactly, and 8100400.550 is the preferred frequency to transmit those responses on."

"So how does that help with anything?" Barrett asked while Haden turned back to the computer, and continued to work on whatever it was he was doing.

"I'm not sure if it does," Daileass replied. "It's possible that it's just some kind of fluke, as improbable as it seems. However, I'm re-encrypting the segment, and this time I'm using Haden's and my U.N.I.T. identification numbers as the end of the key, along with a %2B4."

"Oh boy, this isn't good… this isn't good at all," Haden commented as he looked at his screen in horror.

"What's wrong?" Daileass asked.

"Well, you know those taps you were talking about on ArpaNet?" Haden replied. "Well, since I wasn't looking for them, it looks like I hit a whole bunch of them."

"Great, let me see if I can track back any of the hits," Daileass stated as more side-windows began to pop up. "Well, that answers that. It's an administrative restricted function. With the setup we have here, I don't think we can grab it without setting off all kinds of other bells and whistles."

Moments later, Daileass jerked back in his chair, as both Haden's and Barrett's eyes grew large before fluttering closed for a few seconds.

"Uh, guys? Are you alright?" Robert asked with concern.


Editor's notes:

Holy moly, what on earth has happened!!! This is amazing! All of a sudden we are in a new world and trying to figure out where and when we are. We always knew about multiple dimensions, but wow we are in the thick of it now!

Poor Ordath, I did not want to see him go and it hurt to say good bye. But, he did everything he could to take care of Haden and his crew. He made sure they got to wherever they were going safely. I just hate that it took the life force out of him. He really loved Haden to do that.

Now, to see Daileass and the other guys coming in to this new world is so cool!!! I just can't wait to see what is going to happen next. Oh, and let's not forget all the geek talk. Personally, I thought that was cool shit! I just wonder who is on the other side battling Daileass and keeping up with him and using the U.N.I.T. protocols.

This could get very interesting very quickly!!!!

You friendly neighborhood editing puppy!


Other Editor's Notes:

I agree, wholeheartedly with everything that Boxerdude said. He didn't leave me much to comment on, other than, what in the world happened to them, there at the end? Let's just say, I have a funny feeling that they are not quite as alone as the thought they were. We'll just have to wait and see, I guess.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

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