Castle Roland


by Zackron


Chapter 7

Published: 8 Apr 14


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

All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 @ 11:45am MST


Footprints LogoHaden had only managed to walk a few steps past the large doors leading into the main UNIT hangar before Barrett nearly pounced on him.

"Haden, Haden!" Barrett called out as he ran over to his twin. "Are you alright? You gave all of us quite a scare."

Haden did his best to smile. "Yeah, I'm fine."

Barrett looked outside at where the Huey was, and noticed no one else was inside of it. "Stan and Forth, they really stayed behind?"

Haden nodded. "I thought you knew."

"Well, there is knowing, and there is knowing," Barrett replied. "Everything happened so fast, I guess I was still expecting to see the little guy get off with you and Daileass."

As soon as his name had been mentioned, Daileass walked up behind Haden and started to move his hand toward Haden's shoulder, but instead stopped halfway, quickly putting it to his side. "Haden, you should probably go get cleaned up. I'm sure Logan and the others will want to debrief us at some point," he instead spoke softly not far from Haden.

"Okay," Haden agreed.

Barrett followed close behind Haden as he made his way out of the hangar and down the hall toward the main elevator. It wasn't until the elevator was starting to move down that Barrett decided to ask the obvious question. "So, how was Mars?"

Haden thought for a few moments before answering. "It was pretty amazing," he began. "Their technology looks like it could easily be on par with what I saw from your society in our own universe."

"If what I've seen in regards to their mastery over genetics is any indication, that's probably an understatement," Barrett replied as the elevator came to a stop, and the two boys stepped out. As soon as they did, a waiting group of Russians walked past them, stepping into the elevator.

"Things seem to be getting a bit busier around here," Barrett offered as he walked down the hall next to his twin.

Haden nodded in agreement. "Yeah. That seems to be the way Adam and Logan like things."

Nothing was said between either boy until they made it to Haden's room. Once they were inside, Haden flopped himself on his bed. "They offered to let me join them."

"Let you join them?" Barrett echoed, sounding slightly confused.

Haden sat up and nodded. "Yeah, kinda like Stan and Forth are going to be turned into Alterans and joining them. Pete offered to turn me into an Alteran, which would allow me to join their society and live with them on Mars."

"And I guess you told him no?" Barrett asked.

Haden tilted his head. "Actually, I was wanting to tell him yes. But Daileass and Logan talked me out of it."

"What?… Why?" Barrett became more confused. "You already have a family here. You already have a place to belong."

"Fighting wars for the rest of my life? No thanks," Haden replied as he unclipped his GEAR and set it on the nightstand. "Most of the UNIT kids and genesis kids might like that, but it's not really for me."

"That's not true, and you know it," Barrett stated bluntly.

"Isn't it?" Haden asked seriously as he slipped off his shirt. "The genesis kids were bred with combat in mind, and were trained most of their life for fighting. I mean, we weren't even here a day before Adam and Logan jumped in and started taking on the president's fight as their own. Instead of trying to spend time looking for a way home, we're digging in and preparing to take on Ashwood."

"Don't you think that's being a bit unfair?" Barrett asked, as he looked hard at his twin. "If there was an easy way for us to get home, I'm sure Logan and the others would take it. But we don't even know for sure how we got here. As far as the whole Ashwood thing goes… was Adam just supposed to let Jack die in the dog fight two nights ago?"

"No, of course not," Haden shook his head. "It's just… Why are you even fighting so hard against this? I would have thought that you of all people would have understood me. Especially with how hard you and Hac are trying to contact the KLAUS guys."

"There is a big difference between what I'm doing and you're doing," Barrett replied. "I'm trying to find the family that I've lost, so I can get back to it. You're trying to run away from the family that you already have."

"The UNIT isn't my family," Haden shot back as he took off his boots and socks. "Clan Short was my family, and they don't seem to exist here. UNIT is just the military arm of Clan Short. Brent and Lance were my family… All of the cyclones… the Cynthitech clone kids were my family, and the only two cyclones that came with us are floating in bio-tubes on Mars right now, with only a 50/50 chance of living."

"Daileass cares a lot about you, I would say he counts as family," Barrett retorted. "And what about Logan and the chipmunks. They seem to look out for you a bunch. Wouldn't they count as family?"

"Logan and the chipmunks are more interested in me because I'm important to Daileass and Daileass is important to them," Haden replied. "And as far as Daileass goes… yes, he's important to me, and I guess I could call him family but… I don't know."

"I don't know enough about them, but I would be willing to bet that Logan and the chipmunks care about you for other reasons besides your importance to Daileass," Barrett offered.

"Maybe," Haden admitted as he slipped off his pants. "Anyway, I need to grab a shower." Without waiting for his twin's reply, he walked into the bathroom and closed the door behind him.

Barrett sat down on Haden's bed and let out his own long sigh. 'What could have caused Haden to shift so far so quickly?' he thought to himself. 'And what is the best thing I can do to help him?'

With the bathroom door closed, Haden leaned back against it and let out a long sigh. 'How come no one can seem to understand me?' he asked himself.

Haden stood under the shower and allowed the hot water to spray over him. He had so many question, and so few answers. Why were they there? How is it that with so many high races running around the multi-universe, that they could end up getting stuck in a completely different Earth? Were they being tested? Was there a need for a group of fighting kids in another universe, and that's why they were brought here? He could see that being true for the genesis kids, but then why was he brought here? Was it his destiny to be a fighter?

As the steamy water continued to flow over his body, Haden's thoughts shifted gears and turned to Ordith, the strange energy-based entity that had been a part of him for his entire life, but which he had only recently learned about, and was now apparently dead. He could have seen himself trying to turn to him for answers, or at least some degree of guidance, but now that wasn't possible.

Normally, he would also try to turn to Daileass for advice, but he was pretty sure that Daileass had already made his opinion on the matter clear. And Barrett? His own twin? He still had no clue how that could even be possible. How could Barrett be against him on this?

As the tenseness in his small body slowly began to ease as the hot water continued to flow over him, a thought crept into Haden's mind. What if he really was being unreasonable about all this? What if the reason everyone seemed to be against him was because he really wasn't looking at things correctly? Daileass was certainly right about one thing, there were a lot of questions that still needed to be answered.

By the time he had finished with his shower, and walked back into his bedroom, Haden saw Barrett laying on his bed, lost in his own thoughts. As soon as he opened the drawer of his dresser, however, Barrett sat up.

"Have a good shower?" Barrett asked curiously.

"Yeah," Haden replied as he started to get dressed. "You know, about earlier… I'm sorry if I got a bit hot."

"So'kay," Barrett replied. "There is a lot going on, and you have a lot to think about. So don't worry about it."

"Alright," Haden smiled as he grabbed his GEAR and clipped it back on his wrist. "You know, I was wondering. Do you have to take your fuzzy off when you take showers and stuff?"

Barrett grinned. "Nope, showers, swimming, all of that is fine. Danus doesn't mind."

"Cool," Haden nodded. "One of these days I will make this thing water proof."

"Speaking of electronics…" Barrett began.

Knowing what he was going to ask, Haden didn't wait for his twin to finish. "Yes, we got the needed parts. I'm still going to need to do some more research though. I'm a bit concerned about the standards that this stuff is built to, and I would hate for us to have the same component burn out on us again."

Barrett nodded in understanding.

'Haden?' Daileass sent to Haden mentally. 'When you get a chance, Logan would like to talk with us in the Main Hangar.'

'Alright, we're on our way now,' Haden replied.

"Main Hangar?" Barrett asked as he jumped to his feet.

"Yeah," Haden nodded. "You heard Daileass?"

"Yes," Barrett answered. "I think it's getting easier for me to hear things like that."

"I guess that means our twin link is getting better," Haden grinned as he opened the door leading to the hallway and followed Barrett through it.

Haden and Barrett walked into the Main Hangar to find several Russians walking around, getting things loaded into one of the Hueys and the Chinook. Off in one of the corners away from the rest of the action, Daileass was standing along with several of the other UNIT kids including Adam, Logan, Will, Billy, Jory, and two of the three chipmunks.

As soon as Daileass saw the new arrivals, he stopped and waved them over. "Haden, you're just in time," he stated. "I was just giving everyone a brief account of what happened on our trip."

Haden nodded in understanding.

Moments later, Daileass continued to explain the events that led to their finding Nate in the alley, his trying to help save him, and waiting in the field for the Huey to arrive before the Alterans showed up. He then went into what happened on Mars, the entire time being careful to make sure none of the Russians got too close to where they were standing, so that none of them could eavesdrop on what was being explained. Once he was done, he looked toward Haden. "I think I covered just about everything. Can you think of anything I missed?"

Haden shook his head. "Nope, I think you got all of it," Haden replied. "What about Sarah, is she okay?"

"She's still a bit shaken up, but otherwise she's fine," Adam offered. "I doubt she is going to be in that much of a hurry to go on any more shopping trips in the near future though." This got a few forced chuckles from several of the others.

"Moving on to other topics," Logan jumped in. "Haden, I'm guessing you got the parts you need to fix the transmitter?"

"I believe so," Haden replied. "I still need to do some additional research though."

"On what?" Logan asked.

"Mainly, I still need to get a better grasp on manufacturing standards here. Given the lower tech, I think the standards are a lot lower than what we are use to back home, which is what might have caused our problems in the first place. Unfortunately, not many manufacturers seem that interested in providing information on the flaws of their manufacturing process."

Logan nodded thoughtfully in agreement. "I think I know someone who might be able to help."

"Really?" Haden asked curiously.

"Possibly," Logan answered. "Over the last day or so, we've been in contact with an extremely intelligent group of kids who are currently in the area near Breckenridge, Texas. In fact, Juan went down there last night and is currently with them now."

"Okay," Haden replied, unsure where this was going.

"One of them, Keith, is exceptionally gifted with frequency based electronics, including radio transmitters and receivers. My guess is that he would probably have the answers to a lot of your questions."

"Great," Haden nodded. "Is there any way for me to contact him?"

"That could probably be arranged," Logan replied after a pause. "However… If you are interested, you might be able to accomplish more in a face-to-face meeting. Then you could also show him the specific pieces of hardware you are concerned about."

"That would probably work better. But didn't you just say he's in Texas?" Haden asked, sounding a bit confused.

"Yes, I did," Logan grinned. "The piece of the puzzle that you are missing is that we are getting ready to send a large amount of supplies and troops to their location in Texas. We'll be taking the Chinook as well as one of the Hueys. If you are interested, you could tag along for the ride. It's just nothing big, just a supply run down and back."

"That explains all the activity going on here in the hangar," Haden nodded, still unsure if it was something he was really interested in doing or not, especially with everything else he now had to think about. "I guess that's an option."

Almost as if reading his mind, Logan smiled. "Besides, given the little adventure you and Daileass were just on, this would probably be a great opportunity to get some thinking done without too many interruptions."

'Cheater,' Haden thought as he smiled as well. "Good point. Who all is going?"

"Mostly Russians. You and Daileass if you decide to go," Logan began. "Will and Billy will be flying the Chinook, I'll be flying the Huey with one of the Russian pilots. The only other person would be Khan."

"You're going?" Haden asked with surprise.

Logan nodded. "As I said, this is a very intelligent group of kids. Let's just say they caught my interest."

Just as Logan finished replying, Khan and Hac walked over to the area where the rest of the group was standing.

"Um, sir?" Barrett spoke up as he hesitantly raised his hand.

"Yes?" Logan replied.

"I don't suppose there is any way that I could go along as well, assuming that Haden decides to go, is there?" Barrett asked.

"I think that could be arranged," Logan grinned as he looked in the direction of the two new arrivals."

"Looks like you won't have to worry about asking after all," Khan's deep voice rumbled as he slapped Hac on the back.

"Ask about what?" Barrett asked as he turned around.

Hac sighed. "Khan got roped into going on the trip so that he could play fork lift when they arrive. He asked if I would be willing to go as well. I told him that I would only go if you were going too."

"And since it looks like Barrett is going…" Khan stated as a large grin crept across his face.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah… Alright, fine," Hac replied. "I'll go along and play fork lift as well."

"Great, then it sounds like everything is decided," Logan stated with confidence. "Unless anyone has anything else… wheels up in ten minutes."

With no one having anything else to talk about, the group broke apart, and everyone went their separate ways.

"Haden," Logan called out just as he and Barrett were about to leave. Walking over to them, Logan spoke a bit softer, "I hope you didn't feel that I was pressuring you too much to go on the trip. If you would rather not go, you don't have to."

Haden shook his head. "No, you brought up some valid points. Not only would it be better to talk with this Keith guy in person, but having a little time to think would be nice too."

"Good," Logan smiled. "In that case, make sure your battle armor is loaded in the Chinook." Seeing the questioning look on Haden's face, he explained further, "Although I'm not expecting anything to go wrong, given how far away from the base we are going to be, I would like those who are going to be prepared just in case."

"Alright," Haden nodded.

"Barrett," Logan turned his attention toward Haden's twin. "Since it looks like you and Hac may be with us for a while, I could look into getting you a set of our battle gear if you would like."

"Thanks for the offer," Barrett shook his head as he petted something invisible on his right arm, "but I'm not really familiar with your armor. At this point it would probably be more hindrance than benefit to me. Besides, there isn't much that the armor would be able to stop that Danus couldn't."

Logan nodded in understanding. "That's fine. I just wanted to make the offer. In that case, make sure you guys are back here and on the Chinook in ten minutes."

Haden and Barrett both nodded before they headed out of the hangar toward the elevator.

By the time Haden and Barrett made it back to the hangar with Haden's large backpack containing his battle gear, and a smaller bag containing the electronic components he wanted to talk to Keith about, the Chinook had already been pulled outside, and nearly all the Russians were already on board.

"About time you guys got here," Daileass commented as soon as he saw them. "I was getting worried that you might get left behind."

"Haden had to hunt around a little for his equipment," Barrett offered.

"Why were you coming on this trip, again?" Haden asked with a grin.

"You're not the only person who has a lot to think about, you know," Daileass replied, perhaps a bit stronger than he would otherwise have liked. Either way, Haden seemed to get the point.

"Good afternoon everyone, this is your captain speaking," Will's voice came over the intercom. "We're just finishing up our final pre-flight checks, and are getting ready for takeoff. Our destination today will be Breckenridge Texas where it's currently 22 degrees Celsius with clear skies. Our flight time today should be just under three hours."

As Will said this, several gasps of surprise could be heard coming from a number of the Russians.

"Flight attendants, please take your seats in preparation for takeoff," Will continued. "Psst. That would be you, Daileass," he finished in a hushed voice.

'Oh, you are so going to get it, later,' Daileass sent to the link.

Seeing Haden trying to attach his backpack to the rack above his seat, Hac walked up behind him. "Here, let me help with that," he said as he effortlessly lifted the pack, and secured it.

"Thanks," Haden smiled weakly.

"No problems, chief," Hac nodded as he took a seat on the other side of Barrett. It wasn't long after that before the whine and roar of the engines coming to life could be heard. Shortly after that, everyone could feel themselves lifting off the ground.

As expected, the flight started off fairly quiet. The main thing being discussed by the majority of the Russians was the modifications that had been made to the Chinook. Apparently, in this universe, an armed and armored version of the Chinook had never been built.

After a brief mental discussion with Logan and Will, Daileass unstrapped himself as the Chinook descended toward the ground so that it was flying as close as Will could safely fly to the surface. The decision had been made to allow the Russians to 'play' with some of the guns on the Chinook, to really get a feel for its capabilities.

After Daileass spent a few moments explaining what the plan was to Hac, the two of them waited for the back ramp of the Chinook to be lowered so that they could move the large rear ramp gun into place.

Although Haden was sure that there was probably something he could be doing to help with the weapon demonstrations, he remained strapped to his seat where no one else seemed to bother him. Although Barrett was sitting right next to him, he too remained quiet, giving Haden his space to think.

About an hour into the flight, Haden was lost deep in his own thoughts when he was abruptly shaken out of them as a result of a lot of strong feelings and emotions building up within the Link.

"What's going on?" Barrett asked, as he too sensed something was up, but couldn't put his finger on it.

Although Haden had missed Juan's initial report that had created the rise in emotions, the information was still very strongly bouncing around in the link. After taking a few moments to concentrate on gathering the pieces, he leaned closer toward his twin. "Juan has just reported that some rather strange things seem to be going on where they are at. Nothing is confirmed yet, but he and the group he is with are starting to investigate further."

"What kind of strange things?" Barrett asked curiously.

"That part is still a bit unclear," Haden replied as Hac and Daileass moved the large gun off of the back ramp. "Either way, Logan's not wanting to take any chances, and we're going to be picking up the pace to get to Breckenridge."

Barrett nodded in understanding as moments later, the back ramp was raised, and both the whine of the engines and the speed of the Chinook noticeably increased.

The flight over the next hour was not nearly as relaxing or quiet as the first. The simple quiet resupply run that this trip was originally supposed to be had suddenly turned into something completely different.

Although nothing was specifically mentioned, at least nothing that Haden could easily perceive, he could still feel how high the tensions were, not only in Juan, but all the other UNIT members as well. The chipmunks were indubitably in the process of trying to find whatever information they could about the building situation.

Having reached the two hour mark, Haden could feel things becoming even more tense. Something major was brewing and being felt through the link. Something that was just out of his range to pick up on, but something important nevertheless.

A few minutes later, Haden got his answer as Alvin sent out a strong broadcast to everyone in the link. He informed everyone that things were indeed going badly in Breckenridge, and seemed to be getting worse by the minute. Apparently the military had all access points into and out of the town blocked, and were working under quarantine procedures citing a possible viral outbreak.

Alvin went on to explain in his broadcast that the really odd part of the entire situation was that well over one hundred federal agents had proceeded into the town and were packing an enormous amount of fire power, including several armored attack vehicles, at least six Apache attack helicopters, and three Osprey.

At this point, he broadcast some live satellite images showing a lot of activity going on at the Breckenridge High School. He explained how a large number of agents were gathering at the high school where kids from the other schools were being bused to. The 'official' word was that a testing center was being established. But it was pretty clear that something was not adding up. There was no way that much firepower would be needed for a child testing center. Something else that became clear from the satellite images was the fact that the large majority of federal agents were not wearing any type of HAZMAT suits, or other similar protection, as if they were not worried about the possible viral outbreak.

Although Alvin's briefing left everyone with a lot more questions than they had answers, one thing was clear. Something was not adding up in a big way, and the sooner they could get there, the better.

Shortly after Alvin had finished, with the helicopters being less than 25 minutes away from Breckenridge, Dmitry, the Russian commanding officer, made the decision to fill the rest of the Russians in on what was going on. The reaction from them was nearly instantaneous as they began to fully gear up. "It's just a precaution," he assured the rest of them.

As the minutes ticked by, it became more and more clear that the 'precaution' of the Russians would be needed. Another piece of information that came out was that a large number of parents were starting to show up at the school and were being denied access to their kids. As Alvin put it, 'the entire situation was a powder keg waiting to go off'.

"I guess you're glad you brought your armor now, huh?" Barrett asked as Haden started to gear up along with the others.

"I guess," Haden replied, not sounding too enthused. Given the seriousness of the situation, however, Barrett could understand why.

Once they were less than ten minutes out, Alvin relayed additional information, including a report from Juan that at least two buses were in the process of being chased by unknown vehicles, which were being assumed to be federal agents.

Not long after that, news of the events that everyone had hoped would not occur was relayed. An active firefight had broken out at the Breckenridge High School between the federal agents and the parents. There was even some speculation that somehow some of the kids were getting caught in the crossfire as well.

With the Chinook being now less than five minutes out, Daileass more or less took charge of the situation. On one of the monitors in the Chinook, he was able to get a map overlay of the general area pulled up. "Okay guys, here's an aerial image of the high school," Daileass began. "It's a combined high school and junior high. This large building to the south is the high school, this one over here is the junior high, and over here is their athletic building."

Very shortly after Daileass started, there was a good amount of commotion and whispering going on amongst several of the Russians. Instead of listening to Daileass, many of them instead looked toward their commanding officer, Dmitry.

Seeing this, Dmitry put a quick stop to it. In no uncertain terms, he made sure that everyone was aware that Daileass was in charge of this operation, and that everyone needed to listen to him.

After getting a nod from Dmitry, and seeing all eyes on him, Daileass continued. "From what we can tell, federal agents have the entire high school building surrounded with the largest bulk of their forces at the South end of the school in this area here separating the parents who are in this southern parking lot here. Why they are focusing on that single building and not the others is currently unknown. It's speculated that they may have all the students in that one area. Will is going to attempt to put the Chinook down here, about a block or two to the Southeast of the school."

As he spoke, Daileass looked toward the Russian commander, "Dmitry, I would like your men to split up, and have half of them approach the school from the south taking this route, and the other half from the east taking this route."

Dmitry nodded. "You got it."

"Remember," Daileass continued. "Our overall objective is to ensure the safety of as many civilian lives as possible, especially the children."

As nearly all the Russian soldiers nodded in understanding, the back ramp of the Chinook began to lower. At the same time, Will's voice came over the internal speakers. "Okay guys, we're going to be coming in hot. Multiple hostiles are in the theater. The Huey is going to cover us while we offload."

"A Huey against Apache and Osprey?" one of the Russians commented, echoing the concerns of the others.

Not wasting any time, Daileass grabbed his backpack and made his way for the now lowered back ramp. "You heard the guy," Daileass spoke up. "Get ready to hit the ground, and hit it hard."

As he and his twin stood close enough to the ramp to be able to easily see the ground below, Haden did a quick readiness check of his GEAR before also checking his side arm. "You ready for this?"

Barrett nodded as he lifted his right arm slightly. "Yeah, we're both ready."

Daileass made his way to the back where Khan and Hac were also standing. The echos of gunfire could easily be heard in the distance. At the same time, although they could not see it from their vantage point, it was clear that some type of air combat was going on. "Hang on guys," Daileass called out. "Will's going to be banking hard as he lines up for his final approach."

Just as the Chinook started to turn, there was a loud cracking sound that was a mixture of a gunshot and thunder as one of the Apache helicopters slammed into the main high school building, creating a huge ball of flame.

As the turn continued, not only could they see the Huey moving off to engage the hostile aircraft, but they also flew over the southern portion of the school.

"My God!" Hac gasped as he was able to get his first good look at not only the damage caused by the downed Apache, but also the carnage that was outside the building. Near the doors of the school, and fanning outward, several bodies were laying strewn out on the ground. Small bodies, the bodies of school children.

Everyone that was looking out the back remained silent as several kids came running out of one of the doors of the school, scared by the fact that a helicopter just crashed into the building. Almost instantly, their bodies were riddled with bullets as several of the federal agents opened up and fired on them.

"The younglings," Khan growled. "Change of plan, boys." Without another word, he literally leapt off the back ramp, even though they were still a good twenty to thirty feet above the ground. Without a word being spoken, and to the surprise of the Russians that were watching, Hac and Daileass followed him.

As the realization of what he had just seen started to register in his head, Haden had a sick feeling growing in his stomach. At that moment, he wanted to jump out with Daileass and the others more than he realized. In fact, if Barrett hadn't held him back at the last moment, he might actually have done it.

Of course, Haden knew that he was not a genesis kid, and that the fall would most likely have severely injured him if not killed him. To be honest, he couldn't really think of a reason as to why he was about to do it. He just knew that he felt a need to.

As it turned out, it was only a few short moments later that the back ramp of the Chinook was quickly approaching the ground. Once they were less than five feet off the ground, as soon as Haden knew that he could safely make the jump, he was out the back and on the ground with Barrett tailing right behind him. After a brief moment to get his bearings and to ensure there were no hostiles in the immediate area, he took off running as quickly as his little legs would take him, knowing that in this case, every second could literally mean the difference between a kid living or dying.

Not bothering to look at the Russian troops getting off the Chinook behind him, and not able to decide whether to approach the school from the south or the east, Haden decided instead to take the direct route and cut through the block of yards to approach from the southeast. For the first time in a long while, he began to really appreciate the training that he had gotten on the training planet. Even in his full battle armor, Haden was easily outrunning nearly all of the Russian soldiers. As he approached the two fences that stood between him and his target, he found that he was easily able scale them almost as if they weren't there. Barrett, on the other hand, was doing everything he could to keep up with his twin.

With the large amount of gunfire still going off, as Haden broke the tree line, his training took over. He came out near the northeastern edge of the southern parking lot. Haden could see several cars burning in addition to the large number of bodies that littered the area. Only a few of the bodies had any type of firearm near them. Many of them were those of moms or grandparents coming to check on their kids or grandkids. Several were still sitting in the cars, having been shot through the windows.

By the time Haden got there, very few adults were still alive and putting up any type of resistance to the onslaught of firepower coming from the direction of the federal agents. The only sliver of light that Haden had was the fact that he was almost certain that he could hear the roar of Khan not far away, followed by the screams of whatever target he had set his eyes on. His thoughts were confirmed as he caught a glimpse of the huge cat hybrid along with another ten-foot tall wolf-like creature fighting beside him.

With the first set of Russian soldiers starting to show up. Haden joined them in targeting and firing on some of the agents that were the most visible from his vantage point. However, with the majority of the parents dead, his gut told him that he had to get closer to the school. Although it was starting to look like a long shot, with the Apache crashing into the school time was critical. If there was any chance that he could help save any of the kids, he had to take it.

"Haden? What are you doing?" Barrett cried out as he watched his twin take off into the sea of dead and dying bodies and start ducking behind cars. Once or twice, Haden would stop and take out an easy target that he had. But for the most part, he slowly made his way toward the northeastern edge of the parking lot. As he ran, a larger than normal bang went off not far from him.

Bullets ricocheted off the shield that his phasenmorph provided him, as Barrett did his best to follow after Haden. "Are you trying to get yourself killed?" Barrett asked when he finally caught up with Haden who was crouching behind a large pickup truck, messing with his GEAR. "What are you doing with that, anyway?"

"Cheating," Haden commented as he popped up behind the truck just long enough to point his GEAR in the direction of one of the armored mini-tank vehicles that the federal agents were using. After a small flash of light came out of his GEAR, the mini-tank seemed to completely shut down. Motioning to a small group of Russians that had taken up position behind him, one of them shot off an RPG, which finished off the tank.

Moments before the RPG hit, Haden caught sight of a young dirty-blond haired boy who somehow had gotten up on the roof of the auditorium building. The sound of the RPG hitting its target, and the subsequent explosion must have caused the boy to lose his footing or something, because at nearly the same time, he slipped and fell off the side. Before he hit the ground, however, the boy vanished.

'The Alterans?' Haden asked himself as he glanced around to see if anyone else had noticed the boy. Unfortunately, the attention of everyone else seemed to be on the exploding tank.

With nearly all of the Russian troops now in the area and actively engaged against the federal agents, the number of agents that were still firing and resisting was quickly going down. Apparently, the well-trained Russian forces were proving to be a more difficult target than the mothers and grandparents, or the defenseless children that were trying to flee from the school.

Using the still burning wreck of the tank for cover, Haden and Barrett made their way across the street and near one of the high school doors, with Haden needing to take out another agent along the way.

Although Haden's UNIT training had helped to prepare him for combat situations, and taught him how to temporarily push his feelings and emotions aside so that he could focus on the mission at hand, no amount of training could possibly have prepared him for the sight of actually standing in the middle of an entire courtyard filled with the bodies of kids ranging in ages between six to eighteen. Large pools of blood could be seen as well as various dismembered body parts. The bodies of some of the kids were still moving around slightly as their nervous system had not yet fully realized that they were dead. Near the main entrances of the school, the pile of bodies was four or five deep as kids had been shot as quickly as they could run out the doors.

As Haden continued to take in the sights around him, his entire field of vision literally turned red. A moment later, he was bolting toward the door that he was closest to. He didn't really know why, but he had a very strong urge to get inside of the school. Maybe, just maybe, some kids were still inside and alive.

With the amount of gunfire outside quickly dropping, Haden easily made it. Once he was inside, he only made it a few steps down the hall before he realized what he was seeing. All up and down the hall, more dead bodies of school kids were laying on the ground along with a few pieces of ceiling tile. The further down the hall he looked, the more damaged things became as he got closer toward the area where the Apache came down.

"Got another!" a man called out a short ways down the hall. Looking up, Haden saw a well-armored federal agent looking directly toward him, with his gun already drawn and being aimed toward Haden. Neither Haden nor the man had a chance to react, however, before a small silverish sphere of energy flew past Haden and hit the agent with such force that he made a noticeable dent into the brick wall that he was standing in front of.

Haden looked behind him just in time to see Barrett lowering his Phasenmorph arm. "Thanks," he called out, only to get an acknowledging nod from his twin in response.

Moments later, another agent came around the corner. This time, however, Haden already had his gun out and was ready for him, taking him down quickly.

Not sure how many other federal agents might be inside, Haden and Barrett both proceeded carefully down the hall. The first few classrooms that they passed, for the most part, were empty. Only some had a few kids in them, all of whom had been shot.

Not long after, a few Russians also entered the building and starting doing room to room searches looking for survivors. In every case, the story was always the same. In any of the rooms that had kids in them, they had all been shot. This process continued until they got to the area where the structure of the building was damaged to the point that doing a search would have been much more dangerous.

"Mama," the soft voice of a young boy called out as a hand reached out toward Haden when he walked past one of the classroom doorways. "I think I found a live one," Haden cried out as he dropped to his knees to look at the boy who had dark brown curly hair, and who couldn't have been older than ten or eleven. "Mama," the boy whimpered again.

"It's okay, we're here to help," Haden did his best to comfort him. "Medic, I need a medic over here!" Haden screamed.

Barrett knelt down next to Haden and looked at the multiple gunshot holes in the boy's chest, and the huge pool of blood that was under him. "Haden…"

"Medic!" Haden cried out again. But already, he could feel the boy's body trembling slightly. After coughing up a small amount of blood, the boy's head tilted back and his entire body went limp.

"I'm sorry Haden," Barrett whispered.

"Medic!" Haden cried out again as tears began to form in his eyes.

"Guys… There is nothing else for us to do here," Daileass' voice came over Haden's suit communicator. "We have large amounts of in-bound law enforcement. Everyone needs to fall back to the Chinook now. Will has moved to the back of the south parking lot. I repeat, everyone needs to fall back to the south parking lot for immediate extraction."

Instead of moving, Haden continued to sit there, slowly rocking the body of the young boy who had literally died in his arms.

"Haden, come on," Barrett said softly as he tried to get his twin's attention to no avail.

"Sir?" One of the Russian men called out as he walked up next to Haden and Barrett. "We need to fall back to the Chinook now, sir." It wasn't until the soldier began to physically lift Haden up and off the ground that Haden finally let the body of the boy go, as he shrugged off the hands of the soldier.

"I'm fine," Haden spoke coldly as he stood up. With a final look toward the body of the boy who had just died, Haden began to jog down the hall toward the exit of the school with Barrett following close behind.

When Haden and Barrett made it back to the Chinook, the reports of all the other soldiers were the same. Not a single adult or child civilian was able to be saved. With all their training and skill, they had simply arrived too late.

Even though every single federal agent that was in or around the area of the school had also been killed, including the ones that threw down their guns and tried to surrender when they realized the Russian and UNIT troops were a more formidable opponent than the unarmed children were, it still didn't seem fair. Hundreds of children had lost their lives, all for what? They still didn't have a clue.

Taking a final look at the dead, lifeless bodies of the school children as the Chinook lifted off, an image was burnt into Haden's mind that would stay with him and haunt him for the rest of his life.

As Barrett looked at the cold, empty expression on Haden's face, he wanted to reach out and ask his twin if he was alright. But somehow, he already knew the answer to that.

Moments after the Chinook lifted off the ground, Daileass began walking up and down the aisle. "Guys, I know what we saw back there was pretty bad, and there will be plenty of time for us to deal with that later. Right now, however, our job isn't over yet."

Seeing that he had grabbed the attention of many of the Russian soldiers, Daileass continued, "We're in the process of moving a short distance north of the high school where two school buses filled with elementary school kids were chased by federal agents, and subsequently crashed. Before being removed from the area, Juan reported a lot of wounded there that need to be secured. I don't think I need to explain why we don't feel it's a good idea to leave them for the federal government to deal with."

Getting several nods of understanding, Daileass went on, "We'll be touching back down in a few moments. At that point, we will need everyone to offload to the ground. Anyone with medical training will need to help bring the injured on board. There are a bunch of emergency stretchers in the back here, which I'll show you guys when we're done. We'll then transport them away from this area to a triage area that Doctor Janet is going to be setting up across the lake. That's also where the rest of you guys will need to be hiking to. It's not that far, and Dmitry will know exactly how to get there. Any questions?"

No questions being asked, and feeling the Chinook descending, Daileass nodded, "Alright, let's do this!" As the Russians began to pile out of the Chinook, Daileass showed those with medical training where the stretchers and emergency first aid kits were at.

Looking toward Haden, and seeing that he was in the line of people that were grabbing stretchers, Daileass sent him a mental message, 'Haden, I know you got pretty shook up back there. We have enough Russians with medical training that you can sit this one out if you want.'

'I'm fine,' Haden sent back. Although he couldn't get the image of the boy who died in his arms out of his mind. If there was one thing that he decided on very early in his training, it was that he would not allow himself to be given special treatment, especially not in the middle of a mission. If everyone else was being asked to push their feelings aside, he would too.

Stepping out of the Chinook with Barrett following close behind him, Haden looked around. A few kids were huddled together not far from where two over-turned buses were at. A larger number of kids were lying in the ground unable, or too hurt, to move on their own, as well as a large number that were still in the buses unable to get out on their own. Off to one side, Haden saw a lightly tanned, light brown haired boy lying on the ground that no one else was walking toward. That was now his destination.

As he approached closer to the seven or eight-year-old boy, he did a quick survey of his visible situation. His right leg was bent in an awkward position and had a large shard of glass sticking out of it. His pants and shirt were ripped and torn in several locations, and he had another small piece of glass logged in his left shoulder.

Kneeling down at the boy's side, Haden did a slightly more detailed check on the boy as his medical training kicked in. "My name is Haden, I'm a medic and I'm here to help," he began. "What's your name?"

"Stevie," the boy whispered as he tried and failed to sit up.

"Whoa, okay Stevie, everything is going to be fine," Haden replied as he did a slightly better check of the boy. "But for now, I need you to keep lying down, and don't try to sit up until we can figure out exactly what's wrong, okay?"

"Why were those men chasing us?" Stevie asked.

"I don't know," Haden replied honestly. "But you're safe now, okay?"

"Yeah," Stevie replied.

"Looks like his leg might be broken," Barrett commented.

"Yeah," Haden nodded in agreement. "Where do you hurt, Stevie?"

"Everywhere," the boy answered.

"Okay, but where do you hurt the most?" Haden reworded his question.

"My leg," Stevie replied as he moved his hand toward his leg.

"Okay guys, we're heading out!" Daileass called out. "Everyone with wounded, back on the Chinook. Move it… move it!"

"I think that's us," Barrett commented.

"Yeah, help me get Stevie on the stretcher," Haden replied.

Working together, Barrett and Haden managed to get the boy on the stretcher. Lifting him up and getting him back to the Chinook was another issue. Fortunately, two Russians came by who were easily able to lift the boy up.

"Haden!" the boy called out as he was being carried away.

"I'm right here," Haden replied as he jogged next to the boy's side. "I'm not going anywhere."

With the help of the two Russians, they made it back to the Chinook just as the last groups were arriving. "Thanks," Haden called out after they set Stevie down.

"Don't mention it," one of them waved back before they both jogged away, off the helicopter to join the large group of Russians that would be heading to their next destination by foot.

Moments after the last stretcher was brought aboard, the back of the Chinook rose, as the helicopter lifted off the ground.

"Where are we going?" Stevie asked, still unable to look around that well.

"Somewhere that you will be safe and where we can help you more," Haden replied. "And somewhere those men won't be able to get to you at."

Although the flight to the mansion was short, tensions in the Chinook were high. In all, about thirty-five grade school kids were loaded into the Chinook. But at least this time, there was more than one survivor. In his head, Haden could hear the others chattering away. The bits and pieces that he caught informed him that in all the two buses were carrying a total of 60 kids. Fifteen of the kids were dead by the time they arrived on scene, only ten of the kids were uninjured to the point that they would be able to walk with the Russians to the Mansion.

It seemed that no sooner had they lifted off from the bus accident area, Haden could feel the wheels of the Chinook touching ground as the back once again began to lower.

"Okay guys, let's get all the wounded to the large tent," Daileass called out once the back was completely down. "We'll start triage from there."

Since they were not as rushed, and as such, didn't need to worry about how quickly they could move the kid, Haden and Barrett went ahead and carried Stevie on their own, with Barrett in front.

"So where is this big tent going to be?" Barrett asked as they made their way down the Chinook's ramp, while at the same time they could see Will literally running as quickly as he could from the cockpit of the Chinook toward the same direction that everyone was taking the stretchers.

"I'm not sure. Just follow the rest of the guys carrying the stretchers," Haden replied. "Generally the MASH tents are going to be dark green with a large white and red medical plus sign on it."

After following the Russians that were carrying the other stretchers, Barrett caught sight of where they were heading. "Well, I don't see any dark green tents, but how about a bright blue and orange tent?"

"Huh?" Haden asked as he looked ahead and saw what Barrett was referring to. If he didn't know any better, he would say the tent would have been better suited for a circus than a MASH tent, but at the same time he realized that in emergency situations like this, you needed to take what you could get. "Yeah, I guess that's the one."

Even before they had Stevie down on one of the many cots that were setup near the front area of the tent, both boys could see a small group of the Russian medics making their way down the line, doing their checks and prioritizing patients based on severity of their injuries.

"How we doing, guys?" Daileass asked as he appeared right beside them while Haden and Barrett were in the process of trying to move Stevie from the stretcher to the cot, and as such he was able to effortlessly lift and place the small boy onto the cot.

"Whoa, you're strong," Stevie commented.

"Thanks," Daileass grinned back.

"I think we're probably doing better than most," Haden answered. "This is eight-year-old Stevie… We possibly have a broken right leg, glass shards in his left shoulder and right leg which I haven't been able to test the depths of yet, and minor lacerations on his abdomen."

"Am I going to die?" Stevie asked.

"No Stevie, you're not, you're going to be fine," Daileass replied with a shake of his head as he ran one of his hands over the boy's left shoulder and right leg while allowing his micro scanners to give him a detailed analysis of the boy's condition. Once he was done, he spoke a little softer so only Haden and Barrett could hear him, "You were right about the leg, it's broken. Both shards of glass are not that deep so it should be safe to remove both of them. If you want to go ahead and take care of that, someone will be by in a few minutes to set his leg."

"We can do that," Barrett replied for both himself and his twin.

Daileass nodded as well as he allowed his hand to rest on Haden's shoulder. What he said next was soft enough so that only Haden could hear him, "By the way, with Khan giving so much blood for Juan, he's going to be down for a while." Seeing the slightly confused look on Haden's face, he continued, "That means that as things stand now, you're the ranking officer here."

"Me?" Haden asked as he looked up toward Daileass in surprise. "You hold the rank of General, or what about Logan?"

"True," Daileass agreed. "But technically speaking, Logan and I are both Intelligence Division. As far as line officers go, you're it."

Haden thought for a moment and nodded. "Okay,"

"Given everything that we've just been through, I think it would be more than understandable if you didn't feel up to it," Daileass continued. "I'm sure Dmitry wouldn't have an issue handling things on his own."

Haden shook his head. "No, I'll be fine. I'm still a part of the UNIT, and I still have responsibilities. Plus maybe this will give my head something else to think about besides what just happened."

Daileass took a few moments to look inside of Haden to make sure he was really fine with this before he nodded in agreement. "In that case, I think I saw Dmitry out near the back of the tent coordinating with some of his men." With that, he moved on to the next kid that needed to be looked at.

Once Daileass had moved on, and having heard the conversation through the link they shared, Barrett moved closer to his twin.

"We're going to need some dressing for when we take the glass out," Haden commented.

"Yeah," Barrett agreed. "I'll take care of that. You go do what you need to."

"You sure?" Haden asked.

Barrett nodded. "Yeah, Stevie and I will be fine."

Haden glanced toward Stevie to see if the boy would have any issues with Barrett's comment. Although it looked like he wanted to say something, he didn't. "Alright, I shouldn't be too long," Haden replied as he made his way down the aisle of cots that had been formed and toward the front of the tent.

Once Haden was outside the tent, he glanced around. It was then that he became aware of just how large of an operation this had turned out to be. In addition to all the various medics that were going around helping to treat the kids, there were a bunch of other people standing around that were doing their best to keep an eye on things and lend a helping hand as needed. There were even some rather heavily armed men going around and setting up what appeared to be outdoor grills.

With Dmitry being the ranking officer of the Russian troops, Haden's first objective was to find and touch base with him. Although he saw a number of Russians, none of them were the seasoned man that Haden had seen interacting with Daileass in the Chinook. Not to say that the other Russians weren't seasoned, as every one of them that Haden saw clearly appeared to have seen a good amount of action. But then again, what else would you expect from one of Russia's top special forces group?

Remembering Daileass' comment about seeing him near the back of the tent, that was the direction Haden took off in. It didn't take long for him to find the man he was looking for, he was standing around a small portable table along with a few of the other Russian officers. Opened up on the table was a map of the property which Dmitry was using as he was assigning out sentries and watch posts.

Haden stood there and waited patiently until there was a break in the conversation and the older man glanced in his direction. "Colonel Dmitry?" he asked and waited for the man to give an acknowledging nod. "I'm Colonel Rothwood. I need to advise you that Major General Khan is temporarily out of commission."

"Oh?" Dmitry replied with a slight degree of surprise. "Is everything alright?"

Haden nodded. "Yes. He's just giving a large amount of blood and as such cannot currently function as ranking officer. In his stead, I'll be filling that position."

The seasoned Russian Colonel tilted his head as he sized up Haden. "I see… Colonel Rothwood." The young boy who stood before him certainly didn't seem to fit your typical military profile, but then again he wasn't that interested in creating another situation that had occurred the night before when he and the rest of his men were put to shame by a single UNIT kid.

Hearing the apprehension in the tone of the man's voice, Haden decided that it would be best to defuse things before they even had a chance to start escalating. "Don't worry Colonel," he began in a serious tone. "I'm not here to micro manage you or your men. You know them far better than I do. I might offer a few suggestions or observations as I see them, but that's all they'll be. My main objective is to make sure you have everything you need to carry out your current assignment, and to function as a direct channel of communication between you and the rest of the UNIT command structure."

"That's good to hear, sir," Dmitry nodded approvingly. "Would you like a quick rundown of our current deployments?"

Haden was about to decline the offer, but at the last moment decided otherwise. It could be helpful for him to get a big picture view of what was going on, just in case. "I would appreciate that, yes."

With a small pile of bandages in hand, Barrett walked back to the cot that Stevie was lying in. "See, that didn't take too long, did it?" he asked as he could see the boy doing his best to look in Barrett's direction.

"No," Stevie shook his head.

"Okay, let's see if we can get these things out of you," Barrett commented as he sat down on the cot next to Stevie to get a closer look at the small shard of glass sticking out of the boy's shoulder.

"Is it going to hurt?" Stevie asked softly.

"It might a little," Barrett admitted as he slowly shook his head. He really hated how far, technology-wise, they were behind, and this was one of the main reasons. Suddenly, some of his really old training popped in his head. "Actually… I know a nerve point that I can use that should make it not hurt as much. Do you mind if I try it, Stevie?"

Stevie shook his head. "I don't know what that means, but if it will make it so it doesn't hurt as much, I don't mind."

Barrett couldn't help but smile at how trusting the boy was willing to be. "Basically I'm just going to apply some pressure right here while I remove the glass with my other hand," Barrett answered.

After getting a nod of understanding from Stevie, Barrett got into position, and did exactly what he had just explained. Very slowly and carefully, he removed the shard. As he did this, Stevie flinched a little, but beyond that didn't react.

"There we go, got it," Barrett sighed with relief as he let go of the pressure point, and instead immediately applied pressure with the dressings to the small gash that was left behind as a steady trickle of blood came out. "See, that wasn't so bad, was it?"

Stevie shook his head. "That was cool, I didn't really feel anything."

"With a few thousand years of experience, you tend to pick up a trick or two," Barrett grinned.

Assuming that the slightly older boy was telling some kind of joke that he didn't really understand, Stevie did his best to force a little giggle.

"So, what grade are you in, Stevie?" Barrett asked as he continued to apply pressure to Stevie's shoulder.

"Second," the boy replied softly as his body relaxed a little.

"Second? That's not bad," Barrett stated. "Do you enjoy school?"

"Huh? No way," the boy replied. "I can't wait until Christmas break. We're going to get a whole week off."

Barrett sighed. That was another element of surface life that he didn't like. The way they had established their educational system created an environment which the vast majority of kids tended to dislike it.

After waiting a few minutes for the bleeding to slow down, Barrett dressed Stevie's shoulder as best as he could while being careful not to remove the blood soaked dressings that were already there, before he turned his attention to the boy's leg.

"Sadly, given where the glass is at in your calf, there isn't really a pressure point I can use for that. So this is probably going to hurt a little," Barrett announced.

A look of fear crossed his face as Stevie nodded. "Ouch!" he suddenly cried out as Barrett carefully removed the larger shard.

"Got it," Barrett stated as he performed the same procedure of applying pressure on the boy's calf as he did his shoulder to get the bleeding to stop. "You doing okay Stevie?"

Stevie hesitantly nodded. "Yeah."

Since the wound left behind in his leg was a bit larger than the one from his shoulder, it took longer for the bleeding to stop. But eventually it did, and Barrett was able to dress it up as best as he could. "It might need a few stitches, but I think it should be fine for now."

Once Barrett had finished applying the second layer of dressing to the smaller boy's leg, he sat down beside him and for the next hour the two boys sat and talked, slowly getting to know each other better.

Barrett and Stevie were in the middle of talking about how there seemed to be a lot more people around now than there was earlier just as Haden showed back up. Looking at how well of a job Barrett had done with the bandaging, Haden nodded approvingly. "Looks good."

"Thanks," Barrett smiled. "How did everything go?"

"Fine," Haden replied. "Other than introducing myself to Dmitry and getting caught up on what's going on, there really isn't anything for me to do at this point."

"It took an hour to figure out you didn't have to do anything?" Barrett asked curiously.

Haden shrugged. "You know military people. They are not necessarily known for their efficiency."

Barrett nodded in understanding.

A few minutes later, Daileass showed back up. "How we doing guys? I see you got the glass out."

Barrett nodded. "Yeah, and I've dressed the wounds up as best as I could with what we have to work with."

Daileass nodded in agreement. "It looks like you did a pretty good job at it."

A small smile crept across Barrett's face as a result of Daileass' praise.

"Everything going good with you, Haden?" Daileass asked.

Haden nodded. "I've introduced myself to Dmitry. He already seems to have everything under control. But he knows where to find me if there is anything he needs."

"Okay, I'm going to need to set the bone before we can splint it," Daileass stated as he turned his attention to Stevie's broken leg. "The only problem is that we don't really have anything that we can give him for the pain."

"I kinda noticed that as well," Barrett sighed.

"It's going to hurt like the glass did?" Stevie asked with concern.

"No," Daileass shook his head. "Unfortunately, it's going to hurt a whole lot worse."

Stevie swallowed hard, "It already hurts a lot,"

Daileass nodded solemnly, "Given the positioning of the bone, I'm sure it does. In fact, I'm impressed at how well you are handling yourself, Stevie."

Stevie gave a weak smile.

"There is one thing I can do, however," Daileass continued. "I can put you to sleep before I set the bone. That way, it won't hurt as much. And when you wake back up, a lot of the hurting you are feeling now should be gone."

Stevie thought for a few moments before nodding his head.

Although the boy was being a real trooper in regards to hiding just how much pain he was really in, Daileass knew it was a lot; which is one of the main reasons he wouldn't mind using a little bit of his mental abilities to render the boy unconscious.

"Will Haden be here when I wake up?" Stevie asked with concern.

"I don't know," Haden replied. "I'll do my best to be here, and if I can't, I'll make sure someone who can take really good care of you is."

Stevie nodded.

"Okay, here goes," Daileass commented. A few moments later, Stevie closed his eyes as the boy fell into a deep sleep. "He should probably remain asleep for an hour or so."

Haden nodded in understanding.

"Nice trick," Barrett commented.

Daileass looked toward Haden's twin and winked. "With the equivalent of a few thousand years of experience, you tend to pick up a trick or two."

Barrett rolled his eyes.

"Okay, I'm going to set his leg, then I'll need you to splint it," Daileass stated as he looked toward Haden, who nodded in understanding. A few moments later, there was a audible grinding and cracking sound as Daileass moved the bones back into place.

"Thanks, Daileass," Haden stated as he began to grab the materials to create the splint.

Daileass nodded before looking toward Haden's twin. "Barrett, you have a good amount of medical training, right?"

Barrett hesitantly nodded. "It's not my main area of specialty, but when you are involved in genetics as much as I've been, by default you pick up a good amount of anatomical knowledge."

"Right," Daileass agreed. "If you are willing, the medics could really use your help in the back."

Barrett thought for a few moments before he looked toward Haden.

"Go ahead," Haden answered. "I'll be fine here with Stevie."

Barrett nodded before looking back to Daileass, "Sure, lead the way."

As soon as Barrett and Daileass had walked away, Haden began working on the splint. Once he had finished, he cleaned things up as best as he could, admiring how good of a job his twin had done on the small boy's shoulder and leg. When he was done, Haden started talking with a few of the other kids that were nearby, doing his best to comfort them as well as he could. The entire time, however, he didn't wander too far away from Stevie, just in case his new friend started to wake up, or one of the Russian officers had any issues that he needed to deal with.

Less than twenty minutes after he left, Barrett returned. "How's he doing?"

Haden glanced over toward the still sleeping boy. "He's been asleep the entire time."

"That's good," Barrett replied as he quickly glanced around. "Would you like a hot dog or something?"

"Huh?" Haden stated slightly confused.

"That's what those long skinny flesh colored things are, right?" Barrett asked. "I saw a bunch of guys setting up grills and volleyball nets and stuff. If I didn't know any better, I would say they're getting ready to have a party or celebration or something out there."

Haden nearly choked. "I'm not sure if flesh colored is the best adjective to use to describe hot dogs. But yeah, the grills and other party stuff is part of the plan to make this look like some kind of corporate party to an outside observer. Plus, it might give some of the less injured kids something to do to help take their minds off of the devastation most of them have just lived through."

"Makes sense," Barrett agreed.

"You know, I think I should go take another quick look around, just to make sure everything is in order," Haden commented.

"Oh I see, you want to get your own hot dog, I see how you want to be," Barrett grinned.

Blushing, Haden slowly shook his head, as he walked away.

Although he had been assured that even though he was the senior officer on-site, there was nothing for him to do, Haden felt a bit uncomfortable just sitting around. After taking a few minutes to walk around the grounds, he quickly saw that there really wasn't anything that needed to be done. The Russians that were here functioned as a well-oiled machine, almost as if they had trained for weeks for this specific situation.

Finally convinced that there was nothing to be done, Haden decided to head back to where Barrett and Stevie were. As he did, however, he passed a man whose face had become very familiar through the link over the last day, Fredric Triumph, the man who could very easily be identified as the main person responsible for not only the mansion that they were at, but also bringing together the exceptionally bright group of kids that had caught Logan's attention, and started this whole trip.

Standing next to Fredric was a short black-haired fourteen-year-old who looked exactly like… "Adam? Sir? I didn't know you were here," Haden stated in surprise just as he was passing the pair. Even dressed in civilian clothing, it was very easy to recognize Adam's face.

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

Blinking, Haden took a moment to look at the boy a bit closer. It was true that he had all of Adam's features, and looked almost identical to his General, but there was something else that was different about the boy that Haden couldn't put his finger on. One slightly obvious difference was that whoever this was didn't seem to have the same muscle tone as Adam, but beyond that… "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were someone else."

"I'm nobody…" the boy replied in a voice filled with fear.

"You'll have to forgive Joey," the man spoke up. "He tends to be a bit shy around people he doesn't know."

"Yeah, I know the feeling," Haden nodded in understanding tone. Truth be told, whoever this Joey kid was could very easily have been him from a few months ago, as he could remember a time before he met Clan Short and the UNIT where he was literally scared to death of meeting anyone new. Poor kid, Haden thought to himself. With so many new faces here…

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

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

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

"Well…" Haden began to say as the handshake broke, but quickly stopped himself. Instead, he scrunched his face as if wrestling with what to say. "That's kinda a long story, sir," he finally replied as he was clearly wrestling with the answer. When he finished Haden noticed the man's gaze intensely focused on him. At first, he thought he was looking at his sidearm, but as he followed the gaze, it was actually at a large blotch of dark red blood that was easily visible on his black armor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fredric reached out and patted Haden on the shoulder, "Well, something tells me we will be dealing with each other again, maybe often. If you want a place to come, to be a kid and let someone take the weight off your shoulders… You have but to ask or simply show up. My door is open to any of the kids from whatever unit you are with. If you decide you ever want that hug, need that hug, just come and take it. The return will be freely returned.

Haden thought for a moment and smiled. "Thanks. I may just end up taking you up on that offer," he replied seriously, even though somewhere inside of him, he knew that he would most likely never get that chance. Soon, they would be boarding the Chinook to head back to Utah and await the next mission to come their way. The actual chances of them ever showing back up here again were probably slim. But still, at the same time, there was something about this Fredric guy that really made Haden feel safe, something he couldn't put his finger on. It was also clear just how much Joey trusted him.

It was right around that time that Haden glanced up to see Logan jogging down toward them. "Logan?" Haden asked curiously. "I thought you were inside helping Juan?"

"Nah…. Mom said she didn't need my help; besides, I can do my job better out here," Logan replied as he glanced over at Fredric, and Joey, who had moved behind Fredric again. He stuck out his hand to the man, and when the man took it, he introduced himself, "Hi, I'm Logan Hayes, one of Juan's older brothers, and General in charge of the Intel Division for the UNIT." Seeing the man's lost look, Logan smiled. "It does stand for something; however, it's a long and involved story. If you would like to hear it, I would be more than happy to explain it." Logan had scanned the man's mind, and frankly, while there are a lot of differences, Fredric reminded him a lot of Joe Casey. Which would help to explain why Joey was so devoted to him. There was nothing malevolent within this man. At least nothing that Logan had found yet.

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

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

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

Logan looked to the man, then to Joey. He glanced around, and saw only Russians nearby. Then Haden spoke up, which actually surprised Logan, but in a good way. It meant that Haden was breaking out of his shell again. "Look at how much trust Joey puts in Fredric. That type of trust doesn't come lightly from kids. I think we can trust him as well."

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

Logan smiled and looked to the boy that had captured one of his brother's hearts. "You're entirely correct Haden." He then looked at Fredric and then Joey again. "Joey, could you step up here a little bit. I need to make sure you understand what I am about to say."

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

Both the boy and the man nodded wordlessly. "Good. What I am about to tell you is even more secret then that." Logan waited for both of them to nod, before he spoke, "When Haden said we came from somewhere much further away than Russia, he was not kidding. Even though we are still desperately trying to figure out how it happened, and how to get back. We actually come from a different Earth, a different universe if you will." He knew that one or both of them would say something; he raised his hand, silently asking them to hold off questions. "I know it's difficult to understand, let alone accept, but it is true. The Earth that we come from was like this one, but with a lot of differences. One of them was the use of genetic engineering to create super soldiers. The UNIT that we are a part of stands for the Universal Next Generation Infiltration Team."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Logan laughed out loud at Joey's enthusiasm. "Hey Haden. If you don't mind, why don't you take Joey over there and explain what you can about the GEAR?" In Haden's mind, Logan spoke, 'This way he doesn't need to hear the rest of our conversation.'

'Sure thing,' Haden mentally replied back as he took a moment to kneel down and collapsed his armor to make it a little easier to carry. When he was done, he stood back up and glanced toward Joey. "If you want, I can show you a bit more of it while they talk about whatever they need to."

Joey hesitantly glanced back up toward Fredric, and after getting a nod and smile of approval, looked back toward Haden with his own nervous nod. "Alright."

Noticing how even as they were walking away, Joey would steal occasional glances back toward Fredric, he was careful not to get out of sight of the older man, while at the same time finding an area where very few others were at.

"I guess you can call this an electronic utility device," Haden began, as he tried to figure out the least geekish way to explain his GEAR. "The base unit, which is this part here, provides a basic standard interface and suite of basic services which support more specialized, interchangeable components."

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

Haden blinked and nodded. "Um, yeah. When I designed the initial interface, I used a static 8-bit hardware identifier on each module, but now with the extra space the pico form factoring gave me, each has their own mini processor which acts as an intermediary between the base unit's processor, and the functionality the extension module provides."

"You designed the modules?" Joey asked curiously.

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

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

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

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

Haden grinned. He could already tell that Joey was the type of person that he could actually talk to without having to struggle to water down and simplify whatever he wanted to communicate at the risk of giving someone a headache. "Actually, if you use a matrix of anti-baryon particles, the resulting atomic compression of the electron cloud allows you to compress atoms into much smaller spaces. As an example, the standard transistor size that most of the components in here are based on clocks in at right under 80 picometers."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haden followed Joey to an area that would have put some of the Clan research labs to shame. This lab workroom environment had to have just about every type of electronic component and monitoring device this world had available. Computers, laptops, and miscellaneous electronic pieces were stacked along the walls, some haphazardly, with notes saying Alpha test fail, Beta test fail, Gamma test fail, Delta test fail and so on. One shelf went all the way down to Sigma test fail with the contents of the box having the appearance of having been driven over multiple times. The tops of just about every workspace in the room had a different project on it, some with hundreds of sticky notes all over them.

In the middle of the room near one of the larger workspaces was an eleven-year-old brown-haired boy sitting in some type of hover chair. At first glance, the boy reminded him of Robert, the computer and sci-fi geek he had met two days ago when they first arrived in this universe. The only real difference was that the boy in front of him was not wearing glasses, nor did he wear his hair slicked back. Instead he had his hand inside one of the UNIT helmets and was attaching a tiny lead by feel to something deep inside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It took a second for Haden to realize the boy was actually looking at a monitor halfway across the room and had changed topics in midstream.

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

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

"Still," Glenn grumbled. "The metric thing is going to cause you problems; if you try to recruit from the U.S. you will have problems. Someone should reconfigure to make duplicate measurements otherwise I would be about the only one in my entire school system would could use half this data."

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

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

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

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

"It wouldn't be hard to change the metric measurements, that would just be an update to the HUD's firmware for display. As far as the integrated weapon goes, I actually suggested that myself once," Haden grinned. "The problem is that most of the UNIT guys that were going to be using this armor preferred the old fashioned projectile weapons. The original designs of the helmet actually did call for a phased energy discharge point but that ended up getting used to support a 3rd mini-cam instead."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Now, if you would just be willing to sit down over there and go over the spinal column power system and make sure we are not overpowering any subsystems we can move forward with this whole thing much faster than just us morons from some backwater multiverse," Glenn stated with a grin as he glanced toward Haden.

After taking a brief moment to touch base with Logan and make sure there were no issues with him helping out, Haden nodded as all three boys got to work.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 @ 6:20pm MST

Geek Squad Mansion, Breckenridge, Texas

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

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

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

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

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

"Um, okay," Haden replied hesitantly as he glanced toward Logan he sent a message to him through their link, 'Logan, is there something I should know about?'

'We'll see,' Logan cryptically replied back.

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

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

Joey shrugged, "Hey Haden catch!"

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

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

"Oh hell…." Logan muttered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haden looked at Logan oddly as he spoke about all the things he had tried to get home having failed, but decided not to say anything; that would be a discussion to have later when they weren't around so many non-unit members. Instead, he walked up next to Logan and nodded. "Logan's right. Besides, what do you mean, can't make a friend?" Haden asked seriously as he glanced toward Glenn. "I thought that you were way cool. In fact, probably one of the coolest people that I've met since we've been here."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Given how Ricky and a few of the others had apparently never seen guys with foreskin before, this opened up an entirely new can of worms, which eventually ended up leading to a rather in-depth mental scape chat.

On any other occasion, Haden would have been rather embarrassed and felt a bit uncomfortable being involved. However, right now there were so many other thoughts flying around in his head, that he hardly noticed the rest of the conversation. Some of the things that he and Joey had talked about hit pretty close to home, and made him think a lot more about his past. Something he rarely had time to do with how quickly things would typically be moving.

After things had settled down a bit, Haden also had a chance to meet Keith. To say the kid was a whiz at radio electronics would be a gross understatement. As Haden had expected, the most probable cause of the component to the transmitter he had been building burning out was the effect that his and Barrett's E.M. fields were having on it. However, Keith also had a wealth of other suggestions that would help to further stabilize the sensitive components.

'Hey, is this thing working?' Barrett sent to Haden through their link after Haden had been hanging out with the geeks for nearly two hours.

'Yeah,' Haden sent back. 'What's up Barrett? Is everything alright?'

'Everything is fine. I just wanted to let you know that Stevie was waking up,' Barrett replied.

'Perfect timing,' Haden answered. 'I'm just finishing up here, so I should be back in a few minutes.'

Haden made it back to the large tent where Barrett and Stevie would be at just in time to also see Daileass kneeling down beside Stevie who was doing his best to sit up.

"Is everything alright?" Haden asked with concern, knowing that with as busy as Daileass had been, he probably wouldn't have been there unless there was a problem.

"Yes and no," Daileass replied as he glanced up toward Haden. "Some of the Russian troops just got back from doing a 'supply run' at the local hospital, so I was just giving Stevie something to help with the large amount of pain that he was feeling."

"Ah cool, thanks," Haden stated, slightly relieved.

"Also, my scans can already tell that his leg is not going to set in the way that it should, which means it's probably going to require surgery," Daileass continued. "Since it's not life threatening, and given the limited resources we have out here, I don't think this is the best place to do it. So Stevie will need to make a choice."

"A choice?" Stevie asked shyly. "If I want to have the surgery or not?"

Daileass shook his head. "No, you're more than likely going to need the surgery one way or the other. The choice you have to make is where you have that surgery. You can either have it here, or you can come back with us to Utah, and have it there."

"He could come back with us? Are you serious?" Haden asked curiously.

Daileass nodded. "You weren't here earlier when Stevie first learned of this, but both of his parents were killed as a result of what happened today. In fact, almost none of the kids that were rescued have anyone to go back to… Mr. Triumph has already indicated his willingness to take responsibility for all the kids, since I think everyone agrees that putting them in a foster system controlled by a government that just tried to kill them is probably not the best place for them to go. So basically, Stevie can stay here with the other kids and Mr. Triumph, or he can return to Utah with us. The choice is his."

All eyes turned to Stevie as several moments of silence went by. "Do I need to choose now?" the boy asked.

"No, you don't," Daileass replied. "We still have a little bit until we are going to be leaving, but you will need to choose soon."

Stevie nodded in understanding.

"When you decide, just let Haden or Barrett know," Daileass stated as he stood up. "I have a few more kids I need to check on before I start winding things down here."

"I will," Stevie stated as Daileass walked away.

After Daileass had left, Barrett went out and brought Stevie back a small plate of food. Since Haden hadn't eaten anything yet either, he decided to get himself something as well.

Although the sun had moved below the horizon, and the night sky was darkening, off in the distance toward Breckenridge, a soft orange glow could be seen on the horizon. By now, the entire world had more than likely learned what happened here, as Breckenridge would probably become the center of media attention for many days or weeks to come.

With as cool as it was to spend time and work with Joey, Glenn, and the other highly intelligent kids that were here, Haden still couldn't put the thoughts of what had happened today out of his head. Stevie had lost everything, his friends, his classmates, and even his parents. Thanks to what had happened today, his life had been turned upside down and would never be the same again. At the same time, he was one of the lucky ones, since he was still alive.

Listening to the link inside his head, Haden had learned that over the last several hours, a few more survivors had been found at the high school. They were all quickly whisked away by various government agencies, however. Haden couldn't help but feel sad for them. Not only did they have to live through what they did, but now they would have to live through whatever the government decided to put them through depending on what way they tried to spin things. Everything that he heard continued to discourage him to the point that he did his best to ignore the link and focus more on Stevie and Barrett, and all that was happening around them.

From time to time, a small plane or helicopter would fly overhead, putting all the Russian forces that were protecting the kids here, on alert. However, right now the world seemed more interested in the mass destruction that had happened at Breckenridge High School. No one seemed that interested in what appeared to be a small corporate party going on, which is what it would appear to be to anyone flying overhead.

Once they were done eating, Haden and Barrett moved Stevie so that he had a better view of what was going on outside the tent. That's where they sat for the next half hour. Although some kids were doing their best to play around and pretend that nothing was wrong, there was an underlying somber tone that could not be ignored. Even when a few of the kids tried to get an impromptu volleyball game with both Khan and Hac 'showing off' a little, that tone was still there.

"What's it like where you live?" Stevie asked at one point as he watched a group of kids coming back from swimming at the lake.

"Huh?" Haden asked, being caught slightly off guard.

"In Utah, where I would go if I choose to come with you guys," Stevie replied.

"Oh, well it's kinda like a large hidden underground base," Haden began. "I think it used to be a bomb shelter or something. But basically, it's somewhere that you could be safe, and people won't hurt you."

"And if I stayed here, I wouldn't be safe?" Stevie asked.

Haden shrugged. "I'm sure Mr. Triumph would do his best to keep you safe as well."

Stevie nodded and looked out past the horizon. "I don't really think I could stay here. It would always remind me of today. All the friends I lost, everyone I'll never see again."

Haden nodded in understanding. "Yeah, that would probably make staying here pretty difficult."

"I think I decided," Stevie stated firmly. "I want to go with you, Barrett and Daileass."

"Okay," Haden nodded. "However, you need to understand that I don't know how long I'll be staying at Utah, and the same is true for Barrett."

"So I'll be alone again?" Stevie asked with concern.

"No, you will never be alone again, Stevie," Daileass stated as he walked up to the boys. "Even if Haden or Barrett eventually end up leaving, there will be lots of kids there like myself and others who will make sure you are never alone again, and that no one will ever be able to hurt you as they did here today."

"But where will they be going?" Stevie asked as he looked back and forth between Haden and Barrett.

"It's a long story," Barrett offered. "Neither of us are sure yet that we will be going anywhere, so right now it's just a possibility, but one that you need to be aware of in making your choice."

"Okay, I think I understand," Stevie nodded.

"Guys," Daileass changed the subject. "Just in case you haven't heard, a few minutes ago, most of the East Coast of the United States has gone dark."

"Actually, I've not been paying much attention to all the chatter on the link," Haden admitted. "What do you mean, went dark? Disappeared or something?"

"No, as in massive power blackouts up and down the entire coast affecting just about every city east of the Mississippi," Daileass replied.

"Wow," Barrett commented.

"What could cause something that wide spread?" Haden asked.

"We don't know," Daileass replied. "We're pretty sure it had to be something intentional though. Either way, given these new developments, we are getting ready to head out. Adam would like all of us back at HQ in case anything else major goes down."

"Right," Haden and Barrett both nodded in understanding.

"HQ?" Stevie asked curiously.

"Headquarters," Haden replied.

"That place Haden and I told you about that no one would be able to hurt you at," Barrett added.

"Oh cool, okay," Stevie replied.

"Stevie, are you sure you want to come with us?" Daileass asked. "You probably won't be able to come back here for a pretty long time."

Stevie looked around and nodded. "I don't think I will mind if I never come back," the boy replied seriously. "There is nothing here for me anymore. Everyone that I've known is dead. I've seen the rest of the kids that got here and none of them are my class-mates"

"Alright," Daileass nodded in agreement. "In that case, why don't you guys get a few of the Russians to help you get Stevie onto the Chinook."

Barrett and Haden again nodded as everyone went to work. It took less than 10 minutes for everyone and everything that needed to be on the Chinook to get loaded, and for the blades of the helicopter to start spinning. All the Russians that they transported down were staying, so the only people riding back were the UNIT kids, with both Stevie and Juan strapped down, and lying on stretchers. Janet had managed to get Juan stabilized, but he still wasn't completely out of the woods.

Given the possible volatility and uncertainty of what the East Coast blackouts meant, Will and Billy pulled out all the stops, and pushed their specially modified Chinook to its limits. Even with all the enhancements that it had benefited from, however, it still took just under two and a half hours to get back. Surprisingly, Stevie fell asleep shortly after takeoff, and remained that way during most of the trip back. Whether Daileass or Logan had something to do with that, or if the poor kid was just completely exhausted from the day's events, Haden never found out.

During the trip back, very little was said. For the first time since the chaos had started, Haden had some time to really start thinking about the events that had occurred over the last two hours. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get the images of the hundreds of dead kids that he had to walk through at the high school out of his head, especially the young boy who literally died in his arms. Kids, whose only crime was that they were trying to go to school to learn. Kids who the government in this world felt were such a huge threat, that they had to be corralled like cattle, and then slaughtered.

Glancing back toward the sleeping eight-year-old whose stretcher was securely strapped in across from him, Haden couldn't help but think that even if the boy managed to pull through this, more than likely every friend that he had were among those that were killed at the school.

If they were back in their own universe, none of this would ever have been allowed to happen. Not even the FCC would have gone as far as to gun down several schools full of kids for no reason. And if somehow a group of people were to be bold enough to perform such an atrocity, the amount of outrage would have been so high that there would not be anywhere safe in the galaxy that those responsible could have hid. From the best that he could tell through what the chipmunks were reporting in the link about national media coverage, several networks had not even mentioned the event yet, and those that did have been greatly downplaying it. Every part of this was wrong, and the more Haden thought about it, the more it became clear that they were in a universe that was nothing at all like their own.

Once again, Haden's thoughts turned toward just how quickly Adam and Logan seemed to turn their focus from trying to find a way home, to jumping in and taking on President Bryce's fights for him, which after today's events, were even harder for him to understand. It wasn't Ashwood that was at the Breckenridge High School earlier, it was several hundred federal agents; a good number of which were more than likely agents four years ago when Bryce was still President. In Haden's opinion, it wasn't the individual, Ashwood that was flawed; it was the entire system, the system that Adam and Logan seemed set on fighting for.

As a fighting force, the UNIT was extremely good at what they did. But even with the help of all the Russian soldiers that seemed interested in supporting them, Haden couldn't really see a way that they could take on all the forces of the American Government. At least not without it turning into a huge prolonged war that stretched months if not years. A multi-year war… several of the UNIT guys would probably eat that up, since that type of stuff would be exactly what they had been trained for their entire lives, but it was not something Haden could really see himself looking forward to. Fighting to protect the people he loved and cared about was one thing, but fighting just for the sake of fighting, fighting just to take over someone else's fight, especially someone you didn't even know before a day or two ago was something completely different.

Just because the Jack Bryce that was in this universe looked like the Jack Bryce that was an important part of the UNIT in their universe didn't mean he was the same person. The fact that General Adams turned out to be someone totally different, and the fact Joey, Adam Casey's double from this universe was someone completely different easily supported the fact that Jack Bryce could be different. Why couldn't Adam, Logan and the others see this? Were they really that set on fighting that they couldn't tell or didn't care? One thing was for sure, Haden didn't know how many more kids dying in his arms he would be able to take, and if this did turn into a prolonged war, there would probably be lots of them. For all they knew, Breckenridge was just the start. There could be groups of federal agents and troops gathering up at staging points around the country preparing to hit all kinds of other schools in other states.

The longer he thought about things, the more attractive the Alteran offer that Pete had made to him earlier continued to sound to Haden. Maybe it could be argued that the Alterans wanting to live somewhere other than Earth was just them running away. But at the same time, Haden could also see how it could be argued that their wanting to live somewhere other than Earth was them trying to stay out of the fight. Was, not wanting to spend your life fighting against others all the time really such a bad thing?

These were just a small sample of the many thoughts that were circling through Haden's head during the trip home.


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