Castle Roland


by Zackron


Chapter 8

Published: 17 Apr 14


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

All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, November 7, 2012 @ 7:00am MST


Footprints LogoIt was a few minutes past 7am when Glenn awoke, which was surprising given how late he had stayed up the night before watching the national election results. What was even more surprising was that Andy was not only already awake, but fully dressed and sitting in a chair on the other side of the room.

"Andy?" Glenn whispered with surprise, trying his best not to wake Robert up, who still appeared to be asleep beside him. "What are you doing up already?"

Andy shrugged. "I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep, so I figured I would get dressed and wait for you guys. I figured maybe we could go check on my dad or something."

"What's going on?" Robert mumbled as he began to sleepily feel around for his glasses.

"Sorry, Robert, I didn't mean to wake you up," Glenn sighed.

"S'okay," Robert replied as he slid his glasses on and looked at the time. "I think it's breakfast time anyway."

"Actually, I think it's restroom time," Glenn stated as he jumped out of bed and ran across the room to the small bathroom.

"You're still worried about your father?" Robert asked as he looked toward Andy.

Andy nodded. "A little, yeah. Kinda babyish isn't it?"

"Not really," Robert replied. "You care a lot about your dad. That doesn't mean you're a baby. If one of my parents were shot, I would be pretty worried too. But that Doctor Janet seems to be really good, and he seemed to be doing pretty good last night when you checked on him, didn't he?"

"Yeah," Andy agreed. "I guess he did."

"Andy, do you mind if we wait until after breakfast to visit your dad?" Glenn asked as he came out of the bathroom and began to hunt around for his clothes. "Maybe we can bring him something to eat or something."

Andy spent a few moments considering the question. His stomach, however, ended up making the final decision as it let out a little rumble. "Sure."

After giving Glenn and Robert a few minutes to get dressed, the boys made their way out into the hallway to head toward the stairs that would take them up to where the cafeteria was at.

"Whobert!" the younger boy called out moments before he slammed into Robert. "Gwandma is taking us to bweakfast. Awe you coming, too?"

Robert smiled as he ruffled the five-year-old's hair. "Yeah buddy, we're going to breakfast, too. I'm starving."

"You can sit by me," Chad announced as he glanced back down the hall toward the adults who had also stopped. "Gwandma! Dey awake now! See?"

"Yes, I see that," Margret replied compassionately while waiting for the boys to catch up with them.

"We figured we would let you boys get a bit more sleep since you were up so late last night," Desmond announced as the boys got closer.

"Thanks, dad," Robert replied.

"How you doing this morning, Andy?" Margret asked with concern as she saw the look on the ten-year-old's face

"Okay," Andy timidly replied. "I was wanting to go visit dad, but they said we should eat breakfast first, and maybe I can bring him something."

"I think that sounds like a good idea," Margret agreed.

"Have you guys seen those two new kids?" Glenn asked. "Edward and... Arnold?"

"I believe it's Arthos, dear," Margret corrected as she looked away from Andy. "And they've both already gone to the cafeteria."

Glenn nodded in understanding. Even though this was only their second day here, it seemed like the other kids had already appointed him as their unofficial leader. As such, he was wanting to do as good of a job as possible, which included not accidentally leaving anyone behind.

With Chad firmly secured in Robert's arms, the group continued toward the stairs which would eventually lead them to the cafeteria.

By the time the group arrived, given all the new Russian troops that had shown up the night before, the cafeteria was already fairly filled with people. The selection of food wasn't exorbitant, as it was mostly fruits, vegetables, and some of the leftover Shepherd's pie from last night with a few assorted rolls and some cold cereal. But given how the boys were already aware of how low the food supply was, they were all impressed that Robert's mother was able to pull off feeding so many.

"Hey, Forth," Glenn stated as he saw the younger boy hard at work behind the counter, doing his best to wipe away some of the food spills.

"Huh? Oh, I'm Stan," The boy announced as he looked up. "That's Forth over there helping Sarah with the dishes."

"I see my mom somehow talked you two into kitchen duty," Robert observed.

"Uh-huh, and it's fun helping out," Stan stated with a smile. "Plus, after we finish helping Sarah clean everything up, she's going to take us with her to help with shopping, too."

"How exciting," Robert replied.

"You know, Stan and Forth remind me a lot of someone else who was always wanting to help in the kitchen with his mom," Glenn grinned.

"Don't remind me," Robert sighed as he took his tray and followed Andy toward an empty table.

Breakfast itself was relatively uneventful. Most of the conversations that were going on around them, the boys couldn't understand since they were in Russian. The conversations that they could hear mostly seemed to be centered around yesterday's election, and how even though Bryce had won hands-down, still not a word had been said by Ashwood or any of his top aids, including any type of concession of defeat. This was starting to cause a huge amount of speculation in regards to what this might mean.

A large screen television was set up on one side of the room, showing one of the national news channels. The entire time that Glenn and the other boys were in the cafeteria, it covered nothing other than news and speculation of the election.

"You see?" Robert spoke up at one point near the end of breakfast. "Didn't I tell you guys this was going to happen? Ashwood isn't going to give up the presidency. I wouldn't be surprised if he's in league with Lord Zed from the Nebulan Galaxy and is planning on helping him take over the entire planet."

Glenn sighed, "You really need to cut back on those sci-fi flicks, you know that? We have all kinds of laws in this country that would prevent him from doing that."

"Maybe," Robert replied. "But he's the one who makes the laws, so he can just make new ones."

"Congress makes the laws," Glenn corrected.

"Executive orders," Robert countered.

"Either way, there is no way he has any kind of invasion fleet from another galaxy," Glenn stated.

"We'll see," Robert replied.

After breakfast was over, Andy grabbed some things that he knew his father would like, which included some grapes, cantaloupe, and a cream cheese bagel. With Glenn and Robert at his side, he then made his way down to the infirmary.

Although Chang had already brought Markus breakfast, the man was still thrilled to see just how much his son cared about him, and gladly accepted the extra food. The boys spent the next fifteen minutes visiting. The more time Andy spent around his father, the more the worry in his face seemed to melt away.

Although Markus was still in a good deal of pain, and still fairly weak, Doctor Janet assured them that there was a pretty good chance that he would be up and about tomorrow. At the same time, she was quick to remind them that it would still be awhile for the man to fully recover.

After leaving the infirmary, the boys met up with Edward and Arthos along with a few of the Bryce kids. It didn't take long after that for them all to decide that the rest of the morning would best be spent by continuing their exploration of the third sub-level where they had already found the basketball courts, swimming pool, and other cool stuff.

To the boys' surprise, a few of the new Russian soldiers had also learned of the third sub-level and were making use of the fitness and weight rooms.

Glenn and the other boys spent some time exploring the third sub-level a bit more. Among other things, they found an indoor racquetball court, and a mini-golf course. In the end, however, they ended up at what was currently their favorite spot, the huge Olympic-sized swimming pool. It was there, where Robert's father found them about a quarter past ten.

During the course of their playing around, the boys decided to take turns jumping off the diving board. Robert had just performed a twisting cannon-ball and came up for air when he first spotted his father approaching the pool side.

"You should be careful, son. You might hurt yourself," Desmond commented.

"Dad!", Robert called out in surprise. "We were just messing around."

Desmond nodded. "I know."

As he was treading water and looking up toward his father, Robert began to feel a bit embarrassed since he, like all the other boys, had decided to swim nude just as they had done the day before. However, that feeling of embarrassment was quickly pushed to the side as he saw the concerned look on the man's face. "What's wrong?" he asked as he made his way to the side of the pool.

"A small issue has come up on the shopping trip," Desmond replied as he tried to figure out the best way to explain that which he himself was still having a hard time accepting.

"What do you mean?" Robert asked with concern as he climbed out of the pool with all thoughts of embarrassment out of his head. "Did something happen to mom?"

"No," Desmond shook his head as he noticed all the boys slowly gravitating toward him. "Your mother is a bit rattled, but she's fine. She is on her way back."

"Then what's wrong?" Robert asked curiously.

"We don't really know how or why yet, but Haden and the other boys that went along with your mother have disappeared."

"Disappeared?" Glenn jumped into the conversation. "You mean, they got lost at one of the stores or something?"

"No. As hard as it is to believe, they literally disappeared," Desmond shook his head once again. "Your mother was a bit hysterical when the UNIT kids were talking to her, so we don't know all the details yet. But apparently they found a kid who had gotten shot, and while they were waiting for Will to get there with one of the helicopters, a dragon and some other kids showed up, and then a minute later they all disappeared."

"The doom dragons of null space," Robert muttered under his breath as a panicked look crept onto his face.

"The what?" Edward asked.

Instead of answering, Robert shook his head and ran over, grabbed one of the towels, and hurriedly dried himself off.

"Where you going?" Glenn asked as he watched Robert fumbling around with his pile of clothes.

"I need to get up to the control center," Robert stated as he slipped his head through the top of his shirt.

"I think they have everything under control, son," Desmond did his best to sound reassuring.

Robert continued to shake his head as he started hopping around, trying to get into his pants. "They are going to need all the help they can get searching for the others. Plus they won't know about the sub-space rifts that the doom dragons use to get from null space to our own space."

"What are doom dragons?" Edward asked.

"Don't worry about it," Glenn answered. "Robert has watched way too many low-budget sci-fi movies."

"Oh yeah?" Robert asked seriously as he spun around to face Glenn. "You just heard my dad. How else do you explain dragons, and everyone disappearing? The doom dragon pulled them all through one of the rifts."

Glenn stood there for several moments trying to think of a response. For once, he didn't have one, especially if what Mr. Jenkins said was true.

"Exactly," Robert replied after waiting a few more moments. He then spun back around and began to run toward the door, stopping halfway as he realized he only had one shoe on. Racing back, he grabbed the second shoe and continued out the door.

Desmond sighed as he watched his son leave. He then looked back toward Glenn and all the other naked boys who had formed a half-circle around him, and were eagerly awaiting answers.

When Robert arrived at the command center, after clearing security he found there was already a surprising number of people there including Haden's twin brother, Barrett, who at the moment had a worried expression on his face that was worse than Robert's.

"Guys, guys, I know what's going on, I know what happened," Robert announced as he made his way into the room where he saw Adam, Logan, and several others standing.

At that moment, nearly every pair of eyes that were in the room and not busy with something else looked toward Robert.

"I've seen this before," Robert continued as he slowed down his pace. "Haden and the others, they were kidnapped by doom dragons."

"Doom what?" one of the adults in the room asked.

"Doom dragons," Robert replied. "They come from null space. They create rifts to enter our space. It's how their invasion force prepares for their assault. I've seen both movies."

Instructing his computer to initiate the next series of satellite scans, Alvin quickly jumped up from his workstation to intercept the overly enthusiastic eleven-year-old. "Whoa Robert, They didn't get kidnapped by doom dragons."

"You don't know that for sure. And from what my dad said that my mom said..." Robert did his best to counter.

With everything else going on at the moment, Alvin didn't have time for a long drawn out conversation with Robert about doom dragons. As such, he decided to cheat a little and did a quick scan of the boy's surface thoughts. "Doom dragons are all slimy and scaly, right?"

Robert nodded. "Yeah, the slime helps protect them when they go through the rifts."

"Well, from what we can gather, the dragon your mother saw was copper and green, and was only there for a few seconds before it vanished. It also wasn't slimy or scaly," Alvin stated as others in the room slowly went back to whatever they were doing before Robert had made his grand entrance.

"Well... maybe it was their banner or something," Robert offered.

Alvin shook his head. "I don't think so."

"Then what was it? Where did they go?" Robert challenged.

"We don't know yet," Alvin admitted. "That's what we were in the process of trying to figure out before you came in."

Robert sighed and nodded. "Could I at least help with the search? I already know a lot about the computer systems from what you and Simon showed me yesterday."

Alvin was about to do his best to politely let Robert know that they already had all the help they needed, but from the surface scan he did on the slightly older boy, he could tell just how badly Robert needed to feel useful. Finally, he nodded. "Actually, we could use your help. Come over here, and I'll show you how to do satellite grid scans."

"Cool," Robert smiled as he followed Alvin over to one of the unused workstations.

Fortunately for Alvin, Robert was a quick study. It only took a minute or two for him to give Robert a quick overview of the basic functions, and get him going on performing basic block scans. It was unlikely that he would actually find something, but the possibility was there, and right now, they could use whatever possibilities they could get, regardless of how small. Besides, the important thing at this point, especially for Robert, was that he was able to feel useful.

Once Alvin was done, and left Robert to work on his own, Robert was amazed at the sheer volume of information they had access to as he started scanning the first set of blocks that Alvin had suggested that he begin with.

Robert was in the middle of scanning his seventh block when someone in the room called out "They're back!" Almost instantly, the entire atmosphere in the room changed.

"Where are they?" Logan snapped as he ran over to the terminal that Alvin was sitting at.

Alvin's small fingers flew across his keyboard, typing at a speed Robert didn't feel was humanly possible. But then again, these guys seemed to be able to do a lot that he didn't think should be possible. "GPS can't find them, at least on Earth."

"Mars. They're on Mars," Robert heard Login reply. At first, Robert thought he might have misheard him. But Alvin's next statement all but confirmed that he had heard correctly.

"That's a possibility with the GPS results I'm getting," Alvin stated with a small degree of frustration. "The GPS system in place is really crappy, to put it nicely."

The tension that existed in the room for those first few moments was clearly very heavy. But then, to Robert's surprise, there was another shift in the atmosphere, and after a few moments of relative silence, a feeling of relief radiated through the room.

"Barrett? Are you okay?" Robert heard Hac ask in a voice full of concern from the back of the room where Haden's twin had been sitting.

"Yeah, now that I know Haden is safe, I am," Barrett quickly replied back.

Robert blinked. Did he miss something? How could everyone have shifted so quickly from being worried to relieved? There were clearly mechanics in play that he wasn't aware of. It wasn't until things calmed down a bit later on that Alvin managed to pull him off to the side and explain how in addition to being telepathic, many of them were a part of a mental link that allowed them to talk very quickly mind-to-mind.

Although Haden and the others had been found, Robert decided to stick around, and continue to mess around with the satellite scans that Alvin had shown him. Plus, it would give him the opportunity to see what other new developments occurred. Although this pretty much destroyed his doom dragon theory, it's not every day that people you know end up on Mars.

Unfortunately, what Robert learned over the next half hour only confused him even more. From what he could gather, something bad had been discovered about the two little guys, Stan and Forth, and now some big decision was in the process of being made about it. Whatever the decision was, it had many of the people in the room searching for and researching a lot of different things, including a lot about genetics.

Even with being confused and overwhelmed, Robert was still enjoying himself, and soaking in everything he could in regards to the experience. His entire focus shifted, however, when it was mentioned that Sarah was just pulling into the hangar with the SUV.

"Mom!" Robert said as he stood up from his workstation ready to bolt out of the room. He caught himself at the last moment as he saw Logan and a few of the other kids glance toward him. "Do you guys mind if I..."

Before he had finished speaking, Logan was already smiling and nodded. "It's fine, Robert. I know how worried you are about her."

"Thanks for the help," Robert could hear Alvin call out as he left the room.

By the time Robert made it to the hangar, Glenn and all the other kids he had been hanging out with earlier in the day were arriving as well, in addition to his father, and Glenn's grandparents. After spending a few moments making sure that Sarah was really alright, everyone chipped in to help carry the large amounts of food that Sarah had brought back, to the cafeteria.

Once the food was put away, with Sarah's smallest two helpers not around, several of the boys volunteered to help with getting something put together for lunch. Lunch itself was nothing special, as it consisted mostly of sandwiches and other things that could be thrown together very quickly. However, Sarah promised a very yummy surprise for dinner.

A half hour after Sarah had returned, Will's helicopter landed with Haden and Daileass inside. Once they had landed, everyone's focus shifted to lunch.

Just like breakfast, the majority of the conversations focused around yesterday's election, and how there still were no comments of any type from the Ashwood administration. Even the most pro-Ashwood stations were being hard pressed not to admit that something was ‘odd' about the current situation.

After lunch, Andy went back to the infirmary to visit with his father a bit more. At the same time, Robert managed to bump into Haden as the smaller boy was carrying some kind of black armor toward the hangar.

"Hey Haden?" Robert called out, getting the boy's attention. "When are we going to finish working on that transmitter?"

Haden's thoughts seemed to be elsewhere as it took a few moments for Robert's question to register. "Oh, um, probably later tonight," he replied after taking a few moments to think. "I need to go on a supply run to Texas right now. But we will probably work on it when I get back."

"Okay, cool," Robert replied as he watched Haden continue down the hallway. With a sigh, Robert turned around himself and headed back to the infirmary where Andy and several of the other guys would be.

Following lunch, the base once again became rather quiet as it turned out that most of the Russian soldiers ended up leaving on the same flight that Haden had left on. Glenn and the others later learned that the majority of Russians were being re-assigned to another location in Texas.

For the non-UNIT kids that remained at the Utah bunker, the specifics of what the Russians were and were not doing was of little importance. At least in comparison to the really fun stuff that was down on the third sub-level. In fact, even as events began to escalate in Breckenridge, the majority of the non-UNIT kids, just like the rest of the country, were completely oblivious to it.

The first sign that any of the boys had that something ‘odd' was going on happened while they were playing basketball in one of the gyms and two of the secret service guys walked in and took up positions on each side of the door. The men neither said nor did anything other than stand there and casually watch the boys.

"They're probably here to keep an eye on us," Steven Bryce admitted as Edward and Arthos continued to shoot uneasy looks at the new visitors.

When the Bryce boys walked over and pressed the agents for information, they were very tight-lipped in terms of their answers, something that was in itself uncommon. The only thing they could get out of either man was that they had been asked to keep a closer eye on them due to a potential increase in tensions. Whatever that meant.

As the agents occasionally whispered secret comments into their earpieces, the boys decided that it was time to figure out what was really going on. As such, they made their way up toward the command center. The agents did nothing to hinder or stop them, they simply followed a short ways behind the group.

By the time the boys made it to the control center a little before 3pm, the amount of tension that could be felt in the room was staggering. One of the large screens was showing a zoomed-in overhead view of a small group of buildings with a number of military vehicles positioned around it, with the majority of them located at the south end.

"Glenn, you boys probably shouldn't be here," Margret stated as soon as she saw the boys walk in.

Earnest was quick to jump in as he placed one of his hands on his wife's shoulder. "Regardless of how things turn out, they are going to learn about this sooner or later. There is no reason they shouldn't be allowed to stay if they want to."

"What's going on?" Glenn asked, voicing the question that all the boys had.

Since Logan and the rest of the UNIT kids that were in the room seemed overly occupied with whatever tasks they were working on in monitoring the developing situation, Desmond spent the next few minutes giving the boys a quick overview of what was going on in Breckenridge. Which, for the most part, wasn't a whole lot.

From what Desmond and the other adults had been able to gather during the short time they had been in the room, over the last few hours, Federal Agents had been isolating and quarantining the town of Breckenridge. The ‘official' reason was over concerns of some type of deadly viral outbreak in the town. To that end, all the kids from all the different schools were being bused to the town's high school which was being setup as a ‘testing' center.

Although they were not sure what the real reasons behind the actions of the Federal Agents were, given the amount of firepower that was being staged at the high school, they were pretty sure it had nothing to do with a virus outbreak.

Desmond had no sooner finished updating the boys with what little the adults knew when Juan's voice came over one of the main speakers in the room. The majority of the room was silent as everyone listened with bated breath as Juan described the two buses filled with elementary school students that were being chased by federal agents until finally both buses ended up crashing.

Even as he was racing to do whatever he could to help in the situation, Juan's voice continued to get broadcast. Even up to the point that he was shot. This, of course, had an immediate effect on every one of the UNIT kids that were listening. An effect that went beyond concern about a friend being injured.

"I really don't think these boys need to be here right now," Margret voiced her concerns once again, this time a bit more forceful.

Earnest slowly nodded his head, and was about to agree with his wife when one of the UNIT kids that was helping to monitor the situation literally shouted out "Shots fire, I have shots fired! Multiple shots fired at the High School."

"My God," Margret gasped as she and the others looked toward the large overhead view of the school. Small little specks of light could now be seen coming from the southern portion of the school. It didn't take long for even the youngest kids in the room to figure out what those tiny specks represented. At the same time, few of them could fully grasp the significance of what they were seeing. Even fewer had any clue of the long-standing impact the event they were witnessing in real time would have on the entire country and world over the weeks and months to come.

There were a few moments of eerie silence throughout the command center as the initial shock and surprise of what had just started sunk in.

"Chinook is five minutes out," one of the chipmunks spoke up, breaking the silence. And then, as if a switch had been flipped, all of the unit kids went back to work, with different people calling out different pieces of information as they got it.

Margret made no further attempts to get the boys out of the room. Boys and adults alike stood there and watched in shock as the events of the child massacre in Breckenridge continued to unfold over the next twenty minutes. They watched and listened as the Troops in the Chinook hit the ground and began to engage the agents who were still in the process of killing kids and parents. They occasionally saw some shots from the helmet cameras some of the people were wearing. They even listened in as the initial reports started coming in from the troops that were returning to the Chinook about no survivors being found. In fact, only the very last group to return before the Chinook left to head to the site of the bus accident, had managed to find a single kid still alive that had survived the massacre.

Once the Chinook left the scene of the bus accident where Juan had been shot at to take the surviving children to another location not far away, the adults decided that they had seen enough and decided to leave. Not a single one of the boys argued with them.

The rest of the afternoon was spent sitting in the same room that they had watched the news coverage of the national election results the night before. It wasn't until almost thirty minutes after the shooting at Breckenridge had stopped that the first set of news reports began to trickle out from the national news stations. Even then, the reports were very sketchy, saying only that ‘a possible disturbance was being reported at a Texas public school'. It was at least another half hour after that before any real details started coming out. Even then, it was difficult to find a station that was reporting the truth, as many were reporting that the deaths were due to the viral outbreak.

However, as time went on, more and more details of what really happened slowly began to trickle out. It was quickly becoming difficult for even the most pro-Ashwood stations to not admit that this was anything other than a horrific massacre of innocent school children and their parents at the hands of federal agents. A few stations even began to air portions of the videos that had mysteriously began to circulate across the social networks of the Internet.

Although the adults did their best to encourage the boys to go and try to do some fun stuff, none of them seemed to be in the mood for doing anything fun. Little Chad refused to even consider leaving his grandmother's side. Although he couldn't fully grasp what was going on. He knew that a lot of kids had been killed, and he didn't want anyone to kill him.

Afternoon turned to evening as everyone continued to watch the national coverage which was continuing to unfold. Sarah was even nice enough to bring a large pot of spaghetti to the room so that they could eat there instead of the now-rather-empty cafeteria. The spaghetti was meant to be part of a ‘special' dinner that she was planning on giving everyone. But for some reason, no one seemed to be in that much of a mood for ‘special' dinners.

Shortly after dinner, new soldiers began to arrive at the base. This time, they were American soldiers. One of the chipmunks who had stopped by to check in on everyone explained what was going on, and how a number of specially trained American troops were going to be arriving here as part of the force that would be protecting President-elect Bryce. Especially with every indication currently pointing to the fact that Ashwood would most likely not give up his position without a fight.

The invitation was even made that the kids could go up to the main hangar to watch some of the large cargo drops come in that would be bringing some of the equipment the troops would be using. Whereas any other time every one of the boys would have jumped at such an opportunity, not a single one of them was interested in going now.

It wasn't until nearly 10pm that the adults were successful at dragging the youngest of the boys off to bed. With most of the reported news now turning to repeats of what had earlier been shown, it wasn't long until the older boys began to slowly file off to bed as well.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 @ 8:30pm MST

Chinook - In Flight, Heading toward Utah

It had been almost a half hour since the Chinook had left the EEL mansion to head back to Utah. With things having settled down a little, Daileass looked over at Haden, who seemed deep in thought. With a long flight back ahead of them, he figured this would be a good time for him and Haden to really chat. 'Haden, would you like to talk...Mental Scape?' he sent to Haden.

Two seats away, Haden leaned over and saw Daileass glancing back toward him. With the horror of all the needlessly slain kids still fresh in his mind, Haden didn't really feel like talking to anyone at the moment. To be honest, he didn't feel like doing anything at all. At the same time, he also knew that this was something that would occur sooner or later, and perhaps it was best to just get it over with. For all he knew, Daileass and Logan were working their way down the line, having little mental chats with everyone in regards to what they had just been through earlier that day.

'Sure,' Haden finally sent back to Daileass, who was still glancing in his direction. A moment later both Haden and Daileass were standing in Daileass' mental scape. The 'city scape' was much smaller, with only a few lights moving below them. It was no longer the bustling city, where all the fast moving lights were representations of information flowing from one area to another. Now that Daileass had lost his connection to his main servers, things were a lot smaller here.

"How are you doing?" Daileass asked softly while pulling Haden into a hug.

Instead of answering, Haden simply melted in Daileass' arms as he returned the hug. The two boys continued to stand there, holding and hugging onto each other for several minutes before Haden managed to whisper. "I can't understand how someone can be such a monster."

Daileass held on tight to Haden, and took a few moments before he responded. "I know. I have asked myself that a lot of times. Eventually I found an answer that helps me understand it, at least a little bit. Would you like to hear it?"

"Sure," Haden nodded, even though at the moment he couldn't really think of any possible answer that would bring justification to something like this.

"Simply put, balance." Daileass said, at the same time he pushed Haden back from the hug so he could look into his boyfriend's eyes. "The universe needs balance. We see that in a lot of things in the universe... things need balance. So it makes sense that there is a balance to good and evil. Think of how many really good people we know. Think about all the good things that we've been able to do. The biggest problem though is that not many people take notice of it when something good happens. However, a lot of people take notice when some evil person does something like this. It's just like Timmy, Cory's son, said. Sometimes bad things have to happen, so that good things can."

Haden chuckled softly. "You know, that was the one thing I kept repeating to myself, Timmy's words, over and over hoping that I could see the good that the bad would bring. But what good can come from the needless slaying of nearly two hundred kids? That's two hundred kids that will never get the chance to grow up, never get a chance to learn, or to really experience life, just so some fucked-in-the-head field agents can celebrate their glorious victory? Is that what we will tell the parents of those two hundred kids, well we're sorry your son or daughter won't be coming home ever again, but at least you can take solace in the fact that sometimes bad things have to happen so that the good things can happen."

"No," Haden slowly shook his head, "I think this is the first time I can't really see the justification in Timmy's words, and how good, a good thing would have to be in order to balance out their deaths."

"We may never know what good comes out of it. At least we won't know it right now. But I really think this will have an effect that turns out for the best." Daileass looked off into the distance as he whispered. "I really have to hope."

"I hope you're right," Haden agreed. "I really do. Especially for people like Stevie, whose entire life has been turned upside down because of all this."

"So do I." Daileass said softly. There were several moments of silence before Daileass sighed and spoke again. "You're thinking about the Alteran's offer?" It was more of a statement then a question.

Haden blinked, not really sure where that statement came from. "A little, I guess," he admitted. "You and Logan were right earlier, there are lots of things that we don't know, lots of unknowns."

Haden thought back to the ride down from Texas in what was suppose to be a simple quiet transport mission, where he and Barrett had their chat, before all hell broke loose. It seemed so long ago and distant at this point. "Barrett was working through some more of the genetic map information that Pete gave us, and from what he can tell after looking at things closer, the issues that Pete claimed to find were legit, so at least we know they were not lying to us in that regard."

"That's good to know. Janet also took a look at them, and came up with the same thing. She's been kicking herself for not seeing it earlier." Daileass said with a smile. "It sure is an attractive offer though. I'm sure you can imagine all the high tech you could play with."

"I would be lying if I tried to tell you that part didn't sound cool," Haden admitted. "However, I think this decision is going to need to involve a lot more than just how cool their technology is. I mean, we had access to some pretty amazing tech, and a lot of that stuff I would guess that you still have the schematics for. So, I'm sure one way we would be able to recreate them."

"Maybe. We'll see what happens. Do you want to talk about what is involved, or would you prefer to wait to talk until you have things more worked out in your own mind before trying to talk to someone else about it?" Daileass asked as he moved Haden and himself over to a couch, and sat them both down, never really letting go of Haden.

Haden shrugged and closed his eyes as he snuggled into Daileass's arms. "That's a good question. I haven't really been able to think about it a whole lot yet, but... well... believe it or not, I think one of the biggest factors would be you."

"Okay?" Daileass replied, with a somewhat confused expression.

Haden took a moment to try to word his thoughts properly. "Well, I guess before I could really give something like this any real consideration, I would have to make sure that it was something that you were really comfortable with. I don't really know how to say this, but you're pretty important to me, and I don't think I would be able to live with myself if I did this, and it turned out that you ended up hating me as a result, or didn't want to be together anymore or something like that."

It took Daileass a long while to respond to what Haden had said. "First off, I can't think of anything that would make me hate you. I just don't think I ever could do that. I guess what I really need to know is why? Why you want to do this? Why you would want to give up everything that you have, everything that you are. Why you would want to take the offer to become something completely different." He started to say more, but stopped before he even started. "I guess it would all depend on the why. But know this. No matter what your reasons. If it is something that you really have your heart set on doing, then I will support you."

"To be honest, I don't really know," Haden answered. "The way you and Logan were talking earlier, it sounded like you both thought that this would be a bad choice for me to make, even though you said it was still my choice. So I guess I really wanted to talk to you about it first, because if you weren't good with it, thinking about it any further really wouldn't make sense."

Haden sat silently for a few more moments. "Maybe there isn't really a good reason for me to give everything up that I have and am. Maybe I'm just homesick, and missing Evan and everyone else we left behind. I don't know. Perhaps it's silly for me to even consider. I don't really know."

"There is nothing wrong with considering things. That's what makes us different from animals. We can make choices about things, we can take a look at situations and reason our way through it. So again, there isn't anything wrong with considering it. If you want me to help you out, be your sounding board, I would be glad to do it. Yes I have my reservations about it, but what I care about the most, is you. If taking them up on the offer to become Alteran is what would make you happy, then I will support you in. But that is what you need to figure out. Would becoming an Alteran, make you happy?" Daileass spoke emphatically as he continued to hold Haden.

"Thanks Daileass, I knew there was a reason I loved you so much," Haden smiled. "But for now, I don't think it's something I'm going to accept."

Daileass nodded his head and pulled Haden into a hug. "If you ever want to talk, I'm here for you. You know that right?"

"Yeah, I do, thanks," Haden replied.

Daileass nodded, kissed Haden on the forehead, and slowly slipped out of the Mental Scape.

A little over two hours later, the Chinook landed at the bunker. Haden spent a little time helping with getting things unloaded, but then he made his way to his room. He was so worn out from everything that had happened over the day that he was asleep almost as soon as his head hit his pillow.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 @ 6:30am MST

Haden woke up to a number of loud noises coming from out in the hallway. Grudgingly, he dragged himself out of bed to walk over to the door and investigate. Cracking the door open, he saw a number of large U.S. military soldiers moving a bunch of equipment and gear down the hall.

'Hey guys, did we invite a bunch of new houseguests that I didn't know about?' Haden sent through the link as he closed the door.

'Actually, they've been trickling in since last night,' Alvin replied back. 'The last group just arrived about fifteen minutes ago.'

'Just think of them as additional protection for President Bryce,' Simon added.

'Okay cool, just making sure,' Haden sent.

'I'm surprised you didn't notice when we came in last night,' Daileass stated in the link.

'I guess I was a bit preoccupied,' Haden admitted.

'Haden, a bunch of us are in the main command center monitoring national events. You're welcome to join us if you would like,' Logan offered.

'Anything interesting going on?' Haden asked.

'Oh, nothing too interesting,' Theodore replied sarcastically. 'Just your typical stuff. Ashwood declaring the election null and void, blaming everything on Jack, and enacting marshal law, protests breaking out across the country... just your typical stuff.'

'What?' Haden sent back, not sure if Theodore was joking around or not.

'Haden, Earnest and Margret are bringing their boys down to the control center as we speak so we can fill them in on the latest events,' Logan joined in. 'Why don't you join us and you can see what the rest of us have been dealing with while you've been snoozing away.'

'Right,' Haden replied as he quickly threw on some clothes and ran out the door, only to run into a tall soldier who was carrying a large box on one of his shoulders.

"Careful, little dude," the man grinned as he looked down at Haden.

"Sorry about that," Haden replied.

The man nodded and smiled before moving on.

Haden continued toward the stairs as well, his thoughts pre-occupied with what he had just learned a few moments ago. To start with, if so much was going on that Alvin and Logan suggested, why didn't anyone wake him up to help out? Was it because of everything else he had been thinking about over the last day? Were they already starting to leave him out of things? Haden was so pre-occupied with his thoughts, he didn't even notice Barrett walking up next to him.

"Something wrong?" Barrett asked, pulling Haden out of his thoughts. Seeing the confused look on his twin's face, he continued. "You look upset about something."

Haden shook his head. "Nah, just a lot on my mind."

By the time Haden and Barrett reached the entrance of the command center, Glenn and the other non-UNIT boys were on their way out, followed by Earnest and Margret.

"You guys are already done?" Barrett asked curiously.

"Actually," Daileass, who followed behind Earnest, answered for them. "With everything else going on right now, we figured that it would be best to do the updates in one of the conference rooms."

"Ah, makes sense," Barrett agreed as he and Haden got in line behind the rest of the group heading to the conference room.

'Haden, remember that I'm available if you would like to talk a bit more about what we talked about last night,' Daileass sent mentally to Haden.

'Thanks,' Haden replied back. 'But right now I think I'd rather get caught up on what I missed and then get some breakfast.'

'That's fine,' Daileass agreed. 'Just so you know... The reason Logan decided not to wake you up at three thirty in the morning had nothing to do with what you have been thinking about, but is instead more because unlike the Genesis kids who can easily get away with only getting an hour or two of sleep, and still be able to function at their best the next day, you can't.'

'Okay,' Haden answered back as he and Barrett walked through the door leading into the conference room.

"Okay guys," Daileass began once everyone was in the room. "A lot has been going on overnight, so I'm going to get right to the videos. If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask. But I think they are pretty self-explanatory."

Daileass glanced at all the faces that were looking back at him. Seeing that no one had any questions, he continued. "This first video is a broadcast made by Ashwood at around three thirty in the morning." He then pressed a button on a wall panel, and the large screen TV that was mounted to the wall came to life.

"My fellow Americans," Ashwood began as he sat behind his desk in the oval office. "It's with heavy heart that I must come before you this morning to report on a series of grievous travesties that have befallen our great nation and threaten to destroy the very foundations that our forefathers have given up their lives to protect."

"As many of you are aware, two days ago Americans from around the country took part in a right that has existed for us since the foundation of our nation over two hundred years ago. That being the right to make your opinion known, and vote for who you feel should be the President of the United States. Although the vast majority of you have exercised this right in an honest, legitimate manner, there are those out there who would seek to destroy this privilege by perverting and destroying it from the inside out. By taking any means necessary to try to manipulate the system to get what they are looking for at any cost."

"Some of you may have had concerns about not hearing anything from any of my top aides or myself over the last twenty-four hours. I would like to take a few moments to explain why that was necessary. Although it is clear that several fundamental differences in opinion exist between myself and my leading opposition, Jackson Bryce, going into Tuesday's election I was confident that at least one belief that we shared together was the importance of allowing our democratic system to work, and the voice of the people to be heard. Unfortunately, as I later learned, I could not have been more wrong."

"Less than two hours after the polls opened Tuesday morning, my administration began to receive reports about irregularities in a few of the polling locations around the country. These reports alleged very blatant violations on the part of Bryce supporters even to the point of threatening physical harm to voters that did not vote for Bryce."

"At first, I was very skeptical as to the validity of these accusations. Although Jackson Bryce has shown himself to be an international terrorist, I felt that not even he would stoop so low as to try to bully and strong-arm the very people he was hoping to lead. As the day went on, and as the reports continued to flow in, and the severity and magnitude of the accusations increased, it quickly became clear that this was not something that could be ignored. As such, even before the polls had closed Tuesday evening, I ordered my administration to launch an immediate and full investigation into these matters using any and all resources necessary. This was their top priority."

"A team of over one hundred investigators worked tirelessly through the night gathering and collecting information. It is a true symbol to their hard work and dedication that by the following morning they already had been able to assemble some rather compelling hard evidence. During most of yesterday morning and early afternoon, the Vice President and myself listened to report after report outlining a deep seeded attempt by Bryce supporters to forcefully commandeer the national elections. In fact, we have found strong evidence that in at least 30 states, Bryce supporters made use of highly illegal tactics to try to steer the election in their favor, that's over half of the states in our great nation. We have even found evidence that Bryce has enlisted the aid of several middle-eastern countries who are well known for their hatred of our democratic system, and who would love nothing more than to see the United States of America destroyed."

"What's worse, is that once the Bryce fanatics learned of the investigations we were performing, they had no issue with trying to turn the nation's attention away from what they knew would soon be exposed by having a number of their insurgents pose as federal agents and slaughter hundreds of innocent school children in Breckenridge, Texas. Although some of the initial reports suggested federal agents might have been involved, I can assure you that I have personally spoken to the directors of every agency, and every single one of their agents has been accounted for. Further, although our investigation in Breckenridge is still in its early stages, I can report that the uniforms worn by most of them were clearly fake imitations in some cases with logos being nothing more than pieces of paper taped to their clothing."

"As if that was not enough, Bryce fanatics attempted to destroy the nation's power grid, and in some parts of the East Coast, succeeded. Millions of American citizens are still without power this morning as a result."

"By the end of the day, yesterday, it was all too clear to myself and the rest of my administration that Bryce and his fanatical supporters have declared war on not only myself and my administration, but every man, woman, and child that calls themselves an American citizen. It is also clear that his roots of corruption go far deeper than even I felt possible. With all that being said however, let me make one thing abundantly clear to each and every one of you. Not only as your President, but also as your Commander in Chief, I promise you that we will not allow this godless, international terrorist to succeed in his plans to destroy our democratic society and turn our great country into a third world country. The full force and might of the United States military and all federal agencies will do everything in their power to stop not only Bryce, but anyone who might try to support him."

"At this point, I believe it goes without saying that the fraudulent, and highly manipulated national elections from Tuesday must be declared null and void. If Jackson Bryce feels that he can use violence and intimidation to take over this country, he is in for a very rude awakening. Once the current crisis is over, and once that it can be guaranteed that it can be done safely, and without manipulation to the American people, a new national election will be held."

"In the meantime, we must deal with the much larger threat that is before us. A group of people that have demonstrated that they will stop at nothing to destroy us, even if it means slaughtering innocent children. As such, until the full scope of this threat can be ascertained and dealt with, I have no choice but to take the actions that I have taken. Minutes before I began my address to you, the American people, I've signed several emergency executive orders which, among other things, give power and authority to every national agency to bring Bryce and any of his insurgents to justice. This situation is now the number one priority of all agencies."

"The executive orders also call for the immediate emergency lockdown of our country, and the institution of martial law. The next several hours to days are liable to be very chaotic; as it is impossible to predict what actions the fanatics will take once they learn that their attempt to take over the country has failed. As such, for your own safety, and the safety of those around you, all American citizens are being ordered to remain in your home or current place of residence. All airports, trains, and other means of national transportation are being temporarily shut down. All interstate highways are being closed. Any truck driver or other commercial transportation driver will have thirty minutes to find a safe place to park and wait out this national emergency."

"I know this is asking a lot of the American people, but I ask that you please bear with us through this time of crises. With hundreds of children dead, and millions of American citizens without power; we did not start this crisis, but I promise you, we will end the crisis. Together, we will stand united and send a loud and clear message that will echo around the world; America will not go down easily. Any bully that feels they can just walk in and take over has another thing coming to them. As is stated in our own pledge of allegiance, we are 'one nation under God, indivisible', and standing together we shall overcome any challenge thrown to us."

"I would like to thank all of you for taking the time to listen to this, and for helping us deal with this situation in a quick, timely manner by remaining in your homes. Please understand that this is only a temporary measure, one that I hope to be able to rescind in a quick, timely manner, but one that will stay in place for as long as needed. May God bless the United States of America. Thank you."

As soon as the video ended, Robert was the first to speak. "Oh my god, how could something like that even be broadcast? Just about everything Ashwood said was a lie."

"Yeah, Bryce didn't kill all those people in Breckenridge. Everyone should know that," Andy added.

"Not everyone had as much access to information that we did," Glenn replied. "Besides, most people are pretty stupid and will believe anything the T.V. or Internet tells them."

"Unfortunately, Glenn is right on both counts," Daileass agreed. "However, I think stupid might be a bit too harsh. Most people have been trained their entire life to rely on the government and to believe whatever the national news tells them."

"Either way, that's wrong," Robert retorted. "Is Bryce really going to accept that?"

"Nope, he isn't, and didn't," Daileass replied. "That brings us to our next video. Jack's response that just happened to get broadcast on all the national networks about a half hour later." Pressing the wall panel button again, the large screen TV once again came back to life.

As Jack's image appeared on the screen, the fire in his eyes was already visible. "Good morning, my fellow Americans," He began. "A short time ago you all were witness to an address given by Mr. Ashwood. I can no longer call him President. His actions have brought such disgrace and dishonor to the title I cannot even stand the thought of uttering that title and his name together."

He paused for a moment, but the fire never left his eyes, if anything the fire grew bigger. "Mr. Ashwood, you have the gall to try and label me a terrorist? You dare to try and lay the assault that happened in Breckenridge Texas, at my feet. You DARE to try and say that it was I, that tried to murder those who stand in this room? Yes, Mr. Ashwood, your people failed. There WERE survivors from the massacre, and some of them, those that can, stand before you now. We also have some of your agents, those that were not killed when loyal forces of the United States came to the aid of a town you decided to try and destroy."

"No sir... you will NOT lay your own activities at my feet. You have managed to cut off the East from the West. You are the one who has cut power to the East Coast. We know this, and soon everyone will know. We also know what you are doing in Orlando and Newark. Trust me, sir. You will NOT get away with what you are trying to do."

"We know what you are doing, we know what you are planning. We know who your allies are, and we know what role they are supposed to play in your little coup. You will NOT succeed."

"To all those people who are currently and will soon be living under the tyrannical rule of Mr. Ashwood, please know this. Times will be difficult for a while. Please believe that your fellow Americans, and their allies will be coming to rescue you soon. I ask that you hang in there, and pray. Pray that we can come and rescue you before Mr. Ashwood and his very own brand of the Gestapo can do as they are planning."

"To those who are following this madman, I suggest you do one of two things; throw down your weapons, and help your fellow Americans stand up to this wannabe dictator. Or you can make peace quickly with whatever God you believe in. Beg for his mercy, because when we get to you, we will NOT show any. Anyone who wishes to destroy the freedom we all cherish will see no mercy from anyone."

"Undoubtedly, Mr. Ashwood is screaming right now, trying to get the power shut off again. However, before he can, Mr. Ashwood, I have a message directly for you. It was only yesterday that someone reminded me about this one. It was something that Martin Luther King Jr. said. 'The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.'"

Jack paused, his eyes never wavering from the camera. Finally he finished, "Mr. Ashwood. You now know EXACTLY where I stand. Directly in opposition to your attempted destruction of this great country."

Jack held eye contact with the camera until the image had completely faded and the screen went dead.

"Wow, that was like, really good!" Robert announced. "I doubt Ashwood liked that."

Daileass grinned. "You're right, he didn't. Not long after Jack's response was broadcast, Ashwood sent out a press release saying that everything that Jack said was a lie, and threatening legal action against anyone who broadcasts anything from Jack in the future."

"What's going on with that martial law thing?" Edward asked curiously. "What exactly does that mean?"

"It doesn't mean a whole lot," Daileass replied. "It just means that it's easier for Ashwood to arrest and imprison people without reason. Something else that we've been monitoring is that since Ashwood's announcement, protests and demonstrations have started to pop up across the country."

"Against Ashwood?" Andy asked.

"Actually it seems a bit mixed. Some are protesting Bryce, some are protesting Ashwood, and some, well, they are probably just protesting to protest." Daileass answered.

"Sid is out there somewhere in all this," Edward sighed.

"We haven't forgotten about your brother, Edward," Daileass stated in a more compassionate voice. "In between emergencies, the chipmunks are doing everything they can to track him down. If he's out there, we'll find him."

"Thanks," Edward smiled weakly.

"Okay guys, I know we could probably continue talking about this for hours, but what do you say we go grab some breakfast before it's all gone?"

There were a few nods of agreement before there was a mass exodus from the conference room heading toward the cafeteria.

As Glenn entered the cafeteria with the rest of the boys, he could immediately notice a difference in the atmosphere and mood as compared to the previous day. Perhaps part of it was the fact that instead of the room being filled with Russian soldiers, it was now filled with American soldiers. But soldiers were soldiers, right?

One of the main differences that Glenn noticed was that there was a lot less chattering going on. The few conversations that were happening, were in hushed voices. It didn't take long for him and the others to figure out why. The big screen TV on the other side of the room was turned to one of the national news stations, which was in the middle of covering the large number of protests that had been popping up over the last few hours across the country.

The particular station they were watching couldn't seem to make up its mind about what the most important thing to cover was as it kept bouncing around between subjects. For a few minutes, they would show the demonstrations, and talk about how many Americans appeared to be ignoring the declaration of martial law which had been in effect for several hours now, then they would talk about how all the major cable and fiber-optic connections linking the United States to other countries had gone down. Then they bounced over to the reports they were getting about east-coast high and maximum security prisons being shut down, and federal agents releasing prisoners, only to bounce back to more coverage of the demonstrations and protests.

"You boys should really get something to eat before it's all gone," one of the adults commented, causing Glenn, Robert and Andy to glance around only to realize that everyone else had gone to get food, and they had just been standing there watching the news reports.

Once Robert had his food and was walking over to his table, he saw Haden motioning toward him. "Hey Robert," Haden began as he got closer. "Unless something major happens, after breakfast we will probably finish up the transmitter stuff."

"Alright," Robert nodded. "I already promised Andy that I would go down to the infirmary with him, but as soon as we are done there, I'll head over to the work room, if I can find it again."

Haden smiled. "Actually, we'll probably start in my room or Barrett's, so you might want to check there first."

"Okay," Robert replied before continuing over to where Glenn and Andy and a few of the other boys had already found seats.

As everyone continued eating their breakfast, the news station continued its reporting. Every few minutes they would talk to some kind of ‘expert' who was either in the station, or on the phone. Each one would try their best to explain what was happening and why. But in the end, no one really seemed to be able to come up with a good reason. Although the station was very careful not to directly mention or blame Ashwood, it was easy to tell that it was very heavily implied.

Barrett sat quietly on the floor in Haden's room as he watched Haden make the final adjustments to the phased diodes. They had only gotten back from breakfast a few minutes ago, but Haden already seemed to have made a lot of progress.

"There, just about got it," Haden smiled with pride.

"And you really think this will stop the floater from burning out again?" Barrett asked.

"Yeah," Haden nodded. "I'm pretty sure the issue has been in the power regulation and the electromagnetic sensitivity of the floater circuit. These phased diodes are pretty much guaranteed to keep a stable power flow, and cancel out any spikes."

Barrett's eyes rolled around. "Um, if you say so."

Haden grinned. "There, that should do it."

Just as Haden finished the final adjustment, Daileass stuck his head into the room. "Hey guys, still playing with that thing?"

"Still?" Barrett asked curiously. "We just got back from breakfast a few minutes ago."

Haden nodded. "However, I think I just finished the needed adjustments."

"Good job," Daileass commented, sounding less than enthused.

"Is something wrong?" Haden asked.

Daileass shook his head. "No. I think you made it clear earlier that this was something you didn't want to talk about right now, so I'll just wait until you're ready."

Before Haden had a chance to reply, Daileass walked away.

"Daileass, wait!" Haden called out. Moments later, Daileass peaked back in. "About earlier... I'm sorry about that. I guess... I don't know... maybe there are a few things to talk about."

Daileass nodded as he stepped into the room.

"Um, I think I should go see what Hac's up to," Barrett commented as he stood up and quickly made his way through the door.

Seeing how Daileass was standing, Haden knew that Daileass was waiting for him to start things out. "I know I may have been a little short with you earlier, but it seemed like this has been the only thing you've been wanting to talk about since yesterday."

"You don't feel this is an important choice?" Daileass asked, with a slight hint of disappointment.

"No, it's not that," Haden replied, "I know it's important, it's just there have been so many things that I've been trying to think about and well, some of it I don't really know how to say to you, especially given all the other chats we've had."

"Every time we've talked, didn't I also say that I would always be here to listen when you were ready to talk?" Daileass asked.

"Yeah," Haden sighed. "Well, after seeing what I saw before and during breakfast, I think I'm ready to talk."

Daileass' face softened as he fully walked into the room. He moved over to the couch and sat down, motioning for Haden to sit next to him. When Haden sat down, Daileass wrapped his arms around him. "Okay. I'm here. Let's see if we can figure out what's going on in that cute head of yours." He said with a grin.

Haden grinned along with Daileass as he took a few moments to collect his thoughts before continuing. "I guess what I'm having a hard time trying to figure out the right way to say is that, what everything boils down to, I don't think my shoes fit."

Daileass frowned. "We've measured your feet many times. Ronnie knows exactly how big your feet are, so your shoes should be fine. But if you want, we can get you a different size." He tried, he really did. He tried to keep a straight face, but by the time he was done talking, he was giggling madly.

"That's not what I meant," Haden giggled. Very quickly, however, his expression became serious once again. "Keep in mind that this doesn't mean that I don't care about or love you, because I do. And this doesn't mean that I don't care or appreciate the others, or what you have all given me, because I do."

"I guess I should just come out and say it, shouldn't I?" Haden sighed. "I don't really feel that I fit here."

Knowing that Haden could read him just as easily as he could read Haden through the link, Daileass kept very tight control of his emotions. This is what he was thinking it was going to come down to, even though it was Haden making the choices the entire way. "Is it the constant fighting that you don't feel you fit into, or the people that are here?"

"Please don't take this the wrong way," Haden sighed. "But I think it's a little of both, and yet neither. I know at first that doesn't really make sense. It didn't really make sense to me at first either, but as I continued to work through things in my head, it did."

Seeing the confused look on Daileass' face, Haden continued. "For example, as far as the fighting goes, UNIT has given me some really good training, and even though for a while I didn't really have a lot of faith in myself, everyone else did, and I guess eventually I just accepted it. But to be honest, I don't really think that it fits me. Don't get me wrong, I've fought, and if needed would continue to fight, to protect all of you . But just because I am willing to do something, it doesn't mean that it's right for me, it's where I see myself 5 years, 10 years, or 20 years from now."

"As far as everyone else here," Haden paused for a moment. "Everyone has been so nice to me, and has done their best to make me really feel like I fit in and belong. I don't want to take away from that. But something I remember Adam, Jory, Will, and all the other guys say in one form or another is that as Genesis Augments, they were literally bred and created for fighting, you've grown up and are accustomed to a military type atmosphere, and that the military lifestyle is the only thing you really know. And well, none of those statements really apply to me. As much as they might try to make me feel a part of them, I'm not. I don't thrive in a military environment, and it's not really what I see myself doing for the rest of my life."

Daileass nodded thoughtfully as Haden was speaking. When Haden was done, Daileass took a few moments to organize his thoughts before he spoke. "And do you feel that if you stayed here, and you stayed human that you would have no choice but to live the military lifestyle? That you would have no choice but to be a part of the military side of the UNIT for the rest of your life?"

Haden shook his head. "No, I don't. In fact, I'm pretty sure that if you guys knew, or if I really knew that it wasn't what I was really looking for, you would probably go out of your way to make sure that I wasn't involved on the military side of things. And that's the other part to this."

As Haden continued to talk, he looked to the side, as if seeing something in the distance that wasn't really there. "I thought the FCC in our dimension were bad, or the HLF, but... I don't know... I just can't seem to get the images of all those dead kids out of my head from yesterday. Seeing the little pieces of them strewn around, while the agents that were doing it almost had a sense of pride about it. It's just... I don't know..."

Haden allowed his words to trail off as he turned back toward Daileass. "I know this may sound mean or selfish on my part, but I don't really know how else to say this. One of the other attractive elements to Pete's offer is that I wouldn't have to be human anymore. I wouldn't have to be like the monsters that make up the groups like the FCC, the HLF, the federal agents that were in Texas yesterday, or even this Army of God group that Pete was talking about. In a way, it makes me sick just thinking about how I'm the same race as they are, or that they are the same race that I am."

"So you're ashamed of being human? But, that would also mean you're ashamed of being like Logan, Cory, Sean, Brent, Lance... How about all the other humans you know. Not all of them are bad. Hell, most of them are good. Does that mean that you're ashamed of being like them?" Daileass asked softly.

"Aside from the fact that Logan is no where close to being Human, especially with the insane love of BBQ sauce that he has, no I'm not ashamed of the others you mentioned," Haden did his best to smile. "As I said, it was a selfish thought, and something that I know didn't really make logical sense, but I'm trying to be as upfront and honest with you as I can about this, and that is part of it.'

"Haden, you can't judge an entire race by just a few people in it. That's just not right. You're giving up on an entire race of people because of the actions of a few members of it. Is that right?" Daileass asked

"If that was my only reason for wanting to be Alteran, you would be right," Haden agreed.

"Okay" Daileass said as he settled back. "What else is there?"

"You mean besides everything else before that which I had mentioned?" Haden asked with a brief flicker of a grin. "I think along with all of the other stuff we talked about in this and our other chats, along with everything about not really feeling that this is the right path for me, and where my true destiny lies, I think another large part of it is... well... wanting to make my own path in life, wanting to create my own footprints."

Haden knew he was going to be touching some nerves on this one, but he didn't really have any better way to say it, so he just blurted it out. "I know it was never anything intentional, but something I can't help getting around in thinking is that a lot of the stuff I've been given and have has been way too convenient. And in some cases, seemed like it was something that I've been given not because of what I've done or accomplished, but because of what friends I had. And well, something else that joining their society would do would be to give me a chance to prove to myself that I can accomplish things because of what I can do not what I've been given because of who I know."

"That doesn't mean that I don't appreciate everything that you guys have done for me, or have given me, because I do. And if I had a chance to do everything over again, I don't really think I would change anything. But..." Haden took a few more moments to re-organize his thoughts. "You know how eventually kids need to be given a chance to spread their wings and find their niche in life away from the protective shadow of their parents? That sounds a little weird coming from a nine-year-old, doesn't it? But I guess with all the time on the training planet and on Archnania... I don't know... It just seems like this is the right choice for me. And if you and everyone else that I've talked to about this over the last day has really been serious about what you have told me as far as supporting my choice, and since no one has actually been able to come out and say this is the wrong choice Haden, I think this is the direction my heart is leading me."

"Okay," Daileass said, although it was obvious he wasn't happy about it. "It seems that your mind is made up. Are you going to wait, or would you like help reprogramming the transmitter so you can contact Pete?"

"You're right that if I was forced to make a decision this second, I would probably accept their offer," Haden admitted after taking a few moments to gather his thoughts. "But you are also right that this is a pretty big decision that I probably don't want to rush into. Since I'm not being forced to decide, I think I'd like to think about it a bit longer before we try contacting them." Haden's expression turned more serious as he looked deep into Daileass's eyes. "Daileass, you know that regardless of what race I might be, I'll always care about you and love you, right?"

"Yes I do," Daileass said as he stood up. "Honestly, I would like it if you would wait a while longer before you jumped into this. I would prefer if you took the time to get more information, more of a look at who and what the Alterans are, more than just what little Big Logan has been able to find out in less than 24 hours." Haden was about to say something, but Daileass held up his hand to stop him. "The other reason is simply this. I am so afraid that when you get a chance to start to play with their tech, that you start to learn all of these new cool things that you can do, that you'll forget about me, even if it's only for a time. I have to be honest, I don't know if I would be able to handle a relationship where we can only see each other every once in a while..." Daileass said as he hung his head a bit in shame. That admission was very hard for him.

Haden was about to fire back another response, but instead he stopped. Daileass was clearly behaving in a manner he really had not seen before. "Daileass?" he asked softly as he cautiously wrapped his arms around him. "With everything that we've been through, you realize that I could never forget you, right? I mean, you don't get much cooler than the high-end tech we were playing with on Archnania, and even though both of us seemed consumed in all the projects that were going on, we still managed to find time each day to spend time together. You fill a part of me, that... well, that I can't really fully understand or explain it, I just know it's important."

Seeing that Daileass didn't answer right away, Haden gave him a little squeeze and continued. "I can't claim to know how this will all work out, or what will happen in the end. We could wait weeks and still not know enough about them to feel fully comfortable with me going, but I don't really feel that waiting around is the right thing. What I do know, however, is that no matter what happens, unless they turn me into some kind of mindless zombie out of one of Robert's movies or something, I will always care about you and love you, and no amount of technology or genetics is going to change that. If Janet turned me into a genesis augment, I would still love you. If ARK turned me into one of those Vifers that some of the other clan kids became, I would still love you. If I become an Alteran, I will still love you as well. There might be a few bumps along the way, but with all that you and I have been through, I'm sure we can get through it."

Daileass simply nodded as he put his head on Haden's shoulder, and allowed his tears to fall.

When Robert walked into Haden and Daileass' room, he saw the two boys still holding onto each other on the couch. "Oops, sorry guys," Robert stated with a slight degree of embarrassment. "I'll come back later."

"You're fine, Robert," Daileass commented as he pulled himself away from Haden. "We were just talking about a few things, but we're done now."

Robert glanced toward Haden, and after getting a confirming nod from the smaller boy, smiled. "Okay cool, I just don't want to be interrupting anything."

"You're not," Haden smiled weakly.

"Is that the piece we need for the transmitter?" Robert asked as he motioned down toward the small component still lying on the floor. "How will we hook it into what we built the other night?"

"It'll be pretty easy, actually," Haden began as he stood up from the couch, picked up the component, and carefully placed it on the table. "There are three main contact points. Power In, Ground and Signal. We'll just unsolder the contact points from the burnt out unit and replace it with this one, and then you just..." Haden stopped himself in mid-sentence as he realized that he was no longer in his room, but was now somewhere else. "Um, okay that was different."

Glancing around at his new surroundings, Haden quickly realized that he was back in the Alteran medical center on Mars, the same place he had been the day before. Although Daileass was there with him, Robert was nowhere to be seen. Logan was also in the room and standing next to a tall man Haden didn't recognize. He had a pretty good idea that the man was important, since he was wearing a golden crown with a number of red diamonds set into it.

"Daileass? Haden?" Logan spoke up immediately, "I would like you to meet the King of the Alteran people..."

The man cut in and introduced himself, "My name is Aaron Stranton, Prime of Clan Stranton, King of the Alteran people."

Haden's mind raced. A prime? A king? Although he had no clue what prime meant, he was almost certain that this had to be the one that Pete had talked about yesterday. As the man spoke, he spoke with authority, yet at the same time in a soothing, kind voice that begged to be trusted. Daileass, for his part, didn't seem as impressed as Haden was.

Seeing the slightly unfocused look Haden was giving him at his long list of titles, Aaron grinned, "Or if it helps you, the healer that is going to handle your alteration."

Haden seemed slightly surprised. "Is this the same Aaron that Pete..."

"Yes," Logan answered, before Haden had finished his question.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Haden spoke more formally and threw in a slight bow.

"Hello," Daileass smiled politely.

"Hello Haden, Daileass," Aaron greeted the two. Before he was able to continue, he saw Haden's attention already being drawn toward the two tubes that Stan and Forth were floating in.

"Are they going to be alright? Do we know anything more about them?" Haden asked with concern, fearing that the sudden and unexpected teleport to Mars might have meant that something had gone wrong.

"They'll be fine. It was touch and go for a bit there this morning, but I was able to fix what was wrong before anything bad happened," Aaron glossed over the real details of the fact they had both died multiple times. "I understand Pete and Theo have given you the option to join our people and from Logan here," Aaron pointed at the young man in question, "That you are considering taking us up on our offer."

"Do you have any concerns that I can answer for you?" Aaron asked as he watched Haden stare at him. He had an urge to wave his hand in front of Haden's face to see if he would blink.

"Huh? Oh," Haden replied as he turned away from the tubes and re-focused his attention on Aaron. "Not really. Especially now that it looks like Stan and Forth are both going to make it through the Alteration process, I really think this is something I want to do."

"Actually, there is one thing," Haden continued after he glanced briefly toward Daileass and then back to Aaron. "One of the things that Daileass and I have been talking about over the last day is whether or not I would be able to go back to Earth to visit him and the others. When we were here yesterday, Pete mentioned it wouldn't be a problem, but it was hard to tell if it would just be something like visiting once a week or once a month, or how exactly that would be able to work out."

"As an Alteran you have the freedom to come and go as you please, within limits of course. You could visit him daily if that was what you wanted, but if you wished to spend the night with each other we probably would ask that you set up housekeeping on the moon base. Earth right now is not a safe place from what I understand. As for the other limits I mentioned," Aaron held up a hand before Haden could ask for an explanation. "For instance if you wanted to participate in a war you would have to talk it over with Theo first; if he said no, you would have to abide by his decision. But if you wanted to visit Daileass or your friends on Earth you would be able to easily enough. Just let someone know where you are going by posting a note to the system. There would be a few other restrictions that would be short term, mainly while you were dealing with puberty, but that is more for your protection as your gifts start unlocking fully as puberty sets in."

"Makes sense," Daileass agreed.

"Also, something Pete mentioned yesterday," Haden continued with a noticeable degree of hesitation. "He said when Stan and Forth entered puberty, they would be slipping into every male's room as they would have an incredible need to have sex. Was he just joking about that, or is that something that will really happen?"

"I'm afraid he wasn't," Aaron chuckled. "When an Alteran enters puberty their sex drive goes off the charts for what would be normal for a human. So until you have experienced and gotten control of the urges, we would make sure you met up with Daileass in a controlled environment."

"Um, okay," Haden replied as he began to blush.

"I think this is the part you've seen before," Aaron smiled as he gestured toward the bio-tube. "There is a shelf under the bio-tube you can put your clothes. Once you are fully undressed, climb up into the bio-tube and relax. I will get the sensors placed and when you wake up, Daileass should be waiting for you."

Haden nodded in understanding, and did as Aaron directed. Fortunately for Aaron, Haden did not try to turn his clothes into projectiles as they were removed. Once he was fully undressed, he began to climb in, only to hear Aaron clearing his throat.

"You're going to need to take that gadget on your arm off as well," Aaron stated. Seeing the concerned look on the boy's face, he continued, "Don't worry, we'll take good care of it for you. It will stay right on the same shelf that all your clothes are on."

Haden reluctantly removed his GEAR and placed it on top of his clothes. Once he had climbed in, Daileass walked over to his side. Almost immediately, both boys wrapped each other in a warm hug.

"I love you," Haden whispered in Daileass' ear.

"I love you too," Daileass replied.

When the hug broke, Haden laid back down into the tube.

Once Daileass moved out of the way, Aaron squirted some of the cleansing gel onto a small cloth and cleaned an area on Haden's right temple, over his left upper chest and his right elbow. Placing the sensors he quickly activated the SOMA unit, sending Haden to sleep. Glancing over his shoulder, he asked Logan and Daileass as he inserted the waste tube into Haden, making sure to block what he was doing from their view, "Do either of you have any further concerns that need to be addressed before I port you back to Earth?"

Both Daileass and Logan shook their head no.

"Then someone will be in contact with you to make arrangements to bring you back Daileass, so you can be here when Haden wakes up," Aaron stated as he began preparing the equipment that would be used on Haden, the entire time giving them a few more moments to ask any other questions they might have. Once it became clear that they had no further questions, before he started actually doing anything to Haden, he teleported both boys back to Earth, where he had found Haden and Daileass at a few minutes ago.

Barrett managed to find Hac showing off to a few of the new soldiers down in the weight room, something Barrett hadn't seen Hac do in a rather long time, mainly since everyone in their society was very well aware of who Hac was.

As soon as he saw the small group of soldiers standing around Hac, who was lying down on one of the weight machines, he stood back by the door and watched the fun. Hac, for his part, really had the guys going, as he was pretending that something was wrong with the machine and that the weights weren't working.

"Are you guys sure you have the pins in right on this thing? It still doesn't feel like there are any connected," the eleven-year-old redhead said as he effortlessly pulled the bar down and let it up as if there were no weights. From the back, however, it was clear that a large number were attached.

"Come on, Hanson, don't you know how to setup a weight machine?" one of the men asked.

"What the hell, look for yourself man," another guy replied. "There's over 600 pounds on that thing."

"Are you sure about that?" Hac asked. "It certainly doesn't feel like it. Maybe you are reading the numbers wrong?" This caused a few of the guys to chuckle as the one called Hanson looked dumbfounded.

"Get up, kid. Let me try it," one of the other men finally asked.

Hac was more than willing to oblige as he got off and let the other man get on. The man grabbed the bar and struggled with all his might, but was barely able to lift it a few inches before allowing it to fall back down with a clank. "Holy crap man, yeah I would say it's working."

"Are you sure you're using it right?" Hac asked innocently as he got back on and started pulling the bar down as if no weights were on it. This of course really got the men riled up.

Barrett was really starting to enjoy himself as the men and Hac went at it for several minutes. It wasn't until the entertainment was starting to die down, that he felt it... Just like the day before, his link with his twin had gone away.

"Now what?" Barrett sighed as he ran out of the room.

"Barrett?" Hac called out after him, as he sat up from the weight machine. "It's been fun guys, but gotta run," he stated as he ran out of the room after Barrett, leaving several very confused looking soldiers behind.

The command center was relatively quiet by the time Barrett reached it, with less than half of the stations currently being manned by other UNIT kids or soldiers.

"Haden's gone again!" Barrett called out as he entered, pulling the attention of several others in the room.

Simon immediately jumped out of his seat and headed to intercept Barrett. "It's okay, we already know."

"You do?" Barrett replied with surprise and a touch of confusion. "What happened, were they kidnapped again?"

Simon briefly glanced around the room before deciding to pull Barrett out into the hallway, out of earshot of those in the room that didn't need to hear the conversation. "Logan removed Haden from our link," he stated once they were out the door.

"What do you mean, removed him? Why?" Barrett demanded. "Where is he now, shouldn't the twin thing still work?"

Simon held up his hands in an attempt to get Barrett to slow down his onslaught of questions. Fortunately, at the same time Logan and Daileass were walking down the hall toward them.

"It was his choice, Barrett," Logan answered once he got closer. "Right now he's up on Mars."

"Mars?" Barrett asked in shock. "But... I thought..."

As Barrett struggled to find the right words, Logan gave Simon a small nod, letting him know that he would handle Barrett, and that he could head back into the command center.

Once Simon had left, Barrett managed to find his words. "Haden mentioned the offer he was given and thinking about, but that was less than a day ago. Why did it have to happen so quickly? How could you let him do this?"

"Do you think we wanted Haden to go with them?" Daileass barked with a bit more emotion than he intended, causing Logan to briefly glance toward him. "His mind was already made up, so what were we supposed to do?"

Logan gave a slight nod as he turned his attention back to Barrett. "Barrett, we are all a bit shocked over this. I wasn't expecting things to work out the way they did either. When the opportunity came to pull Haden and Daileass up to Mars so that they could meet the Alteran King, I was fully expecting it to be nothing more than a question and answer session. But the offer was made, and I guess Haden felt he had thought on it long enough."

"So because of that, you decided to kick Haden out of the links?" Barrett asked, with a slight degree of anger.

"Logan didn't make the decision, Haden did," Daileass shot back.

"That's not what Simon said," Barrett quickly shot back.

Logan held up his hands to stop both boys from talking. Once he knew he had their attention, he first turned toward Daileass. "Bro, why don't you take a little off duty time, and wind down. I think we have things handled here for now."

At first, Daileass looked like he was about to argue. Instead, he simply nodded in agreement. "Yeah, alright. You know where to find me if anything comes up."

"Yes," Logan nodded as he waited for Daileass to head back down the hall before turning his attention back to Barrett. "As far as the links go. You're right, I did make the decision to temporarily remove Haden from the the link."

Logan could tell Barrett was ready to argue with him as he had started to do with Daileass. However, before Barrett had a chance to say anything, Logan continued, "Although I'm fairly convinced that the Alterans are not going to try to hurt Haden, and that he will be relatively safe with them, there is still a lot we don't know about them. Given that they are a telepathic race, we don't know how our link will interact or interfere with them. Or from a security standpoint, how much of the link would be opened up to every member of their race. To be blunt, there are just too many unknowns in that regard. Besides that, Haden's going to more than likely be unconscious for the next week anyway, so he wouldn't be able to interact much if at all."

"So you will add him back to the link once he's awake again?" Barrett asked curiously.

"We'll see how things go," Logan replied honestly. "It's a possibility, but as I said, there are a lot of unknowns in regard to how their mental structuring will interact with the way our link works. Also... I know this might be a bit difficult to accept, but there is a chance that once he is changed Haden won't want to be a part of the links anymore."

"I don't see that happening," Barrett quickly replied. "I don't think Haden would abandon all of us like that."

"Did you expect him to make the choice he did?" Logan replied.

Barrett stood there for several seconds before he slowly shook his head.

"I'm not saying that Haden won't want to be with us anymore," Logan continued. "I'm just saying that it's a possibility that we need to be prepared for. You've done a lot of work with genetics. You of all people should be aware of the personality shifts that can happen sometimes when people go through significant genetic changes.

Barrett sighed and slowly nodded his head. "So... what's that mean for Hac and myself?"

"What do you mean?" Logan asked.

"Well, I figured the main reason you were letting us hang out with you guys was because of my connection with Haden. And with Haden gone..." Barrett allowed his words to trail off.

"Barrett, if we were only letting you stick around because of Haden, then I never would have directly added you to our link like I have," Logan replied. "Even though we have only been here a few days, both you and Hac have proven time and time again that you are a valuable part of this team. Khan had nothing but praise toward Hac and his performance yesterday. Coming from Khan, that in itself says a lot. And the way you took charge of the situation with Stevie when Haden had to go deal with other stuff said a lot about you. I know neither of you are official members of UNIT, and you have no obligations to Adam or myself, but you will both be welcome here for as long as you choose to remain."

"Thanks," Barrett smiled weakly.

"You're more than welcome," Logan stated as he wrapped his arms around Barrett, giving the smaller boy a hug. "I know you are worried about Haden and the choice he made. We all are. Sometimes one of the hardest things we can do in life is let go of our loved ones. But we each have to make our own choices, and follow our own path. Maybe Haden's path lies with us, maybe it doesn't. The best thing we can do is try to be as supportive as possible regardless of what happens."

"I know," Barrett sighed as he returned the hug. "I hope I didn't upset Daileass too much."

"You didn't," Logan replied. "You need to remember, he and Haden had grown very close to each other, so he's taking this a lot harder than the rest of us combined."

Barrett nodded.

"Listen, I need to start getting ready to attend a conference with Bryce and his new war council," Logan stated as some of the UNIT kids started coming out of the command center, heading toward the conference rooms. "But after that, if there is anything you need, or anything you want to talk about, I'll be here for you. Alright?"

"It sounds like you are treating me like a little kid again," Barrett grinned as the hug broke.

"There are times that we all need support and comforting. It doesn't matter how old or smart we are," Logan replied seriously.

"Wise words," Barrett smiled. "Thanks Logan."

"You're welcome," Logan nodded before heading down the hallway himself.

When Hac finally managed to track down Barrett, he found him aimlessly wandering around in the halls.

"There you are. Do you know how hard the smells from all the new people, and the air recycling system make it to track people down in here?" Hac asked with a grin. His grin quickly faded when Barrett didn't even seem to acknowledge that he was there. "Barrett, you okay?"

"I guess," Barrett shrugged.

"You don't look it," Hac challenged.

Barrett shrugged again. "Haden's gone."

"Gone?" Hac repeated.

"Yeah, gone," Barrett replied. "As in, went off to whoever those guys that showed up on Mars yesterday are."

"I'm guessing that's a bad thing?" Hac questioned.

"Well, yeah," Barrett answered. "I thought Haden and I had something special going on, with the whole twin thing and all. I thought that since I finally found someone that was family, I could talk with them and we could be honest with each other. But then he goes and decides to become a part of some other race without even saying goodbye."

"Ouch. Yeah, that sounds pretty bad," Hac agreed.

"I guess it doesn't really matter at this point. The decision has been made, and he's gone now," Barrett continued as he shrugged yet again.

"Obviously it matters to you," Hac stated. "And since it's something pulling you down, that makes it something that matters to me. Just wait until I get my hands on Haden. He definitely has an earful coming."

Barrett gave a weak smile. "Thanks Hac. I guess once again, it gets proven that you are really my only true friend. I just wish I wasn't such a jerk to Daileass."

"Robo-boy? How does he fit into all of this?" Hac asked.

"Well, I met up with him outside the control center, and we kinda started getting into it with each other," Barrett admitted.

"Wasn't he supposed to be boyfriends with Haden or something?" Hac asked. "I bet he's taking this pretty hard too."

"Yeah, that's what Logan mentioned. But still, I should have known better. This isn't the first time I've had to deal with emotional issues. Hell, it's not the hundredth time."

"True," Hac agreed. "But this is the first time that the emotional issue has centered around you, and involves your family. But if you are that worried about how Daileass feels, why don't you go talk to him?"

"I doubt he wants to talk to me," Barrett replied. "Logan sent him off to cool down."

"You never know until you try," Hac stated.

Barrett thought for a few moments and nodded in agreement. "You're right."

With that, Barrett went off in search of Daileass. The boy wasn't that hard to find, since Barrett found him in the first place he looked, his and Haden's bedroom.

When Barrett arrived, the door to the room was already open, and he could see Daileass standing in the middle of it, apparently staring into the air. Out of courtesy, Barrett lightly knocked.

"It's open," Daileass called out, not bothering to look to see who it was.

Barrett walked a few steps into the room, "I can come back later if you would rather be alone right now."

Daileass let out a small grunt. "This was supposed to be our room, you know? Haden and mine," Daileass stated instead of answering Barrett. "But I didn't sleep here one night since we arrived."

"There was a lot of other stuff going on," Barrett did his best to answer.

"Doesn't matter," Daileass replied as he looked toward Barrett with tear-filled eyes.

"Daileass?" Barrett asked with surprise. "Are you alright?"

"You've talked with Haden a bunch over the last few days," Daileass continued as he turned back away from Barrett. "Do you think it was something that I did, that pushed him away?"

"I don't think so," Barrett answered seriously. "And apparently I didn't talk to him enough, because I had no clue what he was going to do this morning. He didn't even bother to say goodbye to me."

Daileass nodded his head and used his arm to wipe away the tears from his eyes. "I'm sorry Barrett. I'm probably getting overly emotional and not being sensitive enough to your own emotions. I think it's this new brain."

"That's okay. Actually I was looking for you so I could apologize for earlier. The news about Haden hit me by surprise, and I guess I was harder on you than I should have been," Barrett stated.

"I think we were all surprised," Daileass agreed.

"With you and Haden being boyfriends and all, I think you definitely have a right to be a bit emotional over all this," Barrett continued. "But what did you mean by new brain?"

"Heh," Daileass turned back toward Barrett, this time with significantly less tears in his eyes. "For the longest time, actually since we were first downloaded from our original human brains, my brothers and I ran on positronic brains. Then, a few days before we got sent here, we were upgraded to neurotronic brains. They have a lot more processing power, but apparently as I'm finding out now, they make emotions a lot more... intense?"

Barrett nodded in understanding. "I can't claim to know much about cybernetic brain architectures, but I can say that in the field of genetic augmentations, we see similar reactions on the intelligence enhancement side things. It probably also doesn't help that whenever you look at me, you probably see Haden."

"Actually, I don't," Daileass replied honestly. "You and Haden might look fairly similar, but there are hundreds of small nuances that I pick up on that make you two appear just as different to me as you and Chang would appear different. Everything from your body language, posture, to the small vibrations your muscles make as you move around and the way your body heat is regulated."

"I guess having all those super sensitive sensors can have its advantages," Barrett stated.

"Sometimes," Daileass replied as he lowered his head. "Other times it can be a curse. For example, when you can tell that someone you love is lying to themselves, but it's one of those things that you just have to grin and bear. Actually, there is all kinds of things that I can pick up on about people that I can never really use, due to the social awkwardness that it would create."

Barrett nodded in understanding. "Well, at least for me then, it will be hard to look in the mirror, and not also see Haden looking back at me."

"Don't get me wrong. Just because seeing you won't remind me of Haden doesn't mean I won't be thinking about him," Daileass explained. "That's another curse that comes with being me I guess... Because of how important Haden was to me, a significant amount of my processing was devoted to him, our relationship, and what I could do to make things work out as best as possible. I can't just turn that processing off. So even with him gone, that processing is still going to be there, looping around and around, trying to figure out what did I do wrong? How did I push him away? What could I have done differently?"

"I don't think you did anything wrong," Barrett replied. "At least, Haden never mentioned you doing anything wrong. If anything, he would talk about how special you were, and how lucky he was to have you."

"I wish I could believe that," Daileass replied. "But if that were really true, it's hard to believe he would give all this up to go find another family to join."

"I know," Barrett replied as he walked over and wrapped his arms around Daileass. "I am kinda in the same spot."

Both boys stood there in silence for several long moments before Daileass began to snigger.

"What?" Barrett asked, dropping the hug.

"Oh sorry, it's not you," Daileass replied. "The meeting between my brothers and Jack's war cabinet has started. The guy Jack brought in that is supposed to be this big huge computer techy geek had a few doubts about the chipmunks handling UNIT's IT department. And well, they are out in the hall talking geek stuff, and I think Jack's guy just had his head handed to him."

Barrett smiled and joined in the snigger. "Some people will never learn, I guess."

"Thanks Barrett," Daileass replied after they had been standing there a minute or two longer, "For chatting. For some reason I'm feeling a lot better now."

"Welcome to the wonderful world of emotions," Barrett grinned.

Daileass cracked a weak smile and nodded. "Gee, thanks."

Moments later, Barrett glanced behind him toward the door, almost as if expecting someone to be there. "Well, I should probably go find Hac before he sends a search party for me."

"Yeah, we wouldn't want that," Daileass agreed.

Barrett turned and walked toward the door. When he was half way there, he stopped and looked back toward Daileass. "If you ever want to talk about... well... anything, I'm always willing to listen."

"That's supposed to be my job," Daileass grinned. "But thanks. I might just take you up on your offer."

Barrett nodded and continued out the door. When he was gone, Daileass turned back toward Haden's empty bed and slowly shook his head. "Why?"

Glenn, along with most of the other non-UNIT, non-presidential kids including Robert, Andy, Arthos, and Edward, sat in one of the common rooms with shocked expressions as they watched a live news conference from Austin, Texas play out in front of them.

Although a lot had already happened by the time Glenn's grandmother had flagged the boys down and informed them that something was going on, just the parts that they had caught so far were enough to send chills down each of their spines.

The video feed that the news station was broadcasting was coming from the main capitol building in Austin. If Glenn didn't know better, he might have thought that they were watching some type of low budget movie, since it was all too clear that there had been a major fight there. Although the camera man was doing his best to avoid them, from time to time they could see a body or two laying on the floor, most of which seemed to be wearing guard uniforms.

Moments before, there had been some discussion about a large number of missiles having been launched from naval ships somewhere out in the Gulf, armed with Sarin gas chemical warheads heading toward the capitol. Almost immediately after that, the assembled members of the Texas legislature conducted two live votes. The first being a vote to break away from the United States, and a second to declare open war against the Ashwood administration. The part that made the largest impact, however, came after the votes were over when a boy, no older than eleven or twelve, got in front of the camera and spent several minutes explaining what people could expect from the chemical attack, and offering some advice on the best things that people could do to try to survive the event

Personally, after the events that had happened yesterday with hundreds of school kids, and their parents being slaughtered in Breckenridge and now news of the inbound missiles that were heading toward Austin, Glenn couldn't really disagree with the actions that the Texas government was taking. But still, somehow it all seemed surreal, as if he were watching a dream, or more like a nightmare.

The vote didn't take long to complete. When the proceedings were done, the feed was cut as the people there presumably went to try to find some way to evacuate the incoming assault. It didn't take long for the news stations to pick up from there on all kinds of speculation and commentary, also making it clear that the feed that they had been seeing was unedited and had not yet been checked for accuracy, nor could they confirm that any type of missile attack had been launched.

As the talking heads began to banter back and forth about the validity and significance of what they had just seen, and how this might fit in with the other events that had occurred around the country over the last 48 hours, none of the boys that were sitting there and watching could have guessed that what they were witnessing was only the beginning of what they would eventually come to call the Day of Hell.

As the discussions of the various talking heads and so-called experts continued, they were reduced to only taking a small portion of the lower left corner of the screen while the main area was used to broadcast images of the various riots and demonstrations that were breaking out in major cities across the country. At the same time, a small scrolling ticker along the bottom of the screen announced updates and information in regards to new developments in several of those cities.

At one point, a low-ranking assistant to the under-secretary of some federal office was in the middle of a passionate proclamation of how if any of this was true, the higher officials in the Ashwood administration would have said something, and how the entire bit about the inbound missiles and scuffle at the Texas Capitol building were most likely attempts by Bryce insurgents to try to make a bad situation even worse. The man was unable to finish his speech, however, when the anchor had to cut him off to cover a new breaking story about a massive explosion that had just been reported in Kansas City, Missouri.

There were a few moments of confusion as to what exactly had happened. There were some speculations that a car had been set on fire by demonstrators and had exploded. The station was having a hard time confirming anything since they had also just lost communication with their own reporting team that was on the ground covering the events there. However, a minute or two later, they were able to grab a feed from another station, and it became very clear that this was a lot more than a car exploding as the aerial shot showed at least an entire square mile of downtown Kansas City completely decimated, with little more than smoldering piles of rubble able to be seen.

Everyone's attention was briefly pulled from the destruction being broadcast on T.V. as Hac led Barrett, who was holding his head, into the common room and to the closest empty chair so that he could sit down.

"Barrett? Are you alright son?" Earnest asked with concern.

"I'm not sure," Hac answered. "We were walking down the hall and he suddenly clutched his head."

"Just a little dizzy, that's all," Barrett did his best to sound as upbeat as possible. "I think it's the whole link thing," he said a bit softer. "I think something big is going on that has everyone uptight or agitated or something, I'm not sure."

"Kansas City just got leveled," Robert commented seriously. "Would that count?"

"What?" Barrett gasped as both he and Hac looked at the images for the first time that were being broadcast on the large screen TV. "Gods...", Barrett sighed.

After a few more minutes of broadcasting images from Kansas City, the image changed back to the anchor who was clearly struggling to listen to his earpiece. "Right... Okay...", the man stated before looking directly toward the cameras. "I'm just being told that we are getting close to the time that the alleged missiles heading for Austin, Texas should be arriving. Even though we have not been able to obtain any official confirmation from the Ashwood administration, or any law enforcement agency, for safety reasons we have evacuated our reporting team from the area. However, I'm just being told that we are picking up a live feed from another station that is broadcasting live from downtown Austin. Once again, we remind our viewers that this stream is live and unedited."

The scene changed to the picture of a reporter standing in a large open park area. He was apparently already in the middle of a discussion with an invisible person in his own earpiece that he was struggling to listen to. "That's right April, I'm standing in the middle of Centennial Park which is just a few blocks east of the Capitol Building. The loud sounds you are hearing behind me are the civil defense sirens going off. They have been sounding for the last ten to fifteen minutes. Other than the sirens, it's a somewhat nice day here with no signs of missiles or other mass destruction. As you can see around me, the park is a lot emptier than you would normally expect to see it at this time of day. No doubt that's because of a combination of the sirens and the scare that many people received earlier about the missile threat, but beyond that the people that are left appear to be trying to go about their life as normal."

The reporter spent a few more moments listening to his earpiece before continuing, "Unfortunately April, we have not. We've made several attempts to call the Capitol building but have not been able to reach anyone. And so far we've been getting mixed signals from the Austin Metro police and local Homeland Security office. The main message we are getting now is that even if this is a hoax, citizens are urged to play it safe, and remain indoors. It should also be noted that..."

As the man continued talking, he was interrupted by several people screaming in the background, followed by several people running down the streets. At nearly the same time, the sirens which had been going off changed to sounding a series of S.O.S. sounds. As the camera man turned and tilted the camera slightly, two white plumes of smoke could be seen shooting out from the horizon, over one of the buildings. "My god," the reporter stated as the plums could be seen changing direction and flaring upward. They were joined by a few smaller plums further off in the distance which were also shooting upward. And then, one by one, they began to explode in brilliant flashes of light. "I can't believe it, but it appears this might not have been a hoax after all." The fear in the reporter's eyes were apparent as the cameramen turned back toward him.

"What's that? No, I don't think we have any time to do that," the man stated as the image fuzzed out slightly before going dead completely.

Within minutes, there was no more speculation about the validity of the missile threat, as they began getting reports of multiple missiles hitting many different parts of the city. Very little was said by the pro-Ashwood talking heads after that as even they were shocked by the reality of what was happening around the country.

Sadly, it didn't stop there. Over the next hour, one travesty after another was reported. Less than 10 minutes had gone by after the first missiles hit Austin when it was reported that another bomb had gone off in downtown Oklahoma City. Not long after that, reports starting coming in that strongly suggested that some type of chemical blister agent had been released in Boulder, Colorado. During all of this, the protests around the country were becoming more and more violent. At one point, one of the anchors made reference to the fact that had he been a more God fearing man, he might see this as the end of days.

Finally, to make matters worse, about an hour after the Kansas City explosions had happened, the news station that they were watching at the time was talking to someone via video conference who was in one of their California studios. The conversation was cut short as it became clear that the studio that the guy from California was in was starting to shake.

Just as the shaking appeared to be coming to an end the video feed was lost completely. From that point on, chaos ensued on all the national stations as it quickly became clear that satellite after satellite was going dark. News Stations, Internet Networks, Weather Stations, were all reporting the same thing. Anyone that had a satellite over the Western United States no longer appeared to have one now. Whether they were destroyed or just not work, it would be a long time until that question was answered.

Even with the entire West Coast literally dark in terms of satellite coverage, it didn't take long for news to start trickling into the national networks not only confirming that Northern California was hit by an earthquake, but it was perhaps one of the largest ever recorded in history. The entire city of San Francisco had been completely leveled.

At first, this was difficult to believe. But, over the next hour while everyone sat on pins and needles wondering what disaster or catastrophe would occur next, more and more amatuer footage of the Northern California disaster continued to make it's way to the national media. It didn't take long for the largest skeptics to have to admit something had gone horribly wrong in California. Although it was impossible to get any idea of an accurate death count, it was very clear that the casualties from the day's events were going to very easily number into the millions.

The one good thing that seemed to come out of this, if it could be said that anything at all good occurred, is that the riots in most of the major cities appeared to be breaking up and dissipating. Even there, a lot of confusion existed. One of the things that nearly got lost in the ever-increasing mountain of unfolding news were reports that a few of the presidentially pardoned and released convicts were being spotted at a number of those protests, many of whom ended up falling victim to street justice. There were even some reports of foreign fighters having some kind of involvement in the riots. One thing was certain, however, almost no one had a clear picture of what was going on amongst all the chaos and confusion effecting the country.

As lunch time rolled around, no one seemed that interested in leaving. Even when Sarah brought in a tray of sandwiches and the adults did their best to coax the kids into eating, the appetites just weren't there.

It was around this time that Robert approached Barrett. "I don't suppose you are planning on testing that transmitter any time soon, are you?"

Barrett shot Robert a momentary glance of disbelief. "You're asking now?"

Robert shrugged. "It's better than sitting and watching this stuff all day. I don't know how much more depressing news I can take."

Barrett glanced toward Hac, who slowly nodded. "I hate to say it, but I think the pup has a point," the red-haired boy agreed. "There is nothing we can really do at this point other than watch the country tear itself apart. Not only that, but I fear we may need to make a choice soon in regard to our involvement in future events. The sooner we learn if there is anyone else out there, the better."

Barrett closed his eyes and thought for a few moments before he too nodded in agreement. "Yeah, you're right. Especially with what we've seen so far today, it's probably best we get this answered sooner rather than later."

The slightest of smiles crossed Robert's face as both Barrett and Hac stood up. That was probably the best that could be expected given the nature of the events that they had all been subjected to so far that day.

Very little was said between the three boys as they made their way through the busy halls of the UNIT base where the U.S. soldiers that had been arriving since the night before didn't appear to have any shortage of tasks to preform. After briefly stopping by Haden's room to pick up the component that had been finished earlier that morning, the boys went by the workshop that the transmitter had been assembled in the night before. They were there just long enough for Barrett to swap out the burnt out component with the new component, and to grab the entire transmitter before they made their way to the command center.

The command center appeared to be just as busy, if not more so than the hallways were. Nearly every station in the room was manned. If not be a UNIT kid, then by one of the U.S. soldiers. Every screen in the room appeared to be monitoring something. Things were so busy that the boys stood in the back of the room for several minutes before anyone seemed to notice them.

"Hey guys, I don't think this is the best time for a tour," Simon did his best to sound upbeat as he walked over toward them.

Barrett nodded in understanding. "Yeah, you guys seem pretty busy. We can come back later."

Simon looked at the large electronic device in Barrett's hand. "That's the new transmitter you guys were working on last night?"

"Yup," Robert jumped in, his excitement clearly starting to grow. "Last night, Haden mentioned we would have to test it here in the control center."

Barrett was quick to jump in after Robert. "But we can do that later. I'm sure you guys have a ton of other stuff to worry about right now."

Simon shook his head. "Haden was close. Actually you would need to use the main antenna room which is just off the control room. And as far as everything else going on... To be honest, I was just about to take a break anyway, so why don't you guys follow me and I'll show you where you can hook it up."

Barrett hesitated for a few moments, but once he saw the serious look in the smaller boy's eyes, he nodded. All three boys followed Simon to the front of the room, and through a small side door which lead into a much smaller room with a bunch of wires and other running equipment inside.

"You'll have to excuse the mess," Simon announced as they walked through the door. "This is also doubling as our secondary server room, and we haven't really had a lot of time to tidy things up yet."

"That's okay, this stuff all looks really cool," Robert replied.

"This is probably going to be the best tap-in point to the primary antenna array here," Simon stated as he pointed to a junction box. "Alvin is in the process of temporarily swapping over most of our other communications to the backup array, so nothing should interfere with your test."

"Thanks," Barrett replied as he set the transmitter down and began to hook it up the way he and Haden had discussed the night before. "Are you sure this isn't going to mess your other stuff up too much?"

"Nope, it won't mess things up at all," Simon stated seriously. "That's what backup arrays are for. In fact, everything is already switched over, and other than a very minor screen flicker on one of the in-bound feeds, no one noticed a thing."

Barrett nodded in understanding.

With that, Simon left Barrett and Robert to the task of getting the transmitter setup. Instead of leaving, however, he stood back near the door and observed.

"There, I think that's everything," Barrett announced a few minutes later after he plugged in the main power feed. "Now there's only one thing left to do."

A small low-pitched humming sound came from the device once Barrett flipped the switch to turn it on. Both he and Robert held their breaths for several long moments waiting to see if one of the components would burn out as it did the night before. Fortunately, nothing happened.

After getting a reassuring nod from Hac, Barrett picked up the microphone. "Break, break," he began to speak. "This is Barrett Klystron, KSID number seven-eight-zero-alpha-gamma-five-nine authorization lexic-dark-zero-nine emergency channel break." After speaking, he lowered the mic from his mouth as he and the other boys waited several long moments leaning only to the faint sound of static.

After several moments of not getting a response, Barrett sighed as he lifted the mic back up to this mouth. "I repeat... this is Barrett Klystron on emergency channels, is anyone receiving, break." Once again, several more seconds of silence went by with no response.

Barrett was just about to set the mic down, when Hac snatched it out of his hands. "Lemme see that," he stated with a slight growl as he lifted it up to his own mouth. "Break, break. This is Hacerth Tyruth, KSID seven-eight-one-beta-gamma-three-six authorization anyone-listening-better-respond-to-us-now!"

After even more time went by with no response, Barrett lowered his head as he glanced toward Simon. "Oh well, thanks for letting us try."

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