Copyright © 2004-2018 Jeff P.. All Rights Reserved.
"Attention all Clan Short HQ and AI Division Personnel. Please report to the hospital main lobby immediately. All Medical and Security Support Staff, resume operations." Marc's voice bellowed over the all call.
After about 10 minutes, Marc looked over the small group that had formed and loudly cleared his throat while security took post at all the doorways. "Guys, I need your attention." Marc half shouted bringing the room into complete silence. "This would have taken way too long to cover one on one and we don't have a ton of time." He got out as he opened his communicator. "Marc to Lieutenant Myers, is the lobby secure?"
"Aye sir, we're holding posts."
"Thank you, Marc out." Marc said as he closed his communicator. "Okay, I just received orders from our AI Division Head, All personnel are to remain on site here at the hospital until further notice. No external communications are to be passed unless the acting division head gives the approval. There is a contained situation at the moment making it possibly unsafe outside of these walls right now. I don't have any specific information, but this request is coming directly from our Patriarch."
"Marc, Caleb and JR are at the house." Noah said with a worried look in his eyes.
"Easy bro, Caleb and JR are safe and with Cory and Danny. The house is empty right now with the exception of security." Marc said as he watched Noah nod his head, but the worried look wouldn't fade. "All scheduled activities will resume without interruption, this security issue is of a sensitive nature and no information is to leak outside of these walls, under any uncertain circumstances."
The group began to murmur a bit but, eventually returned complete attention to Marc. "We are not displaying an elevated security level but will be locked down until we receive an All Clear from higher up, clear?" Marc asked getting confirming nods from his group. "Okay, with that said, we have plans for today beginning with Austin."
"Sir?" Austin said as he stepped forward.
"Your duties today consist of nothing but Joey Owens. Do you need a support staff?" Marc asked.
"No, he'll be online within a half hour after we break this meeting. Then it's a matter of debugging and adjusting programming before he'll be fully functional again." Austin answered before tilting his head. "Does this mean we are postponing my procedure?"
"Yes, we won't have the time today. First thing tomorrow morning, your butt is mine though." Marc said with a giggle.
Austin grinned as he craned his neck and looked at his butt. "But I like my butt." He said getting a few laughs from the group.
"Nuts." Marc replied with a giggle before looking at a P.A.D.D. he had set out on the reception desk. "Antonio, Byron, Eli & Benji." He said looking back up to confirm he had their attention. "Prosthetic replacements are completed and ready for... Um... installation. One hour following this meeting, I want the four of you to report to the OR and prep for the procedure. I will need Dr. Herron brought in to assist as well. Do not administer anesthesia until I arrive in the OR, I'd like to talk to all of you before we begin, Cool?"
"Okay Marc." Antonio said with a smile as the other three nodded, Benji becoming white as a ghost and Eli elbowing his brother with an encouraging smile.
"Mrs. Owens, since we wont be able to leave the location do you think we can get the kitchen up to handle at least one full day of operation? We have a crew that will eventually get hungry."
"Not a problem honey, is it okay if I make a few calls and bring in my crew?" Mary asked with a smile.
"You have a crew?" Marc almost coughed out in surprise.
"My catering staff, they are all hoping to remain involved." Mary said with a grin.
"That's great!" Marc said with a huge smile. "Permission granted for outside communication then." He got out looking back at his P.A.D.D. "Mr. O'Keefe." Marc said as he looked up and saw Billy step forward and give his full attention. "I am about to give you a rather uncomfortable order. If you are unable to comply, I will understand but will be required to have you stand down until this situation is resolved."
"I understand sir. Your orders?" Billy questioned as he stood at attention.
"Chief, as of this moment you are ordered to contain all information divulged from this meeting. Any direct reports you are required to submit to TerraMain are to be falsified maintaining the appearance that we are not running a heightened security level. Are you able to comply?"
"Billy's face became emotionless as he nodded his head. "Aye sir, It was my understanding that you are now my superior officer, meaning any and all reports filed by me go directly to you now. I will not have any further communications with TerraMain unless they purposely contact me. Then it will be with your authorization. Our current status will be handled as classified information. If I need to lie, I'll simply respond with a lack of knowledge." He said with a grin. "As far as I know, everything is fine."
"Thank you Billy." Marc said with a smile gaining a respectful nod in response. "Since we won't be dealing with heavy traffic today, I would really like it if you could do any final testing and adjustment to the replication unit. If it's possible, I'd like to attempt Kevin's activation this evening once we finish up with Eli and Benji."
"That should be fine. All current tests show we could possibly be ready within an hour if needed." Billy responded.
"I want a minimum of 5 successful simulated replications before we attempt a final unit activation. I'm gonna need medical support standing by." Marc said as he looked at the group. "Byron, you can assist with Eli, but I'd like you to rest up when we move to Benji. You think you can handle an emergency resuscitation?"
"I get to help with Kevin?" Byron asked with a smile.
"I really will need the help, if you're up for it." Marc replied as he watched Byron nod his head excitedly while Antonio wrapped his arms around his waist and Noah patted the back of his head with a smile. "Noah, while I'm in surgery I need you to take command of operations. I will brief you following this meeting."
"Command?" Noah asked with his voice squeaking. "Oh... um... okay." He stammered out as his face began to blush.
"Relax bro; I'm not leaving the building." Marc replied with a giggle. "Sammy, Sebastian." Marc said as he redirected his attention back to Eli and Benji, both gripped tightly by their boyfriends. "You guys stick to Eli and Benji until we begin. Keep em smiling, I know they're nervous."
"We ain't goin nowhere." Sammy said as he hugged Benji tighter.
"Marc, do we gotta leave tha room when ya'll get started?" Sebastian asked seriously.
"Would you rather stay in physical contact with them?" Marc asked, not knowing if their presence would help to keep Eli and Benji relaxed.
"If we can." Sammy replied. "We ain't gonna get sick or nuthin, I swear."
"You both can stay in the OR with your boyfriends. Antonio, Byron; That means during the procedure we'll use a curtain to isolate ourselves while we work.
"Thanks Marc." Benji said as some color began to return to his face.
Marc nodded as he placed the P.A.D.D. Down and smiled. "Okay, you have your orders. All but Noah are dismissed."
"What about me?" Jerry almost whined. "Don't I get to help?"
"Oh, sorry bro." Marc said with a giggle. "You are doing rounds today. You are our on call today. That means Dixon and Jesse are under your watch. Make sure Dixon's family is comfortable and the boys are well taken care of. You seem to hit it off well with Dixon, if he needs an ear he may look to you."
"Okay." Jerry said with a bit of a deflated look.
"Austin, make sure to inform Jerry when his son is ready for a visitor please." Marc said with a smile as he watched Jerry grin widely.
"No problem Dad." Austin said with a wink.
"If there's nothing else?" Marc asked as the room fell silent. "Okay then, Dismissed. Let's get some work done." He said as everyone filed back into the main hallway and Noah slowly walked over to the reception desk.
"Command? Dude???" Noah asked, just barely above a whisper. "I can't take command, that's insane. I'm not ready for something that big!"
"Are you kidding me? Who do you think has been holding me up this whole time?" Marc replied with a laugh as he hopped up and sat on the desk, motioning to Noah to join him. "I'm not sure how we need to handle this situation. I know all communications from HQ are dead right now meaning it's probably locked down just as tight or unmanned. Security was never elevated, meaning they are keeping this situation contained. We just need to follow suit and pray for the best." Marc said with a sigh.
"Do you know what happened?" Noah asked watching as Marc let down his tough act to show real concern.
"Not really. Danny mentioned something about someone hunting Cory and his family but he didn't have time to explain. I know if we were in danger, He would have had us evacuated. Instead, all I've got to go on is HQ's posture. Which is non existent right now. They became ultra silent, we're gonna do the same."
A tear began to well up in Noah's eye as he turned to look out the windows at the crowd of people wandering up and down the property. "Nobody's gotten hurt or anything, have they?"
"No, Danny said Caleb and JR are safe, he's with Cory so I have to assume the whole group that went to Australia is safe. Don't worry. If anyone had already been hurt, I'm sure he would have said something."
"True." Noah mumbled as Marc pulled him into a hug. "I just wish they were all home."
"I hear ya." Marc said as he tightened his squeeze. "Until we hear otherwise, assume all is okay and we continue on, business as usual."
"Okay, what do I need to do?" Noah asked with a sniffle.
"First, you gotta stop soaking my shirt down." Marc answered with a laugh, earning a tense giggle from Noah. "You are in command of the installation, meaning no communications come or go without your approval. If medical assistance is needed somewhere, you need to shuffle staff. If anyone from the Federation tries to contact us, we are bogged down with pre-planned medical activity and our status is normal, relaxed security. If anyone should question as to where Cory or Danny are, we haven't had any communication but did monitor a shuttle arriving at our compound. Give out no real information, just all is fine and going well." Marc said with a nod. "With everything so quiet, let's rely on the fact that everyone looks at our division being very new and inexperienced. We can appear to not know just because we aren't following any real structured procedures yet."
"They would have to be total fools to believe that." Noah said with a grin.
"We'll just have to rely on them being total fools then. Trust me; let them think we aren't organized. It'll keep them from digging too deep."
Noah giggled at Marc's response before holding his hand out. "Okay bro, I'll do my best."
Marc took Noah's hand and smiled. "I know you will, you have been right along. Now it's your turn to take some of the credit for what we're getting done here. You may not think you're ready..." Marc said as Noah rolled his eyes. "Stop that." Marc said with a laugh as he slapped Noah playfully in the forehead. "I know you're ready, you've proven that already with the support you've given me. Believe it, cause I do."
"Okay! Geesh... I didn't know I had to take abuse when I took this position." Noah said as he rubbed his forehead, finally bursting out laughing.
Marc smiled as the two hopped off the desk and wrapped each other in a tight hug. "Thanks." Marc said as they separated and Noah turned to leave the room, stopping him in his tracks.
"Thanks for what?" Noah asked turning back toward Marc.
"Thanks for sticking around. If you weren't here I seriously doubt I could have gotten this far without overloading. Honestly." Marc smiled as he turned and walked out of the doors, heading for the security shack leaving a smiling Noah in the lobby.
"Good Morning Director Furst!" The stationed security guard shouted as he snapped to attention.
Marc smiled and nodded his head realizing he had better get used to the militant style of his new security force. "At ease Cadet. I need your assistance in the guard shack."
"Yes Sir!" The officer snapped as he rushed to open the door. "How can I be of assistance?" The 16 or so year old said with a cold look on his face.
"Well first, you can relax. In public I guess a military stance is appropriate, but in private I prefer my subordinates to relax and be themselves. Do I make myself clear Cadet?"
The security guard stood still for a moment in shock before a grin crept into Marc's expression, finally relaxing the young officer. "Are you sure?" He carefully asked.
"Look, I respect you guys for what you have accomplished here. Hell I've never felt safer in my life since you guys got here. Fact is, this cold military attitude just bothers me. I mean you are what, 16 years old? That can't be your real attitude. I like to get to know my team by getting to know who they really are when at all possible, not who they are trained to be." Marc said as he watched the teenager take one step back not once breaking eye contact. "This isn't boot camp. A smile every now and then wouldn't kill you or scar your record cadet."
Finally the cadet began to smile and Marc realized he had just blasted this kid for no good reason. "Scott." The officer said, finally allowing a grin to creep into his expression. "You can call me Scott." He continued holding out his hand for Marc to shake. "I'm sorry, no one told me you guys ran that casual, its not what we're training for."
"I know." Marc replied finally smiling and shaking the boy's hand. "I didn't mean to rant like that. I guess I'm just too used to working one on one and kinda take the crisp military front as an obstruction to getting to really knowing my team. It was worth it for the shocked expression you had though."
"I wasn't expecting it. That's for sure." Scott said with a genuine smile. "You said you needed help?"
"Yeah." Marc said as he walked over to the desk in the shack and brought the terminal out of standby. "I need you to relay a message for me to Eddie Fraser at our compound. It needs to be sent encrypted and can't be stumbled across by the federation."
"Everything okay?" Scott said as he sat down and began to readjust the communications settings.
"Yes and no, we simply need to tighten our defense without alarming the federation. This is classified information, can I trust you or do I need to ask you to leave the room?" Marc asked looking down at his new friend.
"Take me out back and shoot me if I leak information." Scott said with a giggle.
"Fair enough." Marc said as Eddie's image popped up on the screen.
"Jr. Lieutenant Shannon, why are you using a secure encrypted channel?" Eddie asked squinting his eyes.
"Sir, this transmission is considered classified at the request of Director Furst. Is your end secure?" Scott asked in a relaxed but professional tone.
"It is. Is Marc there with you?" Eddie asked as Scott stood up and offered the chair to Marc.
"Eddie, we have an issue." Marc said before even getting fully seated.
"Marc, you still have a cadet in the room." Eddie said in a worried tone.
"He's in the loop and secured." Marc said as he sat back in his seat. "Look, by now you must already know you have a Federation Shuttle on the property but no longer have personnel on site."
"Yes, we were expecting Director Page's return but in doing our walk through, realized he somehow beamed out without being detected."
"Eddie, we have a very touchy situation here. I have no real details but know at the moment Patriarch Short is possibly in danger. We need to secure the compound and allow no one, including the federation to know that the house is empty. Any external communications coming in need to be directed to this location. Anyone attempting to reach myself or any other member of our team needs to be intercepted and effectively stalled." Marc said as Eddie nodded his head. "Has Will shown up yet?"
"Yeah, do you need to speak with him?"
"No, just relay our situation. I want our condition to be an internal, undetectable condition yellow. Convey this condition verbally, in person, in a secure area. We aren't sure what we are dealing with yet, but we're gonna be ready if we need to be."
"Consider the compound secure. We'll handle this end." Eddie replied with a serious expression.
"It may be nothing, but I don't want to assume anything at this point." Marc said as he looked over to Scott and then back at the screen. "Cadet Shannon will assist with coordinating your efforts between locations."
"I will?" Scott spit out without even thinking first. Freezing and covering his mouth.
"Are you incapable Cadet?" Marc sounded, snapping Scott back into military mode.
"Sir, No Sir!" Scott almost shouted.
"Eddie, are you familiar with Jr. Lieutenant Shannon's record." Marc asked with a grin.
"Yes, I am Marc." Eddie replied.
"I would like to know if a field promotion to full Lieutenant would be acceptable for this officer. Consider it a temporary promotion pending the outcome of his performance. He has demonstrated a very efficient profile, professional attitude and honestly impressed me enough to earn my trust. Can we make it happen?" Marc asked with a grin.
"You're the boss." Eddie said as Marc looked at the horrified look on Scott's face and laughed. "Congrats Lieutenant!" Eddie said with a smile. "I'll alter him in the system and will inform all security personnel of assignment to your location."
"Thanks Eddie." Marc said with a smile. "If you need anything from this end, Noah Barnes will be in active command of the division until further notice. Marc out." Marc said as he ended the call and turned to face Scott. "You okay?"
"Um... ah... oh, um... whew... Yes?" Scott replied as Marc pointed to his collar and tapped on his rank pins.
"I believe you are out of uniform Mr. Shannon." Marc giggled patting his new officer on the shoulder before opening the door. "Welcome aboard."
"Marc?" Scott asked finally snapping out of his daze. "This promotion isn't warranted."
Marc stopped just outside of the door and turned to smile at him. "Really? By who's standards?"
"Um... Federation standards I guess." Scott replied.
"This isn't a federation installation Scott. You are the first to finally relax and work with me instead of strictly for me. That's an attribute I'm looking for. You earned my respect, now it's time to earn my trust. You up for it?"
"Hell yeah!" Scott almost shouted with a smile before once again covering his mouth. "Sorry, I mean yes, thank you."
"I liked the hell yeah better." Marc said with a giggle before turning to leave. "You have your orders. Report our situation once we are at a silent condition yellow."
"You got it!" Scott shouted as the door swung shut.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Hmmmm." Austin mumbled as he began to look over the display on the biobed Joey was laying on. "Weird." He added as he grabbed his communicator and flipped it open. "Austin to Noah."
"Noah here dude, something wrong?"
"No. I mean, I'm not sure really. Has someone been tampering with the biobed profiles?" Austin asked scratching his head.
"Not that I'm aware of, why?"
Austin shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. "I was getting ready to terminate life support and initiate Joey's final start sequence when I found an alteration to the AI profile. One that makes no sense at all."
"Do you want me to notify Marc bro?"
"No, this isn't that important. I'll talk to him about it when I see him. I was just wondering if you knew about someone experimenting with it or anything." Austin said as he looked at the profile again. "Don't worry about it dude. I was just wondering."
"Oh okay. Well just let me know if you need us to look any deeper into it."
"Will do. Look just so you know, Joey should be awake in about 5 minutes. I won't be available for a while. This isn't exactly a normal activation." Austin said as he began to shut down the biobed. "Most of all, keep Jerry away from OR #1. It'll be too rough for him to see Joey like this."
"I don't plan on going there Austin." Jerry's voice came over the communicator. "I was already ordered to stay away until you said it was okay for me to come down."
Austin's eyes shot wide open as Noah's voice interrupted. "I probably should have told you I was with Jerry, huh?"
"It would have helped." Austin said with laugh. "Wish us luck, Austin out." As Austin closed his communicator, the biobed went through its final program termination and powered down life support. "Okay... Here we go." He said as he typed in a few commands and he stood back to watch.
After about a minute, Joey's unchanged breathing became deeper and not as rhythmic as it was before. Austin watched as Joey attempted to swallow and move his head a bit. "Joey, It's time to wake up." Austin said softly as he swung the work light away from the bed and turned it off, dimming the room considerably. "Joey, I know you can hear me little guy." Austin whispered as he rested his elbows on the bed and watched Joey twitch his face and slowly start to attempt to move his fingers and toes. "There you go, now can you open your eyes?"
It took a few moments and five attempts before Joey was able to open his eyes before opening his mouth and breathing harder. "Ahh..." Joey coughed out.
"Take it slow, there's no rush." Austin said as he looked at the biobed's display and used its connection to begin correcting the conflicts that began to surface. "Your brain isn't used to this yet, so don't try too hard, okay."
"Awsh... Aw... Aws..." Joey got out appearing to be getting frustrated.
"Hold on a second." Austin said before returning to the control panel. "Close your eyes for a second and don't move." Austin tapped away before Joey's eyes popped back open, this time with a surprised look on his face. "Try now."
"Ausdin?" ("Austin?") Joey questioned before attempting to move. "I feew funny." ("I feel funny.") He got out as his expression got even more excited. "I sound funny." ("I sound funny.")
"Relax little bro. There are gonna be a few changes you'll need to get used to." Austin said as he reached over and ruffled Joey's hair before getting back to work. "Just lie still, I need to verify your brain knows what to do with all this new hardware." He added with a grin.
"Hawdwawe?" ("Hardware?") Joey questioned wrinkling up his face. "Whad's dhad?" ("What's that?")
"This." He said as he grabbed Joey's hand and lifted it to where he could see it. "In a few minutes, your brain will know this is yours. Actually, it knows it now. It just doesn't know what to do with it yet." Austin said with a giggle as Joey's eyes opened wide.
"I god bwain?" ("I got brain?") Joey asked.
"Nope, you got a whole new body just like mine." He managed to get out just as Joey's hand twitched.
"Id dickwes." ("It tickles.") He said with a giggle just before wincing, as if he was in pain.
"Hang in there little guy. Some of these feelings you've never had before. It's nothing to be afraid of, okay?"
"I no afwaid." ("I no afraid.") Joey said putting on the bravest expression he could. "Ausdin? I didn'd die, did I?" ("Austin? I didn't die, did I?")
Austin hopped up on the edge of the bed and ran his fingers down his little brother's cheek. With a smile he shook his head as he replied: "No, your old body did, it damaged parts of your old brain too. Luckily, your memory and logic center was still okay, so I took the units out of your damaged brain and put them in a new brain, with a newer, better body."
"Dhis no bedda. I can'd even move." ("This no betta. I can't even move.") Joey replied earning a laugh from Austin.
"It will be, just give it a few minutes. I went through the same thing the first time I ever woke up. It's gonna tickle, just to learn what tickling means now. It'll hurt and feel hot and then cold cause your brain has to learn new ways to feel that stuff now." Austin said knowing he definitely just confused Joey even more. "Joey, do you know what your new body looks like yet?"
"No." ("No.") Joey almost whined as every limb in his body tensed and then relaxed again. "I no see id yed." ("I no see it yet.")
Austin hopped off the bed and dug through the room as he continued to talk. "Well, that's what your brain is doing. It's looking at all the new stuff we gave you." He said as he finally found a mirror and brought it over to the bed with a grin. "You wanna see too?"
"Yeah." ("Yeah.") Joey replied excitedly. As Austin held the mirror out, he smiled just watching the shocked expression wash over Joey's face. "Woooowww! I wook wike you an Daddy an Unkah Mawc an Unkah Danny..." ("Woooowww! I look like you an Daddy an Unkah Marc an Unkah Danny...") He got out before Austin stopped him from talking.
"Joey, say your name." Austin said tilting his head.
"You know whad my name is Ausdin." ("You know what my name is Austin.") He said before blinking his eyes and staring at his big brother. "Joey." ("Joey.") He stated, more to hear himself say it than because he was asked to. "My name is Joey. J O E Y. I said id wike you do. I dawk diffewend now." ("My name is Joey. J O E Y. I said it like you do. I talk different now.")
'Yeah, your speech has definitely improved. Not completely, but a lot better. Not bad kidoe." He said, almost freezing as Joey tensed again and closed his eyes tight.
"Id's huwding me!" ("It's hurting me!") Joey almost shouted before suddenly relaxing and looking shocked again.
"Does it still hurt?" Austin asked as he watched Joey begin to open and close his hands. Almost as if he were testing them. "System says you are functional now, if it hurts now I need to know little guy."
Joey looked deep in thought for a moment before raising his hand and looking at it. "No." ("No.") He said with a grin as he raised the other hand, rubbing them together. "Id feews weawwy good." ("It feels really good.") He said as a wide smile took over his face. "Can I ged up? Pwease?" ("Can I get up? Please?")
"You can sit up, but you can't stand yet. I still have a diagnostic running so you have to stay connected." Austin replied as Joey carefully sat upright. "Did that feel okay?"
Joey simply smiled and held his arms open. "Ausdin, can I have a hug." ("Austin, can I have a hug.") He asked with a giggle that almost suddenly turned into a pur as Austin leaned in and hugged his brother. "Id feews beddew dhan oday." ("It feels better than otay.") He said with a relieved smile. "Id feews... Id kinda wike... I dunno, bud id is good, I dhink." ("It feels... It kinda like... I dunno, but it is good, I think.") He got out with a giggle.
"Just another hour and we'll get to try those legs out." Austin said with a smile as he released Joey and looked him in the eyes. "I missed you little guy."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"I'll take the call in here Billy, thanks." Noah said as he closed his communicator and sat down at the terminal in the new admitting area just as the screen alerted of an incoming message. After accepting the transmission, the image of an older gentleman appeared with the California Police Department seal in the lower left corner of the screen. "This is Noah Barnes, temporarily acting as Clan Short, AI Division Director. How can I help you?"
"Oh, uh... Hehehe. I'm sorry Mr. Barnes. I wasn't expecting someone so young." The man said with a nervous smile. "I meant no offense."
"None taken." Noah replied with a genuine smile. "It's something we have all just gotten used to."
"I can imagine." The man said with a smile. "Anyway, the reason I was asked to contact your organization is that we have come across a piece of equipment identified as property belonging to Vision Industries. If my information is correct, this equipment belongs to you."
Noah raised his eyebrows and tilted his head before answering. "Your information is correct, our medical director is solely in possession of the old Vision Industries and simply operates under a different banner now. Can I ask what kind of equipment it was that you came across, Um... sir?"
"Murphy." The man replied. "Lieutenant Richard Murphy, Special Crimes Division, Malibu PD. You can call me Rich." He replied with a smile. "To answer your question, we received a call at 5:32 this morning that a diver found a beaten Android Endoskeletal Structure about 100 feet from the shore in Malibu. We can't determine how long it has been there but, have identified it as one of your companies units. Its registration was damaged and unreadable so we can't identify it."
"Oh wow." Noah replied opening his eyes wide. "Does it appear to have any damage that could have affected its positronic brain?"
"Nope." Rich replied with a smile. "That's why we wanted to see about returning it as soon as possible. From what our ballistics team reported, its head and upper torso are intact. It does appear as though its neck was broken severing the spinal column and the encased harness. From the damage our team assessed that it had been hit bluntly at the base of the skull and then run through the propeller of a boat or something. Since there is no biological material remaining, we have to assume that he has been down there for quite some time." Rich sighed and then continued. "Noah, I still own one of these units. He's been in my family since I was a kid. If this unit's brain is still functional, it may be able to tell us what happened. Maybe even lead us to whomever it is that did this to him. If it wasn't an accident I mean. If this does turn out to be foul play, we are prepared to pursue this matter." Rich said with a serious expression.
"Rich." Noah started seeming to be deep in thought. "I agree with you, we really should look deeper into this. I'm going to have our Chief Engineer contact you regarding having all materials transported to our facility for assessment. I'll speak with our division head and explain the situation and the importance of your inquiry." Noah said with a grin. "If we find out this was foul play like you said, I'm sure there are a few Androids on site who would love to be at your side when you make whoever could have been responsible answer for their actions."
"Really? You have Androids working for you?" Rich asked with a widening smile.
"No." Noah replied with a giggle. "I work for them. I'm only temporarily in charge right now. The head of our division and Medical Directors are both Androids."
"Oh wow, that's great." Rich said before quickly adding; "That they are doing so well, not that you aren't in charge, I mean..."
"Don't worry. I know what you meant." Noah cut him off. "Honestly, I don't think of them as any different from me or anyone else really. None of us do."
"That's awesome." Rich replied with a grin. "I'll have to tell John about you guys. He'd love to hear that there actually is a place where humans and androids work together like that."
Noah tilted his head and grinned. "John?"
"Oh, sorry. John is my, um... my android's name."
"Oh cool, well if you ever make it out this way you gotta bring him with you then." Noah replied with a smile. "Seriously. I bet he'd love to meet all these guys. Android or human, I bet even he would have a hard time telling who was who." Noah said giving them both a laugh. "Consider that an open invitation. I'll have Mr. O'Keefe contact you regarding transporting the android you found to our location and I'll make sure you are kept up to date with our progress." Noah replied with a smile.
"Thank you Noah. I'll keep my fingers crossed it goes well. I'll await your Chief's call." Rich said with a sigh of relief. "I'll tell John about your invitation, I'm sure he'd love to visit."
"Well you are both welcomed. Maybe if we're lucky enough, you can make plans to come out and meet the android you found." Noah said with an encouraging nod.
"That sounds like a plan. I'll talk to you soon." Rich said as he terminated the call.
Once the screen went blank, Noah got up from his seat and began to walk while flipping open his communicator. "Barnes to O'Keefe."
"Go ahead Noah."
"Billy." Noah said as he began to jog in the direction of the elevator. "Reconnect to Lieutenant Murphy and arrange to transport some equipment in. Handle it as high priority dude and hold it in Transporter Room 1 until we have a chance to go over it." Noah said as he nearly ran right into Jerry in the hall. Waving to get him to follow, they both screeched around the corner as Noah continued to speak; "This is related to an investigation so we need to get right on it. I'll have security meet us there." He got out just in time for both boys to reach the hall leading to the main entrance.
"Understood Noah. Billy Out!"
"What's going on?" Jerry asked with concern as Noah whipped out a P.A.D.D. and began frantically tapping on it.
"Dude, Special Crimes Unit in California found an android who might have been terminated and dumped in the ocean. I need you to run out to the guard station and find lieutenant... Um... damn it, what's his name." Noah said tapping even faster on the handheld. "Shannon! That's it. Lieutenant Shannon. I need him to have his position covered and to meet us in transporter room 1. After you do that, go to OR #1 and let Austin know that I'm going to need his help as soon as he feels Joey is stable enough."
"Okay Noah!" Jerry half shouted as he turned to run out the doors.
"Jerry!" Noah shouted. "Give Joey a hug for me when you see him." He said with a smile as Jerry gave a thumbs up, turned and thrust his fist in the air with an excited yell and ran full speed toward the guard shack.
About 5 minutes later Noah and Billy's discussion was interrupted by a uniformed teen entering the room. "Lieutenant Scott Shannon, reporting as ordered sir." The comment being followed up with a crisp salute, raising the eyebrows of both Noah and Billy.
"New here?" Noah asked with a grin as the officer gave him a questioning glance. "Unless someone from outside of the clan is present, we normally don't salute each other dude. We aren't military, at least not that kind of military."
"It takes some getting used to but, it's no less professional than traditional assignments, trust me on that one." Billy added.
"Oh, okay." Scott said with an uncomfortable expression, not really knowing what to do or how to present himself now.
"Scott, come here. We have something we need to discuss before we initiate this transport." Noah said waving him over to join them behind the console. "Okay, the equipment we are beaming in is part of an investigation started by the Special Crimes Unit out in California. It is a police matter they are asking us for help with. They found a badly damaged android under water and were simply going to return the android to its parent company." Noah said with a pause before looking directly at Scott. "The parent company was called Vision Industries. Marc Furst was still operating it before it combined with the Clan forming this AI division." He stated getting an appreciative smile from Scott. "Anyway, after talking with Lieutenant Murphy, we believe it would be a good idea to attempt to restore this unit to consciousness and see if it can fill us in on whatever it knows. Possibly return it to its family when we close this case up." Noah said as he verified the transporter settings. "Billy, is the replication setup you've been working on functional yet?"
"Yeah." Billy replied with a grin. "I was actually preparing to replicate the Kevin profile tonight when you called."
"Great." Noah said with a smile. "I'm going to team Austin with you since Marc, Byron and Antonio are busy with Eli and Benji. We need to be able to replicate a body and put it directly onto life support. Then we need to remove the replicated brain and hopefully if it's existing brain checks out, install it in the new body." Noah said as he looked up and saw Billy nod his head with a grin and Scott watch on with a completely blank stare on his face. "You're lost, aren't you?" Noah asked with a grin.
"You could say that." Scott replied opening his eyes wide. "How do I fit into all of this?"
Noah smiled as he leaned against the console. "This is a police matter and we are assisting. According to Marc's reports, you are the ranking Security Officer on site. For as long as this unit is part of their investigation, we need to have our best on him." Noah continued as he leaned closer and lowered his voice. "Besides, according to his report the only thing you're lacking is practical experience. This will help with that."
"Noah, Malibu is reporting ready for transport." Billy said interrupting the conversation.
"Okay Mr. O'Keefe, energize when ready." Noah replied turning his attention back toward Scott. "Just relax and do what you feel is right. We're all here with you if you need help." Noah said as he leaned in just as the hum of the transporter system began to signal it was almost ready. With a whisper Noah said; "We all started somewhere, and we all did it as a team."
"Thanks Noah, I'm going to stand post just outside the door to make sure you aren't disturbed." Scott said just above a whisper getting a nod from Noah as a metal case began to materialize on the transporter pad.
"Transport complete, I am transferring the buffered copy into the replication control terminal so we can extrapolate physical attributes, DNA info and regeneration data we will need to create a working model for it's new body." Billy said as he powered the transporter down and signaled Malibu of transport completion.
"Billy, I'm gonna go talk to Austin. Can you get started working out the profile while I'm gone?" Noah asked as Billy seemed buried in what he was doing. "Scott will be remaining so make sure he has access to the terminal to check in with his team."
Billy simply nodded his head while Scott stepped up onto the transporter pad and approached the metal box. "There's an android in here?" He asked Noah as he walked in a circle inspecting the container from all sides.
"Most of one." Noah replied. "Rich said they recovered its head and upper torso."
"That explains why it's so small then." He stated as he looked up at Noah and smiled. "I've never seen one before."
"An android?" Noah asked through a giggle. "Dude, you've been working with them."
"I mean..." Scott said as he motioned towards the box. "...in this condition."
Noah simply smiled and nodded his head before turning back toward the door. "Stick around; you'll get to see more than that soon."
"Noah, if you can give me about an hour, I have an idea that could eliminate the need for surgery." Billy spoke up as he continued to tap away at the keyboard. "I wanna run it by Austin first though."
As Noah stepped into the hallway, he turned and grinned. "You got it. If you get the chance make sure to log your findings into the system so Marc can go over them once he's out of surgery." He got out just before the door closed.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Is dhad good?" ("Is that good?") Joey asked Austin as he stood on one foot and then switched to the other.
"That's great." Austin replied with a grin. "Now stay on that foot and pat your head."
"Wike dhis?" ("Like this?") Joey asked as he did as he was told.
"Yup, that's perfect." Austin got out stifling a giggle. "Now rub a circle on your tummy at the same time."
Joey scowled at his older brother but did as he was asked. "Oday?" ("Otay?")
"Awesome, we're almost done." He said with a smile, still trying to contain a laugh. "Now keep doing that, but I want you to hop up and down and say Rubber Baby Buggy Bumper and keep repeating it."
"Oday." ("Otay.") Joey grumbled with a sigh, pausing everything he was doing already. "Wubbew Baby Buggy Bumpew, Wubbew Baby Buggy Bumpew..." ("Rubber Baby Buggy Bumper, Rubber Baby Buggy Bumper...") Joey chanted as the door opened and Noah rushed in, freezing in his tracks.
"Austin, what are you doing to the poor kid?" Noah asked with a smirk.
"Motor skills testing." Austin said with a giggle finally escaping. "That and he looks funny doing that."
"AUSDIN!!!" ("AUSTIN!!!") Joey shouted causing both Noah and Austin to break out in a fit of giggles. "Dhad nod funny." ("That not funny.") Joey said with a pout, stopping the exercise.
"Well maybe not from your point of view." Austin said with a giggle. "One last test." Austin said with a smirk.
"I nod sayin nudhin widh bumpews any mowe." ("I not sayin nuthin with bumpers any more.") Joey said crossing his arms and glaring at his brother.
"Nope, no bumpers." Austin replied. "You gotta run as fast as you can over to Noah and give him a big hug." He continued with a smile. "That'll be the last test."
"I can do dhad." ("I can do that.") Joey said with a smile as he nearly dove into a hug. "Hi Noah. Whewe's Caweb?" ("Hi Noah. Where's Caleb?")
Noah smiled and rubbed the back of Joey's head for a moment before answering. "Caleb's with your uncle Danny on a mission. They'll be home soon and I bet they can't wait to see you." He said kneeling down and looking Joey in the eyes. "You look awesome dude!"
"Weawwy?" ("Really?") Joey said with a blush. "I feew kinda funny bud id's geddin beddew." ("I feel kinda funny but it's gettin better.") He got out just in time for a rumble to come from his belly. Joey froze and looked at his mid section before looking back at Noah with fear beginning to creep into his expression. "I bwoken." ("I broken.")
"No your not." Noah said with a comforting smile. "You're hungry, twirp. Didn't Austin get you something to eat yet?"
"No." Joey replied sticking out his bottom lip.
"Think he's ready for a walk down to the cafeteria big brother?" Noah asked with a grin.
"Yup. As a matter of fact, that was the plan." Austin replied motioning toward the door.
"Change of plans." Noah spoke up, freezing Austin in mid step. "You're needed in Transporter Room One. We have another android in need of your help." Noah said with a shrug.
"Kevin?" Austin questioned. "I thought he was going to wait for Dad to get out of surgery."
"Unkah Mawc geddin suwgewied?" ("Unkah Marc gettin surgeried?") Joey asked with concern clearly displayed on his face.
"No little guy." Noah said ruffling Joey's hair. "Today's the day your uncle Marc fixes Eli and Benji's Owies, remember?"
"Doday???" ("Today???") Joey almost shouted bouncing up and down. "I go see Ewi? Pwease!" ("I go see Eli? Please!")
"Let's get some food in your tummy first, then we'll see when we can visit. It may not be until sometime tomorrow though, think you can wait that long.
"I guess." ("I guess.") Joey replied with a deflated expression. "Benji's geddin suwgewied doo?" ("Benji's gettin surgeried too?")
"Yup." Noah said as he draped his arm across the little android's shoulders and led him into the hallway, nodding to Austin as they turned. "Your Daddy and Byron came up with the idea. They're fixing Benji's left hand while they fix Eli's Right arm and leg. When they're done, both of em are gonna be whole, just like you and me."
"Dhad's coow!" ("That's cool!") Joey almost shouted. "Bud Ewi won'd have his weg wunnin afdew him anymowe." ("But Eli won't have his leg runnin after him anymore.") He said with a pouty expression as they got to the elevator and pressed the down button.
"No way dude! They won't throw out his pet leg. Come on!" Noah said with a giggle as he poked Joey's side and made him squirm. "If they do, what's he gonna chase you guys around with?"
Joey got really silent as they entered the elevator but, finally looked up at Noah as they reached the basement. "Noah?" ("Noah?") He asked as they stepped into the hallway.
"What's up?" Noah asked, kneeling down and grabbing Joey's hand.
"Whewe's my Daddy?" ("Where's my Daddy?") He asked with a tears welling up in his eyes. "I wanda see my Daddy." ("I wanta see my Daddy.")
"I think that can be done." Noah said as he pulled out his communicator and flipped it open. "Barnes to Dr. Owens."
"Jerry here. What's up Noah?"
"Dr. Owens, I need you to report to the cafeteria as soon as possible." Noah said as seriously as he could while putting his fingers to his lips, letting Joey in on his game.
"Is something wrong?" Jerry asked, concern beginning to surface in his tone.
"There's a former patient that needs your attention, doctor." Noah said just barely stifling his giggle. "Would you care to speak with him?"
"Um... Sure." Jerry responded.
"Go ahead, say hi." Noah said handing his communicator to Joey.
"Daddy?" ("Daddy?") Joey meekly said into the device. "Daddy, you godda come down an ged some food an I wanna see you." ("Daddy, you gotta come down an get some food an I wanna see you.") He excitedly began to ramble.
"Joey? Omigod! JOEY!" Jerry shouted. "I'm on my way! Omigod! I gotta go..." Jerry trailed off as the communication simply ended.
"Daddy?" ("Daddy?") Joey asked the device with a confused look. "Whewe'd he go?" ("Where'd he go?")
"If I have to guess, I'd say he's running down a hallway, knocking down people and equipment on his way." Noah said with a laugh as he took his communicator back and led Joey into the cafeteria.
"Excuse me?" Noah said as the two reached the counter.
"Yes?" The unfamiliar woman replied. "What can I get you hun?"
"Is Mrs. Owens still here?" Noah asked as Joey simply watched on.
"She sure is. I'll go get her for you." The woman replied and turned to walk out of sight into the kitchen.
"She seems nice." Noah said to Joey with a smile.
"Noah?" Mary asked as she reached the service counter, almost doing a double take when she spotted Joey. "Is that? That's not Joey is it?" She asked with a smile taking over her expression.
"Gwama?" ("Grama?") Joey said with a huge smile. "Ausdin gave me a new body!" ("Austin gave me a new body!") He shouted as Mary literally ripped her apron off and rushed to the side door.
"Come here little one!" Mary tearily said as Joey almost jumped into her embrace. "It is so good to see you!"
"Daddy is comin doo. Gwama, can we ged somedhin do ead? I'm weawwy hungwy. My dummy made a funny sound an Noah said id was cause I'm hungwy." ("Daddy is comin too. Grama, can we get somethin to eat? I'm really hungry. My tummy made a funny sound an Noah said it was cause I'm hungry.") Joey began to ramble once again.
"He did?" Mary almost sang as she wrapped her arms around him. "Well then, the second your Daddy gets here, you need to fill that tummy. How does a Grilled Cheese Sandwich and French Fries sound?"
"Dhad sounds gwead Gwama! Can I have a coke doo?" ("That sounds great Grama! Can I have a coke too?") Joey said with a grin as Mary stood up and smiled.
"I think we can handle that." She replied looking over to Noah. "His Dad loves those too." She grinned. "What would you like?"
"Actually, that sounds great." He said almost jumping as the doors to the cafeteria flew open with a slam.
"JOEY!" Jerry shouted as he broke out in a run in their direction.
"Daddy!" ("Daddy!") Joey yelled back and ran, meeting up in the center of the cafeteria in more of a tackle than a hug.
Mary watched with a smile before turning into the kitchen.
"Good as new Doctor!" Noah said as all three sat down at the nearest table.
"You're not kidding!" Jerry said as he wrapped his arm around Joey's shoulders and squeezed. "How do you feel, I mean do you feel different or anything?"
Joey scrunched up his face in thought before nodding his head. "Yup. Ausdin says I'm geddin used do id dhough." ("Yup. Austin says I'm gettin used to it though.")
"Your speech is a little diff'rent." Jerry said tilting his head. "Its better, and you look awesome!"
"Bud my dummy is empdy. Gwama says she's gonna make us gwiwwed cheese and fwench fwies. I even can have a coke!" ("But my tummy is empty. Grama says she's gonna make us grilled cheese and french fries. I even can have a coke!") Joey said almost bouncing in his seat.
"He's ready to eat?" Jerry asked Noah with his eyes wide open.
"Austin says it's cool dude." Noah replied as his communicator chirped. "Oh no, not now." He groaned as he pulled it out and flipped it open. "Noah here."
"Noah, it's Billy. When is Marc expected out of surgery?"
"Not for quite a few hours still. Is something wrong?" Noah asked letting his shoulders slump.
"No not really. I need him to give us permission to attempt something Austin and I just came up with."
"How technical is this idea?" Noah asked shrugging his shoulders and smiling when he noticed Joey staring at him.
"That depends. This brain appears to be functional, we have a full DNA reconstruct in process by the computer. That should be done in about 15 minutes. Austin just came up with the idea of replacing the replicated matrix with the real one instead of doing surgery after his activation. I don't see any reason not to, the system already knows what to do with it."
Noah sat back in his seat and scratched his head. "You're going to replicate it's body around the existing brain? Could that damage it?"
"His?" Noah asked in surprise.
"Yup, it's a boy." Billy's voice said with a laugh. "Noah, if you can join us for a few, I can explain the procedure while the system continues to reconstruct his body."
"Okay." Noah said with a sigh. "I'm on my way. Noah out." He said just as he flipped his communicator shut. "Sorry guys. Looks like I have to pass on lunch." He said as he reached over and ruffled Joey's hair.
"Oday Unkah Noah." ("Otay Unkah Noah.") Joey said with a toothy smile. "I'ww save you some fwench fwies, oday?" ("I'll save you some french fries, otay?")
"Nope, you fill that tummy little man." Noah said with a grin as he looked at Jerry. "Good luck, he's never really tasted food before dude."
"Oh man, you're right." Jerry said with a giggle. "This could be fun."
"...and I'm gonna miss it." Noah half grumbled on his way toward the door.
A few minutes later, still disappointed to be missing Joey's first meal he entered Transporter room 1.
"Dude, I'm so sorry." Austin said the second he saw the deflated look on Noah's face. "I know exactly what you're feeling."
"Yeah, I know." Noah replied with a half hearted grin to match Austin's. "At least Jerry's with him."
"Well this may make up for it gentlemen." Billy said thrusting his fist in the air. "Come see what our new friend is going to look like." He said rolling his chair away from the monitor and grinning from ear to ear. "Standard M.A.R.C. Unit. Stock 13 year old boy, dirty blond hair, Bluish-Gray eyes, average height and weight."
Noah and Austin looked at the computer generated image on the screen for a minute or so before Austin cleared his throat. "And the 'in-place' implant?"
"We have to explain the procedure to Noah first." Billy said motioning toward the other chair.
"You are the one in charge at the moment last time I checked the roster." Billy said with a laugh. "Relax dude. It's not as complicated as you may think."
"Okay, but I'll have to make you wait for Marc if I don't understand it." Noah said as Billy began tapping at the keyboard.
"I'll explain this as basic as I can. Honestly it is a very basic idea anyway."
Noah rolled his eyes and laughed nervously. "Sure it is."
"Look." Billy said pointing at the screen. "Here is a representation of his mechanical systems." He continued as he tapped a few keys and zoomed in on the image's head. "Each system is just as separate as they are with the finished android. As basic as I can put this would be to tell the computer not to replicate the brain. Instead, we place the brain we wish to activate on the pad, before loading the profile into the buffer, we hold his brain in the buffer and have the system analyze it. Then we incorporate the profile and have the transporter incorporate the brain before materializing both as one unit. It already has all the connections mapped out and can create the brain in place. All we're going to do is tell it to use this one instead." Billy said sighing as he looked at Noah's lost expression.
"Noah." Austin said with a grin. "Look at it this way. We're going to transport this brain into his new body just as its being replicated. When he materializes, his old brain will already be in place and connected meaning we just need to get his biologics running to reactivate him. The whole process would take a few minutes; and would have him awake in fifteen minutes to a half hour."
"Okay." Noah said crossing his arms. "What's the danger to his brain? I mean couldn't we destroy him if something goes wrong?"
"It's no more dangerous than a routine transport." Billy said with a smile.
"Fortunately, even if the computer were to mess up any of the connections, the worst that would happen would be that his biological systems would fail to come online. In that event, all we would have for power is his internal memory, which has been recharging since we connected it to the system. It takes his biological system to supply the real power so; we can't even cause any damage with an overload." Austin said putting his hand on Noah's shoulder. "I swear, this is much safer than trying to keep his body alive while we manually install it."
Noah nodded his head and stared at the screen, obviously deep in thought until he cleared his throat. "So he'll be up and walking in a half hour?"
"Not exactly." Austin said with a giggle. "He's a M.A.R.C. Series Android. This newer system is a little different than his programming is used to. He'll have to go through some program reworking to get used to it. Almost like Joey is now."
"That officer needs answers. The sooner we get them to him, the sooner he finds out if there's anything that can be done for him, or if he needs to start looking for the person responsible." Billy added.
"Okay." Noah almost whispered. "How can I help?"
Austin and Billy High Fived before getting serious again. "I'm programming the new parameters; Austin is placing the existing brain on the pad. Once the replication is complete, just be ready to quickly move him to the biobed and we'll do the rest."
"Brain's in place." Austin said as he and Noah stood at the transporter pad and waited. "This isn't a gamble Noah." Austin said looking at the worried look on Noah's face.
"It's not that. I trust you guys." Noah said as he heard the transporter begin to hum. "I guess seeing Kevin's body earlier weirded me out a little."
"I can understand. But this time you will see him take his first breath. Maybe even open his eyes for the first time." Austin said with a smile as Billy interrupted.
"Initiating replication sequence." He got out as the hum grew louder and the brain dematerialized. "Holding in buffer and scanning." He said as Noah and Austin turned and watched Billy rush between the computer console and the transporter's controls. "Integration sequence programmed, Loading physical profile." He said as the hum evened out but remained just as loud as a transport in progress. "Physical Profile loaded. Stand by." Billy said with a smile growing on his face as he franticly tapped away. "Increasing power for final molecular scan." Billy said just as the hum slowly began to get louder.
"You okay?" Austin asked as he noticed Noah's hands begin to nervously shake a bit.
"I will be when this is done." Noah replied as he heard Billy clap his hands, obviously happy with the computer's results causing Noah to jump.
"Completing replication, be ready to move." He said as the transporter began to hum louder and all three watched as the naked form of a teenage boy began to materialize. The second the hum began to quiet down Billy shouted one last time, causing Noah to nearly jump out of his skin. "Completed, Move him!"
Noah and Austin rushed up onto the pad, scooped up the lifeless form off of the transporter's floor and rushed him to the waiting biobed. It took seconds to get him in place and connect his uplink port to the system to quickly scan him.
"All systems check out, awesome job Billy." Austin said as he began to tap at the biobed's controls. "Stand back Noah, preparing to defibrillate, twenty percent power, now." He said just as the body flinched and deeply took its first breath. "We have a rhythm and respiration." Austin said with a smile. "Blood pressure rising." He read from the display mechanically. "We have brain activity!" He shouted and all three finally released a breath they weren't even aware they were holding.
Just as the boy's breathing evened out, Noah walked over and looked carefully at his face. "I wonder what his name is." He said as Austin looked up from the controls and smiled.
"He'll be able to tell us as soon as his brain's power level normalizes." He said with a smile just as Noah saw the android's face twitch.
"Is that normal?" Noah asked as it twitched again, followed by his arms and his legs.
"Not this soon." Austin said standing up and looking the boy over. "There's no way he's at 100% already." He managed to get out as the body began to shake and twitch, almost violently. "Oh shit! Billy get over here and help us restrain him before he hurts himself!" He shouted as all three boys wrestled to lock the androids thrashing limbs down to the bed, Noah catching the androids foot in the eye accidentally.
"Oh my god, you okay dude?" Billy asked as they took a step back from the bed and Noah cradled the right side of his face.
"I'm fine! I'm fine! What's wrong with him!?!" Noah almost demanded.
"I... I don't know! He checked out!" Austin almost shouted returning to the control panel. "I'm giving him a mild sedative to try and calm him down." He said just as the android seemed to freeze and his eyes literally shot open.
The boy suddenly began to gasp for air and choke while he thrashed his head back and forth. After a few seconds of what appeared to be a full blown panic attack, he began to calm down; still taking extremely deep breaths as he periodically squeezed his eyes shut and opened them wide repeatedly.
"Is he awake?" Noah asked as he carefully stepped closer, freezing the second the android's head turned in his direction and locked his gaze on him. "Take it easy dude; we're trying to help you." Noah said as the boy's expression seemed to calm a bit. "That's better." Noah said with a smile.
"Ahh..." The android tried to speak, but instead took another deep breath and seemed to swallow really hard. "Wh...whh... ahhh..." He stuttered.
"It's too soon." Noah said softly as he watched Austin begin to tap away.
"He's confused." Austin said quietly. "Confused and frightened. Noah, keep talking to him. The little bit you said actually brought his heart rate down a little."
"Gna..." The android managed to choke out before gasping for air once again.
"Easy." Noah said finally inching his way over to the side of the bed. "No one here is going to hurt you, I promise." He nearly whispered as he reached his hand over and carefully placed an experimental touch on the boy's head, seeming to further relax him. "There you go." Noah calmly whispered as he began gently running his fingers through the frightened boy's hair. "See, I only want to help."
"Hel... el..." The boy tried to say much more calmly than his last attempt. "He... Help." He repeated.
"That's better." Noah said softly.
"Help... pl.. please help." The boy finally choked out and tears literally began to stream down both cheeks. "Please... Help me." He got out as he began to cry. "Oh god... please help me." He repeated over and over.
"Release the restraints." Noah said causing Austin to jump.
"Are you su..." Austin got out.
"Jesus dude, he's awake. Unlock them." He almost shouted as Austin released the biobed's security restraints and the android's hands went right to his face and he began to cry harder. Noah jumped up on the side of the bed, causing the android to cling on to him as if his life depended on it. "Shhhhh... It's okay. You're safe." Noah whispered as he slowly rocked the boy.
"I co...couldn't sw.. swim." The boy said between gasps. "I tried... my legs and... my arms wouldn't work... I tried..." He cried now seeming to calm down a bit. "I... I can't see right."
"It's gonna take some time for your brain to recover." Austin said softly enough to not startle the boy. "Your sight may be blurry, your sense of feel will be a little out of whack for a little while, but it will all pass in a few minutes. Just ignore any strange sensations and try to relax buddy, okay?"
"Okay." The android replied, tightening his hug on Noah, who continued to hold and rock him.
"Just take slow deep breaths and relax. You're safe now." Noah whispered into the boy's ear.
"All systems still check out." Austin said returning to the computer and directing Billy's attention to the screen. "I've never seen an android activate so violently."
"Ha... have you ever activated one after he'd drown?" The boy sniffled and asked before rubbing his eyes and trying to focus.
"Well, no." Austin replied. "Is that what happened to you?"
"Yeah." the boy replied bringing the room into total silence. "It was an accident." He continued before resting his forehead on Noah's shoulder, now breathing much easier. "Where am I?"
"This is a newly formed hospital, being redesigned for Clan Short of Vulcan. We're part of its A.I. Division." Noah replied softly.
"Oh." The android said as he looked back at Noah. "You might want to contact my normal doctor and let him know I'm here."
"We can do that for you." Noah said with a smile. "What's his name and where can we find him?"
"His name is Marc um..." He said as if trying to remember. "Actually, I don't know his last name. If you contact Vision Industries in South Carolina, they'll know who Marc is."
"Sure thing." Noah said as his face began to pale. "Austin, come with me." Noah said as he helped the boy lay back before hopped off the bed and pointing toward the door. "Billy, we'll just be a second." Noah said as Austin shrugged his shoulders and left the room with Noah practically pushing him through the doorway. "Did you guys ever determine how long that kid was unconscious?"
"No." Austin replied. "We just knew it was important to get him back as soon as possible."
Noah sighed before pulling out his communicator and flipping it open. "I hope he can answer." He said with a shrug. "Noah to Marc."
"Marc here, what's up bro?"
"Marc, we have a potential situation." He said with a sigh. "Can you break away for a few minutes?"
"You're timing couldn't be better. Eli's on his way to recovery right now and Benji is being prepped. Dude, everything went awesome! I was actually taking a break anyway."
"Thank god." Noah said with a smile. "I believe an old friend of yours would like to see you. He's in transporter room 1 with Billy right now."
"Keep talking, I'm on my way now. Who is it?"
"The short version would be a M.A.R.C. Unit recovered in California after a drowning. His structure was totally destroyed but his brain was still okay. He's awake now and is asking for you." Noah said with a sigh. "By name."
"I'll be there in a second." Marc said, sounding as if he had just begun to run. "Marc out."
"What do we do?" Austin asked Noah with a shrug.
"I keep talking to him and you try to determine how long he was under water." He replied as the two turned and went back into the transporter room.
"Did you call my doctor?" The boy asked as Noah hopped back up on the biobed.
"Yup, he's on his way." Noah replied with a grin. "I'm Noah by the way. That's Billy and that's Austin." He continued pointing to each as he named them.
The android smiled and nodded to each before looking back at Noah. "I'm Kenny; well my friends call me KC." He said with a smile. "Um... can I ask you a question?"
"Shoot." Noah answered.
"I'm getting a really weird feeling all over and it's still kinda hard to breathe. How bad did I mess myself up?" He barely got out before the door opened and Marc stepped in.
"KC?!? Oh my god dude!" Marc said as he rushed to the side of the bed and pulled him into a hug.
"Hey doctor fix it!" KC said weakly into Marc's shoulder. "I swear it wasn't my fault." He continued with a weak giggle.
"Never is. So what did you break this time Superman?" Marc asked with a laugh.
"If I had to guess, I'd say my neck." KC answered scratching his head. "But there was more than that wrong and now everything feels wrong."
"You look good." Marc said looking at Austin who silently pointed to a metal box in the corner. Marc took a step closer and peeked into the open box with a gasp. "No way!"
"That was how he was found." Austin said in just over a whisper.
Marc looked at the mangled contents of the box for a moment before looking at KC and then back at Austin. "He was recovered earlier today?"
"We obtained him today." Austin said noticing Marc tapping his foot. "His brain was still sealed and tested out so we..." He trailed off before Billy jumped in.
"We replicated a new body using stored information recovered from his brain." Billy said with a weak smile.
"Where's his original brain?" Marc asked with his eyes widening.
"Active." Billy replied pointing toward KC. "We did the implantation during the replication process. I'll fill you in on the procedures we wrote during the process and what changes I want to make to the plans I originally drew up now that we've had a test run."
"Test run?" KC asked as Noah hopped back up on the biobed giving him someone to lean on again. "I was a test run?"
"Not entirely." Marc said scowling at Billy. "We have performed a successful system replication and have a unit planned. You are the first to be brought online." Marc said looking back at Billy. "We'll just have to work with our Chief here and see if we can develop some kind of a bedside manner."
Billy's mouth dropped open when he finally realized what he had said. "Oh dude, I'm so sorry. I didn't even think before I said that. I did 4 replications before you arrived; I knew this would work, honestly."
"It's okay." KC said before straining to sit upright on his own. "I won't hold it against you if stuff starts working right." He said as his arms shook while straining to hold himself upright.
"Fair enough." Billy said with grin as Austin walked around the console.
"Dad, do we have a room available for KC? He could really use some rest and a real bed." Austin asked as he approached the biobed and disconnected KC from the terminal.
"Sure, that whole side of the building near Dixon and Jesse's room is completed on the second floor. You can bring him right up." Marc said as he stepped back over to the biobed. "I'm glad to see you, I really am but..." Marc trailed off.
"But?" KC said in question before resting his head on Noah's shoulder.
"KC, do you know how long you've been gone?" Marc asked as he hopped up on the biobed facing the other two.
"Um..." KC replied, closing his eyes. "System time restarted at 3:47pm August 18, 1976, I was conscious for three days on the bottom before internal power failed." He continued opening his eyes. "How long was I gone?"
Marc took a deep breath before looking anywhere but at KC. "About 28 years." He said softly as he slowly brought his gaze upward and shook his head at Noah's shocked look. "Your dad..." He began.
"Omigod, Dad!" KC cut him off and almost shouted with his tears once again forcing themselves to the surface. "Is he okay?"
Marc took a deep breath and slowly shook his head. "He looked for you for years. He thought someone might have kidnapped you or something." Marc said looking into KC's teary eyes. "I'm sorry..." Was all he could get out before KC openly began to cry. "He passed away about ten years ago."
"Oh n... n... no!" KC turned and buried his face into Noah's shoulder. "Dad... Oh my god..."
"I'm so sorry." Noah whispered while rubbing KC's back. "Marc, we need to get something for him to put on and I'll handle getting him up to his room."
"Don't leave!" KC yelped with a sniffle. "Please."
"I won't bro. I promise." Noah replied. "We're all here with you."
"I have to get back to surgery. KC, Tomorrow morning I'll dig out the stuff Stew left for you. It was all kept in VI's storage." Marc said as he hopped off the bed and rubbed the back of KC's head.
"Stew?" Noah asked.
"My dad." KC replied before turning to look at Marc. "Thanks." He said with a forced smile.
"I can have someone go up tonight and do the digging for you Marc. Everything is still in crates on the 10th floor." Billy said approaching the biobed with a hospital gown and slippers in his hand.
"That would help." Marc said with a nod. "They're gonna have to look for two sealed containers with the name S. McKensie printed on the sides."
"You got it." Billy said as he handed the clothing to Noah, pausing to put his hand on KC's back and whispering; "I'm so sorry." Before quietly returning to the console.
"Dad?" Austin asked with a look of surprise on his face. "Can I ask a question?"
"Yeah, shoot." Marc replied getting KC's attention.
"Dad?" KC asked wiping his eyes.
"Yeah, I found out not too long ago." Austin answered with a grin. "I just ran KC's name through the VI data base. He comes up as project 'Marc 2'. Is this right?"
"Yup." Marc said with a grin. "I guess you could say KC is your older brother in quite a few ways."
"Mach II. I like Mach II better." KC replied with a sniffle as he wrestled with his gown trying to put it on. "We're all brothers kinda."
"True." Marc said. "KC was my first attempt to make us more human like. The Marc 2 project was my first step toward your programming Austin."
"Cool." KC said finally putting his arms into the gown. "I always wanted a little brother." He said with a giggle and a sniffle.
"Oh, you're getting a lot more than that then." Austin said with a laugh. "Can I go up with you guys? I'd like to get to know my brother a little better." Austin said before opening his eyes wide. "Can KC share a room with Joey?"
Marc smiled and turned to leave the room. "That's perfect. Yeah, unless he doesn't want to share a room with his other little brother."
"Other?" KC asked as Noah started to tie up the back of his gown. "How many brothers do I have?"
"Not really sure at this point. Once we figure it out we'll give you some sort of roster." Austin said with a giggle. "He's really cool and just got a body upgrade like you did this morning. Wait til you meet him, he's soooo cute." Austin boasted.
"You guys get him settled in, I've got to get back to the OR. I'll be in surgery for at least another 4 or 5 hours. Then I'll take a walk up and see if we can't find some time to talk." Marc said as he gave KC a hug and left the room.
"Noah, do we have any wheelchairs yet?" Austin asked, stopping Noah in his tracks.
"I can walk." KC stiffened up and announced as he worked his way to the edge of the biobed.
Noah rushed over and wrapped his arms around KC's midsection just in time for KC to realize just how weak and unstable his legs really felt. "Austin, Scott is still posted outside the room, could you ask him to give me a hand getting him upstairs?"
"I can help." Austin said as Noah shook his head no.
"You meet us up there once Billy's ready to do Kevin's replication." Noah said with a smile as he watched Austin agree and head for the door.
"Sorry Billy. I was so excited I almost forgot this system has to be ready to do it again." Austin said as the door slid open. "Scott, could you give Noah a hand walking a new patient to his room?"
"Aye sir." Came the response as Scott turned the corner and froze once he got his first look at KC. "Is he the person I am standing watch over?" He asked as his face began to blush.
"Yup." Noah replied with a grin. "Think you can lend a shoulder? He's way to shaky to walk on his own yet."
"Oh... Um... Yeah. Sure." Scott stammered out as he looked at Austin and noticed he was staring at him. "What?" He asked taking KC's other arm and gently placing it on his shoulder while carefully wrapping his free arm around his waist.
"Nothing." Austin replied with a giggle as the three slowly made their way through the door. "I'll be up as soon as I can KC!" He shouted receiving a short wave as the door slid shut.
"I think someone thinks your big brother is cute." Billy said with a laugh as he tapped away at the transporter controls.
"You noticed that too?" Austin chuckled. "At least we know the new guy has good taste." He said folding his arms and smiling.
"Oh god, I can actually see your head swelling." Billy said with a laugh as Austin looked at the crotch of his pants and shrugged his shoulders. "The other one! Oh my god you're gross."
"Eh, you'll see what you're missing if I have any sisters out there." Austin said playfully punching Billy's arm. "Let's get to work. I want to go spend some time with my family."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Owens, Short, Wagner, Furst and McKensie..." KC said as he was helped up on to his bed by Noah and Scott. "How do you keep track?"
"Dunno." Noah said with a grin. "I just can."
"Don't feel bad, I'm confused too." Scott said as he looked at Noah. "Should I stay stationed outside the room until you contact the officer in charge of this investigation?"
"Does he have to? I mean he can hang out in here can't he?" KC almost whined. "I mean, if you want to." He quickly added.
"Security is covered, right Scott?" Noah asked standing up and pulling out his P.A.D.D.
"Yup. Doubled at the entrances and in the brig. They have been filing detailed reports and know to alert me and you with any issues." Scott smiled.
"Sweet." Noah said with a smile. "I'll give Jerry a yell and tell him Joey is set up with his new brother in this room. I'll notify the on call that we have two new patients in this room and to expect Eli and Benji."
"More androids?" KC asked, tilting his head.
"Noooo." Noah answered with a grin. "But they are real family." He said as he opened the door. "Scott, KC is in your hands. The hospital is secure so if you need to leave the room, it's okay. Just let the nurse know if you do." He got out as the door closed, leaving the boys alone.
"KC huh?" Scott asked staring at the floor next to the bed while nervously swinging his feet off the side.
"Yeah. It's short For Keneth Casey." KC said with a smile. "I like KC." He continued. "What about you?"
"I like KC." Scott said not once looking up from the floor.
"I meant your name. Scott, right?" KC asked with a grin.
"Oh yeah." Scott blushed a deep red and finally glanced over to see KC looking at him. "Lieutenant Scott Allen Shannon."
"Can I call you Scott, or do I have to call you Lieutenant?" KC asked with a giggle.
"Scott. I mean unless you want to call me Lieutenant." Scott replied looking back at the floor.
"What for?" KC asked as he rested his head back into his pillow.
"Um... I dunno." Scott replied, beginning to fidget with something in his pocket.
"Do androids make you nervous Scott?" KC asked folding his arms. "Or is it just me?"
"Nervous?" Scott asked "No, androids are no different than other people."
"So, it's just me then?" KC asked squinting his eyes, his grin never fading.
"Yeah... I mean NO! I mean..." Scott tried to choke out being stopped by KC's giggling. "I don't know what I mean."
"That much is obvious." KC replied reaching over and grabbing Scott's arm. "Look, I'm not trying to be mean or nothing. It's just hard to get to know you if you're too busy trying to memorize the pattern on the floor." He continued finally getting Scott to smile. "Will you relax? I'm starting to think I smell funny or something. Since this body is brand new, if it stinks I may have to trade it in for something that smells better. Maybe even cuter or something."
"Nah, you're already cute." Scott replied, instantly turning bright red and literally slapping his hands over his mouth.
KC grinned as he watched Scott hold his mouth and hold his breath. "Awww thanks." KC replied with a smile. "You should look in a mirror though. Maybe we could have some sort of competition or something. Actually..." KC said sitting up. "You sure you're human?"
"Yeah, I'm sure. Why?" Scott asked, still not looking back up from the floor.
"Cause, people try real hard to make units that look like you." KC said with a smile. "I guess there's no comparing real cute to emulated cute."
After staring at the floor in silence for a few moments, Scott looked at KC, face still red, and in just over a whisper said; "Real cute can't be faked." He got out before trying to force a smile. "It's genetics isn't it?"
"You mean with androids?" KC asked tilting his head.
"Yeah." Scott said with a smile. "Androids and People, even their looks are determined by their host DNA makeup. So that means your looks are just as real as mine, doesn't it?"
"True." KC said. "But ours can be altered."
"So can a human's, under the right circumstances." Scott replied turning to finally face KC. "So how is your cute any less cute than my cute?" He got out before freezing once again, clenching his eyes shut.
KC giggled before reaching over and rubbing Scott's cheek. "Cause anyone who can even get a sentence like that out, even by accident is still one up on the cute scale."
"Can we change the subject?" Scott asked once he was able to breathe again.
"We can talk about anything you want." KC replied with a smile as he made himself more comfortable. "Wanna lie down? There's plenty of room you know."
"Nah, I'm fine." Scott replied folding his hands in his lap.
"Right." KC responded. "You look like you're sitting on a thumb tack and pretending it isn't there." He said with a laugh. "I don't want to be all comfortable here while you practically slip off the edge of the bed. I swear I won't bite or nothing."
Scott let his head drop a little and he started to smile, still not looking back in KC's direction. "I'm sorry." He said as he kicked his shoes off and shuffled up to lay next to his new friend. "I guess I'm just being stupid."
"Don't worry about it." KC said with a sigh. "I guess I just need someone to talk to and even if you're all hung up on the cute thing you're stuck listening." KC continued. "Even if I have to force you to."
"You don't have to force me to listen." Scott said finally allowing his guard down. "I guess I should tell you that I'm... Um... Well..."
"Gay?" KC asked with a smirk.
"Well, yeah." Scott replied looking up at the ceiling.
"Oh my god! I never would have guessed that." KC said with a laugh. "Have you ever told anyone? I mean that straight act is really working for you." He continued with a giggle.
"Shutup!" Scott said with a laugh. "I don't normally get all girlie and stuff. You just... I don't know... There's just something about you that kinda shocked me or something. I can't explain it."
"Then don't." KC said with a smile. "I know what you're saying. I even feel the same. I just have so much running through my head right now." He said turning and noticing the smile on Scott's face fade. "When I feel better, you think it would be cool to go out or something? You know, someplace we can actually have some fun doing something other than trying to explain why we want to?"
"I'd like that." Scott replied as the door to the room swung open, causing Scott to shoot upright in panic.
"Someplace where you might relax would be nice too." KC said with a sarcastic laugh.
"Sorry guys. Austin didn't say Joey was sharing a room." Jerry said as he led Joey to the bed near the window and helped him up on to it.
"Daddy?" ("Daddy?") Joey asked looking up at his father and smiling. "Who awe dhe odhew boys?" ("Who are the other boys?")
"Good question." Jerry asked kicking off his sneakers and hopping up on the bed with Joey. "Lieutenant Shannon, right?" Jerry asked with a smile.
"Yeah, how'd you guess?" Scott asked as KC pulled him back to a lying position.
"Marc told me about you." Jerry said with a smile. "I'm Jerry, this is my son Joey." Jerry said as Joey waved his hand.
"Is he youw boyfwiend?" ("Is he your boyfriend?") Joey asked innocently causing Scott to blush once again.
"Not yet, but he's trying." KC said with a laugh. "I'm KC by the way."
"Are you the android that transported in earlier?" Jerry asked.
"Yeah, that was me." KC replied nodding his head.
"I heard you were in pretty bad shape." Jerry said as he made sure Joey was tucked in. "If you need anything at all dude, just yell. okay?"
"Me doo!" ("Me too!") Joey added with a smile. "I'ww ged you sduff an hewp doo fix you if you need id!" ("I'll get you stuff an help too fix you if you need it!") Joey said with a satisfied smile.
"Thanks guys." KC said sitting up and resting his arms on Scott's stomach, feeling him tremble slightly at his touch. "But I heard you just got a new body today too."
"Yeah! My bwodhew and my daddy and Unca Mawc gave me a body bud id was bwoken so dhey made me a new one." ("Yeah! My brother and my daddy and Unca Marc gave me a body but it was broken so they made me a new one.") Joey rambled excitedly. "Did dhey make youw new body? Does id feew funny? Cause mine feews funny and id's nod weawwy wowkin wighd." ("Did they make your new body? Does it feel funny? Cause mine feels funny and it's not really workin right.")
KC smiled and nodded his head before squinting his eyes and looking Joey over more closely. "Oh cool! They gave you two different colored eyes! That's sweet!"
Joey smiled proudly before a rumble in his tummy caused him to open his eyes wide. "Daddy, I dhink I'm hungwy again." ("Daddy, I think I'm hungry again.")
"But you just ate half the cafeteria squirt, you can't still be hungry." Jerry said with a giggle.
"Bud Daddy! My dummy sed I'm hungwy." ("But Daddy! My tummy sed I'm hungry.") Joey scowled and said before another rumble was heard by Jerry this time. "See!" ("See!")
"His digestive system is probably just waking up." KC said with a grin. "You're not hungry this time little guy, but you may start..." KC managed to get out before a loud "Ppppprrrrraaaapppppp" cut him off. "...passing gas." KC said as all three busted out laughing, leaving Joey to look under the covers to figure out where the noise just came from.
"I fawded? Wike Uncah Cowy?" ("I farted? Like Uncah Cory?") Joey asked with a grin.
"Actually." Jerry said as he grabbed his nose and began waving his free hand while he bolted off of the bed. "Yeah, just like your Uncle Cory!"
"Oh my god!" Scott said as the draft carried the smell across the other bed. "Dude? What did you feed him?"
"Gwamma said I eaded a howse!" ("Gramma said I eated a horse!") Joey said with a giggle as KC started to laugh uncontrollably.
"She said you ate like a horse." Jerry said as he stumbled to put his shoes on, Scott following suite. Both of them laughing and choking.
"I'm gonna go check on security." Scott said as he wiped the tears from his eyes.
"Yeah, I gotta go check in with the Nurse and see if the other patients are doing okay." Jerry quickly chimed in as both almost fell over each other running for the door.
"Jerry!" KC shouted.
"Yeah dude?" Jerry replied still taking small steps backward toward the door.
"If you two are gonna leave me in here, could you ask the nurse to get me something to eat?" KC said with a laugh. "Same thing Joey had. I at least want to be able to fight back." He said with a cough as Jerry nodded in agreement and bolted for the door.
"Id smewws weawwy bad." ("It smells really bad.") Joey said with a shocked look on his face. "Uncah Cowy's in dwoubwe when he comes home!" ("Uncah Cory's in trouble when he comes home!") Joey got out before letting another loud one rip.
"Oh my god!" KC said through his pained laughter as he began repeatedly pressing the call button, hoping to get a nurse to instantly appear. "I think we're all in trouble."
"Okay who in here thinks the call button is a controller for a video game?" The nurse said as she walked into the room. "Oh good lord." She said as she began to wave her hand looking at Joey's smiling face and then seeing KC with the covers over his head. "I'm guessing you need me to open a window?"
"Or bust the wall open." KC shouted with a laugh.
"I fawded wike Uncah Cowy." ("I farted like Uncah Cory.") Joey said proudly.
"Oh you sure did that honey." The nurse said as she opened both windows wide. "I don't know who your Uncle Cory is sweetie but he may need to get looked at by a doctor if he makes a room smell this bad normally." The nurse said ruffling Joey's hair. "KC, Doctor Owens asked me to order two grilled cheese sandwiches, french fries and a coke. Do you need anything else Hon?"
"Nose plugs, an oxygen mask... Maybe just knock me out or something." KC replied through fits of giggles.
"Oh honey, your little brother can't help it. It'll pass as soon as his system settles." The nurse said lovingly as she left the room.
"Widdwe bwodhew?" ("Little brother?") Joey asked causing KC to peek out from beneath his covers.
"Um, yeah." KC said raising his head and smiling weakly. "I was hoping Austin would be in here when you found out."
"Ausdin nevew said I had mowe bwodhews." ("Austin never said I had more brothers.") Joey stated.
"He didn't know." KC replied. "I never even knew about him before today. Your Uncle Marc created him the same way he created me. Since I was first, that makes me Austin's big brother, and since you are his little brother..." KC got out before Joey started to smile.
"I ged dwo big bwodhews?" ("I get two big brothers?") Joey cut him off in question.
"If that's okay, I'd like to be your big brother too." KC said with a smile.
"Yeah!" ("Yeah!") Joey said with an ear to ear smile. "Casey, can I come ovew do youw bed?" ("Casey, can I come over to your bed?")
"Sure, if you can leave your butt over there." KC said with a giggle once Joey craned his neck to look at his backside.
"Id don'd come off!" ("It don't come off!") Joey said squinting his eyes. "You'we siwwy!" ("You're silly!") He said with a laugh as he started to climb off of his bed.
"Be careful little guy." KC said leaning in Joey's direction.
"I can wawk oday." ("I can walk otay.") Joey said as he slid off the bed, letting another one fly just as his bare feet hit the floor. "Sowwy." ("Sorry.") He said with a giggle.
"Hey, if you don't let it out you'll explode." KC said with a laugh.
"I wiww?" ("I will?") Joey squeaked as he rushed to KC's bed.
"No." KC said as he helped Joey shuffle up onto the bed. "I'm just kidding little dude."
Joey smiled and shuffled himself under the covers, cuddling up next to his new big brother just as the nurse rolled a cart with a tray of food on it. "At least the air cleared in here." She said before she approached the bed. "Okay, I though it had." She added with a laugh.
"Stay a while, pretty soon your nose goes dead and it isn't so bad." KC said with a giggle.
"Oh, I don't think so sweetie." The nurse said with a laugh. "There are two pieces of chocolate cake on there your Granma sent up. She said they were for her special boys." The nurse said as she turned for the door.
"Granma?" KC asked.
"Yeah, Gwamma. You didn'd meed hew yed?" ("Yeah, Gramma. You didn't meet her yet?") Joey asked as he sat up and eyed the two large slabs of cake.
KC saw Joey's eyes open wide and giggled. "Dig in dude!" He said as he picked up one of his sandwiches, waving it at Joey. "...and prepare for war!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Malibu Police Department, Special Crimes Division. This communication is being logged. How can I direct your call?"
"I'd like to speak with Lieutenant Murphy please." Noah replied to the uniformed woman on the screen.
"May I tell him who is calling?"
"Noah Barnes, Acting Division Head, Clan Short AI division. This is regarding..." Noah said as he scanned the folder that had arrived with KC. "John Doe, File number 45016 Alpha."
"Thank you young man, one moment please." The woman said as the screen flashed into standby. About one minute later, a familiar face appeared on the screen. "Noah! I didn't expect to hear back from you so soon. Is there a problem?"
"God no." Noah said with a smile. "Are you ready to be rid of one more John Doe?"
"No way, already?"
"Yes sir, If you are still logging, I can read off the info you'll need to begin closing out this case." Noah said with a smile.
"Please, that would be helpful." Rich said as he tapped a few keys. "Please stand by Mr. Barnes. This communication is to be entered into the official investigation records for case Identified as John Doe, file number 45016 Alpha. Investigation update, source Vision Industries, Inc..." Rich got out before Noah interrupted.
"Clan Short of Vulcan of the House of Sarek of the Family of Surak, AI Division. Formerly known as Vision Industries, Inc." Noah Injected. "Sorry, your information is a little outdated."
"Noted." Rich said with a smile. "Please continue Mr. Barnes by identifying yourself for the records and those involved."
"My name is Noah Simon Barnes, temporarily acting head of this division and personally involved with the ballistics recovery of identification of one M.A.R.C. unit discovered by your department. Due to the destruction of the identification which would normally be used in situations similar to these, a full reconstruction and reactivation was required and successfully performed today. Those involved where Austin Short and Lieutenant William James O'Keefe. Following activation, the unit identified himself as Keneth Casey McKensie, who your records will show was reported missing on August 15, 1976 by his Father Stewart Joshua McKensie who is formerly an employee of the former Vision Industries, Inc. Our investigation has uncovered that this unit and Missing Person, File Number 15370915-17-Charlie opened August 16, 1976 are in fact the same individual. Pending interrogation by an official officer of your department, I am prepared to state officially that both cases mentioned require closing. Additionally, acting as Division Head for Clan Short of the House of Sarek of the Family of Surak, AI Division; as required by the Federation Safe Haven Act, Article 203; Sections 203.2, 203.3 and Article 135; Section 135.2, Custody is being awarded to Marcus John Furst as the biological father to said individual as per requirements placed on Clan Short directly by the Vulcan Embassy in such matters. It is our recommendation that your department, once satisfied with these findings allow said placement to ensure a suitable home and further ensure proper medical and psychiatric evaluation and treatments are obtained. This concludes my preliminary report." Noah said with a sigh.
"Enter into record; Lieutenant Richard M. Murphy, Badge number 1904; currently assigned as director to the Malibu Police Department â€“ Special Crimes Division. After careful consideration following the review of all forensics materials and ballistics investigations performed by Clan Short of Vulcan on our behalf, it is my determination that the cases listed as John Doe, file number 45016 Alpha and Missing Person, File Number 15370915-17-Charlie are to be closed as there is sufficient evidence provided that they are one in the same. Additionally, following a preliminary scan of the report submitted by this division of Clan Short, I am satisfied that the damage done to said victim was in fact accidental and should require no further investigation unless new evidence is submitted at a later date. Our department will interview Keneth Casey McKensie at our earliest opportunity to confirm this conclusion and officially close these files. End logged communication." Rich said with a smile as he tapped a few keys and nodded his head in approval. "Nice Job Noah, you sure you aren't interested in a position in law enforcement?"
Noah giggled as he sat back in his chair. "No way. This job is way more fun." He continued with an evil grin. "So, when are you and John coming to see KC?"
"Well, I'll have to get back to you on that. I didn't expect your guys to bust this open in under 24 hours."
"Cool, just give a yell and I'll take you on the V.I.P. Tour." Noah said with a smile.
"Oh nice." Rich replied. "I'll let John know he has to dress nice."
"Poor kid." Noah laughed. "Tell him to dress normal. With this group you may want to do the same. Just trust me on that one."
"Okay." Rich laughed. "Talk to you soon Noah. Please thank your team for me and let them know what they did today put an entire precinct to shame. But they are all grateful."
"Will do. Talk to you soon." Noah replied as he set the system into standby.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"If your doctor catches you boys out of your room, he's gonna have me strap you to your beds." The head nurse laughed.
"But we're bored." KC whined. "Besides, the room needs time to air out."
"Okay, but stay on this floor and promise me if you start to feel tired you'll get right back in your beds."
"Oday." ("Otay.") Joey beamed with an ear to ear smile. "C'mon Casey. I wanna wawk." ("C'mon Casey. I wanna walk.") Joey said grabbing KC's hand. Passing one of the rooms, Joey heard the sounds of someone sniffling coming from inside. Being curious, he craned his neck and peeked in the open doorway. "Casey. Dhewe's a boy in hewe and he's cwyin." ("Casey. There's a boy in here and he's cryin.") Joey whispered as he let his brother's hand go and ran toward the door.
"Joey! No!" KC whispered loudly as Joey ran right into the room.
"Awe you oday widdwe boy?" ("Are you otay little boy?") Joey asked softly as the boy looked up and forced a smile.
"Yeah, I guess so." The boy replied. "How long have you been out there?"
"Not long, we were just walking by." KC replied as he entered the room. "Sorry, He took off before I could stop him." KC added.
"It's no problem." The boy said, still trying his best to fake a smile. "Who are you guys?"
"I'm KC and this is my little brother Joey." KC said and Joey's face lit right up when he heard him say little brother.
"I'm Dixon." The boy replied somberly.
"Awe you sick?" ("Are you sick?") Joey asked slowly walking over to the bed. "Cause my daddy is a docdow and can hewp make id beddew." ("Cause my daddy is a doctor and can help make it better.")
"Who's your Daddy?" Dixon asked tilting his head.
"Dr. Owens." KC answered for Joey.
"Oh." Dixon said as he looked across the room out the window. "Yeah, I met him. He seems real nice."
"How come you wewe cwyin?" ("How come you were cryin?") Joey asked as he finally reached the bed and carefully touched Dixon's hand.
"Cause I'm scared for someone." He replied looking at the small hand covering his own now. "A friend of mine."
"Is youw fwiend in dhe hospidaw doo?" ("Is your friend in the hospital too?") Joey asked opening his eyes wide.
"I don't know where he is, if he's okay or anything." Dixon said as Joey climbed up onto the bed and wrapped his arms around his new friend, tears beginning to well up in his own eyes.
"How come you're cryin? You don't even know who I'm talkin bout. If you did, you may not even want to talk to me no more." Dixon replied with a confused expression.
"Cause you wewe cwyin. When peopwe cwy id means somedhing huwds." ("Cause you were cryin. When people cry it means something hurts.") Joey sniffled and hugged tightly into Dixon's chest.
"But I'm not hurting right now." Dixon replied wrapping his arm around Joey and looking at KC, still a little confused.
"Not on the outside." KC stated as he sat on the foot of the bed. "Joey's had a rough few days I think. Today is a happier day for him and I think seeing someone sad on his happy day just doesn't seem right to him." He continued with a warm smile. "Your friend, is he someone our family can help with maybe?"
"I don't know." Dixon replied, his eyes filling up once again. "I'm scared to even ask."
"Is he youw boyfwiend?" ("Is he your boyfriend?") Joey asked innocently, causing Dixon to inhale sharply.
"If he is dude, it's cool." KC said still smiling.
"Yeah. But you gotta swear not to tell anyone." Dixon quickly said looking toward the open door. "No one knows about Jesse and I think it might cause trouble or somethin."
"Dwoubwe? How can havin a boyfwiend cause dwoubwe?" ("Trouble? How can havin a boyfriend cause trouble?") Joey asked as he reached up and wiped a stray tear off Dixon's cheek.
"Cause my Mom..." Dixon froze in mid sentence. "...the woman who called herself my Mom hurt me for it. I don't want him getting hurt like that."
"I can't promise anything." KC said patting Dixon's foot through the blankets. "Our family is really good at helping from what I've seen here."
"I wanna meed youw boyfwiend." ("I wanna meet your boyfriend.") Joey said with a smile.
"You can see it really doesn't make a difference, gay or not I mean." KC said with a smile. "If you tell us who he is, maybe we can talk to our family and find out if we can help."
"Dhen you can smiwe!" ("Then you can smile!") Joey said with a squeeze.
"Hard to smile when you're confined to a bed." Dixon replied. "But I'll try."
"Dhink of somedhing fun. Dhad'ww make you smiwe." ("Think of something fun. That'll make you smile.") Joey grinned.
"Yeah. If I ever have a bad day I just jump on my deck and ride til I'm in a better mood." KC said with a grin. "If it's raining, I think of new tricks I wanna try. When I can't actually ride, for a little while I imagine I'm on my deck and it does the same thing for me."
"I'd kill to be able to get on a skateboard right now. It sounds like fun." Dixon replied closing his eyes and finally smiling, having his smile rapidly fade. "I don't even own one anymore."
"We'll have to buy you a new one then." An older woman said as she entered the room.
"Hi Mamie." Dixon said as he opened his eyes and smiling at her expression when he called her something she had to have assumed she would never hear again. "Guys, this is my Great Grandmother."
"Hi Ma'am." KC said as he stood up. "I'm KC and that's my little brother up on the bed with Dixon."
"I'm Joey!" ("I'm Joey!") Joey said finally releasing Dixon and smiling. "Dixon wooked wike he needed fwiends so we came in and sdawded dawkin." ("Dixon looked like he needed friends so we came in and started talkin.") Joey said as the old woman walked around the bed and after placing kisses on Dixon and his little companion's foreheads, sat down in the chair near the nightstand.
"That was very nice of you young man." She said looking at Joey more carefully. "Well I'll be!" She exclaimed with a laugh. "One blue eye and one green." She smiled and sat back. "That's something you don't often see."
"I dhink id's coow." ("I think it's cool.") Joey said with a grin.
"It sure is that." The woman smiled and replied. "Little D, Your Uncle Mel will be up shortly. He had to fuel up the car and since you were sleeping, decided now was as good a time as any." The old woman stated.
"Casey, I'm gedin diwed." ("Casey, I'm getin tired.") Joey almost whined as he hugged Dixon one more time and carefully slid off of the bed.
"Dixon, we're in the next room if you need company. Cool?" KC said as he smiled and waved. "Remember, think of something fun." He smiled and said. "It was nice meeting you Ma'am."
"Mrs. Amee." The older woman said with a smile. "You boys be sure to come back and visit, okay?"
"We will." KC said with a smile as the two waved and stepped into the hall, nearly colliding with Jerry and Scott.
"What are you two doing out here?" Jerry asked with his jaw left hanging open.
"Daddy, we wend fow a widdwe wawk and med a boy named Dixon and his Gwamma!" ("Daddy, we went for a little walk and met a boy named Dixon and his Gwamma!") Joey said with a smile as he began to yawn. "Bud I'm kinda diwed now." ("But I'm kinda tired now.")
"Come on; let's get you back into bed." Jerry said as he ushered Joey toward his room.
"We'll be right there." KC said grabbing Scott's shirt, freezing him in mid step. "Dude, I need a huge favor." KC whispered as he waited until Jerry and Joey were out of sight.
"What's wrong?" Scott asked as he nervously looked around the empty hallway.
"Can you get me up to the 10th floor?" KC asked.
"I shouldn't. Especially since you aren't even supposed to be out of your room yet." Scott answered but sighed as KC stuck out his bottom lip. "No. I can't." He whispered.
"Pleeeease." KC whined.
"Oh Puh-lee-ee-ease..." KC bounced and cried again, breaking down Scott's resistance.
"What for?" Scott asked with his eyes closed.
"Cause my stuff is up there and I really need to get something from it." KC said with a whimper. "It's seriously important dude or else I wouldn't ask, I swear."
"Fine. But I swear if we get caught..." Scott threatened before KC grabbed his shirt and practically dragged him to the door.
"I'll be your slave until they say I can get out of bed." KC said with a laugh.
"Shutup!" Scott said with a giggle as they rushed out, heading for the elevator.
About 45 minutes later, the elevator doors opened on the second floor and from it emerged a smiling KC and a very annoyed looking Scott. "A skateboard!?!" Scott huffed. "I can't believe you risked getting in trouble for a skateboard. Is your brain functioning right?"
"You're cute when you're mad; anyone ever tell you that?" KC said with an evil grin as he led him to Dixon's door. "Come with me and see why it was so important." He said as he hid the board behind his back and tapped on the open door frame. "Sorry, I didn't mean to bother you." KC said just above a whisper as Dixon, his Great Grandmother and who he guessed was the uncle that had been mentioned earlier all looked up at him and Scott.
"Oh, come on in sweetie." Mrs. Amee said with a wide smile. "And who's this handsome young man with you?"
"I'm with security Ma'am." Scott replied. "Lieutenant Scott Shannon. I'm actually in charge right now."
"Cool." Dixon said as he looked at KC and smiled. "You got friends high up, huh?"
"I got friends all over." KC said as he carefully walked over to the side of the bed. "Including right here." He continued with a smile as he took his skateboard and placed it next to Dixon. "I want you to have this."
Dixon looked at the skateboard and then quickly up at KC. "No way, I can't take that. I mean we only just met... You don't have to do that, really." Dixon sputtered.
"I want you to have it. It's still in good shape. I stopped riding it when I built my other one." KC said with a smile. "It's been good to me, so I know it'll be good to you." KC said with a smile. "Look, no cracks or chips or nuthin." KC said with a laugh. "Trust me, there should be too with what I put this board through. It's definitely broken in."
"Wow, I don't even know what to say." Dixon said as he looked at the deck and ran his fingers across it.
"Say when we're both better you'll ride with me once, okay?" KC said with a smile.
Dixon looked at his Great Grandmother, who nodded her head with a huge smile before he looked back at KC. "Thanks KC, Yeah, that'd be so cool."
"Sweet." KC said as he looked around the room. "Now I gotta get back to bed before they get the rest of security after me." He got out with a giggle. "C'mon Warden." He laughed as he led Scott back out of the room. "See you all later."
"That was nice." Scott said. "Sorry, I didn't mean to be angry earlier."
"I know." KC said with a grin as they walked to the next room. "I owe you one."
"Yeah you do." Scott said with a giggle when KC playfully punched him in the arm just as they turned to enter the room.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"You look like you just went a week with no sleep." Marc said as Chris began to dress down and wash up closely followed by an equally exhausted Antonio.
"Androids." Chris said to his little shadow shrugging his shoulders and chuckling.
"Yeah." Antonio yawned. "You'd think his hamster would fall off the wheel once in a while or sumthin." He added with a giggle as he dragged a stool over to the sink, climbed up on to it and began to wash up as well.
"Nope, hamster is an android too." Marc said with a grin as he sat in the corner of the room and stretched. "You guys did awesome."
"We all did." Chris said smiling back at Marc. "Judging by the readings after both procedures were completed, Benji should be up and about tomorrow. Eli may be a little sore but, in about 48 hours he should be good to begin therapy."
"I'd like to keep them both on the same schedule." Marc yawned. "Benji will be ready sooner but, if we wait for Eli they can work together."
"That's true." Chris said as two nurses rolled a still sleeping Benji out of the OR with Sammy smiling wide trailing on behind them. "Slip him right in with his brother. I want them both kept sedated until they are examined. They are not to be moved until myself or Doctor Furst gives the okay." Chris said to the nurse.
"Yes Doctor." One of the nurses said as they continued through the swinging doors.
"Hey Sammy." Antonio said as he jumped off the stool. "We may as well get some sleep now so we can be awake when they are." He said getting a pouting expression from Benji's boyfriend. "Come on. Sebastian is probably already asleep." Antonio said with a smile as he hugged both Chris and Marc before dragging Sammy along behind him.
"I'm following his lead unless you need me Marc." Chris said with a weak grin.
"Oh no, go for it." Marc replied as he stood up. "I think I'm gonna go relieve Noah, then go check on KC. I'll see you in the morning." Marc said as Chris left the room and he followed, turning in the opposite direction as he pulled out his communicator. "Marc to Noah."
"Noah here, how's it goin' bro?"
"Just finished up and everything went as well as I could have hoped for." Marc said, his voice relaying his content smile. "Wanna meet me in the caf for a coffee?"
"Sure, you mind if Billy and Austin tag along? I think they have some news for you."
"Good news?" Marc asked as he reached the elevator.
"They don't look happy, so I'm guessing probably not."
"Where are you now?" Marc said as he pressed the down button and heard yells to hold the door come from down the hallway.
"On our way to the caf." Noah said with a laugh as all three jogged to the elevator.
"Should I start?" Austin asked Billy who simply shrugged his shoulders while Marc and Noah put their communicators away.
"No one starts until I get a coffee." Marc said with a giggle as the doors slid open and they wandered right into the almost abandoned cafeteria. Once seated at a table Marc took his first sip and sighed out loud. "Okay, what's on your mind?" Marc asked Austin.
"We can't replicate Kevin tonight." Austin said with a depressed look.
"Aye." Billy said as he took a sip from his mug. "Bloody renovation team should be shot." He added with a snort.
"What happened?" Marc asked looking at Noah.
"We need to leave the building tomorrow." Noah replied cowering a little.
"What? We can't! We're under orders from HQ to stay put." Marc replied with a sigh. "We have four patients on site that aren't exactly ready to move, two brand new activations that can't be certified stable yet, two prisoners that we have no good way to move and, did I mention that we're still under orders to stay put? Who's asking us to vacate and why?" Marc almost demanded.
"Marc." Billy jumped in. "They rushed the remodel. During an inspection about an hour ago they realized that this building was never cleared of old insulation on the pipes and lining the foundation. They need to bring in a team to clean the building and we can't be here when they do."
"Asbestos?" Marc asked letting his head fall limply forward when all three nodded. "Just wonderful." Marc sputtered as he took another sip from his cup.
"In preparation, I already arranged to have our prisoners cut out of their cell. Lieutenant Shannon already contacted Corporal Jackson and we arranged to have them shipped to the local holding for as long as we need. All equipment not already installed is being stored on the 10th floor." Noah reported. "The occupied floors have all passed inspections and are clean, floors 7 through 9 are possibly contaminated as is the brig and power plant. They can't do anything about it with anyone occupying any part of the building." He continued.
"But until we are able to clear the building, is there any immediate danger to personnel and patients?" Marc asked.
"No, not until they start removing it." Noah answered.
Marc began to tap his fingers on the table as he took a sip from his coffee. "Mr. O'Keefe." Marc broke the silence. "Please report to all contractors to halt all renovation activities and clear non-essential personnel until further notified. Find out who is in charge of the actual hazardous material removal and explain to them we are awaiting clearance to move patients and personnel. I will notify them when we receive the all clear to move out."
"Consider it done Marc." Billy said as he hopped up out of his seat and rushed for the door.
"Austin." Marc continued looking to be deep in thought. "I want you to make the rounds with our gang and let them know what's up. Make sure all personal belongings are prepped to be transported back to the house so if we can clear the building, we'll be able to on a moments notice."
"Okay Dad." Austin said grabbing the can of soda he had just opened and jogged for the doors.
"One step forward, two steps back." Marc said to Noah while shaking his head. "You realize if they want to push us out of the building they can and will."
"It's for our own safety though." Noah replied resting his elbows on the table.
"We need that all clear call." Marc sighed. "Worst case, we'll need to establish some way of transporting Eli and Benji back to the compound. I wouldn't trust site to site unless they were conscious and no longer dependent on the biobeds."
"Maybe Will can help out?" Noah said, shrugging his shoulders. "An ambulance with a Police Escort should be okay."
Marc just nodded his head in agreement as he stood up. "We'll deal with that when we have to. For now they just need to wait." He got out as he motioned toward the door. "I'm gonna go check on Joey and KC, wanna tag along?"
"I'm in." Noah said getting up and following Marc through the doors. "Before I turn in tonight, you think it would be a good idea to at least try to contact CIC?"
"Not over open channels." Marc replied as they reached the elevator. "This sucks. I'm not even sure how silent we have to remain." He continued as the elevator door opened and they entered. "Like I said, they're gonna have to wait for us to be able to vacate."
"Most of these teams are Federation. We're gonna have to play it off based only on the fact that we already have patients that can't be moved." Noah said as the elevator slowly came to a stop on the second floor.
"I'll talk to Chris. Maybe he can vouch for us on it." Marc got out as the doors opened and they turned toward the nurses station to find a young woman sitting at the counter watching a small television.
"Evening Dr. Furst, Mr. Barnes." The woman smiled. "Things are very quiet, for once." She continued with a laugh as Marc grabbed KC's file off the counter, overhearing the news broadcast on the television.
"Could you turn that up a little?" Marc asked as both boys walked around to see.
"...thank you Lois. Up next, Local law enforcement officers speak out against the states budget cuts and how it is affecting public safety, Gas prices reach an all time high and leave commuters wondering how much worse it could possibly get and Montana's court ruling of Not Guilty in charges brought against Sgt. Mike Reynolds, a law enforcement officer of Campbell County for kidnapping and the alleged sexual misconduct with several minors in his care, have members of a local church protesting in the streets. More when we return..."
"Unbelievable." Marc said as he shook his head and opened the file.
"I've been trying to keep an eye on that one." The nurse said as she lowered the volume. "That case almost destroyed that poor family's life for no good reason, not to mention the damage it's doing to their CPS department."
"What's it about?" Noah asked resting his elbows on the counter.
"That man's son almost lost his life trying to save some poor kid in a wheelchair who was about to be raped by a group of kids." The nurse spat out. "The news said the same boy jumped in and helped another kid who was being held hostage earlier the same day. His father was accused of placing the boy in danger. To make it worse, the boy's father offered to care for both the boys and even was involved in a third situation where a man had severely beaten his two young sons. He acted on it and had the father arrested for abuse. Next thing you know, he's being investigated for endangering the minors in his care and even for possibly being sexually abusive."
"Do you think he is?" Noah asked looking back at the television.
"No, and neither did the court." The nurse said with a smile. "Religious activists are making a big stink over it though. Earlier today they reported that he had been brought up on charges a few years ago, it was all B.S. then too."
"I think I saw that one when it happened." Marc said closing the folder. "It was all about nudity in the home and stuff. I think the kids he was accused of being inappropriate with were like toddlers or something."
"Yup." The nurse injected. "He was present with two little boys who didn't want to put their clothes on after a bath. I remember it too."
"God, they'd have a fit if they ever saw how many bare buts run around in our home." Noah said with a giggle.
"More than likely." Marc replied walking around the counter. "It'll get to the point where some of those people will demand clothing in showers if an adult is assisting. Related or not." Marc said as the nurse frowned and shook her head.
"Still, that man has helped a few kids and his son is a hero by anyone's definition. They should just leave that poor family alone." The nurse said earning understanding nods from Marc and Noah.
"We'll let you get back to it... Um..." Marc said as he flipped open the folder once again and read the name on the report. "...Nurse Winslow."
"Nurse Patty." The young woman smiled. "Nurse Winslow makes me sound like I should be walking around handing out happy pills to the residents." She giggled. "I'm a Pediatric Nurse, Nurse Patty just kinda stuck."
"Gotcha. Actually, I like that. Easier for the kids but kinda formal at the same time." Marc said with a smile. "I'll return this after we check on the boys Nurse Patty." He continued waving the folder and smiling.
Turning the corner, a small form standing in the doorway made Marc stop and tilt his head. "Uncah Mawc!" ("Uncah Marc!") The small shadowed form cried out and broke out into a run, almost causing them both to go crashing to the floor.
"Hey little man." Marc laughed before looking into Joey's eyes. "Are you crying?"
Joey nodded as more tears fell. "Daddy and Scodd is dwyin do wake Casey up. He's havin bad dweams and he won'd wake up!" ("Daddy and Scott is tryin do wake Casey up. He's havin bad dreams and he won't wake up!")
"Oh boy." Marc said as he handed Joey off to Noah and nearly flew through the doorway.
"Oh thank god." Jerry said seeing Marc come crashing in. "He's been screaming and crying for his father." Jerry said as he put his communicator back in his pocket, obviously just about to call for help.
Marc looked at the bed and heard KC crying "No..." and "I'm home, where are you?" Before shouting "Dad!"
"He just started doing that a few minutes ago." Scott said with a concerned look. "We tried waking him up but, it's like he can't even hear us."
"He's having a nightmare alright." Marc said as he reached the side of the bed. "He's not responding to his name?"
"No, nothing at all." Jerry said with a pleading look.
"Hold on." Marc said as he put the folder down. "KC?" He called out to no response. "Kenny?" He tried again. "KC?" he tried one last time before placing a hand on KC's chest. Marc cleared his throat and loudly shouted; "Keneth Casey McKensie!" Causing the boy's eyes to shoot open, soon to be filled with tears.
"How the hell?" Jerry said as Marc sat down and pulled KC into a hug.
"It's a trigger." Marc said just above a whisper as KC cried into his shoulder. "Sort of an override command. I'll explain in a minute." He said directing his attention back to KC. "Shhhhh.... It's okay."
"My Dad...." KC cried. "Oh my god... What did I do?" He cried.
"It was an accident." Marc whispered as he rubbed small circles on his back. "It wasn't your fault, I'm sure he knew that."
"But..." KC got out with a sniffle. "All those years." He cried.
"Not once did he ever stop loving you." Marc whispered as KC just let it all pour out.
"Casey?" ("Casey?") Joey almost whispered as he reached up and touched his brother's arm.
Marc broke the hug long enough to lift Joey up onto the bed and set him down next to KC. "I think someone's worried about his big brother." Marc said with a warm smile as he watched KC pull Joey into a tight hug.
"You scawed me." ("You scared me.") Joey cried as he buried his face in KC's chest. "You wewe havin bad dweams and cwyin and yewwin. Dhen Daddy dwied do wake you up and we dhoughd you wewe bwoken..." ("You were havin bad dreams and cryin and yellin. Then Daddy tried to wake you up and we thought you were broken...") He began to ramble.
"I'm sorry squirt." KC sniffled as he hugged the little boy tighter. "I just miss my Dad a lot and had a bad dream about him."
"Bud you can shawe my daddy ow Ausdin's daddy." ("But you can share my daddy or Austin's daddy.") Joey cried.
"I guess I do kinda share Austin's daddy already, in a way so do you." KC said wiping his eyes. "But just like you, I had another daddy who loved me too and..." He got out as tears began to resurface. "He must have been so worried..." He managed to say before the two hugged tighter.
"He was." A voice from the other side of the room said softly, startling everyone.
"Oh my go..." Scott managed to get out before tripping and falling backwards on Joey's empty bed.
"Davie!" Jerry shouted as he ran and pounced the glowing form of his brother.
"Hey Booger Brain." Davie said with a giggle as he approached KC's bed and sat down.
"Who..." KC got out as Joey smiled and crawled out of his hug.
"Uncah Davie?" ("Uncah Davie?") Joey asked, tilting his head.
"How'd you know he was your uncle little guy?" Jerry asked with a surprised expression.
"I dawked do him when I was sweepin." ("I talked to him when I was sleepin.") Joey stated as he crawled into Davie's open arms.
"And it's soooo good to finally see you awake." Davie smiled.
"I god anodhew bwodhew now, and he's huwdin in his heawd." ("I got another brother now, and he's hurtin in his heart.") Joey sniffled.
"I know little guy." Davie said looking directly into KC's eyes. "You're Dad knows."
"Huh?" KC replied, still in a little bit of shock at what he was seeing.
"He's an awesome man and still watches over you." Davie said looking past KC and smiling. "He's been with you since the day he left this world and plans to never leave you."
"He's here?" KC asked looking desperately around the room.
"Yup. You wanna see him?" Davie asked patting Joey's head and shuffling to sit next to KC.
"Can I?" KC sniffled.
"If Mikey was here, he could help to allow him to be seen. I'm not as strong as him, but this should work." Davie said as he covered KC's eyes with his hands. "Open your eyes." He whispered.
"But you're covering them." KC whispered.
"Look through my hands." He said as KC suddenly gasped. "Can you see him?"
"Da..." KC's mouth dropped open. "Oh Dad..." He cried but suddenly got quiet. After a few moments of silence, a warm smile crept across his face as he slowly nodded. "I love you too." He whispered just before Davie lowered his hands.
"He was never gone." Davie said gently as he sat back.
Tears streamed down KC's face as he looked into Davie's eyes. "You're an angel?"
"I'm family." He replied pulling KC into a tight hug, Joey bounding back over and diving into Davie's free arm. "I heard one of my nephews was hurting." Davie said looking over at Marc.
"Stew knows he's safe?" Marc asked.
"He's known right along. He was the one who led the diver to him." Davie smiled. "All I had to do was drop a few hints with the officer who to go to for help." He continued with a wink.
"You're too much." Marc said with a smile.
"No, too much would be the amount of times I dropped a phone number at Lieutenant Murphy's home, in his car, his computer, with his companion and even with the detectives he works with. He had no choice but to call you." Davie said with a laugh as he lifted Joey's face to meet with his gaze. "You gotta promise me something little guy. Think you can do that for me?"
"Uhhuh." ("Uhhuh.") Joey nodded with a smile.
"Your big brother needs lots of hugs. Think you can make sure he gets some of them?" Davie asked releasing them both and standing up.
"Wike den dimes?" ("Like ten times?") Joey asked with a grin.
"Just ten?" Davie asked with a giggle while crossing his arms.
Joey giggled and looked like he was deep in thought all of a sudden. "Weww, den widdwe ones. Dhe wesd awe cuddwes." ("Well, ten little ones. The rest are cuddles.") He stated in a matter of fact way, earning laughs from everyone in the room.
"Yeah, that sounds like it'll work." Davie said placing a kiss on Joey's forehead. "KC, you're Dad doesn't want you to think anymore about what happened. You're safe now and with a family that is gonna love you and never leave your side. That makes him happier than anything else." Davie stated getting a nod and a smile from KC. "Marc, Noah. Your family is safe. Know that." He added, getting shocked looks followed by two meek nods. "Scott." Davie said turning around meeting with his wide open eyes and shocked expression.
"Ye... yeah?" Scott stuttered.
"That thought. Hold it tight to your heart." Davie said as Scott's eyes opened to what seemed to be impossibly wider than they already were confirming the comment was understood. "Very soon it will all be clear even if it won't appear so." He continued redirecting his gaze to his little brother. "Jerry."
"Yeah?" Jerry said looking back at his brother.
"You're a dork." Davie said with a laugh.
"HEY!!!" Jerry shouted with a pouting expression, trying desperately to maintain a straight face. "That's just wrong." He said finally laughing and rushing to give his brother a hug. "Butt breath." He giggled into Davie's shoulder.
"Nice example for the kids." Davie giggled. "Can you believe what he just called me?" He shrugged with a pained look on his face.
"Shaddap!" Jerry laughed and playfully slugged Davie in the arm as he began to slowly fade. "I love you bro!" He said as he stepped back.
"Love you, all of you." He got out before completely vanishing.
"Butt breath?" Marc giggled.
"Hey, he caught me off guard that time." He replied as everyone started to laugh. Everyone except for Scott.
"You okay?" Jerry asked as he sat down and patted Scott on the shoulder.
"He was your brother?" Scott asked with confusion in his tone.
"He is my brother." Jerry smiled. "Trust me, whatever he meant with what he said to you, he meant it." He said earning a thoughtful smile from Scott. "So... what were you thinking?"
"Oh... Um... nothing..." Scott stuttered.
"Riiiiggghhhttttt." Jerry said with a laugh as he watched Scott blush.
"Alright people, it's getting late. Those not sleeping in this room need to finish up anything they were doing and call it a night." Marc said with a grin.
"Can I sweep widh you?" ("Can I sleep with you?") Joey asked as he wrapped his arms around KC's chest.
"You kiddin?" KC replied smiling up at Marc. "If you don't sleep with me then I'll have no one to keep the bad dreams away." He continued with a giggle before placing a kiss on the top of Joey's head.
After the round of kisses and hugs, Noah, Scott and Marc stepped back into the hall and quietly closed the door before walking up to the nurses station to return KC's records.
"So, maybe we can talk about what the other guy looks like now." Marc said to Noah with a giggle.
"What other guy?" Noah asked and hissed loudly when Marc touched the right side of his face.
"Oh honey, has anyone looked at that yet?" Nurse Patty asked Noah while getting out of her seat.
"At what?" Noah asked looking at the other two boys.
"That black eye dude. It's turning into a good one." Scott replied with a grin. "It's really starting to bruise up."
"It shows that bad?" Noah whined as he gently touched the right side of his face and winced. "I knew it was still sore but..."
"I meant to ask you earlier but we were too busy." Marc said with a grin. "I just figured while you were in command you decided to go box the prisoners or something." Marc said earning a laugh from all three as the nurse returned with an ice pack.
"Keep this on it for a while to help bring the swelling down." She said in a motherly tone. "Take these." She added as she handed him a small cup with a couple of aspirins followed by a cup of water.
"Thanks Nurse Patty." Noah smiled.
"Don't mention it." She replied as she returned to the inventory she was working on.
"So, how'd it happen?" Scott asked as Noah downed the water.
"During KC's activation. He woke up panicked and accidentally kicked me in the face." Noah said as they walked toward the elevator, shrugging his shoulders. "If it looks that bad, Cal is gonna flip when he gets home."
"Don't worry." Scott said as Marc pressed the button to call the elevator. "We'll tell anyone who asks that you went three rounds with a Klingon; your honor will be safe." He finished as all three started to laugh just as Noah's communicator went off.
"Duty calls." He said as he flipped the device open. "Noah here."
"Noah, its Billy. Are you still in command or has Marc taken back over?"
Noah looked at Marc who simply replied by reaching for Noah's communicator. "Marc here Chief, is something wrong?"
"I'm sorry?" Marc asked.
"The foreman in charge of the renovations for our office space is flipping out about us not being able to vacate. He's getting angry, bordering on violent."
"Let's go." Scott said stepping onto the elevator while checking his weapon.
"What's your location?" Marc asked as he followed Noah into the elevator.
"Fourth Floor on the East side of the building."
"On our way." Marc replied as he pushed the button and they were off.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"...and you can tell your division head this building wasn't ready. Vacant or not we have a schedule to keep!" The man yelled as all three rounded the corner.
"Excuse me." Marc said politely as they approached.
"Not now kid!" The man shouted turning his attention back to Billy. "If he's not here in 5 minutes we're starting the removal, vacant building or not."
"Excuse me." Marc said once again, this time in a louder tone.
"Kid, can you see that I'm busy here or are you blind." He barked as he rudely turned back toward Billy. "If he does decide to show his face, I'll tell him exactly what I think about the way he's just been forcing progress by simply moving in. That shit's not happening. Not with me in charge up here."
"You just did." Billy said motioning toward Marc. "Meet the acting head of Clan Short's AI division. Doctor Marc Furst." Billy said with a snarl.
"Oh great, and he's even younger." The man growled.
Marc stared at the man coldly before stepping right up to him. "Who hired you for this job?"
"I was contracted by the Federation." The man answered sarcastically.
"And who is the Federation having this building renovated for?" Marc asked as if the man were two years old.
"The Vulcan Embassy." The man replied crossing his arms.
"Very good, who specifically on Terra represents that embassy?" Marc asked once again.
"Some Patriarch." He spat out. "Look kid, I really don't have time for this."
"Oh, you have time." Marc replied. "You have plenty of time since we have patients downstairs that we are unable to move. You have even more time because you were ordered to halt progress until the building was empty."
"Look kid. This building wasn't ready to be used. Any idiot could have figured that out. You can't demand a 10 floor beast like this old dump to be finished in a couple of days time just because you said to. I'm not your Mommy, so coming up here and throwing a temper tantrum isn't gonna get you anywhere."
"Oh really?" Marc smiled and asked as he stepped even closer. "It's unfortunate you clowns never inspected the building before you started. If you had, construction wouldn't have to be stopped midstream to handle an asbestos removal safely." Marc said as the man began tapping his foot. "Since the okay was given to begin, we were to assume you did your job and inspected the place before you started, meaning the floors that were completed were available to be used. So, was I rushing in bringing medical emergencies into the completed sections of the building or, were you rushing to half-assed get your job done?"
The man's face turned red as he took a step closer to Marc, freezing as Scott loudly cleared his throat and slowly put his hand on his phaser. "I'd think about it long and hard first buddy." He said, with a dead stare.
"Oh, cute." The man said as he took a step back. "Look, we were given a time limit to complete this project and you're holding it up."
"No, you rushed and falsified that this structure was ready. If anyone is being held up, it's your own fault since now I have two post ops down stairs that can't be moved yet." Marc almost growled.
"An oversight." The man sneered.
"A pretty big one I think." Marc replied, not once moving. "We will have this building vacated as soon as humanly possible. Until then, nothing is to be touched, is that understood?"
"Oh, are you gonna stop me little boy?" The man chuckled as another man stepped forward.
"Ed, are you nuts? He's the head of a Vulcan installation." The second man said just over a whisper.
"Without me running this project, he doesn't have anything to be in charge of." The man growled. "Now get your ass back to work, those walls come down now whether junior over there likes it or not!"
"Ed! That could spread this crap all over the building!" The man protested.
"Are you deaf?" He asked as he turned his back on Marc. "All of you? Get your asses back to work!"
"Anyone thinking about placing those children downstairs in danger, better consider the fact that we are authorized to use force if needed." Scott shouted into the room as he drew his weapon freezing the entire crew.
"You don't have the balls." The foreman growled.
"Let's test that theory." Scott replied as he began to move in the foreman's direction.
"Alright, this is getting out of hand." Marc half shouted as he placed his arm across Scott's chest, halting his advance. "Look, Doctor Herron up until now has been your link to us. He's been balancing construction against his medical duties. He's been in surgery for hours already today and I really don't want to have to ask him for more. Either you halt construction, and I mean right now; or I start filling up TerraMain's holding cells!" Marc shouted.
The man leaned against the nearby wall and began to laugh out loud. "You'll have us arrested? What charge do you plan on having us all locked up for? Not playing nice?"
"A few counts of endangering a minor for starters. Asbestos contamination is known to lead to deaths, we can add a few charges of attempted homicide, and that's just for starters." Marc said sternly. "There are kids down there. If anyone isn't gonna play nice, it'll be me!" Marc barked as he turned toward the construction crew. "Any of you have a problem with waiting for clearance now?" He asked loudly as workers began to set their tools down.
"I do." The foreman grumbled.
"Mister Shannon, call your team and show this man the way out." Marc said squinting his eyes. "Go quietly and don't return. Any resistance will be grounds to have you taken into custody. You could be facing a Federation Hearing or a Vulcan Sentencing for the charges I mentioned. You willing to risk your life for this supposed deadline?"
"Fine, I'm leaving." The man barked as he threw his tools down. "This isn't over. Your security isn't always gonna be there to save you, just remember that." He threatened as Scott took aim with his phaser.
"Is that supposed to be a threat?" Marc approached him without breaking eye contact.
"Just stating a fact." The man snarled as he stepped toward Marc once again. "Let's just say you caught me on a bad day."
"Shannon to Security Team C. Assistance needed, fourth floor, east wing. Phasers to stun." Scott said into his communicator before looking back at the man. "One more step and I promise your day will get a lot worse than you think it already is!"
"You do realize our services were acquired by Federation Development. They aren't going to be happy with your half thought out decision." The foreman said as he slowly turned to leave the room. "I wouldn't want to be in your shoes when they hear what I have to say about what happened here today." He said, stopping as he passed Marc.
"Oh, they'll be completely aware of the situation well before they hear from you." Marc replied as a security team rushed into the open area.
"Escort him off the property." Scott ordered. "He so much as stops to use the bathroom, stun him and take him into custody."
"Aye Lieutenant." One of the officers replied as two others motioned for him to follow. "This way sir."
Marc watched as the man silently shot each of them a dirty look, but did not resist. As soon as they were all on the elevator he looked at Noah and Scott with a relieved look on his face. "You know, by the time Danny gets back, I'm seriously gonna need a vacation." He said with a giggle. "Sir, can I have a word with you?" Marc asked the man who had been trying to stop the foreman earlier.
"Okay." The man meekly answered as he slowly nodded to his co-workers and walked over to the boys.
"I want to thank you for trying to assist. I think when your foreman was told that this installation needed to be rushed; he took it upon himself to make that request an 'at any cost' order. Make sure your crew knows this isn't going to be held against any of you if this should get ugly." Marc said with a weak smile.
"He'll probably lose his job." The man replied.
"I'm sorry. There was no need for him to go that far." Marc said shrugging his shoulders.
"Oh no, it's a good thing." The man said as a few members of his crew attempted to stifle laughs. "He self appointed himself as our foreman just because he's related to the owner of the company." He said with a chuckle. "A brother-in-law the owner was doing his wife a favor hiring and couldn't stand. He's been looking for a reason to fire him ever since his second day on the job."
"Yeah, he may come out here and kiss you kid." Another man said getting laughs from the rest of the crew.
"Oh." Marc laughed. "Well make sure to tell your boss if he needs any documentation about what happened, I'll be happy to provide it."
"Same here." Scott and Noah both added simultaneously.
"Will do." The man said turning back toward the crew. "Wrap it up guys, we'll pick up where we left off as soon as those kids are ready." He shouted as everyone began to work their way toward the elevators and he watched as Scott holstered his weapon. "Head of security, huh?"
"Yes he is." Marc quickly said as Scott had barely opened his mouth to reply. "Regardless of what he thinks." He added with a giggle.
"Um..." Scott managed to get out as Noah roughly patted him on the back.
"Smile and nod dude. Marc evaluates people like a kid evaluates rides in an amusement park." Noah got out as Marc shot him an 'up yours' glare. "You know..." He laughed. "I wanna ride that one no, that one no, that one..."
"You know, with TWO black eyes you'd look an awful lot like a raccoon." Marc threatened with a grin as he shook his fist.
"True, but just think of all the attention I'll get when Cal comes home and finds out how mean you've been to me." Noah laughed and quickly ran for the elevator.
"I love that kid." Marc said to Scott. "Remind me to dedicate the ICU to him since he's working so hard at being the first to use it." He almost shouted as Noah began to run even faster. "Running won't help, we have to call Admiral Morrow because of what happened here." Marc shouted after him. "You, me, alone, with no witnesses. Oh yeah, the fun we'll have." Marc continued before finally bursting out in laughter.
"You guys are insane." Scott laughed.
"A little." Marc smiled. "Just wait, once you've had enough exposure you'll be just as insane."
"Sounds like fun." Scott said as they laughed and went to get in line to use the elevator.
"Maybe we should have begun with tearing the shafts for the turbolifts." The man Marc spoke with earlier said while motioning to the line and chuckled.
"Are you gonna be the new foreman?" Scott asked with a grin.
"I was in line for it." He replied with a thoughtful smile. "I guess that position is open now, huh?"
"So, who do I list as my 'go to' guy?" Marc asked with a grin.
"I'm sorry, with all the commotion..." The man laughed as he held out his hand. "Phil Johnson." He said as both boys shook his hand. "I'll let you know what the owner says when we get back."
"Sounds great." Marc said as he reached past two people in line and pulled, dragging Noah behind them in line. "No cutting." Marc laughed. "Besides, we have a date."
"Some date." Noah pouted, folding his arms and sticking out his bottom lip. "I better be getting dinner or something out of this." He continued with a laugh.
"I got a candy bar." Scott laughed. "You guys can split it, light a candle or something and make it special." Scott finished saying while motioning like he was playing a violin, being abruptly stopped when Marc and Noah started playfully hitting him. "Or not." He laughed as they finally got on the elevator.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"MARC!!!" Byron shouted as he ran down the hall to catch up. "Sorry, I overslept!" He continued, his mussed hair confirming his statement.
"Oh dude, I'm sorry." Marc said as he leaned against the wall. "We have to put Kevin off again. Looks like the second Eli and Benji are okay to be moved, we need to clear the building."
"Why?" Byron whined. "He's been waiting... like forever!" He continued to protest.
"I know. I gotta pull his imprint again before we bring him online to update his dream before we start again." Marc said as he put his hand on Byron's shoulder and began to walk toward their sleeping quarters. "But I was kinda hoping Danny would be here for his activation, now it looks like he will be." He continued as they reached the door to the room. "I think Antonio is already in bed, go ahead and join him. I'll be in soon."
"Okay." Byron grinned. "Should we start packing in the morning?"
"Don't worry about it, we have time." Marc said as Byron opened the door. "Wanna help me tomorrow with Austin?"
"Sure!" Byron grinned. "How early?"
"I'll come get you, don't worry about it." Marc smiled as he began to head for the main entrance. "Night dude!"
"G'Night!" Byron smiled.
"What's going on out here?" Marc mumbled as he exited the building, seeing all the outside lights on and a scaffold set up extending beyond the entrance and surrounding windows on either side. "Hello?" Marc shouted as he opened the door.
"Marcus?" The familiar voice of the kind old man seemed to echo back. "I got yur surprise done." He continued as Marc climbed through the scaffold to the driveway to look up.
"What are you up to Gramps?" Marc giggled as he saw the letters 'UNITED FED' mounted on the building and a whole stack of what seemed to be letters scattered on the planks. "We didn't order any signage yet. We don't even have a name yet."
"You just be gettin up here and see what I got fer ya." Gramps laughed as Marc shrugged his shoulders and started to climb. "An I aint takin no fer an answer. I got a sweet deal on these preformed letters. Wait til you see the otha ones."
"There's a ton of them." Marc said in surprise after realizing that there were even more than he could see from the ground as he looked over the edge of the main part of the building and gasped. "Oh wow!" He managed to get out when he saw the big gold letters on the second level.
"Tole ya." Gramps said with a smile.
Marc just stared in awe as he read aloud; "Clan Short of Vulcan, Artificial Intelligence Division. That looks AWESOME!" He grinned as he looked at the smaller letters that were in the process of being mounted. "United Federation of Planets?" He questioned.
"Yup, follered by Youth Services." He grinned. "I got a real good deal fer tha bulk. I just called an found out what you would be needin." He said as he turned and pointed out over the water fountain. "Once you kids get ta namin tha place, I'll have the letters faster than a squirrel gatherin it's nuts on a short fall." He chuckled. "I got Memorial Hospital already, jus incase." He added with a smile. "Y'all have someone special to name her after?"
"We'll have to talk it over." Marc said as he looked at the building again and then further up into the sky, just in time to see a shooting star. "Gramps, quick! Look!" He said excitedly as they both watched the star cross the sky and disappear behind the building.
"Tellin ya, tha angels er watchin over y'all." He smiled before noticing the glazed over expression on Marc's face. "Marcus? He asked as he placed his hand on Marc's shoulder, snapping him out of his daze.
"I got an idea for the name." Marc said with a smile. "I just gotta talk to our Division Head, Patriarch and his Mother." He said with a smile.
To Be Continued...
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Notes from the Author:
Looks like we made it through another day. I'm so happy to see Noah get a real chance to shine and prove to us all (as well as himself) that he definitely does have what's needed to take charge if the situation requires him to. I know he definitely earned a ton of respect from Marc, not to mention the respect of his team mates and gratitude from KC and our new friends in Malibu. We're facing a little shake up with the news of contamination in the new building, thankfully it was caught when it was.
It's great to see Joey up and around again. I was really starting to miss the little guy. (Special thanks to Akeentia for the creative help in the background with the programming that he put in involving his speech issues.) I know many of you have been eagerly awaiting a chance to finally get to meet Kevin in the flesh. Sorry we had to disappoint you again. I guess what ever was meant to be...
Gotta remind you, while all this is going on in chapter 11, "Dark Vacation" featured on Comicality's "GFD: Blood Bank" is still keeping us up to date on the whereabouts of our own Danny and the rest of the team. Keep an eye on it.
As Always , gotta remind ya ... Those of you who haven't read "The other CSU stories" are truly missing out on a very important part of this story. You just gotta read em all, right now! Hehehe...
You can find "Memories" Parts 1 & 2 at http://cornercafe.us and don't forget to keep an eye out for the events also unfolding in "Memories: Down Under" by: "Boi From Aus" at http://acannex.us as well as "Ark" by Akeentia at http://paddedroom.us and "Dear Diary" by Boudreaux at http://jeffsfort.com to get the whole picture so far! (Yes, that means the Clan Short Universe is growing from our own perspective. Hold on tight as this list begins to grow out of control, I hope that chair of yours has a seat belt ;)
*HUGZ* from myself and everyone at the Clan Short; Artificial Intelligence Division!
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Notes from our "Clan Archivist & Editor":
Clan Archivist Review Notes:
It is really great seeing the AI Division continue to develop and stand on its own. One of the great things about the stories in the Clan Short Universe is the fact that although they are interconnected they are very good stories in their own rights that can stand alone.
It is awesome seeing J.O.E.Y. back and seeing Noah continue to develop a sense of self confidence. All of the characters continue to acquire depth which allows us to understand and love them even more.
Another great job by JeffP in answering several questions and not asking too many more.
On a serious note I have notified the Cliffhanger Police!
TSL aka The Story Lover.