Sentenced to Life

Chapter 2 - A New Lease On Life

"...and his neural interface keeps overloading," I heard as I slowly regained consciousness. "I think his emotional responses are just too much for his system to handle yet. Do you think we should pull his regeneration circuit and replace it?"

"Marc?" I asked as I opened my eyes and saw him and his father at the work bench with schematics strewn everywhere.

"You're awake!" He exclaimed as he dropped everything and ran to my side. "We're trying to figure out how to fix these overloads, before they do real damage."

I sat up and slowly slid off the table to stand. "Can I sit back over in the chair?"

"Sure." He said as I draped my arm over his shoulder and even more weakly than the last time walked toward the chair.

"Activate Tech Mode." I said flatly once I knew there was no chance of me falling over.

"You do still have a separate Tech Mode, I thought so." Marc said with a look of disapproval on his face.

"Yeah, if I can initiate it that is," I answered as my voice command had no affect at all. "You mean you don't?"

"No, the way I was designed, both operational modes needed to be incorporated, especially once I was told what I really was."

"You didn't know?"

"No, My first father had to explain it to me. I guess my Tech, or research mode was just as much an individual as I am and it caused a sort of conflict. Once I knew what I was, then there was no reason to separate the two modes, so they eliminated it by incorporating the two," He said pulling over another chair and sitting down facing me. "If we can repair your regeneration circuit, I can upgrade you to be the same way." He said warmly.

"Marc, I need to run a system diagnostic to narrow down the problem, but I don't have that function in recreation mode. I can activate maintenance protocols, but without a clue as to what's wrong it would be like trying to find a street address by looking at the entire globe. I don't know what to do."

Marc's father walked over to me with an opened book and knelt down beside me. "Danny, I want you to listen carefully to what I am about to say."


"I have your override commands, if they still work I may be able to take your recreation mode offline temporarily, forcing your tech mode to activate. Is it okay for me to try?" He asked.

I looked at the floor knowing that he was right, but fearing losing some control as a manual override relinquishes all command functions to the person activating it. I looked at him, then over to Marc and shook my head. "Go ahead Dr. Strafford."

"Just call me Jim, okay?" He said with a smile as he rolled a computer next to me and opened the access panel on the back of my head to connect me to it. "You did a great job with his restoration, Marc. From what I can see, he looks brand new." He said while making the final connections.

"You were sorta messed up when we found you." He half whispered to me. "I had to rebuild everything that was corroded from parts I made myself and even a few spare parts I had from other M.A.R.C. units I keep for self maintenance."

I chuckled at the thought of being pieced back together like a car being restored. "Franken-Boy." I said getting a giggle from him and finally a smile.

"Okay, Danny," Jim said gaining my attention. "Your power readings appear to be stable, but a few systems really are inoperative. It doesn't appear to be physical damage, it just seems that some systems failed during your initial activation. Clear your mind and I'll see if I can't use your override sequence to take control and get you fully operational again."

"Okay, I'm ready." I said as I gripped the arms of the chair and leaned my head back. 'God I hate the feeling of a manual override.' I thought to myself as Marc reached over and took my left hand.

I closed my eyes and listened to Jim say the words that I hadn't heard for many years. "Initiate Tech. Mode, override authorization, Kevin-Two-Zero-Alpha. Personal identification, Charles Strafford."

Suddenly I felt a warm rush as my vision was overlaid with a self diagnostic and I heard my voice begin responding directly by means of computer response, I hated not being able to lose consciousness. Because I could see and hear, but had no control. "Authorization, Kevin-Two-Zero-Alpha, accepted. Tech Mode activated, Standing by Dr. Strafford."

"Danny, relinquish manual override of all systems to matrix uplink and stand by."

"Connection established, manual override successful, Tech standing by for assistance only Dr. Strafford." My voice droned.

"Dad, can he still hear and see everything going on?" Marc asked.

"Yup, but in his case with this old software it's like he's watching from inside himself. Like watching a movie you have no control over." Jim replied as he continued to type away on a keyboard.

"That must be an odd feeling. My old tech mode used to frighten me, but it was like just hearing voices, almost like in a dream."

"Well, until we can get him stable and upgrade his software, I'm sure he understands the need for his mode, but I'll bet he doesn't like it one bit," He said and if I didn't know any better, said it like it concerned him. "Okay, the uplink is doing a full system analysis and complete restart of all systems. If there are no physical failures then it will initiate his regeneration acceleration and repair whatever it is that is causing the overload."

"How long will that take?" Marc asked giving my hand a squeeze.

"In all, about an hour. There's no telling how long it will take for internal repairs though." He said as I literally felt parts of my body go dead as my systems were powered down.

"Systems shutdown complete, Dr. Strafford," My voice once again mechanically stated. "Tech mode standing by for assisted reactivation."

"Excellent," Jim said as he tapped on a few keys and I felt a surge of power begin to bring my body back to life. "He is functioning like new, Marc. You did an excellent job on him."

"It wasn't something I messed up then?" Marc asked with relief in his voice.

"Nope, just too many years of inactivity. I think he's going to be just fine. So far, no problems at all."

Just over an hour passed as Jim continued to restore my failing systems. Marc continued to ask questions about my old programming, and even talked to me a bit, which made the procedure a bit more tolerable even if I couldn't respond to him.

"Okay," Jim said. "All systems operating according to this reading. Danny, report please."

"All systems operational, awaiting further instruction, Dr. Strafford."

"He's ready for the upgrade now as well," Jim said as I heard what sounded like pages being turned in a book. "This may work." He said as if thinking out loud.

"Danny, activate primary recreation functions, communication control override and stand by."

"Connection established, Communication Control override successful, Tech mode standing by." My voice droned and became silent.

"Danny?" Jim asked. "Can you talk now?"

"Yes," I answered in thought and my voice seemed to echo my reply. "Cool, I didn't know I could do this." I thought and my voice repeated getting a giggle from Marc.

"Danny, we have the upgrade you should have gotten years ago, it will give you better control and eliminate the need for a tech mode. Is it okay for us to go ahead and do it?"

"Yes, I trust you." I replied.

"Okay. This won't hurt a bit," Jim said as he punched a few keys and then spoke again. "Danny, restore full tech mode."

"Tech mode restored, Awaiting further instruction." My voice droned automatically as I lost control once again.

"Initiate full system shutdown and stand by for direct data entry."

"Full system shut down commencing." My voice responded and I faded from consciousness.

After what seemed like only a few seconds, I woke in a quiet room. I looked around and saw Marc sound asleep on the table I had been strapped to while he worked on restoring me. I reached up and felt the back of my head and found that I was still plugged into the computer. 'I wonder if it's safe to unplug myself.' I thought as I decided to check and see if I was still receiving information.

"Activate Tech Mode," I said at almost a whisper so I wouldn't disturb Marc. "Great, still doesn't work." I said in frustration thinking all the work Jim had just done would have fixed what was causing it to fail earlier.

"That's not gonna work anymore." Marc said as he sat up and stretched.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you." I said feeling bad cause he looked so peaceful.

"That's okay, I slept in here so you would wake me once the upgrade was finished. Dad passed out a couple of hours ago and someone had to be in here to shut down the terminal and disconnect you." He said through a yawn as he hopped of the table and walked around behind me.

After a couple of minutes tapping on the keys, I heard the computer turn off and Marc began detaching the connection it had to me.

"You feel any different?" Marc asked as he closed the access port and walked around in front of me.

"Yeah, I mean I think so. My thoughts aren't being interrupted with system status alerts anymore. It's almost like being human again," I replied as I began to try to notice the subtle changes the upgrade may have produced. "How do I enter tech mode now if a voice command doesn't work anymore?"

"Simple, you don't," He said with a huge grin. "You have some learning to do," he stated as he dragged over another computer and started it up.

"Okay, how do I perform maintenance or control internal functions now?" I asked obviously confused as hell now.

"For the most part, you do everything automatically now, without even having to think of it. It's cool cause small corrections will be made without you even knowing now. This way you aren't interrupted by the small stuff." He said as I nodded my head, thinking, 'That's gonna be cool. I hated having to stop everything I was doing to fix stupid little recurring problems.'

"Is that how you are set up?" I asked as I watched him insert a disk into the computer, completely absorbed with whatever it was he was doing.

"Yup, you and I are now on the exact same controller version," He said as he looked away from the screen. "I think you're going to like it."

"What kind of changes do I need to get used to?"

"Well, you know how you would get reminders to go to low power consumption for maintenance once a day?" He asked still grinning.

"Yeah, you have to or else you get run down."

"Yup," He replied with a giggle. "Well, now you will just get tired and want to go to bed, like a human."

"Like a human?" I asked a little shocked but interested too.

"Yeah, the new controller software is designed to make you even more life like, in the process you actually will be able to live life with little involvement or interruptions from your internal systems. The maintenance reminders emulate human conditions. You will get tired now and need to sleep, if something is wrong with you biologically, you just won't feel well. Like a digestive tract problem, you will have a stomach ache."

"Wow, did you design the software?"

"Not all of it," He replied as he came over and knelt down in front of me. "I made adjustments to it, but it is my original controller software after the merge of research and recreation modes," He said as I jumped and looked at my arm in puzzlement. "What's wrong?"

"I'm not sure. I have a funny feeling localized in my right forearm near my wrist. I'm not sure what it is," I said as I stared at it and the feeling remained. "It's weird, but if I didn't know any better, I would describe it as an itch."

Marc looked at me and burst out laughing. "Try scratching it then." He said continuing to laugh.

I looked at him then back at my arm. "Are you serious?"

"Yeah, like I said it makes you more human. Really, stop staring at it and scratch it." He replied, obviously finding humor in my dumb struck state over something as simplistic as an itch.

I shrugged my shoulders and decided it couldn't hurt to humor him, and scratched the area. To my surprise, it relieved the feeling and it went away. "That is so weird, and real too. I haven't felt anything like that since…" My own words reminding me that I used to be so much more than the mechanics I was currently made of, bringing a tear to my eye. "...since I was alive."

"Oh, god! I'm sorry, Danny. I never thought about how you would feel about some of the changes. I can deactivate human emulation responses if you want me to," He said, sounding scared for me. "We just realized that since our skin is human and since we learned how to better translate the signals from nerve endings over the years, we could feel more than just pressure, hot, cold and injury as more than just status conditions."

"No, I'm fine. I just didn't expect it," I looked into his eyes and saw real concern. "It's a beautiful gift, Marc, I want to keep it." I got out just before he leaned forward and hugged me tight.

"I never even considered that some of those feelings would remind you of your life before the neuro-image. That was so careless of me." He sobbed into my shoulder.

I pushed him away and out of his hug so I could look him in the eyes. "Thank you," I whispered with a smile while I wiped away his tears. "I really mean it. This just took me by surprise, that's all."

Marc just looked at me and smiled. I'm sure my response surprised him, but it really scared me at how he reacted. 'He's a real boy, with real feelings. I need to remember that.' I thought as he finally began to calm down.

"Well, so there aren't any more surprises," He said through a sniffle. "I need to teach you how your new software works. Either I can go over it with you, you can read the documentation and my own notes, or I can upload the info directly from the source file," He said seeming to be thinking it over. "That would be the fastest way, but even knowing what the software is designed to do, some things may come as a surprise sometimes."

"Well, I know to expect surprises now, so I don't think you need to worry about me responding like that again," I said as he returned to the computer and began tapping away at the keyboard while I felt the texture of the material the chair was made of and smiled. "How long will the upload take?

"A couple of minutes of connect time and about 4 hours reference integration time before you are aware of the new information. You want to do it that way?" He asked as I sat forward in the chair, actually feeling as if I was able to stand now.

"Yeah, cause I'm actually feeling tired. I guess it's been a full day."I said standing up and realizing that my legs were able to support me finally and walked over to his side.

"Nice to see you walking better." He said with a smile as he pulled out the uplink cable and attached it to the computer.

"Nice to be able to walk again, you do wonderful work, Doctor." I said while poking him in the ribs making him squirm.

"Wow, I guess you are feeling better. Cool, you can plug this in yourself then." He said laughing as he handed me the other end of the cable.

I did as I was told and connected myself to the terminal. "Marc, if I can't activate tech mode anymore, how do I prepare to receive an upload?"

"Well," He said as he thought for a second. "The best way to describe it I guess would be to say it will come to you like an idea that you will naturally want to think about," He said as I looked at the computer screen, looking at a listing of files that he probably intended to upload. "If you want to think about the idea, your brain will allow the upload. If you don't want to think about it, the transfer will be denied. You still have control, but in a new way now."

"That sounds really cool," I said as I checked my connection one last time before adding. "Go for it, I can't wait to see what this is going to be like now."

Marc punched a couple of keys, and just as he said, the transfer just popped into my mind. "Neat!" I said as I tried to think about the transfer and it just came rushing in, Not at all like the old method of access and denial that I was programmed to handle originally.

Once the upload completed, I disconnected the cable while Marc shut down the system. "I don't know about you but, I feel wiped out." I said with a smile as I walked over to the table and hopped up on it.

"Me too." Marc said as he gave me a funny look. "You don't want to sleep there, do you?"

"Um, I guess. Well, it doesn't matter really, I can power down standing if I want to so it doesn't really matter to me." I said wondering why he was asking.

"Well, you used to be able to power down, now you need to sleep. Being uncomfortable will make a difference now and if you sleep uncomfortably, it will affect your mood tomorrow," He said walking over and putting his hand on my shoulder. "I don't want you in a crappy mood on your first full day awake here," he said with a giggle.

"A crappy mood?" I asked as I slid back off the table. "You thought of everything."

"Nah, that was part of my original programming. You'll understand it all in the morning," He said as he motioned to the door. "Do you mind sharing a bed?"

"Nope, lead the way Doctor." I said with a smile as he led me out of the room for the first time.

"Nice house," I said as I looked around a bit on our way. "I guess I forgot we weren't in a lab, this place is huge."

"Yeah, Dad and I bought it and converted it into a Cybernetics lab for me, workshop for him to build some of his submersibles and a living area. I'll give you the tour in the morning." He said leading me down a long hall with natural wood floors and many pictures lining the walls.

"This is your room?" I asked looking around and chuckling at seeing clothes on the floor and a few android parts scattered here and there. "Looks like you've been pretty busy with your work." I added picking up an arm and waving at him with it.

Marc looked at me and laughed. "You goof, I normally don't leave this room a mess but, well I guess I should clean it up a bit, huh?"

"Nah, I don't mind the clothes, but the body parts are a little creepy," I said as I set the arm down and looked around his desk while he cleared the bed off. "Is this your first Dad?" I asked picking up a framed picture of himself and an older looking gentleman.

"Yeah, That's John," He said as he came over and looked at the image with me. "I was still pretty new in that picture," he said, giving me the feeling he wasn't up to talking about his father tonight.

I put the picture back where I found it as he finished up making the bed. "Mind if I hit the bathroom before we crash?" I asked heading for the door.

"No, but you can use our bathroom. The door next to the desk," He said as he pointed to the door I thought was a closet and then looked at me as if something had just occurred to him. "Danny, I never thought about this before," He asked sitting on the bed and pulling off his sneakers. "You don't mind sharing a room, do you?"

"God no, it sounds like fun, as long as you don't mind the intrusion," I said feeling around the wall for a light switch and not finding it. "Um, Marc?"

He looked at me and grinned. "Bathroom Lights On" he said and the lights came on. "Sorry, tomorrow we'll set it up so all the lights will respond to you too," He said as I looked into the bathroom. "There are normal switches in the rest of the house, but I like having voice activated ones in here. My first dad used to have them."

"Cool," I said as I closed the door behind me. The bathroom, unlike his bedroom was spotless. Large with a shower that could fit several people. It had a two sinks and a toilet, a laundry hamper and a linen closet. 'This is really nice.' I thought to myself as I emptied my bladder.

Once finished, I washed my hands and opened the door to find Marc in bed already.

"Bathroom Lights Off" he said and the bathroom went dark. "Before you ask, the sink and medicine cabinet on the left is yours," he said with a grin as I sat on the edge of the bed and began to undress.

"Actually, I did have one question, but it has nothing to do with the sink," I said looking back at him. "It's a little embarrassing though." I added.

"Something wrong?" He asked sitting up and staring at me like he was ready to do surgery if needed.

"No, not really. Um.. Marc what made you decide to leave me uncircumcised?" I asked probably turning a deep shade of red.

"Oh, that," He said looking at the bed. "It was the only thing I couldn't find a record of on you since you weren't designed for a specific person at first. It's something with later models that was optional," He said as I just nodded my head. "I can fix that if you want me to, I just used myself as a model and hoped I was right."

"Well, I don't mind and actually would rather remain intact, especially since we're brothers and that's how you were built. I always wished I had been left intact, even in life." I said getting a look of relief from him.

"Brothers?" He said as I pulled my shirt off. Almost as if it just clicked that I had said it.

"Yeah, in flesh, blood and design," I said as I slid my jeans to the floor and slid under the covers next to Marc. "You don't feel that way?"

"I do," He said as if he hated me to think otherwise. "I just wasn't sure you would."

"Well, age wise, I suppose you are my little brother. It's actually nice to have family again," I added as I settled down into the soft pillow and Marc curled up at my side. "Marc?"

"Yeah Danny?"

"How do I power down? I mean is there a command or something I need to think of?"

"No, just close your eyes, clear your mind and relax. Your system will know you are trying to fall asleep, and it will just happen." He said as he draped his arm across my chest and I pulled it tight to myself.

"Just like a human," I said with a smile. "Marc, thanks for everything; for finding me, restoring me, and for the new programming. I have never felt so alive in this body."

"Glad you're happy," He said as he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "G'Night, bro." He added.

"Night" I said and closed my eyes wondering how this sleep thing would happen without a command. It didn't take long and I felt myself drifting off, 'Just like a human' I thought as sleep started to take over.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Morning came like no other. I woke slowly, first hearing the chirping of birds and the shallow breathing of my new found brother. I slowly opened my eyes, half expecting a system analyst to report on system functions, but since the integration of the new info, knew it wasn't going to happen.

"This is nice," I said stretching the sleep from my limbs, trying to be careful not to wake Marc.

"Hmm.. Yeah it is." Marc mumbled as he curled up and pulled me tighter burying his face in my chest.

"I'm sorry, didn't mean to wake you, bro."

"You didn't, I've been awake for about half an hour now." He said muffled by the blanket. "How was your first real sleep?"

I thought for a second and smiled. "It was awesome, I think I had a dream too, but can't remember." I said getting a giggle from him.

"I always wondered what the point of dreaming was if you can't remember them clearly." He said releasing his death grip and sitting up.

"That's the way people dream, I'd say they got it right," I said as I began to sit up, noticing something else they got right. "You've got to be kidding me!?!" I said as I lifted the blanket and laughed at what I saw.

"What's wrong?" Marc asked, probably knowing it was nothing serious by my response.

"Morning Wood," I said getting a laugh from him. "Any other involuntary additions I need to know about?"

"Hiccups," He said with a giggle. "That's one that wasn't in the original program, so I added them."

"Okay then," I stated. "I suppose to be more human, it makes sense to give up some control," I said with a laugh as I got up to get the morning business out of the way. "Something else that is making itself apparent," I said pointing to my stomach. "Hunger pains."

"Oh yeah, you never even got to eat yesterday," Marc said as he slid out of bed and threw on a pair of shorts and a tee shirt. "Why don't you jump in the shower and get dressed, I'll make you some breakfast. You like omelets?" He asked heading for the door.

"That sounds great, but before you go, could you do me one last favor?"

"Sure, name it."

"Could you turn on the bathroom lights for me?" I said getting a smile from him.

"Bathroom Lights On" he said as he opened the door. "When you get out, your medicine cabinet has a toothbrush, toothpaste and a comb and stuff for you. Just pick something of mine you would like to wear. My stuff will fit you." He said as he shot out of the room and I closed the bathroom door behind me.

About a half hour later, dressed and wide awake, I found my way to the kitchen where he already had orange juice poured and on the table. "Can I help?" I asked as he turned and smiled.

"Nah, I'm almost done. This is your first breakfast here so you can sit this one out," He said bringing the pan over and placing two omelets in my plate, and two more in his. "Hope you're hungry." He said as he put the pan back on the stove and took a seat.

"I swallowed down half of my glass of O.J. and took a mouthful. "This is the best, you're a good cook." I said as I realized just how hungry I really was and began to really dig in.

"Thanks," He said as he watched me tear into my plate. "Just try to take it slow. Remember, your stomach hasn't been used yet."

"Yeah, you're right," I said as I began taking smaller bites. "I didn't even think of that."

Once we were finished eating, Marc got up and started to clear the table as I finished off my last piece of toast.

"Marc, let me clean up. You go in and take a shower and get dressed," I said as he just shook his head no and continued to gather up the plates and glasses. "Seriously Marc, I got this." I said as he relented and put the plates back down.

"You don't need to work, you just had your first meal in how many years?"

"You are still going to have to shower and get dressed. It will give me something to do while you're in there," I said getting up from my chair, sticking out my tongue playfully and taking the stack over to the sink. "Seriously, let me do this. Please?"

Marc stood and watched as I began to fill the sink with water. I turned to face him standing there with a thoughtful smile on his face. "I'll be fine, honestly."

"Okay, I'll only be a few minutes." He said and turned to leave the room looking like he was leaving his puppy at a friends for a week.

"Take your time, there's no need to rush," I said noting he was still a little reluctant to leave. "Marc?" I said freezing him in his tracks. "I love you bro." I added getting him to turn back and smile.

"I love you too." He said and he disappeared down the hall.

'It really is nice to have someone care about me again.' I thought as I made short work of the sink full, and dried and put them away.

Once finishing up, I decided to look around the house a little and after finding the living room and sliding glass doors, went out on the fairly large back deck and gazed at the beautiful view it gave. "Wow," I said out loud as from this side of the house all you could see was a wide stretch of open ocean and beach.

"Nice view, huh?" Marc said as he stepped out on the deck beside me. "I've always loved the ocean, maybe some time soon I can take you sailing." He said leaning on the railing.

"Really? That would be cool," I said as I looked over the entire area and just let the view relax me. "I haven't been on a boat since…" I was about to say since I was a kid, but realized the last time I was on a boat, I threw myself off of it, and it only seemed like a couple of days ago from my viewpoint.

"Since that day?" Marc asked, or more stated knowing I wasn't going to get much further with the comment. "Danny, what's it like, being alive?"

"Not much different than how I feel right now, other than the feeling that life is no longer too short to waste I guess."

"So, You consider yourself alive?" He asked.

"Yeah," I responded finally looking at him. "Don't you?"

"I guess I've never considered myself really alive, at least not since I lost my first father," Marc said as he walked over to the table on the deck and sat down. "He made it easy to forget what I am."

I turned and leaned against the railing to face him. "You are just as alive as I am," I said as I slowly walked over and sat down with him at the table. "Judging at how I feel right now, and how clear my thoughts are now that I don't need to deal with system crap anymore, I think you've been alive a lot longer than I have."

"Are you afraid to die?" Marc asked, looking directly into my eyes. "I'm afraid that if I do, it's gonna be like a switch is just turned off, even if my brain is destroyed," He said looking at the floor. "Like I never existed at all."

"Then you do have a soul," I said, leaning in towards him and lifting his eyes to meet mine with my fingers below his chin. "Any life, that fears it's own death, has a soul."

"Really?" He asked. Not looking relieved, more like surprised. "Even though I'm just a machine?"

"A human is just a machine, maybe a different kind, but a machine just the same. Just me being here right now means our bodies are capable of having a soul. Mine transferred from a human body, and yours born from life itself," I said as I sat back, knowing I had his attention. "You were born on the day of your activation, I was re-awakened. Either way, your chances of having a soul are as good as mine. I don't doubt that, not even for a second."

Marc seemed to be deep in thought before slowly letting a smile creep across his face. "So then, you are afraid to die then?"

"Yeah, I mean it is easier to face when all seems hopeless," I said probably confusing him. "Sure, there is the chance that none of us have anything to look forward to in death other than eternal rest. I have always held on to the belief that life can't just flicker out of existence. When I was alone and scared and lonely, it was all I had to look forward to."

"But you have died," He said adding "You died before the transplant. Wasn't there any proof for you in that?"

"I'm not sure what I remember during the neuro-imaging. It's almost as if I fell asleep and woke right back up in a different body. Maybe more happened, but I have no memory of it."

"Oh." He simply answered.

I sat back in my chair and looked up at the sky while listening to the ocean's waves hit the shoreline. "You know, we're ruining a beautiful day with this conversation. What's on the agenda for today? Anything?"

"Not really, I figured we can take it easy and let you get used to your new programming. Maybe I'll take you out if you feel up to it, and show you around the area a bit."

"A lazy day sounds nice," I said as I thought a tour was a bit much on my first day. "Where's Jim?"

"Oh, he's on the ocean right now. Month long tour back to the site where we found you."

"Back to the ship I found?" I asked thinking about how many years I recently spent with it.

"Yeah, of all the ships you could have landed at too." He said with a giggle gaining my curiosity.

"What ship was that? I remember it was huge, but it was too dark to identify it," I said trying to remember any details I may have overlooked. "It was so dark."

"Probably too corroded to tell, even if there was enough light," He said as he kicked back. "How many ships are you aware of in the Northern Atlantic?" He asked.

"Not too many," I replied now trying to remember some of the reports I did back in grade school. "Well, I know of the H.M.S. Hood, Bismark, R.M.S. Titanic, R.M.S. Carpathia, Egypt and H.M.S. Ark Royal, off the top of my head." I said wondering if it was the wreckage of one of those.

"Which is the biggest?" He said with a crooked smile. 'Great, I'm being quizzed.' I thought as I remembered being fascinated as a kid on the subject.

"Titanic, she was a 46,000 ton passenger ship. Easily the biggest." I said half waiting to be corrected.

"It's unbelievable, that her hull still stands upright after all these years on the ocean floor, isn't it."

"Yeah, what's that got to do with where.. Wait, are you saying…"

Marc cut me off and answered for me. "You slept with the Titanic. We found you buried in silt on the Port side of her Bow. You had fallen over on to your side, but had obviously been sitting upright for a long time up against her hull."

"That's almost beyond belief," I said now lost in my thoughts. "Of all the places to land…" I idly thought out loud. "Why were you at Titanic?"

"She's still visited from time to time, fascinates oceanologists at the fact that her hull, even though most everything else has eroded with time, is primarily intact. The sub Dad designed is to replace the one they have been using to visit that site." He said.

"If it's visited regularly, why did it take so long to find me?"

"In the past 40 years, only the last 20 were routine visits, They go once every two years and it's mostly to take photos and stuff. I was on the trip that they decided to leave a piece of iron on the ocean floor to measure its rate of decay. As they were placing it on the floor, I was looking out the portal on the opposite side, right at the ship's hull when I spotted what I thought was a doll's hand or something. I told Jim I spotted something and he used the arm of the sub to pull you out and bring you back to the surface. I've got the video that was taken if you want to see it."

"I would, just not right now." I answered just thinking of the thoughts I had as a kid, learning of the fate of that ship and what a dark cold place I imagined that to be. The thought gave me goose bumps, another feeling I had forgotten about.

"Whatcha thinkin?" Marc asked waking me back up from my daze.

"Just about where I've been. It's a bit overwhelming to think I spent 70 years next to one of histories biggest mistakes. The lives that ship took to the bottom of the ocean, and I happened to land right next to her."

"You feel bad about that?"

"I'm not sure what I feel. I respect that site for what it is. I suppose it's a bit humbling to think that my life should have ended there, but didn't," I said just becoming overtaken by emotion. "Coffee, do you like coffee?" I asked abruptly to change the subject.

"Yeah, want me to make some? It sounds good." Marc asked as I went to stand up.

"Nah, sit here and relax. It's my turn to do for you," I said with a smile as I stepped toward the doorway. "How do you take it?"

"Cream and lots of sugar." He said with a smile as he leaned back in his chair. Hopefully enjoying the break I was trying to give him.

After fumbling around the kitchen, I found everything I needed and got a pot of coffee brewing. Out the side window, I could see Marc sitting back in his chair in the sunlight with his eyes closed. 'He looks happy.' I thought to myself knowing the hell he has been through was as hard on him as what I had been through. I turned from the window and sat down at the table, waiting for the coffee to finish when I noticed my own reflection in the side of the toaster. "I always hated getting old," I said to the brown haired, blue eyed kid that stared back at me. "Now look at you, young forever. Just what you always wanted, right?" I said as I looked away from the reflection.

A few minutes later, I returned to the deck and set two cups of coffee on the table. "Here you are sir," I said in a snooty butler sort of way. "Light and sweet, just as you requested," which got him giggling again.

"You're a goof," He said as he took his first sip. "It's perfect, thanks."

I took a sip from mine and set it back on the table. Marc took a look in my cup and scrunched up his nose at what he saw. "Black? You drink it black? Eeewwww..."

"Well, yeah. I'm too lazy to put extra stuff in it," I said as I sat back and giggled. "I think your giggle is contagious," I said getting another from him. "Marc, what's involved in a direct link?"

"Well, in normal cases it is the easiest way to troubleshoot a failing unit," He said as he picked up his cup and took a sip. "For some, it's a way to share everything about one another. Like instead of telling stories of your past, you can bring the other along with you as you remember it."

"So you would be able to see my memories?" I asked, trying to figure out just what was involved.

"Not just see them, experience them. Your thoughts, your emotions, pain and joy. It's very personal and controllable as well. Whoever initiates the uplink, is in total control of what is seen and interacted with."

"It alters memories to include the other?" I asked, wondering if it was a good idea or not.

"No, it's as if you were to relive portions of your life and I were to skip back in time to watch, be there unseen by anyone but you, and only when you want me to be seen," He said setting his cup down and settling back. "Some others have recreated places in their minds to just get away to. Like a favorite hillside, a pair of androids can link and actually spend time together in that imaginary spot, which is just as real to them as actually going on a vacation," He said looking a bit thoughtful as he sat forward in his chair. "I can give you an example if you want."

"Is it safe enough for us to link?" I asked with the memories of his earlier fears of being accidentally destroyed ringing in my ears.

"Oh sure, you're stable now. I verified that during the upgrade. It took the integration of how to function with the new software while you slept last night to finalize that," He said while grabbing his cup and standing. "Wanna see a child's imagination become reality?" He added with a smile motioning for me to follow.

"Okay, this sounds interesting," I said as I closed the door behind myself on the way in. "Should I finish my coffee first? I mean how long are we gonna be, um…gone?" I said not knowing how else to word it.

"That's a great way to put it," He said opening the lab door. "Your coffee will still be hot, or the next one is on me." He said with a smile as he pulled out a length of cable with identical connectors on either end.

"Just us? No computer?" I asked as he opened his access panel on the back of his head and I followed suit.

"Yup, no need for computer interaction for this connection." He said handing me the other end of the cable and hopping up on the table, leaving enough room for me to lie down beside him.

He connected his end and grabbed my hand as I reached to connect mine. "When you connect, you will instantly feel me through the connection. Lie down first, and when you are plugged in, think of nothing. I want to initiate this one. I want you to meet someone."

"Okay." I said as I hopped up on the table and carefully plugged in the cable. Just as he said I could feel his presence, inside my mind the second It plugged in.

"Ready?" he asked.

"Yeah," I responded feeling a warm rush come over me. "This is pretty intense." I said in awe of the feeling I was having.

"Try to calm your mind and close your eyes." His voice, now in my mind said to me in a soothing tone. So I did and gasped at what I saw.

"This is our interface," Marc said as he pointed at the nothingness around us both. To me it appeared as though we were both standing beneath a spotlight in an otherwise completely barren, dark black room. "From here, one of us becomes the host. Depending on who leads and who follows."

"What are our bodies doing while we are in here?" I asked looking at my hands and noting how real they appeared.

"Sleeping. We can share info, thoughts, experiences and even dreams while we sleep with this connection. Like I said, it can be very intimate, depending on how we decide to proceed." He said, now giggling at the sheer amazement that must have been on my face.

"Ready to see what we can do together?" He asked as I just looked at him and nodded.

"There's no need to be frightened you know," He said walking over and taking my hand. "Just follow me and you'll see." he said as he turned, still holding my hand and walked us both to the spot he stood in.

Next thing I knew we were both standing in the middle of what appeared to be a living room, in a house I had never before seen. "Where are we?" I asked as I looked around a risked a test touch of the couch next to me. "It's real!" I said as I poked at it again.

"Well, as real as we are here," He said sitting down and motioning for me to sit also. "We are in a place I go when I feel alone, this is my first home," He said as I looked around. "You can take any memory from your stored banks and make it interactive," He said as he looked at me and smiled. "I'll teach you how to do it, it's really an escape for me sometimes."

"Have you ever brought anyone else here?"

"No, you're the first I've ever taken into my personal memory. One M.A.R.C. unit I restored once took me to his getaway. It was an amusement park that he and his Mom used to go to, She was even there. That's what originally gave me the idea to come back here. Come here," he said as he stood and led me to the doors and opened them. He led me out on a deck that overlooked the ocean.

"Wow, looks very much like the view from your back deck," I said as I scanned the horizon. "It's beautiful."

"Looks like the same view, because it is the same view," He said leaning on the railing facing the house. "Years after my first dad passed away and I left here to live at V.I., a hurricane completely destroyed this house," He said as he looked at me. "The house we live in now was built right on the foundation of this house. Since that's all that was left."

"It looks different though, why was it built differently?" I asked realizing the only real similarities were the surroundings.

"It was bought by a different family. I couldn't stay here after my dad passed away, so the house was sold," He said looking at the deck floor. "I wish I could have changed that decision. Cause this is all I have left of it now."

We both turned back toward the scenery and watched the calm ocean when I noticed a boat tied to the pier on the beach. "Who does the boat belong to?"

"That was my dad's. We used to go sailing a lot." He said as I could hear pain in his words just talking about his life so long ago.

"Marc, if you can recreate places and revisit them, can you, um.. visit people in your memories too?" I asked wondering if there were limits to what could be imagined and relived.

"Oh yeah, remember I did bring you here to meet someone." He said as he closed his eyes for a second and then smiled.

Just then I heard the sliding door open behind us and a voice I didn't recognize almost made me jump over the railing, not expecting anyone else to be there so soon.

"Plum." The voice said, bringing a smile to my brother's face, and a tear trickled down his cheek.

To Be Continued…

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Notes from the Author:

Yes, I am mean :) I decided to end this chapter on a nostalgic note of sorts. Most of you are probably cursing at your monitors right about now. Sorry 'bout that.

I also want to thank my brother, and the proud owner of the newest site within our family for hosting this story. I was floored the day he asked if he could co-host it upon the launch of his new site, and honored to now have two works featured along with the works of some of the most talented authors around!

Gunrunner, Acfan, Greybear, NetNicholas, and Gary Q. (We even have a new member of the family who has grown from a poster on our forum to a writer in the Cafe, Akeentia! Welcome home Bro, can't wait for your next chapter!) I can't describe how it feels to be part of such an elite group... *HUGZ* To you all.

Also, especially need to mention my "Driving Force" behind this tale... Jonathan, Logan & Coby. Jon for being a part of my life, and for the love that grew and time just can't seem to make fade away. Logan and Coby, for being an inspiration, and even the boot to kick me to get back to work now and then. Love you guys! Always will!