"Wait, what just happened?" CJ asked as Chad and Caleb both shrugged their shoulders.
"Yeah," Chad continued his thought. "Who's Johnny?"
"I am." The little android said as he finally was able to force himself to sit up. "Aw come on, don't cry Marc."
"I can't help it." Marc sniffled, finally pulling the smaller android into a hug. "I thought I'd never see you again."
"I'm confused." Caleb said as he watched the display. "I thought his name was Willy."
When Marc was finally able to separate himself he tilted his head and his expression changed. "Good question actually." After wiping the tears from his eyes he looked at the concerned expressions on the faces of the twins and folded his arms.
"Is Willy gone?" both twins asked in unison as the tears welled up in their eyes.
"No." Marc shook his head. "That's not possible."
"What just happened?" Josh exclaimed as he ran back into the room, tears streaming down both cheeks.
"...gone." The two boys cried one at a time as they both slammed into each of his sides unable to contain their sobs.
"But he's sitting up." Josh said confused looking back and forth between Marc and Caleb. "I'm confused."
Marc tapped his chin as he looked over everyone in the room. "There's a reason for this. There has to be. I need to think."
Realizing Marc was at a loss, Caleb cleared his throat and looked at everyone in the room. "Okay, let's take a step back here." He took a deep breath. "What's your name again?"
"John." the little android replied, looking at Marc. "Johnny Furst." he grinned.
"Why would you have Marc's last name?" Caleb asked as he picked the tricorder out of Marc's hand and began to access the mobile access point.
"Because I'm Marc's little brother." Johnny replied looking at Marc and smiling. "Sharon said I'd see you again. I thought she was just trying to make me feel better." he continued in an excited tone.
"Wait, Sharon said that?" Marc questioned, getting a huge smile and nod as an answer. "When did she tell you that?"
"When that other tech guy was s'posta delete me." Johnny paused to think before continuing, "The last thing she said to me was when I see you again, to say something 'bout an emergency recovery protocol. Not sure what all that means but, that's what she said."
"We won't even get to say goodbye to Willy." Chad looked up at Josh and cried harder.
"Hold on guys." Marc said, shaking his head with a smirk. "Willy's not gone. I think he's stored in..." His statement trailing off, he looked at Caleb and then back at the twins and their father. "Caleb, this is going to sound weird but I need you to scan his matrix for what will appear to be an isolated partition. There should be activity where there normally is none."
"Okay." Caleb glanced at him questioningly for a moment before looking back at the little android. "Lay back for a second little guy."
Once the little android was laying down Caleb tapped away on the tricorder. "Aw crap!" he spat as he started slapping the side of the hand-held unit, a small amount of smoke spewing from its sensor array. "Okay, so I guess this wasn't ready."
"Can you guys help him?" CJ timidly asked as he finally detached himself from Josh's side, Chad right behind him.
"I think I know what happened. If I'm right then yeah, we can." Marc smiled before looking back at their patient. "If Sharon did what I think she did, we can help both."
"Well, we'll have to bring him back to Saint Mikey's to get anything done. This thing is shot." Caleb grumbled as he put the unit on the biobed next to their patient. "Josh, do you guys want to come back with us to the AI hospital? Ark can teleport us all."
"I don't see how I'd be able to get these two to stay behind and I'm not sure separating from them at this time is a great idea. You two up for a field trip?" Receiving enthusiastic smiles and nods from both, Josh looked at Marc and shrugged his shoulders. "Besides, I'd love to see this hospital."
"I'll give you a full tour once we have some free time." Marc smiled as he stood at the head of the biobed and ran his fingers through his little brother's hair. "I like the hair color change. Maybe we should keep it."
"Why? What color is it?" The little android questioned before Josh's voice cut him off.
"How bout you two help me get those shakes ready to travel?"
Dr Chris Herron shook his head once again in wonder as he looked into the recreation / therapy area. Almost half of the occupants were from the neighboring houses, yet only one or two of the neighbors were actual patients. The kids of the neighborhood around the hospital had decided among themselves that the Rec Center made a great new hangout, and in the process began involving the patients in their games and tournaments. Chris could still hear Teri's laugh when he had called her and asked for staff to help coordinate the requests for sleepovers; her idea of asking the visitors if they had any parents looking for a job had panned out to the point that he now had an entire 'parent squad' on-staff at all times.
He was about halfway across the room to check with the welcome desk to see if they needed anything when a green strobe above the desk started flashing. Over the hospital PA, Nurse Patty's voice announced "CODE GREEN, INTAKE! CODE GREEN, INTAKE! SET LEVEL ONE, I REPEAT, SET LEVEL ONE!"
Suddenly, every youth that was not hanging out with a patient sprinted into the hospital and headed down the hall, followed by the more mobile patients with their friends. Chris was about to join them when Noah's voice came over the PA. "AI DIVISION SET CONDITION ZULU-TEN. AI DIVISION SET CONDITION ZULU-TEN."
Chris spun on one heel, changing direction on the fly. The staff could easily handle a green-one intake; a zulu-ten, on the other hand, meant that an android was being brought in to the tenth floor for emergency repairs. An announcement regarding that meant one thing; scramble if you were on the short list with access, as there was about to be some serious medical magic performed. He hit the turbolift running, announcing before he was fully in the door "Level ten, override Harron 1754-ai-code Alpha."
"Override accepted," the voice of the VI running the turbolifts replied. As the car containing Chris accelerated, other cars in the network were either slowed or redirected to alternate routes to allow his car direct access to the tenth-floor lab area.
The Michaels family appeared in the tenth-floor Replication suite with their escorts, Marc and Caleb. "Where are we?" Josh asked as he looked around, finally spotting a table that he could set the half-dozen shakes he was carrying on.
Danny walked over, holding out his hand. "Welcome to the Android Recovery Unit, Dr. Michaels. I'm Director Danny Page, Family Clan Short of Vulcan AI Division."
"Holy shit, Dad's going to have a stroke!" Josh not-quite muttered as he shook the offered hand. "It's an honor to meet you, Sir."
Danny tilted his head, then grinned. "Call me 'Sir' again and I hook your boys up to pixie-styx IV drips!"
Ignoring the threat, Josh pulled the suddenly-nervous pair of boys latched onto him into a cuddle. "CJ? Chad? This is the android that Marc was telling me about. He's the very first of his kind, so you're getting to meet a legend!"
Having already updated himself on the twins and their situation, Danny smiled as he responded. "Hey guys, Antonio told me a lot about you. He thinks you're really kewl, and says you guys fit in with the rest of us really good. Since you guys are the lead doctors for Willy and Johnny, I'm going to help you get up-to-speed on the new stuff we've came up with."
Danny's reply diverted the twin's attention from all of the people appearing in the room. "We ain't doctors," CJ said more to Josh's side than to Danny.
"That's funny, you sure sounded like doctors!" Danny giggled. "Noah and I were listening in, you guys saved him while Marc and Caleb goofed off."
"Hey, I was holding wires, Grandpa Moses!" Caleb interjected in defense from where he was updating Billy O'Keefe and Chris Harrod on the physical status of Johnny / Willy.
Danny flipped off Caleb behind his back, and was about to continue when Kevin interrupted him. "Uncle Dan? I kinda know what happened now, Uncle Marc filled me in. You wanna take care of convincing him that it's his turn to sit one out, and I'll explain it to CJ and Chad? Noah's working with Johnny to sort out the options for him, and I think I understand better than anyone else here what CJ and Chad need to know."
Danny nodded, "Gotcha, Shadow. Why don't you grab a table?"
Kevin smirked as he gave Danny a one-armed hug, "Because sitting at it would be more comfortable, dufus!"
"Smartass!" Danny giggled as he returned the hug. "Guys, this is my favorite nephew, Kevin. He'll fill you in while the rest of us get things ready."
Before dealing with Marc, Danny glanced around the room. Jerry Owens and Noah were sitting with the dual-personality android going over possible upgrades with Marc hanging over his shoulder, while Caleb, Billy, and Chris were busy bringing all of the equipment online and running pre-use diagnostics.
Kevin led his group over to a table, taking a small detour to get a chocolate shake from the replicator after seeing Josh, CJ and Chad grabbing theirs. Once all four were seated, Kevin took a drink before beginning. "I guess you can say it's my fault Uncle Dan's here today. Before he was an android, he got in a really bad accident trying to avoid hitting a kid. Back then, we didn't have Federation medical, so the doctors couldn't fix him. One of my Mom's friends had a really crazy idea about a way I could keep Uncle Dan around instead of lettin' him die, and I wanted him to live so much that I agreed to it."
"You loved him a lot?" CJ asked. "Did he ever punish you?"
Having overheard some of what had happened to the twins, Kevin shook his head. "Not like you mean punished. If I screwed up he'd talk with me, but if an adult had ever tried to hurt me he would have killed them."
Josh nodded his thanks at Kevin for helping him with guiding his new sons into their new lives. "A lot of people owe you their lives, Kevin. Your decision led to where we're sitting right now."
Kevin shook his head. "No, there's nothing that makes what Uncle Dan went through because of me better. I could never pay him back for that."
"Do we need to talk about this again?" Danny asked, kissing Kevin on the head as he walked by.
"No." Kevin sighed. "Anyway, your friend Willy is in there. Johnny is a personality that has been asleep inside of Willy's brain and somehow got woken up. All we need to do is give one of them a new body to move into. Then they can be the two separate people that they are supposed to be."
"You don't know that." CJ sniffled as he simply stared into his cup.
"Actually I do know that." Kevin warmly said as he lifted CJ's chin so the small boy would look at him. "Ask me how I know that."
Scrunching his face up, CJ thought before a tear finally escaped and started to leave a train down the boy's face, "How?"
"Because for years, I was asleep in my Uncle Dan's brain." Kevin released CJ's chin and sat back in his chair. "I even got to talk to him and meet My Uncle Marc and Jerry over there BEFORE they were able to create and give me this new body."
"Really?" Chad asked with new hope in his eyes. "Can we talk to Willy that way now?"
Kevin tilted his head and thought for a moment, "Uncle Marc!"
"Sup?" Marc smiled as he walked over to the table.
"Remember the night when you let me talk to you and Jerry and Uncle Dan through the terminal after I first woke up in Uncle Dan's brain?"
"Yeah," Marc paused and then grinned. "Kevin, that's an awesome idea!" he said as he ran off. Marc grabbed Jerry as he rushed behind the control panel of the entire system, leaving a confused Johnny sitting on the table with Noah.
"What's he doing?" Josh asked, getting up and putting his half empty cup down.
"I think he's gonna let Willy tell you that he's alright himself." Kevin smiled before taking a satisfied gulp from his milkshake.
Chris had finished updating himself on the situation, and chose that point to join the group. "What is it about the Michaels name and becoming doctors?" Chris joked as he came to a stop. "Hello Dr. Michaels, Dr. Michaels, and Dr. Michaels; I'm Doctor Chris Herron, Medical Director for Saint Mikey's. I'm next in line after Dr. Page and Dr. Furst, which gives a level of sanity before you reach the top."
"You're just begging for bedpan duty, Chris!" Marc yelled from somewhere behind the equipment racks.
"You haven't got the guts!" Chris shot back. Turning back to Josh, he chuckled as he added "Doc Austin has settled the confusion before it started; I'd suggest you go by Doc Josh, Doc CJ, and Doc Chad."
"We're not doctors!" Chad and CJ stated in unison.
Chris pulled out a chair and sat down to be at eye level with the two boys. "Guys, there's one thing that Danny and Marc don't joke about, that's who they allow to work with androids. This room is the most limited access area in the entire building; when Danny stated that you were the attending doctors, that was him stating that he thinks you are smart enough to learn everything that you need to know to work on androids. Let them worry about making sure that you have all the right training; you are about to join the only three still-living fully biological people who are certified in all things android: Jerry Owens, Noah Barnes, and Caleb Barnes."
"But... we're just kids!" CJ protested.
Chris tilted his head towards Jerry, who had retrieved a box of cables and was digging through it. "Jerry over there is only a year older than you, and actually wrote the personality for the little guy who is now his son. Age doesn't matter around here, guys; skills do. The only limits you have are the ones you make for yourselves."
Josh smiled as he added "Guys, don't forget that you're going to blow your Grandpa Ron's mind when he finds out that you get to work with the two most famous androids in the universe. You're going to make him really proud."
"Cool." Both boys said in unison as Jerry's voice got everyone's attention.
"Oh no!" He said louder than he intended. "Marc, stop what you're doing."
"Why?" Marc questioned as he put down the speakers he had intended to plug into the console for Willy's voice to be heard.
"Just..." Jerry stammered, "Jus...just come over here and look!"
Shrugging his shoulders, Marc tossed the wires on the counter and rounded the end to the control area. "What's wrong?"
"Right there," Jerry pointed at the active monitor. "It came up as soon as you connected him to the data port."
Marc looked and the color drained from his face. "Not again..."
Turning in his seat, Billy looked at the screen and tilted his head. "What caused that?" He questioned as he stood up and rushed over. "How was this missed?"
Marc rubbed his eyes and turned to lean against the counter. "This is the exact same failure we saw when the guys rushed Austin to my house." Tapping at a few keys, he shook his head as Kevin and Danny joined what was quickly becoming a huddle. "He could just fail at any minute."
Everyone looked at each other with wide eyes before Jerry finally opened his mouth. "We get the parts and do the surgery we did on Austin then."
"Are we sure he's stable enough to undergo surgery?" Kevin questioned.
"No, I mean I don't think so." Marc sighed. "I'm not even clear what event caused the personality switch in the first place."
"Everyone take a breath." Danny stepped forward. "What are our options in the amount of time we think we have?"
Silence fell over the room before Jerry cleared his throat. "We use the replication chamber to create the parts that need to be replaced and just do the surgery."
"No." Marc shook his head. "If he goes into system failure and the chamber is tied up we have no way to abort. The power surge that could result could corrupt his matrix and the imprint could be lost...um...both of them."
"Don't you have some sort of backup plan?" Josh asked as he joined them. "After all these years, I'd think you would have something for when a body fails."
"It's not that easy." Marc replied. "This is no different than a human who is facing an organ failure. Sometimes that person just isn't strong enough to survive the procedure. An android's brain is just as delicate as a humans and he has a piece of hardware that draws power from the electrical impulses generated from biological sources. One wrong move and at best, the biofeedback module could just stop supplying power and both imprints would go completely dormant requiring a full restart after repairs are made."
"At worst?" Josh raised his eyebrows.
"At worst it could build up a surge and release it unbuffered into his brain. It would cook his neurotransmitter circuit which would destroy all information stored." Marc shook his head. "We'd lose them both."
"So give them a new body." Kevin shrugged his shoulders. "There's two of them so we would have had to create one anyway." Kevin said as he stepped forward. "Uncle Dan had me prepare myself to be migrated. We have Willy or Johnny...whoever...migrate into the terminal. Then we scan the body, repair the profile, and then he migrates into the new one."
"Simple sounding plan." Josh crossed his arms, looking over his shoulder the the now nervous looking boys. "I'm guessing it wouldn't be that simple."
"It could be." Marc smiled as he pulled up a chair and sat down. "We have Johnny migrate into the system to be held. That would kill the body but would give us a chance to put him in the chamber and do a full biological mapping. We make the adjustments needed to the profile to correct the issues, incorporate whatever upgrades are appropriate and then have them migrate to the new body from the system."
"There are two boys in that brain." Danny said with concern. "Doesn't that put us right where we started?"
"No, because then we aren't racing the clock." Marc replied as he started typing.
"Danny?" Josh asked, "Just how serious is this? I heard Jerry say 'not again', so obviously you've been through this procedure before."
Leading Josh away from the work area as Jerry, Marc, Billy and Kevin began to rattle off plans. "Yeah, it's happened once before. The Clan brought us Austin Short who had suffered a long term trauma. It was the initial stressor that caused the same failures we are seeing in Willy. Must have been inferior equipment or just not designed to take the abuse some of these guys went through."
"Inferior equipment?" Josh scowled, "Please tell me that if that's the case you guys have found more stable replacements. Even if it's just an overload, something as simple as a sudden emotional overload shouldn't put a life at risk like this!"
Danny folded his arms and sighed. "Well, with a failing biofeedback module, there is nothing simple about an emotional overload. Tax a compromised unit and it can give out." He sighed. "We have upgraded tech that will act as not just a replacement but an upgrade as well. We just need to finesse the existing personalities out without causing further trauma."
"Just how can you transfer a personality without killing it? Have you guys been taking lessons from Vulcans?" Josh asked seriously. "Just how recent is that upgraded equipment? I don't like the idea of risking my new son's life on something that has been sitting on a shelf for decades."
"Not at all Doctor." Danny said as he watched the two young boys standing next to the biobed talking to Johnny and he smiled. "Migrate, not transfer." He said tilting his head. "Think of it like you deciding to move from one room in your house to another. All androids have the ability to move their consciousness in the event of system failure. It's just not common because the need rarely arises. With Austin, we performed surgery using stock parts while Marc connected directly to him to use his own brain to stabilize the failing one. It bought us time."
"That's not what we are looking at here?" Josh sighed. "He's sitting up and talking. He looks absolutely fine. Not like a boy who is relying on life support."
"Yet." Danny corrected, "The ballgame has changed Doctor." He motioned to the enormous replication chamber. "We can put that body in a transporter buffer and map his biological makeup. With that we would be able to modify the model that would be created to include brand new tech. This system is able to replicate a completely functional android body ready to migrate into. No used parts and danger of old equipment will not be an issue for him."
"While that is great news, I wasn't aware that any work was still being done on android hardware," Josh replied.
Nodding his head, Danny turned to look directly at Josh. "On creating new androids, no. There is no work being done to start producing new units. But work is being done to improve conditions for both humans and existing androids. We have created a new means to dealing with an old problem. Repairs for us and in many cases, fully functional biologically integrated prosthetics for humans."
"Too bad about no new people; there are areas in society where being able to have long-term experience is a plus. I'll have to get with you after this is settled about the prosthetics, though; if the twins actually do pick this up, I think there will be a lot of happy people in the world."
"No new People?" Danny tilted his head.
Josh nodded, "You're people, ain't you?"
"Willy's in good hands with you, that much is obvious." Danny said as he stood and patted Josh on the shoulder. "Now, if you'll excuse me Doctor. I believe your son needs to have his condition improved upon."
"We'll continue this discussion later!" Josh chuckled. "I can't wait to see this team in action, my twin sons included if that's what you plan."
Danny smirked at Josh. "You of all people should know that you never take a lead physician off a patient mid-procedure unless absolutely necessary."
Over near the console, Caleb was just finishing a conversation on his subvocal. "... Thanks, Cor; we'll keep you updated on where we're at. You and Sean gonna be here for the wake-up?"
Caleb listened to the reply, then smiled. "Okay, catch ya in a bit!" He then turned, finally spotting Marc. "Marc! Cory says the Beta Seven skeleton just passed the final long term stress test. He's hopping up to Archnania to prep a master for replication, he says give him five minutes."
Marc smiled at the news. "Great; that's going to make things a little easier if he's prepping the hardware. Billy, watch for a transfer from Cory over the microwormhole network."
"Gotcha, Marc," Billy replied as he adjusted some controls.
CJ tapped Marc's arm. "What's so special about those skeletons?"
Marc put an arm over CJ's shoulder. "The engineering team went over the old design, and improved a lot of things that were weaker because the tech just wasn't there yet in the original design. Things like shielding critical circuits more like the human body does, creating an adaptive fallback system like what the human nervous system is capable of, and KC-proofing some critical areas of the body. They also have some newer materials that are even closer to the natural weight of real bones, materials that are less likely to bend and that are easier to repair in-place."
"So, that means it's a better body?" CJ asked.
"Yep," Marc nodded. "It started as a project to make better joints for when current units wear out, but turned into a whole skeleton project. The work on the joints still helps though, since the new parts are compatible with the existing Vision Industries joint design."
"Can I see one?" CJ requested in awe.
"Once we're done with the transfers, I think Billy can give us a copy with no biological parts," Marc replied. "This will be the first real-life deployment of the latest design; up to now it has just been tested with VI systems that are programmed to test and report on performance."
CJ nodded, then twisted his head when Cory Short popped in behind Marc. "Hi, Cory!" CJ smiled with a wave of his hand.
Marc twisted around just in time to be pulled into a hug by Cory. "Hey CJ!" Cory giggled as he returned CJ's wave. Turning his attention to Marc, Cory grinned "So you made yourself a little brother, huh?"
"That was YEARS ago," Marc protested as he returned the hug.
"Yep, and I hear that you're still attached to the little guy," Cory asserted. "After the way you reacted when Austin was hurt, I gave Noah and Caleb orders to give me a heads-up if the situation ever came up again. Think of this, brother of mine... Danny needs you, I need you, and Johnny needs you. I don't mean as Clan either; you're my brother, Johnny's brother, and a lot more to Danny. You made Danny stand down regarding Kevin; I'm telling you that you need to stand down regarding Johnny. You care a lot, which is one of the things I love about you, but right now you need to trust the training that you've gave your team and let clear heads do the work."
"You want me to step back?" Marc said as if in shock. "I'm fine Cory. Honestly."
"Do you know how many times I tried that reply on JJ?" Cory grinned. "Seriously bro; if you're not in the middle of the action, there is a lot better chance of you catching something that the others miss due to being focused. After what we all went through saving Austin, including you having to put yourself at risk to respond to something the diagnostics should have been able to see if he had been hooked up, I really think you acting as an observer that points out issues before they reach the point where someone has to risk themselves will make things a lot safer. You kinda did that earlier at the house when you responded to the emergency call; I think if both of us keep our hands out of it and our eyes on it we should be pretty close to a one-hundred percent chance of it working first try."
Marc rubbed his eyes and looked over at the little android surrounded by people who already cared so much about him. With a sigh, he put his hand on Cory’s shoulder and grinned. “Did you rehearse that speech?” he giggled.
Cory stuck out his tongue. "Nope, but I know you, and you're just as hard-headed as your cuddle buddy!"
“Nah, he’s way worse than I am.” Marc smiled. “I’d trust these guys with my life, lets do our jobs and back them up then.”
"Does that mean that I can stop distracting Marc and go help with Willy and Johnny?" CJ asked with obvious relief.
Marc glared at CJ before everyone else within ear shot suddenly looked extra innocent.
"What?" CJ asked innocently. "Danny told me to!"
“Oh he did, did he?” Marc said loud enough to get a blush from Danny and giggles from everyone else. “Then I guess someone is going to be taking a run out to go get ice cream for everyone when we are done here.”
"Notice he said run, not drive..." Cory giggled. "It better not be melted when you get back, Danny!"
“Hahaha.” Danny replied, his eyes widening when no one else laughed. “You’re serious?”
“They’ll give you their orders when everyone is up and at ‘em.” Marc laughed before walking over to Danny. Giving him a hug, he added: “Use the transporter or ask Ark if it would give a hand. Maybe it would like some ice cream, you never know.”
As Danny returned Marc's hug, Cory turned to CJ. "I think you're safe, Doctor. Go help your brother get the team ready."