Sentenced to Life

Chapter 5 - A Real Family

"Y - yeah, I'm fine," Marc stuttered, as he and Jerry picked up his broken coffee mug and began to clean up the mess. "A real human was used?"

"Yeah," Kevin slowly answered. "Dr. Strafford knew why I wanted the scan taken of me as well and told me that if I really wanted to always be with Uncle Dan he had come up with the idea of using me as a personality model. There wasn't anything extra I had to do since he already had the image except a procedure where I was put to sleep and he took some spinal fluid for the biological mapping. You never recognized the voice?"

"No, well...yes but I always thought I somehow chose the voice," I said as I sat back in my chair and held my head. "What else did he con you into doing?"

"He didn't con me Uncle, it was my idea." he replied as I closed my eyes and nodded my head.

After cleaning up the mess, Marc plopped down on the couch facing me with a concerned look on his face. "You okay, Bro?" He asked bringing me back from thought.

"No, not really. I mean, what do we do now? I can't just undo what we've already done," I said as I looked at the floor. "I can live with the fact that Kevin is with me; but it's not fair that he's trapped inside my brain. That's no way to exist."

After a few moments of awkward silence, Jerry cleared his throat and mumbled something none of us could understand.

"What was that, Jerry?" Marc asked leaning in closer to him.

"Well," He started with a hesitation. "what if you could build Kevin a body? Can't you put him in his own body? There are tons of parts in there," He said pointing toward the open closet. "If there's enough, I'll help build it too." He said with a look that told me he wasn't sure how his idea would be taken.

"I'm not sure that's such a good idea," I answered watching the poor kid's face melt with disappointment. "That kinda thing isn't legal to do and those parts are mostly from Cynthetilife models."

"Well, that's not completely right," Marc cut in. "I think I just got the answer to a question I never understood," He said getting confused looks from both of us as he stood and walked to the far side of the room to a closed metal case. "I need to call Jim and make sure I'm right, but I think this was built for the day Kevin was to come back," He said as he began clearing off the paperwork and books that were piled on top of the case. "It was left in a storage bin with other prototypes and projects and hasn't been touched in years. Jim thought it was for another model we started but I looked it over and noticed that its design didn't match the new configuration's specs."

"Another model?" Jerry asked as he got off the couch and began helping Marc clear away the rest of what had been hiding the metal case from view.

"Yeah, I actually had a chance to be involved in the design process for a newer model that was supposed to be the next generation of androids. His project name was A.U.S.T.I.N., which stands for Android, Upgrade, Second generation, Teen, Interactive Neuro-system and was supposed to be a huge line of androids to replace the outdated M.A.R.C. series. He would have been the first to have been primarily designed by one of his own kind." Marc said with a disappointed look on his face.

"What happened to him?" Jerry asked with concern.

"His project was dropped when all the MARC series androids began having breakdowns," He said looking at the case. "I hoped this was the prototype for Austin when we found it but, it was built way too early to be for him. Jim said he looked into its origin and thinks Dr. Strafford himself had this put in storage because it was logged in not to far from your activation date, Danny." He said as he tapped at what looked like a keypad on the case causing a loud click to be heard from inside.

I stood up from my chair and rolled the computer closer so I could see as Marc heaved the heavy lid upward exposing what appeared to be the skeletal workings of what was definitely a Vision Industries Android.

"Where's his skin?" Jerry asked with almost panic in his voice.

"He's dormant." Kevin said through the speakers.

"Yup, until he is ready to be brought online his biological components aren't generated yet." Marc said with his arms crossed looking over the body in the case.

"Neat, I've never seen an android without his skin before. He looks kinda scary like this." Jerry said as he risked a brief touch with the lifeless android's metallic skeletal hand.

"He won't once we activate him. We're designed to regenerate cells just like a human, with the only difference being that we can control the rate at which it happens. Activating an android puts them in an accelerated regeneration mode until the body is able to function normally, then the personality is brought online. All we have to do is give him the protein supplements he needs and implant his personality, he would do the rest."

"Uncle Marc, how can we be sure this was built for me?" Kevin asked.

"Well, I'll call Jim in the morning and ask him what he thinks. There were lots of secrets kept back when Dr. Strafford was directing operations there, so it would be hard to know for sure what his plans were for this one." Marc answered watching Jerry nervously poke around at the contents of the case.

"Why not just ask him?" Jerry asked innocently. "Wouldn't he know why he was built?"

Just then Marc seemed to develop a slight grin as he patted Jerry on the head and ran out of the room.

"Did I say something wrong?" Jerry asked with a confused look on his face.

"I don't think so. By the look on his face you said something right," I said as I moved back to my chair and sat down. "Kev, if this body turns out to be okay for you to use, do you think we should do it?"

"Unless you want me to stay in here forever, I really wanna try." He answered causing me to smile.

"It would be nice to have you around again, sport, but it means that you may be stuck here just like I am…" I got out before the speakers cut me off.

"And never be alone again." He said making me stop and realize that he was sure he wanted to go ahead.

"You're a genius, Jerry," Marc said as he ran back into the room with his arms loaded with what looked like cables and connectors similar to the ones Marc and I connect to each other with. "We'll ask him," He repeated almost to himself as he rushed around the room. "Jerry's right," Marc said, as he tilted the table that I originally woke in to an upright position. "even without his body in a functional condition I can supply his brain with power and see any information that may be stored in it. If this body was designed for Kevin then Dr. Strafford may have left instructions or something in his brain. It would be found eventually even if he wasn't around."

"Then why wasn't it found before now?" I asked thinking to myself that it just didn't add up.

"Mostly because it was buried in a forgotten storage facility. No one went in there anymore and logs of its existence were missing, so it may have been put in there before Dr. Strafford was brought up on charges. I never tried to activate it cause Jim said he wanted to know what it was built for first. Well, we may know now," He said as he approached the computer Kevin was speaking through. "Kevin, I need to terminate your connection to the computer so I can use it to access his brain."

"Okay, Uncle Marc. I'll just watch for now." He said as I reached behind my head and disconnected the cable.

"Jerry, I'm going to need you to connect these cables to the computer while Danny and I move him out of the box and on to the table, okay?"

"Cool!" Jerry said with excitement as he set to work.

"Danny, can you help me get him on the table and strapped down?"

"No problem, bro." I replied as I reached in to grab the androids shoulders.

"It's okay to just grab him, you won't break anything." Marc said probably noticing I was carefully trying to find a safe way to grab him since he had no outer covering.

After just a couple of minutes, everything was in place and Marc was satisfied with each connection Jerry had made to the computer. "Just like a pro," He said and patted Jerry on the back causing Jerry to smile with some pride. "Now, let's give his brain some power and see if he'll talk to us." Marc said as he typed furiously on the keyboard with us both watching over his shoulder.

The computer screen scrolled lots of information and suddenly went blank before displaying something that gave me a knot in my throat.

System Analysis: ok

Power cell: ok

Positronic Matrix: Stable

Model: Prototype – [K.E.V.I.N.] Kinetically Enhanced Virtual Interactive Neuro-image

Personality Imprint: Not found

System Ready For Activation

Marc blankly stared at the monitor for a few seconds before seeming to snap back to reality. "Well, I guess we know now." He said as I turned and looked at the lifeless body on the table while Marc swung it to a horizontal position.

"He must have known that the idea would be shot down so, he hid the body in storage," Marc stated as he returned to the computer and canceled the activation sequence. "Or he just planned to be around for the day Kevin needed the body."

"Marc, can Kevin use the computer again? He wants to be able to talk." I relayed.

"Oh yeah, one sec and I'll have it ready," Marc stated as he rolled the computer back over. "Plug in, it'll just be a second."

Sitting back in the chair and connecting the communication cable, I stopped and noticed Jerry circling the dormant body. He didn't seem to be distressed or anything, just curious. "Hey, Jerry?" I said getting his attention. "What's on your mind, bud?"

"Well," he began. "I was just thinkin'. Since we know that this is gonna be Kevin now, he's gonna need skin and the rest of his inner stuff." He said causing me to smile.

"Yup, he is." I answered.

"Well, it would be faster if Marc had a Panda, but I don't see one." He said, causing Marc to freeze and give Jerry his full attention.

"How do you know what a Panda is?" Marc asked, looking as if Jerry had just unlocked some android secret or something.

"What good would a Panda do?" I asked, now totally confused.

"Not a Panda Bear," Jerry said with a giggle. "A.P.A.N.D.A.E. it means Android Positronic and Neurological Development Acceleration Environment. It's just easier to say panda." He stated as if to say, 'Everyone knows that'.

Marc looked on in awe as Jerry explained the meaning of the device before completing the connection for Kevin and plopping down on the couch without saying a word.

"It looks like a big metal box with a window in the top," Jerry said spreading his hands wide to emphasize the word big, "and it has a computer built into it, so you can work on his brain and stuff while he grows all his human stuff, and it even feeds him while he's in there. Stuff that looks like goop and tastes nasty but is good for him," He continued as he sat back on the couch next to Marc. "I got to see one in school when we were learning all about robotics and artificial intelligence. They never showed us an android with no skin though."

"Well, looks like I have an assistant then," Marc said with a smile as he ruffled Jerry's hair. "I didn't know you knew that much about androids, and you're right about the Panda. I do have one but it's way too big for this room. I have another workshop in the basement, that's where the Panda is," He stated, causing Jerry to smile wide. "Do you think you can help me prep and activate him in the morning?"

Jerry bolted up and dove into a hug with Marc. "Really? I can help? I'll do good, I promise!" He shouted.

"Awesome, Jerry!" Kevin's voice echoed through the speakers. "That means you're gonna be family, dude."

Jerry stopped and stared at the computer and then at me. "Family? Really?"

"Yup," Kevin answered. "You'll be like a parent, or even a brother cause you helped to bring me to life."

"When can we start?" Jerry shot his gaze to me and then to Marc.

"Well, it's awful late now," Marc answered. "How 'bout you go up and get rested? We'll move Kevin's body down and set up the Panda in the morning. Cool?"

"Okay!" Jerry shouted as he jumped up and gave Marc and myself a bear hug before stopping in front of the computer and patting the monitor. "Night Kevin, I can't wait to see you face to face."

"Night bro, I can't wait either." Kevin replied being repaid by a huge smile from Jerry before literally running to his bedroom.

"You think he's a little excited?" I asked as I looked back at Marc with a smile.

"Can you believe how smart he is?" Marc asked sitting back into the couch. "That kid is gonna be a robotics professor or something when he grows up."

"If he waits that long." Kevin added giving Marc and myself a laugh.

"Well, Kevin," Marc started once silence settled over the room. "I know this is going really fast, but what do you think?"

"I have a question," He stated. "Is there any way I could be lost or anything?"

"Well, even though there is a risk that somehow information being transferred could be damaged. It is unlikely and easily fixed since we have everything we need to repeat what brought you to us in the first place. If something were to happen, I would simply re-imprint tech mode from my own brain into Danny's, and then we could reintegrate your scan like the first time. You may lose memories of everything that has happened up 'til now that way, but you will still be here with us."

The speakers remained silent for a few moments before Kevin broke the silence. "Okay, what do we have to do?"

"Well, Danny is gonna have to override your programming and shut you down. That way he can have his brain totally eliminate the changes made to his inactive tech mode. After he does that, I'll have the computer move you from his brain into the terminal and begin prepping you to function on your own. It just needs to complete the technical aspects your image that are missing," Marc stopped and thought for a second before continuing. "There won't be any changes made to you, just that you depend on portions of Danny's programming to function right now and need to be independent."

"I understand," Kevin answered. "Will I feel any of this?"

"Nope. You will simply go to sleep tonight and wake up in your new body. From your perspective it'll probably seem like only a few moments will pass." Marc said in reassurance.

"What will I have to do?" I asked trying to figure out how this was going to work.

"That's simple," Marc replied. "You just need to manually shut down Kevin and send him to the computer. Then your programming will restore tech mode automatically. It's a safety measure that is built into your brain to protect primary programming," Marc paused and then continued. "There is the possibility that your brain could restore tech mode thinking it is corrupt which would wipe out Kevin as he is now if you were to do a full system analysis. Overall, this is the safer way to go."

"Uncle Marc, are you sure that body is gonna be okay?" Kevin asked with concern showing in his voice.

"I'll know during the activation sequence if anything is wrong. Don't worry. I've implanted images before. It's rare to have something go wrong," Marc said as he motioned toward the door. "You two wanna do this tonight or wait on it?" Marc asked standing up.

"I think it should be up to Kevin. I mean it is his life we're talking about." I said standing up and stretching.

The speakers remained silent for almost a minute before a nervous sounding voice came over the speakers and said, "Tonight. Let's do this tonight. I don't want to take the chance of anything going wrong."

"Okay then, let's go get ready for bed and we will start the transfer. Danny, go ahead and disconnect. I'll bring the terminal in there," Marc said as he walked over to the computer and patted the monitor as Jerry had earlier. "Don't worry bud, when this is all done I will be giving you a real hug, for the first time. I promise."

"Okay, Uncle Marc. Thanks." He said just before I unplugged the connection.

"I'll be there in a minute," Marc stated as he began rolling up the cable. "You'll have enough time to go in and say goodnight to him if you want to. When you are finished, order your brain to shut down tech mode and package for transfer. Transfer, not copy. That's important okay? I'll take care of the rest," He said as I paused in the doorway. "Go ahead, the lights are on. I'll give you some time alone." He added with a smile.

"Thanks, Bro. For everything." I said as I left the room and walked down the hall to the bedroom.

Once in the bedroom I quickly kicked off my shoes, pulled my shirt over my head and went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and empty my bladder. Kevin remained silent the whole time. Then once back in the bedroom, I stripped off my pants and socks and climbed into bed. "I'm coming in to say goodnight, Kevin." I said out loud and closed my eyes.

In the darkness, I looked around for a second before asking, "Where's my shadow?" before realizing he had control. A white light appeared in front of me and in the center was Kevin, looking just as he did when last we saw each other. With not a word spoken, he took my hand and led me to the spot he was standing in.

"It was kinda short notice that tonight was going to be the last I was gonna be here so I did what I could." He said, as suddenly we appeared to be sitting in a car. It was totally dark, but felt oddly familiar.

"Kev, is this..." I got out before he closed his eyes and the instrument panel lit up. I recognized instantly what he had done. "My Camaro?"

"Yup, I only had time to get the interior done, but wanna finish it once I am on my own so we can go for a ride in her again someday." He said as he looked out the window and it suddenly got light enough outside the car to be able to see the hood and nothingness in the rear view.

I looked around and realized he had thought of every detail. The small crack in the dash near the CD player, the key chain I had at the time, even the smell was perfect. "Wow, I don't even know what happened to this car."

"Well, now we will have it forever." He said as I reached over and ruffled his hair.

"Thanks, Sport. Are you sure you want to go through with this?" I asked looking foreword and gripping the wheel. "I mean you haven't even been back for one whole day and already we are saying goodbye again."

"Not goodbye," He said with a smile as he stared into the nothingness in front of the car. "You never said goodbye when you dropped me off at my house, remember? You hated to say goodbye," He said making me realize why he chose the car. "Remember when my family moved, and you drove like 45 minutes to come pick me up on weekends?"

"I'll never forget that. I hated when the weekend ended," I said as I looked over at him and saw him unbuckle his seatbelt. "You used to take your time getting out of the car when we pulled up in front of your house. Every week would be the same." I said thinking back and smiling once I noticed the house he lived in at the time faded into view on Kevin's side of the car. I just nodded my head knowing this was for him.

"I love you, Uncle Dan." He said as he reached across the middle console and gave me a hug.

"Love you too, Shadow. See you next week?" I said with a smile.

"Yup, I get to drive home next week, right?" He said with a smile, reviving an old memory that was perfect for the moment. I knew he was nervous but, he wasn't gonna give in to it.

"In your dreams, Buddy," I said, getting a giggle from him as he opened the door and climbed out. "Everything is gonna be fine, Marc is the best. Just keep that in mind okay?"

"I will." He said with a smile and a tear in his eye as he walked up the walkway to the house. Just as in years past, he turned and waved as he reached the front door before going inside.

I turned and looked forward as I said out loud, "Disable tech mode and package for transfer." And then looked once more at the passenger seat before opening the door and climbing out.

When I opened my eyes, I spotted Marc, who had just finished making the connection to the computer and was getting undressed for bed.

"Everything go okay?" He asked as he finished and climbed into the bed next to me.

"Yeah, he was nervous but still came up with a special way to not say so," I said getting a knowing nod from Marc. "So what do I have to do now?"

"Nothing. Just go to sleep. The computer is set up to wait until you are asleep before it retrieves the packaged program you left. Then it is going to help restore your tech mode and once again disable it so you will be back as you were before we activated Kevin," He said as he laid down facing me with his head propped up on one arm. "Then tomorrow morning Jerry and I move Kevin's body into the Panda to start the regeneration process and integrate his personality."

I rested my head back and realized that Marc must have plugged my end of the connection in while I was with Kevin and smiled. "Marc?"

"Yeah, Bro?"

I looked up at the ceiling knowing I was fairly confused about how this was all going to work still but trusted him whole heartedly. I just needed to put some worries to rest. "If that body is defective in some way, what will we do with Kevin's image?"

"We build him a new body," He said with a smile. "Trust me, one way or another he will be stable and independent once we're done. Even if it means he doesn't look the way Dr. Strafford planned."

"Hmmm… I wonder if his body is designed to look as he did when he was alive." I said, still looking at the ceiling.

"I'm sure it does. That would explain the need for the extremely detailed images he had on file," Marc said while placing his hand on mine in reassurance. "Danny, I know you are worried and have a ton of questions. Just promise me you will trust me and let me do this for you. I promise that this will work and Kevin won't be harmed in any way. You guys are the only family I have and I don't plan to lose either of you now that you are here," He said with a smile as I squeezed his hand. "Now, go to sleep and let's get Kevin ready to come out here in the real world."

"What are we doing first in the morning?" I looked at him and asked.

"Well, Jerry and I have a full day planned. You will just have to find something to entertain yourself." He said now putting his head on the pillow.

"I'm not helping?" I asked as I went to sit up but Marc's hand pushed me back down.

"You're emotionally attached," He said in a soft tone. "I want the next time you see him to be a hello and a hug."

"Oh, like you are so emotionless." I replied with sarcasm in my tone.

"You and Kevin are human at heart, I'm not. He won't be any less real to me just because I witness his activation procedure. To you, some of it may be a permanent reminder that he is a little less than real," He continued, "Besides, if for some strange reason something should go wrong, you will respond with emotion and panic. That won't help anyone."

"I guess, but I can see him once in a while during the process, can't I? I mean I have already seen his dormant body." I said knowing even if he said no I would probably sneak down and peek anyway.

"Yeah, I guess it would be sorta like witnessing his birth in a way," He said with a smile. "Okay, visits are cool, but no tampering with the master's work, Deal?" He said with a giggle.


"Now go to sleep or else the computer won't have Kevin ready for us by morning," He said as he pushed his head deeper into the pillow and wrapped his arm around me before saying, "Lights off" bringing the room into darkness.


"Now what Bro?" He giggled out.

"I love you."

"Love you too," He replied with a squeeze before adding, "Love ya even more if you closed your eyes and went to sleep though."

"Yes, sir." I answered with a giggle and finally closed my eyes to slowly drift off.

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

"Danny! Danny! Get up!" Marc half whispered as he shook Danny's arm.

"Wh-what? What's wrong?" Danny stuttered out, not knowing who it was trying to wake him, or even who he was yet.

"Nothing's wrong. You just gotta see this," He replied excitedly as he dragged Danny out of the bed and to the workshop door. "Shhhh" he added before quietly turning the doorknob and tiptoeing in.

Danny followed Marc's lead and silently tiptoed in before freezing in his tracks. On the workbench where Kevin's dormant body was left for the night was Jerry, who had covered both up with a blanket he must have dragged down from his room before curling up into a ball with what was soon to be his new friend.

"Oh, how cute," Danny said with a smile, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes getting a nod from Marc as his response. "We gotta save this and make a hard copy of it for Kevin when he's with us again."

The two brothers snuck back out of the room and quietly closed the door before smiling to each other and heading to the kitchen for their morning caffeine fix.

"Dan, I have a better idea." Marc said as he began filling the coffee pot with water.

"Better? No way. Coffee. No substitutes, no experiments. Just coffee." Danny said with mock sarcasm.

"I meant about the picture for Kevin, you clown," Marc answered with a giggle. "I wanna save portions of my memory of all this and give it to him in the form of a dream he will remember," Marc said getting a smile and nod from his brother. "All the stuff he woulda' missed like Jerry cuddling up with his body and the explanation we will probably get which has got to be good for a laugh, or a good 'awwwww' at least. He can't miss all this."

"That's an awesome idea. I think your gonna be good at this uncle stuff," Danny replied with a smile as he peeked over hoping the coffee was finished. "I know he will appreciate it, big time."

"Well, we have a full day planned. I hope Jerry's up for it." Marc said just as the door to the lab opened and Jerry shuffled over to the table.

"We didn't wake you, did we kiddo?" Danny asked ruffling Jerry's already ruffled hair.

"Nah," He replied with morning hoarseness to his voice. "I had to pee." He said with a grin on his way into the bathroom as Marc got up from his chair.

"You want cereal or something buddy?" he asked through the closed door.

"Just orange juice please," He replied. "I don't really like having breakfast."

"Okay, one O.J. coming up." He answered and went right to getting it for him.

One flush later, Jerry came out looking as if morning just was not his time of day. "Thanks," He said sitting down and taking a large gulp from the glass Marc had laid out for him. "So when do we start on Kevin?"

Marc grinned and looked at each person at the table before sipping his coffee and saying, "Well, after we all shower and get dressed. I don't think it's a good idea to create a new life in just our underwear and stinking." He said getting a giggle from Jerry.

"So what are my plans for the day?" Danny asked knowing he had been banished from being involved.

"Well," Marc started, "you can watch TV, read a book, mess with my computer, build a new addition on the house," He said with a laugh, getting a raised eyebrow as an answer from his brother. "Whatever you want. I mean you can check in on us and stuff; I just don't think it's a good idea for you to have to work on something like this. Kevin's in good hands, I promise."

"I know he is, Bro. I guess I'm just excited. I mean I'd like to help, but really don't know how to be a help," He said sipping his coffee. "I mean I've never built an android before."

"I've built one or two," Marc said with a grin. "Besides, I got Jerry to make sure I don't forget anything," he said, getting an ear-to-ear smile from Jerry. "How'd you sleep last night, Buddy?" Marc turned to Jerry and asked with an evil smile.

"I couldn't sleep. I was busy thinkin' about Kevin and stuff," He said beginning to blush. "I came down with my blanket and stuff and talked to him for a while, 'til I was tired."

"How'd you end up sleeping with him?" Danny asked, getting Jerry to turn a brighter shade of red.

"He was cold," He answered simply and guzzled the rest of his glass of juice. "I'm gonna go take my shower and get dressed so we can start." He said quickly to end the embarrassment and rushed out of the room.

"He's so cute," Marc said watching him bolt out of the discussion. "I can't wait to see just how much he really knows. I had no idea they were teaching kids this stuff still."

"He really is into it too," Danny said standing up to pour another cup. "I guess I'll play around with the computer for a while today. It's been years since I've even seen the Internet so I'm sure there's tons of new stuff I can learn."

"Cool," Marc said getting up to put his cup in the sink. "If you wanna learn some history on Vision Industries or even some of my past, there's a link to a folder called 'Personal' on the desktop. There's a ton of stuff in there that you definitely haven't seen, or even know about."

"Nah, I don't wanna go poking through your personal stuff. I'll just see what I can find on the web." Danny said taking a sip from his coffee as Marc walked past and put his hand on Danny's shoulder.

"Bro, look through it. I'm an android, to you it may be personal but to me it's just documenting events and stuff. My past doesn't need to be a mystery to you," He said giving a Danny's shoulder a squeeze before heading towards the bedroom. "Dibs on the shower!" He yelled back to the kitchen.

"No argument here!" Danny answered as he looked at the coffee maker. "I'll be out here working on draining the coffee pot."

"Oh by the way," Marc shouted from the bedroom door. "if line two on the phones should happen to ring, go ahead and answer, but you gotta say, 'Vision Industries, how may I direct your call?' and then put it on hold and get me."

"Vision Industries? Why are you still getting calls for that place?" Danny shouted back totally confused.

"I'll explain later!" He yelled and vanished into the bedroom.

Two cups of coffee later, Jerry shot into the kitchen freshly showered and dressed looking as if he was ready to take on the world.

"Where's Marc?"

"In the shower. I guess he plans on getting started as soon as he gets out." Danny answered with a smile.

Jerry pulled out a chair and sat down looking deep in thought. "Danny, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure sport. What's up?"

"How old is Kevin gonna be?"

Danny emptied his cup and sat back in his chair, turning to directly face Jerry. "Well, since he is designed very much like Marc and I, I'd have to say 13," He replied studying Jerry's facial expression. "Why? Something bugging ya?"

"Well, I was thinking about what Kevin said about me being like a brother or uncle or something," He said looking as if he was still deep in thought. "I kinda want him to be my brother."

"You know, I bet he'd like that." Danny said with a smile.

"Do you think my mom would be upset?" Jerry asked, finally looking at Danny.

Danny laughed and asked, "Why would she be upset? I would think she would be proud of her son for helping to create another life."

Jerry looked back down at the table. Danny wasn't sure but he could have sworn he saw a tear run down Jerry's cheek as he looked away. "I had a brother," Jerry muttered in a barely audible tone. "He's gone now though."

Danny could hear the pain in his voice and decided it best to just let Jerry say what he wanted, however he wanted. "Wanna talk about it? It's cool if not, but I'm here for ya if you need me to be."

"Thanks," Jerry said with a sniffle. "I don't wanna sound like a baby."

"Never," Danny said resting his elbows on the table. "It hurts to lose someone you love. My whole family except for you guys are gone now and even thought many years have passed that hurt never goes away. I've cried myself to sleep quite a few times thinking about them," Danny said waiting for Jerry to look up at him. "So if your gonna worry about sounding like a baby, just remember one thing. I'm about to become your uncle since I'm already Kevin's. That means I'm not only gonna be here for you no matter what, but I also understand how you are feeling and would never think you were a baby, because you love your brother."

Jerry nodded his head and gave Danny a weak smile. "When I got to bed last night, all I could think about was Kevin. He said I would be like a brother," Jerry said as Danny silently listened. "Davie was my best friend. I was 6 when my mom and dad adopted him. My mom couldn't have any more kids after I was born and Davie was my dad's best friend's son," Jerry continued, "His dad died and he had no other family so, he came and lived with us. I even asked him to be my brother and my mom heard me and asked my dad about adopting him. I was only 6 and he was 10."

Danny got up and poured himself a cup of coffee and Jerry a glass of orange juice. Jerry just watched as the android never even asked if he would like another glass but smiled encouragingly as he set the glass on the table before sitting back down. Not a word spoken.

"Thanks," Jerry said as he took a sip and continued, "Just after I turned 8, Davie left the house one night to go out with his friends. Before he left he promised me the next day we were gonna go to the park and play catch. I was all excited and even got both of our gloves and a ball out and put them on the desk in our room so he wouldn't forget his promise," Jerry became silent and Danny could see tears welling up in his eyes. "He never came home." Jerry said and took a huge gulp from his glass as he tried as hard as he could to keep himself from crying.

Danny got up and walked around behind Jerry's chair and wrapped his arms around him. "You don't need to go any further sport." Danny said as Jerry grabbed Danny's arms and squeezed the hug tighter.

"No I wanna," Jerry said with a broken voice. "Davie was missing for days before the police called and said they found him." He said before losing control as he openly began to cry.

Just then Marc came down the hall into the kitchen and froze in his tracks. "What's wrong?" Marc asked as he approached the table.

Danny looked up and just mouthed the words "I'll tell you later." As he squeezed Jerry to reassure him that he was still there.

Jerry wiped the tears from his eyes and somehow got the crying under control as he looked at Marc and said, "I was tellin' Danny about my brother." he said, causing Marc's face to drop. Jerry just lost control and began to cry harder.

Danny walked around to face Jerry and lifted him into his arms and sat in the seat to just hold and rock him as he looked at his brother.

"Jim told me about that." Marc said shaking his head.

Danny continued to rock Jerry as he looked at Marc squinting his eyes and asked, "What happened?"

"Jerry, would you like me to tell him?"

Jerry seemed to calm down a bit and simply nodded his head before burying his face in the nape of Danny's neck.

"Just before the Owens family moved in next door, Jerry's older brother David was abducted by some guy who was responsible for quite a few missing kids. It turns out he, um..." Marc stuttered out before Jerry cut in.

"He did nasty sex stuff to him and then beat him with a board until he died." Jerry practically spit out and began to cry harder into Danny's neck.

"Jim said he was found in a park near the school he went to," Marc added before getting a concerned look on his face. "What brought this up?" He asked.

"Jerry was upset cause Kevin told him he would be like a brother to him cause he was helping to bring him back," He answered. "He's afraid that if he is gonna be a big brother his mom might be upset."

"And my dad..." Jerry got out between sobs. "They'll be mad at me for trying to replace him and what if Davie can see me somehow? He'll think I don't love him anymore." He cried as Danny and Marc sat silently looking to each other, both at a total loss for words.

Danny shifted Jerry in his lap so they were eye to eye. "Jerry, I'm sure Davie is watching over you. I'd be willing to bet that he knows how much you love and miss him," He said gaining Jerry's attention and calming him some. "When Davie was with you, he looked out for you and protected you like a real big brother. Now he can't do that anymore like he used to and I'm sure that upsets him. For all we know, he may have had something to do with your family moving to South Carolina."

Jerry's sobs finally subsided and he looked deep into Danny's eyes with a confused look. "We moved to get away from where it happened."

"What made your parents choose Sullivan's Island?" Danny asked making Jerry think a bit more. "For all we know, he may have known you would find someone out here to look after you for him," Danny stated making Marc nod his head and smile warmly. "You seem to be really taken by Kevin which will make him happier than he's been in a long time. He said what he said because he really likes you too and would be honored to become a part of this whole family. He may not be Davie but knowing him the way I do, I know he would swear to watch out for you and be a brother to both you and Davie whether he is here or not. I know he would never wish to replace someone you love and would agree with me that he is still with you, now and forever. None of us would ever want to see that change just because we are now a part of your life." Danny finished now seeing a smile creep across Jerry's tear stained face.

"You really think Davie still watches out for me? He can do that?" Jerry asked wiping the tears from his eyes.

"I really think so." Danny said ruffling his hair.

"Do you think he knows I still have the ball and the two gloves on my desk?" Jerry asked looking a little embarrassed. "I always kinda thought if I never put them away that someday he would come home and play catch with me," Jerry shifted and stood up while drying the tears with the backs of his hands. "He won't think I'm a baby, will he?"

"I know if I were him I wouldn't," Marc said standing up from his seat. "As a matter of fact, I bet that if he didn't know how much you miss him, those gloves would tell him loud and clear." Marc said putting his arm around Jerry.

"I never thought of that," Jerry said smiling up at Marc. "So you guys are gonna be my uncles?"

"If you'll have us," Danny said taking a sip from his coffee. "Just remember in a few years it may get kinda weird for you cause you will get older, we can't." He said with a giggle.

"Marc? Can we start now?" Jerry asked with a renewed smile on his face. "You guys can't be my uncles if we don't build a body for my other brother and make it official." He said half pulling Marc toward the lab door.

"We'll be in the basement if you need us Danny," Marc said with an ear-to-ear smile. "You can come down but you aren't allowed to help." He added with a giggle.

"Thanks Bro. I'll hang up here like we talked about. Maybe I'll check in on you later on." He answered still holding his coffee as a sign that he still wanted his caffeine fix.

"Okay." Marc said closing the door behind him, leaving Danny on his own.

Not really sure of what he should do next, Danny finished his coffee and placed the empty glasses in the sink. 'I'll clean those up later.' He thought before wandering into Marc's bedroom to shower and get dressed. While gathering a change of clothes he looked at Marc's computer and decided that he would take his brother up on his offer and see if he could waste some time on the internet. "Haven't done that in years," He said out loud as he entered the bathroom. "Thanks for leaving the lights on." He giggled remembering that he couldn't turn them on himself.

"Okay, gently set him into the unit." Marc said to Jerry as the two cautiously set the androids form into the large box shaped Panda unit.

"He's heavy." Jerry said with a sigh. As he watched Marc roll the form over on its side to begin making the physical connections.

"They feel heavier than they really are when they are deactivated," Marc said with a smile. "Hey, do you know what any of these connections are for?"

Jerry leaned in closer and seemed to develop a huge smile as he began to point at each. "That's the uplink port, that's a nutrient feeder, and those two are gonna be used as life support and bio-mechanical monitoring." He said getting a surprised and impressed look from Marc.

"Wow, you really do know your stuff," He said standing up. "Why don't you prep him then and I'll bring the unit online and get it ready."

"You want me to prep him? Really!?!" Jerry almost shouted in excitement. "I never got to do this on my own before. This is so cool!" he shouted again and got right to his work with Marc looking over his shoulder until he was convinced Jerry really did know what he was doing.

Walking around to the control panel Marc busied himself while carrying on with the conversation. "How many times have you seen this done?"

"Twice, I saw a film on it while we were in the exploration camp and one time we got to be there when a unit was set up in our school. It was a smaller Panda and it was only meant for organ reproduction," Jerry answered not once looking away from his work. "I've studied bio-mechanical engineering, cybernetics and Neuroimaging systems since I was 9," He stated like a pro. "My teachers thought I wouldn't be able to handle the classes, but I worked real hard and got A's in them all." he stated with pride.

Marc continued typing away on the unit's console nodding his head and smiling. "Not bad. Most people don't grasp the theories until they are well out of college and even then most don't make it in this field."

Jerry just smiled in response, not diverting his attention from his work. "Are you ready for a power test? His uplink is ready." Jerry said with an ear-to-ear grin.

"Already?" Marc rushed to catch up. "Commencing primary power test, stay clear," Marc said before entering the commands into the computer causing the androids body to flinch then once again lay lifeless. "Looks good buddy," Marc said before powering down. "What do you have left?"

"I gotta get the feeder connected, but it looks like it's leaking, could you check it for me?" Jerry asked looking at his hands as if they were covered with toxic waste. "This stuff is nasty!" He added with a scowl.

"That happens sometimes, there should be replacements in the storage compartment at the foot of the unit." Marc said as he began to bring the unit's systems online.

Jerry got right to work like a seasoned pro replacing the malfunctioning connector and making the final connections. "Okay, Marc," Jerry said with a huge smile. "I think everything is ready to go here." He continued double-checking his work.

Marc left the console and looked over Jerry's shoulder verifying that everything was as it should be before helping to roll the form onto its back. "Awesome work, dude," He said raising his hand in the air getting a High Five from his new assistant. "The Panda is running a self diagnostic now. Let's lock down the regeneration chamber and see if we can get this going." Marc added as the two raised the side panel and locked it into place.

Jerry stood over the unit looking at the lifeless android before leaning over and placing a kiss on his forehead. "I'll be right here waiting for you Bro." Jerry half mumbled before swinging the door to it's closed position and engaging the three locks that seal the unit while it is in use.

Marc stood and watched the care Jerry took in each and every procedure he performed. All completed flawlessly and double checked before Jerry would be satisfied enough to tell Marc he was ready. After giving it some thought, Marc motioned to Jerry to take over the console and start the activation process. "All yours, buddy." he said getting a horrified look from Jerry.

"Y-y-you want me to run the activation sequence?" Jerry managed to stutter out.

"You know how to, right?" Marc asked folding his arms with an almost evil grin creeping across his face. "If you're gonna bring him home to us, then I think you should have the honors."

Jerry blankly stared at Marc, frozen like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car before nodding his head and slowly approaching the console. Marc pulled up a folding chair and sat and watched as Jerry began the startup checklist, recording every last second for Kevin to remember.

Jerry cleared his throat as he looked over the systems display.

"Oh boy, System Diagnostic complete." he said as he punched in the command for the detailed report and began reading them off;

"System power at 100%.

Communications uplink enabled and functioning.

Life support, Ready and Standing by.

Initiating environment sterilization, Um..."

Marc grinned knowing this was going to happen. "What's wrong, buddy?" He asked containing a giggle.

"I don't have the authorization to begin the startup sequence." He said looking at Marc.

"Oh yeah," Marc said with a smile before pulling what looked like a security card and slip of paper from his pants pocket. "I suppose you would need security clearance." He said with a giggle handing the two to Jerry.

Jerry looked over the card and paper before looking at Marc with a lost expression on his face. "I have priority one security clearance? Are you serious?" he asked finally causing Marc to burst out in laughter.

"Well, yeah. You are active in the system and on staff now, Doctor. You need priority one clearance to perform your duties," He said before finally taking on a serious tone and adding, "I believe the system is waiting for your identification, Doctor."

Jerry looked at the name on his security clearance card and read it out loud. "Vision Industries, Inc. Dr. Jerald Owens, BMD. PC," He visibly refocused his eyes before looking back at Marc. "Is this for real?"

"Yes, it is. I entered you into the entire system after I saw what an amazing job you were doing prepping Kevin. Now, would you care to continue?" he added once again breaking out in fits of giggles.

Jerry scowled at Marc before reading his clearance code and committing it to memory before continuing his work at the console.

"Proceeding with activation sequence," He said with nervousness in his voice. "Initiating environment sterilization, Authorization, Kevin-One-Zero-Alpha. Personal Identification, Jerald Owens."

Just then the system's panel came to life and displayed 'Authorization; Jerald Owens, Accepted. Startup sequence commencing.'

Jerry watched through the window on the cover of the unit as a blue light seemed to glow and the compartment seemed to be filling with a sort of fog created by the environmental control. Once the fog seemed to settle, a hiss was heard as the Panda vented the excess gas and hummed to life. "Sterilization complete," He beamed with pride as the Panda automatically performed the final preparations and reported its progress with each phase. "Final system test complete, all systems online and functioning," He said with a smile as Marc nodded his head encouragingly. "Activation sequence complete, regeneration in progress," He said as he thrust his fist in the air in excitement. "I did it!!!"

Marc smiled as Jerry left the console and peeked through the window at the android's body through the fine mist. "Only thing left to do now is upload his personality imprint and wait for his bio-mechanical systems to come online," Marc said as he stood up and joined Jerry beside the unit. "Give him until tomorrow before we upload to his positronic matrix."

Jerry only nodded his head before looking at Marc and smiling. "Can I help with that too? I've designed an imprint before but never implanted one."

"You've designed a personality imprint?" Marc asked with surprise.

"Yeah, in my second year in Bio this past summer. We were allowed to create a personality imprint. It was fun." Jerry answered with a smile.

Marc scratched his head still trying to digest what Jerry had just said. "Did it work?"

"In simulation it did but I never implanted it into a real positronic matrix before." He answered while grabbing the chair Marc was sitting in, spinning it around and sitting down leaning forward into the backrest.

"That must have taken forever to create." Marc stated almost as a question.

"The whole semester," Jerry said with a smile. "I got an A+ on his design and even won a Bio-mechanical Achievement award with him," Jerry looked at the Panda again and continued, "Now that I know I can do it, maybe someday I'll try to build a body for him and see how he works."

Marc tilted his head, obviously deep in thought. "You know, if you wanted something to pass the time while waiting for Kevin, you could use the lab and piece together a functional body from the Cynthetilife parts. There's more than enough parts to complete it here."

Jerry looked thoughtful for a moment before seeming to deflate a bit. "Nah, his imprint won't work on a Cynthetilife brain. They aren't designed to function like your brain and would eventually wipe itself out and destroy my implanted image."

Marc once again began to smile. "One second," He said as he rushed over to something that appeared to be a safe mounted in the wall. After typing in the access code on it's panel and swinging the door open, he retrieved a metal box with another keypad built onto it and brought it to Jerry placing it in his hands. "It would work with this," He said as he typed an access code into the pad and the box spring open displaying a positronic brain. "That one is clean and will work in any environment, Cynthetilife or not."

"Are you serious?" Jerry said in awe as he stared at the brain. "These are impossible to get, I can't use this for my project, what if you need it?"

"I have a few of them stored," He said waving it off as if it was no big deal. "Since you are now on staff, you are authorized to make use of the available materials to continue your work Doctor Owens," He added, watching as Jerry looked completely lost. "Do you still have the imprint or does it need to be retrieved from your school?"

"Huh? Oh no, I have it at home. I work on it and run simulations on it there. Should I go get it?" Jerry asked carefully placing the box in the chair.

"If you think you want to try, the facilities are at your disposal," He added in a mock professional tone before giggling. "Go get it, I'll open the store room for you so you can choose the parts you would like to use on your own and make him unique."

Jerry almost tackled Marc with a hug and then bolted for the stairs. "I'll be right back! This is gonna be awesome!"

Upstairs, Danny was just finishing up on the computer before deciding to make lunch and bring it down to have an opportunity to peek in at the progress being made with Kevin. On his way to the kitchen the basement door swung open and Jerry crashed right into him knocking them both into the hallway wall.

"Whoa, dude! What's your rush?" He asked as he now had an armful of excited kid.

"I'm gonna build an android!" Jerry said hugging Danny before bolting off once again for the door. "I'll be right back!"

Danny just stood and watched Jerry run off as Marc came up the stairs and closed the door.

"Did a streak resembling Jerry pass through here?" he asked with a giggle.

"Yeah, I take it things went well down there," Danny answered with a smile. "What's this about Jerry building an android?"

Marc smiled and took Danny's hand and led him toward the kitchen. He updated Danny on all the events that happened and then filled him in on Jerry's project personality imprint and their plans to test it out.

"Another android? Is that a good idea?" Danny asked preparing to make sandwiches for lunch as Marc sat at the table and watched.

"Why not? That kid is destined to work in this field. He did all the work down there on Kevin with very little help. He designed the imprint on his own as a school project so it seems only right that he should have the opportunity to test it outside of a computer simulation," He stated as Danny laughed and shook his head. "Would be a waste if he never got to." He added.

"You're nuts." Danny said getting a huge smile from his brother.

"Runs in the family I guess," Marc quipped as he thumbed his nose at his brother just in time to see Jerry walk in with a cardboard box and an ear-to-ear grin. "Whatcha got there?"

"I got all my papers on his personality, his imprint and the notes from all the upgrades I did and what modifications I would need to make so he will work in a real environment." He said as Marc grabbed a rather thick report off the top of the box and looked it over.

"A+, nice work!" Marc exclaimed showing the cover to Danny who nodded his head with an impressed expression as he opened it and grinned as he read out loud, "Project J.O.E.Y.; You named him already?"

Jerry looked at him with a grin. "Well, yeah. You're supposed to name your projects. His name does mean something, but it's kinda stupid. I may have you help me come up with a real name for him." He said beginning to blush.

"What does Joey stand for?" Danny asked causing Jerry to turn a deeper shade of red.

"It's dumb, I made it up from the report title." Jerry answered looking at the floor.

Marc flipped past the cover and introduction before reading aloud, "Jerry Owens, Experimental imprint, Year 2. J-O-E-Y, I like it." Marc said as Danny shook his head in agreement.

"You do? I thought the name was kinda dumb." He said looking back and forth between the two.

Marc ruffled Jerry's hair as he placed the report back on the box. "It stands for what he is. I think it's perfect," He said being rewarded by a smile from Jerry. "Let's have lunch and I'll show you what you have to work with for parts down there."

The three sat down as Danny served up tuna salad sandwiched and soda, which vanished in almost no time. "Guess you two were hungry." Danny said as he took the plate to the sink.

"Yeah, I was starved!" Jerry exclaimed as he jumped from his seat and grabbed his box. "I'm ready."

Danny laughed as Marc got up from his seat and sighed as if overworked.

"Have fun you two!" Danny shouted with a laugh as they vanished into the basement.

Danny spent a few minutes cleaning the lunch dishes and the mugs from earlier in the day before plopping down in the living room and switching on the television.

"Wow," Danny said out loud as he watched the tail end of a commercial regarding "Off Planet Vacations" as the perfect getaway. "I guess I really am behind the times." He added as he flipped through the channels settling for cartoons.

Downstairs, Marc sat and watched as Jerry began to pick through the android storeroom. Looking at each part and either nodding his head in disagreement or approval and putting them aside. Once he was convinced he had enough to start with, Marc rolled a terminal over toward the workbench closest to the Panda, he helped Jerry move the body parts that were selected to the table.

"Should be enough to get you started," Marc said as Jerry examined each item. "Are you sure you want to create such a young model?"

Jerry looked at Marc with a grin and answered "Well he's gonna be learning a lot. I thought he should be younger than the rest of you," He said as he began laying the new androids parts out on the table in the order he intended to assemble. "I want him to be little."

"Okay, but remember, Cynthetilife only produced a limited amount of pre-teen models so we are limited when it comes to replacement parts for him," Marc stated grinning that it was probably fitting that Jerry chose the '8 year old model' since his programming is basic and his size will make it easier for Jerry to move him around on his own. "I suppose we can fabricate parts if we really need to." He added.

Jerry began to busy himself assembling the components when he looked at Marc and asked, "Why did they make such a young model anyway?"

Marc pulled up a seat and thought for a moment before answering. "Well, they had both good and bad reasons I guess. The good was for people who may have lost a child. They were offered the 8 year old, with the option to upgrade as time went on. This would give the child the appearance of growing older while at the same time the programming would only allow him to learn just enough to act as expected. They were always mechanical enough to not be taken seriously because once they began to learn more, their brain would wipe out non-permanent memories and knowledge. That's one of the reasons people began to throw them out. They stood out way too much and never showed real emotion, cause they were never allowed to develop emotion, just emulate it." He said shaking his head in disgust.

"What were the bad reasons?" Jerry asked innocently.

"Well, Cynthetilife had no problems with being dishonest to earn money. Some of the younger androids were sold off and used to work the streets in place of real kids. There was even an infant model that was originally intended to be used in parenting classes or even as a first stage to their 'Growing Up' package but, they even fell into the wrong hands and were also sold to people with less than nice ideas for them. Some were even used to trick people into paying money for what they thought was a real baby. It was just sick and Cynthetilife couldn't have cared less," Marc said causing Jerry to stop what he was doing and look up with a horrified expression on his face. "Vision Industries even intended to break into the market by selling young androids that were locked to a certain age. They had androids that would appear to naturally age, but that idea failed since the body of an android would age to a point that they, well... Their bodies would literally come apart, but they would still function normally until too much of their biologics died. Besides, androids that were designed as companions sold better if they never changed in appearance."

"I won't let any of that happen to Joey." He said looking the parts over before continuing his assembly.

"I know you won't, buddy, but because of what was done with them, I just wanted to be sure you knew that we don't have that many parts to use as replacements. Honestly, considering he will be a brand new program it does kinda fit that he's gonna look younger," He added getting the smile he wanted from Jerry. "You gonna be okay doing this on your own?"

"Oh yeah," Jerry said not even breaking his concentration. "We got to do this in school plenty of times. I got the fastest assembly times in class," He seemed to beam with his announcement. "You gotta learn to put them together right before you can move up to I.A. programming in school."

"Awesome!" Marc exclaimed. "I'll be upstairs with Danny for a while then. Could you keep an eye on Kevin while you're down here? The first 24 hours is the most important."

Jerry grinned and finally broke his concentration to give Marc a serious look and say, "Sure thing, Doctor Marc." which got a giggle from both.

Upstairs, Danny was beginning to get extremely bored with the TV and decided it was definitely time to find something to do. "I can't help down stairs. I could go back on the computer and see if anyone replied to my message in that reader's forum I found. That would use up some time." He mumbled while turning off the TV.

"Hey bro, whatcha up to?" Marc said enthusiastically on his way in the room, shocking Danny.

"God dude, how long you been standing there?" He said as he began to laugh.

"Long enough to know you're starting to talk to yourself, not a good sign." He said with a giggle.

"Yeah," Danny answered with a shrug. "I'm already getting bored and running out of things to do."

"Where's the addition you were supposed to add?"

"Oh yeah, I added a second floor. My bill will be in the mail tomorrow. " He said with an evil grin.

"We already had a second floor," Marc answered tilting his head. "I'm gettin' ripped off here.

"Take it up with my union." Danny said throwing his hands in the air in mock disgust earning more giggles from Marc.

"You wanna see your bedroom?" Marc asked thinking that may occupy his brother for a while.

"Sure, I've been kinda curious about what plans you had for it, let's go," He answered walking to the staircase. "Oh yeah, I tossed in a flight of stairs, no charge." He added breaking into a run up to the second floor.

"Clown!" Marc yelled and gave chase ending in the upstairs hallway. "Okay, you've already seen Jerry's room, the door directly across the hall is Jim's room," He said opening the door. "As you can see, he's rarely ever home," He added in his best tour guide voice, pointing out the fact that the room literally looked like a hotel room that hadn't been used yet. He closed the door and giggled as he led the way down the fairly narrow hallway. "Please note the linen closet to your left and light switches at both ends of the hallway, installed for your convenience."

"You've lost it." Danny snuck in dodging a playful slap.

"Okay, before we go in here I gotta warn you," He said blocking the doorway. "It's not finished yet and I did something kinda sneaky to get some of the stuff in there."

"Sneaky? Oh god, should I be scared?"

"No, but you will be surprised at some of it," He said while unlocking the door. "High security." He said with a giggle, dangling the single key on its chain.

Marc opened the door and entered with Danny trailing behind him. Once in the room Marc just watched as Danny's expression suddenly changed from curiosity to visible astonishment.

"Oh my god, dude, That's my bed... My desk... How did you get this stuff? It all came from my apartment." Danny gasped out as he looked around at the furnishings, which he hadn't seen in years.

"It wasn't easy. After Daniel Page passed away. Vision Industries took temporary possession of all his belongings, as stated in the agreement Kevin made. Well, your family was going to take possession, but when they learned what had been done, they wanted nothing to do with any of it. V.I. put it all in storage, the same storage facility we found Kevin's android body in," He said as they both sat on the bed. "You knew your family was angry about you being brought back but, what you never knew was that they refused to claim your possessions since they looked at your being activated as you not being gone, which is kinda right."

"Did Kevin know that all this stuff was in storage?" Danny asked wondering why it was never offered back to him.

"No, unfortunately it all turned into a paperwork nightmare because you legally left all of your belongings to your family, but your family wouldn't take possession of it. V.I. didn't have the authority to do anything with any of it so, they decided to temporarily house all of it, hoping your family would give them permission to either let them handle what to do with it all with you, or have you legally petition for it."

"I would have had to petition for my own stuff? That's messed up," Danny said as he scanned the room again. "This is my entire apartment, well most of it. Dude, this room is huge."

"Yeah, took me a year to get it done. It's actually two rooms opened up into a studio apartment. I wanted to be able to give you your own place if we ever found you. It has its own bathroom, kitchen and deck that overlooks the bay. Everything here came from your old home except the computer terminals. One is a Vision Industries terminal giving you access to the company's files and any work you would like to do. The other is a standard personal computer. Your old one is stored here, but way too old to use now. I did transfer all your personal files into it though," He said obviously studying his brother's face for a reaction. "You aren't mad that I did this, are you?"

Danny stood up and walked around the room. "My stuff. You know I never dreamed that I would ever see any of it again. Never even gave it a second thought," He added, picking up and looking at a small toy car that was placed on a shelf over the work area. "Kevin found this for me. It was a replica of a car I used to own. He found it one day and saved up his money to buy it for me when he was 12," Danny said now fighting back tears. "How could I be mad at you? You just gave me back a part of my life I thought was gone forever."

Marc looked around the room with a smile before standing up and walking over to the large picture window, which overlooked the private deck and gave a beautiful view of the bay. "Danny, come here," He said staring out over the calm water. "Something I want you to know," He added as Danny walked over and stared at the scenery in awe. "When Uncle John and I lived here together in the old house, this view could be had from his bedroom. Even if you were in bed you could watch as fishing boats slowly went past. I did plan originally to recreate his bedroom and keep it for myself until I tried sleeping in here," He said as he looked at Danny. "I couldn't sleep that night."

"Too much of a reminder?" Danny asked reaching his arm around Marc's back and placing his hand on his brother's shoulder.

"Yeah," He replied. "I sat up all night remembering sleeping in here and watching the boats sail past. Just how much it meant to John that this view was ours and ours alone," He said as he quickly added. "So before you ask me why I decided this should be your room I wanted you to know that this view was never just mine. I never want it to be just mine cause then it wouldn't mean as much as it does right now or did then."

"Would you sleep up here tonight?" Danny asked, wanting to sleep in his old bed but, not really wanting to sleep alone yet.

"On one condition." Marc said with a grin.

"Name it." Danny answered tightening his hand on his brother's shoulder.

"I get the side of the bed closest to the window." He giggled out breaking Danny's hold; knowing he was probably about to get swatted.

"That's not fair, you play dirty!" Danny shouted as he broke out in laughter before letting the scenery outside capture his attention once again. "The view is unbelievable."

Marc plopped back down on the bed and propped his head up with his hands. "Yeah, that's why the bed is raised up on a platform, higher than the rest of the room, Uncle John had his bed set up that way too," He said rolling on to his back and staring at the ceiling. "This room is bigger than the original but in a lot of ways is real close to the original," He said as he pointed at the lights. "These you can turn on yourself."

"Great, so I won't have to come searching for you late at night?"

"Nope, at least not the nights I sleep over." He said with a giggle.

Danny crossed his arms and turned to look at the entire room and then settled his attention on his brother. "This may sound kinda rude, but how is all this paid for? I mean do we need to find a way to get work or something cause none of this comes for free."

Marc patted the bed indicating to Danny that he wanted him to sit down. "I am the sole owner of Vision Industries, Inc. Now that you are here, half owner," He said with a smile. "The company shut its doors and ceased operations, but from a legal standpoint it is still in operation for technical aid and emergency assistance."

"That can't be making any money though." Danny said laying back on the bed.

"Dan, V.I. was a multi-billion dollar company in the end. To make a long story short, the company was turned over to me as part owner after its retail closing to continue to run. I accepted the responsibility, knowing that it would help me financially, and I would also have possession of the equipment needed to help other androids, and even then hoping one of those would someday be you," Marc stated rolling over onto his side to face Danny. "The financial status of the company was turned over to me completely to run as a non-profit organization, which is also partially funded by the government. Not to mention the trust fund that was put aside for the company's prototypes."

"Trust fund? What's that all about?"

"Well, a percentage of the company's gains were placed in a trust fund for each of the models that were not terminated. Eddy, the man who had me designed for my first father fought to have money put aside for the active prototypes since they were never really sold. It was intended to be their way of saying thank-you for helping to bring their company so much success and to help should the need arise to survive on their own," He said with a grin. "You may not know it yet, but you are a pretty wealthy 13 year old."

Danny tilted his head and stared at Marc blankly. "I thought I had nothing."

Marc stared at Danny silently knowing the lost expression on his face all too well. "You have Kevin, Jerry and me. You have a home here for as long as you can put up with me, and yeah, you have a couple of bucks in the bank. Not to mention you are half owner of the company that created you and I, which makes us very little money in grants, but is enough to keep it functioning."

Danny sat up and looked around the room once again before shaking his head. "Too much," He said as he stood and walked over to look out the window again. "Would we have enough money to build a house?" he asked hearing a giggle being stifled from behind him.

"You alone, might be able to build a neighborhood and still not worry about where your next meal is coming from if you are trying to figure out the scope of how much was put aside and what interest has built over the years." He said not moving from his spot.

"No, I mean, yeah I guess. Well, what I was really wondering was why we couldn't have this house restored, you know. It's nice and all but I can tell it isn't the same for you like this." Danny stated still staring out over the bay.

Marc smiled warmly at his brother's thoughtfulness. "I have thought of that, lots of times really. This house is nice, it's modern..." He got out before Danny cut him off.

"It's stale, it's plain and it may be on the foundation of your first home, but it isn't the home you loved," He said with his seriousness hanging on each word. "Couldn't we think about it at least? I mean you gave me back my life and a reason to want that life. I would really like to do this for you someday if you would let me."

"You're serious?"

"You thought I was kidding?"

Marc stared at Danny silently, as if frozen by his brother's words.

"I could take the original blueprints, combined with your interactive memory and design a house to replace this one that would appear to be identical in appearance but still furnish you with your full lab in the basement. There is no reason you need to live the life of an android all day every day," Danny said finally turning around to meet his brother's gaze. "At least think about it, okay?"

"Real human." Marc muttered.

Danny walked over to the bed, leaned over and kissed Marc on the forehead. "No, real brother," He said with a smile as he plopped down on the bed finally getting a grin from Marc. "I missed this bed." He added being distracted by the sounds of someone running up the stairs.

"Marc? Danny?" came Jerry's voice from the hall.

"In here, kiddo!" Danny shouted with a giggle. "Real kid." He said with a laugh while poking at Marc playfully.

The door swung open and there stood an extremely distraught looking Jerry.

"Uh, oh..." Marc got out. "What happened?"

"Marc, I was... There's something wrong with Joey."

"Something wrong?" Marc asked in a confused tone. "Little dude, you only started assembling him what? An hour ago? What happened?"

Jerry took a deep breath and then seemed to overflow with the events in almost one breath. "I installed his brain and tested his neural interface and it was fine so I decided to upload his imprint while I put together his upper torso when the computer started failing and I don't know what happened but it won't let me even compile his personality imprint."

"Okay buddy, why don't we take a walk downstairs and see if we can't find out what's troubling the little guy, allright?" he said with a smile getting up off the bed and turning toward Danny. "You coming?"

"I'm allowed to?" Danny shot back with a hurt expression on his face. "I thought I wasn't allowed to go down there."

"No dork, you're not allowed to work on him. You can come see him," Marc said with a laugh as he followed Jerry out into the hall, just barely being missed by the pillow Danny threw at him. "You missed!" he shouted with a giggle as he picked up his pace just in case he suddenly had to try to outrun his brother.

"I'll give you dork," Danny said as he got up and walked to the door and picked up the pillow. "That was just a practice shot. Next time you're in for it!" He yelled as he listened to the giggling from both Marc and Jerry going down the stairs.

"See?" Jerry said in an excited tone pointing at the computer's monitor. "It won't let me compile his imprint. I messed him up somehow." He said sounding as if he was on the verge of crying.

"Hmmm, calm down, buddy. This does happen from time to time and is usually just some tiny little incompatibility being a nuisance," He said as he began to read the error messages. "Personality Handler not found." He read out loud as he brought up the raw imprint and began scrolling through it at an almost blurring rate.

"You can read it like that?" Jerry asked as he watched in awe.

"Yeah, and you have this coded out like an expert by the way. Nice work." He said with a smile.

"What's the verdict doc?" Danny asked coming down the stairs. "Oh man, this looks like a lab in some old sci-fi movie" he said as he took a seat on the lower step. "Cool."

"I like it," Jerry said as he pointed toward the Panda. "Wanna see Kevin? He's doing real good."

Danny walked over toward the unit and gazed at the lifeless form through the thick glass window on the top. "Amazing how all this works, isn't it." He said looking at Jerry then back through the window.

"Yeah, look how far he's gotten in just about an hour." Jerry said pointing out the clear film that began to cover some of his components.

"Danny, check the Panda and see what his rate of cell development is, we can estimate his activation time frame from it." Marc asked as his eyes remained glued to the terminal in front of him.

"Me? I've never done stuff like this before." Danny stated in a shocked tone.

"Bro, you have all the information you need to build one from the ground up in your tech files. You need to learn to think in two different modes now since you only have one mode of operation. When you need to think in research mode, you just will." He said as Danny approached the unit's console and was amazed that the controls didn't look alien to him.

"Oh wow," Danny gasped as he instantly seemed to realize what each control was and what its function was. "That's neat," He said with a giggle as he began bringing up the progress data. "Cell regeneration at 14,322cpm, Regeneration circuit functioning normally, all synthetic systems standing by, biological systems obviously not enabled," He said with a laugh. "Positronic matrix reads ready for personality imprint upload. Estimated time to full systems activation, 8 days, 4hours, 32minutes, 14seconds and counting."

"I knew you had it in you," Marc said playfully as he screwed up his face and stared at the screen. "This wasn't your fault Jerry." He said motioning to Jerry to come see what he had found.

"It's not?" Jerry asked as he rushed to Marc's side and studied the terminal's readout. "What's a personality handler? Wait, I've never seen this string before. Where did this code come from? It's not mine." He asked as he tried to figure out what he was looking at.

"Well doctor, it appears you were taught what you needed to know, and nothing more," Marc replied getting a confused look from Jerry. "What you are looking at is the replacement for the programmable variables in an android."

Jerry looked away from the screen and up at Marc. "Variables?"

"Remember when I told you about the ways some androids were programmed and what they were used for?"


"Well, in your school's simulation program, there are hidden variables to replace the original template's design. Variables that control mannerisms, sexuality, and maturity needed to have extra options that could be locked in making them what they consider normal and safe to teach with. Your personality profile was written perfectly for an android that will mature just like a real child would. In simulation, your personality coupled with a personality handler would function well but, in a real android won't work without modification."

Jerry seemed to think over what Marc told him before looking at the code on the screen more closely, pointing at the lines he understood. "Heterosexual preference?" he questioned. "Does this mean no sex drive?" he asked pointing to another line.

Marc looked at the screen and grinned. "You can read this, I'm impressed."

Jerry half smiled as he continued to scowl at each new string he came across. "They hid these from us, didn't they?"

"I don't think it was your teachers or the school so much; you would need a level one security access to see any of this, and schools would never be handed that kind of clearance. My guess is they felt no need to teach you that you could build an android that was capable of being anything other than the standard 'cookie cutter' perfect household variety."

Jerry scrolled back up to the first string he had found that was new to him and asked, "Okay, how do you set these parameters to be undetermined and naturally maturing. I want him to grow up like a real boy and become what he wants to become."

Marc smiled and brought up a second file, highlighting portions of the code for him. "This is how we determine 'Normal Growth' in an android. It is the base code that should be where your simulators handler takes over."

"Hmmm..." Jerry hummed as he read over the highlighted code. "This is good," He said as Marc watched this 11-year-old scientist read raw code like a professional. "It won't work though." He added.

"No? Why not?" Marc asked not even looking at the screen.

"Cause there is a variable that controls growth. Cynthetilife androids can't grow. The other stuff is good though. I like how it sets parameters to self-knowledge and activates each query as the logic center deems required. It will make him realize stuff like if he becomes gay, or falls in love, or mourns a loss. His brain will kinda say, okay it's time to make a decision and incorporate it into his personality. Whoever wrote this really knew what they were doing, and was better at it than anyone I've ever read about."

"Thanks, Jerry," Marc said patting him on the head. "That was the personality profile I wrote for the Austin prototype. It never got used but has been tested and is much better than the old standard 'On / Off switch' style programming that was always used. Extra likes and dislikes can be added but he would also have the capacity to just develop them, for no good reason. Just like a human."

"Yeah," Jerry said with a smile. "How often could you ask an android why they don't like something and have them answer by sayin', 'Cause I don't' and be honest," Jerry paused and looked up at Marc. "Can I use this in Joey's profile?"

"Would be a shame if it never got used," Marc stated with a smile. "Go for it."

"Cool!" Jerry exclaimed as he began to pick out the failing strings and replace them with the coding Marc provided. "Is there a way to do a simulated activation test without using my simulator since it isn't right?"

"Yeah, it's built into that terminal. First chance we get, I would love to upgrade yours so you can run some real simulations without being limited," Marc said as he turned to join Danny who was once again simply gazing into the Panda. "Not until I get to make a copy of your schools simulator though. I want to see what else they are hiding." He added.

"Deal!" Jerry exclaimed as he buried himself in his work.

"That was a cool thing to do," Danny muttered in a barely audible tone as Marc rested his elbows on the Panda right next to his brother. "That code must have taken forever to write."

"It was born out of necessity and supposedly not possible to create or realistic to use. Who would wanna buy an android that might just mature like a human and possibly become more than his creator had planned." Marc spit out in disgust.

"Marc, people are like that with their own children. How many kids are abused because they think they are gay, how many are thrown out into the streets because they fell in love with someone their parents don't approve of, how many end out killing themselves because they could never be the perfect child their parents expect. Your programming is perfect but people who buy an android expect it to be exactly what they order and nothing more," Danny said staring into the box. "Did you ever include that code in your own programming?"

Marc looked at Kevin's body, answering as if he was thinking out loud. "I like who I am; programmed that way or not. Some people may not approve what I was originally intended for, but without that simple personality alteration, my whole life may seem as if it were a lie. I don't want my perspective to change. I'm happy with who I am whether I got to choose for myself in the beginning or not."

"So am I" Danny said placing his hand on his brother's shoulder. "I wouldn't change a thing."

"Marc, how do I run a test simulation on this?" Jerry asked snapping the two brothers back into reality.

"Duty calls." Marc said with a grin leaving Danny by himself next to the Panda.

"How strange it is to look at this body and know it will be you soon." Danny said low enough to not be heard, as thoughts of the last time he laid eyes on his friend began to run through his mind. Replaying the memories of a day he would rather forget.

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

"I'm so sorry for your loss." An unfamiliar distant relative muttered as she offered her condolences.

"Kevin always spoke so highly of you, Daniel." Another muttered, as I only half acknowledged what was being said and walked over to kneel beside the casket to say my final goodbye.

"You look like you're sleeping, please wake up. I can't go on like this on my own." I said as I reach over to brush his hair to the side as he wore it in life.

"Get your hands off of him!" Came a shout from behind me. "That's that stupid little android that Kev got hooked into taking care of." She yelled.

"Leave him alone, Amy," I heard another voice whisper to her. "You were rarely there for your cousin and he was with him until the end. This isn't the time and place..." The whisper began but got cut off.

"Bullshit! That little piece of scrap plastic is the reason Kevin never had the time to be bothered with any of us. He was too busy waiting on that little junk pile to even have the time. I wouldn't be surprised if the little leech were to find another person to leech off of before Kevin is in the ground." She yelled, making a total spectacle of herself.

I looked around the room and saw a mixture of family members nodding in agreement and embarrassment at her outburst. 'They all feel this way.' I thought to myself before I turned back and took one more look. "I don't know how long this body will last. They say forever, but that can't be true," I said with tears running down my cheeks and onto your arm. "If this is the price I have to pay for the years that you gave me to be with you, then it was worth it," I leaned over your lifeless form and kissed you on your forehead. "I love you, my shadow, now and forever."

I turned without another word said and walked toward the door. Just as I was about to open it, a close friend of Kevin's cut me off.

"Danny, don't leave. His family was never there for him. Only you were, no matter what the situation, no matter how good or bad things were, right up until the very end. If anyone deserves to be here with him, it's you." He said franticly.

"Thanks, Andy," I replied. "But let them win. He's not here so I don't need to be," I answered still wiping tears from my eyes. "Only you understand what I owe him. You know I was only able to enjoy my time with him because of what he did for me. He'll always be a part of me, now and up to the moment this body fails. I don't need to be here, cause he's not lying in that box, he's right here with me." I said as I pointed to my heart.

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

"Danny?" Jerry asked shaking his arm. "You okay?"

"Huh? Uh... Yeah, I'm fine," He answered wiping the tears from his eyes. "I guess seeing him in this box just reminded me of when I lost him."

Marc came over and rubbed each of his brother's shoulders while speaking in a soft tone. "I didn't even think of that. Would it be easier if we covered the window so you don't have to see this part of the process?"

"Oh, it's not seeing him in this condition. Not at all," Danny answered with a sniffle. "Realizing that this body will soon be Kevin, and seeing Kevin lying in a box... It reminded me of, well... Of his funeral," He said turning up the corners of his mouth. "It's nothing, I just let my mind drift at the wrong time. I'm fine, I promise."

Marc rested his elbows on the top of the unit and smiled a thoughtful smile before saying, "The last time you saw him in a box, he wasn't really there. People always say that at a funeral, the person you knew in life isn't really what you are saying goodbye to. Our bodies are a very small portion of who we are in life, human or not," Marc said without breaking his gaze into the confines of the Panda unit. "Realistically, he's not in there yet either but, his positronic matrix is ready to receive him anytime now. Then he will really be in there and just asleep as his body prepares itself to wake," With that said, Marc stood up and walked over to the control console and smiled back at his brother. "Positronic functions at 100% and ready for personality imprint. Would you like to initiate the final command to begin the integration Dan?"

Danny thoughtfully looked at his brother and smiled weakly. "No, I want his other uncle to be the one to complete this gift."

Marc smiled and busied himself while Danny decided it was a good time to check on Jerry's progress. "How's it goin', kiddo?"

Jerry pointed to the monitor, which was displaying the simulation and debugging process with a huge smile. "Everything's checking out fine so far. I'm putting his body together now."

Danny looked at what Jerry had already accomplished. The little android's head shoulders and arms were assembled leaving his mid section, legs and feet to go. After looking over the parts that had been chosen, he began to giggle a little, gaining Jerry's attention.

"What? Did I forget something?" he asked as he franticly reviewed the remaining parts.

"Well, you have two right hands laid out for starters," He replied picking up both hands and showing them to Jerry, getting an embarrassed grin as a response. "You also may want to talk to Marc about your choice of lower torsos. His body is supposed to be what; 8 years old?"

Jerry looked at his creation's lower abdomen and scratched his head in confusion before looking at Danny and shrugging his shoulders.

Trying not to bust out laughing Danny managed to force out, "I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to be that big unless you are going for one of the best hung 8 year olds on the planet."

Marc joined the two at the worktable and saw what Danny was referring to before blushing a deep red and putting his hand on his forehead. "Well, I guess we're gonna have to alter his program to allow for extra weight in the front or else he's gonna constantly fall over," He said keeping his hand on his forehead and visibly trying not to laugh. "Dude, he's gonna be bigger than us." He added coughing over what I knew was destined to be a giggle.

"Hey, It's been a long time since I was 8 guys," Jerry interjected. "Besides, what's wrong with him being a little bigger than normal?" He got out before Danny and Marc finally lost control and broke out in fits of giggles.

"Th-there's noth-nothing wrong with being a-a-a little bigger but..." Marc got out and lost it.

Danny was able to recompose himself, cleared his throat and was able to get out, "But he could get work in a carnival, or take up pole-vaulting with that between his legs," Before once again losing it and laughing, "I need ah, um, a drink. I'll be upstairs." He said and retreated as fast as his legs could carry him.

"Coward!" Marc playfully yelled after him before getting serious and made a more appropriate choice of equipment for the little android. "This is better suited for his age and appearance buddy."

Jerry looked over the parts once more before folding his arms and raising an eyebrow. "Okay, but when he complains about how small his willie is, I'm gonna tell him it's all your fault" He got out with a giggle. "You see any other mistakes, Dr. Clown?" He asked with an evil grin.

Marc looked over all the parts on the table before shaking his head no.

"How do you like him so far then?"

Marc began stating out loud as if listing the options in a car. "Strawberry blond hair, almost an olive completion, average height and build for his age. Looks good so far." He got out getting an accomplished smile from Jerry.

"I did make a change you may not like though," He said as he opened the little one's eyes displaying one bright blue and one bright green eye. "I wanted him to have the same look Davie did. That's why he has this color hair and skin. His face even looks a little like Davie. But I couldn't decide on his eyes. I wanted him to have Davie's eyes but I also wanted him to have the same color as you and Danny. So I gave him one of each," He said looking at his creation's face and then back at Marc. "It's a stupid idea, right?"

Marc smiled and reached over to close the sleeping androids eyes before ruffling his hair. "That's really thoughtful," He said as he repeated the hair ruffling on Jerry. "I wouldn't change a thing then," He said with a smile before heading to follow his brother's lead and give Jerry some more time to himself. "Have you ever fused the seams on these androids?" He paused and asked.

"Yup, and I don't even leave scars." He beamed with pride knowing it's hard to hide the seams in an android with synthetic skin.

"Cool," Marc answered with a smile as he continued up the stairs. "Just yell if you need help then."

"Okay," He answered and then yelled up the stairs, "I'll call for you when I'm ready to activate him."

Upstairs, Marc looked around for Danny briefly before spotting him sitting on the steps to the deck gazing out over the beach.

"Penny for your thoughts." He said as he slid the door open and stepped out onto the deck, closing the door behind himself.

"Just thinking about Joey," He said as he turned to lean his back on the railing to face his brother. "I know it's good for Jerry to learn more about something he obviously loves and help him to bring his first attempt online, but aren't we helping to bring another life into the world as well?"

Marc sat down at the table and seemed to think a bit before answering. "Yeah, that little one will have a life. He'll mature and learn just like I did," He said with a smile creeping across his face. "He's gonna have a great family."

Danny smiled and nodded his head. "Will he mature enough in that body?"

Marc smiled and nodded his head in agreement. "Well, he can mentally. I mean Cynthetilife androids didn't really feel, they have touch receptive sensors throughout their bodies so their programming can emulate response to touch but not like the way we feel. The way he's programmed, he could be tested in that body easily. We can work out any personality flaws he may develop, make any changes we need to before considering options for a better body," He said as if he already had plans. "It would be great if we can get the looks he wants and create a V.I. series body for him to mature in. That would take a ton of time and with the equipment I have, some money to upgrade the lab a bit."

"We can cross that bridge when we get to it I guess," Danny replied as he stood up and walked to his brother. "You already thought of upgrading him, didn't you?"

With a giggle Marc replied, "Yeah, if he's gonna be a part of this family, he deserves better than that synthetic shell but, it's not a bad way to start out."

Danny leaned over and planted a kiss on Marc's cheek getting a confused smile from his brother. "What was that for?" He asked with a smile.

"For being the most thoughtful, selfless brother a guy could ever hope for," Danny said retreating into the house. "I'm gonna grab a soda, you want anything?"

Marc stood and slowly wandered toward the steps. "No thanks Bro, I'm gonna take a walk on the beach," He said with a smile as he brought his hand up to the spot Danny kissed and smiled back at his brother. "It's just a beautiful day." He said as he turned and left for his time alone.

Danny recognized that smile and was happy he was able to make his brother so happy. On his way to the kitchen, he was frozen in his tracks by the phone ringing.

"Oh God!" He said out loud. "Line 2?" He added as he looked out and saw Marc slowly wandering the beach, not far away at all so he decided it was safe to answer it and cleared his thought before picking up the receiver.

"Hello, um I mean, ah, Vision Industries, how may I direct your call?"

[Yes this is Clan Short of Vulcan headquarters, I need to speak with Dr. Furst or Dr. Owens please.]

"Excuse me, who with what?"

[This is Lt. Thomas Short, Clan Short of Vulcan headquarters. We have a medical emergency and need to speak with Dr. Furst or Dr. Owens immediately.]

"Um, ah, lemme put you on hold." Danny replied as he hit the hold button and ran for the slider, almost throwing it open. "MARC!!!!!"

Marc's head seemed to snap in Danny's direction as he broke into a run back for the house. "What's wrong, Bro?" He asked as he bolted up the steps to meet him on the deck.

"Um, there's a call on line two." Danny said with a confused look on his face.

"Oh? Who's it from?" Marc asked as both made their way to the phone and Marc picked up the receiver, which fell off the table in Danny's rush.

"Well, it's some kid claiming to be a Lieutenant from, I think he said Clan Short and he says it's a medical emergency, it might be a prank call." He said knowing instantly he was wrong as his brother's face almost instantly went pale.

Marc looked at the receiver and then back at Danny before swallowing hard and replying in almost a whisper, "Clan Short? Oh my god, Bro! That's no prank!"


To Be Continued…

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Notes from the Author:

Hi everyone! It's me, Danny! I figured since Jeff went into serious overload writing this chapter, and planning out future chapters for us to have fun in, I would do him a favor and write his notes for this chapter. You know, poor old guy needs his rest now. [G] (Also gives me a chance to let you in on my perspective of this last chapter.)

Yup, those authors are at it again, conspiring behind the backs of the readers. I understand how you all must feel right now but, take my word for it, we couldn't be happier that he finally listened to us about how we want the story to go. I mean come on, whose story is this anyway? Honestly, Marc and I sat down and talked about it with Jeff and, it wasn't easy to get him to realize that if he really wanted us to be happy, he was going to have to let go of his plans a little bit and let us make our own plans. We thought it would be easier for him if we filled in the blanks. By the look on his face right now, I think he has his own opinions.

Since this will probably be the only time he will ever let me write this footnote, Marc wanted to make sure that I say "thanks" to some really important people.

First, We want to thank "Acfan" and "Boi From Aus." For explaining to Jeff that he needs to write "our" story and kinda ditch the short version he was gonna write. Way to go guys! We owe you, bigtime!

Second, now that I am finally learning how big our universe is about to get, We also would like to say thanks to Greybear, Gunrunner, Eric W., and Multimapper for forming one of the best places in the universe to live. We just hope we have big enough feet to walk in your footsteps. (I know Marc, it does sound kinda lame, doesn't it? Oh well.) Big hugs to you guys too!

Third, (Gasp) We got to read some of the emails and stuff some of you reading have sent Jeff and know they made him real happy. Thanks and yes it's true what they say. 4 out of every 5 authors do believe their characters are real. That's the way it should be, um, cause we said so. (The fifth guy is probably writing his own life story, or some boring junk like that anyway. ;)

Fourth, (Jeff's definitely not letting me do this again. [Giggle]) A huge thanks to the Editing Team for doing an awesome job making Jeff's horrid spelling readable. Maybe someday we'll get to meet you guys. Well, it could happen. ;)

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Notes from the Editing Team:

This Chapter is awaiting it's final Edit. Unfortunately it's scheduled release could not be pushed back. Hope there aren't too many misspellings ;)

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Notes from the Other Nutcase:

I'm really excited at the way this is turning out – after hundreds of hours on cell phones (and one battery on the far end) this chapter finally came together. As those of you who frequent the Message Board know, sometimes the characters want to go in a totally different direction than what the author planned; this chapter is one of those cases. Watch carefully over the next few chapters; there are a lot of surprises yet to come! Huge thanks to Jeff for allowing me to play a small part in what hopefully will be viewed as the turning point in the STL series. Hugs to the Editing Team also; you guys really do make a difference in the flow and readability of the story – your hard work is greatly appreciated!