Sentenced to Life
Co-Written By: ACFan
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Marc looked at the receiver, covered the mouthpiece and cleared his throat before bringing it to his ear and speaking. “This is Dr. Furst. What’s the emergency?”
[Doctor Furst, Patriarch Short wishes to speak with you. I will have to connect you, he is aboard the starship Lafayette.]
“Thank you, Lieutenant, standing by to be connected,” Marc replied before covering the mouthpiece once again. “Oh my god, Bro, you’re not gonna believe this,” he whispered to Danny, who simply tilted his head and gave a confused look as his response.
[Dr. Furst, this is Cory Short, Patriarch of Clan Short of Vulcan. Do you have visual capabilities?]
“No Patriarch Short, I’m sorry, but at this time we don’t,” Marc replied, noticing the voice on the other end sounded unusually young for a Patriarch. “How may I be of assistance?”
[Doctor, do you have any knowledge of the ‘Austin’ series android?]
Marc’s eyes widened as he almost coughed out, “Um, yes; I was part of his prototype programming, but he was never completed, why do you ask?”
[Apparently, somebody completed him, we have him here right now. He needs some serious help. Are you capable of repairs to him?]
“Um, well, yeah. I mean yes, I can, I mean… somebody finished him?”
[Don’t worry, he’s still active.]
Marc held the receiver away from his head and glared at it in question before continuing. “Still active? He wasn’t even finished! How was… I mean who activated him… Where did you find him?”
[Well, he was off planet; we found him in an alley with extreme modifications attempted to his skin structure.]
Marc shook his head in disbelief. “I’m sorry Patriarch Short; you are catching me a little off guard. Did you say he’s been physically modified? How serious is his condition?”
[Well, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say his body is rejecting the work.]
Without thinking Marc replied, “Oh shit… Oh god, I’m so sorry Patriarch Short. I mean, I can be ready to receive him as soon as possible.” Marc could swear that he heard a stifled laugh on the other end.
[Okay then, Doctor, in approximately 3 minutes there will be a knock on your door for installation of a terminal at your premises.]
“How do you know where… wait, three minutes? Where exactly are you sending them. This number is registered to a classified location that I am not currently working from, you’re gonna need my address.”
[You are on Sullivan’s Island, aren’t you?]
“Um, yeah, how’d you know that?”
[I’ll have my son explain it to you when we get there.]
“Your what? Oookay, we’ll be ready to receive your party and equipment, when should we expect your arrival sir?”
[At maximum warp we should be there within a day, approximately 16:00 hours tomorrow.]
Marc looked at Danny, who was still standing there looking totally lost. Just as he was about to tell him not to worry, his train of thought was cut short by the voice on the phone.
[Doctor, send someone to answer the door to receive my party.]
“Huh?” Marc managed to get out when he suddenly heard the knock on the front door. “Oh, okay,” He said before looking at Danny and waving his hand to get his attention. “Dude, answer the door, and be professional, okay?”
Danny looked completely lost as he lowered his voice and almost whispered, “Be what?”
“Dude, just let them in and don’t say anything dumb,” Marc said loud enough to be heard on the phone. The Patriarch began to giggle, reminding Marc that he was still on the line. “Oh god, I’m sorry sir, we haven’t had too many emergency calls in the past few years.”
[No problem, I tend to surprise people a lot.]
“Well, you surprised one more,” Marc replied with a smile before he realized that his brother had probably never seen a Vulcan face to face before. “Oh no, about to be two more.” He added with a giggle picturing Danny’s response.
Danny swung open the door and stood frozen until the technician introduced himself and requested to see Dr. Furst. “Um, right this way,” He got out as he led the man through the kitchen toward the living room. “Um, Marc…” he meekly got out as they both came into view.
[I’ll leave my technicians to install your terminal, they will assist you in its operation, use it to contact me as soon as possible.]
“How will I be able to get through to a starship over sub-space frequencies? I don’t have that kind of access.”
[You do now. Contact Clan Headquarters as soon as possible, my technicians will instruct you on proper procedures.]
Marc cleared his throat for what seemed like the hundredth time during the call before responding. “Yes sir, thank you. We will be ready for your arrival.” Marc heard the call disconnect and hung up the phone.
“You would be Dr. Furst, I presume?” The distinguished looking Vulcan asked as he approached Marc.
“Yes sir, I am. Um, what can I do to help?”
“May we inquire as to where you wish the terminal placed?”
“Um, I think… yeah, let’s set it up in the lab, right this way, sir,” Marc replied as he began to lead the way. Danny was standing in the doorway, frozen with shock and confusion at the appearance of their guests. “You okay, Bro?” Marc asked on his way by, receiving an unsure nod from Danny as a response.
As he opened the door to the lab and flipped on the lights, Marc looked up to the technician and asked, “Is that enough space?” as he pointed to the far corner of the room.
“This will be acceptable. Be prepared for training in 7.5 minutes.” The technician replied as another technician entered the room carrying a large box.
“Um, okay… Do you need any help?” Marc asked the first technician.
“Your assistance will not be required during this procedure,” he answered flatly as he began to inventory the contents of the box. The second technician exited the room, apparently to bring more equipment in.
“Okay then, I’ll be right back,” Marc said as he left the room to check on his brother. “Dude, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Marc commented as he walked up to Danny.
Danny just looked shocked as he shook his head, before answering in almost a whisper. “Who are they? I mean, what are they? They aren’t even human, are they?”
“You have some catching up to do, Bro,” Marc said as he drew his brother into a hug to help reassure him. “They are from a planet called Vulcan. Don’t worry, they’re friends, but have no emotion. If you talk to them, state the facts, no clowning around and you will earn their respect,” He said as he broke the hug and looked his brother in the eyes. “If you’re okay with it, we can take some time and upload a history catchup into your brain, so you’ll have a better understanding of how much you missed over the last few decades.”
Danny just shook his head agreeing as he looked toward the lab. Danny watched as the two Vulcans wheeled a rather large piece of equipment through the kitchen and disappeared into the lab. “I know what Vulcans are, just never seen one in person before,” He sighed out as he leaned into the hug. “They look more like humans than I pictured for some reason.”
“What’s goin’ on guys?” Jerry asked as he closed the door to the basement behind himself.
“We have company. I’ll explain more later but there is some work being done in the lab, you may wanna steer clear for a bit.” Marc said turning to face Jerry, leaving one arm across Danny’s shoulders.
“An emergency?” Jerry asked tilting his head as one of the technicians approached the mini meeting in the hall. “Oh,” Jerry said as he straightened his stance before raising his hand in a Vulcan salute. “T’nar pak sorat y’rani,” He said with a smile.
“T’nar jaral,” The technician responded with question in his expression. “You speak Vulcan?”
Marc looked at Jerry with a grin. “Any other surprises you’ve been hiding?”
“I don’t speak it well, I did take Vulcan as a foreign language in school, but I’m still learning.”
The Vulcan raised his eyebrow and looked down at Jerry. “Your greeting was acceptable.”
“Cool!” Jerry said with a grin.
“Sir,” The technician said as he turned his attention to Marc. “How many in your group will require training?”
“Oh, myself, Dr. Owens and Dr. Page,” Marc replied, slipping a grin in Danny’s direction. “It will save time if we are all present.”
“We are prepared to begin, do you require additional time to prepare?” The technician asked.
“No sir,” Marc replied. “We are at your disposal.”
Jerry looked at Marc questioningly. “What are we training for?”
“Well, buddy, it looks like we are about to go to work,” Marc answered as they followed the technician into the lab. “I’ll explain later, but this is a serious matter, you up for it?”
“I’ll do my best.” Jerry said as Danny ruffled his hair and they gathered around the new terminal.
Training went well, and surprisingly only took a little less than 15 minutes, as Jerry had a couple of questions. Marc and Danny were amazed at the efficiency of the training session and Jerry’s ability to retain all that was taught to him.
“Your teachers must love teachin’ you,” Danny said to Jerry as the technician began to pack up the equipment he had used.
“Sir, you are now prepared to contact Clan Short. I am required to remind you Patriarch Short is awaiting your communication. Do you require further assistance?”
Marc looked at Danny then Jerry before responding, “No sir, your training was adequate and most informative.”
Jerry walked the technician to the door as Marc sat down at the terminal with Danny looking over his shoulder. “This is overwhelming.” Marc stated as he brought the terminal out of standby and initiated the call.
“This is Patriarch Short. It’s great to actually see you.”
Marc’s jaw visibly dropped when he saw Cory on the screen. “Umm … ahh … sorry Patriarch Short, but … you’re HUMAN!”
Cory tried hard not to giggle. “Last I checked, yes! Let’s drop the formality, dude; leave it for the old folks and people I’m mad at. Just call me Cory, okay?”
“Cool, I hate formalities. Just call me Marc and the two you see behind me are Dr. Jerry Owens and my brother Dr. Daniel Page,” Marc said with a giggle as the two waved Hi and smiled. “Jerry and Danny,” he continued with a smile.
“Hey guys!” Cory replied with a giggle. “That group you see behind me is my family,” Cory turned and pointed out each one as he said their names. “That’s my life-partner Sean, sitting on his lap is one of our sons, CD. Next to them is Calen, Beau, and Toby; also our sons. The silver headed kid whose lap Calen is sitting on is my brother Gavin. Over by the bed are two more sons, DJ and Tanner. The little one cuddled up on the table is our youngest son Timmy; and the big one on the table is the subject of this call, Austin.”
“Wow!” Jerry squeaked out as Danny was visually trying to take a head count.
“Seven kids? You two got your hands full.” Danny added with a smile.
The whole time, Marc was focused on the two forms on the table. “That’s Austin? I’ve never seen him, I mean in a functional form,” He said as tears began to well up in his eyes. “Danny, that’s my son,” Marc said as Danny grabbed his shoulders and leaned in for a better look.
“Cory, what’s wrong with him?” Danny asked, knowing Marc was preoccupied with his first meeting with the son that he had never met.
Cory looked Danny in the eyes over the connection. “From what we can tell, Danny, a bunch of his critical circuits shut down; he actually looks better now, since the ship’s Medical Officer figured out a way to regenerate his skin.”
Danny gave Marc’s shoulders a rub as he accessed his Tech files. “Okay, looks like you have the right idea. Is there any way you can send us a copy of the technical data you are working with?” Danny asked as Jerry began to tug on his shirt. “Wassup sport?”
“Is Cory’s son safe in that field with Austin?” Jerry asked with concern showing in his voice.
“I dunno,” Danny replied, and looked at Cory’s image on the screen. “The bed knows the difference between Austin and Timmy? Right?”
Cory glanced over at the Doctor, who nodded. He turned back to the screen. “Timmy’s just fine; in fact the bed needed good skin to use as a template to generate from and it says Timmy is an exact match. Marc, look at the lower left corner of your console, there should be a flashing button there shortly – once it starts flashing, push it and a window will open with real-time data.” Cory then glanced down and pressed a few buttons on his console.
“Great, thanks Cory.” Danny just managed to get out as the button appeared.
Marc seemed to snap back to reality as he brought the info up and began surveying the data. “Lemme get this straight. The bio bed is using Timmy as a biological model to regenerate the dying skin on Austin?” He said as he looked back in Cory’s direction. “How did you guys come up with that solution? That’s… just amazing.” He added with a thoughtful smile.
Cory giggled. “Don’t ask me; I was busy on the Bridge commanding the ship! I let the doctors do their stuff. I’ll stick to engineering – it makes more sense!”
Marc finally seemed to loosen up and laughed, “Well anyway, it is an awesome idea. I don’t think anyone has ever tried that before.”
Danny smiled and then got an instantly confused look on his face. “Commanding the ship? Is that what you said?”
Cory giggled. “Yep; Sean did it on the way out, so I figured it was only fair I got to on the way back. I cheated though; he was asked to, I ordered them to let me.”
All three began to giggle. “I’m not sure I want to know what that conversation sounded like.” Danny said as he began to laugh harder.
Marc, who was focused more on the incoming data than the conversations, began muttering almost to himself. “Regeneration circuit, offline. Motor functions disabled… Cory, how did you find out what model android Austin was? There are no identifiers on him and he was far from being public knowledge,” he asked as he looked back at the group on the screen. “Heck, I designed his entire program and had no idea someone went ahead and completed him.”
“You’re not gonna believe this; but he was able to initiate a telepathic link with Timmy; he told Timmy what his model was and what was wrong.” Cory replied.
Marc’s mouth dropped open as what Cory said began to sink in. “Telepathy?” he almost coughed out as Danny and Jerry got dead silent. “He used telepathy to tell Timmy?”
“Yep, telepathy – I think he takes the Clan up to double digits now on telepaths.”
Marc grinned but obviously had a thousand questions to ask on his mind. “Well, I’m sure I don’t need to explain that we never created an android that was equipped with telepathy. How can we program something we don’t understand?” Marc asked rhetorically, then continued as if in a running thought. “Overcome physical disabilities… It is part of his programming.”
Cory did a double take. “Dude! What do you mean ‘overcome physical disabilities’ is part of his programming?” Cory asked as Marc noticed that two more boys had entered the room with the Clan and stopped to listen in.
“Okay, when I programmed him, I incorporated as much as I possibly could; everything I had learned I was incapable of doing in comparison to a human,” Marc saw the confused look on Cory’s face so he continued, “If a human goes blind, his other senses become sharper to make up for the loss. His programming must have reasoned a way to find an alternate way to communicate.”
Danny tilted his head and grinned. “Well, I guess his logic center is a little more complex than ours, but to just learn telepathy cause he needs to? That’s unreal.”
The two new boys finally grinned; one which looked surprisingly Vulcan commented loud enough to be heard by all, “I believe I am beginning to understand your opinion that a blond having an intelligent conversation is an oxymoron.”
Cory and Marc chorused at the same time: “HEY!!!!”
Danny began to giggle as Marc poked him hard in the side. “OWWW, I didn’t say it,” He said as he side stepped a second attack and added; “I always heard Vulcan’s were logical, now I have proof.”
Cory shot the two new boys a dirty look. “That is Xain and Jake – Xain is the smart alek who is gonna end up in the nearest body of water as soon as we land.”
“Dude, plenty of water here,” Marc said with an evil smile, “You get his arms, I’ll have his feet and we’ll see how far ‘Two Dumb Blonds’ can throw one small Vulcan.” Marc continued breaking out in an almost evil laugh.
Jerry snuck up to the screen and quickly got out, “He’s serious Xain, run while you can,” before Marc swatted at him and missed.
Marc finally settled down as the laughter from both sides of the conversation died down before getting serious again. “Cory, your Doctor is right on the money with the progress he has made. Continue with the treatment as is and we will… Oh no.” Marc groaned as he smacked his forehead.
“What’s wrong?” Cory asked with sudden concern.
“We have a slight problem,” Marc said as he put his hands over his face and sighed. “The unit I will need for Austin is in use right now and we don’t have another.”
“What do you need? I’ll get it for you.” Cory stated forcefully.
Marc shrugged his shoulders as he heard Jerry clear his throat and step forward. “Whatcha thinkin?”
“Cory? Can your Doctor import an android’s bio mechanical profile into a bio-bed? It could act like a Panda.” Jerry said with uncertainty showing through in his voice.
Cory looked back at the doctor. “Well Doc, what do you think?”
The Doctor tilted his head in thought. “I need someone higher than me to unlock the upload function; after that I see no reason why it wouldn’t work. I seem to remember something in school about the bio-bed being descended from the Panda.”
Cory got an evil grin. “Prepare for upload Marc; I’ll handle the unlock.”
After noticing Cory had put the call on hold, Jerry grinned and looked at Marc. “I can help with the upload if you want to give me access to the technical information for the Panda.”
“You familiar with the technical differences between the two” Marc asked.
“Sure, the doctor is right. The first bio-bed was modeled after the Panda idea, just not using solid walls and for humans, not androids. It would take nothing to get the profile converted to work.”
Marc smiled, “Looks like you have a project then, Buddy.”
Just then, the terminal came back to life and Cory’s image returned. “Okay, in about two minutes start your upload.”
“Okay, great Cory. Jerry is going to iron out the parameters needed and we’ll send them your way. That will definitely stabilize him until you arrive. I guess instead of bringing him down here, we could go up there instead. Would that be okay?”
Cory smiled. “Actually, unless you have room inside we can set up a portable bio-bed just outside your doorway. I can arrange for it to arrive just as we get there; it’s self-powered anyways.”
“Um, Cory? Are y’all coming down? I mean, all y’all?” Jerry asked, getting Marc’s attention.
“Not sure they all wanna be cramped up in this house sport,” Marc replied. “We have three beds and a couch. Nothing else but floor available here.”
Cory giggled, “Not a problem, dude. Ain’t you ever heard of a nest? We usually just pile up a bunch of pillows and blankets and just pile in.”
“Cool!” shouted an excited Jerry. “I’ll get to work an strip my bed!” he shouted as Danny and Marc burst out laughing.
“Well, Patriarch Short,” Marc said through a giggle. “I do believe your plans for the bio-bed and nest building have been accepted by our team so, you are all welcome to come down and teach us about your nest building techniques.”
“It sounds like a plan, Doctor. I’ll give you a call as we’re on the way down. Have a good day.”
“You too, Cory; nice meeting ya’ll and can’t wait to meet you in person,” Marc replied with a smile. “Okay guys, we got work to do. Jerry, work on the profile before stripping your bed, we gotta prioritize here,” he said as Jerry gave him an ‘Up Yours’ glare followed with a grin. Marc turned to the terminal and smirked at Cory before half giggling out “Furst out.” and ending the call.
Marc swiveled in his chair to face Danny and Jerry before letting out a sigh and opening his eyes wide. “Well guys, looks like we have some serious catch up work to do now,” he said as he looked at Jerry and smiled. “Dude, you sure you will be able to get that profile ready for the Lafayette’s doctor?”
“Yup, I just need to know how and where to send it,” Jerry said with a smile as he almost jumped up and down with excitement. “The changes are minor, I can have it done in about 20 minutes,” he added.
“Great, use the main terminal in the basement to compile it, while I figure out how to link this terminal so our system can uplink through it,” Marc got out, just in time to watch Jerry turn on his heels and bolt from the room. “Danny, you’re gonna have to link to the system in the bedroom while he does that so we can give you a cultural, history and technological upgrade. This way you won’t be in the dark with all of this,” Marc said as he stood up from his chair. “Besides, I’m gonna need all the help I can get right now.”
“Okay Bro, I’ll do my best to help out,” Danny said as they both went to Marc’s bedroom. “How long will this take?”
“Well, I have the files you need from an image backup I took from myself about a year ago. That should work,” Marc said as he sat at the computer, bringing the monitor to life. “Looks like our plans for your golf lessons will have to be put on hold, I guess,” he added, smiling once he felt his brother’s hand on his shoulder.
“No prob, we will find the time once everything settles down.” Danny said, giving Marc’s shoulder a squeeze.
“Okay, this entire file needs to be uploaded and executed. Open it and integrate it, don’t just execute it right away or else it will attempt to restore my personality over yours. One of me is more than enough around here.” Marc added with a giggle.
“That’s possible?” Danny asked with shock in his voice.
“Well, that’s what it would try to do. Your programming would override the damage and repair it; but, until your overnight maintenance, you would think you were me,” he said as he stood up from the chair. “We don’t need your head to be all messed up tomorrow, cause it could make you unstable as well.”
“Gotcha,” Danny said with a smile as he sat down and began making the connection. “Exactly what effects will this have on me.”
“Some good, some may be a little unexpected tomorrow morning,” Marc said as he stepped back a bit. “If I had the time, I could clean out personal memories and stuff; but tomorrow morning you will be stuck with them,” Marc paused. “I won’t have any secrets from you about my past anymore,” Tilting his head and grinning, he continued, “Your system will know what memories are mine cause it will index them separately from your own. You will be able to look into any aspect of my past and see it. First hand.”
“That won’t bother you?” Danny asked as he turned to face Marc. “I mean knowing everything about you is sorta personal.”
“If you were anyone else, it might,” Marc replied with a smile as he turned to leave the room. “I’ll be in the lab working on the new terminal,” he said over his shoulder as he turned into the hall.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Less than an hour later, Marc plopped down in a chair near the new Vulcan terminal and sighed with relief. Wires were strewn all about the room, along with printouts of Vulcan specs and the diagrams of the original Vision Industries base network. He had just closed his eyes as the door being thrown open startled him.
“Dude, you scared the hell out of me,” he said with a grin as he looked at the excited expression on Jerry’s face. “Everything go okay?”
“Yup,” Jerry said as he looked at the mess on the floor. “Better than it looks like it went in here,” he added with a giggle.
“Hey, it went fine in here, Bozo,” Marc replied; ruffling Jerry’s hair as he went to the terminal and sat down. “I’d like to see you network Vulcan technology with an old Earth business network,” he said as he brought the terminal out of standby. “Was more complicated than I expected it to be using this old junk.”
“I bet,” Jerry said as he began to gather the mess up off the floor. “Looks like a computer exploded in here,” he added with a giggle.
“Can it, Squirt,” Marc said, laughing out loud. “I’m sure it doesn’t look any better downstairs.”
Jerry grinned and responded only with a giggle.
“Thought so,” Marc said as he turned and looked at the blushing boy. “Got it done, that’s the most important thing,” he said as he looked at the screen. “Computer,” Marc ordered; the terminal immediately acknowledged with a chirp. “Connect me to Clan Short Headquarters, Priority 1 communication.” Marc continued. Jerry stopped what he was doing and looked at Marc, confusion showing on his face.
“Since when does that terminal respond to voice commands?” he asked.
“Since I integrated the communication bridge. It’s gonna need some work, but it came together great.”
“Clan Short Headquarters, How can I help you, Doctor Furst?” rang the voice of Lieutenant Short from the speakers.
“Sorry to be a bother, Lieutenant, but I need assistance transferring an important file to the U.S.S. Lafayette as per Patriarch Short’s request. I’m just not sure how to handle the routing,” Marc replied; he then added with a smirk “By the way, you can call me Marc.”
The face on the screen smiled as the boy seemed to be punching away at his terminal’s controls. “Ya’ll can call me Tommy,” he replied with a giggle, noting the shocked expression on Marc’s face. “Ya look like ya seen a ghost. You wasn’t expectin’ my accent?” he added now laughing out loud.
“Wow, no. That’s unreal how you kinda hide it,” Marc replied with a smile, feeling more relaxed at dropping the formalities. “Tommy, I need to send this profile to the ship’s doctor on board the Lafayette. He’s expecting it.”
“No problem. Send it here an’ I’ll get it straight to him,” Tommy replied as Marc accessed the lower labs terminal and sent the file along. “Got it,” Tommy responded as he relayed the file right off. “An’ it’s on it’s way. Need anythin’ else?”
Marc smiled and sat back in his chair. “Nope, thanks man; I owe you one.”
“T’aint nuthin. They was expectin’ it anyway. Talk to ya’ll later.” Tommy said with a nod and the view screen went back into standby.
“They all seem really cool.” Jerry stated as he gathered the last armload off the floor, dumping it in a box.
“Yeah, I’ve heard stories about Clan Short and how people don’t want to mess with them,” Marc stated as he stood up and stretched. “I guess they just aren’t what I had pictured.”
“Yeah, they’re cool.” Jerry said through a giggle; waving his hands in the air to emphasize the word ‘cool’ as Marc simply shook his head in mock disgust.
“How close is Joey to activation?” Marc asked, remembering Jerry was in the middle of working on him when the Vulcans arrived.
“Oh, he’s ready I think. I almost forgot, I need you to check him out before I activate him.” Jerry said as Marc grinned.
Marc turned Jerry, aimed him toward the doorway, and began pushing him along. “Well, let’s check in on Danny. Then we’ll go down and see what we can do for your kid then.”
“Cool!” Jerry exclaimed, still leaning into Marc’s hands as if needing to be pushed along.
“Hmmm,” Marc said as he peeked into the bedroom doorway, noticing Danny’s head on the desk. “If he fell asleep, it will integrate the new files too early.”
“Is that bad?” Jerry whispered back.
“Not really, but he won’t wake back up until it’s finished,” Marc replied as he began tiptoeing into the room. “That won’t be for at least 4 hours.”
“More like 5,” Danny said as he sat up and stretched his arms out in front of himself. “Almost done with the transfer, this computer is so slow.”
Marc stopped and smiled. “I could have told you that Bro. You gotta figure how old some of this equipment is. That and its processor is no match for yours.”
“Yeah well, that doesn’t make the wait any less boring,” Danny got out through a yawn. “What are you two up to? Other than trying to sneak up on me.”
“We’re gonna see if we can activate Joey!” Jerry almost shouted from the doorway in excitement.
“Sweet,” Danny continued, “We can celebrate birthdays together.”
“2 days apart,” Marc said with a smile. “Besides, you have a real birthday to celebrate in April so your activation here would be more like an anniversary.”
“You got 2 Birthdays?” Jerry said with surprise. “That’s so cool!”
“More like 3. My real birthday is March 17th,” Danny said with a smile. “But that was as a human, so I don’t count that one cause I’m an android now. Then I have April 7th, which is my birthday in this body,” Danny’s smile grew as he continued. “But my most recent is 2 days ago after Marc spent months fixing me. I’ll celebrate the Birthday my brother gave me now, cause it means more to me here and now than the others do.”
“So, how old are you?” Jerry asked with a look on his face that showed his brain was in overdrive.
“2 Days” Marc said with a giggle as he ruffled Danny’s hair before walking back towards the doorway.
“I mean really.” Jerry asked with a scowl that was an obvious put on.
“You two are on your own. I’m going down to see what we can do for a little android.” Marc said as he snuck right out of both the conversation and the room.
“Really, 2 days.” Danny continued with a giggle.
“Nah-ah! You are older than that. I know you’re older than Marc and he’s way old.” Jerry said with a giggle.
“I heard that!” Marc yelled from the basement steps causing both to break out laughing.
“Okay, okay,” Danny said as the laughter settled. “13.”
“Noooo…” Jerry whined as he folded his arms and assumed his pout stance. “You are designed to be 13, you aren’t really 13.”
“You got me sport,” Danny said beginning to giggle again. “I got to be 28 as a human. That good enough?”
“No.” Jerry once again whined. “Oh come on, how old are you?”
“From my first birthday or second?”
“Um, the second is the one where you were in that body, right?”
“Lack of a better way to put it, yeah.” Danny said now openly laughing.
“Okay, that one then.” Jerry said looking like he was going to blow a fuse anytime now.
“104 years old.” Danny replied as he watched Jerry’s jaw hit the floor.
“Whoah… Really? That’s old!” Jerry got out; just in time to duck the airborne pillow heading in his direction. “13 sounds better tho. You know, less pre-historic.” Jerry giggled as he turned to retreat to the basement with Marc.
“That’s right, run and hide,” Danny giggled out after him. “You’re gonna get yours the second I can disconnect from this computer,” he shouted as Jerry disappeared down the stairs.
“Hey! Slow down! There are androids trying to sleep down here!” Marc yelled before starting to giggle.
Jerry stopped quick and tip-toed down the last three steps. “Sorry guys,” he whispered into the room.
“Oh, that makes up for it,” Marc said getting a laugh from Jerry. “Kid, if I didn’t know any better, I would swear you have done this all before,” he said as he continued scrolling through the information on the screen.
Jerry tilted his head at Marc and smiled. “I have. I mean I’ve done personalities, and I’ve assembled androids. I’ve even made parts myself from scratch. I’ve just never run any of my own programming,” He sat on the edge of the table Joey was strapped to and continued. “I didn’t make too many mistakes, did I?”
Marc closed the file he was looking at and smiled. “Yeah, one big one,” he said with an evil grin. “You forgot to activate him. He’s ready.”
“Really? I did it on my own?!?” Jerry shouted excitedly as he hurried to the terminal. “Is he really safe to activate?”
“Yeah,” Marc said as he wandered off toward the Panda to check on Kevin. “All I needed to do was edit his speech. Your engine is rough but functional so it didn’t need much,” Marc turned toward him and smiled. “Just a warning, He’s gonna have a lot to learn so he may be a little hard to understand for a while as he progresses.”
Jerry hopped off the table and looked at his small creation. “You ready to wake up little guy?” he whispered; a warm smile taking over his expression.
“God, you’re just as bad as I am,” Marc said with a grin. “I talked to Danny for months before he woke up.”
Jerry giggled and approached the terminal. With a deep breath he hovered the mouse over the execute command. “Here goes nothing,” he said, closing his eyes and clicking.
Marc focused his attention toward the lifeless form as he whispered to himself, “Please god, give this little guy life.”
Jerry looked around the console to see as Joey’s body twitched and remained motionless before taking his first breath. “There ya go,” He said with a sigh of relief as he slowly walked over to the side of the table and took the little one’s hand. “Joey?” he asked, almost as if waking him from a deep sleep. “Joey, it’s time little guy.”
Joey’s rhythmic breathing was broken by another deep breath as his facial expression changed and his eyes flickered open. He stretched, yawned and cleared his throat a few times before locking his gaze on Jerry.
Jerry giggled at the question. “Yep, you are Joey. Do you know who I am?
Joey once again answered with a question.
Jerry looked a little surprised. He knew Joey would recognize him as his creator but never anticipated being called ‘Daddy’. “Um, yeah,” he said with a little hesitation. “I am your Daddy,” he finished saying with a smile.
“Congratulations, Dr. Owens,” Marc said with a smile as he slowly approached the table. “It’s a boy!”
Joey said as he tried to sit up, suddenly noticing he was strapped down. he whined while sticking out his lower lip.
Jerry smiled as he looked up at Marc. “Wanna help me release the restraints?” he asked as he began working on the ones holding Joey’s wrists.
“Sure.” Marc said with a smile as he approached Joey’s ankles and went to work.
Joey’s gaze followed Marc and studied every move he made.he questioned with wonder showing in his expression. Wonder which Marc didn’t expect to see so early on from such a basic personality.
“Well little guy, I’m um…”
“Joey, he’s your Uncle Marc,” Jerry cut in noticing Marc was a little distracted. “What’s wrong, Marc?” he asked moving to the other side of the table, not once breaking eye contact with Marc.
“Um, nothing,” Marc replied quickly before releasing the last restraint. “I’ll talk to you later about it.”
“Okay,” Jerry answered, getting the feeling something was brewing. “His motor functions are online,” he commented as he unlocked the table and swung it to an upright position. “Don’t move yet Joey. Lemme come help first.”
Joey said craning his neck to look at his father and enjoying the ride as the table changed position. he shouted with a giggle.
“What’s so funny?” Jerry asked as he stood in front of him and grabbed his hands.
he said with another fit of giggles.
“Oooohhhh,” Jerry replied with a smile. “You liked that, huh?”
he said as he squeezed Jerry’s hands.
“Can you stand up?” Jerry asked.
Joey replied, displaying a little fear.
“I won’t let you fall.” Jerry said with an encouraging smile.
“Yes, I promise,” Jerry said as he coaxed Joey into an upright position. “Awesome! You’re doing it,” Jerry shouted with excitement as Joey took his first step toward his father. “You’re walkin’ Buddy.”
Joey took a few unsure steps before gaining a little confidence.he shouted with glee.
“Nice work Jerry,” Marc said as he walked back over to the Panda. “Walking is really complicated to program, especially for a beginner.”
Joey announced with pride, causing Marc to scratch his head.
“Dude, he really needs speech therapy.” Marc said with a giggle as Jerry shot him an ‘Up Yours’ glare.
“He said I taught him to walk, talk and giggle. Come on, his speech isn’t that bad.” Jerry said, his arms sternly crossed.
“As long as you understand him, Daddy. That’s all that matters.” Marc answered as he began going over the readouts from the Panda.
“How’s Kevin doing?” Jerry asked with concern as he approached the side of the unit, Joey in tow.
Joey asked as he stood on tiptoes trying to look into the big metallic box.
Jerry knelt down and lifted his son up so he could sit on the unit. “Ooff, I shoulda made you lighter.” he said as he exaggerated his strain.
Joey whined. he said with a giggle. he added as he turned to look inside the box.
“Yup kiddo, That’s Kevin.” Jerry answered.
he asked with amazement.
“Yup, he’s getting his skin. Kevin will wake up just like you in a few days.” Jerry said as he watched his son’s amazed expression.
“He never had any.”
“Cause he’s never been awake, just like you were before.”
“Well little guy, Life begins somewhere.”
“He’s here, just not awake yet.”
Jerry looked at Joey and smiled, forgetting to answer.
Joey said, the excitement beginning to wash out of his expression.
“No way!” Jerry said ruffling Joey’s hair. “It’s good to ask questions, that’s how you learn.”
Joey said with a smile.
“That’s all I can hope for.” Jerry replied with a smile.
“You two are so cute.” Marc said before putting the Panda back into auto run.
Joey looked inside the box one more time and smiled.he said as he sat back up and smiled at Jerry.
Marc smiled knowing that he still had to compile Kevin’s ‘dream’ and upload it before he regained consciousness. “Kevin is having very happy dreams.” he said, watching Joey’s face light up.
Joey pleaded as he shuffled to the edge.
“Okay little guy,” Jerry replied as he placed his hands beneath each of Joey’s arms. “Okay, 1, 2, 3 and umph.” He said as he lifted Joey and set him back on his feet.
Joey said as he started to explore the room a little.
“Well guys, I don’t know about you but, I’m starving. We gotta eat before it gets too late,” Marc announced as he looked at Joey. “Jerry, is he a supplement setup or an intake extraction build?”
“Um, he’s an eater,” Jerry said tilting his head. “Is that okay? I mean, there weren’t too many to choose from, and there was only one non eater in there; but it was in bad shape.”
“God no, that was actually the best choice. He will only need to shut down at night to be recharged instead of 3 times a day. That, and you don’t need to worry about maintenance fluid changes, supplement intake and waste removal. That was one of the reasons they tried to emulate the V.I. biological digestive system with their synthetic equivalent,” Marc said as he spotted Joey and giggled. “Jerry, look at Joey.” he whispered.
Jerry turned around and almost burst out laughing. Joey had found a mirror and was standing in front of it making faces. “Whatcha doin over there?” he asked, still trying to stifle his laughter.
he asked as he turned toward Jerry and pointed at the mirror.
“Yup, that’s your reflection,” Jerry said as he walked over and joined him. “See, and that is Daddy.” he smiled and pointed.
He said causing Jerry to even scratch his head.
Joey screwed up his face before turning and grabbing Jerry’s shirt.
“Oh,” Jerry said realizing it would probably be a good idea to find some clothes for his son. “Marc, do we have anything that will fit him?”
Marc stopped in his steps and scratched his head. “I’m not sure. For now you may need to loan him something of yours. We’ll find him some clothes later.”
“Okay, come on you little nudist. Let’s get yer butt covered.” Jerry said with a laugh.
Joey asked as he started to follow Marc up the stairs. He got out as they reached the top of the stairs, getting Danny’s attention. Danny was now in the kitchen; cooking something that smelled incredible to the boys. Joey asked as he pointed to Danny.
“He’s your Uncle Danny.” Jerry said as he smiled at Danny, who turned and just smiled back.
“He’s awake, Awesome Dude!” Danny said, kneeling down as Joey slowly approached him with a questioning look.
he asked, stopping so he could look him in the eyes.
“That’s me,” Danny said as he stood up and smiled. “Someone gonna find some clothes for the poor kid?”
Joey asked, causing Danny to giggle.
“Well, little guy, I hope so; cause we don’t want you catchin’ a cold,” Danny said and then turned back to the stove. “I made spaghetti and it’s almost ready guys. Jerry, get Joey something to wear and we’ll eat,” Danny said as Joey went back over and grabbed his father’s hand. “We should plan on turning in early tonight, tomorrow is gonna be a long day.”
“Okay, c’mon Joey.” Jerry said as the two retreated through the living room.
“He’s cute.” Danny said as Marc began pulling out the dishes for dinner.
“Yeah but, some thing’s up with his programming. It’s weird.” Marc answered flatly, gaining Danny’s attention.
“Weird? Other than the speech hang up, I think Jerry did an awesome job. His eyes even add to the cute factor.” Danny said with a giggle.
“No, I mean there’s something up with his personality. He’s got more than programming goin’ on in his head I think; and it’s too soon for that to develop normally.”
“More?” Danny asked. “What do you mean by more?”
Marc sat down and closed his eyes before answering. “Simple programming can create a questioning program execution. A desire to learn to improve knowledge. Once they get the answer, they accept, file and move on. That’s how his program is designed. He showed signs of amazement and wonderment. That’s not programmed in, at least not the way he showed it.”
“Isn’t that a sign that Jerry did well?” Danny asked, now beginning to serve dinner.
“Well, yeah… Kinda. It also means there is something different. I can’t explain it.” Marc answered as Jerry and Joey ran back into the room.
Joey shouted with excitement.
“Awesome, you hungry little guy?” Danny asked as Jerry piled some books in a chair for Joey to sit on.
“Uh-huh!” Joey replied rubbing his belly.he said, raising giggles from everyone.
“Well, let’s eat, collapse in front of the television for a while and then get some rest. We all gotta be up really early tomorrow.” Danny said; surprisingly getting no arguments.
Dinner was fairly quiet; except for the occasional mishap, with forkfuls of spaghetti landing in various places in Joey’s area causing lots of laughs. After dinner, Jerry got his son cleaned up as Marc and Danny cleared the dinner dishes; then they all landed in front of the TV for a couple of hours. Realizing it was beginning to get late, Danny dropped the bomb shell.
“Okay guys. We have to get up early,” he said as he stretched and yawned.
Joey whined as Jerry got up and scooped him into a fireman’s hold.
“Yes you are,” Jerry said with a giggle as he walked him to each of his uncles. “Do kisses.”
Joey said as they made a pass and the two disappeared to the basement so Jerry could power down and recharge Joey’s cell.
“Dibs on the shower!” Marc giggled as he bolted up the stairs.
“Hey! That’s not fair. You got your own shower!” Danny yelled as he chased his brother.
“Yeah, but yours is new and sooo much bigger,” Marc shouted back as he swung the door to the bedroom open. “I’ve been dying to try it out.”
Danny crossed his arms and pretended to pout. “Fine, just this once, since you had it put in. But next time I win or you have company.” Danny added, getting an evil grin from Marc.
“We can share, it is big enough you know.” Marc said as he watched Danny walk over to the bed and fall backwards on it.
“Nah, Just be quick. I’m startin’ to get drowsy; and this programming is itching to be incorporated.” Danny replied with a grin.
“Then you should go first, ’cause if you doze off you aren’t waking back up; and I’m not putting you to bed.” Marc said with a laugh.
Danny giggled and half sat up so he could see Marc. “Nope, dibs is dibs. You know the rules.”
Marc crossed his arms and shook his head. “Either get your butt in the shower now, or I take you with me. End of discussion.”
Danny opened his eyes wide and shook his hands in mock fear. “Oooohhh, look, I’m shakin’,” he said as he rolled off the bed to dodge Marc, who aimed to pounce his brother, but got an armload of blanket instead. “Gotta be faster than that, buddy!”
“I will get you, and drag your sorry butt in there if I have to wash it myself.” Marc giggled, jumping off the bed and chasing Danny through the room.
Danny leapt over the couch and stood near the windows, laughing so hard he couldn’t run. “Du – Dude! Wash your own butt. You can’t handle this butt!” he got out with a yelp as Marc landed a flying tackle off the couch and finally hit the mark.
“Just remember where the skin grafts came from,” Marc commented with an evil grin. “You are all butt. As a matter of fact, my Butt!” he said as Danny wiggled free.
“Nice mental image Bro,” Danny giggled. “I’ll just go in the bathroom and rub toilet paper all over myself now.”
“Get in there and strip mister! That’s an order,” Marc said in his best military yell. “My butt needs cleaning!”
“GROSS!!!” came a yell from the doorway. “You two are nasty!” Jerry shouted while pretending to dry heave.
“Oh shut up. He’s the nasty one,” Marc said as the two got up off the floor still laughing. “Danny won’t get in the shower and he smells horrible.”
“Yeah,” Danny pretended to agree while lifting his right arm and sniffing. “Kinda like um… YOUR BUTT!!!” he shouted dodging another attack.
“Yup, you two need serious help,” Jerry said in a serious tone as Marc and Danny took turns dodging the other’s attacks until they both just collapsed on the bed. The whole time Jerry watched on and laughed hysterically. “Now that you two are done destroying the house, I came up here cause the Panda needed a recalibration. I already started it, but just wanted Marc to know it was taken care of.”
“Oh sweet, thanks dude. I was gonna do it after Danny fell asleep,” Marc said with a smile. “You can just let it do it’s run through if you wanna crash. I can go down and do the restart after butt boy takes his shower. That takes almost an hour to run anyway.”
“No, you two get washed up. I’ll do it. It’s not all that late yet and I want to make some small changes to Joey’s core programming while he’s recharging anyway. So I can finish it up and then head for bed.”
“You find problems with Joey?” Danny asked sitting up and crossing his legs.
“Nothing major. I couldn’t get him to power down. Kinda like he tried to lock out his override protocols on his own,” Jerry said leaning against the door frame. “I just want to make sure he doesn’t do any damage when he tries to alter his own programming.”
“Or lose control. The good thing is eventually he would run down and pass out. Just like a real kid who doesn’t wanna go to bed,” Marc said with a smile. “That brain is a little more advanced than that body so it will try to make improvements on its own. Making Joey even more like a defiant young boy.”
Jerry laughed and reached in to grab the doorknob. “Well, when Daddy says bedtime, he means it,” He said laughing harder. “I got Kevin covered, you two wash butts or whatever it is you androids do for fun. I’ll see you in the morning.” Jerry closed the door quickly, not allowing the inevitable come back comments.
“You androids?” Danny said holding out his hands and examining them with a hurt look on his face. “I’m an android?”
“Bonehead,” Marc shot back. “Get in there now!”
“Okay, but if you come at me with toilet paper. I’m outa there,” Danny laughed as he was closely followed into the bathroom. “So I got company then?” he asked with a smile.
“Unless you’re shy.” Marc said opening the shower door and starting the water.
“Shy? Dude, I don’t think there is anything about this body that you don’t know about. Hell, you probably know it better than I do now,” he said as he pulled off his shirt and looked in the mirror. “It’s different than it was before.”
Marc kicked off his sneakers and looked at his brother with concern. “Different?”
“Well yeah. Not in a bad way,” Danny said as he leaned in and looked at his reflection. “Like, I used to have a couple of birth marks on my face, and even some freckles too. Now my skin is clear of any marks of any kind,” he said with a smile. “Even my skin tone is better, just like yours. It’s like it’s a newer body now.”
“With all the work you needed, it pretty much is,” Marc said as he smiled and continued to undress. “I can put the marks back if you want. Never even thought of it really.”
“Nah,” Danny said as he turned away from the mirror. “Looks better now,” he said with a smile.
Both finished undressing and hopped into the large 2 head shower. Danny spent more time playing with the spray heads than washing at first before Marc finally got his attention.
“Stop playin’ around. Come here so I can get your back,” he said, hearing Danny’s giggle as he backed up to him.
“Yes, Daddy,” Danny said as he soaped up his own wash cloth and got his front. “It is nicer with help,” he added as he relaxed under Marc’s soapy massage.
“Yeah, be even nicer when it’s my turn.” Marc giggled getting nothing but a hum in return.
“Kay, turn around Bro,” Danny said once Marc was finished, and began a massage emulating every move Marc made. “Left a pretty big scar.” Danny commented; seeing the squarish scar on Marc’s right butt cheek.
“It was worth it,” Marc said, not wanting Danny to feel bad. “I could repair the damaged skin to get rid of it, but I kinda wanna keep it like it is.”
“I guess,” Danny replied running his fingers over the less than perfect patch of skin. “Just kinda stands out since every inch of your body is perfect, until you get here.”
“Nobody’s perfect,” Marc quipped back. “Besides, scars are like trophies. Every one has a story and that one tells the story of when I got a family. I’m keepin’ it.”
Danny didn’t say another word as he finished the backs of Marc’s legs and hung up the wash cloth. He took one more look at the scar then wrapped his arms around his brother. “That’s why I don’t want this body altered to look exactly like it did. You gave it to me.”
Down in the basement, Jerry was happily bouncing between the Panda’s controls and the terminal connected to his son. He finished off what he was working on for Joey and uploaded it. While waiting for the upload to finish and the Panda to finish it’s calibration cycle, he rested his elbows on the cover and looked in on Kevin.
“You’re doing really well, bro,” He half whispered as he looked up and down Kevin’s entire structure making a mental note of the progress that had occurred. “I can’t be your brother,” he sighed, once again gazing at what would soon be Kevin’s face. “I had a brother and it wouldn’t be fair to replace him.”
“Had a brother?” A voice broke into his thoughts. It was the same voice that visited him in his dreams now and then.
“What the…” Jerry said in a startled tone as he spun around and gasped at what he saw. “Davie?” he questioned, now face to face with the image of his lost brother. Davie’s image was partially transparent; with a gold glow which made it almost blinding to look at him in the darkness of the basement.
“Yeah Booger Brain, it’s me,” Davie replied with a smile. “A friend told me you needed someone to talk to,” he said as he walked to a chair and sat down. “You’ve been really busy, I hear.”
Jerry couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “This can’t be happening.” he said as he closed his eyes real tight and opened them as if to adjust them.
“It can when the right people get involved for the right reasons,” The semitransparent image said before sitting back. “I’m here for two reasons, well it’s more like three, but the third is sorta like an extra.”
Jerry’s eyes began to tear as he just stared in disbelief. “Can I touch you?” he managed to whisper as he watched every move Davie made.
“I don’t know,” Davie replied with a smile and got back up out of his chair. “Put your hand out,” he said, kneeling down in front of his little brother and bringing his hand up to touch them palm to palm. Both brothers smiled as their hands came together and didn’t pass through one another. “That answers that,” Davie said pulling Jerry into a hug. “You’ve gotten so big,” he said as Jerry buried his face in his older brother’s neck and began to cry.
“I miss you so much.” Jerry gasped out between sobs.
“I miss you too,” Davie said with a little hoarseness building in his voice. “but I can see you everyday, you know,” he added as he held Jerry out at arms length. “That’s one of the reasons I was allowed to let you see me.”
“I don’t get it, someone let you come here to talk to me?” Jerry asked, using the sleeve of his shirt to wipe away the tears.
“Yeah, like I said, we gotta talk,” Davie replied, sitting back down and crossing his legs. Jerry, following his lead, did the same. “First thing we gotta talk about is your new brother.”
“He’s not my brother. I wouldn’t ever try to replace you.” Jerry said with a forced smile that quickly faded as he saw his older brother’s disappointed look.
“You really think that’s how I see it? As being replaced?” Davie asked, folding his arms. “You still think like a doofus sometimes, you know that?” he asked, getting the smirk from Jerry that he had hoped for; knowing in life, the two loved to pick on one another. “You couldn’t replace me, you little monkey, not even if you tried.”
“But…” Jerry began to say before being cut off.
“No buts; I will always be your big bro. You could grow to be 400 years old and I would still be your big bro. If along the way you find family, and they care about you as much as you care about them, they’ll be my family too. That couldn’t do anything but make me proud of you, and love you even more,” he said with a smile as he watched Jerry’s eyes begin to well up once again. “Besides, Kevin is going to be very important to you. He is gonna need an older brother in his life and you may just be the mini-man for the job, you know.”
“He’s older than I am.” Jerry said looking toward the floor.
“If that’s how you wanna look at it then, yeah he is. I have a feeling that he isn’t going to see it that way though,” Davie said with a smile. “You just have to remember the kind of people androids are inside. They don’t hold much value in physical age like humans do.”
“Oh,” Jerry said looking over toward the Panda unit. “So you won’t be upset?”
“I could only be upset if you turned someone away who really looked up to you because you thought I would be upset about it,” Davie said pointing at the table Joey slept on. “Including him.”
“He’s just an android though,” Jerry said looking at his sleeping creation. “He’s not like the others.”
“Really?” Davie said as he stood up and approached the table. Placing his hand over the little one’s head he smiled and continued “What makes him less than the others? Just the fact that you created him?”
Jerry stood and shook his head. “Well, he’s not as good. I mean he could never be as perfect as the others. I got him to work, but he won’t ever be much more than just some kid’s programming.” Jerry grumbled as he approached the table knowing in his heart that he hoped to be wrong.
“You don’t believe that. I know you don’t,” Davie said turning to face Jerry. “He deserves a chance to live just like anyone else. He may have started out ‘some kid’s programming’ but you can’t be sure what he could grow to become in time,” Davie said reaching over to run his fingers down Joey’s cheek. “He’s so much more than you think, and he loves you. Not because he’s programmed to,” Davie said looking at his brother. “I never questioned why you loved me or even how, I just tried to be the best big brother I could be for you. You are his Daddy and he deserves to be more than just code and wire. He is what he is.”
“He is what he is?” Jerry looked up questioningly.
“I can’t answer what that means, no one can yet. But he deserves the chance to be all he can, just like your brother there in the machine. You’ll understand soon enough.” Davie answered, ruffling Jerry’s hair.
“They are the reason you came here?” Jerry asked as Davie turned and sat back down in the chair.
“Two of the reasons. The last one is a bit more complicated,” he said gaining Jerry’s attention.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Still wrapped in towels, Marc and Danny came out of the bathroom. “I’ll grab us a couple of pairs of shorts to sleep in. I got these really light track shorts a few months ago. They feel like silk almost.” Marc said as he began to dig through the drawers.
“You keep clothes up here?” Danny asked as he sat down on the corner of the bed and watched Marc dig through drawers that appeared to be full of brand new clothes.
“Yeah, I started buying new stuff after we found you. I mean, it’s cool that we are both designed the same and can wear the same clothes; but I thought it would be nice if you had some you could call your own,” Marc said as he pulled out two pairs of lightweight shorts. “Red or Blue?” he asked, holding them at arms length.
“Red; that’s my favorite color.” Danny said with a smile, getting a grin from Marc.
“Cool, cause blue is mine,” Marc giggled. “So there won’t be fighting over one thing at least.” he added as he tossed the shorts to his brother.
“Wow, you weren’t kidding. These are nice,” Danny said after putting them on and lying back on the bed. “You can pick my clothes anytime.”
“Yeah, so I can steal them.” Marc giggled as he threw his towel over the back of a chair, and then hopped up onto the bed next to Danny.
“Lights Off,” Danny said, turning off the overhead lighting as he reached for the bedside lamp and turned it on. “Way too bright in here,” he added as both rolled to look out the windows overlooking the bay. “Look,” Danny whispered as he pointed to a flashing light in the distance. “Fishing boat?”
Marc leaned in and followed Danny’s gaze to the same spot. “Yup, gotta be a 30 footer at least.”
Danny watched as the boat slowly worked it’s way north before realizing Marc was exceptionally quiet. He half rolled back over to face his brother and grinned as their eyes locked on each other. “You watchin’ the boat, or me?” he whispered with a giggle.
“A little of both I guess,” Marc replied with a smirk. “Both are just as amazing.”
“Amazing? You feelin’ okay?” Danny asked jokingly as he put his hand on Marc’s forehead. “No fever.” He got out before Marc grabbed his pillow, and hit Danny in the face with a soft thump.
“Yeah, Amazing,” he said as he curled back up with his pillow. “Just a few short days ago, I wasn’t even sure you would be, um…”
“Alive?” Danny finished Marc’s thought with a warm smile getting a nod in agreement as his answer. “Well, you do good work,” he said, looking down the length of himself to his feet.
“Yeah,” was Marc’s only reply as he began to look out over the ocean again. “So many memories tied to that view,” he said with a sigh, drawing Danny’s attention back to the view. “If I do have a soul, I think right here and now it’s at peace.”
“What do you mean if?” Danny questioned rolling back over to face Marc. “How could you even question whether you do or don’t have a soul?” He continued, “To me its obvious you do.”
Marc looked at his brother warmly then back at the fishing boat which was slowly vanishing from view. “I’ll never really know, for myself I mean,” he said as his eyes suddenly appeared to be confused. “Did you set a fire earlier?”
“No,” Danny answered rolling back over and seeing what Marc had spotted. “What is that?” he asked, sitting up as a gold glow seemed to get brighter, but not from the fireplace.
Both boys gasped as the glow began to form into what looked like a boy. “You are seeing the same thing, right?” Marc asked as he rubbed his eyes and refocused on the form.
“Uh… Yeah,” Danny said, now both sitting up and staring. “Hello?” Danny meekly got out. “Is someone there?”
The form finished solidifying into an older teen with a glowing halo and enormous golden wings. “Hello Danny, Marc,” the form replied as he walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. “You might say I’m here,” he added with a giggle.
Danny looked at Marc then back at the form with astonishment. “Um… Who are you?”
The face of the glowing image grinned before stiffening his back into a noble stance and saying, “I’m Saint Mikey of Urbandale, Protector of Gay and Abandoned Youth, at your service sir!” He giggled as he watched the confusion on both boys faces grow. “You’re probably wondering why I’m here,” he continued; trying to gain their attention.
“Well, yeah; you could say that.” Marc said in a cautious tone with Danny nodding in agreement.
“I was in the neighborhood,” Saint Mikey got out with a laugh before realizing the joke was lost. “I brought a friend here to visit his brother, and overheard the conversation up here. I usually don’t eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help but hear what Marc said.”
“About having a soul?” Marc questioned softly.
“Yeah,” replied the angel as he turned and faced Marc directly. “I should explain something to you,” he said with a serious tone. “I have been watching you, both of you, for a while now. It isn’t as if I watch over everyone my little brothers come in contact with, but you two are different than the rest.”
Marc scratched his head as Danny asked the question he was thinking.
“Your little brothers?”
Mikey smiled and sat back. “In life, my name was Michael Patrick Short.”
Danny’s mouth dropped open as he shook his head. “Short? As in Clan Short?”
“Yup, my family. That’s what brought me here tonight,” he replied as he seemed to relax. “You are about to do something amazing. Something you can’t even comprehend yet.”
“What do you mean?” Danny asked.
“I won’t go into details cause it will all be clear soon enough,” he replied. “But not if you doubt yourselves, like Marc is now.”
Marc’s face flushed at being singled out. “But, I’m not human. Only humans have a true spirit. I may appear to have a soul or a purpose in life, but it’s all just programming. Not like him.” Marc stated with teary eyes as he motioned to his brother.
“Do you really believe that?” Mikey asked as he reached over and wiped a stray tear from Marc’s cheek. He held the tear on the side of his finger and turned his hand so Marc could see it. “What caused this then?”
Marc looked into the perfect droplet on Mikey’s hand. The golden glow emanating from Mikey seemed to be reflected through the tear which shone as little golden beams. “Programmed response,” he sniffled as his eyes met with Mikey’s loving gaze.
“Oh,” Mikey said as he looked at the tear in his hand. “Turn it off then.”
Marc tilted his head questioningly as the angel looked back up at him. “I can’t.”
“But there was a time when you could, wasn’t there?” Mikey said with a warm smile.
“Well, yeah. Kinda,” Marc sniffled once again. “Something happened long ago, I’m not sure exactly how but, I lost control to just eliminate emotional response.”
Mikey looked upward and sighed. “I know when it happened, and even why,” he said as he waved his hand over the single tear on his finger; causing its glow to become red in color. “That was the day our father chose for you,” he continued, as the tear seemed to evaporate into a red mist and vanish. “The day you truly became one of his children,” he added with a smile.
“That was a horrible day.” Marc replied, as he uncontrollably ran through the memories of the day his first father told him what he really was…
* * * * * * * * * * * *
…”Pick a color; sun yellow or powder blue.”
He looked totally confused as he stared up at me, answering almost helplessly. “Ah, Powder blue, I suppose.”
“Thank you.” I replied without emotion before turning to go into the house. “I’m going to my room.”
His eyes followed me, but he didn’t say a word. I couldn’t control what I was doing, almost as if another personality took the wheel while I watched from the back seat. I heard him cry as I walked up the stairs and my heart exploded, but I couldn’t cry. That should be my response, but I can’t do it.
I threw myself on the bed and just laid still, staring at the ceiling as a voice in my head told me it would all be fine. Uncle John even looked in on me a couple of times. I wanted so bad to run into his arms and cry, but couldn’t force myself to move.
It was clear to me for a second. In so many ways, I was becoming ‘One’. Two completely separate; programmed personalities merging to become one.
Hours passed, the silence in the house was deafening. “Did he go to bed?” I asked the silence of the room as a tear began to form. I suddenly realized that the other personality used to control when those things happened in the background. Pain, fear, sadness, happiness, love and hate. All controlled by a running program I wasn’t even aware was there before tonight. Now suddenly happening, uncontrollably. All on it’s own.
A noise from Uncle John’s room; I could hear clearly again now that the noise of my confusion is fading. He must have gone to the bathroom. I should go to him. I still can’t move.
Finally, I sit up. I am in control. There is one voice in my mind, my voice and no other. It is gone. Tears began to come. I couldn’t stop them, I didn’t want to. I cried until I felt there were no more tears. I have to go to him. I love him. I really do.
I tiptoe through the darkness into his room and pull back the covers. He’s rocking back and forth on his side and moaning. Like a child having a nightmare. I gently touch his back, but he jerks away from my touch.
“Everything’s okay, old man. I’m here and everything’s going to be okay.” I whispered to him.
He froze and seemed to hold his breath for a while before finally whispering
“I know what you are. Stop trying to fool me. I know you’re just another nightmare so you can go way.” His whisper turned to a low growl; “Please … leave … me … alone!”
I leaned in to whisper into his ear now beginning to cry again. “Uncle John. Please. It’s really me. Marc, your Godson. Your boy, Marc. Please Uncle John, you’re scaring me again.” I said as I wrapped one arm around him and cuddled up to his back and buried my face in his neck and sniffled. “Please Uncle John. Please.” I whimpered. “Please don’t leave me. I’m so afraid. I need you.”
The silence from him was almost unbearable; as if he was frightened by me. I hurt the one person in the world I should never have hurt. “Marc?” Came his voice finally with a hesitation. “You… you are not a nightmare? …are you?”
“No, Uncle John. It’s me.” I replied as I kissed the back of his left ear. “I’m sorry I took so long coming to bed but I’m okay now and I just want us to be together. I love you so much.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Mikey sat back and simply listened as Marc sniffled his way through telling his story. Once Marc seemed to have finished, he smiled warmly. “All acts of programming?”
Marc wiped the tears from his eyes with the backs of his hands before shrugging. “What else could it be?”
Danny shifted his position and wrapped his arm around Marc’s shoulder, which Marc quickly cuddled into. “If I could bet my existence on it, I would. There is no question in my mind that you have a soul, just as real as mine or anyone else’s,” Danny said, kissing Marc on the forehead. “And a heart of gold as well.”
Mikey sat forward and extended his wings a bit, the show causing an amazed gasp from the two androids before smiling. “No need to bet anything. Marc, you are one of God’s creations. I have access to the Book Of Life, and your name has been in it for a long time. Besides, if you didn’t have a soul, how could I have heard you?”
Marc continued to stare into Mikey’s eyes, his doubt being washed away by the love he felt from his stare. “I never thought of stuff like that as being a prayer. I guess it could be, huh?”
“You have asked for so little in your lifetime but you have given so much. You love, and it is genuine. You would freely give your life to save another. All these things are known about you from much higher than I am. Trust me when I say you may be of mechanical build, but in no way does that mean you are any less in the eyes of the one who decided to give you true life. It may have taken a while to develop, as normally is the case with a life form born of human hands, but a life form nonetheless,” Mikey said finally seeing a weak smile creep it’s way across Marc’s face. “People are born with a soul. Androids earn them as they mature, and yours shines bright Marc.”
Danny gave Marc’s shoulder a squeeze before looking back at Mikey questioningly. “Who were you visiting? You said you brought a friend to visit his brother, didn’t you?”
“Sure did, You had a very conflicted little man in your team. I just happened to know his brother so, I brought him to visit.” Mikey said with a smile.
“Jerry?” Marc asked as he laid his head in Danny’s lap and got comfortable.
“Yes, he felt he was betraying his love for his brother somehow by adopting this new family.” Mikey stated.
“I thought that was cleared up?” Danny said in a disappointed tone.
“Only one person who could clear that up, and he’s with him right now,” Mikey said as he stood up. “I should check on them and then be on our way. You two should get some sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a trying day for you all.”
“Saint Mikey?” Marc squeaked out as he tried to get up quickly.
“Mikey is cool, Bro.” He replied with a smile as Marc jumped out of bed and rushed over to face his new friend.
Marc tilted his head and then grinned. “Mikey, can I give you a hug? I mean, is that okay?”
Mikey didn’t answer but just opened his arms as a silent invitation, one Marc didn’t have to think about accepting.
“Thank you, for everything.” Marc whispered into the angel’s ear as he snuck in a small kiss on his cheek.
“You have nothing to thank me for. Everything you have in life you’ve earned,” Mikey said with a squeeze. “There are other things in life you need to be more open with,” He added in little more than a whisper, so Danny wouldn’t overhear. “Be honest with your brother, he is destined to be with you for a very long time.” Mikey said with a wink.
Marc looked at Danny and smiled before looking back at Mikey and stepping back. “You know, don’t you?”
“Your secret is safe, but I think in time it won’t be much of a secret. You will know when though,” He said as he giggled, watching Marc blush. “And yes,” he continued. “Your Uncle John has been watching, and is so proud of you.” Mikey added as he watched a content grin develop on Marc’s face.
“Mikey? Will you be around? I mean…” Danny started to ask as Mikey began to fade.
“Just call my name, I always hear my family.” Mikey said as he faded into nothingness.
Marc smiled and crossed his arms as he stared into the spot where Mikey was standing, not saying a word.
“You okay?” Danny asked as Marc turned and slowly climbed back into bed.
“More than okay,” he replied, kissing Danny on the cheek and snuggling up close. “I love you,” he added before Danny could say another word.
Danny smiled and settled back into his pillow. “I love you too, Bro.”
Jerry sat silently, trying to swallow everything his brother had told him; before gasping at the golden glow appearing behind his brother. “Whoah, who’s he?”
Davie turned and smiled. “Jerry, I want you to meet my friend, Saint Mikey. He’s the one I told you about.”
Jerry got up and held out his hand. “Thank you Saint Mikey, for bringing my brother to see me, and everything.”
Mikey took Jerry’s hand. “No need to thank me,” he said with a smile. “Just Mikey is cool,” he added as he turned his attention to Davie. “We need to get going, everything go okay down here?”
“Yeah, looks like there’s one more to add to the list though.” Davie replied, motioning towards Joey.
“List?” Jerry questioned as both began to laugh.
“Yeah, it’s this growing list of family we’ve been putting together.” Mikey said with a giggle.
“Joey? You think he’s really gonna be family?” Jerry asked in an excited tone.
“Why not? He calls you Daddy so that makes him my nephew.” Davie said with a grin.
Mikey smiled and took Davie’s hand in his own. “We need to get going. Tomorrow is gonna be a busy day, for them and for us.” he added with a wink.
“Mikey? Can Davie visit once in a while?” Jerry asked in a pleading tone of voice.
“I don’t see why not. I mean it’s not up to me, but I think he will be able to now and then,” Mikey replied with a smile. “You should get some sleep. Tomorrow is gonna be a tough one for you guys.”
Jerry rushed and gave Mikey a hug and thanked him once again, then rushed over to his brother and wrapped him in the tightest hug he could. “I love you, Davie!” he said with his face buried in his chest.
“I love you too, Booger Brain,” Davie giggled. “I’ll see you soon.” he said as he released his brother and stood back beside Mikey.
“Booger Brain?” Mikey asked with a laugh.
“Long story, I’ll explain later,” Davie said with a giggle. “Jerry, if you get a chance could you oil my baseball glove? It’s getting dried out just sitting there.” he asked, getting a huge smile from Jerry as the two vanished.
“You have been watching!” Jerry said in astonishment as he looked up at the ceiling. “I will! I promise!” he shouted after them.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Danny sat up from bed as if woken from a nightmare. “My head,” he mumbled as he held the sides of his head tight.
“What’s wrong, bro?” Marc asked with a stretch and a yawn.
“I have a headache, I think.” Danny replied, feeling miserable from the pain but laughing at the idea that an android could even have one.
“It’ll pass,” Marc said as he sat up. “It’s caused by your neural processor overheating during a large amount of work. Give it about 15 minutes and it’ll be gone.” Marc added as he groggily swung his feet out of the bed to stumble to the bathroom.
Danny watched his brother leave the room with a grin as he tried to force his brain to do as little as possible to relieve the pain quicker. “This bites Bro! Why does it have to really hurt?”
“Cause if you were to overheat due to a malfunction, the pain of a headache will make you stop doing anything and just sit for a few. It kinda forces you to be more inactive while the problem is repaired.” Marc said as he began to relieve himself, the sound pushing Danny over the edge and in pain or not, he ran in to do the same.
“What time is it?” Marc yawned out as he finished draining his bladder and grabbed his tooth brush.
“Can you see the alarm clock from there?” Danny asked with his eyes closed, still holding the side of his head with his free hand.
“Um…” Marc said as he poked his head around the corner. “Almost 2:00,” he stated and then froze. “Oh my god, we forgot to set the alarm!” he said in a panic as he began to violently brush his teeth. “Clan Short is supposed to be here at any time now!” he spit out as he continued to brush his teeth. “I gotta get food ready and stuff!”
Danny finished relieving himself and walked over to the sink just as Marc spit into it and thrust his toothbrush into Danny’s hand. “I used yours by accident.” Marc grinned. Danny looked at the toothbrush, and shrugged his shoulders as he put more toothpaste on it and began to brush his own.
Marc rushed and stumbled as he ripped clothes out of the dresser for both and then hurried to get dressed. “I’m gonna get those sandwiches and stuff ready so there is something for everyone to pick at,” Marc shouted as Danny finished in the bathroom and laughed at Marc. “What?” Marc, who was now sitting on the floor asked with a scowl.
“Your shirt is on backwards.” Danny giggled out as Marc pulled his arms back into the shirt and spun it around.
“There,” he said as he stood and held his arms out to his sides. “Look okay?” he asked, getting another giggle from his brother. “What Now?!?”
“Nothing, will you relax? Go get the stuff Mrs. Owens brought over out and ready. I’ll make sure Jerry and Joey are up and ready. I’ll also check on Kevin,” Danny said with a smile as he walked over to his brother and looked him in the eye. He then proceeded to reach over and zip up the fly on Marc’s jeans. “I got your back, take a deep breath and everything will be fine,” he said to his now blushing, but calmer brother.
“What would I do without you?” Marc asked as he pulled Danny into a hug.
Danny smiled and sat on the bed to get dressed while answering, “I dunno. Walk around poorly dressed with a breeze in your shorts maybe?” he got out just as Marc opened the door; causing Marc to turn and stick his tongue out before closing it behind himself.
Danny pulled off his shorts and threw them on the floor with the ones Marc was wearing before grabbing the clothes his brother laid, or more like threw, out for him. “Bright Pink Bikini Briefs?” Danny questioned out loud before looking at the tag. “Bubblegum.” he stated as his brain brought up one of Marc’s memories, taking him by surprise. With an evil grin, Danny went to the dresser and put the briefs back and pulled out a deep purple pair instead. He checked the tag before putting them on and finished dressing.
Downstairs all was relatively quiet. Joey and Jerry were happily watching the end of a cartoon as Danny reached the bottom of the staircase. “Morning Guys.” Danny said while massaging his temples, his headache beginning to fade.
Joey shouted and slammed into a hug.
“You guys are dressed. Been up long?” Danny asked as he saw Jerry still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
“No,” Jerry replied. “I fell asleep downstairs. I woke Joey, and got him showered and dressed and fed, then we came in here to wait like a minute before Marc came rushing through like his butt was on fire,” he said with a giggle. “I’m still tired,” he added with a stretch and a yawn.
Danny smiled and looked at the impish little android attached to his leg. “Joey, why don’t you see if Daddy will take you for a walk on the beach. The ocean air will help him wake up.”
Joey gave Danny an ear to ear smile before jumping in Jerry’s lap.he said with a toothy smile that broke Jerry’s serious expression.
“Okay, okay,” Jerry said laughing. “Let’s go take a walk,” Jerry smiled at Danny and the two opened the slider to go out to the beach. “We’ll be right out here.” Jerry said before closing the door.
Danny opened the door to the basement before looking into the kitchen. “You need a hand?” he asked as he saw his brother rushing back and forth to the refrigerator.
“Nope,” Marc replied with a smile. “Mrs. Owens brought a ton of sandwiches and stuff. I think we’re gonna be set. You checking on Kevin?”
“Yeah, I’ll just be a minute. When is the crowd supposed to start arriving?” Danny asked.
“The shuttle won’t be for another couple of hours, but the Clan should be sending a security team first. That could be anytime now,” Marc replied as he saw his brother rub his temples. “Head still bothering you?”
“Nah, It’s just about gone now. I’m just still trying to get over the fact that I actually had a headache. It’s just weird.” Danny grinned.
“It felt that real?” Marc asked.
“Yeah, grade A migraine. Whoever programmed the feeling got it right on the mark.” Danny replied as he walked down the stairs.
“Cool.” Marc said as he continued to lay out plates of food.
“Morning, My Shadow,” Danny said as he brought up the Panda’s display and checked the readings. “A bit too much Co2 in there, Buddy” he said with a smile as he adjusted the settings and set the unit back on auto. “I’m gonna give your uncle a hand upstairs,” Danny said patting the top of the unit and heading for the stairs. “Be back later.”
“Just a carbon dioxide build up, everything else was perfect.” Danny said as a rumble from outside caught his attention.
“Good god!” Marc yelled from the kitchen. “Jerry! What are you doing out there?” he continued to attempt to yell above the noise that was becoming a roar from the beach.
“What is that?” Danny shouted as the two brothers almost collided at the slider leading to the back deck. Both boys grabbed the handle and threw the door open only to see a dust cloud from the beach. Jerry and Joey were frozen in their positions on the back deck, mouths hung wide open in awe.
Joey said jumping to his feet and grabbing Marc’s hand.
“I guess that would be them,” Danny said as the dust cloud began to settle and a group of kids began unloading. “You really think that food Mrs. Owens brought over is gonna be enough?” Danny asked with a giggle getting an ‘Up Yours’ glare from Marc.
Joey was about ready to explode with excitement, bouncing between Danny and Marc, finally landing in Jerry’s lap, who at this point was still sitting on the steps stunned.Joey shouted, pointing just above the shuttle where what appeared to be an eagle was circling.
“Huh?” Was all Jerry could force out before feeling a squeeze on his shoulder.
“Dude, get it together. It’s a shuttle. You’ve seen em before. We need you to be on this planet with us, okay?” Marc said, gaining a grin from Danny.
“Don’t worry sport, I’ve never seen anything like this and have a feeling we need to get used to it,” Danny added as he grabbed Marc’s hand and walked down the steps. “We have guests gentlemen, um… Jerry. That means get yur butt movin’.”
Joey added, now half dragging Jerry off the steps.
Reaching the group, Marc was approached by a uniformed strawberry blond boy, just a bit shorter than himself. ‘They’re all kids’ he thought to himself before holding his hand out. “That’s some door bell you guys got there. I thought we were having an earthquake.”
“Doctor Furst, I presume?” the youth replied with a giggle. “I’m JJ Richardson, Head of Security for Clan Short.”
“Great meeting you.” Marc said as he shook the boy’s hand. “Marc is cool though, unless there is some rule that we all need to pretend to be exceptionally professional and stuff,” he added, gaining a wide smile from his guest. “Much larger group than I expected.”
“You should see it when we all show up, Marc!” JJ giggled as he was joined by a silver-blond haired boy. “This is my boyfriend and Cory’s lil’ bro, Adam. Why don’t y’all come on over to the shuttle and I’ll introduce everyone.”
“Cool,” Marc replied. “Introductions as a group would be much easier I’m guessing,” Marc said with a wide smile. “C’mon guys, let’s meet everyone. Jerry, grab Joey.”
As they approached the shuttle, two adults emerged from the craft; one carrying a sandy-blond haired boy who appeared to be about six years old. JJ led Marc and his group over to the adults. “Marc, this is Doctor Austin Michaels, Federation Youth Services Medical Director. The leech on his side is his son, Ricky.”
Marc shook the doctors hand and smiled at Ricky. “Nice to meet you. I’ll save the rest of the introductions to save some time cause I have a feeling this is gonna take a while with this group.”
The other adult stuck out his hand. “Hello Marc, I’m Lieutenant Matthew Barnes, Federation Security. Just call me Matt, if you’ll come up here with me, I’ll introduce the savages to you.”
“Okay Lieutenant, we’re right behind you.” Marc said with a smile as they turned and approached the group.
As they headed up the ramp, Ricky whispered loud enough for them to hear. “Daddy, when are we gonna getta see the an’roids?”
Marc and Danny overheard the little ones comments and smiled. Danny turned so he was face to face with Ricky and smiled. “You came here to see androids?”
“Uh huh,” Ricky responded shyly. “Where ‘dey at?”
“They’re here,” Danny said as he put his hand on Joey’s shoulder. “He’s an android.”
Joey said straightening his back with pride. he added with a smile.
“Nu uhh! You’re just big kids!” Ricky exclaimed. Just then, Ricky’s eagle Duke swooped in and landed on Danny’s shoulder. Ricky looked at Duke for a second, then grinned. “No way!! For real Duke??!! Why they look like kids then?”
Danny stood frozen as the bird seemed to nod his head at the little one. “Hi little guy.” Danny carefully whispered, drawing Joey’s attention to his shoulder.
Joey asked as he looked back at Ricky.
“You can pet him,” Ricky grinned. “Why do you look like big boys?”
Danny knelt down so Joey could pet Duke, as he looked up at Ricky and smiled. “Androids are supposed to look like Boys. Well we are, some look like big people too.”
“Ricky,” Marc cut in. “Can you look into Danny’s eyes?”
Ricky nodded his head. “Uh-huh.”
“If you look real close, you can see they are different than yours. They look really cool but the little black circle in the middle looks kinda like a star instead of a circle. Even Joey has different eyes, but they look real like mine. His are different cause one is blue and one is green.” Marc added as Joey opened his eyes wide.
he grinned, getting a giggle from Ricky.
Ricky jumped down out of his dad’s arms and looked at Danny’s eyes. “They look kinda funny. Duke says he can kinda look inta Danny and your head; but not Joey’s, Marc. Whyzatt?”
“Mikey,” Marc said as he looked at Danny getting a knowing smile. “A friend told me that an android isn’t like a person. A person is born with a soul, which is sorta what Duke can read or feel. An android needs to grow a little before he is more than just programming. Joey is less than a whole day old, so he has some growing and learning to do still.”
“You met Unca’ Mikey!! KEWL!!!” Ricky yelled. “I kinda unnerstan’ – Duke’s ‘splainin’ it to me.”
Doc Austin knelt down to Ricky. “Okay kiddo, are you done picking on our hosts yet?”
Ricky looked over at his father with an innocent look. “What you mean, Daddy?”
Joey walked over to stand next to Ricky and with the same look addedJoey stated, finishing his sentence with a smile and a nod.
“It sounds like you have a very smart daddy, little one,” Doc Austin said as he rustled the little androids hair. “That’s the best way to learn and grow. You should be really proud to have a daddy that smart.”
Joey smiled wide as he looked over at Jerry, who had been extremely quiet, but was now turning a deep shade of red.He asked as he tilted his head. You face wook funnee.”
Marc looked at Jerry and began to giggle. “Doc, his daddy is definitely a smart guy, and maybe a little modest as well,” he said as he shook Jerry’s shoulder.
Jerry smiled and raised his hand for a quick wave. “Thanks Doctor, I try to do my best.”
“He’s usually loud and uncontrollable. I think Fatherhood is messin’ up something in that human brain of his,” Marc spouted off earning an ice cold stare from Jerry. “That’s more like it,” he added with a grin.
Matt shook his head. “C’ mon guys, lets get the introductions out of the way,” He turned his head and emitted a shrill whistle. “Alright you clowns! Get your tongues out of your boyfriend’s ears and listen up! Line up single file, and keep your hands to yourselves!”
Marc took Matt’s lead and turned to his group. “Us too guys.”
Joey looked at Marc with a horrified look.he said with his hands on his hips, earning laughs from everyone in earshot.
Once everyone was lined up, Matt began the introductions. “You have officially been invaded by Clan Short, guys! You’ve already met the head of security, JJ, and his partner Adam; these guys with them are their sons Harley, Joey, and Brad. Next up are my little angels Antonio, Noah, and Caleb. The guy holding Antonio’s hand is his boyfriend Byron, liaison between Clan Short and Camp Little Eagle.”
Danny grabbed Marc’s arm and a bit louder than he wanted to whispered, “His boyfriend?” Looking at Marc’s blank expression and then at Matt once realizing his question was heard. “You did say boyfriend, right?”
Just as Matt turned to respond to Danny, Joey grabbed Jerry’s shirt and excitedly shouted, “Cam wittew eegew! Wike dook!” breaking the tension and getting giggles from the gang.
Matt giggled at Joey before responding to Danny’s question. “Relax, Danny; it’s not what it appears. Antonio has a unique medical condition that makes him age at 1/4 the rate of normal humans. If anything, it’s the reverse of what it appears.”
“Whoah,” Danny said raising his eyebrows. “I’m sorry guys. I didn’t mean to say it like that. I mean it just surprised me and, well… I didn’t mean…”
“Danny has the ability to stuff his foot, shoe and even a portion of his leg in his mouth,” Marc stuck in with an evil grin. “It’s a rare condition older androids have,” he just barely got out before having to dodge Danny’s attempted poke in the side.
“I’m sorry guys, I didn’t mean anything by it.” Danny said looking at the couple.
Antonio smiled. “It’s okay; I guess you and me have something in common – we both are older than we look. I’m really 36 years old; how’s about you?”
Danny began to blush. “Well, as an android I am 104. That’s not including the 28 years I had before as a human.”
“Mah Gawd! You’n be oler than them thar hills!” one of the boys commented from the back of the line.
Matt looked up in surprise. “Thomas Clyde Short! Get that skinny butt of yours up here and apologize before I kick it into next week!”
A twelve year old boy with shaggy brown hair shuffled up to Danny. “I’m sorry y’all. I was’n thinkin’ when I yelled that. I dinna mean nuthin’ bad.”
“No biggie man.” Danny said putting his arm across his shoulder.
“Nice to meet ya face to face, Tommy!” Marc said as Jerry smiled wide and waved.
Joey walked over to Tommy and pulled on his shirt to get his attention.
Tommy grinned. “Thanks y’all; I had to come to meet y’uns. You’uns need to meet my lil’bro – Ty, c’mon up her’ an’ bring Kyle. Joey, them hills isa sayin’, kinda like older ‘n dirt. Ain’t nutin’ you can see, it’d be just a sayin’ from the hills.”
“Oh,” Joey responded as he stepped back and leaned his back against Danny, craning his neck to look up to him.
Danny covered his face trying to stifle a laugh. “Oh gawd.” Was all he could get out as Jerry crept up and knelt down next to his son.
“No, li’l buddy, Tommy said Uncle Danny is older than the dirt and the hills.”
“Oh,” He replied looking confused.
Just then, Kyle and Tyler joined them. Tyler walked over and put his arm over Joey’s shoulder. “Joey, if Danny is like my big bros, the only thing dirty on him is his mind! Dirty hills are just like the beach, you ain’t missin’ nothin’. I’m Ty, and this is my boyfriend Kyle; you wanna come stand with us while these old guys finish introducing each other?”
Joey asked Jerry with a pleading look.
“Sure, just don’t give them a hard time.” Jerry said as Joey gave him a quick hug before all three ran back toward the shuttle.
Doc Austin grinned as the three boys ran off. “I guess it’s time for you to meet the rest of my kids! You already know the tornado here,” he chuckled as he rustled Ricky’s hair, “but you still haven’t met his brothers. Gabe is busy in Orlando with another project, but his other brothers came along to help. From left to right, I give you what we adults affectionately call ‘double-double trouble’; a parent’s worst nightmare, twins dating twins!” Doc Austin laughed as all four boys groaned, then continued. “First up, my son Benji and his boyfriend Sammy Martin. Next to Sammy is his brother ‘Bastian; and finally my other son Eli …”
Doc Austin paused for a second. “Elijah Christian Michaels!!! Just WHAT are you doing???”
Everyone looked over at Eli, who was standing on his one leg. “Sorry Dad, it was gettin’ uncomfortable in the shuttle, so I took it off.” He stuck two fingers from his only hand in his mouth and whistled, a few seconds later, his prosthetic leg came bouncing out, followed by the three 8 year olds.
Joey shouted as all three giggled and chased it to Eli.
Eli grinned. “Yeah, that’s what has replaced my leg, lil’ guy. There ain’t any real way to ‘fix’ it though, I just have this fake one so it looks normal when I stand.”
Joey watched as Sebastian knelt and reattached Eli’s prosthesis. Once ‘Bastian stood back up, Joey ran his hand up and down his leg, glancing between Eli’s and his own.He said with tears welling up in his eyes.
Jerry looked over and saw as the first tear ran down his cheek. “Marc, somethings wrong with Joey!” he shouted as he ran full speed and pulled his son into a hug. “You okay?”
Joey choked out as Marc stood over the two and smiled at Eli.
“He’s never cried before,” Marc said as he ruffled Jerry’s hair. “Joey’s right tho, I’m not so sure about his biological knowledge of humans, but Jerry is a wiz when it comes to android anatomy,” he continued. “It’s never been allowed as a medical procedure, but with the right equipment and the two of us we could build replacements that would be compatible with your biological makeup.”
Doc Austin looked at Marc in shock. “Do you mean to tell me you have the facilities here to attempt such a procedure, Doctor? Additionally, how could he possibly control such a thing? You said replacements; are you considering his arm too? There’s not enough shoulder socket left to attach to!”
Marc looked at Eli and smiled before turning his attention to Doc Austin. “It’s been done, just not on a public level and not entire limbs. The Scientist that designed Danny’s entire structure and neuropathways did it. Danny was derived from a prosthetic hand that was privately designed by Dr. Strafford to replace a prosthetic hand… for himself. He never sold his idea cause he had bigger ideas in mind,” Marc said as he shot Danny a smile. “Danny’s entire structure and neuropathways were designed to be fully compatible with the human components that were incorporated. I don’t have the facilities here, but I could perform the procedure myself and Jerry could design the implants with no problem. The only real difference between Danny’s build and an implant would be that they need to be self contained units,” he said as he watched the doctor’s eyes widen.
“Hold that thought, Doctor,” Doc Austin replied as he gave JJ a meaningful glance. As soon as JJ nodded, Doc Austin continued. “Why don’t you introduce your staff to us, then I’ve got an idea that will surprise you.”
“Oh, yeah. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?” Marc replied as he smiled. “Danny, would you handle this?” he said as he scooped Joey up in his arms.
“No problem,” Danny replied with a smile. “Guys, you must get a laugh at the surprised looks on people’s faces when you explain your positions and purpose,” he started with an evil grin. “I’m happy to say you are all in good company here. I’ll start with our newest addition to our family. The little one over there is Joey which stands for ‘Jerry Owens Experimental Imprint Year 2’; meaning he is less than 24 hours old and the first creation of our youngest Doctor. Which leads me to Joey’s father; the blond headed kid next to Eli is Jerry Owens, well Doctor Jerald Owens, but he may throw a fit if you go around calling him that. He’s not only a robotics wiz, but also one of the only humans we have on staff here. Holding his son is my brother Marc; which stands for ‘Multi-Model Adolescent Research Companion’. Marc is the only remaining director of a company that used to be known as Vision Industries; the company that designed us. He’s on record as Doctor Marc Furst; probably Marcus for all I know,” Danny added as Marc shot him a dirty look. “He was the first android created incorporating true ‘A.I.’. I am Danny, the oldest of the bunch. My name stands for ‘Developmental Artificial intelligence Networked Neuro imaged Youth’; and I was the first fully functional E.A.I. android created. The doctor that created me was a pure genius, but borderline insane. My personality is derived directly from a human being, meaning I am a real person in an artificially generated body. There is one more like me who isn’t online yet. He is still in the process of having his body brought online. His name is Kevin meaning ‘Kinetically Enhanced Virtual Interactive Neuro-image’ and is almost as old as I am.” Danny said, letting out a sigh of relief for getting as much info out as possible.
Doc Austin grinned. “You really said a mouthful there! Knowing Cory, they will probably be here shortly; if you don’t mind, I have an idea for some local facilities which might be more suited to your needs if you really want to tackle the project you suggested. Antonio, Byron, Eli and Benji will handle placing the portable unit wherever you want it. I think JJ has something to say though.”
JJ stepped forward, obviously all business. “Doctor Furst; the level of work you are suggesting might possibly be considered unlawful by Terran authorities. With your permission, I wish to instigate procedures to protect yourself and your staff from any possibility of interruption by local authorities.”
“Illegal? How could helping him be Illegal?” Marc asked with confusion showing in his expression.
“There are still laws on the books in the United States banning cybernetics work at advanced levels; they are usually not enforced, but could easily be brought back into use if someone was to learn that self-aware androids are again being produced. Those same laws are the reason why implants such as you suggested for Elijah are not actively being designed and produced. With your approval, I am capable of negating any possibility of those laws being used against you. May I ask the limits of your property?”
Marc nodded his head in agreement. “I never thought of that dude. You definitely have my permission and our gratitude. Our property extends to cover beach front on the east and north sides of the house, and should include the house and property next door since it is Jerry’s home with his family. That also includes beachfront on only the east side of their property,” Then Marc turned his attention back to Doc Austin. “To answer your first question, yes we would be happy to help Eli, if this is what he wants. With a facility suited to perform surgical procedures as well as physical therapy, we would be equipped to perform the procedures.”
JJ looked over at Eli. “Bro, I know you understand what’s been said. It’s your body; what do you think?”
Eli thought it over. “It’d be kinda kewl to get a working leg back; this fake one is a pain in the butt sometimes. Dad ain’t worried, so I feel pretty safe. If Marc says he can do it, I’m willing to try.”
JJ nodded. “Okay Bro; I’m gonna make it happen for ya’,” JJ then turned to the group of kids behind them. “Listen up! Condition Yellow; Security secure the grounds. I.T. and Intelligence, prepare the premises for surveillance. Tommy, contact the Vulcan Embassy; inform them to pull all deeds to these properties and place them under Clan Short diplomatic protection. Designate these premises as Clan Short Artificial Intelligence Division. Medical, prepare the portable bed for arrival of Patriarch Short.”
Doc Austin closed his communicator and interrupted. “Tommy, include the Charleston Naval Hospital and surrounding grounds in that. I just got it for Clan use.”
“You heard the Doc, Tommy. Lets move it guys!”
Danny walked over to Marc and tapped him on the shoulder. “Um… What just happened here?” he said as the group broke up and got right to work.
Marc stood watching as the color just started returning to his face. “Well, it looks like Vision Industries is all done now; for starters.”
Matt walked over and placed a hand on each of the boy’s shoulders. “I take it you just got a little shock there. Let me fill you in on what JJ did; sometimes he’s as bad as Cory when it comes to doing things. First off, Tommy is in the process of having your property declared Vulcan territory under the stewardship of Clan Short. Assuming the Vulcan’s normal efficiency, I’d guess in about fifteen minutes the FBI won’t even be able to walk up your driveway – not that they would try after what was done to them when they tried to take Eli and Benji when I was bringing them home from the hospital. On top of that, all of you are now not only members of Clan Short, but you actually have your own division. That means all of the resources of the Clan are yours now. While I was checking to make sure the old Naval Hospital was still not in use, I heard JJ’s orders and instructed Federation Medical to transfer it to the Clan as a goodwill gesture. Since it is your building now, you can do whatever you need to take care of yourselves, and get set up to help Eli. I would like to ask a favor though; would you be willing to lease a couple of floors to Federation Youth Services for us to use instead of public medical facilities in this region?”
“Of course we would. I would be really happy if we would be able to help. We do have partial funding for the upkeep of V.I., since it had to remain active as the only entity responsible for A.I. welfare. I could put that towards the equipment that we would need to create a functional A.I. ward and lab.” Marc responded as he began running finances through his head.
Matt smiled. “Forget about finances. You have the resources of Vulcan at your disposal now. If you need equipment for R&D or ongoing support just ask and you will get it.”
Danny looked at his brother, who stood with his mouth wide open and unable to move, and giggled, “Dude, I’m not sure exactly what is going on, but equipment is being moved into the house. I’m gonna go help,” He was answered by a slow nod from Marc and a smile from Matt. “I’ll see ya when you get your chin off the ground, Bro,” Danny added with a giggle and ran for the front door. “Caleb, right?” he asked the blond boy kneeling on the steps who seemed to be preoccupied with an overturned container; one that seemed to have been holding a large amount of computer equipment, which was now scattered across the steps.
“Oh, hi,” Caleb replied with a smile, standing up and holding out his hand. “I’ve been hoping to meet you.”
“Meet me?” Danny replied with a confused look as he shook Caleb’s hand.
“Well, you guys I meant. I had to do some research when we found out the guys found Austin and he needed help.” Caleb added as a brown haired boy that Danny remembered was another of Matt’s boys walked up with an armload of more equipment and grinned.
“Yeah, he found a living computer to hack,” the boy said with an evil giggle as Caleb shot him an ice cold glare before beginning to blush.
“Well, I am curious about how a positronic brain processes and stores information, if that is what you mean.” Caleb replied getting a laugh from the other boy.
“I was only kiddin, by the way. I’m Noah,” The boy said as he shifted the large carton and held his hand out to Danny. “Blushing boy’s bro.” he added with a laugh.
Danny shook his hand and noticed Caleb’s embarrassed grin, “Hi Noah,” he said with a smile. “You know, if your brother is looking for a living computer to hack, he’s in the right place to learn.”
Noah rolled his eyes and began to carry his cargo into the front door, while saying over his shoulder in a playful tone; “Okay, but no one will sleep tonight if you get him started. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.”
Caleb smiled at Danny before shooting back; “You won’t need to worry ’bout me keeping you awake if you’re sleeping in the shuttle,” He giggled and knelt down to pick up the carton and loose equipment that had fallen out of it. After fumbling the box a couple of times he looked at Danny with an embarrassed grin. “Guess I shoulda put this mess in two boxes.”
“Lemme give you a hand,” Danny replied with a smile as he leaned over to pick up the box, but gasped as it began to levitate on it’s own. “What in the?”
“Told you it would be too heavy at the house dude.” Eli giggled as he walked up the stairs with Joey in tow.
“You’re doing that?” Danny asked as he looked at the box, which now seemed to be floating into the house.
“Cool, huh?” Caleb said as he led the formation inside.
“Very,” Danny answered, patting Eli on the back as he took up the rear. “Looks like you’ve got help too,” he said with a smile as he ruffled Joey’s hair. “He’s not getting in the way is he?”
“Nah, he’s cool,” Eli said with a smile. “You should see us all at home, trust me he’s no trouble.”
Joey announced proudly, beaming up at his new friend.
“You wanna show your Uncle what you can do little guy?” Eli asked as the box lowered itself on down onto the kitchen floor. “Go ahead, I’m getting kinda tired anyway.” Eli said as Joey’s smile got bright and he ran over to the box with Eli watching.
he shouted as he lifted the box effortlessly.
“You sure are strong sport!” Danny said as he grinned at Eli who responded with a wink.
“Doctor… um…” Noah began.
“Page, but Danny is fine guys.”
“Cool, we need to know where this stuff is going Danny.” Noah said, as he pointed to the equipment that had been brought in and was scattered all over the kitchen.
“Okay,” Danny replied scratching his head. “Depends on what it is, we have two labs so, anything related to the medical work being done on Austin will be in the lower lab, which is through the door right down the hall and to your left,” Danny pointed out the direction. “There is also access to it from outside on the north side of the house if anything is too large to fit through this door. If you have computers or anything that would be used for communications or need network access, the upper lab is through this door right here and should be a good place to set up. The new terminal that you guys sent is already up and running in there.”
Caleb smiled as the others began sorting through the boxes. “Danny, you guys already have the house networked, right?”
“Well, the old network from the company that created us is up and running here. There are three computers in the upper lab, two in the lower lab plus the Mainframe system, one in Marc’s bedroom and one in mine,” Danny stopped to think a second before adding “Oh. There’s also three personal computers in the house, they are all kinda old too though.”
Caleb grinned and pulled out a PADD and started tapping on its panel. “You guys are gonna need some upgraded equipment here then too,” he said as Noah and Eli returned from the basement.
“We are gonna need to move some of the stuff that’s down there to set up the Bio Bed and support equipment.” Noah said to Danny as Eli looked into the Upper lab.
“Same in here. I’ll get started.” Eli said as he began to clear more space near the Vulcan Terminal.
“No problem, just don’t disconnect the PANDA, Kevin’s activation sequence can’t be interrupted.” Danny announced as the traffic began to pick up through the kitchen.
“Guys, the Bio-bed is going down stairs the rest up here in their lab. Antonio, you and Benji help Eli prepare the lab for the terminals, the rest of you are with me.” Eli said as he nodded to Danny and Caleb and then retreated down the basement steps with his crew as the others filed off into the lab.
“Um…” Danny started to say before Caleb started to giggle.
“It’s nuts now, but in about an hour it will look like all this equipment was here all along. They are the best,” Caleb said with a smile that beamed pride. “Will replacing the existing network be a problem?”
“I don’t think so. I mean you would have to pass that through Marc since he has been the one to maintain it all these years.” Danny replied; knowing Marc would probably agree but he just wanted to be safe.
“Okay, then. I’ll check with him and go over my plans before doing anything.” Caleb replied as Tommy came in the front door.
“Where y’all puttin’ the main office hub?” Tommy asked, all business.
Caleb looked up from the PADD and smiled, simply pointed toward the open door and then went right back to work.
Danny was just about to take a walk downstairs to just check up, when Eli came out of the lab with Joey on his shoulders and his crew following him. “You guys need a hand?” Danny asked as Eli and Joey looked like they were more ‘hard at play’ than ‘hard at work’.
“Nope, just need to start bringing in the wiring we’re gonna need. Joey is gonna set up the system for us, right?” Eli said, looking up to the giggling little monkey on his shoulders.
Joey said with a giggle as they rushed out the door, leaving Danny shaking his head and giggling.
“Pooter?” Caleb giggled as he looked up at Danny. “I better recheck the inventory, I don’t remember a Pooter being packed,” he said as he motioned toward the door. “I’m gonna talk to Marc about this configuration. I hope he likes it.”
“Talking computer with Marc? Not only will he love it, but may be your new best friend for it.” Danny said with a smile as he turned toward the basement door and was once again stopped.
“Danny, ya’ll got a call from Cory in tha lab,” Tommy shouted from the doorway. “Lookn’ like we is gunna be busy, shortly.”
To Be Continued…
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