Sentenced to Life

Co-Written By: Boudreaux

Special Contribution By: Greybear

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

Decommissioned Naval Hospital: Charleston SC. (O.R. #1)

Several Hours Later…

“I want him kept unconscious overnight. Daniel’s implants seem to have taken but he needs to remain absolutely still while the biobed works its magic Chris.” Marc said as he dropped his gloves in the trash and began to strip off his scrubs.

“No problem, Marc. We had medical personnel on hand already within the refit team. I will make sure this ward remains staffed for you.” Dr. Herron replied, also dressing down from surgery. “I’ve never seen a procedure of that nature performed before, not to mention a surgeon go over 10 hours without once taking a break. What an unbelievable experience.” Chris got out just as Jerry exited the OR and silently began to dress down.

“Hey Jerry? You okay buddy?” Marc asked as he stood up only to have Jerry turn his back on him. “Jerry, come here.” Marc continued with his arms open just in time for Jerry to turn and bury his face in Marc’s chest and begin to cry. “Shhh… It’s gonna be okay lil bro, Daniel’s fine now… Shhh…”

“H-h-how could ANYONE do that! W-w-w-what kinda m-m-monster is she?!?” Jerry shouted out between sobs, muffled by Marc’s shirt.

“I don’t know, but I can tell you she will be punished for this.” Marc said as he looked over at Chris. “All of this.” He said with an expression that could crack stone. “Jerry, you’re officially off duty.” He said as he held Jerry out at arm’s length and knelt down in front of him. “You did an awesome job working out the DNA structure to replicate. Because of that work, Daniel’s body seems to be accepting the implants with no complications. Because of your work, he’ll pretty much be whole when he wakes up. You know that, right?”

“Yeah,” Jerry responded. “But what he’s been through now…” Jerry managed to get out before Marc held his finger to Jerry’s lips.

“What he’s been through would have been a lot harder to handle if he had woken up a girl. You saved him from that.” Marc said as Jerry tried to look at the floor, only to have Marc duck lower to meet his gaze. “If it weren’t for the work you and Billy did replicating living bio-mechanical prosthetics, he would have suffered even more. Thanks to that work, we now have a procedure that could possibly make prosthetics like the ones you designed for Eli and Benji in hours rather than days.” Marc said as he stood up and hugged Jerry before turning him toward the door. “Shower and sleep. That’s a direct order Doctor Owens.” Marc said with a grin as he ushered Jerry out the doors before turning back to Chris. “I’m going to check in with the compound before I turn in. Thanks for the assist,” he said as he looked around the room. “I think this run down old place is gonna be one hell of a hospital.” Marc added as he patted the door on the way out of the room.

“Yes, it is,” Chris nodded and smiled as he sat and watched the nurses roll the portable biobed out of the OR, carrying the hospital’s first patient in many years. “One of the best,” he added as he stood up and headed for the showers.

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

“Marc! I heard it worked!” Billy said as he jumped up from the terminal when he saw Marc enter the room.

“Mr. O’Keefe, You and Dr. Owens have a ton of explaining to do.” Marc said with a smile as he grabbed a folding chair and plopped down into it.

“Explaining Sir? I don’t understand.” Billy responded.

“First of all, I want to know where you got the biological model for that prosthetic.” Marc demanded, still smirking.

“Oh, that.” Billy replied with a grin. “One of the technical directors at Baptist is also an Academy graduate. I just made a call and had him beam over what they had planned to discard. Did I overstep my bounds, sir?”

“Are you kidding me? That was brilliant! That poor kid would have been back in surgery 4 days from now to receive that prosthetic implant if it wasn’t for that action.” Marc said with a smile before crossing his arms and becoming serious once again. “My only other question would be how you and Jerry came up with the idea so fast.”

“We talked about it this morning.” Billy replied.

“This morning? We didn’t know abut Daniel’s situation this morning. What brought up a subject like that?” Marc asked with a confused expression taking over his face.

“Well sir, we were discussing implementing the use of a replicator for replacement parts.” Billy began. “Just the mechanical components. Jerry had mentioned the use of them in most hospitals to replicate skin for grafts and blood for transfusions and stuff. During the discussion, we started talking theoretically and kinda started working up a proposal.” Billy continued as he picked up a P.A.D.D. and brought up the rough designs for a piece of equipment.

Marc slid his chair over and looked at its display while Billy began to point at the screen. “Awful big replicator, isn’t it?”

“Nah, bigger have been designed.” Billy said as he brought up a second display. “This is what I was working on,” he said as he handed the P.A.D.D. to Marc.

“Tied in to the cargo transporter systems? Why?” Marc asked as he looked up.

“Well, if we were to implement the use of a larger replicator, the best way to get its model would be to use a copy directly stored within the transporter unit’s buffer. It could replicate an entire endoskeletal structure in a couple of minutes. With the biological information either available or even present, the replicated unit could be ready for activation as soon as its programming has been uploaded.” Billy said as he watched Marc’s eyes get wide. “Jerry kinda joked about replicating complete units. He just wasn’t aware it was possible, in theory.”

Marc stared at the display for almost a full minute before he finally cleared his throat and handed it back to Billy. “Neither was I.” Marc said as he sat back in his chair. “I mean I know about the medical uses and of how Starships are able to replicate replacement parts and stuff. I guess I just never put the two together.”

“Well, these plans are yours for when you bring in a Chief Engineer. I think a unit tied in to the system like this would help you guys out a lot. Especially since the Cargo Transporter is going to be right in your research and development level. You’ll be able to scan and replicate right there on the cargo pad.” Billy said as he stood up from his seat. “Well, I guess it’s time now. Permission to depart, sir.” He said flatly as he straightened his shirt.

“Excuse me?” Marc asked in surprise. “Depart?”

“Yes, sir. My orders were to assist in getting your transporter system online and to train a member of your personnel on its use and maintenance. I have completed both tasks sir. As much as I’d love to stay here, I’m expected back at Terra Main tomorrow morning to resume my position as transporter technician.”

“Denied.” Marc said flatly as he hopped from the steel folding chair to the computer terminal and brought it out of standby.

“Sir?” Billy asked as he tilted his head in question. “My orders were…”

“Your orders, Mr. O’Keefe, are possibly about to change.” He said as he sat and waited for the computer to complete its connection.

“Alec here, Marc. Dude, I just got the full report about the extraction. Awesome job rookie!” Alec said with a laugh. “Is Daniel going to be alright?”

“He still has a ton of healing to do. Not to mention how he’s gonna handle finding out he was abducted, or what his abductor did to him after he passed out. It’s not over yet.” He said as he looked at Billy then back at the screen. “Excuse me one second, Alec.” He said before turning his attention back to Billy. “Can I help you any further Lieutenant?” He said in an expressionless tone.

“Um, No?” Billy half questioned.

“Good, you’re dismissed. Prepare to possibly receive new orders tomorrow morning, Mr. O’Keefe.” Marc said as he turned and smirked at the screen.

“Yes sir,” Billy said sounding just as confused as he looked. “Goodnight, sir.” He continued receiving a nod from Marc before turning and leaving the room.

“What was that all about?” Alec asked with a giggle. “You goin’ all military on us dude?”

“Yeah right.” Marc answered with a laugh. “Alec, is it possible to request a Starfleet Officer for a position within the clan?” Marc asked as soon as he was sure no one was listening.

“Why? What are you thinkin?” Alec asked, raising an eyebrow. “You thinkin’ ’bout stealin’ that transporter technician?”

“He was partially responsible for the success of today’s surgery Alec.” Marc stated. “That officer was a born Engineer. Tonight he handed me some plans to give to his replacement. They were designs for a replicator unit that I hadn’t even dreamed of. The medicinal implications for a replicator make their use logical. The designs he handed me were above and beyond anything I could have ever dreamed up. His work could benefit both the clan and the medical staff here.” Marc said as he looked toward the door and lowered his voice; “I want to keep him on board. Is it possible?”

“Well, I can arrange it with Admiral Morrow for him to remain stationed there since it is gonna be Federation Youth Services Medical. I can just tell him that we still need his assistance.” Alec said with a sigh. “I’m not so sure he’ll agree that a brand new Lieutenant would be the perfect choice though. As far as anything more long term, we’ll have to talk to the bosses when they find their way home.” Alec said with a smile.

“Which bosses?” came a voice from behind Alec, causing him to jump.

“Good thing you’re a doctor!” Alec shouted. “I think I just had a heart attack!” he finished with a giggle. “How long have you been standing there?”

“Long enough to hear about Marc’s latest hunting expedition.” Doc Austin said with a laugh. “I hear you bagged yourself an Engineer.”

“Well, kinda. I have a Starfleet trained technician on site who deserves to be a Chief Engineer.” Marc said with a grin.

“In your opinion?” Doc Austin asked as he sat down next to Alec.

“Yep! Based on his performance, attitude and knowledge in an area we are desperately lacking.” Marc answered. “Besides, Noah got a look at his service record. Evidently he’s in his current position just because they have no place to put him yet.”

“You feel strongly about this placement then?” Doc asked with a grin.

“Are you kidding? I’d give my right arm to keep him here.” Marc said with a giggle.

“Easy for you, just make a new one and snap it on.” Alec got out through a fit of giggles.

“Snap it on?” Marc said while waving his hands in the air to exaggerate his reply. “I’m not made of Legos. God!”

“Marc, give me a few minutes. I have a call to make.” Doc Austin said with a wink. “You guys can play with your Legos later. HQ out.” He said and the screen went into standby.

“Legos!” Marc said with a laugh. “I’ll give him Legos.” He said as he heard a giggle from the open corridor leading back toward the ER. “Okay, show yourself!” Marc demanded through a giggle. “Come out or I’m callin security.”

“It’s just me.” Came the squeaky response as Antonio hurried around the corner with his hands outstretched. “See, I got no weapons, honest.” He continued with a laugh.

“You eavesdropping on me?” Marc asked as he sat back in his chair.

“No way! I just wanted to talk to you, but I didn’t want to bust in on your call.” Antonio replied as he dragged over a chair and sat down.

“Okay, I’ll call off the tactical strike then.” Marc said with a laugh as he ruffled Antonio’s hair and sat back in his chair. “So, wassup?”

“Well, I was talkin’ to Doctor Herron and he said that the operation on Danny Wiggins was the most incredible thing he ever saw.” Antonio said with a smile.

“He said that to you?” Marc asked with a giggle. “He better get used to it, this isn’t exactly a normal team.”

“No kiddin’,” Antonio said with a laugh. “Is he gonna stay after the hospital’s done?”

“Never asked.” Marc replied sitting back in his chair. “I’d like to see him stay, we could definitely use a medical director on site, unless Doc Austin wants the position.”

“Not likely.” A voice came from the terminal, startling the boys and making them laugh. “I have my hands full already.” He continued with a chuckle. “Marc, remember how you were telling me how you always wanted a Chief Engineer for your birthday?”

“Um…” Marc replied with a giggle. “Yeah, something like that.”

“Well, happy birthday!” Doc Austin said with a grin. “You just have to get your Mr. O’Keefe back to Terra Main to accept his new orders as well as a promotion that’ll probably put him in shock.”

“That’s possible?” Marc asked in shock.

“More than possible, it’s done. Somehow news of the A.I. Division is spreading like wildfire. Admiral Morrow was impressed with the reports William submitted regarding the circumstances of your first assignment. Not to mention it’s execution, in spite of the division’s readiness.” Doc Austin said with a smile. “He says anyone who can pull off a stunt like that and be 100% successful against all odds is worthy of the best he can offer.”

“Wow!” Antonio shouted while patting Marc on the shoulder. “Billy’s getting promoted cause of Marc?”

“Nope, Billy’s getting promoted because he deserves it. Marc just offered the Admiral a way to speed up the process.” Doc said as Alec took a seat beside him on the viewer. “Evidently, Marc was right. He really did stumble across a diamond in the rough.”

“A what?” Alec asked with a smirk.

“An officer who should have been much further along than he was in his rank, but unfortunately, due to his age and experience, was still waiting in line for a position to open. He would have a long wait if it weren’t for this request.” Doc Austin said with a smile. “Marc, as for Doctor Herron.” He began with a smile. “I’ll get back to you on that issue. Don’t approach him about it though.” Doc said with an evil smile. “I owe him one. HQ Out.”

As the screen went into standby, Marc simply sat and stared at the screen in disbelief. “I guess we’re off to a good start then, huh?”

“Admiral Morrow doesn’t get impressed easy.” Antonio said as he stood up and stretched. “And I know Sean and Cory didn’t twist his arm this time, so if he gave you a compliment, it’s for real dude.”

“Gave US a compliment.” Marc corrected with a smile. “Now get your little butt to bed. Tomorrow is gonna be just as busy as today was and I’m not accepting being tired as an excuse to slack off.” Marc said with a smile as he ushered Antonio out of the room.

“Okay, I’ll come up with a better reason then.” Antonio said with a laugh as he started to leave the room.

“That’s my boy.” Marc said with a smile as he turned toward the Panda unit. “I’ll be there in a little while. If anyone’s still awake, tell them their orders are to turn in.”

“Yes Sir!” Antonio replied sternly before laughing and running down the hall.

“He’s cute.” Marc giggled as he began looking over the system readout, suddenly becoming annoyed. “I am soooo taking a hammer to this thing.” he said with a sigh as he pulled out his communicator. “Furst to Herron.”

“Chris here, what’s up Marc? I figured you’d be in bed by now.”

Marc rubbed his eyes and took a deep breath before responding. “Chris, can you meet me in radiology. I have a situation brewing in here.”

“Is it serious?”

“Consider it a high priority.” Marc said as he shook his head. “Bring a sledge hammer with you, we may need it.”

“On my way. Herron out.”

Marc clipped his communicator back on to his belt before scratching his head and reading the system status over again. “God Kevin, I’m so sorry about this.” He half whispered as he walked around the side of the unit and looked inside.

A couple of minutes passed before Chris ran into the room with a dead serious look on his face. “What happened?” He asked as he attempted to straighten his mussed hair.

“Were you sleeping?” Marc asked opening his eyes wide. “I’m sorry, I thought you were still working with the crew.”

“Nah, It’s something I like to do.” He said with a grin. “You know, mess up my hair and run around the hospital in my boxers. You should try it sometime.”

“I’ll have to get some boxers then.” Marc said with a smirk. “Don’t wanna shock the crew.” He said as his smile began to fade. “Chris, we’ve lost Kevin.”

“WHAT? HOW?” Chris shouted as he rushed to the unit’s controls and read system report Marc left on the screen. “Oh no.” He said as he started frantically going over the system’s other reports. “How did this happen? When did this happen? What’s the degradation rate?” He began to rattle off.

“I don’t know Chris.” Marc replied as he leaned against the wall and slid to a sitting position on the floor. “Evidently that old body has some kind of a mechanical flaw. Maybe the design predates Danny’s final build or something. The damned Panda didn’t even catch it until it was too late.” He replied as he banged his head on the wall and closed his eyes. “Danny’s gonna be so upset.”

“Marc, am I reading this right?” Chris said as he continued to pound away at the unit’s console. “After his biological components became animated, they began to reject all mechanical aspects of his structure. Is that right?”

“Yup.” Marc simply answered.

“Is that correctable?” Chris asked looking toward Marc with his eyebrows raised.

“No, it isn’t.” Marc replied with a sigh. “That structure is incompatible with the real Kevin’s biological makeup. Even if we could get him to come on line, he would fail and die within a few days. His mechanical attributes and endoskeletal materials are acting as a toxin to his system. He’s rejecting anything not biological just like a human could reject an implant. The only way to correct the issue is to start over and discard everything that lies in that box.”

Chris stared at the unit for a moment before turning away. “Didn’t Billy come up with a method to replicate a fully activated android system?”

“It’s a theory so far. With what we have now, it’s possible but it’s an involved procedure that will require writing the real procedures as they are created. God only knows how long it will take, or even if a manual configuration to a buffer profile would take at all. I’ve never tried it nor has anyone else.” Marc said as Chris leaned against the wall next to him. “Something like that would involve choosing an android to be buffered as a model, then taking that buffered model and stripping everything that is biological replacing it with a biological profile of Kevin. The computer would need a DNA sample as well as an extremely detailed biomechanical template to begin with. I wouldn’t even know where to start honestly.”

“You just told me where you would need to start. I think you may need to look deeper into the events earlier today.” Chris said while folding his arms.

“Earlier today?” Marc asked as he looked up and scowled.

“You already have two staff members with practical experience.” Chris said with a grin. “Why does it have to be up to you alone to figure out how to make this happen? It may have been on a smaller scale, but they already have. Haven’t they?” Chris continued as he began to leave the room. “I’ll have the Panda unit removed and will have Kevin’s body transported to the morgue in case you would like to research what happened or need to take any biological samples.”

“Thanks Chris.” Marc replied as he stood up and walked over to the Panda’s console. “I would like to research what caused the failure. Do we have a way to put the body in cryostasis?”

“I’ll send a team down immediately to handle it for you.” Chris said as he turned toward the hall. “What would you like us to do with the Panda?”

“Donate it to a museum or something. I don’t ever want to see it in use again.” Marc said as he began shutting down the systems, causing the environmental locks to open with a hiss. “I’ll talk to Billy in the morning about it.” Marc said as Chris turned to watch Marc open the unit and look inside. “Look at him. He was gonna be real cute too.” He got out with a sniffle as he wiped at his eyes.

“Well, he still will be. Just not that body Marc. Your team will make it happen. I’d bet my career that this is going to be nothing but a small setback. Not to mention a learning experience for us all. Night Marc, make sure to get some sleep.” Chris said as he turned and left the room, not waiting for a reply.

“Thanks Dr. Strafford.” Marc mumbled as he lowered the lid. “I’m just glad you didn’t do a half-assed job putting Danny together.” He said to the ceiling before three people Marc hadn’t met before rolled a gurney with a body bag into the room. “You guys need anything?” Marc strained to ask while stifling his tears.

“No sir, it looks like it would be better if we handled it for you. We’ll take it from here.” The man answered as he motioned toward the hallway.

“Thanks.” Marc managed to get out before the team got right to work. “Call if you need anything.”

“Understood sir, goodnight sir.” The man said as he rushed Marc from the room.

Marc walked down the hall and decided to head for the hospital’s main entrance instead of turning in. Once outside the front doors, he crossed the pavement and leaned on the railing overlooking the fountain area.

“It works now you know.” Marc heard Austin’s voice come from behind him.

Wiping away his tears, Marc cleared his throat and turned to see his son walk back inside the doorway and open a panel. Suddenly the fountain lighting came on and the water shot up from the corners and the center of the large fountain. Austin rushed back outside and leaned on the railing next to his dad. “It’s beautiful.” Marc said as he stared at the water and let the sights and sounds relax him.

“I’ve been watching it for the last hour or so. You can really get lost in thought out here.” Austin said as he wrapped his arm around Marc and pulled him close. “You wanna talk about it?”

“Talk about what?” Marc replied still staring at the dancing water.

“Whatever it is that has you so upset.” Austin replied squeezing a bit harder. “You may be able to play off being hard as nails with those doctors and stuff, but that act won’t work with the people who love you.”

“Am I that obvious?” Marc asked with a sigh.

“Hey, I’m your kid. You’re not supposed to get anything past me.” Austin said with a grin. “Something go wrong with Daniel?”

Another tear escaped and trailed down Marc’s cheek. “No, It’s Kevin.”

“Another delay?” Austin asked in an attempt to get Marc to start talking.

“No.” Marc replied. “Acute biological rejection of internal mechanical components.” Marc replied flatly. “The Panda never caught it. There was no warning.” He said as another tear followed the path of those before it. “His biological systems stopped functioning sometime earlier tonight.”

“He died? Couldn’t we have used an immunosuppressant to stop it?” Austin asked.

“That would have just slowed the outcome. There was something wrong physically with that build. Maybe there was a reason it never got used.” Marc added. “Or maybe good ole Doc Strafford just got lucky when he created your Uncle Danny. I can’t believe I blindly trusted something that old fool created.”

“That old fool gave you an older brother and me an uncle.” Austin said as he broke the hug and leaned forward to look down into the water. “I’ve heard the man was dishonest, and I know Uncle Danny had to have gone through hell back then, but here and now, he’s got family who love him and he loves back. Accidental or not, I’m glad he gave us Danny.”

“Bad things sometimes happen without reason, sometimes good things happen without reason as well.” Marc said softly with a smile.

“Can’t we build Kevin a new body? I mean we have the profile to start over, don’t we?” Austin asked.

“Yeah.” Marc said with hope visibly returning to his expression. “A new one would be even better than the one we just lost.”

“Maybe Kevin was holding out for a better model.” Austin said with a smile as he hugged his father once again. “I’m gonna get some sleep. Are we starting on these tomorrow?” Austin asked running his fingers over the scars on his face. “I heard Doctor Herron mentioning clearing an operating room for cosmetic surgery soon.”

“We should. I think it’s just gonna take a couple of one hour sessions before I get you lookin’ like you just came off the assembly line.” Marc said with a wink.

“Just DON’T lose my freckles. I don’t wanna go back to original, I just don’t wanna look all beat up any more.” Austin said with a thoughtful expression. “You can do it without a DNA reintroduction, right?”

“I didn’t plan on taking the easy way out. Your DNA stays just as it is right now. I promise.” Marc said with a giggle. “I kinda like the freckles too.” He admitted.

“It’s kinda neat to actually have a heritage, a family tie. You know, something that will always be with me. I never knew what that felt like before I met Timmy, found my real dad, got a real family. I don’t wanna lose none of it, except for the scars.” Austin said with a smile. “That’s the only thing I really want to put out of my life now.”

“Tomorrow at nine then?” Marc said with a smile.

“Cool!” Austin replied with a grin. “Will you need my help with Kevin tomorrow at all? I can help if you need me too.”

Marc looked thoughtful for a moment before a smile crept across his face. “How do you feel about being Kevin’s endoskeletal and systems model?”

“Me? Really?” Austin answered with a smile. “That’d be sweet! What do I have to do?”

“I’ll talk to Billy in the morning. I think all it will take is a few seconds on a transporter pad.” Marc said.

“I’m there then, just let me know when.” Austin said as he began to walk back toward the main entrance. “Night Dad! I love you!”

“Love you too, sweet dreams.” Marc got out as he watched Austin happily walk back into the building.

“That yur kid?” A voice from behind made Marc jump and spin around.

“Oh my god! You scared the hell out of me.” Marc said as he looked over the railing at a man standing on the scaffolding just above the water of the fountain. “What are you doing down there anyway?”

“Gotta take down the old Naval Hospital lettering. She aint gonna be that no more, is she?” The old man said with a smile. “What’er ya’ll gonna name tha new one?”

“Haven’t really put any thought into it yet. I know it’s going to be Federation Youth Services Medical primarily.” Marc said not knowing how much the old man knew.

“Yur gonna be helpin tha little ones in this building?” The old man asked as he worked away.

“Yup, hopefully we’ll do some real good in there in the future.” Marc said with a smile.

“Good. We need a real guardian angel to watch over tha little ones. Not enough folks willin ta do that ya know.” He replied as he set another of the brass letters down on the floor of the scaffold. “Ya know…” he continued; “…if’n you come up with a name fur her, I’d be happy to make tha new letterin fur ya.”

“You can do that?” Marc asked getting a chuckle from the tired looking old man in response.

“Sure can. Was my family that made this one.” The old man paused and appeared to be deep in thought. “I don’t know how many years ago. Heck, I’ll melt down tha old one an an use it ta make tha new one if ya’ll like.” He said as he fished through his pockets before pulling out a card and handing it to Marc. “Ya’ll jus let me know watcha reckon yur gonna do an I’ll even put it up fur ya at a good price.” He said as he removed another letter. “Damn city folk probly charge ya double what it’s worth.” He continued in what sounded like a practiced rant. “Yur helpin out tha little ones. Reckon if’n yur plannin on doin tha work of angels, folk oaghta be lookin out fur ya’ll.” He said looking satisfied with his comment. “Heck, ya’ll be keepin me in mind if’n ya be needin signs inside. That’s what I do.”

“Thank you very much… Um…” Marc said as he read the name on the card. “…Mr. Johnston.” Marc said with a smile. “When the decision needs to be made, I’ll make sure you have the job!”

“Ya’ll just be callin me Charles or Gramps. None of this Mr. Johnston nonsense.” he said with a smile.

“Which do you like better?” Marc asked as he put the card in his pocket.

“All my friends call me Gramps.” The old man replied, not once pausing in his work. “Most are gone now, it’d be nice to hear it again.”

“Thanks Gramps, I’m Marc by the way. Marc Furst. I’ll be working here once the building is ready.” Marc said with a smile.

“Sure are startin em young these days.” The old man said with a laugh. “An that was yur boy you was talkin to?”

“Yeah, it’s a long story.” Marc replied with a smile.

“I’ll be here a while.” Gramps replied with a chuckle.

“Can I come down and help? I actually would love the diversion.” Marc asked with a smile.

“Oh sure. Ya’ll come on down and around and you be watchin yur step ya hear!” He shouted as Marc ran around to the side of the fountain and climbed up onto the scaffolding.

“How do they come off?” Marc asked with a smile.

“You just be watchin me an I’ll show ya tha propper way to takin these down.” The old man said as he proceeded to carefully unscrew and pry off the large brass T from the word hospital. Then using a wire brush, he cleaned the debris away from years of getting trapped behind the lettering.

The two talked away most of the night. About family, friends and anything else that just happen to cross their minds. Mentally Marc began to make up a list of things that Gramps could be hired for, mostly just so he’d be around more. By the time the sun rose, the two had removed anything on the exterior that identified the old building as a Naval Hospital.

“I reckon I bess be goin home Marcus.” The old man said as a sleepy Noah walked outside, obviously looking for Marc. “This another of yur boys?”

“More Family.” Marc said with a smile. “Gramps, this is Noah.”

“Ahhh, Marcus tole me about you an yur family comin ta help make this happen. Ya’ll oughta be proud of what ur doin.”

“Oh, we are sir.” Noah said with a smile. “Marc did you get any sleep?”

“Nope, I couldn’t sleep anyway so I came out and gave Gramps a hand. What time is it anyway?” Marc said with a grin.

“Seven. We were worried cause your cot hadn’t been slept in, and radiology was empty.” Noah said with his arms crossed. “We’ve been searching the whole building for you.”

“Sorry bout that bro. We had some problems last night and I just needed a breather.” Marc said as Gramps scratched his head.

“You came out here an worked for a break. That’s not healthy fur a boy yur age ya know. Ya’ll skedaddle an get a nap.” The old man said as he began to walk toward his truck. “You be callin me Marcus if’n you need anythin at all. Ya hear?”

“Yes sir.” Marc replied as the boys watched him wave and drive the old pick up off the property.

“Marcus?” Noah asked with a giggle. “I thought you hated being called Marcus.”

“I do, but from him I don’t mind it as much for some reason.” Marc said with a smile.

“And no sleep is bad for a boy your age? Marcus, does he know you’re an android?” Noah asked with a giggle as he placed his hands on his hips..

“Yeah, I told him but I don’t think he gets it.” Marc replied before dummy slapping Noah in the back of the head. “That’s for calling me Marcus.” Marc said with a laugh as he led the way to the doors. “We should send someone out for breakfast and coffee.”

“No need.” Noah said with a grin as he rubbed the back of his head. “Jerry’s Mom and Dad beamed in two hours ago and took over the kitchen.”

“Mary’s making breakfast? Sweet!” Marc said with a smile. “Where are we eating?”

“The staff cafeteria.” Noah said with a smile as Marc responded with a confused look. “You know, in the basement?” Noah added getting a simple shrug from Marc. “You really should explore this old place a little. It’s huge!”

“I will when I have the time.” Marc replied as they walked toward the elevators. “These work now?” Marc asked in surprise.

“Yeah, you missed a few meetings.” Noah said with a giggle. “Wait til you see Mary in the kitchen. I swear she’s in love with the place.”

“Really?” Marc asked as the elevator doors opened. “Wow, they did a nice job cleaning these up.”

“Basement.” Marc said once they stepped inside causing Noah to giggle as he reached across and pressed the B button.

“You always make a habit of talking to machines?” Noah said with a laugh.

“No, I thought they were installing turbolifts.” Marc replied.

“They are dude, but for now they just got us an elevator working. Beats climbing the stairs.” Noah got out as the elevator slowed and stopped.

“Lower level sir.” Noah said with a fake English accent before they both laughed and stepped into the hall. “God that smells good.” he added as their noses led them to the cafeteria.

“Marc!” Jerry shouted as the two entered the doors. “Where were you? Where’s Kevin. What’s…” he got out before Noah raised his hand and shook his head.

“Not now Jerry, he’s had a rough night.” Noah said as Marc walked over to the kitchen and out of ear shot. “Kevin’s body died last night.” he added as he sat down at the table with Jerry, Billy, Antonio and Caleb. “Glad you and JR made it for breakfast.” he said to Caleb with a hug.

“What? You thought I was gonna pass this up for cereal? Not happening!” Caleb said as he slid a tray in front of Noah. “It’s still hot.”

Noah smiled and began to dig in to his breakfast. “How’r things goin at the house?” he said after swallowing his mouth full of scrambled eggs.

“Great, except I found something strange on the main terminal. You think after breakfast you can beam back with me and check it out?” Caleb asked as he stuffed his mouth once again.

“You trying to trick me into going back to the house with you… Alone?” Noah said with a smile getting giggles from the others. “I’m sooo there.”

“Pervert.” Caleb laughed out as he playfully slapped Noah’s arm and smiled. “Maybe later, I really need you to look at this. I don’t know what it is and it wasn’t there yesterday.”

Noah nodded his head as he picked up his orange juice and took a large gulp from it. “What’s it look like?”

Caleb shrugged his shoulders and put his fork down. “It’s some sort of information packet, not like anything I’ve seen before though.” Caleb said with a serious look.

“You think it may be the result of an attempted security breach?” Billy asked with his eyebrows raised. “Maybe you guys need an IT team to check it out.”

“We are the IT team.” Noah said through a mouthful of pancakes.

“Oh, cool.” Billy replied with his eyebrows raised. “I hope I get to stick around here for a while, working with you guys is just amazing sometimes.” Billy said with a smile.

“You aren’t staying?” Antonio asked putting his forkful back down. “I thought you and Jerry were gonna build that replicator thing.”

Billy shrugged his shoulders and smiled at Antonio. “No clue buddy. I was supposed to depart last night but Marc ordered me to belay my original orders to return.” He said as he took a sip from his coffee. “I tried to contact Admiral Morrow earlier and he blew me off.”

“Blew you off?” Noah said with a laugh. “You mean like he refused to give you any info at all?”

“Yeah, told me to resume duties here until I am contacted.” Billy said setting his mug down. “I hope I didn’t do anything wrong.”

All the boys began to giggle before Noah and Caleb exchanged nods and grinned. “I wouldn’t worry about it.” Noah said with an encouraging smile. “I’d be willing to bet he blew you off cause he’s scheming something.”

“Yeah.” Antonio added with a knowing smile. “Maybe yur stayin.”

“That would be cool, but it would mess up my original plans.” Billy said with a nod. “Some day I want to be Chief Engineer on a starship.”

“Cool!” Jerry said with a smile. “Someday when your on a starship, maybe we can come visit you. I’ve always wanted to see a federation starship.”

“Well, I wouldn’t pack your bags yet.” Billy said tilting his head. “Every assignment I’ve ever received has been earth bound. It’ll probably be years before I get to see the inside of a Starship’s Engineering Room.”

“If you want it bad enough, it’ll happen.” Caleb said with a smile, “Jerry’s right though. Your first assignment, we will be expecting a tour.” he got out with a giggle.

“I’ll let you know.” Billy said with a smile. “Maybe your patriarch can set something up with the Admiral. I’ll definitely tell him I’m up for taking a diplomatic group on a starship tour.”

“Cool.” Jerry said with a smile.

In the kitchen, Marc stood in the corner with a plate in his hand and ate while he watched as Mary buzzed around preparing another wave of food. After about 15 minutes of being watched, Mary finally stopped and glared at Marc. “Do you plan on eating your breakfast standing in the corner?” She asked as she put down her spatula and walked over toward Marc. “Why don’t you go sit down with the boys?”

“I dunno.” Marc answered. “I was just watching you work, and I kinda got lost in thought.”

Mary grabbed a folding chair and slid it over to Marc. “At least sit down.” She said as she pointed to one of her helpers toward the griddle she was working at. “Everything okay?” She asked as she leaned against the wall next to him.

“Pretty much.” he replied, putting his plate down on the sink next to him. “I wasn’t thinking about problems really.” Marc continued with a grin. “Mary, you really like this kitchen. Don’t you?”

Mary smiled and looked around the open area. “No, I hate it.” She said crossing her arms.

“No, seriously.” Marc said with a giggle.

“I am serious.” She replied with a stern look. “It has real potential, but whoever designed the equipment layout probably never worked in a kitchen one day in their life.” Mary said nodding her head.

“How would make it better?” Marc asked with a grin.

“I would seriously rearrange the equipment, probably replace some of this old junk. You guys have old refrigeration that doesn’t even work right. Those ovens were state of the art when my great grandmother was still playing with dolls. Not to mention that if it was fully staffed, people would be tripping over each other to get anything done.” Mary said with a smile. “This could be one hell of a kitchen with better planning.”

“Do you want it?” Marc asked with a smile as he picked up his plate and took a large mouthful.

“Excuse me?” Mary said shaking her head.

“Well. I’m only guessing, but I’m sure having a bad kitchen setup won’t help operations. This place is gonna have a ton of mouths to feed on a daily basis. Probably a lot of kids who haven’t had real good food in a long time.” Marc said without once looking at Mary while he picked up a slice of his toast and took a bite. “We’re gonna need to find someone who would be willing to shape this place up. Someone who knows what this kitchen should be.” He paused as he drank some of his orange juice. “Someone who will care that the kids in the hospital are well taken care of. I think a person like that would be hard to find, don’t you?”

Mary simply squinted her eyes and stared at Marc.

“Do you want it?” He repeated looking up at her finally and smiling. “A real Mom’s meal can sometimes be a blessing to some little kid who’s either never had one or hasn’t in a long time.” He said as he looked at his plate and then looked at Mary and smiled. ” I know it helped me.”

“Are you offering me a job?” Mary said through a laugh.

“Nope, I’m offering you a department within the facility. If you’re interested I mean. It just seems like you would have fun whipping this relic back into a kitchen. Besides, I know this breakfast brightened my morning. Imagine what it would do for some poor kid who is in a really bad situation.” Marc said as he looked back at his plate and grabbed a piece of bacon. “You don’t have to. I just thought this could be something you might be interested in.”

“Are you kidding?” Mary replied with a smile. “What do you guys want for lunch?” She asked as she looked around the kitchen and smiled.

“Is that an acceptance?” Marc grinned as he shoveled what was left on his plate into his mouth.

“You think I’d pass up an opportunity like this?” She asked with a smile. “You got yourself a kitchen manager.” She added with a smile. “Someone has to make sure you guys are eating right.”

“Awesome!” Marc said as he put his plate in the big three bay sink. “I’ll talk to Doc Austin about figuring out how we’ll replace some of the broken down equipment and stuff if you’ll make me up a wish list.”

“I’ll do better than that.” Mary said with a smile. “I’ll draw up my proposed plans, what equipment is needed, what equipment needs to be tossed in the scrap pile and even where we can get some of what we need.” Mary said with a smile that resembled a kid on Christmas morning. “This’ll be fun.” She added causing Marc to giggle.

“It’s yours then. I’ll figure out what we have for resources and we’ll take it from there.” Marc said as he turned for the door leading out into the cafeteria. “I vote pizza for lunch.” He said with a giggle.

“Vote again, the oven doesn’t work.” Mary said with a laugh as Marc opened the door.

“Oh maaaan.” Marc turned and said with a smirk. “I’ll get back to you on replacements cause I really, really, really want pizza.” He said with a giggle as the door swung shut.

As the group began to break up, each team began to head back to their projects. Marc stood and watched as the few remaining cleared the tables and dropped the dishes in the kitchen.

“Billy!” Marc shouted as he chased after Billy.

“Yes Sir?” Billy replied, snapping to attention out of habit; instantly realizing it wasn’t warranted by Marc’s giggle. “Sorry, I mean what’s up?”

“I spoke with Doc Austin last night. He had a conversation with Admiral Morrow on your behalf.” Marc began as the two started to walk toward the elevator. “The Admiral needs you to report to him at some point this morning.”

“Am I being reassigned?” Billy asked as he pressed the up button and the two waited for the elevator. “I mean if I can request to remain, I’ll try it.”

“Don’t worry about planning a proposal.” Marc said with a smile as the elevator doors opened. “Just report to the Admiral and let me know what happens.”

“I’ll contact the Admiral and set up the meeting.” Billy said as they stepped in and pushed the first floor button. “I’ll report to you as soon as I know when I’m expected at Terra Main.”

“Not needed man.” Marc said with a smile. “Contact him and you have permission to depart when needed. Once you return just report that you are back on duty.” Marc said with a grin. “Or that you have been reassigned, whatever happens.” He added, attempting to not let too much information slip.

“Understood, I’ll contact you once I know what my assignment is.” Billy said getting a nod from Marc. “Wish me luck.” He added as the doors opened and he practically ran down the hall.

“You don’t need luck.” Marc shouted after him with a smile. “You have us.” he finished with a giggle. “What more do you need.”

Billy laughed and left the room just as Austin and Jerry turned the corner and joined Marc. “I was just about to call you.” Jerry said with a smile. “We really should go check up on Daniel. That and Austin said that his treatments were gonna start today.”

“Yeah we have to get to work.” Marc said with a grin. “Austin, why don’t you go check on Joey then peek in on Byron and see how Eli and Benji’s prosthetics are coming along. Jerry and I will be in with Daniel Wiggins for a while. Once we are all set across the board, Billy should be back from Terra Main and we should be set to begin work on Kevin.”

“I thought we lost Kevin.” Jerry asked as he stopped walking. “Did I miss something?”

“Yup.” Austin said as he turned the corner and walked towards the OR without an explanation.

“Well?” Jerry asked Marc who simply began to giggle. “Aw come on! What are you two up to? What’s goin on with Kevin?”

“Sorry, classified information.” Marc said with a laugh as they continued to walk towards Daniel’s room.

“I’ll give you classified.” Jerry grumbled as they reached the new nurses station.

“Good morning Doctor.” One of the nurses almost sang. “Dixon hasn’t woken back up yet, our reports from last night are in his folder.” She continued as she seemed to happily gather up medical equipment that was still stored in boxes, placing it all on rolling carts and wheeling it off to storage closets.

“Wow, she seems really happy.” Jerry said with a smile. “Dixon?”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed that with a few of the medical personnel Chris brought in. Hopefully some of these people will like it here and consider accepting positions on staff.” Marc said with a smile as he began to flip through the report made by the nurses throughout the night. “Dixon is the only name he’s ever known according to his file. We should probably get used to using it.”

“Okay, so did Dixon do alright last night?” Jerry asked as he grabbed two lab coats and began to put one on.

“Slept like a baby from what I read.” Marc said as he closed the folder and took the other coat. Let’s go check on him.” He said as they went to his room and quietly opened the door.

After checking the equipment and reading the notes made on his chart, Marc pulled back the covers and inspected his work. “Did you bring in a tricorder?”

“Yeah, it’s in your pocket.” Jerry replied as he gathered clean gauze and tape for Marc to replace the dressing. “I thought you didn’t know how to use one though.” Jerry said as Marc pulled it out of his pocket and smiled while handing it to Jerry.

“I don’t yet, haven’t had time to download it’s specifications and integrate them. I’ll take care of that tonight.” Marc added with a smile. “I have a ton of files I need to upload.”

Jerry flipped the tricorder open and removed the hand held sensor. After performing a sweep of Dixon’s prosthetics and surrounding area, he read the results out loud. “No sign of infection or rejection. He’s healing at a really good rate. When he wakes up, he may be in a little pain though.” He got out as Marc removed the old dressing, causing Jerry to hiss through his teeth. “Not that I’d expect him not to be.” He added and then cleared his throat.

“Once this heals I think the scarring will be minimal.” Marc said as he began to clean the area and then replace the bandaging. “We’ll have to keep him on pain killers for a while though. I don’t want him to hurt anymore than he has too.” Marc said as he covered Dixon back up and made note of his inspection in Dixon’s folder. “You wanna run this back out to the nurses station for the nurse on duty?” Marc asked as he handed Jerry the folder.

“Okay.” Jerry said as he ran from the room and Marc began to look Dixon’s chart over. Once he came back into the room, he craned his neck to read along with Marc.

“Where am I?” A hoarse sounding voice said, causing both to instantly look away from the chart. “Who are you guys?”

“Don’t try to sit up just yet. You’ve been through a lot,” Marc said softly. “You are in the what will soon be The Clan Short & Federation Youth Services Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina. At least when it’s done it will be. My name is Marc, and this is Jerry,” Marc said pointing toward Jerry.

“Where’s Jesse? Where’s my mom?” The boy began to ask frantically.

“She isn’t here,” Marc said in almost a whisper. “You’re safe now, Dixon. Just relax.”

“Where’s Jesse?” Dixon repeated.

“Who’s Jesse?” Jerry asked him.

“My boy….my friend,” Dixon seemed to be trying to correct himself, albeit a bit too late. “Don’t hurt me, please,” he whimpered as he drew himself into a little ball in the bed to try to protect himself, probably expecting to be beaten. The movement had to have caused Dixon a great deal of pain, but his panicked condition must have been more intense.

“We’re here to help you get better, not hurt you,” Marc said as he raised his hands and kept some distance. “You’ve already been hurt more than enough.”

“You need to lay still or you’ll hurt yourself though,” Jerry added. He reached up and rubbed Dixon’s arm reassuringly. “It’s okay. We’re your friends, Dixon.”

“Did you just say I’m in South Carolina? How did I get here? I live in Arkansas,” Dixon asked the boys beside him.

“That’s a really long story, and I promise you will hear all of it, but for right now, we have to make sure you’re getting better,” Marc said in an attempt to calm him a bit.

“What happened to me?” Dixon asked slowly. He looked toward his crotch, and started to reach for it, but his hand stopped. “Am I…. I mean did she…. Do I have…? Did they…?” He began to stutter.

“You were cut up pretty badly when they got you to the hospital in Arkansas,” Jerry told him. “Fortunately, you had been fingerprinted when you were little.”

“Fingerprinted? Am I going to jail?” Dixon asked in confusion.

“No, you’re not in trouble,” Marc assured him. “You had been fingerprinted for identification when you were a little kid. Two weeks after that, you were kidnapped.”

“What are you guys talking about?” Dixon continued to question. “I don’t remember being kidnapped.”

“You were only about a year and a half old when it happened,” Jerry supplied. “You wouldn’t remember this, unless you had a brain like this old guy,” he added with a smile; pointing at Marc.

“What do you mean? Who kidnapped me?” Dixon rambled as understanding seemed to gradually began to dawn on him. “You mean she wasn’t really my Mom?”

“Jerry, I think we’re just confusing him worse,” Marc said sympathetically. “Dixon, you need to rest some more before we talk any more.”

“No, I want to know,” Dixon insisted. “Who am I, if I’m not Dixon Pickhinke?”

“Your real name is Daniel K. Wiggins, IV,” Marc answered. “Your real parents were Dan and Susan Wiggins from right here in Charleston.”

“What do you mean they were my parents?” Dixon asked with a sharp tone.

“Your father was killed in a car accident two years after you disappeared, and your mom died of cancer three years ago,” Marc told him. “I’m really sorry.”

“My mom wasn’t my mom, and my real parents are dead,” Dixon said flatly. “Any more great news to share? What about me? Am I okay … down there? Am I a girl now?”

“No, you’re not a girl, but ….” Marc began, but looked down and didn’t finish.

“That woman hurt you really bad,” Jerry said as a tear began to work it’s way down his cheek.

“The woman who claimed to be your mother cut off your….” Marc started to say, but he couldn’t finish either.

“She cut them off, didn’t she?” Dixon asked. He began crying as Marc and Jerry just nodded silently. Jerry began to cry almost as hard as Dixon, not being able to hold back any longer. Marc pulled Jerry into a hug and reached out to Dixon. “She cut everything off, Dixon,” he continued quietly. “Don’t worry though, that’s why you’re here. We’ve taken care of you.”

“What’s going to happen to me? Do I have to become a girl?” Dixon asked as he continued to sob.

“No, we’ve replaced what you’ve lost,” Marc said in as confident a tone as he could muster, having the affect he had hoped for as Dixon’s sobbing began to slow.

“How did you do that?” Dixon asked him.

“It wasn’t that hard, actually,” Jerry told him as he wiped away the tears and actually began to smile again. “First, Marc reattached your pe…. Well, you know.” He blushed incredibly red at that moment. “Your own… well, we couldn’t reattach yours, but we used a biological method to create replacement parts. Like what you would find on an android.”

“You created…. What did you do to me? What am I now, Frankenstein’s monster?” Dixon seemed to panic once again.

“Dixon, you have to try to remain calm,” Marc said quietly.

“Screw that!” Dixon yelled. “First, my mother attacks me, cutting off my… everything. Now you show up and tell me that she isn’t my mother. My real parents are dead. Then you top it off by telling me you put me back together with what, spare parts? Where the hell am I that you would have spare parts laying around for people’s bodies?”

“Not people bodies,” Jerry corrected. “Androids.” He said as Marc turned quickly and glared at him. “Sorry.” Jerry said as he looked toward his feet.

“Android parts!” Dixon bellowed. “I have android parts now?”

“They are based on your own biological components so they integrated quite well, actually,” Marc tried to assure him.

“What the hell am I now?” Dixon demanded. “I’m not a girl, but am I an android?”

“No, he’s the android,” Jerry pointed at Marc. “Oh, and there’s Kevin and Joey. They’re androids too, but you’ll meet them when they wake up. I bet Joey would think you just need a hug to get better. He’s really good at them, too. Of course, I’m a little prejudiced being his father.”

“You’re someone’s father?” Dixon asked. Jerry nodded. “You look about nine years old, how can you be anyone’s father? And didn’t you just say that he’s an android?”

Jerry just nodded again with a happy smile. “Marc, can you guys let me go back to sleep? I think I’m getting a headache.”

“You do need to rest more,” Marc agreed as he reached down and set the biobed to sedate. “I’ll contact Mrs. Amee now that you’re awake.”

“Who’s Mrs. Amee?” Dixon asked.

“She’s your great grandmother,” Jerry answered. “You’ll be living with her when you leave here.”

“I have a great grandmother,” Dixon mused as he closed his eyes and peacefully drifted off to sleep.

“Poor kid.” Marc said as he double checked the biobed’s readout before turning for the door. “We need to learn more about him. He has ties that may help him recover emotionally.”

“I’d start with his boyfriend. We should find out who he is.” Jerry said as he stopped once they were both in the hall and turned toward Marc. “Do you need my help with Austin.”

“No, I’m fine. If you can contact Mrs. Amee and then maybe arrange to find out who his boyfriend is through the local authorities that handled the assault, I’ll handle the procedures here.” Marc said with a smile. “Have Noah give you a hand. Just in case you may need to involve intelligence through HQ.”

“Okay, give a yell if you need me.” Jerry said as he broke out in a run toward the elevator.

“Will do.” Marc replied as he flipped open his communicator. “Furst to Short.”

“Austin here, Dad.”

Marc smiled and started to walk down the hall. “How are things in OR 1 & 4 goin?”

“Everything looks great. Joey’s almost ready to activate biological components and the prosthetics for Eli and Benji are coming along at about the same rate. We should be able to have Joey back online in about two days, at about the same time we should be ready to prep the guys for surgery.”

“Sweet.” Marc said with a smile. “I’m going to check in with security at the house, then I expect to see you in OR 3 so we can get started on you.”

“Great! I’ll be there. Austin out.”

“Doctor Furst!” The voice of a young woman from behind Marc caused him to jump and almost drop his communicator.

“Yes Nurse?” Marc asked as he grasped at his chest exaggerating the fact that she had startled him.

“I’m sorry Doctor, I didn’t mean to scare you.” She said with a smile. “You have an incoming transmission from the AI Compound. You can take it in the consultation room if you like.”

“That’s perfect timing.” Marc replied smiling back. “Now about that consultation room. If I were to go in there, I would be where?” he continued with a giggle.

“I’ll show you.” The nurse said with a grin as she motioned for him to follow.

Once in the room, Marc looked around and laughed. “This is definitely a temporary setup.” he muttered as he made his way through the boxes to the terminal that was setup in the far corner of the room; already displaying that a communication was standing by. “Sup Noah?” Marc asked with a smile as soon as Noah’s image appeared.

“Marc, Caleb came across something on the main terminal I think you need to know about.” Noah said with a serious look on his face.

“Good or bad?” Marc asked as he put his feet up on one of the boxes on the floor.

“I’m not sure.” Noah replied shrugging his shoulders.

“Okay. I’m listening.” Marc said as Caleb came into view on the screen.

“Marc, before I beamed out for breakfast I found a pretty large file on the main terminal that wasn’t there yesterday. Noah came back with me to take a look at it and I’m not sure we should proceed with investigating it on our own.” Caleb said as Noah rubbed his eyes.

“Is it hostile? I mean is someone trying to break into the system?” Marc asked scratching his head.

“No.” Noah answered. “It’s unencrypted information and looks like it was intended for us to find.”

“Information for what?” Marc asked as he sat up. “Who would have access anyway?”

“The origin was this terminal.” Noah said as he began to tap away at the system’s controls. “It was transmitted directly, source and exact time unknown.”

“It must be a joke though.” Caleb added. “I recognize some of the strings used here from school.”

“From school?” Marc asked with a smirk. “Are you guys playing jokes on each other or on me?”

“It’s no joke dude.” Caleb replied. “I’ve seen parts of what I’m looking at from a project I did once before. It was the theoretical implications of the use of the Trinary Language.”

“Trinary?” Marc said with a laugh. “Now I know it’s a joke. The Trinary Language is only a fantasy unless you decide to pick up fictional writing as a hobby.”

“See for yourself.” Noah said as a file transfer request popped up on the screen. “Look at it and tell me what you think. I think Cal is right on this one.”

After the file transfer completed Marc started to giggle. “If this is one of those joke files, you both are sooo dead.” he said as he opened the file and began to scan through the code that instantly began to fill the screen. “Oh my god dude! Where the hell did this come from?” Marc asked as he continued to scroll. “This looks real.”

“Told you.” Caleb said as he folded his arms. “We have no way to test it but just from tracing the source, it looks very real.”

“We have no clue how this got on the system at all?” Marc asked as he closed the file. “I mean, what I just saw would have taken years to compile working off of theory alone to appear that accurate.”

“No kiddin.” Caleb said.

“I can narrow it down to a transmission from a very close proximity sometime yesterday. Time indexes and source were purposely scrambled though. It’s as if someone wanted us to have it but didn’t want us to know who wrote it.” Noah said as if he was thinking out loud.

“That wouldn’t bother me if it wasn’t for the fact that whoever it was had access to the terminal.” Marc said with a sigh. “Billy was right. Guys, go ahead and analyze that file but I also want Eddie to investigate the possibility of a security breach. I find it hard to believe someone slipped in, planted this file and slipped out without being noticed.”

“On it Marc.” Noah replied. “We’ll let you know what we find.” he said before ending the transmission.

Marc continued to look the file over before locking it and setting the terminal into standby. “Trinary…” Marc mumbled as he made his way through the boxes toward the door. “I guess I can’t complain about things being dull around here.”

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

Transporter Room #1

“Whoah dude! What happened to you?” Billy said to Austin as he entered the transporter room followed by Jerry.

“Reconstructive surgery.” Austin replied as he ran his hand over the bandages. “It’s not as bad as it looks, really. I just need to keep it covered for a few hours after the procedures.”

“That won’t affect the image, will it Billy?” Jerry asked as he joined Billy at the transporter controls.

“Nope. We want what’s inside for this model.” Billy said with a laugh as Marc entered the room and nodded encouragingly at Austin.

“Oh, it sounds great when you put it that way.” Austin said with a groan. “So what do I have to do?”

“Nothing really.” Jerry said. “It’s gonna be just like being transported.”

“Just step up on the pad and we’ll prepare the system.” Billy said as he began to tap away at the controls.

“How does this work?” Austin asked as he took his position.

“You know that replicators and transporters are primarily the same in design. They just perform different functions.” Billy said as he and Jerry continued to work. “Transporters break down the molecular structure of the person or item being transported. It memorizes the exact pattern and then sends that matter to the receiving unit along with the map to reassemble the molecules. A replicator is programmed with the molecular structure of the item being created. It gathers matter and creates the item following the map of it’s proposed structure. Now if you combine the function of both, the instructions to reassemble you can be used as a map to be replicated. The same method also implies that the image can be altered just like you would create an item map within a replicator. There are unlimited uses when you think about it.”

“So you could make a duplicate me?” Austin asked, tilting his head.

“Yes and no.” Billy answered. “I could create a physical copy of you but even with all the components assembled, it can’t copy the one thing that is truly you.” Billy said looking up from the control console. “Your personality or your soul isn’t seen with any kind of scan.” He said as he completed preparing the system. “By nature that little flaw is the only thing that would keep people from making an army out of themselves.”

“That’d be creepy.” Marc said leaning against the wall near the door.

“And dangerous.” Billy added. “Okay Austin. When you’re ready this will feel just like being transported. To you just a couple of seconds will pass. I am going to begin a transport; this will place you in the transporter’s buffer, just like being transported. While you’re in there, I will tell the system to save your image and then cancel the transport. You won’t actually go anywhere.”

“Let’s do this then.” Austin said crossing his arms.

“Energizing.” Billy said as the system came to life and Austin slowly vanished in a shimmering column of light. “He’s being held in the buffers now. Jerry, maintain this power level while I prep his buffered image to be saved.”

“How long can he safely be held in the transporters buffers like that?” Marc asked, earning a warm smile from Billy.

“Don’t worry Daddy, he’s perfectly safe.” Billy said as he began his work. “Theoretically he can be held indefinitely without losing any information.”

“Oh, okay.” Marc answered as he simply watched.

“Jerry, I’m reading a clean molecular profile. What’s our status?” Billy asked as he tapped away at a second console.

“System reads nominal. Looks good so far.” Jerry said with a smile. “Just let me know when you’re ready to terminate.”

“Just one more minute.” Billy said as Marc wandered over and watched. “I’m performing a decontamination scan on him while he’s in there. It’s a very detailed scan that gives a replicator even more detailed information to work from.”

“Is it needed?” Marc asked looking a little lost.

“No, not really. It just gives a second source to draw from.” Billy said as he tapped a few more controls and then sat back and smiled. “Bring him home Jerry.”

“Aye sir.” Jerry said with a giggle as Austin’s image became visible on the pad once again.

“That was cool!” Austin said as he hopped off the pad. “It felt like I was getting tickled, even inside. I never noticed how intense that feeling was before.”

“That’s cause normally you wouldn’t have much more than a split second to experience it in a normal transport.” Billy said as he confirmed that the image was saved.

“How long was I in there?” Austin asked with a huge smile.

“Just a couple of minutes.” Jerry answered as he powered the system down. “System standing by Billy.”

“Great, thanks buddy.” Billy replied as he looked up from his display and smiled. “Marc, the ball is in your court now.” He said as he motioned toward the console. “Have you ever altered a replicator’s programmed molecular profile before?”

“You mean like programming a new item?” Marc asked as he sat down and began to look the controls over.

“That’s exactly what I mean.” Billy said as he brought up the stored profile.

“Guys, we have to get back to work.” Austin said as he and Jerry headed out the door. “Give a yell if you need us, okay?”

“No problem. Thanks guys.” Marc said as Billy smiled and nodded.

“Okay.” Billy continued once the boys left the room. “This system is configured to translate information much like a biobed does. This way you can design the biological aspects directly and create the molecular pattern the transporter would use to act as a replicator.” He continued once Marc looked up from the display. “You can incorporate information from tons of sources. Tricorder, biobed, saved transporter buffer, stored information on other terminals and even be able to alter specific information to create the finished look of the replicated unit.”

“What if I make an alteration that isn’t compatible? Like maybe I decide hair color needs to be different. Normally that’s handled through internal programming and DNA manipulation.” Marc asked.

“Simple. Just like a replicator’s interface, you can run a simulated replication and have the computer analyze the finished unit. If it or you find errors or decide changes need to be made, you can program in the corrections and re-simulate until you and the system are both happy with the finished profile.” Billy said as Marc sat back in his chair. “Once it’s programmed with the requirements of the onboard DNA handler, alterations will be translated to the internal programming automatically. You decide how he looks, it tells the brain how to maintain it.”

“I’ll have to get access to some more information on how all this works so I’ll know what I’m doing.” Marc said with a smile.

“I’ll get some reference material together for you. I made some alterations to this terminal so it’ll act a little differently than the documentation will suggest.” Billy replied with a grin. “By the way Marc, thanks.”

“After all this you’re thanking me. Why?” Marc asked with his eyes opened wide.

“I had just got back from my meeting with Admiral Morrow when we started here. He said you recommended me for a promotion.” He said as he pointed to the new pins on his collar. “Lieutenant Commander.” He announced with a smile.

“Awesome!” Marc said with a grin.

“The only thing that confuses me is he told me to report to you for assignment. Does that mean I’m sticking around for a while?” Billy asked.

“Well, as my new Chief Engineer it wouldn’t do me any good to ship you off somewhere else.” Marc said beginning to laugh as Billy’s face began to flush.

“As what?” Billy choked out.

“You seriously didn’t hear me?” Marc asked with a giggle. “Great, now we have to get your hearing checked.”

“I’m being assigned as your CHIEF Engineer? For real!?!” Billy almost shouted as he began to look like he was going to explode. “That… that’s unreal… I mean… Do you know what that would do for my career?”

“I know what it does for mine.” Marc said with a smile. “It makes it bearable.” He added as he patted the terminal and then stood up from his seat and held his hand out toward Billy. “Congratulations Chief, welcome aboard.” He said as he picked up a P.A.D.D. and brought up the schematics Billy had handed him the night before. “Now that the formalities are out of the way, I have a few suggestions regarding this unit I’d like your opinion on.” He said with a grin as Billy was obviously too deep in thought to function yet.

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

“What do you think Marc and Billy have been up to in there?” Jerry asked as he and Eli stood outside the door to transporter room 1. “They’ve been in there for hours.”

“I don’t know dude, but we need to interrupt them for this.” Eli replied as they entered the room to see Marc tapping away at the console with Billy leaning on the wall behind him. “Um Marc, we’ve found a problem. Got a minute?”

Marc looked up and rubbed his eyes for a second before waving the boys over. “Sure, I needed a break.” Marc said with a weak smile. “What’s up?”

“We’ve got a problem.” Eli started as Jerry nodded his head in agreement.

Marc’s eyebrows raised as he watched Eli’s expression go from serious to stern. “Fill me in guys.”

“Marc.” Jerry said as he placed his hand on Eli’s shoulder. “I made the call to the authorities that handled Dixon’s case. It wasn’t a good conversation.

“Yeah.” Eli cut in. “If I ever run into that prick they call their Chief of Police…” He started as Marc stood up from his seat and held his hand up.

“Whoa, what happened?” Marc asked as he stepped out from behind the console.

Jerry took a deep breath and nodded his head. “I contacted the chief of police in Arkansas and identified myself. He was cool with that until I asked for information regarding the Pickhinke case. He refused to give me any information, wouldn’t give out any information about Jesse or even his whereabouts. Eli took over the call and spent over an hour just to get nothing more than a last name out of him.”

“That sonova…” Eli began to say before Jerry cut him off.

“He called Eli a few really nasty names and then hung up on him.” Jerry said and then looked at the floor.

“Wished me luck on my ‘Little Fag Hunt’ before he hung up.” Eli said as his face began to visibly redden.

“Unbelievable.” Marc groaned. “So we have a last name, that’s a start.” Marc said as Jerry began to laugh.

“We have a kick ass intelligence team at HQ. Even better than a start.” Eli said with an evil grin. “I can tell you his last name, middle name, current location. Hell I can tell you what size boxers he wears.” he said as Jerry began to giggle at Eli’s satisfied smirk.

“It gets worse from there though.” Jerry stated as he began to read from a report on the P.A.D.D. he had been holding behind his back. “Jesse David Blankenship, 12 years old. He is currently placed in a foster home after authorities took his older brother into custody.” Jerry got out before clearing his throat. “Jason Nathaniel Blankenship was incarcerated for inappropriate behavior with a minor following accusations set forth by Dixon’s abductor. Jason had custody of Jesse and the brothers lived in an apartment on their own.”

“Tell him why he had custody.” Eli added.

Jerry shook his head before reading out loud; “Custody of Jesse Blankenship was awarded to his older brother following the brutal murders of both parents.” Jerry said as he began nervously biting his lower lip. “Both murders were in plain view of Jesse before the man turned his attention to Jesse and came close to successfully raping him.” Jerry said as he began choking on his own words.

Eli reached over and grabbed the P.A.D.D. and continued; “Jason Blankenship wasn’t charged with the murder of their parents’ assailant.” He said as he looked up from the display. “He got home just in time to obtain a gun and shoot the man, killing him on the spot.”

“Three people killed in front of this poor kid in one night. God I hope he’s in a better home now.” Marc said as both Jerry and Eli’s faces lost all expression. “What?”

“We don’t think he was in a bad home Marc.” Eli said as Jerry nodded his head in agreement. “The woman who butchered Dixon was the one who turned authorities on Jesse’s brother. The part about being gay and in the same household seems to be the only basis for the inappropriate behavior accusation from what we can tell.”

“Actually.” Jerry cut in. “There are nothing but good reports about the way Jason was caring for Jesse from the school he attended and local child protective services. Jesse’s school guidance counselor noted in a report that even though Jesse seemed to be a bit withdrawn, he must have been receiving excellent support from his remaining family judging by Jesse’s improved attitude in school since the loss of both of his parents.”

“You think the charges against Jason Blankenship are bogus?” Marc asked as Eli rolled his eyes.

“Oh please. Bogus is putting it nicely.” Eli said as he shook his head. “From the report filed shortly after Dixon’s assault…” Eli said as he searched the data base the boys had compiled. “…here it is. ‘Ms. Pickhinke has also informed us that the minor Jesse Blankenship has been exposed to acts of homosexuality by his caregiver which led to the unspeakable acts she witnessed prior to being attacked by her son. We have verified the sexual orientation of the male in question, and based on Arkansas state regulations regarding homosexuals as parents have determined that placement with this particular male has damaged the 12 year old boy and will require extensive therapy and a strong parental base to repair.” Eli read out loud. “You wanna hear the best part?” Eli asked with a grin.

“There’s a best part to all of this?” Billy asked as he leaned on the console in disbelief.

“This file was submitted by authorities to justify their actions and was supposed to be sealed.” Eli said with a grin. “Justy said he was just skimming the information in their system when he found it stored in what looked like the wrong place. Unencrypted even.”

“Well, from what you read it doesn’t sound like the officer that filed the report was all that bright to begin with.” Marc said as he took a deep breath. “I don’t want to take the chance of upsetting Dixon if we don’t have to. I mean if we’re wrong here we may be getting his hopes up just to let him down. We need to find out exactly what we’re dealing with.” Marc said as he looked back and forth between both boys and noted their shocked expressions. “I know what you’re thinking guys. This whole situation stinks worse than the crap that report is filled with. I just want to know how big the pile is before we step in it.”

“Do we know the location of the foster home Jesse was placed in?” Billy asked. “Maybe we could just visit him and see if we can get his side of the story.” Billy said scanning everyone’s expressions. “I mean there’s no harm dropping in on one of Dixon’s friends. We ARE concerned that he’s doing alright after what he went through.”

An evil smile crept across every face in the room as Eli read over the report once more. “I really would like to know he’s okay.” He said with a low sarcastic undertone.

“Yeah.” Jerry chimed right in. “Dixon says they’re friends. I’m sure he’d like to know his friend is gonna to be alright.” He said stifling a giggle. “If we should happen to find out we were fed bad information from those dirt bag cops…”

“Then we invoke the Safe Haven Act on the spot and fix the mess they made, before it’s too late.” Marc cut in as all four nodded. “How about you two and Eddie beam out and pay a social visit to…” Marc said as he walked over and looked at the P.A.D.D. Still in Eli’s hand. “…Reverend Malachi Smeltz? Oh wonderful. Southern religion taking in a minor who is gay.” Marc said as he rolled his eyes. “I know you guys want to see this through, and I’ll allow it as long as Eddie goes with you as an escort.” Marc said as he unclipped his communicator and spoke as he watched Jerry and Eli hi-five each other. “Marc to Lieutenant Fraser.”

“Eddie here.”

“Eddie, I have two team members in need of a security escort to a foster home.” Marc said as he leaned against the wall.

“Should we go to security alert?”

“No, we have no reason to assume conditions on site are volatile.” Marc said with a grin. “Let’s just call it a hunch that something is not right in the household.”

“A hunch? Do you have any details?”

“I uploaded this into the system, he has access to this report.” Jerry said as Eddie got silent on his end.

“I’m looking at it.”

All three waited and listened as Eddie cleared his throat a couple of times and sighed once before Marc finally broke the silence. “I’m sure you would agree that it would be a courtesy on our part to just drop in and let Jesse know that his friend Dixon is going to be okay.”

“Yeah, right.” Eddie said as the sound of a door opening could be heard. “That whole report has a bad smell to it. When would you like us to depart?”

“I had a feeling you’d smell the same thing we did.” Marc said with a nod. “Twenty minutes, full uniform and armed.”

“Understood, Fraser out.”

“Um Marc.” Eli said in almost a whisper.

“Yeah Eli?” Marc replied with a concerned glance.

“If I go and Benji isn’t told…” he got out as Marc started to laugh.

“Say no more. Go get him and report back here.” Marc said as Jerry and Eli ran out the door.

“Phasers?” Billy asked. “Are you at least gonna send them all armed?”

“Eddie will be armed. Jerry isn’t trained yet and Eli and Benji are two walking weapons if they are ever crossed.” Marc replied with a giggle.

“Really?” Billy said with a laugh. “Now I wanna go and watch.”

“Not happnin. Someone’s gotta be here to push the buttons and stuff.” Marc said with a laugh.

“Aw… That stinks.” Billy replied in his best imitation of a 8 year old’s voice as he kicked the air in a mock pout while slowly walking around to the console to get ready.

“Clown.” Marc said with a smile. “Pull the location from that report and prepare to beam 4 Chief.”

“Aye, meanie.” Billy said with a laugh. “I’m really going to like this position.”

Fifteen minutes later, the boys had all brought up a map of the property and prepared a plan should the occupants decide to attempt to run when the sound of the transporter activating earned their attention.

“Hey Guys!” Eddie said with a smile. “You must be the new Chief engineer.” He said as he approached the console and held out his hand for him to shake.

“Head of security?” Billy asked with a smile.

“No sir, but I can dream.” Eddie said as Marc winked at Billy out of Eddie’s view.

“Mr. Fraser, your team is assembled. They will brief you and we’ll get this underway.” Marc said as he elbowed Billy in the side.

“Yes sir.” Eddie said and joined the other three.

“That hurt.” Billy said as he rubbed his side.

“Never talk about what the director has planned for another officer. Didn’t they teach you anything at the academy?” Marc whispered with a giggle.

“I didn’t know that’s what you had planned.” Billy replied with a laugh.

“And you still don’t.” Marc answered with a wink.

“We’re ready.” Eddie said as all three approached the transporter pad. “Any last minute orders?”

“Set phaser to stun and keep an open com channel. The first sign of trouble I need you to take control and fast. Make sure not to provoke these people, but the second they provoke you or you see signs that the SHA should be implicated; take the appropriate steps.” Marc said as they all took their places on the pad.

“Stay safe.” Marc said as he turned toward Billy. “Energize Chief.”

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

The boys appeared two houses up the sidewalk from the Smeltz house. Eddie checked his phaser and opened a channel on his communicator. “Moving in.” He said softly as all four casually approached the house. “Remember, I will remain right behind you. If anyone makes any kind of a threatening move, hit the floor.”

“The floor?” Benji asked.

“Drop, just stay out of the path of a phaser shot.” Eddie replied shaking his head as they turned up the walkway.

Once up on the porch, the boys nodded and Jerry stepped forward and knocked. After a few seconds, a teenage boy opened the door and scowled at the group.

“Can I help you?” The teenager asked as he remained inside the doorway.

“I hope so.” Jerry said in as pleasant a tone as he could manage. “My name is Jerry Owens, this is Eli and Benji Michaels and Edward Fraser. We are with Clan Short of Vulcan…”

“Okay, is there a reason you’re here?” The teen cut him off and practically barked.

“Yes, we were hoping to speak with Jesse Blankenship. It’s very important.” Jerry said as the teen scowled at him once again.

“What you need to talk to him for?” The teen asked with a snort.

“We would like to speak with Jesse regarding the happenings on the day of the attack.” Eli said in an emotionless tone.

“That and we thought he’d like to know that his friend Dixon is going to be alright.” Jerry added.

“He don’t know nuthin about the attack. Nuthin that will help you.” The teen said as he took a step backwards. “As far as that little fairy at the hospital goes, he don’t care how he is.” He said with an arrogant smile. “Said so himself.”

“Who is in charge here?” Jerry asked stiffening his back. “There is an adult on the premises, right?”

“My father is here, yeah.” The boy replied. “But he don’t need to be bothered over all this. You should probably just leave.

Eddie cleared his throat and made a production out of checking his phaser settings, gaining everyone’s attention. “I suggest you get your father buddy.” Eddie said as he looked up and half smiled. “I wouldn’t want to have to use force.”

“One second.” The boy spat out as he closed the door.

“Nice kid.” Benji said shaking his head.

“Yeah, maybe we can ask him to go out for pizza or something.” Eli replied with a sarcastic grin.

A few minutes later a very angry looking man swung the door open, startling the boys. “What business do you have with the boy?” The man asked with an even angrier look than the teenager had.

“Sir, we are stationed at the facility Dixon Pickhinke is being cared for at. We wanted to let him know that his friend was doing well and had a few questions to ask him about the incident.” Jerry said as the man laughed under his breath.

“I don’t think so, no.” The man said and went to slam the door, which to his surprise wouldn’t move.

“Thanks Eli.” Jerry said with a smile to Eli who simply grinned and released the door, causing the man to almost hit himself with it. “I’m afraid this isn’t a request sir. We need to speak with Jesse.”

“Demons!” The man shouted as he looked at the door and then stared Eli in the eyes. “You will not be allowed in my house! None of you!” The man said as he reached inside the door way and swiftly lifted a shotgun into view.

Just as Eddie was raising his Phaser, Eli raised his hand and slammed the shotgun into the doorway causing the reverend to fire the gun at the ceiling. “Let go of the gun sir, I can break your arm just as easily as I can hold it in place.” Eli said as he noticed the man’s son running up the stairs inside the house. “I got him, follow the kid!” Eli yelled as the man cried out and dropped the shotgun.

“Eddie!” Jerry shouted as he pointed to the stairwell. “Move in!”

“Y.. you don’t have the right!” The man shouted through his yelps as Eli twisted his arm bringing him to his knees.

“Raising your firearm gave us the right, sir.” Eddie said as he ran past the man with Benji and Jerry following.

At the top of the stairwell Eddie began checking each room until opening a door and waving the other two to approach. “Where is he.” Eddie got out as Jerry and Benji appeared behind him in the doorway.

“I don’t know.” The teen said as he crossed his arms in defiance. “Go ahead and look, he’s not in here.” He continued with a sneer.

“Search the room.” Jerry said as Eddie lowered his phaser and began to search with Benji.

“He’s not in here.” Benji stated as he closed the closet door. “He’s gotta be somewhere else in the house.”

“Let’s start looking then, he’s gotta be here somewhere.” Jerry said as he turned for the door and it suddenly slammed shut on it’s own.

“Look in the closet.” A familiar voice seemed to come from nowhere in a whisper.

“Huh?” Jerry said as he quickly turned back and stared at Eddie, who shrugged his shoulders. “What did you say?”

“I didn’t say anything.” Eddie said as he looked at Benji, getting a similar response.

“They can’t hear me.” The voice whispered. “Just you can, look in the closet again. Look close.”

“Davie?” Jerry whispered as he looked around the room in time to see the closet door open seemingly on it’s own.

“Yeah, it’s me. Just look.” Davie’s voice implored.

“In the closet.” Jerry said as he looked inside.

“We already looked in there.” Benji said as the teen sat back and snickered.

“I know.” Jerry said as he started tapping on the walls inside. “Something tells me we need to look closer.”

“That wall.” The voice whispered causing Jerry to look more closely at it.

“Davie,” Jerry whispered as he ducked deeper into the closet. “It’s the backside of a stairwell.”

“Look at the bottom Booger Brain.” Davie replied. “See! The corners of the sheet rock are cut away. Are you blind?” Davie’s voice impatiently continued as Jerry tapped on the center of the drywall panel. “Bonehead! Stick your fingers into the crack on one side and pull it out.”

Jerry squinted his eyes and looked closer at the wall before taking his brother’s advice and squeezing his fingers into the opening and giving a gentle tug, causing the panel to become dislodged. “Oh my god.” Jerry gasped as the panel fell revealing a young boy tied up and gagged in the small area behind the false wall. “Guys!!!” Jerry yelled as he crawled into the small area. “He’s in here, and not moving!!!”

Benji and Eddie rushed for the closet as the teen jumped up from the bed and ran for the door. After the boys pulled Jesse out of the hiding space, they carefully carried him to the bed; where they saw the boy tugging on the doorknob seemingly in a panic.

“Won’t open?” Jerry asked as he turned to the boy.

“What’s your rush kid?” Benji added. “You didn’t know he was in there, remember?” Benji said in a low tone as he raised his hand forcing the boy against the door. “Guys, I think Mikey’s here. I’m not the one holding the door.”

“Close.” Jerry replied with a grin.

“Ahhh…” Benji said with a grin as he opened his hand and threw it downward, throwing the teenager to the floor. “Who did this to the kid?” He demanded.

“I don’t know.” The teen cried.

“He did. Just before you guys came up here.” Davie’s voice seemed to echo in Jerry’s ears.

“It was him.” Jerry said as he turned toward Eddie. “Is he alive?”

“Yeah, looks like our buddy over there knocked him out. Probably to keep him quiet.” Eddie replied as he pulled his communicator from it’s holster. “Medical emergency! Request one to beam out immediately from these coordinates.”

“Energizing Mr. Fraser. Stand clear.” Billy’s voice replied.

Just as Eddie stepped back from the bed, Jesse’s lifeless body disappeared and Eddie focused his attention toward the teen. “Stand him up!” Eddie said through clenched teeth causing Jerry to jump out of surprise.

“Sure, my pleasure.” Benji replied with a sarcastic tone as he quickly raised his hand and the teen literally flew upright and right into the door with a slam.

“Who did this?'” Eddie asked as he took a step forward getting no answer.

“Answer him.” Benji added as the teen seemed to be jerked away from the door and slammed back into it once again.

“P… pa.. Papa Did!” The teen shouted and began to cry.

“His dad did do some of the damage. They both took turns beating Jesse.” Jerry heard Davie’s voice state. “He beat and raped him though.”

“He’s lying guys.” Jerry said crossing his arms. “His father has beat Jesse, but he has done worse. They both need to be taken into custody.” Jerry said looking up at Eddie.

“How do you know all this?” Eddie asked with a confused look on his face.

“Divine intervention.” Benji said with a smile as he swung his arm causing the teen to be thrown into the opposing wall. “You can let it open Davie, I got him.” Benji said as the door seemed to drift open. “Thanks for the help bro.” He added causing Eddie to look even more confused.

“We’ll explain later.” Jerry said with a giggle as he watched Benji effortlessly toss the boy out into the hall and bounce him off every wall on the way toward the stairs where they all began to hear whimpering and crying from the first floor.

“Eli! You okay?” Benji shouted as he waved his hand and sent the boy tripping and stumbling all the way down to the first floor.

“Oh, I’m fine.” Eli said as he looked up just in time to see the man’s son land on the hard wood floor with a thump. “Hey, you must be Ezekiel.” Eli said with a laugh. “You’re Poppa has told me some really interesting stories about you.”

“He tell you any about himself?” Jerry asked as he stepped over the crying ball at the bottom of the stairs.

“Awww… Have you been a bad Reverend; Reverend? What a shame, and we were just becoming best friends too.” Eli said as he used his powers to force the Reverend’s arm further up his back, causing him to scream out in pain. “Guess we can’t be friends now.” Eli said with a laugh as he looked back at the group and grinned. “What a dirt bag.”

“No joke.” Eddie replied. “Where are the rest of the occupants of this house?”

“My wi… wife is sho.. shopping…” The Reverend said between gasps before his son was tossed over to join him on the floor.

“Was the mother involved in all of this?” Benji asked Jerry.

After a moment Jerry replied; “Probably not. Davie said these two were the only ones he saw abusing Jesse.” He said with a scowl as he pulled a small hand held out of his pocket. “Hold on one second guys.” He said as he seemed to stare into an empty corner of the room and then started tapping away.

“What are you doing dude?” Benji asked as he watched Jerry sigh and pull out his communicator.

“These two need to be locked up.” He said after clearing his throat. “Owens to Director Furst.”

“Marc here Jerry. What’s wrong?”

“I don’t believe I have to do this.” Jerry said as he rubbed his eyes. “Director, please log this transmission as it is to be immediately forwarded to Clan headquarters and Federation Youth Services.”

“Understood Doctor, proceed.”

Jerry cleared his throat and looked at Eli, who simply nodded his head as encouragement. “My name is Doctor Jerald Jonathan Owens, an officer of Clan Short of the family of Sarek of the house of Surak of the planet Vulcan, Artificial Intelligence Division. I am reporting my findings regarding the investigation of the minor Jesse David Blankenship in relation to recent legal interactions with local authorities and local Child Protection Services providing a fostering environment. We have found evidence of both physical and sexual abuse as provided by David William Owens, already on-site prior to our arrival.” Jerry got out as his voice began to crack. With a sniffle he continued; “It is my duty to order protective custody to be immediately transferred to Clan Short, AI Division pending further investigation by Clan Short intelligence. I request enactment of the Safe Haven Act on behalf of the victim.”

“Doctor, please state the basis of your actions.”

“Yes Sir.” Jerry said as his hands began to shake. “Due to the evidence collected during this investigation, there are clear violations of Article 11; sections 11.1, 11.2; substantiated under Article 68; section 68.1.a and pending Patriarch Short’s investigation as required by Article 200, section 11.4.” Jerry said as he inhaled deeply. “Following telepathic investigation we will be required to further invoke Article 12; section 12.2 and possibly articles 13; section 13.1 and article 14 section 14.2.” He got out and for a moment the room fell completely silent. “Request permission to take Reverend Malachi Smeltz and his son Ezekiel Smeltz into immediate custody.”

“Permission Granted Jerry. Sounds like you have sufficient reason to invoke this act. We are standing by to transport your team and prisoners directly to the brig. I’ll have a security team awaiting your arrival. Marc out.”

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

“We have a brig on-site?” Billy asked as Marc closed his communicator.

“Yeah.” He responded as he brought up the building’s floor plan. “Under the guard shack on the east side of the building.” Marc said as he pointed to the section. “Beam them right into the processing room.” He added as Billy’s communicator chirped.

“O’Keefe here.” Billy said as he positioned himself at the transporter’s controls.

“Six to beam directly to the brig Chief.”

Billy nodded his head as he entered the coordinates. “On your command sir.”


After completing the transport, Billy secured the controls and nodded to Marc. “Now, why are we arresting this guy and how do we have the power to just do it on our own?”

“You can’t honestly tell me you haven’t heard of what this Clan is capable of. I mean, they are a huge part of the reason there is a Safe Haven Act.” Marc replied as he turned for the door and motioned for Billy to follow. “Let’s head down to the brig and make sure we’ll actually be able to hold a prisoner until Cory gets back from Australia.”

“Right behind you.” Billy said as they turned into the hallway. “I thought Federation Youth Services created the SHA.” Billy said as they reached the elevator and Marc pressed the down button.

“Who is the director of Federation Youth Services?” Marc asked with a grin.

“Teri Sho… Oh…” Billy paused as he realized he had answered his own question. “I guess I never put one and one together.” Billy said as the doors opened and they stepped inside.

“I always figured it was just common knowledge that Clan Short all started out with Teri’s sons.” Marc said with a laugh. “I mean I was never involved with the Federation and I even knew that.”

Once reaching the basement, the two continued the walk to the far east wing. “This corridor.” Marc said tilting his head as he strained to open the big steel door. “This place has definitely been unused for a really long time.” Marc said as they entered the long narrow corridor leading to the brig.

“I can’t get it to power up!” Eli said as he saw Marc and Billy enter the room. “Good timing.” He said smiling at Marc. “This stupid control panel doesn’t work. We can’t open the cell doors.”

“Okay.” Marc said as he walked into the control booth. “Somewhere in here there should be a key set, so we can lock and unlock them manually.” He said as he began to look around the small room.

“Nope.” Eli stated with his hands on his hips. “If it’s in here, they hid it good.”

“Wonderful.” Marc stated as he exited the booth and walked into the detention area to join the others. “Hi guys.” Marc said as he entered the room to see the two prisoners handcuffed to one of the cells while the group seemed to be searching the room. “The control booth is junk and the master key set wasn’t left behind.” He said as he pulled at one of the doors to see if it would open. “If we can get one to open, we might be able to chain the door or something.”

Jerry nodded his head and grabbed one of the doors and gave it a tug. Just like the one Marc tried, it wouldn’t budge. “Why are they all locked?”

“Default condition.” Eddie said as he grabbed the door to a nearby cell and gasped as the door literally fell of it’s hinges and crashed to the floor. “Um…” He said as he brushed the dust off of his uniform. “Marc, this one’s open.” He said with a worried grin. “I hope they plan to renovate this section soon.”

“We didn’t actually plan to be holding prisoners Dude.” Marc said as he tried another cell, and it actually opened. “Here we go.” He said as he turned to the reverend and his son. “Room for two.” He added in a sarcastic tone as Eddie rushed over and began to unshackle the teenager. “Where did you guys find the handcuffs? They look ancient.”

“The Guards station. They were in the desk.” Benji said as he assisted Eddie in releasing the two and getting them into the cell.

Once they were both inside, Benji swung the cell door closed and scowled when it bounced right back open, causing Reverend Smeltz to start laughing. “Nice plan. Maybe next time you boys want to play cops and robbers you’ll stick to your back yard and not use people who will end up suing for wrongful prosecution.” he chuckled out as Eddie wrapped the handcuffs around the bars and locked them in place.

“Oh yeah, I really trust this.” “Eddie said as he rattled the door.

“We’ll keep an armed guard in here.” Marc said as he raised an eyebrow when Jerry gave another tug and realized he could still open the door enough to stick his head through. “Maybe we can barricade the cell somehow.” Marc got out as Eddie kicked at the bars, the reverend and his son laughing the entire time.

“Stand back.” Eddie said as he pulled out his phaser and set it to it’s highest setting. “Close your eyes guys.” he shouted as he fired at the door and fused it shut. “Laugh at that.” he said to the man and his son, who seemed to quiet down considerably.

“That works…” Eli said as he watched Benji blow at the smoke that was fuming from the door frame. “…but how are we gonna get them out?”

“Who cares.” Eddie said as he looked inside the cell, allowing an evil grin to spread across his face. “Cops and robbers is getting boring anyway. You guys wanna go hang out at the mall or something?” He laughed as he waved the group toward the processing room. “Let’s leave these two alone.” He said as he nodded his head to one of the cadets that were assigned to the prisoners. “If they get out of hand, stun them.”

Once they were outside the detention area, Marc looked back inside the control booth. “We gotta get this mess to work if it’s gonna be of any help to the clan.”

“I have an idea.” Eddie said as he pulled out his communicator. “Fraser to Corporal Jackson.”

“Hey Eddie. Reporting in?”

“Not exactly, we have a problem. Actually it’s an oversight with the Naval Hospital renovation.” Eddie said as he watched Jerry waving to get Marc’s attention.

“We gotta get back to work.” Jerry whispered as he rushed out the door with Eli and Benji behind him.

“What’s the problem?”

“Sir, during the planning of the hospital’s renovation no thought was put into the brig that’s on-site. We had a situation that has us holding two diplomatic prisoners in an unsecured holding facility.” Eddie said as Marc sat on a nearby table and watched. “I’m worried about safety in the building. Should a prisoner escape holding, they could possibly become a danger to the hospital’s occupants.”

“Is a renovation of that area budgeted?”

Eddie looked at Marc who simply shrugged his shoulders. “Doubtful. I know it’s not considered in the plans I saw.”

“Is there anyway I can help?”

Eddie leaned against the wall and sighed. “Well, I have one cell secured with two prisoners inside. I’m going to need additional armed security to station in the brig while we are holding. If we’re required to hold any more than that, do you think there would be any way to get mid-level security holding through the county?”

“It’s possible. Let me see if I can pull a few strings to help out here. For now, if you are satisfied with the situation as it is; I’ll simply up security personnel on-site as needed. Will that help?”

“Definitely. I’ll let Marc know you”re looking into possible options for him. I know he’ll appreciate it. Thanks Will. Fraser out.” Eddie sighed and turned back toward Marc. “Maybe he can come up with something.”

“I hope so.” Marc said as he opened the door leading back into the building. “I have a few things to take care of. Let me know if he calls back, okay?”

“No problem. Don’t worry about things down here. I’ll make sure there is a set of eyes attached to a phaser on both of them at all times.” Eddie said with a wink.

“I know you will.” Marc said as he walked through the doorway. “You’re gonna be one hell of a security chief someday.” Marc added over his shoulder as the door swung shut and his communicator chirped. “Oh, what now?” He said rolling his eyes as he grabbed the unit and continued to walk. “Marc here.”

“Marc, it’s Caleb. Are you busy?”

“Not really bro, wassap?” Marc said as he walked down the dusty corridor.

“I just wanted to say Sorry, you know, for not tellin you I knew the CEO at Dyson Industries. I just didn’t want you to think I asked him or nuthin.”

Marc held his communicator out at arms length and glared at it for a second before replying; “Well, you should be ashamed of yourself.” Marc said containing a giggle as he reached the elevator. “So you were just waiting for them to tell me that you knew them. What, so I would think it wasn’t like you called and asked or something?”

“Well kinda. I mean if you knew he was my uncle you may not have called. I knew he wanted to help, so I sorta just left that part out.”

Marc stepped into the elevator and pushed the first floor button before smiling. “So what makes you think I’m gonna call now?”

“You haven’t called yet?”

“Nope.” Marc said and then put his hand over his mouth to keep from laughing.

“Omigod… You suck!”

“You wish!” Marc laughed back. “Seriously, I haven’t had time to call yet.” He got out as the doors opened and he stepped out onto the first floor. “It’s been busy as hell here.”

“I swear, I didn’t ask him for money.”

“I wouldn’t have accused you of it, honestly.” Marc said as he walked toward radiology and the active terminal. “So, you wanna give me a name now. I mean it would sound better if I at least knew who I was asking for.”

“Oh yeah, it’s my uncle Jeff, you’ll wanna ask for Jeff Dodds-Miller.”

“Thanks Cal.” Marc replied as he made a quick turn and arrived at the front desk where there was an active terminal. “Next time just let me know what’s going on, okay? There’s nothing wrong with family wanting to lend a hand.”

“You bet Marc. Sorry bout that. I promise it won’t happen again.”

“Better not.” Marc said with a giggle. “Next time you’ll be grounded and not allowed to play with Noah.”

“Noooo! Not that!” Caleb’s voice playfully shouted with a laugh. “Caleb out.”

Marc walked around behind the reception desk and brought the system out of standby to place his call as he clipped his communicator back onto his belt.

“Dyson Industries, How may I direct your call?”

“Hi, may I speak to a Mister… um… Jeff Dodds-Miller please?”

“Who may I ask is calling, and for what purpose?” The older woman asked with a serious expression.

“My name is Marc Furst… well… Doctor Marc Furst. I’m currently acting as division head of the AI division of Clan Short. I’m returning his call ma’am.”

“One moment please Doctor.” The woman replied and the image disappeared.

“Dr. Furst, this is Jeff Dodds-Miller. I’m glad you returned my call.”

“Sorry it took so long Mr. Dodds-Miller. I did get your message yesterday but with our division head away and the Clan keeping us as busy as they have, I’ve been kinda swamped.” Marc said with a warm smile.

“That’s quite all right, Dr. Furst, and please, call me Jeff.”

Marc smiled and nodded his head. “Thanks Jeff, you can call me Marc. I hate being all formal. So, you told Cal that you wanted to talk to me? What can we do for you?”

Jeff leaned forward, placing his elbows on the desk. “Marc, it has come to mine and my older brother’s attention that your Division of the Clan has recently taken possession of the old Naval Hospital there in Charleston. Is that correct?”

“Yessir.” Marc said as he sat back in his chair. “Doc Austin…” Marc started to say before stopping himself short. “Um… You do know Doc Austin don’t you?”

“Yes, we do,” Jeff said. “However, this information was brought to me by my nephews, Justy, Jamie, and Jacob.”

“Your nephews?” Marc said raising his eyebrows. “Cool!” He continued with a huge smile. “Anyway, Doc Austin realized that we were gonna need someplace to perform some of the medical and mechanical aspects of our duties to the Clan. He has actually handled all of the details so far.”

“That’s good to know,” Jeff replied. “Doc Austin had the boys contact me about possibly helping your Division out with a grant to refit and modernize the Hospital.”

Marc nodded his head and sighed. “Really? That’s really nice of you. We could use all the help we can get honestly. I mean the Federation has handled most of our setup for the Youth Services section and Ambassador Sarek has helped by deferring some of the cost with the planned equipment, but it leaves us scratching for some of it. I do have some government funding for the old company I still have control over, which helps a little.” He said curling up one side of his mouth. “Honestly, anything you have planned would be a huge help.”

“Well, what I was thinking of is setting up a Foundation that could endow your refit and modernization program for now,” Jeff replied. “And later on, it would help with your operating costs and possible future expansion.”

“Oh wow, that would be awesome.” Marc replied with a smile. “Would you like any details regarding the current project to get an idea of what areas you may wish to help with? I think I can get that information for you.”

“Yes, I would,” Jeff replied. “If you don’t mind, I’d also like to bring my older brother in on this call, so that he can have some input on this as well.”

Marc nodded his head. “No problem, if I can have a minute, I’ll contact HQ and have the financial details sent to you. Is it okay if I put this communication on hold for a moment Jeff?”

“That’s fine, Marc,” Jeff said. “It will give me a chance to get my older brother on the line.”

“Sweet, I’ll be right back.” Marc said as he put the conversation on hold and immediately opened a communication to HQ.

“Justy here Marc, What’s up?”

“Hey Justy. I have your Uncle Jeff on hold from Dyson Industries.” Marc began. “Do you think it would be possible to send him a copy of the remodel plans Doc Austin had drawn up for the Naval Hospital? He could use it to get an idea of where he would like to help.”

“I have the file ready.” Justin replied. “It’ll be on it’s way the second we disconnect.”

“Wow, thanks bro. How’d you pull that off so fast?” Marc asked raising his eyebrows.

“Clan secret.” Justy replied with a laugh. “HQ out.” He said with a grin before the screen went blank again.

“They must practice being unbelievable, I swear.” Marc said as he resumed his other call. “The information should be on it’s way Jeff.” Marc said with a smile.

“I’ve gotten it, Marc. I’ve also got my older brother, the drip, on the line with us,” Jeff said, trying to keep from laughing out loud.

“Drip on the line?” Marc asked through a giggle when a second view popped up on his screen, with a displaying a dripping wet gentlemen.

“You’re gonna be thinking ‘drip’ the next time I see you, little brother,” The man said when Marc noticed a towel hanging around his neck. “I’ll have you know that your brother-in-law will pay dearly for it.”

“Marc, the ‘drip’ is my older brother, Chip, also known as Commander Charles Dodds of the USS Enterprise,” Jeff said. “Standing slightly behind him is his husband, Josh, also known as JC from NSYNC.”

“Oh wow.” Marc said with a smile. “Nice to meet you guys!” He said while still stifling a giggle. “So is it some sort of twisted family tradition or something to go swimming fully dressed? There was a lot of that goin on when the boys visited too.” He got out before finally laughing.

Chip laughed on the screen. “It does seem that way, doesn’t it? It’s a pleasure to meet you, Marc,” he said. “I understand that the old Naval Hospital there is kinda run down and in need of a serious refit.”

“Oh yeah. But it is really coming along faster than I thought it could. Biggest problem we’re having right now is the fact the hospital has 10 floors, 4 are partially completed and three are already in use.” Marc said sitting back in his chair once again. “We’re just now learning what was planned for and what wasn’t.”

“I see,” Chip said. “Well, Josh and I are going to donate $25 Million of our own personal money to the new Foundation, and I’m gonna recommend to Jeff that Dyson Industries match our donation. That should help get you and your people started, shouldn’t it?”

“Um…” Marc was able to force out. “Well I… Um… Oh my god…”

“Everything okay, Marc?” Jeff asked. “We didn’t surprise you, did we?”

“Are you kidding?” Marc scowled and looked at the screen. “I didn’t think… well… I didn’t expect… You know.” He got out as the two laughed, obviously having fun watching him stammer his way through the conversation. “Yeah, a little surprised.”

“I’ve got an idea, Marc,” Chip said. “How about if Jeff, his husband Chris, Josh and I come up there and take a look around? That way, I can get a better idea of what you have and what you need. At the same time, we can hand over to you the two donation checks.”

“Sure that’d be cool. If you hold off for a couple of days, Danny, our division head should be back with the rest of the gang. I know he would definitely want to be here to thank you.” Marc said with a smile. “If you’re interested, I can even show you some of what we have planned so far.”

“Sounds good to us,” Jeff said. “Go ahead and send what you have already. I’ll make sure that Chip gets copies of everything.”

“Marc,” Chip said. “I was thinking of us coming up there the middle of next week. Will that be good for you and your people?”

“Should be.” Marc said with a smile. “By then this place should quiet down a little too.” He continued with a laugh. “It’s been crazy so far.” He continued adding; “I’ll have Danny touch base to confirm the time and date. Cool?”

“Works for us, Marc.” Jeff said.

“We’ll probably be coming up there in a shuttlecraft from the Enterprise.” Chip said.

“No way! Jerry’s gonna have a heart attack.” Marc said in awe.

“Don’t tell him or any of the others,” Chip said. “Let it be a surprise, alright?”

“Are you kidding?” Marc answered with an evil grin. “My lips are sealed. Trust me.”

“Alright, Marc,” Jeff said, trying to contain his laughter. “We’ll see you next week.”

“Definitely, I’ll confirm with your office before then. Thanks for everything guys.” Marc said with a huge smile. “Marc Out.” He finished and set the system to standby.

Meanwhile at the house, Noah, Caleb and JR were all huddled around the terminal in the upper lab. “No dude.” Noah said as he looked over Caleb’s shoulder. “Look at those parameters. I’m telling you this really could give you a trinary environment with the right hardware.”

“No way!” Caleb shot back with a scowl. “Look here, this is the base language. I still think this could be used to create the environment, not act as it.”

JR simply watched them toss their beliefs back and forth before clearing his throat and gaining both boys attention. “It’s theoretic.” He meekly said as he pointed to thread being displayed on the screen. “There’s no way to tell without designing a processor that could handle trinary input and simply trying to execute this.” He said as he stepped back and looked at Noah. “Either one of you could be right, but we have no way to even guess.”

“He’s right.” Caleb said as he closed the file and turned in his seat. “But how could we even begin to design a tridimensional processor without a base to start from?”

“It’s been done.” Noah said as he sat down in one of the folding chairs. “Cal, you already know how to do it.” he said with a grin.

“Oh, I do?” Caleb replied with sarcasm showing through in his voice.

“Yeah, duh.” Noah replied with a laugh. “Positronic programming. That uses a kind of tri-dimensional language.” He said with a smile. “If we were to redesign a standard positronic matrix to act as the processor in a standard terminal….” He got out before Caleb cut him off.

“You would fry the power supply.” Caleb shot in. “To operate within a system, you would need to supply it; separate from the main system itself. It would need a three phase power supply and an inverter on both ends so it wouldn’t cook the mother board or the positronic matrix. That wouldn’t even make sense to build. Remember? I tried that idea in school and got a C, only because it was,” He began with a snooty tone; “a creative approach but a bit too far fetched.”

“It wouldn’t make sense to design a unit that was capable of communicating with standard systems while at the same time operating with true AI?” JR asked as he plopped down in a seat of his own. “That’s pretty much what we’re talking about, right?”

“Yeah, kinda.” Caleb answered as he rubbed his eyes.

“Wouldn’t that be a more eff

icient system? I mean it would be able to do tons more than just call up and save information. It would be able to think for itself, act like a team member instead of just be a computer.” JR said as both boys began nodding their heads in agreement. “Think about it, a terminal that would be just as smart as us, and learning all the time from all the sources it can draw from.”

“Provided this is really a trinary language that is.” Noah said as he crossed his arms. “We’ll never know unless we put it to the test. Here’s the plan.” Noah continued. “I have to head back to the hospital; before you guys get back to wiring the new network; see if you can work up a theoretical report and we’ll show it to Marc and Danny. Maybe they will even approve the project.”

“Danny was trying to come up with an alternative interface. This really could be something we could work with him on.” Caleb said to Noah before turning to JR and smiling. “You kinda have the basics down dude; maybe the three of us can work on it together since Danny’s been so busy.”

“Not me.” Noah said with a frown. “I’m gonna be stuck at the hospital for a while getting the systems there online. This project is your baby.” He said with a smile as he stood up. “Besides, if you can come up with a proposal that has a solid enough base we could be looking at upgrading some existing equipment. Just try to do better than a C this time.” He laughed out as he ran for the door. “Cal, wanna beam me over to the hospital before Marc reports me as missing?” He said with a giggle as the terminal alerted there was an incoming call.

“Go ahead JR, you take that and I’ll handle Noah.” Caleb said with an evil grin before chasing Noah out of the room, both laughing and shouting at each other all the way to the basement.

JR nervously cleared his throat as he accepted the incoming transmission. “Um… Clan Short, AI Division. This is JR.” He got out as the image of his father appeared on the screen and gave him a smile. “Dad!!”

“Hey big guy! You working communications now?”

“Kinda.” JR said with an accomplished grin. “We were just talking about a new computer system that we might get to design. I was right here when you called.”

“So I take it you won’t be home for dinner?” Judge Legette said with a smile.

“Um, is it okay if I stay. For a little while longer than we planned? Please?” JR almost begged.

“I suppose so.” His father replied with a smile. “Hey, you wouldn’t have any idea what the issue with their brig is would you?”

“Brig?” JR questioned. “No clue. Is that why you called?”

“Yeah. Corporal Jackson just called and informed me that Dr. Furst was in real need of assistance with the holding facility. I think I may be able to lend a hand in that department.”

“Sweet!” JR replied with a smile. “If ya call the hospital, you should be able to talk to Marc.”

“I’ll do that then.” His father said as he reached for his terminal’s keyboard. “I’ll talk to you soon. Be on your best behavior. okay?”

“I will Dad.” JR said with a blush. “Love you!”

“Love you too.” His father said as the call ended.

“YES!” JR yelled as he turned and ran for the doorway, almost colliding with Caleb. “I can stay longer. My Dad said it was okay!” He shouted as Caleb raised his hand and they high-fived each other.

“Awesome.” Caleb said putting his arm over JR’s shoulder. “I get to work your butt off then.” He added with a smile as they both giggled and turned to head back down to the basement.

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

Three hours later: Medical Facility, Transporter Room #1

“Try it now.” Noah said, beginning to get frustrated.

“Nope, still no uplink.” Marc replied as he punched the controls on the transporter’s console.

“Three friggin hours!” Noah said as he pulled apart the com cables again. “I think these computers just can’t talk to each other.”

“Sure they can.” Billy said as he entered the room with a loop of cable in his hand. “They just weren’t designed to.” He said as he got down on the floor and crawled into the conduit chase alongside Noah. “Show me what you tried so far. This new harness might help.”

“One terminal, the transporter system, a replicator base and one harness?” Noah asked as he scooted over and made room. “This is just insane.”

“They all speak the same language Noah.” Billy said as they began breaking down the rest of the connections to install the harness Billy had constructed. “Eventually we’ll be able to design a unit to do this work, until then these three need to learn to play nice.”

“If they refuse are we gonna make them stand in the corner or something?” Marc asked as he knelt down next to the opening in the wall with two sets of legs sticking out.

“That’ll help. Thanks Marc.” Billy said with a laugh. “You better get moving on that profile. If we get this functional I’d like to be able to do a simulated replication. The sooner, the better.”

“Okay, okay… Slavedriver! I’m workin on it. Sheesh.” Marc replied with a grin as he dragged his feet all the way back and began tapping away on the keyboard.

“Isn’t he like, your boss now?” Noah rolled over and looked at Billy with a grin.

“Yeah.” Billy said with a smile. “Until he gives me a deadline and makes it impossible to keep.” He replied with a grin before pointing to one end of the harness. “Can you make the connections to the replicator base while I get the transporter relays wired in?”

“Sure.” Noah replied as he rolled in the other direction and looked at the connectors. “Nice.” He said as the first one snapped right into place. “Beats how I was trying to connect it.”

“It’s nothing, really.” Billy said as he pulled open the relay enclosure and started splicing in his connections. “The trick is to not just jump right in. A few minutes of planning can save hours of headache in the long run.”

“Good advice.” Noah said as he continued his work. “What about the extra interface for the transporter console?”

“Got it covered.” Billy replied as he waved another thick looking harness. “We’re gonna network the AI capable terminal right above the transporter console. This way we can work on the image in buffer, test the replication under simulation and even use the uplink port to install the personality imprint on the new android once it’s replicated.”

“There’s gonna be a catch here I think.” Marc added from the terminal.

“What’s wrong?” Billy asked continuing his work.

“It looks like the replicated unit is going to arrive fully offline.” He said with a sigh.

“Makes sense. He won’t have an operating system yet.” Noah said as he slid out of the conduit.

“No, biological systems as well.” Marc said looking up at Noah, who was beginning to look confused. “Um… It means that we need to get his mechanical systems online and jump start biologics.”

“Um…” Noah muttered as he tilted his head. Obviously still not getting it.

“He’s gonna arrive dead Noah.” Billy said as he also slid out of the opening in the wall and replaced the cover.

“Dead?” Noah almost choked out. “As in…”

“Circulatory and pulmonary systems not functioning.” Marc added to help clarify the comment. “We’re gonna need a biobed in place. We’ll have about 15 minutes in partial stasis on the biobed to upload his personality imprint and operating environment, get that online and then defibrillate him.”

“What if we don’t get him going in that amount of time?” Noah asked with a scowl.

“His biologics begin to die.” Marc said. “At that point to use the unit you would need to start all over again or; let the biologics die and then begin a manual start sequence.”

“Oh wow.” Noah mumbled. “That’s not much time.”

“It’s enough.” Marc said as he began tapping away once again. “Provided the imprint is ready to go. All configurations have to be completed ahead of time.”

“Simulation shows good, I think we can attempt a physical simulation Marc.” Billy stated as he brought the transporter console online. “Is the physical profile complete?”

“Yeah, load kevper01a.” Marc said as he continued working.

“Noah, grab a tricorder and be ready to scan a lifeform.” Billy said as the hum of the transporters systems signaled that it was ready.

“Okay.” Noah replied. “I’m ready.”

“Here we go.” Billy said as he adjusted the terminal’s keyboard to be in better reach. “Loading profile into buffers.” Billy said as the hum loudened as if a transport were taking place. “System reading normal.” He said as he rushed his typing. “Buffer ready, preparing to execute replication.” He said as he stopped typing and nodded to Noah. “Here he comes.” He got out just as he boosted the transporters power and a form began to materialize on the transporter’s pad.

“Oh my god.” Noah gasped as the transporter completed it’s duties and the hum quieted down. “Wow.” He said as he stepped up onto the pad and looked down at the naked form of a teenager lying lifeless on the floor. “It’s Kevin.”

“Not exactly, but if this worked that’s what he’s going to look like.” Marc said looking up from his screen. “Noah, do a detailed scan. Full spectrum.” Marc said as he got up and approached the pad. “Ten fingers, ten toes Chief.” Marc said with a grin as he knelt down next to the lifeless form. “Alterations took.” He said as he ran his fingers through his hair and began to open one eye and then the next. “Hazel eyes.” He said as he looked over to Noah who had just completed his scan. “Well?”

Noah shook his head and looked back at the tricorder’s display. “He.. he’s dead. I mean he’s all there but not… I mean…”

Marc smiled and took the Tricorder. “Billy.” He said with a smile as he sat down and read the unit’s reports. “All systems offline, positronic matrix checks out, biologics appear to be offline but reading readiness for full activation.” He ruffled the lifeless form’s hair and stood up. “He’s a unit ready to come online. Congratulations Chief!” He said as he walked over to the console and set the tricorder down. “Once we analyze his DNA and do a full systems check, we’ll know for sure.” He said as Billy looked over at the transporter pad and his smile faded.

“Look.” Billy whispered causing Marc to quickly turn and watch as Noah sat and ran his fingers down the lifeless android’s cheek. One single tear was making a visible trail down his own.

“Noah?” Marc said just above a whisper. “That’s not Kevin.” He added as he stepped back up onto the pad and knelt down pulling Noah into a half hug.

“He looks so human and… alive.” Noah sniffled. “It almost looks like he’s breathing.” He said with his voice beginning to break.

“Trust me, it’s not.” Marc said as he rubbed Noah’s back. “If this simulation was successful, the next one could be Kevin.” He said as he tightened his squeeze.

“I can’t wait to meet him. You know, for real.” He said as he pulled back and wiped his eyes with the back of his hands.

“Same here.” Marc said as he stood up and motioned for Noah to follow. “You gonna be okay?”

“Yeah.” Noah said with a laugh and a sniffle. “I guess I didn’t expect him to look so alive.”

“Eerie, isn’t it?” Billy said as the terminal began to beep. “We have a full spectral and chemical profile in the system now. Should I terminate the simulation?”

“Terminate?” Noah asked with a squeak in his voice.

“This was just a test.” Marc said as he nodded to Billy and the transporter began to power up.

“Oh yeah.” Noah said as he watched the transporter envelop the body with sparkles of light before it vanished from existence. “How soon?”

“Huh?” Marc asked with a confused smile.

“Before we get to meet Kevin I mean. How soon?” Noah asked.

“If everything checks out with the scans that were taken, possibly as soon as tomorrow.” Marc said with a smile. “Okay, Noah, I’m going to need you to team up with Jerry and get a biobed set up in here, right in front of the console. Have Antonio and Byron report to me, I’m going to have them go over the scans that we took. If anything is physically wrong with him, I’d be willing to bet they’ll catch it.” Marc continued as he walked back over to the terminal and sat down. “Let Austin, Eli and Benji know what our progress is and that I will be ready tomorrow afternoon to begin Austin’s final re-constructive surgery as well as prep the prosthetic replacements.” He rambled as he began to type away. “Billy, could you touch base with Dr. Herron? Let him know I’ll need a team to assist with three prosthetic implants tomorrow. Then hook up with Jerry and get that neuro-microscope unit installed and powered up.”

“Aye sir, I’m on it.” Billy replied and headed out of the room with a huge smile.

“You gonna stay in here?” Noah asked.

“Yeah, I have to complete Kevin’s personality imprint.” He said with a warm smile. “Get moving. I would like to see you guys turn in in a couple of hours. Tomorrow is gonna be a full day, big time.”

“You got it.” Noah said with a smile before he broke out in a run for the door.

Two hours passed before Noah and Jerry entered the transporter room with a portable biobed. “Marc?” Jerry said in surprise once he noticed Marc at the terminal with his head down on the desk; an uplink cable attached between him and the computer.

“Oh, hi guys.” Marc replied sleepily as he sat upright and stretched. “Musta overworked the system that time.” He said through a yawn as he disconnected the cable from the back of his head and closed his access port.

“Why were you attached?” Noah asked as they rolled the biobed into place and both hopped up onto it to sit for a while.

“I was creating a dream for Kevin.” He said with a grin.

“A dream?” Noah asked tilting his head.

“Yeah.” Marc replied as he sat back in his chair and put his feet up on the desk. “See, when an android is online and sleeping, they dream just like you do. For periods of time in an offline state, it’s almost like being in a frozen consciousness. Time has no meaning as it will only appear as a few seconds pass; even though hours, days or even years may have actually gone by.”

“That’s good, isn’t it?” Noah asked scratching his head. “I mean if he’s not aware how much time has passed.

“It’s like someone steals that chunk of time, right Marc?” Jerry injected.

“That’s right Jer. It’s a little frightening for a consciousness to just ‘loose’ time. As a gift from all of us, I have been compiling memories of all the things that have happened since he was deactivated and stored.” Marc said with a smile as he reached for the keyboard and set it in his lap. “I plan to integrate it into his active memory as a dream. This way when he wakes up, not only will he have a real memory from his offline time, but he will also have in a way met everyone. Even if it will feel to him as he has only seen it all in a dream.”

“That’s a really cool idea bro.” Noah said with a smile.

“Can we do that for Joey?” Jerry asked.

“We can, if you want to override the dreams he’s having now.” Marc said with a grin. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he was taking in all that he is hearing around him and dreaming about it already.”

“Really? You mean he can hear what’s going on?” Jerry questioned.

“Once his personality imprint was uploaded, it was activated. Even if the rest of his systems had to remain offline.” Marc answered.

“So he’s heard me talking to him? Me and Austin?” Jerry asked with a slight smile creeping into his expression.

“I’m sure he has.” Marc said as he noticed the time on the computer. “You guys have everything set for tomorrow?”

“Yep.” Noah said with a smile. “Just before we came in here, Antonio said they had just finished going over Kevin’s scan and everything looks good. Real good the way he said it.”

“Yeah, everyone is starting to head for bed.” Jerry said as he hopped down off the biobed. “Like you should do soon.” He added with Noah nodding in agreement.

“I’m done here, but I think I’m gonna take a walk to clear my head first.” Marc said as he stood up and stretched. “Jerry, have you been keeping tabs on Dixon and Jesse?”

“Yeah, they are both sleeping right now. It’s been a rough few days for them both.” Jerry said with a frown. “Dr. Herron says he has a report prepared for you. ”

“Dixon doesn’t know Jesse is here yet, does he?” Marc asked as he ushered the boys out into the hall.

“Dr. Herron said it might be too much for him to handle since Jesse hasn’t even woken up yet.” Noah said with a sigh.

“You sound like you don’t agree.” Marc said placing his hand on Noah’s shoulder.

“He’s gotta know Jesse is safe Marc.” Noah said in a sort of pouting tone. “If anything were ever to separate me an Caleb…” He started before looking at the floor and taking a deep breath. “Not knowing would hurt worse than the hurt he’s got already.”

“I couldn’t have said that better myself.” Marc said with a warm smile. “Jerry, I’ll check on him before I turn in. If he’s awake, I’ll tell him that Jesse is here and safe.” He said as both boys eyes got wide and they smiled. “But…” Marc continued; “Until Dixon is stronger he is to get no details of what his boyfriend has gone through. He’s not strong enough for that yet. Are we clear?”

“Yes sir.” Both boys chimed before giving Marc a hug and heading in for bed.

“I need a break.” Marc mumbled as he watched them turn the corner and disappear from sight. He smiled and turned in the opposite direction, heading for the main entrance to the building. Once reaching the doors, he saw a familiar form leaning on the railing watching the water fountain. “Him too.” Marc said as he opened the door and slowly crossed the driveway.

“Hi Dad.” Austin said as he turned and smiled. “Check it out.” He continued as he pointed to the marks on his face. “They’re almost gone.”

“Lookin good.” Marc said as he grabbed Austin’s chin and turned his head to the left and right to inspect his work in the dimly lit area. “Out here you can hardly even notice.”

“Yeah.” Austin said with a smile as they both leaned on the railing and listened to the sounds from the fountain. “Joey’s gonna be ready tomorrow.” He said with a smile. “I heard you guys already tested the replicator and Kevin came out perfect.”

“Well, news travels fast.” Marc said with a weak giggle. “Although perfect would be happy and awake. The model you created was a perfect base to work from. Kevin’s gonna know you donated part of yourself for him you know.”

“He’s Danny’s real life nephew, right?” Austin questioned as he seemed to become lost in thought.

“More than that actually.” Marc replied. “Kevin chose Danny to be his uncle, there was never any blood between them.”

“That’s even more special then.” Austin grinned. “I can’t wait to meet him. From what I’ve heard he sounds like a really nice kid.” Austin got out before he turned to face his father. “Thanks for letting me help, you know.”

“I think I do.” Marc said meeting his son’s gaze.

“It’s weird to suddenly have a family.” Austin said as he turned back toward the water. “Just thinking back to the day before Timmy and the guys found me is like looking at a different life. Is that normal? With humans I mean.”

“To form a family bond so quickly?” Marc questioned.


“No, from the examples I’ve seen over the years, trust is something that takes a long time to establish. There’s something seriously special about this group. It’s almost like some higher power hand picked each and every one and said ‘they belong to each other’ and then just made it happen.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it.” Austin replied.

“I’m not complaining.” Marc said as he draped his arm across Austin’s shoulders. “We were chosen too.”

“Me either.” Austin smiled. “I got dad’s and pops and brothers and a grandmother and friends I never even dreamed possible.” He continued as his smile faded. “Dad?”

“Yes?” Marc responded.

“Would you be upset with me if I asked to live with Timmy and his family?” He asked, almost having to force the question out of his mouth.

“You’ve given this some thought?” Marc asked.

“Yeah, and it’s not an easy decision.” Austin said with a sigh. “I mean I wanna be here with you and help Joey and stuff, but Timmy and his family…” He got out before Marc shushed him.

“We are all family. Sean and Cory legally are your guardians, so in that aspect you don’t even have to choose.” Marc answered in a reassuring tone.

“But what about you? Joey? I mean everyone here too. I have family here.” Austin said, his shoulders beginning to droop under the weight he was obviously trying to carry alone. “What kind of a big brother would I be to Joey if I’m not even here?”

“You think you’re leaving by going home?” Marc said with a smile. “You do realize it would take leaving the planet to separate this gang.” He got out with a laugh. “Even leaving the planet would make being close nothing more than a longer trip.”

“I guess so.” Austin half heartedly agreed. “I just don’t want to hurt Joey’s feelings, or yours.”

“You think you ever could?” Marc replied with a grin. “I can’t speak for Joey, but I’m happy you are back in my life. Even happier that you are going to be safe, with a family that loves you.” He said pulling his son into a hug. “Here or there, you might as well be living right next door. Distance doesn’t feel so far away when love keeps you connected.”

“That’s nice.” Austin replied, tightening his hug. “Did you ever practice being a Dad?”

“Nope.” Marc said with a giggle. “Am I doin okay?”

“For a guy with no practice, okay I guess.” He got out before Marc started to poke his sides. “The Best! I mean the best! St.. Stop it… That… ACK… That TICKLES!” Austin shouted as he tried to jump and squirm out of Marc’s grip, both eventually settling into a quiet hug. “Had to program me to be ticklish, didn’t you?” Austin whispered with a laugh.

“Yup.” Marc giggled. “Had to keep the upper hand.”

“Cheater!” Austin jibed as he buried his face in Marc’s neck. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Marc replied. “Now you should plan to get some rest. I want you at 100% before I get you on the table tomorrow. Once we’re done, Timmy and Joey won’t see any more hurt on you. I know that’s important to you.”

“I never said that.” Austin stood back and tilted his head.

“You felt it.” Marc replied with a smile. “Am I wrong?”

“No…” Austin shrugged. “You read my emotional response logs?”

“Nope, instinct.” Marc laughed. “Let’s call it a father’s intuition.”

“Right… You know, we gotta be the weirdest androids in the universe.” Austin said with a smirk.

“The rest should be so lucky.” Marc answered before pointing toward the doors. “Your bed is waiting. March, Mister Short. Oh, and no terminal connections tonight. I have about 15 years of schooling I need to upload and incorporate.”

“Okay, okay…” Austin said as he slipped out of the hug and threw his hands in the air. “See, that’s the area you need to work on your ‘Dad-ish-ness’. Bossing kids around like they we…”

“Move!” Marc cut him of and they both began to laugh. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

After Austin went back inside, Marc slowly followed in the same direction, turning off the water fountain and it’s lights on his way in.

“Good evening Dr. Furst.” A voice echoed from further down the hall.

“Hey Chris.” Marc replied with a tired grin.

Chris opened his eyes wide and crossed his arms. “Android or not, you’re getting run down Director Furst.” Chris said nodding his head. “Just to clarify something, while you are acting head of this division, would that make me your head physician?”

“I suppose.” Marc replied tilting his head. “You or maybe even Jerry, but he’s asleep.” Marc said scratching his head. “It really hasn’t been planned out yet. Why do you ask?”

“Because acting as your Head Physician, I wish to actively relieve you of duty for a period of no less than 8 hours.” Dr. Herron said with a serious glare. “Your health, or in your case your functionality will begin to deteriorate with the pace you’ve been maintaining.”

“But I was gonna go check on Dixon and Jesse first.” Marc whined.

“Already done Marc. I know you’ve been buried all day so I made myself available for Dixon and his family.” Chris said with a smile. “His Great Grandmother and Uncle are staying the night I believe. I didn’t protest since Dixon really seemed to take all the info she had for him well.”

“That’s good.” Marc said with a sigh of relief. “As soon as I’m free tomorrow I’ll do my best to meet with them. What about Jesse?”

Chris sighed before placing his hands on his hips and scowling at Marc. “Look, they are both medicated and sound asleep. Going over all of this right now will accomplish nothing.” Chris added with a grin. “Assuming your system would respond to a mild sedative, do we need to take the same action with you or will you go without protest?”

“You’re joking?” Marc asked, his eyes open wide.

“Marc, what good are you to these guys if you’re run down?” Chris asked as he draped his arm across Marc’s shoulder and began walking toward the team’s temporary bunk.


“That’s right, none.” Chris cut him off. “The world will be right here to save in the morning, I promise.” He added before turning and walking off in the opposite direction. “I’ll turn in my report in the morning. Goodnight Marc.”

“Pushy Doctors…” Marc playfully grumbled. “Night Chris.” He added as he shook his head and as directed, finally turned in for the night.

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

“Are we ever gonna get to work on the wiring?” JR asked Caleb as he sat the laptop he was working on down and rubbed his eyes? “We’ve been at this fer hours.”

Caleb stretched his arms and spun his chair away from the terminal’s display. “I kinda wanna have this ready for Danny when he gets back. What have you come up with so far?”

JR yawned and picked up the laptop again, with a sigh he began; “Okay, I ran a comparison to the references you gave me. Looks like yer gonna need to rewrite some history.”

“Say what?” Caleb asked with a laugh. “What’s history got to do with all of this?”

JR grinned and turned his screen toward Caleb so he could see the screen. “Look, what used to be known as ‘Trin’ry-Theory’ is actually the base fer what became a positronic executable envir’nment. Noah had the right idea but not in tha right way.” He got out as he grabbed his soda and took a large gulp. “This says that in no way a trin’ry based system would be able to talk to a bin’ry based environment. Even if ya could make a computer talk in trin’ry it’d overload and fry itself tryin ta figure out what tha hell tha other’s talkin bout.”

“Um.” Caleb said with a grin. “That’s a different approach.” He added with a laugh. “Here’s what I got.” He said as he spun back toward the computer terminal. “Look, if we were able to execute this modified trinary environment within a computer that used a reworked positronic matrix as it’s core processor, in theory it would be able to support something as complex as a personality imprint, while at the same time on it’s own handle simple binary files.”

“I dun get it.” JR said with a yawn.

“It’s what we have now, but in total reverse.” Caleb said with a grin. “Okay, you’ve seen Marc connect to a terminal. He can upload and download files a computer or his brain writes. The compatibility is already there. Trinary based files can be manipulated on a basic binary system, it simply can’t support the entire personality cause it doesn’t have the ability to really work beyond simple yes and no, on or off, 1 and 0; two dimensional programming. It can take fact and theorize the most logical mathematical outcome. That’s how computers seem to ‘Think’, even though they really can’t.”

“Okay, I think I understand so far.” JR said as he stepped closer.

“An android’s brain is able to add that third dimension to processing. Yes and No become Yes, No and Maybe basically.” Caleb said with a smile. “If this was to work and we are really dealing with Trinary, then we could actually create a system that would function just like the brain in an android. It would be able to provide a real bridge between artificial intelligence and a normal operating system creating a terminal that could do everything that our current terminals do, at the same time it would be able to think for itself, make it’s own decisions and even become self aware just like an android.”

“What good’d that be?” JR asked, still a little puzzled. “Androids can already connect to computers an’ control them.”

“But not exist within one. They can control some of the computers functions, read streams of data and stuff like that. The computer is still dumb compared to the android connected to it and will only be able to look at the ‘Yes and No’ answers, relying on the connected android to act like the human at the controls supplying the ‘Maybe’ answers. If this is what I think it is, we could create a computer platform that wouldn’t just simulate intelligence, it would really be intelligent.”

“Sounds like sumthin from a fantasy book.” JR said with a scowl.

“It kinda is.” Caleb said as he opened a window on the terminal along side the one he already had opened, both seeming to be displaying similar information. “Look allot alike, don’t they?”

“Yeah, what’r we lookin at?” JR asked scratching his head as he leaned in and looked.

“The one on the left is the file we’ve been analyzing.” Caleb said as he punched a few more commands causing some of the coding to be highlighted in red in both windows. “The one on the right is theoretical trinary. The red highlights show where the code is identical.”

“But, trin’ry doesn’t work in real life Cal.” JR replied as he plopped back down in his seat.

“Right, cause they never got it right.” Caleb replied looking at the areas not highlighted. “Looking at this, someone: somehow may have figured out how to make it work. We gotta get them to let us try this, cause just from reading through this, it looks real.”

“Test it where?” JR asked now leaning his head back and closing his eyes.

“On this.” Caleb grinned as he brought up a file displaying the theoretical implications and the designs for a trinary-positronic hybrid computer.

“Wow!” Where’d ya find that?” JR asked getting back up from his seat and staring at the monitor.

“I wrote it.” Caleb replied with a wide smile. “The theory was already available, this is how I think it could work.” He said as they scrolled through the information. “Android in a box.” Caleb giggled. “I had the hardware figured out long ago, just could never come up with all the answers to program the operating environment. This file really looks like it has the answers I needed.”

“You got yur presentation then?” JR asked crossing his arms and grinning.

Caleb took a deep breath and nodded as he closed the files and set the system to standby. “Hopefully enough to let me build it.” He said as he stood up. “But before we can build the smart computer, we still gotta hook up all these dumb ones.” He said as they both started to laugh. “How tired are you?”

“Not tired enough to stop us from wir’n tha house.” JR said with a smile as they both stretched and decided to get to work.

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

“Marc…” Jerry half whispered as he shook Marc’s arm. “Marc, wake up.”

Marc sleepily half opened one eye to see Jerry already fully dressed and all smiles. “Oh god… What time is it?”

“Seven.” Jerry said with a grin. “I gotta go to school today, my mom said so.”

“That’s what you’re all smiles about?” Marc asked as he tried to open his other eye, but closed them both instead.

“Noooo.” Jerry said almost bouncing. “It’s Joey. The biobed just started final systems activation. He’ll be online in a couple of hours.” He added balling his fists up and shaking them as he danced from one foot to the other. “He’ll be awake by the time I get back.”

Marc shook his head as he swung his feet out from beneath the warm covers. “I woulda thought you’d be upset about not being here when he first wakes up.” He said as he stretched and disconnected himself from the terminal that was in the room.

“Well yeah, I am.” Jerry said with his grin never fading. “Austin says he’s gonna do Joey’s startup, which I’m never allowed to help with anyway.” He added squinting his eyes. “Then he’s gotta tweak his personality controller cause it’s still set up for the Cynthetilife body and it isn’t completely compatible with his new systems.” He rattled out in one breath, his excitement somehow making his need to breathe a lot less important.

“Ahhh.” Marc replied widening his eyes with a smirk starting to make itself visible on his own face. “In other words, since you can’t help you may as well go to school?”

“I guess.” Jerry answered with a smile and a shrug of his shoulders. “I gotta go, my mom is gonna drive me to school.” He said as he leaned in and gave Marc a quick hug. “Might look weird if I have Billy beam me in, huh?”

With a giggle Marc smiled and replied; “Maybe. Just think, soon we are going to have to get a car. Then you could have a ‘KID’ drive you in. Which would be weirder?”

“That’d be sweet!” Jerry said as he started to back his way toward the door. “Some of my friends would have a heart attack.” He said laughing to himself. “I’ll see you later on!”

“Later Jerry!” Marc said with a wave as he watched Jerry literally bolt from the doorway into the hall.

Marc decided since he was up already, he may as well get dressed and begin the day. After throwing on a teeshirt and a pair of jeans, he grabbed his socks and sneakers and wandered out into the hall way.

“Hey Marc!” Noah shouted as he broke into a trot to catch up. “I got some news for ya!”

“Don’t any of you ever sleep in?” Marc asked with a giggle as they continued down the hall to the elevator.

“You kiddin?” Noah replied with a laugh. “We have so much going on I couldn’t hardly get to sleep last night.”

“I know what you mean.” Marc said as they both reached the elevator and Marc began to put his socks on while Noah pushed the down button. “Chris had to order me to bed last night.” Marc added with a laugh.

“Bout time someone did.” Noah got out as he stepped on to the elevator, turning back just in tome to dodge the sneaker Marc playfully threw at him. “Hey! Watch it. You tryin to put me in the hospital?”

They both joked and clowned as Marc tried to get his shoes on before reaching the basement. The second the doors opened, the smell of fresh brewed coffee literally led Marc by the nose until both boys were seated in the empty open area at one of the tables in the staff cafeteria.

“We need to staff the kitchen.” Marc said as he watched Noah begin to tackle a small carton of milk and one of those variety pack sized boxes of cereal.

“Mary’s workin on it.” Noah replied with a smile. “You awake enough for a report?” He asked before shoveling a spoonful of frosted flakes into his mouth.

“Yeah sure, watcha got?” Marc asked as he took a sip from his coffee and he stretched a bit.

Noah put his spoon down long enough to pull a P.A.D.D. out of his pocket and bring it to life. “Let’s see.” He mumbled as he shoveled down another spoonful of cereal. “Byron and Antonio have been in the surgical ward all morning. They report ready for Eli and Benji’s procedures as well as Austin’s.” He got out as he tapped on the small unit’s display while at the same time tackling his breakfast. “Austin is in OR 1 getting ready to activate Joey’s personality imprint. He noted that he’s expecting some problems with his old programming but this doesn’t say why.”

“Don’t worry. It’s nothing we didn’t expect.” Marc replied as he resumed nursing his coffee mug. “I may have to put his cosmetic procedure off until tomorrow, he won’t have the time.”

“True.” Noah replied with his mouth full. “Dixon Wiggins woke up a few times throughout the night in pain. The acting head nurse gave him a sedative about an hour ago and reports that he is doing fine.”

“I’ll have to run up there and check in on him. I don’t expect him to be comfortable yet but I don’t want him in any real pain.” Marc said in thought as he watched Noah overload his mouth, nearly emptying the rest of his bowl. “Anything on Jesse Blankenship? Chris was on call for him last night I believe.”

“Hasn’t woken up yet.” Noah answered. “Looks like he was kinda restless for a while but Chris gave him something to help him sleep better.” Noah said as he put his spoon down. “His test results show that there is no evidence of of trauma to the head, or any severe injuries.”

“Superficial scars and bruises, but the damage done mentally is gonna take a long time to heal.” Marc said with a sigh. “Is Dixon’s family still onsite? I would really like to get a chance to meet them in person.”

“Nothing mentioned in here.” He said tilting his head to look before picking his bowl up and finishing the milk. “Mm…” He got out before swallowing. “Almost forgot. Caleb and JR will need to sit down with Danny when he gets back.”

“Oh?” Marc asked tilting his head. “Good or bad?”

“Good I think. Cal thinks he has that file kinda figured out. He filed a report on it sometime last night. This says he wants to bring up the possibilities of testing a theory he worked up regarding our network.” Noah said as he tapped on the screen and smiled to himself.

“The network at the house?” Marc asked beginning to sip at his coffee again.

“No.” Noah said, his smile growing wider. “Interdivisional. He thinks he has an idea that just might be able to act as the Clan Network Hub.”

Marc swallowed his coffee hard and set his cup down. “Serious?”

“One thing you’ll learn about Caleb. If he gets an idea, he’ll hammer at it for as long as it takes until it happens or proves that it can’t. He’s stubborn like that.” Noah said with a sideways grin. “Actually, he’s stubborn with everything.” He added with a giggle.

“It involves the network, he’ll have Danny’s full attention.” Marc said with a laugh.

“So we’ll be playing cards or something tonight, unless we give them something else to occupy their time.” Noah got out with an evil grin as he raised his eyebrows.

Marc nervously looked around the empty room before shooting Noah a ‘SHUT UP” glare. “Dude?!?”

“Well, I don’t know about you, but Caleb and I have been separated almost as long as you and Danny.” He said with a giggle. “Maybe tonight would be a good night to bring up a few… um… topics.”

“Right.” Marc said with a mock angry glare. “Maybe today would be a good day to test out the um… equipment in the intensive care unit.” He got out with an evil laugh. “I hear we have traction set up now.”

“Ouch.” Noah said with a laugh. “Too soon still?”

Just as Marc was about to answer, his communicator chirped. “Way too soon, bone head.” Marc replied as he flipped the unit open and responded. “Marc here.”

“Morning Marc.”

“Oh hi Eddie.” Marc replied with a smile. “How are things at the insane asylum?”

“They were quiet until Mrs. Owens tried to bring Dr. Owens to school.”

“Oh, what’s wrong?” Marc asked in concern.

“Well sir, we possibly have an issue with a Vulcan diplomatic representative attending public school without armed escort.”

“Say what?” Marc asked as he looked at Noah now with a confused expression.

“Marc, we can’t insure Jerry’s safety in that kind of environment. Mrs. Owens thinks we’re overdoing it but, it’s a real concern now.”

“That might be going a little over the edge I think.” Marc said as he sat back in his chair. “As soon as possible, we need to sit down with Will and Mary and see if we can come up with a permanent solution. Where are they now?”

“In route to the hospital. Mrs. Owens had work to do and I’m sure she’s gonna want to talk to you about this. She was a little upset.”

Marc closed his eyes and shook his head. “That’s understandable. Once Danny returns, we’ll try to schedule a time to sit down and discuss the possibilities of alternate schooling or something.”

“Understood, thanks Marc.”

“No problem. I’ll see if Will can attend. He may have some input on this as well. Good job, Eddie. We’ll come up with a safer solution.” Marc said still rubbing his eyes. “Marc out.”

“I’m sure Jerry’s all broken up about it.” Noah said with a sarcastic giggle.

“Actually, he may be.” Marc said standing up. “School would have helped him pass the day with everything going on. Now I gotta have him doing rounds just to keep him from climbing the walls and constantly bugging Austin.”

“Ahhh.” Noah said as he stood up and placed his empty bowl on the counter. “Well, unless you need me, I’m gonna go find Billy. He said he needed my help with the replication setup.”

“Cool, let him know I have the imprint set and ready to go for when he’s ready to take the last step.” Marc said with a smile as they reached the elevator.

“Will do.” Noah said as the doors opened and he stepped into the elevator. “Yell if you need me bro.”

“I will, thanks.” Marc replied with a smile as he continued down the hall toward the brig. Once swinging the big steel door open, an unfamiliar face in a uniform snapped to attention. “Morning,” Marc said as he eyed the young man.

“Morning Sir.” The security officer barked. “Prisoners are secure, situation normal sir.” He continued causing Marc to giggle.

“You can relax, this isn’t a military installation any more.” Marc said with a grin as he turned to step into the control room to use the terminal.

“Sir! Yes Sir!” The guard snapped and resumed his watch.

“Wow, Thank you drill sergeant.” Marc said under his breath with a giggle as he sat down at the terminal in the control room and contacted the Charleston Police Department.

“Charleston PD, This communication is being logged, how may I direct your call.” The uniformed officer on the screen asked.

“I’d like to speak with Corporal Jackson please. Could you inform him it’s the acting head of Clan Short A.I. Division and that it’s not an emergency.” Marc said with a smile as the officer grinned.

“No problem, give me one moment and I’ll connect you.” He got out as the standby screen popped up almost instantly switching to the image of Will at his desk, hovering over a cup of coffee.

“Morning Marc.” Will said looking like he was in desperate need of some sleep.

“Hey Will. You okay? You um… look like you haven’t slept in weeks.” Marc said with concern in his voice.

“Expense review day.” Will said as he shook his head. “I have to explain to the penny pincher’s why we have one extra requisition for toilet paper this week.” He got out with a laugh. “Anyway, what can I do for you?”

“Well,” Marc began; “First I wanted to thank you for the extra security, even if I do think some of them have watched one too many episodes of Cops.” Marc got out with a giggle.

“Their placement there is being considered one step toward active duty. Trust me, you couldn’t be in better hands right now.” Will said with a grin.

“I guess.” Marc said as he watched the security in the processing room rotate positions as if they were officers in the Royal Guard or something. “Second, we need to set up a meeting between you, Eddie, Mary Owens and Danny regarding a member of our staff attending public schooling.”

“Armed escort.” Will said in a ‘matter of fact’ kind of tone. “It can be arranged.”

“We need an alternative. An armed escort would raise a few issues, not to mention embarrass the hell out of Jerry.” Marc said with a grin.

“I got ya.” Will said as he up ended his cup and took a large gulp.

“I also need kind of a personal favor.” Marc said with a grin. “I need help buying a car.”

“You need help?” Will repeated with a laugh. “Your diplomatic status removes any restrictions you used to have.”

“I know, but I sorta need someone to suggest… well… I’ve never bought a car before.” Marc finally got out with an embarrassed grin.

“I see.” Will replied. “A car for you?”

“Myself and Danny.” Marc replied. “I kinda wanna surprise him, but I also want to get something that is going to be safe. You know, with the type of work we’re doing.”

Will sat back in his chair and scratched his head for a moment before a wide grin crept into his expression. “Any preference to make and model?”

“Well, I’d like to look into a sports car. Danny owned a Camaro in the time before he was brought to life as a thirteen year old android. I know that car meant a lot to him.” Marc said as he watched Will begin to smile wide. “Well, something that would be considered safe from a security standpoint as well.”

“How would you feel about one of our newer unmarked units? They are already going to be equipped with onboard communications, automatic obstacle avoidance system and can even emit a low level force field. Can’t get much more secure than that.” Will said with a laugh as he began to rifle through the papers on his desk.

“True, but I was hoping for something… well…” Marc started to say as Will found the papers he was looking for and held it up.

“Black Camaro, already outfitted but over our budget.” He said grinning. “Want it?”

Marc’s jaw hit the floor as Will watched his expression and laughed. “Um… What would the cost of something like that be. I mean I have some money saved up, and this is for personal use.”

“Marc, you are one of the heads of a Vulcan diplomatic clan. That alone would be government funded. We have three cars that haven’t seen active duty and thanks to spending cutbacks probably never will. If you need one, all I need to do is submit the paperwork and we can transfer ownership right now. So, you want it?” Will said with a huge smile. “Just say yes Marc, you taking this off my hands right now will actually make my day a little easier. One less expense I have to answer for.”

Marc’s eyes opened wide as he watched Will pick up a pen and point to the papers with it. “Is that part of the reason you look like you’re ready to lose it?”

“Those three cars are most of the reason we’re getting an unannounced budget review, yes.” Will said as he put the papers on his desk and readied his pen to sign them off. “Say yes Marc.” He added with a laugh.

“It’s really no trouble?” Marc asked beginning to giggle as Will sighed and shook his head.

“The second I sign you over as the reason it was obtained, it is paid for by the government Marc. I no longer have to answer for the expense.” He said. “You sure you only need the one car? We have the Camaro and also have a 16 passenger van and a Mustang. All outfitted, all in black and all would be an excellent addition to your fleet.” Will said with a grin.

“I don’t know what to say, I mean…” Marc got out before being cut off.

“You say yes. I sign the papers. The Camaro will be in your driveway before the day is out and I submit the paper work for the other two for additional approval. They’ll say yes, all three are in a place where they can be used, the expense disappears at my level and I’m on my way with a police escort to deliver your new car to you before going home and getting some sleep.”

“If it helps you then I guess. I mean we could use them.” Marc said scratching his head. “Will approval be hard to get?”

“God no.” Will replied. “I can have Judge Legette stand in and submit that the addition of the federation medical facility, made possible by your clan division’s location will be a huge benefit to our community. Three vehicles is nothing compared to what they actually could offer.” Will said as he began to fill out the first form. “This is for Danny you said? His full name is Daniel Alexander Page right?”

“Um, yeah.” Marc said as he watched Will smile wider as he began to fill out the form.

“Done.” Will said with a grin. “Now about the van and the Mustang.” He added with a laugh. “The van would be helpful with the size of your group, what name would make sense to be primary operator?”

“I have to choose one person?” Marc asked looking extremely confused.

“Well.” Will began, setting down his pen. “They all need to be assigned to a primary operator in the case of a diplomatic registration. Any of your guys can operate them if needed, but we can’t just list the organization as the individual primarily operating them. Not to mention the car’s security systems recognize their primary operators and will only accept secondary operators at the request of the primary. They’re police units.”

“Oh.” Marc said scratching his head. “Eddie should probably use the van, he’s been moving security around in his car.”

“Good idea.” Will said as he picked up his pen and began to write while mumbling; “Edward Walter Fraser.” before looking back at the screen and smiling. “Should I list you as primary for the Mustang?”

“Not me, no!” Marc snapped back. “I don’t want to have to drive any of them.”

“Having it in your name doesn’t mean you have to drive it Marc. It just means you have to provide clearance for any secondary operators.” Will said before sighing. “Okay, who would make sense then?”

“Well…” Marc trailed off, obviously deep in thought. “Our IT team could use it since they actually don’t live in the area.” He said as a smile crept across his face. “Yeah, that’s what we’ll do. It’ll make getting back and forth easier.” Marc smiled wide.

“Okay, gimme a name.” Will said with a laugh.

“Noah Simon Barnes.” Marc said with a giggle. “He’ll have a heart attack.”

“That’s evil.” Will laughed out as he wrote down the information he needed. “Well, I can have the Camaro dropped of in a few hours. If we get approval soon enough, the other two will be shipped as soon as the paperwork is final. You want them dropped of at the naval hospital or your Sullivan’s Island location?”

“The house would be best. Eddie is still based from there and I’d like to be home when I hand out keys to a couple of really surprised guys.” He replied with a giggle.

“Consider it done then. I’ll let you know when the van and the Mustang are all set.” Will said with a grin.

“Why isn’t there a wait on the Camaro?” Marc asked tilting his head.

“Oh, well that’s because I approved having it outfitted for you a week ago.” He said with a wink.

“Our division didn’t even exis… Oh… Ooooh yeah. A week ago, riiiiight. I gotcha.” Marc answered with an evil grin. “You are such a liar.” He added finally bursting out in laughter.

“It’s not a lie.” Will said as he picked up the paperwork and pointed to the date he had added next to his signature. “Says so right there.”

“Thanks Will.” Marc said seriously. “This’ll make my brother and a really cute couple very happy. Not to mention make our lives a lot easier.”

“Not a problem.” Will said with a grin. “Any of these guys that need to learn how to drive you can run through Eddie. I’m sure he’d enjoy being your in house drivers education instructor.”

“Danny had a license before so that shouldn’t be a problem. Noah and Caleb might need help though.” Marc said with a grin as the phone in the room rang.

“You get that, I’ll talk to you later.” Will said with a smile as the screen suddenly went into standby.

“This is Marc.” Marc said into the receiver.

“Marc, there’s a call for you on line one, it’s the division head I believe.” Billy’s voice said happily. “Should I pass it to you there?”

“Please. Thanks Billy.” Marc got out as he heard the connection switch over. “Marc here, wassap bro? You home?”

“Are you where nobody can hear you?” Danny replied seriously.

“Yes. What’s wrong? You sound tired.” Marc answered with concern.

Marc could hear Danny sigh before continuing; “I’m fine, just a little wiped out. Unfortunately we’ve got a call to answer in Chicago and have to head right back out. Are you okay or do you need me to stay behind?”

Marc looked outside the room and looked at the security officer before grinning and replying; “You kidding? With the backup I’ve got right now and how things have gone the past day or so, it’s like we can move mountains bro. We’re fine, lose the worried tone.” Marc giggled. “What’s up with using the landline; did Caleb cut the wrong wire again?”

Danny laughed out loud before answering. “No, he didn’t, as far as I know. So, should I take that answer as a ‘I’m not needed’ then?”

“No, you’ll take that as all is well at the AI division. You help our brothers if it’s needed. You’ll just owe me a nice dinner and a quiet sanity break when you get home, that’s all.” Marc said with a grin; knowing by then his little surprise would be parked at the house.

“Deal, I’ll need the break too. I guess we’re leavin’ right away and so you know we have Caleb and JR with us.” He said before lowering his voice. “The landline thing is a long story; a certain organization is hunting Cory and his family. I’m being patched through to your phone; basically just in case they are trying to find Cory we set up a diversion by flying the shuttle here. All of us are going so that nobody is in danger. Keep everyone else at the hospital until I give you an ‘all clear’, okay?”

“You got it. No worries okay? We’re doing fine; you look out for Cory and I’ll stand guard here. I’ll have a full report for ya when you get back.” Marc said nodding his head.

“Great, just make sure to pick the place you want to go for dinner.” Danny replied making Marc smile. “We’ll handle the report after a full night of R&R.”

“Sounds great. Love ya bro!” Marc said as he began to blush.

“Love you too, bro.” Danny’s voice softly replied as the call disconnected.

Marc sighed as he placed the receiver back in its cradle and stood up from his seat, causing security to snap back to attention. “Jeez guys, You’d think a friggin’ admiral had just entered the room.” He said with a giggle which was cut short by their serious expressions. “Okay, I’ll play along. Excellent work men, carry on.” He barked with a salute as he left the room and began to laugh once he closed the door. “I should send these guys with them to Chicago, that’d keep them safe from, just about anything on the planet.” He mumbled to himself as he slowly started for the elevator to start catching up on the insanity he was beginning to consider normal for this crew.


To Be Continued…

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