Chapter 93




Theo escorted the two eight year olds out of the Med Center, and watched as their innocence showed as they stared at the wonders that were the administrative section; the brightly windowed columns, people walking around and over the bridges, while several long boats floated in the river. He even saw them staring at the coffee shops that had sprung up along the promenade. "Come on you two, we'll start our tour by going through part of the bio-dome where you can see the gardens. From there we will go the habitat section where you can see what the apartments you would live in look like. Afterward, we can finish walking around Level One of the bio-dome and end back here so you can see the school and training centers.


     Having very seldom ventured outside of the Vegas compound that had been built for them by the Clan in their old dimension, almost everything Stan and Forth's eyes fell on was something new and wonderful to be absorbed. Sure, both boys had heard the stories from the older kids that had visited the Vegas Compound, about how cool it was to go into space, or to another planet, and they had read and studied about what life was like off world, but it was a totally different ball game when you were actually experiencing it.


     Although both boys were very interested in looking at everything they could, Forth seemed to be far more curious and prone to stopping then Stan was. Finally, it got to the point that Stan grabbed hold of Forth's hand and pulled him forward so that they could keep up with their guide.


"Through here," Theo took them through the large air lock, "We enter Level One, Section Nine of the Bio-dome. This is mainly the section we've planted tropical fruits like bananas and mango's. If you look between the fruit trees you can see the vegetable gardens that have been planted. I think this section has sweet potatoes and watermelon planted in it right now." As he talked, Theo skimmed Stan and Forth's minds. They were an open book, and some of what he saw in there he had to really clamp down on his emotions so he would not scare them. Even if it was not directed at them, his anger at what happened to them was hard to control. Pointing to the left he smiled, "The habitat section is this way."


     "Forth!" Stan cried out as his best friend slipped away from him, and ran over to the railing.


     "Whoa! You need to see this," Forth replied, as he waved Stan toward him. "This place is ginormous!"


     Sighing, but unable to resist the chance to see something cool, Stan quickly ran over to the railing that Forth was standing next to, and gazed in wonder as he looked down. From what they could tell, they were standing at the top level of a huge underground complex.  They could easily see four or five other levels below them with even more plants and trees, as well as a lot more kids, many of which didn't have a single piece of clothing on. Not only that, but a bunch of the kids looked like they were having a lot of fun playing with each other. Although they couldn't tell for sure, one of the games of choice seemed to be some variant of 'tag'.


     Looking above them, the boys could see one of the largest domes ever, showing a star filled sky outside.  Forth was convinced that the open area was large enough that a small starship could easily fit inside the place. Down toward the bottom of the large open air area they could see rivers, and even more trees and plants.


     "This place looks way cool!" Forth stated in a voice filled with wonder and delight as he looked back toward Theo.  "Stan and I would really be allowed to live here?"


"Yes you would, if you chose to let us try to fix what is wrong with you." Pointing over the railing Theo told them, "There are five levels planted just like this one, though the crops are different on each one. Each level has a living habitat linked to it, but for now we are going to go to habitat one, level one, for your tour. The final sixth level is a large lake that is linked to all the other Bio-domes by the underground river.


     "There are more of these huge domes?" Stan asked with surprise.


     "Of course there are," Forth answered. "Didn't you just hear him say that?"


     Stan sighed as both boys eagerly followed closely behind Theo. "Do you think he will let us ask him questions?" Stan whispered to Forth as they walked.


     Hearing what Stan asked, Theo stopped and faced the two young boys. "You two can ask me any questions you might have."


     "Okay, well," Stan began slowly. "We did a lot of research about the other planets in our solar system, and if I remember right, Mars doesn't have all that much water, but this place seems to be filled with rivers, lakes, and tons of water everywhere. Were our lessons wrong?"


     "That's a dumb question," Forth glared at Stan. "Haven't you been paying attention the last two days? We're in a different dimension now, so probably this Mars is different from our Mars."


"A well thought out question, Stan," Theo smiled as Stan beamed at him. "Mars indeed does not have water on its surface, instead most of it boiled off ages ago when it lost most of its atmosphere. One of the nifty things we can do is create water from the soil, even import it from the ice fields around Jupiter. You'll find that we have more water in lakes, streams and rivers, meter for meter in our dome, than Earth does in the same sized city."


     As Theo gave his explanation, Forth allowed his eyes to wander away. Apparently Stan's question wasn't as dumb as he thought. As he glanced around, his eyes spotted something off in the distance in one of the next areas, or sections or whatever it was Theo referred to them as. Blinking a few times to make sure he's eyes were not playing tricks on him, all concerns about Stan's question were forgotten as he saw what looked like real stalks of corn growing. And of course, where there was growing corn that could only mean one thing. Without really thinking about it, Forth's hand slipped into his pocket where he still had the popcorn seeds that Sarah had given him the day before.


     "Are those the apartments?" Stan asked excitedly as they entered another section, pulling Forth out of his thoughts. "Can we go see them?"


     "Yes, those are the apartments," Theo smiled, still surprised at how much energy and excitement the two boys were filled with. "That's where our tour was going next, so yes, we can go look at them."


     "Cool! Come on Forth!" Stan replied excitedly as both boys took off toward the first set of apartments. "Look, they even have plants growing on top of the apartments. That means we would get our own personal garden!"


     "Sweet!" Forth chimed as he joined Stan. "I wonder if we could grow popcorn in our garden."


     "Probably," Stan answered. Before the boys managed to reach the first apartment, Stan stopped dead in his tracks causing Forth to do the same. "Look, past that apartment over there, it looks like there is a park or playground or something there."


     "We'll have to check that out too!" Forth bounced. "I wonder how many people here like popcorn; maybe if we meet a bunch of new friends, we can have some of them growing popcorn in their gardens too!"


     "Maybe," Stan replied thoughtfully.


"When you first are assigned an apartment," Theo told them as he started for the apartment across from his and Gene's place. "Gene and I live across the path, by the way. They each are pretty much basic, like this one. It will be up to you to personalize them, so they fit your personalities."


     "Can we look in one of them?" Forth asked hopefully.


     Theo nodded. "You probably shouldn't go into any of the other apartments, but you are welcome to check out Gene's and mine.  We really haven't had a lot of time to do much personalization to it with everything else that has been going on, but it will at least give you..."


     Theo never got a chance to finish his statement. Before he was half way through with it, both boys were running toward the apartment that Theo had indicated. For the next several minutes, they ran in and out of every room in the place, and thoroughly checked out every possible nook and cranny both inside and out. This, of course, meant several trips up to the roof of the apartment to check out the flowers that were growing on top of it. The entire time, Forth would occasionally make comments about different places where they could have their popcorn growing.


     Once the boys had checked every possible spot there was to check in the apartment, they began to do a second check of everything, and after that a third check.


     "At this rate, you two are going to know these apartments better than the assemblers," Theo chuckled.


     "We can't help it that they are so cool," Stan replied as he and Forth stopped their investigation, and walked over to Theo. "I still can't believe that we would be able to get our very own apartment like this."


    "Yeah, that's going to be really supper cool!" Forth agreed with a serious nod of his head.


Shaking his head as he listened to their thoughts, Theo followed the hyper duo back up to the rooftop garden. Pointing down the tunnel at all the other apartments he told them, "We all live in this habitat, mostly because there are not many of us on the colony right now."


     "Why not?" Stan asked curiously. "I can't think of any kid alive who wouldn't want to live in a place like this."


     "You can't just go grabbing every kid you see and bring them to some place like this," Forth countered. "Remember how many mean kids existed back in our own universe.  And remember what Robert was telling us last night, about the kids in his school that would beat him up because he was different from them?"


     "Yeah," Stan slightly deflated at the memory. "Well, then we could just find the nice kids, the ones who wouldn't be mean."


     Forth nodded. "Yeah, back in our own universe, that's what our clan did. We would help find kids that needed help, and give it to them. I bet we could do the same thing here, and we could find as many kids as you wanted to live here!"


     Stan bobbed his head up and down in full agreement with Forth.


"Let's go back to the dining hall, I want to show you something," Theo told them, thinking about what they had said. Only to be blocked by Forth who had his hand in his pocket.


     "I have one more question," Forth stated seriously as his resolve quickly melted, "I mean, if you don't mind." Seeing Theo nodding for him to go on, Forth continued. "So far we've seen all kinds of cool things here on Mars. I don't think Stan or I have ever seen so many different plants and flowers and trees in one place before. However, we haven't seen anything in regards to popcorn yet. Can popcorn even exist on Mars?"


     "Popcorn?" Theo asked as his eyebrows rose slightly.


     "Oh boy, here we go," Stan slapped his forehead. "We can ask about this later, Forth."


     "No, we can't, I don't know about you, but I don't think I would be able to survive a day in a place that didn't have popcorn," Forth turned toward Stan with a dead serious look on his face before he looked back up toward Theo. "I don't know if you realize this, but popcorn is one of the most essential elements to any kid's diet. Without popcorn... well, you don't even want to think about what could happen. Believe me, I've done a lot of research into this. You know all the school fights and stuff that go on? Well, ninety-five percent of the time, there is no popcorn involved. And your typical school bully? Almost every interview I've read, they never once state that they had a sufficient amount of popcorn in their diet! If you really want your colony to survive, and the kids to get along good with each other, then you need to fully understand just how vitally essential delicious tasting popcorn is to a kid's well-being."


     "I think he gets the picture," Stan stated meekly.


     Forth shook his head. "I don't think so. Look at that expression on his face; he looks like he's almost an adult, so how could he truly know? Don't you understand the magical and spiritual transformation a single popcorn seed goes through to blossom into a fluffy white kernel of corn? Every bite of popcorn that someone takes, it's like experiencing the miracle of nature in your mouth. It's like, you get to share in a small part of the wonders of the universe, and it helps you understand things on a whole new level that you never thought possible before. Not to mention, it tastes really yummy. So how could you possibly deprive kids of such an important element to their lives? How?"


     As Forth finished, Stan took a step backward and looked toward the ground, feeling convinced that Forth had most likely just ruined any chances they had of being able to live in such a cool place as this.


"I suppose you can have some garden space, just like everyone else can have their own garden space, to plant some popcorn," Theo said slowly, skimming their surface thoughts on why they were so fixated on popcorn.


"Come on, I think you will like the snack I know we can get," Theo told them as he walked down the steps and led them back to the kitchen area. If they were fixated on popcorn he would give them a treat, maybe then they could forget about it and think about what they were supposed to be considering. Moving to one of the cupboards he pulled a bag off the shelf and scanned the barcode before handing it over, "We do have something you might like, it's called cheese-corn."


With Forth's thirst for popcorn seemingly satisfied, the two boys began to chat with each other as they cheerfully munched on their newly discovered snack.  They started comparing notes on all the cool things that they had seen on their tour, how things might be different here as compared to living in the UNIT base where they had stayed for the last two days, or even back when they lived in the dorm housing with Eric and their other brothers before they ended up here.


Theo was slightly surprised about the seriousness, and depth of consideration, both boys seemed to be giving this decision as they looked at all the different angles which choosing to live here would mean; even going as far as talking about how it might impact their other friends if they choose to stay. The one thing both boys very clearly avoided was mentioning anything about what they had learned in the Med Center.


Stopping at Section Twenty, Theo pointed to the newly tilled up soil, "If you want to plant popcorn you can have a section here in this garden. It will be ready to plant sometime next week." Walking back to the administrative section in silence, Theo stopped at the railing and pointed out different areas they could explore. Then turning to them because he picked up they had made a decision, he asked, "So do you need to know anything, or are you ready to make up your minds? If you want to do this, and the only people we will listen to are the two of you, all you have to do is say so. It's your lives we are talking about."


     "What do you mean that we are the only ones you are going to listen to?" Stan asked curiously. "Daileass is in charge of our group, and Adam and Logan are in charge of all of us. Forth and I are just kids, we don't have any rank or anything. So even if we were to decide we wanted to live here, if they said no, then they wouldn't allow us to stay."


     Theo looked up through the dome as he tried to come up with an answer that would not confuse them. "How to say this without being mean, as you put it earlier, Forth." Looking back at the two of them he saw them staring at him, "Haden is human, so he has no say here. Not that I am going to hurt him or anything, Pete already gave him a free pass for today. And your Daileass, well he is not human either, but I'm not sure what he is. And while he may be your friend," he held up a hand to stop Forth from defending his friend, "he also has no say here."


     Sitting down on the path, Theo looked at the two so he was not towering over them, "You are on our colony now. So the only people who really have any say are Pete and I, and Pete has more say than I do. But I agree with him; this is your lives we are talking about. If you don't get fixed up you will die. Not of old age, but soon, like two years soon. There is a chance, and I do mean a chance, we can fix you up, but that means you would live with us, become one of us. And I have to be truthful with you, this chance is only a fifty-fifty chance. Which means it might work, and it might not. But it is a chance that no one but the two of you should decide to make. You can ask Haden and Daileass what they think, but you...each of you have to make the choice."


     "Do I think you should take the chance?" Theo said as he looked at their scared faces. "Yes I do, because, a fifty percent chance of living is better than no chance of living. No, I think you both deserve that chance. You are good people. Even with what has happened to you in your lives, you want to help others. And have fun doing so," he grinned at them as he added that. "One of the tenets, the things that set my people apart from others, is we actively tell our children to chase their dream. And we give them everything they need to be able to do that." Standing up, he brushed the grass clippings off his legs as he started for the air lock, waving at the two to follow him.


     Stopping at the railing, he waited until they silently stood on either side of him. Pointing to spots along the promenade, "The medical center is the big red column in the center there. To the left, on the other side of the bridge, is one of our schools; imagine the things you can learn in there." Pointing to the lower side against the wall, "We have offices and such where you can direct the assemblers to build your projects. If you wanted to build a space ship you could, but I have to warn you, you would have to wait your turn just like everyone else.


 Once Theo seemed done pointing things out to them, Stan and Forth shared a serious look with each other for several long moments, before both boys nodded at each other. "Theo? I think we've decided. We would like you to try to fix us, so we can become one of you, and live here on Mars."


     "Is that your choice as well, Forth? I'm pretty sure I know what your choice is, but this is an important enough decision that I need to actually hear you say it," Theo said softly.


     Forth slowly nodded, "Yeah, that's my decision as well. I mean, even if the part about Stan and I dying in a few years didn't exist, I still think I would like to stay here and become an Alteran. Stan and I aren't soldiers or fighters, I'm not even that good at laser tag. But I think a place like here, well, maybe we could make a lot more of a difference here helping others."


     Theo nodded in agreement. "Alright, if you two are sure, then let's go share your decision with the others." Both boys nodded as they followed Theo back toward the medical center.


     Pete was still quietly talking with Daileass and Haden when Theo, Stan, and Forth walked back into the room.


     "Hey guys," Daileass stated as he looked over toward the new arrivals. "Did you enjoy your tour?"


     "Oh yeah!" Stan bubbled as both boys ran over to them. "This place is awesome. Actually it's way beyond awesome."


     "Yeah, and they even invented a totally cool new food, called cheese-corn!" Forth added.


     "Oh boy, I think I can already tell what Forth's decision is going to be," Haden grinned.


     Daileass nodded as well. "So I take it you two have made a decision?"


     "Yeah," Forth answered seriously.


     "We want to let them try to help us, and then live here with them," Stan spoke in an equally serious tone.


     "I kind of expected as much," Daileass replied solemnly. "You guys understand that there is only a fifty-fifty chance that this will work, right?"


     Both boys nodded their understanding. "What are the chances if we don't?" Forth asked in response. "Zero-zero?"


     Daileass sighed, "I won't lie to you guys. Right now, we don't have the knowledge to even start to understand how to help you. But, I can say this. Two years is a really long time, and I can assure you that Doctor Janet will work as hard as she possibly can to figure out how to help you."


     "It's not just that," Stan jumped in. "Even if they weren't going to try to fix us, I think Forth and I would still want to live here. With the UNIT being all military and all, well, Forth and I never really seemed to fit in. I mean, yesterday, Logan just gave us fake positions to make us feel good and all, but we don't know anything about military stuff."


     "Yeah, I'm not even good at laser tag," Forth offered.


     "You guys know that if it was something you wanted, we could easily teach you about military stuff, right?" Daileass asked, although in his heart, he already knew that both boys had made up their mind, and nothing short of forcing them back to Earth would change that.


     "We know," Stan confirmed Daileass's belief. "But Forth and I both think that we can make a lot more of a difference being able to live here."


     "I have no doubt in that," Daileass agreed. "If that's truly how both of you feel, I'll fully support your decision."


     Relieved that Daileass was not mad or upset with them, Stan and Forth each threw their arms around Daileass, as he wrapped the boys in a hug. With a single nod from Daileass, Haden joined in the hug as well.


     Once the hug broke, Daileass looked seriously toward Theo. "Okay, I think we can all accept the choice that Stan and Forth have made. How do you want to take things from here?"


"Now," Pete nodded at healer Jorge. "Stan and Forth will be placed in one of the Bio-tubes, and the repair procedure will be started." Looking at the two he smiled, "Come on over here so I can show you what will happen. I can use Nate as an example." Moving over to the bio-tube, Pete noticed the Clan Medallion on top of the Bio-tube, just like Xon's when he had been placed in their version of the Bio-tube. Picking it up and placing it in his pocket he smiled at the two eager boys, not even minding the tin head being overly inquisitive. "Nate is floating in a liquid we call Regen fluid. If you look closely, you can see two small tubes going to the cuff around his arm." Waiting until they said they did he continued, "The medication he needs to be healed is sent through those tubes. There is one other tube that the healer inserted into his butt, that one removes all the waste so he does not have to go to the bathroom while being healed." He skipped over the lack of a catheter, hoping they would not ask about having to pee. "Finally, the tube going into his mouth, well, it allows him to breathe while being submerged."


"Wait," Forth frowned as he looked at the boy's chest, "Where are the holes from when he was shot?"


"The healer fixed those," Pete told them. Toning down his explanation for them, "He has a nifty device that can cause the skin to go back together like it was never cut in the first place." He noticed the widening of Daileass's and Haden's eyes at that bit of info and filed it away.


"Unlike Nate, who had damage that needed to be fixed by the healer from the bullet holes, the two of you would just need to climb in one of the bio-tubes. One each," Pete told them, as he went over the telepathic report Theo was pathing him. "Then Healer Jorge will clean an area on your temple, then your chest and finally on your arm. He will place a sensor on your temple and chest so we know what is going on inside your body at all times."


Going over to the next Bio-tube, Forth and Stan peaked inside the open lid. Picking up various tubes and looking at the imprint of where a person would lay down. Glancing over his shoulder, Forth asked, "We are going to have to take our clothes off, aren't we?"


"Yes, but we..." Pete trailed off as he ducked when a shirt came flying his way. Blinking, he wondered briefly if they had met his Clans sons in a past life. It was almost like they disliked the idea of clothes as much as the sons of the Clan did.


Falling back on Xon's favorite facial expression, he turned and stared at the two visitors, one eyebrow raised in annoyance. He didn't get the reference to, 'Spock, set eyebrows to stun', but evidently the boys thought it was hilarious. Once Stan and Forth had been placed into a deep sleep by the SOMA Unit, he cleared his throat, "Now that Stan and Forth's treatment has started, what are we going to do with the two of you?"


     Haden watched for a few more moments as one of the other healers walked over and started the intubation process for Stan, before he shifted his attention back to Pete. "Well, although you have been beyond generous in making a special exception for me in regards to your rule about Humans not being allowed on Mars, you have also made it clear that I would not be welcome here by your people. I don't know what could possibly have happened to cause you to hate all humans so much, but that's not really my place to ask. It's how you and your people feel, and I need to respect that. So I'm guessing that it would be best for me to leave as soon as possible. If it's within your power to easily get me back to Earth, or you can put me on a ship, or in some other holding center that you might have that's not on Mars."


     "I doubt Adam and Logan would allow me to stay away from them for however many days it will take this process to complete, either," Daileass stated.  "However, there are a few other minor details that I am curious about. For example, is there any way that we would have to get in contact with you, or a best way for you to get in contact with us? Also, you gave both boys a fifty-fifty chance of surviving this process. Is this a situation where you will not know until the entire process has run its course as to if they will survive it or not, or something that you will know at some stage prior to its completion?"


Nodding his head, Pete decided to answer the second question the tin head posed, "I would think we would have a good idea of how well the treatment is taking hold sometime tomorrow. We will know by then how long the treatment will take, and if we need to try to slow it down until Aaron can get here," he told them as he sent agreement back to Theo. Stan and Forth trusted these two on a deep level, so he would cut them some slack, because from what Theo just sent him they were going to need all the help they could get. Without an Aaron Stranton here in this dimension, the Army of God looked like it was going to win.


"We will give you a frequency that you can use to contact us, but in the future, for our peace of minds if nothing else, I think it is best that dealings between our two people, for now, lay with these two," Pete pointed at Stan and Forth floating in the bio-tubes. "It seems they trust the two of you to a great degree, more so than I would have thought from their memories." Smiling at their shocked looks he told them, "We as a race are true telepaths, we routinely skim the minds of outsiders, not to pry but to determine how truthful they are in their dealings with us."


"Can you transmit along VHF at 419 MHz?" Pete asked as he sent a message to Karl to place a long range SE114 in orbit above the spot they had rescued Nate.


"I believe so," Daileass said slowly as he stared at the strange kid trying to figure him out.


"You can send messages to Theo, the Colony leader, on that frequency," Pete said as he looked over at Haden, who did not look happy. Spinning a story that was based partially on history, he told them, "Earth was not always home to just Humans. We had our roots on that world, before we left it behind, that is. Humans have a history of destroying what they fear, and they fear what they do not understand." Leaning against the Bio-tube as they blinked at him in confusion, he told them, "War is coming to that world. A war begins even now, that you think you know the cause of, and you would only be partially correct. There is another faction, a hidden power behind the war that is about to hit Earth, and they will not stop until all those who do not believe in their God and their ways are destroyed."


"So the reasons, Haden, why my people do not like Humans are many." Pete was honest, well as honest as this dimensions history would let him be. "Humans forced us off our world long ago. Luckily we were advanced enough that by the time of the crusades we escaped Earth, but a lot of us died during that escape, and there are still harsh feeling over that. The other is less complicated, and at the same time more of an instinctive reaction. Alterans only have one sex, male. And from our experience, only food animals that have no intelligence have two sexes; and humans have two sexes." Tapping his chin as he chuckled on the inside, he wondered if they would give him an opening to give the 'talk' to them, but he bypassed it as he saw Haden was getting upset, "But I think the real reason why this colony will not allow humans to step foot on Mars has to do with the feelings of a large part of the population living here. We have rescued and altered, like we are doing for Stan and Forth, many gay youth who would have died at the hands of the Humans down on Earth. They are the ones that have the strongest dislike for Humans; because for them, they were tortured personally by Humans. They no longer consider they had a start as a human as a coping mechanism."


After Pete finished his reasons, Haden took a few moments to process everything that had been said before he slowly nodded. "You know, there are times I almost feel ashamed for being human. What you have described sounds very similar to what we know of the history of our own Earth from our dimension. There, over a forty-thousand year period, humanity nearly wiped itself out three times because of petty wars over people being different. Each time technology was basically bombed back to the Stone Age, and humanity had to start over again. Even with the Clan, and Star Fleet, and everything else we have going for us in modern times, the governments of the world were still at each other's throats, and it still seems like humanity is once again trying to kill itself off."


Daileass nodded in agreement. "Not to mention the fact that this Army of God you speak of sounds vaguely similar to a group in our dimension that called themselves the FCC, the Fundamentalist Christian Church. Basically, they were against anyone who didn't believe in their doctrine, or that was different from them. Less than two weeks ago, our clan had a major confrontation with them, which resulted in the deaths of a lot of good kids and teens. You see, where we come from there weren't Alterans, or an Aaron, to take people away to a far off place where they couldn't be hurt. So Cory and Sean Short, along with a bunch of other kids formed their own group, and as they grew and got the support of larger groups, they worked very similarly to what it sounds you guys are doing.  The rescued gay and oppressed youth, trying to give them as safe of an environment to grow up in as possible, while empowering them with as many opportunities as the Clan could offer so they could become whatever they wanted to be."


"You know," Haden thought out loud, "We would have to compare the histories more, but what we have learned about this Ashwood guy, and his hatred for gays almost has a religious undertone behind it. What if Ashwood isn't the real enemy here, and it's something much larger, just as Pete suggested?"


Daileass closed his eyes for a few moments before he re-opened them and nodded. "It's possible. If you look at all the major events and news stories over the last two years, it does seem a bit much for a single person, or even a single administration, to pull off on its own. Either way, especially with it looking like Ashwood is going to reject the legitimacy of yesterday's elections, he's probably who we need to focus on the most at this point."


     "Yeah," Haden agreed. "I'll say this much though. If anything like that Army of God were to show themselves on Earth, even though this isn't 'our' Earth, I definitely see both Adam and Logan using every resource they had to stop them. Not just because it's what the UNIT kids were grown and trained to do, but because of trying to hurt or kill a kid just because he thinks or feels different is wrong, no matter what universe or dimension you are in."


     Once he finished replying to Daileass, Haden realized that Pete and several others were still there. "Sorry about that, Pete, sometimes things frustrate me enough that I just start rambling. I appreciate you sharing with us what you have. I wish I could say I disagreed with you, and that you were wrong, but I can't. Nor do I feel it would be right for me to ask you to make a special exception for me from your rules."


     Pete didn't have to be a telepath to pick up on the flood of feelings and emotions that were coming off of the young boy standing in front of him. Initially, he thought Haden's disapproving expression was directed at him. In truth, however, it was directed at his own race. Although he had not gone into this conversation with the ideas of recruiting more Alterans, what type of leader would he be if he didn't at least present the option, especially to someone who already seemed to be so like-minded? Although he was being blocked from reading the boy's mind, just from what he had said, and his body language alone, Pete could tell the kid had been through a lot more than your typical nine-year-old, and in many ways was screaming for a place to fit in. With his mind made up, Pete nodded, "It's not a problem.  Verbalizing frustrations can often be a good way of dealing with them. It's probably pointless of me even bothering to mention this, since I'm sure you're happy right where you're at, but the option of becoming Alteran is open to you as well."


     "Really?" Haden asked with surprise as the images that Daileass had shared with him from Stan and Forth's short tour once again flashed through his head. "But, I'm not sick or injured or anything like that."


     "You're right, you're not," Pete nodded in agreement. "It's true that Stan and Forth's situation was a bit more dire, but the majority of humans that have decided to become a part of our race were fine physically, or at least would be able to recover and continue to live normal human lives. The vast majority of Alterans that you meet, other than the naturally born, join us not because they have to, or are forced to, but because they want to. They are looking for a place to belong, a place to call home, a place where others will respect them for who they are. They choose to join us because they are tired of the constant fear of living in an environment where society teaches everyone around them to hate and fear you because you're different."


     Haden blinked. The more he learned about the Alterans, the closer it seemed to fit with what the Clan believed in.  Perhaps, Alterans and this Clan Stranton that had been mentioned a few times 'was' this dimension's version of Clan Short.  "Would Daileass be allowed to become Alteran as well?"


     Several seconds went by before Pete slowly nodded. "It would be a bit more complicated, but our people do have the means to pull it off, if it was something he truly wanted. Of course, it would mean losing the machine in his head, and having an imprint of his consciousness transferred into a real body."


     Seeing Haden turn toward him expectantly, Daileass quickly shook his head. "Thanks for the offer, but I'm happy just the way I am, and I'm pretty sure Haden is as well, right?"


     Haden spent several long seconds looking toward Daileass, until finally he turned back around without saying a word.


     "You're not seriously considering this, are you?" Daileass asked. After several more seconds went by without a response, he grabbed a hold of Haden's hand and started pulling him off to the side. "Excuse us for a few moments."


     Theo, who had been there for the entire conversation, took a step forward to stop the tin head from interfering, only to have Pete move his arm out to stop him. "This is something we need to let them work out for themselves," he heard Pete path to his head. "If he's meant to join us, he will."


Once he had Haden off to the side, Daileass looked deep into his eyes, where he could see a mix of emotions.  Sighing, Daileass allowed his forehead to brush up against Haden's, while at the same time he pulled both of them into his own mental-scape.


     Unlike the last few 'emergency' meetings that they had to discuss Stan and Forth in Logan's mental-scape, this time Haden opened his eyes to find the familiar surroundings of Daileass's mental-scape. A few feet away from, Daileass stood with a concerned look on his face.


     "I guess this is something you really think I shouldn't do?" Haden started the conversation off.


     Daileass sighed and shook his head. "It's not my place to make your decisions for you, Haden. If you choose to join them, then that's your call."


     Haden looked at Daileass, seeing that his expression really didn't seem to fit his words. "But, from your perspective, you don't want me to?"


     "No," Daileass blurted out before he could stop himself. "Well, I don't know. I think right now I'm just caught by surprise, and am wondering why... why would this be something you are even considering? Aren't you happy with me, with us?  With the friends... the family that is already here for you?"


     "Daileass," Haden sighed as he took a few steps forward so that he could wrap his arms around him. Seeing Daileass take a step back, however, caused him to stop. It was now become very clear to Haden just how much Daileass was being affected by all this, even if he didn't want to admit it. "Okay," he finally stated, taking a step back himself. 


     This was a question that Daileass was clearly looking for an answer to, so Haden spent the next several moments trying to think of one. Of course, moments quickly stretched out longer, since in many ways, Haden himself was not completely sure why he was considering it. Daileass was right, he was happy with Daileass and the other UNIT kids that had been tossed into this dimension. But at the same time, Haden knew there was more to the issue than that, he just needed to figure out how to put that into words. As seconds stretched into minutes, Daileass seemed content to give Haden as much time as he needed to figure out his answer.


     "I can't really think of any one specific reason," Haden finally began. "It's like I've been living in a dream that became a nightmare, and now, well I don't really know anymore. I don't know how to really explain it."


     Daileass nodded in understanding. "Just do the best you can, Haden. Regardless of what you decide to do, I think it's important that you at least know yourself why you are doing it. Remember, we're in the mental-scape, so you have all the time you need to think about it."


     Haden began to pace around a few times before he continued. "When the Clan first rescued Evan and me, my life got turned upside down. Neal and Rick showed me that not every adult acts like our dad did, and the other guys showed me that it's okay to be different. I even got to chase my dreams, working with electronics, and creating real things, and not just messing around with junk that was found in a trash can."


     "Yeah, I remember you growing a lot back then," Daileass agreed. "Even though you met up with the clan a good month before Adam and the rest of us did, I was able to go back and review all the various reports and conversations to see just how much you grew in such a short time.  I don't think I ever really mentioned this to you, but that was one of the many things that really impressed me about you."


     Haden sucked in his lower lip, and looked toward the floor. "I was able to do and accomplish things that I never would have thought possible. Making those contacts with Wayne Industries, having them actually build my designs, and even getting to use that first System 27 that showed up at Cynthitech. Those were some of the best moments of my life that I don't think I'll ever forget."


     Daileass walked over and wrapped his arm around Haden. "All of that happened because you demonstrated through your actions that you deserved it."


     Haden shrugged his shoulders. "And then, all of a sudden you were talking to me about joining you and your brothers in the special mental link that you shared together. That completely surprised me."


     "Believe me, it surprised me as well," Daileass agreed, forcing himself to let out a small chuckle. "I never expected to find someone outside of my brothers who I felt could really and truly not only understand me, but except me for who I was."  A look of concern suddenly flashed across Daileass's face. "Haden, you don't regret becoming a part of our link, do you?"


     Haden quickly shook his head. "No, never. That was the scariest and awesomest day of my life. I still don't know why you and the others felt I was so special, but no I don't regret it, I loved it."


     "Even if you don't always believe it yourself, you 'are' special... you're very special," Daileass stated with a hug.


     Haden shrugged. Then as he started to put some of what he had experienced into words it ran all together as it built up steam, "And that's where things started getting crazy. Before I knew it, we were being whisked off to Russia. I learned about this super old being that was living inside me, then I get whisked off to some other dimension where everyone tries to convince me that I'm some great military leader, and everyone wants me to lead them. And then, no sooner do I get back from that, but we meet the Eyryadain, and then after that we get whisked off again to Archnania where we spent even more time developing even awesomer stuff. Then getting back from that and learning about KLAUS; learning about a twin brother I never knew about; some ancient society wanting me to lead some task force for them; then going off to find some weird shape shifter who lived in a giant star sphere seven or eight galaxies away..."


     "Well, when you put it that way, that does sound like an awful lot," Daileass nodded. "But you have to admit, this will make for one heck of a story to tell your kids, one day."


     "And then we ended up here," Haden continued with a sigh. "I've lost Evan, I've lost Ordath, Brent and Lance, and everyone else I've known. Man, if it really is eight years after we left, Evan must think I'm long since dead by now."


     "I doubt that," Daileass replied seriously. "Weird things can happen when you start going between dimensions.  Besides, you're not the only one that was torn away from people you cared about. All of us are in that exact same boat."


     "I know, that sounded really selfish of me, and it wasn't really what I was trying to say," Haden sighed. "I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's not me." Seeing the questioning look on Daileass's face, he continued. "It's not that I regret having any of the experiences that I had, or doing any of the things that I've done, but... I don't really know how to explain it, other than it's just not me. I know Adam, his brothers and the other genesis kids were designed to be solders by the military from our dimension, and I guess in some way you and the chipmunks and the other Logan clones were, so maybe all of this stuff comes easy to you, I don't know.  But I just don't think it's me. I don't really like the constant fighting, I don't like the idea of having to lead people into battle, of people living or dying based on if I make the right decision or not. But... I don't know."


     Daileass's questioning look turned to one of confusion. "Haden, if this is how you really felt, how come you never said anything? If you never wanted to do the UNIT training on the training planet, you never had to. The only reason you were sent is because everyone believed it was something you wanted to do."


     "It was something I wanted to do. More than anything, it was something I wanted to do. I didn't like people always having to protect me. I wanted to learn how to be strong, and how to protect myself. I wanted to learn how to protect my brothers if I ever had to."


     "You just never liked the part about being a leader, and having to lead people in battle?" Daileass asked.


     "Exactly," Haden replied. "I never asked to be a battalion leader, I never wanted to tell a hundred other kids what to do, and then hope my choice was right or else have them die."


     "Then why did you do it?" Daileass asked curiously.


     Haden shrugged. "I don't know. Everyone around me kept telling me how good I was at it, and I don't know. I guess I just went along with it, I convinced myself that if I just tried it for a while longer, it would get easier and I wouldn't mind as much, or something,"


     Daileass gave Haden another hug as he could see the tears starting to form in Haden's eyes.


     "I want to do what's right, and what's expected of me," Haden continued. "But... I also want to know what it's like to be a kid, what it's like to not have the lives of lots of people held in your hands. It's not part of who I am to have that constant desire to want to fight. I don't know, but it sounds like these Alteran guys might be the closest thing this universe has to a Clan Short, to a place where I can maybe do what I'm best at, maybe make things to help others, and not have to worry about making the wrong choice, and people dying as a result."


     "Oh, Haden," Daileass sighed as he gave him another hug.  "Just because Adam and the others might have been created to be good at fighting, that doesn't mean that any of them like the idea, or want to always be fighting. But I guess I can understand where you are coming from."


     "You can?" Haden asked with a hint of surprise.


     Daileass nodded. "Yeah, you've been through so much in such a short period of time.  Just because you have the ability to do something, doesn't necessarily mean that it's the right thing for you to do, or what you need to be doing. I wish I could tell you that you were wrong, and that you weren't seeing things right, because to be honest with you, I don't like the idea of you being further away from me. But the truth is, you're right. Every indication that we've seen over the last few days that we've been here suggests that the country, if not the entire planet is going to get a lot worse before it gets better, especially if yesterday's elections are any indication. So, if you feel that your heart is leading you to join the Alterans, then that's what you need to do."


    "But at the same time, I don't want you guys to think that I'm abandoning you, especially if I'm needed around the base," Haden stated.


     "If we had this discussion yesterday morning, I would probably have agreed with you, because there were only a small handful of us," Daileass agreed. "However, now that we've found Donnie and the others from his UNIT team here in this dimension, we're not going to be as shorthanded anymore, are we?"


     Haden shook his head. "I guess not."


     "Exactly. So, if this is something that you really want to do, then you need to do it. The only thing I want to make sure is that not only are you really wanting to do this, but that you are doing it for the right reasons.  Because, if I understand things correctly, this is not something you can change your mind about and reverse," Daileass stated seriously.


     "Yeah," Haden wiped his eyes off. "Do you think I'm doing it for the right reasons?"


     "You're doing it because that is the direction your heart is leading you, and that's where you feel you would fit in best. Not to mention I can tell just how badly you want to get your hands on some of that advanced Alteran tech," Daileass grinned.


     "Maybe," Haden cracked a very small smile. "But that's not the only reason."


     "I know," Daileass cried as he held Haden tight. "I know. I guess when you look at it, assuming that Stan and Forth survive this, it will also be nice for you to be able to be here with them as well."


     "What about us?" Haden asked the one question that he knew they were both thinking about, but afraid to ask.


     A few long moments went by before Daileass answered. "That, I am not really sure about. I guess we will have to wait and see what happens. You may realize you like your new Alteran friends so much, you'll completely forget about me and the others."


     Haden strongly shook his head in Daileass's chest before looking up into his eyes. "I'll never forget about you, Daileass. I promise you that."



               Daileass nodded in understanding, "I know you won't.  So let's cross that bridge when we get to it.  If something is meant to exist between the two of us, then it won't really matter what you or I eventually become."


This time it was Haden who wrapped his arms around Daileass tightly, as he whispered in his ear "I'll always love you."


"And I, you," Daileass replied.  After several minutes of holding each other, they finally broke apart.  "I guess we should do this?"


"Not quite so fast..."  Logan said as he was standing off to the side.


"Logan," Haden called out with surprise, "I didn't know that you were here as well."


Daileass, on the other hand, did not seem surprised in the least at seeing Logan.  In fact, it was almost as if he was expecting him.  After an ever-so-slight nod toward his older brother, Daileass took a discrete step back, giving the other two boys a clear line of sight between each other.


"Haden, I have been here the entire time... since about 20 seconds after they brought you out of the flux they had you in.  I have been looking around, scanning things, and listening in on the conversations that have been going on."  Logan said as he concentrated a bit and changed the room they were in to a much more comfortable looking sitting room.  With a motion he indicated that Daileass and Haden should sit on a small couch, while he took a chair for himself.


Logan sighed while taking a moment to organize his thoughts.  Finally he looked at Haden and shook his head sadly.  "First off, understand, I will never tell you what you are allowed to do with your life.  If you really want to do this, then you will have my full support.  However, since you are one of my brothers, I feel I need to make sure you know as much about what you are getting into as possible.  Also, before I go any further, I need to apologize to you."


"For what?"  Haden asked seriously.


"For not realizing that we were pushing you too hard, that we were forcing you to do things that you did not really want to do, or were not comfortable with doing.  With everything else that has been going on, I did not do what I should have, as a big brother, and made sure you were okay with everything that was going on.  It is my fault, and for that I am truly sorry."


"That's not the problem at all," Haden sighed as he was getting frustrated with the fact that he was having such a hard time getting across what he was trying to say. "You see, as I just told Daileass a few moments ago, I was okay with everything that was going on.  I don't feel that you guys were forcing me to do stuff I didn't want to do, or didn't feel comfortable with in the slightest. Well... actually, that's not exactly true..."


Haden took a few moments to re-collect his thoughts.  "I would be lying if I tried to say that there weren't points during my training where I didn't feel comfortable, or where I felt like I wanted to give up, and go home.  But, I think that's just part of what the training was meant to do.  But still, I don't think you forced me to do anything I wasn't willing to do.  If you remember, I was the one that went to Colonel West, to accept his offer that he gave everyone to join the UNIT, because I felt that I needed to learn to be strong so I could protect my family.  I was the one who pushed to let you guys let me stand up for the Clan when KLAUS society put us on trial, because I felt it was the right thing for me to do at the time."


"Yes, I know that Haden.  But you are not understanding is the fact that I should have seen that the military lifestyle is not for you.  Command life is NOT something that is easy for anyone to live.  Not even Adam.  What I did not give to you was an outlet, a way to deal with the issues you were facing.  But honestly, that does not have anything to do with what we are dealing with now, I just wanted to apologize for missing something with you."


"Thanks Logan, I appreciate that," Haden nodded in understanding. "Just know that I do not regret anything that I've learned or have been able to help with.  If given the chance to do it all over again, I don't really think I would change anything."


"That doesn't really make sense, Haden," Daileass jumped in.  "How can you say you wouldn't change anything, and you don't regret any of it, but you still seem willing to throw it all away?"


"Honest, I don't know," Haden admitted as he lowered his head.  "I guess... well... it seems like everyone in the UNIT lives for the fight, and clicks really well with the military way of life.  From what I know of the Genesis Program, that's what you guys were created for, so it kinda fits.  For me, I don't have that say attachment, that same feeling in every fiber of my body.  I guess what it gets down to is the difference between doing something because it's what needs to be done, and is the right thing to do, verses doing something because it's something you enjoy and love doing.  If a fight were to break out right now, and I was needed to help in it, I would, without question, not because I feel you guys are forcing me, and not because it's something I enjoy doing, but because I would be there, and it would be the right thing for me to do."


Haden took a moment to take a breath.  "I don't know.  Maybe I'm looking at all this wrong.  Maybe this is all just a silly thought on my part, and I should just accept living for the fight like you guys do.  Maybe I'm the one that needs to be apologizing here, I don't know."


Logan stood up from his chair, and knelt down in front of Haden.  He took both of the boy's hands into his own, and looked deep into his eyes.  "Haden, there is only one thing that I think you truly do not understand.  Every single member of the Unit, every Genesis Augment fights, not because they were made for it, or they enjoy it, but because if we didn't, who else would?  Yes, it's what they were made for, but it's not ALL that they are.  Adam would love for nothing more then to put his guns up, and just live like a normal kid.  Most of them would, including Juan... although, don't tell him I told you that."  Logan gave a short laugh, which both Haden and Daileass shared. 


"What you don't seem to understand is this.  The Genesis Augments fight, not because they enjoy it, or they are good at it, which they are, but they all look at it the same.  If they don't, then who would?  Where we came form, the choice would have been easy for Adam to rescue the other Genesis kids, and then just live out our lives with out having to fight.  The government would have been nuts to try and re-take them with as well armed and trained as they were.  They would probably have just hoped they didn't decide to come after them.  But in truth, they saw what was going on, saw what was needed, and used what they were taught to do what they could to help others.  That's what it all comes down to.  We do not ENJOY fighting, but we do it because it's needed.  You are NOT strange, or anything else like that, you are feeling EXACTLY the same thing as every single one of us does.


Haden nodded in understanding.  "So, by making this choice, you feel that I'm not being fair to Daileass and the others?  Because if they all were given the opportunity to make this choice, they would also jump on it, but then there would be no one else left to fight the fights that need to be fought?"


"Not at all."  Logan said sadly.  "I can almost guarantee that had 99% of the UNIT were given this choice, they would not.  Not because of any reason that you are thinking right now, but because simply, they would see what the Alterans are doing, and have done, as running away and abandoning their people.  Most of the UNIT would find them to be cowards."


"Cowards?" Haden asked curiously.  "Because they are living here on Mars, and not on Earth?"


"Thats part of it, and understand, what I am saying is coming from the mindset of a UNIT member.  The Alterans did not stay and fight to protect their homes, their lives, they simply took off, leaving everyone else behind.  What would have happened if the entire Clan or UNIT decided to go to the training planet, or to Archnania, and leave the people on Earth to all the bad guys running around?  What would you have thought about us had we simply taken those that we thought were 'good enough', or had the 'proper mindset', and left everyone else to suffer and die?  I don't know about you, but I don't think I could look at myself in the mirror if I did that."  Logan said passionately.


"I probably wouldn't think that highly of them," Haden answered.  "Humm, maybe joining a race of cowards is not such a good idea after all."


Logan laughed, let go of Haden's hand, and sat down, on the floor in front of them.  "Of course, you do realize that what I said is completely subjective, and only takes into account what little we have learned about them.  They may not be the cowards we think they are.  But I fear we've really gotten away from why I wanted to talk to you about this."  Logan sighed, stood up and started to pace. 


"This choice is completely up to you, no one, not me, not Daileass, Adam or anyone else, will tell you what to do.  But I truly want to know that you fully understand what you are getting into.  You've known these people for less then one hour, and you are ready to become one of them.  Let me ask you one simple question.  How do you know that they are telling the truth?  Do you know what is going to happen to you when you are altered?  Are you going to be allowed to live on Earth?  What about the rest of us that really do care about you, and would not be happy if you left, and did not come back?  What are you going to be able to do?  I mean Pete talked about abilities they have.  Do you know what they are, what they would mean to you, how do you use them?  I could go on, but I think you are starting to understand what I mean."


"Your right, there are a lot of questions that we don't know," Haden stated. "Although I feel everything that I've told Daileass is true, if that was the only reason, then I would probably agree with you, and I would probably see there being too many unknowns to jump into it.  Because you're right, there are a lot of questions we don't know the answers to yet.  However, one thing I know for a fact is that Stan and Forth are already floating in those tube things, and, assuming they survive, will be Alteran.  Who's going to be there for them? What if things don't work out that well as you suggested they might not?  I think me being there for them will give them a lot better chance of detailing with whatever it is they have to deal with.  So that's a large factor I have to account for as well."


Logan nodded in agreement.  "And that is a very noble and proper response.  However, do you realize that you will, very likely, be leaving everyone you know, everyone you call family, and... even very possibly giving up Daileass?"


Haden shook his head.  "No, I would never give up on Daileass.  If becoming Alteran meant that I would never be allowed to see or be with Daileass again, then I wouldn't do it.  But from everything that we've heard so far, that's not going to be the case.  Is it possible that Pete is lying to us, and intends to never let us step foot on Earth again? Maybe.  Like you said, there is a lot we don't know about them.  But if he were to try that, then I would do everything in my power so that Stan, Forth, and I would be able to get back to earth.  So yeah, this is a direction that I feel my heart is leading me in, and I want to be there for Stan and Forth, but I will also make it very clear that I am absolutely not willing to do this at the expense of Daileass, or our love for each other."


"Again Haden, I am not trying to talk you out of this, since it seems your mind is made up.  However, as I said before, I need to make sure you understand what this means.  Daileass asked Pete if Stan and Forth would be able to come back and live on Earth.  This would now apply to you.  Pete said that no they would not be allowed to live on Earth.  You would be able to visit, 'in between your studies', but, at least as I far as I have been able to figure out, you would be forced to have one of them bring you to Earth, at least until you hit puberty.  I do not doubt the strength of the love between you and Daileass.... I feel it, but that sort of relationship where you will only see each other every once in a while, is difficult to maintain. 


Also, and you may want to look into this more.  I know how you feel about sex, and I know that you and Daileass have not gone much beyond kissing, even if you have gone that far.  But you may have missed something that Pete said."  Logan made quote marks in the air.  'And I doubt you would deal kindly with them slipping into every males room as they had an incredible need to have sex as Puberty hit them.' 


"That would be you.  How are you and Daileass going to deal with you having an overwhelming need to have sex, and he's not around?" Logan asked


Daileass chose this time to speak up.  When he did speak, his voice was very soft.  "Haden.  would you please not do this until we have more information?  I am so scared of loosing you."


Shortly after that, Daileass separated himself from Haden by a few steps. After another shared look, and a nod toward each other, the two boys walked back over to the group.


  "I have a lot of questions I need to ask before I can make up my mind one way or the other," Haden said slowly as he and Daileass moved back over to where Pete was standing. "There are so many things I need to know..." trailing off he looked at Daileass.


"One of the things we are afraid of is what will happen to us," Daileass said as he raised his hand, intertwined with Haden's. "Then there is the issue of our family back on Earth." Seeing Pete nod his head and look like he was going to write off the offer he was quick to add, "What we are asking for is time. Haden needs time to come to his decision after finding out everything that is involved."


"I agree with you," Pete smiled gently at Haden who looked torn. "How about I return both of you to Earth and give you several days to come up with questions. So you have firmly in your mind all of your concerns that you need answered before you come to your decision." Looking over at the tin head he tilted his head as he saw how expressive his face was, "Some of your hesitancy must come from not knowing who and what we are. When you decide to ask those questions, I can sit you down and let you go through the standard disclosure we let all those who are thinking about joining is go through, so they have the information to make an informed choice. Afterwords, I'm sure some of your questions will have been answered, and others will take their place." Chuckling he nodded at them and decided to reach out by giving them some information, "The Army of God started over one hundred and fifty years ago. And their goal is the total enslavement of the human race, they would ensure only those of a certain caste had access to technology and the ability to read and write. All others would be nothing but serfs good for nothing but their ability to keep them in comfort. One of their main labs is in Utah, just outside Fish Springs National Park, a lab they are working on bio-weapons that will remove the gay menace as they call Gay people."


"Why the hell are you not doing something about it," Daileass all but growled at Pete.


"We left the Earth over four hundred and fifty years ago," Pete glared right back at the slightly enraged cyborg. "We've only been back in this system less than two years. What do you want us to do? Go down to Earth and invade it? Killing off all those involved and treating the humans like children that need to have their asses spanked." Shaking his head slowly, he told them, "It takes time to find information, to determine if humans had advanced past their destructive ways.


           "I think he has a valid point.  I know we were use to being able to expect instant change, but look at how much backing and support we had.  Here, they are only a small handful of people, so I don't think it's fair of us to expect immediate change overnight," Haden stated as he first looked toward Pete, and then back toward Daileass.


           Daileass nodded.  "I'm sorry, that's not really how I meant to come across.  I know you guys are doing the best you can with what you have.  It's just... well, there was a point in time where you could have said I personally controlled one of the most powerful computer systems known to humanity, which went along way to being able to make a difference.  Over the past few days, I've really started to see just how limited I've become when all of this crap is going on around us, and I can't do anything about it."


          "You've given me a lot to think about," Haden stated as he turned back toward Pete.  "I think I'll take your suggestion and think about this for a bit, and see what questions I come up with.  At the same time, I want to make sure you understand how much we appreciate you being willing to work with us.  I know it's not something you have to do, and that it's well within your rights and experiences to kill me where I stand for being Human.  But you have chosen not to.  I think that right there says a lot in itself as to not just your character, but that of your people's. 


          Haden glanced back toward Daileass to see if he had any issues with what he had said.  Daileass slowly nodded his head in agreement.  Facing Pete again he told him,"I appreciate your willingness to give me more time, and not wanting to force me into making an immediate decision."


Knowing this med bay had gestalt access points built into the walls, because he had placed them in the plans personally, Pete nodded once and reached with his right hand and pulled power from the wall. As long arc of energy crashed into his hand, he smiled in glee as he saw the shock on Daileass's faces when he caught the energy and let his plasma dragon ghost around him. Wrapping the energy of Teleportation around Daileass and Haden, he ported them to the field they had been occupying earlier in the day. His words echoing in their mind, "Monitor the frequency I have told you to use. You will be contacted so you know how the two youngsters fare, even if the news is not welcome. When you are ready to talk to us we will bring those of your family that need to be involved in this decision to one of our bases. Who knows, Aaron may be here by then and you can talk to him about your decision. After all you can;t lie mind to mind."




Back on Centauri Prime, Xon stared at the screen in dismay as Aaron released the world killer from hibernation. He knew how much Aaron had despised that ship. For him to activate it meant he was beyond enraged...and frightened. Hearing the alarm go off on his P.A.D.D., he pulled it out of the thigh pouch and, as he read the screen, his lips pulled back into a snarl. Pete had been taken by whatever had breached their dimension and he knew Aaron's rage. Porting to his bedroom, he quickly dressed in his battle armor. Porting the circlet from behind the clear case, he turned when he heard someone behind him. Seeing Ichiro standing there he told him, "Get the children of the Clan to the CORE bunker. Brian, Pat and David will meet you there. They have been ordered to have CORE duty during this crisis."


Reaching out with his mind, Xon ported to the image he had been given on his P.A.D.D., the bridge of the world killer. Logging into the terminal next to the captain's chair he programmed the screen to show the outside view. He raised one eyebrow as he saw the asteroid crumble away from the framework of the ship. It seemed they were in the outer belt of the Altare system. Checking the schematics of the ship he would have snorted if it was logical; falling back into his emotionless training from his time trapped in another dimension with the Kathat, he barely held back his shock. The ship was rightly named, it was nothing more than a weapon platform with several engines tacked on, and row upon row of gestalt decks, though it looked like Pete had been upgrading it further. He had built in three hundred replication suites, and he had to wonder why. Turning when he heard Kenny's voice he felt relief when he saw Aaron.


"Let's go," Kenny batted at Fred's attempt to bandage his burnt hands. "Fred, you can heal me later once we kill the fuckers who took Pete. Leave off..." he moved away to glare around the bridge. "Well!!!"


Moving over to Kenny, Xon enveloped him with his arms and sent calming thoughts to him. "Calm, love. We will do Pete no good if we go crashing through the dimensions, firing as soon as we exit the dimensional vortex. We do not want to hit Pete's ship by mistake." Holding onto Kenny as he struggled to get free, he relaxed when Kenny went limp, only to turn and break down into tears in his chest. "We will get him back, even if Aaron has to order a reset." Pushing Kenny away enough so he could look into his eyes he sent, "WE will get Pete back, have no fear, Love." When he saw Kenny calm down and nod back at him he called out softly, "Fred, I think you can bandage Kenny's hands now."


Forcing himself to calm down too, Aaron held out his arms as Kenny rushed over, "Xon is right, Love, we will get him back. And as much as I want to rush into the dimension that those who took Pete are in, guns blazing, we will take it slowly to make sure Pete and his Star Scout do not get caught in the crossfire."


"Dimensional Breach Traced...Location Discovered..." The voice of the CORE came across the speakers.


"Xon," Aaron said as he stared at the symbols filling the screen in front of him, "Prepare for dimensional jump."


"All hands," Xon said as he touched a button on the captain's terminal. "Prepare for dimensional jump."


"Identify," Aaron growled out as a bright light stabbed him from above.


"Identity confirmed...Aaron Stranton, Prime of Clan Stranton...King of the Alteran Empire...Emperor of the known universe."


"What the fuck," Kenny and Aaron said at the same time. Promising to get Kevin to have a long discussion with the CORE about its need to create new titles for him, Aaron ordered, "Commence dimension jump."


As soon as Aaron gave the order to jump, a swirling vortex of energy formed in front of the ship and rushed back towards the stern taking the ship through dimensions. As the stars cleared in the front screen, Aaron heard Doug over the speaker, "RS One through Nineteen have made the jump safely."


"Vindicator to fleet," Admiral Joe Mandelin nodded in apology to the captain of the Vindicator, Victor Grosky, for taking over his ship. "Report readiness."


Not backing down from Aaron's glare, Xon told him, "It does no good to wield a sledge hammer when a stiletto is what is called for."


Giving Xon a grim smile and nod, Aaron kissed Kenny and moved to the captain's chair. Sitting down, he unlocked the gestalt generator and brought it to full military power. Pulling at the power of the gestalt he pathed loudly while sending his mind searching, "PETE..."