Brotherhood of Love

Chapter Three: Rejuvination

A couple of hours later, Rec Room 2:

"I knew I'd find all y'all in here," Mary stated as she entered one of the three small Rec rooms, her hands full with a platter bearing fresh cinnamon rolls and a pitcher of sweet tea.

"Just hiding from the insanity," DJ quipped with a wry grin as he gave Finn and Sylys, who was sound asleep, a squeeze.

Mary nodded as she put her peace offering down, taking a seat in the chair next to the recliner that the three boys were occupying. "I've been given to understand that y'all tell little Antonio when he's a needin' kid time. You two Daddies are under orders from your partners to just unwind while they keep all y'all's kids occupied. Right now, Shane and Casper are teachin' y'all's older kids the basics of basketball on that big ole' court in your back forty, while most the rest of the little ones are playing on that big outdoor play area. Y'all ain't stuck doin' it all, the rest of us are plannin' on helpin' your kin learn family too.

"But now my kids are gonna think I don't want them," Finn muttered.

Mary shook her head. "Nope, they's glad they have a daddy that understands cuddles," she stated. "They all saw little Sylys was getting overloaded, and saw that you was tryin' to calm him. They also saw their Grandpa helping you. Not a one of them wasn't smilin' when they saw the three of y'all splittin' off; they knew that y'all were gonna be needin' alone time to relax. Wesley even stated that you needed Daddy time, Finn, and all your brothers agreed."

"I'm sure that if anyone had questions about why, your Pop answered them," DJ added. "Him and I do this a lot on tour, taking a little alone time to unwind."

"Are you SURE that having Pop explain something is a good idea?" Finn asked with a small grin.

"Better than Mom; Chek would go into detail!" DJ smiled.

"Good point," Finn acknowledged. "You want a cinnamon roll?"

"Yes, please," DJ replied, "You better grab one for your munchkin too, the smell's probably going to wake him." Turning his attention to Mary, DJ added "I don't know how Dad and Pop handled this, it looked so easy as one of their kids."

Hearing the question buried in his statement, Mary replied "I'm guessin' they were a doin' just what y'all are, just not as openly. Times come where one'a the parents needs to relax, especially if they need to take time to be their age. Knowin' Russ and Sara, they probably took all y'all in when they saw Cory and Sean were overloaded, so you'd never see it."

DJ smiled. "Yeah, they'd come up with some excuse to have all of my brothers over. Thing is, Timmy missed out on about half of them."

"Look in your lap," Mary stated, "and tell me you don't know why Timmy missed out on those times."

DJ nodded. "Okay, so Finn's pulling a Timmy with me, and Sylys is pulling a Timmy with Finn?"

"Whadda you mean, Dad?" Finn asked.

"Timmy knows when Dad needs cuddles," DJ explained. "When that happens, Dad has Timmy cuddles, no matter if he wants them or not. You and Sylys are both a lot like Timmy, so it doesn't surprise me that you try to look out for me while Sylys is looking out for you."

"Okay, that makes sense," Finn replied as he held up a cinnamon roll so DJ could take a bite.

Smiling at just how much the innocent gesture from Finn said about the developing bond between himself and his new dad, Mary stated "Y'all need to just watch a movie, and let us old folks tame your mobs for now. They need to see the kid in their parents, so get to being a kid for a bit. Oh, Harold and Rollie are helpin' Noah, Caleb, and their boys with some project in the basement if you go lookin' for them."

"I value what little sanity I have left!" DJ giggled. "I stay away from those two and their projects!"

Basement IT Bunker:

"Noah?" Rollie asked, "Why does this look like it's got pas'getty in it?"

Noah looked over, and saw Rollie was checking out one of the four large spools of fibre cable that was waiting to be used. "Those are what's called Fibre," he explained. "Each one of those is like a wire, but instead of electricity, it uses light to talk."

"Kewl!" Rollie exclaimed. "Why we got so much?"

"Caleb and Harold are going to be bringing a bunch of big boxes back," Noah replied. "We'll use that so the boxes can talk to each other."

"Whatcha' doin?" Rollie asked as he came over and glanced over Noah's shoulder at the engineering tricorder's display that Noah was using.

"I'm checking the power supplies," Noah explained, "It's better to adjust them before we put the big stuff in, that way they don't mess things up."

"Can I try?" Rollie asked as he tried to figure out the display.

Noah smiled, as he had been waiting for Rollie to ask just that question. "Sure; I'm just finishing this one up, I'll help you do the next one."

After switching the current power bank he was working on to 'standby', Noah removed the test load module from the power plug and began his lessons. "The first thing you gotta always remember is that you don't touch anything unless it is off. There are two settings that are safe, that's off and standby. Standby won't let anything have power unless a plug is in that is coded for that certain outlet, while off is completely off. If you ain't tested it yet, off is the only one to trust, and even then you need to test to make sure it is really off."

Rollie nodded, having already been warned about the dangers of messing around with the power banks when they first entered the room. "How do ya' do that?"

Noah pulled his spare tricorder out of his workbag. "You log into this, and scan for power."

Once Rollie was set up in the tricorder, Noah walked him through the menus until he was confident that Rollie could find the basic tools. "Okay, you need to check this port before you plug the test adapter into it."

Rollie thought for a few seconds, then changed to what he thought was the right menu. Noah adjusted his unit as well, ready to step in if he saw anything different than Rollie saw. Once Rollie was certain he'd found the power scan function, he ran it over the area like he'd seen Noah do earlier before he went exploring in the room. After a quick scan over the entire module, he returned to one spot where he'd thought that he saw something, scanning it again at a slower rate. "I think I have some power here," he stated.

Noah nodded. "Good catch; that should be the little bit of standby power that checks for a cable. Now check the control panel, and tell me what mode it says that it is in."

Rollie stood up, and brought the integrated status display online. "It says that it's off," he stated, his voice confused.

"You're doing great," Noah assured him. "This is why we're testing them. What you found will be normal if the power controls need re-initialized, or it might mean a set of bad controls. Pull down on that big lever next to you, you'll hear a loud 'thunk', then you can check again."

Rollie followed the instructions, now finding no voltage anywhere in the bank. "Why didn't we just shut it off like that first?"

"If we'd done that, would we know there is a problem?" Noah asked.

"No," Rollie admitted. "What do we do now?"

Noah pulled a six-inch-square box with a long cable on it from his bag. "Plug this into the slot under the power display, then we'll stretch the cable until we are off to one side."


"Since there might be a problem, we don't wanna be in front of it if something goes boom when we try to run the interface off battery," Noah explained.

"Oh!" Rollie stated with wide eyes. "Has that happened?"

"Not to me," Noah replied. "But I've learned not to argue with any of the gorillas if they say to do something a certain way!"

"I'll remember that!" Rollie giggled before plugging in the cable and quickly joining Noah. "What's that do?"

"It's a combination of a power supply and the advanced control interface," Noah explained. "There are some things that you don't want someone to be able to walk up and do, so we have these to use when we need to do things that would break it if it was running a normal load."

"Okay," Rollie replied as he positioned himself to watch Noah. "You do it."

"That's smart," Noah smiled. "There's nothing wrong with saying you don't know, just as long as you want to learn."

Rollie smiled back, then made sure he could see what Noah was doing. As he worked, Noah explained his steps. "With this plugged it, as soon as we turn it on, it'll do a full initialization. Usually that'll fix it; we'll find out when we run the diagnostics, which start automatically."

Both boys silently watched the display on the box as it cycled through the various stages. At stage fourteen of thirty-seven, the screen turned red and the tests stopped. "Looks like we've got a bad card," Noah commented. "It says rack four, card seven."

"Why's it bad if it's new?" Rollie asked.

"Things happen," Noah said with a shrug. "Caleb's doing the same kinda tests on the other stuff before he brings it here. Sometimes a single card will test good when it's made, but it breaks when put with the other cards. Other times, it's just something broke because the problem with it was missed."

"How do we fix it?"

"We'll just swap out the rack," Noah replied. "That way if another card broke it, we're not killing a new card. The gorillas will check out this rack, fix it, and then send it back as a spare." Noah had powered down the unit as they talked, and motioned for Rollie to follow him as he went into the IT workroom. Pointing at the row of cabinets along one wall, he explained "The cabinets with a 'P' on them are for Power, and the numbers match the rack numbers. The rest of the letters are more Caleb's stuff to deal with than ours, so we don't mess with them unless Caleb tells us to get something from them." 

Noah opened cabinet P4, and pulled out a plastic box that was about the size of a twelve-pack of soda cans. "All we gotta do is swap the module in this box with the old one, then put the old one back in here to send out. One of the cards in here saves the diagnostic results, so it will tell them what card broke."

As they went back out to the main room, Noah asked "What do you think we should do before we replace this?"

"Check for power?" Rollie asked.

"Exactly!" Noah grinned. "You're learning quick; always believe there's power until you prove there ain't any."

Noah guided Rollie through changing the module, which was a toolless exercise to Rollie's surprise. With Noah watching, Rollie re-ran the initialization, which passed with flying colors. After disconnecting the maintenance interface, they re-applied incoming power and began from scratch.

Rollie performed his pre-test checks, finding no voltage at the front panel. With Noah's guidance, he installed the test plug, then brought the supply online after setting the plug ID to match the supply. Once the output was verified to be good, Rollie put the module into standby and moved onto the next unit. After the third one, Noah was satisfied that Rollie could handle it, and began leap-frogging with Rollie as they worked their way down the line.

"Get to work, you bum!" Caleb giggled as him, Hunter, Ron, and Harold appeared in the room near where Noah was watching Rollie finish his testing of the last unit.

"Bite me, Cal," Noah replied. "Once Rollie's done, we should be ready; only one bad unit, and it was the first one he did."

"What'd you have?" Caleb asked.

"Unit seven, rack four," Noah replied. "Is it too late to flag it for startup?"

"Nah, we did that update you and I talked about," Caleb stated. "We can do boot arguments now with watch flags."

"What's that mean?" Rollie asked as he started putting things back in the bag.

"Once everything's online," Noah explained, "the system can run live diagnostics like we did without shutting things down, and it can switch to a different power plug if something fails."

"Why'd we have to do this, then?"

"Because you never want to start a new system on bad power," Caleb replied. "When we first start up, it can't recover from a bad one until we finish setup."

"Oh, okay," Rollie replied. "Did you get to do stuff too, Harold?"

Harold grinned. "Yeah, Caleb and me put the parts in that'll make everything work, and he's gonna show me how to start it!"

"Kewl! That means you can fix the insides and I can fix the outsides!" Rollie giggled.

Noah and Caleb smiled as they watched their new in-laws compare notes on what they did, with Hunter and Ron joining in the discussion to explain their contributions. "I think we're going to have our own team to go along with Hayden's team!" Caleb grinned.

By the time the last processing unit was delivered, Noah and Caleb found themselves advising more than physically working. Between Hunter, Ron, Rollie, and Harold, the group had picked up on the physical part of the system setup quickly. That left Noah and Caleb free to start pre-launch configuration, since the other four were insistant on doing the interconnections themselves.

As the last attachment was made, Dylan appeared to check up on their progress. "Sweet! It looks like you're almost ready!"

"Yeah," Noah acknowledged. "What's our time bubble offset, Dilly?"

"You're at ten minutes," Dylan answered. "Do you wanna take a break, or do you wanna speed it up? Uncle Deej is gonna need at least another hour real-time to relax before you attack him."

"I think we'll try out the new nest," Noah replied. "I wanna be awake when we fire things up."

Dylan nodded. "Okay, I'll give you twenty minutes real time, then I'll be back to wake you up."

"Sounds good," Noah replied as Caleb gathered their team for a well-deserved rest.

Rec Room 2:

The credits had just started on Gremlins when Dylan, Thomas and Jimmy walked into the room, Thomas carrying a platter of cookies and Dylan carrying another pitcher of sweet tea. "How ya' doing, Uncle Deej?" Dylan asked as they put the treats on the coffee table, then occupied the same chair Mary had used earlier.

"A little better," DJ admitted. "We're just getting ready to start Gremlins Two, I think Sylys likes it just as much as Timmy does."

"YEAH!" Sylys exclaimed, causing both DJ and Finn to giggle.

"Dad's been telling us about you," Finn commented. "There ain't nothing nuts about to happen, is there?"

"Not yet, but I can arrange it if you want," Dylan giggled.

"NO!" DJ and Finn stated in unison.

"You're no fun!" Thomas play-pouted.

"Hey Sylys?" Jimmy interrupted, "Do you wanna cuddle on the beanbag to watch the movie while the old guys talk about stuff?"

"Jimmy's a good guy," DJ offered, knowing that neither one of his companions really knew him that well yet.

"Daddy?" Sylys asked.

"Go have fun," Finn replied, "when Grandpa says someone's nice, he knows them."

"Okay!" Sylys smiled before wiggling down and running the three steps to Jimmy. "Let's watch another movie!"

DJ smiled as all three parents watched their sons closely until they were cuddled together on the beanbag chair, all four hands full of cookies for munching while watching. Once it was obvious there wouldn't be any immediate issues, DJ commented "Okay, obviously you're up to something, Jimmy just gave it away."

"It's all Dad and Pop's fault," Dylan giggled. "Blame them!"

"What?" Finn asked suspiciously.

Realizing that Finn wasn't used to the normal banter between DJ and Dylan, Thomas explained "Normally Kyle makes a room in the heads of the heads of Divisions and higher to help protect them and help them. Even though he has a link with DJ, he's never made the official room. Him and Ty think that since DJ's a Patriarch now, that he needs a room in his head, but they also think that since DJ's helped Dylan to grow into the great guy I married that it should be Dylan that gets the honor of being the Mikyvis that watches over Clan Wagner."

DJ smiled as Dylan blushed almost every color of the rainbow. "Coming from Kyle, that's a pretty big compliment, Dilly. You've earned it, munchkin; you're a big part of why Time Touched actually worked out. I'm guessing that means that Uncle Kyle wants you to be the one with a room in my head. I trust you just as much as I trust Kyle, so you have my okay."

"What happens when you guys do that?" Finn asked. "Is it just important guys who get it?"

Seeing that Dylan was overcome by DJ's statement, Thomas answered. "It's something like having a friend that is staying over in your head that's always there. No matter what or when, you can talk while you're doing other things, or even just cuddle and relax. The big thing is that if you need help and can't get it any other way, the link gives you a way to ask for it without anyone knowing. Anyone can have one, but it's only talked about with people who we think need one or the people who might be in danger because of what they do."

"That sounds kinda nice," Finn replied, his tone suggesting that he believed he didn't qualify.

Picking up on it, DJ gave Finn a squeeze. "Hold on, son; didn't you hear Thomas say they only talk about it with people they think would need it?"

Finn nodded. "Yeah, you need it, I'm just here."

DJ shook his head. "I know Dilly; if you were not on their list, you'd be over with Jimmy and Sylys. It sounds to me like you just need to decide between Dylan and Thomas; since they're married either one can do what Kyle suggested. Dylan and I are already close because of how much I taught him about his human side, but in your case you could choose because you know both of them about the same."

Finally getting his blushing under control, Dylan added "Dad and Pop looked at Thomas after he became Mikyvis. They say him and me kinda linked like they are because I was so messed up from when I punched that guy and killed him. They think it might be like them; if one of us makes a room, the other can join it too if they are invited in."

"You won't be mad if I said I trust Thomas?" Finn asked, expecting the worst.

Dylan smiled. "No, I won't be mad. I'll be happy, because you'll be showing Thomas what I keep telling him."

"I get it already, I'm no different than you!" Thomas moaned as he rolled his eyes. "Finn, if that's what you really want, I'd be honored."

"Why do I deserve it though?" Finn asked honestly.

"I can't explain why," Thomas admitted, "but I can say that Kyle and Ty taught me that I need to trust my gut feelings on stuff. Sometimes you can tell that you need to do something, but not know why. That's part of being human, the only difference between me and you is the somethings I can do are a lot more powerful."

"Go ahead and make the room," Finn replied. "Maybe you can help me figure out why everything's nuts."

"That's easy," Thomas giggled as he started. "Just blame your Grandpa Cory, that's what the rest of us do!"

"Ain't that the truth!" DJ laughed.

"Okay, I'm done," Dylan announced.

"I've been done," Thomas giggled, "Finn and me are plotting how we're gonna dunk you already!"

"Hey, I want in on that!" DJ quipped. "Are you guys going to grab a couple of the spare rooms here?"

Dylan looked over at Jimmy and Sylys, smiling as he saw the pair of five-year-olds cuddled up to each other as they watched the movie. "We might only need one; I think a couple of little guys just made a close friend."

DJ smiled as he saw the little blond bump foreheads with his grandson. "It kinda fits; since both of them are from another timeline or universe, they kinda have a few things in common."

Finn noticed how Sylys was interacting with Jimmy, and added "Yeah, he's actually making a friend."

Dylan popped out of the meeting with DJ long enough to slip into the time bubble around the crew in the IT area. He smiled when he saw the way the boys were sleeping; Caleb was holding Hunter, with Noah cuddled behind them. Harold was laying on his back, with Rollie on one shoulder and Ron on the other. That told Dylan that this mixed group was already bonding into a family, something that the new boys really needed.

"Noah, time to get up," Dylan said as he moved over and gently shook his shoulder.

Noah muttered then rolled over and sat up. "Thanks, Dyl,"

"I'll let you wake up everyone else," Dylan stated. "It looks like the new guys are fitting in, great job."

"Thanks," Noah replied, "They're picking it up pretty quick."

"I'll catch you when you're done, I'm watching a movie with DJ and Finn," Dylan explained before popping out.

Noah woke up the rest of the team, then headed over to the kitchenette in the IT workroom and dialed in some breakfast on the replicator. Once everyone had eaten and took 'morning' restroom breaks, they all headed out into the IT room and gathered at the main console.

After making sure everyone had a set of wireless headphones on and that communications worked, Caleb explained "All of the equipment here running at once makes it hard to hear. We've got a standing rule that nobody's in here by themselves, not even me and Noah, so this makes it so you can talk to each other. Any time we're turning something on, at least two people have to be there when the switches are flipped, that way someone can call for help if something goes wrong."

Noah took over the conversation. "Rollie and Ron, you're with me. We've got the power section, and we'll have to monitor it as Caleb brings the other parts up with his team."

Rollie and Ron quickly joined Noah, Rollie's grin a mile wide at being included. Noah led them over to the main power control, then filled them in on what they were going to do. "Ron, since you're comfortable with the main controls, would you mind running them while Rollie and I handle the scans?"

"Sure, Pop!" Ron replied, smiling at the trust Noah was giving him by letting him handle the controls.

"Thanks," Noah acknowledged with a smile. "Rollie, the way Caleb and I did it with Danny running the main switch is we'd take turns, that way one of us doesn't talk over the other if there's a problem."

Rollie nodded. "So I watch you, then you watch me? That way we're safe?"

"Exactly," Noah smiled. "That also means that either one of us can call out if there is a problem, because you can see the whole front while I'm looking at the screen on my tricorder."

"Okay," Rollie nodded.

"Caleb's team will be watching the power status monitors on the units," Noah continued. "If anyone spots something that is off, they'll say 'RED' four times. That tells Ron to hit the master disconnect, then we'll worry about what was found. We start by calling out the module that we're going to bring up, and Ron will reply with the module name and the word 'YELLOW' as soon as he shows it online. While anyone can call a red at any time, nobody but you, me, or Ron can talk until one of us states the module name and the word 'Green'. Once we say green, Caleb's team will report in; after Ron hears everyone checking in, he'll call green and we can move to the next one."

"What if I'm watching you and see something that's not a red, but I think we should look at it?" Rollie asked.

"Just tell me," Noah replied. "That's why nobody else can say anything but RED until we say our end is good. The three of us can see stuff they can't, so we got priority."

With that said, Noah and Rollie got to work. Their previous testing paid off, as everything made it through the initial power application with no issues. They then stood by each module as equipment was brought online, starting with the dedicated redundant pumps and coolers that would handle ensuring the massive computer hardware would remain cool.

Once everything but the main core, which was in standby, had been initialized, Noah, Ron, and Rollie rejoined Caleb and his group at the main console. "Okay, here we go," Caleb stated once the entire team was together. "Let's get Rand ready for DJ to wake him up."

After bringing the main core out of standby, Caleb quickly flew through the menus to initialize the core components of the system. Once they were online, he entered the custom commands that were unique to this installation, then booted the system into the pre-launch shell. "Okay, someone tell Dylan that we're ready," Caleb stated as he stepped back from the console.

"I heard that!" Dylan giggled as he popped in. "Good timing, the credits just started rolling. Deej is in Rec Room Two if you wanna map it."

"Thanks, Dilly," Caleb smiled as he quickly entered a few commands. "Let's go give him our present."

Rec Room 2:

DJ and Finn had found themselves pinned down halfway through the second movie, as Sylys and Jimmy decided they wanted cuddles while watching it. Now that the credits were rolling, DJ was about to suggest a break when Dylan vanished for a few seconds and then re-appeared with Noah, Caleb, Ron, Hunter, Rollie, and Harold.

"We're being invaded!" DJ quipped, earning him giggles from the two munchkins on his and Finn's laps.

"Naw, we all live here," Noah grinned. "George had a friend from back where he worked that was a teen Vision Industries model, and George told him about what he was doing. The teen, Rand, put in a request for the next AI slot when he found out that we'd have to pretty much do a full joint replacement due to how much he had abused his body over the years doing normal teen things. Since George put in a good word for him, Marc didn't argue as much as usual, and right now Rand is waiting in the basement for you to give the okay to bring him online."

"Did someone spike Noah's cookies?" Finn asked with a confused look.

"Not yet," DJ laughed. "You remember Cameron from Archnania, right?"

"Yeah, he's pretty kewl," Finn replied.

"Well, a bunch of Clan Short engineers got together and made all the hardware that makes Cam work," DJ explained. "Sometimes an android's body wears out or is damaged so bad it's gotta be replaced. The hardware that makes up Cam is one of the options, and it sounds like Noah and Caleb are putting one in our house. It sounds like Rand volunteered to live with us, but I have to give the okay."

"So if you say yes," Finn asked, "that means he gets to live longer, just like I do since Antonio fixed me?"

DJ nodded. "Yep, he'll be part of our family forever. If we ever have to move, he'll move with us unless he says otherwise."

Finn thought it over. "It'll be nice knowing he's gonna always be there. Do Pop, Mom, and Aunt Mary know?"

"I've been relaying to Tanner and Chek," Dylan stated, "and they've filled in Matt and Aunt Mary. Everyone says that you get the last say, Deej. I've already scheduled the swimming lessons for Matt, Tanner, and Chek for you!"

"That," DJ stated with a grin as he nodded towards Dylan, "is why having Dylan and his family as part of our family is so kewl; he knows what I will ask before I ask it!"

Finn nodded. "I think you should say yes, Dad."

"Me too!" Sylys and Jimmy giggled.

Noticing that both Harold and Rollie were shifting back and forth, DJ asked "Harold? Rollie? Did you guys get to watch Rand being set up?"

"I got to help with gettin' all the processor boxes ready," Harold stated.

"Me and Noah made sure all the power stuff was workin', and I even got to help fix one!" Rollie added proudly.

"Both of them were part of the assembly team too," Caleb said with a smile. "Noah and me got told we could only watch; our boys and these two did all of the interconnects. I've already issued them their tech passes and registered them in the tech database."

"WOW!" DJ exclaimed. "Congratulations, guys! You just joined the most exclusive group in the Clan! I'm not even allowed in that room, but you both have been given access to one of the most powerful AI systems built in the last thirty thousand years! I'm REALLY proud of you! Both of you got some hugs coming!"

At that point, both boys in question were too busy having a competition for the biggest smile to be able to say anything. Unintentionally, DJ had also had an effect on the three boys sharing a chair with him; hearing him praise Rollie and Harold earned him a large boost in trust from his son, grandson, and nephew.

"You've got the okay, Caleb," DJ smiled. "Make sure Rand knows about the four boys who put him together, okay?"

"Gotcha, Deej!" Caleb replied as he saw Hunter and Ron try to match the smiles on their cousin's faces. "Dilly told me where to transfer the port to, so I can do it right here."

Noah had retrieved a keyboard from the armrest compartment of Thomas and Dylan's chair, which he passed to Caleb as soon as he heard DJ give the okay. Caleb took a seat in the beanbag chair, and suddenly found himself surrounded by four smiling boys. Realizing the possibility, he stated "If you have any questions, guys, hold out your hand so I can see it. Some of this has time limits, so I will answer when I hit a point that I can stop."

"Okay," all four trainees acknowledged.

Every eye in the room was focused on the screen as they watched Caleb entering the final sequences that would initiate the boot into the AI loader. About halfway through, Harold stuck out his hand. Caleb finished the string he was typing, then asked "Did you see something, Harold?"

While his tone was unsure, Harold asked "Why does it look like you're skipping blocks? I can see that you're going into memory, but you look like you skipped some."

Caleb nodded. "That's a good question. Guys, none of us get mad for questions; you won't understand things if you don't ask. You're right, I was skipping over some blocks. Those blocks get used as what is called a checksum area. Basically, when we save core memory, three copies are saved. The checksum block adds all the bits of the data together, and stores it as a single number. If any of the three core memory copy's checksums become different from the other two, that block of memory gets marked bad and a copy of one of the good ones gets put in a new area that's reserved for that kinda stuff. The checksum blocks are managed by the system directly; I can't write to them from a terminal, so initialization won't work."

"What if one of them is bad?" Rollie asked.

"We thought of that!" Caleb smiled. "Each checksum area has three data blocks in it, and one block that stores checksums on those blocks and all of the other area's blocks. The three checksums I talked about before are stored in three different areas, so between the original checksums and the overall checksums we're pretty sure that we'll catch any errors."

"Wow, thanks!" Harold and Rollie both replied, pleased to learn that they really were still being treated as equals.

After asking if anyone else had questions, Caleb got back to work. A few minutes later, the system performed its last reboot, and after loading all of the modules needed the screen came up to activate the personality. At this point, Caleb stopped to explain the screen. "Okay guys, up until now, this has just been a big dumb computer. As you can see, it has me and Noah listed as authorized people to change that, and the four of you were detected but are listed as unauthorized. Once you guys know enough to satisfy Marc, you'll be listed with me and Noah; I'm gonna make sure that you all get the training so that you have a chance at doing that. When we get to this screen, we have to make a decision that affects a lot of people. Like I said, this is just a dumb computer right now, but if me or Noah says yes, it becomes a person, and there's no way to undo it without killing them. If all four of you pass Marc's requirements, we can make it so that it requires two of us to say okay. We wanted to do that from the start, but there were not enough of us that understand getting to this point to be able to cover possible emergencies."

"Can't another AI like Cam be the check?" Rollie asked.

Caleb tilted his head. "You know, we never considered that. Let's ask the boss!" Caleb tapped his commbadge, then stated "Caleb to Marc, you busy?"

"What did you break this time?" Marc replied jokingly.

"Nothing yet, but I'm trying!" Caleb replied. "DJ's son Rollie has a question for you."

"Great, now I have to deal with DJ because you corrupted his son!" Marc giggled. "Go ahead, Rollie. What's your question?"

Nervously, Rollie replied, "Well, sir, Caleb said you was wanting to use two people before you can make a computer a person, but why can't an AI like Cam or someone be the second person?"

"Give me a couple of minutes to check something," Marc replied.

"Is that a good thing?" Rollie whispered.

Caleb nodded. "That's really good; if it couldn't be done, Marc woulda said no."

After about a minute, Marc came back on. "I just reviewed the installation. Caleb, execute escape sequence Mike-Four-Delta."

"Gotcha, Marc," Caleb grinned, already guessing what Marc was planning.

As soon as he entered the sequence, the screen changed to state "Remote Terminal Engaged, Local Access Disabled." At the same time, Marc said "Make sure all four of your assistants have subvocals and know how to use them in silent mode."

"I'll handle it," Noah stated, tapping his badge. "George, I need four of the encoded subvocals."

"Incoming!" George announced as four devices appeared in Noah's outstretched hand.

Noah quickly gave his sons the updated units, then made sure that Harold and Rollie had one each and knew how to use them. Once he was satisfied, he announced "Okay Marc, your turn!"

As the rest of the room watched, the screen showed various pictures and what looked like random letters and numbers. All four boys paid close attention, obviously concentrating at various times as they considered the answers to whatever Marc was asking them. At seemingly random points, each of them used the keyboard to type something, obviously following instructions that the rest of the room couldn't hear. After about five minutes, Rollie and Ron vanished from the room, while Harold and Hunter got together over the keyboard and started a conversation over their subvocals.

"What's happening, and where'd Rollie go?" Finn asked, obviously entering protective big brother mode.

"Him and Ron went back to the main IT room," Noah replied, having been kept in the loop by Marc. "Marc's got all four of them on a project, he won't tell me what because he wants to see what they figure out."

"I think your little brother is about to surprise you," DJ added. "He might have just figured out what he's going to do with the life you gave him, and I'll promise you that there are multiple AIs watching him right now to make sure that he's safe."

Just as Finn relaxed against DJ, Caleb commented "Marc's called Cory in, that's his comment style!"

That drew everyone's attention back to the screen, which was now filled with code. As they watched, lines were added and edited; some by the two boys sharing a keyboard, and some from a remote keyboard somewhere else. After another five minutes, the screen went blank and then quickly scrolled through text that moved so fast none of them could read it. When it finally stopped, there was one line of text left, stating "Debug routine complete, no errors found."

After exchanging a quick hug of congratulations, Harold and Hunter brought the keyboard back to Caleb. "Uncle Marc says you can have this back now, Daddy!" Hunter giggled.

"Thanks, munchkin; did you have fun?" Caleb said as he took the offered keyboard.

"Yeah!" Hunter replied with a grin.

Rollie and Ron popped back in just then, and all four boys took up their previous positions around Caleb. Just as they got settled, the system completed the reboot that was triggered by the termination of remote access, bringing up a similar screen to what had been displayed before Rollie's question. The biggest difference was the detected authorized user list, as all four boys had moved up. Both Harold and Ron now carried titles of "Implementation Engineer", while Ron and Rollie now bore the titles of "Design Engineer". The other change to the screen was a line that stated "Remote Verification, Station XXXX: PENDING".

"You gotta wait in line for Rollie hugs, Dad," Finn stated with wide eyes.

DJ just smiled and gave Finn a one-armed hug, fully understanding the pride Finn had in the achievement of his little brother. They both watched as Caleb approved the installation, only to have the new line on the screen begin to cycle through an automated routine:

'Remote Verification, Station XXXX: POLLING ACTIVE STATIONS'

'Remote Verification, Station XXXX: CONNECTING'

'Remote Verification, Station 0D7C: VERIFYING AUTHORITY LEVEL'

'Remote Verification, Station 0D7C: LEVEL O65 - ACCEPTED'

'Remote Verification, Station 0D7C: VERIFY LOCATION - APPROVED'

'Remote Verification, Station 0D7C: USER AUTHORITY - APPROVED'

'Remote Verification, Station 0D7C: IMPRINT AUTHORIZED - TRUE'

'Remote Verification, Station 0D7C: ACTIVATION AUTHORIZED - TRUE'


"Wow, great job!" Caleb exclaimed. "It looks like you guys double checked more than I woulda, which is really good!"

"What did you guys do downstairs?" Noah asked as Caleb started the personality load.

"Me and Ron asked a buncha questions, then we put in a new subprocessor and a transmitter that Cameron's been testing with his brother," Rollie gushed. "Marc said our questions were really good, because they told him what we needed to do!"

Noah smiled at the comment about Marc, having been in the same position multiple times. "That's why you guys earned your new titles," he explained. "Designers ask questions until it works like they think it should, and guys like Caleb, Harold, and Hunter figure out how to make the parts you come up with do what you want them to. The four of you working together made Marc's part easy; all he had to do was watch for security or operation bugs. Since it looked like he had Cory helping Harold and Hunter with the areas that they'd wrote, I think what you guys did today is gonna be installed as an update to all of the AIs."

"Do they need it? They're already running." Ron asked.

Noah nodded. "I saw the code blocks that Cory was walking Harold and Hunter through. You guys didn't just secure loading the image, you gave Cory a way that he could lock down all remote access to the core now; I helped him test those code blocks, so I know them on sight. Cory told me and Caleb that he believes there's never too much security protecting the cores of our AI friends, so you just helped him protect them more."

Harold grinned. "Yeah, we put enough checks in that you can't fake it to get in without cloning the entire CSNIC network! After Cory explained the network to us, we figured out how to use it as a big security key."

"I'll stick with music," DJ quipped. "You guys understand that stuff, so I'll leave it to you experts!"

The conversation was interrupted by an unfamiliar voice coming from the room's speakers. "Hey everyone, I'm Rand! Does anyone want to claim ownership of the stretched Volkswagen Beetle in my garage?"

"It's mine!" Dylan giggled. "I got it as a present!"

"Just so you know, a fuzzy orange kid is putting some new equipment in it," Rand advised Dylan. "He tried to bribe me with cookies to not tell you."

"That's Fife, it's okay for him to mess with the cars," DJ stated. "Welcome to the family, Rand. I'm DJ, did anyone think to give you a current list of who lives here?"

"George just sent me an update," Rand replied. "He also says I'm to call you Patriarch when you annoy me."

"You do it and I'll have Dad give you Woody Woodpecker's voice!" DJ sniggered. "Tell George he better watch it, or I'll sic Fife on him!"

"Fife doesn't have access," Caleb corrected.

"You want to try explaining that to him?" DJ countered. "Dad gave up trying!"

"Good point, Fife is worse than Cory," Caleb replied. "George is in trouble!"

"You're all evil, I'm gonna love it here!" Rand quipped. "Now, who do I talk to about getting a skate park installed?"


After talking with DJ, Tanner, Chek, Finn, and Chris on the advice of Matt, Mary intercepted the rest of the boys as they came in to grab a quick bite to eat. Once they were all accounted for, including her own sons, she gave them all a smile before addressing them.

"Before all y'all go gettin' cleaned up to eat, Matt suggested I talk you y'all's parents to make sure we was expectin' the same things. Since y'all all come from diff'rent backgrounds, I want to make sure you know what is expected of you."

The varying levels of distrust, boredom, and worry on the faces watching her told Mary that Matt's advice was a really good idea. "First off, y'all can relax. The kitchen's my responsibility, and the only time any of you will have to do anything in there's when you ask if you can help. Any of y'all are welcome to ask to help, or to show me somethin' you learned somewhere else, but I don't need no slave labor. If I might need a bit of help, I'll be askin' if anyone wants to help, and I'll be tellin' you what I need help with."

The relief on the faces of Chris and Finn's boys told her she'd just crossed the first hurdle. "Now all y'all knows there's rules at the table. Ain't none of us that's grown with the same rules, so we need to get it so we all know what's right. Some of y'all ain't from these parts, but you're trying to dress like you are. When eatin', I can't be tellin' y'all what I expect unless I know how those of you from other places were raised; I've been told that part of bein' a Clan family is acknologin' each other's cultures. I already know Davner prefers to show all his kin every inch of what the Good Lord gave him, but the rest of y'all I'd be only guessin' 'bout. Gyakk, your Dad says he thinks you might be best to be tellin' what was common at y'all's old home."

"Can I tell you in Federation Standard?" Gyakk quipped. "I didn't learn Georgia yet!"

"I think I can figger it out!" Mary sniggered, earning her a round of giggles from the boys and a thumbs-up from Matt. "If not, I'll ask Rand!"

Gyakk smiled, surprised but relieved that Mary didn't respond in the way he expected from an adult. After a quick mental consultation with his identical brothers, he replied. "We know that Tarsee and Syam pretty much did what we did, but we don't know about how Sylys was taught. On the ships, if you wasn't crew yet, anytime you left your cabin you wore a one piece thing that covered everything but your head and hands. We hated it, but we didn't get a choice. In the old ... I think you call them movies ... that we watched sometimes, anyone not old enough to work wore a wide belt with pockets in it that had a piece of ... cloth? ... that went from the front to the back. We'd never heard of what you call underwear until we got here."

"Gyakk?" Rand interrupted as a screen dropped from the ceiling with an image on it, "Is this something like what you are describing? If so, that is called a breechclout or a loincloth here."

Gyakk looked at the image, his face revealing the familiarity before he could even respond. "That's really close! It's plainer and doesn't have the wide belt, but I think the pouches look better than pockets."

"Not all of them are plain," Rand sniggered as he presented a slideshow of various Native American traditional styles.

Seeing the expressions on the faces of the boys, DJ stated "Rand, get a comfortable basic one for all of the boys; any of them that want to try it now, can. Get the lightweight cloth ones, not the traditional skins; Timmy's already told me all about breaking those in!"

Mary saw the puppy-dog eyes starting to appear on her own sons, and headed them off at the pass. "I do believe DJ stated ALL of the boys, so you six can just put those beggin' faces back into y'all's heads!"

"Uncle DJ?" Yist asked as he stood up. "Would you like me to teach them how to properly wear them?"

DJ nodded. "Thank you, Yist; I think you've got a great idea. You know better than any of us how they're supposed to fit."

Yist smiled, then stated "Rand, please provide appropriate footwear. George can tell you what is standard issue for the Tribe."

"Yist?" Byron suggested, "Why don't you go change into what you were wearing when you were brought into current time while Rand gets the footwear sorted out? I think your cousins would appreciate seeing the real thing."

"Okay, Pop!" Yist replied as he turned and sprinted out of the room.

Once Yist was gone, Byron explained "For everyone that is new, our son was brought back by Dylan and Antonio from a native tribe in Pensacola. He was born over eight hundred years ago, but was needed in this time to make things work right."

"So our sons ain't the only ones adjusting to being new here?" Finn clarified.

"No, and I promise that Yist is going to help them any way he can; that's just the type of person he is," Byron confirmed.

"Did you hear that, guys?" Finn asked, just to be sure.

"Got it, Dad," Gyakk replied, "ask Yist when we can't figure out why something's weird here!"

"You got it," Finn replied just as Yist could be heard running back towards the dining room. As soon as he spotted Yist, Finn added "Whoah, KEWL!"

Within seconds, Yist became the center of attention, his new cousins gathering around him to check out his native clothing from the past. Rand chose that point to start delivering clothing and footwear; so as Yist answered questions about his past, he helped each of them with properly donning their new clothes, while advising them of the accepted ways of taking care of bodily functions when necessary.

Once things calmed and everyone was dressed again, Mary continued. "All y'all just did something that y'all should be really proud of; when you learned that y'all's cousin came from different kin, you tried learnin' about it. Now, when y'all are fillin' them pits you call tummies, them parts between your legs are needin' to be covered so they ain't hurt iff'n y'all drop somethin' hot or cold down there. Seein' as shirts ain't always part of how y'all are dressin', in this house y'all just need to cover your bits before sittin' at the table. That means what y'all's wearin' now, shorts, pants, or something similar. Other houses require shirts, and y'all are expected to follow their rules there, but that's the rule here; shirt iff'n you want to protect your belly, but you have to cover them there bits and butts."

All of the boys nodded, the reason for the rule being more than enough to quell any possible argument.

Moving on, Mary added, "When we're sittin' at the table, it is family time. That means talkin' is allowed n'less y'all are gettin' loud, then we'll tell y'all to calm it down. We want to hear about y'all's day, or funny things y'all saw, and we'll be talkin' with you too. There ain't no angry fightin' or hurtin' talk allowed during meals. Y'all are going to be trying new things, iff'n you ain't sure, try a little bit an' get more if you like it. If there's somethin' you want that I don't know 'bout makin, we'll try to find a way to make it. If you don't like nuthin' I fixed, tell me and I'll find somethin' for you that you do like."

"Who are you, and what did you do with our mom?" Shane asked semi-seriously.

"Things are different with kin that a person didn't give birth to, Shane," Mary replied patiently. "Ain't none of y'all bein' treated no different than another, even if I did carry three of you in my body and birth ya. I've been raisin' you three for what I expected for y'all's lives; now that's changed, and that means I have to be changin' too.I ain't gonna have rules for my children that ain't the same as for their cousins in the same house; we're all kin, and we all have the same rules."

"Most of the families here at Headquarters work that way," Tanner added. "All the adults talk with each other, and all of the parents like us talk to each other. Some weird adults like Matt talk to both groups, so after a while the rules have become easier to expect no matter where you go here. If a place has an unusual rule, like a family that requires a swimsuit if you use their pool, all the parents know that, they know why, and they'll warn you if they are not sure if you know the rule."

"Pop? Do we got the same rules we had on your honeymoon?" Wes asked warily.

Tanner nodded and smiled. "Good question, Wes. While Aunt Mary sets the rules in the kitchen and while we're eating, the rest of the time the rules we told you guys apply. Why don't you tell all of us what the rules are, that way your new cousins know them too. If you miss something, or are not comfortable saying something, I'll fill in what you skipped."

"Can't you do it?" Wes asked.

"I think they'll all believe it more if you tell them," Tanner explained.

Wes rolled his eyes. "Parents!" After a pause in hopes of getting out of it, Wes began. "Okay, since Pop's chicken, I guess I'll tell you. When we're home, if we wanna be nekkid, we can. Nobody touches what's between someone's legs unless both of them say it's okay, and if they got hair down there or are bigger we can't touch it and they can't touch us down there, even if they say it is okay and we want to unless we got hair too, then Dad, Pop, or Mom gotta say that they ain't too old for us before it's okay. Nobody's allowed to put nothin' in your butt, even if they're your age, Dav says that when you're growin' your butthole gets hurt too easy, so we need to see Doc 'Tonio or Doc Chris first so they can check us to see if our insides are caught up with our outsides, then they'll tell our parents if they think it's safe. If the Doc's say it's safe, then the 'rents will talk to us so they know we really want it, then if so, they'll tell us how to do it right instead of rapin' each other."

Deciding his twin needed a break, Warren took over. "If we're all sittin' together, sometimes we'll get stiffies. We ain't supposed to do nothin' with them, and there's towels we can put on our laps so anyone sittin' there doesn't accidentally make it tingle. Sometimes, our little brothers tell us they don't care if we tingle with them sittin' there, but that's because they know we used to have to do stuff that gave us bad tingles, and they want us to have good tingles to forget the bad ones. They ain't supposed to do it on purpose though, and the one rule that nobody can ever change about our bodies is that no means NO."

"Thanks, guys," Tanner responded. "You did really good." Turning to Mary, who was struck speechless by the details that the twins vocalized, Tanner added "That's the most important rules to any youth that's been abused by an adult, and they are not up for discussion, ever. Our sons added in the check by Antonio or Chris without telling us, but since they added a rule that is for their own safety, it is now a house rule. Deej and I did the same thing with our brothers, Dad and Pop set the major rules, and we helped adapt them to what each of our brothers needed, then filled our parents in on what was decided. The big thing to remember is that no matter what our ages are, as parents we're expected to set big rules, but also to listen as our kids tell us how it affects them compared to how they lived before they became family."

"I would've never thought to go that way," Mary admitted. "Shane, you've been playin' Daddy to your brothers since y'all's father vanished, no matter how many times I've tried to stop it. There ain't no changin' it now, so be a dear and let me know how you're changin' them old rules to fit our new home when you can."

"Get with me and Chris," Finn grinned, "We're daddies and kids, so we can make sure all the rules match."

 "I think I just figured out why Dad and Mom explained rules to us," Tanner quipped. "Dad and Pop would set up the rules talking to them, they'd explain them to us, and they knew we'd explain to our brothers and sister in ways they'd understand."

"You're less likely to break a rule that you understand," Mary added. "If the youn'un has no reason to fully trust the one makin' the rules, he ain't going to follow them unless he knows why."

"Asking 'Why'," Matt added, "is the reason the Clan is so effective. If there's not a valid reason, they just ignore it and keep going. In general, they'll ask someone who should know, if there is time, and personally I've agreed with their call of bullshit on just about every one they have brought to me."

Mary looked around the group of boys, their expressions letting her know that she was being judged by her reaction. "I do believe there's a group of boys here that get to teach me some new tricks, but they're waitin' until AFTER lunch to be gettin' started. Git to washin' up boys, the food ain't holdin' forever!"

Matt grinned as the room emptied of under-eighteen bodies. "Mary, it looks like they're giving you a chance. My boys are probably the most likely ones to call a foul right now, and they'll also be the first to tell the rest of the boys if they think you're safe. Them NOT questioning you is a good sign; none of them understand holding their tongue."

"There's some new kin they need to be teachin' that," Mary acknowledged. "Since you're standin' here, do you mind helping with the drink cart?"

To Be Continued...