Alphas: Found by Nancy W

Second story in the ALPHAS series.

Five days after finding the 'Alphas,' as they called themselves, Travis and his son were sitting in the office of Dr. Randolph Young, who headed the university's Physics department. With him was Dr. Nima Hashim, a theoretical physicist, and Dr. Allan Moore, who headed the Math department.

They were surrounded by cleaned up digital images of what the boys had written in the notebooks.

Dr. Young rubbed thoughtfully at graying beard stubble. "How old did you say these children are?"

"Well, the one who supposedly understands it all is five and a half," Travis answered. "But they all seem to have it memorized. What is it, anyway?"

Travis honestly expected a different answer than the one he got. "Beats the hell out of us... this is Stephen Hawking stuff."

"I don't understand... are you saying it doesn't make sense?"

"Oh, it makes sense," Dr. Hashim replied. "It just stretches the boundaries of credibility."

"What is it?" Travis insisted, knowing these megabrains probably thought he was stupid. He didn't care if they dumbed it down, he just wanted to know.

"It's sub-quantum mechanics, dealing with theories that many physicists believe are purely conjecture," Hashim stated. Although his voice was calm - and his attitude bordered on flippant, Travis sensed there was tension there. Hashim knew more than he was letting on, but Travis didn't have a clue what to ask him to get him to reveal it.

"Many, but not all," Young glared, and then turned to Travis. "It's going to take time for this to be analyzed, but it appears to be the result of research into what is commonly referred to as multi-world theory... parallel universes."

Travis pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket. "Do you know what a MATSAP is?"

Young and Moore gave him a blank look - and Hashim shook his head, but Travis had a gut feeling the term was familiar to him. He read what Seven had said the letters stood for, "modulated acquisition transdimensional superpositional access point."

Hashim laughed out loud - almost too loud, Travis thought. The other two looked amused as well. "I'm just telling you what the boy said it described."

Young shook his head. "I think your little genius has been watching too much SyFy Channel."

Travis hated being on the defensive. "That's just it... he's not a genius... well, I don't mean that - obviously, he knows stuff most kids his age don't. But I don't think he made this up. Someone taught it to him, for a reason. And, I might add, he's never watched TV. I don't think he even knows what it is." So far, the boys had been happy to watch Steven's collection of old music videos and movies, and they were confused by the movies. He and Evie had to explain to them that what they were seeing was not real, and it was disconcerting that they had no problem believing that it was. While they were watching Jurassic Park, they talked about the dinosaurs as if they had actually seen them before.

"We're talking about travel between realities, or through time. It's not possible," Hashim snorted.

"Through a port?" Travis asked, realization suddenly dawning. "Like a stargate?"

Hashim laughed again, even louder this time, and waved him off dismissively. "Nonsense," he said, and abruptly left the room.

Young looked embarrassed by Hashim's rudeness, but said, "I'm afraid he's right. The problem with this equation is that there are what appear to be two constants that are unknown and are not defined." He pointed to a symbol that looked like a diamond with a dot in the center and another that looked like a two arrows forming a V. "These are not mathematical symbols."

Travis gave him a blank look. Dr. Moore spoke up. "It's as if you were trying to figure out an answer for pi-r-squared when you don't know the value of 'pi,'" he explained.

At least that made sense.

"I'm sorry I wasted your time, gentlemen." He stood up to leave.

"I'll send these equations to some colleagues of mine," Young said. "It's remarkable work. It merits further investigation just on that fact alone."

Travis had been hoping they'd ask to talk to Seven, but it was obvious they didn't take the matter seriously enough to care. He sincerely doubted they would do anything.

"Well, that was a dead end," he said to Steven as they walked to their car.

"I don't think that at all," Steven said.

"How so?"

"Just because they laughed at what Seven says that stuff is, doesn't mean that it isn't what he says it is."

Travis stopped short. "You think those people at Omnichron were working on time travel?" It sounded ridiculous even as the words left his mouth. Except for one thing: The dates in the boys' files. All 1800s.

And not just them... Travis had found the files on 'the girl Alphas' - the ones Theta had supposedly taken. They currently ranged in age from 6 to 15, and they were referred to by names that were spelled-out letters instead of numbers. Ay, the oldest, had 1833 beside her name, if the numbers he was seeing were dates. Her real name was Emma Dubinet. 1852 was the number beside the name of the youngest, Cassandra Wells, who was referred to as 'Gie.'

No... that whole idea was just too preposterous to even consider. Those boys were not 160 plus years old. It simply was not possible.

Steven answered his question with another question. "If that's not their purpose, then what were they doing there? It had to be something freaky, Dad, and they have all disappeared. An alternate universe is the one place they could have gone where absolutely no one would ever find them."

"Steven, that's crazy. Besides, why would they leave the boys behind?"

Steven shrugged. "Maybe they didn't mean to. Maybe something went wrong. Or maybe, they needed them here for some reason."

Travis knew it was time for some serious discussion with the boys, especially the older ones. They had settled into a routine, staying with him and Evie, but it could not go on forever. Someone was eventually going to get curious about who they were and why they weren't in school. A neighbor had already asked about them, and Evie had lied and said they were waiting for foster placements after losing their adoptive parents. That garnered some degree of sympathy, until the woman had spoken directly to Six and Seven and they'd told her a completely different story - the true one.

Travis said good-bye to Steven and headed for home.

Evie ran to the car as soon as he pulled into the driveway. She was clearly distraught. Something was up.

He quickly exited the car. "Evie?"

"They're gone, Orin," she said, on the verge of tears. "The boys are gone."

His first thought was that someone had come and taken them by force. "Are you alright? What happened?"

"I don't know. They were in the yard practicing that kung fu stuff they know, and then it was quiet, and I went to check on them and they weren't there."

Orin looked around, hoping to see some sign of them. He realized that Evan's SUV was not in the driveway. "Where's the van?"

Evie seemed to suddenly notice that it was gone, too. "I.... I don't know. Evan wouldn't have just taken it without coming inside to say hello..."

Evie followed him into the house. The keys for the van were missing, as were some - but not all - of the boys' things. All of their notebooks were there, and the foot locker with Six's weapons was still locked, so whoever had taken the boys had wanted only them.

Travis had to consider two other possibilities: He found it unlikely that Evie would not have heard or seen something if they had been taken by force, which meant they might have gone with someone they knew. The other possibility was that they left on their own. At least three of the boys were tall enough to drive the vehicle, and he wouldn't put it past any of them to be able to figure out how.

"Should we call the police?"

Travis' first instinct was to say 'no' but an inexperienced 14-year-old (or worse, a 13 or 11-year-old) driving a car in a strange city was a danger to other people, and he probably had six other children in the car with him. They had no choice.

+ + + + + + +

"In two hundred feet turn right..." the car's voice said.

"What's two hundred feet?" One said anxiously.

"Sixty-one point five meters," Seven answered, although by that time, it was more like 30 meters.

"I think you should slow down," Four advised.

One agreed, but he wasn't sure how to do that. He'd already jammed his foot on what he thought was the "stop" pedal and Five, Six and Seven had flown out of their seats and landed on the floor - but as soon as he took his foot off, the vehicle started moving again.

He saw the turn up ahead and jerked the steering wheel to the right. Centrifugal force pushed them all towards one side of the automobile.

"I don't like this," Seven said. He'd fallen on the floor again.

Three was the one who had figured out how to start and operate the vehicle, and he thought he should be the one driving, but Stephen had told them children were not allowed to operate these vehicles, even though it was a simple thing to do. The Alphas had learned that disobeying rules often invited trouble, so Two had said One would do it. He was the one who looked least like a child. Three still thought he could do it better, though.

"In one mile, proceed onto the thoroughfare," the car spoke.

"What does that mean?!" One cried.

"Stay calm," Two said. "We'll figure it out."

And they did. Or rather, Five did. He was good at figuring out words and what they meant.

The "thoroughfare" was a big road where everyone was going really fast, so they didn't have to worry about slowing the car down.

One relaxed. Steering the vehicle was easy now that he was used to it. He figured out that he was supposed to stay inside the lines, because that's what everyone else was doing.

Three studied the map display at the front of the vehicle. "This says 14 miles until the next turn. How far is that?"

"Twenty-two kilometers," Seven offered. "We will be there in... six minutes."

And they were. They left the thoroughfare and soon after saw a sign that said "Omnichron Laboratories 6 miles" with an arrow pointing right. There was also a big, red hexagon with the word "STOP" on it, and as they passed it another vehicle on a perpendicular path almost collided with them.

One had to swerve quickly to get out of the way, and his passengers were tossed around again.

Seven and Six banged their heads together and Seven started to cry.

"Don't do that again," Six said, rubbing his own head.

Four leaned over the seat to examine the bump. "It's just a bruise," he said. "There is no reason to cry."

Seven's tears abruptly ceased. "I still don't like it," he sniffed.

In minutes, the burnt-out ruins of Omnichron were visible.

"How do I stop?" One asked.

Three leaned over the front seat and pointed to the gear shift, which was at "P" when they started. He pointed to the letter. "Just put it back here."

On shoved the gearshift lever upward.

The vehicle lurched to a grinding halt, but the engine was still running. "Take the key out," Three advised.

They were still several feet from the building but decided to leave the car and walk back into the ruins they had left almost a week before.

The had worn their combat clothes, which before had been carefully folded to conceal their weapons - mostly knives, throwing stars and flash-bangs. Six sat on the black asphalt of the parking lot and spread his other weapons out before him. Five had picked the lock on Mr. Orin's box again, only this time, he had remembered to relock it after they removed the contents so no one would know they had opened it.

For himself, Six had an assault rifle, a sonic pulse sniper rifle, four pistols, and four knives in the bag he had brought from the house. He carefully placed three of the pistols into holsters at his back, under his shirt and hidden by his pants on his left leg. The fourth one went up his left sleeve into a spring-loaded harness attached to his arm. He tucked a knife in each boot and up each shirtsleeve. A crossbow and a quiver of bolts was slung across his back, and he tucked a taser into the pocket of his shirt.

He had weapons for the others, too, and he passed them around. He gave tasers to One, Two and Three. Four had a set of throwing knives that he strapped to his shoulder so that he could reach them easily but they would not be in his way. Five got two spring-loaded derringers. He was ambidextrous, and could shoot equally well with either hand. Seven got a small but powerful cross bow. Most of the stuff was made of ceramic composite so it was reasonably lightweight - another reason they had been able to hide it so easily.

While Six checked all of the weapons and made sure they were in working order, Two knelt down and laced his boots up tight for him. Six knew almost everything about guns, but he hadn't learned to tie his shoes yet. Three did the same thing for Seven.

When they were ready, they stood in formation - Six in front, Seven and Five behind him on either side, Two, Three and Four behind them, and One at the back, in a line directly behind Six. "We're ready," Two stated.

As they started moving toward the ruins, two police cars with sirens wailing and blue lights flashing made themselves known in the distance. Seven turned to look at them, but Three gently turned his head forward again. "Focus," he reminded the younger boy.

They disappeared into the ruins just as the two police cruisers reached the abandoned SUV.

+ + + + + + +

The seven boys quickly negotiated their way through the ruins and easily found the stairwell that lead to the place that had been their home for their entire lives.

No light penetrated so far below the ground, but they knew the place so well that they could navigate in total darkness. They headed for the lockers that had the rest of their gear - body armor, helmets, and infrared goggles that would enable them to actually see their surroundings.

Everything was scaled to their respective sizes. Only One was big enough to wear unadapted gear. The older ones made sure the younger ones were properly suited up, except for Six, who spent much of his training time wearing armor and was used to it.

They grabbed LED flashlights, just in case they needed them, and then proceeded to a door at the opposite side of the large living area from where they had entered. This door did not have an electronic lock, but there was a series of seven mechanical keypads. Each boy had a 5-digit code, and his own designated key pad. The door required at least three of them to enter their codes before it would open.

Normally, Five, Six and Seven would be indulged and allowed to enter their codes, but just in case that protocol had somehow been recorded, it was decided that One, Three and Four would enter their codes this time.

The door failed to open.

They tried two more combinations before Two ordered all seven codes be entered.

The door still remained closed.

"Open it," Two commanded One.

The older boy looked uncertain. He'd done it before, but it was very, very hard, and it made his head hurt. Still, they had no choice. "I won't be able to close it again," he said.

"I know," Two said, looking back the way they had come. "It will take them awhile to find us, though."

One nodded. The other boys all moved back as One placed both palms and his forehead against the door. He closed his eyes and stood perfectly still, his breathing shallow and even. His face was completely blank, but after a few seconds a trickle of sweat began to make its way from his forehead down his cheek.

After several seconds, there was a distinct 'click' and he heaved a heavy sigh as the door slid back about 30 centimeters. It was a tight fit for One, but the others got through easily. On the other side was a black marble staircase, decades old, that went down another 5 stories.

They moved quietly. The fact that the door wouldn't open with their combinations had made them all wary.

When they entered the cavernous concrete-lined chamber at the bottom, the man who was already there didn't even hear them coming.

Obviously, he didn't see them, either. There were no lights in the cavern and the man was not wearing goggles. Curiously, he moved about as if he knew exactly were he was, though.

One rubbed at the sides of his head, which was pounding from the effort of opening the door. Four pulled out his medical kit and removed a small ampule and handed it to him. One pushed it against his neck and squeezed, causing a brief sting as the ampule's contents were injected. His headache began to disappear almost immediately.

Six used hand signals to spread them out around the perimeter of the large room. He then had One lift him up so he could access an observation deck that was hidden in the darkness. Once up there, he readied his sniper rifle and got into position. He had to pull off his goggles, but the rifle had an infra-red site, so he could see his target even if he couldn't see anything else.

One retreated to the back of the room, to where they had entered. It was the only way in or out, and he was physically the largest and the one most able to stop the intruder if he tried to leave.

Three readied flashbangs while those with tasers charged them.

Four checked to make sure he could easily reach his knives.

Five unbuttoned his sleeves so that his spring-loaded guns could slip more easily into his hands if he should need them.

Seven sat cross-legged on the floor and very carefully inserted a bolt in his crossbow, then set it aside. He didn't want to discharge it by accident.

When he sensed everyone was ready, Two stepped forward.

"Who are you and what are you doing here?" he asked the intruder.

The man startled and looked around in the dark trying to locate the source of the voice. Two could see his face plainly, though, and though it took him a moment, he recognized him from file photos they had been required to memorize. He was a Series II Alpha who now went by the name Nima Hashim. That explained why he knew what he was doing even in the dark. All of them knew the Port by touch. Hashim would have known how to override the door codes, so he had probably done that, too. The question was, why?

Hashim appeared relaxed, although One and Two could tell he really wasn't. "You must be a Series IV," he said calmly, and then smirked, "How old are you? Ten? Twelve?"

"Not important," Two said. "What are you doing here?"

"I thought you were all dead," Hashim said casually. "And then your baby sitter showed up at the university and just dropped the Port equations right into my hands. I didn't have them any more... I've spent the last 25 years of my life trying to remember them... And suddenly, there they were, right in front of me."

That didn't make sense. All of the Alphas knew the equations, even if they didn't all understand them.

Five spoke up at this point. "Your accent is wrong," he said.

Hashim looked briefly panicked, but hid it quickly. He had no response, though. Five continued, "If you were one of us, you'd sound like us. You don't. You are trying to sound like you are from the Middle East, but your consonant inflections are Nahuatl."

Two recognized where Five was going. "You're from another timeline."

Hashim stood stark still.

"You know why we're here," Two said, and as soon as he did, there was a faint click as Six chambered a round in his rifle.

"You're all supposed to be dead," Hashim said bitterly. "How did you escape?"

"None of your business," Two said. "I'd ask you to surrender to us, but I don't know where we'd take you, so we probably have to kill you. Unless you tell us why you are here and what you want."

"Go ahead and kill me. It's too late."

A faint tremor reverberated through the floor and behind Hashim, the darkness seemed to ripple.

"The port is open," Three said.

"Six!" Two commanded, and an instant later there was a faint whoosh and Hashim dropped to the ground.

"Get it closed!" Two shouted.

Three ran forward to the control pad. It was still switches and buttons, because it was old, but the fire hadn't touched it, or its power supply which was deep in the earth's mantel where only a cataclysm of apocalyptic proportions could destroy it. It still worked fine.

Four came over to check Hashim. He wasn't dead, although if Six had wanted him to be, he would have been. He had a bloody wound running along the side of his head where the bullet had grazed him. He would only remain unconscious for a few seconds. Four removed another ampule from his kit and sedated him. It would keep him under for a couple of hours, then the older ones would decide what to do with him, if the decision wasn't taken out of their hands.

Three looked up from the panel. "It won't close. Someone's trying to come through."

"Get back out of the way," Two ordered.

Three and Four slipped back into the darkness. "Shields down," Two commanded.

All seven of them pulled down their helmet visors. When the port opened, there was always a flash of bright light.

They could hear the voices and footsteps of the law enforcers drawing closer.

Six readied his rifle. He could take out several targets easily, but he wouldn't unless Two told him to do so.

Two considered their options. If they retreated, they'd run into the law enforcers. If they stayed and defended the port, the law enforcers would run into them. So, that meeting was inevitable. "Get Seven and Four and put them up with Six," he told One.

"What are we going to do?" Three asked.

"Get caught."

The law enforcers would not see the three boys hidden on the observation deck, because they wouldn't see that the deck was there.

"What about Five?" Three whispered.

Two motioned the 8-year-old to the furthest corner of the room. "Stay there..." he told him. "You'll know when we need you."

Five nodded.

One lifted Seven and Four up onto the observation deck. Seven carefully placed his loaded crossbow within reach and sat down near Six - but not so near that he would interfere with a shot. Four checked his medical kit. If there was going to be combat, he would need it to tend to the wounded.

Suddenly, the entrance to the room filled with light and noise. Two law enforcers appeared, and it sounded like more were behind them.

"Freeze, right where you are!" one of the law enforcers shouted.

One, Two and Three all put their hands in the air in surrender. But no one even saw the other four boys.

The law enforcers had small lights strapped onto their heads. The beams were bright and the infrared goggles intensified the effect. They put their hands in front of their eyes to shield them.

"Down on your knees, hands on your heads!" one of the enforcers said.

One, Two and Three did as they were told.

The enforcer walked over and ordered them to remove their helmets.

"They're just kids, Rick..." the other enforcer whispered when he saw their faces.

"Cuff 'em," the first enforcer ordered.

"No way, they're kids..."

"You're too damn soft, Jake."

The boys were forced face down and their hands were cuffed behind their backs.

By now, two other enforcers had arrived.

"The BOLO said there were seven of them..." one of them said. "Where..."

Suddenly, the room was engulfed in an intense white light. It lasted only a fraction of a second, but the enforcers were momentarily blinded by it.

Even with the visors down, the Four, Five, Six and Seven had to put their arms up to shield their eyes. One, Two and Three were turned away from the light, but still had to press their faces close to the floor.

The boys hidden in the shadows watched as seven people appeared in the light. They wore combat gear very much like what the boys wore, except the color was a dark red instead of black, and their helmets looked like eagles, with their faces peering out from the open beaks. On their right sleeve was an embroidered patch of the Sun Stone. On their left was another patch of the North American continent with a spear embedded in it. Their rank insignia were small gold feathers in different configurations.

There were patches on the front of their uniform in Arabic letters, but the language wasn't familiar. Five recognized it from the phonetics as Nahuatl - the language of the Aztecs. It was a language he didn't know well enough to speak - very few people did - but he thought the patches said Army of the Universal Emperor.

That probably wasn't good.

The invaders didn't have goggles, only flashlights, which looked like skulls with twin beams coming out of the eyes. Seven decided he wanted one of those, but he knew he had to stay quiet for now. The lights did not penetrate very far, and the soldiers couldn't see them. All that would have been visible to them in the dark cavern were the lights the law enforcers were wearing..

They raised weapons that looked like spears, but it was obvious they weren't when they aimed them at the lights and discharged them. They made a hissing sound and the points on the end flew forward into the darkness, to be replaced by another.

"Fuck! Take cover!" someone shouted.

The enforcer named Jake put himself between the invaders and the three boys on the ground, and returned fire.

The invaders fired a second volley, and Jake went down.

The enforcers opened fire, but since their vision was limited, they weren't hitting anything.

Five looked at Two, who gave him a nod. Five got down on his stomach and crawled to the three boys one the floor. From a pocket on the sleeve of his shirt, he pulled a small piece of metal, and in seconds had opened the handcuffs.

They grabbed their helmets and goggles, and One pushed Five up onto the observation deck, then climbed up himself. Once up there, he pulled Two and Three up. It took them less than 10 seconds.

Two looked at Six, and nodded. Seven looked up hopefully. Two gave him a nod, also, and then pointed at Five.

The three small boys opened fire.

Six calmly aimed his sniper rifle at the neck of an invader and fired, then chambered another round and took aim at the next one.

Seven centered the sight on his crossbow and released the bolt. It shattered the end of one of the spear-weapons, and the invader holding it dropped it in surprise an instant before Six dropped him.

Six was able to take down five of the invaders, but the remaining two realized where the shots were coming from and were advancing, searching the darkness. Five flipped out his derringers and hit each one in the thigh. Seven continued to methodically destroy their weapons.

The battle was over in seconds.

"Lower me down," Four told One, who complied and then followed so he could help the other five down.

Four ran to Jake, the injured enforcer first, knowing he was likely to be the most seriously injured. The others headed for the invaders, some of whom were still conscious, and trying feebly to reach for additional weapons. Tasers would convince them to reconsider.

Four pulled on a head lamp and looked the wounded enforcer over. He had been hit in the chest by one of the spear points. It had penetrated his vest, and he had taken the vest off himself and was examining the wound. The point was just barely visible.

"Don't touch it!" Four warned him. Removing it could cause a sucking chest wound. He opened his kit and pulled on sterile gloves and then cleaned the area with betadyne. He placed a piece of plastic over it and taped down three sides. If the point had caused a pneumothorax, that would prevent it from progressing any further.

He quickly took the enforcers pulse and blood pressure. Slightly elevated, but that was to be expected. He then used his stethoscope to listen to his chest. Everything sounded normal, so far.

"You should be fine," he reassured him. "But your friends should get you to a medical facility promptly."

Up until then, the enforcer had been too dazed and stressed to realize that the medic tending to him was a child. "How old are you, kid?"

"Ten," Four answered, although he really didn't see what that had to do with anything. He could have inserted a chest tube or done a tracheotomy if it had been necessary. All he had done was clean the wound.

"Where did you learn this stuff?" he asked.

Four wasn't sure how to answer, but he didn't get a chance to, anyway. The enforcers who had retreated were returning. Four shut off his head lamp so he wouldn't be seen and the enforcers were left staring into darkness.

"It's as black as a witch's heart in here," one of them said. "I can't see a goddam thing!"

"Over here," the wounded enforcer gasped.

Four quickly donned his night vision goggles and moved away to join the other Alphas,

One and Two were debating what to do with the invaders. There were four females and four males, counting the one who had been in the room when they arrived and who no doubt had opened the Port for the others. Except for him, they all appeared to be about the same ages as the older Alphas.

"The Port's still open," Two observed. "We'll just push them back through."

Six and Seven looked at each other, and then began to gather up the skull flashlights and the eagle helmets, because they really liked those. Five removed the gold feather insignias from their uniforms because he wanted them for himself.

Four checked each invader's vitals and removed their gear before One grabbed his or her arms and Two and Three each took a leg. The ammunition the boys had used were high-viscosity gel capsules encasing a biodegradable barb. On impact, they left a splash of goo on the skin surface while the barb continued to just beneath the epidermis, where it released a mild neurotoxin that rendered the target senseless. The ones who were not completely unconscious had been tasered, so it would be several minutes before any of them could fight back.

The three oldest boys swung them one at a time and tossed them back through the Port.

Five, Six and Seven were trying on eagle helmets when a large group of enforcers burst into the cavern with high-powered lights. The older boys ripped off their goggles, but the three younger ones were encumbered by the ornate headgear.

Seven shrieked in pain as the light pierced his skull. Three quickly grabbed him and spun him around so he was facing away from it. Six and Five turned away on their own, but were momentarily blinded.

"What the hell is going on here?" one of the enforcers shouted, looking at them.

Most of the others were crowded around the injured enforcer, and hadn't noticed them up until then because the darkness had hidden them.

Two stepped forward and pulled himself up to his full height - which was still several inches shorter than the enforcer. "Take your wounded and leave us alone."

The Port was closing behind them, although only the boys knew that. It would not reopen without an Alpha. They could use it to escape, but that was risky since someone on this side would have to reopen it for them to get back, and since the fire, they didn't know what had become of the other Alphas.

"What the hell are you kids doing here? What is this place?" The beams from the lights played across the walls of the cavern, but they didn't show much. The control panel for the Port looked like an ordinary wooden table unless you knew it was only painted to disguise the shadows of the buttons and switches, making the surface appear 2-dimensional when in fact it wasn't.

The observation deck looked like an ordinary metal-grate catwalk. The opening that lead to it was hidden in the rock wall.

The port itself was not visible to humans, beyond a ripple in the darkness which no one who wasn't looking for it specifically would notice.

The Alphas didn't move, hoping that when the enforcers found nothing of interest, they would go.

Then, a deep baritone voice boomed behind the enforcers. "ATF!" it shouted, and then scolded, "Agent Theodore Morris - you yahoos are trampling all over a crime scene! Destroying evidence!"

The boys immediately recognized the voice, but they had been trained well not to give themselves away by responding verbally. Seven, though, forgot, and cried "Theta!" and made a move to run to him, but Three held him back. The little boy looked up, confused, and Three put a finger to his lips.

'Agent Morris' immediately took control of the scene.

"We followed those kids in here," the enforcer named Rick explained. "The little punks stole a car. They probably took down the crime scene tape, too."

Actually, they hadn't - the boys didn't know who had done that. Probably Hashim.

"Well, you found them. Let me ask them a few questions, and then you can take them and get out of here."

The boys looked at each other, confused, but still said nothing.

Theta approached, but made the enforcers stay back. He reached down and lifted Seven into his arms. The little boy joyfully put his arms around his neck, but remembered not to say anything.

"Remove all of your weapons, everything except your clothes," Theta said softly, and then gently put his hand on Five's head, "Except for you... you know what you need to keep." Five nodded.

"Can I keep this?" Seven asked hopefully, holding up his skull flashlight. Agent Morris took it from him and looked it over. He discovered its power source was some kind of crystal embedded in the handle.

"Well, that is pretty special, isn't it?" he smiled at Seven. "We'll have to let the Tech division look at it first, but I'll try to see you get it back."

Seven was disappointed but agreed.

"The helmets, too?" Five asked forlornly, knowing the answer.

"We'll have to see about those..."

"Do we have to go with them?" One nodded towards the enforcers.

"Yes, for now, but you know what to do, right?"

The boys nodded.

The police herded the seven boys back out into the open. Orin and Evie had arrived at the scene by that time, and Travis tried to intervene when he saw that they intended to put the boys into squad cars.

"I'm not pressing charges," he stated. "I was just afraid for them. I don't care that they took the car." Actually, he did care, a lot, and there was going to be some stern discussion later, but right now, he didn't want to see the kids arrested.

The cops were unmoved. "One of our officers got wounded in there somehow. There was no one else in there, so we need to find out what went on. And car theft is against the law, whether you press charges or not."

Travis was about to suggest that he'd let them borrow the car, but he remembered that One was only 14. They'd probably arrest him, too, if he said that.

"Where are you taking them?"

"To the downtown station, then, they'll go to Riley Creek."

Travis's gut clenched. Riley Creek was a 'diversion center' - a nice word for kiddie jail. The boys didn't belong there.

"How long do they have to stay there?"

"Until they get a court date." The officer turned his back on him, clearly not interested in further discussion.

Evie grabbed his hand and rested her head on his shoulder as one by one, the boys were split into three groups and placed in the back of police cruisers. Five, Six and Seven were too small to ride without booster seats, and Travis pointed that out, but his argument fell on deaf ears.

The boys themselves did not put up a fight or exhibit any display of emotion whatever. They simply weren't scared.

Travis wished he could say the same as he watched the police cars drive away.

Continues in "Detained"

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