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“When can we start this procedure Professor?” he asked.
“Immediately if you’d like David, we can bond all of you now if you wish,” Julian replied. “The process takes 24 hours and will be closely monitored by Solomon and myself. I assure you, if there is any indication of danger, we will abort and you will be no worse off than you are now. If the AIs will return to memory and the rest of you will follow me, we can begin right away.” Professor Saber headed for the door as the others stirred from their seats and began to follow.
Christina Baldwin, American Author
There were no complications in the bonding process and The SIX went off to their rooms to get to know their newest friends and also to become used to never again being alone inside their skulls. Against Greg’s protests, Theo had his restraint bracelet removed by Julian. There had been another shouting match between Nikoli and Theo that evening, and the next morning, Waverunner was nowhere to be found. Sarida found a letter addressed to Julian and David in his room and brought it out for the others to witness.
“Professor Julian Saber and Dreamwalker (David Andover),” she read aloud. “By now, I am very far away. Please, do not try to locate me. I have been shown that our philosophies will never be truly in step. I hereby resign my position in the organization known as The SIX. I will continue to right what wrongs I perceive and do my best to make this a better world. However, I cannot continue to work within an organization that does not value my opinions or methods. I have never truly felt a part of the team anyway. Professor, thank you for the gifts and for Marc. He will be an asset, as you said he would be. To Gregory, I thank you for the ACM and apologise for causing the loss of your beloved friend and colleague, Hina. I understand your feelings now that I have bonded with Marc. I wish you all the best in your lives and endeavours. Good bye, Theo Baht,”
Sarida concluded dismally, handing the note over to Julian. Nikoli simply shook his head as Julian quickly scanned the note again.
“I wish I could say this was unexpected Professor, David. Theo was becoming less and less social since our loss at DC. Being trapped on the Moon didn’t help either, and then when we didn’t back up his lunacy last week, well… I’m afraid that was the just last straw for him,” Nikoli exhaled gustily. “He always was a bit shy and quiet and I really didn’t understand why until last night.” Julian raised an eyebrow.
“And what was discussed last night that would cause him to leave so abruptly?” he asked mildly. Nikoli scowled for a moment then had the grace to look very embarrassed as he admitted his conversation to the others.
“Uh… it seems the lad had a bit of a crush on me… and thought… the kindness and friendship I had given him was a reciprocation of his feelings. Last night he told me… and I reacted rather poorly,” he allowed. “He told me that his feelings and respect for me were the only reason he accepted the bond with Marc and that I was an insensitive brute. I didn’t know how to react at all. I stammered, got angry, yelled at him for doubting my manhood. I really should have handled the situation better, undoubtedly. I actually asked him if he thought I was some kind of a faggot. I’ve hurt him badly, Professor,” Nikoli finished solemnly.
David opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it again. Julian polished his glasses then looked at Nikoli.
“You’re right Major… you could have handled it better,” Julian snapped angrily. “Do you mean to tell me that you didn’t know that Theo is gay? You didn’t know, David? Your female teammates certainly do. I don’t know whether Steven knows, but Theo has never hidden it… he’s just never advertised it either,” Julian scolded the men. David looked at his shoes then looked back up at Julian.
“I suspected, but I didn’t think it mattered so I never brought the subject up,” he said quietly, “…sort of a don’t ask, don’t tell kind of thing. It was Theo’s business, ya’ know,” he offered abashedly.
“Well, what’s done is done I suppose,” Julian sighed. “Marc As won’t let Theo get into too much trouble and there’s really not much of a threat from the so-called Hammers anymore either. He really can’t do any harm and he does need time to think things through. He’s young yet and still feels the storms,” he reasoned.
Theo’s flight did bother Trish however, and she knew that it was troubling Greg as well.
she asked him worriedly.
Greg responded angrily, pounding the kitchen table.
she snickered, deflating him slightly. Greg paused momentarily and thought about what Trish had just said.
he mused as he sipped his coffee.
The rest of The Six were equally stunned by Theo’s departure. Steven worried about what the lack of a show of solidarity would do when they started ‘adventuring’ again. David and Nikoli kept their thoughts on that matter to themselves. Sarida and Carina however, were very vocal at the thoughtlessness they perceived from Steven’s remarks.
“Lack of solidarity? What are you, some kind of idiot? I’ll bet you didn’t even know anything about Theo at all, did you Watcher,” Sarida chided. Carina paced the length of the room.
“Ai! Acha que é o reí da cocada preta! So much information and he doesn’t even see what’s in front of his face!” Then she jabbed her finger at the three men in turn, “You three are all the same. You simply ignore what doesn’t fit into your tiny little world view or anything that makes you feel the least bit uncomfortable! Homens!” Carina sounded completely disgusted. She glared at Steven and then at David. Rounding on Nikoli, she pointed her finger up into his face.
“And you, Mister Nice Guy… Mister Big Brother… you didn’t even have the decency to act calm and let the boy down gently,” she was furious. “You just exploded, protecting your fragile male ego, yelling at him when what he needed most was friendship and understanding,” she berated the huge man unforgivingly. David strode across the room and faced them all.
“That’s enough!” he shouted. “Enough out of you Carina, enough out of you Sarida, enough out of everyone! We are all still a team here, are we not? I find it difficult to know anymore. Julian Saber gave us our gifts, gave us our lives back and gave us the greatest gift anyone could have, our bondmates, and all we can do is sit around squabbling like a pack of spoiled four year olds!” David narrowed his eyes. “We had a vision once, a vision of a better world. We knew we could help usher that in for the peoples of Earth, for the Earth herself. Have you lost all that?” he asked them. “I know I’ll continue to do what’s right, what’s needed, but I can’t do it alone. I need your help, for we are better together than apart,” Sarida uncrossed her arms and walked over to David.
“Silly man… I may be upset with you, and them, but I’d never abandon the team or our mission. It would be a betrayal of everything I’ve ever stood for,” she sighed as she reached up and gently placed a finger on his lips. Steven glanced up from the spot on the floor he had been staring at and then stood up too. His gaze flicked briefly from teammate to teammate before finally settling on David.
“Hey, mistakes were made. Doesn’t mean we don’t have a job to do Boss,” he said, abashed. Carina looked up at the ceiling, made a silent prayer and crossed herself quickly.
“Don’t let me catch you boys doing estupido things again!” she said sternly, “but Steven is right, we all have work to do.” They all looked to Nikoli who still had his head in his hands. He’d been made to feel the worst for what had transpired.
“Hmm? Oh, yes. We will continue. But how? We are one team member short,” he responded absently. There was a knock at the door and Julian strolled in.
“Am I interrupting something?” he asked. “I hope so. I overheard the last part of what you were saying… humph, the entire complex overheard you… but I digress and I do have a solution for you.” David looked embarrassed but continued to look Julian directly in the eyes.
“All right Professor… you have our attention,” he coaxed.
“Good, may I suggest that Lia join The SIX,” Julian held up his hand. “Wait a minute before you reject the idea out of hand. She is an excellent replacement for Theo and she will continue to be an asset to your team even if he decides to return. She brings talents that will compliment your strengths and she’ll balance the team on a gender basis as well,” he offered. “She is a top ranked black belt in several schools of martial arts as well as a serious student of meditation. She will have much to learn from all of you but she’ll be able to teach you a few things as well. You are most definitely a team of individuals, but perhaps she can help to mould you into an effective and cohesive force too.”
“An intriguing idea Julian, I have two questions however…” David paused.
“And they are?”
“Do you trust her?”
“Absolutely,” responded Julian “…and?”
“Is she agreeable to this arrangement?” David concluded.
“Why don’t you ask her yourself? Lia, would you come in here Dear?” Julian called out. Lia Tang entered the room with her head held high, her face an emotionless mask.
“I would like to work with you all to make the world a better place, to make up for my past and make a brighter future for everyone,” she said in a defiant tone. David glanced around at his team and saw small nods from all of them.
“Well then Lia, welcome aboard. We are now six again,” David intoned.
Sarida smiled at Lia.
“We are The SIX again. Welcome to the team Lia,” Sarida proffered her hand in greeting and friendship. Lia smiled back and joined them.
“Thank you all. I will make sure you don’t regret this. Thank you Julian, for making all of this possible… I…” her voice broke and she looked at him, the tears glistening in her eyes. “I love you… you are my spiritual father and I will always be your Daughter in my heart,” her tears spilled down her cheeks as she bowed deeply.
“Yes, well uh...” Julian looked at the ceiling, “…you are all my children and I am exceedingly proud of all of you,” he cleared the lump in his throat. “Now,” he continued briskly, “I feel that you should rest up for a few more days and then maybe you could drop in on the U.N. for a little chat... what do all of you think?”
The team just looked at him blankly. Julian gave a crooked smile as he reminded them of a little pact they had made with the official body previously.
“They did give you a full sanction, remember? Perhaps you should jog their memories. We’ll set up the media from this end. Now rest, get to know each other better and have a little fun. I think you’re all overdue,” he turned and left with a roar of laughter behind him.
“How’d it go Dad?” Greg asked when Julian entered the kitchen.
“As expected Greg, The SIX are actually six again and, I believe even stronger for their new addition,” Julian smiled at his son-in-law gently then frowned, his brows knitting together slightly. “You’re plotting something aren’t you?” Julian asked Greg cautiously.
"Can’t fool you, can I Dad?” Greg smiled sheepishly. “You’re right though. I have to do something about our buddy Nathanial or we’ll just keep fighting in a holding action and never be able to do what you envisioned for the world,” he explained
“And you intend to beard the lion in his den, confront him on his own turf, do you?” Julian replied with some heat. “Will you stoop to his level then? Use violence, let slip the dogs of war?” Julian deftly quoted the bard as his own frown deepened. “And what does Trish think of this?” he continued. “Does she agree with you?
“Hang on Julian, that’s a lot of questions all at once. Yes, I do intend to confront him, and no, I will not stoop to his levels,” Greg shook his head in negation. “I will not use violence but I will use science and psychology. Trish agrees with me but thinks my plan is a little Dickensian,” he said, displaying his own literary prowess and grinning widely.
“Dickensian?” Julian repeated blankly.
“Sit down and let me explain it to you,” Greg said, pouring Julian a cup of coffee, “and if nothing else, it’ll be good for a laugh, and you have my permission to dissect it for flaws…”
To Be Continued
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