The introduction is actually at the end of this story. I was going to post it at the beginning, but I thought that it would give too much away for some people. Very special thanks to IrisWilde and Stargazer (Bonnie) for beta reading this story, and to Mary Ann and Toni Rae for their valuable input. Also, thanks to Robyn for answering a medical diagnostic question! Warnings: PG-13. Tear-jerker! Do NOT read this if you have delicate sensibilities. No real violence, just dark subject matter.Don't worry, our guys are still alive and well at the end. This story takes place after "Sentinel Too" but before "The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg." Every story takes a piece out of the author's soul. This one took a chunk. Feedback would be very much appreciated.
Soul of Mine
"Come on, Jimmy," Blair urged his friend. "Just feel it like you did with the card trick. The buttons should be hotter, right?"
Jimmy rolled his eyes. "You're crazy, Blair. How did you figure this out, anyway?"
"Because I'm smarter than you are," Blair shot back in a whisper, glancing down the deserted hall of the compound in which he had spent his entire life. "Now hurry."
"No one's coming," Jimmy said with a sigh. "Stop being such a woos, kid."
"Stop being such a jerk and hurry up, already! And I'm not a kid! I'm only two days younger than you are."
"Two days is two days. Besides, I don't know what you're worried about. It's not like they'll do anything if they catch us," Jimmy insisted, but he placed his fingers over the panel of numbers and felt along the row of buttons. "We're the stars here. They need us."
"Not as much as you think," Blair whispered.
Jimmy pressed the number one. "Okay, this one is hot, but I don't know if it's the first one. I'm only guessing."
"We get two tries, and then it locks out."
"And probably an alarm goes off. And they have security cameras," Jimmy said, pressing the number four. "We'll be dead meat."
"I thought you weren't worried."
"I don't want to miss my show. If they take away our TV and radio, then I'll miss Walker."
Blair rolled his eyes. "I can't believe you like that show."
"Just shut up," Jimmy snapped, pressing the number two. "I like the martial arts."
Both children looked at the doors. "They aren't opening," Blair sighed in dejection.
"Nooooo! Really, Einstein?" Jimmy replied. "I guess I'll try one-two-four. What do you think?"
"Try two-four-one," Blair suggested.
Jimmy scrunched his nose, looking insulted. "Why? What's wrong with one-two-four?"
"Two-four-one. Get it? If I were making a combination, I'd pick something easy that I could remember."
"You can remember anything. You're a nerd," Jimmy said, studying the panel.
"And you're a jock-jerk. Don't worry, once we get out of here, I'm sure you can find other jocks to hang with," Blair said.
Jimmy looked back at Blair. "Yeah, you're right. Anything'll be better than staring at your ugly face." He saw a flash of hurt cross Blair's face, and felt a twinge of guilt in his chest. Blair had been his best friend for years -- make that his only friend.
"Yeah, well I may be ugly but at least I'm not stupid," Blair shot back.
Jimmy grunted and turned back to the panel. "We'll see who's so stupid when I pound your face into the ground," he said, pressing two-four-one on the panel.
Blair's reply was cut off when the door slid open. "All right!" the younger boy exclaimed. "We did it!"
Jimmy looked over his shoulder and grinned at his friend. "Yeah, we did!" He ruffled Blair's shaggy hair, knowing how much the kid hated that. "Thanks to you."
Blair beamed. "Well, if they're going to teach us stuff, they have to expect us to learn it."
"I don't think they wanted you to use the stuff we're learning in compsci to get the blueprints to this place," Jimmy admonished with a grin, ducking through the doorway before Blair could swat at him for messing with his hair.
"Stay in the truck, Sandburg!" Jim barked as he ran around the front of the truck in pursuit of the suspect.
He saw Blair nod quickly, then turned his attention fully to the man fleeing across the street. "Syden, get your ass back here!"
He hated it when snitches ran from him -- not that it happened very often, but when they did run it usually meant they knew something that could get them in a lot of trouble if they squealed. Whatever that something was, Jim intended to find out.
He caught up to the man in an alley, reaching out a long arm to grab the back of Syden's collar. "Okay, now what's the fuss?" he asked, breathless and angry, as he spun the man up against the wall.
"Back off, Ellison!" Syden spat. "You can't arrest me because I haven't done anything! So don't try to threaten me. I'm not telling you anything!"
Jim raised an eyebrow, putting pressure on Syden's chest with his hand. "What aren't you going to tell me?"
"Fuck off! This is false imprisonment! Police brutality! I'm going to sue your ass, then I won't need your damn snitch money."
Jim smiled his most charming-deadly smile -- the kind that looked sugar-sweet on the surface but held a hint of threat underneath. "Would this something you're not telling me have to do with Marcus' drug run?"
Syden paled. "No. I don't know what you're talking about."
Jim sighed and gave Syden a gentle slap on the cheek. "Come on, Syden, don't play games with me."
"Or you'll what? Blow off my kneecaps and then shoot me in the stomach? I don't think so. Now let me go before I decide to contact a lawyer."
Jim studied the man, listening to his pounding heartbeat and raspy breathing. Slowly, he eased up the pressure on Syden's chest. He wasn't going to get information out of the man, so there was no use getting a reprimand from Simon or, heaven-forbid, Internal Affairs for mistreatment of a civilian.
"Okay, Syden, you can go, but I'd be careful if I were you. I wouldn't so much as jaywalk."
Syden grunted and jerked away from Ellison. "I'll remember that."
"Wow," Blair looked angelic as he tilted his face up toward the sky and closed his eyes, he hugged his blue jacket tighter around his body and let the warm rays of the early morning sun caress his cheeks.
"Yeah," Jimmy agreed, mimicking his friend. The air smelled crisp and clean, with a soft scent of something he couldn't quite identify.
"Earthy," Blair said.
Jimmy opened his eyes to see his friend staring at him. "What?"
"I guess this is what 'earthy' smells like. Don't you?"
Jimmy grinned. "Yeah, I guess so." Was the kid psychic?
Blair raised his hand to cover a cough. "I'm not used to this kind of air. How does it smell to you?"
Jimmy shrugged. "I don't know. Nice."
Blair's eyes lit up. "Yeah, isn't it? I can't believe they never let us outside."
"We're free now," Jimmy said, his smile fading.
"Where are we gonna go?"
Blair raised his eyebrows. "Cascade?"
"Yeah. I overhead them talking. Our parents live in Cascade."
Blair's eyes widened in shock, and his mouth parted in a huge grin. "Our parents?"
Jimmy found his own smile returning. "Yeah. We're going to meet our parents."
"Like a mom and dad?"
Jimmy chuckled. "Yeah, I guess so."
"And maybe even a dog?" Blair asked hopefully.
"Maybe." Wouldn't that be cool.
"Um... how far away is that?"
Jimmy shrugged. "How should I know?" Geez, for someone who was supposed to be a genius, Blair sure asked a lot of questions.
"Right," Blair agreed. "You wouldn't, would you?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing. Let's just go find out where we are. If we stand around, they're going to find us."
"Right," Jimmy agreed. Okay, so sometimes the kid wasn't as dense as he seemed.
"It's your turn for dinner, Jim," Blair reminded the Sentinel, tossing his keys in the basket and hanging his coat on the rack.
Jim smiled. "And I'm buying. Chinese or pizza?"
Blair groaned. "Man, you are such a cheater."
"Chinese it is," Jim said, grabbing the cordless. "What do you want?"
"You know what I want. The usual."
"Of course," Jim grinned, dialing. It took him only moments to place the order and give his credit card number. Then he plopped down on the couch next to Blair and peered at flickering images on the television.
"Try twenty-four. I think a game is playing."
Blair sighed, but flipped up to twenty-four. "There's more to life than sports, Jim."
"Is that so?"
"Yeah, there's the Discovery Channel."
Jim chuckled. "Ranks right up there with a root canal."
"Expand your horizons, man."
"I have. You're living with me, remember?"
"How can I forget with the constant reminders about the house rules?" Blair complained.
"I wouldn't have to remind you if you didn't keep forgetting. For someone who's supposed to be so smart, you sure don't catch on quick."
"I call it 'selective memory.'"
"I call it 'being a pain in the ass.'"
"I don't see how anything could hurt your ass with all that cushioning there." He ducked the swing aimed at the top of his head. "Oh that's good, Jim. Resort to violence when you lose at a battle of the wits."
"If you think you've won, you're delusional."
Blair shrugged. "Reality is highly overrated."
Jim laughed at that comment and settled back against the couch to watch the game and wait for the arrival of their dinner.
"Shhhh!" Jimmy commanded in a harsh whisper as he hugged the corner of the building.
"Why?" Blair asked quietly, hunched low and peering around Jimmy's body to look at whatever his friend was looking at.
"See that guy over there?"
"The one with the black jacket?"
"What about him?" Blair asked.
"Yeah, so? He looks like he is."
"He just got out of that car. He's loaded, all right."
Jimmy looked at him and smiled, waggling his fingers in the air. "I've got the magic touch, remember? I can lift his wallet, and then we can buy our tickets to Cascade."
Blair's jaw dropped open and he straightened. "No way, man. We're not going to steal!"
Jimmy rolled his eyes. "Stop being such a wimp. How else are we gonna get to Cascade?"
"We could go to the police and tell them our parents are in Cascade."
"And what if the police just return us to the camp?"
"Why would they do that?"
Jimmy shrugged. "They have custody of us, right?"
"I guess so. Why do you think they never told us about our parents?"
"Probably because they didn't want us to see them."
Blair swallowed. "What if our parents don't want to see us? What if they gave us away as babies and that's how we ended up at the camp?"
"Then at least we'll know and we can leave," Jimmy replied. "We can do whatever we want."
"No we can't. We're kids. You see how it is on the television. Kids can't do anything. I don't even think they let kids buy tickets."
"Look, we need money," Jimmy persisted. "We have to eat, and get to Cascade, and all that stuff. If they don't let us buy tickets ourselves, we'll just pay an adult to buy them for us. No big deal. Once we find our parents, we'll send him his wallet and have our parents give him back his money."
"What if our parents don't want to see us?"
"Then the guy will just have to live without his money."
Blair wasn't happy about it, but he couldn't figure out another way to get to Cascade without going to the police. "Fine, I guess. Just don't get caught."
Jimmy grinned. "Not gonna happen. He won't feel a thing when I lift his wallet."
Blair wasn't convinced. "How do you know? You've never done it before."
"I see it on TV all the time. It looks easy."
Blair rolled his eyes. "Right." They were dead meat.
"Okay, now wait here and I'll --"
The scream of a car horn pierced the air, and Jimmy's hands reflexively shot up to cover his ears. He cried out in pain, dropping to his knees.
"What? What is it?" Blair asked, hunching protectively over his friend.
"Hurts," Jimmy gasped, tears escaping his clenched eyelids to fall on his cheeks.
"That noise?" Blair asked worriedly. "What's happening? What hurts?"
Blair placed a hand on Jimmy's shoulder, uncertain how to help his friend. He'd never seen this happen before, but Jimmy had never been outside of the camp. He'd never heard loud noises before. Maybe the outside world would make Jimmy sick.
"Maybe we should go back to the camp," Blair suggested.
Jimmy shook his head, removing his hands from his ears. "No. No, it's okay." He quickly wiped the tears from his face. "I'm okay now. It just hurts a little, but not too bad. We're not going back."
"You sure you're okay, Jimmy?"
"Yeah." He rose to his feet, looking around the corner of the building. "The man's still there," he said, back to business. "Stay here, I'll be right back."
"Damn!" the director cursed. "How can I be surrounded by so many PhDs and so many idiots at the same time?"
"I don't know how they escaped, sir," the short, grey-haired man said, adjusting his wire-rimmed glasses on his thin nose.
"They've had three years in this installation. Blair's shown a knack for computers, and the increased neural plasticity resulting from the acceleration process has made them both extremely fast learners. We just didn't anticipate this."
"We got lax. Three years of baby-sitting has made us lax."
"I was afraid something like this would happen. To keep this place secret, we have to keep it low-key. No big walls, no armed guards around the perimeter. This was waiting to happen. I've never trusted electronic security."
"They slipped past the hidden guards and the canines, too, sir."
"They've been here for three years. They've made friends with the canines, you idiot, and Blair slipped past the guards because he knew where they were stationed. The little twit managed to hack into our system."
"It was self-contained, sir, and if you recall, you decided that because there was no modem access and only three terminals our money would be better spent on the project."
"Don't get smart, Jones. We're burning money like crazy around here. You know how much it cost us just to get the two of them, not to mention all the work and money that went into the acceleration process. Five hundred attempts, and they were the only two that succeeded. Still, it'd be Nobel Prize winning work if we could ever publish."
Jones sighed. "Yes, I know. This is a disaster."
"Tell me about it."
"I never expected either of them to learn so quickly."
"You're sure that's a side-effect of the acceleration process?"
Jones shrugged. "Well, I'm not absolutely sure, but it's a pretty good guess."
"Ohhmaannn, thishish great."
"Don't talk with your mouth full, dweeb," Jimmy grinned, taking a bite of his French fry and savoring the taste. Wow. To think he'd been missing out on French fries all this time.
Blair swallowed his mouthful. "I never thought hamburgers and fries would taste this good."
"You wanna try pizza next?"
"For dinner? Sure."
"And ice cream! All the kids on the TV seem to like ice cream."
"Yeah," Jimmy nodded eagerly. "We've definitely gotta try ice cream."
Blair rolled his empty wrapper into a ball and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "You ready? Our bus leaves soon."
Jimmy finished the last French fry and took a long sip of his Coke. "Yeah," he said at last. "Let's go."
The two boys rose from the table and headed out of the Burger King. Blair glanced at Jimmy as he followed his friend outside. "Um... Jimmy, how are we gonna find our parents once we reach Cascade?"
"I heard them say my dad is a police officer. We'll just go to the police station there and see if we can find him. They said his name is Ellison."
"Okay, but we can't tell anyone we're 'lost' at the police station, like you said. I don't want to get sent back to the camp."
Jimmy glanced over at Blair. "Don't worry, we won't get caught." He smiled, tapping his right ear. "I'll keep an ear open. If they call anybody or somebody from the camp comes, I'll hear them."
Blair nodded, smiling. "You come in handy sometimes with those senses of yours."
"What do you say we call it a night, Chief?" Jim asked, moving his head from side to side as he worked out the kinks in his neck.
"I'm down with that, man," Blair replied, closing the blue book he'd been grading at the edge of Jim's desk and stuffing it into his backpack.
"This time it's your turn to do dinner."
Blair groaned, until he remembered the leftover Chinese. "Okay." He smiled cheerfully, prompting a suspicious look from his partner. "I'll heat up the leftovers."
Jim opened his mouth to protest, but Blair cut him off. "No way, man. You leave Chinese food sit for more than one day and it turns absolutely repugnant. Besides, you were supposed to cook yesterday, remember? You cheated, which means I get to cheat tonight."
Jim sighed and rose from his desk. "Fine, Junior. You drive a hard bargain."
Blair grinned, but his smile immediately faded as his eyes focused on two small figures in the doorway. His breath caught. My God. He recognized them both immediately. How could he not? Hell, he'd seen pictures of Jim as a child, and, well, Naomi had albums full of his own childhood. If only one had walked through the door, he might have chalked it up to coincidence. But both? What the hell was going on here? Had he just stepped foot into the twilight zone? Or maybe he was hallucinating from too little sleep. Or maybe... an icy knot formed in his stomach. Could this be a Golden flashback?
Jim noticed his discomfort and followed his gaze. Blair looked up from the two boys to study Jim's reaction. Nope. Not a Golden flashback. He sees them, too.
"What the hell..? " Jim whispered.
My sentiments exactly, Blair agreed silently.
The two boys looked nervous. The younger Blair-double fidgeted, his hands stuffed in his pockets. The younger Jim looked more on edge, his eyes darting anxiously around the bullpen, coming back on each pass to hover over Jim and Blair at the desk. Finally, the two boys moved forward, walking almost as a single unit to the desk. The younger Blair seemed to overcome his nervousness as he gazed up at the two men. He seemed particularly interested in Jim, and, after a brief hesitation, leaned over to the young Jim and whispered something in his ear.
"What can we do for you?" the elder Jim asked.
The younger Jim looked back at the Detective. "Are you Ellison?"
Jim nodded, and his younger counterpart stiffened and extended his hand. "My name's Jim. I think I'm your son."
"You're his dad for sure," the younger Blair interjected. "You two have the same eyes."
Jimmy glanced at his friend, then back up at the taller Blair. "He has your eyes, too, Blair," he said. "Weird." He looked up at the elder Blair. "Are you his dad?"
The younger Blair broke into a huge grin. "Are you two partners?" He looked at little Jimmy. "Hey, wouldn't that be cool if our dads were also friends?"
Jimmy returned the smile. "Yeah, pretty cool, kid."
Blair's smile faded and he slapped Jimmy on the arm. "I told you to stop calling me that!" He rubbed the hand he'd used to hit Jimmy with and glared at his friend.
"Ellison!" Both boys jumped, spinning around. Captain Banks stood towering in the doorway to his office. When he caught sight of the two children, he did a double-take and his unlit cigar fell from his mouth. "My God. Jim, that kid looks like --"
"I know, sir," Ellison said.
"What's going on here?" Simon asked.
"We have no idea," Sandburg answered, staring shell-shocked at the two children.
Jimmy and little Blair peered up at the towering Captain. "He's my dad," Jimmy said, jerking a thumb back at Ellison.
"What?!" Simon's eyes snapped back to look at Ellison, who shook his head quickly.
"Sir, can I see you in your office for a moment?" Jim looked at Sandburg. "Stay here with the two kids."
"Sure. No problem," the anthropologist muttered, his face a shade whiter.
Jim followed Simon into the office and closed the door. "Look, sir, I don't know what's going on here, but as you noticed, that kid looks like me."
"No kidding," Simon agreed, leaning against the edge of his desk and folding his arms across his chest to glare at the detective. "So who's his mother?"
Jim shook his head. "You don't get it, sir. Not only does that kid look like me, but the other kid looks like Sandburg when he was a child."
"What are you talking about?"
"Sir, those two children are dead ringers for me and Sandburg. I saw tons of Blair's baby and childhood photos when Naomi was here. Besides, how can you not see the resemblance in those eyes?"
Simon's eyes narrowed with suspicion. "You're saying those two kids out there are dopplegangers of you and Blair?"
"Something like that."
"You sure that kid looks like Sandburg?"
"His hair's about a shade lighter and nowhere near as curly."
Jim nodded. "I know. Sandburg's hair grew in darker and curlier as he got older. I can show you some of his childhood pictures. They're all at the loft."
Simon shook his head. "No, I believe you." He glanced through the slatted blinds to gaze at the trio in the bullpen. "Good thing for you none of the other detectives are around at the moment to witness this spectacle."
"Tell me about it."
"What do you want to do? Call Child Protective Services?"
Jim shook his head. "No, sir. Not until I find out what's going on."
"What are you thinking? I mean, doesn't it seem just a bit too much of a coincidence that both you and Sandburg would have long lost children who look to be the same age and show up at the same time?"
"Too much of a coincidence," Jim agreed. "I don't think they're our children."
"Well, who or what do you think they are then? Clones from outer space?" Jim's expression did not reassure the Captain. "Awww, hell, Jim," Simon groaned. "Let's just say, for one second, that they are clones. I can't believe I even just said that, but, for the sake of argument, let's just say that's true. Look at them. They've got to be seven or eight years old. I'm no scientist, but I'm pretty damn sure scientists couldn't clone humans back then. Hell, I don't even know that we can do it now. Even if there was that kind of technology and know-how eight years ago, why would anyone want to clone Sandburg? I can understand someone wanting to clone you for your Sentinel abilities, but why in God's name would anybody want two Sandburgs? You didn't even know the kid back then. There'd be no reason whatsoever for anybody to clone him."
Jim nodded. "I know. I didn't say they're clones, but I can't think up another explanation at the moment. I don't know who they are or where they've come from, but I'm pretty darn sure I'm not that kid's father and Blair isn't the other boy's dad. For one thing, sons don't generally look exactly like their fathers. Those two are exact duplicates of Blair and me at that age."
Simon sighed, removing his glasses to rub his eyes. Finally, he waved a hand in the air. "Fine. Get them out of here before someone comes in and sees them. Not that I think anyone would recognize you or Sandburg as kids, but something's going on here and we'd better find out what that is real soon."
"You're not going to tell anybody about this, sir, are you?"
"Of course not. Not until we find out what's going on," Banks replied.
"Thank you, sir."
"Go get them some dinner or something and see what you can find out."
"Will do, sir."
Jim and Blair watched the two children work at their pizzas as though each were experiencing something very close to ecstasy. Sandburg took particular note of the way the kids behaved. It was weird seeing Jim and himself as children. The way the kids interacted with one another reminded Sandburg a lot of Jim and himself, but there were differences, of course, since the children were not only younger but also the same age. In comparison, he and Jim sported a significant age gap, which led Jim to treat him as kid more often than not.
Jimmy was definitely the more aggressive and watchful of the two. Little Blair, on the other hand, was more amiable, inquisitive, and cheerful. During the drive to the restaurant, they had managed to find out that the two kids had escaped from some sort of an installation where they had lived for as long as they could remember.
"I think three years," the younger Blair said, picking up the conversation as though it had never ended.
Sandburg glanced at Jim before looking back at the child. "Why do you think that?"
Little Blair shrugged. "Well, when I hacked into their computer, I saw some file dates from 1996 and they went all the way up to 1999. Actually, there were file dates from way back as far as 1989, but I couldn't open those. I did manage to open two files from 1996, and they were pictures of Jimmy and me as babies. I know because they were labeled Jim 498 and Blair 502."
Blair's stomach churned and he suddenly felt ill. It was a good thing he hadn't eaten any of the pizza yet. He cast an anxious look at Jim and saw his own concerns mirrored in the Sentinel's eyes.
It can't be. These kids have got to be seven or eight years old. No way did we have the ability to clone from an adult back then, and, even if we did, why would someone clone me? I didn't even know Jim back then... but the kid said three years. How can that be? That would place it at just after I met Jim. Could these people have figured out a way to clone before what's-his-face in Sweden did? And could they somehow have figured out a way to accelerate development?
"Do you know where this camp is? Can you find it again?"
Jimmy nodded. "Yeah. No problem. It's back near Eugene."
"Eugene, Oregon?" The elder Blair asked.
"Yeah. We looked at a newspaper when we were far enough away to be safe," little Blair answered.
"You two traveled here on your own all the way from Oregon?"
The boys glanced guiltily at one another. "Uh, yeah," Jimmy answered.
All eyes turned to look at little Blair, who had suddenly grown pale.
"What's wrong?" Sandburg asked.
"I don't feel so good," little Blair answered, one arm wrapped around his stomach. "I guess my stomach's not used to this kind of food. They only fed us healthy food at the camp."
"Are you going to be sick?" Ellison asked.
Little Blair nodded miserably. "I think so."
"Okay, let's go!" Ellison said, sliding out of the booth and motioning for Jimmy to move over so little Blair could get out. Jimmy complied quickly, his eyes pinched with concern as his friend moaned and slid out of the booth.
Jim rested a hand on little Blair's shoulder. "This way, kid. I'll show you to the bathroom."
Jimmy watched Ellison and little Blair hurry to the restroom, then he looked at the elder Blair. "I'm kind of full myself," he admitted. "We had burgers and fries this morning. They still feel like they're in my stomach."
Blair looked disapprovingly at the young man, his lips pressed together in a frown. "You had burgers and fries for breakfast?"
Jimmy nodded, smiling. "Yeah. They were great! I always wanted to have a hamburger and fries. I've seen it on the television a lot, but they never let us have that kind of food at the camp."
Blair raised his eyebrows. "They let you watch television?"
"Uh-huh. Not everything. We could only watch a few things. There was one TV in our room, and we got three channels. My favorite show was Walker Texas Ranger. Blair likes to watch Space: 1999. The other stuff we could watch was all boring. They only let us watch our shows when we were really good."
"What were your days like at the camp?"
Jimmy shrugged. "Boring. We'd get up in the morning when it was still a little dark and we'd eat breakfast. We usually had either cereal or oatmeal for breakfast. Then we'd have twenty minutes of rec time before our first class. We'd be in school until lunchtime, and we usually had a sandwich or rice and beans for lunch, then it was back to school. We'd stay in school until it was almost dark, and then we'd do some exercises and have dinner. Dinner was always the smallest meal because they said it wasn't good for us to be loading up in the evening. After dinner, we'd have thirty minutes of rec time, then we'd go to the study room to do our homework. We couldn't leave until our homework was done. Then we could go back to our room and watch TV if we'd been good. If one of us was bad, neither of us could watch TV because we shared a TV. That was pretty much how it was. We got Sunday afternoon off, though, and we would usually either watch a show, read, or play in the rec room."
"What happened when you were bad?"
"Neither of us could watch TV and the one that was bad would have to clean the bathroom."
"Did you ever refuse to clean the bathroom when you were bad?"
Jimmy nodded. "Once."
"What did they do?"
"They said we both had to go to school all day on Sunday, and we got the whole week without television and couldn't use the rec room," Jimmy answered. "Blair was pretty mad at me because he hadn't done anything and he was being punished with me. I tried to be good after that, but it was just so boring. But I always cleaned the bathroom real good when I screwed up."
"Did Blair ever do anything bad?"
Jimmy nodded. "Yeah, but we got in trouble for different things. Blair sometimes asks questions that make the teachers mad. They tell him to forget about it, but he doesn't. He just doesn't shut up and then they get mad at him."
"What kind of things did you get in trouble for?"
Jimmy shrugged. "Well, one time I threw a paper airplane in the classroom. Another time I said something was 'stupid' and that got the teacher mad."
"How many students were in your class?"
Jimmy's brow furrowed. "Just me and Blair. That's all. The rest of the camp is all just adults."
"Did they ever hit you when you were bad?" Blair asked.
Jimmy shook his head. "No."
"After class, what kind of exercises did you do?"
"Just running and stuff. Archery. Hitting cans with the BB gun. Karate. That sort of thing."
"Both of you?"
"Yeah. I was better at most of the exercises than Blair, but he's really good at track. He's shorter than me, but he can keep up with me. He also does better than me at book stuff. He's a bit of a nerd and likes to read boring stuff."
"What kind of boring stuff?"
"Science. Explorer stories. Some of the explorer stuff he reads is cool, but most of the science stuff is boring."
"So what kinds of things have you seen since you got out that weren't in the camp?"
"The sun," Jimmy blurted. "They never let us outside. Never. I always wanted to go outside. We could look through the windows, but we couldn't open them and we couldn't break them."
"You tried to break them?"
"No. Blair and I were playing and threw something that accidentally hit one. It hit hard, but the glass didn't break. I know glass in windows is supposed to break, right? I see it on Walker a lot."
Blair nodded. "Yes, most glass breaks, but some glass they can make hard to break... So, if they never let you outside, where did you do your exercises?"
"In the gym."
Well, ask a stupid question... "How did you escape?"
"Blair figured that out. He hacked into their computer system and got
the blueprints. Then I listened at night outside our room to figure out
the routine and how many people there were. We planned our escape at night
when they thought we were sleeping. They had dogs as guards, but the dogs
liked us. There were also guards, but Blair found out on the computer where
stationed and I listened to make sure that there weren't any other guards we didn't know about."
Blair's eyebrows had risen to his hairline. "You can hear things better than most people?"
Jimmy nodded. "And see things better, and smell things better, and taste and feel things better. The teachers say that's my talent and I have to work at making my senses as good as they can be."
Sandburg saw Jim and little Blair emerge from the restroom. The child still looked a bit pale, but at least he had some color in his cheeks. Jim kept a protective hand on the kid's shoulder, and Blair followed close to the Sentinel, practically hugging the man's leg. His head came just up to Jim's hip, and a small smile tweaked Sandburg's lips as he watched the two approach.
Talk about David and Goliath, Sandburg mused.
Jimmy slid over to the wall to give Blair room, and Ellison took up his seat next to Sandburg.
"You feeling better?" Sandburg asked.
Little Blair nodded. "Uh-huh. A little. My stomach feels better now."
Jim glanced at his partner. "He's got a bit of a fever." He looked back at the two boys. "For tonight, you can come home with us. Tomorrow we'll figure out what to do."
Little Blair's eyes grew wide, and he shrank back against his seat. "Y-You're not going to send us back, are you? They'll be really mad at us, and I don't want to go back there. It's boring there. I --"
Ellison raised his hand to stop the boy. "No, don't worry, we're not going to send you back there."
"What are you going to do with us?" Jimmy asked. "You're my dad, aren't you? Don't you want me?"
Jim glanced at Sandburg. "Uh... Well, it's complicated," he said, looking back at the two boys.
"I have a mom, right?" little Blair asked. "Is she at home?"
Sandburg sighed, his shoulders slumping. "Like Jim said, it's complicated."
"You said 'us,'" little Blair remarked. "We're going home with the both of you? Do you two live together?"
Jim nodded. "Yes, we're roommates."
"Do you live with our moms?" Jimmy asked.
"No," Sandburg said. He didn't know quite how to voice his thoughts to the young boys. Really, nothing other than a DNA test would prove his suspicions.
"Are you our fathers?" Jimmy asked, his eyes narrowed suspiciously. It was obvious that he knew the two men were hiding something from him, and, just like his older counterpart, he went on alert.
"Sort of, I think," Sandburg said.
Little Blair sighed -- a slow, sad sigh that caught everyone's attention. He looked at Sandburg with wide, soulful eyes that seemed on the verge of tears. "We're clones, aren't we?"
Sandburg almost choked on his own saliva.
"Why do you say that?" Ellison asked.
"I saw some file names on the computer when I was hacking into the system, " little Blair explained. "They were labeled 'Clone Group 1' through 'Clone Group 50.' I didn't know what cloning was because they haven't taught us that in school, but I opened one file and read a bit. It was hard to understand, but I saw this one thing about a sheep. There was a baby sheep and they said it was a clone of an adult sheep. I kinda figured from what the article said that a clone is like a copy, but there were too many big words that I hadn't learned yet." He reached one small hand into his jacket pocket and pulled out a bright orange disk. "I got some of the information off the computer. Not a lot because there's not much room on this disk, but there's some stuff, at least. Maybe it'll tell us where we really come from and why we could never leave the camp."
Jimmy looked at his friend in awe. "Why didn't you tell me you had that disk?"
Blair shrugged, looking very small in his blue jacket. "I don't know. I kind of forgot about it, I guess. Too much was going on, and I didn't remember 'til just now."
Jim and Blair and their smaller counterparts walked into the loft. Jim tossed his keys in the basket and Sandburg hung his jacket on the rack. The two boys stood awestruck near the door, their eyes wandering over the spacious apartment.
"You live here?" little Blair asked incredulously.
"Yeah. Home sweet home," Ellison answered.
Little Blair twisted his head to look back up at the towering man. "You don't have a dog?"
Jim frowned. "No, no dog."
"Oh." Blair turned his gaze forward again. "I like dogs. We had some at the camp, but they didn't like us to go near them. I would still sneak them some food, though. They liked me."
"Oh cool! Can we watch TV?" Jimmy asked, galloping over to the couch and snatching the remote control.
Little Blair livened up, hurrying over to the couch and sitting next to his friend as the TV screen flared to life and Jimmy began flipping through the programming.
"Wow!" Blair exclaimed, glancing back at Ellison and Sandburg. "You guys have lots of channels."
"Warp 5, Mr. Sulu."
Blair's head snapped back to the television screen to catch a glimpse of a man in a gold tunic sitting in a chair before Jimmy flipped to the next channel.
"Hey, go back, Jimmy."
"No way! I want to see if they have Walker on, or maybe something like that."
Blair grabbed the remote control out of Jimmy's hands and flipped it back to Star Trek. "Why should you... Ow!"
Jimmy snatched the remote control back while Blair rubbed his ribs, his eyes narrow as he glared at his friend. "Give it back!"
"I had it first!"
Sandburg leaned over the back of the couch and took the remote control out of Jimmy's hands. "That's it. No one watches TV and you both go to bed."
Two small pairs of blue eyes looked up at him. "But --" rang the cry in unison.
Sandburg held his hands up. "No." He pointed an admonishing finger at Jimmy. "And you shouldn't hit people." Then he glanced between the two boys. "Now both of you have had a long day, and it's getting late. You two can sleep in my room. I have some T-shirts you can borrow, and the bed's big enough for both of you."
"We have to share a bed?" Jimmy pouted.
Sandburg sighed, rolling his eyes to the ceiling. "Yes, you have to share a bed."
"We've never shared a bed before," little Blair said.
"Well, there's a first time for everything," Ellison added, watching the spectacle calmly from the kitchen.
Sandburg herded the two boys into the lower bedroom and got them dressed into T-shirts.
"I get this edge!" Jimmy claimed the side away from the wall.
"But I always sleep on the edge," Blair whined.
"So do I!"
"I can't fall asleep on the other side."
"I'm sure you can fall asleep on the other side, Blair," Sandburg jumped in.
He felt a headache growing behind his eyes. Had the boys bickered this much back at the camp? Probably not, since that would have likely resulted in disciplinary action. He knew the two youngsters had been traveling all day, and that they were dealing with a whole new world. They were both tired and cranky, and he hoped their moods would improve after a solid night's rest.
"But --" Blair protested.
"I don't want to hear any arguments. You two figure it out amongst yourselves, but I don't want to hear any arguing or fighting or there will be no TV tomorrow either."
Little Blair clamped his mouth shut and slid into bed near the wall, his blue eyes so large and indignant that Sandburg had to suppress a chuckle. It was kind of weird seeing his own "puppy dog" look thrown back at him, but since he knew the ploy, he wasn't going to fall for the tactic.
The chuckle died in the back of his throat, though, as he took another hard look at those blue eyes staring back at him. My clone...? His stomach knotted. A hundred different scenarios explaining little Blair's existence ran through his head in the span of a few seconds, none of them good. Were these children the only clones out there? Who had cloned them and why? What did this mean for he and Jim? For humanity?
"Now, goodnight you two," Sandburg said, pulling himself out of the dark thoughts as he tucked the covers around the two small boys.
"Goodnight," they replied.
Sandburg retrieved a T-shirt and sweats from his drawer and turned off the light, leaving the door open a crack as he walked back into the living room carrying his bundle. He saw Jim observing him quietly from the kitchen isle, nursing a beer while his eyes twinkled with amusement.
"What are you looking at?" Blair asked.
Jim smirked. "Looks like you get the couch tonight... Mommy."
"Ha. Ha. Very funny, Jim. Very funny." He glanced back at the room and walked over to the detective, keeping his voice whisper-soft. He knew that Jimmy had Sentinel abilities and would likely be able to hear him, but he needed to talk to Jim about what he'd found out. "Did you hear what Jimmy told me while you were in the bathroom with Blair?" That sounded weird saying, he thought.
Jim nodded. "Yeah, I was listening."
"What do you think is going on here? A cloning project? It doesn't sound like either of them has been abused, so that's something."
"I don't know what's going on, Chief, but I figure we'd better take a look at that disk."
Blair nodded. "Right. It's in my jacket pocket."
Sandburg booted up his laptop and waited for Windows to load... and waited... and waited. Finally, the annoying chime of hollow music greeted his ears, and he immediately popped the disk into the floppy drive. He clicked on the A drive and a list of files and folders popped into view.
ACS grant 1
Clone Group 1
Clone Group 2
Jim hovered over Sandburg's shoulder, peering at the screen. "Start at the beginning."
"Thanks for the tip," Sandburg replied, a note of light sarcasm in his tone.
Jim tapped Blair admonishingly on the back of the head, but kept his
mouth shut as Blair opened the first file. A WordPerfect document
opened, revealing columns of data. Blair scanned the first couple of entries:
"Can you make sense of that, Chief?" Jim asked.
Blair shrugged. "Well, it's obviously an experiment using various cell types. The 'Days' column is probably the number of days of cell growth. The 'Variance' would be the experimental change, but I don't know what 'bcl2a' is -- probably a drug. 'Start' would have to be what they started with, but it's in code. 'Lvg cell ct' looks like it might be 'Living cell count' and the 'Control' is the 'Control group' -- the 'norm' against which the experimental group is measured."
The two men spent the next hour going through the information on the disk. They managed to figure out that the camp had been conducting scientific experiments for several years, even applying for grant money. Blair suspected that the grant had been applied for using fraudulent information because there was no mention of cloning. In fact, the entire grant had been geared toward cancer research.
It was after 1 a.m when they finally retired for the night. Jim trudged slowly up the stairs to his room while Blair made himself comfortable on the couch.
"Goodnight, Jim," Blair mumbled, burying beneath the afghan.
"Progress report," the director barked, leaning back in his chair as Jones fidgeted in front of the desk.
"None yet. We have not located them. We've put one man in Cascade, but, to be effective, we're going to need more."
"It's not in the budget, you know that. We need those two boys back, Mr. Jones. We don't have the time or the money to do another cloning project. We've exhausted all our resources on these two. If they're found and word gets out... "
I know, sir. I know. I think we should start packing up, just to be on the safe side." Jones glanced anxiously at the floor.
"This is a disaster," the director lamented.
"Blair may not make it, sir. That should, at least, be somewhat of a consolation. I told you that it was dangerous to combine cloning with our growth acceleration. Hell, the growth acceleration itself wreaks havoc with cellular and developmental processes. We had a total of one thousand abortions and infant deaths before these two succeeded, and I wouldn't exactly call the Blair clone a success."
"That's not a consolation. Too much money went into him. There's no way we'll be able to get another. And what if he's in custody when he gets sick? What if a doctor decides to look just a bit too closely?"
"Medical tests will not reveal that he's a clone. They will only reveal genetic abnormalities, at the most."
"Our genetic abnormalities. The ones we gave him. Many of those are rather unique."
"And won't be found precisely because they are unique. There are no tests for them, sir."
"What kind of time frame are we looking at?"
"Hard to say, sir. There are many factors at issue. We played with things we didn't know much about. Telomerase activation has worked well in vitro, but in vivo is an entirely different matter. Furthermore, the acceleration process has made his cells prone to rapid division that seems unresponsive to normal regulatory signals. Angiogenesis is also accelerated, which will promote the spread of the malignant cells. I expect the cancers to spread through his system like wildfire."
The director sighed, slouching in his chair. "And the Sentinel clone?"
"Impossible to say at this point. Before he escaped, he seemed healthy. However, the same thing could happen to him, too. It could happen soon, or it could take years... or it might never happen."
Screaming jarred him from sleep, and he leapt off the couch. A commotion above told him that Jim had also been woken by the noise. The steady ringing of the alarm clock was accompanied by two wailing voices and Blair bolted into the lower room seconds ahead of Jim. Suddenly, the ringing stopped, leaving only the sounds of human distress.
"What is it?" Sandburg slid to a halt just inside the doorway, momentarily stunned.
Jimmy lay on the floor, curled into the fetal position, his hands over his ears and tears streaming down his cheeks. He rocked back forth, crying. Little Blair hunched over him, his own face wet with tears and his eyes wide with fear. The alarm clock lay broken on the floor near the far wall, the plastic on its face laying cracked inches away from the rest of the machine.
"It's gone now, Jimmy. It's okay. It's gone," little Blair soothed. "Be okay, Jimmy. Please be okay."
Damn. Sandburg dropped next to Jimmy, and a shadow darkened the two boys. Sandburg looked back briefly to see Jim standing behind him.
"I forgot about my alarm clock," he told Jim, then looked back at the two boys. "I'm sorry. It's okay." He reached out and pulled the small, trembling frame into his arms, speaking in a low, whispered tone. "Listen to me, Jimmy. It's okay now. You can take your hands away from your ears. Just listen to my voice. Does your head hurt?"
A small nod from the young Sentinel answered his inquiry.
"Okay, Jimmy, picture a dial in your head -- like a radio or television dial. The kind you use to turn the volume up and down. You got that in your head?"
Jimmy nodded, sniffling.
"Good. That dial can turn down the pain in your head. Right now it's pretty high, set at 9. We're going to turn it down some. First to eight. Now it's set at eight. Turn it down some more. Seven... Six..." He felt Jimmy begin to relax in his arms. "Good. That's good. Some more. Five... Four. We'll leave it at four for right now. Does that feel okay?"
"Y-yeah," Jimmy whimpered
He looked down at the small, tear-streaked face laying against his chest and felt a surge of warmth fill him. A stab of guilt quickly replaced that pleasant feeling as his eyes darted back to the broken alarm clock. "I'm sorry, Jimmy. I forgot about the alarm clock."
"What's wrong with him?" little Blair asked, keeping one small hand wrapped around Jimmy's arm.
Blair frowned. "Has this ever happened to him before?"
"Just once after we left the camp. There was a loud noise. A car horn, I think -- or at least, it sounded like the way cars honk on TV, but I've never really heard one honk before."
"This never happened to Jimmy when he was at the camp?" Sandburg asked.
Little Blair shook his head. "No. There aren't any loud noises at the camp."
"No. Not ever. Not even the dogs at the camp bark, but I see dogs bark on TV."
"What about the TV. Doesn't that get loud sometimes?"
"NO. It only goes up so high. Not very high. Not like your TV here."
Sandburg nodded, his lips pressed into a thin line. "Jimmy will be okay. He's just not used to loud noises. We're going to have to help him learn how to deal with the noises, sights, and smells he's going to encounter in the real world. Cities are noisy places, but with practice, he'll learn to live with them."
The smaller Blair nodded solemnly, soaking up Sandburg's explanation with a visible sense of relief. Absently, he rubbed his hand, his eyes focused on his friend.
"You okay?" Ellison asked, finally crouching down next to the two boys. He reached out and gently took little Blair's hand in his own. "Did you hurt yourself?"
"My wrist hurts a bit from when I threw the alarm clock," the boy explained, his cheeks flushing red as he glanced worriedly at the broken clock. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to break it, I just wanted it to stop making noise fast."
"It's okay," Jim said, his fingers brushing lightly over Blair's wrist. "Does this hurt?"
Little Blair shook his head. "No."
"It looks like you'll get a bruise, but nothing major," Jim said.
The boy withdrew his hand and looked over at Jimmy, who was now sleeping peacefully in Sandburg's arms. "He's really okay?" he asked his elder counterpart.
Sandburg nodded. "Yeah, he'll be fine," he said softly, offering a reassuring smile. He placed his hand on the side of Jimmy's face and leaned over the boy. "Jimmy," he whispered. "Come on, wake up." Jimmy's eyelids fluttered open, and Sandburg grinned. "Now that everyone's up, how 'bout we get you and Blair some breakfast?"
Jimmy smiled sheepishly, pulling away from Sandburg and wiping quickly at the tears on his cheeks. "Sure. I could eat."
Two hours later, the boys had showered, dressed, and eaten. Blair had called into the university and arranged for another grad student to cover his classes, and Jim was just about to call the station to check in with Simon when he smelled the residual tell-tale scent of the captain's cigar.
Jim walked over to the door and opened it, catching Simon with his fist raised in the air. "Hello, Jim," Banks growled irritably, lowering his arm and walking into the loft.
"'Morning, Captain," Jim said.
"Hello, Simon," Sandburg greeted.
Simon looked at the two boys nestled into the couch. Sandburg sat on the arm of the sofa, the remote control clutched in his hand. "We're having a little discussion about compromise," he told the captain.
Simon grunted. "You would be the expert on that," he said, flashing a look at Jim.
Little Blair scooted to his knees and twisted on the couch, leaning against the back so he could study Simon. "Hello."
Simon raised his eyebrows, meeting the small boy's inquisitive gaze. "Hello," he answered.
"Are you the boss?"
Simon smiled. "Yes, I am."
Jimmy twisted around on the couch next to his friend to join the conversation. "You're a captain?"
"Yes I am."
"You smell funny," Jimmy said
Sandburg coughed, suppressing a chuckle. "That's his cigars," he explained, avoiding the captain's glare.
"You smoke cigars?" little Blair asked, his eyes wide.
"Yes, I do," Banks replied gruffly.
"You shouldn't smoke," Blair said. "It's bad for you. It causes lung cancer and emphysema. It also puts smoke in the air and makes other people sick, especially little kids. You shouldn't smoke around us, Jimmy especially."
Banks raised his eyebrows, ignoring Sandburg who looked ready to burst into laughter at any moment. "I'll remember that," he replied. "Besides, Jim doesn't let me smoke in the loft."
"But you're his boss," Jimmy offered. "How can he tell you what to do?"
Banks glanced at a rather smug-looking Ellison before answering the boy. "I'm only his boss when it comes to work. I can't order him around in his own home, as much as I'd like to."
"Why do you talk like that?" little Blair asked.
"Like what?" Simon growled.
"Like you're mad all the time and don't like anybody. Are you mad? You shouldn't be mad a lot. It's bad for your heart and blood pressure."
Jim chuckled at Simon's flustered expression.
"Thank you, Doctor," he told the young man. "No, I'm not mad all the time."
"Are you mad now?" little Blair asked.
"Because you ask too many questions?"
"Why don't you like me to ask questions?"
Jimmy slapped Blair on the arm. "Shut up, dweeb," he whispered. "You're gonna get us in trouble again."
"Hey, hey," Sandburg leaned closer to the two boys. "No one gets in trouble here for asking questions. Okay?"
The two boys stared at him as though he'd grown a second head.
"I mean it," Sandburg reiterated. "Asking questions is perfectly allowable."
"Any questions?" Blair asked.
Sandburg nodded. "Anything you want?"
"Whenever I want?"
"Within reason," the older man grinned.
"You won't get mad no matter what I ask?"
"I won't get mad."
"Can I ask a question now?" little Blair inquired.
"Sure, go ahead."
Little Blair looked at the closed laptop on the kitchen coffee table. "Can I use your computer?"
"Uh... Why do you want to use my computer?"
"Do you have the 'internet' on it? They mentioned that on TV once, and it sounded pretty cool, but I didn't see anything about the 'internet' on the computers at the camp."
"Yeah," Sandburg answered. "I'll show you the internet."
Blair beamed. "You will?!"
Sandburg chuckled at the boy's enthusiasm. "Yeah, no problem."
"Great! So I can watch whatever I want on the TV?" Jimmy asked.
Sandburg nodded, handing Jimmy the remote control. "Anything PG and under," he said, then slid onto the couch in front of his computer and booted it up. Little Blair plopped next to him, his eyes bright and eager as the screen flared to life.
Simon shook his head. "This is downright eerie," he muttered, looking at Jim. "Anyway, I just stopped by to check up on things." He lowered his voice. "What did you find out?"
"It's what we suspected, sir," he said, keeping an eye on Jimmy. He knew the little boy could hear them if he wanted to, but he didn't know if he was actually listening. At the moment, the boy seemed engrossed in some old superhero show that featured a guy in a red outfit.
"If that's the case, what are we going to do? We can't turn them over to Child Protective Services, at least not yet."
"For the moment, they'll stay with us. They got here from the camp, so they should be able to lead us back to the camp, which is supposedly near Eugene, Oregon."
"I'm not quite sure how to play this, Jim. If we contact the authorities in Eugene, and they find this camp, it's likely your Sentinel abilities will be revealed when they raid the place. I'm sure they've got a load of files on you and Sandburg. On the other hand, we can't exactly raid the place ourselves."
Jim sighed. "I know, sir."
"None at the moment, but we'd better decide something fast before there's nothing left to find. I doubt whoever's running the camp will be eager to stay there now that their two prize subjects have escaped."
"That's another thing, don't you think it'd be obvious for them to be watching you?"
"Yes, but I don't think they'd jump to the conclusion that the two boys would come here. For one thing, they're in a different state. Secondly, there's no reason for us to believe they know that Jimmy overheard them talking about me. Another thing -- Blair swiped a disk with information from the camp computers. That information indicates that the camp was having financial problems. It seems they were operating in the red practically from day one."
"Must be a pretty damn expensive operation," Simon mused. "Where'd they get the money?"
"Part of it was from fraudulent grants. I'm guessing the rest came from shady sources."
"Okay, well, we'll start by checking into all scientific equipment and supplies shipped to Eugene, Oregon over the past three years. This camp is bound to have purchased a lot of high-tech equipment and restricted chemical supplies. Maybe we'll get ourselves a name."
"That'd be a good start, sir. Thanks."
"Harrison Carter," a small voice interrupted, and the two men looked up to see young Jimmy staring at them. "The director's name is Harrison Carter. There's another guy who wears a white jacket all the time. His name is Doctor Jones. There's also 'the Doctor' and he also wears a white jacket."
Jim raised his eyebrows. "Thank you, Jimmy. That's very helpful. Do you know any of your teacher's names?"
Jimmy shook his head. "We call them Mr. or Miss."
"I take it you overheard these names, but that no one ever directly told them to you?" Jim asked.
Jimmy nodded. "Yeah. They thought I was sleeping a lot of the times, but sometimes I would just lay awake in my bed with my eyes closed and listen to things."
"Jimmy," Sandburg began, turning away from the computer and letting little Blair fiddle at the keyboard, "do you know what a white noise generator is?"
Jimmy shook his head. "No."
"Did they ever expose you to anything that sort of drowned out noises?"
"Yeah. They did a lot of tests on my senses."
Sandburg nodded, glancing back at the computer. He did a double-take. "Hey!"
Little Blair jumped away from the keyboard. "What? I didn't do anything."
Sandburg kicked himself, softening his tone. "No, no, you didn't do anything." He looked at the screen. The word "CLONED" stood in big bright letters against a black background. "I was just surprised, that's all. What are you doing?"
"I saw a box that said 'search' and so I typed in 'clone' and got a list of things. I clicked on one and this came up," little Blair explained. He pointed to the screen. "What does this mean? It says, 'clones are less likely to grow to term and are more likely to have developmental abnormalities.'"
Sandburg closed the web page, releasing a low sigh. "Nothing. It's not important."
"You said I could ask any questions I wanted."
The anthropologist smiled. "Yes I did, but I didn't say I'd answer them all."
"Why not? If I'm a clone, why can't I know what that is? Why won't you tell me what that means? Is it something bad? Am I gonna stop growing?"
A sharp, fleeting look of terror crossed Sandburg's face, and he looked at Jim with misery in his eyes. "No," he said, taking a deep breath and looking back at the boy. "No, Blair you're not going to stop growing. What that sentence meant was that clones are less likely to be born. You were born, and you have all your fingers and toes."
"So I'm gonna grow up and look just like you?"
Sandburg nodded. "Probably."
"Am I gonna be like you, too?"
The older man shrugged. "I don't know about that. You probably will be, at least in some ways. In other ways, you'll probably be different. Our experiences and environment shape us just as much as our genes do. Do you know what genes are?"
Little Blair nodded. "Yes, I learned that in biology. Genes are in the nucleus of our cells and are made up of DNA. DNA has four bases: adenine, guanine --"
"That's very good," Sandburg interrupted. "So, like you said last night, clones are copies, but they are made up of copies of our genes. So your cells have the same DNA that my cells do. That's all. Just like identical twins, except you and I are different ages."
"How do they make clones?"
Sandburg shrugged. "Well, a while ago, this scientist in Scotland cloned a sheep. He did it by taking a cell from the adult sheep and then an egg cell from another sheep. He took out the nucleus from the egg cell and put the nucleus from the adult cell into the egg cell, activating the egg cell. Do you know what haploid and diploid mean?"
Little Blair nodded. "Yes, our germ cells like sperm are haploid. They only carry half the DNA. Our normal cells like our skin cells have all the DNA."
Sandburg nodded. "Very good. So the nucleus that they put into the egg cell was diploid, not like the egg cell's nucleus which was haploid. The egg cell with the diploid nucleus thought it had been fertilized when it was activated and it somehow reset the DNA in the nucleus and started to develop. It grew from one egg cell into an embryo, and then into a fetus, and then into a baby sheep. That sheep's name was Dolly. She is still alive today."
"Can I see her?" little Blair asked.
Sandburg shook his head. "She lives too far away, and I don't think they would let us see her, anyway."
Little Blair looked suddenly very sad. "You mean, just like they didn't let anybody see Jimmy and me? You think maybe Dolly is sad and wants out?"
Sandburg swallowed. "Uh, well, Dolly is well-taken care of. The people who made Dolly did it legally. The people who made you did it in secret. They kept you hidden so people wouldn't find out that they were cloning humans."
"It's okay to clone sheep but not okay to clone people?" Blair asked.
Sandburg nodded. "Yeah, as long as they don't clone too many sheep."
"Why are people different than sheep?"
Sandburg sighed, then smiled. "You really do ask a lot of questions."
"You said I --"
"I know, I know," Sandburg said, "but why don't we take a break from the heavy stuff and I'll show you some games on the computer."
"Games? You mean like chess?" His eyes brightened. "Do you have chess on the computer?"
Sandburg nodded. "As a matter of fact, I do."