Place: Wolf Den Military Base
Age: 1643453-BDC Gooseman, Shane - 27 m.a.d.
Time: 2067-04-02 - 02:18
"Where can he be?!" Walsh wiped the sweat off his forehead and asked Sawyer the question for what seemed the hundredth time. They'd been searching the base area for at least four hours now, since Max had noticed during his final dormitory control tour that Shane was missing. It was the boy's first night in the real project.
"I don't know, Joe," Maximilian answered tiredly. "I've looked everywhere, through the whole complex, even the yards and the exam rooms, though I don't think that he would hide there, not after the intro exams he had to go through yesterday." A slight shudder crept into the gentech's voice as he remembered the sort of tests that had to be done on the newbies.
"Keep on searching. We have to find him."
Max agreed wordlessly. If the boy caused trouble on his first day... They hurried on.
The door of Walsh's office slid open in front of him when the built-in sensor recognized his registered DNA code. "Light. Dim," Walsh demanded in a harsh, fatigued voice. They had searched for the boy almost all night. In less than two hours was reveille, and then his disappearance would become public. Joseph took a deep breath. Even a bloodhound couldn't have searched more thoroughly than he and Max had. Without success.
He has made it this far, despite all the hurdles and dangers: stayed alive as a damaged embryo during the time he was treated only as a possible test culture, during that critical time when it was settled whether or not the STJ would accept the different carrier-DNA and offset the damage, and the time in the primary labs with all the automated hourly tests and checkups... And now this! Shit. It can't be true– Joseph turned for his desk, suddenly feeling much older than he was, and stopped in midmotion.
The boy slept in his armchair, curled up like a kitten lying on his side, legs drawn close, arms folded around them. The position had a strange vulnerability in itself.
"Looks like your DNA is mostly intact within the boy." Max's voice came from behind Walsh. The gentech who had become more and more his friend was standing in the doorframe. "The sensor must have recognized him as you. Those thingies are satisfied with 50 percent agreement." He came in and closed the door behind him. "We must get him back into the dormitory," Max reminded his friend carefully.
"I know. Reveille's close."
Walsh still looked at the child, still sleeping calmly, undisturbed by their voices. That implied faith would be gone soon, would be replaced by distrust and caution, fear and anger. He picked the small body up, aware that it was very likely the only time he would hold his son in his arms. It was a strange feeling, hurtful and something else...
Max opened the door for him, looked around and made a sign indicating that the coast was clear.
The boy's weight shifted at his chest. The child murmured something. Joseph looked down at him, found green eyes half-opened. "Why did you run away, boy?" he asked without expecting an answer.
"Others said I'd be the new toy." The childish voice was faint, drunk with sleep. "New thing to play with and break. Thought I wouldn't like that."
"But running away is no solution, Shane."
"I didn't run. I just wasn't where they would expect me to be."
Max behind them snickered. "Looks like you've got a real shrewd operator there, Joe. Puts the stakes in his favor."
"As long as nobody notices," Walsh said grimly.
"Yeah. You must do something about the sensors. Otherwise it will be obvious to everyone."
"I'll increase the security standard. Keycodes in addition to DNA reading. That should cover it, and nobody will wonder."
m.a.d.: months after decant