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
"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.
on searching. We have to find him."
agreed wordlessly. If the boy caused trouble on his first day...
They hurried on.
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.
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
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.
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.
know. Reveille's close."
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...
the door for him, looked around and made a sign indicating that
the coast was clear.
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
"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
running away is no solution, Shane."
didn't run. I just wasn't where they would expect me to
Max behind them
snickered. "Looks like you've got a real shrewd operator
there, Joe. Puts the stakes in his favor."
long as nobody notices," Walsh said grimly.
You must do something about the sensors. Otherwise it will be
obvious to everyone."
increase the security standard. Keycodes in addition to DNA
reading. That should cover it, and nobody will wonder."