I want to thank the writers on the Gatchamanias IF for all their suggestions and encouragement in the writing of this story. Thanks guys. You rock!
She had taken what she thought would be the easier clean-up job and left dealing with two cake and ice cream-covered toddlers to her husband. She hadn't thought about the cleaning up that would need doing after the kids' bath. It was a given that whenever Keyop was left in charge at bath time, more water was left on the floor than in the tub by the time he and the kids were done.
As quickly as she could, she gathered up all the disposable plates, cups and spoons and threw them in the trash. All the decorations and the leftover food--which there wasn't much of--she put in a large box to take home.
After about 20 minutes work, she looked around the recreation room and was satisfied that she was leaving it in decent shape. If I hurry, I can get home in time to stop another bath time flood or at least solve the mystery of how they manage to get that much water onto the floor.
Quietly she slipped into her family's quarters. Immediately she heard the sound of splashing water mixed with the laughter of her children and her husband.
She quickly put the ice cream away, so it wouldn't melt, and then slipped, as quietly as she could, to the half-open bathroom door.
Both children sat safely in their bath seats, happily kicking water with their feet. As was so often the case with twins, they had a way of working together effortlessly. They had figured out the best way to make the biggest splashes, and had managed to completely soak everything around them, including their dad.
"...Stop, stop," he was pleading. "...Your mom's going to...kill me if she gets home...and you two still look like this." The babies just laughed and kept on kicking.
"Want some help?" Garnet asked, opening the door and stepping inside.
He looked at her through the wet hair that hung down in his eyes. She could tell he didn't want to admit defeat, but he knew that things had got beyond his ability to handle.
"...They're worse than usual," he said.
"That's because they full of sugar and they've been over-excited all day. Look at it this way, when they do settle down, we'll have some wonderful peace and quiet. Believe me, when they crash, they're going to crash hard.
"In the meantime, which one do you want to deal with? I'll take the other one."
Keyop opted to deal with Kyla. Garnet wasn't a bit surprised. Their daughter was definitely a "daddy's girl" and had him completely wrapped around her little finger.
Working together, both parents soon had both babies bathed and dried in only a few minutes. "Now if we can just convince them to take a nap," said Garnet.
Keyop looked hopeful. "...Have some work to do," he said, "...and it's easier without help...from either of these two."
Garnet smiled. "Yeah, they do love getting their hands on a computer keyboard. And with you for their dad, it's only a matter of time before we're having to constantly change passwords and encryption codes to stay ahead of them. I just know they're going to grow up to be techno-geeks."
It actually took less time than either of them thought it would to get both kids to sleep.
As soon as they were safely tucked in, Keyop ran for the computer. "...Have an hour, if...I'm lucky, to get this done."
Before he started in on the research for the project that Anderson had asked him to help with, he checked his e-mail. Most of the messages were nothing that important and he either filed them away, or simply deleted them. There was one message, though, that made him stop and stare blankly at the screen for several minutes.
When he finally spoke, his voice was unsteady. "Garnet,...check your e-mail. ...Please."
She quickly logged onto her computer, and what she found in her in-box left her shocked and upset.
To: Garnet Anderson, Keyop Anderson
From: GalSec Genetic Research
Re: Kadin and Kyla Anderson
It is requested that the above listed subjects be presented at GalSec Medical on 6/10/2116 at 0700 hours for genetic and implant compatibility testing. Failure to comply with this request will be grounds for disciplinary action.
Director, GalSec Genetic Research
Garnet looked over at her husband. "Am I reading this right?" she asked. Her voice had a desperate edge to it. "They're ordering us to subject our kids to tests that are unnecessary and not requested by us or their regular doctor."
Keyop nodded. "...Don't like this," he said. "...Don't think they'd be doing this if...weren't my kids."
"Don't we have some rights here?" she asked. "I mean, they're our children. We should have the final say in what happens to them, especially at this age. I mean, I think they should be old enough to decide whether they want to be implanted. I know I wouldn't have wanted some doctor or scientist deciding something like that without my consent."
Suddenly it dawned on her just what she'd said. "Oops, sorry about that, Love. I was ranting and not thinking."
"...Okay," he answered her, but she could hear the hurt in his voice. "Wish...I'd had some say. ...Would have done it, but wish...they could have waited till...was older."
"What are we going to do?" she asked. "We can't just let them do what they want. We work for GalSec, we're not their slaves. They don't own us, or our children."
Keyop shook his head. "...No, but they...own our implants,...not to mention our home...and most of our possessions."
She looked around her, but she was determined that something needed to be done, or at least said, to let them know that the two of them did not want this to happen. "Isn't there someone we could file a complaint with or someone we can convince that this is just not a good idea?"
"...Could talk to Mark. ...Don't think he'd be happy...about this."
"Let's go!" She grabbed his hand and started dragging him toward the door.
Keyop managed to get her to stop. "...Forgetting something," he said.
"The kids," he answered her. "...Can't just leave them."
Garnet stopped and slapped her forehead. "Damn. Here I am ranting about parental rights and responsibilities and I almost run off and leave my sleeping children unwatched. I'll call Green and see if she's free to come over and sit with them. If they wake up, she's good at keeping them entertained."
Green arrived within a few minutes of getting Garnet's call. "What's so important that you needed to find a spur-of-the-moment babysitter?" she asked.
Garnet showed her the printout of the e-mail that Keyop had just made. She read it through carefully and handed it back. "That's not good," she said. "I take it you two are off to knock some sense into someone's head over this."
"Actually, we're on our way to talk to Mark and see what he can tell us. Personally, I hope he points out our target and lets us put the smack-down on them. I just can't believe someone would do this to us."
"...Come on," said Keyop. "Explain later."
When they got to Mark's office, Maddy was at her desk in full Personal Assistant mode. Garnet was alway impressed with the way Maddy kept everything running smoothly in the main offices of G-Force.
"Well, what brings you two here today of all days. I figured you 'd have your hands full of toddlers on a sugar high."
"Believe it or not, they're actually sleeping. Sugar highs only last so long, you know, and then comes the crash and burn, and thank whatever power controls the universe for that," said Garnet.
"...Is Mark here?" asked Keyop. He understood the girls' need to talk, but he also wanted to get to the bottom of this whole e-mail mess as soon as possible.
"Yeah," answered Maddy. "You actually came at a good time. He's not very busy this afternoon.
At the sound of familiar voices in the main office, Mark opened his door to see what was going on. "Well," he said, looking at the couple before him, "what brings the two of you here? It's not that often you come up here."
"...Talk in private?" asked Keyop, pointing at Mark's inner office.
"Sure," said Mark and showed them in. "This must be serious," he said as he shut the door.
Keyop nodded and handed the e-mail printout to his commanding officer. "...Got this today," he said. "Both...of us. Has us worried."
"I'm beyond worried," added Garnet. "I'm pissed. How dare they order us around like that when it comes to our kids. No one's ever done that to you and Princess." Here she paused as a thought hit her. "Have they?"
"No, they haven't," answered Mark. "No one had better either, or I'll be as angry about it as you are."
"...Because of me," said Keyop. He sat down in one of the chairs in front of Mark's desk and buried his face in his hands. "...Because of what...I am." He was nearly in tears.
"Unfortunately," said Mark, "I have to agree with you." He sat down and laid the paper on the desk in front of him. "There are certain elements within GalSec that have never quite been able to wrap their small little minds around the fact that, just because you were created in a petri dish and grown in an artificial womb, doesn't mean you're any less human than the rest of us. Hell, for all we know, you're more human than Princess, Jason and I are. We know the three of us are only partly human. None of us have ever been told who exactly contributed DNA to your creation. You may very well actually be related to Chief Anderson, or any other high ranking official in the IFFP. However, these people still seem to think that you are some sort of cyborg or robot or something. My guess is that the fact you've actually reproduced has scared them. Gods only know what they may be thinking. I can give a guess at some things that may be going through some minds. They know there were tampered-with embryos in the same group that you were created from. They know some of them are unaccounted-for. I would imagine that someone is thinking that instead of you two using your own reproductive cells, you used a couple of the messed with embryos.
"Hold it." he could see Garnet getting red in the face in anger, and Keyop looking up at him with renewed fire in his eyes. "I didn't say that that was my belief. I'm just playing devil's advocate here. Also, it is known in certain circles within the Federation that one of the original people created in this project turned out to be a sociopath. There have been those that worried at every stage of your growth, Keyop, that you would suddenly turn into an axe-murderer or something. Those same people never wanted to believe the Chief when he told them that you were G-Force's compassion. They couldn't see you as anything other than a soulless soldier. Now here you are having kids. I'm sure they think it's some kind of new experiment to create an army like you."
"That's crazy!" exclaimed Garnet. "If they're thinking something like that, they've got too much time on their hands. They should quit their day job and start writing Science Fiction. They'd make a killing selling their wild tales to publishers. We, on the other hand, don't have time for this crap. We're all too busy trying to be parents, that is when Spectra leaves us any free time to even spend with our kids."
"...This isn't helping," Keyop said. He was still looking bleak. "...Have to stop them...from making us do this. ...How, though?"
"I think this may be a matter where we have to involve the Chief. He is our representative to the Federation and has got the council to see reason before when they've got their delicates in a twist about us. Remember, this isn't the first strange order they've given a G-Force member. And yes, I see this as an order with a thinly veiled threat attached to it. I'm pretty sure he's not going to be happy about this at all."
"...Go talk to him...now," Keyop demanded.
"I'm not sure he's even in today," answered Mark. "Go over and see if Sammie can schedule an appointment for you as soon as he's in. Let her know that it's important."
"Oh, trust me," said Garnet, "she, and anyone else I can tell, is going to know just how important this is. It's us this time, but if they get away with it with us, what's to stop them doing something similar to any other G-Force family?"
True to what Mark had told them, Anderson was not in. When they explained everything to Sammie, she quickly found a free spot in the next day's schedule. "I hope he can get this all cleared up," she told them. "Otherwise, it could be really bad for all of us. I mean, look at the number of couples that could be affected. Without trying, I can name at least six."
Garnet nodded. "Do us a huge favor," she asked her good friend, "tell everyone you can that this is happening. I want everyone to know, just in case things get nasty, and from the tone of that e-mail they could, I want people to know that we are just two parents trying to do what we believe is in the best interests of our children."
"You got it," Samantha answered.
By the time they arrived back at their quarters, both children were wide awake. Green had both of them in the middle of the floor surrounded by blocks and books and one blanket out of someone's crib. She was using one of their picture books to create an engrossing and detailed story. Rather than disturb her, both parents simply sat down and listened.
When she was done, she looked over at them. "...How do you do that?" Keyop asked in wonder. "...Try that, they just fall...asleep or start fussing."
"I've tried too," agreed Garnet, "but I can't do much better. I wonder if part of it has to do with it being someone else. I think they think Mom and Dad are pretty boring."
Green could tell that, though they were being light-hearted, these two were very stressed out. Without anything being said, she simply pitched in where she could.
Four hours later, with both babies soundly sleeping, the adults had another talk. "You know," said Green, "if things start looking bad for you, just let me know. You know my father thinks pretty highly of the two of you. He's said on more than one occasion that he spent way to much extra time working with the two of you on improving your combat skills to ever let something happen to you that he could prevent. If GalSec starts pushing, remember that Black Hawk is around and willing to push right back."
"...Thanks," said Keyop. "We'll keep it...in mind."
It was a long night for both of them. Worrying about what could happen to their family made sleep almost impossible.