CHAPTER ELEVEN

Gabriel, Temple, and Dr. Stone watched the Genedrone on the monitor as it Genedrone lay resting in its room. In the four days since they had been able to subdue it it had offered virtually no resistance. They found that if they approached it without weapons it was as docile as Temple and Stone had always maintained it had been.

"Well, Logan's repairs seem to be holding up just fine," said Dr. Lawton as he and Logan entered the control room. "That makeshift panel he rigged seems to be working great. He says it should hold until our engineers can get down there and install a new one."

"Well, if it's okay with the Colonel," said Logan, "I can hang around here until the engineers get here. It's only a jury rig. Someone will need to maintain it until more permanent repairs can be made."

"Well, I suppose we can get along without you for a couple of weeks," said Gabriel. "After this mission I'm giving everyone some well deserved time off. And I have to see about getting replacements for Lt. Connors and Sergeant Corbin. You know as well as I do that picking just the right people is never an easy job."

"Yes, sir, I do," said Logan.

"What are your plans now, Colonel?" Dr. Stone asked.

"That's up to General Jarren and the President," said Gabriel. "I'm sure they'll have something for us soon. There's no lack of unrest in the world and sometimes only my team is qualified to handle it."

"You'd have made a good scientist," said Stone. "You're the one that picked up on the fact that the Drone was only defending itself. If not for you we might have had to destroy it and that would have been such a loss to science."

"You would have figured it out eventually," said Gabriel. "Part of my job is evaluating the situation and looking at all aspects of it. Not unlike what you guys do here. I just happened to notice it."

"Ben is right," said Temple. "You would have made a good scientist. You all ready have a good start. I'm sure you learned a great deal from your father. You ever think about changing jobs?"

"Not really," said Gabriel. "I did learn a great deal from my father. But I was never really interested in sitting in a lab all day. Besides, I'm good at what I do. And there's a definite need for it."

"Can't argue there," said Dr. Stone. "You were definitely needed here."

"So what have you learned about the Genedrone in the past 4 days?" Gabriel asked. "You've spent virtually every waking minute watching it."

"Well, for one," said Temple, "it's a lot smarter than we ever imagined. It's even tried to use the keypad to open the doors. That definitely shows it's more intelligent than we initially thought."

"Why is that?" Logan asked. "You did mention once that it can mimic what it sees. Maybe it's just mimicking that."

"Normally I'd agree with you," said Temple. "Only the Drones have never seen anyone operate a keypad before. When they're taken out into the exercise yard the doors are left open until they return. The keypad inside the rooms are there in case someone gets trapped inside. So they can get out. And there are no elevators between the holding cells and the exercise yard or the outside doors. So there's no way they could have seen someone using them. The only explanation is that it's figure out that the pad can be used to open the doors. Not even dogs can figure that out."

"Speaking of the Genedrones," Gabriel asked, "what's going to happen to Towers? I noticed you've had him restricted to his quarters since we've subdued the Genedrone."

"Justin is suspended pending a full investigation," said Dr. Stone. "At the very least he was negligent in his duties. If he had told us the truth from the beginning all those people might still be alive. At the very least he should have reported Marvin's abuse of the Drone. I can guarantee you one thing. He'll never work as a handler again. I'll see to that."

"And I'm going to reevalutate all the handlers we have now," said Temple. "Jasper may not have been the only one abusing the Drones. I'm also going to order the suspension of all Drones until we can properly evaluate them. Find out just how intelligent they actually are. From what we've seen with this one, it appears there even more intelligent than most animals."

"You think they're as intelligent as humans?" Gabriel asked.

"I think that's very possible," said Temple. "When we engineered the Drones we engineered them to be of only minimal intelligence. But as you described, at some point this one must have exceeded what it had learned. It began to learn. If it's capable of learning there's no telling how much it can learn."

"Well, if that's true, you may have to rethink something else," said Gabriel.

"Like what?" Dr. Stone asked.

"That asexual thing," said Gabriel. "If they're anything near being human it doesn't seem right to keep them like that. They should have the right to reproduce if they want."

"I think we're getting ahead of ourselves," said Temple. "We haven't even decided how intelligent they are yet. Or if the Genedrone Project will continue. We're going to have to reevaluate the entire program."

"Well, I wish you good luck with that," said Gabriel. "I can only imagine what that involves. Makes me glad all I have to do is go in and rescue people."

"Well, for the time being we'll be keeping the complex open," said Dr. Stone. "We can still do our research even if we can't use the Drones. Somehow it doesn't seem right to force the Drones out into the weather now. It can't be comfortable for them. But we can still do a lot of our research."

"Why not give them the option?" Logan asked. "I mean if they're as intelligent as you say they are maybe they'll agree to do the work. If they do then you wouldn't have any reason to feel guilty."

"We might try that eventually," said Dr. Stone. "For right now we aren't going to be using them outside. At least until we can ascertain what to do with them."

"It was just a thought," said Logan.

"Sir," said Potter coming up to them, "the plane has just landed. Captain Miller says there's a weather front moving in and he'd like to take off right away. The others are loading the equipment now. We should be ready to go in about 40 minutes."

"Thanks, Potter," said Gabriel. "Well, I guess we should get ready to go. General Jarren and the President are waiting for my report. I'm not sure how much of it they're going to believe."

"Have them call me if they have a problem," said Temple. "I'll be glad to corroborate everything you tell them."

"I'll let them know," said Gabriel. "Well, we should go help the others load the plane. The sooner we get loaded the sooner we can take off. Ann, will you be coming back with us or are you going to stay here?"

"I'm going to stay here for a while," said Temple. "I'll need to document as much about the Drones as I can to make a report to the Executive Committee of the Genedrone Project. They'll need as much information as they can to decide what to do next."

"Logan, Potter, go see what you can help with," said Gabriel. "I'll be out there in a few."

"On our way, sir," said Logan.

"Well, I guess I should be getting to my report," said Dr. Stone. "Ann will need it when she returns to the Executive Committee. And I'm sure they'll want me to give it in person. They're going to have a thousand questions."

"He's right," said Temple as Dr. Stone headed for his office. "We're going to be explaining this for days. Especially when they find out that the Drones are more than just genetically engineered tools."

"I can understand that," said Gabriel. "Well, we're based in Arlington. Maybe sometime you'd like to have dinner. I know this great little restaurant. Do you like seafood?"

"I love seafood," said Temple. "I should be back in D.C. in a couple of weeks. Why don't you give me your number and I can call you when I get there."

"I have a better idea," said Gabriel. "I'll call you when you get back. I'm not sure exactly what I'll be doing when you get back."

"How will you know when I get back?" Temple asked. "I'm not sure when I'll get back."

"I'll know," said Gabriel, picking up his bag.

"Don't you even want my number?" Temple asked. "How are you going to call me if you don't know my number?"

"Ann," he said. "I work directly for the President of the United States. Do you really think I'd have trouble getting a phone number? I'd better go help load the plane. I'll see you when you get back to D.C. And I'll be interested in hearing your report on the Genedrones. It sounds to be quite interesting."

"You know," said Temple, "after everything you've been through here the past few days I thought you'd have learned by now. We on the 'inside', so to speak, simply refer to them as Drones. You should take a hint."

"I'll think about it," said Gabriel.

Impulsively he leaned over and kissed her. She didn't resist. In fact, she kissed him back. He smiled at her and then turned to head for the exit. He was definitely looking forward to seeing her back in D.C.

The End