Chapter 1
By Maury Hime

A bright light flashed. Reaching for a gun, the man ducked underneath the table. The room rocked as another bomb went off in the hallway. People were shouting. Beakers full of chemicals fell from shelves. Their crash on the cold floor was last in the shouts and screams.

Shaking, the man clung to his gun. It wasn't supposed to be like this...


Jerking awake from one world of pain and into another, a cry escaped from the young man's throat. It was the same dream again. He groaned and struggled to open his eyes. The familiar white walls that had been his world were gone. Instead of the bright, sterile color, they were warm and soothing. Rustic red and brown filled his vision as he drank it in. His heart slowly stopped throbbing and his hands began to relax. They had formed themselves into tight, hard balls. The release of tension eased the pain that shoot through his arms.

Slowly, calming down, the young man took in his new surroundings. There was furniture in place medical equipment. Real wooden furniture with pictures of...people. One picture was of a woman and her husband with two children, a young girl and a baby. There was another of just the adults. Who were they? There was also a small window he could see from his bed. It was shaded by red curtains. Along the far side of the wall, there was a closest but it was closed. It was a small room, almost an office and not a bedroom. From his vantage point, he noted the bed did not match the other furniture.

He struggled to sit up but fell back weakly. Looking at his arms, he saw that they were in the same state, covered in sterile white bandages. He sighed and sank back into the pillows. The pain was beginning to ebb and becoming only a dull reminder in the background. He wondered how he arrived at this place.

His eyes narrowed as thoughts raged through his head. Fact: He was still injured. Fact: He had moved. Question: To where and by whom? He felt panic rising. He was helpless in an unknown location. He took a deep breath and tried to gain his composure.

A door to his left slowly opened. He swung his head in a near panic. However, in peeked a small blonde haired boy. He looked at the young man in the bed with curiosity. With a backward glance, the boy shut the door behind him and scrambled over to the bed.

"Are you my new brother?" He asked with a child's innocence. It was hard to look away from the child's curious eyes. They were bright and innocent, full of wonder of this new discovery.

The young man scrunched his brow. His panic was starting to become stronger. He understood the words and knew the words but he wasn't sure if they were his words. They didn't feel natural. Too many questions raged through the young man's head. He did not know where to begin.
"I...do not know." He replied. His voice was rough and low. It was harsh, even to his ears."I do not...know who I am." He paused as the words started to become easier. "Who are you?"

The boy frowned for a moment and smiled up at him. "M'name's Patrick. My mom calls me her baby boy." He scrunched up his nose. He seemed annoyed by the small pet name. "I am a man, like my dad." He puffed out his chest. In his red sweater and jeans, he did look like a miniature of the man in the photographs.

A slow smile spread across the young man's face. "Yes...I can see this." The boy's face lit up and came closer to the young man. He stopped close to the young man's left arm. His face held enough curiosity to satisfy a cat. "Do you know how long ago I came here?"

Before the boy could answer, a female's voice called from the hallway. "Patrick! Are you bothering Tim again?" The boy jumped.

However the young man was distracted. He wondered, was that his name? Tim?

The boy's green eyes grew in recognition of the voice. "That's my sister! She's mean." He turned and stuck his tongue out at the door as it opened. A tall, young woman walked through the door. She had air of authority and arrogance. The young man assumed that she was the oldest and a teenager.

"Patrick, what has mom said about being in here? You're goin' to wake Tim up!" She stalked toward him and was startled by the young man's open eyes. "I...you're awake! I'm so sorry 'bout Patrick. He's a bit of a pain." She made a reach for the boy's arm. He darted away and stuck his tongue out again.

This brought a small smile to the young man's face. He wasn't sure why he felt a calm feeling overtake him. What was this called? "It is good. I enjoy his company. May I ask who are you?" He turned his dark eyes to her.

She took a step back from his piercing gaze. She seemed to have an understanding that the young man was lacking. What information did this young woman hold? "I'm," she swallowed hard and looked away from him. Recomposing herself, she flicked her hand, "I'm Jaden, Patrick's older sister."

The young man nodded. "This photograph...are you the girl within it?" He gestured to the photos. His arm throbbed with pain from the small movement. He kept his face blank to hide it. He did not wish for pity. He needed her to think that all was well.

She stepped closer and took a look. "Yes, and that's Patrick as a baby." She tucked a strand of her short, red-brown hair behind her ear. She wore it short and it worked well with her fairy-like features. She was lithe in stature and in her movements. He noted this observation for later.

"I see...I have a question." He paused, gaining another tidbit of her attention. "What is my name?" Her face told him a story. She was startled and weary of the question, as if she did not know which information to part with. Her eyes widened and she twisted her hands. She was nervous. "Are you not allowed to say?"

Jaden shook her head. "No...no, it's just weird you don't know. My dad said this might happen but I didn't believe him...there's a lot of things I don't believe that he tells me." The young man made another note; she was rebellious with a slight hint of bitterness. "Do you know long you've been here?"

The young man slowly shook his head. "The last time I remember was in the hospital."

Jaden nodded. She pulled over a chair from the desk. By this time, Patrick had eased his way onto the edge of the young man's bed. "You've been here for 'bout two weeks. Dad brought you home because you're a high-risk foster child. Do you 'member anything?"

The flash from his dream invaded his thoughts. Was this a memory? "No. Not really." The words were coming more naturally now. He wondered why they felt so different before. It was another question piled among many others that he feared would have not have an answer. He felt his panic beginning to rise up again.

Jaden preformed her gesture of nervous behavior; she was twisting her hands together again. Her gaze moved away from his face and became engrossed on a nonexistent spot of dirt on her fingernails. "That's what I guessed. Your name is Timothy McCarthy now. Dad works for the foster program and he gained custody of you last month. You're sixteen and were found in a burning building six months ago."

"Timothy...Tim." Timothy meant little to him. It did not roll off his tongue or spark any feelings. However, the nickname 'Tim' felt familiar. "Was I called 'Tim' before I came here?" While his mind wrapped around this concept, another part of him held onto the knowledge about the fire. It would explain his arms and his chest but again, he felt as if there was a piece of the puzzle that wasn't there.

Jaden shrugged. "I don't know." She looked back up at him. "Dad will be home soon. You can ask him." She had an edge of coldness placed into her voice. Tim, he decided this was what he would be called, kept his face neutral and waited patiently. "I gotta go...I have to do homework." With that, she stood up and scooped up Patrick in one motion. He protested little but watched Tim on his way out. The young man knew the boy would be back soon.

Tim settled back into his pillows. The small conservation had strangely drained him. He was a sixteen year old boy named Tim. He had survived a house fire. He did not remember who he was or where he had come from. He felt as if there was more, that there had to be more, but he didn't know which questions to ask. His injuries caught up with him and his eyes began to close.

He would have think more on this situation later. With his final thoughts nestled away, he slid back into his heavy sleep and dreamed of again explosions.


The next time Tim woke up, an older man was sitting at the desk. Keeping his eyes closed, he listened to the quiet clicking of the keyboard. Just as the scene with the siblings brought him a calming feeling, this sound too did the same. His arms still start and now that he was aware, he realized his legs were not in pain. He slowly wiggled his toes to test their mobility. They felt functional. Only his arms and chest seemed to still enflamed.

"Ah, are you awake?" The man asked. His voice hinted at amusement. "I can see you're testing your legs. They're fine, I assure you."

Tim opened his eyes and turned his face towards the man. He was middle-aged, maybe fifty. He wore a white button down shirt and slacks. He was a professional of sorts. He also saw that there was kindness in the man's eyes and compassion. This man was not a fighter nor seemed to be corrupted. Tim was puzzled by this observation. Why would he think such thoughts?

"Yes, I am awake. Are you Jaden and Patrick's father?" Once again his voice hurt his ears. The words once again felt forced and awkward. His voice also was rough and felt damaged. He felt damaged. As if he wasn't a whole person.

A bright smile crossed the man's face. From Tim's pained thoughts, he saw his polar opposite staring back at him. This man was a happy father. His children were his pride. He loved them and it was evident across his features. "I see you have met my unruly children. Yes, I'm their father...and your father now too. My name's Henry."

Father.

It was such a strong word. It meant that this man was a caregiver, a provider, the head of the house... Was this soft man now his father? Tim masked his thoughts and replied, "I see. May I call you Henry for now? I feel if as we must know each other before we become connected."

Henry was startled. Like his daughter, he wrung his hands when he was nervous. "Those are strong words for someone as young as you." It seemed that this man too awas noting observations he made. Tim felt he would have a formidable time with this man if they became enemies. Nevertheless, the worry left Henry's face and was replaced with a smile. "But yes, that is reasonable. How are you feeling?"

Tim would have shrugged if he could. "Under light of the situation, I reason that I am well enough. I have been told I was in a house fire when I was found." A thought crossed a path in his mind. Was this where the explosions had originated? He slowly brought his hands together and examined his fingers. They were rough and calloused. He had scars on the palm of his left hand, like something had shattered in his grasp.

"That sounds about right. Are you hungry? We've been feeding you mostly through IVs but I believe Lilly is making soup tonight." Henry responded as he closed his laptop. He was rising from his chair. "If you continue to be awake on a regular basis, we'll start your physical training to help you regain your ability to walk. I'm afraid that your arms are going to take another month or two to heal. You had close to third degree burns on them and chest. You're lucky the doctors could save them." A bitter smile arose from Henry's face. "It's astonishing what can be done with medicine these days."

"I would like some soup, please, Henry," was all that Tim had to say. His thoughts had taken another direction. As Henry left, Tim reflected on his last statement. There was a depth in that sentence that Tim could not grasp. Why would someone be bitter at medical practices? He pondered this idea to himself as he awaited the soup.

Another new person walked through his door. This one was the last of the household; a middle-aged female with a darker version of her daughter's hair. A smile broke out across his face before he knew it. Towards all of the McCarthy family, he felt only positive feelings. It puzzled him that he was at ease with these people. His feelings combated with each other as the last McCarthy walked slowly toward him.

"Hello, Tim," her voice was rich with age and was tender, "my name is Lillian. I believe you have met everyone else. Please call me Lilly." She did not push on him the need to call her 'mom' nor did she mention it. It was said mother's had a sixth sense about children. Tim thought perhaps this may have been the case.

Sitting down on the edge of his bed, Lilly placed a breakfast tray over his lap. "Do you need help sitting up?" Her eyes were filled with concern. They were green, like her children's, but there flecks of brown scattered within them.

Tim scrunched his brow and pushed himself slowly up. It hurt but the pain was duller then the last time he had tried. Still, in the end, he only made it halfway before he could go no farther. Lilly took the quiet cue to help him up a little bit more into a sitting position.

"I hope you enjoy chicken noodle soup. I thought it would be best if we started with a thin broth and see what you could handle." Her voice was quiet and her movements were thoughtful. Tim wondered how old she was. He estimated she was around fifty. There were light streaks of gray fading into her thick, dark hair.

Tim nodded, lost in his thoughts. He slowly raised his arm but pain ran from the tip of his fingers, up his elbow, and through his shoulder. He winced and put his arm back down. "May I ask for assistance?" Lilly smiled at his politeness. His mouth ran away without him and he whispered, "I feel utterly foolish."

The older woman frowned as she ladled up some of the soup. "Why's that, dear? There is nothing wrong with this." She brought the spoon to his lips, only dribbling a bit of the soup. He swallowed gratefully. "We ask for help when we can and give it when asked for. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Not even a wise man can walk across the water by himself." She winked at him. There was a private joke in the last statement that was lost to Tim. How could a man walk on water?

Lilly smiled at Tim. They continued on with small talk as he ate. She did most of the talking for him. He continued to smile politely and sip on the soup. She did not ask any questions about his past. She did not ask any questions about himself. For this, he was grateful. It helped him relax and keep his panic at bay. Instead she spoke of Jaden and high school and Patrick and football. He learned that these small topics played a large part in this family. As they continued talking through his meal, he also learned of Lilly and Henry's occupations.

She was a web designer and a part-time interior designer for a friend. Mostly working from home, she enjoyed working in her garden most of the day. Her husband, Henry, was part of a foster child program run by the System. He was a social worker who helped place children in new homes. Often, he worked with the more troublesome cases. It was because of this Henry had come across Tim in his work files. Due to Tim's age, he would have been a difficult child to place in a foster home. With the addition of his injuries and the amount of intensive care he would still need, he had a double strike against him. Something in the case had spoken to Henry and from that, he took the steps to adopt Tim into his household. According to Lilly, it had been one of the easiest adoptions in the System. Her eyes spoke of worry though her words were kept cheerful. Again, Tim had a feeling that there was something essential he was missing.

As she continued talking, the soup eventually ran out. He was worried she would leave soon but instead she stayed and he was allowed to keep her company. Tim found himself at ease with this modern-day housewife. Gathering up his courage, he was soon asking about the world outside of this household.

"Which country are we currently in?" He asked, hesitant because his lack of knowledge. He could not remember the year, the country he was in, his name, his past...he only remembered basic ideas. He understood the names of the objects in his room, the titles Henry and Lilly had, but nothing more. He felt as if another piece of him was missing. He clenched his fists into tight balls. The more time he spent awake, the more irritated he became.

Lilly flicked her eyes at his tense hands. She looked puzzled by his body language and question but answered with ease. "We live in the province of the former United States, in the former capital. Just ten years ago, the United States of America merged with Latin and South America to form the country of the United Nations of the Americas. That's a really big story that would take years to tell. When you take government class, pay attention." Her brow furrowed in concentration, as if she was trying to next her words sensible. "I can tell you that we are run by a government that the media has labeled as 'the System'."

That made sense to Tim now. He was wondering what she had meant by the System but hadn't thought to ask. Lilly continued on, interrupting his thoughts, "If I had to categorize it, and I wasn't a political science major in college so I may be wrong, but I say we lived in a socialist republic. We have an elected leader but I believe he is just a figurehead who is controlled by the Council of Generals. They control the true System." She shrugged. "There is still free speech and many of the ideals that came from the US Constitution but they are beginning to take a backseat to what the Generals call 'for the good of the general populace'." Her face was slowly becoming more downcast. Tim could clearly see that this topic was not in her favor.

Instead he changed it to another topic, one that had to do with Jaden. "Will I be attending high school also?" This subject truly did intrigue him. He wondered if he would enjoy the socialization as Jaden apparently did. He had no memory of such events or feelings towards the word. It would be an interesting change from his current state, he was certain of that.

His foster mother's face changed from a tightened mask into a bright smile. Her laugh lines around her mouth and eyes brought out her characteristic warmth that Tim was beginning to enjoy. He felt the urge to make her smile more. "Yes, that is our goal. Luckily it is June and school won't be starting until August. We have plenty of time to prepare you."

This fact puzzled Tim. There was something out of place. "I remember that Jaden had said that she had homework to do. This is not true?" His brow furrowed into was becoming a normal facial feature of his. He was sure he would soon have the same lines on his forehead as Lilly did.

His foster mother shook her head. "Jaden failed Algebra 2 last year. We're making her go to summer school." There was a hidden twinkle in her eyes. Tim could not quite determine if it was amusement or disappointment. He would have assumed the latter but he was uncertain.

Instead he just nodded. This could perhaps explain the coldness that had crept into Jaden's voice. Homework was not a concept he was ready to remember. It sounded bothersome. "I understand. Thank you for the soup, Lilly. I did enjoy it."

Picking up the tray, she eased herself off his bed. "You're a very polite young man. It's nice not hearing slang or cuss words for once." She winked. Pausing for a moment, she took in Tim's appearance. "Hmm, when you are up to it, we should cut your hair...and you need a good shave." She laughed, but not in a condescending way. It was just a laugh and it was pleasant to Tim.

He nodded again and eased back into his pillows. "I agree." Now that Lilly had said something, he could feel his whiskers starting to become a bother. He wondered who had shaved him in the hospital.

The questions truly never seemed to end. As his door shut, Tim found himself pondering his strange few days of what he had deemed 'his new life'. He had a chance to make new memories and undo any mistakes he had done, if he knew what they were. He could easily surrender himself to this family and he would be none the happier.

But there was a nagging in the back of his mind. It was as if he was missing a greater piece of puzzle that would help everything to fall into place. It continued to bother him. It was a constant and insistent bother.

Then in that moment, before sleep took him, felt a part of him decide that he was on a quest. He knew he would not be able to rest unless he knew the truth.

He knew he had to find himself.

He just wished he knew the reason why.

A/n: I hope you have enjoyed this chapter. It was rather interesting to write. I suspect that I will have chapters up every other week as long as I am not swamped by work or school.
Thank you for reading!