The Clone Wars occurred in the 25th century and in a sense affected those systems where nothing serious had happened, the most. The systems where serious problems had occurred, had something concrete to deal with. The other systems had only fear and as the centuries passed most of the fear dissipated. By the 30th century, most no longer worried about it. Cloning had again become a common practice on most worlds, through they were careful to avoid the abuses.
A few systems like Ephron, held onto their fear, though on Ephron it was something that helped keep a repressive and corrupt regime in power. The government really was not very concerned about cloning, in fact if you had the money it was easy to arrange. They clamped down hard on multiple birth families, really giving them prominent treatment and pitting their neighbors against them.
Dr. Johnson Welles had discovered an alarming fact about his wife's pregnancy. She was about to have identical quintuplets. In the single instance of quadruplets which had occurred on Ephron, since the Clone Wars, the government had drummed up so much fear, that the people had risen up and massacred the family.
Even families with twins had at times been attacked, so even twins were rare, it having become routine to abort the extra fetus or fetuses. So, Dr. Welles had gathered four close friends and their wives together to propose a possible solution. These eight friends had been trying to have children for years, without success. Artificial insemination was possible but it was forbidden, the government wanted people to adopt orphans rather than having to provide for orphaned children themselves. Not out of altruism, they simply didn't want to spend the money on them.
Ironically, one of the solutions that the rest of the galaxy allowed in cases like this, was cloning, which the middle or lower classes on Ephron didn't dare use.
These four couples wanted to have the experience of raising a child from birth to adult with at least one child. They didn't object to adopting other children at a later date.
They didn't dare use fertility drugs which were closely monitored, in any case, because so often it resulted in multiple fetuses. Dr. Welles proposed a solution. He would transplant four of the fetuses into the wombs of his friends. Before the children were born, they would take new jobs and move away from each other, so there would be at least two or three hundred miles distance separating them.
The only thing he demanded that all of the children be born on the same day. They all agreed and they kept in touch until the day the first was born. in fact, three of the others were born naturally within hours of the first, the last required induced labor. The thing that hadn't been expected and the parents weren't aware of, was that the children were espers.
Of the five children Tomas Welles was the one son not transplanted to another womb and he suffered the most from the separation. It was discovered early that he was an esper, but the government wasn't worried about his ability. He was only an Empath and anytime he was around more than about twenty people he began to suffer intensely.
While he was still in the womb, his mother provided a natural shield for him. Once born an Empath normally developed a shield to protect the esper's mind from the emotions around him.
Tomas had no natural shield and the government certainly wasn't going to provide one for him. And the only way to get a shield from offworld was to smuggle one in and since they knew what he was almost from birth, that was impossible.
There was a scarcity of doctors in the outlying regions and it was easy to persuade Dr. Welles, who loved his son, to move to one of those regions.
But that didn't work for long, at least for Hilda Welles, who was unable to bear the loneliness. They stayed married and parted amiably to live their different lives. She came back several times a year to visit Johnson and Tomas. Tomas, as he grew older, was unable even to attend the local school and none of the children were willing to make friends with the local freak.
His four brothers on the other hand, had happy childhoods and when they were about five, they began developing one of their abilities, telepathy. The four were strong enough and close enough that they were able to contact each other. Their parents just thought they had imaginary friends.
Tomas’ ability however was not strong enough and he was not close enough to contact his brothers, his ability at telepathy being very weak. So he remained alone, but he wasn't particular unhappy, never having known anything different.
He had his father and somehow Uncle Harry had showed up. Of course, he wasn't really an uncle in fact he was a male nurse, which was really odd on Ephron, the profession being almost exclusively female.
It was sparsely populated, but it was verdant country, having plenty of water. The people raised cattle mostly and sheep and other grazing animals, that had become staples in the almost one thousand years that man had been off Terra.
Tomas was sitting beside a pond, two hundred yards from his house. He was looking into the water, throwing the odd pebble into it and feeling pensive. It was his tenth birthday and he was thinking a little longingly of a birthday party, like those he had seen on the Vid. He knew it was a foolish thought. Even half a dozen children, under the intense emotion that a party of any kind produced, would have driven him out of the house within five minutes. Besides none of the children in the area would have come, even if he invited them.
But he was only ten and he still had a child's longing, even for things he knew he couldn't have. Suddenly he raised his head, he thought he heard a call for help. He realized after the next cry that it was in his mind. Tentatively he reached out with his mind and something seemed to grab him, a bright flash of light and then he was in the water. It was a little rough and he could feel that it was deep.
Only a couple of yards in front of him was another boy and he was obviously in trouble, unable to use his right arm. Tomas was astonished as he realized they were aware of each other's thoughts. The boy moved his right arm and a flash of pain went through Tomas's arm.
The boy said with his mind, not showing any surprise, *Sorry,* and then suddenly there was a shield over the two of them. They were still aware of each other's thoughts but emotions and pain were separated.
Moving as easily in the water, as any water animal, not even his sandals hampering him very much, Tomas moved behind the other boy and put his arm around him, taking him by the chin. He said in what seemed to be a normal voice, but he realized was not vocal at all. *Take it easy. I've got you.*
Instantly the other boy complied and Tomas began towing him to the shore. When they were in shallow enough water, Tomas stood up and being careful to pick the other boy's uninjured arm, put it over his shoulder and helped him the rest of the way in. He helped him sit down being careful of the injured arm. Then for the first time he looked at the boy's face and saw… himself.
Well not exactly, he had the same reddish blond hair and violet eyes, but he had a small scar on his snub nose and a scrape on his chin. Even without that if Tomas had seen a picture of him he would have known it was someone else. Tomas, looking into those eyes so similar to his own, was surprised that the other boy wasn't showing any surprise.
“Here, let me have a look at that arm. My father’s a doctor and I know a little.” Tomas said and he began to feel it carefully. “Let me feel it with you.” and the barrier relaxed though it didn't drop and Tomas could feel the pain with the other boy but it wasn't overwhelming. There was no grating of bone and he had felt his father examine enough broken bones to tell that there was no break. Pulling his T shirt over his head, he fashioned a sling. He said, “It just seems to be sprained, it's painful but it should heal in a few days.” He helped the other boy don the sling.
When he was finished he looked at the other boy and saw him examining Tomas thoughtfully. He said solemnly, “I thought you were one of the others, but you're not.”
“My name is Tomas Welles. The others?” he asked and suddenly he saw in his mind three other boys, virtually identical to himself and the other boy. Yet, he knew that like the boy before him, if he had seen the five of them together in a picture, they might have looked identical to others, but he would see each of them as an individual.
Tomas drew in his breath sharply, exclaiming, “Quintuplets!! No wonder we were separated!! With the fear the government still manages to instill in people about clones, we wouldn't have lived very long if we'd been kept together.”
The other boy said with a grin, “I'm Matthew Winston, most people call me Matt. Yes, you're right. I guess that means that four of us, at least aren't living with their birth parents. But that doesn't really matter, if they thought enough about us to make sure we were out of danger, I guess they're all our parents.” and Tomas nodded in agreement.
“Where are we anyway?” Tomas asked.
Matt told him, “We're in Riverton, that's about five hundred miles west of where I live. That's probably why I couldn't contact the others. Just a mile downstream, there's a city of a million people.” He saw Tomas shudder and raised his eyebrows.
Tomas let him see what being around people did to him and Matt shuddered as well, saying, “I don't blame you. That's really awful!”
“Yeah, it is and how do I get home? Riverton is almost two hundred miles east of where I live. My dad comes here quite often but of course I've never been here.” Tomas said. “I don't even have a credlet with me, not that I have much money, but I have enough for a phone call. I can't make a collect call. Since they're logged, the government would know I was somewhere I shouldn't be. I could get into a lot of trouble and that would probably drag the rest of you into it.”
Matt held out his left arm with a credit bracelet on it. He said with a grin, “You can use mine. From the sounds of things I'm not much richer than you are, but I've got enough to pay for a phone call.”
“What are you doing here anyway?” Tomas asked, as they turned and began to walk toward the dam.
Matt explained, “My dad's a geologist and the power plant manager is an old friend. He was worried about the dam and he asked my father to do a geological survey of the area around and at the dam. Dad found cracks at the base of the dam. I haven't told him yet that I can see under the ground better than his instruments can. He flew to the capital to inform the government. He was really worried. He said that dams nowadays are so good that people consider them completely safe and they allowed Riverton to be built too close. The city and the suburbs, contain almost three million people. He said that at least a hundred thousand people and maybe four or five times that could die if the dam suddenly bursts.
He said with a frown, “We don't have any equipment on Ephron which could repair the damage, but an offworld construction company would be able to do it, fairly quickly, but it would be very expensive. He's worried that the government won't have the damage repaired and not warn the people. He said, according to his survey, that the earth around the dam is stable, so the only way the dam could be starting to crack is with substandard construction material.”
They were close to the base of the stairway which led to the top of the dam. Matt concentrated and had another look at the footing of the dam and Tomas was drawn along with him. Matt looked at the damage with horror, in less than twenty-four hours the damage was far worse. At this rate, there was only a matter of days perhaps hours before the dam collapsed.
Without their being aware of it, the horror became a cry for help and three more boys suddenly appeared around them. They were instantly caught up in Matt’s his scan and could read the problem in Matt and Tomas's minds. That also told them who Tomas was and what he had deduced about them being quintuplets, who had been split up to avoid them being targeted as clones.
They pulled out and separated. David picked up a couple of rocks from the ground and pressed them together for a moment, then letting go of one he held the other, showing them that the two stones were joined together. “Can we fuse the cracks like this?” he asked anxiously.
Tomas said, resolutely, “I don't know, but we'll have to try.”
They sat down in a circle, bare knees touching bare knees. Tomas said to Matt, “You're the expert on the ground, so you'll have to lead us.”
They joined together and their minds plunged into the ground. Matt found a crack and David with support from the others fused it together. After half a dozen cracks were fused together, they pulled back a little and realized that it was futile. In the time they had spent fusing half a dozen cracks, a dozen more had opened up. Pulling back all the way, their minds separated and they looked at each other with despair.
David said, “We can't do it!!” he said forlornly.
“We're going to have to try,” said Tomas, determinedly. “Who's the strongest telepath.” they quickly evaluated their abilities.
Tony said, “It looks like that's me.” They all knew what they were going to try to do now. After a little hesitation, Tony added, “We may need a shield, once we start they're going to be aware of us and some of them might start shooting. I think Brendan has the strongest shield, he'll have to protect us.”
They joined their minds together but this time there was a difference. There was a structure that hadn't been there before, Tomas was the center, with Brendan as the protector if needed, Tony as the communicator. Matt would perceive the cracks and David would fuse the concrete. Not alone, as each went into action the others would add their mindpower.
First they had to alert those endangered by a dam in the beginning stages of collapse, letting them start to evacuate and they had to do it without panicking the populace. Then they had to delay the collapse for as long as they could. They were quite aware that it would probably kill them and they faced their deaths with regret and fear, but no panic.
“Ready, Tony.” All four of them indicated and Tony began to reach out. It was much more difficult with non-telepaths, but he was the most powerful and had experience with his parents. He touched the first mind and added it, the person not even aware that he had been contacted nor would he until the children were ready. They would have to make contact with a lot more people before that occurred. Tony kept reaching out gathering in minds, skipping one here and there, those presently involved in dangerous occupations, who would have been endangered by being distracted from what they were doing.
Finally Tony reached saturation point, it was later determined that he contacted every person within a fifty mile radius, well over three million people.
They began their message carefully, *Danger, there is grave danger.* With their message they projected a air of calm, *The dam above Riverton is on the verge of collapse. Begin evacuating immediately.* And taking them beneath the surface of the ground they showed them the cracks forming, they fused two of the cracks so that the people could see it.
They said somberly, *We can delay the collapse for a time, but we have no idea how long. When we fuse a crack others form, faster than we can repair them. Do not panic, you will be with us all the way.* with grim humor, *You will see the collapse happen, then you have our permission to panic. Stay calm until then.*
Then the children turned their full attention to the cracks and began to fuse them, the message still going out to more than three million people, who were beginning the evacuation. The message had conveyed such calm that there was little panic. People who had been in similar situations were astonished.
As the hours passed, the children were forced to focus more and more of their attention to the dam and less to the barriers that normally surrounded the mind. Along with the message of danger and calm, their minds became almost wide open. The people could see almost everything about them, the good and the bad. They became better known than any other five children in history by more than three million people. Yet when it was over they were able to disappear, because it was all primal data, including no personal information, not even the fact that they were brothers.
Only Brendan, who was the guardian, was watching above the ground. He saw the six fighters headed their way and he brought up their shield. The others were greatly annoyed, even when the planes started shooting at them, they hated the waste of power that the shield needed. Tomas brought his consciousness up briefly to examine the danger. The planes were only using small fire, after all they were only shooting at a group of children.
The three million people who were with them were outraged, Tomas thought for a moment, saying, *What would happen if you put a little piece of the shield up in front of one of the planes? Is that something that you can do?*
Brendan had never considered the idea and carefully he tried to split off a small piece and felt triumph as he managed it. *It'll destroy them.* he warned Tomas.
Tomas said passionately, *I don't care. I'm tired and I'm sick and we don't have a lot of power left. We need it for the dam not for a shield. Get rid of them.* and sinking back he joined the others, leaving Brendan to deal with the planes.
Brendan was in complete agreement, so manipulating the bit of shield he destroyed the planes in less than thirty seconds. After reabsorbing the shield, he also sank down to join the others only leaving a bit of his attention to watch for danger.
The people watching the Vid cheered when the planes went down. Nobody ever found out who gave the order to attack, but the government members started to run when the planes crashed.
Then something began to happen that was to astonish the galaxy. There were far more espers than the government had ever known existed, staying carefully hidden and they would have liked to have helped, But they knew it was impossible, so it had be a non-esper who began it. Someone, who didn't know that it was impossible and wanted desperately to help the five boys who were spending their lives on his or her behalf, linked with them.
It was only a drop in the bucket, but the boys noticed it and sent their appreciation out. As the people realized that they could help, they began to link as well and the power available began to grow slowly. When the espers got over their astonishment, they added their power and the boys had all of the energy that they needed. The cracks no longer outpaced the repairs and they were able to fix them faster and faster and they had to, their own power was gone. They were no longer in danger of dying and they were relieved by that but they knew that they had to hurry before they collapsed.
The repairs weren't total before the boys collapsed, but it would hold until a construction firm from offworld could make permanent repairs. Only one or two of the government members who ran managed to make it offworld. The others were apprehended by members of a group who had been just waiting for a chance to take back control for the people.
One of those was the power plant manager, who with several of his opposition cell, found the boys and managed to hide them.
Aware of how much they owed the boys, the new government began a vigorous campaign to remove the fear of cloning and the stigma of multiple birth children, to keep them out of danger until attitudes changed. They established a new village about a hundred miles from where Tomas had lived most of his life and moved the boys and their parents there. They also provided a shield for Tomas, though with the others present he didn't require it that often.
The children were aware that it wasn't completely altruistic of the new government. They wanted to have them handy in case of another emergency such as the almost collapse of the Riverton dam. The boys were glad to be together at last, especially Tomas who had been lonely most of his life and would never be lonely again.
Full names of the children and their foster parents name.