Memories: Down Under

Book 1

Chapter 11 - Tests of Love

Thomas Residence, 7AM, 19th October

The alarm clock's drone pulled Linda and Harry out of the land of dreams, both of them looking forward to the new day. Harry had a guaranteed day off, and Linda had her office being renovated, due to the new importance of her department, so the both of them had plans to relax.

As Harry showered, Linda went downstairs to begin preparing breakfast. As she was defrosting the bacon and the sausages, Ella walked into the kitchen, her hair still slightly wet from her shower. "Good morning, Linda." she said.

"Morning, Ella. How'd you sleep?" Linda asked.

"Quite well actually. It's nice to have a couple of days off once in a while." Ella replied with a content smile.

"I've been meaning to ask, what exactly are you up to these days? I didn't figure you to be sitting at home while Kyler and Sam worked or were at school." Linda said.

"Oh, I've actually gone back into teaching. I have even expanded from primary school education to secondary education." Ella replied.

"Really? I think that will be a great help for us here. If it comes down to the kids needing to be home-schooled, we'll have that option a bit easier."

"That's true. So, what are the plans for today?" Ella asked.

"Not much actually. Harry and I have the day off, Zoe's grandparents are coming to visit, and I think the kids have all had enough excitement the last couple of days. Elena is coming over later today to take Liam on a shopping trip for new clothes and other things." Linda replied off the top of her head.

"Who's Elena?" Ella asked.

"Oh, Elena's the Security Officer attached to my department, and she's also Liam's adoptive sister. I think she's really looking forward to getting to know him a lot better, and I think hers will be a good influence on him. He needs a strong role model after what he's been through in his life already." Linda said in a thoughtful voice.

"Well, from the sounds of it, I think that may be a great match. From what I've seen of young Liam, you'd never know he was in a home." Ella said.

At that moment, Harry walked into the kitchen, towelling his hair from his shower. "Morning, ladies."

"Morning, honey." Linda replied.

"Good morning, Harry. How was your sleep?" Ella asked.

"Same as usual. It's wonderful sleeping next to someone you love." Harry replied, placing a small kiss on Linda's cheek.

"I have to say I agree." said a young voice from behind Ella's barstool. The voice belonged to Zeke, who had awoken and come downstairs.

"Morning, Zeke." Ella said, twisting around to give the teen android a quick hug, drawing a smile from him.

"Morning, honey. How'd you sleep?" Linda asked.

"Morning, kiddo." Harry said.

"Morning. I slept good thanks. It's nice to be able to sleep with another person." Zeke replied, stretching the last kinks of sleep out of his body.

"That it is, kiddo. That it is. So, what do you and Jason have planned today?" Harry asked.

"Not much. I'm probably gonna give Tim a hand with the new communicator design he wants to create." Zeke answered.

"New communicator, eh? Well if you boys need a hand with anything, just let me know, okay?" Harry said.

"Actually, we need the design specs for the current communicator, if possible." Zeke said.

"That's not a problem at all. Once breakfast is done with, I'll transfer the blueprints to your terminal from my office." Harry said.

"Cool, thanks."

Soon, the rest of the kids made their way downstairs, just in time for a big breakfast, and everyone went about their plans for the day. It was not long after breakfast that the doorbell rang through the house for the first time. When Liam ran to answer it, he found Elena on the other side. He greeted her with a long hug, surprising her with his enthusiasm.

"And what's brought this on, then?" Elena asked in shock.

"I'm just happy to see you, is all. Are we still going shopping?" Liam asked hesitantly.

"Of course. I can't have my little brother going around in only two sets of clothes." Elena said with a teasing smile. "Now come on, go get ready, and I'll tell Linda that we're going now."

"Okay, I'll be right back." Liam said excitedly.

Meanwhile, upstairs in the apartment, Zeke and Tim were seated in front of the terminal, poring over the blueprints Harry had given them to the current Federation communicator. Sky was sitting on the lounge, typing up a report on his laptop, earphones in his ears. Kane was sitting next to him, playing his Nintendo DS, his attention fully focused on the game, other than his newly-developed habit of monitoring the groups' emotions, and at times practising his telekinesis by levitating his drink up to his mouth and taking a sip.

No one batted an eyelid when Liam burst into the room, and ran straight to the room he and Zoe were in, nor did they react other than some half-aware waves as he ran back out the other way, stopping for a second only to give Zoe a quick kiss on the cheek.

Downstairs, in the kitchen, Delta had joined Linda and Ella in planning lunch for the whole group. As they continued organising the meal, Harry walked into the kitchen. "Linda, honey. I think I might fire up the barbecue for lunch. What do you think?"

"Sounds good dear. The girls and I are just planning lunch now. All we'll need to do now is plan some salads. Delta, could you make up a nice fresh garden salad? There's a vegetable garden out in the back, just past the pool area. You should find all you need there. Ella, could you prepare some of your fantastic potato salad? I'll make up a nice pasta salad. Harry, you'll need to go and get some meat from the supermarket for the barbecue." Linda said.

"Not a problem. I'll take a couple of the boys with me, help me carry the stuff." Harry said. "Shouldn't be more than an hour and a half. I'll take the Commodore."

"No worries. We'll be ready by the time you get back."

"I think this may work. I've modified the circuit pathways to condense the footprint of the badge. These shortened pathways also give the added benefit of a stronger signal, as the energy doesn't have to travel as far." Tim said, closely checking the blueprints on the terminal screen.

"What about power input? The Federation communicators use a rare version of Dilithium Crystals. They don't need to be replaced, other than when the communicator is virtually destroyed. It'll be hard to obtain those crystals in the quantities required for the whole Clan." Zeke asked.

"That's something I think will be a stroke of genius. The power these communicators utilise will be drawn from the connection to the comms system they're connected to. So long as a communicator is able to draw a connection to a system, it will have a power source available to it." Tim said with a grin.

"Did I just hear that correctly? Are you saying that you have come up with a way for a communicator to draw power wirelessly?" Harry asked, having walked into the apartment at the tail end of the conversation.

"If it all works, then yes. And the best part of the whole design is it will tie into any existing comm system, but without the new design transceiver I'm working on next, there is a limit to just how many of the new designs will be able to connect to the systems, due to the energy draw that each unit would create." Tim said in thought.

"Well, I'll tell you now that if the two of you manage to pull this off, your names will be very well-known throughout Starfleet's Info Tech community. But how is it operated? I'm not seeing any buttons or levers in these blueprints." Harry asked.

"I was originally going to use a DNA keyed activation system, but that would add too much size to the design, and to add a DNA profile to the whitelist of allowed users would be too much hassle. Instead, the badges will be pressure and voice activated. The security will be provided by a small flash chip with a base voice recognition system. A second flash chip with a database of Clan voiceprints will be added to Clan badges, allowing only Clan Members to use any commbadge, and this database can be updated through the comm system that will provide their power." Tim said.

"Sounds like an excellent design. Tell you what, here's the keycard to my personal Electronics Lab, below the pool area. You two head down there anytime today and you can make a start. I'll make up a couple more keycards for both of you later today, so that you can use the lab for any devices you want to create, field test, or the like. Right now, I need a couple of volunteers to join me in going shopping for meat for our barbecue lunch. Who'd like to come along?" Harry asked.

Zoe stood and said, "I'll come. I want to pick up some things myself anyway, plus I want to see if I can find a nice gift for Liam."

Jason and Cody also stood up. "We need some more baby things for Bradin." Cody said.

"Okay then, let's get going." Harry said, turning to leave the apartment.

Starfleet Coles Sydney, 10 minutes later

Harry was pushing his trolley through the aisles, grabbing what was needed at the house, as Cody was picking up the needed baby supplies, and Zoe was standing in the personal care aisle, picking out some make-up, and cleansing products.

"Cody?!" Came a voice from the end of the aisle that Cody stood in, looking at nappies. He turned to face the owner of the voice.

"Luka? What are you doing here?" Cody asked, as he approached the teen and gave him a quick hug.

"Dad got transferred to the HQ in Sydney, so he and I moved here. We've been here about a week now, and this is the first time we've been shopping since the move. What about you? It's been, what, two years since Melbourne?" Luka asked.

"About that, yes. Dad was made head of Starfleet IT, and Mum was just two months ago offered the position as director of Federation Youth Services. Since Dad's promotion, we've lived here." Cody replied.

"Cool. How's Kane?" Luka asked.

"He's doing fine. We had his sixth birthday the other day at Dreamworld. He misses Damon a lot at times." Cody said.

"Damon misses him as well. But, now that we're in the same area again, I'm sure they can get back to being friends again." Luka said.

"True. So what are you up to today? We're just picking up supplies for a barbecue. Perhaps you, Damon and your dad would like to join us?" Cody asked.

"Sounds like fun. I'll check with Dad. I'll be right back." Luka said, before turning and jogging away.

'Wow. I can't believe it... my first crush... here...' Cody thought to himself. He snapped himself out of his thoughts and moved to where Harry was, to let him know the situation.

He found Harry standing at the Deli counter, waiting to be served. "Dad, you'll never guess who I just saw." He said.

"Who did you see, Cody? Not another Vulcan? I thought you were over that." Harry said, concern creeping into his voice.

"No, Dad. Not a Vulcan, and yes, I'm over that. I saw Luka." Cody said in exasperation.

"Luka? Luka Young?" Harry asked in shock.

"Yes, Luka. I can't believe it. I haven't seen him in two years, and here he is, standing in the supermarket today. He and his family just moved into the Complex." Cody said.

"Well, there you go. I was told I was getting a new staff member in IT sometime soon, I just didn't realise it would be John. Why don't you invite them over to the barbecue?" Harry asked.

"I already did. I know I should have come and asked first, but I guess I was just in shock over the whole thing." Cody said apologetically.

"It's no problem son. It'll be good to catch up with them again. Well, hello there, Luka." Harry said, as Luka had just approached them.

"Hi, Mr. Thomas. How are you, sir?" Luka asked shyly.

"Luka, two years, and you've already forgotten the rules. It's Harry, y'hear?" Harry said with a smile.

"And it's reciprocated with you, Cody. How are you, Harry? Long time, no see." Said a middle aged man that had just walked up.

"I'm great thanks, John. What about yourself?" Harry asked.

"We're okay. Maria passed away six months ago, and since then, Damon's been beyond depressed, but other than that, things are good. How're Linda and Kane?" John asked.

"They're good. Linda's been made director of Youth Services, and Kane just turned six." Harry said.

"You forget, Harry, that I already know exactly how old Kane is. Damon was born exactly the same moment, remember?" John said.

"Of course. Well, allow me to properly invite yourself and your boys to lunch at our place. You'll find our family has... multiplied somewhat." Harry said.

"You've had another child?" Harry shook his head. "Adopted?" Another head-shake. "Then how has the family grown?"

"You'll see." Harry answered cryptically.

As the adults were catching up, Cody and Luka were also catching up.

"Dude, what's with the basket of baby stuff?" Luka asked Cody.

"Oh, um... I have a baby." Cody answered hesitantly.

"You knocked a girl up? I thought you weren't that kind of guy." Luka asked, shocked at the reply.

"No, that's not what's happened. Um... could I explain it when you come over for lunch?" Cody asked.

"Sure, I guess." Luka replied.

"It's nothing bad. It's just a little too private for such a public place. And there's a need for security." Cody said.

At that moment, Harry was served, and the group made plans for arrival times and other things, before they separated to continue with what they were doing. As Harry and Cody looked for Zoe, Cody spoke up, "Dad, I need to talk to you. I'm feeling a little uncertain about something."

"What's wrong, son? Did you and Luka have a falling out or something?" Harry asked.

"No, nothing like that. It's just, well, Luka was my first crush." Cody trailed off.

"And let me guess, seeing him again has brought up those 'what ifs'." Harry guessed.

"Well... yeah. I mean, I love Sky, more than anything, except possibly Bradin, but seeing him... Dad, there were still feelings there." Cody said, beginning to sound distressed.

"I'll give you a quick piece of advice, son. Just stay calm about the whole thing, and give it time. You've only just seen Luka again since two years ago, so it's natural that you'd be thinking 'what if?', but if you give it time, I'm sure those thoughts will slowly disappear." Harry said, placing his hand on Cody's shoulder.

"Okay, Dad." Was Cody's reply. 'But what if they don't...?'

As the returning group walked in the door, Cody's sense of guilt continued to build up. He deposited the baby supplies in the kitchen, before walking out the back door, planning to take a walk to clear his head.

Linda had, of course, seen all this. "Harry? What's wrong with Cody? It almost looks as though he's building up the courage to break up with Sky." She asked, concerned.

"I'm sure in his mind, that's where events are taking him. He saw Luka today." Harry said, the meaning of his words not escaping Linda's notice.

"Luka? Oh my... How did it go?" Linda asked.

"Quite well, actually. That is... until Luka and John had left us. They'll be here for lunch, by the way." Harry said.

"Sorry, who's Luka?" Ella asked, and it was clear that Delta also wanted to know.

"Luka was, or is, Cody's first crush. We've never revealed that we knew... it was hard NOT to know, seeing as though when we moved, he was devastated only by the fact that he'd have to leave Luka. Apparently, there are still lingering feelings, and the 'what-ifs' affected him pretty badly." Harry explained.

"Oh my, I hope that things work out for him." Ella said.

"I have a feeling that everything will work out just fine. This is just one of those tests that all couples go through. I think they will come out the other side of this, a lot stronger." Harry said speculatively.

At that moment, Sky walked into the kitchen, Bradin positioned on his hip. "Hey, I saw Zoe had returned. Where's Cody?" He asked.

"He's gone for a quick walk in the backyard. He's got something on his mind right now." Harry said hesitantly.

"What's happened?" Sky asked, concerned.

"That's something that only Cody can tell you. It would be best if no one else got too involved in the situation, unless the pair of you wants us too." Linda said.

"Okay..." Sky replied.

"It's nothing bad. He just needs some time to sort a few things out." Harry said.

Just then, the doorbell rang through the house. "I'll get that." Delta said, getting up and moving to the door.

When she opened the door, she found an elderly couple standing at the other side. "May I help you?" Delta asked politely.

"Hello, my name is Katherine Vander. This is my husband, Albert. We're Zoe's grandparents. We were told that Zoe was here." The elderly woman said.

"Of course. Please, do come in. My name is..." Delta began.

"We know who you are, Ms. Goodrem. My husband and I both quite enjoy your music." Katherine said in a kind voice.

Just as Delta opened her mouth to reply, a shout of "WE DID IT!" rang through the house, accompanied by thunderous footsteps coming from the stairway.

"Pardon the noise, Mrs. Vander. It appears that a couple of the boys have completed one of their projects. Please follow me and I'll take you to see Linda." Delta said, leading the couple towards the dining room.

They entered the room to find Tim and Zeke bouncing around the room excitedly, as Harry sat, examining their prototype for the new communicator design.

"Looks good guys. And this works?" Harry asked.

"Well, we keyed it into your voiceprint, seeing as though your terminal access is based on voice activation. Just tap the badge, and try calling someone." Tim said, barely able to contain his excitement.

Harry attached the badge to his shirt, before tapping it, which caused the badge to emit a beep. "Uh... Harry to Sky." He said.

Sky's communicator then chimed with an incoming transmission, causing him to jump slightly. He quickly pulled his communicator off his belt, flipping it open. "Sky here." He said which was projected from the badge at the same time.

"Well, this is quite an achievement. What I want you two to do, is to create a second badge. This will ensure this first wasn't a fluke, and we can then test the badges in normal use. While you two do that, I'll begin the process of entering the design into mass production. Congratulations, guys, you two have just changed the way that the entire Federation can communicate." Harry said, pulling both boys into a hug.

"Thanks." Both boys replied in unison.

"Congratulations." Everyone in the room added, causing the boys to blush.

"Well you two. You'd better hop to it, if you're gonna have the next one done before lunch." Harry said, prodding them along.

Once both boys had left the room, Delta grabbed Linda's attention. "Linda, this is Katherine Vander, and her husband, Albert. They're here to see Zoe, and talk to you." She said.

"Ah, Mr. and Mrs. Vander. How lovely to meet you in person. If you'll just wait a moment, I'll have Sky here pop upstairs and get Zoe for you. Sky; don't tell Zoe why she's needed here. If she asks, simply tell her I need an extra pair of hands." Linda said.

"Yes, Mum." Sky said, before turning and leaving the room.

"Can I get either of you a drink? Coffee? Tea?" Linda asked.

"I'll have a cup of tea, thank you." Katherine said.

"I'm fine thank you. My doctor has told me I need to watch what I eat and drink." Albert said.

Just as Linda placed Katherine's tea on the table, Sky returned to the room with Zoe. "What did you need me for, Aunt Linda?" Zoe asked, before noticing who was in the room. It took a minute for her to fully comprehend just who she was seeing, before her eyes began tearing up, and she ran across the room into the open arms of Katherine, who was also beginning to cry.

"I missed you so much, grandma." Zoe sobbed.

"I've missed you too, sweetheart." Katherine replied.

"Same goes for me too, honey." Albert added.

The rest of the occupants in the room gave the reunited family a few moments to properly reconnect, and in that time, Cody returned, walking in through the back door. The moment he saw Sky standing there in the room, tears welled up in his eyes, and he ran from the room, heading towards Harry's office. Sky could only stand there, bewildered by what had just happened. It was as he made to follow Cody that Harry put his hand on his shoulder. "I'll go have a talk to him, kiddo. I get the feeling that things will go badly if you went in there right now, and all for nothing."

Harry walked into his office, to find Cody sitting on the loveseat, his head in his hands, shoulders shaking from the sobs he was emitting. Harry quietly closed the door to the office and moved to the loveseat, throwing his arm around the distressed teen. "Hey kiddo. Wanna tell me just what that was then?"

"I feel so confused. I love Sky more than anything, but I think I really wanna see what might happen with Luka. I just feel like I need the closure either way." Cody said through his tears.

"Well, sounds to me that you need to talk to two people, and get their opinions. Might I suggest that you talk to Sky privately and seriously. Your relationship with him needs to be based on openness and honesty." Harry said.

"But, what if he ends up hating me? I mean, we just started, and now we have Bradin. I don't think I could handle him hating me." Cody said.

"I'm afraid that's a risk you'll have to take. Just remember what Timmy said while the American guys were here, "Sometimes bad things need to happen to allow the good to." That's the sort of advice that you should listen to well." Harry said.

"Thanks, Dad. I know what I have to do. I have to talk to Sky." Cody said with conviction.

"Just remember, be honest with him. If things go pear-shaped, there's a lot of people here that will support you." Harry said, standing up and giving Cody a quick hug, before leaving the room.

Harry returned to the kitchen, to catch the tail end of the conversation that had sprouted in the time he was with Cody. He found Sky sitting in the corner, however, a devastated look on his face. He moved over to the teen, placing his arm around the boy's shoulders. "Sky, Cody's in my office. You and he need to have a serious talk. Just, please, keep an open mind about what he has to say. I love you and him too much to see either of you hurt by this." He said softly in the boy's ear.

"Is it that bad?" Sky asked in a scared tone.

"It's only ever as bad as YOU let it be." Was Harry's reply.

As Sky moved towards Harry's office, Harry noticed the time on the clock. "Oh, looks like it's about time to get the barbecue started." He said.

"Ooo, you're right. Ella, Delta, would you girls give me a hand finishing up the salads?" Linda said.

"Sure, Aunt Linda." Delta replied.

"Like you need to ask. You'll need all the help you can get to feed this new army." Ella chuckled.

"I can give you a hand, if you'd like." Katherine added.

"Please, don't deny yourself time with Zoe." Linda said.

"Oh, nonsense. There'll be plenty of time for us. Right now, there appears to be a need for my skills, and I insist on giving you an extra hand with lunch." Katherine insisted.

"Well, if you're adamant, I guess I can't stop you." Linda said with a smile.

"Good luck stopping her once she has her mind set on something, Linda." Albert chuckled.

"I'll remember that advice, Albert." Linda said with a smile.

"Just call me Al. Albert is such an old fuddy-duddy name." Albert said.

"Okay then, Al." Linda said, then turned to the intercom system on the wall next to her. Pressing the apartment call button, she spoke into it. "Boys, lunch won't be too long now. Please wash up and get ready."

"Okay, Mummy." Came Kane's voice in reply.

Ten minutes later

Just as Linda and her troop were finishing the salads for lunch, Sky came running out of Harry's office, tears streaming down his cheeks. She dropped what she was doing when she saw him running towards the front door of the house. She caught up to the teen halfway down the driveway to the property.

"Skylan Matthew Thomas! You stop right now, and talk to me." Linda called, causing the boy to stiffen noticeably, turning to face Linda, the tears running down his face glistening in the bright afternoon sun. "Come here, honey." Linda said in a much softer tone, opening her arms.

Sky ran into her outstretched arms, almost causing her to fall over backwards from the force. Through his tears and sobs he managed to choke out, "He's.... he's in with someone else." Linda's heart almost broke at the desolation in his voice.

"Oh, Baby Boy. Shhh...." She cooed. "Don't think the worst. Your dad and I knew about Cody and Luka, but we never expected this to occur. Cody loves you, just as much as he loves Bradin. I can see that every time he looks at you and Bradin. The look in his eyes tells me that no matter what happens between he and Luka, his love for you and Bradin will never, NEVER die. Just think of this as a trial for the two of you." Linda continued. "I know, you should give Cory a call. I seem to recall him saying something about a major argument he and Sean had not long after they began in Starfleet. He'll probably be able to give you some advice."

"That sounds like a good thing to do. I'll do that as soon as I can think straight." Sky said softly into Linda's chest.

"Well, you need to go upstairs and wash your face, otherwise it'll blow up and you may not look pretty enough to stay here." Linda said teasingly.

"I'm never 'pretty'. I'm handsome." Sky said mock-indignantly.

"There's the joyful boy I've grown accustomed to." Linda said with a sad smile. "Go clean up, and I'll go have a talk to Cody."

Ten minutes later

Linda walked out to the backyard, tense from the situation she had just worked to diffuse. She could only now stand back and let things fall as they may. 'I have to just hope that their relationship is strong enough to survive this test. Mikey, this had better be worth it.' She thought. She was sure that she felt a wave of reassurance flow through her in response to her thoughts.

As she made her way towards the barbecue, where Harry was trying, without much luck, to clean the plate, she noticed Tim and Zeke sitting at the outdoor table, smiles on their faces as they watched Kane. "Hey guys, what's with the grins?" She asked with a smile of her own.

"We made another badge, and keyed it to Kane's voiceprint, from his commands to Clive. He was ecstatic when we handed it to him." Tim replied.

"Two badges in one day, and all without a pre-existing blueprint? Way to go, guys." Linda said.

The trio all watched as Kane tried to find good hiding spots, and try to trick Harry. After about 5 minutes of this game, Harry asked Albert if he would mind taking charge of the grilling, before running and tackling Kane to the ground, tickling the boy unmercifully, the young boy howling with laughter in response.

"That makes any day's hardships totally worth it." Linda said peacefully.

"What's going on?" Jason asked, as he and Trent approached the table, each sitting next to their partner.

"Your dad's 'tickle-attacking' Kane. Seems these two here decided to give the boy one of the new 'toys' and, Kane being Kane, he simply had to play." Linda said.

"At least he's having fun, Aunt Linda." Tim said with his own smile.

"Oh, I'm not complaining. I just think perhaps Kane wasn't the healthiest option for you to give one to. I can't say with certainty just how long Harry's patience can hold out, before he comes after the two of you." Linda said with a chuckle.

"Guys, we all need to meet in the Command Room. We need to hold a very quick meeting. Something's come up." Kyler said as he ran up to the group sitting down. "Sorry Aunt Linda. It won't take long."

"It's not a problem; Ky. Lunch won't be ready for a little while." Linda said in an assuring voice.

"Kane! You need to come with us. You're our head of Intelligence." Jason said.

"Coming!" Was Kane's reply. "Ya gotta lemme go now, Daddy. I need t' help my brothers."

"Go get 'em, Kiddo." Harry said, letting the young boy go.

"Okay guys. I tried to call the guys in Orlando, but the only person I was able to get a hold of was Tommy. Now, according to him, Cory and the group that was here haven't arrived home yet. We don't know what's going on, so I'm setting a Condition Yellow, just to be safe. Zoe, any transmissions need to be treated in the highest security. Maximum encryption, and minimise any data dispersal, unless you know the recipient personally. All you other guys, just be ready to make a move at any time. Any questions?" Sky said to the gathered group in front of him.

"I have two." Jason said, a serious look on his face. "What's with the icy, uber-professional fa├žade, and why isn't Cody in his usual position for these meetings?" Jason's questions were met with a chorus of agreements from the rest of the group, except Sky and Cody.

"I don't think either of those questions are relevant in this situation." Sky answered uncomfortably.

"I think you're dead wrong there. I think all my brothers, and sister, will agree when I say that anything that has the two of you, as our leaders, feeling depressed, will be passed down the line, till every one of us is feeling as miserable as the two of you are feeling." Jason said emphatically.

"It's not... I mean... it's not really... Kane shouldn't hear this." Sky stammered.

"Oh please, Kane's going to be the worst affected by this if it keeps up. He's empathic, remember? He's soon gonna be feeling everyone's bad mood on top of his own." Jason countered.

"Fine! You want the truth? Sky isn't talking to me, because he thinks I don't love him any more... which couldn't be further from the truth... but because of... of... Luka, and my stupid, stupid unresolved feelings, in my confusion, I completely stuffed up what I wanted to say, and it all came spilling out, sounding as though I wanted to break up with him and have a go with Luka... but... we have Bradin, and I vowed to look after that boy as best I could, but mostly, I made a promise to Sky when we got together that I would always... ALWAYS... be there for him, and now, because of these stupid feelings I'm having for a friend I haven't even seen in years..." Cody finished rambling, having stood up and waved his arms around wildly, almost hitting those sitting next to him. Everyone in the room watched him, shocked at his outburst, and now feeling concern over the tears streaking down his face.

Sky watched this outburst, and was shocked to the core of his being by the honesty and sincerity behind Cody's words. He moved to where Cody was standing, tears streaming freely down both boys' cheeks. When he reached Cody, Sky looked deep into his eyes, to see the love and pain they held beneath their surface. "I'm sorry." He whispered, before pulling Cody into the tightest hug he could, which Cody quickly returned with equal force.

The moment was disturbed, however, when a loud rumbling emanating from the vicinity of the three youngsters caused Jason to call out, "Come on you two. Hurry up and kiss and make up, so we can get something into the three bottomless pits."

"Hey!!" All three youngsters responded, causing all in the room to break out in laughter. This laughter died a little, however, when the sound of the doorbell rang through the house.

"Well, I suppose we should head downstairs for lunch then." Delta said to the group, guiding the youngsters ahead of her out of the apartment.

As the group came down the stairs leading to the main house, Linda was leading John through the house towards the backyard. Following the adults were Luka, and a young boy exactly the same age as Kane, but the polar opposite of him in looks. Where Kane was brunette and dark-eyed, this boy was fair haired and blue-eyed. His hair was a cascade of deep blond that fell in his eyes and down to his shoulders, and his blue eyes had a slightly haunted look, a look that was hidden behind joy when he noticed Kane come bounding down the stairs.

Kane noticed the boy, and came to a shocked stop, eyes wide, and a smile slowly breaking out across his face. "Damon?" He asked, unsure if he should believe what he was seeing.

"Kane? Oh my God!" Damon replied, as both boys ran to each other, and hugged tightly in the middle of both groups.

Linda turned to John, "Well, I don't think we need to worry about them falling out of friendship."

"Or more." John added quietly, seeing the boys' relationship in a new light for the first time.

"Come on everyone. Harry's just finished cooking lunch and it's ready to go. Kosta, Issac, come here." Linda said, picking up both boys as they walked up to her, and walking to the back door, the boys giggling when she started walking in a silly manner, causing them to jiggle around.

When everyone was seated with plates piled high with food in front of them, Linda introduced everyone around. When she pointed out Luka, Cody's face took on a shameful expression, and Sky's set in a determined stare. Luka noticed this, and his face showed a mix of shame and confusion. Despite this, lunch was a light affair, filled with happy laughter, reminiscing, and lots of noises of appreciation coming from the younger of the group.

After lunch, while the women-folk set about cleaning up the mess, Luka approached Cody and Sky, who were sitting by the pool, nursing a couple of over-stuffed bellies, unable to move too quickly, for fear of stomach cramps.

"Cody, do you think you and I could speak privately?" Luka asked hesitantly.

"Anything you have to say to me, is safe to say in front of Sky. If you don't want him to hear it, then I'm afraid the answer is no." Cody said seriously.

"Babe, go talk to him. I'm fine. I know just how you feel. Besides, I think I'll go make sure Bradin isn't needing a change. I think Delta will be needing a short break." Sky said, getting up slowly and carefully, placing a kiss on Cody's cheek and walking, almost waddling, towards the house.

"Cody, you and Sky are, like, together, yeah?" Luka asked hesitantly.

"Well, yeah. Bradin is our son; we adopted him the other day. Nothing anyone does will ever change the way I feel for either of them." Cody said seriously.

"Oh... wow. Well, not that I'm trying to come between you and Sky, cos I think you two make a great couple, but I had the biggest crush on you when we were younger. I was so devastated the day you moved. It was 2 months before I opened up to anyone again." Luka said quietly.

"Really? That's so weird. I had a crush on you, too. I guess, if I hadn't met Sky..." Cody began.

"Don't say it. The fact is, you DID meet Sky, and I'm happy that you have someone like that in your life. Dwelling on 'could have beens' will only cause problems." Luka said.

"Wish you had've told me that earlier. Sky and I had a huge fight, cos I started thinking how different things might have been if we'd been together, and he thought I wanted to break up." Cody began tearing up, "I nearly lost Sky, and it was the worst feeling I've ever felt."

Luka lifted Cody's chin so that he was looking into his eyes, "But you didn't, and that's what matters. I'm very happy you have that connection with Sky." He said to his friend.

Meanwhile, in the lounge room

Harry and John were seated, catching up on old times, when a lull in the conversation had John asking a question that was on his mind.

"Tell me, Harry. How did you go from having two sons, to having seven sons and a daughter, nearly all of whom are adopted?" He asked.

"Well, Liam and Zoe weren't adopted by us. Zoe's grandparents will soon have full custody of her and Liam has been taken in as a brother to Linda's chief of security. Plus, Bradin is actually Cody and Sky's son." Harry answered.

"Well, how did you adopt Sky? I feel as though I've seen him before in my life, but I can put my finger on it." John asked.

"It is possible that you have. About a week ago, Linda received a call at her office from the head of paediatric care at the Royal Children's hospital about a boy that had been brought in having been beaten, and suffering from amnesia. That boy was Sky." Harry allowed the information to sink in, as he steeled himself to continue. "It's a miracle that we even have a name for him. One of the nurses at the hospital had taken to calling him Sky because of his eyes, and the first time he heard the name, it brought back a piece of his background information in his mind. Anyway, Linda went and visited him in the hospital, and decided to bring along Cody. Well, the two of them hit it off quickly, and the next day, we all spent the day with him. The day after that, we officially invoked the new Safe Haven Act and brought him home."

"Wow, that is one incredible story. What was Sky's last name before he took yours?" John asked.

"Lampis. Skylan Matthew Lampis." Harry replied.

"Lampis? Oh my god! As in Nathaniel and Chloe Lampis?" John asked in shock.

"We don't know the names of his former parents; unfortunately, I think that when that particular piece of information comes to light, there'll be major problems for Sky. All I know is, Linda's security chief found and has already prosecuted Sky's former parents, so as to make it a little easier on Sky." Harry said speculatively.

At that moment, Clive appeared in the doorway of the room. "Sir, you have a transmission from an Admiral Jude Callow." he said to Harry.

"I'll take it in my study, thank you Clive." Harry said.

"As you wish sir." Clive said, before disappearing.

"Would you like to join me, John? No doubt it'll look good for you to personally know the C-in-C of Starfleet Oceanic." Harry said, getting up to take the call.

"Can't argue with that logic." John chuckled, also standing.

The men entered Harry's office, Harry sitting at his desk and pressing the concealed button on the desk to reveal the viewscreen hidden in the office wall.

"What can I do for you, Admiral?" Harry asked professionally.

"Relax, Harry. The first part of this call is purely non-professional. I have just now received confirmation that the final touches on the new Clan Short Compound have begun, the Clan will be able to take residence as of tomorrow." Jude said with a smile.

"That's phenomenal! How did it get done so quickly?" Harry asked in shock.

"Well, let's just say that a general request for assistance was answered by quite a few groups, all willing to do it for free. It appears that the Clan has already made a name for itself in this nation. Newspapers all over the country have been singing praises on the concert at Dreamworld, and the Watts case. Many of the builders in the region the Compound is in are fathers of young children. I think each company added their own little touches to the houses that they built." Jude said, still smiling.

"Oh, Jude. This is John Young. He's my new staff member, and the way this group works, his two boys are now members of the Clan." Harry said in introduction.

"Pleasure to meet you, John." Jude said.

"And you, Admiral." John said.

"Please, call me Jude. Too much formality would make every day conversations far too difficult. We'll save the formality for important matters." Jude said seriously.

"Forgive my ignorance, but what is this 'Clan' that you've spoken about? And how would my sons be members of it?" John asked.

"Harry hasn't told you? The Clan is the Oceanic Division of Clan Short of Vulcan. This Clan is a group of teen aged boys and girls that work to improve the quality of life for children all over the Federation, but mostly on Earth at the moment. Speaking of which, Harry, I need you to tell Sky that I have had reports cross my desk that the Patriarch of the Family has organised for a Vulcan cruiser to be assigned to the Clan, much in the same way that Starfleet has assigned shuttle-craft to the Clan." Jude said, before continuing to answer John's questions. "In answer to your second question, John, Harry's son Sky is the Head of the Oceanic Division of the Clan, therefore, if he deems it so, and I think I'm pretty safe in saying he will, your boys have been invited to join the group. This is a major thing that they'll be part of. They can be a part of a group of teens that are slowly changing the world as we know it."

"Wow." Was all John could say. As he sat there, letting the information sink in, Jude looked to Harry.

"Harry, this call isn't all updates. I have a small task for the Clan, if they're willing to take it on." Jude said seriously.

"I'm sure if it's up their alley, there'll be no stopping them." Harry said in response.

"Well, last night, Rove McManus had young Jesse McCartney on his show, where young Mr. McCartney revealed that he was gay, which caused a silence to fall over the audience. Starfleet Monitoring were alerted to this occurrence, and were subsequently informed of an angry mob outside of the motel that he is staying in. Security was dispatched to assist the local authorities, and were informed by Mr. McCartney's management that they were willing to continue his management, but that his family had excommunicated him. In doing so, as he is of minor age, he has hit a roadblock in accessing his income from his public life, which is being investigated by the local authorities, but the short of it is he is unable and unwilling to travel back to the US."

"Sounds like it would be nothing for him to be protected by the SHA." Harry said in thought.

"My thoughts exactly. It seems as though we have yet another Aaron Carter situation on our hands, and it will need to be handled with the utmost of care. Will you ask the Clan for their assistance?"

"I'm on it right now. Sky will report to you of the outcome. I'll talk to you soon, Jude." Harry said.

"Thank you, Harry. And it was nice to meet you again, John. Callow out." Jude said, before signing off.

"Well, I'd best go inform the Clan of their 'mission'." Harry chuckled.

"I think Luka will be extremely pleased if they get Jesse here. He's a huge fan of the boy, it's a shame we can't keep it a secret from him." John laughed.

"I think it'll be a case soon that no secret will be kept from that group of boys. The way this Clan seems to work, all twins have an inherent 'twin link' that can be developed into true telepathy. Kosta and Issac will be the biggest secret-busters here soon." Harry said, also laughing.

Five minutes later

As expected, each one of the boys were excited about the prospect of THE Jesse McCartney being under the same roof as the group.

Sky quickly assumed command of the group, assigning Cody, Jason, Zeke, Kosta and Kane to an 'away party' to join him in bringing Jesse home.

Each of the boys chosen were giddy, including Sky himself. As Sky prepared Kosta for his first unaided transport, Cody called in the request. Within two minutes, a shower of sparkles indicated the start of what would become the Oceanic Division's most publicised intervention.

Marriot Hotel Melbourne, Suite 1026

Jesse McCartney sat on the bed in his luxury suite, his eyes displaying the depression he was feeling on the news of his family's disowning him. He had thought they would be supportive of him, but the message that his management team passed on shattered that illusion for him. It seemed that they believed his revelation would kill his career. He didn't care. After working so closely with Ryan Kwanten while filming "Summerland", Jesse had been forced to confront his internal feelings, finally realising that all he wanted was to find a nice boy to love, not a girl. During his many kissing scenes, the face that haunted him was Ryan's. He was glad that his 'sex scene' with Sara Paxton wasn't to be filmed for the show, as he knew he wouldn't have been able to perform.

"Jesse, there's a group of boys here. They claim to be called 'Clan Short' or something." Said Jesse's personal attendant, Susanna.

"Clan Short? I'm sure AC said something about that last time we performed together." Jesse said to himself.

"I can have them removed if you wish. They just beamed in via a Starfleet Transporter." Susanna said.

"No, I'll see them, show them in please, Suse." Jesse said.

Susanna then waved the group into Jesse's room, Sky leading the way.

"Jesse? My name's Sky, and behind me I have my boyfriend Cody, my brothers Jason, Zeke and Kane, and my nephew Kosta. We heard that you were having some problems, and wanted to offer you a solution, if you want to consider it." Sky said in introduction.

"I'm sure it'll be better than any option I have right now." Jesse said sadly.

"We're here to offer you protection under the Safe Haven Act of the United Federation of Planets. You will be given the option of adoption by one of the families in our Clan, here and in the US..."

"I don't want to go back to the States if I can avoid it. I have nothing left there. Plus, I really love this country." Jesse stated emphatically.

"Okay then. Well, if you want, we can fast track this whole thing." Sky said.

"What do I have to do?" Jesse asked.

"Just sit back and let us sort it all out." Sky said, before pulling out his communicator, "Thomas to Clan Oceanic Control."

"Control, Vander here, go ahead Sky." Came Zoe's voice from the communicator.

"Zoe, I need a recording of the following statements. Let me know when you're ready." Sky said.

"Already there, Sky. I kinda figured you'd call in for a recording, seeing as though you never seem to remember to take your tricorder with you." Zoe's voice said, a laugh behind her indicating someone else in the room found it funny.

"Nice to see I have good support behind me." Sky said.

"You know you love me. Recording set to go."

"The following is a preliminary Safe Haven intervention on behalf of Jesse McCartney. Based on the call to help, received from Starfleet Admiral Jude Callow, Mr McCartney has been excommunicated from his family, and wishes to remain in Australia. Preliminary indications are that Jesse has been exploited in his professional career; his income has seemingly been hidden away from him. It is, therefore, my decision that the Safe Haven Act be invoked on Jesse's behalf, as of this time and date, citing Article 17, section 1(a), subsection 1, point 2. Placement shall be determined as soon as possible. Zoe, end recording and get started creating a case file." Sky said in his most professional voice.

"What does that all mean?" Jesse asked in confusion.

"Pretty much, your family have no more say in anything to do with your life. You are now protected by the most powerful Child Protection Laws on the planet. When we get back home, we'll figure out where we can place you, and you'll have a say in the matter. For now, we'll have a talk to your management and inform them that they will still have jobs for you, if you still want them managing you." Sky said.

"Yeah, that'd be great." Jesse said.

"Well, let's get organised. Cody, you're with me explaining the situation, Jason and Zeke, you guys help Jesse pack his stuff. Kane and Kosta, you can give them a hand, but you help Jesse with whatever he needs." As Sky said this, Kosta's eyes widened comically. "Relax, kiddo. He's just another normal guy like you and me. He's just a little better known."

Jesse cracked up laughing. "That's way too true. There are still times I have to pinch myself to make sure it hasn't all been one long dream."

"Let's get to it, guys." Sky said with a smile.

30 minutes later, Thomas Residence

Seven young boys resolved within the sparkles in the living room, just as Delta was wlaking out of the room. Sky took advantage of the fact that she hadn't noticed. "Delta!" He shouted.

Delta jumped about a metre in the air, before turning around with a shocked expression on her face. As soon as she saw Sky standing there with an innocent look on his face, she spoke, "Don't worry, little brother. You'll keep." She said cryptically, before turning and leaving the room.

"I think you should be a bit worried there, bro." Cody said, as the rest of the group slowly separated themselves from Sky.

"What's she gonna do? I'm not scared of her." Sky said, as he and the rest of the group walked to the doorway.

Just as Sky passed through the doorway, Delta grabbed him in a headlock, noogying him mercilessly. "How's about a little hair loss from excess noogying, little brother." she asked, grinning evilly.

"Ah! D', stop it! You're gonna make me pee!" Sky laughed.

"I don't think so, little brother. You'll last for at least another minute, by then; I might have a good handful of your hair." Delta said.

"I give, I give! I'm sorry I scared you." Sky said, tears of laughter now falling down his cheeks.

Delta let him go. "You didn't scare me; you just shocked the lights out of me." With that, she led the group to the kitchen, where the other adults were all sitting, chatting about random nothings while waiting for the boys to return.

"Welcome back, guys." Said Linda, once she noticed the room had become a lot fuller. "How'd it go?"

"No problems at all." Sky said. "Mum, meet Jesse. Jesse, this is my mum, Linda."

"Nice to meet you, ma'am." Jesse said shyly.

"No need for the 'ma'am' nonsense around here. Simply call me Linda, next to me; we have my husband, Harry. Next to him, Ella, Harry's sister, and mother to..... what is it now, four, yes four boys, all Clan members. Next, we have Katherine and Albert Vander, the grandparents of one of the Clan members..." Linda said, before being cut off by Katherine.

"Just call us Grandma and Grandpa. All the kids here will be expected to, so you're no different."

"Well, there you go. And lastly, we have John, one of Harry's workmates and the father of another couple of Clan members, even if it's unofficial at the moment." Linda continued.

"Nice to meet you, Jesse. My eldest boy is a huge fan of yours, if all the posters are any indication." John chhuckled.

"Um, thanks? I don't think that's something he'd want you spreading though. It's mostly girls who're into my music. Don't see all that many guys in the audiences. Don't suppose I'll be seeing many people at all any more." Jesse finished sadly.

"Dude, I think you're wrong. Check out the TV." Sky said, wide-eyed at the current news story.

Linda turned the volume up on the TV, allowing everyone to hear the newsreader.

"Recapping our top story, teen heart-throb Jesse McCartney was today whisked away from his hotel room, by a group of youths calling themselves Clan Short. McCartney's management have released a statement saying that the young popstar has been offered 'a new life' here in Australia, after his family disowned him, following the teen's shock revelation on Rove Live earlier this week."

The screen then cut to a replay of the show:

"So, Jesse, what's been happening since we last spoke?" Rove asked the Jesse on screen.

"Well, y'know Rove, not much. Mostly been doin' some tours, meetin' the fans, the same ol'. The main difference is, I now know who I am deep down inside, and it's that which compels me to reveal that I am, in fact, gay." Jesse said.

"Hang on, you're telling me that you, Jesse McCartney.... many teen girls' wet dream, are gay?" Rove asked.

"That's right, Rove. I say this now, only because I felt I needed to stop lying to myself, and everyone around me, and most of all, my fans." Jesse said.

"Well, there ya have it folks. Right here, on this stage, a Rove exclusive." Rove said, very excitedly.

At that, the screen returned to the news desk.

"Following the airing of McCartney's admission, his family, who are said to have been watching via satellite, contacted his management team, and had them inform McCartney of his disownment. It is unclear at the moment just where McCartney has been taken, but this isn't the first time the name Clan Short has been in the news lately. Less than a week ago, the group arranged a concert and a free entry day at Dreamworld for children in various institutions, a concert headlined by none other than Aaron Carter. So who is this mysterious Clan Short? Are the rumours of their ages true? And why are they doing what they're doing? Ten News will bring you more on this group as it comes in. And to our next story..."

Linda then turned the volume down. "Well, Jesse, I didn't see anything overly negative then. I'm sure all will work out."

Just then, Zoe walked into the kitchen, followed by Luka. "Nice of you to call in and let me know you're back, Sky." Zoe said.

"Oops, sorry Z'. Was busy receiving a noogy from the 21 year old kid." Sky replied.

"Ah, she finally did what everyone else has wanted to for the past day? Cool." Zoe replied, smirking.

"Hey! No-one's wanted to noogie me, have they?" Sky pouted.

"I'd never noogie you, babe." Cody said.

"Aww, thanks sweetie." Sky replied.

"Leaving now. Things are getting too sugary for me." Zoe said, before turning and walking out again.

"Something we said?" Cody called out.

"What could you possibly have said?" Zoe shot back sarcastically.

It was then that Cody and Sky noticed what the rest of the room had been watching during Zoe's quick stopover. In front of them, they saw a star-struck, slack-jawed Luka, who was staring into the eyes of an equally quiet Jesse, who they could see was also developing a bit of an 'issue' further south. "Oh... ah... Jesse, dude. You might wanna go somewhere private for a minute, and... ah... 'fix' yourself up." Sky whispered into Jesse's ear.

"Luka, you'd probably best do the same." Cody whispered into Luka's ear.

However, neither boy seemed to hear them, if the silence and the lack of movement were any indication. "Damn. These two are even worse than Tim and Trent were." Cody giggled.

"Leave them be, boys. Just guide them to the end of the table there, and have a seat. We need to organise the new Compound setup." Linda said, a smile on her face at the scene before them. 'I think this is going to be on par with Teri's group, if the current arrangements are anything to go by.' She thought to herself happily.

Once Sky and Cody had finished moving the still silent teens to opposite chairs (simply to prevent neck injury on both parts from trying to hold the stare), and had taken their own seats, the group began to plan out the various details for the new compound.

"Before we begin these talks, Sky, I've arranged with Admiral Callow for us to transport to Oceanic HQ and hold a press conference in regards to the Jesse situation. I feel it would be best to answers any questions people may have, and get the message of the Clan out there, let people know that injustices to children are no longer accepted in this country." Harry said.

"Sounds like a good idea, Dad. What time is the conference?" Sky asked.

"We've arranged for 7. That'll give plenty of time for questions, and they'll be able to write large pieces in the papers and the broadcasts so that it's all clear." Harry said.

"Hmmm.... I think I'll have to get a Clan robe organised then. I'll do that after we're done here." Sky said in thought.

"Well, since that's dealt with, let's get down to the main business. We received a layout plan of the new Compound while you guys were on your away mission. Here it is." Linda then unrolled a large sheet of paper filled with technical drawings. "As you can see, the Compound has a large building at the front of the property, nearest the road. That's the new Youth Services Office Building. I'll soon have a much fuller compliment of staff in my department, and we'll deal with all the situations where Clan involvement will be illogical."

"Sounds good. It'll be easier for you, too. And we can drop Bradin off on you a lot easier too." Cody giggled.

"I hope so. I'd love to have him with me every now and then. Now, there's also a 6 metre security wall that runs off the office building all the way around the Compound, meaning the only way into the Compound by foot will be through the FYS Building. That makes the building the first line of defence of the Compound. Which is why your security and mine will be primarily stationed and based in the building. Elena will be in charge of Compound Security, and Liam will be in charge of Clan Security, in that his task in any... 'situations' is to defend the Clan, NOT the Compound." Linda continued.

"What's this big round building?" Cody asked curiously.

"The round building is the brand new Clan Short Oceanic CIC. The building has a secure room 20 metres below ground level at the heart of the building, as well as biometric locking devices on each door leading to sensitive areas of the building, the second line of defence of the Compound. There are Three Research Laboratories, for your tech nuts, as well as a state-of-the-art briefing and debriefing room, for your away missions." Linda said.

"Wow, all that just for the Clan?" Sky asked in shock.

"Starfleet's not taking any chances, Sky. They've looked at what the guys have in Orlando and tried as best they could to improve on it. Besides, Ambassador Sarek himself sanctioned this Compound himself, I doubt Starfleet would have been able to refuse any technological advance he requested." Harry said.

"Which brings us to the Secondary Protection Systems. The new communication system Tim and Zeke developed will be one of the first additions to the system, and this system can also prevent outgoing comm signals leaving the Compound on unauthorised frequencies, but incoming signals will be sent through and traced at the same time. The property also has an emergency force field which will activate anytime the Compound's condition goes above 'Condition Green', meaning a 'Condition Yellow', 'Condition Red' or 'Condition Black' will raise the force field." Linda continued seriously.

"What's 'Condition Black'?" Sky asked.

"'Condition Black' is a new emergency protocol Starfleet has recently brought into use. A 'Condition Black' is called in the event of either a total loss of an installation, or the almost probable occurrence of the same. The force field, in this situation, will be to protect the Compound's remains from further damage, so as to preserve the evidence for investigation, or to contain the catalyst for the loss, be it explosive, or biohazardous. If you ever hear a 'Condition Black', you MUST immediately get to the heart of the CIC building, which is the most protected zone on the entire property. If you're outside the Compound in such an event, then contact Orlando HQ." Linda said.

"Okay, so what about the long rectangular building along the east boundary of the Compound?" Sky asked.

"That's a multi-purpose recreational building. That building houses the indoor pool, gymnasium, and 3 multi-purpose courts. One of those courts will be converted to one of the new holodecks, once your tech boys have finished its development. The building also opens up to an undercover, outdoor pool, complete with diving boards, slides and of course, a nice outdoor spa for the older kids and adults." Linda answered.

"Wow! And are these smaller squares all over the place our new homes?" Sky asked, hope gleaming in his eyes.

"Yes. Each cottage has it's own kitchen and dining area, 2 bedrooms plus study, and are easily upgradable to add on new bedrooms for the newly adopted little ones when that occurs. All the cottages are already fully furnished and ready to be moved straight into. Each cottage also has a connection to the CIC's secure comms lines, as well as external access to the Internet via Optic Fibre direct to the telephone substation, meaning top-speed Internet at all times." Linda finished. "And I think that's the last of it."

"What about that large square just off the west of the property?" Sky asked.

"Oh, that's actually what the military would call the 'Motor Pool'. Each shuttle assigned to the Clan, as well as road transport, etc, will be housed in that area. And access to the Motor Pool from the outside of the Compound is only via an extremely well-concealed, guarded tunnel in one of the smaller hills away from the Compound, that leads to a lift that can move 3 standard cars at a time." Albert answered, looking quite excited at the prospect of working with such an area.

"Cool." Cody responded.

"Well, that about covers the new Compound's layout. I'm leaving one of your group in charge of cottage assignments, we adults have already claimed our own cottages." Linda said. "Oh, and inform Kyler that the quartermaster's office and supply room are within the FYS building, cause he now officially works for Starfleet, as the new Clan/FYS Quartermaster. He'll even be paid a standard secretary's wage by FYS."

"Wow. He'll be happy with that." Cody said speculatively.

"I thought so. Now, once we're in the new compound properly, we'll arrange for home-schooling, which will be far easier than trying to co-ordinate public school paperwork and such for the Clan. Ella will be responsible for this, and Albert and Elena will teach mechanics and self-defence as elective options, respectively. Tim and Zeke don't know this yet, but due to their new commbadges, Starfleet Tech R&D has granted them with funding to go towards whatever they wish to research, as well as the opportunity to earn teaching diplomas from Starfleet Academy as Technology Instructors. If they choose to accept these offers, they will be heading the new Clan Tech Class, another elective option." Linda said.

"Wow, that's great! It'll be good to have so many extra options available." Cody said.

"We're trying to make sure that anything any of you want to do will be open to you. Plus, it'll make training for various Clan positions easier." Linda said.

"I think we have a plan. Now, if you'll excuse us, Cody and I have an appointment with our baby boy, else Delta will hog him all to herself." Sky said, standing up.

"You boys go enjoy some 'daddy time'. We'll be starting dinner plans soon." Harry said.

After the two boys had left the dining room, Linda started clearing the dining table. Once the table was cleared, the adults moved off to do their own thing.

Sky and Cody walked into the apartment lounge room to find Delta sitting there, Bradin sleeping in her arms, her singing the boy a soft song. She looked up as they walked into the room. "Hey guys. Little man's having a sleep now."

"Thanks for looking after him, Del." Sky said with a smile.

"It's no problem at all, kiddoes. This little boy has wormed his way into my heart, and I don't think I'll ever be rid of him again." Delta said, smiling at the little boy in her arms. She then handed the boy over to Cody, Bradin stirring only once before falling asleep again.

"If anyone asks, we'll be in our room." Sky said.

"No problems, boys." Delta said, watching both boys walk to their room.


Jesse and Luka were seated in the main lounge, talking and getting to know each other.

"I can't believe I'm actually sitting here, getting to know Jesse McCartney." Luka said, dumbfounded.

"Well, I can't believe that I was so lucky as to find someone as special as you. I know we don't really know each other properly, and I don't wanna rush anything, but I really like you, Luka." Jesse said sincerely.

Luka sat stunned for a minute, Jesse's word running through his mind. Once he was able to comprehend Jesse's confession, he was somehow able to speak. "Um... I really like you too, Jesse. And I don't mean as a famous person... I mean... as a celebrity, too, but..."

"I know what you mean, Luka. Would... would it be... bad... if I was to... k-kiss you?"

"No! I mean... no, it wouldn't." Luka couldn't contain his excitement, and was visibly shaking at this point.

Jesse slowly leaned in to Luka, closing his eyes just as the two boys' lips met in a chaste kiss, both experiencing an electric feeling at the moment of contact. Their lips stayed together for about 4 seconds, before they broke apart, both opening their eyes to look into those of the boy in front of them.

"Wow." Luka said softly.

"Yeah." Jesse replied, just as softly.

Neither boy realised that their first kiss had been seen by John and Harry, who had been on their way to continue their conversation. John had watched with a smile, happy to see that his eldest son had found someone special. It was Harry who alerted the boys to the men's' presence.

"You boys okay?"

Both boys sprang apart as though shocked by lighting. "Dad!" Luka gasped when he noticed John standing there.

"Relax, Luka. I already knew you liked boys. You and Cody were a little obvious back then." John chuckled.

"Really? You're okay with it?" Luka asked uncertainly. Jesse, meanwhile, was sweating buckets.

"Luka, being gay is something you have no control over. You can't help who you fall in love with. I'm just glad that we're here with people who are understanding." John said, walking over to the boys and pulling them both up into a tight hug. "Welcome to our family, Jesse."

"Thank you, sir." Jesse said quietly.

"That's not the way to address me. Call me Dad." John said.

This caused tears to well up in Jesse's eyes. The emotional rollercoaster of the past week became too much for the young star, and he broke into tears in John's embrace.

"I'll leave you guys for a bit." Harry said quietly, turning around and walking away.

Harry made his way to the apartment, walking in to find most of the kids in their own pairs. Kane and Damon were with Issac and Kosta, all four playing a board game. Harry smiled at the sight. He quietly turned around again, making his way back to the kitchen, to find the women and Albert seated at the dining table, discussing the happenings of the last day. He sat next to Linda and joined the conversation.

One hour later

Harry made his way back to the apartment, looking for Sky and Cody. He walked in to find Delta sitting on the chaise, a book in her hands, quietly reading.

"Delta, have you seen Sky or Cody?" He asked her.

"Yeah, they're in their room, spending some time with Bradin, and probably catching some Z's."

"Thanks." Harry said, before walking to the boys' door. He knocked softly.

"Come in." Came the reply from within.

Harry opened the door to find a sight that warmed his heart. Sky and Cody were lying in their bed on top of the covers, Bradin snoozing in between them.

"Hey Dad." Sky said softly. "What's up?"

"Just came to let you guys know that you'll want to start getting ready for the press conference. Your clan robes are here, I'll leave them in the apartment lounge room. You should bring Bradin along with you as well. He'll be a prime example of the reason for the Clan doing what it does." Harry replied softly.

"Okay. How long do we have?" Cody asked.

"No rush. There's still a couple of hours, just thought you may want to make sure you look your best. It will be your first public address, after all."

"No worries, Dad."

Harry then went and found Jesse next, and in doing so, also found Luka. Both boys were outside, lounging by the pool, Luka laying on top of Jesse on the same lounge seat.

"Hey guys. Jesse, you need to start getting ready for the press conference. Don't worry too much. This press conference will primarily be for the Clan. You'll simply be there to demonstrate firsthand what the Clan does." Harry said.

"No worries. Can Luka come with us?" Jesse asked.

"Not this time, I'm afraid. It would be best if we kept numbers to a minimum, it just increases security." Harry said regretfully.

"Well, I suppose that would be best. I'll miss you, muffin." Jesse said softly.

"I'll miss you more, stud." Luka said, leaning in for a quick kiss.

"I'll leave you guys to your devices." Harry smiled, then walked away.

Harry walked into his study to find John seated at his desk, going over various files on Harry's computer.

"I'm amazed at the projects your team is working on. And you say most of these are nearing a complete status?" John asked.

"A lot of them, yes. But I think Tim and Zeke may just give my team a run for their money. They've already completed two fully functional prototypes of a new communicator and they have plans for something they call a 'holographic simulation matrix'." Harry said.

"A new communicator? I don't see how they could have changed much by way of communicators." John said sceptically.

"Oh, they've made a big change. Just watch." Harry said. John watched with amusement as Harry tapped his Starfleet insignia, but his amusement turned to shock when a voice replied to Harry's call.

"Sky here. What's up, Dad?"

"Nothing at all, kiddo. Just demonstrating the new badge to John." Harry said.

"No worries. We'll be down shortly. We're just about to have a shower now."

"Not a problem. See you soon. Thomas out." Harry then turned to John. "See what I mean?"

"Amazing. But... how did they...?" John asked in shock.

"From what they told me, it's simply a redesign of the communicator footprint with touch and voice controls added in, and the power is provided by the unit actually having a connection to a comms network. Self-perpetuating power in essence." Harry explained.

"Impossible." John said in disbelief.

"And yet, if you pulled this badge apart, you would not find a trace of dilithium. I know this, because my dilithium supplies are locked in my safe, and it has not been accessed since I last opened it." Harry said seriously.

"Unbelievable. You have, of course, informed Starfleet of this breakthrough?" John inquired.

"The results of this and the second prototype, including the blueprint for the badge, and the necessary comms server upgrade." Harry replied.

"Upgrade? So the badges are useless without an upgrade to the comms network?" John asked.

"No, the upgrade is only necessary when a number of the badges are connected to the system. The upgrade simply increases the available power by condensing the carrier signals of all comms traffic." Harry explained.

The two men continued their conversation, while waiting for the boys to get ready.

Two hours later, Starfleet Oceanic HQ Press Room

The group involved in the press conference stood to the side of the stage, as Admiral Callow addressed the reporters in the audience. "Ladies and gentlemen; I realise that for Starfleet to be involved in such things as the personal lives of celebrities may seem strange, but we are involved for a number of reasons. First and foremost of these is the use of an Act ratified by Starfleet aimed at the protection of the youth of this world."

Admiral Callow watched as many expressions crossed the faces of the reporters. "Rather than myself explaining the details of this Act, I instead have with me here on stage, a group of boys, each in their own way affected by this Act. I turn the microphone over to Skylan Thomas, head of the Oceanic division of Clan Short, to answer any questions you may have. Skylan;" Admiral Callow then gestured for Sky to take his place at the microphone.

Sky took his place, and then gestured for the reporters to begin their questions.

A male reporter stood up, "Daniel Dayes, Sky Federation News. Mr Thomas, what Act did Admiral Callow refer to in his statement?" he asked.

"The Act is called the Federation's Safe Haven Act. This Act aims to provide all children and teenagers with a 'Safe Haven' throughout their youth, as the name suggests. Using this Act, an authorised person can, under the appropriate circumstances, remove a child from an unsafe environment, and place them in an environment that is better suited to the care and wellbeing of the child." Sky answered professionally.

Another male reporter stood then, "Ben Livingston, Australian Unity News. Mr Thomas, how has this... Safe Haven Act, affected you?" he asked.

"I myself was the first ever Australian child to be protected under the laws of the Safe Haven Act. I was placed in hospital with amnesia following a beating. The Director of Starfleet Oceanic's Youth Services Department, my new mother Linda Thomas, came to visit me, and soon after, had enacted the Act on my behalf. I was then placed with her family, which includes my new brother and boyfriend, with whom I have a son, also protected by the Safe Haven Act." Sky answered with a smile.

"So you were rescued, and now have a better life?" asked Ben.

"That's right. Were it not for the Act, I'd likely now be in a state youth 'care' facility, with no memory of anyone I loved, or who loved me." Sky answered.

A female reporter then stood up, "Catherine Micheals, Sydney Telegraph. Skylan, what is Clan Short, and what was their involvement in the Jesse McCartney incident?"

"Clan Short originated in the US. Two months ago tomorrow, a US teen began a journey to recover his life, and in the process, gained far more in his life than he had previously. This teen, by the name of Cory Short, swore a bond of brotherhood with a group of boys that included the grandson of Ambassador Sarek of the House of Surak of the planet Vulcan. Soon after he had sworn this bond with the Ambassador's grandson, the pasts of two of his brothers came to light. These boys had been abused by those that were supposed to care for them. Due to the severity of the transgressions against them, Ambassador Sarek invoked an archaic Vulcan law to make the group a sub-clan of his own family, headed by Cory. A few days ago, part of this group visited my new family. While they were here, it was revealed that Cory and I were long-lost cousins, and this relationship led to the creation of my division, the Oceanic Division, of Clan Short."

Sky paused for a moment to recollect his thoughts. "My Clan's primary purpose is to ensure the protection of all children all over the world. My Division's responsibility is here in the Oceanic region. This morning, my new Dad received information from Admiral Callow that Jesse McCartney was in need of assistance. We beamed to his hotel suite, and in the following conversation, I enacted the Safe Haven Act on his behalf."

A male reporter then stood, "Jason Dean, MTV Australia. What does this mean for Jesse's career?"

"I think I'll leave it to Jesse himself to answer that question. It is, after all, his career, not mine. I'll not presume to answer any questions in a manner he doesn't wish me to." Sky said, then invited Jesse to join him at the mic.

"At this moment, I am putting my career on temporary hold, until such time as I have settled into my new life. Thankfully, my new album has already been finished, and is slated for release in the next month or so. I will announce now that 50% of the profits from the sale of my new album will go towards children's charities, while the other 50% will be going to a new global fund pool aimed at the improvement of facilities for children, including care facilities and entertainment facilities." Jesse said, earning a brief applause from the reporters, before returning to Cody and Harry.

"Any more questions?" Sky asked the group.

An hour later, Thomas Residence

Four transporter beams resolved into the forms of the group from the press conference.

"Well, that was long and boring." Sky said, while removing his Clan robe.

"You're telling me. Imagine having to do three or four in a day." Jesse said seriously.

"Sucks to be you." Cody said, breaking into a run, to escape the teenager chasing him.

"Sky, remember that we're moving tomorrow, so you need to make sure your group of terrors is up bright and early in the morning." Harry said.

"What about packing?" Sky asked, perplexed.

"All will be taken care of tomorrow.You guys simply need to have yourselves dressed and ready for the drive." Harry said seriously. "We leave at 10."

"Okay, night Dad." Sky said, hugging Harry while being careful not to squash the young boy in his arms.

"Night kiddo. Have a good sleep." Harry replied.

It was after Sky had put Bradin to sleep and had himself showered, that the events of the day finally caught up to him, and he was asleep before his head hit the pillow, moving only when Cody laid next to him. "Good night, my sweet blue Sky." Cody whispered, as he himself drifted off.

Author's Note:

Well, there's the end of the first chapter in the story of the Oceanic Division. I realise it's fairly short (pardon the pun) compared to other books in the CSU, but I felt this was a good place to cut it. After all, the main group has now been established, and, like in the story's inspiration, they are moving to their own Compound, so what better place to finish it then that point in time.

I would like to thank ACFan *HUGZ* for allowing me to form my own branch of his story, Clan and other things that he has come up with. The fact that this was one of the original spin-offs of the CSU is an honour I will cherish forever. Also, thanks to The Story Lover for his work in making sure this story is at least readable for you, the audience, and for first giving me a chance with my first story.

Thanks also go to the other authors within the CSU for they help, support and encouragement throughout the time I have had the honour of knowing them. In the short 5 years (!) that I have known them, my life has been filled with ups, downs and shakings, but through it all, each and every one of them has been there. The Fort Family has, from the day I discovered it, been one of the few places on the Internet that has provided many a voice and a refuge from the everyday world.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next book in my series, MDU II: Love and Trials.

Boi From Aus

CSU Founder Note:

As Part One of MDU closes, I've been given the honor of adding this little note. Boi impressed me from day one when he approached me with his idea for an Australian Division of the Clan; to this day I'm glad that we agreed to let him 'play in the sandbox'. MDU has become one of the core stories in the Universe, mainly because of the skill and imagination that Boi puts into every chapter. I've got a few insights into his plans for the future, and I am awed by where the story is going. This story has always been on my "read it as soon as I get my hands on it" list because of the quality; even if it was not CSU I'd be dropping everything to read it.

It's been great working with you Boi, and I look forward to many more chapters to come of working together. (Hugz) kiddo, you're doing great!